From Letters to Books

With the Internet only a click away, it is difficult to imagine a time in our history when access to information was difficult to come by. As were establishing the Australian Shepherd from an obscure breed of dogs into mainstream popularity and developing our Las Rocosa bloodlines in the 1950s — there were no videos or DVD’s (they hadn’t been invented yet), many books were not yet in print or available and training clinics were very few and far between. As a point of reference, one of the common causes of death in dogs was distemper, DNA wasn’t discovered until 1953 and organizations such as OFA and CERF didn’t exist.

My mother, who has always been a big advocate of education made sure that if there was a seminar reachable, we attended it. If there was a book obtainable, she ordered it and we all took turns reading and discussing it. We were learning together.

One of the first training books my parents gave me as a little girl was the Purina Farm Dog Book. It had pictures of Carl Bradford — who was the Ohio State University Research Center Shepherd — working his beautiful Border Collies. National Geographic Book of Dogs also had wonderful pictures of his dogs herding sheep and ducks. It was so enjoyable to see his of his dogs moving ducks around miniature white fence obstacles. That is what I wanted to do with my dogs. I finally got the opportunity to meet Mr. Bradford when I was in Ohio for a judging assignment. It was an enjoyable visit.

From the time I was a child, we used our dogs to fetch stock out of pastures or for any other job we needed them to do. While growing up – it was not unusual to see someone send an Aussie ¼ to a ½ mile away to gather a group of animals and bring them into the corrals. We didn’t have to train them for work. It was natural for them to go out and bring the stock in…it was pure instinct. The pups learned as they went along doing chores. They delighted in pleasing us and were eager to gain our approval which was their desired reward.

It wasn’t until my parents met Lewis Pence, a sheep shearer and Border Collie trainer from Ohio that we learned how to teach a dog to “fetch” sheep and other skills to develop successful trial dogs. They had traveled to Texas in the late 1960s to attend the open sheepdog or Border Collie trials and the Catahoula Leopard Cowdog Trials. We were helping create a working dog program, some type of Stockdog Certification to preserve the working instinct in Australian Shepherds.

They met other men who had been to Scotland and learned this type of handling and training, but would not teach it to others. Lewis Pence was a very unselfish man who was willing to share his knowledge with anyone who asked. He wasn’t afraid of the competition. Lewis was also one of the few men who actually trained his own dogs — unlike many of the others who were importing trained Border Collies, but didn’t know how to train themselves. We also discovered that most of the other trainers we met at that time were unable to handle any breed that didn’t react like their own dogs.

There was a lot of trial and error on our part, but we learned and succeeded in creating a viable Stock Dog Program for ASCA that also gave way to the AKC Herding Program. Through the years, many people have called and written letters to my family inquiring about training as well as breeding and raising Australian Shepherds. We have talked with hundreds of people and wrote even more letters. It was only natural that the most frequently asked questions eventually became articles, and the articles led to writing, All About Aussies: Australian Shepherds from A to Z. The first edition was published in 1985.

Even though my name is listed as the author, I could never have written the book without the input from my entire family who helped develop a bloodline of distinction and collectively has conducted seminars throughout North America as well as in Europe and the British Isles. Together, “we” wrote a book — backed by our many miles and years of experience — to give others a resource that was not available when we got started.

The Colorado Connection – Some Aussie Trivia

Colorado was significant in birthing the development of the foundation bloodlines of the modern Australian Shepherd. Why? The Centennial State was an important hub for major horse and livestock events. Rodeos, horses, the National Western Stock Show, the Colorado State University, and the Western Horseman Magazine were common factors bringing together the early breeders.

– Fletcher Wood, a horseman, and cattleman and one of the first breeders, served as the Ring Master for the National Western Stock Show in Denver Colorado, one of the major livestock shows in the country. He was also the director of activities for the Jefferson Country Fairgrounds where some of the first Australian Shepherd dog shows and K-9 Khanas fashioned after the popular Gymkhana horse events were hosted.

Fletcher acquired Wood’s Jay, one of the breed’s foundation sires from Jay Sisler in 1949. He was a large, distinct blue (self merle with very little white trim) sired by Sisler’s Shorty and out of Sisler’s Trixie. Jay was a handy cow dog. Fletcher said, “Jay would heel cattle and worked the back end of cows, but didn’t like to go to the head of a cow until Fletcher started encouraging him to bark a little bit when a cow turned on him. Jay would bark in her face and turn her around and then he was fine, “he never did bark at the back ends, but he’d bark at the heads when they came to him.”

– Juanita Ely, who was the earliest documented breeder, had blue Australian Shepherds since the twenties. She and her husband ranched at Deer Trail, Colorado, which incidentally is where the first rodeo is believed to have been held. In 1950, they acquired Ely’s Blue, the famed Ghost Dog on the original IESR Registration Certificates. Ely’s dogs contributed to bloodlines from Colorado to California and the Pacific Northwest, including our bloodlines, Hartnagle’s Las Rocosa Aussies. Juanita was also my mother’s godmother.

-My family developed our bloodlines at the base of the Rocky Mountains where we raised sheep and cattle – hence the name, Las Rocosa. As fate would have it, our beautiful little Goody, a daughter of Ely’s Blue who was later registered as Wood’s Blue Shadow contributed not only to our bloodlines, but to Fletcher’s dogs and Dr. Heard’s Flintridge bloodlines.

– Green’s Kim AKA Mansker’s Kim was owned by Kenneth Green, a cattle rancher and veterinarian who’s rugged mountain ranch is now part of the Golden Gate Park.


– Steve Mansker, a race horse trainer, farrier and hunting guide became acquainted with Jay Sisler in the 40’s through rodeos, but it wasn’t until 1956 that he acquired Freckles from Jay. Later, in the early sixties while Steve was attending the Colorado State University he became associated with Joe Taylor who bought Taylor’s Rusty from him. CSU is also where Joe met the Petramalas who owned Tate, the dam of his beautiful Taylor’s Buena.

– In 1963, after Walt Lamar graduated from OSU with a degree in Agronomy (soils) he transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Junction, Colorado. He met Steve Mansker at a rodeo in Meeker, Colorado, where he bought Lamar’s Scratch who was out of Freckles. Later on, after some stiff negotiations Walt was able to buy Lamar’s [Mansker’s] Turk from Steve.

– Another Colorado bred dog, Dale Martin’s Adobe Gypsy (out of two of Hank Weiscamp’s dogs) figures considerably in the pedigrees of hundreds of Aussies in the Pacific Northwest. Weiscamp’s dogs were mainly Joe Taylor’s breeding.

– The world-famous Flintridge bloodlines found in the largest percentage of modern Aussies were produced in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, by Dr. Weldon T. Heard. Heard, a veterinarian and sheep breeder used dogs from Wood and Ely bloodlines.

From these highly influential people and their Colorado bloodlines, breeders in other states began their own lines and Australian Shepherds were launched from relative anonymity to mainstream popularity.

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