The 15th annual Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials are being dedicated to the memory of Mike Furcolow, a beloved friend and experienced dog handler who recently lost his long battle with cancer.
Furcolow took great pleasure in working with his dogs and watching them progress through their training with his guidance. "I like to compete in the trials too, but not necessarily for the wins and recognition," he said before he died. "The thrill for me comes from that day, with those sheep, when we, my dog and I, have it all together and are linked like ESP, and do the job that we came to do."
One of Furcolow's favorite events was the "silent gather." This event is held on the first day of competition, Friday, May 11. During this event, the dogs show off their natural abilities in a judged, timed event where the handler sends the dog out to gather the sheep and return them to the post. No verbal commands are given.
"The handler can't say a word to the dog or give any commands to the dog," said Gordon Hebenstreit, the event's general manager. "This is a fun event to watch, because the true talent of the border collie shows through."
The sheep camp stock dog trials are held in the Hotchkiss pasture one block south of downtown and begin at 8 a.m. Friday, May 11. Nursery classes lead off the competition, followed immediately by two novice classes. There will be a break from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a customer appreciation lunch at First State Bank.
The action resumes at 1 p.m. with the silent gather. Admission is $4 for Friday's competition and $5 for Saturday and Sunday events. Children under the age of 12 are free all three days.
On May 12 and 13, trials begin at 7 a.m. Pro novice and open classes will run each day. Competition generally continues until 4:30 or 5 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break.
Covered bleachers are provided, but some spectators bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. Leashed dogs are welcome, but owners are asked to clean up after their pets.
There will be food and craft vendors, and on Saturday, the San Juan Weavers Guild will provide spinning demonstrations. Sheep shearing demos will take place every hour with Dan Toothaker.
Other events taking place Saturday include a car show at Zack's BBQ from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Western Colorado Rabbit Breeders Association's ninth annual rabbit show at Heritage Hall; and an open house at the North Fork Ambulance training center at 110 E. Hotchkiss Avenue.
Hotchkiss Home Plate is holding a 5k run/walk on Saturday. Race-day registration begins at 8 a.m. at the corner of Pinion and Hotchkiss next to St. Mary Margaret Catholic Church, with race time at 9 a.m.
Also happening in Hotchkiss during the dog trials are the community barbecue at First State Bank from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 11; a book sale at the Hotchkiss Library on Friday and Satuday; and free admission at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum on Friday and Saturday..
Hebenstreit said the Hotchkiss stock dog trials attract some very good handlers, so the level of competition is high. These high energy dogs are doing what they're meant to do. With just a few well-timed whistles from its trusted handler the dog strategically approaches the flock, assumes control of the sheep, and completes the assigned task.
Learn more about the 15th annual Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials at www.hotchkissdogtrials.com, or call Gordon Hebenstreit at 970-589-2139.