The Decade - 1990s
Signs of the Times...1990s Happenings in ASCA
As we went into the 90’s there were some subtle changes occurring in the Australian Shepherd stock dog world. As an organized event, ASCA stock dog trials began in the mid-seventies.
At that time trials were few and far between and mostly in the western part of the United States. The program began without today’s advancement through the three divisions and there were only two classes where ASCA titles could be earned: Promising Young Dog (PYD) and Open (CWD or Certified Working Dog). In the eighties the program was revised so dogs could advance through Started, Open and Advanced, earning titles as they progressed.
These revisions and the surge of interest in trialing caused some things to happen. Many of the working people in the seventies didn’t even want ducks to be part of the program. It was pressure from those who didn’t have access to stock that caused them to be added to a program originally written for cattle and sheep.
With few trials in the seventies, each trial was very important and a special event worth traveling long distances to. No one stayed home because there would be another one in a few weeks - there often was not another for six months.
As time went on and there were more and more trials held in a given area, the out of state attendance fell off in many areas. The pool of dogs competing in an area was far more local than it had been before. If the weather was bad or the judges didn’t appeal to the competitor, they could stay home because another trial was on the horizon.
To balance this smaller, more regional attendance, the system of advancement through the program was incentive to trial the same dog for a longer period than previously had been advantageous.
Somewhere along the line, trialers had dubbed the dog with three Advanced titles a “Triple ATD”, ASCA established the title of Working Trial Champion. This was also incentive for trialers to compete in all three classes where in the early days many only trialed on one or two kinds of stock. A cattle dog trialed on cattle. A sheep dog trialed on sheep. Another subtle change.
A big move made by ASCA at the end of the eighties was the addition of a Stock Dog Finals to the National Specialty. Dogs would qualify throughout the year for the event and come together by invitation to compete. This would give more incentive to keep finished dogs competing plus showcase the best at the Nationals. All these things were happening in a program where more and more trialers were learning to be better trainers and handlers.
In the beginning of ASCA trials, most trialers just wanted to show everyone how good their dog worked. Now there was far more emphasis on showmanship and training. It was a little harder for the rancher to come out with “Old Blue” and look like he knew what he was doing. The Advanced division, which had been small, now was often the largest division at a trial.
Were the dogs themselves better or were they better trained and handled? Was there a little less emphasis on natural working style and more on training and handling? With expert handling, could a mediocre or weak dog succeed? Did the fact a WTCH was earned 2/3 on sheep and ducks effect the breed as a cattle dog? Was there more of a demand for dog broke easy stock and trials where high scores could be earned? These were some events, questions, and changes leading into the nineties.
Slash V Dogs of the 1990s
WTCH Slash V Bittersweet
When Possum was born in 1988 we had no idea she would be a “dog of a lifetime”. Paper Doll had two red merle females; one for us and one for our friend, Jo Kimes. The obvious “pick” was the bigger, darker colored, better conformation of the two. The smaller pup was cute but had little personality and we called her “the little dumb one”.
After three minutes of watching “the little dumb one” work ducks at eight weeks like she was ready for a trial, we decided Jo could have the “pick” puppy.
Slash V Executive Decision OTDs STDcd
Although Jo’s Decca (Slash V Executive Decision OTDs STDcd) was more beautiful and turned out to be a very nice working dog, Possum proved to have talent beyond anything we had worked before. Jo didn’t want Decca away from home long enough to get all her titles, but what a good life she had helping George with chores and show stock. She also did her part to make Shelby, Jo's granddaughter, very happy as you can see below. Flying sidegait, peewee style! Decca was 14 years of age when this photo was taken.
Until Possum mellowed with age at around 10 she had a distaste for all humans except the two of us, but what a wonderful partner she was! Her strong heading instinct created some problems early in training but Steve got her to heel she quickly developed into a nice heeler.
