Was My Face Red...
by Lori Herbel
We've all had those great moments in herding when our own outstanding
handling expertise and our dog's natural, God-given talents have
put us in awe and made our hearts swell, and given us cause to be proud
to be herders.
why, oh why do those moments seem to be much fewer and further between
than those OTHER moments - you know, the ones where we wish a
giant black hole would just magically appear and swallow us up, whisking
us away from the scrutiny of the public eye? And why does it seem that
there are so many people watching when we have one of those embarrassing
moments, but when we do something spectacular, we look around to share
it with others, and there is no one there?!
Thanks to several brave and honest handlers from across the country,
we have compiled an entertaining collection of embarrassing herding
stories. I received a wonderful response to my request for stories,
I only regret that time and space will not allow me to share all of
I attended a four day 'Famous Instructor' Boot Camp. Mind
you I had only been herding for a couple of months, maybe six at the
most - that's my ONLY defense! On day one and two I was struggling to
follow the instructor's explanations but holding up fairly well,
on day three I was a bit brain dead and was really glad she was videotaping
the clinic so I could do lots of refreshing. On the fourth day, a friend
and I were standing at the fence listening to the instructor explain
the difference between 'tight-eyed' and 'loose-eyed'
dogs. Finally after several minutes I turned to my friend and said "What
the *#$% is a "LUCITE" dog?" For years my friends have
teased me about Lucite and Tie-dyed dogs!
IT BE THE BREEZE?
I got my very first set of bright, shiny new wethers, I was gung-ho
to herd them first thing the next morning. So I leapt out of bed and
threw on some clothes and went to the barn. I got the wethers in the
round pen and brought in my half grown, untrained puppy. As you might
imagine things were moving along at a pretty fast clip when Goat Boy,
who sported an impressive set of horns, zoomed by and hooked a horn
in the pocket of my sweat pants. This did little to impede his forward
progress and as he bounded on by, my pants tried their best to go with
him. Now remember, I was in a hurry to get to the barn that morning
so let's just say I had ignored my mother's advice to always put on
clean underwear. Or any underwear in this particular case.
So I'm standing there in the round pen with my sweat pants due south
of my knees and this wether all wound up in them. I was in a rather
breezy state when the school bus came by. Fortunately we were pretty
far back off the road and it was sort of foggy that morning or I'm afraid
we'd have had some children scarred for life.
WHERE OR WHERE DID MY HANDLER GO?!
I was running my first Border Collie Meg* in my first traditional Border
Colllie trial in the Novice Class. The course was an outrun, lift, fetch
and pen. Standing at the handler post I sent Meg off to gather the sheep.
When she was racing around the sheep I moved to the pen to be ready.
Meg completed a beautiful outrun and lift. Then she lifted her head
and started frantically looking around. Her handler was no longer at
the post where she had left her. "Ah, there she is!" I could
just hear Meg thinking as she caught sight of a woman shaking out her
rugs by a motorhome. So off Meg went with her sheep promptly bringing
them to her while I ran behind trying to make my presence known. The
woman was quite startled to see sheep and sheepdog bearing down on her
motorhome followed by a crazy lady running behind waving her arms and
'TIL THE COWS COME HOME...
I was 12 and my brother was 10. We lived near San Diego at a time when
people grazed cows in Sorrento Valley. We rode our bikes to Sorrento
with my farm collie Randy*. We liked to take Randy to places where he
could run off leash. We liked to poke around in the creek and catch
frogs, etc. We had arrived at the creek, and were catching pollywogs
when I saw a big cloud of dust on the horizon. Next thing I knew, I
saw about 30 cows galloping toward us. Randy was on one heck of a fetch.
We managed to catch him and beat feet before the farmer saw what was
TOO MUCH FUN
The dog had finished Started easily with HIT and great scores; one of
those dogs with talent to spare and bidability to burn. So, he got a
first leg in Intermediate and we were slated to run for the last 2 legs
at the last trials of the season.
We enter the arena, and 8-year-old Mr. Solidly Reliable grins ear-to-ear
and takes off cruising the arena at full speed, barking all the way
around, not once but twice! He comes to the C cone (finally), and grabs
the cone in his mouth to take off again.
The next day, even after a lecture about comportment in trials, he
repeats the performance. Wish the audience hadn't laughed so loud -
he has a classic sense of humor!
OKAY, BUT SHE'S NOT REALLY MY TYPE
My trainer decided he was going to train my "experienced and trained"
stud dog how to grip.
