We’re happy to have Pamela Rice as one of the Judges for the Rally World Championships. Read more about her:

PamWhere do you live?

Bloomington, IL

Tell us about your experience with rally either as a judge or competitor or both?

I started performance dog competition in 2007, in APDT Rally with my dogs “Marilyn” and “Cheetah.”  Marilyn achieved ARCHMX2, and Cheetah ARCHMX3.  A third dog, “Walker” debuted and retired in APDT Rally on the same weekend!  He achieved his RL1 (and CGC).  However at the trial when he figured out he wasn’t in “school” and people were watching, I could tell he wasn’t his normal happy self, so that was enough (I lost him in 2012).  I took in a 13-year-old Border Collie after a friend passed.  Though a retired agility Champion I could tell “Charlie” still wanted a job to do.  He became my new Rally buddy until arthritis got the best of him; two legs shy of his ARCHEX.  Cheetah and I still do WCRL Rally and UKC Rally from time-to-time, as well as her agility events.

I began judging APDT and UKC Rally in  2009, after which I worked through the process of judging the required provisional trials and testing at each level until finally reaching Level 3 in APDT (now WCRL).  I absolutely love judging.  I’m told my body language and smile are a giveaway in cheering the teams on.  I want teams to have fun and be successful, while of course abiding by the rules of the sport.  Our four-legged teammates are with us such a short time, that we should enjoy every minute!  I try and catch inexperienced competitors as they leave the ring for the first run or two and quickly tell them about any major errors that caused an NQ so they can fix it for the next run.  They find that friendly boost much better than just reading “NQ” on a board, and they know “the judge” really wants them to do well.  I have judged around Illinois and have had the pleasure of judging in North Carolina.  I love going new places and meeting new “rally peeps!”

What types of dogs do you have and what are their names, ages, and any titles?

Cheetah is 11-years-old and is a “pound puppy.”  When I got her, I was her fourth home in four short months of life.  I literally “dreamed” about her and made a phone call to a local rescue the next morning.  One day later she appeared at our local county shelter.  She is a Yorkie/Dachshund mix, and began competing in APDT Rally when she was two-years-old (2007), as well as CPE and UKC agility.  Since then she has also competed in UKC obedience and Rally.  Once mixed breeds were allowed in AKC and the playing field was made equal for all, we added AKC agility to our performance venues (2012).  In addition she is a certified therapy dog and did hospital visits until picking her up so much started bothering her long back.  Cheetah’s official name with titles is: PACH, PAX, ARCHMX3, UGRACH3, URX2, UROG, C-ATCH2, ChST, ChSN, ChJU Cheetah Maria Rice MXP4, MXPB, MJP6, MJPS, MFP, T2B, UCDX, UCD, RL3X5, RL2X6, RL1X5, CD, TD. I am honored that Cheetah is on the WCRL Lifetime Qualifications List (150 Q’s or >).

Very sadly I recently went from three dogs to just one in a matter of three months.  I lost “Marilyn” at 18 years in February 2016.  She was a beautiful Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix and the consummate performance dog.  I found Marilyn at the local Humane Society in 2000, at the age of two.  Of note, Marilyn was on her last day at the county animal control and due to be euthanized the next day, when by God’s grace the Humane Society had room for two more dogs open and they chose Marilyn!  Being with me anywhere anytime was her first priority, and being in the ring was icing on the cake for her.  Marilyn was Cheetah’s big sister and traveling companion; her alpha dog.  “The girls” and I have traveled many miles and to many states together!  Marilyn was also a certified therapy dog and routinely visited at a local hospital. Marilyn was:  ARCHMX2, UGRACH5, URX, UROC, CT-ATCH2, TChST, TChJP, TChFH, TChJU Hollywood Marilyn Nakita Rice AXP, MJP2, XFP, T2BP, UCD, RL3X5, RL2X6, RL1X5, CGC, CTD. I am honored that Marilyn is on the WCRL Lifetime Qualifications List (150 Q’s or >).

As mentioned previously “Charlie” came to us at 13-years-old.  Charlie’s original “Mom” got him from Border Collie rescue.  He absolutely loved doing rally!  He was a very shy guy but his tail wagged and he pranced through rally courses and became Mr. Social at trials with me!  It was a sad day when I had to retire him but the sits and downs became too much for him.  I lost Charlie in December 2015, at the age of 15.  He was:  PACH, PAX, ARCHX Charlie Chapman Rice MXP4, MXPB, MJP7, MJPG, AG1, UCD, RL1X, RLX2, RL3X, URO1, URO2, RN.

