MEEKER I Mist from dawn’s early rain lingers in Waterton, Alberta. This tiny town in the southwestern province of Canada awakes to whistles and “that’ll do” directed at six border collies on an early morning mission.
They’ve got work to do. There is work to protect the public safety and ensure the well being of the native wildlife. Scattered out in quiet fashion, guided by their owner Chris Jobe, these dogs are adapting their sheep herding skills to gather up mule deer and bighorn sheep.
Unpredictable at best, the wildlife can surprise easily and lack the herding tendencies of domestic livestock. Applying slow, easy pressure, the dogs’ task is to move the wildlife out of town each morning.
“Look, look,” Jobe calls as she guides them while they quietly approach the wildlife. A whistle commands them to bear right or left and gently guide the wildlife through the town and out to their natural environment.
Hired by Parks Canada, Jobe spends a couple months each summer during fawning season in Waterton with her border collies. Each morning, she and her dogs gather up the mule deer and bighorn sheep and move them out of town. The goal is to get the deer to fawn out of town to reduce the incidence of aggressive behavior from the deer and reduce the number of predators coming to town.
Birth in their natural environment is better for the wildlife and reduces the incidence of human interference. In recent years, the deer have become aggressive during fawning season and posed issues of safety to the townspeople and the animals. Additional complications arise from bears and mountain lions frequenting the town, drawn by the presence of the young wildlife. The parks service credits the success of this project to Jobe and her dogs.
When not hazing deer in Waterton, Jobe calls Cypress County, Alta. her home. There, she runs her business, Canine Solutions, and shares her life with her border collies, raising Scottish Blackface sheep and competing in sheepdog trials.
Jobe was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan and started ranching in Alberta and Alaska in 1993, which necessitated her getting her first border collie. Since then, she’s used border collies as cattle and sheep dogs to manage and train a herd of reindeer on the Aleutian Islands, harnessed to a sleigh of six and most recently hazing deer out of Waterton Park site.
Jobe’s reputation for utilizing the intelligence and adaptability of the border collie has brought her many experiences and friends, most of late traveling by plane in August 2013, to the Queen Charlotte Island and boat to Gwaii Haanas National Park, where she and her dogs helped find and assisted in removing deer from the Murchison and Faraday island.
“A dog can teach us what we need to learn—both on and off the field,” Jobe said.
Generously sharing what she has learned from her dogs, Jobe offers clinics, instinct evaluations, training services and demonstrations.
Her pickup with RV and dog crates in tow will pull into Meeker in early September as Jobe and her dogs come to compete in the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, held Sept. 3-7. A long-time competitor and friend of the Meeker Classic, Jobe has helped with many demonstrations in Meeker.
This year, she’ll be doing three daily sessions for Meeker’s spectators on training and handling border collies. Attendees at the sheepdog trials should take this opportunity to meet a special woman who embodies the working relationship between man and dog, perhaps best stated by these words:
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.”
By Maym Cunningham
Meeker Classic Director