Border Collies keep Malabar resident young


Judy Kelly has a 10-acre farm in Malabar where she takes care of sheep and Border Collies.

SENIOR LIFE Darrell Woehler


At a time when many folks are content with a rousing game of bingo or chasing a little white ball around a golf course, Judith Kelly prefers to care for six highly energetic Border Collies … plus the 60 sheep and 30 ducks that also reside at her 10-acre Asher-Dell Farm in Malabar.

The 78-year-old Kelly is a well-known figure among herding dog trials. She has spent decades training the highly intelligent herding dogs.

Every Saturday, owners of these smart but demanding canines travel from throughout Florida to spend the day at Kelly’s farm, where she will help their dogs reach their full herding potential … and burn off some of their boundless energy.

“Training at the farm channels their natural abilities,” Kelly said.

Kelly began her life with dogs when her Canadian-born first husband got her into sled dog racing. The couple traveled throughout North America with their teams of huskies.

“We would leave the day after Christmas and come back home in late March after racing in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, New England and Canada,” she said.

“I raced sled dogs for 30 years. At the time, sled dog racing was a man’s sport. I was an oddity.”

While on the racing circuit, she came upon Kim, a high-energy and unforgettable Border Collie that proved to be a natural at sled dog racing.

“I said to myself that I would own a dog like Kim someday,” she said.

She made good on her promise, moving to Brevard in 1989 with her second husband, Jim. Soon afterward, she started training and breeding a line of dogs that descend from the best of the International Sheep Dog Society “Key Dog” stud books.

Kelly and her dogs have been featured in books, magazines and calendars and have starred on the Disney Channel, National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet. Twenty years ago, she started the Central Florida Herding Club, registered with the American Kennel Club to promote the sport.

As with sled dog racing, Kelly was at first a woman in a man’s world. Despite the prejudice she initially encountered, she prevailed and excelled. Kelly is now so prominent in herding dog circles that when she attended the Border Collie World Trials in Holland earlier this year, folks would come up to her to chat and pick her brain.

Kelly has no plans leave the dog trials and training and the constant care her farm and animals require. She rises before dawn, goes to bed early and in between takes care of the majority of chores by herself.

“One thing never mentioned in the Scriptures is retirement,” said the devout Christian.