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Sheepdog News

Amanda: Summing Up the Finals

Cell service at the National Finals was difficult. All the elaborate plans for Iphones becoming hot spots were dashed when there was no using cel phones much at all. I apologize for failing to report but communications just seemed impossible.

We got parked at Carbondale among friends. Lucky, because it was tight. Joni Swanke, Robin French, and Barbara Ray were my immediate neighbours and I call that a party. It was.

The handlers meeting at the National Finals is always fun–all the hands converging in one spot from all quarters of the country. Many like minded people who had almost come as far as I had, hopeful, excited. Everyone still has 100 points, at the handler’s meeting. Thirty eight dogs were to b e run per day and I did not run until Wednesday.

Crowd of sheepdog enthusiasts

The running was predictable difficult. The sheep were a genuine test, even, naive, range yearlings. A flock of beauties. My dogs had been running capably for the last couple of trials on similar range ewes so while comfortable with the work, anxiety for the competition itself, was undeniable. The running was exhausting. I talked about it with Bob Stephens and he commented that he felt “gutted” after his runs, which just about sums it up. On a day that I had two runs, Nursery and Open, Sandra Massie asked if I wanted to go hiking. I said no impolitely. It just took everything out of me.

First cousins, Bridget Strang and Ellen Neislanik, who orchestrated this event, had drawn in some food vendors that were out of this world. We need not have worried about stocking up at the Whole Foods in Denver. The food on the site was fabulous and who ever would have guessed. Croissants of the diverse and delicious variety, great coffee, savoury things that all my discriminating gourmet friends would have loved to taste. The Strang girls had it worked out. The Crafters were good too–a hat guy, a western jeweller. The Carbondale Finals stayed mindful of its western showcase side and made a great job of it. Weather drove an outdoor extravaganza party into the indoor arena. It looked for all the world as though that situation had been planned. There was no hitch to the new setting. Five hundred people must have been fed great food. All local–trout, lamb, corn. The swinging little country band in the corner set a celebratory tone and it just kept up all night. What a party. It looked so easy, one assumes it is part of a well oiled machine that parties a lot and is very good at it.

Anyone reading this probably already knows the story. My open dogs ran well enough to make it into the semis on Saturday. I was negligent with Clive at the shed, failing to watch for the grip that took him out of it. Call me an idiot. Roz, of course ran on in the final. Dorey was the most exciting to run, taking her sheep around the course in the Nursery in good style, twice. To be the US National Nursery Champion. I have run in the finals nearly twenty times and never won it, often with very good young dogs. I would understate it to say it was a thrill. And she can run next year too. Adorable. We celebrated at a great restaurant in Carbondale, with delicious Pinot Noir, from Southern Cal and Oregon.

Dorey in the nursery

The Nursery Champion and Mount Sopris

Sunday was a long anxiety laden day, with Roz drawing up sixteenth of the seventeen runners. When she crossed in her second outrun, it was a grave disappointment, considering I had convinced myself she would not. She normally goes back so well. Every trust betrayed. Things were not all that good afterwards. The sheep were painfully slow and they finally picked up steam in their drive. I made a split second gaff in the shedding ring after pretty much doing it right, that cost me doing it again. While it went OK, even the second time, there was no time to pen. Blow.

Clearing Denver on Sunday night, Mich Ferraro joined me for the ride home. We listened to lots of music. Talked about the runs, the dogs, Mich’s new dog Dennis Gellings’ Jake, running styles, things we admired, things we didn’t admire. It was a long drive. I always feel disoriented for a few days when I get back from such a trip. My dahlias are breathtaking. I can scrape together a few feeble tomatoes for something. I will go back to my office routine. I will apply myself to my dogs, getting them ready for next year’s finals.

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And the winners are . . .

Diana Antlitz (comment #13)

Darlene Hastings (comment #40)

Random numbers from 1 to 110 generated courtesy of Diana and Darlene, please email me at to claim your DVD box set. Congratulations, and thanks for playing, everyone. Hope you enjoyed watching the Finals this weekend!

