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The "human-like" Wiki looks at a light switch in the family home before being commanded to turn it off. That's only one of his many doggy chores. Photo by Tim Phillips.

Wiki is an American Kennel Club Grand Champion, but it’s not just his titles that impress everyone. This smart, spirited, and distinctive Australian Shepherd, owned by Elissa and Tim Phillips of San Diego, willingly meets each new challenge with enthusiasm. For instance, he dances, opens doors, turns on lights, poses for selfies, bows, and says his prayers.

“Wiki is the most human-like dog you will ever meet,” Elissa says. “He reads people and their needs, often even before they know what those needs are. My grandmother lost her husband a year ago. In general, Wiki is energetic and very athletic, but when we walked into my gram’s house, he read the situation immediately. Instead of his normal party that he throws when he sees his people, he came up to my gram and put his head on her lap. She was pretty much in control up to that moment. Until then, she had been in a work mode planning the funeral. But this was just what she needed. She started crying, and he jumped up and let her cry into him.”

His personality shined through from the moment the Phillips laid eyes on San Diego breeder Laura Diebold’s Aussie litter. Elissa recalls, “Wiki was already so strong, fighting to get to nurse, and we knew right away that he was our dog. We wanted to show, and Laura advised us not to pick so early. She recommended we wait until the puppies were 8 weeks old to make a decision. But we knew. We promised Laura we would keep him, even if he wasn’t show quality.”

And how has that worked out? “Pretty well,” she laughs. “We have a sweet, goofy dog that thinks he’s a human.”

This is Wiki in his “Sitting Pretty” mode at the 2015 Australian Shepherd Club of America National Specialty in Shelbyville, Tenn. Photo by Amber Jade.

Elissa and Tim agreed, before selecting a puppy, that she would pick the breed, breeder, and color, and he would select the sex and name. When Elissa made her choice, Tim said, “What about Wiki? He is as smart as Wikipedia.” And it stuck. “We had no idea how well that would suit him,” she says.

When Wiki was about one-and-one-half years old, Elissa recalls, they were at Diebold’s house where six other Aussies were wrestling together with a long tree branch. They began playing tug-of-war with it and eventually decided to bring it through the dog door into the house. Wiki watched as the others tried countless times to pull it inside.

“Eventually, they became bored or frustrated, dropped the stick, and moved on to another toy,” says Elissa. “Wiki casually went over, grabbed the tip, and backed through the dog door to bring it inside. He set it down, ambled back outside, and looked at me like, ‘Wow, they really couldn’t figure that out. Stupid dogs.’”

AJ Tavares gaits Wiki to a four-point major (Winners Dog and Best of Winners) at the 2016 Tualatin Kennel Club show in Portland, Ore. Photo by Randy Roberts.

Wiki is a quick learner, picking up the basic rudiments after being shown once or twice. “Posing for a selfie was taught at a conformation show,” Elissa says. “I was showing off a new trick he had learned and someone asked me, ‘How do you teach him those things?’ I explained that he just picks them up quickly. The person asked me to teach him something else. I showed Wiki how to pose for a selfie by putting him in place, rewarding the stance, and saying ‘selfie’ twice. And he got it. I would kneel and say ‘selfie,’ and he would lean over my shoulder and look at the camera.”

She adds, “Wiki learns by watching, which is a bit unusual for a dog. He also catches on with very little repetition. He has learned the names of all of his people and is up to about 15 now.”

The bond between the pair is unlike anything she’s had with her previous Aussies, a breed she has lived with since 1994, when she was 8. “I talk to Wiki a lot, just like a human,” Elissa says. “I will ask him a question like, ‘Wiki, should we go for a walk or go upstairs?’ Depending on what he wants, he will either run to the stairs or the front door.”

The couple’s home has long been Wiki’s wonderland, but things changed drastically this year with the birth of their first child, Grace, now 6 months old. Wiki loves her, says Elissa. Every time she cries, he comes running. “He is also very confused why she gets to cry, and he is discouraged from barking. Wherever she is, Wiki is within 2-to-3-feet protecting her.”

Wiki is incredibly protective of 6-month-old Grace. Photo by Tim Phillips.

The versatile Wiki has a Grand Championship title in conformation and is training in agility and herding. He also has titles in rally, obedience, dock diving, and lure coursing. Because of his love for water, his favorite, of course, is dock diving. That’s when he kicks into full dog mode. “He doesn’t even need a toy to jump for,” Elissa says. “Just let him in, and he will run down the dock, jump in, swim up to the ramp, get out, run down to the end of the dock, and repeat the process over and over.”

While Wiki is her first conformation partner, Elissa believes her training background has been invaluable. “Our bond is incredible. He longs to please and eyes my body language every second we’re in the ring. He is the perfect dog for a conformation beginner.”

With Grace’s arrival and new family priorities, Wiki’s 2018 competition schedule is a bit uncertain. Most likely, he will be shown in the owner-handled series at Southern California shows.

Though unflappable in virtually every surrounding, Wiki has two fears: falling off the bed (this has never happened) and turtles. Yes, that’s right … turtles! Live turtles, stuffed turtles, toy turtles, pretty much anything resembling a turtle. “He freezes and will not move an inch toward one. I have absolutely no idea why he is so afraid of them. Nothing has ever happened to him around a turtle,” Elissa says. “But, go figure. He is fine around snakes, sea lions at the beach, and parrots.”

The proud owner concludes, “Wiki never ceases to surprise me. Just when I think I’ve seen everything, he produces a sobering reminder that he has more in his toolbox of tricks.”

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