Saturday, September 12, 2009

WBCR at Soldier Hollow 2009

We had a great adventure over the Labor Day weekend (and I am still recovering). Western Border Collie Rescue had a booth at the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Trial and it was such a great experience. I haven't heard an official tally yet, but rumor is the attendance numbers were close to 30,000 people attending over the four days this year. It was quite the crowd!  I was at the venue from early morning until evening, but only managed to see one single run. 

One of the activities that the Soldier Hollow organizers set up was an instinct test for WBCR's rescue dogs. They thought this activity would be a good way to show the public that even rescued Border Collies had sheepherding instinct and it would also give good to exposure to our rescue, because we don't have many foster homes and volunteers here in Utah.  However, they wanted 10 dogs to test - which meant we had to try to arrange to get 10 foster dogs to Utah from Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming. Well . . . that didn't quite happen, but we did have 10 WBCR dogs (either foster or alums) at the exhibition round pen at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

Mark Peterson, the man behind SHSDT, did a quick check with each dog in the pen prior to the exhibition and 9 of our 10 dogs passed muster and we were set for the 10:00 a.m. demonstration (Trixie*, an adorable little blue merle BCx new to WBCR, got herself booted because she was extremely reactive to Mark and the sheep and barked herself silly.) *On a side note, pretty little Trixie got adopted while at the trial by a very nice couple who had been cleared for adoption through WBCR's application process about a year ago and who came up to the trial to meet her.

Max works the sheep.

Don Hensley, a former judge for the Soldier Hollow trial who was a competitor this year, graciously offered his time and expertise to evaluate our dogs for their interest and potential ability to work sheep. It was a very interesting experience and most of our dogs did quite well.
Zeke likes working the sheep.

Cade, a sweet, big (55 lb.), BC boy who spent 3 months languishing in a Nebraska shelter before WBCR pulled him in early August, was a star, despite never having been on sheep! Don thought he showed an amazing amount of potential as a stockdog and Mark Peterson got on his phone to let some friends know about Cade and his availability.  One of the best things about Cade is he also a very sweet and friendly BC and is fabulous with kids.
Cade (Photo courtesy of WBCR)
Grace (Photo courtesy of WBCR)
On the other hand, we were told little Grace, a petite, but intense little foster BC in Idaho, would make someone a "great little frisbee dog."  She just didn't care about the sheep at all. Oh well, Grace was absolutely a trooper in our booth and is wonderful with people (and like Don said, is a terrific frisbee dog).

And Allie . . . well, Allie's evaluation was amazing to me.  Allie had never seen sheep before, but from the minute she laid eyes on the wooly creatures she was enthralled.

She went into a low crouch, her eyes glazed over and she went for the sheep with a gusto! (I was glad she was on a long dragline!)

Let me at 'em! I'm goin' to eat me some sheepies!

Ahem . . . I asked Don, "Is she really supposed to be chewing on the sheep's feet like that?" "It's ok," he said, "she's actually a little tentative and needs to be more assertive or they won't take her seriously." Assertive??? If she was any more "assertive" I was afraid we were going to be banished from the venue in disgrace for taking a big bite out of somebody's sheep.

Don said Allie showed a lot of interest and had some good instincts, but needed training before he would turn her loose on stock. (No kidding. I kept imagining blood and gore everywhere.) Then there was the problem of his using the command "That'll do." She just didn't know what the heck that meant. She was used to "Leave it!, Allie, dam*&@# leave it!"

Please note the wildly twirling eyes as Allie gazes longingly at the sheep.
Al was like a whole different animal after her 10 minutes in the roundpen and for the rest of the time we were at Soldier Hollow kept trying to drag me back to the scene of the crime.

But seriously, it was a very exciting experience for both me and Allie. It was interesting to see those generations of Border Collie genes kick in and I was amazed at her desire to work those sheep. She really wasn't quite as terrible as the pictures or my commentary would suggest and she could be called off the sheep (once we straightened out the confusion over the commands).

Oh yeah, and Don's verdict on Allie -- she would probably make a "real nice little farm dog." :)

WBCR was treated very well by the organizers of Soldier Hollow and we got to camp in the vendor camping area which is below where the handlers and their dogs set up base. It was a great site, with a gorgeous view, a large covered pavillion and nice restrooms.  It was also a good place to exercise the 15+ dogs we had with us.
Cade and Wylie (fresh from a pull at the Spanish Fork shelter)
Our booth at the event was set up in the big canvas Intermountain Farmers Association tent (IFA is a major sponsor of SHSDT).  We had a lot of room and protection from the elements.  We got a lot of inquiries, answered a lot of questions and sold calendars and t-shirts.
On top of manning our very busy booth for the four days, we managed to squeeze in a shelter pull, two home visits (one for adoption, one for a potential foster home), an adoption (Trixie, who was mentioned above) and Tonya, WBCR's fearless leader, manning the phone non-stop trying to arrange a foster home and transport for 7 brand new BC puppies dumped in a Wyoming shelter (which is no mean feat, considering that these puppies didn't even have their eyes open and were going to have to be fed via eye dropper every three hours).  Whew!  Add all that to wrangling foster dogs and volunteer dogs at the venue, it's no wonder we were all exhausted.
The shelter pull was from the Spanish Fork, Utah shelter and we pulled four BCs (well, actually three BC/BCx and one little Aussie who was on the "E" list, so Tonya just couldn't leave him there). 
Just back from the shelter.
Spanish Fork dogs relishing their freedom.
Wylie and Bandito (Spanish Fork dogs) meet Rusty.
It was a whirlwind weekend and a lot of hard work, not to mention I saw only one run of the actual sheepdog competition, but it was fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  WBCR got some much needed exposure, I met some great people and we were able to help some dogs in need.  The whole thing was a big dog party back in camp most of the time, so Allie and Rusty loved it, too.  I'm looking forward to next year.
Colter (chief dog wrangler) and Molly, a WBCR foster dog, chillin' in camp.  :D