Seattle Day Trip: 2013 Vashon Sheepdog Classic
September 16, 2013
I caught the earliest ferry on Saturday morning in order to attend the sheepdog trials at Vashon’s National Herding Championships. The closest I’ve ever come to something like this was watching Babe, a movie about a sheep-herding pig. On Vashon Island, it was border collies who commanded the course. Each had 11-1/2 minutes to herd four recalcitrant sheep around various challenges.
I was surprised at how big the course was. The outrun was about 300 yards, and this is when the dog ran swiftly to gather and fetch the sheep and herd them down the entire course to the handler. Then the dog and handler worked in tandem — the dog following directional cues — to control the sheep and herd them clockwise around a pole, then back through a gate, then cross-wise to a second gate, and then back to the shedding ring where the handler separated the sheep into two pairs. Once those tasks were complete, the dog and handler worked together to herd the sheep into a small pen. Upon release, the final task was to separate one sheep from the rest. Quite a few of the dog-handler teams were unable to complete the course in the allotted time.
Contrary to the weather reports, the morning was gray and drizzly. The promised sunshine did not materialize, and I took my leave around noon. Others among the spectators were hardier folk, and still more were arriving for the afternoon’s trials. This was a satisfying outing for dog enthusiasts and those yearning for the taste of country life. I’m glad I went!