Thursday, December 29, 2011

Angry Birds Dog Toys Giveaway!

You can win a prize pack of Angry Bird toys like these! *Dog not included.
If your doggie hasn't had the chance to play Angry Birds yet, this could be your lucky day!

Hartz sent us a pack of toys to try out and a pack to give away!

Cosmo is enjoying his new Angry Birds plush toys and Tuff Stuff Flyer from Hartz.  With sound chips that squeak and chortle and a flyer toy that's perfect for a game of toss or tug, we've enjoyed hours of fun!

Cosmo's even found a way to share the fun with a friend!
Cosmo plays Angry Birds tug with the Tuff Stuff flyer and his pal Susie!

You'll win enough toys to keep and some to share...
Susie's the one with the bow in her hair!

Hours of fun for Cosmo and his pal Susie! 

Now here's how you can win!

To enter:
Just leave a comment on this blog post saying you'd like to win Angry Birds dog toys! Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012. Shipping to U.S. addresses only. Winner will be picked at random using

For extra entries (leave a comment on this blog post, telling us what you did, for each extra entry below):
Good luck!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dogs in Cars: The Video

Dogs in Cars from keith on Vimeo.

 Keith Hopkin, an amateur filmmaker living in Brooklyn, NY, captures the pure joy of dogs in cars! The video features 13 dogs enjoying the sights and smells of the city and country while riding in their best friend's car. 

More on Keith and what inspired the video at Right This Minute.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Give a Virtual Angry Birds Toy and Hartz Will Donate to Shelter Pets

Here's a way to help shelter pets celebrate the new year, AND spread some joy to your Facebook friends at the same time.

Visit the Hartz Facebook page to send a virtual Angry Birds pet toy to Facebook friend, and for every virtual toy given, Hartz will donate $1 worth of products to shelters in need across the country up to $10,000. It's all part of its Toys for Tails program to help shelter pets start off the new year with a little extra fun.
Cosmo and his pal Susie play Angry Birds for two!
There's also still time to enter the Angry Birds Photo Contest for the chance to win a Hartz gift basket valued at approximately $350 retail.
And, if that's not enough, later this week we'll be doing our own Angry Birds toy giveaway on To Dog With Love! Check back here for the chance to win a nice Angry Birds toy prize pack from Hartz. Cosmo promises he's got a few extra toys stashed away he'll share with you!
Cosmo says, "I do not like to share my toys, but I'll do it for you... this time."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dogs in Christmas Hats!

During our recent trip to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show there was a common theme: Dogs in Christmas hats!

All breeds shared in the Christmas spirit... from Golden Retrievers, Bull Mastiffs and Havanese...

... to Rottweilers who ran the Rotweiler Express, for all good girls and boys!

Have yourself a Merry Christmas!

And take some time for a nap!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ho-Ho-Holiday Pet Safety Tips

It's that most wonderful time of year when...   There'll be much mistletoeing, and hearts will be glowing, when love ones are neaaaaar! 

But what may bring us holiday cheer can also be dangerous for pets. So while you're preparing to roast chestnuts on an open fire, consider these holiday safety tips from VCA Animal Hospitals.

Cosmo Havanese and Santa
Protect and cover all prepared and uncooked foods, especially uncooked dough which can expand and cause severe stomach pain in your pet.

Every pet parent should know: keep all plants (especially poinsettias, peace lilies and mistletoe) out of your pet’s reach.

Tasty treats are very tempting for dogs and cats, so try to keep them out of reach and most certainly off the ground when you are unwrapping gifts.

Hanging lights and ornaments can be inviting to extra playful pets, but they can also be dangerous. Be sure to keep all decorations out of a pet’s reach.

Opening presents is fun, but it’s best for pets to stay away from all ribbons, wrapping paper and “linear foreign bodies” to avoid accidental ingestion and internal complications.

Left by themselves, pets may get into holiday food that can be potentially dangerous to their health. Foods with grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts can cause problems ranging from digestive upset to possible organ failure.

