A few months ago, I was visiting a shelter in Norfolk, Virginia when I saw this most beautiful Australian Shepherd. When I first saw it, it was outside in the visitor playground. A couple of young girls were sitting on a park bench throwing a ball to the dog. He ran off, fetched the ball and then immediately lay down under the bench that the girls were sitting on. The girls would then throw the ball again…. I waited until they brought the dog back to it’s stall and went home. I immediately called my wife. I wanted it! My wife, Rita calmed me down and talked some sense to me so I went home dejected, without the dog. I have thought about this dog ever since. This led me to a conversation with Kathy Givens. I asked her to tell me more about these beautiful dogs.
Kathy Givens grew up in San Fransisco and moved to Tahoe, in an area surrounded by ranches to get out into the wilderness. "The Basque people developed the Australian Shepherd from the Border collie years ago in Spain. They settled this area and when I moved here, I thought Oh my God, I'm in heaven, with all these Australian Shepherds everywhere." She's got 7 dogs of her own plus as many as 15 rescues at a time, getting about 2 adoptions a week. "I won't give a dog to someone who works 8 hours a day because if you don't give them a job, they'll find one." Kathy really encourages her adopters to teach their dogs to compete with sanctioned events. Agility training can be dangerous for dogs if you push them too far so these sanctioned events have set safety standards for dogs to prevent injuries. They have several venues for competing with dogs. These categories include Herding, Obedience, Agility, Tracking and Conformation. You can choose any one of these areas to compete.
There are several types of herding dogs, for instance Corgi's and Australian Cattle dogs usually do "pen work" while they use Border Collies and Australian Shepherds to go out to the great beyond to bring the cattle and sheep back to the ranch. While Australian Shepherds perform with amazing success in Agility Training, Border Collies are even better. "When I started competing in Agility Training, I found that the Border Collies were acing the competition." That's when Kathy began to take in Border Collies. You see, Kathy's a competitor herself.
Kathy owns sheep that she keeps at a local horse training facility. She can't keep the sheep on her own property because the dogs would be too determined to get to the sheep. This facility backs up to an open range managed by the Bureau of land Management. Often times, she'll take her sheep and let them loose on the open range and then set her more advanced dogs out to find them. "You should have seen me learn how to ride a horse to do this." You can't do all this on foot so Kathy follows her cows on horseback. Kathy encourages the people who adopt her rescues to train their new dogs with her. "You can't place a dog that has an instinct to do a certain job and not give the people a resource to do that."