Summer Herding Trials

It’s been a long time since I blogged. I’m sorry my pup pals, but my human was just preoccupied with whatever it is that’s so important that she can’t help me write about my life and times. It’s hard to imagine anything more important than the life of Ranger, I say.

(Remember when you read my blog that the photos are pretty much the best part. If you click on them you can make them bigger. If I could make this thing a “scratch and sniff” you know I would!)

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Above you can see me having just posted a new message on the fridge.

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Right, huh! Why should I buy expensive art when I can make my own?! I’m feeling emphatic about that! I put it on the fridge to remember, along with information on buying sheep, and phone numbers I want handy for the humans, like my herding trainer’s number.

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This story is called Summer Herding Trials. I’ll start by telling you that I’m getting pretty good at this herding stuff, even some of the rules. Above you can see me working with my trainer and three Barb sheep at Oak Hills in the big pasture. That was in the spring. I improved so I got to move from the bull pen to the big pasture. (Because I’m really good. Elise isn’t so good, but she’s learning. She wouldn’t take me into the ring at the trials, Clint would, because she wasn’t ready.)

This summer, in the heat of summer, my human took me out to the Far North, beyond the big city and up into sheep country. We met my sheep herding trainer Clint there at a sheep ranch called “Herding 4 Ewe,” in Vacaville. Vacaville means “cowtown,” which is confusing because so many sheep were there it should have been called “Corderoville,” or maybe “No Cows 4U ville.” I like cows. They have thicker ankles and are more thrilling to mess with. Anyway, we drove there. That meant two long hours lying in the backseat of the car. Then we piled out onto a green rutted pasture dotted with sheep poo. Hmm, it looked promising.

At this place dogs were only allowed to pee on an old imitation Christmas tree with a sign on it that said “Pee Tree.” That was weird. I pee’d on it, but there were so many other, better spots. No one could have smelled me in all that!

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Clint took me into a dusty little livestock pen. We were practicing for the Herding Trials that would happen in a week. But I didn’t know that. Three sheep were let out and he called me, like he does, “Ranger, Ranger, walk up.” Forget that! I ran up. Yay, herding, I love it so much. He tried to stifle my exuberance a little bit and keep me “off the sheep.” Okay, I’ll play your little game I said. I’m not sure, but I think he heard me; he’s a sheep and dog “whisperer.” I said, “Okay, I’ll play your little game,” with body language and a quick glance. That’s how I talk. We moved the sheep back and forth. I ran around and around for good measure. We moved them back and forth and until we were done moving them. I sat. Clint said, “That’ll do. That’ll do.” Heaven.

Later we did it again. Same thing. Clint said, “That’ll do” and then he said to my human “I think he’s going to do fine next week. I think Ranger’s going to have some letters after his name soon.” Hhhuh? What letters? Elise explained it to me. There are these letters you can get after your name if you prove to the sheep herd judge that you know how to herd sheep. I could then put “Ranger the Corgi, PT” or “Ranger the Corgi, HT” on my business card. Then, if anyone needed a herding dog, like for an emergency, I could step in. I could say, don’t worry I’m a PT, and I have documents to prove it. Okay, that might be nice. I was practicing so I could get my letters.

Here’s my business card today, without letters. Hopefully someday I can add some.

It was Saturday, July 6th when Elise put me in the car to go to the “Herding Trial.” Linda came too and we drove back up to Vacaville. It was so hot we ran the air conditioning the whole way and my nose got wet and drippy. Things were different at Herding 4 Ewe. There were lots of cars, trailers, trucks, flags, tents, pens, people, dogs and expectations there. I got excited and tried to meet dogs but most were over controlled by their humans, and we didn’t get to sniff much. That stupid Christmas Pee Tree was there and all sizes and styles of dog pee’d on it, even a big male Boxer in a satin robe, unneutered. I couldn’t help but notice, his robe was kinda short…

There were bees in the clover in the pasture and it over 100 degrees in the shade. Elise signed us in. She looked over the list of other dogs entered and saw some cool dog show names: “Alice in Wonderland,” “Navarro’s Wind Swept Prairie,” “Seriously, Guy,” “Free Brie,” and “Pokies Country Diamond in the Ruff.” My show name is “Topaz Ranger,” because I was born near Lake Topaz in Nevada, and I liked to wander off on the range. That’s where I first practiced herding horses and sheep.

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These are my friends. Linda (top) on the left and Zeus on the right (on more likely, above). I took the photo of Linda, woof, yes I did!

