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By:Jan Rifkinson
Date: October '99


1999 Bouvier Specialty

Agility & Herding Trials
Also, the Moose Room

Tuesday 5:30am - my Bouvier wake up call.

Got down to the Agility Trials a little late & missed a couple of Bouvs in action.  A few golf balls had landed in the agility area where the spectators hung out so the hotel had added yet another sign "Caution - golf balls".

I enjoyed watching the dogs & handlers do their thing but, if it isn't evident yet, I'm totally uneducated about agility, herding & Schutzhund.  This is in contrast to my limited understanding of what makes a good Bouvier in the confirmation ring -- something which seems to change with every show & every judge for one reason or another. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the agility competition for a simplistic reason -- the dogs seemed exuberant, proud of themselves when they finished.  It seemed like so much fun for them which, of course, masks the time, commitment & hard work that it takes to train for the event.

Chuck Conklin, who's Tucker had the highest Bouvier score, was headed over to herding trials so I decided to be his cheering section.  The herding site was about 10 miles from the "spa".

Lots of expressways surrounded the hotel so we took a couple of them to get to a state road for a ride through the countryside.  Finally we reached Washington Road in Shiocton.  Down this road, we found the herding entrance sign.  It pointed us through a field of high grass which had been mowed 1 car width wide; it was bumpy, the ground was dry & I could hear lots of things scraping the bottom of the car.  This "driveway" led us to an open field, partly mowed to allow parking.  And beside the parking field was the herding area.

One had to walk up a steep little hill to gain access but there they were - the herding site populated by judges, a secy, sheep, their dog & the work area.  Over the hill was the owner's home.  A few people were watching.  There was a lot of talk of "light" sheep, sheep that weren't "dog broke", disappointed people who had left the site in disgust, etc.  I didn't understand the complaints & only wanted to see how the Bouvs worked the sheep & how the judging went.

The trial area was not level, not muddy, but not entirely covered in grass either.  It seemed to take forever between trials so I took a break & went up to the farm house (really a regular house) to have a bratwurst with mustard served on a bun by the farm owner's wife for a couple of bucks cooked off her garage barbecue.  Leashed to a door was a 9 (?) month old Deewal puppy bitch who wanted attention.  She was the family's first Bouv & they didn't seem to know too much about the breed.  But the puppy was cute, the bratwurst was good, the owner's wife friendly & I eventually returned to the herding site.

In one trial, the Bouv had to stay off the fence & herd the sheep in a circle around you & the judge who stood in the center of the ring.  For a more advanced trial, the ring was set up in different configurations & to pass the test your Bouv had to herd the sheep thru that special configuration.  At the end of the more advanced trial, the dog had to 'down" or "sit" once the test was complete even tho the sheep were milling nearby.  (I hope I got most of that right)

So, for example, think of a box (the outer fence). Within the box, smaller fences about 6 feet in length are set parallel to the outer perimeter on opposite sides of the perimeter, forming 2 paths between the fences.  (Confused?) The herding dog has to move the sheep between the outer fence perimeter & the inner fence on both sides, two times.

While everyone else's afternoon was dominated by Bouvier skill, my afternoon was dominated by Bouvier sound.  Truman was so eager to join everyone in the pen that he began to "talk".  I thought I knew him pretty well but the gray guy surprised me with sounds that I had never heard before - barks, whines, yips, moans, howls in an infinite cacophony.  It was intrusive so I put him in the car but what I didn't know was that the car had a built in motion detector. And Truman, now being quiet, would cause the car to make noise by setting off the motion detector.  Several times I trekked to the car to shut off the alarm.  There was a cut off switch but I was damned if I knew where it was & the owner's manual didn't help.

Chuck Conklin, Sue Simms, Shelley Bowman & David Riser competed while I was there.  Chuck, Sue, &  Shelley & their Bouvs succeeded.  David Riser's sheep found a hole in the fence thru which they escaped so he left.  It was a long afternoon.

That night I had dinner with 2 couples @ an excellent German family restaurant.  We sat in the "Moose" Room. In this no-smoking room, there was a gas fire going in a huge stone fireplace & a gigantic stuffed moose head hung on the wall.  They even had ostrich appetizers (yummy).  And lots of other tasty dishes.  We were all stuffed by the end of the meal &, as the last customers, we closed the  place down.

Back at the hotel, things were still pretty casual; convenient parking places were still available, blank spots existed on the grassy poop areas & everyone was still talking to each other.  On Wed, the big guns would start rolling in.

And the herding instinct test awaited me & Truman on Wednesday afternoon.

click below for
Specialty Diary - Wednesday


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