Perspective

The other day I attended the funeral of a good friend’s family member. I didn’t really know the person but I felt like being there was my way of showing respect and condolences to my friend and his family. Funerals always bring up a variety of emotion for me. From listening to how someone remembers the recently deceased to wondering, in my own selfish way, what would people say at my funeral? I don’t know if I really want to know lol! The day before this I was at a sheepdog trial that was held to benefit Team USA to go to the Worlds. And the day after I was able to work dogs with a couple fellow competitors and have a nice laugh with them. Its funny where our days take us really.

I bring this all up because these moments brought a lot of perspective to a really stressful time. With everyone getting ready to head to the Netherlands and compete at the largest competition that any of us have ever competed  in, its easy to get lost in the planning and the scheming and the stress involved in all of that. Sometimes it can be a bit crippling to me to be honest. I get caught up in the worry of every minor mistake that I make during a run or while training my dog. “She’s not covering that pressure the way she should” “Her turn back could have been wider/tighter/faster/slower” “That shed could have been better/that fetch could have been straighter” “I should have made that drive gate”… The list goes on and on and on. Lets face it, anyone who knows me knows one thing for certain; I’m as high strung as a Jack Russell on crack! These thoughts aren’t even the tip of the ice burg. But the last couple days made me think of things in a new way. It was actually humbling to see how many people are behind us. The handlers that turned out to support the world team at the benefit trial, on top of running their dogs, showed us all that they had enough faith in us as a team and each individual that they sent in their entries knowing that the money was going to support something quite special. The auction items that are constantly being donated are, quite honestly, overwhelming. The comments, donations and emotional support that the US Sheepdog community has shown is really quite awesome and I want everyone reading this to know how much we all appreciate your support! I’m not trying to sound like some politician because God knows I’m not politically correct and I don’t want to be! But I do want people to know that what you’ve done and continue to do is appreciated.

For me, this journey I’ve been on for the last several months has been a dream that I’ve had for over 20 years. And this year, mostly due to the incredible amount of support from so many people, its becoming a reality. Because of you all I get to realize a dream that I’ve had since I was 14 years old. And I get to do it with a team of people that aren’t just all great competitors running great dogs, but with a group of people that are my friends. Its a pretty special feeling to feel this kind of support, and I want to thank you all who are behind us on this ambitious adventure! I get to travel to a place I’ve never been with one of my favorite dogs ever to compete at a venue that is truly on a global scale! Who would have thought that 23 years ago when I got my first dog that this “hobby” would have taken me, literally, all around the world? Its crazy! To me its just proof that if you believe enough in something, it doesn’t matter what it might look like on the surface because that passion can burn brighter than any person’s criticism or whatever logical advice people might throw at you. One of my mentors in the hair world said this to me once “Follow your passion because that’s where your heart lies”… Thanks Vivienne

So now, I’m trying to remember this as I continue to prepare for the biggest stage that I’ve ever been on. Instead of worrying about the lack of perfection on a pretty good training session, I’ll try to remember that even though I might be critical of these otherwise insignificant moments, there’s a ton of people out there rooting for all of us. Maybe that’ll help calm my Jack Russell tendencies. This is the part of these big moments that I don’t think many people talk about. As I walk to the post at any big trial I’m full of a desire to do everything right but also aware of what might go wrong. I’m thinking of every possible scenario so that I can be as prepared as possible.. But sometimes, you have to put the entirety into perspective and realize that you’re as prepared as you’re going to be and to go out and do your best… And most importantly, remember to pet your dog after you’ve finished. Because they’re doing their best as well.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

For anyone wanting to contribute to my fundraising campaign you can click the link GET DEREK TO THE NETHERLANDS ALSO check out our Facebook page TEAM USA for continued updates once we are over there along with auction items that are still up for grabs! There’s been some great items!

 

Thank you all! And, as always, much love! unspecified-5

When in doubt, FLANK IT OUT!

