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Sheepdog News

Amanda: mopping up

The course for the finals was big. The first gather took dogs in the direction of the preliminary running with a couple of extra hundred yards tacked on and a confusing irrigation hedgerow separating the fields, mowed, but nevertheless, a visual barrier. A trick. Most dogs got it right with a few exceptions. The fetches were long and demanding to the gates with a go back that proved the undoing of all dogs sare Patricia’s Cap. The salvation of her championship.

There was some frost the morning of the final. Imagine going from there to 86 in one day. As the day wore on, and the heat intensified, the second gather escaped every competitor. Some went back well, only to be drawn in by the white hubs on some irrigation wheels, which were brightened by the afternoon sun, beaming down upon them from the west. Scot Glen’s Don stopped to lift them (the hubs) and then carried on in an impossible track across the rough ground that separated the arms of the alfalfa fields, hosting the gathers. The hearing was compromised with the full on heat of the afternoon, with many dogs who could be redirected back, having no second fetch worth talking about in charitable terms.

Bev and Joe had a good if nervous first gather with five minutes spent sending him back, and reorganizing the first sheep to launch Joe on the go back. He eventually got them and had a good drive to be called for a grip in the shedding ring. She had to go for it. Think of Bev on upper drugs and there you have her after her run.

Roz had everything going pretty well until she too, was stymied by the second outrun. She spent a ridiculous spell of time frozen below a knoll that obscured the second sheep. They were nestled nicely in a slight swale that kept them out of sight of the outrunning dog and with the hearing not so handy in the heat, very difficult. At least I found it so. A toxic blend of circumstances. She finally brought them but without enough time to finish the shed. Two or three more.

It was a day full of good byes. With ciaos to all the friends with whom I had spent much of the previous month, Au revoir to the new friends. “What a pleasure to have met you.” Packing up my camper for the road. Congratulating competitors. “Until the next time.” sort of a scene.


The Mississippi was more rewarding than usual. We pulled off at Le Claire and went right down to the water. The river was low and lazy. Michael Gallagher jettisoned his sandals and stepped right into the river of lore. To the focus of all water from just west of Rawlins Wyoming, where we crossed the continental divide. He stepped into Johnny Cash singing Big River. He stepped into Mark Twain. He stepped into Comte de Lasalle. The sun was shining down on us and the dogs. It was dazzling. A treasure moment.

Michael Gallagher in Mississippi

The road was long. I am home now. The dahlias have bolted in gratitude for the rain. I have a bunch of tomatoes and basil from my own garden, with which to make Panzanella. Ma and I are drinking the same wine they will serve at Haley and Blair Hunewill’s wedding party and we are drinking a toast to them. Mother is looking at the pictures of the lion hunt, the Sierra’s ride, fascinated, It’s nice here. Sheep look good. Back to work tomorrow.

Home sweet home!

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BevLive: the double lift

All done now blog. It’s all over except for the second guessing and the driving. Joe ran first and was again a good boy but failed to exceed his obviously inadequate training in the turnback. He had a really hard time finding his second group of sheep. He handled the sheep great once he got them.

The shed was going great until I forgot Joe’s still inadequate training and asked him to turn back a running collared ewe. She got stopped all right and we got disqualified. Gives me something to work on over the winter!

Congratulations to the winners and the hosts. Was a great finals. The courses for all three runs were interesting to watch and challenging to run on. Was a lot of fun.

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BevLive: the semi-finals

It’s 6:30 at night and the trial committee is out setting the course for the final. Believe it or not Joe has ended up his educational trip with the third highest score in the semi-final and a place in tomorrow’s running.

The sheep were really good all day. There were the odd free thinkers but mostly they responded kindly to careful handling. Several dogs had trouble with the tricky outrun, more had trouble with the shedding. The finishing seemed harder in the afternoon when the weather was hot and the dogs were stressed by the big field.

The end of the day saw the running improve some what. Scott Glen managed two very strong runs for first and second. My Hemp did his best but a poor finish took us out of it along with Amanda and Monty and many others.

So I’m hoping that Joe can manage a better turn back than he did at Soldier Hollow. This is much more difficult than that trial but he’s a month older and much wiser. Anything is possible.

