The Best Part of Life
Animals have always been an integral part of my life. I live on a farm with numerous animals, but my dogs have always been my favorite. They have influenced my life greatly, and have helped to shape me as the person I am today. I believe that owning and taking care of a dog as a child teaches you responsibility and commitment. My dogs have always been my top priority. With my dogs I have been involved in 4-H, showing at American Kennel Club dog shows in junior handling and the conformation ring, and therapy animal work. Although I have now grown too old for 4-H and junior handling, I still continue to compete in the conformation ring and train my dogs for performance events. I will also be breeding my first litter this spring. These activities have given me many fond memories, and I know that dogs will always be a part of my life.
When I turned nine I joined 4-H. My parents had recently bought me my own dog, a Shetland Sheepdog named Nicky. There had always been pet dogs in my life, but Nicky was the first dog I could call my own. Through 4-H I was able to learn all the basics about dogs. I went to obedience and fitting and showing classes every Monday night in order to learn as much as I could about training dogs. I also studied and learned about dog diseases, health, dog parts including the skeletal system and internal organs, 4-H and its history, the American Kennel Club, and Shelties. All of my hard work paid off. I did very well with Nicky both at the county and state fairs. I will never forget the day when we won Reserve Grand Champion Junior Fitting and Showing at the Washington State Fair. Nicky was retired from 4-H at nine years of age, but I continued to compete in 4-H with my Border Collie, Blaze.
With Blaze, I continued to succeed in 4-H. My last year of 4-H brought much success. At the Clark County Fair, I was awarded Overall Grand Champion Fitting and Showing with Blaze. This win was extremely exciting for me because it was my last year and such a great reward for all the work I have put into 4-H. For the last four years of my participation in 4-H, I was a junior leader for my club. This experience enabled me to share all of the knowledge I had learned with others. I loved being able to help other 4-H’ers and then watch them succeed and win at fun matches, county fair and state fair. Last summer I was able to help out again as a judge for one of the local fun matches. I had a lot of fun, and hope to be offered more chances to judge this coming summer. 4-H has certainly been a magnificent experience for me.
At the age often I decided to show in junior handling at American Kennel Club dog shows. At the time I was only able to go to a few of the dog shows that were close to home. Considering the number of shows I attended, I received my three first places in the novice junior class quickly. I was only able to compete as an open junior at a few shows before my dad received a job transfer and my family and I moved to Australia. Fortunately my parents let me take Nicky. In Australia I learned a lot about handling dogs. To compete in junior handling down there, you do not have to pre-enter or own the dog you plan on showing. These rules meant that I was able to show many different breeds of dogs including everything from Bearded Collies to Whippets. My skills vastly improved as a dog handler. Before we moved back to the United States, I persuaded my parents to buy me a second dog. I was able to bring home Blaze, a promising young Border Collie.
Back in the United States, Blaze and I grew into a great team. One
of my favorite Best Junior Handler wins with Blaze in 2001 was under
a judge who I think very highly of, Mr. Ric Chashoudian. The open
senior class was a typical size of thirty, but it was our day to shine.
Since my mom raises Papillons, I also frequently showed a Papillon
named Willow in juniors. She was a fun dog to show because we always
stood out from all the other handlers showing large breeds.
My first experience of showing in the conformation ring was when I was living in Australia. Almost all dogs down there are owner-handled. This gave me a chance to help breeders show their dogs. I regularly helped a breeder of Pembroke Welsh Corgis and a breeder of Cardigan Welsh Corgis, who were both close friends with my family. At that time my mom and older sister started raising Cardigans, and I was able to help show our own dogs in breed as well. I was getting experience in the ring by showing so many dogs, but never got the satisfaction of being able to completely train, groom and show my own dog. I got my chance to do this when my parents bought me my Border Collie Blaze. I worked hard at training Blaze for the show ring and my hard work was noticeable. I started entering the conformation ring with Blaze as soon as he was old enough. In Australia we won several Best Puppy in Herding group awards and placings in all breed puppy sweepstakes classes. Blaze was sixth months old when my family and all of our dogs moved back to the United States. I continued to train, groom, and show Blaze all on my own. Blaze finished his American Championship almost undefeated. As a special Blaze has continued his success. We continually compete against the top Border Collies in the nation as well as the top professional handlers in the nation, and have won over these teams many times. When we don’t win I know that we have given the winners their run for the money because Blaze is always groomed, conditioned and shown just as well as every other dog in the ring.