Some of my dog friends from Oak Hill were there, Zeus (Jenarae Barbu Not On My Watch), Bixby (Bixby Big Sur) and Jellybean (Bean of Matrix Entlebuchers). We all hung out under a tent for a while drinking water, being restrained, and listening to the humans blather on. I tasted a bit of sheep poo.

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One thing I heard them say was that a very thin lady (see her above with her black dog?) with a big shiny belt buckle, and a sort of poetic way about her, had brought about 15 dogs from Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, someplace with vast lands and real herds, and was winning all the ribbons. What ribbons? What happens when we win them? Can we eat them? Maybe bury them and dig them up later? What? Ribbons?

Later we saw her being given lots of ribbons that she stacked up on the table. She was smiling. Wow, she sure got a lot of ribbons. I just hope they’re good for something.

In the other photo above, or to the left, where ever the gosh darn thing ended up the same magical ribbon-winning lady is herding ducks. Ducks? Really? Just chase them into the pond. That’s what I do.

There were some other Corgies there. These guys were hanging out in the shade. Most of the dogs were Border Collies.

It was later in the afternoon when Clint said “Ranger are you ready to herd some sheep?” What? Now? Elise and her sister Linda sort of disappeared and my leash was handed to Clint. I looked at him. I know you, you’re that guy, that guy with the sheep! I went with him to the dusty corral and my humans went in the other direction. Why? Hey guys, where are you going? Don’t you want to be in my pack anymore? Well, then Clint took me into the pen and told me to sit. I sat. Then three sheep came out. I like sheep. They moved in front of me and passed to my right and I thought maybe I’d chase them. But it was too hot. I wanted to see my humans. I could see my humans if I just went to the corner of the pen, so I went to the corner of the pen. I thought I smelled them under a tent in the grass. Yup I did smell them. Clint called “Ranger! Ranger come get your sheep.” I said “no.” I said “I have to find my queen, Elise, and her sister. I have my priorities. And, it’s too hot.” I was confused. Why all those people? What did they want? So I stood and looked out towards my human, my queen. She called “Ranger! Ranger GO! Go to Clint.” Her face was red. She lowered her video camera and said “Shit,” quietly, but I heard it. I kept watching I didn’t want her to go out of my sight. Sometimes you have to herd your people so that they don’t get away. Clint walked by with those three sheep and said “Ranger, come.” I said “no, I don’t really feel like it.”

Then they took me out the gate and I was “disqualified.” Elise came and found me and that was good. She put water on me to cool me off. That was good. Then we went to get something from a lady, a prize I think. A special prize Elise called a “Boobie Prize.” It was really nice, a red, white and blue fuzzy snake thing with squeakers in it. I did not know it then, but it would become one of my favorite toys.

We drove home. There was much talk about disappointment and “oh wells.”

The night was pretty normal. Then the next day we repeated our journey. Two hours driving in the heat of summer to the place with the sheep poos, bees, and artificial tree.

In the gravel driveway where all the folding chairs were lined up for the humans I met some other corgis, Yoshi and Oscar. We lay in the shade and panted a lot. Clint said something about “doing it differently this time.” It was so hot that Elise, my queen and caregiver, gave me a good wetting down. It felt nice and cool.

Then Linda took a photograph of the thermometer reading 100 degrees in the shade, so she could prove it later.

What was different this time was that Elise and Linda came with me and Clint to the dusty corral gate. Elise said “Go with Clint” and gave Clint my leash. Okay, I’ll go with Clint. You guys stay right there, and they did. Clint took me to the middle of that dusty sheep pen. Some cows were standing behind us on a berm, watching us. They made me a little confused. Cows! Cows! We could do cows. Meanwhile I was wet. That bath Elise gave me made me want to shake and roll, but it was hot and that made me want to find some shade, but there were sheep and that made me want to chase. What a lot of stuff was happening in my brain while I sat for one second in the middle of the ring. Then the sheep came out from the corner. Wooooo Hoooo, I broke fast like I do and went toward the sheep. Clint started walking, like he does, and the sheep went with him, like they do. I went with them. Then I got an idea, how about not doing this? I’m hot, I’m wet, I’m smelling something yummy out beyond. So, I decided to hell with the sheep. I dropped to the ground and rolled and rolled. It felt really good, not pretend good, not good like you made someone else happy, but really good. I rolled some more, my little corgi legs flailing with joy, the dirt mooshing into my neck and back in the most delightful way.

