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Ruff 'n ready

Icelandic sheepdogs, owners hold breed's largest U.S. gathering

Icelandic sheepdogs, owners hold breed's largest U.S. gathering

August 26, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

BEAVER CREEK - They scampered and barked, nuzzled and played, totally unaware that they were making canine history.

But the 45 or so Icelandic sheepdogs gathered Saturday on Elisabet Stacy-Hurley's Beaver Creek property represented the largest gathering of the breed in U.S. history, organizers said.

The gathering was part of a series of events scheduled throughout the country to mark the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America's 10-year anniversary.

The United States has only 600 to 700 Icelandic sheepdogs, said ISAA President Knox Rhine, who traveled from his home in Newton, Kan., for the event.

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Still considered a rare breed here, the dogs were taken to Iceland with the Vikings in about 870, Rhine said. They still are used to herd sheep and horses.

"They're very good companion dogs," Rhine said. "They're very good with people - they would much rather be with people than other dogs."

They're so good with people that some are used for therapy, in child-care centers and to work with autistic children, he said.

Stacy-Hurley has had Icelandic sheepdogs for 13 years, she said, and was instrumental in getting the ISAA started 10 years ago.

"There were six of us who started the club," she said. She went all the way to Iceland to get her first two dogs, and now she has a third.

"I got addicted!" she said.

Next year, she said, the breed will be recognized by the American Kennel Club, which will allow owners to show their dogs as part of the club's "miscellaneous" category.

Saturday's event allowed owners to practice a little - an official AKC judge was on hand to instruct the owners on how to show their dogs, and most participated in a small show on the grounds.

"Icie" lovers take recognition of the breed seriously. Retired from a career in public safety that included time as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and a long career with Boeing, Rhine now travels the country "to promote the breed," he said.

A young Icelandic Sheepdog costs between $700 and $1,000 to purchase, Rhine said.

For information on available dogs and puppies, go to www.IcelandDogs.com

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