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2019 Collie Club of America National Specialty Critique

This critique was originally published in the Collie Club of America’s Summer 2019 Bulletin and 2019 Yearbook

To the Collie Club of America membership, thank you for the honor of a lifetime judging Intersex & Best of Breed at the 2019 CCA National Specialty. The assignment was a significant responsibility I approached with the singular focus to find & reward the finest dogs.

To the show chairs, general hospitality, and judges hospitality, thank you for your tireless work running a terrific National. The committee members ensured the Stelter family was welcomed and cared for.

Matt Anita Stelter Family

My entire family was able to attend the National. As always, I was accompanied by my wife, Anita, and our children, Landon and Lauren. Going back to childhood, my parents supported my Collie passion and I wouldn’t have been in this position without them. My mother introduced me to the Terhune novels at a young age, igniting my lifetime love affair with the breed. My father hand-built every Wyndlair dog house that would house historic Collies as they achieved CCA National wins, Best in Shows, and #1 rankings. The show ring success didn’t matter to them, only that their son was able to chase his world-class Collie dream. They were able to sit ringside and watch that childhood dream come full circle. In addition to my parents, Anita’s parents, my sisters, and their families all joined us in Peoria. It made for a memorable event.

Matt Stelter Carl Williford Linda Tefelski

Thank you to my ring stewards, Carl Williford, Linda Tefelski and Roxann Heit. I selected long-time trusted friends to support me in the assignment. They ensured every detail was covered so I could focus on the job at hand. It was important to me that the ring proceedings be methodically and efficiently executed. Additionally, I wanted to provide an engaging experience for spectators and live-streamers. My cuts were intentionally deep and intended to be respectful to both dogs and handlers, and effectively get down to the individuals I wanted to work with in the end.

Matt Stelter Julianna Falk Aurealis Endeavor

My intent was to find the best Collies in the entry, regardless of color, sex, age, or variety. I was looking for the breed virtues I value most. Of highest importance were a proud picture, head length with detail, expression, balance, soundness, and athleticism. The assignment was seamless until the final five Rough bitches took the center mat. At that point, I was faced with the most difficult decision of my judging career. There were five different virtue packages vying for top honors. The responsibility is considerable as you are about to write breed history. From ringside, I’m sure each dog had its staunch supporters. It was my privilege to put hands on each finalist to select the most elusive breed virtues.

GCH. Taliesin Fresh Powder O'PaRay

BEST OF BREED: GCHB. Taliesin Fresh Powder O’PaRay (Pedigree)

Quite simply, this nine-year-old Rough bitch had one of the finest headpieces I have touched in my 30 years in the breed. It was tremendous – beautifully long, light, and detailed, pleasing in profile with no excessive depth. It was smooth on the sides with a lean, cornered backskull, flat topskull, and parallel planes. The muzzle was full and fit properly into the skull forming a perfect receptacle for her beautiful eyes. She had a wonderful, captivating expression. Her lipline was tight with a straight jawline and clean cutback. Her correctly-shaped & sized ears were set up properly on the skull giving her another level of regal class. She had an elegant outline with a properly-sized body consisting of long curves and proportions. What she might have lacked in coat or youthfulness, she certainly made up for with her timeless virtues that earned her rightly-deserved place in breed history. I am honored to have placed her there.

GCHS. Aurealis Coldplay

BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX/BEST OF BREED: GChS. Aurealis Coldplay (pedigree)

The first dog in the last group of Rough males, this elegant sable dog topped his sex the moment he stepped into the ring. A nine-year-old dog of tremendous virtue, he had wonderful length, lightness, and detail of head rivaled only by the Best of Breed winner. It was smooth on the sides with a flat, lean, cornered backskull. He excelled in full underjaw, round muzzle, straight tight lipline, and wonderful cutback into a clean throat. Just a spectacular headpiece. He had properly-sized and shaped ears set up on his skull giving him another level of distinction. His body was good-sized with a long neck, proper length of back, and long curves capable of presenting a stunning proud picture. He was a world-class Collie that strongly challenged the Best of Breed winner in the variety. His name is now etched in Collie history.



BEST OF VARIETY: GChB. Taliesin Fresh Powder O’PaRay


GChG. Lochlaren Kings Valley Fire Within

SELECT DOG: GChG. Lochlaren Kings Valley Fire Within

The winner of the Veteran (8-11 Years) class continued the run of Rough veteran top winners. This dog won on the strength of his soft round muzzle, head detail, and smooth, ground-covering side gait. He had a level back of a good length, rounded croup, wonderful turn of stifle, and short, defined hocks superior to any in competition. His hander showcased him the way a magnificent Collie should be that allowed me to enjoy each moment admiring him.

GCh. Maverick Fanfare

SELECT BITCH: GCh. Maverick Fanfare

A wonderfully-balanced blue bitch that made my heart skip a beat during my first walk down the line.  She possesses the correct crystal blue merle coloring so rarely seen. A more compact dog than many of the top winners, she was, however, the total package of virtues and detail. She was also the lone non-veteran Rough receiving top honors. She had a light, detailed, headpiece with muzzle, finish, profile, underjaw, tight lipline, clean cutback, and a sparkling expression. She was well-angulated with a body comprised of rounded body lines. She was in wonderful condition and presented impeccably.