If you haven’t been warned already: keep all chocolate out of your pet’s reach! There are toxins present in chocolate which can cause problems ranging from mild digestive upset to seizures and can even be fatal. For more details about the hazards of chocolate, see this article on "Chocolate Poisoning".

Dinners around the holidays are all about sharing. Although you may want to share with your pets, try to keep in mind that sudden rich diet changes are likely to upset a pet's stomach. If you wish to feed your pet a special treat, give only a small amount of table food mixed in with their regular dinner.

Any cords you may have near the floor can be a real danger to your cat. Their sharp teeth can easily puncture electrical wires.

You should try to keep your pets out of the kitchen during the hustle and bustle of the season, as to avoid them getting burned or otherwise injured.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dogue de Bordeaux at AKC/Eukanuba Meet the Breeds

The Dogue de Bordeaux
More than a dog show, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship event features LOTS of activities and exhibitions and one of my favorites was Meet the Breeds. With a booth for every breed, I got the chance to visit with so many breeds of dogs I'd never met before. Here, meet the Dogue de Bordeaux! You might recognize him from the movie Turner and Hooch.

Is the Dogue the Bordeaux the right breed for you? This breed, recognized by the AKC in 2008 competes in the Working Group and should weigh at least 99 pounds.  The AKC Standard says he possesses an instinct for guarding, which he does with vigilance and courage, but without aggressiveness. He is an excellent companion – affectionate and attached to his family – with a patient, calm temperament. Their short coat is easy to care for and they require moderate daily exercise. New owners should be prepared to deal with drool!

I also found the perfect accessory for Dogue de Bordeaux owners...

... shoes that proudly display the lovely Dogue de Bordeaux head, and in patent leather for easy clean-up! Inspired by these shoes, I set out to find the perfect customizable dog show travel shoe and, ta-da!,  I found Onesole, the original interchangeable shoe... comfy, and you can put a photo of your choice on the top!

These just may be my shoe of choice for next year's dog show!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 and Halo deliver 400,000 holiday meals to pets in need

A Kibble Drop volunteer in Cincinnati
While the holidays are a time when folks think about holiday lights and warm, cozy time with friends and family, it's also time when pet food banks and shelters find themselves particularly strapped.
"Everything shuts down. People are thinking about shopping and they don't think about us. We're not on top of the list," says Ann King, executive director of

This year, Mimi Ausland, 15, from Bend, Ore., and Ellen DeGeneres are doing their part to change that. Ellen's pet food team and Mimi have chosen 40 shelters and rescues to receive donations this holiday season during an 11-city, bi-coastal "Kibble Drop" tour, taking place December 13-22.  They're sending two semis up each coast, each packed with 20,000 pounds of food for pets in need.
Mimi, is the founder of, a website she started when she was just 11. Each day, and feature a new trivia question. Visitors to the sites can answer the questions and earn 10 pieces of kibble for homeless pets. Since 2008, has donated more than 6.6 million meals to pets in need.

After learning about the young philanthropist, Ellen and Halo, the pet food company of which she is part owner, became the official kibble sponsor of
Now, the two have teamed up for the first ever “Koast-to-Koast Kibble Drop,” where shelters and rescues up and down the east and west coasts will receive 400,000 meals of all natural Halo Spot’s Stew for the holidays.

What can you do?

Put pet food banks, shelters and rescues on your holiday shopping list this season. Consider a donation of food or cash, or give a donation as a holiday gift to your pet-loving friends. I just received a card from my local pet food bank saying that my friends gave a generous donation in my name. I can't think of a better gift!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Newest AKC/Eukanuba National Champion: London the Standard Poodle!

I spent last week at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show, and all the fluffing, puffing and strutting culminated last night with the Best in Show competition. Top honors and $50,000 in prize money went to GCH CH Jaset's Satisfaction, a Standard Poodle known as London, owned by Beth Harris, Michele Molnar and Jamie Danburg of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

It was a spectacular event, all the way around. The AKC/National Championship joined a range of canine sporting events all under one roof, including the AKC Agility Invitational, the AKC National Obedience Invitational and AKC Juniors competition in showmanship, agility and obedience.

