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The World Sheepdog Trial—2008
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Richard Millichap and Cap were in trouble. The draw had drifted over a rise where the last uncollared sheep couldn’t see them. His magnet was gone. Worse, Richard had shed that single off once: She’d gone 50 yards before galloping back to the collared ewes, leaping over Cap in the process. That uncollared ewe was frightened and determined; she knew exactly what Richard intended and wanted no part of it.

Ten minutes left, a fine run to this point, but Richard and Cap’s sheep clung tighter than a chastity belt. Richard worked quietly, Cap patiently maybe eight of those 10 minutes when, suddenly, as if by magic, that single popped out of the others and ambled up the hill, staring at 20,000 people as if asking, “You’ve come here just to meet little old me?”

Richard and Cap penned to tremendous applause.

No, they didn’t win. Welshman Aled Owen and Roy took the solid-gold shepherd’s whistle, the World Trial trophy and the check for £3,000, but Richard and Cap didn’t exactly lose either.

An ancient, hunchbacked shepherd had been at all the trials, and a Dutch handler had told me, “That fellow was sitting in the top row of the grandstand at the International, his chin on his hands on his crook, fast asleep. His crook slipped, and if someone hadn’t grabbed him, he would have rolled right down the stairs.”

On the trial field, the next sheepdog was running swift and soft as light.

The old shepherd’s eyes shone as clear and innocent as a boy’s. “They are brilliant, aren’t they?” he said. “Absolutely brilliant. The dogs.”
 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 51: Nov/Dec 2008
Donald McCaig is a novelist, essayist, poet and sheep farmer who gained recognition with his classic man-and-dog tale, Nop's Trials, which was followed by numerous other bestsellers, including Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men and, most recently, Rhett Butler's People.
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