My Life, My Dogs, and Agility
My whole life I have always had a huge interest in purebred dogs. From my first word being "dog" to being a dog trainer at 18 years old, dogs have always played a huge role in my life.
I am so proud to be able to consider myself an agility enthusiast for these past 6 years. I didn't always have a dog or have the opportunity to grow up having dogs. There was even a time when I didn't know what a purebred dog or what agility was. Ever since I was 5 years old, all I asked for, for every birthday and Christmas was a dog, but it always came down to the fact that my dad didn't want one. The summer of 1999, when I was 12 years old, was the summer that changed everything.
One of our closest friend's and neighbor's were going out of town so they asked me to watch their 1 ½ year old Sheltie, Scooter. Scooter was untrained and mainly an outdoor dog. All summer, I had fun playing with him and teaching him basic obedience commands. My best friend Erica Wilson was involved in agility at the time and got me hooked. I just wished I had a dog of my own so I could start agility too. Then I had the idea to ask our neighbors if I could do agility with Scooter. They loved the idea and gave me permission to start right away.
In the fall of 1999, I started agility training with Laura Yarbrough. It was a lot of fun and I learned fast, but our first year was really rough. Scooter refused a lot of obstacles unless you made him do them, and he was really slow. My first show was in May 2000 and Scooter qualified barely under time. Our second show in June 2000 was the worst show we have ever had because Scooter refused every contact obstacle that weekend and we came home with no qualifications. When we got home I was grooming Scooter and came to find that when he was neutered about a year before, the stitches had never been fully removed and there was a portion of the stitch that was sticking out and poking him every time he jumped or went up an obstacle. I finally figured out what had been holding Scooter back! Over the next couple months I helped Scooter build confidence, speed, and accuracy. We did the impossible and pulled a complete turn around. From December 2000 to October 2004, Scooter and I have gotten 16 titles, including Agility Dog Champion, Master Agility Excellent and Master Excellent Jumpers with Weaves and we are currently competing at the highest levels of competition. Some other achievements that Scooter and I have received have been qualifying for World Championships 2001-2004, getting 9th place in Grand Prix World Championship Finals in 2002, and winning AKC Sheltie Nationals in 2002.
Meanwhile, while training Scooter, my dad had a change of heart and realized that I was really serious about wanting my own dog, and knew it would not just be a pet that sat around and had nothing to do. So, for my 15th birthday (June 2001) my dad said I could get a puppy! I decided on a Border Collie puppy which I got from an AKC breeder in August 2001. I named him, "Shoreland's Sky's the Limit" or "Sky" for short. Getting Sky was the best gift I have ever received. I couldn't have asked for a better companion, friend, or agility partner.
In December 2004, I was faced with the most tragic event I had ever experienced. Sky passed away at 3 ½ years old on Dec. 15th, 2004. It was completely unexpected His last agility show was October 2004 and he qualified in every event and even earned a title. When we got home he started showing signs of exhaustion, not eating, not being himself, and knocking even 12" jump bars. It came on all so suddenly so we took him to the vet immediately. After many, many tests, they discovered he had Advanced Osteo Arthritis, Severe Hip Dysplasia, Pancreatitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I was so shocked. I couldn't believe all this was happening.
The vets said he probably had hip problems his whole life and we were just now seeing signs of it. The vets also said he would never be able to do agility again. I was heart broken, but I still just wanted Sky to be OK and live the rest of his life normally. Sky went back and forth from seeming like he was feeling better to feeling sick, and being in and out of the vets on IV's. Out of nowhere, on the night of December 15th, my mom called me hysterically crying, and told me Sky had just passed away in his crate. I drove home as fast as I could, crying the whole way home, not knowing what to say or what to do. My dad helped put a blanket over him and we drove him to the Emergency vet. After hearing the situation they said their best guesses were either he had a heart attack or a blood clot went to his brain (either would have killed him instantly). I stayed in the room a long time crying and just saying my last goodbyes, and saying goodbye was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Sky's love of life and willingness to please will forever be in my heart and memories.
From 2000-2004 I have received over 300+ ribbons between Scooter and Sky. Sure it feels awesome hearing your name and your dog's name called to go get that 1st place ribbon or even just a qualifying ribbon, but no matter what there are 6 things I have learned and that every Junior Handler should always remember:
Agility and Dogs have been a huge part in my life. I have grown a lot as a person, and learned so much from my agility instructor and friends, and Sky. The thing I love best about the dog show world is the atmosphere and camaraderie of the people and their dogs. In the future I am considering becoming a vet and a dog trainer. I also want to breed Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies. I think being a judge would be a very rewarding position, but regardless I know I will always be an agility competitor. In the end you realize it doesn't matter if you have the best show dog or a pet, but it is the memories you create and experience together and they are the memories you will have forever; and will never forget.