There is a
standard approved by the AKC for judging collies, a standard which prescribes
the ideal for every inch of the animal. But, says Kattell, "there are
judges who don't give a damn about the standard. They're only looking for good
eyes, or a good muzzle, or the right hindquarters. There was a judge once used
to measure tails, and the dog with the longest tail always won."
Kattell opened war
for a point system, a system whereby a judge could give, say, only 10 points
for good eyes, no matter how dearly that particular judge valued good eyes. To
Kattell, trained in the rigid arithmetic of other sports, the point system
seemed too logical to countenance resistance. He reckoned without his
powers in the collie world, as in most of the specialized dog worlds, believe
that if an idea is good, 50 years or so of aging can't help but improve it.
There are ideas under consideration by some breed committees first advanced in
the last century and not likely to be disposed of with finality until the
discovered, to his delight, that while his fellow breeders were cautious about
his views, they joyously shared his love for contention. Kattell began to write
an immensely popular column for a breeder publication, a column which had as
its trademark, fittingly, a boxing glove headed for a chin. One breeder took
space in the publication to describe Kattel's point system as
"half-baked" and "high-handed," and "motivated by special
self-interests to perpetuate incompetent and fraudulent collie
evaluations," which gives an idea of how discussions are sometimes carried
on in the purebred dog world.
His battle for a
point system raged, with a constant ebbing and flowing of positions, until
1957, when he scored a major breakthrough. The Collie Club of America named him
head of a special committee to draw up such a system, and the same year the
breeders, in a nationwide poll, chose Kattell their man of the year.
For years Kattell
has been a fixture at almost any major showing of collies west of the Rockies,
and he is one of the few humans at a show capable of stealing attention from
the dogs. For shows he wears "the uniform," a pair of casually pressed
slacks of an indefinable color and pattern and a snappy sports coat of a cut
that was big on the campus when goldfish-swallowing was in season. If the
occasion is overwhelmingly important, he will add a white shirt and tie, but a
sport shirt is far more likely. The small bit that is left of his grayed
frizzle will be carefully brushed, and his face will express the utmost
benevolence, no matter what the provocation.
appearances a devoted band of admirers customarily attaches to him, and listens
eagerly to whatever critiques he offers. Of late those critiques have become
increasingly mild, and the responses of the fancy correspondingly warm, with
ladies bussing his weathered cheeks and men beaming at him, especially if he
volunteers a kind word about their dogs.
Because of his
age, and the innumerable difficulties and expenses involved, Kattell has
reluctantly stopped showing his own dogs, and keeps his pack almost entirely
for the pleasure of having swarms of collies at his feet. He sometimes sells
dogs, but it is hardly a businesslike operation. Should a casual purchaser
wander to Borco and cast eyes upon a particular dog, Kattell will sometimes
think of a dozen reasons why that particular dog is indispensable.
Some time ago when
Borco dogs were gathering in ribbons and cups across the country, an eastern
breeder offered $750 for a promising young male, a princely sum as collie
prices go. Kattell, though he then had more than 80 dogs on the premises,
stalled and hedged and finally refused. The breeder departed, trailing blue
smoke. Kattell, who didn't have $750 to his name at that time, says: "I
wanted that dog more than he did."
Borco dogs share
the master's disdain for the effete life. Not so long ago he sold Julie, a
lighthearted young blue merle bitch. The new owners bathed, clipped and groomed
Julie and introduced her to grassy yards, thick carpets and rich foods. Her
reaction was to sit in a corner and whimper. In time the family gave up and
brought her back. When the car was still a mile away, Julie began to scratch
and cry in excitement, and when the car stopped, Julie shook loose, jumped the
fence and into Kattell's arms and then rolled exuberantly in the dust.