Shepherds' best friends compete at National Sheepdog Finals


For the Capital Press

KLAMATH BASIN -- Alasdair MacRae from Scotland was 18 when he went to work as a shepherd. On the first day, he took an interest in the head shepherd's border collie because it could do three times the work of MacRae 's dog.

That interest has paid off.

On Sunday, Sept. 27, MacRae, who now lives in Vichy, Mo., and his dog, Nap, won his 10th United States Border Collie Handlers Association national championship. He also won reserve champion with his dog, Star, a two-time national champion.

"I didn't think I'd ever make it; it was like reaching for the stars. I didn't know if I could even become a trainer," said MacRae, who has won every major title in the U.S. and Great Britain. "It's been quite a journey."

Scott Glen, with dog Don, won the nursery champion, and Anet Haithcox, with Dod, won reserve champion. The winners received cash awards.

Some 3,000 people attended the 30th annual United States Border Collie Handlers Association's National Sheepdog Finals, the fourth in the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Basin Stock Dog Association, USBCHA and the American Border Collie Association sponsored the event.

A total of 151 dogs with their handlers competed in the preliminary open finals for dogs 3 years old and older, and 83 competed in the nursery finals for dogs less than 3 years old. Handlers came from all parts of the United States and Canada, including several national award winners.

To qualify for the open, a dog accumulates points at trials sanctioned by the association. To earn points, the dog must place in the top 20 percent of dogs in a particular trial. There are more than 650 dogs with qualifying points in North America, and only 150 of those may run in the finals. Several local dog handlers and dogs were in the Klamath competition, including organizers from Tulelake, Calif., Geri Byrne and Ellen Skillings.

At the finals, dog owners often meet with top breeders and trainers for future purchases, workshops and related services.

Contestant Alison Holmes said the prices of border collies range from $1,500 to $5,000.

"It was the most smoothly run one we've ever had; nothing went wrong," said USBCHA President Herbert Holmes, who competed in the preliminary finals. "It went grandly."

He complimented Geri Byrne and the local sheepdog handlers group for organizing the event, and Charles and Lynn Bury for hosting the finals at the Runaway Ranch. Runaway Ranch farmer Pat Patterson, 100 volunteers and many supporters and donors made the event happen.

More online

More information on 2009 National Sheepdog Final winners:

Border Collie Training Center:

2009 USBCHA National Champion website of Alasdair MacRae for custom handling, training, and breeding,

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