Big News!

So I’ve been sitting on some news for a bit now. I was sworn to secrecy by this little Welsh woman who threatened me with all kinds of painful experiences so I had to stay quiet. But, alas, I am free to tell you all that I am competing in the televised “A Way With Dogs”! I think I’m the first American to ever be invited to compete on this program which is an honor in itself but also the competition I’m running with is seriously the elite of the elite of the sheepdog world! World Champions, Supreme Champions, National Champions… and then theres me… Good Lord.

I’ve been watching the videos and it makes me seriously get stress cramps. These guys are incredibly good. Like, how was I invited to run? I don’t know but I’m gonna go with it because I like to travel and I’ve never been to Wales. I’ve always said that if I ever get to go to the U.K. that I’d want to have my own dog with me so I could run in trials and play on farms with my own dog. I didn’t expect that to actually happen though! Seriously…? WTF?

Life is a great journey, if we let it be that. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to travel the world and see the things that I’ve only seen in books… now I get to see them in person. Years ago I read a book called “A Way Of Life” by H. Glyn Jones, I’ve seen his training videos and I’ve followed those dogs through several years of competitions… Now I get to visit that farm with my dog Nell, who is a descendent of his dogs, and I get to compete on the very lands that those dogs were trained on. Its truly a “full circle” moment for me.

Stay tuned for fund raising opportunities. I’m shameless in my desire to get help to do these things but I don’t really care because I love sharing my life with everyone (all three of you) who read my blog!

The National: Part 2

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to write about the last day of the nationals. There’s a lot of angles I wanted to come from but none of them seemed to work with how I wanted it to sound. So instead of thinking about it anymore I’m just going to go through it as I remember it.

I woke up, after not a lot of sleep. I wasn’t out long or anything like that, I just didn’t sleep well. The night before, after the semifinal, we had our meeting and then Tricia MacRae and I walked over most of the course. She was running first so we were trying to do our best to learn the course. It was a left hand outrun first with an away-to-me turn back which was stressing me out because the sheep wanted to run so badly to the left hand side of the field. As if I didn’t stress enough about everything up until now. Seriously, I had to just walk away from the last few runs because I was sitting in last place to get through to the final. When you work hard and you want something so badly, seeing it almost slip out of your fingers is a devastating thing. And when the last few handlers are your friends, you just have to get out of there…. I suppose not everyone has to but I had to!

Anyway, I knew I was running late for the first run (because lets face it; as one of the only openly gay men in the sheepdog scene I had to show up looking like I meant business… it takes a bit of time to put this act together! I can’t just throw on a pullover and some wellies and call it good!) so I took out my iPad and logged onto the live stream as I was driving there… yes kids I was being bad… but for crying out loud! Its the nationals! I had to know what was going on! Don’t judge… Well I got there right as my buddy Wyatt Flemming had just finished the course! It was pretty cool to see him close the gate. You couldn’t ask for a nicer person to compete with! To me, its a mark of a great competitor and friend to see them come up and celebrate your victory with you, because they know that your win is a win for them too. At that level, I have to say that, everyone learns from each other.

From that point on I was in and out of watching. I was running and I had to give myself a few breaks where I could go laugh with friends, walk my dogs and calm my nerves. I saw Scott’s run and, aside from his second fetch, I knew it would take some beating. From that point it was run after run that was a blur for me. I’m sorry to say it, but I can’t really remember much of the rest of the final until my run. I saw Brian run his dog and was pleased to see him finish. But after that its really a blur.

What I did know was that the sheep on the first gather wanted to run straight down to the exhaust so I needed a good away to me flank. I knew that the set up for the turn back was delicate at best. The turn back required a big come bye flank which would release the pressure on the sheep allowing them to run straight to the exhaust. I wasn’t too worried about that because Nell turns back really great… usually.

When I walked to the post I had my family there, cheering me on. I had Nell by my side and I was calm in my chest. Thats not normal, being calm. We sent to the left and things looked great until she decided she knew better on the top part of the fetch…. For F@CK sake girl you haven’t missed a flank since June and you decide now is the time to take over!!!! NOT GOOD TIMING!!! Well luckily I got ahold of her and we got them back online, made the gate and had a really nice setup for the turn back. Which she didn’t take… Lets just take a moment to appreciate the art of PRACTICING! I never practice turn-backs close to a double lift trial because it tends to inspire my dogs to go looking for other sheep every time I give a hard stop. So imagine my surprise when it took me multiple turn back whistles to get her to turn her head… OMG NELL!!! THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO CHALLENGE THIS!!! But apparently she thought it was.

