From struggle to triumph, Cassie Kindle has passion, spirit and love for all of her Australian shepherds.
The Kindles are a big, country, animal-loving family. They own horses, cows, dogs and even two llamas, Larry and Lolly, who stay in a pen in front of their house. But for Kindle and her daughter Maddy, a junior at Smith-Cotton High School, the ones they seem to favor most are their canines.
Kindle has been breeding and showing Australian shepherds in the American Kennel Club and Australian Shepherd Club of America for the past 15 years. She owns a kennel called Affinity Aussies, and every year she breeds about two litters. Her motivation comes from her passion for the dogs and she enjoys caring for, training, grooming and showing them; through this, she has met many wonderful people.
Susan Bailey, a local breeder of Aussies and a ranch owner, helped expose Kindle to the breed. As Kindle grew up through her teen years, she and Bailey worked and rode horses together. Observing Bailey with her dogs, watching them interact with her and being around them is what brought Kindle to that breed.
However, one of Kindle’s most impactful mentors was not human, but a furry friend with four legs. Kindle said Gage, her first show dog, was a champion and taught her everything she knows today. She met many people because of Gage, whether they wanted to breed their dog with him or to buy his puppies. Gage was a character and his father was a Hall of Fame show dog. However, Gage died during the past year after being hit by a car. On Kindle’s website, affinityaussies.com, she has a page in remembrance of Gage.
Kindle only shows dogs as a hobby, compared with others who compete full-time; still, she’s encountered many challenges and obstacles throughout her showing career.
“In the dog show world, there are a lot of politics just like anything, especially being judged,” she said. “It’s not like football where you can go out and physically prove you’re better and can win. It’s about the judge’s opinion or interpretation of your animal.”
Show ring politics take into account who you’ve bought from and who’s handling your dog.
“Doing it as a hobby … the most difficult (has been) getting (our) name out there and getting over those political hurdles,” Kindle said.
Kindle also is a mother of three and has a full-time nursing career. Once her children are grown and out of the house, she plans to take up showing full-time and would like to travel doing so. She has goals not only for herself, but also for her dogs; she would like to see them reach champion level in the American Kennel Club.
Kindle stressed the importance of bonding with your dog. She said trainers must be able to adjust to the dog’s personality and the goal is to show the dog to the judge as flawlessly as possible. Since the Aussie breed tends to be reserved, more time is needed to train the dog consistently.
“To train you need to do it every day,” Maddy Kindle said. “It has to be a constant thing and you have to be consistent with your time put in.”
While Maddy enjoys working with the dogs, she doesn’t have the drive for it that her mother does.
“I think I will continue doing this, but it’s going to be more of a hobby for me because I am interested, but I’m not as passionate about it as I am other things,” Maddy said.
Maddy’s mindset is not out of the ordinary, and Cassie Kindle fears the future in showing Aussies isn’t very promising.
“You know, it’s really dying out,” Kindle said. “The people that participate, such as the judges, are aging. The juniors classes that Maddy used to be in are dwindling. There used to be about five kids that came and now only one little boy shows up.”
Kindle believes she has been fortunate with the way her chips have fallen.
“You need to be willing to make sacrifices, realize that you’re dealing with animals and they’re going to cut into your vacation, money and family time,” Kindle said.
Haily Zaremba is a Smith-Cotton High School student.