a Junior Handler
Mom started taking me to meetings of the Dallas Shetland Sheepdog Club while I was in second grade. As I got older, I became more involved in the club. My job, while still very young, was to help the ladies with the raffle table, and I wasn’t shy about trying to get people to buy tickets. As I got older and stronger, I was assigned to helping set up and tear down the rings for our Specialty/Obedience shows.
Being city dwellers, we were limited in how many dogs we could have and with our training facilities. My older brother got the Companion Dog title on our Sheltie, Misty, and then went off to college. My mother continued working with Misty and got her Companion Dog Excellent title and got two legs toward her Utility Dog title when we had to retire Misty. Early one Sunday morning, we awoke to Misty’s screams. Her hip had come out of the socket, and she needed surgery. Her jumping days were over.
Mom and I still stayed involved with the dog club and went even further. Several of our club members had gotten interested in herding, and we went to a trial to see what this was all about. We were hooked. We ended up joining the North Central Texas Herding Dog Association. My initial jobs were as photographer, gatekeeper, runner and timekeeper. This looked like something Misty could do without hurting herself, and she was excited to be back in training. This time it was my turn to train and show a dog. I joined the AKC Junior Handler program and began training Misty to herd. We went out to the country once a week to a ranch to train with sheep. The other days of the week, we worked in the local schoolyard and in our backyard.
Our first trial was at the American Shetland Sheepdog Club trials in Shreveport, Louisiana. We bombed badly and blamed it on the evil sheep. The sheep paid no attention to any of the dogs and learned to go half way around the ring before making a mad dash for the gate. For a novice handler at a parent club show, this was devastating. However, we had other trials coming up, and Misty received her first herding title after her next two trials. Since I was the only Junior Handler, we took steps to encourage some of the other youngsters to get involved by publishing articles about the Junior Handler program in our newsletter, talking to exhibitors who had children and offering trophies for Junior Handlers.
The next year Misty got her second herding title at the age of 11 years, and we decided to permanently retire her since the next stage of herding would have been too strenuous for her. However, our interest has not waned.
Once I start college, my parents intend to sell our house in Dallas and purchase land out in the country in mid-Michigan, hopefully with enough space to enable us to have a few head of sheep. My mother is considering offering obedience and herding classes if there is enough interest in that part of the country. We will have a large barn for training, have kennel facilities, and be able to have several dogs to work with. I would have a dog of my own to train and show, and I will be able to help with the kennel and livestock during the times I am home from college.
Being involved with purebred dogs has given me insights I could not have gotten elsewhere. I’ve learned that it requires patience, repetition and consistency when working with an animal (and sometimes with people). I also learned how much work it takes to put on dog trials, and I’ve come to appreciate the people who volunteer hours of their time to make this happen. I’ve made many friendships and have come to know some wonderful people. Most of all, I hope to become even more involved with purebred dogs in the future.