A FANCIER FOR LIFE: MEET LORRAINE STILL
By: Erin Ann Rouse Date: 01/27/2012
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
She was born in 1925, became active in the sport of purebred dogs in 1947, and is still going strong. Meet Lorraine Still — dog fancier, artist, historian and activist.
"My sister and I were both animal nuts, and we grew up reading all the horse stories and dog stories. I read everything that Albert Payson Terhune wrote about dogs — fiction, nonfiction — and all of the books he wrote about the Sunnybank Collies. Those books did for Collies in the '20s and '30s what Lassie did for Collies in the '50s, '60s and '70s. And so I wanted a Collie and had two of them when I was growing up. The first one was unregistered and then the second one was a registered dog."
Unlike those of us who were content just to have a dog by our side as kids, Lorraine's love of Collies searched out a larger context.
"I went to my first dog show in the late 1930s. We were visiting my mother's brother in Seattle and read in the papers something about a dog show, so we went. It was held at this labor union building; we had to climb the stairs, I remember that, and the dogs were benched and were all Collies. I couldn't figure out why the ribbons weren't blue and red — like I understood they were supposed to be — they were different colors. Well, now I know it was a match show — possibly the match show that helped start the Collie Club of Washington."
"In 1947, when we were students at the University of Oregon, my husband and I joined the Eugene Kennel Club and got our first Collie as our first wedding anniversary present. I showed her at the first dog show that the Eugene Kennel Club put on in January of 1948. There had been a Eugene Kennel Club back in the '20s but they held only two shows; then the Depression came along, and the club became totally inactive. It was re-formed after World War II."
"When my husband and I graduated from the University of Oregon — we graduated together — we moved to Milton — Freewater, Oregon, just across the state line from Walla Walla, Washington, in the spring of 1949. We farmed up there with relatives until 1964 and became involved in and were charter members of the Walla Walla Kennel Club — of the re-formed club. That was another club that was in existence ... before the war. Ward Gardner — a prominent Walla Walla businessman, dog fancier and judge-and Frances Holland — a Portland businesswoman — owned the club (when clubs could be private enterprises). After the war, the club re-formed as a not-for-profit club, and the members went together and bought Ward and Francis out. We held our first show in 1952. We didn't have to hold a sanctioned match for Conformation but we did for Obedience, because they'd had no Obedience before the war."
Lorraine was not only smitten by exhibiting her dogs in conformation but by working with them in Obedience.
"Helene Whitehouse Walker and her assistant, Blanche Saunders, were the ones who started Obedience. People used to say 'oh the mutts are smarter', and Walker and Saunders were out to prove them wrong. They traveled around the country with Standard Poodles, giving demonstrations, and talked the AKC into adopting Obedience."
Lorraine put Obedience titles on many of her Robrovin Collies.
"The two Collies I had when I was a child were named Rover and Robin. When I raised my first litter in 1951, I registered my kennel name the same year (in those days, you could do that), and I combined the names of those two Collies, Robin and Rover, and my kennel name is Robrovin."
Her celebration of Collies went beyond the whelping box and show ring.
"I graduated from the University of Oregon with a BS in Art. But I drew forever; I took lessons from a teacher in Wenatchee, who was instrumental in my going to the University of Oregon."
For Lorraine, the combined love of drawing and dogs was an ideal match.
"I had done the illustrations for a book call Pet Collie for All Pets Publications in 1954. The author of that book was Ted Kattell, who was a Collie breeder. He was one of the ones who recommended me for the job of developing an illustrated standard for the Collie Club of America (CCA)."
In 1961, the Collie Club of America (CCA) published Illustrations of the Collie, His Character and Conformation, written and illustrated by the club's now lifetime member, Lorraine Still (she joined CCA in 1949).
"At the time that we did this, the AKC would not allow us to call it an 'illustrated standard.' Quite a few years later, everyone's begging for illustrated standards — times change. Anyway, that's why we had to have the title Illustrations of the Collie, His Character and Conformation."
"The original drawings for Illustrations of the Collie, His Character and Conformation, as well as my dog books and magazines, will go to the new Dog Collection at Oregon State University. I see those drawings as my legacy to Collies."
Since childhood, Lorraine also had an interest in Shelties.
"I was born and raised in Wenatchee, Washington. There was a little magazine store-cigar store-soda fountain downtown, and they had a newsstand that carried three dog publications: Dog World, Dog News, and Dogdom. I used to go with my allowance — they were 25 cents per copy — every month and look at these magazines, and the one that had the most pictures and stuff about Collies, that's the one I bought."
