Don’t worry, it will all make sense eventually.
Did you get a chance to watch the National Sheepdog Finals this past weekend (as instructed!!)? Man, what a bunch of nail-biter performances! Patrick Shannahan and Riggs laid down a simply lovely run to win the whole shebang after a kind of “eep! zomg, what’s going on?” gather. If you missed it, you missed one hell of a show!
This was the first time, I believe, that the finals have ever been live-broadcast on any medium and I think there were a few thousand people watching the best sheepdogs and handlers in North America do their thang. I was amused to see some of my FB friends who are not sheepdoggie types intrigued enough to tune in and watch, and even get excited about it. It’s hard not to get excited about watching something so innately beautiful. If you’ve never seen a dog do a double lift before, I hope you were impressed!
Yeahright. Staring Dexter down is not “herding” West!
I’m not going to pontificate on the finer points of what makes a stockdog a stockdog, as it would bore most of you senseless and I also am not an expert on the subject, having achieved only the lowliest of accomplishments in the ‘sport’ of sheepherding, such as it were. I am greatly interested in the subject though, and read / talk about it a lot, and believe firmly that preserving the working nature of the border collie breed is an important thing to do. Breeding for sport or conformation, or candy colours or even just money is a sucky and demeaning thing to do. The border collie is versatile, but it’s not a versatile breed, if you understand the distinction; it was bred to do one thing, and that thing happens to encompass a lot of qualities that make it versatile. But as soon as you start thinking that it’s possible to leave working out of the equation and make the border collie a versatile breed of mere dog, you begin to lose the the very thing you liked about border collies in the first place.
IOW, the border collie is the master of one trade; jacked up, it’s just a dog.
Earlier this week, rumour has it that Dexter’s sister Ginny went and met some woolies and did not a bad job of working them, though she preferred to move the chickens around, those being a little less scary that the big ole mean sheep. This information, coupled with watching the finals, fired up the old “hey I wanna do that” flame smoldering away in the back of my brain. But I have been there, and I don’t *really* want to go down that path again. I have a jack of all trades dog; her name is Piper. She has competed in stockdog stuff, flyball and agility – she does okay at all of them, and excels at none of them. That may be because she’s Piper, or it may be because I wanted it all, and focused very hard on nothing. Who can say?
Of course, I have a dog who would undoubtedly be very good at stockdog work, were his handler so inclined. He also happens to be the best looking border collie to walk the face of this earth.
but rather because I know his family tree and both sides funnel down from accomplished, purpose bred, working dogs. Had his litter been bred on purpose, his life right now might be very different. Most assuredly, he wouldn’t be assaulted by pesty foster dogs every time he moves a muscle.
But I got Dexter so that together we could excel at a sport I do love, which is agility. I think that if I wanted a real sheepdog, I would have to chuck out the dreams of him being a sport dog – after all, it’s not too difficult to acquire agility equipment by saving my pennies, but it’s a lot harder to buy land and sheep! And besides, if I decided to pursue stockdog stuff with Dex, I’d have to get ANOTHER dog to do agility with, and since I already have a bit of a surplus, that seems foolish.
SOMEdogs in my collection are not very good sport dogs.
Wootie: I’m ignoring you
TWooie is destined to hold down the dog beds for the remainder of his chubby, smiling little life. That’s okay, he’s kind of already middle aged and it’s a lot better than being someone’s whipping boy. I think he likes his life here, and me, I’m mad-crazy in love with the TWoo just for who he is. I know all my friends nod and smile indulgently when I say that, as nobody seems to be able to figure out the attraction of the TWoo except me. All I know is that when the TWoo is happy, I’m happy.
But Mr. Woo has all kinds of potential hiding in his Flamboyance™. It drives me crazy that he cannot sustain an interest in any one thing long enough to develop a real skill at it. I know it’s in there, but Woo marches to the beat of his own drummer – and as our instructor said about him last night: “Woo is not letting anyone else in on the Rules of WooLand. He knows what they are, but he’s not telling.”
Mr. Woo is a Jack of No Trades!!!
