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A Article Wins an Award Nomination

Congratulations to Nini Bloch!

Judges for the Dog Writers Association of America's annual writing competition selected Nini Bloch's article, Gone From Competition But Not Forgotten: Buddy's Run, as one of four nominees in the Website: feature article category.

Originally the article was available only to subscribers, but in honor of it's nomination, it appears below in full. Congratulations to Ms. Bloch, and good luck on winning the category. Winners will be announced February 14th at the DWAA annual awards banquet.

Gone from Competition But Not Forgotten: Buddy's Run

One club remembers former agility teamates. By Nini Bloch.

Dark eyes sparkling with joy in her white face, 12-year-old Golden Retriever Tammy was ready for her run. So was her 95-year-old handler, Rachel Page (Pagey) Elliott. Cane in hand, Pagey, widely known for her research in dog movement, set out at a steady, determined walk. Tammy jumped the first "jump" with gusto (the bars were on the ground), then the second, and checked in with Pagey before diving into the tunnel. Tammy missed a jump, but no one cared. They finished the simple loop of jumps and tunnels with a flourish, a chorus of cheers, and a ribbon presented by USDAA judge Michelle DuBois. Right before Tammy and Pagey ran, trial chair Debra Gorfine read how Pagey had taken up agility at age 84 when Tammy was a sprightly two-year-old and how Pagey had taught her devoted dog to work at a distance and check in with her to the admiration of all.

Rachel Page Elliot and Tammy. Photo by Ellen Zieske.

Pagey and Tammy had just taken part in Buddy's Run, a special recognition class open to all retired agility dogs, held at the Labor Day weekend trial put on by Agility is Really Fun for Fido (ARFF) in Westford, Massachusetts. Although Pagey was the oldest handler in the class, Tammy was not the oldest dog. Altogether, 23 dogs and their handlers participated, ranging from five-year-old Shiver, retired due to an injury, to 16-year-old Trivia, retired due to infirmity. The dogs were keen, thrilled to be out on course in public once more. As Mary Champagne said about Shiver, "I told her this was the Grand Prix Final. She doesn't know the difference." The dogs' handlers were delighted to be running with their beloved teammates. To those of us in the Northeast, many of these dogs were old favorites, and it was stirring to see them running their hearts out again. For many USDAA competitors, it has become their favorite part of ARFF's trials. Michelle Dubois felt it was an honor to hand out the ribbons: "It was such a moving experience to watch these heroes, canine and human, of the past and present enjoy another run together in agility," she said. "You could see in the faces of the handlers and the demeanor of the dogs that Buddy's Run was a fabulous time for them."

Buddy's Run had its origins in 2006 with ARFF member Pam Enion, whose big farm collie, Buddy, was a relative latecomer to agility. Though they thoroughly enjoyed the game, Buddy became too arthritic to compete at regulation heights and had to retire. Pam asked if the club could find a way of honoring our canine companions who, for whatever reason, could no longer compete. They found their model in what has become a beloved institution at the agility trials that the Australian Shepherd Club of New England holds - a special class that was the brainchild of Jean Janotta in honor of her dog Zach. At some point during their trials, formal competition comes to a halt, and everyone gathers around one ring to cheer, clap - and cry - as retired dogs circle a simple loop of obstacles with their handlers. An announcer reads a brief bio of the dog written by the handler.

For the past three years, ARFF's Labor Day Weekend agility trial has featured a similar special recognition class open to all retired agility dogs and named after Pam's Buddy. This exhibition class is a non-qualifying, non-titling, non-judged event. An announcer introduces each dog with a brief bio. Dogs run on a simple jumps-and-tunnels course, not to exceed 10 obstacles at whatever height they wish (including bars on the ground). At the end of the run, each honoree gets a large navy-and-teal rosette of recognition from one of the trial judges. This Labor Day, ARFF looks forward to its fourth season of Buddy's Runs.

Buddy, for whom "Buddy's Run" is named. Photo by Cindy Telley.

Author's Note: Rachel Page Elliott was a pioneer in the study of dog movement, best known for her book Dogsteps: A New Look, based on years of documenting dog gait using cineradiography (moving X-rays).  The book has educated the dog world in evaluating sound structure. Always spirited, forward-looking, and adventurous, Pagey took up agility in 1997 and published her autobiography (From Hoofbeats to Dogsteps: A Life of Listening to and Learning from Animals) last summer. She passed away this spring and is sorely missed by legions of friends worldwide.

Writer and editor Nini Bloch lives in Bedford, Massachusetts, with Aussie Zu. She writes about environmental issues, animal behavior, and dog training, and has edited 10 books for the dog community, three of which won national awards.


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