Why the WTCH

You may wonder why I’m so intent on finishing Gel’s WTCH (ASCA Working Trial Champion) title when he isn’t an Australian Shepherd.

About five years ago now, I researched what breed of dog I wanted to work with. While I considered Border Collies, I thought they’d be too much dog for me and settled with the Australian Shepherd. I knew I didn’t want a foo-foo show-bred Aussie and had been studying pedigrees and knew what lines I would be interested in.

I came across an advertisement for a six month old Aussie puppy who had a very nice pedigree so I contacted the breeder. She was from a mid-western state so we agreed to meet in Kentucky which was halfway for both of us. At that time, I had a five year old Aussie bitch from show lines that I had previously arranged a pet home for because it was quite apparent after several months of working her that she was not going to cut it as an agility or obedience dog and surely wasn’t going to be a herding dog. The home I had lined up for her wasn’t quite ready to take her at the time I was going to go to Kentucky to get the puppy so she went on the trip with me. We’ll call her “Red” to avoid naming real names.

Prior to my committing to the puppy, the breeder had taken him to sheep and wrote back enthusiastically that this puppy was “WTCH Material” which he may very well have been. My plans for this puppy were to show him towards his ASCA versatility championship which would have meant I would compete in agility, obedience and herding with him.

The “versatility” awards and showing are extremely contraversal in the working Border Collie World where they believe Border Collies should only be used for stock work. Border Collies are extremely versatile and I am of the opinion if you want to compete in agility, obedience, stock work, etc. then all the more power to you. I can understand where the opinions of the working Border Collie World are coming from, showing BCs to versatility awards may very well dilute the innate ability of the BC to work stock, but that would only happen in the wrong hands. There are people who compete in herding trials (not so much USBCHA-type herding events, AKC herding events are the primary culprit) who have no clue what real stock work is about. I am not one of those people. I strive for the highest level of stock work in my dogs.

Anyway, back to the story.

You know how you think back on things and you see the warning bells that went off that you failed to listen to at the time? Well, the warning bells went off and I ignored them. We met at a restaurant that had outside seating (picnic tables) and were having a discussion about dogs, etc. when I got up from the table and went to my car to get something. When I returned to the table, the breeder’s spayed bitch that she brought along came out from under the table and bit me on the leg! The breeder blamed me saying it was my fault for returning to the table too quickly! I probably should have got back into my car and went back home, but I didn’t, I took the puppy and headed home.

When I got into Tennessee, the major highway that I was traveling on had been shut down due to a severe accident and it was unknown when it would reopen. I elected to get a hotel room and would resume my trip home in the morning. Prior to checking in to the hotel room, I stopped at a grocery store to get some meat for the dogs’ supper. Red, being a typical bitch, was not happy sharing the back seat of the car (this was during my “pre-crate” days and the dogs were riding loose) with a puppy who had been cooped up in a car for most of the day.

I took the dogs for a long walk and then brought them into the hotel and fed them the meat that I had purchased for them. I then called the breeder to let her know that we were in a hotel and would not be arriving home that evening as planned.

Psycho Breeder then emerged. I told her the puppy had been fidgety in the car to which she replied “that’s a stressed puppy.” No, that’s a puppy who’s been cooped up in a car all day. I then told her that the “stressed” puppy had eaten his ground turkey dinner with gusto and was happily chewing on a beef bone.

Prior to my agreeing to purchase this puppy, I told the breeder that I fed a raw meat diet and vaccinated minimally. She agreed with all of this and thought it was a good idea, that if she didn’t have so many dogs, she’d feed raw too. She also thought dogs were over-vaccinated and that it was causing them health issues. However, now that I had the puppy in my possession, feeding him raw was “ruining all the time and effort she had put into him” (her exact words). She was screaming at me on the phone, I was tired and was trying to deal with an energetic puppy and a cranky female dog in a hotel room without crates so I hung up on her.

Then the onslaught began. I came home to find several threatening e-mail and voice mail messages from the breeder. I ignored them. As per the contract, I brought the puppy to the vet’s the next day for a check-up. He checked out fine, except he was growling at people in the waiting room. That was troubling.

