Saturday, January 7, 2012

Boxer Herding Success Story

Once Upon A Time

The idea of petitioning the AKC to allow Boxers to compete in AKC herding trials first came up at the ABC Regional board meeting in 2009. This initiative was spearheaded by a group of Boxer fanciers who were already participating in herding events sponsored by the American Herding Breed Association and the Canadian Kennel Club, but because no one on the board (and few Boxer people) knew much about this increasingly popular performance event, the issue was tabled.

Boxer people are quick learners, though, and by the time the May 2010 ABC board meeting rolled around, the Boxer herding proponents had provided the board with a well-documented and illustrated draft petition based on the successful application submitted to the AKC by the parent club of another ‘non-traditional’ herding breed, the Kerry Blue Terrier; and they had also generated a tremendous amount of interest among Boxer fanciers in this ‘new’ performance event in which Boxers could further demonstrate their natural working ability and all-around versatility. At that meeting, the ABC Board of Directors listened to the arguments pro and con, and voted 10 to 1 to submit a petition to the AKC.

The story might have ended there with an application to the AKC, except for the objections of several board members at the 2010 Regional board meeting to the draft petition, which they felt did not accurately reflect the wishes and feelings of the ABC membership. So the board directed the ABC president to appoint an ABC Herding Committee consisting of 3 board members to put an ‘ABC stamp’ on the petition and to survey ABC members as to whether or not they were in favor of Boxers being allowed to participate officially in AKC Herding Events.

The Happy Ending

Working against a deadline, the ABC Herding Committee, consisting of Debbie Marshall, Korinne Vanderpool and Tina Truesdale, did a masterful job of building upon the original draft to create a petition that read like a NYT non-fiction bestseller (at least to Boxer fanciers :-) and illustrated both the Boxer’s historical role as a herding and cattle drover’s dog, and its present-day ability and success in AHBA and CKC Herding Trials and Instinct Tests (often beating traditional herding breeds at their own game!). More importantly, the survey designed by the committee and mailed to the entire ABC membership received an unusually large response, which demonstrated the overwhelming majority support of ABC members for the sport of AKC Boxer Herding.

The official ABC version of the petition, which included a fabulous video created by Reegan Ray and Diane Stevens of the San Fernando Valley Boxer Club, came up for a vote again at the May 2011 ABC board meeting, and despite continued opposition from a few board members, passed by a wide margin. The AKC approved the petition in November, and the last hurdle was passed early in December when the Boxer Club of San Fernando Valley was licensed by the AKC to conduct AKC Herding Trials.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Kudos to Reegan Ray and Diane Stevens of the San Fernando Valley BC, who were THE major force behind the AKC Boxer Herding Movement; to the members of the ABC Herding Committee, who worked for countless hours to create the membership survey and finalize the ABC Boxer Herding Petition; to Pat Mullen, who created the statistical charts that illustrated the ABC membership’s huge support for Boxer participation in AKC Herding Trials; and to Judy Voran and Sandy Orr, who painstakingly converted the committee’s rewrite into the impressive and very professional PowerPoint presentation that went to the AKC’s Performance Department, complete with Reegan Ray’s and Diane Stevens’ breathtaking video of Boxers participating in various herding activities. (I am proud to say that this writer also had a part in editing the final petition.)

Also, a big round of applause for the San Fernando Valley Boxer Club (especially Dennis and Sheila Tomas – president and secretary of the SFVBC), whose members supported this initiative all the way and took on the responsibility of applying to the AKC to hold herding trials, in order to fulfill the AKC’s final requirement. And for all the ABC members and member club members who took the trouble to express their support for Boxer herding in the survey that was mailed to the entire membership. Last but not least, thanks to those members of the ABC BOD who voted in accord with the wishes of the majority of the ABC membership.

And the Moral of the Story Is…

As we noted in a previous series about the controversial issue of the location of the ABC National (, there are several different ‘philosophical viewpoints’ within the American Boxer Club about which direction the club should take on issues like this, and how much say the membership should have in making important decisions.    If you are an ABC member or ABC member-club member who has strong convictions about the present-day problems that confront the breed and the club and want ABC board members to represent *your* point of view, you need to become knowledgeable about the people running for a board seat. Read the ABC board meeting minutes in the ABC Bulletin (the May 2011 minutes have not been published in the Bulletin yet) and take note of how your representatives vote.  Beyond that, you need to nominate individuals who share your convictions, and most importantly, you need to VOTE! 

It really is as simple as that.

The photos below are of 'pups-in-training' bred by Reegan Ray, out of her history making herding boxer, "Pip," by Marc del Benicadell. Photo credits go to Tracy Mulrenen, Kandu's owner, and Cathy Modica.

                                                  Kandu on Ducks, by Tracy Mulrenen

                                                      Kandu, photo by Cathy Modica

                                                       Winnifred, photo by Cathy Modica

                                                        Kandu, photo by Cathy Modica