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Sheepdog News

Amanda: Soldier Hollow, Day Three

The weather has cooled off entirely. Much of today was overcast with the odd sprinkling moisture (that’s how rain is measured in the desert). The dog running was fascinating, the sheep big show girls, without asking so many pointed questions as showing flat disdain for the dogs. It made it fun.

Dorey was the earliest high roller, with an adorable go around the course. With five full minutes at the pen, I could not put them in. Who knows how far you could have gone with Lavon Calzacorta at the trigger. What grips would have been tolerated? I tried every trick in the book, short of calling on Dorey to really shift them, and they never budged. She held an 82 without the pen, which turned out to be just enough to carry her into the final. Barbara Ray laid one down with Stella that scored her finalist status, and Bev delivered with Nan, scoring a ninety. Howell had qualified the day before but ran real well anyway, scoring an 88. The running was thrilling to execute, with good timing and canine authority rewarded at every turn. They sheep were devilish at the pen.

Allen Mills, of Texas, had one of the most memorable runs in the preliminaries. Sis, at ten years old, has had a brilliant career and now a long one to boot. She picks every sweet spot at the end of flanks and gives a perfect amount of ground to leave sheep relaxed within her turns. What a wonderful partner she has been for Allen, and I look forward to watching her at the next two trials. She didn’t quite pen, which cost her a spot on the final day.

Tomorrow the double lift Finals.



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Amanda: Soldier Hollow, Day 1

The first day at Soldier Hollow is a quiet one. Only several hundred spectators. Handlers getting their feet on the ground, resting from the long commutes. The sheep were tall, racey and naive. They make great study for dog handlers as they expose so much about the dogs. Every wrong move. Every scaredy cat eventually is exposed on sheep like these. Every missing confidence. Many caved at the end of their runs with altitude wrecking their stamina. The heat in the afternoon, while not as as blistering as it can be, was harsh, compared to the chill of he early mornings.

Dorey’s fetch was good but argumentative with her sheep after a gratifying outrun. Timing killed the driveaway panel with sheep bolting up the drive and missing narrowly to the outside. I might have been OK with that, but not with the two minutes required to return the shed sheep to the ring for the march to the pen, where I couldn’t finish. She was seventh or eighth, not among the five guaranteed a spot on the final day. Her next run is Sunday morning–onward.

Louanne Twa, a last minute entry on a cancellation, rose up to the top for winning the day with 83 points. Her dog was forward and free, a skillful sheep manager and all round good looking representative for the Canadian flag.

We barbecued some King salmon and got some sleep.

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Amanda: extreme sheepdogging

Extreme sheepdog handling

I got up first and fired up the cafe. Our gang rode to the training field at Arvada in near darkness. Deer and antelope asked to be struck by our vehicles. No Wendy today on horse back, but we didn’t need her. Joni drove us to a second entrance to our practice field and said we could gather here. I asked where the sheep were, and I wouldn’t have seen them if she had not pointed them out. The dogs certainly didn’t see them. They were camouflaged against a very distant fence and in between were multiple crevasses and rough stuff, with many dips out of sight before any brave gatherer could reach sheep. “I want to try that!” The whole experience was dialed up off the radar. Dorey and Howell made it with a couple of redirects. We didn’t mostly bring them but returned them to the set out after the lift. All the dogs got expanded imaginations after the experience and new trust in redirection. What a test. The young ones drove a little more. By the time we took our turns, the hot weather returned and put the kibosh on more. I would have loved to have been there all day in the cool. Sublime.

range ewes

range ewes

We left Clearmont for points south. The country was wide open, vistas twenty kilometres distant. Buffalo, Casper, where I lost Roz many years ago, Rawlins, overnighting in Rock Springs, with a final ride through the red canyons, for Soldier Hollow early this morning.

Let the games begin.

Joni with Jack, Ben, and Cap

Joni with Jack, Ben, and Cap

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Amanda: a dog-centric day

A dog-centric day

Joni woke me up, eager for her latte and an early start to use the cool of the day for the dog work. The coffee was not disappointing. and neither was the dog work. Joni had sixty fresh yearling finewools. Her neighbour Wendy Auzqui brought her horse and spotted on horse back, boon to the the eastern Nursery dogs who had never encountered such a thing. Quark, who is becoming confident, had several WTF moments, the horse and the range finewools combining to dispense with all her ideas of proper manners and convention. Zola thought she saw the devil in the horse. An invaluable training session, courtesy Joni Tietjen. Epiphanies left and right. The young dogs running with their eyes and mouths wide open, to take it all in. What a morning. The heat arrived and called an end to all reasonable ambitions with the dogs, and we drove back to Clearmont from Arvada. The dogs had a river swim in the Clear Creak that feeds the Powder River and miles of irrigated ground before it gets to the Powder. We went to Sheridan for lunch, supplies, and a stroll through the Dan King Rope Museum, with more antique saddles than anywhere else. Among the saddle collection were many side saddles, in which I take an interest. The shop, attached to a museum, produces most of North America’s rodeo ropes. Dan King is a celebrated Sheridan resident with a festival named in his honour. Later, it was Mexican, in Basque Buffalo with Auzquis and Tietjens, and dreams of running more worldly dogs, early tomorrow morning.