By the time she turned back I had assumed she might have crossed the course because of maneuvering but I kept going. The second fetch was nice, followed by a very good drive. And now we’re at the shed.

There’s a growing popularity in our sport to do the shed in a way that might be effective, but is essentially and technically wrong. I’ve always tried to do it right, which hasn’t always been successful but I’ve always tried. Which means my dog does the shedding, and its up to me to indicate which sheep to cut off. The sheep in the shed were especially tricky because once they were so determined to go towards the exhaust. I didn’t do a perfect shed, but I have to say that I was especially proud of my little Nell for cutting in exactly when I wanted her to, and doing it with courage, bravery and a sense of purpose that makes me very proud. Later, in a blog post, it was said that it was nice to see the international shed being done right, with the dog doing the work. That was a great compliment….

I took the point loss of switching sides to get my last three sheep off, knowing that is a deduction, but it was worth it. We got the last three off and I ran to the pen.

Nell is one of my favorite shedding dogs I’ve ever worked because I can ask her for a miracle and she delivers. I’ve only ever seen that a few times, and its a special moment when you get to see it. Not saying we won’t have bad moments in the future but she’s one of the few that I can be brave and risky with and she seems to pull it off.

From that moment we went to the pen. “Okay ladies, its simple, just walk in the damned pen and you’re free for a long time!” They took some convincing, Nell stood her ground a few times and I had a minor stroke but they eventually went in, with me slamming the gate and leaning down to hug my amazing dog! God I love her… Just writing this makes me a bit teary eyed… Cause, lets face it, she’s amazing to me. I don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks about her but I love her and I wouldn’t exchange her for any dog.

Walking off the field, in the middle of a ton of applause, noise, screams and all that comes with that, you get a sense of pride for the teamwork you just showed everyone. It gives you a sense of pride that I really can’t describe. All I can say is that at one point I bent down, picked Nell up and carried her off the field with the biggest smile I’ve ever had. I knew that I had just had the best showing at a National that I’d ever had. That’s a great feeling!

As soon as I walked off I was asked to do an interview with Vicky Close from Farm Diggity. I was happy to do it but I really don’t remember what I said. I love what she does to keep the sheepdog community involved and interested. But I have to say that I was so elated that when she was asking me questions, I really didn’t know what they were or the answers were. So I’m sorry for the ramblings.

It turned out that I was reserve to Scott Glen, who is a great friend and an awesome competitor. Being in the company of greatness is a privilege that is afforded to few. The last time I was behind him at a National was in 2001 when Alasdair won with Bill, Scott was second with Fly and I was third with Heidi. It was my first time in the finals.

The thing is if you’re going to do great things and yet still come second to someone then you should come second to someone you respect. I’m fortunate for that. One of my favorite moments ever was when Scott was getting photographed for being champion and he called me over to share the spotlight. We sat there for a minute and almost at the same time, we put an arm around each other and I got to share the spotlight with someone who I have had a great amount of respect for, for a very long time. Thank you for sharing that moment with me. We have two pretty great bitches, and its nice to share that spotlight for a minute. But its even nicer that you shared your moment with me… Thank you

This year meant so much to me for so many reasons. First off; my family was able to come and see the things I do with my dogs. My dad hasn’t been able to come for a long time and it was especially special to me to get to do so well with him in the audience. I had a cousin, an uncle, an aunt some little cousins and my mom in the audience. Thats pretty effing cool to have when you do well. I had more international support than I’ve ever had, and thank you to everyone all over the globe who sent out messages of support.

I spent the rest of the night with great friends, singing stupid songs and eating good food. Not a bad way to end a national! Thanks to those MaCrazy people for all that you’ve done for me, all that you do for me and, most of all, your friendship.

The thing that I am most happy about is that I got to work with my little dog on a global stage, once again, to be able to show our partnership. She continues to amaze me. Every day she shows a dedication and love that even the best stalker would be jealous of!

Thank you to everyone who’s been so supportive. Thank you so much! Much love to you

“And thats all I have to say about that” F. Gump for now….


