The Dogs of Heatherhope
Border Collies are the world’s premier stock dogs. Many breeds will move or guard sheep or cattle, but Border Collies can do a great variety of jobs because they are so intelligent, eager to please the handler, focused on their work, and possessed of tremendous stamina. A team of four or five Border Collies can gather thousands of sheep from a hundred square miles of mountains in Scotland, or a single dog can single off one pregnant ewe for the shepherd or gently push a lamb back to its mother’s side in a barn. They have been doing this sort of work, responding to shepherd’s whistles or voices, for several hundred years in Britain, and since colonial days in the Americas.
Love of Border Collies led us to begin to visit shepherds in Britain starting in 1994. Since then we have averaged at least one visit to Scotland, England, Wales or Ireland each year, establishing warm relationships with some of the finest breeders and trainers of working sheepdogs in the world.
All of our Border Collies come from the finest working lines, and all of them have exhibited strong herding instincts as well as great stamina and sociable personality. We belong to the United States Border Collie Handlers Association (www.usbcha.com) and Britain’s the International Sheepdog Society (www.isds.org.uk), and compete in numerous herding competitions sponsored by the USBCHA each year.
Currently we own four Border Collies and a Great Pyrenees guard dog. They include:
Hector and Betty, born 11/16/2011 in a litter of five pups to our Cap and Abbie (see below). Betty, the smallest of the litter, was also the easiest to train and has been a dream both on the trial field and taking over all the day to day herding chores on the farm from her parents. Hector, quite on the large side, has been handicapped all his life due to the fact that his OCD excess cartilage in his shoulder, wasn’t properly diagnosed for a year, making him prone to arthritis. He has also grown hard of hearing in later years. Despite this, Hector shows much of the same quiet power that his father, Cap had. So he is the one we go to when sheep have to be persuaded into a trailer or to go where they don’t want to go. Their litter sisters and brother went to new owners in Missouri and Michigan.
Zac was born in 12/1/2014, in a litter of two, out of Abbie and by Cap. He is absolutely full of vigor and fantastic athleticism. However it has been nigh impossible to get him to drive sheep away. He gathers much at his own speed, but that isn’t a good thing. So we don’t use him much on the farm. However, he has so much personality, and is really very obedient, except when excited on sheep, that we love him to bits.
On July 25, 2010 we said goodbye to Mirk. He had been born 11/22/97, and had been one of our best all-‘round working dogs. He came here after working four years on the hills with Bill Elliot of the Borders region of Scotland where he won most of his nursery trials. He was a son of Norman McDonald’s Zac, one of the top stud dogs of recent times in Scotland. On that sire’s side he also went back to John Templeton’s Ben and Roy and on the dam’s side to George Turnbull’s Nickey, John Bathgate’s Vic, Dryden Joe and again to Templeton’s Roy. Mirk himself showed everything you would want in a working dog, and he sired our Bess and Cap—both dogs that show good confidence and power in herding. Mirk had an uncanny ability to control feisty ewes with lambs and rams. He had soulful eyes when he snuggled up with us for a late-night dram of Scotch, and a relentless work ethic in the field. He will be greatly missed.
