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The Instinct of Herding

One of the best ways to regain confidence and purpose is through natural instinct. When the older and timid Tervuren dog, Ellie, entered a ring full of sheep in Covington, Louisiana that is exactly what happened. Her owners, Jack and Cynthia Plunkett, were ecstatic with her new energy and knew they had found something great. The couple met Trainer, Shelly Spotswood six years ago while attending an agility show near their home in Florida, where Shelly recommended herding for Ellie. Jack enjoyed his dog’s new activity so much that he entered the ring as well and began herding competitions with Ellie. 

While Ellie was in her senior years, Jack and Cynthia loved the Belgian Shepherds so much that they drove to Virginia for a Tervuren puppy, Frankie, four years ago and a couple years later for a Belgian Sheepdog puppy, Johnnie. Dr. Lance Cleveland, who helped them with Ellie, suggested they take it slow when Frankie was a puppy and later the same for puppy, Johnnie. The Tervuren and Belgian Sheepdog’s joints take time to develop and for safety sake, puppies under 18 months old are not allowed in the American Kennel Club agility competition ring.


Cynthia Plunkett, Frankie, the Terv, Johnnie the Belgian Sheepdog, and Jack Plunkett waiting their turn to get in the ring on 16 march 2014, at a AKC Herding Trail, at Lady Lake, FL. 


Dr. Cleveland has taken care of their dogs for six years now. He even took care of their 21-year-old cat, Micha, and made her feel better in her remaining time. It's hard to believe that active dogs can be so prone to injury. Dr. Cleveland sees their dogs every month and with his extensive knowledge and expert hands puts them back into good condition in a few minutes.  Jack and Cynthia feel very lucky to have Dr. Cleveland to take care of their companions. While their Frankie matured, Jack carefully trained and exercised her, until Dr. Cleveland examined her joint’s growth and said she was ready.



Frankie practicing with Shelly Spotswood on ducks at WonderDog Farm, in October 2013,


Shelly then fully immersed her in herding sheep and her natural instinct grew even stronger than Ellie’s. The couple was thrilled and amazed by the unique skill. If a dog isn’t born with the herding instinct, Jack suggested, “you best go fishing instead.”  He loved it so much that he competed with Frankie until a year and a half ago when Shelly took his place. The trainer stepped in upon Jack’s request because he will be 84 years old in July and said, “there’s nothing that can stop me besides age.” It is important to him that Frankie has a teammate that will allow her to go as far as she can in herding. But, Jack hasn’t quit yet. He still competes with her in agility and does herding and agility with Johnnie in competitions held by the AKC, the Australian Shepherd Club of America and the North American Dog Council, which is only for agility. When he can’t run as well, he still wants to compete in obedience and rally.



 Jack Plunkett and Frankie, at Lady Lake, FL, AKC Herding Trail, on 16 March 2014, after Frankie qualified in ducks, giving Frankie her AKC Started Duck Title.


Herding is a team effort that he compared to his relationship with his wife. Jack served 30 years in the US Army Corps of Engineers and Cynthia supported him all along the way. Even with their lives now revolving around their pets, she is still always there for him. She goes to every competition and training session and does what she can to keep up with the herding world.

While Cynthia was reading the June/July 2014 issue of Tervuren News Tails, she noticed the name of a kennel she recognized. She read on and noticed that Frankie was the fifth top Tervuren in herding in the nation. Unaware of Frankie’s AKC points compared to other Tervurens in the country, the article surprised the couple.  



Jack Plunkett, Frankie The Terv, Shelly Spotswood, The Judge Sheryl McMonald, presenting Frankie with High - in - Trail, Reserve, award, on 9 November 2013, at WonderDog Farm at the AKC Herding Competition, photo by Joan Costanza 


Jack is proud of the four-year-old Frankie and is happy Shelly took over. She hasn’t competed since March, but the couple takes her and Johnnie out to Covington for training at least twice a month. They are trying to get Frankie in the same shape when she placed fifth. Shelly is excited to enter the ring with her in December in sheep and ducks. Jack and Cynthia love all of their dogs, macaws, parrots, and cats with or without ribbons. To the couple, the competition is not about winning, but about sharing a common love with their best friends.


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