I didn't know how Craig* was planning to teach Bomber* the grip maneuver,
when he grabbed the sheep's head with both hands. But Bomber has been
trained that when someone grabs the head of the bitch with both hands,
that's his cue to 'go to work' and breed the bitch. Before I could even
get a word out, Bomber looked at Craig, cocked his head and looked at
the sheep, then looked at Craig again, seemed to shrug his shoulders
as if to say 'okay, if that's what you want' - then attempted to breed
I thought I was going to die laughing.
Craig didn't find it so funny.
YOU DIDN'T MEAN TO DO THAT...
I first took my dog to see if he had any talent herding, we of course
started in the round pen. Not wishing to have my feet stomped by renegade
sheep (and because my ankles are old and need some extra support sometimes)
I had on a pair of hiking boots. You know the kind, they have regular
eyelets for the laces on the lower part of the boot, and then the top
3 or 4 lace guides are simply L-shaped hooks that you pass the lace
Well, we were going great guns. Taco* was getting around the sheep,
balancing nicely when I moved to the side, and then all of a sudden.....
the loop in the laces on my right boot got caught in one of the L-hooks
on my left boot, effectively tieing my boots together! I did a perfect
cartoon pratfall and just tipped on over in slow motion! My dog and
the sheep continued their circling as I lay face-down in sheep poop
laughing hysterically. Thank goodness I have no pride.
I learned that I should tie that insurance loop in the laces, like I'm
five years old, if I was going to wear them for herding again. Fortunately,
we did keep training, and I haven't hooked my own shoelaces together
WELL, MR. BIG HAT, WHADDYA' THINK OF THIS?
Several years ago I was attending a herding clinic given by a "famous"
Border Collie "Big Hat" handler. I attended the clinic with
one of my Border Collies while my favorite herding dog, the Australian
Shepherd, stayed at home. After listening to the clinician most of the
morning, I was becoming slightly offended by his reference to "off-breeds"
when discussing dogs other than Border Collies. I thought to myself,
"I've had enough". I knew that under my sweatshirt, I was
proudly wearing an Australian Shepherd T-shirt. So after his next "off-breed"
comment I decided to pull up my sweatshirt and show my true colors!
What I didn't know was that my T-shirt was not tucked into my jeans.
So as I proclaimed, "Hey look at this!" I pulled up my T-shirt
along with my sweatshirt and flashed the clinician as well as the other
dumbstruck participants. (At least I didn't say "Take a look at
WHEN YOU GOTTA GO TO BALANCE, YOU JUST GOTTA GO
A few years ago when my dog was in advanced A sheep, the sheep were
very heavy to the set out pan and difficult to lift. The person setting
out was wearing of all things, a skirt. I sent my dog on the outrun,
she got behind to balance but the sheep didn't move. She adjusted position
a few times and the sheep still didn't move. My dog found the perfect
balance point between the legs of the set out person and very slowly
peeked from under her skirt. The sheep finally lifted at that point.
I was laughing so hard I could hardly continue the run.
GETTING THE BOOT
It was early spring a few years ago when I was setting out stock for
a trial held in a 50 acre field. My assistant stock handler would sort
out five head of sheep from the setout pens, and have his dog drive
them to me, and I would pick them up with my dog and drive them on to
the setout area. The field was planted to winter wheat, and was gorgeous.
The wheat was about 5 inches tall and the prettiest shade of green you'll
ever see - it looked like a rolling green carpet that went on
forever and contrasted beautifully with the bright blue sky.
It had rained the night before, and this field was full of terraces.
To get to the setout area, I had to take the sheep across a terrace
that held a channel of water about 7 feet across and about 8 inches
deep. There was no way around it as the terrace was about 300 yards
wide. I had already made the trek for several runs, and all was going
well. The sheep would sometimes hesitate before they crossed the water,
but my wonderfully trained dog knew just how much pressure to exert
to convince them to go. I followed a short distance behind as it was
about 100 or more yards to the setout area.
About mid-way through the morning, it was becoming a pretty routine
trip. All of a sudden, I sensed something was awry. My right foot was
not feeling quite right. I stopped and looked down, and realized there
was no longer any boot on my right foot, just a very soggy sock. I looked
back to see my boot firmly planted in the muddy water about three feet
behind me. However, all I could see was about the top two inches of
it. There I stood, doing a very unsteady flamingo imitation as I tried
to decide what to do next. It was early March and fairly chilly too,
which wasn't helping. And my dog continued to drive the sheep
without my guidance, so I had little time to think. My assistant stock
handler was the only witness but he was doubled over in laughter and
not much help either.
