Dog trial events interesting characters

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Alistair Dickson, 86, of Cheviot Collie Club, has been attending Methven Collie Club trials since he was in high school.

Eight six year old Alistair Dickson has been running dogs at the Methven Collie Club’s annual trials since he was in his teens.

He ran three heading dogs last month at their 125th anniversary trials; seasoned runners Bruce, 9, and Jack, 7, alongside two year old Tina. It was the first time in 70 years he had not run a Huntaway.

The trials were held on the farm properties of the Koopmans and Lucas families, along Mt Hutt Station Road, Methven.

“There’s a lot of characters at dog trials,” Alistair said, unaware he is one of those interesting characters.

Alistair Dickson and seven year old Bruce take a break after competing. Mr Dickson took three dogs for a run at the Methven Collie Club 125th anniversary event.

The retired sheep and beef farmer, formerly of Gore Bay but now living an urban lifestyle at Cheviot, runs his dogs daily behind his car to keep them fit. They run up to six kilometres travelling around 30km/hour.

Alistair also helps out a 88-year-old mate on a small farmlet, which has 150 sheep.

It’s a far cry from his youth where at aged eight he broke in his first dog, which he used for stock work on the home farm outside of Cheviot.

A horse and dog is still the best way to move stock, he said.

“Sheepdogs are the cleverest of all canine.

“Farming is a business, and with the business you have a good stock dog. It doesn’t take much to have a well trained dog. They’re a huge help on farm.”

He spent many years dog trialling including at least 10 years competing at dog trials across Australia.

In the 1980s Alistair was part of a demonstration dog trial event at the Sydney Show, watched by 100,000 people. He was also placed in the Australian National Sheepdog Trials and the Champion of Champions event.

“I got to know the dog trial people,” he said, of his time in Australia.

Alistair Dickson, and two year old Tina, during their run in the Class 2 short head and yard.

He believed New Zealand trial clubs were much better than their transTasman neighbours with younger members involved, better dogmanship, cooler temperatures and less distances to travel between trial events.

He said dogs were the cheapest labour force in New Zealand.

They don’t have a union, have no labour costs, eat very little and don’t hold a grudge.

“A good dog on the farm does more work than any man.”

And he was especially appreciative of the Huntaway breed, bred in New Zealand.

“They are a marvellous animal, the best dog in the world.”

Alistair has been a member of the Cheviot Collie Club since he was eight years old. He is a life member.

He said when he started, older members were reluctant to share knowledge. He had to make his own way and learn as he went along and he was doing quite well in trial event by his high school years.

Now there were demonstration events and triallists were only too keen to help younger members.

Alistair got to enjoy multiple dog trials across the week.

He enjoyed time at the Methven trials before heading to Mayfield Collie Club trials , the following day, and on to Cromwell, before returning via the Levels Sheep Dog Club trials, where he is also a life member.

“I get four trials in five days,” he said.

The four class event at Methven drew scores of competitors, many with multiple dogs competing in multiple runs. Among them were former national champions Steph Tweed, Kevin Lamont, Stuart Millar, Peter Kidd, Andy Clark, and Mark Copland.

The first Methven Collie Club trial was run on August 27, 1897.