SHULLSBURG – Let’s face it, every one believes their pet is the best and that is true. But one dog has many ribbons, awards and a couple titles to back up with best of the best.
Gloria Swenson of Shullsburg is no stranger to dog shows. She has been showing and breeding collies since the 1990s and has a deep passion and love for dogs that began as a child.
“I truly just love dogs. They mean everything to me,” Swenson.
In 1999 her prize smooth collie Big Mac made it to the Westminster Dog Show in New York City’s Madison Square Gardens and he won Best of Opposite Sex.
It was a great honor for her and all her hard work paid off. She showed for several years until the year she lost Big Mac. He died from a rare form of cancer in early March right before they were to go to Nationals.
It was an emotional time as her prized stallion horse also passed away a few months before that.
“It was too emotional to go on with it,” Swenson said about continuing breeding and showing at that time. She was unable to find another male dog she liked to be able to breed to her females so she had them spayed.
She continued to work on her education, receiving her doctorate in Education and Administration until there was a post on Facebook in 2015 from her friend and fellow breeder, Vickie Von Seggern, Thorndale Collies. Von Seggern posted a picture of a collie puppy.
Swenson remembers calling Von Seggern right away asking about the dog.
“Vickie was trying to figure out which to keep between Laddie and his brother.”
In the end, Swenson ended up with Laddie. She intended on keeping him only as a companion dog until Von Seggern stated how beautiful he was growing up and suggested she show him.
“I was pretty busy at the time. I was mayor of Shullsburg but I did know how to train him and show so I thought I’d give it a try.”
She started Laddie out in February 2016 in the puppy class and he ended up winning his class. He went back in with other winners to pick the overall winner and he won Best of Winners.
“It was a major win. He won five points which is the most points you can get in a dog show in the classes.”
Swenson was elated and went to the next show hoping for the same thing but Laddie’s puppy instincts kicked in and he was a little wild.
“He slipped out of his collar and ran around the ring. No one could catch him. Finally when he tired himself out he came back to me. Oh I was so upset,” Swenson remembers.
But she didn’t want to give up. She knew he had potential and so did Von Seggern.
“You just have to have faith.”
She worked with Laddie for two years, hardly going to any shows. They went to obedience classes in Monroe and conformation classes in Madison.
“Everyday we worked at home but I made it fun.”
She fenced in her horse paddock to keep him safe and kept playing fetch or ‘bunny’ with his favorite toy bunny.
In September 2018 Swenson knew she needed to find Laddie a handler as she couldn’t be away from her work in Shullsburg. Von Seggern suggested Swenson try Devon Kipp, originally from Wisconsin but now based in Minnesota.
The first show Laddie went to with Kipp, he won. They began to go to a few more shows sporadically in 2018 to get Laddie used to it. Swenson then wanted to ramp up the shows in 2019.
“I wanted him to be a champion. His brother was a champion and I knew Laddie could be one too. ”
After attending several shows, by mid-July Laddie received another win with another five point major and he was a champion.
The American Kennel Club has champions and grand champions. To get a champion status, one needs to have two major wins and 15 points. At that point in July, Laddie had his champion status. To win grand champion, they would need three major wins and 25 points and they had to start all over.
“I asked Devon if she thought he could get that and she said yes. You have to take it with a grain of salt but I trusted her.”
They took Laddie back out into competitions and by mid-October, Laddie was a grand champion. The next level to reach is grand champion bronze, which he would need 100 points more.
Swenson explained some of the point system like this: every time a dog takes a Best of Breed award, they go into a group. When in that group, they go against other breeds that are Best of Breed winners. There are seven breed groups. Laddie is in the herding group. Within those groups there are places group 1, group 2, group 3 and group 4. When a dog wins a group, they are awarded points for each dog they bested. For example if there were 30 dogs in a group, the group 1 winner would receive 30 points and that dog competes with the six other group 1 winners for Best in Show.
Laddie continued to show and began winning groups. This led them to March 1, 2020, when everything was canceled due to COVID-19. Things stopped, slowed down and had to be reassessed.
Even with all that time off, Laddie never forgot a thing. Laddie and Kipp did not go to another event until August 2020 and he went right on winning.
In August, he won Best of Breed in three shows. In September he won Best of Breed in six shows. In October he won Best of Breed in five shows.
“He was very consistent in winning. People really were beginning to notice him.”
In November he won four Best of Breed awards along with winning two group 2s and a group 3. In December they went to Florida for several shows. It was there that Laddie won Best of Breed again in a very large entry. He went on to the AKC National Show and won an Award of Excellence.
“I was so excited he got something,” Swenson recalled. “He wasn’t ready at last years show but we prepared him for it.”
Swenson watched his show through live stream and was elated when the standings came out. Laddie is now ranked #8 nationally in the Smooth Collie All Breed Category.
Through all of his awards and accomplishments, Swenson is most proud of Laddie for being nominated for a Shining Star Award in 2020 for his life saving efforts he took to save Swenson.
In October 2019, Swenson and Laddie were taking their usual walk around her property. After their walk they always go back to the paddock to play fetch and get more exercise and training in.
As they neared the end of their walk Swenson suddenly felt ill.
“I felt like I got hit over the head,” Swenson remembered.
She was disoriented and was unable to get her cell phone out of her pocket. She kept having the urge to just lie down because she felt like she was going to pass out.
Swenson said Laddie kept looking at her with concern, not able to figure out what was going on.
“I thought I have Laddie with me. What if I let go of the leash? He could get hurt from coyotes or foxes. But then my mind kept wanting to lie down and pass out.”
All of a sudden Laddie started pulling Swenson toward the house, which is not usually where they go after their walks. Laddie took Swenson to the back door of the house.
After being extremely sick, Swenson called her doctors office. She was just there the day before getting her flu shot. After a couple days of an extremely high fever, she found out she had an extremely bad reaction to the flu shot.
“I have never had a reaction before. I think about that and how Laddie saved my life by taking me to the house and not the paddock.”
After a great end of 2020 for Laddie, he ended up being awarded his grand champion bronze title with 303 points. His brother also won grand champion. The next level is silver. In total he has won 30 Best in Breed titles in 2020.
“I keep hoping he does even more things,” Swenson said. “But it wouldn’t matter if he didn’t. He is just a wonderful and very devoted dog.”
During quarantine, Swenson began writing short conversation type articles on Facebook that she named Laddie Tails that feature her conversations with Laddie on every day topics to the best games to play together.
“I am very grateful to Vickie Von Seggern and her constant faith in Laddie and Devon Kipp for her devotion and wonderful handing of Laddie in the dog show ring. She has made him the show dog he is today.”