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Four-footed wranglers

Australian cattle dogs will show the spark and strength that made them a popular pooch in the Outback.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- On Saturday, hundreds of Australian cattle dog fans will descend on Brooksville to watch the animals compete in events such as agility tests and cattle herding.

The weeklong event is the annual meeting of the California-based Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, hosted by the Mid-Florida Australian Cattle Dog Fanciers. It's the first time Hernando County has hosted the meet.

"This is a chance for cattle dog lovers to get together and play with just our dogs," said event organizer Deb Mintzer, who serves as treasurer for the local group.

They'll gather at the Hernando County Fairgrounds south of Brooksville to watch their favorite breed compete for top prizes, Mintzer said.

The event is an opportunity for those unfamiliar with the Australian cattle dog to have a good look at what she calls one of the hardest working animals around.

"This isn't your regular dog. It's not an animal you just put in the back yard," she said. "You either have to give them a job or they're going to make themselves a job."

On Saturday and Sunday, about 50 dogs will compete in agility trials, which look much like a relay race with obstacles, tunnels and other tests for balance.

"A lot of people like to watch the agility competitions," said Mintzer, whose own cattle dog T.R., will compete in the event for the first time. "It's a lot of fun because just about anything can happen."

Next week, about 200 dogs will compete in the event that has earned the breed its reputation as a work animal: the herding trials.

By wrangling both cattle and sheep, the dogs will show judges their stuff.

"Besides the physical abilities, the dogs have to have a good drive," said Mintzer, who lives in Bushnell. "In other words, they have to want to go out and do something. A lot of time and energy goes into training them, but they have to have that spark and drive."

Another of Mintzer's cattle dogs, Tuffy, will compete with about 200 others on Wednesday for the best of breed. He is currently ranked No. 5 by the American Kennel Club.

"These are all the "pretty dog' classes. It will be exciting to see what he does," said Mintzer, who has bred the dogs for five years and shown for six. "It's always exciting for me."

The event is free. Call 796-4552.

Australian Cattle Dog Club of America National Specialty list of events

Saturday: 1 -- 7 p.m. Agility competition

Sunday: 11 a.m. -- 5 p.m. Agility competition

7 -- 10 p.m. Health seminar on dog fertility

Monday: 8 a.m. -- 1 p.m. Classes

5:30 -- 7:30 p.m. Barbecue

8 -- 11 p.m. Herding jackpot

Tuesday: 8 a.m. -- 6 p.m. Obedience and breed shows

7 -- 9 p.m. Dog behavior seminar

Wednesday: 8 a.m. -- 6 p.m. Breed show

Thursday: 7 a.m. -- 7 p.m. Herding test and herding trial

7 -- 11 p.m. Dingo Bingo

Friday, Oct. 11: 7 a.m. -- 7 p.m. Herding test and herding trial

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