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Laporte canine wows AKC judges

Nancy Pierce and Sadie head out for 15-minute workouts twice a day. Patience, Pierce said, is the key to dog training. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

An "average, everyday house dog" of dubious heritage has claimed distinction on a national level.

Sadie, a 4-year-old adopted Australian shepherd cross, with Laporte resident Nancy Pierce at her side, claimed second in obedience in the recent American Kennel Club dog show.

It was a momentous moment.

Nearly 2,000 hounds arrived from 42 states to compete in the Land o' Lakes Kennel Club show in St. Paul. All of them but one - Sadie - have AKC papers documenting purebred status.

Sadie was classified as All-American.

"I prefer mixed breeds. They're smarter," Pierce said of inheriting the "best of both sides."

Pierce, whose "kids" include four dogs and two cats," adopted Sadie two years ago. She'd recently lost a dog in a traffic accident. Growing up with a dog of similar ancestry, she had a "soft spot" for the herding dog.

"She's my bodyguard," Pierce said of Sadie, the dog sharing sleeping quarters.

Initially, competition was not on the agenda.

Pierce's sister, Sandra, 17, began training Sadie and the twosome headed to the Hubbard County Fair, where Sadie earned judges' commendations.

The following year Nancy Pierce was asked to assist the Laporte Comets 4-H dog club.

"Trainer Lori Jo Turner took me under her wing," Pierce said. "She gave me the showing virus."

Turner apprised Pierce of the change in AKC bylaws in April, allowing mixed breeds. In August, she decided to give the competition a go.

This was the third show for the duo, one in Fargo and one in St. Cloud, Sadie gaining no lauds at either.

But her debut on the big stage garnered 195 out of 200 points, just one behind the winner, a golden retriever.

The secret to training: Patience.

"Breathe," Pierce advises of moments of frustration. "And practice, practice, practice. With a laugh or two" thrown in for good measure.

"Sadie loves training," she said, the treats in the pocket an incentive. "She's perky when we go to work," 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at night.

"Heeling is the biggest issue," Pierce said. "That's our focus at the end of the walk."

And reaching a proper distance when she sits is a matter of consternation. "At the shows, she's too far. At home she wiggles close to get the pat."

Pierce said her "social butterfly loves the shows. We've had a ball. She hates the long car rides but loves seeing other dogs."

The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley middle school aide plans to begin training her student in CDX, Companion Dog Excellence. The advanced obedience training involves jumps, retrieving and other moves.

"Short sweet and to the point," she said of the half-hour regime. "I don't want overkill."

As to retirement, it's not forecast in the near future. Pierce estimates Sadie will be 7 or 8 before her career ends. "We have a few years to go."