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Bringing the Cows Home

by Rich Wilhelm

Jane Rothert says that she can talk about dogs until the cows come home. If the cows were to need a little assistance finding their way, chances are they’d be herded by Rothert’s favorite dog, Lacie, an award-winning Belgian Malinois. Lacie’s full name, which includes abbreviations that indicate her various titles, is a mouthful: U-CDX, U-AGII, HTCH, DC Avonlea Queen Anne’s Lace, CDX, HX, HXAs, AX, OAJ, HTD III-s, HTD I-d, HRD III-s, SDTs,d, CGC, ROM I. She came to live with Rothert as a puppy in September 1994.

While Rothert enjoys training and competing with dogs in the conformation, obedience, tracking, and agility venues, herding seems to be her favorite. She says the basic concept of herding comes down to this: “The handler controls the dog, the dog controls the stock.” The stock can be sheep, ducks, cattle, goats, turkeys, geese — essentially anything that will stay together or flock. The dog is charged with gathering the animals and either bringing them directly back to the trainer or taking them to a specified location. As Rothert notes, “You don’t want a herd of thundering cattle coming down on you.”

According to Rothert, one of the great challenges of herding trials is dealing with livestock. “In herding, you and the dog are out there with three to five or more live animals, each of which has their own opinion about what they should or should not do,” Rothert says. She feels a great deal of support at herding trials because audience members are very aware of the challenges involved in herding animals. “Herding people are an excellent group of people to get out with and be around, “ Rothert says.

Rothert, an ASTM member since 1985, became interested in training dogs as a child. “When I was a kid, I used to steal away the neighborhood dogs and puppies and train them,” she says. Although she had no formal education in training, Rothert soon found that she had a knack for it, simply by playing with dogs and teaching them tricks.

In 1975, Rothert bought her first purebred dog, a Shetland sheepdog named Sunshine’s Tagalong Patches. Rothert trained the dog and began entering it in obedience, conformation and tracking competitions. Watching a video in 1980 piqued Rothert’s interest in herding but at that point, herding competitions were limited to border collies.

Eventually, organizations such as the American Herding Breed Association, the American Kennel Club, and the Australian Shepherd Club of America developed programs allowing all herding breeds to compete. Rothert did some herding trials with her Shelties (as Shetland sheepdogs are often called), but was primarily focused on the obedience, conformation, tracking, and agility events.

After Lacie’s arrival, Rothert decided to explore herding more seriously and began to train Lacie in January 1995. Before long, Lacie was competing in herding as well as in other venues. Her impressive accomplishments include the distinction of being the first Malinois to earn two herding trial championships.

Rothert’s list of achievements as a trainer is as long and varied as Lacie’s. After showing dogs for 29 years, Rothert has put over 75 titles on 12 dogs. Her dogs have earned Highest Scoring Dog in Trial for both obedience and herding, and she has had Best of Breed dogs in conformation. While she has primarily worked with Shelties, she is now focused on Lacie, who is still active in competitions, and Lacie’s two offspring, who also herd.

When Jane Rothert is not out and about with her friends and their dogs, she can be found working as the Central Analytical Laboratory quality assurance specialist for the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, located at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign, Ill. Rothert’s work as the chair of ASTM Subcommittee D22.06 on Atmospheric Deposition is a direct extension of her work at NADP, and she has been involved in the development and the continual updating of each of the seven standards under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee. Rothert says that her interest in environmental sciences stretches nearly as far back into her life as her interest in dogs.

Ultimately, Jane Rothert feels that, along with actually working with the dogs, the most rewarding aspect of training and competing has been the friendships she has made along the way. “When meeting people, “she says, “knowing that I have dogs knocks down barriers as we start sharing dog experiences. Cultural and social differences disappear and the friends you gain from this bond can last through many trials and tribulations.”

Copyright 2004, ASTM International