We spent the morning with Thomas Longton, who is not only a brilliant sheepdog man, but a gracious host. If you ever want to experience a piece of rural English life in luxury, even if you don't run dogs, check out The Shepherd's Barn at www.longtonsheepdogs.com.
Thomas talked to us about sheep behaviour, picking a dog, judging and lots about handling. It was obvious this man was from a family that was involved with sheepdogs for generations. These people have grown up with sheep and dogs to a degree it is difficult for us to understand, as their culture is so rural. There are large tractors driving down major city roads on a regular basis!
Both Mary Lou and I had a bit of cabin fever from Mary Lou's illness, and since we had lost some time last week, decided to go visit another master sheepdog man and good friend, Gordon Watt.
Naturally, we underestimated the driving time and the sat nav (GPS to you North Americans) took us over hill and dale (or was it a moor?). With Hurricane Katia now landing full force, the narrow sheep trod of a road that we took over the high barren ground of the Pennine Moors was a bit daunting. The howling wind threatened to throw us off the side of the treacherous switchbacks. Definitely need a different route home in the dark!
Gordon drilled us on some of the finer points of the big trials, giving us confidence to go forward to the big day. He is fantastic at sizing up a trial. Gordon had a big open field and some lively sheep for us to play about on. The wind was hard to stand up in and the dogs couldn't hear whistling even close at hand at times so I think we are prepared for anything the weather gods can throw at us.
After a great visit, we headed back (on the motorway this time) and didn't get back until almost 1am, but it was worth it. The knowledge we have gained on this trip has been priceless, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming trial. We are changed forever.
Now it feels like the count down is on!
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