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  • Writer's pictureSarah Szymborski

2023 Highlights: A Year In Review

2023 was an incredible year for us!

It's been a busy year at the Hand household. We participated in several sports and venues: conformation, agility, disc, dock diving, rally, herding, and FCAT. Incredible! We are so thankful for these opportunities, and we are even more grateful to have the best canine friends to play all of these games with. We hit every single goal we set for ourselves in addition to many more that I didn't know were possible. I want to share my favorite accomplishments of each dog this year:


Token debuted in her conformation journey in the 4-6 month puppy class. We were incredibly lucky that there were several shows she could make it to during this time period! Token showed 7 times and made each and every time count! She went against competition in group each time and knocked it out of the park! The first 5 shows were local (2x BPUP Group 1, 3x BPUP Group 2), and the last 2 shows were the Border Collie Society of America National and Parent Specialties (2x Best Puppy In Specialty Show).

Just when we thought the year was almost over, I decided to enter Token in a few UKC shows. She showed once in Indiana, going Best Female. Then, we went up to Wisconsin for 6 shows over the course of 3 days. Against competition, Token received Best Female (6x), Best of Breed (3x), Best of Winners (2x), and a Group 3 among strong competition (over 10 other dogs). This gave her all of the requirements to finish her UKC Championship (UCH), woohoo!

Token has received several compliments already about her beautiful movement, strong topline, and charming personality. I'm so excited for her first AKC shows as a big girl and to see what 2024 brings us. We are hopeful that she enjoys working sheep so that we can venture into that together.


Risk, where do I even start? We accomplished so much this year together, I am just blown away.

For AKC conformation, Risk had his first Regular Group Placements and NOHS Group Wins. We finished up his Grand Championship and have been chipping away at his bronze. We also finished his NOHS bronze and finished out the 2023 year as the #8 NOHS Border Collie! The icing on the cake was the incredible wins at the Border Collie Society of America National Specialty. Risk was awarded the People's Choice Winner of the Top 20 NOHS qualifiers and won the Working Sweepstakes! He also was awarded the second Award of Merit and Best of Breed Owner Handled in an entry of nearly 200 border collies at the Parent Specialty. Incredible! For UKC conformation, Risk finished up his Championship (UCH).

For Rally, Risk was invited to attend the Rally National Championship (RNC) in the Advanced Class. We don't play rally very much, and at the time he had only shown in trial 6 runs. Even despite our minimal training and mileage in the sport, Risk finished in 15th place in the Advanced class! Risk also started his road to RACH journey this year, finishing up his RE and working on his triple Qs as we speak.

For Disc, Risk really grew as a dog and Risk and Kyle as a team this year. Kyle and Risk qualified for 2 World Championships (AWI Toss and Catch and USDDN Super Pro Toss and Fetch) and is on track to qualifying in the first wave for UpDIF in one game (and the rest of the games). At AWI, Kyle and Risk got their first ever podium, finishing 2nd place in Toss and Catch which is a massive accomplishment! In UpDog, Risk and Kyle have also hit several new PBs and finished up their Disc Dog Platinum (DDP) title. It's been a year of hard work and I'm excited for Kyle and Risk's next steps in 2024.

For Herding, Risk finished up his first ever titles in both AKC and AHBA herding: PT and JHD. We have been herding on and off while juggling all of our other sports and showing, but I'm excited to see that Risk has enough desire and ability to move sheep around, gather, and pen. He finished all of his legs for these titles qualifying in each one!

It's hard to believe the year is already over, but we have our eyes set on new goals for the future. Risk should be finishing a few more milestones in conformation next year as well as venturing into new venues with Kyle for disc. I'm also aiming to finish up his RACH and possibly trial him in herding, dock, or agility... only time will tell!

Luna and Atlas

Luna and Atlas attended a few FCAT trials this year to check off some goals. Both of these dogs absolutely love the game and watching them run for the plastic warms my heart! Luna achieved her next title - DCAT - and Atlas achieved his first title - BCAT. I'm very excited for them to continue running in 2024 at a few more events to keep working towards their FCAT titles! I am also excited to work on some rally with both of them to hopefully finish their novice titles.


Data had a tough year as he began the year recovering from his TPLO surgery. We spent the first half of this year at rehab 1-2x a week filled with laser therapy, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and exercising. Once Data was recovered, we let him play in some dock diving where he finished his Dock Senior (DS) title. We also completed his Rally Excellent (RE) in our backyard utilizing the virtual titling program. Data will be retiring from competitive disc in the future due to the risk of rupturing his other CCL. When looking at his UpDog points, we noticed that he only needed a few more points to get his next title. We were so grateful that his rehab brought him a long way to be able to safely play these games. We finished up his Disc Dog Platinum (DDP) title and that marked the end of his competitive disc journey!

As I'm writing out my goals for 2024, I can't help but give a big hug to all of my dogs. If I've been reminded of anything recently, it's to celebrate and cherish my dogs each and every day. Titles, trials, and shows are great, but what's even more meaningful is living, playing, hiking, and just in general being with my dogs. I am so lucky to have the most incredible group of dogs in my life.

And of course, none of this would be possible without the unwavering love and support from the dog people in my life. Thank you for supporting me in this journey and helping make my dreams come true. I have the kindest people at my side through it all!

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