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Border collie Dan, owned and handled by Myra Soden of Orange, moves three lambs.
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H ER HEAD is lowered in concentration. Her intelligent amber eyes are locked on the wary gaze of her quarry.
Her black ears are pitched forward to detect movement of her sheep and listen for signals from her human handler.
Does she hear the sharp gasps of amazement from the crowd of spectators? No.
Does she sniff the air, savoring the delicious smells of sausages sizzling or funnel cakes frying on the autumn breeze? No.
This lovely specimen of a dog-at-work is a perfectly trained, completely focused border collie who loves nothing better than to do her job. In her mind, her sole task is to keep a careful eye on her sheep--to gather and move them precisely where her human trainer tells her.
Sheep dogs will be doing just that this Saturday and Sunday, at the 25th annual Fall Fiber Festival and Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials at James Madison's Montpelier in Orange County.
"Approximately 55 to 65 dogs will be run each day at the Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials Handler and dog teams will come from as far away as North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and as near by as Orange," said event representative Myra Soden.
Only sheep dogs entered in the Virginia Border Collie Association sponsored trial are allowed on the grounds, so please leave your own fine dog at home.
Those who love dogs cherish the sight of them joyfully working at jobs they were born to do. What dog lover cannot testify that with a good dog at your side, any task is easier?
When asked why sheep dogs and their handlers have so much fun working together, Soden said "handlers enjoy the challenge of competing and the opportunity to showcase the talents of their border collies on a variety of fields and sheep. The dogs just love to work--this is what they were bred and trained to do."
She said that "spectators are amazed by the focus and finesse each dog demonstrates, working in partnership with their handler, to move the sheep through the trial course."
WANT TO GO? WHAT: Fall Fiber Festival and Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. WHERE: Montpelier, 11407 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station, Va. 22957 HOW MUCH: Adults, $5; 16 and younger, free
fallfiberfestival.org montpelier.org virginiabordercollieassociation .com