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Sadie and Annie - A Shelter Dog Agility Success Story

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! USDAA competitor Karen Sollars writes about her two canine athletes Annie and Sadie, both adopted from shelters.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us to attend Cynosport this year, but if you have ever been to a trial when Annie was running, or waiting to run, then you have heard her. She has a lot to say and isn't afraid to say it!

Rewind to July 2000 when we adopted our first shelter dog. Sadie was a Spaniel/Beagle mix, about three years old. She was housetrained, exceedingly sweet, smart, not a barker, and she had the most beautiful, soulful eyes. She was the perfect dog, until we left her alone and learned that she suffered from separation anxiety. Drugs and behavior modification were recommended, along with an activity to burn energy and build confidence and that is how agility became such a big part of our lives!

We had a lot of struggles in our agility career, which made the successes just that much sweeter. Being my first dog, I made a plethora of training errors, but Sadie had so much heart that she succeeded despite my incompetence.

Our biggest struggle was gambles. Sadie was such a velcro dog. She ended her career with 58 snooker Q's, of which 25 were SQ's! When we started USDAA agility, the games weren't included in titling. She earned her Master Performance Dog title without having ever completing a gamble.

About this time, USDAA lowered the A-frame height for 16" dogs, so we started over in the Championship program. We worked endless hours on distance skills. She taught me so much about how to train a dog to work distance and to send away from you. As confidence grew in this area for both of us, she earned a Starters Gamble, then an Advanced Gamble and we came oh so very close to a Masters Gamble so many times. I knew that she had the skill, if I could just relax enough to not become a crazy person when the gamble horn sounded!

Nearly two years after we started in Championship, Sadie nailed her first Masters Gamble and earned her MAD. While gambles were never our strongest suit, earning that first one was what it took to break the spell and before long she earned her ADCH, with a gamble that included weaving away from the gamble line, and weaves were always a challenge for her, even with me near her. She earned 25 Master/Performance gambles in her career, retiring with a Bronze ADCH and a PDCH.

I was hooked on the sport and since Sadie was 10 years old, I knew her competition days were numbered, so we started searching for another dog to adopt. We had a weakness for Cockers, but really liked the heartiness of having a mix and found another Spaniel/Beagle mix in a shelter. Sadie accepted her into the house, so Dreamboat Annie became our newest family member.

I had a clear picture of the obstacle performance I wanted from my second dog and Annie was a very quick study. Training methods had also come a long way in the seven years since I began training Sadie. In just a little over a year, Annie had her ADCH. Last year she earned both her Platinum ADCH and Platinum LAA.

One of the most memorable things my husband and I were able to do before Sadie retired was to run PVP with Sadie and Annie as a team. 

We are convinced that rescue dogs somehow know that they got a second chance at life and have just a little extra something special to them because of it. We also believe that many dogs end up in shelters because they are too energetic and smart for "pet" homes. 

Running with Annie is a rush, because she is such a "gamer", an amazing dog and such a sweet soul,  but running with Sadie was a gift both my husband and I will always treasure. Your heart dog only comes along once in your life, and ours was our first rescue, Sweet Sadie Sue.

Karen Sollars supports her agility habit as a tax preparer/staff accountant in Lafayette, IN. Her dogs also enjoy Barn Hunt and obedience. She and her husband also enjoy bicycling.  


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