Dogs & Tracking

Spiritdance Coaching & Tracking has separate websites! Please visit these websites that describe all events and courses.

Spiritdance Tracking & Coaching – an overview of what we offer including costs and courses. Check ‘Learn More’ for contact information.

Spiritdance Tracking Community Online – an in-depth site with course descriptions, up-to-date events and a blog. Contact information at the bottom of the page.


Below is a bio and description of my journey with my dogs. I wrote it a long time ago and have not had the heart to remove it, though I have updated it a bit 🙂

This is the LONG dog bio! For the short version, visit Spiritdance Tracking Community Online and check out the home page under ‘Learn More’ and “Let the Dogs Speak!”


Above: My dogs
Border Collies Ben, Ted and Jet above; German Shepherds Caden (sitting) and 14-year-old River. Caden and River are now gone. I am so glad I have this group photo! 

I have been involved in the sport of Dog Tracking since 1990 and teaching since 1995. I’m now a CKC Tracking Judge for all levels (field and urban) with two Tracking Champions of my own! Tracking is my passion and I love to share it with others through coaching and clinics. Over many years I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful mentors and a few tormentors who have increased my knowledge and skill in the sport. Over time, I’ve developed my own method of training which incorporates a lot of my coaching skills to focus not just on the dog and it’s progress, but on you as the handler and half of that team!

One of my mentors said to let my dogs to the talking for me. In the last five urban tests I have entered, I have passed each one on my first try for 2 UTDXs, and 3 UTDs, in Alberta and in Ontario. I am blessed with great dogs, and admit I’ve come a long way from the nervous handler I used to be! Here is the tally of tracking dog titles since 1991 with titles earned in both Alberta and Ontario.

Titles are on my 3 breeds – German Shepherds, Border Collies and Rough Collies:

  • 9 TDs under 8 different judges
  • 7 TDXs under 5 different judges
  • 5 UTDs under 2 different judges
  • 3 UTDXs under 2 different judges
  • 3 Tracking Champions – Jet, her son Ben and Caden!

My dogs and titles in descending order:

  • b. 2011 Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TDX UTD – son of Jet and Ted, homebred singleton! Ben earned his TD, UTD and TDX in 3 straight tests! He passed his UTDX on his second try in 2017 to become my third Tracking Champion!
  • b. 2008 TCH Caden von der KleinenWiese – first Working Lines GSD. Caden passed his TD, UTD and UTDX on his first tries
  • b. 2005 Lakeview Ted (TED!) – Border Collie, son of Scott Glen’s Pleat
  • b. 2005 TCH Alta-Pete Jet – Border Collie, daughter of Scott Glen’s Maid. Jet passed her UTD on her first try!
  • b. 2000 Lindau’s Uncharted Course TDX UTD (River) – GSD
  • b. 1997 Ch Tallywood Shaman Spiritdance TD HI (Shaman) – Rough Collie, #1 Herding Rough Collie (CKC) in Canada in 2007. Specialty and Group wins
  • b. 1997 Ch Lindau Spiritdance Blackthorn TD JHD (Thorn) – GSD
  • b. 1991 Ch Tallywood Banreigh Spiritdance Can Am CD, TDX (Kate) – Rough Collie, Specialty and Group wins
  • b. 1991 BIS Ch Lindau’s Risky Venture TDX (Robin) – GSD. multiple Group 1 Winner even as a Veteran, winner of Herding Classic Central Canada
  • b. 1987 Lindau’s Knight Hawk CD TDX TT (Hawk) – GSD, my first tracking dog!
  • b. 1982 Suzy – Karelian Bear Dog X Rough Collie my sister rescued – she became my Mom’s dog, but I trained her and she appeared in a National Film Board documentary filmed at Fort William Historical Park. I begged to keep her, my Mom said ‘no’ when I got married! Suzy was brilliant and beautiful.
  • b. 1977 Ch Banreigh of Brackenbrae CDX TT (Jessie) – Rough Collie
  • b. 1969 Beau Flambeau of Brackenbrae – childhood Rough Collie who started it all
  • Taffy – mixed breed childhood pet

I have always had a dog (or two) by my side. In many ways, my dogs have helped me through tough times with their steadfast loyalty and unconditional love. When I was recovering from cancer in 2003, my German Shepherd Thorn would not leave my side, lying close and gazing at me for hours – always close enough for me to bury my hand in his soft fur. My Rough Collie Shaman would empty their toy basket bringing me one toy at a time until they were piled on top of me. They brought me love and joy when I needed it the most. My own mother died of cancer at the age of 58 – too young! I was terrified but tried to be positive.

Years later, I made a major life decision to move from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Alberta. I knew this would take a lot of courage and strength as I was now on my own for the first time in my life. In an incredible few months, both Thorn and Shaman were diagnosed with cancer and died at the ages of 10 and 11 years old. I’ve always felt that they absorbed the sad energy I was feeling. They helped me to channel it into caring for them, and then they freed me to move forward with their passing. They even chose auspicious days to leave: Thorn died on Christmas Day and Shaman died at Easter. Ch Tallywood Spiritdance Shaman HI was the #1 Herding Rough Collie in Canada in 2007 (yes, I handled and trained him, back when I had my own sheep in Thunder Bay!)

