Vashon’s sheepdog trials are a treat for dog lovers — and knitters

Touted as the most-attended herding event on the West Coast, the Vashon Sheepdog Classic shows off Vashon Island at its most scenic, and includes a fiber-arts venue as well.

VASHON ISLAND — There are plenty of events to escape to this summer around Puget Sound, but none transport you to another time and place quite like the Vashon Sheepdog Classic, which happens next weekend, June 8-11, 2017.

Though it has grown substantially in its seven years, now touted as the most-attended herding event on the West Coast, the rural charm that first captivated me remains. The setting, Misty Isle Farms, is Vashon Island at its most beautiful and the teams competing include some of the best in the country. Add in local food and merchandise vendors plus a hands-on Fiber Arts Village and you have the makings of a perfect June day. All proceeds go to area nonprofits, so you’re not just sitting in a field, you’re doing good work.

Understanding the action

My initial interest stemmed from my obsession with dogs. Most of the dogs competing are border collies, a breed much more intelligent than my own mutts, possibly smarter than me. I had no idea what those dogs were doing the first time I watched, but I could tell they were way out of our league. Laura Vishoot, a longtime competitor who runs a sheep farm and training facility in Cottage Grove, Oregon, broke it down for me.

Each dog and handler team starts with a maximum number of points and has to complete their run in a set time. Judges can take away points on each of six phases, based on how smoothly the dog performs. The team with the most points wins that day’s trial and handlers can use their trial points to advance to regional and national competition as the season progresses.

A shepherd begins with their dog at a post in a marked circle, called the shedding ring, at one end of the field as four or five sheep are released 425 yards north. They send their dog by whistle or voice…

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