Posted Date: July 15, 2015
Get to know this highly successful and incredibly laid-back team. By Tamar Fuhrer
If you attend USDAA trials in Arizona, or neighboring states, you probably know Maureen Hughes. She isnt the most loud-spoken competitor at the shows, nor is she the one running half the dogs in a given jump height.
She is recognizable as the one dressed in apparel emblazoned with Tigger, as in Winnie the Pooh's sidekick. Her setup usually includes stray appendages of dog toys, with some stuffing from the torso scattered here and there.
Her "Tigger-wear", of which Maureen guesses she has at least 15 items, is to show off her love for her dog, Tigger, a 10-year-old All-American with whom she competes in the P16 classes.
The dismembered animals? It's part of her warm-up routine. "I get her out of her crate about 8-10 dogs ahead of our run and spend time playing tug with her," Maureen says. "I have a box full of stuffed toys that squeak. She loves to tug and shred them."
Maureen, a long time Tempe, Arizona resident, started in agility with another All-American, Zippy, who is now 14. Maureen adopted Zippy as a young dog, from the local county shelter.
Zippy enjoyed his short-lived agility career.
"He had a ton of energy," Maureen says, so she thought agility would be good for him, and enrolled in a class with Jean Emery. She claims she nearly quit the sport after the first class; Zippy had doggy ADHD and was barking at everything. But Jean encouraged her to stick with it, and that he did. Although Zippy's USDAA records are limited to one PI Standard Q, he is a backyard champion and got Maureen interested in the sport.
Maureen adopted Tigger as a six-month-old puppy from a local rescue. Having already had a taste of agility, she immediately enrolled Tigger in puppy classes at Good Dog Agility Club in Chandler, Arizona.
She had hoped that she and Tigger would be able to compete together and since Good Dog Agility is a USDAA club, she learned the rules of the brand and prepared herself for trialing.
She and Tigger debuted in November 2006, and slowly built their confidence in a competitive environment. They attended their first out-of-town show in 2008, and went to their first out-of-state trial in 2010. "That is when we were truly addicted," says Maureen, "especially as we were driven to get our PDCH title."
They have worked through challenges as a team, including Tigger being attacked by a dog, twice, in agility class, and working through Tigger's discomfort around other dogs at trials. The team rose to each occasion, focusing on building confidence and drive in the ring and developing a positive routine before their runs to desensitize Tigger to the dogs coming and going in a chaotic environment.
Together, they earned their third Super Q to finish their PDCH title in 2011, and Tigger continues to add more alphabet soup (and metallics) to her name. The team needs one more qualifying score for both PDCH-Gold and Lifetime Achievement-Gold. They've already earned Platinum titles in Standard, Snooker, Jumpers and Pairs Relay.
Maureen and Tigger earning their PDCH in 2011.
"I never in a million years expected Tigger and I to achieve some of the titles we have achieved," Maureen says. But what excites her most are not the frequent certificates in the mail, but Tigger's noticeable improvement in speed and drive. As one of the smallest dogs in the P16 class, Tigger can be at a disadvantage for classes like Performance Speed Jumping (PSJ), where the fastest dogs set course time.
Maureen noted that it took the team six years to earn their first four PSJ Qs. Lately, however, Tigger has been racking up legs in PSJ - five in the past six months. "Our work with motivation and building drive is paying off," Maureen says. "She has really hit her prime at 10 years of age."
Maureen and Tigger on course.
Maureen retired from her job of Director of Finance at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center last year. Although she is still doing some consulting work in the industry, her flexible schedule allows her to travel more for shows now. She has enjoyed traveling to compete, thankful that she has developed friendships with fellow competitors throughout Arizona and California over the past several years.
She became good friends with Alexi Schnell, of San Diego, California, whose All-American, Callie, recently passed away. They were often seen running together in Pairs Relay - they were partners for over 30 runs together. Beyond making new friends, traveling for agility has allowed Maureen to travel to new places. "There is always some sort of adventure or story with every trip," notes Maureen.
Outside of agility, Maureen enjoys traveling, tennis, reading, working out, hiking and spending time with her family and friends. She enjoys her state of semi-retirement, as she has more time to devote to her hobbies. She recently started teaching her dogs to use Fit Paws® equipment and the incredible trick of enjoying getting their nails trimmed.
In thinking about her agility journey thus far, Maureen focuses on enjoying the experience with her dogs. "[It] has been the most fun activity I have ever done. I have so many great memories from all of these years with Tigger and with my agility friends. I know it won't last forever, but I just enjoy every run regardless of the outcome because you never know when it will be your last. I enjoy being with my Tigger...she truly brings me so much joy!"
Photos by Mike Hughes.
Tamar Fuhrer lives in the Los Angeles, California area, where she works as a Transportation Planning Manager for Metro, Los Angeles County's transit agency. She began training in Agility in 2012 with her first dog, All-American, Murray (affectionately known in the Southern California area as "The Murr"), and quickly became hooked. Murray is nearing his PDCH, and just needs to decide when he wants to lie down on the table one last time. She is also enjoying training Riff, her Lowchen puppy, whose party animal spirit aptly titles him her "#YOLO" dog.