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Sheepdogs and underdogs prepare to square off with sheep



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SOLDIER HOLLOW -- They're back! The sheepdogs and the sheep are ready for a re-match over the weekend in what's become the world's largest annual sheepdog competition, the Soldier Hollow Classic.

Organizers are getting the stage set for the four-day event beginning Friday. Two hundred eighty one sheep have arrived by truck, and 60 competition sheepdogs are coming from all over the world.

All weekend, you can see top competitors, but there also are nearly a dozen non-competing dogs like Zeke, a border collie, getting a taste of the big-time, demonstrating how a potential champ might arise from humble circumstances.

Kim Garner's rescue group saved Zeke from probable euthanasia at a shelter in Vernal. He was found wandering, abandoned, neglected last Christmas.

"He was pretty thin, very thin, and he was very uncomfortable. He had pneumonia and wasn't sleeping very well, coughing, bloody noses," Garner said.

She nursed him back to health and then, after his instinct for sheepherding seemed to pop up out of nowhere, she fell in love and adopted him.

"He seemed like he had a lot of natural ability, to want to herd. Just really wanted someone to notice him and take some time with him," she said.

Organizers of the Soldier Hollow Classic are giving rescued border collies a chance to show off their talents and test their skills at a demonstration event Friday morning.

Mark Petersen, founder of the Soldier Hollow Classic sheepdog trial, said, "Our hope is that some of those dogs that have been rescued from various pounds and humane societies, that we're going to see that some of them might have the makings of being a good stock dog."

The goal isn't necessarily to turn a rescue dog into a champion. It's to give that dog a new life.

"The happiest dog in the world, and I know there are all kinds of happy dogs out there, but the happiest dog in the world is a border collie at work," Petersen said.

Garner said, "We'd love to be able to compete someday. I think Zeke can go as far as he wants to go."

The Soldier Hollow Classic begins Friday in Heber Valley near Midway. It wraps up on Monday, Labor Day.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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