Pepper (U-OCH CH/OTCH22 Heelalong Jalapena, UDX15, HT, NA, OAJ)
This Border Collie was born to dance. Even though she excels in dog obedience, earned a breed championship, agility titles, and loves herding sheep, canine musical freestyle is her forte. Sandra thinks that Pepper regards her as her own personal sheep to herd around the dance floor.
Her breeder, Kay Guetzloff of Heelalong Border Collies, sent Pepper to Sandra at 7 weeks of age. She was born Oct. 1, 1993. Being a typical active BC puppy, Sandra kept her busy with training. By the time Pepper was a year old she had mastered all of the AKC obedience exercises through utility, so she began competing for her Companion Dog (CD) title in Oct.1994. In November she started learning all the musical freestyle dance moves that Sandra could think of, and she had her first routine polished and ready for public performances in May, 1995.
The rest of that year Pepper added freestyle dance performances to her dog obedience-titling career. She completed her Utility Dog (UD) degree in April, and started working towards her Obedience Trial Championship (OTCH), which she completed in July of 1995. It had taken her just 9 months to earn the five obedience titles: CD, CDX, UD, OTCH & UDX and she was only 21 months old.
Pepper's obedience winning in 1995 qualified her for the AKC National Obedience Invitational held in 1996. Her talents were further rewarded with Pepper being the #1 Border Collie in the US in OTCH points for 1996 and another trip to the Invitational in 1997, where she also performed her Macarena dance for that illustrious audience.
The AKC recognized Border Collies for conformation exhibition on Oct. 1, 1995. Since Pepper was attending so many shows for dog obedience and musical freestyle performances, Sandra thought she might as well put her in the conformation class, too. She earned her breed championship in 11 shows with two Best of Breeds and two BOS, finishing in April 1996.
Requests for seminars on freestyle added another new venture. Sandra, Pepper and Jabba (Sandra's Giant Schnauzer) gave presentations in Albuquerque, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Tucson between March, 1996 and April 1998. Because they don't fly, it was suggested their seminar contents be put on video tapes to make the information available to more people.
So in 1997, Pepper helped Sandra produce her 3 instructional freestyle videos. She had nine routines in her repertoire by this time. Though performing was limited, they did dance at some larger events such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) conference in Memphis, the first Border Collie National Specialty in St. Louis, and the Astro Series of Dog Shows in Houston, where they met and joined the Superdogs from Canada at the Iams Wonderful World of Dogs production.
Becoming part of the Superdog team opened even larger venues with as many as 4 performances daily. There was the America's Family Pet Exposition in Pomona, California in April, 1998; next, and the biggest treat of all - a week at the Calgary Stampede dancing for huge crowds of enthusiastic Canadians. That was followed by another weekend at the Astro Series in Houston in July.
October brought a new dimension to Pepper's musical freestyle dancing - boots. She had not been able to perform on stages or floors that were the least bit slippery, which reduced the number of invitations that she could accept. Learning about dog boots opened the door for dancing on almost any surface. El Paso's Halloween Spooktacular at the city's convention center was Pepper first performance with boots. Sandra created an appropriate Halloween routine she called, "Puss and Boots." With Sandra dressed like a black cat and Pepper in her boots, they handled the slippery stage without a problem.
October also was the month that Pepper earned her AKC Herding Tested title. A 120 miles round trip to the sheep made herding lessons few and far between, but it was nice to have a title that represented, even minimally, what Border Collies are really about.
Pepper competed in her first canine musical freestyle competition in November, 1998. The Footloose Fantasy Freestyle Event was held in conjunction with the Pup-peroni Obedience Classic in Houston. It was a gala affair with 50 entries and over 70 dancing dogs. Pepper's "Achy Breaky Heart" routine received first prize and Most Creative Performance, and her "All That Jazz" number won second prize. She came away with a beautiful trophy and $300 which helped pay for the trip. The next two days Pepper competed in the Classic's Superdog obedience class and performed the Macarena & Bullfight routine on Saturday, and repeated the two Footloose competition-winning dances on Sunday during the noontime activities for the obedience crowd.
1998 ended on a particularly high note with a local Christmas performance for critically ill children at El Paso's general hospital. Another dance was added to Pepper's list bringing her total to 12. This one is to music combining "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Feliz Navidad" with Sandra and Pepper dressed as elves. The children were enthralled. The hospital sent a certificate proclaiming "DR. PEPPER" an honorary physician.
