Huntin' The Dogs

It's quite a different lifestyle to get up, do some stuff around the house, and then drive 10 minutes to a trial. Saturday's trial was hosted by Denis in the big field, and is a popular trial - handlers don't get many opportunities to challenge their dogs with that kind of a long outrun. People were coming and going, trying to juggle their schedules and all the things they needed to do before heading to the International in a couple of days. When one lives on an island, one lives by ferry and airline schedules.

Although they had been calling for poor weather all week, the conditions were ideal. Mary Lou finished 7th with Dyna on 93 points, just out of the placings by a point (it is always to 6 placings, no matter the number of competitors and there were a sizable number at the trial), and Craig and I placed 4th with a 94! Talk about tight competition!

Denis won the trial on 98 points, not much room for error around here. Man, these guys (it is almost entirely men) can turn panels!

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Guh-lug guh-lug guh-lug and other Irish translations

adventures ireland Sep 05, 2011

It's true that as your ear gets used to an accent, it becomes easier to understand. I think we are down to saying "What was that again?" less than 20 times a day. We are now huntin' dogs instead of working our dogs, and apparently the word "yoke" can be used for any item under the sun... I think it roughly translates as "thing" or "stuff". We were originally talking about drugs injected into animals and someone said something about injecting yoke and at first we thought they meant egg yolk...hmmmm, how does that work?

Phone calls might end with guh-lug guh-lug guh-lug (approximate phonetic translation, said at high speed) which we were finally brave enough to ask about... It is very Irish to wish someone "good luck" (with a repeat or two) at the end of a conversation.

We needed some luck as we were going to be "hunting" our dogs on the weekend. We started out by heading to a local Irish crook maker, Tom Kavanagh. We didn't risk flying our own crooks across the pond and had been...

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The Visionaries

adventures ireland Sep 02, 2011

We headed off to the west coast to watch Denis do a brace demonstration and then planned to do some sight seeing and shopping. Denis did this incredible demo, and sheep quickly changed their minds about challenging a dog when a second dog came into view. 

The highlight was when Denis worked one dog on sheep and the other on ducks... All the more impressive when you knew that he didn't practice doing it, the dogs were just that well schooled!

From there we headed to Galway, looking for clothing for a potential Double Lift final. Mary Lou tried on a few things, but I didn't think purple suited her and I was worried the hair piece might come off in high wind...

From Galway, we headed to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher (which we pronounced mohair quite incorrectly). There was the safe tourist area and then there was a small slippery trail right along the cliff's edge.

You had to pass several "Danger: Do Not Enter" signs and a number of memorials of people who had died at the...

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The long (and narrow) road to trialling


We've decided that it is easier to tow a huge trailer in Chicago traffic during an Oprah Winfrey event than drive on the left hand side of a ridiculously narrow road that has a 100 km speed limit and a stone wall within inches of the side-view mirror. We've now had a few up close and personals with the brush on the "verge" (edge of the road), I hope the rental car isn't scratched. I think one road we were on through the Wicklow mountains was actually a sheep trod in disguise. The trial we were heading to was an hour and a half away which, when it feels like you are about to have a head-on collision at any moment, seems like a four hour drive. No wonder 30 minutes is more the norm.

There were about 35 runners in this local trial. Handlers with multiple dogs went first, and then when everyone is down to a single dog, they do a draw so that all the single dogs run on rerun sheep. The sheep were a mixed flock, and touchy only begins to describe them. It wasn't unusual for there to be a...

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Rat Salad

adventures ireland Aug 28, 2011


I can't believe how much we are learning... About sheep, about dogs, and about handling. Our dogs are flanking better, shedding better, going back better. Denis is truly brilliant with the dogs. It is incredible to watch how fast he can train a dog. The way he gets into their mind is amazing.

We decided to give our dogs a day off and go explore Dublin. After a bit of shopping, we went (where else?) to the Guinness Storehouse. Arthur Guinness was a visionary who signed a 9000 year lease for the land and water source for the famous beer. There is a lesson to be learned in his faith and belief in making Guinness beer the success it is today.

We managed to turn the wrong way out of the tourist attraction and ended up in a bad part of Dublin. Upon asking for directions, we were warned to watch our purses while walking back towards the public transit. I guess our shopping bags were a bit of a giveaway that we were tourists. After a stressful but uneventful walk to the transit, we safely...

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The Big Field

We were invited to stay at Denis Birchall's for a few days, and today Denis suggested we go out to "the big field". He loaded up some Scottish Blackface sheep into his small (sized for Irish roads) stock trailer and we headed off.

"The big field" was an understatement. It was a massive field, wide with an 800 yard outrun and young cows bouncing around. Denis shooed the cattle away and trailered the sheep down to the far end of the field, where white sheep looked like bits of rice and darker sheep were pretty much invisible.

Both Mary Lou and I were able to send our dogs the distance, 800 yards being a first for both dogs, and it didn't take long before they were listening well at that distance, if only I had binoculars for eyes so I could give them the correct commands! Driving the sheep back up that length of field was great experience for the dogs.

Another first for me was setting out both groups of sheep for a double lift by myself. Trying to get the second group out in time was...

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First Running, Hollywood Style

This morning we headed to Hollywood. Big white letters up on the side of the hill. But wait, there's sheep grazing around the letters. No, this wasn't Hollywood, California, but rather Hollywood, Ireland. There is an amazing little local fair held in Hollywood every year, where many locals dress in period costumes of the early to mid-1900s. There are antique cars, steam tractors, horse-drawn buggies, old time Irish music and it feels as if you've gone back in time. True to form, there is also a sheepdog trial.

Mary Lou and I were some of the earlier ones to arrive (around noon, very laid back around here). We had to jump a barb wire fence after throwing our dogs over it to get to the path that took us to the field. Through a cemetery, over a stone bridge crossing a small stream, walk through another small stream, you get the idea. The field was small, but the sheep were set out of sight behind a [berm]. You couldn't see the sheep and the dog had to get directed out through a gap in...

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The Irish National Sheepdog Trial

Still slightly bleary eyed from an overnight plane trip into Manchester, a drive to Wales on the wrong side of the road, and a less than average B&B, we took the fast ferry to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Lharry, don't ask me how), and went to pick up dog food at a cute little pet shop five minutes from the ferry terminal.

We had reluctantly switched the dogs onto kibble for the trip, and since we were able to find Orijen, which is Canadian, we figured it was at least patriotic. The dogs were able to accompany us at a local bistro for lunch (love the dog-friendly atmosphere over here), and then we started another drive on the wrong side of even narrower roads, and it started to rain. Mary Lou informed me that I had been driving like a church mouse up until that point, but now that the hedges were getting close to the passenger side mirror and the road was wet, she felt my speed was excessive. Whether I was getting more comfortable or her nerves were starting to fray has yet to...

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