In 2000 Blaze received his first group placing. This was also the first group placing I had shown a dog to, so the experience was extremely exciting. Blaze and I have had many exciting wins all over the Northwest as well as at the four Border Collie Society of America national specialty shows and the Greater Las Angeles Border Collie Club specialty show that we have attended. My experiences in the breed ring have expanded beyond showing Blaze. I continually show and train my Mom and sister’s Cardigan Welsh Corgis, my mom’s Papillons as well as other dogs owned by friends. I have also acquired another Border Collie of my own, named Morgan, and showed her to her American Championship in 2003. In the following year, 2004, I showed Morgan as a special and in a limited number of shows she received two Herding Group II’s, Two Group III’s and one Group IV. My talents as a groomer, trainer and handler have grown tremendously over the years. I have used this knowledge not only with my own dogs and my family’s dogs, but also while professionally handling dogs for other people. Last year I handled three Border Collies for a local breeder. One has already become a Champion, while the other two are well on their way.
In the Autumn of 2002, I decided that therapy dog work was something I would enjoy. I certified my Sheltie, Nicky, as a therapy dog and we have been visiting local nursing homes together since then. Nicky is a perfect therapy dog because he loves attention and is extremely tolerant. During our visits we mostly walk from room to room visiting patients. About ten minutes is spent with each patient/resident in which they are able to pet Nicky and talk to me about their past pets, family and how they are doing. Elderly people who are no longer able to live on their own can get very lonely and in many cases my visit with them is a highlight of their week. By simply petting and talking to Nicky these people feel less lonely and stressed. Knowing that I am helping create a positive part in these people’s lives is very gratifying for me.
In September 2003 I started school at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). For my first year at PLU, this meant leaving my dogs at home and moving two and one half-hours away. Although I enjoyed attending college and living on campus I missed my dogs tremendously. This current school year I am fortunate enough to be able to live off campus in a house where I am able to keep one dog. Both Morgan and Blaze have been able to take turns and live with me at PLU. I love being able to constantly be with one of my dogs. Since I am only two and one half-hours away from home I am able to drive home on weekends every once in a while to visit all of my dogs and family. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to attend many of the local dog shows. Since I am away from home I have had to put much of the training I am currently doing and therapy animal work on hold. When I go home for vacations, however, I spend as much time as I can training my dogs for performance events and visiting nursing homes.
Purebred dogs have led me to become involved in many activities. My involvement has included 4-H, showing in the junior handling and conformation ring, and therapy animal work. I know that my future will always include owning a dog. Currently I am planning my first Border Collie litter of puppies. Right now I am researching different stud dogs and finding the perfect match for my Border Collie, Morgan. Sometime this spring I am planning on breeding her. I am excited about this new venture because I feel that I am ready to take on the responsibility and joys of becoming a breeder. Being able to watch litters of puppies grow into beloved pets and show dogs is something I adore. I am also currently training Morgan and a Cardigan Welsh Corgi for obedience and agility. I am hoping that both of them will be ready to compete sometime next year. There are numerous conformation shows during the summer that I already have scheduled to attend. Even if I don’t show one of my own dogs or handle another dog in the ring I will still go to watch. Dogs will still be a part of my life in my distant future. I have a passion for competing in the conformation ring, so I know that I will continue doing so for as long as possible. Training and competing in obedience and agility are events that I also enjoy and hope to continue. As for 4-H, I see myself in the future becoming a 4-H leader and possibly a 4-H judge. By doing so I would be able to continue to teach kids about dogs. Most importantly though, I want my dogs to be companions. Dogs offer humans unconditional affection, and I find that there is nothing more satisfying than owning a dog.