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new USBCHA board members announced

The newly-elected USBCHA board members are the following:

1: Geri Byrne

2: Dan Keeton

3: Thad Fleming

4: Ron Burkey

5: Pearse Ward

6: Lori Cunningham

7: Barbara Levinson

8: Dwight Parker

9: Jim Murphy

10: Corey Perry/Wendy Schmaltz (runoff election will be held)

At Large: Robin French

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Amanda: the keys to Paris

I can’t quite remember when I last reported.

Roz had a great start to her run and then the thunder started Things went south. Everything was “I can’t. I am scared.” I got the sheep to near the shedding ring, warning her not to come back without the sheep but it was not satisfactory. They stopped the running after mine for an hour. I was mad at Roz. She had to sleep in crate.

The next morning saw improvements. Kak, Mish, and I joined Bruce Clatterbaugh on a horseback ride up the Marvine Creek watershed. I rode Paint, who was very sure footed. We went up the water shed about eight miles to a high lake on the Flat Top, where Bruce was picking up four male-bonding, wannabe wilderness adventurers. He led a string of four horses on which they were to ride out, and his pal Ron led two pack horses on which all their stuff was to travel. Bruce was my banker, now retired, and doing outfitting for the rich and famous who come to Meeker for fishing and hunting. The ride was a triumph for a couple of reasons: a diversion from the radical disappointments of thunderstruck dogs; the postcard beauty of the surroundings; the careful but willing horses; and the entertaining company. No motorized anything is allowed in the wilderness spaces, not even chainsaws, and definitely not ATV’s. Horse, or on foot, is the only way to get there.

We got back in time for handler’s dinner where Barbara Ray and I, joined a handful of others to be hypnotized. It was a little like being stoned, very relaxing. I can’t tell if my sore back came from the riding all day or the dancing we did at the prompt of the hypnotizer. He was persuasive. The crowd was entertained.

Today we watched the semi finals. Clive ran pretty well and we have drawn up third tomorrow morning for the big one.

This now being Monday morning, many of you have heard that Clive won Meeker. I ran third, a desirable draw. I wore my sweater spun out of Campbell Hansmire sheep (the Meeker sheep) and knitted for me by my pal Val, at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston. His first outrun was good. A gunshot went off across the river in his first fetch, and in retrospect it might have shaken him a little and been responsible for the nonsense at the first fetch panel, which he missed. Sound sensitivity is a bad vice that rears its head at inopportune moments. Think of Roz in the thunder. After that everything went extremely well with a slight low crossdrive, but good panels and turns. At the shed I had a collared villain I named scarface for a permanent blemish that showed she tustled with something several months ago. She never gave up trying to exit the ring. She broke out once, costing me my point there. When down to two uncollared sheep, I had to go to plan b, and take them out one at time, or she would have gone again. Clive saved the day, bringing her back. He penned boldly. I then had to wait all day for the great dogs and handlers who ran after me but none could quite catch it. Jean Gellings had a winner on the go but Star gripped, uncharacteristically, at the shed and was disqualified.

I am honoured to run among the hands I run with. And doubly honoured to win this big hard trial on the western slope of Colorado.

The dogs are having abed fest this morning. Today I am fly fishing on the White River with all the dogs and slowly making my way down to Carbondale for the US national Finals.

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Win a DVD Box Set of the 2011 National Sheepdog Finals

And now for something completely different, we’re going to try a blog giveaway to promote the Finals web cast. This giveaway was inspired by a similar one implement by Jenna Woginrich at her always-entertaining Cold Antler Farm blog. Jenna is a NEBCA member and owner of a young border collie sired by last year’s Finals winner Riggs. She’s training him to be a sheepdog, and I’m sure they’ll be a successful team soon!

And now, to the meat of the post. We’re giving away two complete DVD box sets of this year’s Finals–that includes every Open run, the preliminary rounds through the double-lift Finals. Everyone can enter a total of four times, by doing four different things to promote the web cast. Here’s how it will work:

* Leave a comment to this blog post saying what you’re most looking forward to seeing in the web cast–that will be Entry #1

* Post a link to this instructional video explaining how to sign up for the streaming video to your Facebook wall (some of you have done this already–you don’t need to do it again) and come back and leave a comment telling me how many friends you have that will see it. That will be Entry #2.

