The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at the farm of Connie Strickland in Luthersville. The Stricklands and their neighbor Brian Cash hosted a three day sheep dog trials for the United States Border Collie Handlers Association.
Approximately sixty dogs were put through their paces and a crowd made up of sheep dog enthusiasts as well as curious local folk came out to watch the event. Participants came from as far away as Ireland, Colorado, and Canada for the event, one of three held in Georgia this year.
Some of the garden club ladies brought along husbands, grandchildren, and neighbors for the event and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful spring like day, sunshine and outdoors.
The site of the action for the trials on Saturday was the Strickland’s big hay field where four gates, a small pen, and designated marked area were all on about forty acres. The dogs were sent by their handlers across a large field about four hundred yards away and often out of sight, but not hearing, of their handlers. The dogs were judged on following the directions given by the handlers to go and retrieve four sheep. The dogs brought the sheep to the handler having to circle the shepherd from a designated side. Then the dogs were commanded to take the sheep through a gate and then brought back toward the handler and penned. A last test was taking the four sheep to a designated area and separating them two and two. The course had to completed in eleven minutes.
The crowd thoroughly enjoyed watching a smooth dog and handler pair. The whistles and hand signals soon became easy to follow, and the dogs put forth such strenuous mental and physical effort they were a joy to see work. Most dogs headed straight for the big water bucket after their runs to jump in and cool off. The black and white border collies and an occasional brown and white colored one were eager to get out there with the sheep and go to work.
It was clear to viewers that a good dog made working with sheep an easier task and a good dog was worth the money. Nancy Schreeder of Vinings explained that most border collies from twelve months to two years are in the training stages with a six year old considered mature and trial worthy. Training is an ongoing process though, Schreeder said. Schreeder lives in Vinings but has her sheep in Dawson County as did a number of entries competing this weekend.
Sheep farming is enjoying a growth spurt in Georgia just now and folks are seeing mutton on restaurant menus more often. The Stricklands grow what is call hair sheep or the Dorper breed which is a meat sheep, and they don’t have to spend time shearing wool. It is currently lambing time, and Connie Strickland had set up a petting area for the guests to see a few of the adorable babies.
The Greenville Boy Scout Troop provided lunch for visitors at the trials and Connie further treated the garden club ladies to her delicious coconut cake. The next meeting of the club will be an unofficial meeting as the ladies will take in the Callaway Gardens Plant Fair and Sale on Thursday, March 26, 2015 to Sunday, March 29, 2015.