The breeder continued to send threatening e-mail saying I was endangering the life of the puppy and that she was going to sue me. She also contacted the breeder of “Red” and told her the dog looked awful and that I was abusing her! I took digital photos of the dog and e-mailed them to her breeder. She looked better than she did when I got her! Unfortunately breeders seem to believe each other over outsiders and she started to carry on about this “heart dog” that she placed in my care that I was now abusing. This “heart dog” had previously been stuck in a crate and was one of about 16 other dogs that the woman kept. It was with this dog that I discovered that not all “holistic” breeders are truly holistic. While the dog may have been fed raw, it was not a properly balanced raw diet as it consisted primarily of chicken necks and backs, some chicken organ meat and alfalfa pellets to “keep them regular.” When I first got the dog she did not look like a raw fed dog at all. Her coat was dry and brittle, she was overweight and smelled awful.

I faxed the note from the vet saying I had taken the puppy in for a health check and he was fine. The breeder accused me of sending her a forged note and called the vet to see if I had indeed taken the puppy in. That was verified, but all I did was take the puppy in for a health check. I did not have any vaccinations or other medicines administered. The breeder said that she told me during our meeting that the puppy was due for his rabies shot (he was), a combo-canine vaccine booster and heartworm medicine. Well, she knew darned well that I wasn’t going to give the puppy any more vaccinations and while he was due for rabies, I wasn’t going to vaccinate a puppy who was still adjusting to a new environment. I would have done the rabies at a later date. Technically, the puppy was due for a rabies shot while in the breeder’s possession so by law, she should have done it. We never discussed heartworm medicine and given that it was still quite cold outside, I wasn’t going to start heartworm medicine.

The threats to sue me continued. Her contract was governed by the laws of the state she lived in so if she filed suit against me, which would have been very easy to do, I would have had to go to her state to defend myself. On Friday I brought the puppy back to the vet’s, had a rabies and canine-combo vaccine administered, started him on heartworm medicine, dewormed and de-fleaed him (just in case) (all of which cost me over $100) and called the breeder and told her I was shipping him back.

When she got him back, she said he had fleas, worms and explosive diarrhea (the diarrhea was no surprise given all the drugs he was given in one day). If he had worms, he had them when I got him given I only had him in my possession for four days. I did not recei
ve his purchase price of $600 back. Between the vet bills, the trip down to get him and his purchase price, I was out over $800.

After things died down, I contacted the breeder of the puppy’s mother. The mother was placed with the breeder on a spay contact, which obviously wasn’t done given she got bred (accidentally) and delivered a litter of puppies. She was to be spayed because she carried a genetic eye defect. In addition, I found out that there were only two puppies in the litter and one had to be euthanized due to temperament issues.

To this day I don’t know what happened to that puppy after she got him back.

After that experience, I wasn’t going to come any where near another Aussie breeder.

Several months down the road, I saw an advertisement for Gel who was being sold because he didn’t have enough herding instinct for the woman who owned him at the time. Gel was “pick” puppy from the litter, but he wasn’t panning out so at six and a half months old, she was selling him as an agility prospect. I drove to Virginia to look at him and bought him. All the way to Virginia I was hyperventilating for fear of dealing with another psycho breeder, but the woman was (and has been) nothing but kind and helpful to me. I am so glad she decided to sell Gel because he’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

So, the drive towards the WTCH with Gel, who is not an Aussie, is because of what happened with that Aussie puppy. Who knows if that puppy was really WTCH material or not. Gel certainly is. At the ASCA trials a lot of the Aussie people tease me by saying Gel has a better “Aussie” head than a lot of the dogs you see at the trials, am I sure he’s not part Aussie? Well, maybe he is. Gel was the result of an accidental breeding. The woman who had Gel’s mother at the time she was bred was running a goose dog business. She may very well have had an intact Aussie running around who caught Gel’s mother. Then again, even though he has an Aussie head, he works like a Border Collie.

I am very much enjoying the ASCA trials. The people have been very nice and supportive. They don’t seem to mind that this lady with her “dog with a tail” (a Border Collie) was coming to their trials and kicking their Aussie’s tailless butts. They are there to have a good time with their dogs. The working Border Collie World looks down on titling events, but the atmosphere is much more relaxed at these trials because livelihoods and money is not at stake like they are at USBCHA trials where many of the handlers do this for a living.

Trialing in arena trials has done a lot to improve my timing and handling skills and it has made Gel more comfortable working close. It is all a very good thing.

An Aussie may be in the future for me one day. Time will tell.