In February of 2005, we were ready to add another dog to our family. We found Wolfie quite by accident in our local shelter. He was named “Max” then and we were told he was “not adoptable.” He had been turned in by his owner at 12 months old and, in the 30 days he had been in the shelter, had failed to come out of the back of his kennel. He wanted no human contact. His owner had gotten him as a pup, left him alone for 12 hours a day and then punished him severely for chewing and messing in the house. When he dropped him off at the shelter, he told the staff that he was: “Probably not adoptable and pretty useless.”
I had never seen a White Shepherd and actively campaigned against one. Ron had grown up with one and thank goodness he prevailed. I met “Max” and it was love at first sight. He was cowering under the directors desk and when I went to pet him, he shook and backed away. My sister in law is a vet, and was with me. I asked her what she thought and I have never forgotten what she said. “If you want to save him for the sake of saving him, I understand, but he will never be the dog of your dreams.” Before you get mad at Jess, please know that she is and always has been one of Wolfie’s biggest supporters; she just didn’t want to see me get hurt. For the record, he is and always has been the dog of my dreams.
We brought Max home and would lasso him to take him out to go potty. He would hide between our bed and the wall and it broke my heart. This went on for several weeks with very little progress. I began searching for anyone who might know more about a White Shepherd than I did, I was desperate to help him. I found Echo Dogs on the web and contacted the first name listed in my area. Angel Nowak answered and she will forever be “Wolfie’s Angel.” She told me that I should change his name and enroll him in class. I tried to explain that I couldn’t really even touch him, but she insisted and also offered to take him and find me another dog if we couldn’t work it out. Imagine, he wasn’t even an “Echo Dogs Dog” and she was willing to go that far, I was very impressed!
We enrolled in obedience class. It took us 45 minutes to get in the door the first night. Slowly, we began to see the confidence and a relationship began to form. It was slow, but the progress was there, and besides, I was so in love with him, that I literally would have done anything for him. He was still terrified of Ron, but he and I were joined at the hip.
We added a second White Shepherd that July and Sheena worked miracles with Wolfie. He began to play and have fun, and slowly, he and Ron were becoming friends. He continued to take classes and continued his journey to wholeness. We became foster parents for Echo Dogs and then found positive training. My dogs have been in classes almost non stop for 4 years. I am a trainer myself now and there is always a White Shepherd or two at all of my classes.
I am a rescue person. I have had rescued animals all of my life. We have had over 50 foster dogs and rescue is my passion. The show world was something that I took a rather dim view of. I didn’t understand what the draw was and felt like the show world looked down on rescue dogs. I could not have been more wrong! In my duties as a dog trainer I work at a facility with many breeders. I began to watch and listen, and slowly, I began to understand. I was curious and my friends were more than willing to help me learn. Wolfie and I began taking classes and even private lessons. White Shepherd breeders like Jean Reeves and Scarlett Sanders helped me find the right equipment and helped with the finer points of how to show and groom a White Shepherd.
Mark, Echo Dog’s founder, was from the show world and clearly had a heart for rescue. I called his wife Maralyn and asked her blessing to use “Echo” as our kennel name. Maralyn said Mark would be honored and hence, we have our first Echo Dogs show dog. It is our hope that if you decide to register your dog, you also use the Echo kennel name. We want everyone to know where these beautiful dogs have come from.
Wolfie and I practiced, a lot. I felt like if I was going to show my rescue we had to be at our best. I didn’t want anyone to be able to tell if he was a breeder’s dog or a rescue dog. Wolf and I have done everything together, and I did not believe that our bond could get any stronger. I was wrong. The more we worked, the more I saw his confidence grow, and the more he and I were connected.
The day of the show finally came and 20 of our friends and family came to support us. We thanked them by presenting them with shirts that said:
ECHO’S CALL OF THE WILD
MEMBER OF WOLF’S PACK.
We were quite a sight! Everyone welcomed us with open arms and told me how beautiful Wolf was, just what every dog mom wants to hear! I was a wreck, but my coaches and friends were there, cheering us on. Finally it was time for Wolf and me to step in the ring. The second that we crossed the line, Wolf knew exactly what to do, he had become the teacher and I the student. I wish I could tell you what it was like, but it is all a blur. The world stopped for just a moment and it was just Wolf and I. The next thing I knew, the judge was handing us a ribbon and we stepped out of the ring greeted with cheers and tears. Seasoned show people and friends and family alike, hugging, crying, and all for my rescue dog, a dog that the owner had called useless!
The second time in the ring was better, I actually remember it. Both Wolf and I were more relaxed and when we were handed the ribbon for best in breed for the second time, Wolf and I were both on cloud nine. It is a day that I will always remember and cherish. Wolf is a beautiful dog, with a beautiful soul, and for the world to see that is more than I could have ever hoped for.
Our Shepherds can compete in both the American White Shepherd Association (AWSA) and in the United White Shepherd Club shows for conformation. They both generously offer an altered class and it is the hope of both clubs to see more of our dogs in the ring. For clarification purposes, AWSA is the parent club for AKC and the United White Shepherd Club is the parent club for the UKC. To show your dog, they must have an AKC number for AWSA and a UKC number for the United White Shepherd Club. Obtaining the number is easy. You do a limited registration: for the AKC you list the dog as a German Shepherd Dog and the color as white. For UKC, you register your dog as a White Shepherd. Send in a couple of pics and the registration fee and you are done.
White Shepherds can compete in all events except conformation in AKC and in any events in UKC. No altered dogs can compete in conformation except for in our own breed clubs. Events include, rally, obedience, agility, tracking, herding and many more. In fact, our dog Sheena is currently working on her water rescue title.
If you have never considered showing or doing performance events with your White Shepherd, I can not encourage you strongly enough to try. The rewards are more than ribbons (which are great, don’t get me wrong!). We have working dogs, and they like to work. Our dogs are both beautiful and versatile, the rewards for both you and them are beyond measure.