Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sheep Dog Trials

Standing next to me, under dripping trees, a woman with a dog explained the course. "You start with 100 points and are allowed nine minutes," she said. We could see four sheep, up on a knoll in the distance, out of sight of the dog and handler at the post. The dog was sent down the left side of the field, running full speed, in a sweeping arc. "That is the outrun," she said. "You want the dog to stay wide and come up on the sheep from behind. When contact is made between sheep and dog, it is called the lift." 

She spoke clearly, using her technical terms as specialists do, but soon I understood how points were being lost down in the grass. The fetch, the drive, the pen and the shed all followed the lift.  There was a square, wire pen below us, three sets of gates and a flagged circle in the pasture marked out where the dog was tasked with splitting off two of the ewes. There would be a different layout tomorrow.

Her dog was at her feet, alert and obedient. A four year old, this is his first year in the open class and he is doing well. He was a novice last year.

She showed me her whistle and crook. We sat for awhile under an awning, out of the rain and then wandered down, through the mud, to see the standings posted on a bulletin board. The leader had 89 points but it was early; they had started at 7:00 and with sixty or seventy dogs slated to compete, it was looking like it would be a twelve hour day.
The whistle is made of Corian.
Another dog.

And a donkey. Just for fun. Those dogs are so serious.

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