Heriot is home to a new national champion.
Mark Mckenzie did the double at the finale of the Tux yarding and handy dog events at South Canterbury earlier this month, winning the maiden yarding championship with Tess, and the maiden handy dog championship with Grace.
The Mckenzie name is synonymous with dog trialling in the South; Mark’s father Robin ran his first dog at his local Warepa Collie Club’s trials when he was 14 and has been very successful in the ensuing years, and grandfather Garth was also a well-known triallist.
Mark (29) was delighted with the achievement, saying he had not really been expecting it. He had grown up around working dogs, although he only took up the sport about four years ago.
That was probably by osmosis, given the family involvement — ‘‘and a wee bit of a push from behind from the old man too’’, he quipped.
Now working on a lamb fattening operation at Heriot, he said he had not got ‘‘too carried away’’ with competitions, tending to stick fairly locally. Dogs were crucial to his daily work.
The trip to South Canterbury for the final was ‘‘well worth’’ it. He admitted to some nerves before his runs, ‘‘especially a lot of people standing behind you giving you advice from every direction’’.
It was also rather special given six-year-old heading dog Tess was his first dog; he got her as a pup from a friend.‘‘It’s taken a wee while to get there. . .she’s had a good year,’’ he said.
Mark and Tess won the novice competition at the Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trials at Waimumu last year, while the open section was won by Robin McKenzie and his dog Dice.
Mark described Tess as a very easy dog to work with — ‘‘she’s got a good calm head on her’’ — and she took a lot on herself. Tess had a litter of pups last month and he planned to keep one.
Grace was his first huntaway pup and he described her as ‘‘a clever wee dog’’ who also had a good head on her. ‘‘She finds herself in the right position all the time. She’s a calm dog as well, very easy to work with.’’
Rather than specifically devoting time to training, Mark tended to incorporate it into his daily work.
‘‘By the time I get home after work, the dogs and I are both tired,’’ he said.
And first and foremost, it was that daily work that was most important. ‘‘You’ve got to get the job done before you go out and have fun on the hill,’’ he said.
Now a member of the Heriot club, it was his old club Warepa which was hosting the South Island and New Zealand championships in May. It would be ‘‘pretty cool’’ to qualify a dog for that event, he said.
Barney Strong (Waikato), with Gyp, won the open yarding challenge while Tahi Doonan (Marlborough) and Nui won the open handy dog challenge.