Sit. Stay. Fly like a bird!

Pam Coblyn and her show dog Fenway have had an amazing run.


I was recently interviewing Chip Coblyn about his work with the Substance Abuse Disorder Coalition and he mentioned in passing that his wife Pam was a dog trainer and had shown her dog, Fenway, at Westminster. This struck me as a story worth telling. And I traveled out to their home in Oak Bluffs to meet with Pam, Chip, and Fenway. 

As we were standing out on the lawn, Pam was telling me about Fenway’s career as a show dog and from time-to-time Fenway would let out a bark as if to say, “Don’t forget to tell him about Westminster!” Did I mention that border collies are highly intelligent?

Pam told me that Fenway had a 12-year career and competed at nearly every level of AKC competition, including the famed Westminster Dog Show. 

Pam, Chip, and Fenway moved to the Vineyard from Bethesda, Md. in 2019, and Pam got the bug for show dogs when her previous dog, a border collie named Logo, died and she went to a breeder to get a new puppy.

It took a couple of years to find the right match but when Pam got the call from the breeder to come see her new puppy, she was highly impressed. “It turned out that the new puppy was royalty,” Pam said. “His mother was the 2005 Border Collie Bitch of the Year and his brothers had all sorts of titles and championships.”

And Pam had already given the puppy-to-be a name. When driving down Storrow Drive in Boston one day, a sign caught Pam’s eye and she screamed out, “Fenway, that’s it!” nearly scaring the daylights out of Chip. The dog’s official name is AKC Champion Tarton Bay (the name of the breeder) Green Monster. But his call name, the name people would use to call him, became “Fenway” or in some cases, “The Monster,” as in the Green Monster.

While Pam never had shown Logo, and initially didn’t intend to show Fenway, she somehow felt that by not showing him she would be doing a disservice to his heritage. To make matters even more complicated, she decided to show him in the highly competitive and difficult “agility” category. You may have seen videos of agility competitions and to put it mildly, they’re mind boggling. 

The courses typically have between 14 and 20 obstacles. There are jumps, ramps, a set of poles a dog must weave through, tunnels and even a seesaw that tests the dog’s balance. 

It’s a major workout for the dogs and Pam says that while he’s competing, Fenway goes to the chiropractor and gets adjustments and has laser treatments. But it’s not only a workout for the dogs; the handlers get a big workout as well running around the ring putting the dogs through their paces.

“The dogs can’t run the course by themselves,” Pam said, “they depend on the handlers to run around the ring giving the dogs signals.” Pam credits the sport with keeping her in shape as well.

“If the dogs just go out to the ring by themselves,” Pam said, “they will probably run amuck, and do what we call, ‘zoomies’ where they just run and run, having fun and goofing off.”

To learn about showing Fenway in agility events, Pam joined an AKC club in Maryland, where they were living at the time, so she and Fenway could practice with obstacles, and Chip built a little agility course in their backyard using materials he got from Home Depot. 

Between working out at the AKC club and working out at home, it took Pam about a year and a half before she was comfortable enough to step into the ring with Fenway. But as it turned out, Fenway was a natural. He would go on to compete and win AKC medals in Maryland, Virginia, and Massaacusetts, and while he didn’t win at Westminster (didn’t even come close), he was an AKC Trick Dog Elite Performer, which Pam described as “a very big deal.”

“Speaking of Westminster,” I said, “I just watched the movie ‘Best in Show’ and I wondered if the actual experience was anywhere near as crazy as the movie depicted it.” “Actually, more than you might think,” Pam said, “it can get pretty nuts out there.” 

She explained that they have a little pen in the ring that’s full of wood shavings where dogs can go potty if they need to. “Apparently,” Pam said, “a very famous trainer had the urge to go and went in and lifted her skirt and squatted in the dog pen and someone spotted her and reported her. She was banned from ever going to an AKC event for three years.”

Other hijinks ensued when an owner brought in a dog to compete that was in heat. “When the bitch is in season, or in heat, as it’s called, she’s very attractive to males; in fact they go out of their minds,” Pam said, “You’re not supposed to allow females ‘in season’ to compete but I knew of someone who brought a female in heat to a show and put the dog next to his rival’s dog, effectively scrambling the rival dog’s mind.”

While not necessarily illegal, Coblyn told me a story that could easily have been an outtake from Best in Show. “Our border collies are so groomed they sparkle,” Pam said. “They’re gorgeous, they get blown-dried, they get moussed, they get sparkles put on their white coats; we do everything imaginable to gussy these dogs up.”

Pam then described a scene that would horrify any show dog owner. When the border collies were about to go into the ring, an enormous bloodhound was standing next to them and he began to violently shake his head and if you know anything about bloodhounds, it’s that they really know how to drool. The slobber flew out over the border collies and people started crying, “No! No! No!” like they were witnessing an ax murder, Pam said.

But in 2019, after around 12 years of competing, Pam decided it was time for Fenway to take a victory lap and she organized a farewell tour, going back to many of the venues where Fenway had appeared over the years and reconnecting with old fans. 

And since Fenway had never been shown at Westminster they decided to include Westminster on the tour as well. “We didn’t do that well at Westminster — actually didn’t even come close,” Pam said. “By this time, Fenway was 11 years old and his eyesight was failing. But the thrill of just being there with Fenway was all I wanted.

“There were tens of thousands of people there and it was the closest I’ll ever feel to being in the Olympics,” Pam said,”They played the national anthem and everyone had their hands on their hearts, it almost brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.”

Fenway has retired now and is spending his time on the Vineyard, but Pam says he still has some of his competitive spirit. “He’s become somewhat of an institution at the Ag Fair,” Pam said, “he always wins best of breed.” 

And last Halloween they had a costume contest in Edgartown and Fenway went dressed as a lobster, “He’s such a ham,” Pam said. 

Fenway has also joined Karen Ogden’s “Nose Work” group on the Island, where dogs have to identify specific scents. And they do agility exercises out in the woods where the dogs might use things like tree stumps for obstacles. “We do that just for fun,” Coblyn says

In 2019, Pam got a medal of her own. She belonged to an AKC club in Maryland and was very active passing along her wisdom to other members, and the club awarded her an AKC Outstanding Sportsmanship Award. So Fenway wasn’t the only one in the Coblyn house to have a medal to show.
“Living with Fenway has certainly been a long, strange, and wonderful trip,” Pam wrote me in an email. “He’s taken me to places and gotten me involved with a pastime and passion that I never would have imagined. And to think, I never even had a dog when I was growing up!”