Loose Ends: Watching the dogs

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The sturdy black and white border collie, Tug, was firm and focused. She was working hard to finish the task at hand and each time the recalcitrant beast veered away from her, she performed maneuvers guaranteed to fetch him home. The fact that she had located her errant charge, Franky, a black Labrador retriever, two blocks from home and seemingly a long way from the sound of their owner’s voice, was no matter. Upon hearing a call and a soft whistle from the front step, she went into action. She had never worked a sheep in her life, but knew what she had to do to fetch her unsuspecting charge. The woman was amazed when the pair came into view, the black dog lumbering, the black and white one dogging his heels. She watched as the duo made their way through the last stretch. Tug ran behind Franky, dipping in and out to keep the big guy from veering over to sniff the curb or leap in the ditch. That performance inspired the owner to go out to the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championships and watch the true professionals (dogs and trainers) work together. Novice attendees at the trials become well-versed after watching the teams go through their paces. What often appears to be simply repetitive action is much more. The skill set required to compete is high level. Watching each team compete reminds the audience of the difficult task set before them. The personalities of the dogs, as well as interaction between the handler and the dog, make the trials a pleasure to watch. The top competitors each year bring something new and their mastery of the craft make the last day of the trials the most satisfying.A silver anniversary calls for a celebration and the 25th anniversary of the sheepdog trials is no exception. Classes in cooking lamb, leather work, and training, trialing, and working border collies are offered this year, along with demonstrations, lamb and pork barbecues, sheep shearing, pancake breakfasts and a concert. Those people who find themselves attending at least one day of the sheepdog championships report that it becomes addictive. Take a tip from one skeptical sheepdog trial attendee and plan to go out for at least one day of the Classic. You’ll soon find yourself coming back for more.