* Write a short entry on your own blog linking to the instructional video and come back and leave a comment with a link to that blog entry. That will be Entry #3.

* Print out this poster and hang it up somewhere in your community (a vet’s office, feed store, etc.), and then come back and leave a comment telling me where you hung it. That will be Entry #4.

Not everyone will be able to enter four times, since not everyone has a blog or a Facebook page, but I wanted to give you all the options to throw your hats into the ring multiple times. The contest will run up until the end of the Finals. At that time. I’ll generate two random numbers from 1 to the number of comments we’ve gotten, and the two numbers corresponding to the comment numbers will win a DVD box set.

Good luck, everyone!

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Barbara Ray: Meeker Report

9/10: Yesterday evening was especially hard as a thunderstorm came up during Amanda’s run. We, the hands, had been watching it draw closer for hours. Poor Roz, like most of the border collies, is thunder phobic. The beautiful outrun did little good as she was reluctant to push the sheep that clearly wanted nothing to do with moving in the storm. Finally they made it to the post but only 4 minutes remained. Normally Amanda could finish strong, but Roz wanted a warm dry bed. I thought I heard her tell Amanda a warm bath and massage were on her immediate wish list. Time ran out before the drive was finished. Next up was Nancy Stevens who declined to step to the post. Action stopped for about an hour and there had been some talk of holding off till the morning. Suzy Applegate and Buzz, last year’s winners, wished the delay till the next day were true. Buzz crossed on the outrun and stalled on the fetch, demonstrating he too did not like the thundering atmosphere. Every run last evening failed. Luck of the draw is always a factor. Amanda hosted a wine party in her camper for the friends whose run failed expectations. Needless to say the camper was quite full.

I saw Beverly for a brief moment this morning. She politely inquired about Amanda’s run and asked if I had gone yet. It appears she is hibernating in her camper, reading and relaxing, occasionally venturing out to the practice field.

I took Stella out this morning to watch a few outruns. She saw Michelle Howard’s dog arc right back to the exhaust and now she is sure that’s the focal point. My heart has sunk. Maybe she will forget that nonsense when we step to the post.

Stella had her run today and as expected she had difficulty with the outrun. She took off looking both ways letting me know she had no idea where the sheep were. I gave many redirects but she only kicked out well with one of them. Much of the top left outrun at Meeker is out of site, so when you see the dog going wrong it’s usually too late to save a cross. She came inside the horse and nearly under the sheep . Needless to say it was tight and again we were off to the races. We made the fetch and a nice tight turn around the post. The first drive had one miss while there was serious bobbling on both sides. The cross drive was a mad dash missing high. She convinced them to return to the ring for a handler error imperfect split. The pen was very challenging with many break-aways on both sides, cleanly covered by the youngster. That has been our main focus at the practice sessions. I’m still proud of the girl. I think she’s pregnant too.

9/11: I’m sad not to have made it into the Finals but will cheer on Amanda as she is a favorite for the Championship. Clive, just like Monty, is distracted by the Gelling bitches being in season. We are treating with Vicks, but the urge is still apparent.

If any of you have heard rumors that Amanda and I were hypnotized as the after entertainment at the handler’s dinner, it’s all true. Yes, we were limp like rag dolls and did some crazy dancing. Amanda was the most humorous: when told to ballet dance, she went right for the pole. Guess her ballet classes were more progressive than mine. Fun was had by all, but Amanda and I are in serious need of chiropractic care.

I’ve had to leave the Finals to pick up my daughter Jessica from the airport in Grand Junction. Before I left there were four completed runs, and Amanda was way out in front. However, Clive made a fatal error forecasting the go back and refused to flank on the first fetch waiting for the send back. Unfortunately, the sheep went off line and missed the panel. All else went well and they completed the course.

