4-H’er and her Shelties make for a winning team

Published 9:04 am Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nichelle Klatt knows that whatever she ends up doing in life, she’ll always have a dog.

The 2009 Albert Lea High School graduate has had much success in showing dogs through the American Kennel Club and through 4-H. She has captured state champion honors in every category at the state 4-H dog show.

Nichelle said her family has always had dogs. Her dad, Dave, was in 4-H as a kid, and wanted someone in the family to be in it as well. Since Nichelle showed a love for dogs, he urged her to get involved. So she did, at age 9.

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The family had a Papillon when she first started in 4-H, she said. But she soon after got her first Shetland sheepdog, or Sheltie, a sable named Snickers. He’s now 9 years old. She describes him as a “snuggler.”

“My friend had a Sheltie,” Nichelle said of why she chose that breed. “Shelties are smart dogs.”

Nichelle started having success at shows right away, winning a trip to the state 4-H dog show her first year in obedience and showmanship. She and Snickers took first at state in obedience that year.

Nichelle has been to state every year since. She’s earned top honors in obedience, showmanship, brace, agility, jumpers and four-dog team.

Nichelle got a second Sheltie, Callie, a tri-color. She’s now 7.

“Callie loves agility,” Nichelle said. “She’s obsessed with running. She loves balls.”

This year, Callie had some health issues during the county dog show, held July 25 and 26. But Nichelle still qualified for the state 4-H dog show in September with Snickers in agility and both dogs in brace.

She’s not sure whether she’ll go to the state show, because she’ll be heading off to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. before that and so she won’t be working with him like she normally would. Her mom, Shari, will be taking care of the dogs while she’s away.

Nichelle said she is unsure at this point whether she’ll be in 4-H next year.

“I probably will be home. I might as well finish it,” she said of her final year of 4-H

Before the county dog show, dog project participants start training in May. They work with the dogs twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Nichelle practiced with the dogs on her own a couple hours a week, too.

“And then they need to be groomed,” she said. “It takes a long time to get them ready.”

Nichelle gives Dorothy Brouwers, the county dog project leader, a lot of credit for her success. “She’s excellent,” Nichelle said. “She’s helped me all nine years.”

Nichelle said while she’s had success with Snickers at Kennel Club shows, she prefers 4-H dog shows.

“It’s not as fun. It’s just about the dog,” she said. “In 4-H, they ask questions. It’s about the person, too.”