Not So Crazy, Marker Dogs and Other Deep Thoughts
I really need to enter more ASCA (Australian Shepherd Cub of America) agility trials. They make me realize my dogs are really not as crazy as I often think they are.
Prior to this weekend, I’d attended a CPE trial and a NADAC trial. There were definitely moments of craziness with one or the other of my dogs at each trial. The picture above is from the CPE trial. My apparently poorly executed cross resulted in sending Camm to the dog walk instead of to the much closer jump. She realized the mistake and chose to quickly negate the error by jumping off the dog walk and getting back to the proper spot.
The photographer at the trial shot the entire episode. I purchased it. It’s actually pretty amazing to watch and to see how much Camm used her plume-like appendage, also known as a tail, to balance herself throughout to leap and to stick her landing. It was actually very cat-like and super athletic. Not recommended though. Not matter how light and supremely athletic the dog is. Ahem, Camm!
At the NADAC trial in Canada, Brady refused to stick contacts and engaged in numerous arguments with me about it. Even taking the eliminations and working with him to encourage a proper “two-on, two-off” landing did not sway his point of view, which was that leaping the contacts was faster (it is) and far more fun than my dumb-ass way (I’m not sure I can argue that).
It seems as if one of my dogs, usually Brady or Camm, pulls some crazy, memorable move at every trial. Therefore, I’ve really started to think of my dogs as being fruitcakes. At least sometimes.
After this weekend, my point of view has shifted. Nothing like being a Border Collie in a sea of Australian Shepherds to gather perspective. Also nothing like seeing an 18-month old border collie run to make one appreciate her more seasoned dogs, even the one that’s only been trialing for a year and jumps off dog walks.
There’s an interesting preference among some humans. It seems that some humans have a very strong preference for Australian Shepherds and would rather slit their throats rather than to have a Border Collie, while the opposite is true of those that prefer Border Collies. I’m among those people, but the opinions have always amused me given that the general public pretty much sees the two breed types as the same or at least very similar.
The most common thing I hear from Australian Shepherd people is that they love the sense of humour from their Aussies and that Border Collies are “too intense.” Being a human that would be rich if she’d received a nickel for every time she was told she was “too intense,” I guess I appreciate the way of the Border Collie.
As border collies are tremendously popular in the sport of dog agility, it was a little odd to have my dogs considered as the “marker dogs” for the Aussies running. In other words, Brady and Camm were among a literal handful of border collies at this past weekend’s trial. I also have a renewed appreciation for when people tell me they can’t tell all those border collies apart because they all look the same. Hmmm, all those Aussies look the same to me.
I’ve written many times about Brady’s predisposition to raging at me when running agility. Contacts are actually the least of our arguments. He barks, and sometimes screams, at me if my handling is not perfect.
A friend this weekend mentioned that she’s advised her own dogs to “just get over it,” meaning the imperfect handling. While I’ve suggested this to Brady, he’s not having it. That attitude has made him an excellent, if not Nazi-like, coach and has literally forced me to become a better handler. Not a perfect handler, much to his disappointment, but somewhat better anyway.
Nonetheless, our arguments on course, some of which have become legendary in my memory, fall short of some of what I saw with the Aussie crowd.
And it’s not like this is new information for me. There are also a lot of Australian Shepherds that compete in agility and I see many over any weekend and have numerous friends that run Aussies. I’ve also entered ASCA trials before, although it’d been probably 18 months or more since my last one.
But there’s nothing like being in an ocean of Aussies to drive home an appreciation and fondness for one’s Border Collies. Even ones that think they’re Superman. Ahem, Brady!
- Photo credits to Nina Sage