Boone

 

Boone was born December 23, 2001 in Townville, SC. He died February 10, 2014 in Medford, OR.

 His mother was Molly who belonged to Carol Anne Bailey. His father was Tip who was owned by Carol Anne’s dad Hubert.  It was the first breeding of these two border collies.

 Boone and I trialed in 16 states and Canada. I always thought that if someone said “We want you to herd Yaks in Tibet,” I would have gone in a second with Boone and not doubted that we could do it. His confidence, persistence, and ability to understand the task were remarkable. It was always fun with him even though he took the work very serious. How much of my admiration was for his work ability and how much was for his personality is impossible to say.

 I remember during his puppyhood before he was six weeks old at Red Creek Farm, Jon would say that Boone and Dawson were the most determined pups in the litter in attacking the mop or push broom. Boone wasn’t really my first choice. A big ruffed pup was my first choice, but another friend of Carol Anne had spoken for him.  Then I thought I wanted Dawson because he seemed the largest, boldest pup. We called him Curly in the litter because of his very rough coat. I decided it was too rough, and Hubert said just take that one, he’s just as good.  I was disappointed because I got a third choice – boy, was I wrong.

Susan has always taken credit for starting Boone with Carol Anne at Red Creek. I had Max and we were doing pretty well in ProNovice. She would take Boone over to Carol Anne’s maybe once a week and the thing we remember is how when we picked him up he’d be leaning against the front of the kennel with a hang-dog expression that said “get me out of here”.

 Somehow Susan had left the farm one day and I took Boone out to the sheep. I couldn’t believe the difference between working him and Max. My main tool with Max was I could stop him. With Boone there was instant response; forward into the sheep and into nice flanks. When Susan got home, I said “It’s like driving a BMW! I think you ought to let me train and run him.”  She did.

When we won two nursery trials, I didn’t see our name on the USBCHA qualified nursery trials so I asked the Bailey’s what that meant. They said you had to be a member of USBCHA – Oh, I didn’t know.  So we joined as Life members and won two more.

 In 2004 Boone went from ProNovice and Nursery to Open Ranch to Open…with me who was excitable, spastic under pressure, and demanding. He won at all levels – with judges who didn’t know us from a load of hay. I always liked going to new trials with him.

In August at Roy Johnson’s in Virginia on our first distant dog trial Boone ran in Open Ranch under Steve McCall, We won the first day and were third the second after Susan re-added the scores. Lesson learned – recalculate the scores of the people ahead of you. Roy was great. As I helped exhaust the Open sheep because I was so excited that I wanted to do everything, he came over and gently said not to send my young dog the same way on every exhaust. It might not be good for a quick learning dog. Boone was the Overall Champion in Open Ranch.

 In November about two weeks after Susan’s father had died, we decided to go ahead and go to NC for the Farmington trial since it was too late to cancel. I got into a heated discussion with the trial host for asking if we could run in one of the mid-run cancellations and then go on home instead of waiting for our next-to-the-last run of the day. I was still steamed going to the post as Boone calmly watched the sheep reloaded into the setout pens. I remember watching the jet stream from a high-flying airplane and thinking about Susan’s dad, a career Air Force officer, as I tried to get a hold of myself as we waited for the set. Prior to this we had run two other Open courses all at the Bailey’s where Boone was started and trained. This trial was a shed, pen, and single under a judge from England. On the cross-drive I somehow blew a low whistle and Boone just kept a solid pace.  I assumed he liked that whistle so I kept using it despite never having used that sound before.  (I probably could have whistled Dixie and he would have held the line). Driving had been our weakness as I would over-correct and be late on many directions and Boone was quick and eager to flank. When we had gotten the single, we had 101 out of 110 points and first place. I remember people like Bobby Ford, R.C. Tomlison, and several of the names I had just started learning congratulating us.

Another trial I will always remember is at Sandy Chadwick’s.  We had gone down kind of last minute for the day. We tied with Ken Arrendale and Wolf. Ken was one of the main players in the Georgia association and a good handler and a fierce competitor.  I was resigned to being second. I didn’t even want to go to the post for the run-off until Bruce Garrick said we’d have a silent gather. My whole being changed as I knew Boone would do it; all I had to do was stand there. Boone made a wonderful outrun, lift, fetch right through the gate, bringing the sheep to my feet. Wolf did a good outrun, then I could see him building pressure near the gate on the fetch and without directions from Ken to steady, boom, he scattered sheep all over the field. Ken was very gracious and said he always thought Boone was the best one in the litter. Not a small complement as Hubert Bailey was running Dawson and Jon Tholkes was running Jade, both littermates.

As dear to me as the trial memories are the special stock work Boone and I shared.

One day I had Boone and Max in the back seat of the truck as we took a load of garbage to the dump.  About half way there, I saw a cow trotting along a wood line and a couple of local young men running after her. I immediately stopped, told Max to sit tight, told Boone let’s go, and hailed the pursuers asking if I could help…”I have a dog.”  Well, they looked like they were thinking, “How’s a city boy like you going to catch this cow we’ve got riled up?” I said, “Where do you want her.” It wasn’t easy with a single cow who was not dog broke, but Boone took my every command through ditch and brush and we got her into the designated pasture. Those boys had a different expression as they said, “That’s a nice dog.”  Yep, let’s go to the dump, Boone.

 Another time Susan and I were at the breakfast table and we saw movement toward the road. Our house was about 2000 feet from a strip of pines along the road. A neighbor’s cows – a horned bull and a rainbow herd of about a dozen were coming through the pines toward our small alfalfa field. These cattle had a lot of Brahma influence with big ears and humps. Let’s go, Boone. He stopped them head on at the edge of the pines as they were zeroing in on the alfalfa and drove them back out the gate and across the road where the neighbor was looking for them.