I hopped back and crammed my cold, dripping wet foot back down into
the boot and went on to set the sheep. It wasn't very comfortable
but it was the only option I had at the time.
WHY FLANNEL AND WOOL SHOULD NEVER MEET
A few years ago when I had wool sheep my husband was in charge of feeding
while I was gone for a weekend. Our sheep knew what the bucket is for
and always came running when they heard food in it. It was winter time
so my husband had on flannel pajamas, boots and coat. The sheep were
in such a hurry to get to their food they wrapped around my husband
on the way. The flannel velcroed to the wool and managed to twist his
pajama pants around enough that they went down to his ankles. Needless
to say he doesn't wear pajamas to the barn any more. I was very surprised
he even admitted this one to me.
FLOWERS ARE NOT FOR GOBBLING
I had been working my red girl and she and I were learning how to herd
and doing quite well at it. I would come home from practices and tell
my mom about it and she was "sorta" starting to understand
what I was talking about with "fetch" and "flanking"
Well, this was also spring/summer and Mom had all of her flowers coming
up nicely in the garden. We also have an overabundance of wild turkeys
in our area. Well, Mom came out one morning to see them scratching and
pecking and totally destroying her flowers! She hollered and shooshed
and they paid her no mind! Meanwhile, my dog was sitting next to her
quietly watching. My mom, in frustration swings her arm up and points
to the turkeys and says "Get them out of my garden!" Well,
that was all she needed. Now, my mom just thought "it's a
dog" and dogs like to chase, when she told her to go get the turkeys.
Then....she saw my dog go real WIDE and get BEHIND the turkeys, then
she remembered all the stories I had been telling her about how to "fetch"
they go behind and bring them TO YOU!
She got behind the turkeys and they started moving towards my mom,
first at a walk, then a trot, then an all out run! Mind you, this is
about 15-20 very large wild turkeys! My mom starts hollering "No!
Stop! Don't! Oooh &%#&*! as the turkeys took flight just
before reaching her and went up on the porch roof before scattering
back into the woods. The "one" word she didn't remember
from my telling her about practices was "lie down" to stop
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
We were doing well with 3 head of sheep when my instructor decided to
let the dog work a larger number of sheep. She let out another 5 or
6 sheep, these were also sheep that flocked to you BIG time in the sight
of a dog! I mean VELCRO! Well, the larger flock is at one end of the
pen (not a big arena), she tells me to send my dog and I do, the sheep
immediately rush in and are completely around me and up against my legs.
My dog is just thrilled! She's WORKIN!
The only problem was, these sheep flocked SO tightly to me, that they
had me OFF the ground! I was just a couple inches off the ground, being
"carried" by the sheep! I'm trying to keep from laughing
at the absurdity of it all, and tell my dog to STOP, lie down, quit
it, ANYTHING, but she just kept pushing them, they kept moving away
from her and I'm going for a sheep ride. I was laughing so hard
I couldn't give any commands for her to stop, couldn't figure
how to push at least ONE of them away from me so I could at least touch
the ground and I knew I was only inches off of it. Eventually, there
was a tempting distraction in the arena that my dog just HAD to have,
and once she stopped, the sheep moved away from me enough that I was
back on the ground.
THE VOICE FROM ABOVE
The National Specialty is a place to showcase your dogs talents. I was
ready, and I was confident my dog was too. The largest crowd I had trialed
before that year watched intently. My outrun, lift and fetch went well,
my sheep rounded the post behind me and I turned my dog in on her flank
to drive the sheep to the "Y" chute.
Well, this particular arena sets parallel to a driveway about 20 feet
away, where exhibitors and spectators walk to get from the parking lot
to the herding area. There is no alternate path for them to take. Apparently,
as the sheep approached the Y chute, several people started to walk
by the arena. I didn't pay particular attention to them, nor did
my dog. UNTIL, the judge, who was behind me on a scaffolding right up
against the arena, boomed out in a very loud and deep voice "HEY!"
and proceeded to call out for the people to wait, and not walk through
there at that particular time.
I watched my dog react to the loud, anonymous "HEY!" (which,
by the way, is what I use for a correction). Totally confused, she peeled
right off of her stock and headed towards me, her eyes as big as saucers.
