Tuesday, June 22, 2010

patting his side

The puppy day in Wallingford started around 10AM, but Gibson and I showed up fashionably late. Since my guests were leaving that morning, and we were only going to watch, I didn't mind pulling in the host farm's driveway at 11. A handmade sign in the shape of a sheep said 'Puppy Day!" was posted, it had to be the right place. Just beyond the gray farmhouse I could see the small gathering of folding chairs and black and white dogs. "Puppy" in today's context meant sheepdogs just starting to work sheep, under a year old. Gibson was a bit too literal of a definition to take part in the shenanigans.

We arrived and my shearer, Jim, waved hello. I didn't know anyone but I did have a border collie on the end of my leash, so it was as good as any backstage pass. Folks waved and pulled me a chair. I sat among the pack of folks in ball caps and leashes and watched a handler in the field send her young dog in circles around the three sheep Jim had brought along. I had so many questions. Was the dog taught to circle that wide, or was it instinct? How do you get a snappy lie down like that when such a young pup is three feet from a ewe? Where did they find a plastic training crook? Can Gibson and I really do this? What gets us from the sidelines to the twenty yard line?

Gibson sat and watched for a while. His eyes locked on the sheep every now and again, and for a three-month-old his attention span was impressive. Mine was less so. I kept bouncing between conversations, questions, text messages on my phone, and the constant flow of panting, smiling dogs at my side. What I love about border collies is the controlled chaos of so many off leash dogs. They just want to be by their owners sides so even a pile off leash at play snap to recalls when they hear, "HERE!"

I had a fine time. I learned much, was invited to future trials, and filled in who's got the top dogs. People were interested in where Gibson came from, his breeding and such. Jim raised his eyes when I mentioned his father, Riggs. "Oh, I know Riggs... You've got some good breeding in that dog.." and I puffed up like a mother hen.

There was a moment in the early afternoon when the clouds got dark, the wind picked up, and the birds all flew into the brush. Clouds burst and it started to rain. I walked with Gibson to the truck and watched the fields from the dry cab. By this point he was exhausted from the stimulus and all the puppy play. He slowly breathed in the passenger seat and I watched the dog in the field, a red collie. The red collies are rare, but work just as true. I saw the handler and his dog in the rain and I swelled with the excitement and envy of any rookie. I wanted to stand in the rain with my dog, and a flock, and feel the purpose and the power and know my place in the world. I sighed.

"That'll be us, kid." I said calmly to the pup by my side, patting his side. "That'll be us."

5 Comments:

Blogger Flartus said...

And what did Gibson reply? ;-)

June 22, 2010 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

You are soooo going to do this. I know it. I think we all know it.

June 22, 2010 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I can't wait for Gibson's first lesson. You are definitely doing the puppy stage right, he is learning, even if he is just watching. I'm feeling guilty, Oliver is 9 months now, and he still hasn't seen a sheep. He herds trash cans well though. ;-)

June 22, 2010 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Sense of Home said...

So good to be doing what you and your dog love. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

Thanks for sharing it, Brenda.

June 23, 2010 at 8:47 AM  
OpenID urbanadaptation said...

I'm really looking forward to reading how the training goes. A friend of mine trains sheepdogs, and it's been a pleasure to hear about it and see about it on the rare occasions that I've been able to attend.

June 23, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

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