The Nationals Part 1

Leaving for the national finals is always an awkward moment. Did I pack the right clothes (this is a real struggle for any semi-fashion conscious gay man)? Did I remember my dogs? Did I pack my rain gear? Do I have enough time to get to the finals? That last one might seem odd but let me tell you that the sadistic person who put me on the first day has a messed up sense of humor! NOT COOL RANDOM USBCHA PERSON WHO MAKES THE DRAW!!!!!! Not to mention the head games that run through my mind for the entire drive! Never before have I done well on an east coast finals. The best I did was in 2002 in Tennessee when I made the semi finals, only to have my dog, Heidi, forget how to stop… My family who saw the whole thing just said “thats so unlike her!” “there must have been a bad sheep!” “What got into her?!” and so on… This might seem idiotic for someone to read, but for anyone who has wanted something as bad as I want the national title, they’ll understand that superstitions, while not logical or practical, come into our minds on the regular. That reminds me, I think I forgot my lucky underwear.

Driving through the time zones of this country is a journey that lets my mind become clear, some might say blank but those people are just wrong. Driving east I went through freezing temps then the next day I was sweating my ass off. Stopping for a day in Butler, MO to visit my friends Kathy and Kate Knox I got the chance to sleep after a long day of driving and get my dogs out for a little work. Its funny because I live at a pretty high elevation and regularly work my dogs in the heat on purpose so that I can get them conditioned. Working them in heat and humidity was a totally new ball game. Kathy and I talked about it after and I think that working them in that kind of humidity actually helps get them more prepared than the dry heat… I really don’t like this because my hair just doesn’t look good in that kind of humidity… #thestruggle

Over the next couple days I got the chance to visit my a good friend in Kentucky and drive through West Virginia for the first time ever. And, way too late, I arrived at the AirBnB that my family and I had for the week of the finals. It was great. Seriously it was paradise and I didn’t want to leave. But I had to because of some demented way of choosing the running order…. seriously I am not an early riser. If it happens before noon then theres a good chance you need to count me out. Unless it includes mimosas!

My first run was the run that dreams are made of. Mostly the dreams of my competitors. I had a bitch troll from hell of a sheep but luckily Nell was on it and was amazing. She handled her in a way that I couldn’t have. She had patience, assertiveness and a finesse that she surely didn’t learn from me. It ended well with a fast pen, but it was a bit of a chore for sure.

I was graced with the same good luck for my run in the semi-final. Except I had a sheep that was a bit more determined than the last one. You know, some dogs only have so much patience. And I thought that, at one point, Nell was running out of hers. Luckily when I was fed up, so was she. I brought her on strong to try to teach the damned sheep a lesson and it ended with a decent score but not one that I was comfortable with. Well… 2017 has been a year of being 17th… I was 17th in the worlds, 17th in the nurseries this year with little Queen (good job Beanie Baby!!) and I ended up 17th in the semifinal… the last damned dog to get in the final. THE. LAST. DOG. I think I had a heart attack on those last couple runs.

So far on this journey I’ve laughed, explored and fell in love with VA all over again. It was a great week leading up to the finals. In my next post I’ll talk about the finals and what that was like, not to mention the skareoke that followed.

Lessons From the World Trial


Photo Credit: Lisa Berglund

As excited as I was, when I first entered the trial, and when I bought my plane ticket, and when I flew out, and when I landed, I had no clue what I was in for. I tried as best as my circumstances allowed to prepare for this but as much as I practiced precision, and depth perception exercises I don’t know that it would ever be enough. The level of handling isn’t something that this Idaho potato was used to and I still haven’t quite grasped.

Before I left, everyone was so excited to hear about what kind of trouble I’d get into when I was over there. I mean I was going to be in the most liberal country on the planet and be staying about an hour (give or take) from AMSTERDAM! This was a little scary because, lets face it, I know myself and I could easily have lost my mind in that city! However, when I was over there I chose not to explore Amsterdam because I wanted to spend the day taking Nell for extra long bike rides and getting caught up on rest. Jet lag is a real thing! Ricky suggests beer as an antidote, but there’s only so much beer in Holland!  So I had a couple peaceful days riding a bicycle through the country side in Holland and keeping my dog as fit as I could. I did take a day trip to Cologne, Germany but just went sight seeing and got a haircut.

