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Sheepdog News

Amanda: the night before the Big Show

Mary Minor and Sandra Massie joined the party. they had a hard drive across Nevada and Utah and were very tired when they arrived at Loma, Julie Hansmire’s.

Mary and I ran dogs at Swift’s again in the morning. Our dogs were running well. This finals , At Carbondale, is Mary Minor’s first. She is doing it with Feist. They are becoming good partners and I have my hopes up high for both of them, running on Wednesday. On we rode, to Carbondale. The Colorado rushed cheerily at our side most of the way. I envied the fishermen in small boats, fly fishing the dream.

After making a perfect camp for ourselves (Barbara Ray showed up and Bev Lambert covers a corner). we all went for a long walk that took us through the sage brush, with all its suspect hiding places for rattlesnakes and got to the top of the hill overlooking the valley of Strang Ranch and the sheep dog finals. In the opposite direction was Mount Sopris. I have attached a picture with Zola and Dahlia and the big mountain in the distance. It is an imposing back drop for the trial. Colorado at its best.

What a handler’s meeting, with so many in attendance. Everyone walking every nook and cranny, as though it would help with a scheme to get five ovine athletes, blood doped with high altitude, around a course of obstacles in good order.

Mich is second tomorrow. An early draw. Dorey is 20th. Rain is forecast. A demain!!!!!



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Amanda: Sunday in Colorado

Joni Tietjen and I worked dogs at Jim Swift’s. It was fun. I only took Howell but he ran just as I expected him to do, cool, a good partner. She ran her year-old Rob, who had not benefited from several days cooped up in a crate. We will go back tomorrow morning.

A return visit to the rewarding Las Marias Mexican hot spot was our reward for fun at Swift’s. The green chill sauce was completely authentic. Everyone had huevos with something, Chorizo, Green chilies, enchiladas, burrito. It was all good. Afterwards we went to chill roasting /fresh vegetable place on the south side of Grand Junction. Thank goodness Jim and Lisa Swift were with us to direct us. We never would have found it. Blake Tietjen got four bushels of roasted chillies. The fragrance was unforgettable, with a roaster, hot on the job, with big spinning bins, on high cook, alternating with cold spray water. That was quite a thing, A culinary specialty of Grand Junction.

The hot dogs were waiting for us at home and they all welcomed a swim in the beautiful Colorado River, not so far south of Julie Hansmire’s place. Monty swam and swam, stationary against the current, a river rat. Down by the banks of the Colorado, I will find my sweet Eldorado.

We peeled the four bushels of green chillies tonight, finishing just in time for the arrival of Mary Minor, coming to her first finals, with Feist, and Sandra Massie.

Green chilies 1
Green chilies 2

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Amanda: Meeker, the Semi-Finals

The semi finals got started early with a very hot run from Jean Gellings and her dependable little Star–97 of 110 points. Dorey did not make it through, called for commotion near the end of her crossdrive. Dave Imas will put it on Vimeo and we can all see.

I saw my opportunity to go to Fruita, Colorado to hear my beloved Butch Hancock, who I have not seen for thirty years. My Texas days.

I followed the Colorado River. Flanking it sometimes. Sometimes, criss-crossing. Water in hurry. River with a mission. It was aqua blue until Palisades, of peaches fame. There, it turned muddy. Interstate 70 in Colorado, must be one of the most picturesque Highways in the USA. Then onto Julie Hansmire’s hacienda, where Joni and Blake Tietjen, Mich Ferraro and Kak Weathers were camping out. We went to Julie Hansmire’s favourite Mexican place in downtown Grand Junction. No disappointments there. All the comforts of tamales, Chilli Relleno and enchiladas.

We were all strolling down the main drag of Fruita, when I heard his West Texas voice. I spun and there he was, doing something on the street. Whatever it was, he stopped and cried out my name. Amanda Milliken. Maybe my name has sounded better but he made it hard to remember when that was.

He sang lots of my old favs that I sing pretty often, on my own–Bluebird, You’re Just a Wave, You’re Not the Water, and See the Way. Lotsa great songs I had never heard. It was a tiny hole in the wall. He said I could remember these songs from the Alamo on 6th in Austin, so long ago. And I could. I could indeed.


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Amanda: Meeker, Day Three

The qualifying wound up today.

Dorey made it in with a whopping 54. She stayed with her sheep to her credit, who [ut on their racing shoes for her run. I made it to the ring in the fastest time but nothing was good except the the salvation of the ten point pen. It does not matter, as tomorrow is a new day and anything goes.

Bev made it in with two. She was her cheeriest self as a result. Most of the running was not very good. Grips were called freely and these are the sort of sheep that invite grips. so not that many runs got off the ground, which is a grave disappointment for those here to watch some dog running.