Shelby & Decca
Possum loved to bite cattle and sometimes just had to have one more nip than needed. This leveled out as she matured. Even as an exuberant youngster she always seemed to be aware of the “big picture” and the entire group. She was such a great cattle dog that how she worked sheep and ducks really wasn’t important to us. Yet we found her surprisingly easy to work on both. Her close working style is not the most effective on sheep. However we figured she must not have liked the way they tasted so was not difficult to work on them.
As aggressive as she was on cattle along with her distaste for humans, Possum had absolutely no “predator instinct”. She lived most of her life with a declawed house cat and they never looked at each other. She would lie by the front door completely ignoring the dozen raccoons who were eating out of a pan a few feet away. We once had an “attack duck” and watched out the window once while Possum would trot in a circle chasing the duck and then the duck would chase her in a circle!
Possum at 15 years of age...
Possum’s trial career began with the 1989 National Specialty in Red Bluff, California. I wanted to take her to try to win “Most Promising Started Dog” but Steve was the only one who had worked her. Two weeks before the Nationals she still hadn‘t seen a duck.
We borrowed two ducks for three days and worked them in the arena. I took her to a local trial the next day and got her first started scores on all three kinds of stock, winning the ducks! She did win Most Promising Started Dog at the 1989 Nationals - the second time I ever worked her! At the Nationals in Ohio Steve had qualified her for the Finals and he was flying from Texas to Ohio to work her in them. I worked her two days prior and a steer broke a bone in her foot. Sadly, Steve flew to Ohio only to watch others in the Finals.
This little dog was strength, courage, finesse, style and savvy all wrapped up in a 32 pound package. We lost this special little dog just three and a half months before her 15th birthday on 10/31/02.
Zia's Buckeye Charmer STDcs
In 1989, just a year after Possum‘s birth, Steve‘s Kate whelped her last litter just nine days after scoring 109 in Advanced Cattle. A daughter was colored just like my old Tim Tim being a blue merle that was nearly all black with a mask on her face. Most of our dogs are dark without copper trim but Kate also inherited Buckeye Bobby‘s copper. This puppy, Young Kate, was destined to be a dog of the nineties for us.
Kate was a natural low heeler from day one but wasn’t real strong on the head. At the Belton, Texas trial she won started sheep and cattle both days but Steve got busy and didn’t have time for more than one dog after that.
I tried working her but Kate and I had a conflict from the beginning. The two of us had a rocky time of it for the nine years of her life, but no matter how mad I got at her I always loved and respected her too for her working ability and toughness. Kate was dedicated to suicide one way or another and had the nine lives of a cat, but sadly she finally succeeded in her goal. Kate had some really wonderful puppies, including the Hardin’s Slash V Texas Buckeye Tess STDcs sired by Possum’s brother and, from her last litter by Lookaway Luke, our “Seeney” Slash V Third Charm, Dicky Renn’s WTCH Slash V Luke Cowwalker and Slash V Jim Dandy STDc.
More on Possum!
But I am getting ahead of the rest of Possum’s story. It was in 1990, when he was in Texas judging, that Bill Van Hecke told us about a special dog in Tennessee. Steve phoned Joey Judd, talked for over an hour, and two weeks later we drove 16 hours to Tenneseee to see WTCH Judd’s Chickasaw Dan. Dan was a Hardship Registered dog and some criticized his “lack of pedigree”. He did not “lack a pedigree”, the immediate ancestors simply were not promoted or known. We figured to produce a dog of this quality they probably were similar to those who created this breed; simply good dogs bred by people needing good dogs. We did know all of his great grandparents on his mother’s side too.
In January of 1991 we hesitantly shipped our wonderful little unfriendly bitch to the Judds. When Angela called and said Possum was sitting on Joey’s lap watching TV, we were amazed! Possum would make three trips to Tennessee in her lifetime and always seemed to recognize her “other friends” when she got there!
Easy Goer’s significant contribution to our dogs was his cross to our Rowdy daughter, “Pik” Double R Pik O My Dreams.
Although we did not keep any offspring from this cross, Slash V Ricki Ticki ATDc has produced some wonderful working dogs for the Burlesons (Powerpoint) to carry on their line. She and her brother, Slash V Lil Rowd quietly did their job for Diane on the dairy for their entire lives.
