This article first appeared in Front & Finish magazine, April 2007 edition. It has been reprinted with the permission of the author, Ruthann McCaulley and the person interviewed, Patty Sontag. Thank you both. You can find out more about Front & Finish by going to their website.
BY RUTHANN MCCAULLEY
SerpenTEAM is a column featuring special dog and handler teams involved in Rally Obedience. This month you will meet a Kerry Blue Terrier, not your “traditional” performance dog.
What is your name and where do you live?
Patty Sontag, Marlborough, MA
What is your occupation?
Currently, I am the Office Manager at MasterPeace Dog Training in Franklin,MA, which is also where I train Duffy. Before that, I was a Probation Officer with the Plymouth County Probate and Family Court for 14 years, prior to the birth of my son.
Any other “personal” information you’d like to share, children, wife/husband, other pets etc.?
My husband, Bill, and I have been married for 16½ years and we have one son, Billy, who is 15½. No other pets at this time, but we are thinking of adding another Kerry Blue to our family in the next year or two.
Name and breed and age of your dog.
Wildside’s Quiet Man CD RA (“Duffy”) is a 6½-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier.
You have a Kerry Blue Terrier. What drew you to that breed?
Twenty-two years ago (before I met my husband), I was dating someone whose dad raised and showed Kerry Blue Terriers. I had never seen one before, but I fell in love at first sight—with the dog, that is! I ended up getting a Kerry Blue in Ireland, and we had her for 16 years. When we decided to get another dog, we thought about other breeds, but we loved everything about the Kerry: the spunk, the twinkle in the eye, even the endless hours that need to be spent grooming and scissoring that beautiful, soft, wavy coat—the decision was easy! Plus, our son has asthma and environmental allergies, so this breed, with its non-shedding coat, worked for us. But though he may be beautiful, he never lets us forget that he is a terrier!
How did you become interested in Rally? How long have you been training and competing? Is this your first competition dog? Do you take classes?
I started training for Competition Obedience a little over four years ago, as a way to give my Kerry something to do. We both loved it, and when Rally was proposed as a new sport, it seemed like a natural offshoot to traditional obedience. We took classes, studied the signs, and commiserated with others who were interested in training for Rally competitions. We’ve actually been training for Rally for close to three years now, and we are continuing to train and compete. At this point, we just received our Rally Advanced title, and are looking forward to competing at the Excellent level. Duffy is my first competition dog, my Novice A dog. We still take classes in traditional obedience and take Rally classes and do run-thrus whenever we can.
What rally venues do you participate in? (AKC, APDT)
So far, we have only competed in the AKC venue.
What are your plans now? Do you plan to continue in rally?
Oh yes, we’ll continue to compete! Rally is such fun for both the dog and handler, and there are so many course combinations that can be made up, that no one can ever be bored with this sport!
Do you plan to move from rally to traditional obedience ring?
Actually, we did it backwards! While I know the hope was that Rally would attract people to traditional obedience, I find that Rally has become a nice adjunct to obedience. You can work on a variety of exercises that cross over into traditional obedience and do so in a positive, upbeat way. We will continue to compete in Rally while we also compete in obedience.
Do you have any special training challenges with your dog? How have you dealt with them? Do you think these challenges are specific to your breed, or challenges in general everyone in rally would need to deal with?
Training challenges? Nothing beyond getting and keeping a terrier’s attention! I find the only way to deal with that challenge is to train, train and train some more in short segments. You also need to have patience and keep a sense of humor! I believe every breed (and every dog within that breed) has challenges that are particular to it—but if that is your breed of choice, and you love the dog you’ve chosen, you will overcome any challenge that presents itself.
What is the most difficult thing for you in Rally?
That’s an easy question! The “Back Up 3 Steps” is our most difficult exercise. We used to be able to do it beautifully, but one time when we did it, I wasn’t careful and had him back into something so now he will only back up one step. We’ll just need to go back to square one and work on it.
What do you like best about Rally?
I really like being able to talk to and encourage my dog during the routine. I also like being able to re-do a station that we’ve done incorrectly or missed completely. Perhaps the best thing about Rally is that so many people come out of the ring smiling!
What other performance events do you participate in? (if any—agility, obedience, etc.) What titles (if any) have you earned?
Now that we have our CDX, we will keep one foot and two paws firmly planted in the Open ring, while we enter trials for our RE title, and train for Utility. It is also my understanding that the AKC has approved Kerries to compete and receive titles in Herding starting in January 2007, so we plan to explore this venue next year.
What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you and your dog(s)?
Hmm, in addition to the several times my toy-driven dog wandered off because they were doing placements in the next ring and were giving out toys? Or the time a couple of Portuguese Water Dogs were outside the ring, and he thought he’d wander over and make their acquaintance during our routine, just in case they were related to him? The one time that brought me to tears was when we were going for our first leg in Open and I sent him for the Retrieve over the High Jump. I sent him, he stopped momentarily at the dumbbell, continued on to the end of the ring, checked out what was going on outside the ring for what seemed like an eternity, then turned and came back to the dumbbell, picked it up and came back over the jump! No one thought that was possible! And I didn’t know I could holdmy breath that long!
Do YOU know a very special rally team?
Please send me the information at SerpenTEAM and put “SerpenTEAM suggestion” in the subject line. I would appreciate contact information for the team, especially an e-mail address.