Show goes to the dogs

Suddenly, Emma stopped in her tracks and looked over her left shoulder. Megan’s smile fell as she watched Emma’s reaction. The room fell silent, and all eyes were fixed on the two participants.

Then, just as quickly as she stopped, Emma’s head turned back toward Megan and she casually sauntered down the aisle to sit in front of Megan. People around the ring broke into applause.

Emma, a 3-year-old Australian Shepherd dog, or better known as an aussie, had just completed her Novice Obedience trial. Her owner and trainer, 17-year-old Megan Schroer, Wichita, grinned from ear to ear as she praised her canine companion and rubbed its ears.

Dog training and obedience/confirmation shows have been a part of the 4-H program in Marion County, but is now moving in to include a larger audience. Everybody. Even the “mixed” breeds.

Last weekend, Hillsboro hosted a weekend of dog contests sponsored by the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA).

“We didn’t want to make it too public,” said organizer Karole Lindgren. “We weren’t sure how much room there would be for the dogs, equipment and an audience.”

Thirty dogs can take up a lot of room. Crates, in all sizes and colors, grooming tables, suitcases with brushes and combs, mats spread out in a pre-fashioned design for the contests, all filled three-fourths of the 4-H building on the county fair grounds.

Obedience competition was scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was open to all registered dogs, including mixed breeds.

In the past, the American Kennel Club was the primary degreeing program for dogs. But in recent years, other organizations have come forward with similar, somewhat more relaxed programs, while still using the AKC competition standards.

Lindgren explained that ASCA, the oldest Australian Shepherd Club, accepts registration from the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registration AMBOR, to name a few.

“It makes it nice to be able to offer competition to mixed breed dogs,” Lindgren said. “There are a lot of really good ones out there.”

AMBOR, which was organized in 1983, will allow any dog which is not a purebred to register for obedience competition by sending a picture, forms and a fee.

There were no mixed breed dogs participating in this weekend’s events, but Lindgren hopes they will come in time.

Dogs were taken through exercises by an ASCA judge, Kay Thayer of Salina. They were commanded to sit, walk on leash at various speeds, in different directions, including a figure-eight exercise, and to remain in a sitting position while the owner walked across the room.

As the dogs passed the initial tests and earned points, they would move up into different classes, such as Novice A and B, and earn degrees such as CD for Companion Dog, and CD-X for doing harder tasks, such as off-lead work, and scent discrimination.

Confirmation judging was held during the afternoons, and was only open to aussies.

“We are building and growing,” Lindgren said. “We hope to have more shows in the future in this area.”

Lindgren, and her daughter, Kiana, have been working with dogs since the 1970s. They hope to bring dog training, especially for herding dogs, into the county.

“Sometimes, the herding dogs, like aussies, will do a better job of working for you than people you hire,” said Lindgren.

One dog participating in the affair was 7-year-old T.C., a golden retriever from McPherson who lives with Joleen Pearman.

T.C. has participated in AKC, UKC and ASCA events in the past.      

Pearman said he had visited Hillsboro about six and a half years ago when he was in the county fair parade representing the Service Dog Training Center in Washington, Kansas.

The center is where Fisher, the golden retriever service dog at Hillsboro Medical Center Long Term Care Unit, graduated about the same time.

T.C. was diagnosed with a mild hip problem, and was unable to go into service, so he was returned to Pearman, who had been his initial “foster” family.

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