Border Collies

After recovering from cancer, I gifted myself with a Border Collie pup named Jet. Jet was followed by Ted and now I have their son Ben. In 2008, as I cast about, trying to get my life on track, I decided to move to Alberta – Jet and Ted’s birthplace. I’d visited Alberta in 2005 to attend a sheep herding clinic and fell in love with the foothills and Rocky Mountains on the skyline. Like true herding dogs – Jet and Ted gave me guidance and direction to new pastures! Jet has been a special gift in my life, leading me to follow my passion as a tracking competitor and judge.

But that’s not all! I decided that I needed another German Shepherd after losing my beautiful, gentle Thorn. My friends tried to tell me that I had my hands full enough, with Jet, Ted and my lovely female German Shepherd River. My mind was made up and I decided to get a pup from working lines. I found Caden’s breeder in Pennsylvania. His mother came from noble German herding lines – 8 generations of National German Herding Champions bred by Manfred Heynes. Caden’s sire Diesel is the son of a US National Police Dog finals winner, and grandson of the famous 2X World IPO winner Orry vom haus Antwerpa.

Tch Caden

Tracking Champion Caden passed his TDX and UTDX back to back (I mean, with 40 minutes between tests!) in September 2015. He was quite a dog and a great teacher and partner. My heart is broken as I lost him unexpectedly on November 4, 2016 to cancer in his spine. I will never have another dog like him and will always treasure the time I spent out in misty morning fields and playing around urban sites. RIP my beautiful, strong, intelligent boy. A true shepherd in heart, spirit and body.

Caden turned out to be exactly what I needed. With his zest for life and strong energy, I had to step up to be the owner he deserved. Thorn was gentle when I needed a gentle dog to help me through cancer. Caden’s name means “Little Warrior” in Irish Gaelic – and like a warrior, he accompanied me to Alberta where I found a fresh start and recreated myself!


Caden passed his UTD test, then passed again on day two – there were no test alternates so I was able to run again! What a good boy!

75 Riverfacekiss

River, my heart

Also by my side during this journey was my heart dogs, my old friend River who passed away on May 27, 2014 at just over 14 years of age. Run free, sweet girl, we will never forget you, and miss you every day.

River flower

23 River TDX

Through my dogs, I have met wonderful people who have become life-long friends. Through these connections, I’ve been led to coaching, after many years of being a trainer and coach for dog tracking. I am a life member of the Canadian Kennel Club, which I joined when I was 16. Since I was a teenager, I’ve competed successfully in conformation and obedience. Handling my own dogs in conformation, I was blessed to have many group and specialty wins with GSDs and Rough Collies, including a BIS on my lovely BIS Ch Lindau’s Risky Venture TDX (Robin) in 1998 – that year as a veteran Robin had three Group 1s too, and the BIS was under Virginia Lyne.

In 1990 I discovered tracking and this passion changed my life. In Alberta I completed the requirements to become a CKC Tracking Judge for all levels – field and urban tracking – and I am fortunate to be asked to judge and give clinics across Canada.

Donna with her German Shepherd Caden

In Thunder Bay, I had a small hobby farm with sheep and developed a love for sheep herding. This is a new skill that I am learning – it’s always humbling and rewarding to learn a new dance and I hope to grow in this sport in time.

TCH Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben carries Thorn’s name. Ben is the first pup I’ve ever bred  and he’s very special to me. That’s me with Ben on the home page. Ben is now in training for the new Master Tracking Champion title!

I actively train and enter tests, and actively judge. I hope this paints a bit of a picture of my lifetime with wonderful dogs – meeting great people and making lifelong friends through these activities.

Here are a few more photos…


Jet and Ted’s pup, pictured at age 2. TCH Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben is now a Tracking Champion (2017)

Ben passed his TD in 2015, and passed again on day two because there were no alternates, he was in again, and passed a second time! Photo by judge Marie P. BabinBen

Thumbnails of my wonderful companions.

Ben panel large

Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben UTD

River Caden Jet Ted

Lindau’s Uncharted Course TDX UTD (River)
TCH Caden von der KleinenWiese  (Caden)
Lakeview Ted (son of Scott Glen’s Pleat)
and Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet UTDX (Jet)

Ted in the Canola

Ted in front of one of Alberta’s canola fields, minutes from my home

TCH Jet 4

Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet

Jet is the first Border Collie to earn the title of Tracking Champion! She is a daughter of Scott Glen’s Maid. Her son Ben is the second Border Collie to become a CKC TCH!

Group Ben's Birthday close up

Top: Caden, Jet and Ben
Bottom: Ted and River. I sure miss my shepherds, having lost River in 2014 to old age, and Caden in 2016 to osteosarcoma in his spine (very shocking and sudden as he hid it until the last days).

UPDATE! I now have a new puppy! Gem von Wendelin, aka “Micah” was born on March 7, 2017. You can read about Micah on her own blog! 



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