Don King ropes museum

Dan King ropes museum

Swim party on Clear Creek

Swim party on Clear Creek

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Amanda: good in the Badlands

The ride across South Dakota was lovelier than I recalled. Maybe I only passed it in the dark before, and that was a long time ago. For the eight hours it took to drive through it, there was lots of time to look. Exquisite contours, vista after vista. It had had all the rain that we did not. The crops were fat, checkered in hues of green straying to chartreuse for the sunflowers. I was a few days late for them, hundreds of acres of sunflowers obediently facing the sun. What a sight. Alfalfa, stretching for miles of blue green. Sorghum in rusty red. Beans bright forest green. Canola, billowing in gold Little bits of Platte river, which rolls southward to Nebraska, carved into the prairie. It is not home for me, but the prairies pull my heart strings as though it was. I wonder what it’s like for those that live here to return, from, for instance my place, with all its differences laid plain for contrast. I crossed the Missouri, the very wide Missouri, where it had been made into Lake Francis. Three bridges spanned it, the one for the interstate and a couple more, at least one for railroads. We stopped for a break in the Badlands and rode on the flat easy highway to the Black Hills, past Sturgis where the finals were hosted many times, long ago, and into Clearmont, Wyoming. Joni Tietjen had a dog swim party ready. They loved it. Blake barbecued rib eyes.

Dorey looking good in the Badlands

Dorey looking good in the Badlands

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Amanda: every journey starts with a single step welcomes back Amanda’s blog posts!

I crossed into the the US at the Thousand Islands and took the route south of the great lakes, I90, towards Chicago. It was a hot afternoon. I wasted no time. Once a motor boat surprised me, riding calmly up the Genesee River, heading north to Lake Ontario. That is an odd idea for a Kingston gal, who always looks south to the big lake.

I grew very tired and pulled in to a travel plaza on the Ohio part of the toll route. There, to my surprise, was a separate parking area for RV’s that kept the noisy trucks to themselves. It was a perfect place to pass the night with lots of quiet dog walking area behind. Kudos to the Ohio highway people with the vision to allow the RV’s some quiet space. I got up early, equipped with a delicious cup of cafe, and listening to one of thousands of songs on my iPod. I was in the “U’s”: “Up in Indiana” by Lyle Lovett. Halfway through the song, my headlights lit up a sign, welcoming me to Indiana. I swear Lyle would love that. I must tell him.

The rest of the day was less remarkable, with a pleasant pass through Chicago: Sunday morning comes highly recommended for no traffic. Barbara Ray had alerted me that her pass through Chicago took four hours. Mine was much better for the forty-five minutes. I stopped at La Crosse, Wisconsin, very close to Mississippi, and made a sign of the big river’s significance. I surged on, opposite to the draw of the Gulf of Mexico, against the current of all things Mississippi. I crossed a time zone, and finally stopped at Cabela’s for the night, in Mitchell, South Dakota . It was a perfect night. My camper bed had lined up to catch a soft breeze Its kindness was unforgettable and brought the sweetest, deepest slumber I can recall. There may have been better, but I can’t remember them.

Bev wrote to say she had acquired the cheeses that made Wisconsin famous, with lots to share. Soldier Hollow here we come. She is not even holding back after having had to pay for supper for the mob (the high cost of winning Kingston).

I am headed to Joni and Blake Tietjen’s place in Clearmont Wyoming, for dog work, altitude and fun.


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Amanda: homeward bound

For all the complaints about Nebraska, it gave up a breathtaking sunrise this morning. I took a picture, so that everyone could see that Nebraska wasn’t a total bust , that it had a charm or two that it kept from view. Just a glimpse here and there. It took a long time to cross.

I encountered the great river, south of 80, at LeClaire. The water is wide. I skipped the mayhem of all the dogs and just took Dorey. She promptly charged into the river, thinking the surface of lilypads and floating flora was firm ground. It was kinda smelly but the water was flowing under the docks like a sharp tide. A flock of storks flew by, but they surprised me and I missed them with my camera. Who knew they had storks here, supplying babies to the childless of Davenport? Their flight was a graceful one, arching over the river and settling on a floating thing, mid river. The traffic on the I80 bridge was east west, but every notion, every sentiment, of this spot, looked south, like Dorey.