Anyone who has seen me run a dog can basically come out with one conclusion, I like to whistle. I once was told “Just because she’ll take 600 flanks on the first leg of the drive doesn’t mean you should blow them!” M. Harley, 2010. Or “You’re the only person I’ve ever seen that can blow 10 flanks before the sheep even move!” A.S. MacRae  after every run he’s seen me partake in. I get it! I’m a flankaholic! It’s a disease that I was born with so don’t judge me! Just join my support group, and bring Krissy Kream… seriously, blowing that many flanks requires carbs!10690031_10202758010615407_796437888099217900_n

However, I am actively trying to be a better version of myself today than I was yesterday. So as a way to embark on this journey of self improvement I’ve started to look back at some notes I’ve taken over the past 100 years at the various clinics and trials that I’ve attended and thought back to the moments that inspired me.

So here’s a few of them that I’d like to share with you:

1997, Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championsip: it was my first time at Meeker. I was 16, running Heidi who was 20 months… yeah it wasn’t my best decision but she did well. The final lineup included Tommy Wilson, Kathy & Jack Knox and Alasdair MacRae. There’s more but these are the ones I remember so vividly.

Kathy had been a mentor to me for over a year. She was one of the first people to look at this skinny kid and take him seriously. Thank you Kathy. She is my friend and I will always be her fan. Kathy was running Bob, a previous National Champion and Meeker Champion. I was in awe of them because they just got each other. In a time when I was fighting for every decent flank, here was a true partnership that I still respect. I’ll always respect her determination to her dogs and her relationship to them as it has set a foundation in my life of respect and admiration to these dogs. They are so much more than what we give them credit for. Just today I was talking to her and she was describing one of her dogs and how impressed she was with him during lambing and how much heart he has. If you want to get on my soft side, talk about how much you love your dog’s heart. It’s my weakness. It’s also because I  see that in my own dogs and it’s one of the things that keeps me going in moments that could inspire me to give up. They care, and that’s sometimes enough to make me realize that, just because today has been tough and I want to give up, I should just keep swimming. Be like Dorey.

My other memory of that weekend was Alasdair running Ben. To preface this, he won with Nan. One of my all time favorite dogs. And I’ll describe, in a little bit, why I fell in love with her that day. But back to Ben. So, at Meeker, when you turn the post the sheep will usually run as hard as they can straight up the field somewhere between the drive (which usually goes tot he left) and the fetch gates. So people that go too hard to turn the post in a perfect way can end up with some trouble. So when Alasdair turned the post with Ben he let them drift… a little too much. The five sheep almost ran into the pen and then scattered. Now I’ve seen some pretty amazing handlers face similar situations and while they did respectably, this moment was one of the most amazing moments in partnership that I’ve really ever seen! Alasdair and Ben worked seamlessly together to get all five sheep through the gates at different times, meaning the first ewe to go through the gates was about 200 yards past the gate, over a hill and through sage brush. A tall order for anyone to accomplish. Ben took every whistle flawlessly to get the sheep through the gate and then worked on his own, out of sight, to regroup these rank ewes and fetch them back down the field so that they could then finish their run and move onto the finals.

One more memory from Meeker that year. (Can you tell that I love that trial?) Alasdair and Nan were in the finals, doing the international shed when they took a bit of a risk. There were two ewes that seemed to be #besties, unfortunately one was collared and one wasn’t. In a moment that I, at the time, considered to be completely insane Alasdair took a risk and tried to get them separated. Now the discarded sheep weren’t very far away and when they took off the audience was sure it was over for them! Also, just to make sure everyone (which is probably one person) reading this has a clear picture, this is also before the good folk at Meeker began to irrigate the bottom of the field to help with the dust. I know it probably seems like I’m painting this picture of “Back in my day we had to send our dogs over volcanic eruptions after fire breathing dragons and fetch them through the valley of the shadow of no return”… But seriously it felt like that. So the sheep make a break for it, resembling something out of Secretariat’s career, and Alasdair flanks Nan around with the most urgent whistles I’ve ever heard (for more information on whistling, visit bcollies.com for my whistle CD and DVD). Nan was going around and then Alasdair upped the urgency of the whistles, combined with a few whistles I didn’t recognize and the dust was flying! How he could see where the hell she was is still beyond me. But as the dust settled, there was Nan fetching the five collared sheep straight to Alasdair! (If you’re interested in learning from the MacRae’s but don’t get the opportunity to work with them one on one, then click here The MacRae Way to check out their online courses. I’ve taken several and not only find them informative but also very entertaining! They have taught me so much, and continue to be two of my greatest mentors.)