Being surrounded by some of the best dog trainers and handlers in the world was pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. Having them come up and tell me that I did a good job or that they liked my dog was even better! But the lessons that I learned will hopefully never be forgotten! So here’s a few of them:

Don’t get Bitter, just get BETTER!

After a couple of my runs at the Dutch open I was a little bummed that my scores didn’t reflect what I remember the runs to be. I thought my lines were fairly straight and the sheep had a decent pace around the field. Now my dog, who is used to having to push sheep, could have been softer and had a bit more precision initially but I thought that I had gotten a hold of her and we made a decent showing. It wasn’t until after one run that I thought I had one of the best runs of my life that I began to understand that they were looking for something a little more than what I was putting on the table. And I started to let that get to me. I was getting frustrated because I thought, according to my standards, that I was getting gypped on my scores. It wasn’t until a couple people who I have a lot of admiration for enlightened me that maybe what they were looking for was better than my best. Maybe, instead of letting some score or decision made my a stranger effect my mood I should just get better, not bitter. Now I didn’t expect to make much of an adjustment because there just wasn’t the time to do that. I might not get the subtleties that I’d inevitably need in order to be competitive over night. But, what I could do was go out and try my best and elevate my personal standards so that, no matter who was in the judge’s car, I’d come off feeling like I might have done something worth while. I had to accept that, at this level, the slightest deviation was too much and could easily take me out of the running. I worked really hard on keeping that in mind when I went out and ran at the Belgian open and although I still struggled a bit with my mental resilience, I ended up running one of the best runs of my life with one of the best scores I’ve ever gotten. A 109 out of 110. And all I could do was try and keep that mentality when heading to the Worlds the next day. It proved to, for the most part, work. I got third on my field getting me into the semifinal. And when I came off my run in the semi final, I accepted that even though I had a pretty good go of it, I probably wasn’t good enough to make it through this year. I was 17th in the semi’s and they took 16 into the final… I’m not gonna act like I was happy about this, but I wasn’t disappointed either. It was just the facts. But one thing was for sure, if I got bitter about my run, my score or anything else then I would have denied myself the opportunity to get better.

“Good Enough” NEVER is! 

In some parts of my life I’m a complete perfectionist. I’m not the cleanest person, as anyone who has ridden in my car would attest. And I have a hard time staying on time. Its just who I am, and according to Lady Gaga, I was BORN THIS WAY! And who can argue with Gaga? Go ahead… Try it… I dare you. But one area that I’ve always been neurotic about perfection is on the field with my dogs. Its actually brought some negative attention to me because it used to really effect my mood if I didn’t do well. But as I’ve grown and matured (to some extent… I mean I still, for the most part, act 12) I’ve just accepted that some days you’re not going to be the champion. BUT! That shouldn’t let you think that “good enough” is, well “good enough”.

The beauty about this sport is that perfection is nearly  impossible. I can always find a fault in any of my runs no matter how high the score is. I’ve run 100 out of 100 and I still found flaws in my run. I’ve run 109 out of 110 and found more than a point off. I think this isn’t the worst position to take because if we can always find flaws in our work, then we can always have something to work on. If we constantly tell ourselves that the run was “good enough” then what do we have to work on? Granted, not everyone wants to compete at the world championships but if we are to continue to elevate this sport then we’re going to have to elevate our standards with trials, running, breeding and training.

Respect Our Youth

One of the most refreshing things about the Worlds was how young so many of the handlers are. Worldwide the average age is much younger than it is here in the U.S. Over here its an expensive sport that requires a lot of financial commitment to partake in. Its a difficult hobby to be a part of because of how high entries are, how far we have to drive and how long we have to be away from work. Its also difficult over here because of the mentality towards younger people. I’m not going to play the “woe is me” card or anything but if I hadn’t been so determined and crazy about my dogs and this sport I would have dropped out long ago due to how difficult it was to gain respect from my fellow handlers.  Young people need to be encouraged to get involved and that starts with us. We have to encourage and educate. I was fortunate to have some great people that have, and continue to, help me out. People that never looked at me like the kid that I was (and still often act like), but rather they looked at me like a person that was serious about learning and passionate about these dogs, their history and their future. The people that accepted that I’d act my age and not theirs continue to be my mentors and my friends. This is how we need to embrace the youth of the sport and cultivate a future for North American sheep-dogging.

