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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — “Come by, come by!” Ian Caldicott called to his dog Goose as the border collie herded a group of sheep around a field.

Caldicott used verbal commands like “come by” and “lie down” as Goose guided the herd into a metal pen during the last day of the Mohawk Valley Sheep Dog Trials, held at the Eymann family farm out Marcola Road northeast of Springfield.

“That’ll do,” Caldicott said, closing the gate.

Caldicott was one of 64 competitors from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California to compete in Sunday’s open trials, during which handlers command their dogs to guide sheep on a specific course.

This is the first trial ever held at the Eymann farm, said event organizer Scott Kenady, whose grandmother, Emily Eymann, has owned the property for 65 years and still lives on the farm at 94 years old.

Caldicott has been training Kenady’s brother’s dog, Boss, for about eight months, and they competed in Friday’s nursery trials for inexperienced dogs. Boss is young — “like a teenager, he kind of has an attitude,” Kenady said.

Caldicott was born in England and lived in the small village of Wolston until he was 14 years old. As a child he watched local sheep dog trials every year with his family and fell in love with the pastime.

“The first time I saw it, I thought the dogs were just amazing,” Caldicott said. Today, Caldicott and his wife, Raven, raise sheep and train dogs on their farm, Wolston Farm, in Scio, northeast of Albany. Caldicott has trained about 20 dogs, including his own as well as others’.

It can take two to three years to train and build a partnership with a dog, Caldicott said.

“This isn’t a remote-controlled car wearing a dog suit, you know?” he said. “He’s got a brain of his own.”

Caldicott said watching the precision and teamwork that the dogs and their owners demonstrate during the trials can be “magical,” and that the handler-dog relationship is built upon trust.

“I trust him to (follow commands) and then when I tell him to do something different, he trusts that I know what I’m talking about,” he said.

Washington state resident Alison Johnston, wife of handler Lynn Johnston, agreed.

“These dogs are so keyed into their handler and that relationship is so important,” she said. “They’re just waiting for the next command. It’s truly amazing.”

Today, two of Caldicott’s dogs, brother-sister pair Goose and Maxie, competed. Goose is one of his favorite dogs, and while it took him a little longer to grow up, Goose is now even more talented than his sister, Caldicott said. In the open trials, Goose and Caldicott scored a respectable 84 out of 100 points.

Because of the weekend’s hot weather, tubs of ice water were placed on the field, allowing the dogs to cool off, while spectators and handlers took cover under shade tents.

Sitting under one of the tents, Martha Harden said she had never before seen a sheep dog trial. Harden is from Florida visiting a friend, and when they saw a roadway sign they figured that they would attend.

As she watched the handlers guide their dogs through the course, Harden said she was surprised by the canines’ intelligence and energy.

“I watched the ones waiting to compete and the look on their faces is like, ‘Let me out there!'” Harden said. “They’re so excited to do this.”

The first-place prize at today’s trial included $500 and a shepherd’s hook crafted by Caldicott.

In September, Caldicott will head to Alturas, Calif., to compete in the National Sheep Dog Trials. While he is excited to attend, the competition is not what he enjoys most.

“It’s seeing these dogs do what they love,” Caldicott said. “We should all be so lucky to have a job that we love as much as these guys love theirs.”


Information from: The Register-Guard,