Canadian-bred Australian Shepherd Spencer beat out 4,500 dogs
On Thursday, December 12, 2019 24-year-old Canadian handler Chelby Marling and 7 year-old Australian Shepherd Spencer won Best in Show at the Central Florida Kennel Club Dog Show and had the whole Canadian dog fancy cheering! This massive show is one of several huge shows leading up to the AKC National Championship in Orlando. And by “massive show” I mean Spencer beat out 4,500 other stunning show dogs to be top!
I’m lucky to be friends with Chelby Marling and she was kind enough to let me interview her on this big win even amongst the chaos of the holidays.
What is Spencer’s full registered name with titles?
MBIS MBISS MRBIS CKC GCHEX AKC CH ASCA CH TREESTARR ORACLE CHICK MAGNET CGN RA CD
How did Spencer come into your life?
I saw Spencer being owner handled by his mom Dominica McCutcheon in May 2019 at the Moncton Dog Show. Prior to this, Dominica had contacted me about taking Spencer to Ontario for a few shows to prepare him for an upcoming Australian Shepherd Specialty. When I saw him, I was in awe.
I knew I needed to get my hands on him for more than just a few shows! Dominica allowed me to and I started handling Spencer seriously in August. By November he exceeded our every expectation and climbed standings all the way to #11 dog of all breeds in Canada! He became not only my priority dog and main Special at the shows, but also our bed dog at home and will hold a place in our hearts forever.
How did he stand out as a puppy? One of Spencer’s breeders Becky Rowan Androff answered this question with great pride.
Spencer had my eye from day one- even when he was 5-6 weeks old, I'd look over and he would be standing like a pro. Ayella Grossman and I evaluated the litter between 7-8 weeks. We thought that Spencer and Jagger were our top pups, but that Spencer's temperament would be perfect for all that Dominica wanted to do with him including Conformation, Herding, and Obedience...he's bred for versatility! We thought with his good looks that he would do very well in Conformation!
Dominica has been great at building this dog's career, and has let him go far to further just career and reputation. I'm so grateful that this home was the perfect match for Spencer!
What makes Spencer a great show dog?
Spencer’s constant willingness to work really makes him the ultimate handlers dream. He never has a bad day. I remember thinking to myself after long weeks of showing “Thank God Spencer has a few days off to rest before the next shows”, but every single time I would look out the window who would be bouncing around the yard as though we had been home for weeks? Spencer! He connected with me immediately and always knew what was being asked of him. He never disappoints.
Describe Spencer’s personality.
Spencer is a workaholic. Always looking to be given a job. Extremely outgoing and loveable. He’s never in a bad mood. Loves his people and children. He gets along with anyone and anything. Spencer is not overly affectionate but is always more comfortable knowing his people are close by.
Do you usually attend the Florida shows in December?
This was my second year attending these shows and my first year participating in them on my own handling.
What draws you to attend the AKC National and the shows in Florida leading up to it?
These shows are some of the greatest shows I have ever attended. I think it’s good to get yourself out of your comfort zone and see what else is out there. It’s an incredible learning experience and so wonderful to see our friends who we rarely get to see.
Did you have a feeling Spencer was going to win big that day
Spencer has always exceeded our expectations and never fails to preform to the best of his ability on any platform. I remember walking in to BIS that night feeling so calm because I said to myself “it’s just another time around the ring. There are some of the world’s greatest dogs in here - let’s go have fun!” Just getting to be a part of it was enough- walking away with this win has been an absolute dream come true that we could never have expected.
Any tips for calming your nerves during such a big show?
Consistency. I prep the same way every time. Using the same Chris Christensen products, the same brushes, the same spray bottles and towels, in the same order every time I think keeps me balanced. I’ve saved elastic bands from some of Spencer’s biggest wins and always have them with me- I think I became so superstitious from playing competitive volleyball. I also always give myself more than enough time to get to the ring.
The best support system I could have ever asked for is truly what gets me though. My boyfriend Kyle is always so calm and collected whenever he’s at my side while I’m showing, he brings me back down to earth. To say I wasn’t nervous would be a lie! But having a plan going in and being surrounded by some of the greatest people is what saves me every time.
What did you do after the win – did you treat yourself? Treat Spencer?
First, I FaceTimed my mother, then we went for dinner, had some drinks, brought Spencer back some leftover steak from dinner and went to bed. We were so exhausted! I remember lying in bed, starring at the ceiling for hours thinking to myself “Did that just happen?”
The ribbon looks enormous! How big is the ribbon?
I am 6’2 and believe it or not it is nearly as tall as me!!!
Where will you keep the BIS ribbon?
Dominica and Joan were kind enough to let me keep it! We will have it shadow boxed (if we can find one big enough) and it will be kept in a very special place.
What did you daughter Laura think of the big win?
She was thrilled and so excited to go to Disney next year!!!
Did she watch live or streaming?
Laura streamed it from home in Ottawa with Kyle’s parents, Rhoda and Wally.
How did you get into dogs?
When I was 7 years old my grandparents got a Bouvier and wanted him to be shown. My older sister Kimberly started showing and not long after I fell in love with the sport as well.
When did you start handling?
I worked for Allison Alexander for several years, took a step back when I was playing Canada Games volleyball and when I had my daughter. But not long after I was pulled back in and worked for Allison again! I have been out on my own now for a few years. I recently moved to Ottawa with my boyfriend Kyle and joined Team Ace.
Who have been your mentors?
I owe it all to Allison- she truly was one of the greatest people I could have ever learned from. To say she is one of the most intelligent people I have ever come to know and love would be an absolute understatement. I am so thankful her and Olivia Hodgkinson saw potential in me at such a young age. I am still learning from them and I’m sure I will continue to for many years to come.
What’s next for Spencer?
Spencer is happy to be retiring and returning home to Prince Edward Island. He lives on a farm with 5 children. We are hoping to make an appearance at the American National in St Louis in April.
Anyone you would like to thank who has helped you two get here?
Firstly, I would like to thank my boyfriend Kyle for supporting me. He is always just as happy for me as he is for himself. You would never know the difference. He has truly been my rock. Joan Cunningham for supporting this ride and believing in us every step of the way. My mother Char Marling for always being just a phone call away. Rhoda and Wally Ace for being my unofficial parents and treating me like one of their own. Allison for giving me the confidence, the knowledge and strength to get here. Emma Astle for helping me convince Dominica McCutcheon to send her heart dog to Ontario for this extended period of time.
I know that when Spencer leaves our home it will incredibly emotional and I know that it has been very tough to have him away from both Dominica and her family. Thank you Dominica for choosing and trusting me with your boy. Thank you to Zoey, Sarah and Mel for assisting me when we needed a little extra help. My daughter Laura for always cheering us on ringside. I often can’t hear anything or anyone when I’m ‘in the zone’ in the ring but I could always hear her little voice. My grandparents Leta, Paddy, Evelyn and Pat for all of the love and support.
To the world of Aussies I have come to know and love for loving Spencer and supporting us. Becky and Ayella for breeding this once in a lifetime dog. An enormous thank you to all of the judges for pointing their fingers and recognizing Spencer’s beauty and potential. And to anyone I may have missed. It takes a village and this has been a pretty great one.
What an incredible way to end an incredible year for Spencer and Chelby! I wish Spencer a very happy retirement and can’t wait to see how Chelby will shine in 2020!