9/12: I was fortunate to witness Amanda’s winning run but not many others. As you can imagine Amanda was a gracious winner. She treated all that stayed to dinner at the Meeker Hotel. Now it’s packing up and off the the Finals. Thank God for a clean slate!

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Amanda: end of Soldier Hollow, beginning of Meeker

Shauna Gourley organized a great little haulout training session on range finewools. Barbara Ray met us in the morning. Both she and I were worried about Monty adjusting to someone else handling around me, but it was no problem. He was a pro. Our work party was quiet and successful, the dogs relaxing after their long rides. Afterwards we went to a fabulous part of Utah hitherto unknown to me, called Fruit Lane, between Ogden and Logan. An intense production belt of all kinds of vegetables and stone fruits being the genius of the season. Peaches!!! A giant box of them. And sour cherries, for pie. Back at Kelly Creek, we watched a couple of agreeable young dogs getting going with their sheep work and headed down to Soldier Hollow.

Park City’s Whole Foods stocked up my camper on the way down with all kinds of great goodies. We had a big chunk of wild caught Alaska King Salmon and rib eyes glorified. Our camp has a picnic table and a pot of fresh basil for the Fruit Lane tomatoes (not mine, but OK). We are the people with everything, a cheerful consolation in case we don’t win the trial. The trial is any one’s game. The odds have improved for the five that qualified for the final day yesterday, which includes me and Roz. Roz tore a dew claw in front which, although superficial, is painful. I had to wrap it before her run so she wouldn’t be banging it on the tough tall grass. Her run didn’t go as well as I would have liked—a difficult, hot time in the afternoon but she took them around gamely with a good finish for a score that got by.

Soldier Hollow is tautly managed trial with a couple of eccentricities. No other trial requires leashes. And of course there is the popularized shed, (not popular with handlers) with eight collared sheep of the sixteen for the double lift final. They bring in about 275 glamourous range ewes. Since that is insufficient to run all the dogs on fresh sheep, they structure the trial to run back the top five dogs from each day and re run the sheep. The management advantages are clear. It could give us ideas in Kingston.

Hemp and Bev at Soldier Hollow

The running here is always a shocker to the uninitiated. It sometimes looks so easy but it is always difficult. The sheep are fleet of foot athletes. Dogs who have never met such racey ovines, do things they never do back home, with grave disappointments to their handlers. Running on them can alter perspectives on dogs, with massive kennel reviews occurring after a trial like Soldier Hollow. It is tough.

My dogs were OK. I made it into the double lift with Roz, running in draw number eight, which means one in the afternoon. I would have considered that unfortunately hot, but cloud cover kept the fantastic heat, that can envelop the afternoons, from gaining any traction. It was hot enough, but nothing like it could have been. Bill Berhow and his senior citizen Pete, turned in a near flawless run for a 148, laying down a gauntlet that was never met. Roz had trouble with the first outrun, which was tricky in the extreme, with the sheep obscured by the big Olympic information center and the Olympic spruce trees that dot the course. She was with the crowd on that problem. Only Pete and Bill succeeded with no redirects, and some dogs were lost altogether in the tall shrubbery above the set out, or the trees below.

Barbara Ray and Stella at Soldier Hollow

The prizes ceremony has something to teach all of us about sheepdogs and show biz. The Scottish pipe band from Salt Lake piped away, the Frisbee dogs made catches, the dock dogs won awards for the longest dock dive. And then the real stars of the show, the sheepdogs, with sheep all around the back made their climb onto the Olympic podiums. Roz wins Silver, representing Canada.

Next stop: Meeker, Colorado.

I left Soldier Hollow on Monday night, putting in a couple of hours to Vernal, Utah. I stopped, slept, and finished off the drive in the early morning. Eastern Utah and western Colorado are high desert, so imagine my surprise when the rain set in. A rainy day in the desert is a rarity. Meeker is like my home away from home. Remember I spent an extra several days here last year, stuck with axel issues on my camper. I know nearly everyone in town, or more accurately, they know me, in a good way.