No amount of coaxing would get her to go back to her sheep. Her quick
pace took her right past me, to the gate, and I watched her wriggle
right under it and disappear. There I stood, with three sheep standing
in the entrance of the Y chute, me at the Advanced handlers post, and
NO DOG. But lots of witnesses.
I found my dog outside, setting next to my husband. My scoresheet said,
"Dog Called Time".
MANTRA, REMEMBER THE MANTRA....
Tux* had been training for HT for about 6 months when the Nationals
rolled around. His stay at the beginning was fairly solid allowing me
to get almost to the sheep. He stop was pretty solid too. He would wear
and turn on his balance point but oh, dear, he did love to be close,
close, ever closer to the sheep.
I on the other hand was really quite bad. Although I had had Barbados
sheep in the past and I was fair at leading the sheep, well, reading
the sheep, the dog, knowing where I was in the arena, and being able
to MOVE, oh well, let's say I don't multi-task too well anymore.
The weather was great with blue skies and mild temperatures. Herding
Tested was in a warm-up arena with deep sand. My turn came with Tux.
From what I had observed I decided that my personal mantra was move,
move, MOVE, just keeping MOVING! Tux, the judge and I entered the arena.
The judge advised me not to turn Tux loose until the sheep were settled
and I was ready. HA! That must have been a joke. The sheep never settled
and I was ready, (ready to leave the arena). What had I gotten myself
into? Oh, well, trust my faithful dog. He had been trained and besides
he had instinct for this stuff, right?
I gave Tux a sit command and a very firm STAAAAAAAAAAY! I walked away
with all the confidence of a novice obedience exhibitor. I heard the
judge say "beautiful" and smiled. I had decided where I was
going to go in relation to the sheep and which way I was going to send
the dog and which way we were
all going to move. I walked to my place, turned around and --- the race
was on. Tux took off on a counter clockwise flank -- not the way I wanted.
I got him turned and he went the other way -- all the way around in
a circle. Turned him again and off he went clear around again. Somehow
things were not working the way I wanted. I gave the stop command and
wow, Tux stopped.
My mantra, I had forgotten my mantra. I'm sure probably 20 minutes
of my 10 minute test was already gone and I had not moved. So I started
to walk as fast as I could towards the cone, any cone. The sand was
deep and the footing difficult. The sheep moved and Tux began to settle
in. We got around one cone then walked the seemingly half a mile to
the next cone and around we went. But Tux was getting closer and closer
and CLOSER. I stopped him and asked the judge if she had seen enough,
hoping beyond hope. "No you have one more cone to do," she
said. UGH! I thought.
We moved out heading for the last cone somewhere about 5 miles down
the length of the arena. Somehow I had to protect the rear of the sheep
for Tux was getting too close and had received one warning already.
So, I turned around, backing down the arena and keeping between the
sheep and the dog. I guess the sheep were somewhat confused as to whether
they were to follow me or move away but Tux helped with that. We were
moving ever so slowly down the arena. I could feel the sheep behind
me as I backed up slowly. To feel them there was somewhat comforting
and unconsciously I began to lean on them. Then they moved off.
That was me, on my back in the middle of the arena. No sheep, no dog,
no judge, just deep sand and blue, blue sky. I laid there a second with
thousands of thoughts of Tux killing sheep racing thru my mind followed
by thought of Tux rounding the sheep up and bringing them to and over
"Tux!" I yelled. Nothing. "TUXXXXX!" I yelled louder.
Nothing. Suddenly I saw the judge dashing across the arena to cut off
Tux. Finally my brain began to function again and I thought: don't just
call the dog's name give him something to do. "TUX, C-O-M-E".
I rolled over on my stomach and Tux dived into my face. He had a big
grin of relief on his face --- thanks for saving me from those sheep,
Mom! I grabbed his collar and said: "This will have to do for our
recall, son." The judge standing behind me said: "As fine
a recall as I have ever seen too." I hugged my dog and staggered
out of the arena with my dog's support. We had earned our first leg
towards an HT.
Evidently while I was resting on the arena floor Tux had been busy
moving the sheep the way he was supposed to to keep them off of me but
close. What more could I have asked (except maybe to have seen him do
it). Our trophy, a friend who saw the spectacle gave me a tee-shirt
showing sheep running
from the dog over the handler and called Kamakaze Sheep.
*Names of dogs and handlers have been changed. Assuring they remained
anonymous was the only way I could get some of these great stories to
be shared. I am sworn to secrecy regarding my informants!