While many dogs purely provide companionship, there are many that are specifically bred, trained and used for high-level tasks.
Guide dogs. Police dogs. Protection dogs. Livestock guardians. Herding dogs.
It can be tough to find a dog that has the drive and trainability required by their job and also has an “off” switch, but Skittles the border collie is a rare gem that possesses those qualities, and she’s worth her weight in gold.
Jeff Clausen, who lives in Melba, Idaho, is well-known in the cattle world for training border collies to move cattle. He trains only one dog a year, and he’s very particular in making sure his dogs get family time as well as work time.
“It used to be these cowdogs were tools,” Clausen told the Idaho Statesman. “They’re not tools anymore, and I think today’s society wants a pet at the same time as they want a partner to work with.”
He’s been working with Skittles for the past year, fine-tuning commands and training her to be a top-notch stock dog.
In January, during the Red Bluff stock dog trials in California, Skittles placed fifth out of 17 — not bad, but not high enough that anyone expected her to earn as much as she did at auction. Clausen expected her to fetch up to $9,000 at sale there, according to the Statesman.
In between working cattle, the 3-year-old collie had captured the hearts of the Sillers, who raise Texas longhorn cattle in Penn Valley, California. They were drawn to Skittles’ outgoing personality and impressed by how gently she moved cattle.
“In Red Bluff, they want a dog that gets ahead and stops cattle hard. She wasn’t that dog,” Clausen said. “She wasn’t the strongest dog in the competition, but she had the strongest personality.”
On the day of the auction, Jan. 29, the dogs that ranked ahead of her had sold for $6,000 to $11,000. But as soon as Clausen and Skittles entered the ring, Clausen could tell this was going to be different.
“When we walked in there, the aura of the whole place just changed,” he told the Statesman. “Everyone started screaming and whooping.”
The price climbed until it passed $11,000 — but it didn’t stop there.
“I lost my mind at $23,000,” Clausen said. “I didn’t even know what was going on.”
In 2018, Clausen had set the record for highest auction price after his border collie Gurdy placed first in the trials and was sold for $30,000.
Clausen blew that record out of the water with Skittles, and the Sillers were so adamant about having her that they spent $45,000 on their newest ranch hand.
“Thank you to everyone i really appreciate it!” Clausen posted on Facebook. “Still a little shocked but i guess ill take it! There was alot better dogs in the sale by far but Skittles worked her but off. …
“I met the people and they seem great, the people i talked to said she couldnt have went to a better home, she forgot about me the minute i handed her over🙄 and she gets to work a couple ranches with Jaime Gonzalez dog so it was a good turn out!”
The new owners commented on Clausen’s post to express their enthusiasm over being Skittles’ new owners.
“My husband had his eye on a few but the minute we talked to you and met Skittles it was a done deal,” Andrea Siller wrote. “To be serious, she was exactly what I was looking for.
“I’m an animal lover and I did not want a dog that bites when it’s not needed. Skittles is the real deal and perfect for our family. We love her already.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.