Here Come the Scotties

Door County Scottie Rally returns May 21

2017 Door County Scottie Rally Parade in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Len Villano.

One of many things lost to COVID19 during the past two years was the annual Door County Scottie Rally, but tomorrow it’s returning. Approximately 70 or more Scottish Terriers, led by Clan Donald Pipes and Drums, will parade around the Baileys Harbor Town Hall Square about 11:30 am Saturday, May 21.

In the past, attendees have traveled from as many as 17 states. This time, the continuation of the pandemic and the cost of gas has reduced that a bit, but Scotties and their families will still be arriving from Maine, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s the largest non-show gathering of Scottish Terriers in the U.S. and unique in that it focuses on fellowship, education and fundraising for health research and rescue. 

 Rally weekends always include a variety of activities for owners and dogs. This year, Cheryl Fugate is coming from Pennsylvania to do scent-work training with 20 of the Scotties. Barn hunt, agility and earth dog are also popular activities for the dogs, who are hunters by nature.

2017 Door County Scottie Rally Parade in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Len Villano.

 This year will also mark the beginning of an annual Barbara A. Gibson Tribute: “Dogs Just Want to Have Fun.” A frequent instructor at Scottie rallies, the late Gibson often said, “Dogs don’t care about ribbons and titles – they just want to have fun!”

 Baileys Harbor residents Geiger-Bronsky and her husband, Tom, organized the first Scottie gathering 22 years ago with no plan for it to become an annual event. Attendance doubled during the first few years, and the Door County Scottie Rally has become widely known and respected for its mission of advocating, fundraising and donating more than $425,000 for Scottish Terrier health research and rescue. 

 Michele and Tom bought Shayna, their first Scottie, in 1985 after watching the breed in the ring at a dog show. Shayna’s death from bladder cancer, a disease that strikes Scotties 20 times more frequently than other breeds, was the impetus for the first Scottie Rally and its continuing emphasis on funding health research. 

A major portion of the money raised through the years has gone to research projects supported by the Health Trust Fund of the Scottish Terrier Club of America. Additionally, annual blood samples collected from Scottie Rally attendees have been shipped to the National Institutes of Health and played a large role in recognition of a genome responsible for bladder cancer.  

This year, blood samples collected will contribute to a national DNA bank for future research studies and breed preservation.  

 For years, Geiger-Bronsky has brought in veterinarians during the rally to offer affordable abdominal ultrasounds to screen for bladder cancer at a very reasonable cost to Scottie owners. 

 Fundraising – including online auctions throughout the year and online and live auctions and a Scottie Shop with unique items for sale during the rally weekend – also benefits Scottie rescue activities conducted by regional Scottie clubs around the country. Donations are also appreciated.

Geiger-Bronsky surveyed rally attendees a few years ago to determine how the rallies benefit the local economy. 

“Many of the owners who travel to the event stay at least a week to enjoy Door County,” she said. “They spend a lot of money on lodging, food and shopping.”

May was chosen, not only because cooler temperatures ensure a more enjoyable, healthier parade route for the Scotties, but also because a pre-Memorial Day event, before the tourist season, is a financial boost for the county.

 In 2017, Michele, Tom and the Door County Scottie Rally received a prestigious award from the Scottish Terrier Club of America (STCA) for their outreach and advocacy on behalf of the Scottish Terrier breed.   Since that time, Michele has become a trustee of the Health Trust Fund of the STCA. At this point, Michele hopes to continue holding the annual rally until it celebrates its 25th anniversary and/or it reaches a goal of raising $500,000.