Real characters at indoor dog trials

Jack Condon and Mack in action at a dog trial. Photo: Greymouth Star
Jack Condon and Mack in action at a dog trial. Photo: Greymouth Star
It could well be worth a trip to this week's Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial at Waimumu just to meet Jack and Mack.

In a sport which is littered with characters, 80-year-old Jack Condon could only be described as one out of the box.

Mr Condon is making the trip from Bruce Bay in South Westland, where he has been staying recently, towing a caravan in case he could not find accommodation in Gore.

After only taking up dog trialling in his 70s, he was bringing Mack - his "champion dog", he laughed - whom he described as a "nice fella".

Mack was not usually relegated to the dog box, he preferred a much more upfront position, riding alongside his master. "He's virtually half-pie on my knee now. He rides in the front of the truck," Mr Condon said.

Mack, who turns 7 later this month, was the "boss" and the pair were good mates. Mr Condon had owned the dog since he was 8 weeks old and
he was "really a freak".

Mack's mother was a Smithfield "bobtail" while his sire was a dog of irrepressible Central Otago triallist Neville Hore.

He was a big black and white dog with a big curled up tail and a "lovely nature", Mr Condon said.

Over the years, Mr Condon always had dogs, but more for deer and cattle work, and not for sheep.

When 89 sheep ended up at his property, Mack showed some promise and a dog trialling neighbour suggested he head out to the Tai Tapu club's trials to have a look.

Trevor Roughan has three dogs entered in this week's Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial. Photo:...
Trevor Roughan has three dogs entered in this week's Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial. Photo: Supplied
On the way home, the dog fell out of one of the windows in the back of the ute which had slid open.

"I thought I'd killed him," Mr Condon recalled. But fortunately, there was only a "wee bit of skin" knocked off under his chin.

When the pair made their dog trialling debut, Mr Condon knew very little about the sport.

But Mack managed to score 71 points - out of a possible 100 - "without any help from me".

Technically, home for Mr Condon was Darfield but he had been working and staying with family in South Westland recently. It had been a lifetime of farming and driving bulldozers.

When it came to dog trials, he liked everything about the sport - "the camaraderie, just getting out there and letting the dog have a go".

"I'm not one of these ardent dog triallists who have to win ... we go and we enjoy the day," he said.

Still, he would love to compete at the New Zealand championships one day with his "scrub dog".

Mr Condon talked to Mack all the time; just recently, he was sitting on the bulldozer when he told him it was about time to get the cattle in.

Mack headed off "about three quarters of a mile or more" and duly rounded up the herd.

And Mack, he reckoned, knew what was happening this week because he had heard Mr Condon talking about it.

The dog would not be fazed by the prospect of competing indoors - "because my fellas, they live inside half the time" - nor would the noise bother him. The pair would "just take it as it goes".

Still not fully schooled up on all the rules and regulations of the sport, Mr Condon unfortunately left his rule book behind in Darfield and was contemplating getting one printed.

There was a lot to get your head around, but "Mack knows most of the rules, I think", he said.

The Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial is being held tomorrow and Wednesday. It will be the fourth time the event has been held in the Southern Field Days Events Centre.

Trevor Roughan, who is one of the organisers, said there were about 140 entries and all money raised would go to Hospice Southland.

Mr Roughan had been involved from the event's inception, when it was very much an unknown how it would work out. Originally the brainchild of Mike Joyce, it was good to have an event out of the dog trialling season.

Having it indoors was also ideal given the weather conditions at this time of year could be "pretty iffy".

The course was very different from the usual heading dog events at traditional dog trials and included such obstacles as dog kennels, a bridge and wine barrels, before the sheep had to be penned.

The event was proving popular, drawing competitors from throughout the South Island, and it was great to see the enthusiasm from some novice and young triallists taking part.

Mr Roughan, who has been trialling for 40-odd years, has three dogs entered: Pearl, Flirt and Sky.

He had judged for more than 25 years, saying all triallists should have a go at judging.

He likened trialling to going to golf or bowls - he enjoyed the camaraderie of the sport along with getting a good result from a dog used in everyday farming.

Mr Roughan recently sold his farm at Otama and had moved to a lifestyle property on the outskirts of Riversdale. "I had to wait till Dad retired before I did," he quipped.

Mr Roughan credited his father Les for his interest in dog trialling. His father was always keen on dogs and the interest was passed down.

Les Roughan (94) had been successfully trialling until recently. He moved into a retirement home three months ago and gave his dogs to his grandson. But he would be taking a keen interest in and attend the indoor trials, his son said.

With his own downsizing, Trevor Roughan hoped to have more time with his grandchildren and his own dogs.

When it came to highlights, it was probably training a dog from a pup right through to winning its first open event within three years.

Sky (11) was probably one of the best dogs he had ever had and he also had a full sister to Brian Dickison's very successful Cole and was hoping to breed from her this year.

Southland would host the New Zealand championships at Greenvale next year which was exciting.

Mr Roughan had previously been heavily involved in the Southland centre but now he was "pretty much just a background member".

He was managing Stoney Creek Station, near Gore, when the New Zealand championships were held there.


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