The double-lift field

The left outrun

The right outrun

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Amanda: the semi-finals

The handlers have been comfortably accommodated in a wheat field with straw left that keeps down the dust. Water trucks move through the car park frequently. I first I thought it might be for the comfort of the hands camp, but it might have been for fire prevention. Once in a while a fire burning off stubble, rages behind the mountains surrounding us. It has been a festive gang with birthdays celebrated here and there, disappointments shared and triumphs celebrated.

I have been completely absorbed in the dog running, watching different dogs, matching up their pedigrees to the form before me, seeing what works and what doesn’t work so much. The first day there was only open to watch, but starting Wednesday, we have had a two ring circus with the Nursery coinciding with the open running. I had a lot of judging back and forth, but mostly stayed with the Nursery where my two dogs ran, WEdnesday, Thursday, and because they made it through, to the final, Friday.

The sheep have been mixed with preponderance of white faced sheep interspersed with conspicuous suffolk types. Imagine six hundred regular Kingston sheep being delivered with a hundred black faced ones mixed in and you will get the idea. Joni Swanke had a difficult draw today and as she put it, ” I didn’t picture it that way.” Plan B required.

Dorey had a nearly flawless run on Thursday. Feist, so young, ran really well on Wednesday. She ran even better on Friday to finish seventh or eighth, I am not sure which. Dorey took a grip at the pen, on one i did not see coming. I was proud of them both.

Roz ran well on Tuesday, assuring herself a spot in the semi finals. Monty lead the running in the qualifying with a 168. On form. Tonight his great great grandmother, Hazel, was honoured by the ABCA, inducted into their Hall of Fame. Bev Lambert did an outstanding job of explaining why, to their annual meeting. A line that stretched through successful Border Collies throughout North America. I try to honour Hazel with every step I take with the dogs. Tonight, my community did that in ways I cannot. I thank them. I thank her.


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BevLive: The Finals, Day Three

Big nursery day for Amanda and I since she had Dorey and Feist in the final and I had Joe. To make a long story short neither of us won but I think I speak for both of us when I say our dogs rocked.

The open went better with Hemp having a great run on really nice sheep marred only by a very poor pen. Amanda and Monty had a better pen to end the day first in the preliminary round. Hemp was 5th. We both got both our dogs into the semi-final and I’m delighted.

The course has been turned so we are now outrunning all the way up into what had been the nursery field. Looks scary and fun.

The semi-finals field

Amanda’s Hazel was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame tonight so I went for the ceremony. Very nice recognition of a great dog.

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BevLive: the Finals, Day Two

I was quite chuffed with Joe this morning. He ran quite well. A little cautious to lift and as usual pushed on a bit too much on the fetch, but overall a very good boy. He finished 8th in the preliminary round but ten points behind Lyle Lad’s leading score of 63. A lot of ground to make up since the winner will be determined by adding this score to tomorrow’s score.

Amanda and Dorey are in a much better position after a very pretty run that scored 159.

So the nursery final runs tomorrow for the 33 dogs that came out of the preliminary with the highest scores. Tomorrow is also the last day of qualifying for the open.

Today was very tough on the open field. There were only three really good scores with Ray Coapman’s 154 putting him on the top of the leader board. Hemp and I finally run tomorrow afternoon. I hope we haven’t waited too long. Been quite a while since poor Hemp has had any work.

It looked for a while on the open field as if the dogs just weren’t hearing well. I’ll sure know soon.

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BevLive: The Finals, Day 1

Amanda is my hero today. She and Roz had an extremely difficult ewe and handled her so well they managed to end up second for the day.

Joe and I didn’t have near their troubles and didn’t do as well. Joe was a very good boy. He pushed on a bit a couple of times but really kept his head. All the sheep were facing him at the pen and refusing to go in. Since my poor navigation had caused us to miss two panels we really needed the pen. Joe kept his cool and pushed the hussys in. Our score isn’t great but I’m hopeful it will be enough to get us into the semi finals. In any case, I’m over the moon with my boy.

The sheep don’t look that difficult but brought some to the top dogs down today. They move freely but don’t bend much at all and need the dogs to push to change their line of travel. They are usually hard in the shed, doing a lot of spinning around as the handlers try to line them out. The flock is quite mixed in appearance, running from Cheviot types to Suffolk with much in between. They remained quite even as the day warmed with the highest score in the heat of the day. They definitely penned easiest on the morning though. Remember these are just my opinions, and I expect everyone here would have a different take on the ovine part of the competition. One thing we’ll all agree on though is that the second drive gate is incredibly hard to judge. Wasn’t helped that some sheep ate one of our prime landmarks.