Chicago was passed in the dark. My home is calling out to me.

photo 1

photo 2


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Amanda: the long trip home

What a final. The outruns were not so difficult, but the drive was enormous. two hundred yards way and three hundred yards of cross drive then a trip back to the ring. The sheep were different kinds of difficult all day. Handlers struggled to get the twenty around the course and many taken down for grips, the frustration of getting them moving.

Monty started with a good outrun , but he was scrambled in his fetch, so much so, I wondered if he could hear. He missed the first fetch badly and I had to send him back from below the drop point with vexing cost. After that, the only really good thing was his shed. I should have taken stock of his fatigue level–when I brought his five collared ewes to the pen, he was doing ok until one broke away and rejoined. Hell.

My camp broke up suddenly. We were all happy there for awhile, and now everyone is going back to the home routine. My hat is off to Bridget and Kit Strang and the mass of volunteers that worked the finals to make it a beauty.

I can honestly say I enjoyed the drive through Colorado. I haven’t been through the Glenwood Canyon during daylight hours for years. What a spectacular route it is. The Colorado River coursing down done one side with kayakers and white water rafters, the steep rocky mountains up the other. You can see how those people would love where they live. Riding through Colorado cuts a couple of hours off Nebraska–that is a preferred route, the one that cuts the time off Nebraska.



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Amanda: the National Finals semi-finals

The semifinals was a long day with 41 runners (ties were included), fifteen minutes per dog and many of them used all their time, and begged for more. The sheep were mostly uniformly difficult, but they showed that they had been through handling facilities and worked once or twice by being easier at the pen. Or maybe everyone had to try for it it with the single at stake, if you failed. The spectating was engrossing. Seeing the reaction of sheep to various dogs, their exclusive styles and the outcomes. High entertainment for serious dog runners, indeed.

Monty took the course like a pro. His gather was handy and his turn at the post good, where many had trouble. Sheep began to be willful in the drive away and they were testing right through the first panel. They moved off keenly in the crossdrive but resented being made to go through the crossdrive, the in-the-face flank. The short ride from the crossdrive to the ring was marked with peril which Monty negotiated successfully. Patient in the extreme. One collared, one not, tried him repeatedly. If he did pop them (and I don’t know that he did, he isn’t the type), it was on the up side, and into the ring they came. His penning was the most noteworthy of his run, very sure and cool. That seems to be a repeat story about him these days. A good one.

Monty runs ninth tomorrow. Patrick Shannahan eighth. Barbara Ray runs third, a coveted draw. Joni Tietjen runs 14th. We are all honoured to run in the final, from such strong company and many good dogs and hands.

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Amanda: a note from the dead zone

On Tuesday, the running began in the rain. There were strange patterns of weather all around us and Dorey could hear nothing but thunder from somewhere. She ran like a stranger. All her flanks were hesitant, all her stops late. Thunder phobia is a vice that gets you eventually and Tuesday was Dorey’s day.

The weather remained oppressive all day with occasional breaks in otherwise uncharacteristically heavy rain. It is a desert here, for heaven’s sake. Sage brush and cactus.

After a disturbing USBCHA director’s meeting on Tuesday night, I was not myself. Poisoned. I ran Howell in the morning. He ran out beautifully and brought them well, and then I drove the fetch, to conclude his Nursery career. He will just have to be a good Open dog.

The sheep have been difficult and pretty even with a few sorry draws with a single offending runner. For the most part, they were uniformly difficult and no pens were ever easy.

Thank goodness for my crowd of friends. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Wednesday night, Joni and Blake Tietjen found the new restaurant that the chef had opened, replacing his former good one in downtown Carbondale from a few years ago. Carbpndale is finals town with all the accoutrements except good cell service and wifi. Whole Foods is about three miles away with a big Starbucks next door (not that we need that, our coffee is better). We have wined and dined with a very effective camp and endlessly good supplies. Mary Minor and Sandara Massie brought a tent that has civilized our outdoor activities. The barbecue has been very lively. The parking people call us the South Beach community.

Today was the final day of four days of preliminary running. Monty ran well enough to secure him a spot in the semi-finals tomorrow. Lots of cautious hands with decent runs, have played it safe at the pen and not tried. I went for it. Monty took it like a pro. He ran quite fluidly today, talking to me the whole way around. He is up thirty-ninth tomorrow.

Mark Henderson, spotter extraordinaire, with Mount Sopris in the background.

Mark Henderson, spotter extraordinaire with Mount Sopris in the background.

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