We already know that he’s no sheepdog. The only and only time he met sheep it was an accident – Before I released Woo from the truck I asked Cheryl anxiously if her fences were secure and she said, very smugly I might add, that “not even her Jack Russell could get through the fence holes.” Well, Wootie is not one to let a pesty little thing like the laws of physics get in the way of pursuing his dreams, and the next thing we knew a thundering mass of sheep went flying by on the OTHER side of a fence, with Mr. Woo attached to one of them. And by attached, I mean …. like, have you ever seen those suckerfish that attach themselves to the sides of sharks? Yeah, so there’s Wootie, teeth embedded firmly in the wool of one of Cheryl’s sheep, ALL FOUR feet streaming out gracefully in the air behind him as the sheep ran by. Oh to have had a camera handy. *pout*
We already know that Woo is no flyball dog. I brought him to a few flyball practices and he stood on the sidelines and watched with polite but detached interest as the dogs whipped up and down the lanes. He didn’t even pull on his leash, just soaked up the atmosphere with a kind of Buddha-like observance. During the break he wandered to the flyball box, gave it a sniff, looked at me and said “Really? There are just tennis balls in it? Are you sure that’s it?” and then wandered out of the building.
We already know that Woo is no agility dog. While it remains one of my life’s greatest ironies that he is a “natural jumper” there is just not enough breath in my body to offer complete instructions to him while running the course. Because Wootie pooh-poohs primitive commands like “TUNNEL!” One must ask him, with deference, if he will please consider entering the green tunnel with the yellow sandbags located directly beneath the A-Frame and exit it in a timely manner on the opposite side, if he would be ever so kind. He’s the only dog I own – or indeed have ever met – who can’t seem to learn a one-word directive, but understands full sentences. His favourite sentence is “If you please do X for me, I will reward you with a cookie upon completion.” Sometimes I wonder if he is really dog, or actually a bewitched human that some evil sorcerer turned into a dog.
Having run out of sports to fail at with Wootie, I was intrigued when one of my friends invited me to Dock Diving practice. You know, like Splashdogs / Long Jumping? She wondered if I had any dogs who would be interested in trying it out, and I immediately pointed at Wootie.
We had our first practice last night! I sadly have no photos to share because it was too dark in the pool room. Next time we will turn on more lights and I will try to photograph or video it for you.
It’s too early to tell if Wootie will become a competitive Splashdog, but I did find one thing he is excellent at – SASSING ME AND EVERYONE AROUND ME.
He was at first reluctant to jump in the pool – it didn’t look like a lake, and it didn’t smell like one either. He then didn’t want to jump in the pool because the instructor was in the pool, and he felt like she should get out of the pool. There was a lot of barking right in her face “GET OUT! GET OUT! IT’S DANGEROUS IN THERE, PLUS IT’S MY POOL! DON’T TOUCH ME OR MY TOY!“
Eventually we learned that if the instructor turned her back and pretended not to watch him, he would jump straight in … most of the time. Sometimes he had to yell at me for a while first, or run over and yell at her, or turn in circles and yell at the ceiling. He is such an ODD little dog.
When Race’s new mum game to pick him up, she brought us some new toys, which was super nice of her! One of them was a Chuck-It© brand floating bumper toy:
which up until now has remained in the drawer. I am tired of losing toys in the river (one soccer ball, one frisbee, one Kong) so I haven’t busted it out yet. But it got him all fired up at diving class, so I guess that’s our new motivator.
I am hoping this is the sport for Woo!! And as an added bonus, he was SUPER clean when we were finished :)
If you’re in the Lower Mainland and you are interested in joining us for dock driving practice, contact me for information on location, cost and our next practice. It’s really super fun, and I would love to see the sport gain a foothold here! And if you come to the next practice, you can meet West!
Because, of course, West is still with me. Lots of sympathetic emails, nobody willing to take him on :( In the meantime, he is experiencing a second puppyhood and eating things in my house. Maybe Dexter has passed on his secret manual to “driving Food Lady insane” because yesterday he went into my laundry hamper and ate two pairs of my underpants!!! DAMMIT!!!