Monday, September 27, 2010

Working dogs

The 2010 National Sheepdog Finals were held just outside of Winchester this year, so we had no choice but to attend. We spent a couple of hours there on Saturday for the semi-finals, then went back on Sunday for the "double lift," featuring the 17 finalists.
A couple of observations: if you ever attend one of these events, take binoculars. The TV version of sheepdog trials don't give justice to how far these dogs go to round up the sheep. The event was held at a former plantation and working farm, and the dogs had to run at least a half a mile, just to start. Until they bring the sheep down, all I could see was a small black dot, racing up the field.
Second, these dogs are definitely not selected for their looks. All of them were pretty small (much smaller than Zorro) and some of them kind of stringy-looking. That's not surprising, because they are superb athletes, and they don't have an ounce of fat on them. And once you see them in action, it's clear that they are selected purely based on performance, which is as it should be.
They also have a very workmanlike relationship with their handlers. We saw very little petting. (although one of the finalists" dogs did give him a hug at the closing ceremony). None of these dogs were leashed; there was no need, even when they left the ring and were surrounded by other people and dogs.
Zorro, needless to say, was leashed, but behaved himself, even in the presence of lots of other dogs. And this was BC heaven: border collies of all shapes, colors and sizes everywhere you looked. Denny took pictures; I'll post them when they become available.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Praise from strangers

Cool, fall-like weather so Zorro has lots of energy. While he was sniffing the grass this morning, I saw a guy and boxer approaching, so pulled Zorro aside and told him to stay (Zorro often has issues with boxers). As they ran by, the owner said, "Nicely done." I was thrilled. Less success on the way home: we got stuck behind four slow-walking dogs (not a tree on the path went unmarked) and Zorro desperately wanted to set them straight. I kept some distance by putting him into a couple of sit/stays. He obeyed but his internal struggle was clear.
There were at least two Labor Day parties in the neighborhood last night and one featured fireworks. And not just your ordinary sparklers: at one point, it sounded like they were firing off a cannon. Every explosion sparked furious barking by Zorro (and every other dog in the neighborhood). Strange that thunder scares the hell out of him but fireworks seem to rev him up.