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“Ranger, Ranger, come get your sheep,” Clint said. What? It’s so hot, it’s so weird, and it’s so not really the thing I want to do. Then I crossed the pen at an angle and headed for the gate to reunite with my humans. Wait, wait, there was more poop. Wait a minute, and I dropped and rolled again on the fence line near the gate, near the people and my humans. “Oh crap” I heard Elise say, and the people gasped and tittered. What? What’s the matter you silly humans? I felt good, as good as I could on that hot summer day in the dust. Look at me I’m having a good time doing some very sensible rolling.

“Disqualified,” said the man and wrote something down on his clip board.

Bye I said and Clint held the gate open for me.

Elise looked weird. Her face was all sad and droopy, yet tense. “What” I said, “what?”

We met Linda and their cousin Barbara. They talked with Elise. But, I don’t think she really heard. She was far away in her head. A lady gave Elise a “Corgi Support Group” business card. In case she needed some kind of support or therapy I guess, about what? Who knows? We didn’t even pick up our second booby prize. Elise was distracted by some emotion. Later I realized it was partly disbelief, why didn’t I want my sheep? “You always want sheep” she said, “why not today?”

She said to Linda that she felt bad for feeling embarrassed. That it shouldn’t matter,  (it didn’t matter) but she felt like a mom whose kid was in a school play and just stood there picking his nose. Huh? Sounds okay to me. I just don’t get it.

I think that there was a lesson to be learned at Herding 4 Ewe. Maybe the lesson was for Elise. Do what you want to do, I say. Don’t let other people’s expectations drive you, I say. If you want to roll in dirt because you want to, then roll in dirt. If you aren’t the winner then you’re something else. If you’re Ranger the Corgi you’re a damn fine something else, I’ll tell you that much.

So, anyway, it’s about time for that chew toy isn’t it. Let’s take a break from blogging. I really wish I had time to make Elise write about my visit to see my mom and original dog pack. That will have to wait. Hopefully not for too long. That was a wonderful visit.

Okay signing off. Remember all you dogs and humans that you only have to be yourself. Defy expectation when you need to. And if you don’t feel like being someone’s show puppy, don’t. Walk the world like you belong there. And, if it gets too hot I suggest that you might want to lie down on cool concrete.

Love and licks, Ranger

(Photos of the skinny herding lady, the thermometer, my upsidedown business card face, and my triumphant rolling shot were by Linda Huffman. All the others are by Elise Huffman, except the one of Linda that I took.

There is a video of my triumphant roll at the show. It’s stuck on the camera. We’ll try and get it off there.)

5 thoughts on “Summer Herding Trials

  1. Linda Huffman says:

    Welcome back Ranger. I’ve missed you. I know blogging is not as much fun as herding, but you are very good at it. I know you didn’t get those letters by your name, but I was still proud of you. No one tells my nephew the corgi what to do. You are nobody’s show pup.

    • Thanks Linda. Blogging takes so long. I could have dug up about 50 gophers in that same time! But, I feel I have a message and the message is: Don’t be anyone’s show pup. And if you really want to be a show pup do it for yourself. Now it’s time to go smell some stuff!

  2. Reggie Steres says:

    Ranger, you are one fine corgi! And Ziva thinks you are a “stud muffin”!! We all know you can herd sheep just fine!!

  3. Nate Smith (typing for Cooper) says:

    Ranger, it was fun to meet you this morning on the patio at the restaurant. Remarkable especially since I passed my HT test at the exact same trial where you were so distracted. But then I’m a Border Collie, and we don’t distract easily.
    My humans really enjoyed reading your blog. I think I’m just too serious about sheep to see the humor that you see. But thanks for sharing, and I hope to see you again at another trial next summer.
    – Cooper

    • Woof Cooper!

      Congratulations on your HT letters. I wish that they’d have those trials in the fall when it’s cooler. That was just too hot for me. I love herding sheep, but not in an oven!

      Hopefully, your letters will serve you well.

      I’ve been told that I have a sense of humor, well, actually I’ve been told I’m “a funny guy,” but really I’m very serious about my life and my work. I like to keep my mind busy when there are no farm animals to herd, so I started blogging to amuse myself.

      There are a bunch Border Collie at Oak Hill. So very stealthy and work those sheep from distances. You all have some awesome moves.

      I hope your humans (and mine) continue to drive us out to where the sheep are. (or cows, or horses…that’s what I’m best at: moving the big guys!)

      See you again I hope, at breakfast or a sheep ranch, or just around. Please come back and visit me here again. Sometimes it’s a little lonely being corgi in the suburbs.
      —The Lawn Ranger, but you can call me Ranger, or “woof”

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