"At that time, Dog News was a monthly put out by Alice Rosenthal in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it continued publication until 1971. Mrs. Rosenthal featured a breed every month, and December was the Collie and Sheltie issue, so naturally when I bought that issue, the Collies and Shelties were both featured. I got interested in Shelties because of the similarities between them and Collies."
Several years later, she got her first Sheltie.
"I lost two Collies that I was very fond of within about a year of each other, and I was lower than a snake's belly about that. Around that time, our son had indicated that he would like to have a Sheltie. So we pooled our resources and bought Treasure in 1961. I showed her to her championship; she became Ch. Robrovin Treasure O' Jubilee, CD. Treasure produced three champions, two from a litter of four, all four of which also earned Obedience titles, and one of them was Oregon State 4-H Obedience Champion three years in a row."
The Shelties that Lorraine has today are the tenth-generation descendents down from Treasure.
In 1964, their ranch in eastern Oregon was hit by what was known as a hundred-year flood. The house was spared, but the swollen Walla Walla River destroyed other property, including the kennel building. After the flood, they moved back to the Eugene area.
"At the time, I had four adult Collies, four adult Shelties, and a litter of four Sheltie puppies. When we moved and I had to choose, I sold all of the Collies and kept three of the Shelties (Treasure, her daughter, and a male) because of the smaller size."
In the course of her many years of breeding, Lorraine produced several American and Canadian champions, as well as some International champions, and many of them had Obedience titles.
"American and Canadian Ch. Robrovin Carmen Jones, I believe, was the top-winning Collie bitch in 1958. American and Canadian Ch. Robrovin Johnny Appleseed dominated the Sheltie show ring in the Northwest for four years in the 1970s; he rose in ratings to become the Number 2 Sheltie in the nation and was only shown in Oregon and Washington. I made one trip with him to California. I also showed him in Canada for his Canadian championship. He had multiple group placements and a Best in Show from the Working Group, before it was split into the Working and Herding groups. At that time, there were 31 breeds in the Working Group."
Lorraine turned her enthusiasm toward judging early on.
"I had wanted to be a judge since forever. I had produced Best of Breed and Group-winning Collies; I had produced Best of Breed, Group-winning, and a Best In Show-winning Sheltie; and I had created the Collie illustrated standard — what the AKC wouldn't let us call an illustrated standard but it was — so I was pretty confident that my judging application would be approved. I applied to judge and was approved in 1980."
"My initial breed was Collies; I judge Collies, Shelties and Junior Showmanship for AKC. I have also judged Australian Shepherds for the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and have been judging ASCA shows since 1983. This was 10 years before AKC recognized the Australian Shepherd."
"The most exciting judging assignment I ever had was the Collie Club of New South Wales' championship show in celebration of Australia's bicentennial in 1988."
"All of the time you're breeding dogs, you keep hoping for this perfect dog. Well, he doesn't show up. So you think, 'Aha, I'll judge and I'll find the perfect dog.' Well, cheer up — that doesn't happen either. It's always a compromise. The good points have to outweigh the bad; none of them are perfect. That's one of the reasons why judging isn't an exact science. I've always said if God said 'That's a perfect dog,' there would be a hundred people who would disagree with Him."
What keeps her looking?
"Well, you keep hoping. Hope springs eternal."
Her dedication to Collies and Shelties has also brought her into an activist role.
"During the late '60s and early '70s here in Eugene, there was no county animal control; Greenhill Humane Society handled all of the impounded animals for the county. They took in between 25,000 and 35,000 animals a year — that included both dogs and cats — and over two-thirds of them had to be euthanized. It was not a good situation.
"These figures have improved dramatically. The total number of dogs that were impounded by Lane County Animal Control in 2004-05 was 1,252. Even though the dog population has certainly increased in Lane County since the early '70s, we have decreased tremendously the number of dogs impounded; we have increased the number adopted; we have decreased the number euthanized, and we have increased the number of dogs that are being returned to their owners.
"Of course with the animal rights bunch, nothing is good enough. In any other endeavor, this kind of success rate would have people jumping up and kicking their heels. Just think if they'd had that kind of success rate in controlling drugs that they've had in cutting down the number of dogs that go through the shelters, they would be so happy. But no."
"To the animal rights groups, if you raise one litter, you're a puppy mill, so basically they were out to get rid of everybody. But they were smart in their tactic because no one wants puppy mills, so in the beginning the bill caused a split in the ranks of dog clubs here."
"Anyway, there was to be a meeting of dog club people up in Portland-this was the formation of Responsible Dog Breeders of Oregon. A longtime friend and I went up together, but we went on our own, not representing a kennel club. Those who had legal kennel licenses were the ones who could risk speaking out against this bill. And that was the beginning of the stand against the extremism of the animal rights movement in Oregon."