For the first time ever, and I have been coming here for twenty some years, the parking area was difficult because of mud. Good god, in the desert. Mud in the car park and heavily scented sage brush. This is cheerful, hopeful handlers’ camp. This trial is the convergence of all sorts of handlers, not like Soldier Hollow where everyone is there for one win or another. All is levity and celebration, excitement about the next morning’s sport. The spotting crew moved the flock around the trial field on horseback to acquaint them with all the nooks and crannies and ways of escape. Handlers walked the course, watched the sheep, raved about the beautiful evenness of the flock, how do you do’s, talked of their last trials, ate pizza. The place is abuzz.

Haley Howard and Ross at Meeker

The running was just about what you would expect, with telltale signs that the sheep have been a little better handled by their home dogs. They weren’t quite so wild as last year, which usually means better dogs at home, a credit to their head honcho, Julie Hansmire. Dennis Gellings turned in the top run of the day at 83. Our own Ute, Shauna Gourley, turned in an 80 to assure herself a spot in Saturday’s semi finals.. Joni Swanke and Griz scored a 78 with no pen. Clive in next with 77.

Clive penning at Meeker

Mich Ferraro , Sandy Milberg and I went to the practice field at the mid day. I dusted off Dorey, newly bred to Patrick Shannahan’s Riggs. She ran hot but settled down toward the end of her session. I’ll try to take her again tomorrow. Feist has become an avid sheepdog trial spectator, so much so, she has even come to like her leash.

Tonight Gus and Christine Halandras put on their usual gorgeous spread. What a pair of entertainers they are. And what a joy to see so many friends who are now becoming old friends.

Roz runs late on Thursday. And on Friday I have a fishing trip organized with Bruce Clatterbaugh, my retired banker. We are riding up seven miles to a high lake, fishing for and hour or so and riding back.

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Barbara Ray: the start of Meeker

Here at Meeker once again. The last few trips I’ve been handed my hat. It’s hard to take after traveling more than two thousand miles. Still, I’ll try to practice my good loser posture, although Ralph Pulfer often said, ” Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

I’m sad to hear Beverly is not blogging. She is sad not to have made it into the Finals at Soldier Hollow nor the running at Meeker. She was ready and waiting in case some dog should pull up lame as she is next on the wait list. Bev is on a diet. She has lost 35 lbs and is looking great.

Monty got a great score today. I had heart failure when he almost crossed at my feet. A quickly shouted “lie down” corrected the error. Sheep were tough on the bring, but he showed them who was in charge. They danced around the fetch panels for a narrow miss but made the rest of the course. A good tough pen showed all his moves. Wish me luck with the youngster tomorrow!

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Barbara Ray: Soldier Hollow

The incredible view of mountains makes Utah one of my favorite places to visit. Wow, it was hard to focus on dogging. Amanda and I made ourselves quite comfortable at the parking lot assigned to handlers in Midway, Utah. We placed a picnic table between our campers and feasted on many fine meals prepared by chef Amanda. In fact, she searched about for wild flowers and made several fine arrangements to dress up our little heaven.

The running at Soldier Hollow was difficult as promised, given that the yearling range ewes were larger than anything my dogs have ever experienced. Stella in particular was intimidated by their size and lack of willingness to yield to her presence in the same way sheep at home were doing. Monty, on the other hand, was not intimidated but was drawn to their unwillingness to move and was eager to show them he had the stuff to make it happen. My first goal was not to puke at the post, second was not to buy sheep. Getting in the prizes would only be my fantasy.

