About the blogger
I'm Anne, and I live in rural Wisconsin on a small hobby sheep farm with my husband and 2 sons. I raise and train Australian Shepherds for working livestock.
My background: I was born in St. Louis, MO and grew up in University City, MO, a dense, urban suburb of St. Louis. I loved dogs and horses from the earliest time I can remember. My parents finally got me a dog when I was 11 after much begging and pleading, and after seeing me "training" the neighborhood kids out on the lawn. Now, I know I never put a choke chain on any them, but that was definitely the pre-clicker training era.
My first dog, Smokey, was a mix from the pound, who went to obedience school and was a problem dog from day one. He loved to run away, and would at the slightest opportunity, and he fought with all male dogs. He eventually learned some obedience and to tolerate other dogs well enough to be in an obedience ring with them, but never gave up his love for running and keep away. I regret that I didn't know about reward methods or how to use them, because I think I could have effectively trained him that way, but we can't undo the past.
My second dog, Sunny, came about because of one of Smokey's obedience trainers who was a breeder of Australian Shepherds. Jennie Jenkins of Wrenwood Aussies became my mentor and taught me about structure, showing, breeding, grooming, whelping puppies and training dogs, as well as riding, training and caring for horses. I cleaned kennels and horse stalls, groomed and showed dogs and socialized puppies in return. My mom and I spent every weekend driving to the country to spend time on "the farm" which was a tiny place of 3 acres and many animals in Villa Ridge, MO. Jennie lived there, with her animals, my horse and my mom's first 3 sheep.
Smokey and Sunny
Yes, I got my horse, which was wonderful and a hard learning experience at the same time. Eventually I got several more horses, each one seemingly of better quality lines and conformation but less well broke, so I did quite of bit of falling off squirrely horses. One time in particular I remember taking a pillow to school because I'd fallen on my butt from a horse that shied. Until finally I got the perfect horse, Ellie, who was an Arab that had been shown quite a bit. She was one year older than I was. She was lovely, responsive and responsible. Sensible and no real bad habits. Ellie became my mom's horse after I left for college, and lived a long life to the age of 36.
This is Moment, the most likely cause of the pillow incident.
This is Biscuit, daughter of Moment, who were a couple of the horses we had after Sham and before Ellie. After Sham, the horses were all Arabs.
I couldn't find any great pictures of Ellie, but here's one showing she was a great horse. This is my father in law, Roger, riding Ellie with only a rope halter. This is at the larger farm my parents bought, and eventually moved to after my brother left for college.
Back to Sunny. Sunny was everything that I had hoped for with Smokey and did not get. She was loyal, loving, and naturally obedient. I did not do a great job of training her, for which I am sorry, but she did earn a CD and was my best friend for many years. Her personality sold me on Australian Shepherds for good. She came from a background of Las Rocosa and Flintridge dogs. She had no great working ability, was undershot and thus spayed, but she helped me put ducks away by pouncing on them until they sought shelter in their house (we were keeping ducks in our city back yard in the hopes of teaching her to herd).
Cassie was given to me by Jennie as a show quality dog, although she lived only on the farm, not in town with me, she was my dog. She was a lovely dog, although a bit shy from being kennel raised. She was bred in her only litter in 1988 to a dog who was basically show-bred, Ted, but Ted could not be stopped from attempting to work horses. He had a strong working instinct, and his son that I kept, Jack, had the same toughness and decent instinct. I still had no idea how to train him but could easily see he had a lot of potential. Cassie came to a sad end when she was 5. I believe she was poisoned by some good for nothing lout who let the dogs out of their kennels one day. Several of the dogs were sick but only Cassie died.
Cassie and Jack are still in the pedigrees of my dogs today; they were Wrenwood's Charade and Birch Hollow's Black Jack CD.
I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, following my then boyfriend, now husband, Dane, north, and leaving my critters with my parents. I took a break from dog activities for 2 years until Dane and I were able to get a house with some friends where we could keep dogs. Then Sunny and Jack came to live with me, soon joined by several other dogs, cats, ferrets, snakes and mice. Between me and the roommates we had quite a menagerie.
Dane had attended Lawrence University in Appleton and then was in graduate school at UW-Madison.
Another turning point came for me in 1997 when my friend Sheri found out about a place to take herding lessons and asked me if I wanted to carpool down with her. It was 100 mile drive each way to Shannon Wolfe's in Genoa City, and very soon I was completely hooked. Soon I was going twice a week and rearranged my work schedule to fit in a weekday lesson. That was when I knew I had to find a way to get my own sheep and farm somehow.
The second turning point came in the fall of 1998 and was when my mom and I made a trip to Colorado to see the Aussie Nationals in Greeley. It was a moment of paradigm shift for me watching dogs running the Post advanced course during the stockdog finals and realizing I wanted a dog that could do THAT. I realized then that the difference between the working bred Aussie and the rest of the Aussie world was vast. I bred my Becky dog to one of the best dogs I had seen, Hangin Tree Dude, in 2000 and started to appreciate a different type of dog.
Training Cinder, my pup from that cross, was a whole nother level of both challenge and success. She was soo keen, soo instinctive, soo fast, and she required me to step up my training skills to keep up with her.
She went further and faster than I had thought possible, and before long we were a successful trialing team. From getting several Most Promising Started awards, to winning second in open ducks at the Bakersfield Nationals (first place was Sherry Baker and Billet), to earning her WTCH at the age of 4 with the High Cattle score (when I knew practically nothing about cattle) to qualifying for and competing in ducks and sheep at the Stockdog Finals in 2005 in Georgia.
Cinder, who is still my heart dog, and chore dog, taught me the value of partnership, of having a good dog and being the trainer that that dog needs. I do realize that she is not the best dog ever bred or born, but she is the best dog FOR ME, which is more important, and she is a mighty good dog by any standard. This is Cinder:
The pups I will follow and train in my blog are descendants of Cinder, Dude, Becky and all the dogs myself and other people have used to further the working Australian Shepherd.