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BevLive: The Finals Begin

Well, we’re all gathered. Seems like there are more handlers I don’t know every year. Was a very big handler’s meeting at 5:30.

The handlers meeting

Not too surprising a course. 400 yard outrun. A bit tight on the top from the dog’s perspective as there is a pipe line on one side and an unmoved field line on the other. The field is quite flat but very pretty with a nice Oregon view beyond the irrigated trial field.

The local committee had a wine and cheese reception for the handlers after the meeting. Was very nice of them.

Amanda contemplates the course

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BevLive: Double F Sheepdog Trial

I spent the last two days at the Fontaine’s trial in Chiloquin, Oregon. Great trial but no cell coverage.

The trial was on a slightly rolling harvested rye field, very yellow and stubbly. The sheep were incredibly naive yearling black face crosses (Suffolk or Hamp). They were really something. Very, very hard to lift off the top. They would try to out run the dog back to the setout and managed to succeed about half the time. Once lifted, the top part of the fetch was mostly them trying to run faster than the dog so they could get away back to their buddies. The cross drive gate proved a very difficult panel between the sheep breaking for the exhaust and the deceptive lay of the land.

Shedding was hard as the yearlings were difficult to read. Few folks reached the pen. Those who did found the sheep fun to work with there but, you guessed it, generally difficult to pen.

I was proud of my dogs as they all managed to get the sheep down the field, no mean accomplishment where two thirds of the dogs got no scores.

I quit with Joe at the pen on the first day when he took a completely uncalled for bite at one of the sheep who broke away. It was an act of frustration and while I sympathized with him I felt I couldn’t let it go. Today he ran great. He had one ewe fight him hard all the way around and he never lost his patience and managed a very clean finish. A miscommunication on the cross drive, caused I think in part by windy conditions, cost us dearly but didn’t affect my pleasure at his good work.

Tom won the first day with a great run with Sly who made the sheep look easy. When I left for the Finals field Vergil was leading it Scott.

It was an extremely challenging trial and a lot of fun. I’m a bit regretful that the sheep were so hard just before the finals. I hope my boys can manage to change gears for these sheep here and not go out loaded for bear. Still, this trip has been aimed at giving Joe experience and this was sure “Experience.”

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Amanda: travel and adventure

September 21

It was a surprisingly long drive from Sonoma to Alturas. Sandy Milberg will be relieved to know I took my rig through the truck wash in California’s Olive capital. We dined cheerfully here.

In the morning I sent the young dogs around some sheep

But then Michele and I drove to Ashland, Oregon, to the world famous Shakespeare Festival. We went to “Animal Crackers”‘ not a Shakespeare play, but one written for the Marx brothers, many years ago. It was funny. Beforehand we went to a wonderful restaurant with a remarkable wine list, in Jacksonvlille. We spent the night there and returned to Alturas this morning. Joni Swanke and Blake were here. Haley has arrived, and now we are getting together a party.

September 22

The day here began with a group dog run. Joni Swanke, Haley Howard, Sandra Milberg and me. Most of us had problems we had to sort out. Not the sort of running where one us envied the other. I consider that a good sign. Last time I was here, my dog ran like a top and then betrayed every trust at the Nursery Finals. Roz.

Monty came back from his morning constitutional with blood on his face, Feist was tardy and I saw her at something up on the hill above the car park. I went up to look and there was fresh deer kill. Mountain lion! It looked as though my dogs might have chased it off, since it wasn’t buried anywhere, as cats are inclined to do. Lion dogs???

There has been a lion kill!

Michele called the trapper, Kent, who I had met when I was here several years ago. He brought a four pack of Cur dogs and we had a hunt on our hands.

The scenting conditions were less than ideal with a dry heat overtaking the ranch. He sent them out with tracking collars on. They were completely game.

Haley and Kent tracked. Experts. They circled lion prints in the dust, showing us that the lion had been close to where we had all been walking and very close to Michele’s house. The Cur dogs yelped a chorus when they thought they were on to something. We caught up with them eagerly, ready to identify the big cat, treed. The footing was difficult, over rocky lava rock ground and it was hot enough out, I was wondering how the Indians ever got to water in time when they got hot. Or maybe they had the good sense to stay out of the heat of the day and wait till later to promenade. The prospect of finding the cat was scintillating. The hunt, while it did not produce a cat, was exciting. On Safari in Alturas California.

At the evidence

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