Edwards and ‘Coup’ win Meeker Classic

Dennis Edwards and his dog Coup from Sundance, Wyo., were the champions of this year’s Meeker Classic with 137 points. Dale Hallebach photo

MEEKER | Twelve dogs and their handlers, out of the 130 dogs that started the competition last Wednesday, competed in the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials finals Sunday. Dennis Edwards and his four-year-old male dog, Coup, from Sundance, Wyo., emerged the champions with a score of 137 points. Joni Tietjen and her three-year-old female border collie, Star, from Clearmont, Wyo., were the reserve champions with 125 points.
The other eight top 10 finals finishers were Stella and Barbara Ray, Millboro, Va., third with 117 points; Bob and Herbert Holmes, Gouldbusk, Texas, fourth with 112 points; Angie Coker-Sells, Tecumseh, Okla., tied herself with Soot and Andy, fifth and sixth places with 106.1 points; Maverick and Barbara Ray, seventh with 105 points; Nan and Beverly Lambert, Andover, Conn., eighth with 96 points; Sam and Faansie Basson, Stephenville, Texas, ninth with 91 points; and Tip and Dave Imas, Olympia, Wash., 10th with 65 points.
The total purse for the trials was $22,500 which was split proportionately between the top 20 dogs. In addition, there was about another $6,000 won in day money and special awards. For example, four-time former Trials’ champion Amanda Milliken and her dog Dorey from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, won the Bad Luck Award for the preliminaries, awarded Saturday, sponsored by the 4M Ranch of Meeker. At the same time, Milliken won the Highest Preliminaries Score award, sponsored by ColoWyo Coal Company, with her two-time champion dog, Howell.
Trials director Maym Cunningham told the Herald Times that the Meeker sheep “surely tested the dogs this year” as they are known to do. Familiar faces and past champions—like Tom Wilson, Scott Glen and Amanda Milliken—competed this year but didn’t make the finals cut. Those dogs that did were really strong and especially adept in moving the sheep while maintaining control. Coup, the champion, made a very strong final run, handled the sheep well and moved them decisively, penning the sheep for the final obstacle with seven-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. In contrast, some 30 out of the original 130 dogs ran out of time (retired) during the first two days of competition.
Cunningham reports, “There was a good turnout of spectators this year with many familiar faces and many new faces. Everyone had a great time and things went smoothly—a happy, contented crowd of spectators, vendors and competitors. We rest our laurels on the community and the many volunteers who make the Trials run. Visitors, handlers and demonstrators love the friendly, small town atmosphere of Meeker.”
Cunningham shared what she says is a typical spectator comment: “This is my second year at Meeker and my third year as a dog sponsor. The sense of community here and the variety of related events make it special. But best of all is watching the bond between handler and border collie in every run. Some are spectacular and some not so much so, but always the bond is there. The spectators here are a varied group and it is fun to watch with them. For some, it is their first time ever watching dogs work, and many of them leave fans for life. Thank you Meeker for another great week. Until next year…”
Cunningham also said that while final numbers haven’t yet been compiled, gate numbers were up, vendors saw higher sales, the parking lot was full and so was the town. The downtown events—Friday’s art, wine and cheese event was overflowing with people and a large crowd munched their way through the Jammin’ Lamb cook-off Saturday.
The Handlers’ Challenge at the fairgrounds arena Saturday featured contests between handlers and their dogs including some novices and two dog-two handler teams. The event was punctuated by the appearance of local Greg Cunningham and his dog Frank. Greg used what appeared to be a fairly effective secret weapon—a sweep broom rather than just a stock sorting stick—on the sheep.
The art show—coordinated by Sarah Grimes and Kari Jo Ruchti—was a big success this year, Cunningham said, with a 60 percent increase in sales over 2016. The first place art winner was Laura Yager of Boise, Idaho, with her cut paper collage entitled “Wish Ewe Were Here” which will be the Trials’ 2018 poster. Second place art went to Marsha Mello of Elkton, Ore., for her “Turning the Post” oil on paper. The Shirley Coy Best of Northwest Colorado award was won by Cheryl Harley-Volz of Fruita for her “BAHHH” alcohol ink/mixed media piece.
The People’s Choice Award went to James Dawson of Crawford, Colo., for his “Heaven’s Trail” oil. The Johnny Wix Children’s Choice was “Working Hands,” an oil, by Patricia Samples-Ehrlich, Weldona, Colo.
In the photography contest, first place went to “Ready to Work” by Betty Gillis, Lavernia, Texas, with second place going to “Border Collie Puppy” by Paul Turner of Meeker.