Wednesday, August 20, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I was driving around a delightful small town near our home when Aidan shouted out from the back seat, "Mom! The sheep dog trials!" I whipped my head in the direction of his pointed finger, and there it was. The border collie skipping across the banner, announcing the upcoming Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

When we lived in Camas, we tried to make it an annual event. In fact one year we even had our picture added to the website. It's still there. I want to hold and squeeze that little toddler in the hat. She's almost nine now:

Sometimes we went with extended family and sometimes it was just a few of us. It was especially fun to top off the weekend with a family movie night featuring Babe, the amiable pig who has a knack for herding sheep.

Seeing the sign once again and hearing Aidan's enthusiasm inspired me to suggest that we head out again this year. It ended up that only a few of us were available, but I figured that half of a family was better than none.

The day was perfectly blue and warm. Avery was eager because, well, "We get to sit on hay bales and pet border collies!" (We have a thing for border collies since our doggles -- we think -- is part corgi, part border collie.)

The crowd was bigger this year than any I've seen in the past. It was fun to sit with such a varied group of spectators. Some sat with binoculars, shaking their heads at the scores. Others balanced paper boats filled with hamburgers or fish-n-chips, and many had whistles around their necks and dogs at their sides. We perched atop the highest hay bale (of course) and the unmistakable aromas of golden hay mixed with the dairy cows at the host farm made me long for cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. (Instead I flipped off my sandals and sunned my legs for a bit.)

It was easier to watch this year since the kids are older. It's the kind of place where one tries not to frolic and yell, lest one disturb the dogs at work. The dogs have eleven minutes to bring the five sheep through the course, which includes a couple of gates, a shedding ring and the final pen. The handler uses a series of mysterious whistles and commands to guide the dog through the course. "Away to me!" "Come-bye!" "Get Back!" I always like it when they shout, "Lie down!" because the dogs get all hunchy-sneaky and just creep toward those sheep. It's rather difficult to herd the wayward sheep into the final pen, so it's very satisfying when a dog successfully rounds them up and the handler triumphantly swings the gate shut.

On the other hand, it's also somewhat amusing when the dogs who are fairly new to this whole herding-in-front-of-a-crowd gig decide that they'd rather sit in the nearby dog pool to cool off for a bit. Or when the sheep wander dumbly to the corner of the field because they like the corner of the field. (It becomes painfully apparent why we are often called sheep.)

We stayed for a couple of hours, Aidan and Avery eagerly downing forbidden fruit, each of us taking turns thumbing through the program, exclaiming over the clever or sweet names of the dogs: Java, Coal, Floss, Kate, and many others. The sun grew hotter and we finally decided to call it a day. Brushing the hay from each other's backsides, we tumbled down from the bales and said goodbye to the 2014 Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

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  1. Oh, fun! I think I will put it on my agenda for next year. I'm sure my dd will enjoy it because she made me sit (and snooze) through daily showings of "Babe" the summer of 2003. Every day, after our morning bike ride... 45 days in a row. (I shouldn't complain, I needed those naps.)

  2. I have always wanted to go! I will have to make sure that gets on our calendar next year.



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