On November 22, 1997, herdingdom gained its ninth Herding Trial Champion: HTCh HCh Fluorescence Vom Insel CGC TC CD OTD-s BH HRDIII-s HTDIII-s HX HRDIII-g OFA(H/E). The German Shepherd Dog more commonly known as Flora or Flo became the first HTCh of her breed at 3 years 3 months of age. Three weeks earlier, she became the fifth GSD AKC Herding champion. (Actually, she is tied for fifth as HCh Pa-Gairs Kaiserin Chelsea CD HX finished the same day.)
At 3 months old, Flora first showed herding instinct (gathering style) on ducks, but wouldn't show it on sheep then or a month later. But when tested again at nine months old, she went half way around the sheep until she reached balance, a point from which she could not be shaken. Not until her third lesson did she leave it. We had been fetching in straight lines up and down the arena when she started leaving balance point just before I got to the wall (i.e just before I began the turn about). She would half circle the sheep and stop at the new balance point just ahead of its existence.
Mike Lofton (one of my herding instructors along with Cathy Modica, Lisa Brick and Terry Parrish) kept prophesying that when older, Flora would be known as "The One to Beat." Even though when training buddy Bob Simmons took first to my second at a trial he did jump up and down shouting "I beat Flora," I believe she is known as "Sweet Flora" (due to her gentle nature) rather than Mike's prophesied name. Certainly, she has put on many an outstanding performance beginning after just 5 months of training with her first trial level leg which was High in Trial with a 92 when RHIT was 73! Many a person has come up to me and told me what a pleasure it was for them to watch Fluorescence work.
Flo is a very versatile herding dog as demonstrated by her HTCh points being earned on the HTD (goats & sheep), French (sheep) and Western Australia (goats & sheep) courses. Her HX was earned on A & B courses and her HCh points on A & C courses. As far as I know, all other GSD HCh's were exclusively either A or C dogs. At the 1997 GSD national specialty, Flora was high scoring dog on both A & B courses which made her the first GSD to ever win High Combined at the national.
Flora's forte is light stock because she is calm and gentle, works wide, and is very good at reading her stock and their draws. While Flo shows some degree of eye in certain circumstances, she is much stronger in anti-eye (deliberately looking away from the sheep to reduce the pressure, a trait commonly seen in loose-eyed dogs and unfortunately usually mistaken as off-contact by judges) and does a lot of anti-pressure work (staying between the sheep and the draw, carefully releasing the pressure to get them to quietly walk forward, as opposed to always pushing from behind).
Perhaps, Flora's most famous run was on Intermediate B course in Valley Center. A poorly placed stock trailer prevented Flo from going wide on the top of the outrun which caused the sheep to bolt on the lift. Flora took off in a wide arc to cut them off, but she didn't have the speed to cover the much longer path, and the sheep passed the crossover of the paths just ahead of Flora and wound up on the other side of the spectators. After a brief stall, which the judge described as being uncertain as to whether she was allowed to continue after the sheep, Flora went after the sheep and lifted them off the stock pens and tried to bring them directly back to me. She would occasionally rear up to get a sighting on my position. However, a crowd of people, chairs, and dogs (some of them whining loudly) stood between them and me. These rambouillets were less than a week off the range and did not like either people or dogs. After realizing that she wasn't going to be able to push the strongly resisting sheep through the crowd, Flora took the sheep around the blockade until she found a large opening she could bring them through. She did all this without any directions from me because the crowd blocked my view of them.
What a gorgeous sight it was, them finally emerging from the crowd. It was like those movies where the hero and the villain have just battled it out to the death, and you don't yet know which one has survived. Then, the smoke clears, and you see the hero come walking out. I heard the triumph music in my head. Flora went on to finish the HX course (thanks to a handler who forgot the HI course was one obstacle shorter) with everyone oooing and aaahing at how wide she was working and what beautiful turnins she had. The run was NQ, so I had to console myself with our lesser accomplishments of the weekend: the only dog to qualify more than once, the only B course qualification, 3 firsts, 2 RHIT, High Combined, and a finished HI title. I quess I'll just have to glow with the Flo.
Dorothy DeLisle, breeder/owner/trainer/handler