My name is Annette Holbrook. I live in Milton, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. My husband, Mike, and I are dog trainers by trade and are passionate about all things dog.
I became obsessed with dogs about age 8 when I read a book called “Follow My Leader” about a boy and his Seeing Eye dog. As soon as I finished the book I began the quest for my very own dog. Not just any dog, I had to have a German Shepherd, just like the dog in the book. My father would have loved to have a dog, but my mother was petrified of dogs and so we were “cat people”. I begged every birthday, every Christmas, whenever I got a good report card, you name it I tried to maneuver a dog into the house. While I waited, I trained all the house cats to be “pseudo” dogs, and that helped for a while, but still a puppy was forever in my hopes and dreams.
Not that my childhood was completely dogless, I spent weekends and summers pet sitting for anyone who would have me. I walked, bathed, fed and played with all the neighborhood dogs and learned about dogs of all shapes and sizes. When we visited my mother’s family in New Zealand I would beg to stay at our cousin’s sheep station and spent the entire time watching the dogs work the sheep or watching my Uncle train the new pups to work. When we visited my father’s family in Lancashire, England I would “adopt” the neighbor’s dogs and I’m sure drove her crazy at all hours offering to “help” her take care of her little dogs. She always had 2 or 3 little black and tan dogs who were full of personality and mischief. While I considered myself a “big dog” person, those little dogs apparently made an impression.
Finally for my 16th birthday my father somehow convinced my mother that I had waited long enough and that I obviously wasn’t going to outgrow this obsession. I wanted a big dog, but a German Shepherd was still out of the question so my dad and I talked my mom into…..A ROTTWEILER. For some reason their bear cub puppy looks didn’t scare her and so we came home with Rage. He was everything I could have hoped for in a first dog, although I’m not sure he did as well in the bargain. I read every book and tried every training technique there was. At that time Barbara Woodhouse was the all the rage (excuse the pun) on TV and I’m sure the entire neighborhood was laughing everytime I said “Walkies” to this great big rottie pup. Despite my enthusiasm, Rage ended up being a great companion and tireless friend. He finished his AKC Championship as well as obtaining an AKC obedience title and passed the American Temperament Test Society test with flying colors.
Looking for a more agile breed than Rottweilers I moved on to Beaucerons. I got my first Beauceron in 1994, a female named Javeline du Chateau Rocher. With Java I discovered the sport of Schutzhund and met my husband, Mike, the training director at the local Schutzhund club and a lifetime German Shepherd owner and enthusiast. With his help I learned a whole new respect for training and what a dog could be inspired to accomplish. Java ended up with her American, Puerto Rican and World Championships as well as a being an accomplished Schutzhund dog and all-around great family companion and protector. While at a dog show one weekend a friend loaned me her copy of a Crufts dog show directory and while waiting ringside I flipped through the magazine looking at the color pictures of all the breeds represented there. As always, I was drawn to the herding dogs and started in the Pastoral dog section. When I saw the picture of the Lancashire Heeler I froze. I can’t ever be sure that my grandmother’s neighbor’s dogs were Lancashire Heelers as I don’t remember ever asking her what breed they were, but this was the closest I had found in all these years. After reading the breed description I was sold and decided that one day a Lancashire Heeler would join our pack.
Fast forward a few years, the kids are getting older, life is getting a bit more settled (as settled as it can be with 12 dogs, 12 acres, 2 kids and a busy home based dog training business) so I decide it’s time to start the search for a Lancashire Heeler. Having been involved with a rare breed I knew it would take a while but I had no idea I would wait over 5 years to finally get Sergeant. He arrived in October 2007 and became the apple of my eye. He really was a big dog in a small dog body, he loved training, was a phenomenal tracking dog, loved wrestling with the big dogs but most of all he loved his family. After living with Sergeant I was totally in love with this breed and started learning as much as I could. When I discovered the Lancashire Heeler was included on the UK’s list of vulnerable breeds I decided to get more involved and hopefully help people on this side of the pond discover a great little dog.