Celebrate Success, Even if it Isn’t Yours

Finally, I was so impressed so many people because of how they studied every run and every dog. No matter who was running the dogs on the field, if the run was good then people were excited because they got to see a good dog or a good handler or a good run. We, as humans, tend to have a lot of prejudice towards others. Particularly others who are competitive. But at the end of the day, if we judge other’s success or make excuses for why they are better than us, we deny ourselves the gift of getting better. This was hard for me. Years ago someone started a rumor about me which totally pissed me the hell off. I was ready to go for blood. And lets face it, if you’re going to piss someone off it shouldn’t be a gay-ginger-smartmouthed-hairdresser! I’ll cut you verbally and physically! Just kidding… sort of. But what changed my mind on my slanderous campaign was a friend pulling me aside and telling me to pull my head out of my ass. She said “this isn’t making him look bad, its making you look bad so let it go and be a good sport! People don’t talk about people who don’t threaten them!” And in the words of the infinitely wise and fabulous Ru Paul “Unless they payin your bills, pay dem bitches no mind”. Not to mention, this person is a good handler and I should have been watching their runs for the education. Get over your personal dislike and if someone does a good job then tell them. They deserved it. Once I did, I was able to forgive the rumors and learn to respect the man in front of me for how good he is at his passions.

All in all this trip taught me so much more than what I could possibly have written. Thank God this isn’t twitter because I can rarely keep a simple “hello” to 140 characters or less, let alone my rambling thoughts. But these are the things that continue to stick out for me. Now if I can just keep them up for me personally.

Good luck in the training field and much love to you all! Again I couldn’t have done this trip without you all supporting me from home!

Home At Last

IMG_4209.jpgI’ve been meaning to post for a few weeks but to be honest my mind has been so full of thoughts that I don’t know how I couple possibly have lined them all out. So be warned; this post could quite possibly be all over the damned place.

I got back to Washington right after the World Trialbut was exhausted! Then I started packing to move back to Idaho. So I took a break and Nell and I went on a little bike ride and it wiped me out! Seriously I don’t know how I’ll ever be a world traveler if I can’t get over jet lag faster! So I just went to bed. Besides, my thoughts are still so consumed with the Wolrd Trial that I doubt I’ll make much sense for quite a few days.

It was a dream I had years ago but never really thought seriously about going for until last fall when Joe Haynes pushed me to apply for the team. I’m glad he did. Now I can’t imagine missing one. I learned so much over there and had so much fun! Seriously half of the pictures taken between my friends and I will end up being some form of blackmail. Over here, I’m one of the youngest people in the sport which can get kind of lonely. There’s just a handful of us that are around my age and I rarely see them. When I was in Holland, the crowd I got to hang around with the most was all right around my age which a first for me. Not to mention, they are some of the most accomplished handlers in the U.K. with some of the best dogs that I’ve ever seen. Nothing against anyone else thats older than me (I was trying to find a different word than older but I haven’t had enough coffee yet so deal with it. Some people are older, some people are younger).

The level of handling and competition that I got to see was unreal! Handlers and dogs that I’ve only heard of or read about were in front of me. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit of a fan girl when I saw Ricky Hutchinson run his famous Sweep. A dog that was later called “The best dog in the world” by another respected handler and shepherd. I was particularly interested because he’s the father of one of my young dogs and was curious about him on many levels. If it weren’t for an unlucky moment at the cross drive gate, he’d have made it through to the semifinal and I’m sure would have been dangerous. (Side note: Ricky and Sweep just won the English National for the second time and, partnered with his son, Jock, was English Brace Champion!)

At most trials you can look down the running order and have a good idea of who’s going to be dangerous. At this trial, IT WAS EVERYONE! Just because you didn’t know the handler or dog didn’t mean that they weren’t someone to be concerned about. I mean, HELLO!!! THEY MADE IT TO THE FREAKING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS! That was a new sensation. My friend Tierney who moved to Ireland told me that its ridiculous because at ever trial she’s competing agains several international champions, national champions and people that at any time could become an international or national champion! As much as I respect my fellow competitors here, we don’t get that very often over here. Not that we don’t have good handlers! But its different when you’re running against people who have been competing at the best level in the world for decades. I’m still processing that part.

