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.