Fairbanks woman and border collie prepare to represent United States in international competition

Published: Feb. 11, 2023 at 5:02 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2023 at 5:21 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A Fairbanks woman and her dog are taking center stage at one of the largest dog shows in the world, not only representing Fairbanks and Alaska but the entire United States in an international competition.

It is a “tail” of hard work and dedication that has brought them to this point.

Michaela Krohn and her 4.5 year-old border collie, Wynn, are headed to England this March to compete in the 2023 Crufts International Dog Competition.

The duo will be judged in the agility category based on Wynn’s speed, target accuracy, and completion of a running course, among other requirements.

Although she may be small for her breed, Wynn is competing for the large team, meaning she must jump up to 24 inches high.

“She is just a super-talented dog. So far, my best dog I have ever had,” Krohn said. “Very literal, very verbal, very well behaved. [Wynn] just understands what I ask of her, and just listens and does it.”

Krohn said when she got Wynn, the dog was only 8 weeks old. “I have raised her, trained her, and worked with her since she first arrived,” she explained. “What people think of when they see a border collie is a fluffy black and white dog, [but] she is actually a smooth coat border collie.”

Before Wynn, Krohn had a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Izzy. Krohn said it was then that she was introduced to competing by a friend. From that moment she said she was all in. “Now, I am on my fourth agility dog, so I am pretty hooked,” she laughed. “I think I am at 11 years now of training and competing, and trying to learn and get better, and there is a lot to it.”

Before qualifying for Crufts, Michaela, and Wynn traveled to Austria in the fall of 2022 to compete for the American Kennel Club World Team. She compared the event in Austria to the Olympics of dog competitions.

“I think 36 dogs before me had failed,” she explained, “and these are the best of the best, you know? You stand on that start line and you’re like ‘Oh my God, let’s see what we can do!’”

She watched as contestants before her were disqualified or failed for various reasons. “I mean the best of the best have just failed in front of me, let’s see what we can do,” she exclaimed.

When they crossed the finish line, “I was definitely like, ‘Hallelujah! I got through this, I don’t know how.’” Their names lit up in the 2nd-place slot on the leaderboard.

“To see my name on the leaderboard and being in 2nd position until another 80 dogs was pretty amazing, and yeah, that was a pretty cool moment,” she said.

4-weeks after leaving Austria, Krohn returned home to Fairbanks only to get a call from Crufts. “I was super excited,” she said. “It was definitely a no-brainer to say ‘Yes I’m going!’”

Since that call, they have been working to fine-tune Wynn’s verbal skills and commands to prepare them for the big event.

“Agility is always different,” she explained. “The minute you step on that start line, there is going to be a different course with different challenges that a different judge has designed. So I have no idea what I am stepping into. I just know that I am up against the best of the best of each country again, except for now it is only one person.”

Crufts is changing its policy after this year. The organization is planning to merge classes together and change height requirements. “This is the last year that this is allowed, so it is the last year she gets to jump 24 inches,” Krohn explained. “It is going to change to 20 inches which will be an intermediate class.”

She said this will be a new standard to be fairer to the large breed dogs.

“The cutoff was 18 inches I believe, and any dog over 18 inches up to whatever height they were, would jump to 24 inches,” she explained. “Now, they have a new cut-off where a select group of dogs was able to jump a little bit lower, so the pool is not as big.”

Additionally, she said, it is a way to split up the class into an intermediate class.

“The really big dogs have difficulty jumping, so there is that sweet spot that you want to be at that is in between 20-23 inches I would say,” Krohn added. “That is the sweet spot for the 24-inch class.”

Because of the changes in the regulations, Krohn said this may be the only year she and Wynn will be in the competition. “I don’t think we’ll be selected for Crufts the next year because again there’s this new intermediate class, and Crufts only invites large dogs,” she said. “So as of next year, we won’t even qualify for Crufts anymore because of our height.”

Krohn said she lucked out getting in this year, which is why they are putting their all into this event -- and although they may feel like the odds are against them, Krohn said this is their opportunity to show that even someone from a small town like Fairbanks, Alaska can make it.

“It is surreal,” Krohn said. “I mean, when I go out to try out for team USA for example, I’m up against people that do this professionally. They have their own training centers they go in every day, all day long, and train other people’s dogs and their own dogs. I do this on the side.”

Krohn says this is such an honor, and now they have an opportunity to showcase what this small-town duo can do in the big arena.

Crufts will be taking place at the National Exhibition Centre Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, March 9-12, 2023.

To follow Michaela and Wynn’s journey and watch the event, follow this link: Crufts - YouTube