I’m having a hard time not dwelling on this trial. I wish every trial was like this one, with the camaraderie and the encouragement. I haven’t laughed this hard in years! (The beer tent had nothing to do with this) But I have to stay focused on my next trialling endeavor which is Soldier Hollow, The Meeker Classic and then the Nationals in Virginia. So I’m trying to switch gears and get my dogs and I ready for different sheep, higher elevations and the best competitors on the Continent.

Anyway, I have several posts in mind about my experiences there. But this one is more just to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who’s helped me get here. I hope you realize how much I appreciate you and I could never have done this without your help and encouragement. And thanks to my North American (Both U.S. and Canadian) members for always trying to see each other when possible and for being there after the running to say “good job”! It really made the experience extra special for me. I’ll be posting again soon! Much love to you all

Its Getting Serious Now

IMG_0757I was a little worried yesterday to be honest. Since I’ve gotten to the Netherlands I haven’t really felt very nervous or anything. I’ve been on a nice few days of sight seeing, and sleeping. This jet lag is a real thing! I don’t know how Mariah does it, further proof that she is a super human and needs to be revered… But I haven’t really thought much about the upcoming trials other than to focus on getting my dog as prepared as I possibly can. Each morning/afternoon I’ve been taking her on bike rides through the various villages close to where I’m staying in Neerloon. Its a really cute little village with a nearby train station and shops in other close by villages. Like I said, its been a really nice couple of days.

Well that all changed last night. I drove to where the Dutch International Sheepdog Trials will be held so that I could sort of get my bearings straight and have a look at the fields, plus it was a chance to drop off some dog food, that Purina generously donated, to team members Beverly Lambert and Joe Haynes. Bev, Joe, Heather and I went out to dinner afterwards at a place I’m sure I’ll go to again. The food was great and the servers were cute. My two main criteria when choosing a delicatessen.

The fields were very pretty. Both looked like they could be part of the lawns of some great castle they were so green! Both are fairly flat with a little undulation here and there but nothing severe. Most of the ground here is pretty flat which makes it predictable to a point but also plays hell with my depth perception. We get two runs a day, one on each field and then a few people progress to the double lift final on Sunday afternoon. It should be a good time. The strange thing though is that I’m not competing against people that I’ve ever run against before in my life. Half of the people I’m running against I’ve only ever read their names in books or in ISDS magazines. Not that this scares me necessarily but it is a bit nostalgic.

So I got back to Francis’s place last night fully expecting to be exhausted and ready for a long hard sleep, and yet here I am at 4:30 after not sleeping for shit, blogging in the kitchen with 6 shots of espresso. This is surely going to add up to success! But at least it feels like my competitive side has finally landed on the continent!

Side note: At dinner last night we talked a lot about a lot of things, as people do. But one thing we all agreed on was how incredible the support for the world team has been this year. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the community get so behind its team and we wanted to let everyone know that we greatly appreciate it!

Which leads me to my typical shameless self promotion. I can’t say what it means to me to have received so much personal support to help make this dream a reality. And I’m trying my best to bring everyone along with me, to see the gorgeous sights that I’m seeing and keep people updated on the latest news. If you’d like to contribute then please click SUPPORT DEREK’S NETHERLAND ADVENTURES

This week has had some pretty tough news for me personally. I spoke about it in a previous post and its had me really thinking. So, do me one favor; Today, RANDOMLY, do something kind for someone else. Don’t tell them that you’ve done it, just do something that will be sure to make someone else smile today. It might be as easy as sending someone a funny card or leaving a few flowers on someone’s desk at work. The world needs more kindness and love in it. I’ve felt it from you all since I began this journey back in November, so I know you all have a ton of love to give. Try, just for a day, to be the reason someone smiles.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings! And Much Love to you all!

My Most Random Post Yet

A year ago I made a pretty big decision. It’s had its negative and positive consequences, as any big decision does.  But in the end I’m happy with how it turned out. I was living in a toxic situation, or at least it was toxic for me. My exit undoubtedly hurt a few people, which was never the intention but we can’t be in control of everything in life. As much as we’d like to. For the record I hold no animosity to the situation I just talked about. For me it was a lesson in life that I won’t soon forget not just because of that particular situation that I put myself in, but for what made me run away from what I left. I might write more about this later, who knows. Its a long conversation that I’m still having with myself… thats right, I talk to myself… get over it.