Southland's Song of the South - 2019 CCA WB-BW

BEST OF WINNERS: Southland Song Of The South

This was a pretty, balanced Rough sable bitch. She had a detailed headpiece, full muzzle, and soft expression. She made a lovely picture moving around the ring to secure Best of Winners honors.


There were three other Rough bitches and a Rough dog pulled out for final consideration that deserve special mention:

GCh. Larkspur Sun, Moon and Stars 2019 CCA

GCh. Larkspur Sun Moon And Stars (Bitch) – A classic mahogany sable bitch that dazzled with a soft, melting expression and a finely-detailed, feminine headpiece. She moved effortlessly around the ring and presented a proud picture. She was pushing for the top awards from the moment she stepped into the ring.

Ch. Southland’s Artistry of Accolade

Ch. Southland’s Artistry Of Accolade (Bitch) – One of the few young dogs under final consideration, this bitch is loaded with potential for the future. She was an eyeful of plush beauty, elegance, and balance. Her handler showcased her beautifully.

GCH. Edenrock I Feel Like A Woman

GCh. Edenrock I Feel Like A Woman (Bitch) – A supreme headpiece and expression – she is a treasure to behold and what we should all be striving for in our programs. The winner of the Veteran (8-11) class, she is a credit to her breeders.

GCHS Aurealis Endeavour ROM

GChS. Aurealis Endeavor (pedigree) (Dog) – This dog is truly a lesson in the virtues that come with time. A dog I’ve known for years, but I was not fully expecting what I saw in my ring – simply an exquisite expression, perfect stop, turn of muzzle, and dark, correctly-shaped eyes beautifully chiseled into the skull. He presented a proud picture with deep curves to his properly-sized body. At almost 9 years of age and full brother to both the BOS/BOB dog and 2016 CCA BOS/BOB bitch, the depth of quality in this family is impressive.

Also receiving Award of Merits were Roughs whose quality took them to the top of the entry. They possessed virtues including expression, length, lightness & detail of head, proud picture, balance, angulation, bend of stifle, correct hocks, and proper size, shape & set of ears.

Ch. Pleasant Acre Blue Moon

GCh. Pleasant Acre Sugar Daddy

Ch. Valley Park Allegation

Ch. Aryggeth’s Shake Down

GCh. Maverick Painted Lady

GCh. Maverick Painted Lady

GCh. Kirkhaven Add A Little Spice

Ch. Barksdale Belleville’s Double Trouble

Ch. Priority’s Chantilly Lace

Ch. Fantasy’s A Thousand Stars

GChB. Overland By Request


GCh. Headline's Flair for the Dramatic

BEST OF VARIETY: Ch. Headline’s Flair For The Dramatic

A truly magnificent Smooth who had it all – picture, balance, angulation, movement, head detail, and a soft, sparkling expression. Her long, light head was beautiful with turn of muzzle, smooth sides, pleasing profile, and nice ears set well on the skull. She had a wonderfully long, arched neck that blended into a terrific shoulder. Nice width, depth, and curvature of the chest. She had a rounded croup with long, bent stifles and nice hocks that drove cleanly, single-tracking coming & going. In motion, she was the athlete her body lines suggested. She had good size while still being feminine.  In the final evaluation, she was simply head and shoulders above some exceptional dogs – literally & figuratively. She was equally deserving of Best of Breed honors, and as a young dog, she should challenge for top National Specialty honors for years to come.

BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX/BEST OF VARIETY: GChS. Creekwood Lochlomun I’ll Be D’amned

An upstanding masculine sable dog with a wonderful expression that took him to the top of his sex. His head was detailed with turn of muzzle and soft, pleasing eyes chiseled into the skull. He boasted a strong, arched neck set nicely into a well-angulated shoulder and front legs set properly under the body. He had a good-sized chest with a well-sprung ribcage.  He presented a strong, proud picture.

SELECT DOG: GCh. Kelso’s Takin’ The High Road

This was the first special in my ring and I immediately knew there was something great to work with. He was a masculine sable dog with a well-balanced body. His muscled, long arched neck was set properly into a laid-back shoulder with return of upper arm. There was good ribspring with proper length and arch of loin. He had bent stifles and short, well-defined hocks. This was a sound, athletic dog. His detailed head had parallel planes, flat topskull, finish of muzzle and underjaw, and a penciled lipline. During pictures, I realized this was a dog I had particularly admired from afar at the previous year’s National and it made my day that I was able to reward him with Select honors.

SELECT BITCH: GCh. Demuir Heiress At First Light

This bitch was a top contender from my first glance of her in the ready ring. She had a tremendous athletic body of smooth curves. Her head was light and detailed with correct ears set up on the skull. Her neck was long, arched, and set well into a wonderful shoulder with return of upper arm. She had a level back, moderately long stifles, and short hocks that were driving in motion. This is a tremendous bitch that can serve as an example of what an exceptional Smooth Collie can look like.