After the event we got to hobnob with London and his owners and handlers, and I had the chance to hold the ENORMOUS Best in Show ribbon...

It's almost as big as I am! Wow!

But even more impressive is how lovely and friendly London and his entire team are. London's owner Beth Harris says that London actually paces himself during the year by taking time off and enjoying his down time. He has his own Facebook page where it says he enjoys fetching Frisbees, playing with squeaky toys, swimming and chewing on bones ... sounds familiar! And you can find him on Twitter too, at @London_S_Poodle.

Here, London gives us a big smile in the show ring after he was crowned.

We also enjoyed watching the AKC Agility and Obedience Invitationals as well as the Eukanuba World Challenge and the junior competitions. Check out results from all the competitions here and on

Nearly 5,000 dogs competed for more than $225,000 in prize money. The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship will be telecast on ABC on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Stay tuned about details of a viewing party on Twitter party where we'll get to relive all the excitement!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Road to AKC/Eukanuba: Laurie Green and Bloomie, a champion in the ring AND with austistic children

Bloomie competes at Westminster
Next in our series about competitors at this weekend's AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is Laurie Green and her English Springer Spaniel Bloomie. Bloomie is a "well-balanced" dog, with titles at both ends of her name!  Officially known as GCH Crossroad CrownRoyal Miracle RN, NA, NAJ, NAP, NJP, Bloomie has AKC titles in conformation, agility and rally.

This weekend Bloomie and Laurie will compete in conformation -- in the best of breed competition and in Bred-by. But one of Bloomie's most rewarding activities is working with autistic children. With Agility Angels in Toledo, Ohio, Bloomie runs basic agility courses with autistic children, enabling them to create a bond with her. 

We had a chance to chat with Laurie before she competes this weekend. This is Laurie's first time showing Bloomie at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, but Bloomie attended the AENC with a handler in 2009. Bloomie and Laurie spend half the year in Toledo, Ohio and half the year in Boca Raton, Fla.

TDWL: Can you tell us a little more about Agility Angels?
Bloomie wins BOS at the National Specialty
Laurie:  Agility Angels was conceived by two good friends, Melissa Voetsch, with a son who is Austistic and Kim Holmes, who competes in agility.  It is totally run as a volunteer organization and now, we service over 30 children who are autistic.  Each child is paired with a trained agility dog and a coach and hopefully they create a bond which helps the child reach success by running basic agility courses.

We run our program through donations and support from the Great Lakes Ability Center.  The kids and dogs participate in helping to fund raise and make people aware of Agility Angels.  You can go to where you can learn more about our program.  You will even see Bloomie's mom, Emmie on the homepage.

Bloomie, right, with her mom Emmie
TDWL: How did you get started in agility?
Laurie: I started in agility back in the mid 90's when agility was still pretty new.  I moved from Mass. to Ohio and found Donna Anderson in my area who was teaching agility.  It was a hobby in the beginning.  I had a springer who earned her OA but because of health problems I never went any further with her.

I then started Emmie, Bloomie's mom in agility at a young age and she took to it right away.  We competed for 9 years, earning an AXJ along the way.  Emmie was even ranked 2nd in Novice Jumpers for the year 1999 for Springers.  Emmie was her own boss and did things her own way so there were times, I would leave her at the start line and pray!  Bloomie is much more attentive to me and it has been a pleasure to train and show her in agility.  Bloomie has a young son, Player who is will be starting his agility career soon.
Bloomie shows her winning agility form
TDWL: How did you get started with Agility Angels?
Laurie: I was asked if I would be interested in bringing Bloomie's mom (Ch. Crossroad Wil-Orion Emotion, CD, RN, OA, AXJ) Emmie because they had a wonderful young boy, Louie who wanted a faster dog to run.  Emmie and Louie became great friends but because Emmie was older at age 10, we decided that when Bloomie was done being campaigned in the Breed ring she would then take over with Louie.  Since 2010, Bloomie and Louie have been a team.  Since we are only in Toledo for six months, Louie also has an Irish Setter that he runs in agility.  He has even competed in a few AKC Agility trials in Toledo.

