Greater Lafayette Kennel Club

Greater Lafayette Kennel Club, Inc. Herding Trial
June 15-17, 2007 - Williamsport, Ind.

Sometimes it's what you don't hear that makes the biggest impression.

Such is the case when you enter Dogwood Farm in Williamsport, Ind. Just east of the Illinois border, this incredible facility lies like a sleeping child in a forest. The 28 acres is surrounded by mature oak trees that shelter you from the sights and sounds of a world rushing by. Like a well conducted symphony, everything is in its place and ready to start a day's worth of trial. The 200-year old oak in the yard stands like a wise old shepherd watching over a well managed flock.

Site owner Mary Lou Hayden's second facility is bigger and better than the last. As a horticulture instructor at Purdue University, she has brought her knowledge of plants and animals into the sport of dogs. With well laid out courses, well constructed stock pens, a large area for parking and exercising dogs and a healthy flock, this facility is an exhibitor's dream.

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The well trained committee took care of all of the needs of dogs, livestock, exhibitors and judges. Livestock was sorted in advance and quietly waited in shaded pens for their next run. Tammy Vandeusen and her Herding Champion Shetland Sheepdog "Cloud" silently delivered set after set of livestock into the arena as the competitors patiently waited their turns.

Facility owners carry the herding program. It is their hours of selfless work and dedication that make the trial happen. What makes this farm really stand out is that this is a livestock facility that allows dogs to work. Sheep do best when it's quiet. No barking dogs, no screaming handlers and no chasing of sheep. Quiet, confident control of livestock. It's not that there weren't runs that went astray, just judges and handlers that had the good sense to call it quits when the team effort dissolved.

It is evident that Mary Lou leads by example. The runs with her Belgian Tervuren, "Fox" looked like a well choreographed dance. Since "Fox" is a working dog first and a trial dog second, she works pretty much on her own with only subtle commands from her master. At 5 years old, she has been allowed to hone her skills with no rush for titles. For Mary Lou and Fox, it is the journey, not the destination, that is the focus.

Trial Secretary Jenn Stanley spent her trial days under the cool shade of a canopy with a clear view of the fields. Never wavering from her task, she diligently kept scores posted and paperwork processed. At the end of each class, she was ready for the placements to be awarded. Trophy Chair Sandra Dukes showed her skills at multitasking. The awards were all set out and ready to go: large rosettes, stock sticks and gift baskets for the overall winners. All qualifying scores also earned a gift. When not arranging awards and presenting them, Sandra captured candid shots of the event and still managed to earn a PT title on her Samoyed, "Pink." Earn it she did with a cool and quiet performance despite the heat of the day.

Trial Chair Janet Shepherd did double duty as chair and caterer extraordinaire. Morning coffee and muffins were replaced by fruit, salads, sandwiches and chips and, best of all, a frozen berry and walnut salad topped with whip cream to finish it off. Other workers included the timers and scribes who stood by the judges run after run class after class, trial after trial and the runners who made the long trek from judge to secretaries' table so scores could be posted and paperwork processed. Many of these jobs were filled by club members who don't herd but were there to help their friends.

The best silence of all was the lack of certain comments made by exhibitors. Following in their mentors' footsteps, they exited the ring with smiles happy whether they passed or not. Comments were about mistakes they made and how they could do better in the future. No blame was placed -- only plans made for the future and talk of how to train better for better working dogs.

The quiet was refreshing, relaxing and most of all a model for others to follow.

For more information on the club, please visit greaterlafayettekennelclub.org .