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Why Champion of My Heart?

When we adopted Lilly from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in October 2004, I harbored no visions of canine championships of any sort. Honestly, I didn’t know such options existed for dogs other than “show dogs.” I joke that before Lilly my dog training experience was of the Petsmart variety. No offense.

On the advice of one of the humane society’s volunteers, who also works with Rocky Mountain Border Collie Rescue, we looked into formal obedience training and then agility training for Lilly. Such a high-energy girl, even at 6 months old, needed an outlet for all that brain power and pent up speed.

Lilly thrived in her classes. She learned. She mastered. She worked hard.

I met great people, amazing dogs, and learned about the competitive options open to dogs of all kinds – in obedience, in rally, in agility, and other areas. And, I bought into the dream.

There’s even a Yahoo group for people who do agility (the doggie obstacle course sport) with issue-prone rescued dogs. Titles, titles … everywhere.

I’ll admit that I mist up as I watch friends and their dogs earn championship titles. It’s an emotional moment … the crowd goes dead quiet as the handler-dog team step to the start line on what could be their final run to earn the championship title. Everyone holds their breath as the dog speeds over jumps, through tunnels, and across teeter-totters. Waiting. Hoping for perfection (because at that level zero mistakes allowed). The goal? Clean run.

We watch the dog, but we also watch the judge, hoping her hands don’t fly into the air signaling a mistake.

It’s over in less than a minute.

Often the final obstacle is a jump with PVC bars, marking the height. As the dog clears that final bar, without knocking it down, the crowd erupts in cheers. Then, the handler grabs the final bar (often painted gold for the occasion) and turns to run a victory lap around the course with dog flying high.

Typically dogs go straight to their leashes after an agility run, so they get this funny, confused look on their faces when mommy or daddy turns and runs the other way back onto the course. But, they love the sport so much that they happily oblige with an encore.

In tales I will soon share, I’ll explain why I’ve (nearly) accepted that Lilly and I may never experience such victory, despite her early promise in training. Ultimately, I hope to deliver a bigger story of redemption, of a literal underdog who makes good, but only time (and hard work) will tell.

Until then, I’ve bestowed Lilly with the title CHOMH (champion of my heart).

Next up … From whence she came.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Champion of My Heart - November 2, 2009

Weekly Training Update (Oct 30)

In response to last week’s Training Update, my professional writer and dog-loving friend Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell (who blogs about living large in a little house) asked for some background on why exactly I would work so hard and continue to put so much effort into training Lilly. Here is my best attempt at answering that question, which is bigger than I suspect Kerri ever imagined. …

Champion of My Heart - March 7, 2009

Ginko Meets Katie, Take 2, Part 3

Yesterday afternoon, we took both Lilly and Ginko along for our ongoing work to see if Lilly’s best friend Katie (the borzoi) might come live here. We’ve reached an interesting point, where I’m less worried about what Ginko might do and more worried about Katie worrying what Ginko might do. Clearly, when I botched their first introduction, Ginko made a distinct impression on Katie. And, it is NOT a good one. …

Champion of My Heart - February 2, 2009

Weekly Training Update (Jan 30)

This week Lilly, the intrepid protagonist of our ongoing canine love story, went to a group pet obedience class with our big-picture trainer and mentor in all things relating to living with a fearful dog (Gigi Moss). Lilly and I stopped taking this drop-in class weekly in summer 2008 on advice of our dog behaviorist, who wanted us to do some hard-core behavior modification work instead. But, we’ve made enough progress that we’re picking up a group class once a month as time and temps allow. Suffice it to say, this was …

Champion of My Heart - January 31, 2009

Weekly Training Update (Jan 30)

This week Lilly, the intrepid protagonist of our ongoing canine love story, went to a group pet obedience class with our big-picture trainer and mentor in all things relating to living with a fearful dog (Gigi Moss). Lilly and I stopped taking this drop-in class weekly in summer 2008 on advice of our dog behaviorist, who wanted us to do some hard-core behavior modification work instead. But, we’ve made enough progress that we’re picking up a group class once a month as time and temps allow. Suffice it to say, this was an interesting and challenging week for Lilly, who …

Champion of My Heart - September 5, 2008

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