I bring this up because it’s just funny how things work out. In about a week I’m going to be attending the biggest competition of of my life. A decision that I didn’t completely come to on my own. I had the idea to think about going. But it was my friend Joe Haynes who pushed me to make it a reality. He pushed me to apply to go, he pushed me to make a plan to help make it a reality (I’m terrible at planning so I doubt that a plan consisting of “prayers and miracles” is what he meant)  and it was he and Heather (Joe’s incredible wife) who have been so generous to me throughout this journey that I’ve been on over the last year. A year ago I left something that made me very unhappy and moved into a situation that was so much better for me because it generated growth, even though that growth was uncomfortable for me. But growth is always uncomfortable on some level.

I started wondering over the last few days how much we could accomplish if we held ourselves to the standards and possibilities that others see that we are capable of. No matter how well I do at whatever venue I’m working in, I always seem to have an inner doubt that something will go wrong. I try to maintain focus on what I’m supposed to do but, as anyone who knows me well will testify, my brain doesn’t “settle” very easily. I knew this a long time ago when I first started working dogs and getting into trialling. So I read a lot of sports psychology books and I practiced what the experienced authors taught me. Some of it worked but sometimes I think that it just takes someone sitting there telling me to pull my head out of my ass to really get through to me! At the end of the day, you can be educated, talented, skilled and practice your ass off and still fall flat. You can be none of the above and win the day. There’s just so many factors that can effect the day that it makes it a little difficult to completely prepare. However, for me, the most important part of doing my best at any competition is making sure that my journey up to the moment of truth is a fun one. I’ve always done my best when I am happy. Sometimes that means home life is great, or maybe its because of great times with friends that make the world seem a little better. But at the end of it all, an easy mind makes for a better journey.

This week, while I was writing this post, I received some news that’s had me pretty shook up. A friend of mine that I’ve known most of my life decided that it was time to end his own journey. I’ve always known him to have a bit of a shadow over his head but I’ve also never known someone so genuinely talented and creative that he would be put among the most gifted people I know. Unfortunately the demons he’s faced caught up to him and the worst has come. His end is approaching as I type this and it breaks my heart. I wish he had had the courage to walk away from the bad situations that he was in. I wish he could have let go of the people who made him miserable, and I wish that when I passed his house two weeks ago that I would have stopped in and said hello and told him that he’s loved. I can’t feel guilty for that because how was I to know? But I still wish it.

This journey to Europe has been something out of a story book for me. So many people have donated to my cause that its crazy and super humbling… thank you to everyone who’s helped get me here. There’s too many to name but I’ll say that I appreciate each and every one of you. No contribution, be it financial or moral support, has gone unnoticed. So far Europe is amazing and I can’t wait to explore a little more before I get into the thick of the competition.

This post has been a bit here and there and I get it but that’s where I am now. I am focused on what I’m here for but I also felt the need to address situations past and present. Because I felt that they had some congruency. I was unhappy a year ago so I changed my situation which led me to be in an incredible place surrounded by friends and supporters. My friend, who is currently lying in a hospital bed and basically gone from this world, decided to suffer through his pain and, as a result, is in his final moments on this Earth. I’m not trying to say I’m better than anyone, especially this friend of mine. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s good out there. If you’re in need then there are resources available to you. If you’re unhappy then change something. If these last few weeks have taught me anything its that life needs to be lived. I won’t say its too short because I don’t think its too short. I think that its only too short if we sit there thinking about what we’d like to do instead of going out and doing it! So… FFS go do it!

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION:  If you’d like to donate to my gofundme account you can click this link Shameless self promotion

Thank you to everyone who has helped not only me, but also the US team as well. We all greatly appreciate it!

