Friday, July 5, 2013

My First and Last Sheep Dog Trials

I don't remember why I became so obsessed about seeing sheep dog trials - possibly from watching the BBC program One Man and His Dog, but in the autumn of 1990 I drove to Waterloo for the Iowa Sheep Dog Association's 8th Annual Sheep Dog Trials. It was a cold, rainy day. The events were held in the National Cattle Congress arena.

It was fascinating to watch the dogs work, beginning with their sweep, collecting their three sheep and then herding them as the handler directed through a series of gates and eventually into a pen. Most handlers used whistle commands while a few still used the old voice commands, Away to me and Come by in addition to whistling.
I was determined to learn as much as I could during the one day competition. I had my camera with me and a notebook in which I was writing everything down. I asked questions of anyone willing to answer them. I know some people there thought I was a reporter. I wish.

I wanted a Border Collie puppy so bad. I talked with this young woman who had recently gotten her puppy. Seeing it made me want one even more. I'm not even really a 'dog' person, yet I still dream of having a Border Collie - it is the only dog I would even consider owning. Maybe it is my Scots ancestry coming out as their name comes from being developed in the border area between England and Scotland.

The last time I went to sheep dog trials was in June of 2009 in the little burg of Tingley, Iowa. The program announcement said the highlight of the evening would be the famous Ghost Riders - monkeys riding Border Collies while the dogs herded rams. That may have been the highlight for some, but for me watching the trial dogs work was the best part of the evening.

Another successful pen. Most herders use a cane or staff. Border Collies are considered to be one of the most intelligent of dog breeds. When we were still on the farm and I was seriously considering getting a dog, I had one located in an animal shelter in Lawrence, Kansas. Her name was Sophie. She was beautiful. Every day I would look at her on the rescue site and think, "Should I call them and if she's still available, drive down there?" Finally after about a week, she was adopted. I didn't have to worry about making the decision any longer. Of course then I kicked myself for not acting sooner.

There are different colors of Border Collies, but for me this is the only look I would want - black and white, but mostly black; a white strip from forehead to nose - but a narrow white strip and definitely brown eyes. It may be because our Nadette looked like this picture, though I think my prejudice started before we had her.

There were other sheep dog trials I after Waterloo and before Tingley, mostly at the Iowa State Fair. I hope there a few more for me to watch, I do love seeing those dogs work.


  1. If you ever get a border collie, you had better be sure it has some work to do. If they don't have a job, they get bored and get in trouble.

    1. Donna - Yeah, I knew this about them which is a good reason I never got one. I sure couldn't keep up with one now! Ha!
      My best time to have had one was when I raised sheep but I didn't know much about them then - hadn't gotten obsessed about the breed yet.