Imported Floss, 2/11/96 to 11/5/2011, lived to be our oldest dog before she died during her 16th year of life. Just a couple days before she died we discovered that sheep had gotten out of a poorly secured gate during the night and Floss helped return them safely to their pasture. You would never find her playing ball or frisbee—she lived to work sheep. She spent the first three years of her life on a farm in Shropshire, England with shepherd Ken Gwilliam. She was the dam to Queen, one of our best competitors in herding trials, who, unfortunately died in 2008. Floss died in early November of 2011. You can find our tribute to her here: http://heatherhopefarm.com/2011/11/05/a-tribute-to-floss/
Frodo, born in 2003, died 10/21/2015 was our first gentle giant, Great Pyrenees guard dog. He was bred by Dave Birch of Perry, Missouri, who kept him with sheep from birth. We brought him to Heatherhope as a puppy because soon after we started keeping sheep, a dog severely scratched one while we were away at our work. The sheep survived, but we often hear of sheep owners losing twenty or more sheep in a single night to coyotes, and we knew we had many of those predators in our area. Frodo lived day and night with the sheep, and this, happily, kept stray dogs and coyotes at bay for 12 years before his death. The last year or so of his life Frodo also was the teaching mentor of Bilbo, and you can read all about the “Apprenticeship of Bilbo” in Connie’s book by that title. Read our tribute to Frodo here: http://heatherhopefarm.com/2015/10/21/good-and-faithful-servant/
Cap, born 12/25/03, died on 7/11/2018 took over from his father, Mirk, as our go-to dog on the farm, and became our top trial and breeding dog. We helped our friend, Wally Yoder, to purchase Cap’s dam, Liz, at the same time we brought Mirk back from Scotland, in 2003. Liz was also a fine nursery dog for Bill Elliot in the Borders. Her dam is Roddy MacDiarmid’s Dot, a bitch that has won the 2000 Scottish and International Brace Championship and numerous other open class wins. Liz’s father, also named Cap, is of Bill Elliot’s breeding and goes back to Johnny Wilson’s two-time International Supreme Champion, Spot. Our Cap was very athletic and powerful in moving sheep in just about any situation. We are so proud of his many progeny, including Mike Neary’s Sis and Bella, Bryan White’s Brae, Lori Perry’s Ember, Adrian Espinoza’s Sally (granddaughter), and several others. Cap has made a fine impact on the breeding of working dogs in North America. Find our tribute to Cap here: http://heatherhopefarm.com/2018/07/12/in-memory-of-cap/
Imported Abbie, born 1/4/2007, died on 12/5/2019, could handle anything on the farm or on the trial field. She was born in the Lake District of England, the son of Derek Scrimgeour’s Cap (ISDS #266571) who had a very strong nursery career before suffering a soft tissue injury and being sold to the United States. Cap was himself the son of Raymond MacPherson’s Dolwen Chips, a dog that took two International Driving Championships, was Reserve English Champion in 1996 and 10th in the International Supreme in 1994. We bought Abbie when she was a year old, after she had been trained as a youngster by 2005 World Champion handler, Gordon Watt. From a very young age she had great scope in working at long distances and with big gathers. We are so happy with the three of her offspring that still work on the farm. Find our tribute to Abbie here: http://heatherhopefarm.com/2019/12/06/abbies-death-leaves-a-hole-in-our-hearts/
Bess, born 4/3/2005, died 2019, was of our own breeding (out of our Tess by Mirk–both of whom are now deceased), Alas she didn’t have much of a career as a working dog. She was too much of a freelancer. In demonstrations she got lots of laughs because she blew off my commands. She frequently ran the sheep over the top of me, and when she did the same to Connie it resulted in a broken femur and a long stay in rehab. So, Bess became a pet, and “Aunt Bessie” who broke things up when two or more of our other Border Collies got too frisky in their play-fighting. Her other entertaining trait was to fixate on our cat, and finally pounce to no effect when she came nose to nose with her stonewalling prey. We miss Bess very much. Alas, she was a bit too much of an outlaw as was her mother, Tess, and her great-grandsire, Bobby Dalziel’s Wisp, who Bobby likened to Mike Tyson.
Jock: born 5/4/2008 is the son of our Cap and is out of Graham and Margaret Phillipson’s bitch Rose (ABC 275067). Rose is a very capable farm dog. Her father is the Phillipson’s Imported Don, who goes back to Scottish breeding. Rose’s dam is Marta Engel’s Skye who was by Jean Bass/Jack Knox’s Imported Coon (ABC 63353). Jock has gone to a wonderful family in Pennsylvania to work with their sizable flock of sheep. He is fitting in marvelously with both the family and the work. We wish them all the best as they enjoy their work and life on the farm.
Spot, born 11/18/2009, Is by our Cap and out of our Abbie—two very sound parents who we think are of the absolute best quality of breeding and who show the best talents for herding. Spot was a powerful dog who proved a bit too strong on sheep. He did, however, show a natural ability to work cattle, so after a bit of extra training on cattle he was sold to a cattle ranch in Missouri.