Best Of Show—Kindred Spirits Share Zeal For Work And Play

It has been said dogs resemble their owners, at times both in appearance and personality.

Meet Cheryl Morris and her six-year-old Border collie, Karma, which she adopted as a puppy from a shelter, after it was rescued from a Walmart parking lot.

“Border collies have a superior intellect, combined with an intensity and obsessive zeal for working,” according to Michele Welton, dog trainer and breed expert. “They are sharp-eyed, quick-thinking and bred for endless miles of sprinting and stop-and-go action.”

“That description fits Karma perfectly,” says Morris. And she admits her husband would fondly attest that it fits her as well. “My husband would crack up at that description. He tells me frequently I’m obsessive about what I do and I have to do everything full out.”

In addition to working out at the local gym, Morris owns and exercises six dogs. “This time of year is heavy training. Each dog is trained three to five times a week. My training sessions are typically very short, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per dog. They are run together around the property playing ball for at least 30 minutes each morning and again in each evening in addition to their training.”

Regarding work, Morris says, “I’m technically on a nine-month appointment at Iowa State, but when you are developing new courses it takes more than 40 hours per week. My Omaha zoo appointment is equivalent to quarter-time. However, animals don’t fit their diets into just summer months. So it ends up being about 20 hours per month on average.”

Whether in training or in competitions, Morris mirrors Karma’s energy, fitness and zeal for agility. Their partnership led to a big win at the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) National Agility Championships held in Tulsa, Okla., in March. There Morris and Karma beat out professional handlers, including AKC World team members, to take the championship in Karma’s height category. Morris was “over the moon.”

“To go out and compete against that level, with a dog that was found in a Walmart parking lot and ended up in a shelter—it was amazing. I cried all the way home from Tulsa.”

Karma and Morris competed in all four tournaments at the United States Dog Agility Association Cynosport World Games in October. They brought home a second place finish in the Snooker event, which Morriss describes as “a strategy game similar to a brain teaser at a high rate of speed.”

“Karma is just a quirky little dog. She’s so typical Border collie. She’s fun and she makes me laugh. She’s just a really lovable dog, but it takes her a long time to warm up to people—kind of like I do,” says Morris.