"There's a saying that 'war makes strange bedfellows.' These animal rights people may claim otherwise, but they do not distinguish between so-called 'puppy mills' and the average breeder. SB 1158 would have stopped many good breeders right along with the bad."
"What really woke me up was when I got a phone call from a man I'd known from conformation and obedience in earlier years, but had become a commercial breeder. Because he was selling dogs commercially across the country he was unpopular with dog show people and was looked down upon. So I got a phone call from him, and he told me about this legislation that was being presented in Oregon, this Senate Bill 1158. He said to read it carefully, that he thought it would affect show breeders, too. He was right. It did. And I said then and there, 'You know, if we don't forget our differences and work together, we're all going down the tubes.' You align yourself at a time of critical need and worry about your differences later. So that's how I got involved and because we all worked together, we defeated that bill."
"I lived to see the day when some of the folks in Eugene who thought that my friend and I had rocks in our heads admitted that we were right all along. When you know what's going on all around the country — it's bad. Many times I've said to friends that I'm glad I did what I did with my dogs when I did it, because times have changed and they're going to change even more, and it will be increasingly difficult to breed. It's just one bad bill after another."
"When you look around, the shows are smaller than they were, and the number of people who are joining dog clubs is dropping, and many of us in clubs are pretty long in the tooth, you know. You need young people coming on board, but with everyone working and with zoning restrictions, there is less and less contact with animals."
"This whole legislation business is very, very scary. But people have awakened to the fact that we need join forces and take a stand."
At 81, Lorraine is still at it, judging, stewarding, and speaking out.
"I raised a litter of Shelties in the spring of 2006. I had sold a Sheltie puppy to a couple of retired school teachers; they took puppy kindergarten classes and got hooked. That dog now has his CDX and has more Agility titles than I can keep track of-they've just done fantastic with that dog-and so they decided they wanted another one to start, and they talked me into raising another litter. They got their choice of the two males, a friend of theirs took the other male, and I sold the female to some people who also have another one of my dogs. I don't know if I'll raise another litter — who knows?"
Most recently, Lorraine has taken up herding with one of her Shelties.
"I've always wanted to do this. When we were on the ranch in eastern Oregon, my Collie, Tawny (Ch. Robrovin Autumntint, CD), would gather guinea hens and bring them to me. I had no idea what I was doing, but we would work with the guinea hens. Sometimes my Collies would work to get the pigs out of the creek bottom. There was no finesse to this at all."
"The AKC started their herding program about 15 years ago. I'd been real interested in doing something with this and had taken several of the Shelties to instinct tests at Kings Valley Collie Kennel up near Monmouth-I've gone up there several times since 1996 and instinct-tested the dogs on ducks, starting with Sally, Canadian and International Ch. Robrovin Carrousel; Sally tested very well but we couldn't find a trainer."
"In the spring of 2006, a trainer in the Creswell area was offering herding classes. I had taken Sally's son, Cody, for instinct testing on sheep and he had also done very well. So he and I started taking classes in May."
"Although he has AKC points and two Best of Breed wins, Cody doesn't much like showing, but he loves herding. And it is a whole new, different ball game. Stop and think about it: In any other activity that you do with your dog, it's just you and the dog. With herding, there is a third element: Livestock. It's like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. You have to be able to 'read the stock,' as they call it, so you know where to direct the dogs. And the dogs know a whole lot more about it than you do!"
"My first goal was to get Herding Tested titles on Cody. In order to get Herding Tested titles, you have to qualify in two tests under two different judges. Cody now has both his HT (Herding Tested) title and his PT (Pre-Trial Tested) title, so now he is Robrovin Collect On Delivery, HT, PT. We are now working on our next goal, which is to compete in Herding Trials-and believe me, we have our work cut out for us!"
Just this September, Lorraine was busy working at the Eugene Kennel Club all-breed show. Although she ring-stewarded each day, she still had energy enough to watch groups and Best In Show.
"There was an English Bulldog shown by an owner-handler. On Friday, she won the Non-Sporting Group and, by George, she went Best In Show. I am telling you, that was one happy lady. She floated out of the place! I can relate to that."
Who could doubt it? Lorraine Still, we salute you. And, like Coleridge's red leaf, we pray you dance for many years to come.
All images on this page are copyright of their owners. The National Animal Interest Alliance wishes to thank the Collie Club of America for the use of their copyrighted images for Illustrations of the Collie, His Character and Conformation.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Erin Ann Rouse |