Tell us something unique or that you love about your dogs.

I love that all of my dogs for the last 16 years have been rescue dogs (I did have a fabulous Yorkie before that).  I feel God uniquely led me specifically to each one, making them perfect fits.  Marilyn and Walker were spur of the moment “gut” instincts to “go look” since I was not looking for a dog at all when I got either of them.  Cheetah, I literally dreamed, and again I was not looking for a third dog.  Charlie’s circumstances were different, but ironically I had purchased a blank card many years ago just because I liked it, and put it away as a card to pull out and use in the future.  I had that card for over 15 years and thought of it when Charlie’s “Mom” was very ill and I wanted to send her an encouragement note.  When I pulled it out, it was a puppy with the exact markings of Charlie (he did not have typical Border Collie markings), holding a ball in his mouth.  As it turned out, Charlie loved his ball (and it is still where he left it last in December).  I ended up with him when the intended person backed out.  So I have to believe even Charlie coming to my home was a divine plan!

I also want my dogs to be an example of how mixed breeds and rescues are absolutely capable of being performance champions in multiple venues and should never be disregarded.  Marilyn lived to be 18-years-old as a well-loved therapy dog with a plethora of championships and titles in rally, agility, and obedience; and was otherwise one day away from being killed as a stray at two years old.  The brilliance of her life and love should be a shining example to all!

Do you participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs and if yes, have you found these help you with your Rally work with your dog?

Absolutely!  All three dogs have also done obedience and agility.  We did Rally first, and I would say Rally helped with all of the other venues!  I certainly believe the reverse would have been true had we started with something else.  Rally gave the dogs attention and focus, and the ability to work off-lead doing difference exercises than just heeling.  The left pivots, backing up, etc., helps them with proprioception and learning where their behind is, which was very helpful when training agility contacts.  When Cheetah worked on her URX, she already knew how to retrieve a dumbbell from the Level 3 bonus exercise!  At some point we will work on utility and directed jumping will be a piece of cake for her because of Rally.  I believe in well-rounded dogs and there is overlay from each of the venues they perform or train in.  Rally is all about teamwork!  That translates perfectly to agility and obedience (the venues I have experience with).  I have friends who started in agility, and they whizzed through Rally because their dogs knew how to use their bodies, and how to work as a team and pay attention for cues from the handler.  I have personally never seen Rally as a bridge or precursor to Obedience.  To me Rally (particularly WCRL) is a stand-alone sport, that has elements that translate so very nicely to many other performance events!

What do you do in your “other” non-rally life? If you’re retired, or a professional dog trainer/instructor, what did you do before?

In my non-Rally life I wear many hats!  I am a Registered Nurse.  I was certified in Gastroenterology and Legal Nurse Consulting, worked on surgical units, out-patient and endoscopy, occupational nursing, and spent many years as a practice manager of a GI practice.  Currently I work in Quality and Safety at a local hospital as the Medical Staff Quality Liaison.  I am also a nurse entrepreneur, and started my consulting business in 1995, which I continue today.  I work with plaintiff attorneys primarily in medical negligence.  Through the years I have also done practice management consulting and worked with a local veterinary practice as an interim practice manager and bookkeeper.  I have been an extra-class amateur (“ham”) radio operator for many years, though work and life commitments have taken priority and I have not been active in radio for many years now though I maintain my license.  I’m also a licensed Pharmacy Tech.  In addition to training and competing with my own dogs and judging, I have taught Rally classes, and currently teach agility classes at our local kennel club, and offer private training.  In the past I’ve done therapy dog visits and assisted with a Habitat for Humanity house build.

What events will you be judging at the Rally World Championships?

I will be judging Rally Levels 1, 2, 3, and Veterans.

How does it feel to be judging a brand new event for WCRL?

I cannot express how honored I am, and even more so as this is an inaugural event!  I think I was in shock when I received the phone call inviting me to judge.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell my friends until I received email because I couldn’t believe it!  I am truly “humbled” and this is one of those “life events” I will always be grateful for!  I also see this is a huge responsibility in representing our sport and embodying the positive spirit of Rally Obedience.

Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for your judging duties?

I review the rules and point deductions prior to a trial.  As a judge for two Rally venues I have to study these elements during the week prior to a trial to be certain I don’t confuse the two, since there are some significant differences.  I often practice some of the higher level exercises with my own dogs to remind myself about the nuances of handling and to look at the dog’s performance.  I have a set of “flash cards” with the exercises on them and run through those even on the morning of the trial over coffee.

What expectations to you have for judging at Rally World Championships? Do you anticipate any challenges?

What I hope for in judging at the Rally World Championships is that not only will I present a positive and professional appearance in representing WCRL on such a visible stage, but also that I can still make it “fun” for the teams.  I want to project a warmth and friendliness to help the teams relax.  The more relaxed the handlers are, the more relaxed their furry teammates will be.  That should translate into better scores, but also a more positive ring and event experience.  I’ve always said that when something isn’t fun anymore I shouldn’t be doing it so far as our performance events; I want this to be fun for all.  My personal challenge will be to be professional but not stuffy!

The only other challenge I have in mind might be for teams who have not competed in WCRL.  I love that this is a “come on, come all” event, but also recognize that it might be difficult for teams new to WCRL to keep the rules straight and not fall into habits from other venues, such as repeat commands.  For instance realizing that an additional tilt of the head or bend of the knees is a repeat command.  I will certainly include that in my briefing, because I want teams to be successful!

What goals and objectives do you have in mind when you are designing a course?

Flow, flow, flow, is my number one objective, and in level 3 that can sometimes be a challenge depending upon space and nesting.  In addition, I try and “marry” signs as much as possible and save those pups so many sits.  For teams competing in all 3 levels, by the last trial on a weekend the teams can get pretty tired so fewer sits/ starts and stops is helpful.   I also try and be space conscious for “big” and “little” dogs, and will “tweak” courses to be sure I’m accommodating both.  Having handled 3 sizes of rally dogs helps me remain cognizant of spacing.  I also try not to have teams perform “fast” exercises at the end of a course if my ring opening is right in their line of sight.

Do you have any tips or advice for Rally World Championships competitors?

Please have fun!  I have competed in agility nationals competitions many times and I know the “air” is different and have seen “green eyed monsters” come out in handlers who are normally fun to trial with.  This is not life and death (I’m an RN, I know this)!  The best advice I can offer is to think of this as “just another trial”.  You have no control whatsoever as to how another team performs, so the mentality that you are competing against them serves no purpose except to add unnecessary nerves and pressure.  Go into the ring and do what you normally do and cherish that time and that you are at this awesome event!  In a few short years when your furry teammate has crossed and is at “the Bridge,” you will look back at this as a major event together, so make it the happiest most positive thing ever!  That’s my first and foremost tip; much more important than any exercise or performance advice I could give!

Do you have any advice for competitors thinking about doing competing, either at Rally World Championships or local/regional trials, but are intimidated?

Just do it!  It is impossible for you to mess anything up the rest of us haven’t already done!  Personally, I was notorious for years for passing up signs and NQ’ing myself, and even as a judge on my own courses I have forgotten a ‘walk around’ or such things!  None of us are perfect and we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, because we’ve all been there.  I confess at my first rally trial after doing something to NQ myself and feeling such pressure, going home and crying and muttering, “I thought this was supposed to be fun!”  That’s the truth, and look where that first trial has led.  I quickly learned not to take it so seriously and to enjoy it!  My life would be so much less joyful had I given up because I felt intimidated by all those “good” dogs and handlers around me.  Don’t rob yourself of something that can be a lifelong sport to enjoy and another way for you to go play with your pupster!  Rally “peeps” are the best and they help and support one another!  Tell your judge it’s your first trial (I always ask) and they’ll likely have some kind words to share, and your fellow competitors will be patting you on the back as well!  That’s the way it works in the rally world!

What’s your favorite dog in a book, movie, TV show or game?

I’m a “Lassie” throwback.  I cry at movies and can’t stand to see a dog or animal hurt (I had to close my eyes, cover my ears, and bury my head in my date’s arm at “Dances with Wolves” when I could see the wolf was going to be killed), so if I know the dog doesn’t make it, I haven’t seen the movie or read the book.  Nothing bad ever happened to Lassie and Timmy that didn’t ultimately turn out OK, and Lassie was absolutely beautiful!