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PA Stock Dog Trials Return to Hop Bottom

 

Stock dogs and handlers from many different states and Canada are honing their skills to compete in the 30th annual Pennsylvania State Championship Stock Dog Trial (PSCSDT), which begins Friday, June 17, and continues through Tuesday, June 21, at Sheepy Hollow Farm in Hop Bottom, Susquehanna County.

“This is a big year for us,” said Cheryl Jagger Williams, who with her husband, Dick, will host more than 400 entries through the four-day event.

Jagger Williams’s father—the late Walt Jagger—began the trial in 1982, and today it is one of the longest established trials in the United States and Canada.

Jagger Williams will present the Walt Jagger Memorial Award at the end of the Open class on Sunday in memory of her father’s role in establishing the trial and his long history as a strong, competitive handler, dog breeder and trainer.

The PSCSDT is a qualifying trial for the United States Border Collie Handlers’ Association and the Northeast Border Collie Association.

Open-class dogs competing at the trial will also be vying to qualify for the National Stock Dog Trials slated for Colorado in September.

The majority of the dogs competing at Sheepy Hollow are border collies, although other breeds do work stock. 

A border collie’s ability to work sheep and other livestock is legendary, and the stock dog trial tests the dog’s instincts, skills and willingness to partner with its handler in navigating sheep through a specially-designed course.

Their performance on the course measures the dogs’ and handlers’ skills needed in the day-to-day work on a farm.

At the end of the day, the best dog and handler wins. But it is the dog that garners the awarded points.

The dogs may vary somewhat in size, color and body, but they are all intent upon their job.

“The dogs are bred for work,” Dick Williams noted.

“Preparation for the trial is a workout in itself—from mowing the fields; checking fences, pens and equipment; to setting up the bleacher; prepping the ground for parking spaces; setting out tents and porta-potties. It takes a well-organized team of volunteer help,” he explained.

“The sheep—Katahidin, who present quite a challenge to the dogs—must be counted and treated to prevent disease as we mix flocks from several different farms to make up the mix of ewes and lambs in the 150 or so sheep needed for the competition,” he added.

The Katahidin is a hair sheep that naturally sheds its coat rather than needing to be shorn.

“In addition to the daily mix of activities required to conduct the trial, it takes an enormous amount of energy to put on and compete at these trials,” Williams added.

The competition begins each day—rain or shine—with a handlers’ meeting at 7:30 a.m. The first run usually begins at 8 and goes continuously until the last dog has run.

An awards ceremony is held after each day’s competition.

A tent and bleachers are provided for spectators, but lawn chairs are welcome.

The Universalist Church of Brooklyn, PA, a long-time partner in the trial, operates a concession stand and offers a chicken barbecue on Saturday.

A number of vendors also attend the trial and offer interesting items for sale.

The dogs and handlers are separated into different classes by age and abilities.

•The Nursery class is for dogs under three years of age and will be held in the afternoon of Friday, June 17.

•The Open class is for experienced dogs and handlers and will compete on Saturday and Sunday.

•The Novice class is for the handler or dog with some experience. It will compete on Monday and Tuesday.

Commentary on the course and a program with the running order provide spectators with information regarding action on the field.

“We ask different handlers to give their perspective on the various runs,” Jagger Williams explained.

“The program advertising identifies our entire local and national sponsors’ support of the event and helps us pay the costs associated with putting on the trial.”

An eye clinic for dogs conducted by Dr. Thomas Kern of Cornell University is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. The clinic is open to the public and Dr. Kern will examine the eyes of all breeds for a variety of eye diseases that can afflict dogs. A fee is charged for the service. For more information about the clinic, contact Annie Palmer at bootleggerfarm@epix.net or 570-582-9200.

Sheepy Hollow Farm is located at 1594 Sheepy Hollow Road, Hop Bottom.

For more information on the 2011 PSCSDT, visit the Williams’s Culleymont Farm website at www.jaggerwilliamsbordercollies.com.

For more information about border collies, visit the Northeast Border Collie Association online at www.nebca.net or at the American Border Collie Association at www.americanbordercollie.org.

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