EverythingDogBlog #41: It’s Raining Cats and Labs – and Sheep, too!
By Skye Anderson, MS
Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
First, I have to report back on the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend at the Howard County Fairgrounds, an all-volunteer, free-admission, free-parking weekend.
What a crowd, what beautiful weather, and what a fun event to learn about sheep or just to have fun. I came home totally exhausted after a successful crochet class, and with a new T-shirt, some goat cheese, three skeins of lovely luscious wool yarn, and having seen a llama and an alpaca (Ameripaca.com here in Maryland), and eating a lamb burger (turned down a lamb kebob and lamb sausage) and some cotton candy. We even saw spinning wheels at work and being auctioned off.
Next year, I’m going to sign up for the “scarf class with a built-in fringe”!
We sat in on a sheep conformation show which differs from a dog show in that sheep are not led about on a leash like dogs are – they are merely led around by the handler holding their head but with two people handling each sheep rather than just one. Of course, both handlers wear hard-toed shoes just in case a hoof misses and lands on a human foot by mistake (as happened to me once when I was showing a heifer in Minnesota many moons ago).
The highlight for dog people, however, and for families with kids was the three-times-a-day sheepdog demonstrations which have attracted a larger and larger audience each year. This year the crowd was several deep all around the field.
We saw dogs round up sheep and ‘encourage’ them to go from one end of the enclosure to another, through a gate, and around traffic cones in a figure eight configuration. Fortunately, sheep tend to flock together but the Border Collies were magnificent, nonetheless.
To make the sheep go faster, dogs approach the sheep at a fast clip. To slow them down, the Border Collies might stop or lie down and let the sheep get farther away. They can even ‘tell’ the sheep to go left or right (counterclockwise or clockwise). It’s all in the ‘eye’ - and in the communication between dog and shepherd with words or whistles. (See photo in previous blog.)
As they say, “Ewe can run but ewe can’t hide” from a good Border Collie sheepdog.
Mark Soper of Woodbine and Nancy Starkey from Mt. Airy were the shepherds and commentators as they have been for 20 years (more on herding as a dog sport in a future blog.)
I walk ‘My Mia-the-Lab’ at noon each day and the other day was interesting to say the least. Mia doesn’t walk on the sidewalk but on the grass instead so muddy paws were expected and I was not disappointed.
Mia also stopped every few yards to shake off the rain to no avail: she just got wet again, but she is a lab and labs love water. (See the photo above for an action shot of “Shaking It Off,” by professional photographer Steve O’Byrne of www.sobphotography.net.)
One good thing about the constant rain was that Mia and I got the chance to use her new Soggy Doggy towel (see an earlier blog of the Best Dog Stuff of 2012). It is so soft and absorbent that it was almost fun to walk in the rain – well, it was very fun for Mia and almost fun for me. (Of the online dog supply companies I recommend, only www.petstuff.com carries Soggy Doggies – under Supplies, then Grooming. Well worth the search!)
I have taught Mia the lab to stop and sit when I do, which is usually at corners so I can look both ways before crossing. Sometimes someone in a passing car will smile and think Mia is well-trained: I just think we fooled them!
When we see someone walking towards us, we never know if they like dogs or not, so I walk Mia over to the grass and ask her to sit until the person has passed, just in case. Mia is getting quite a rep for being polite!
Oops! Lab alert! Lab on the lap. Mia wants to say, “Hi!” because she has never met anyone but a friend. However, it’s hard to type around a paw on the keyboard, so I’ll close now. Til next time!
(This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on 9 May 2013.)