I went with a gang to Avery Lake, twenty miles south of Meeker, and swam the dogs. The incline to the water was steep and long. While we were fishing and hanging out, a thunderstorm approached from the west, I was nervous for Dorey who can be spooked by them and climbed up the hill, back to the truck, in a hurry, reminiscent of the Von Trapp family climbing into the alps. I know it was good for me, but I was out of breath all the same. We call that SOB, at the office.

Tonight was the handlers dinner, where a coin toss game was won by Mich Ferraro. She won three hundred and some dollars as the last person standing, which caused great excitement for our table.

The queen was in the counting house, counting all the money. / The maid was in the garden, eating bread and honey.

The queen was in the counting house, counting all the money. / The maid was in the garden, eating bread and honey.

I run twelfth tomorrow, so before lunch which is nice. Dorey’s qualifying score is low, but she is running well.

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Amanda: Meeker, Day 1

The drive from Vernal was dotted with carcasses on the road–mostly skunks, big and small. They attracted small bands of crows and magpies, snacking between passing vehicles, the sun was bright and the Kenny Reservoir was cool and blue. All of the drive was unusually green. Must have been that downpour that soaked Wyoming on the way out. Even the trial field at Meeker was green.

I had a dull day tidying and doing housework. In the evening, Joni Swanke and Howards cooked us a fabulous steak and lamb supper. Everyone was catching up up on the latest. Mostly dog reports, but sometimes the talk strayed.

The much anticipated trial was something of a let down with fifty percent of the dogs disqualified. Monty among them. We went for a swim at the icy White River, this year, full of water.

I run Howell and Dorey tomorrow, but really we have hardly got to see any dog running so it hasn’t been that interesting.

A swim party for Zola.

A swim party for Zola.


Zola and Dahlia

Zola and Dahlia

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Amanda: Solider Hollow, Double Lift

I went down to the trial field early, with Beverly to look at the fetches. Trees, those olympic relics of which I have spoken, dot the hill side and are a frustration to the dog runners. If your dog gets behind them, the sheep lose the feel of the dog and take liberties. If the sheep get into them, they can try to stay for shade from the hot afternoon sun, for instance, or just plain old fashioned cover. I wish they would cut some of them down and offer them to Salt Lake City for Christmas trees. I am handy with a chain saw and could help. Some of them have already been marauded for Christmas–tops cut off. Why not take down most of them?

Ron Enzeroth set the pace for the day with a near flawless run, save a missed first fetch panel for a 149, with his admirable Mick. I didn’t see Scot Glen’s winner with Bliss as I was off to get my dog. Monty went around the course not quite so smoothly as I would like with trouble on the first fetch, some of it from the trees. His finish was very good, which is the last taste anyone will have of his run, so always a good idea to finish well

Bev and Joe went a little after me. Joe was somewhat hot headed–not as hot headed as Bev claimed he was later. He went around the course reasonably well. Things got a little hairy in the shedding ring but Bev got through. The pen was terminal. Joe didn’t like the sheep bouncing about and eventually let one have it in a dramatic collision

Dorey was little star. She ran out well. The first fetch was once again, the source of the trouble with sheep rolling into the trees and if Dorey went in to get them, they exploded out. I can hardly remember what happened there, it was so fast, and their track obscured from view, by the spruces. But they came through the first fetch hard and passed the drop point. While she went back well, it was too far down the field. Cost, cost cost. After that, her run was quite good, putting her in third place behind the Texan, Ron Enzeroth.

After her run, her fans asked for pictures with her. Dorey likes to pose, so no problem.

I have started for Meeker, stopping at Vernal, Utah for the night. Dogs are ready to run well in the big trial. And I cant wait to see my Meeker friends (old home week), and Haley and Michele Howard are joining me for a couple of days. Colorado!

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Amanda: the rest of Sunday

I have hardly ever been readier to run a couple of dogs. Monty was up earlyish in the five spot. He followed a blinding run by Shauna Gorley, Ute, a very popular good run, scoring a 90. Monty’s work was good but the sheep slipped around the fetch panel on the unexpected side, lambasting his score. His pen was the the most noteworthy part of his run once again, where held his side with me pushing excessively hard–I had to take a chance with the missed panel. It paid off. The gate closed with six seconds left.

Dorey wore her Canadian collar sent to me by a Ute, Eric Larson. Red, with maple leaves. She was in the hunt for her turn all morning, talking about it, complaining about distractions, of the terrible burden of being a championat. I had no reason to think it would not go well. It did go well. All her work was good, but her invaluable presence at the pen will be what I carry for a long time. Artful about her side. Patient but authoritative. That was thrilling. She scored a 97.

Old Beverly, who properly said she crawled over my corpse to qualify the first day, turned in a great run with Joe, a 92. She kept talking about the chasing, but today there was none. He came through when he needed to do.