BEST OF WINNERS: Calibre’s Rolling In The Dough

A Smooth sable bitch that triumphed for Best of Winners with her sound, balanced body, and lightly-inclined head with ears set well on the skull.


There was a third Smooth bitch pulled out for final consideration that deserves special mention:

GCh. Swan’s Grand Jete’ Of Tercan – This wonderful sable merle bitch had a stunning outline showing balance and athleticism. She had a nice headpiece with parallel planes, full underjaw, straight lipline, and cutback. Her long, strong neck was impressive. She had a moderately-deep chest with good rib spring and wonderful angles front and rear. A nice length of back properly balanced out her body. She was one of the few free-moving dogs that single-tracked coming and going.

Also receiving Award of Merits were Smooths whose quality took them to the top of the entry. They exuded virtues including proud picture, long body curves, topline, expression, lightness of head, cutback, elegance, and effortless movement.

GChB. Corjalin’s Light Of A Thousand Stars

GChP. Ceilidh’s Deep River Haute Couture (Veteran 11+)

Ch. Ceilidh’s Legends Of The Fall

GCh. Travler’s Kim Possible

GCh. Special Take The High Road

GChG. Jereco’s Simply Irresistible


BEST AMERICAN BRED: Camloch Persuasion

A compact, low-slung Rough sable bitch with a beautiful mahogany color. She had a nice length of back, well-bent stifles, and defined hocks.

BEST PUPPY: Creekwood Pleasant Acre Sugar Baby

A plush, showy Rough tri-color puppy bitch. Her body was nicely balanced with good length of back, a rounded croup, bent stifles, and short hocks. She had dark, tightly-set eyes with a charming expression.

BEST BRED-BY EXHIBITOR: Overland In Your Dreams

An attractive Rough blue merle bitch with a light, detailed headpiece and pleasing expression. Her side gait was terrific – wonderfully efficient and ground-covering. She had a balanced body with a level back, bent stifles, and correct hocks.

Matt Stelter Dog Show Judging


Judging Intersex & Best of Breed at a National Specialty is an opportunity to put hands on the best Collies in the country in just over a 24-hour period. It is a unique experience that provides rare insight into the breed.

The impact of past National winners on the fancy’s breeding decisions is undeniable. However, that won’t occur heavily following this National. Of the Roughs in final consideration, half were veterans, including all the Rough males. Ultimately Rough veterans took three of the top four awards. I found this disconcerting. Where are the next great dogs coming-up in our breed?  Concerning stud dogs, the reality is it is a shallow pool of high-quality options in either variety. Where do we go as breeders?

Matt Stelter Dog Show Judge

The state of the breed is a topic of frequent discussion. While the average quality in the breed may have improved over the past decades, the low number of top-quality individuals is concerning. Many assert the problem is breeders aren’t keeping stud dogs anymore. That simply isn’t the case. The National entry had more Rough male specials than anything else. It may be attributed in part to current Collie breeders not practicing time-proven principles of dog breeding. The art and science of establishing & maintaining bloodlines is necessary to consistently produce top-quality individuals. When those principles aren’t utilized, quality deteriorates.

That said, sound breeding philosophies alone won’t improve the breed if the individual dogs being utilized are substandard. While head type was noticeably strong and consistent throughout the National entry, the volume of square bodies, faulty front assemblies, high tails, straight stifles, long hocks, incorrectly set and shaped eyes & ears, and insufficient underjaws was rampant. When do we begin selecting away from these prevalent faults and toward correct breed type? Breeders and judges alike need to raise the bar on what is considered a great Collie and understand what that looks like – independent of records, rankings or kennel name. A thorough understanding of the Standard is required. Expression, head length with detail, proud picture, and body balance must be paramount. The pursuit of excellence is the goal.

On the positive side, the Smooth variety was represented by a few outstanding young dogs, particularly in bitches. Some may improve even further with maturity. It will be exciting to follow their show & breeding careers as they are loaded with quality and potential. I applaud the strides their breeders have made producing Smooths that now rival the finest Roughs. Will it be these astute Smooth breeders that provide the key to improving our breed?

Matt Stelter Lauren Falk The Point

There was another positive in reflecting on the National. For years, Anita and I have noted the lack of promising young breeders coming-up in Collies. We regularly attend the English Setter and Shetland Sheepdog National Specialties and always come away impressed with the young talent in those breeds. It is exciting to realize the young breeder/handlers who made a significant impact on the 2019 CCA National top results. My hope is they continue to develop as expert Collie breeders to help bring our breed back to excellence and glory.

Again, thank you for this lifetime honor. The 2019 Collie Club of America National was a responsibility I respected, embraced, and carried out to the best of my ability. My hope is the Collie fancy will be as proud of these dogs as I am.

~Matt Stelter