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Down in the Valley

Absolutely Alabama.
Absolutely Alabama.(Source: Fred Hunter/WBRC)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:00 PM CDT
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GENEVA COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Many of us come late to our life’s true calling, but that isn’t true for a Geneva County man named James Thomas. He’s known what he wanted to do since he was very young and has spent a lifetime doing it.

Today at his Valley Kennels near Solcomb, he and his wife Louise trained a special breed of working dogs called Border Collies. But it isn’t just the dogs, it’s their owners who learn important lessons about life.

Absolutely Alabama.
Absolutely Alabama.(Source: Fred Hunter/WBRC)

Thomas remembers, “I got interested in the Border Collies when I was 6-years-old and I told my daddy, ‘that’s what I want to learn to train to help with the cattle.’ That’s what Border Collies do. They serve purpose.”

Absolutely Alabama.
Absolutely Alabama.(Source: Fred Hunter/WBRC)

Geneva County is a long way from the Highlands of Scotland where the Border Collies originated, but at their Valley Kennels near Solcomb, James and Louise work with young dogs to teach them ancient ways. “You do things from your heart. Love and show affection. Earn that dog’s respect and you’ve got it from then on.”

Absolutely Alabama.
Absolutely Alabama.(Source: Fred Hunter/WBRC)

Thomas notes, “A Border Collie will work for anybody if it’s trained right and if it’s loved and shown how to do it correctly. It’s brains they’ve got to move that livestock, whether it’s goat, sheep, cattle to you.”

There is a spiritual component to his life’s work as well. “I know where they got all their brains from, The Creator. They were created for that sole purpose to help you with your livestock. They can be trained to run with you, or they can be trained for agility dogs.”

Absolutely Alabama.
Absolutely Alabama.(Source: Fred Hunter/WBRC)

No matter the task that James Thomas teaches, the most important ingredient for dogs and people is the same. Pointing to his heart he says, “It all depends on what’s in there. If you got the heart to do it, you’ll make it.”

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