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Amanda: Solider Hollow, Day Two (and early Day Three)

I was up very early for the first run to the day. Delicious coffee. stopped at the port-a-potties on the the north side of the the trial field and noted the aggravating noise of the the flyball dogs, all fifty, barking their heads off. Terrible I listened to the Star Spangled Banner, by John Denver this time (what a relief) He was straightforward songster. I waited at the judge’s tent, listening to Charlie Torre, setout star, report that he couldn’t hear the the national anthem because of the loud dog barking. He couldn’t understand how any dog could hear over the flyable dogs. Great. I was about to run. The sheep were difficult to spot, suspicious of the sea of a barkers at the bottom of the hill and it went about like that.

But tonight we changed. Dressed up. And went to the Tree Room at the Sundance Resort. We were celebrating a couple of weddings. Georgette Leventis and Paula Gibbs among them. We were seated right next to the tree, that grows through the dining room. The food was pleasantly surprising, with textures and flavours raising all the eyebrows. The wine was delicious. That Kosta Browne Pinot was long and unforgettable on the palate. It was a festive change from the camp out cooking.

Monty was up fifth this morning. We missed a fetch panel. Don’t ask me how. But Monty was stellar at the pen, where I took a chance on stepping up, with a very reliable dog covering the other side. He held strong with four seconds left and in they went.

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Amanda: Soldier Hollow, Day One

The trial started off with no fanfare. Scot Glen laid one down early and it held for the day. Norm Close nearly caught him with a good run and Don Helsley pushed the envelope. The sheep were difficult all day. Monty started well, being gentlemanly with his sheep, perhaps so much, they took advantage of him at the fetch panel and slipped around the side blinded for me by those infernal spruce trees, relics of cross country ski Olympic fantasy land, not native to here at all. They ought to go. The rest was ok. He was stellar at the pen where he kept some difficult ones in his grasp, and patiently persuaded them to go in after all. The pressure was high and he met it with marvellous sureness. I like that.

His score did not keep him on the board. He was nudged out by my friend Beverly Lambert and Nan, who had a belting run. Her pen was the most remarkable feature of her run. Bev likes to take over at the pen and put them in herself. The astute student of her technique can enjoy her dogs doing a canine version of WTF, when she demands of them to be more active participants. Nan cowgirled up and made a few good saves at the pen for Beverly without asking too many questions of her handler. It was fun to watch.

Running with Bev turned one of Nan’s brown eyes blue.

We had a cookout here, with rib eyes form Whole Foods, roasted fingerling spuds, and contraband tomato salad (from an eastern Ontario gardener) , with basil and bocconcini and light garlic olive oil. Everyone said it was good. The wine was good too. Closson Chase Chardonnay, and and Marlborough Pinot, The Pass.

Dorey is up first in the morning. She watched a few runs late this afternoon in preparation and seems excited about the day. I have no photos except this one of Roz, which my home vet Heather Sims, requested. Roz had a radical mastectomy and a spay about a week before we left, (a bad biopsy) so she can’t run on this western tour this but she is a keen spectator. Mary Minor is supervising her care.




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Amanda: The Great Escape

August 26

I got out. I got out of Nebraska without it sucking all the life out of me. It took hours, but I made it to my favourite part of Nebraska, the Wyoming line. To complicate the drabness of the Nebraska terrain, the sky was overcast, so everything was shadowless and weary. The dogs were fed up with truck routine. I took them for a good walk at a military vehicle museum, but it was no cure.

When Wyoming hit, the sky opened up. Thunderstorm surrounded the edge of the vista in all directions and we travelled trough scattered showers that loaded the air with the scent of damp sage brush. The rock formations leapt out, announcing the end of Nebraska. Black cows dot the golden landscape. Milton Scott says they spray for Herefords in Alberta–not in Nebraska, they are the cattle of choice.

I have crossed the great divide. Everything on this side goes to the Pacific. All that ground I covered today, All those miles, drains to the gulf of Mexico through the determined Mississippi. Only four more hours left to go.

August 27

I cleared the great divide late at night and stopped for the night somewhere past Rawlins, Wyoming. It must have been an OK sleep, because it was not noteworthy. I should have hitched up my generator and made a coffee before taking on Route 80 west. Coffee holes are few and far between, as is any sort of sizable settlement. It was sixty miles or so before one popped up. A coffee emergency. Rain in this part of Wyoming is rare. All kinds of signs show it to be a desert but the rain came down as cats and dogs today–the sort of rain that could alarm a sensible person about flash floods. It rained hard, until the Utah line, when it let up. About three hours in the driving rain.

I went straight to Park City for supplies and turned south for Heber and Soldier Hollow

My fatigue was palpable. I went with Shauna to run Howell at the practise field–five minutes of left and right. I organized my camper, walked the dogs and booked a spa night at the Zermatt Resort. Meanwhile Ray and Amy Coapman joined me for drinks and Canadian music.

I had a clever masseuse, Tatum. A total restorative. If I had known when I ran the dogs over the next couple of days, I would have booked a second one, she was so good. I took the waters and fought the poisons of that drive, that merciless drive.

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