Herding Gives Family Direction
By Suzanne Barnes The Gazette

WILLIAMSBURG — Patty Anderson’s life has gone to the dogs.

However, it’s a life she very much enjoys and also shares with her two daughters, Tracey McPherson, 39, and Alisa, 11.
The two women, some of their 22 working dogs and a selection of sheep will participate in the Stock Dog Sheep Herding Time Trials at the Amana Colonies RV Park. Scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday, the trials are part of the Manifest celebration at the Amana Colonies. Interested dog owners can register the day of the event.

The canines in Anderson’s life took on more importance nearly 20 years ago. Anderson, who works as a technician in the education department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, needed something to combat empty nest syndrome.

Her older children were on their own and her marriage was ending, but she still had her Chow Chow and poodle. ‘‘I took the Chow Chow to the vet for something and was told, ‘You need to get this Chow Chow into some classes,’ ’’ said Anderson, a Fort Madison native.From obedience classes for the Chow Chow, Anderson graduated to canine fly ball, agility and herding.

‘‘I wanted my dogs to have a championship in everything,’’ she said.

Over the years, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have replaced the Chow Chow and poodle. Herding and everything associated with it have replaced the other canine sports. And Anderson’s menagerie of animals on her Williamsburg acreage has grown to a dozen La Mancha goats, 60 or so St. Croix-Katahdin cross sheep, three calves and assorted Khaki Campbell and Indian Runner cross ducks. All the critters are used for herding because all react differently to being herded.

Anderson’s land, called Willow Creek Farm, also is used for herding. She and her older daughter attend herding clinics and give lessons there. A recent five-day clinic at Willow Creek included a woman from Switzerland who had purchased a dog from Anderson, and a man from Germany, where herding trials are common.

They’ve also held trials at the Australian Shepherd Club of America course they have, which Anderson said is the only ASCA course in Iowa.

Herding dogs listen for verbal cues and watch for physical hints from their person. They understand ‘‘way to me,’’ ‘‘come by,’’ ‘‘walk up,’’ ‘‘there’’ and ‘‘here,’’ said McPherson, who started herding with a Newfoundland.

Anderson, 58, said if she turns her body a certain way, her dogs will interpret that to mean that’s the direction she wants whatever they are herding to go.

When their work is done, Anderson and McPherson don’t turn their backs on their dogs and leave. The dogs all take their turns sharing a rocker or couch with the women, but only if they are invited, Anderson said. ‘‘They all have house time,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘They all learn manners.’’

Contact the writer: (319) 398-8434 or suzanne.barnes@gazettecommunications.com

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