WITH a love of showing in her blood, Rushworth’s Ally Ferguson grew up showing horses and ‘‘animals of all kinds’’ with her family, before she moved out on her own and fell in love with a husky named Ace.
Originally wanting a German shepherd, Mrs Ferguson saw an advertisement in the paper for husky puppies and wishfully thought the breeds would be similar.
‘‘I was very wrong — they’re a completely different sort of dog. The first two years were challenging, destroying car seats, destroying furniture, chasing the neighbour’s cat, all those kinds of things,’’ she said.
Making the move into Championship Conformation Shows, Mrs Ferguson and Ace, who was 12 months old at the time, competed in their first show in Bendigo.
‘‘I was in a polo shirt, jeans, runners and certainly didn’t look the part and I was in a line-up with these ladies wearing their Sunday best, skirts and suits and he (Ace) was just on a regular dog collar and lead,’’ she said.
Surprised with the result, the duo took out second place.
‘‘At first it was one disaster after the other, a lot of red-face moments,’’ Mrs Ferguson said.
‘‘He was terrified of the judges at events and anyone with hats or glasses.’’
Mrs Ferguson said persistence was the key and after being mentored Ace came a long way with his behavioural issues.
‘‘When he was about two he got his first challenge points towards his title and within 12 months he had his Australian Champion title with 100 points — now he has earned 800,’’ she said.
Finding Ace to be ‘‘still quite destructive’’ at three years of age, Mrs Ferguson sought advice from Mollie — Coddled Racing’s Jon Marcollo.
‘‘He said to me, ‘he’s got energy to burn, put him in a harness and get him to run’ — so we went into sled dog racing,’’ she said.
Competing in the Kialla Northern Victorian Sled Dog Classic, the duo entered the ‘‘newbie class’’.
‘‘My friends said I think you’ve got this, how many dogs did you pass? I said two or three dogs while I was on the trial and they said that’s all you need to take first place. I walked up that night and they had first place on the chart,’’ Mrs Ferguson said.
She said from then on they were hooked.
Reminiscing on the duo’s race days, Mrs Ferguson said the races came with the good and the bad.
‘‘One race Ace decided to go one side of a tree and I went the other — I ended up with two cracked ribs,’’ she said. Another incident concluded with Mrs Ferguson breaking a wrist after heading over the handle bars.
Now at the age of 10, Ace has retired from his sled days.
‘‘Because of his age, and because I don’t bounce back like I used to, we have retired. We still have our trophies up on our mantlepiece and are still very proud of him,’’ Mrs Ferguson said.
Living out their glory days at home, Mrs Ferguson said Ace sparked the idea for her own hobby business Handmade for Hounds by Ally.
She said on a few occasions Ace had escaped his yard and wandered the streets of Rushworth.
‘‘One incident I’d gone to Bendigo for the day and he’d gone over a six-foot fence and then over the neighbour’s gate and then did our usual circuit in Rushworth,’’ Mrs Ferguson said.
‘‘They said they saw him at the fish and chip shop, then the butcher shop, then the ice-cream shop, then he went back around to the fish and chip shop and was sitting out the front.’’
Rushing home, Mrs Ferguson got a phone call from a farmer on the Bendigo Rd.
‘‘Ace was heading out the Bendigo Rd — he was following me to Bendigo,’’ she said.
‘‘So now he wears a collar with his name and contact number 24/7 and my business provides that service for other dog owners.’’
Still loving the showing scene, Mrs Ferguson said she still had great pride in Ace.
‘‘I love showing my pride in my animals and that’s why I don’t mind putting him in the bath every week and spending two hours on the blow dryer because I take a lot of pride in him and I like to show him off,’’ she said.