A Trio of Letters to the Jolly Man in Red

by Lori Herbel - with guest writers Rev and Lamb Chop

Dear Santa,

Hey, how are things up at the North Pole? I am looking forward to your visit this year. I have a new pup, his name is Rev. I put a lot of thought into his name, since past experience has taught me that a dog often emulates their name. Jet was, well, really fast......Matt's hair was always tangled... and Split, well....you know that story.

I figure Rev can be short for Reveille, for those trials where we're first up at the post at 8 a.m. You know as well as I do that I'll need the extra help waking up (and thinking) that early. It can also be short for Reverend, for those trials where I need a little extra help from a Divine Source. When we need a little extra push, it can be short for Revolution, as in "to increase the speed of". And finally, when our run is over, there is always Revelation ("oh, THAT'S what I SHOULD have done").

Before I get to my wish list for Christmas this year, I want to say that I feel very blessed for what I already have. A great family, wonderful dogs, healthy livestock and a place for them all to live and work in. It just can't get any better than that!

Please note, Santa that this year, my wishes are not just for me, but for each and every handler across the country.

I wish for every entry to make it into the running order, leaving no one to deal with the dreaded Alternate's List. I wish for good livestock at every trial, whether it be cattle, sheep or ducks. Let them all be amenable to fetching AND driving, and have no fear of entering or exiting obstacles. I wish for qualifying scores for those that have earned them and non-qualifying scores for those that have not. It truly is an experience that will teach like none other.

I wish for bright, sunny trial days with just a touch of wind - not so much that the dogs cannot hear their masters, but just enough for a fresh, cool breeze. I wish for fair and consistent judging that rewards great work and sorts out the not-so-great work. I wish for handlers that tend to criticize the judging to truly watch every second of every run with a score sheet in their hand and an in-depth knowledge of the scoring process.

I wish for everyone to show support for their fellow handlers, to congratulate each other when a run has gone well, and to equally commiserate with those who have a run gone awry. We all know there are no handlers that have perfect runs every time.

I wish for safe travel and good health for all handlers and their dogs, as well as the livestock. I wish for proper knowledge of setting out procedures for all stock handlers - as it can make or break the success of a trial if they truly know "when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em".

And finally, I truly wish great blessings upon those who are responsible for organizing and running the trials. These folks don't just work the two or three days we see them during the trial. The 'backstage' work for a single trial can easily extend over a six-month period. These people all deserve a pat on the back, a heartfelt "Thank You!", and a big smile.

Thanks, Santa. Just thinking about all of these wishes, and realizing that many of them have already come true makes me feel proud to be a part of the herding community.


P.S. Should you ever need a good herding dog to round up those reindeer, let me know!

Dear Santa,

My name is Rev. I am a Border Collie. I am really new at this, being only 14 weeks old. I'm not quite sure what to put on my Wish List. I have never seen this day they call Christmas before, but it is fun to see everyone get so excited about it. The twinkling lights fascinate me, and the brightly wrapped packages under the tree call my name when my Mom isn't there to hear it.

My interests right now are pretty limited. I like to chew on things, wrestle with my brothers and sisters, spook the cat, and chew on things. Oh, did I mention I like to chew on things? My sister and I had a great tug of war going in the yard yesterday with something I think I heard mom call a 'sponge'. Funny Mom wasn't too happy, she should be glad because now she has several of them. Go figure. (sigh)

Because of my young age, I guess I'll just have to go with my instincts for my wish list. To be honest, I don't even know where these ideas came from, but they just feel right. Mom says you will understand because they come from my heart.

I wish for all the dogs in the world like me to have a wonderful home with a warm, dry place to sleep. Oh, and a never-ending supply of Lamb and Rice. With bones to chew, toys to toss and water tubs to play in no matter what the temperature.

I wish for all the puppies their own flock of sheep, herd of cows and a....whatever you call a bunch of ducks. I guess I should ask that they all come with this option I keep hearing, "dog broke" since I got the impression that it doesn't come standard with all models. Personally, I just don't understand it. First of all, if it's broke why not fix it, and second of all, why do we dogs always have to take all the blame?

I have a big custom order for all the handlers in the world, Santa, but if anyone can handle it, I trust you can. There has to be a perfect mixture of knowledge, experience, patience and love that would benefit all of us dogs, both young and old. Give our handlers the knowledge to train each of us through our similarities and differences to reach our potential, whatever that level may be. The experience to help them find the path that leads us there with the least heartache and the most joy along the way. The patience to allow us to come along at our own pace, enabling us to build a solid foundation for our future together. And a lot of Love to share along the way, Santa, because with Love we can always make up where the other ingredients may fall short from time to time.

I guess that's about it. I understand it's tradition to leave you milk and cookies on Christmas Eve, but you'd better hope Mom puts them up higher than I can reach. If you have been watching like they say you do, you know I get the munchies around midnight.

Have a safe trip, Santa. And please don't be too mad if I help the reindeer take back off with a little nip or two at their heels. Sometimes a pup's just gotta do what a pup's gotta do. Especially when their sisters are watching.

Love ya,

Dear Santa,

How are ewe? My name is Lamb Chop.

If you could see to it that these wishes are carried out for all the little lambs everywhere, I'd sure appreciate it. Our basic needs are pretty simple. We all need a sheltered place to get in out of the wind and cold in the winter; and a shady spot to take cover from the sun in the summer. We wish for grain in every feeder; fresh, sweet-smelling hay in every pen, and clear, cool water that never runs dry.

The other lambs and I have been talking, Santa, and this co-existence we have with dogs seems like an okay idea to us. We have only watched this process from afar and we have to be honest. We've noticed that there are some dogs that we feel we could trust and follow their guidance and direction. There are others though Santa, that make us really nervous and we want to run away from them as fast as we can! With that thought, we have a world-wide wish that all handlers would realize what proper respect is, and that if the dogs show that respect for us, we'll be happy to return the favor. Mom tells me that Mother Nature doesn't allow us to override these feelings we get from deep in our hearts. She says these instincts in our ancestors are responsible for us even being here today.

We have to admit, it truly is comforting to trust these dogs that take us out to graze in the lush, green pastures every morning, and help guide us back to the safety of the barns at night. Mom says their very presence helps keep the predators at bay. We hear the coyotes howl sometimes at night, but they never seem to venture near our pens.

When we get old enough to be in herding trials, Santa, we have a wish that all the dogs entered there have been properly prepared. You know how excited handlers get and about their tendencies to rush into making entries! For those handlers that do make the trip to the post, please give them the knowledge to evaluate their run fairly and the courage to retire when it isn't. Help them to know that there is no shame in calling it a day and coming back another time.

And please give us stock handlers at the trials that understand our needs and how to make us comfortable while we await our turn in the arena or on the field. Sometimes it seems like the stock handlers job is delegated to those who are not quite ready to trial, or are even new to herding. We know they mean well, Santa, but it really helps us do our job if the handler speaks "Sheepease".

Listen, feel free to stop by the barn on Christmas Eve if the reindeer need a snack and a drink of water! We'll leave them some hay and corn in the feeder, and there is always water in the tank!

Have a safe trip,

Lamb Chop