On the first day, only Stella ran. She was tight on her outrun coming inside the trees and sage brush outlining the outrun. As one might expect the sheep lifted off line at quite a clip and it was the “catch ‘em story” for the first third of the fetch. After making the panels at warp speed, we were able to settle the sheep and carry on with a decent run. My plan for the next day was to give a few redirects and protect the top end points. Sad to say, on her second run the sheep ran off their mark, way down the hill and hid themselves under the porch of the little cabin on the field while Stella was still early on her outrun. Meanwhile, I was ready with the redirects I promised myself but there was no need as she took a perfect route. At the top she looked for sheep and seeing nothing she cast wider. Meantime I looked behind me, hoping for a rerun but none was offered. Next I gave a return whistle, as I suspected Stella to be at the set out by now. Many whistles and shouts found her return to the field where it was obvious she had started to back track the outrun. I directed her towards the hidden stock where quickly she startled them at the cabin. It was off to the races again! Skillfully she made the fetch panels and proceeded round the field being tested by several of the packet. Sadly, the pen did not happen this time. Turns out her score was not nearly good enough even had we made the pen to place in the top five. All in all I was very pleased with this youngster’s effort. Hopefully maturity and additional experience will bring better results in years to come.

My first run on the field with Monty was in the heat of the afternoon when the sheep were at their crankiest. He too came inside the debris on the field but the sheep stayed put as he lifted them well. He responded beautifully to my stops & flank whistles. The sheep constantly leaned on him down the fetch changing directions as I asked him to defend. We narrowly missed the fetch and used valuable time convincing the sheep to move round the drive. In the shedding ring I stirred up the sheep far too much trying to force and opening. Eventually we got a good shed but far too much time was used so the pen did not happen. The next day’s run was similar to the first with the heat and testing sheep. Apparently I asked too much direct forward movement from the dog and this ate up time on the course again. Having watched some the experienced western pros I plan on flicking him around at Meeker to get a better result. At least the shed was an improvement allowing additional time for the pen. Unfortunately time ran out before accomplishment. Amanda pointed out I didn’t use enough dog at the pen and it’s true. I just didn’t know Monty well enough to tell if he could take the pressure without a grip. Amanda assures me he can. I will try to improve this too at Meeker. Keep in mind, this was our first trial together. My timing with him needs refinement.

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Yes, I’m impatient too!

Editor’s Note: Amanda seems all too slow about getting in her updates, doesn’t she? Perhaps a good public flogging will encourage her to be more timely! As most of you probably know already, she and Roz were the reserve champions at Soldier Hollow. But we need some more details, and hopefully we’ll get them soon. In the meantime, I have a couple of blog entries from Barbara Ray, written from when she was on her way out to Soldier Hollow. (I’m a little behind, because I spent the weekend at Donald McCaig’s sheepdog trial–great fun, but a black hole as far as Internet and cell service goes!)

From Barbara, 9/2/2011: I am very nervous blogging (Editor’s Note: This word was sent to me as “blobbing,” which I really loved and almost left as is. The visual of Barbara, Amanda, and Bev blobbing along is terrific!) alongside my sisters Amanda and Beverly. For starters, they have twice my I.Q. and I write as if English were my third language. Then there are the little buttons on this phone which increase my already huge number of typos. Heather, please cover up my mistakes.

Predeparture days were hurried and not without trouble. I had to market and deliver my lambs plus buy and pick up a new bull as well as sell the old bull. Ewe flock and cows had to be put on fresh pasture so they would not cause trouble while I’m away. All this is an excuse for not noticing Stella was in season till I found her tied with Monty.

9/3/2011: My trek to Utah was not without its problems. On day two I had a blow out most likely caused by debris thrown by a passing tractor trailer on I-29. Turns out this interstate has been closed due to flooding for months. The nice guys at the tire shop gave me new directions. Meanwhile the dogs enjoyed a break from the bouncing and got some much desired exercise. I finally arrived safely late Tuesday night. Robin French and Dick & Cheryl Williams were already there. We all want our dogs to acclimate to the 7000′ altitude. Tomorrow I join Amanda at Shauna Gourley’s to work dogs.

9/4/2011: Fantastic workout for all. Shauna trailered 15 range ewes to an alfalfa field and we all fetched sheep back and forth. Monty’s loyalty was tested as we picked up sheep while Amanda was setting with Dorrie in high season. He looked her way but took an immediate redirect. As we were on route back to Shauna’s a school crossing guard jumped right out in front of me. I was unable to stop before the intersection so made the wrong decision to ease on through. I got a ticket from the cop and a finger from the crossing guard.

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