Monday, May 16, 2005

Sheep & Wool Festival

This past weekend the three of us packed up the car and headed south to attend our first "Sheep & Wool Festival" in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Though I was really interested in seeing the fiber art things and all the wool, I love watching the dogs herd sheep. I have to say I was also eager to see that shepherd and his dogs who were at the Common Ground Fair last autumn. He was the one who said that a border collie would never make a good service dog... they are only happy if they are herding. I don't believe he really knows what kind of service I was asking of the dog. None the less, the guy pissed me off and made my heart droop after I spoke to him. Soon after, Rowena came into my life.
I was not let down. I saw the man and his dogs giving a demo at the end of the day in the upper field. Rowena in her little service vest restlessly sat by me and as the dogs were ordered about, Ro grew a bit antsy. Mind you, she had never met a sheep before this day and really wasn't sure what to make of them. She did however know dogs, and these guys looked like they were having fun. They were running around in the field and here she was, being forced to sit there. Why wasn't mommy letting her go play with the other dogs? This just didn't seem right to Rowena. She whined and whimpered and I hushed her to make sure it didn't set much louder. Suddenly, one of the dogs working the sheep, a brown tri colored female, ran over to the fence and layed flat. Her eyes were now fixed on Rowena. She had an intense look, daring her to move forward. The shepherd takes this opportunity to mention how his dog, Rose or Rosie, is guarding the fence and the sheep from this strange dog outside the fence. He says that my dog was fine, but "...if that dog jumped the fence, it would be all over." This angered me. All I could think was "If your dog attacked my dog, you would owe me your best pup!" He calls her off and tells her to go up t0 the upper gate. That way she is not near us. However, a little later Rowena managed to get out a "Yip!" I leaned over to hush her and when I look up, there is Rosie, staring intensely at Rowena again. We aren't by any means standing right next to the fence, probably a good 10- 15 feet away. This guy actually told me that I could come forward when I first approached as I had originally stood far off. Call me paranoid, but perhaps this guy was setting up this whole situation... but at whose expense? Rosie then got bored with staring from the other side of the fence and proceeded to leap over the fence and lay down under their truck. The shepherd's daughter I think had enough sense to be nervous and stood in front of Rosie to block her stare. I looked down at my left backpack shoulder strap and saw the little can of pepper spray dangling next to Ro's portable poo bag dispenser. I'd sure hate to do it, but if he has overly aggressive dogs, then they deserve an aggressive repellent. If Rosie made a move toward Rowena in an agressive manner, I would not hesitate. Chris was nervous about this Border Collie's aggressive manner with Rowena as well. He said he would throw himself between Ro and this other dog if need be. I hope we were not the only people in the audience who were bothered by this shepherd's non-chalant way of dealing with this whole situation.
When we first arrived, we met a man who took us right over to the sheep dog trials. He was attracted to us by Rowena. Down at the trials, shepherd's and their dogs wandered about awaiting their turn in the field. However, hardly a dog noticed Rowena enough to give so much as a sniff, let alone a stare. We enjoyed watching Rowena's reaction to watching sheep and dogs, and hearing the whistle commands. Chris liked to believe that Rowena was reacting excitedly at the sheep, but I know better. She wanted to "play" like the other dogs seemed to be doing. I could see her if I had let her out in the field: She would take off full blast straight for the sheep and then run around them in small circles, not getting them to go anywhere in any kind of order. It could be wooly chaos!
On my last walk with Rowena around the fair grounds, we walked through the stables where Rowena met a sheep face to face, and didn't really like the ewe. We walked around so Ro could just walk without stopping every couple of feet. We walked between barns and found the arrogant, old-fashion shepherd and his crew of dogs behide a stable gate. Rosie, the tri-colour enemy saw Rowena who was walking next to me and minding her own business, and she began digging for the other side of the gate to get to Rowena. Funny, the last time I saw a dog react this eagerly to get at Rowena was that ugly German Shepherd throwing his huge body at the windows of the house as we passed by on the sidewalk. He later ATTACKED Rowena. We did make it around with out incident and headed out to the car to leave on our long journey home. There was a sandy stream on the trail out and Rowena jumped in, not knowing the stream would be deeper than she was tall. She booked it for shore (I helped by towing her in with the leash) trying to keep as much as her body out of the water as possible. This made her look desperate, as if she were paddling against a strong current that was about to suck her down. She managed to jump in two other times after sticks before we made it out to the car, so wet puppy got her warm fuzzy blanket wrapped around her and a towel and the car heat blasting in her face as she curled up in the back seat. Blood shot eyes, Rowena survived the event. We were on our way home from our first long road trip together.
Rowena's routine had been thrown way out of wack from our travels this past weekend. This morning when I let her out of the bedroom where she spends every night with us, she peed on the floor. "Rowena... what is this?" I asked as I pointed down to the wet spot on the rug. Rowena's head goes down and she puts herself in the kennel for time out. She hadn't had an accident in a long time!

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