Dogs can give people so much pleasure as well as a lifetime of unconditional love, and they ask for nothing in return except a feed and a pat, according to GemLife Woodend resident and international all breeds judge, Stephanie Rickard.
After a life-long association with canines of all sizes and breeds, Stephanie cannot imagine life without a dog by her side.
In fact, she loves them so much the former music teacher made a major hobby out of breeding and judging show dogs while at the same time having her own adorable pets as part of her family.
“It is a huge comfort to have dogs. You just put out your hand and they are there … so loyal and trusting,” said Stephanie, who currently has two beautiful Papillons named Portia and Rolo.
“Rolo is an English and Australian champion and was top Papillon in the UK in 2011. Portia is also a champion and has five champion children.”
Stephanie, together with husband David, started out in the world of pure-bred dogs in the 1970s, and since then have bred an impressive 117 champions, including many best-in-show winners and Top Toy Dog in Australia in 2007.
She describes the dog show world as unabashedly flamboyant, combining showbiz flair and a passion for canines with dedication, patience and persistence.
“Show dogs have a fabulous life. It’s a bit like being a performer. Some are shy, and others can be real extroverts,” said Stephanie.
“While dog sports and showing dogs may not be for everyone, it can be so wonderful for both the dog and its owner and gives so much pleasure,” she said.
“It’s an incredible thing for dogs to test their agility when tackling jumps, weaving in and out between poles, balancing on seesaws and even dancing to music. These are things many dogs love to do and it keeps them fit and healthy. It also distracts them from other pursuits like digging our gardens or chewing the furniture.”
Stephanie said 99 per cent of dog breeds have a function.
“Toy dogs are bred to be comforter dogs. They are small and sit on your lap while bigger dogs such a German Shepherds are bred as working dogs. Meanwhile, breeds such as poodles are part of the non-sporting group.”
As a certified international judge, Stephanie has travelled to all corners of the globe. As well as extensive judging across Australia and New Zealand, she has judged in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and India.
Stephanie continues to judge at dog shows, and keeps fit and active with daily swims, yoga, social walking groups and exercising Portia and Rolo.
She said owning a pet has many benefits and even stroking a dog is therapeutic. They also give people a purpose, she added, because owners must commit to looking after them which involves regular walks, ensuring they are healthy and well fed, and most importantly, returning their unconditional love.
“One of the great things about living at GemLife Woodend is that residents are allowed to bring their pets here and there are facilities to cater for them including a dog park which is located right at the end of our street,” said Stephanie, who was among the first to buy a home in the over-50s lifestyle resort.
“We walk our dogs twice a day and often meet fellow pet owners down at the park. It’s where we solve the world’s problems. But seriously, it is so important to stay active and engaged and animals help with that. It’s the secret to happiness.”