 Then there was the time I had a day old Angus calf down behind the hay feeder ear tagging it and the mother came around the corner with head down, slobber out her mouth, and blood in her eyes as the calf squalled. She was almost on top of me as I jumped back and stumbled as my feet got tangled in old baling twine. Without a command, but with fierce purpose Boone was low and hard into the cow’s head just in time for me to recover and escape.  That’s a good dog, Boone.

Once at an ASKA trial we were helping exhaust the three steers that had been mishandled and somehow it was my impression that Boone had gotten too close and two of the steers were on top of him and he was taking some punishment. Then he looked like a Poseidon missile coming straight up off the bottom of the pile with steers getting out of his way in a hurry. Shaking himself, it looked like he was saying, “I almost misjudged that.”

At that same trial, after the sheepdog contestants had stopped for intermission, I asked the organizer if we could put the 40 – 50 sheep back in the other end of the arena for the next event. The audience was stretching and mostly leaving after less than spectacular runs with lots of wrecks and yelling. I just wanted to work my dog, but as I whistled and Boone took charge of the sheep moving them calmly with authority on every command,

I sensed the spectators noticing and stopping to watch him do his natural, confident work with a minimum of direction.

 Despite being my first Open level dog and starting his career on dog-broke hair sheep, Boone got us into at least seven double lift trials in the West. He won two with complete runs. In one that we didn’t win but that I’ll never forget, we had finished the first fetch and dropped those 10 sheep. As I turned him back, it was obvious the set-out crew had not set the second set of sheep.  We were the first run of the day.  Things didn’t go well on the reset of the second set, but the judge told me we had only lost 3 points through the turn back. At the first double lift final we made, the pen crew had given us a collared lamb with its uncollared mother. We separated them, but couldn’t hold them apart for a pen. We got a rerun, but even the athlete he was we couldn’t recover after the first battle of shedding the mother and lamb. He loved holding a shed.

 We had some great trips. The first Big One trial in ND with a 950 yard outrun. The last Best of the Badlands in ND, last LeBar and Powder River trials in Wyoming. We competed at Soldier Hollow, Meeker, and several Finals.

We didn’t have good luck or demonstrate skill every time, but doing well was always a good possibility with Boone and he had a work ethic to die for. Whether it was going to the post or going down the driveway with the pack, he was going to try being first.

Although I know he was devoted to me, he had some quirks. His easy obedience did not extent to going in his kennel without a snarl. And if I pushed him to hurry up getting into his dog box hole in the truck, I could lose a finger. He was usually a good eater, but he would rather work than eat and would leave his meal untouched if I took another dog to do chores before him. He often slept on his back with all four paws in the air. When I would let him get on my bed in the camper, he would stay there until another dog got up there. At the groomer who gave him his Foxtail haircut for the summer, I would have to hold him up as he would collapse like he was a wet noodle.

When he was a pup he loved water and dirt. Going up little creeks on our property he would run with his mouth open scooping up water like a pelican.

All of his life, even the last month of his life when we would go into an empty field in the morning or cool of the evening, he would run with his tail up and take big bounding strides while barking as though to celebrate being alive and able to run.

With the bitches he was bred to he was always eager but gentle. I always thought his foreplay was gently sniffing the bitch’s eye.

Boone was not a bully. He was interested in other dogs and usually perked his ears and wagged his tail. But, if he was jumped by a bully, he did not roll over. In 12 years I never saw Boone on the bottom after being attacked.

When he was nine and a half, he had a black growth on the top of his right paw. It was getting bigger so we had it surgically removed. He was a good, if spoiled, patient. The wound healed nicely and he was back to full service as the main dog. We had Sly and Roy trained up to Open by then so Boone was retired from competition. Two years later the growth came back on his paw. We had it removed again and the vet did a great job although there was not enough skin after taking the growth to use stiches. Despite a large open wound, Boone healed. Six months later it was back. This time it appeared to hurt him as he would avoid walking down the driveway sometimes.  This was unlike him. 

The day before I had him put down, we drove over to Bill Cease’s place for the afternoon. I figured Boone would have a good time on this ride and wouldn’t mind the next day’s ride to the vet. The Ceases had Millie who we bred Boone to three times. She’s spayed now but they flirted like always. She would always put her front feet up on his back and dance around. This would appear to befuddle him. He also flirted with a daughter of his who is there and got into a scrap with a son from the third litter. It was a good afternoon with Bill and me having a couple of beers and the dogs just being dogs.

The next morning Boone and I put out the ewes and month old lambs. He was a master with mothers and lambs. We got in the truck to go to the vet and he got in the foot of the passenger side. He never rode there. He usually stood in the back seat and nuzzled my ear for the first mile. The vet did a good job. Boone as always was brave and obedient. He trusted me.  This was the very best I could do for him.

 We’ve scattered some of his ashes at a scenic wayside on Interstate 5 that looks at the northwest face of Mt. Shasta.  Others are on Doak Mountain looking over highway 140 on the way to Klamath Falls. I hope all the good sheepdogs and trialists who take those routes are as happy and successful together as we were. He is also spread on the big front field of our place in Eagle Point where we trained and had great fun with sheep and the other dogs. If I’m lucky enough, the rest of his remains will be mixed with mine and be spread on the family grave in South Carolina.

 I’ve never seen another dog I’d rather have.