By: Emily Carter
The way I see it, I am only 13 and I already have a full time job.
I’m a partner in the firm “Emily and Olive,” and we both love working with each other. Before
I was born, my parents showed Shih Tzus in the obedience ring and
were instructors at the Tulsa Dog Training Club. But when I was born,
the dog show circuit faded into their background. So, for the first
nine years of my life, my main experience with dogs was nursing those
two spoiled, elderly veteran dogs. They were never considered “pets,” but were members of our family. Even though the
two were of a toy breed, they did well in the obedience ring and were
the reason my parents became so involved in the sport.
At first, I didn’t show dogs, but horses. I began riding hunter
jumper horses when I was 6 and my trainer had an Australian Shepherd,
Greta, whom my family fell in love with. In the horse world, Aussies
are common working companions and we were impressed with the breed
qualities Greta had. When one of our Shih Tzus died of heart failure
in 2001, my parents turned to experts and began contacting breeders
of Australian Shepherds. After interviewing and visiting a few, Pam
McCaslin of Copper Oaks Australian Shepherds in Newalla, OK convinced
my parents she had just the right dog for them. I remember when my
mom announced: “Ms. McCaslin said she has a really good dog
for us. He is the first one in his litter to retrieve a toy from the
toy box,” she said. That won us over and we visited Copper Oaks
the very next weekend and returned home with Winston.
By the time Winston was six months old, I had helped train him to
retrieve his beloved tennis balls and I had also taught him to catch
a Frisbee by rolling his food dish. He just started going after it,
first across the floor, then in the air. He has a natural urge to
catch things in mid-air, which looks very pretty and graceful. He’s
also very good at catching bubbles and food in mid-air. But it was
my dad who took him to formal training at the Tulsa Dog Training Club.
When the second and last Shih Tzu died, we again called Pam McCaslin
and Copper Oaks. But Pam didn’t have any puppies, so we had
to wait and cross our fingers. We really wanted a black tri girl,
but all we could do was hope. Pam knew how anxious and excited I was
to get a dog. Soon, the exciting news came: the litter was born and
there was a black tri girl. We had to wait eight very long weeks,
but the minute I saw her I fell in love. She was this little black
oval-shape ball of shiny fur. She almost looked like a black olive!
While that became her “call” name, her registered name
is Copper Oaks Ebony Pearl.
My mom really wanted a dog to train, after all Dad was training Winston.
But, she lost out. Olive chose me instead. My dad’s instructor
at TDTC was Jill Perry, who is also president of the club and the
junior handling instructor. And when Olive was only 9 months old,
we began our first obedience junior handling class.
One of the most important things for a junior handler to do is to
find mentors. My junior handling instructor from TDTC, Jill Perry,
is one of my mentors. She is incredibly thorough and patient and is
always ready to offer tips and assistance in showing. Our breeder,
Pam, is another mentor. She has worked with me on everything from
grooming before shows to understanding bloodlines and recessive/dominant
Even though I had shown horses, I was very nervous. I knew from working
with animals that they have a 6th sense. They know when you are nervous
or angry. They know when you feel unsure or sad. If I’m disappointed
or nervous, Olive can sense it and gets anxious herself.
At the next show two weeks later, Olive was distracted and we didn’t
earn our third leg in three shows. We had been playing and not practicing.
We played a lot of “hide and seek” together instead of
obedience practice. When I left her on the recall exercise, she thought
I was going to play the game and followed me. Not only did I not get
my last leg, but I also lost my contest to Dad and Winston, who did
get his CD that weekend. After that show, Pam talked to me about not
giving up. She encouraged me to begin showing Olive in Australian
Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) shows to get in more practice. And,
since Olive and I work so well together, she also encouraged me to
begin showing in the conformation ring.
With help from Pam, I learned about conformation. So, at the Indian
Territories Australian Shepherd show in July 2004, Olive and I showed
in obedience and conformation and not only earned our ASCA CD, but
also began acquiring awards in conformation. This time, we won the
CD race against Dad and Winston—as Winston broke his final down
stay on his third leg.
With practice and experience from the ASCA shows, Olive and I finally
earned our third AKC leg (and CD) during the TDTC fall trials last
October. (And of course, Olive officially became Copper Oaks Ebony
Pearl CD). We also won third in Novice A the first trial and second
in Novice A at the second trial as well as HS Australian Shepherd
in both trials.
In December, we received the ITASC’s High Scoring Junior Handler
for Obedience and Olive win High Scoring Altered Bitch for the year.
Olive and I are both excited about what lies ahead in our partnership.
We were going to start agility, but I’ve decided instead to
work on a CDX and begin working in the TDTC’s new Rally class.
My family has added two more Aussies, Ruby and Kodie. Now, my 9-year-old
brother, Chase, is working with Ruby in the TDTC junior handling program
and Dad and I are arguing over who gets to train our newest dog, Kodie.