“I’m a dog, I’m a workin’ dog, I’m a hard-workin’ dog!”

Something I don’t think I’ve mentioned on this blog is that I love dogs.  I am what people call a “dog person.”  For most of my life, I’ve never been without a canine friend and companion.

And because I love dogs, I also enjoy dog-related activities and events.  I meant to write a post about the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship way back last summer right after it took place, but somehow it just kept slipping down the to-do list. But I recently finished copy-edits on my next book, and so I have a little bit of time.

Many don’t realize that right here in Utah we have one of the largest sheepdog competitions in the world.  Over 25,000 people came out last year, with handlers and dogs from 15 countries and 5 continents.  I’d heard about it for years, and I always wanted to go, and last year I finally did.  It was amazing and fascinating to watch the teamwork of the dogs and their handlers.

The main competition takes place on this hillside.  You can see the group of sheep in this photo, just up and to the left of the cabin.

The dogs start out at the base of the hill with their handler.  The handler has to stay by the post, and from there they shout or whistle commands to their dog.  They have a whole system of communication, a language they use to tell the dog where the sheep are, and where they want the sheep to go, and how they want them brought down the hill.

When the trial begins, the handler releases the dog.  The timer starts, and the dog shoots up the hill to find the sheep.

Once the dog has located the sheep, the dog starts to drive them, weaving back and forth and circling to keep the sheep all together.

On the way down the hill, handler and dog have to work together from a distance to guide the sheep along a course, through several gates. This is where the communication is essential, because the dog doesn’t have the same vantage point on the hill that the handler does.

But mind you, at the highest level of the competition, the sheep are free-range ewes, and they aren’t exactly used to dogs, let alone anyone telling them where to go.  And there’s a lot more of them.

Once the dog has brought the sheep successfully down the hill, the handler and dog work together to separate out a few sheep with red collars from the rest of the flock. Again, not an easy thing.

Once they’re separated, the dog drives the sheep into a pen.

When the gate shuts, the timer stops, and then the hard-working dog hops into a basin of water to cool off.

And then…

The gold medal last year went to a dog from Canada.  South Africa took the silver, and the U.S.A. took bronze.  If you want to see some video of the event, with the dogs in action, watch this:

It was really a lot of fun, and I plan to go again this summer.

Oh, and as for the title of the blog post, some of you of a certain age (my age) may recognize it from Sesame Street. If not, perhaps this will jog your memory:

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12 responses to ““I’m a dog, I’m a workin’ dog, I’m a hard-workin’ dog!””

  1. Yes, it’s me. But anyway, the events seem like they would have been really fun to watch, and I loved the videos. I especially liked the one with the pig.

    • The video with the pig is taken from Babe, one of the best adaptations of a children’s book for the big screen. If you liked the clip, you’ll love the movie.

  2. I never knew you’d gone to the trials, or if I did, I forgot about it. My wife and I love the trials at Soldier Hollow and have gone often. Tomorrow, I’ll tell her about your posting, and she’ll love reading and looking at the pictures and the videos. It’ll bring her a smile and happiness and some very pleasant memories in the midst of her own, quite different type of trial. Thanks.

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