No, I'm not talking about the TV show--I'm talking about my lost whistle. Losing a whistle may not seem like a big deal, but as with many things, we tend to get attached to specific items we own, and in the case of a whistle, sometimes it's more than just an emotional attachment. This whistle I lost was made by Dave Arnold, who is no longer making shepherd's whistles, so in one sense it was irreplaceable. I do happen to have a second, back-up Arnold whistle, but the gap is slightly different and I never liked it as much as the one I used daily. Now I don't have a choice, of course, so I'll get used to the other whistle, and presumably the dogs will too, since it doesn't have quite the same tone (thanks to the different gap) as the old one.
I know Rob Drummond has made copies of the Arnold whistle, and I even have a brass one that I bought while in Gettysburg at the 2007 sheepdog finals. But that brass whistle is a lot thicker than the stainless steel Arnolds I have and it feels really odd in my mouth. Note to anyone who gets a new whistle like that: Don't wait till a really important trial to pull it out and use it for the first time. That's what I did with that brass whistle at Edgeworth last year. Brass whistles are supposed to carry further, and Edgeworth is a big course, with a 600-yard outrun. So I grabbed the new brass whistle and walked to the post. I put it in my mouth, noticed the oddness of the feel, and then proceeded to try to "talk" to my dog with it. On my first attempt, I didnt' even get a sound! Gah! The fact that the whistle was thicker meant that I had to figure out a different way to hold my tongue against it to get the same sounds I was used to from my SS whistle. Standing at the post at a big trial is NOT the place to do that!
If I try using the replacement Arnold and find I can't live with the sound then I may try a copy from Bordercollics Anonymous--but I'll be sure to take measurements of the whistle I have to make sure that what they have is no thicker than what I'm used to.
So what happened to bring about all this angst? I honestly don't know how I lost my whistle. I wear it daily because whenever I didn't do so, there would be a situation when I needed it, so I just made it part of my daily getting-dressed routine. The other day was warm, perhaps in the 60s and I was out walking the dogs on the "back 40." On the way back down the path by the creek, I decided to remove the shirt I had on under my sweatshirt--without taking off the sweatshirt first, of course. The only thing I can fiugre is that my lanyard got caught up in the undershirt and was pulled off along with the shirt. Only I have been over that section of the path repeatedly, and even the path I take around the pasture all the way back to the house and have seen no sign of my beloved Arnold whistle. It's hard to see a well-worn braided leather lanyard among the dirt, grass, and leaves, and at first I thought the SS whistle would stand out, but it's amazing how many leaves have a silverish cast to them as well.
I even went through my hamper and all the clothes I had on that day in case it might have gotten caught up in my clothing, but no joy there either.
I haven't given up all hope of finding it, but it's looking pretty dim right now. And in case you're wondering "Why all the fuss about a simple stainless steel shepherd's whistle?" well I guess it's like any other superstitious sort of thing--I've been using that same whistle for close to 8 years now. It's like a part of me, along with my training stick that was splintered in the middle early on by someone sorting at a gate and then taped back up with green tape. I have a lovely handmade crook and I have other whistles, but none can replace the "magic" of the whistle I lost or the stick with the green tape on it. Just as people in other sports have particular items of clothing they must always wear when they compete,that whistle and stick were my crutches. I finally managed to give up the stick for the most part, but I never realized I'd have to give up the whistle too....