1999 was taken up with Sandra converting her 3 freestyle videos into a book. Pepper was only shown in the local obedience trials until November when the book was published. By that time Pepper was within 32 of 1,000 total OTCH points, so Sandra made that their goal for the year. In 3 weekends of trials in Arizona, Pepper earned 110 points and a very BIG bonus - her first AKC "200" score. This, from the Open B class.
2000 was another good year for Pepper. In March, she received her second AKC 200 score - this time in Utility B. In April she finished her requirements for the U-OCH at the Enchantment Training Club's UKC trials in Santa Fe, NM. Pepper earned another invitation to the AKC National Obedience Invitational in St. Louis in June where she and Sandra also competed in a team demonstration of the new Rally Obedience concept. She finished the year with 1500 lifetime OTCH points and the Novice Agility (NA) title.
The highlight of 2001 was Pepper and Sandra's invitation to be the noontime entertainment at the AKC National Obedience Invitational held in Chicago. Although Pepper and Tequila had both received invitations to compete in that event, Sandra chose just to dance with Pepper. They performed three routines: the bullfight, All That Jazz and Achy Breaky Heart to a very appreciative audience.
2002 was a non-dancing year for Pepper. Sandra concentrated on finishing the OTCH her Giant Schnauzer, Tequila, so Pepper was shown sparingly until June when Tequila obtained her OTCH title. Then is was full speed ahead for Pepper to earn enough OTCH points to be invited to the 2003 AKC National Obedience Invitational to be held in Long Beach California - just up the street from El Paso - compared to earlier locations. Pepper also finished her agility jumper's title, NAJ that year.
Back to dancing in 2003. Animal Planet's Pet Star producer called and invited Pepper and Sandra to be a contestant on their show. Sandra choreographed a new one-minute Bullfight routine for the program. Pet Star sent 5 music selections for Sandra to pick from as they can't use copyrighted music, and the show's format requires a limit of one minute for each act.. It was not easy trying to get all Pepper's best moves into such a short time frame. The carpeted stage area was only 22 feet in diameter, which didn't give a lot of room for "cape charging." The show was taped in July in Burbank, CA at the NBC studios and aired in August.. It was a wonderful experience and loads of fun. Contestants were treated royally and all expenses were paid. Sandra and Pepper didn't win any money, but they were invited back in November for an additional "Wild Card" show - the seasons final show - as one of the acts that the producer's thought worthy of another airing. That performance is shown in the video clip on the home page of this website.
Pepper continued showing in obedience and gathered enough OTCH points to be invited to the AKC Invitational in Long Beach Dec. 3 & 4, 2003. It was happily back to California again for the third time in four months. Pepper delighted Sandra by earning the 4th highest score over 75 dogs on the first day of competition. That also placed her 2nd (to the NOI winner) in the Herding Group. On the second day, she made it to the second round of head-to-head competition before taking a scent article to the judge - Oops!. All in all it was another thrilling experience, and 10 year old Pepper doesn't seem to be slowing down.
In February of 2004 Pepper reach the 2000 OTCH point milestone. The rest of this year was devoted to her demonstrating Sandra's new proposed dog sport, K9 Dressage, to obedience and freestyle audiences at seminars in Albuquerque and Tucson. To learn more about this activity, please visit: www.k9dressage.com. It can also be found at the bottom of the "Links" page on this website.
The first five months of 2005 Pepper spent honing her K9 Dressage moves and sequences in preparation for the video of this new sport, and for a workshop demonstration (along with housemate, Golden Retriever, Ruler) at the World Canine Freestyle Conference in Asheville, NC in May. That video is available through the K9 Dressage website. Pepper also demoed her Achy Breaky Heart routine twice during the noon break at the conference. In the Fall Pepper returned to obedience trials, winning a big Utility B class during a trip to Wisconsin, and adding several High in Trials and High Combinds at Texas and New Mexico shows.
2006 began with the goal of producing a video of a collection of Pepper's dances to celebrate her 13th birthday, Oct. 1. By the end of May the collection was ready and sent for production into VHS and DVD formats. In June, a change in the sound of Pepper's bark led to the diagnoses of cancer. Small tumors were found in her upper chest.. She was put on a raw cancer diet and for the next 8 months acted perfectly normal. All formal activities were stopped so that she could dictate her exercise. She was so playful and active that I thought the cancer might be in remission. But no, it exposed itself in her brain on Feb. 23, 2007 - the day she died. She was active to the last and went peacefully. I couldn't wish for a more peaceful passing if she had to go.
Words cannot express my gratitude for the privilege of partnering this wonderful dog for as long as I did. What a fantastic journey we had together!!
Goodbye, my very special friend.