In 2002, we “discovered” a wonderful Easy Goer son who, after spending eight years of his life as a pet, blew us away with his working ability. And his mother is our own Young Kate! We bred to Rufus and brought this bloodline back in again.
Slash V Key to Success RD STDc
There was a point in the nineties when we were unable to do much with the dogs and co-owned Key with Rick Hardin, then in Mississippi. Key got plenty of pasture work and there she excelled. She is a strong head dog and expert on gathering a pasture and working on her own. When we moved to Louisiana in 1995 we took Key back with us.
Key was bred to WTCH Hangin’ Tree Dude PATDcs RD RTDcs in 1996. Dude is a double bred grandson of Slash V Cherry Cola so goes back to Toby and Paper Doll twice. Key had a great summer vacation in North Dakota working cattle and hunting in their prairie dog town that Joni described as “bigger than most people’s ranches” (hunting was Key’s second favorite sport next to working stock). This produced Slash V Ram Tough OTDcsd and our Slash V Cajun Key.
Key was bred for her last litter to Dude’s son, WTCH Diamond S Sam PATDs to produce our Skip and Latigo. After watching Sam on cattle we had to have a litter by this powerful dog and bred both Key and Possum to him for their last litters. Sam's pedigree goes back to Cherry Cola three times, and this cross was yet another infusion of new blood with foundations of our kennel included as a bonus.
Key was a funny little dog who has always acted old and sleepy. When there was stock to be worked or something to hunt she used all the energy she stored up resting. She today figures strongly in our pedigrees. Key died at the age of 14, but she was at all times still ready to work - or hunt armadillos!
WTCH Diamond S Sam PATDs
Key at 14...a bit grey, but still beautiful
Two important dogs were born in 1994. With Dan no longer alive we sent Possum back to Tennessee to Dan’s son, WTCH Lookaway Luke, who is now a Hall of Fame sire. (We have mentioned before that we like to breed to dogs who trace back to our old dogs somewhere in their pedigree. Luke’s mother traces back to both Tim Tim and Buckeye Bobby).
That litter produced the appropriately named Iron Will.
Slash V Iron Will ATDc
Will was silent, had eye but it was different than any dog we have had - he would walk right up to anything and turn it around. If you walked up to his kennel you would see the “Will look” and
know why stock often turn from him without being bitten. Hence Steve’s only photography attempt - the bull photo (above).
When we started Will we didn’t have cattle, and quickly found he had what I call a “search and destroy” style on sheep. However, in a small pen the sheep survived and he was controllable.
He began his trial career on cattle with just that training. He earned his ATD with sporadic trialing as we had moved to Louisiana and were unable to get to many trials. With maturity but no exposure to sheep, he worked them quite nicely.
Slash V Andrews Red Chickaspike OTDc
Thus Spike is a ¾ brother to Diane Burleson’s Ricki and Lil Rowd. We are particularly proud of Ricki, Lil Rowd and Spike because although they have only had limited trialing, all work with their owner on a farm every day. We have never regretted that we sold Spike, also whelped in 1994, to Norm Andrews in Nebraska because he has become a farmer’s special dog. Visit the article written by Norm that appeared in the Aussie Times, "Dog Tales from a Cattleman," to hear and see more of Spike.
Their job is something more important than all the trials in the world and the reason this breed exists. Their offspring have excelled in the real farm and ranch world and in trials as well.
The End of the Century
At the end of the decade of the 90’s we were planning a move back to Texas and inactive with the dogs. However we knew we had some good young dogs to carry the Slash V into the next decade. Possum had given us two daughters, one by the Burleson’s 45 Ranch Rem’s Cody STDc and one by Diamond S Sam. Key had given us a son and daughter by Sam and although we didn’t know it at the time, we would get back one of her daughters by Dude.
Maybe best of all, Young Kate had, at the end of her life, left us with a daughter by Lookaway Luke.