The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Amanda Milliken, The Interview

I am fortunate, I call Amanda Milliken friend. I am having a hard time repeating the endeavor, but she even once sold me a youngster from her breed that went on to have the beginnings of a stellar career with another hand. Amanda is always good for an adventure, shopping, great food in endless supply from her 5th wheel, and intelligent conversation. Amanda is a good egg. If you don't already know her, reach out. She will respond with warmth and grace.

This year as always Amanda's name can be found at or near the top of the placings from almost every maojr trial around the country, including The Bluegrass Classic, her self-produced Kingston Sheepdog Trial, Soldier Hollow Classic, the USBCHA National Finals, and just about every other sheepdog trial where she competed. Amanda is a winner of the highest caliber and as true champions repeat, she is a champion as well. I have competed, and lost, to her many times, and have learned to watch closely when she goes to the post and never, ever count her out.

Amanda won the Meeker Sheepdog Championship this year with the dog she calls her "old girl," Ethel. Now 10 years old in what should be the twilight of her career, this two-time Canadian National Champion appears to be quite strong. Meeker is infamous for inflicting us with some of the toughest sheep of the year, and at around 6,400' altitude with always challenging weather, it's no picnic. Her score this year of 130 points in the double-lift final was 25 points ahead of very distant second place and 1 of only 4 of the 12 finalists that finished with more than 100 points. Did I say Meeker was no picnic?

I thought it might be fun to ask Ms. Milliken a few questions. As she does with most things, (aside from selling me another pup,) she readily and graciously consented. Taking place via Email, here is my interview:

BS: As improbable as it seems, you are an amateur sheepdog handler. What is your profession and how do you manage to maintain a successful professional career and find success on the trial field?

Amanda: I started a cardiac test company with my Dad twenty five years ago or so. He has since died but my sister, Cathy McIlquham, and I are partners in Home Cardiographics. I train dogs in the morning, normally and then go to work. I work no more than three, and try to make sure events don't go south, so I have to work more and end with success. I avoid problems and build on strengths. I have been very lucky with help at home and we have great employees at the office and my sister normally there to supervise. IF they need me, I can be phoned.

BS: Tell us about your farm and how much it influences your success with sheepdogs. Do you think you could be as successful if you had a house in town?

Amanda: I have 180 acres, a lot of it bush. My Mother (I live next door to her) has 180 and I use another 160 for hay and or pasture. People want their grass cut one way or another. I keep a hundred and twenty ewes, mostly North Country Cheviot. I am questioning the need for so many with a no help winter looming but I'll see what I can do. It is a nice number for a training flock--they do not get doggy. Home sheep are the making of dogs. Prospective hands should pay more attention to the sort of sheep with which they train. I have lots of big fields and little ones, water, circumstances that conspire to bring diversity to what I do with the dogs. I try to be disciplined about stepping out each morning, first thing and running the dogs. Of course, I could never do that if I lived in town. My farm is a lot a work and black hole for finance, but it is what I want to do. It is beautiful and I am an avid gardener.

BS: You breed, raise and train your own dogs. How many generations have you competed with and which of your dogs have been the most influential in your line and why?

Amanda: Bart and Meg begat Waifer. Waifer and Rambo begat Hazel, Hazel and Boy begat Grace. Grace and Craig begat Ethel. Ethel and Star begat Roz. My bitch line goes off the page. All great outrunners which is job one. I trialled a bit with Bart and Waifer at the novice level, but Hazel is the first one I trained, under the guidance of Jim Cropper. She was a marvellous bitch. So staying with my good bitch line, I brought in the dogs. I tried the pup route for a while and then just went for the dogs.

BS: I have trained and trialed a dog from your line off Stuart Davidson's ##Star and grandson to Davidson's ##Craig, both of which you bought and imported to use as stud dogs. How did you come to own these 2 greats and how did you select them?

Amanda: I have had a good thing going on with Stuart Davidson and my place is a charming retirement home for great dogs. International winners are good go to dogs.

BS: I've admired Ethel for many years and have seen her overcome substantial odds to find success. Is she the best bitch you've owned and handled so far?

Amanda: Such a hard question to answer since I hope I have developed as a hand to some extent. I wonder what Hazel could have been like if I owned her now. She was terribly good. All my bitches have been good. Imagine what they could have been like in better hands.

BS: Ethel is now the 2009 Meeker champion. What other prestigious wins does she have to her credit and of which are you most proud?

Amanda: Ethel won the Canadian Championships in 2006 and 2008. Her mother Grace, was the first Canadian Champion in 1999 and Grace's older sister Eucher, in 2002. The success of the Canadian Registry means a lot to me. Their Championship is one I covet.

BS: What kind of dog was Ethel to raise and train?

Amanda: Ethel was terrible to raise and train. I did not take her on the road because I could not stand her squirming. To this day, she almost cannot walk on a leash for choking herself. But we have a good working understanding. She knows the routine and gets in a zone for it when she runs. She was hard to train. Difficult to stop.

BS: Did you anticipate that she would be as successful as she has been before she was?

Amanda: I was always tempted to part company with her, just because she was so annoying, but she did enough brilliant things to make me have her. So I guess I always anticipated that she was good. I always think all my dogs will be successful. I am always looking for the great partnership. If I don't get along with a dog at bottom, if I don't think I can run them, I let them go. That is better for both of us, dog and me. Most of my dogs are here to stay. I rarely sell one that I have had through pupppyhood. But there have been occasions.

BS: How many litters has she produced and which of her pups do you have the highest hopes for?

Amanda: Ethel had three Star litters. I bred her once to Stormy Winter's Roy. There are a couple of those pups around that are good. I am running two Ethel/Star young ones, Roz and Monty. Monty is plainer and Roz is more stylish. Both disappointed me at this year's Nursery championship. I would appear that I have forgiven them--I still like them lot. Monty is good for next year's Nursery.

BS: I'm sorry, but I just can't resist asking; which of all your dogs, past and present, is most dear to you and why?

Amanda: Please give me back Hazel. What a character and good. Every time I pick a pup, I want it to be like her, so I have a pretty consistent look in my kennel: smooth coated, prick eared, black and white (just like real life).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this interview! My pup (a lovely smart sweet pup indeed) is descended from Amanda's Hazel (she's his great, great grandma), and it was fun to learn more about her.