Australian Shepherd Mother-Daughter Duo Makes Westminster Finals

westminster australian shepherds

Australian Shepherds “Deuce” and “Lili Ann” are extraordinary achievers. The former won the Herding Group at the 2008 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the only Aussie winner in history, and the latter was the 20-Inch Division winner at the 2020 Masters Agility Championship at Westminster. This mother-daughter duo stands out because they both made the Finals at Westminster in their respective sports.

“When Deuce won the Herding Group at Westminster, I jumped up and started crying. It was really exciting,” says owner Terri K. Collins, of Auburn, Massachusetts, recalling watching live as the second Aussie she had owned won at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Collins had trained and handled the talented, smart female to Novice and Open agility titles and had started her in conformation, finishing her show championship title in limited showing. Deuce finished with three Majors, including a 4-point Major her first weekend out from the 6- to 9-month puppy class along with two 5-point Majors just four and a half months later.

The beautiful red merle 4-year-old was part of a stellar lineup from which judge Dr. J. Donald Jones picked a baying hound, the 15-inch Beagle, “Uno,” for Best in Show. Handled by Jessica Plourde of Saratoga Springs, New York, Deuce (MBIS/BISS CH Vinelake Collinswood Yablon OA OAJ NAP NJP GS-N ROMP-1), moved smooth and easy, a well-toned athlete who gave no hint of having whelped her first litter five months earlier.

Deuce stayed on the circuit with Plourde in 2008, becoming the No. 1 Aussie all systems and No. 3 Herding dog. Her career stats boasted seven Bests in Show and 53 Herding Group Firsts. In 2007, she had won Best of Breed at the United States Australian Shepherd Association National Specialty.

Collins made the leap to Aussies with a tricolor male puppy named “Razz” from a litter bred by Laura Lynn Tanner of Agile Aussies in Elmira, New York. Collins handled Razz to finish his show championship while simultaneously training him in agility. A consistent achiever and loyal companion, Razz (MACH5 CH Agile Collinswood Razzmatazz CD MXG2 MJS2 MXF ROMX) earned five Master Agility Champion (MACH) titles and in 2004 was the No. 10 Aussie in breed campaigned by Plourde.  

A breeder at heart, Collins paused Deuce’s show career in 2007 to breed her to Razz. Deuce produced a dream litter of six pups that would excel in agility, conformation and herding and earn their dam Register of Merit-Performance (ROMP-1) recognition. Razz would go on to earn Register of Merit Excellent (ROMX) status as a producer of multiple breed champions and offspring that titled in agility, rally and herding.

Thomas Gooding of Niskayuna, New York, became the owner of one of Razz and Deuce’s pups, whom he named “Gracie Marie.” “I drifted into agility about 20 years ago when my obedience trainer began teaching agility,” he says. “A friend had wonderful working Aussies, and I learned that his breeder was having a litter in August (2007). He kept saying, ‘You should talk to this lady.’ I began emailing Terri, and the next thing I knew I was getting a puppy.”

That blue merle puppy, Gracie Marie (MACH2 Collinswood Gracin The Airways CD MXG MJC MXF TQDF T2B2), excelled at agility. “I liked her so much that I told Terri that if she repeated the breeding, I wanted another puppy. Lili Ann came four years later,” Gooding says.

Collins tried something different with this Razz-Deuce litter. She did not dock the tails as is customary in the U.S. for Aussies not born with a naturally bobbed tail. “I bred this litter for performance and decided to keep the tails after researching the role of the tail in a dog’s balance,” she says. “Another reason was because some of my dogs compete in international FCI (Fédération Cynologique Federation) shows where tails cannot be docked.”

Gracie Marie was Gooding’s main agility dog when Lili Ann, a black tricolor pup, joined the family. He eased the newcomer into the sport slowly so as not to stress her developing musculoskeletal system. “When Lili Ann was 15 months old, we really started training, though at the time Gracie was a tremendous agility dog,” he says.

As age and injuries crept up on Gracie Marie, Lili Ann became Gooding’s focus. Going into the 2020 Masters Agility Championship at Westminster, Lili Ann (MACH4 Collinswood Lili Of The Valley MXB2 PAD MJS2 PJD MFX TQX T2B5) had proved to be a top competitor.

At the Masters, “Lili Ann had two clean runs with fast scores, making her the top Aussie and qualifying us for the Finals,” Gooding says. “It was so exciting just to be one of 10 teams that made the Finals. We would be competing against the 2019 defending champion in our division.”

Knowing that the Finals were being taped by FOX Sports to air the next day on national television added to Gooding’s adrenalin rush. “There was tremendous pressure, but because we had competed at the AKC Nationals and the Canadian National, I was prepared mentally,” Gooding says. “I just relaxed and went out and did my job.”

Lili Ann did her job, too. “She read my mind the whole course,” says Gooding. “Her score was the highest in the 20-Inch Division.”

As to her having a tail, Gooding says she walks and moves differently than Gracie Marie. The subtle differences were convincing.

“My new Collinswood Aussie is ‘Ruby Lee.’ She is a 21-month-old red tricolor. She has a tail too,” Gooding adds. 

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