Now I like telling these stories for several reasons. For one, its really nice to remember times that inspired me and times that still inspire me. But also, these memories taught me that I can do so much more with my dogs if I just open my mind. If I work hard and practice with them, create a great partnership with them based on trust and experience and keep an attitude that even though each step might not be the easiest to take, the destination is so worth the journey.

Now I need to go practice flanking my dogs…

If you’d like to make a donation to my fundraising campaign you can click this link. Thank you and much love!

Get Derek to the Netherlands!

F is for Fitness

So one of the things that I get a little obsessive about when preparing for big trials is fitness. Not my own necessarily… clearly I’m giving dads everywhere competition on the summer’s best “dad bod” and I’m not even a dad. But I do try my best to ensure that my dogs are as fit as they can be. You never know when you’ll be running at a trial. It might be in the morning when things are cool and quiet and serene. Ideal for both sheep and dogs. But it might also be in the middle of the heat of the day, when the sheep would rather be sitting in the shade because the unrelenting glare from the sun is strong enough to break anyone’s desire for vitamin D. This is why I vary my training times with my dogs and alternate simple fitness exercises with actual training exercises on sheep.

988817_10152300604467456_1749007601_nAs the days get longer and warmer I like to get my bike out and do a little more exercise myself. And, as I don’t love going too extreme with my cycling, its a perfect opportunity to bring a dog or two along. Last year I got a new bike when I was on my travels and immediately fell in love with my time alone on my bike. I should name it… If you have a good suggestion for a name for a black mountain bike, please leave it in the comments below. The only problem was that I’m not always in a place where I can cycle with my dogs off leash in safety. So, my good friends Joe and Heather showed me what they got on amazon.com and my problems were solved! Its kind of like a flexible leash that attaches to the seat post on your bike. My dogs now can trot along side me and I have no fear of them catching sight of some wild creature and them running off.

One thing I try to keep in mind is that, while my dogs are fairly fit in a field, running them on a road or a trail can have a very negative impac on their feet. Pastures, while still rough on their pads, aren’t anything as tough as gravel or pavement. So, I take my time getting them fit so that their pads don’t get hurt too much. A product that I like to use is called Tuff Stuff that helps repair their pads if they do get a little raw.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Again, I’m still fundraising to help me get to Europe. If you’d like to donate please click this link Get Derek to the Netherlands!

Thanks again everyone! Much love!

 

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my first real blog! I mean I had one years ago but didn’t really have anything interesting to write about so I lost track of it and inevitably forgot my passwords. But! Finally I have something that I’m actually excited about, and want to share with other people. If you’re reading this, then you probably know that I’m attending this year’s  (2017) World Sheepdog Finals in the Netherlands, along with competing in the Belgian International Open and the Dutch International Open. This blog will serve as my way to keep all of my supporters informed on my journey as I prepare for and compete in these trials. I’m really excited to have this opportunity and I hope that you all enjoy it as I try my best to take you on this globe-trotting excursion! Thank you again! And much love!

Also, I’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help offset the expenses. If you feel the desire to kick a few dollars my way then just click this link Get Derek to the Netherlands. No donation is too small (or too large! HAHA)

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