Angus dog handler Hannah Paterson and her clever collie are preparing to step out for Team Scotland in a European championship canine choreography first.
The Montrose trainer and border collie Rumour have been selected for an Austrian adventure in the fast-growing sport of Heelwork to Music (HTM) and are now brushing up on their routines in advance of next month’s showdown.
The skills of dog and handler teams at Crufts and on the nation’s television screens through the Britain’s Got Talent performances of acts such as 2012 series winners Ashley and Pudsey has led to an explosion in interest for owners and spectators.
Until now top teams have been part of a Great Britain HTM team, but for the first time Scotland will go it alone at the Euros, with Laurencekirk’s Ann Murdoch also part of the six-strong squad.
Hannah’s love of the sport began with her rescue dog, Jack, who she lost last year, but now has three-year-old Jack Russell, Pixel and two-year-old Rumour.
Both will be going to Austria with her, but it is Rumour who will be performing after a great spell in the show ring.
The competition will involve both HTM choreography and freestyle sections, with Hannah and Rumour winning Scotland selection after the pair enjoyed a clean sweep at the recent Scottish border collie show.
“Rumour is an exceptional dog, really special so our routine is currently in the making – but Pixel will be going along too as the mascot,” said 32-year-old Hannah.
“It’s the first time Scotland has been as a team to the European championship so it’s quite exciting, and after that we’re hoping to make it to the worlds in Germany next year.”
Team Scotland depart on September 20 to take on the canine cream of the crop from 16 nations, and from now to then the pairings will be finessing their technical routines.
“As well as our team manager Heather Smith, who has won Crufts a number of times, we have a team choreographer who has a very impressive CV in the world of dance and attends all our training days so we can see if the ideas are going to work with the dogs.
“Team Scotland is self funded, we are paying for everything from travel to accommodation to entry fees to uniforms through fundraising and sponsorship so if there were any companies or individuals out there that would like to sponsor the team it would be gratefully received,” added Hannah, who can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.