Monday, June 6, 2011

This Weekend

So shoot me, I am not a food stylist. Have you bought your raffle tickets for a customized basket of Brandywine Farm humanely pasture-raised and home-grown yummies? The prize will have much more stuff than shown here -- this was all I could fit in the basket. Go to the chipin link above or to the right.

We're getting kind of excited about our first-ever English shepherd Gathering at Brandywine Farm. We are expecting somewhere north of fifty people, and a slightly larger number of dogs, with some special guests who have surprised even the hosts. Could be many more, as more RSVPs are coming in as the date approaches. We have participants coming from all corners of the country.

Here's some of what's going to happen. Full schedule and deets are here.

On Saturday, in addition to our barbeque (pasture-raised Brandywine broilers) and the potluck (ES folks can get competitive with their potluck contributions, so come armed and hungry) and all the general socializing and dog-walking and strawberry-picking, and movie night-ing, we will have a canine freestyle class taught by trainer Mary Waugh Swindell, who is coming all the way from Texas for the Gathering with her two ES, toddler, husband, Doberman(s), and there was the threat of a lizard or pair of lizards, I believe. Which have nothing to do with the potluck. I hope.

Mary is a long-time top competitor in freestyle and agility, with her magnificent Dobermans. I first met her about thirteen or fourteen years ago, when she lived in Pittsburgh. I went with my friend Barb to meet her rescue ES, Gwen, because we were interested in this little-known breed. At that point I started to plot to steal Devon, her Doberman. Devon is of sainted memory now, but it's possible that his son may just up and disappear this weekend.

Mary's current freestyle up-and-comer is her NESR puppy, Shiner Bock. You may remember Shiner under a previous identity.

Here's the skinny on the Freestyle clinic, which will start at 3 pm on Saturday:

Freestyle is a terrific way to have fun with your dog and build new skills that will help you in obedience, rally, agility, Therapy dog visits--or simply to dance better in your living room! This sport is appropriate for dogs of all ages and abilities, as long as they are ready to have fun and have a handler ready to have a good time. Depending on the skill level of the dogs and handlers attending we will work on the following skills:

Walking backwards
Dog Weaving through your legs while you walk
Teaching your dog to jump through your arms
Teaching your dog to back through your legs
Teaching dogs to sidestep (both in heel position and in front)
Spin, Twist, and jumping through hoops!

No prerequisites needed to attend; but bring treats or toys to guide and reward your dogs. If your dog is trained to go to a mat or target, bring that along. Have a hula hoop? Bring it on!

This is a great way to help build body awareness, and develop more communication between handlers and dogs.

Some of our freestyle students go to to work on group demos for public events, or to add skills for therapy visits and PR events, but most do it just to have a good time, and to teach some new skills.

You can see us doing Freestyle on Animal Planet's Breed All About it with our Doberman Devon, and you can watch a clip of an awesome routine by Carolyn Scott here.

We'll be having a great time, and Shiner will be showing you how to make this look easy!

We'll have a few slots available for local students who aren't here for the ES Gathering. You must contact me at houlahanATzoominternetDOTnet. to secure a place. We just ask for a donation -- what you can afford -- via raffle tickets.

Just before the Freestyle clinic, at 2, we will have a brief canine search and rescue demonstration by the dogs of Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group, many of whom are English shepherds.

On Sunday, we will host a Canine Good Citizen test, starting at 11 am. The cost for this will be nominal. Many thanks to Tammi Potts for agreeing to be our CGC tester for the day. This test will be open to the public, but you must contact me at houlahan AT zoominternet DOT net beforehand to secure a slot.

Throughout the weekend, we'll be raising money to cover the cost of the Gathering and to raise funds for both National English Shepherd Rescue and the English Shepherd Club's Health and Genetics Committee by raffling several items, including a customized Brandywine Farm Basket o' Noms which can be customized to your desires and shipped if necessary -- you do not need to be present to win.

The basket will reflect your preferences, and can include fresh pastured eggs, pastured humanely-raised chicken and/or guinea fowl (frozen), colony-raised rabbit (frozen), home-made raw-milk goat cheese (feta and/or chevre), home-made stock from pastured chickens, grape jam, home-grown and made marinara and salsa, dried currant tomatoes, home-made raw goat yogurt -- am I forgetting anything?

Again, use the chipin to the left if you would like to buy raffle tickets and will not be at the Gathering. I'm filling up a jar with pre-purchased tickets already. Make sure I have a way to contact you if I don't already have at least your email address.

Also being raffled will be a special Texas-sized gift basket donated by Mary and her students, in honor of her two NESR dogs. I can't wait to see what's in this one! I suspect it will have some fire to it. The same tickets apply to both baskets.

I'll keep the chipin open for raffle tickets until 7 am Sunday the 12th, and you can buy tickets at the Gathering right up to the drawing at 3 on Sunday. We will be tossing in a few other raffle items as well.

Photographer Martha Cristy-Couch has donated two complete sets of blank greeting cards in her extraordinary "River Reflections" series. The cards will be for sale in the community center all weekend, with information on posters and additional cards available.

Finally, for all English shepherd owners and former English shepherd owners -- we will be working on "Project Fill In the Blanks" for the English Shepherd Club Registry Database. We will be collecting photographs, measurements, and information (including pedigree info) about your current and former English shepherds for inclusion in their entries into the genetic database of the breed. Your dog does not have to be ESC registered to be recorded!

Health and longevity information on both living dogs and dogs who have left us is especially important for the conservation of the breed.

You can download a PDF form here and fill it out before the Gathering if you like. Bring photocopies (don't risk your originals if you can make a copy, but I can copy papers here if necessary) of registration, pedigree, and health screening certificates and results. We can take photos and measurements of the dogs who attend.

Throughout the weekend we will have a Rally obedience course set up for your "doodling" pleasure, and agility equipment for learning and practice, courtesy of Family Dog Obedience in Butler and Pittsburgh.


  1. The Freestyle sounds like a great asset to the day.

    For me personally, however, I just have to say what I've said when my African-American friends have tried to get me on the dance floor:

    "I am a repressed white person and I like it that way. Not dancing."

    I think that goes double for my dog, although I think we will check out the agility equipment.


  2. Mary Waugh SwindellJune 7, 2011 at 12:11 AM


    My friends will happy tell you that I have no rhythm to speak of. Fortunately everyone is watching the dog so no one notices much! HA! It's a ton of fun, hope you decide to give it a try.


  3. WoW! what a weekend! I will have to live vicariously thru photos and blog posts (hint hint).

    To all attendees, have a great time and thanks so much for supporting this breed through the ESC and NESR!


  4. I sure miss all of y'al. I guess I'll go back out in the hot (100 F) weather and get back to building a chicken coop... (sniff, sigh).
    Kyt Eubanks
    Amarillo - that's in Texas.


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