Sometimes when I'm at a huge trial, watching brilliant handlers run incredible dogs...I believe what I really understand about what is going on around me is how a ferret would feel in this environment. Or a bag of squirrels readying for winter.
There is just so much to take in, and so much noise surrounding it, plus snacks.
Soldier Hollow draws some really great talent, and tens of thousands of people who clap when a ewe stomps her foot or a dog flops in the water tub, applaud like bait-crazed seals when sheep go through a panel in any direction.
Second billing to the "Ultimate Sheepdog Challenge" are a Splash Dogs competition and much fried food.
I ran Lavon's young Boot in Splashdogs, because it was hot and we were tired of being mere spectators. Boot loves to swim. It was funny to follow a line of dogs whipped into a frenzy with neon balls and flying stuffed squirrels, handlers yelling and running up and down the platform, dogs circling and yipping or barking barking barking before, during, and after their jump. Five solid minutes of buildup for a 3 foot jump, or even a twenty foot jump.
...And then there was us:
Boot and I make eye contact, I gesture up the stairs and say calmly, "Get in!"
Boot's jumps (12 feet and change) took less than 30 seconds from announcer to me coaxing him out of the pool. That was the hard part - Boot likes to get his money's worth. He took his victory laps, while the splash dog assistant frantically tried to call him to the exit ramp, he paddled around, relaxed.
Boot was in it for the swim. He doesn't give two floaty shits about toys or drama, but the dog responds to a verbal invitation to Get In.
Twenty bucks a pop! Jesus Inflatable Christ, who can justify this sport? Not someone with a canal in their back yard!
"That's my next open dog," I heard Lavon tell a splashdog spectator who remarked that Boot might have a knack for the sport.
"I mean in SHEEPDOG TRIALING!"
Lavon sounded sad. Boot is also a very fine sheepdog, almost ready for Open; he just likes variety. We both do.
"Maybe we should enter him in that contest over there!" I told Lavon, pointing to an arena where dogs were pulling little carts. A few dogs had hats on. I pictured Boot in a little driving cap..
"We could have him pull TESS in a cart!"
The crowd LOVES Tess.
"Or he could give people in Funnel Cake haze a ride to the porta-potties! FOR SPLASHDOG CASH!"
Lavon suggested that we instead return to the trial field to watch Amanda's run, because "She is so focused"...
"What about me and MY FOCUS? I haven't shut up about funnel cakes for HOURS!"
"Are you hungry?"
"NO! That is what is SO IMPRESSIVE about my intensity!"
People eat something that emulates it's exit strategy, deep fried. With sugar. It's uncanny.
Shortly before her run, late in the afternoon with Dorey, after a day of dogs running and very very few pens, Amanda announced that she would "Pen or Die"...
I didn't really believe that she'd die, because she didn't dress for it, but I never doubted that she'd pen. I've seen her run her dogs, live and on numerous videos from various difficult trials. Since I first heard her name a few years ago, I've heard people whinge about the fact that she whistles almost constantly. When I was really new to this I thought this meant something negative; that somehow her input style and intensity took away from the impressiveness of her top scoring consistency. I thought it meant that she was telling her dogs every move they needed to make and therefore they were mechanical. Now it's something I try to emulate. Most of us aren't fast enough to whistle like she does, or right enough. Her dogs are fast and responsive and she is very precise. It's really something to watch.
Lavon ran his last competitive trial with Tess in the Finals on Monday, and it was good,albeit sad. She ran like a dog not ready to retire, but Lavon wants her going out on top. Sadly, he didn't not want her going out on top of a cart, so, despite my coaxing, she was not carried from the field in a chariot pulled by Boot.