I’ll be posting more updates on my trip soon! IMG_2371

Ready To Fall In Love

Whew! What a couple weeks! Two weekends ago I went back to Idaho to drop my dogs off at my folks’ place while I’m in Europe. Its always nice to go home for a few days. I get to see some friends that I haven’t seen in forever, go to my favorite coffee shop and get some time with my family who I’ve been away from way too long. Then, I came back to Washington just in time to jump on a plane to head to the midwest to judge the Missouri State Championship Sheepdog Trial in the beautiful Sedalia, MO at Larry and Jan Moore’s gorgeous farm. It was a weekend full of laughs, good food and really nice competition. I was really jealous that I wasn’t competing! But the MacRae’s and Flemmings, who were helping put the trial on, insisted that I take Nell out and do “demo” runs after they set the course each day. It was interesting, fun and really an enjoyable time. I don’t get to see those friends enough, and I have to say that the “Show Me” state showed me a lot of love and I totally fell in love with it once again!


Now I’m back in the Evergreen State and preparing to leave for Europe on Monday. Goodness I can’t believe that its this close. For years I’ve dreamed of competing at this level and now its a reality and I’m in a bit of a panic to be honest, and jet lagged… very jet lagged. Nell however seems happy to be wherever we end up. She took the plane rides well and came out in good spirits so that makes me feel better about flying her around the world!

Even though I’ve been preparing for this trip since October, I still feel like I’m not prepared enough. I don’t really know what to expect, but do we ever know what to expect? For example, what sights should I see? Where should I go in my spare time? Where CAN I go in my spare time? Will I have any spare time? And for God’s sake where I am I going to get the best coffee?! These are serious issues that need to be resolved! Seriously sometimes I feel like I need a team of people just to get me ready for work, let alone to travel across the world…  If you have any suggestions for sights that someone has to see when in the Netherlands or in Belgium, please message me here or tweet me @derekjohnfisher! Also, who wants to be my assistant/manager/life-coach? Seriously send resumes, you have four days.

My first dog Jim:


Who would have thought that 24 years ago when I got my first dog that I’d go all the places that they’ve taken me? I’ve been to almost every state in the country, into parts of Canada that I never would have had much of a chance to go to, and now I get to travel across the world! And for what? To send my dog up a field to work some sheep! What a crazy life! Everywhere I’ve gone, there’s been moments where I fell in love with my experience. Even places that I’d rather not return to have given me moments that made me fall in love, at least for a minute. From thunder storms in Wyoming to walking through the fireflies in Georgia; from having people coming up to me in tears after a run in Meeker, CO, to walking my dogs, by myself, in the peace of the Texas prairie. Its a beautiful gift that these dogs have given me, even though sometimes I find it hard to stop and let myself get lost in a moment. I think its important to let yourself be open to falling in love with something or someone every day, and for me its a conscious effort to do so. Who knows whats coming for me in the coming weeks but I’m looking forward to falling in love with the parts of Europe that I get to see. Europe, please don’t disappoint!

As most of you know, I’m still working to raise funds for my trip. Its been crazy how many people have helped me out so far, in fact I’m almost to my goal! If you want to be a part of this, you can click this link GET DEREK TO THE NETHERLANDS

Also, I’ll be doing my best to post updates to this page and to my Facebook pages so that all my peeps are up to date with what’s going on! I hope you continue to follow me! And thank you all for the continued support! You’re making it possible for me to follow a dream that I’ve had for a long time! Thank you and much love!




IMG_0572I love my dog. She loves me. Its pretty clear to me that she has more than an average affection to me. Its part of our bond, our chemistry. Its part of our, do I dare say, “magic”?  If I had to put together a list of the things that I love about any particular dog, or a list of things that I really need to be successful with them (and I’m defining “success” in a pretty broad way from working to trialling to coexisting with them) I’d have to say that there’s that one thing that isn’t really definable, except to say that they have a sparkle to them. To me, its what sets a dog apart from being a “good” dog, and a “winner” to being a “good dog and a winner”.

I’ve run dogs in the past that some might call winners, and I’ve run dogs that were good dogs but didn’t win much, like my first dog Jim. He was tough as nails, gorgeous, useful on any level… except he was a pretty bad trial dog. IMG_0616

And I’ve been privileged to run dogs that were good dogs along with being winners, thank you Heidi. She could do most any job and then head to the trial with no fine tuning and come out on top. She had the sparkle, that extra something that made us work together in a way that meant she was one of the few dogs that I felt confident that I could be competitive wherever I went. I’m not trying to brag necessarily, but that should’t suggest that I’m not. I’m proud of what we did together and I’m even prouder of her for everything that she gave me and taught me. Thank you Heidi.  Continue reading “LOOK BACK!”

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