Post Contributed by: Bill desRosiers – Coordinator of External Affairs
North of Tunkhannock, tucked between the rolling hills of Susquehanna County is the small town of Hop Bottom, PA. It’s the kind of one “stop-sign town” that normally doesn’t draw a second look from people passing through. But once a year the community comes alive for a really unique event, the Pennsylvania Stock Dog Trials. Held since 1892 in the same place – Sheepy Hollow farm – this stock dog time trial is one of the oldest such competitions in the county and its the epitome of the bond between canine and man.
During a typical stock dog trial competition, handlers must control a flock of sheep vicariously through a stock dog, usually a Border Collie. Different vocal calls are used to manipulate the dog and ultimately maneuver the flock of sheep across a long field and around obstacles. The competition is an amazing display of trust and intelligence – displayed by both handler and canine. Scoring is out of one hundred but judges are critical of every move, deducting points for losing control of the dog, the sheep or missing obstacles throughout the course.
This year the time trails had over 300 handler/dog teams participate, one of the biggest competitions to date. The Sheepy Hollow Farm facility is so well known in the stock dog world competitors travel in from all over the county and Canada. It’s estimated that a few thousand patrons show up to watch this event annually.
Cabot routinely sponsors this event because “it’s one of the rare occasions that people can truly see the balance between natural gas development and environmental stewardship.” says George Stark, Director, External Affairs, for Cabot.
Dick Williams, owner of Sheepy Hollow Farms, had to say this about his experiences with regional natural gas development: “Just up the road a well is being drilled. But as you can see the Stock Dog trials are not disrupted by it. Handlers are having no problem communicated with the dogs. The hill side in backdrop is still intact. And, honestly, most of the patrons wouldn’t even know what to look for unless I told them.”
This year Linde Corporation also sponsored the event and “without the generosity of both Cabot and Linde Corporation, we couldn’t afford to bring in as many sheep which would mean less competitors because the sheep fatigue quickly.” concluded Dick Williams.