Port Fairy was recently the venue of the Commonwealth Sheepdog Trials. People travelled long distances from all States of Australia to this little seaside town in sw Victoria to enter their dogs in working dogs’ trials. They obviously find the little seaside town in sw Victoria a pleasant venue for their very serious business. And pleasant indeed it is with mild climate, shady trees around the oval, pleasant area for their caravans and for the dogs waiting their turns by the river,
Travelling on the roads with several dogs and a caravan in tow requires special organization.
Watching a dog drive three sheep around, over and through the different barriers before reaching the pen is very absorbing. The grace and skill of the dogs is extraordinary. Most are the especially successful border collies and each has its own personality, some quite roguish. The state champion of WA, Grassvalley Moss, who had flown here, allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by a bitch and was thrown right off course.
The trainers, dog owners and dress smartly, women scarcely distinguishable from the men. The busy sheep minders wear fluorescent jackets. It takes four or five of them flapping their arms to get the three sheep back into the enclosure, a job performed effortlessly by one kelpie assigned to the task.
The dog trials are the serious part of the programme it seems. In the lunch break there is more entertainment. Here ducks have been herded by one clever dog. In other years the ducks were dressed in little bonnets and jackets. And one day the trainer dressed in comical costume as her dog performed tricks.
All proceeds from the meals and the gate takings go to Moyne Health Services, this year specifically supporting Peter’s Project, a local project to support cancer sufferers and their families.
Nothing sophisticated about the meals or the entertainment in general but there is an air of rural authenticity quite different from the air of sophistication this little town sometimes likes to pretend to. And it certainly seems that the Commonwealth Sheepdog trials give far more than they take. I look forward to more quiet pleasure from them after the hectic holiday season of 2015.