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The below article was prepared for a Working Bearded Collie Society newsletter.

One Man and His Three Beardies

An unexpected phone call last winter led to me and my working beardies, Jimmy, Fen and Blue, having one of our most enjoyable ‘away days’ (July 25, 2004).

Fen had her first litter of Pups last December. All the puppies, except for Blue, who I decided to keep, soon sold, through word of mouth. It was in this rather ‘roundabout’ way that I received the phone call from a couple, Edward and Carolyn, who were looking for a Working Bearded Collie for their teenage son, William. After much debating about which pup to have, William chose Shadow, the smallest pup, a black and white bitch.

It turned out that Edward and Carolyn owned and ran a local tourist attraction known as Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom near Telford, Shropshire, home of the famous Sheep and Goat hurdle racing. They were very impressed with Jimmy and Fen’s working ability and asked me if I would be prepared to bring them across to their farm and give a demonstration of the Beardies working at Hoo Farm. As I will do [almost] anything to further the working beardies cause, I readily agreed.

Jimmy working geese

We set out early on a grey rainy Sunday morning in July with Jimmy, Fen, the pup, Blue, accompanied by half a dozen sheep, and 15 geese in the trailer. I decided to take Blue along as her training was coming on leaps and bounds, and the noises and crowds would be good for her socialisation. Five minutes into the journey I noticed passing cars giving me strange looks, checking my side mirrors there was Blue, hanging precariously out the side of the trailer about to make a leap to freedom. She spent the rest of the 70 mile journey in the back seat of the Mitsubishi as if she owned it! Thank goodness most Beardies make good travellers as this was her first journey in a car. We arrived at Hoo Farm with no further mishaps and received a warm welcome from Edward and Carolyn.

Blue driving them on!

The first of two demonstrations took place immediately after the goats steeplechase, with Fen working the sheep. She worked brilliantly, ending by penning the sheep; now we are ready for Jimmy to enter the paddock to work the geese. While the dogs were doing their work, Edward gave excellent commentary bringing in many historical facts regarding one of our oldest and rarest sheepdog breeds. After Jimmy had finished his show and penned the geese it was time for Blue to enter the ring. Amazingly she took it all in her stride, once she saw the sheep, the strange surroundings, the territorial Llama, and the shouting children, all were forgotten. She was an excellent example of a youngster just starting off, going "away" "come bye" "walking on" and "lying down on command. To end, and as a little light relief, children from the audience were invited to have a go at working a sheepdog. Easy going Fen was used for this, and it was debatable who enjoyed themselves more, the children or the dog.

Fen working sheep

Although the weather was against us, meaning that visitors to Hoo Farm were below average numbers, the display the dogs gave was a pleasure to see, making me proud of them. The dogs enjoyed meeting the people, giving all those who came to say "hello" a friendly welcome, with Fen giving her ball to anyone she thought she could persuaded to throw it for her. Finally, when things had quietened down, William and I took Shadow to the sheep. I was interested to see what her reaction would be. Before long she was "working" them in her own fashion, showing that she was keen to work. I gave William a few pointers to be going on with and will be calling him soon to see how he is getting on. We have been invited to return twice next year, in the spring and later in the summer. I am hoping to add to the content of the displays by then adding more obstacles and a bridge, so it looks like I will be honing up on my carpentry skills this winter.

Fen working for one of the children





*Richard Smith





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