Thursday, September 24, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 4

Today, I started with a drive through the Modoc Wildlife Refuge.  It's only a few minutes out of town, and on the way to the trial site.  I picked up Rebecca, the wife of one of the judges, and we did a little vehicular birding.  According to the website, the area is a haven for migratory wetlands birds.  It has been very dry, though, and there aren't as many birds as normal for this time of year.  Still, we saw a Sandhill Crane, many ducks, some kind of goose that wasn't a Canada Goose, a bunch of raptors, possibly a young eagle, and some quail sporting fantastic head gear.  Oh, and pheasant.  Definitely worth the little trip off the beaten path.

After birding, I picked up a coffee and a sausage sandwich and headed over to the Nursery field, where the top 34 nursery dogs were running back.  I won't lie, I really was choked that we weren't running.  All year, we had this event as our ultimate 2015 goal.  However, as the sheep got heavier and heavier, I perhaps was a little less choked.  :-)

The first run I saw when I arrived was Brian Cash and Neal.  I first saw this team at the Bluegrass this year, and it's fantastic to see how positive and polished Neal is now.  They laid down a smoker of a run that, combined with his round 1 score, had them in 2nd for almost the whole class.

"Good job, buddy."
As I said, the sheep got heavier as the day went on.  Lee Lumb and Bella really worked hard to get a grumpy bunch around, but when they stalled out at the driveaway panel, she took offence and grabbed a hock.


Another District 10 team, Gord Lazzarotto and Drift, did their best with tough sheep.  Great job, especially for his first time to the finals!

Gord and Drift

On the big dog field, Lee and Gus laid one down!  154, which was the second highest score of the round ... and that's without a pen!  Can't wait to watch them in the semi-finals.  Such a lovely team!

Speaking of lovely, the lovely Norm Close and Craig had a solid run that will advance them to the next round.  Norm may be the nicest man in this sport, and I will always cheer for him.  He was the judge at the first trial I ever ran at, and I will never forget his kindness, his warm smile, and his little bits of advice.  

Norm and Craig

After the last dog ran, and some administrative things were dealt with, it was time for the ABCA AGM.  I am so impressed with the amount of emphasis this registry places on the health and welfare of the dogs.  The BAER clinic at the trial was paid for by the ABCA and 78 dogs were tested.  A health foundation has been created to encourage research into health issues affecting our breed.  Finally, the ABCA has created an informative brochure aimed at puppy buyers looking to purchase a pup from responsible breeders.  The brochure, among other things, makes recommendations around health checks for breeding stock, number of litters produced by a bitch, and red flags that indicate you might be looking at a high-volume breeder (puppy mill).  It's odd when I am told by kennel club people that working dog breeders don't care about the health of the dog.  I think the ABCA members take their stewardship of the breed very seriously, and as well as preserving the working ability that makes the border collie a border collie, they have been instrumental in researching health issues affecting our beloved breed.  Anywho, enough about that.

The last item on the agenda was the induction of two members into the ABCA Hall of Fame. The criteria for consideration is "Breeders/Handlers- should have a record of outstanding contributions to the working Border Collie breed of dog in North America. These contributions should be both national and regional in nature."

The first induction, sadly, is posthumous.  Vergil Holland's contribution as both a breeder and handler is long and storied, and his passing this spring left an enormous hole in the herding community.  On a personal note, when I first got interested in herding all those years ago, I bought his book, Herding Dogs: Progressive Training.  I met him at the Bluegrass last year, and I wished I'd brought my book so he could have autographed it.  I was going to ask him to autograph it this year, but sadly, he passed before the 2015 Bluegrass.  His wife wrote a lovely speech, which was delivered with eloquence and emotion by Lyle Lad.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when she was done.  He was a legend in the community and he is missed.

The second inductee, of course, is Alasdair MacRae.  No individual has had a greater impact on our sport here than Alasdair.  He has set the bar so very high, and in doing so, has brought up the quality of training and handling.  His list of trial wins is terrifying, his knowledge as a breeder has created a line of dogs that has produced an enormous number of top trial and work dogs, and the work that he has done quietly and without fanfare has contributed to the growth and improvement of various associations, including but not limited to the USBCHA and the ABCA.  I am so very lucky to call him my mentor and friend, and even though he told me once that I was a statue, and statues don't win trials (he's right), I adore him and am so very glad that I could be there on this night when his contributions to our community were recognized.

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