MEEKER -- The first day of the 18th annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials proved once again how cantankerous and feisty the sheep are in northwest Colorado and why this is the dog trial every handler longs for.
"The sheep are certainly winning today," said Gus Halandras, chairman of the Meeker Classic sheepdog committee. "They are not cooperative at all -- something the sheep here are known for across the trial circuit."
The Meeker Classic is one of the most popular dog trials in the nation. Handlers come from all over the United States and Canada for an opportunity to take home the $15,000 purse. This year four countries and 23 states are represented at the trials with first-time entries from Alaska, New York and British Columbia.
This is the first time Margi Jamieson from Ta Ta Creek, British Columbia has competed at the Meeker Classic. She and dog Eve competed last year in trials in California and Wyoming.
"This is the trial you hear about and where you want to come," she said.
Jamieson said she loved every aspect of sheepdog competition.
"I guess you could say it is more than passion, maybe addiction or even a passionate addiction," she said.
Jamieson said there were a few trials in Canada but not as renowned at those in the United States.
"More people are interested and just do it here, so the competition is better," she said.
Experienced handler, Julie Matthews, a New Zealand transplant from Fort Collins, was in the lead of the elimination trials at 82 points with fewer than 20 competitors left to run.
Matthews is a dog trainer by profession and was last year's reserve champion at the national dog trial finals in Sturgis, S.D. Matthews will compete with her dog, Dodge, at this years finals, also at Sturgis from Sept. 18 to 26.
"You qualify by a point system, and Dodge has qualified," she said.
Matthews also has two other dogs in the Meeker Classic that, hopefully, will gather points to qualify for next year's national trial. She said she spends a lot of time on the road and only misplaced her dog once.
"She ended up at the train station in Lexington, Ken.," she said. "That was scary."
The trial runs through Sunday. The first three days are elimination rounds.
There will be special entertainment at noon Saturday and Sunday, including a performance by bagpiper Hugh Thackaberry and a Frisbee dog demonstration.
A special tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be Saturday morning at 8:45 and will include a 21-gun salute by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.