On the weekend of June 25 and 26, the Collins family traveled from Elkridge to Toronto, Canada to allow their German shepherds, Andrew and Boj, to participate in the Schutzund, a traditional competition for that breed.
Family friends Mike and Donna Thomas, and Mark and Jennifer Marlatt, all of Ellicott city, traveled with them for moral support. Hank Schoenfeld, of Pikesville, flew from Maryland to Toronto, just to see the competition.
They're proud to say that the dogs did well: Andrew placed third in his Level 1 of the competition, and Boj ("Boy" in Czech) was one mere point from a second place in his Level 2 trials. The dogs "worked very hard. It feels good to see your goals reached," says Betsey Collins, owner of the dogs with her husband, Jon.
The Schutzund is a performance trial that tests the dogs in three areas: tracking, obedience and protection work. The accumulated points in all three areas determine the final scores.
The sport started long ago in Germany, where now the national Schutzund Championship is a highly prestigious event. The sport came to the United States 20 years ago, where it has gained sufficient popularity that more than 300 clubs encourage it.
The club to which Andrew, Boj and their owners belong is the Mason-Dixon BVG. Meetings to train the dog athletes are held each Sunday morning at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge.
"It's very specialized, and needs very serious dedication," Ms. Collins says.
Ms. Collins trains her dogs twice each day, 28 to 30 hours each week, in any kind of weather. "I prefer positive rewards and motivation, because I want happy working dogs," she says.
An interesting note is that Schutzunders train their dogs in German, both for international uniformity and as a safety precaution. This way, the protection-trained dogs will not misunderstand an English word misspoken by chance.
Both Jon and Betsey grew up with dogs: Jon's family had eight dogs, Betsey's six. They became interested in the sport more than five years ago because they wanted their German shepherds and Rottweilers to be working dogs. They now have extended this interest to competitions and to volunteer work educating the public in dog care and training. The couple takes their dogs to schools and senior centers for demonstrations.
In addition, the Collins' businesses center on dogs: they own "Canine and Kitty" at 7260 Unit H, Montgomery Road in Elkridge, where they offer supplies needed for Schutzund, among other pet care items. In addition, they run private classes on obedience training for all breeds of dogs and breed Rottweilers and German shepherds in their home kennels.
Betsey and Jon Collins welcome inquiries into Schutzund and the Mason-Dixon DVG Club. Catch them at 379-0033 at their shop or leave a message at their home, 788-6149.
They also welcome visits to the Sunday morning meetings, but request advance notice.
Denise Willoth of Trinity Episcopal Church, located "on the Pike" in Elkridge, invites everyone in the community to the church's annual crab cake and ham dinner. Held from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, the dinner will feature a traditional Maryland menu.
Tickets for adults cost $8.50. For children 5 to 16, the cost is $4. Children under the age of 5 eat free.
Sunday services at Trinity Episcopal are currently on the summer schedule. The two services for worship begin at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. A nursery to provide care for children first-grade and under is available for the 10 a.m. service.
Trinity Episcopal Church is at 7474 Washington Boulevard in Elkridge.