TDWL: Do you handle Bloomie in the show ring?
Laurie: I am Bloomie's owner, breeder and her sometimes handler.  When she was out being campaigned, Jody Paquette showed her and Bloomie lived with Jody in 2007-2009. Jody still shows her at specialties and will show her as a Veteran.  

BOS (Best of Opposite Sex) Win at American Spaniel Club
TDWL: What does it mean to you to be competing  at the AENC this year?
Laurie: This year is very special for me because Bloomie just turned 7 and is now a Veteran and yet she is a TOP TEN Springer for 2011.  This is the first year I will be showing her and better yet, I am so proud to be competing in the Best Bred-By Class.

TDWL: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Bloomie?
Laurie: There have been many facets to Bloomie's life. She was the sole surviving puppy in a litter of nine.  She was born on the 56th day and looked more like a gerbil than a springer puppy.  I always have themes for my litters and she was the "Shopping Litter", hence the name Bloomie after Bloomingdales.

Bloomie went BOS at Westminster this year
She finished her championship with a Best Puppy and a Specialty win.  She was the Number One Springer Bitch in 2008 (breed) and 2009 (all-breed).  She was also the ESSFTA Runner Up Show Bitch of the Year for 2008 and 2009. She was honored as a Multi-Titled Dog by the ESSFTA in 2010 by earning her RN, GCH and NJP in one year. She won the ESSFTA National Specialty Best of Opposite Sex in 2010, 9 months after having puppies with me showing her.  She won Best Of Opposite Sex at Westminster this year with me handling her. 

But some of the most memorable wins are her agility wins.  She earned her NJP in three straight shows with placements in each class in 2009.  She came home to have puppies in the beginning of 2010. I got her back in shape, sent her out to be shown again to get her into the Top 10. She came back home to me in Toledo, worked in agility and in Sept. we earned our NA, NAJ, NAP.  She needs one more leg for her OJP which I hope to get by the end of the year.  We are working on our obedience and Rally titles trying to get another Multi-Titled dog. Bloomie has continued to represent Springers in all areas of the "sport of dogs".  I am proud to have bred her and own her but most of all to love her.

TDWL:   Congrats to you and Bloomie on all your accomplishments and good luck to you both  in the show ring this weekend!

The Road to AKC/Eukanuba : In Junior Obedience, Elliott Saddoris with his Lab Trouble learns to never give up!

This week we're highlighting several competitors who have overcome all sorts of obstacles to make it to the biggest dog show in the country -- the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Today's focus is on Elliott Saddoris, a 17-year-old competing in the AKC National Juniors Obedience Competition with his Lab, Trouble.
Elliott and Trouble

Elliott has had to overcome many challenges. By the time he was 10, he had already suffered two strokes, which left him with only 40 percent of his vision and slurred speech. Elliott decided that he wanted to train a dog like his sister, so his family adopted a six-month-old lab puppy named Trouble.

Elliott has no vision at all on his left side, so how do you teach a dog to heel if you cannot see it? The two have worked hard and have had a great Beginner Novice obedience career with scores of 196 to 199!  Besides obedience, Elliott and Trouble are preparing for hunt tests next year and therapy work. Trouble is also training to be Elliott’s service dog! Elliott is a 10th-grader at Riverside High School in Greer, S.C.

This is the first year  the AKC National Obedience Juniors Competition is being offered and it will feature 54 juniors competing in three age divisions (Junior: Under 12 on the day of the event; Intermediate: 12 and under 15; and Senior: 15 and under 18). 

I had the opportunity to chat before the show with Elliott and his mom Annette Sizemore:

TDWL: So how DO you train your dog to heel when you can't see him?
Elliott: At obedience class, I've been able to watch Trouble in the mirrors that are on three of the walls. And if I turn my head all the way to the left, I can also see where Trouble's nose is pointing. I can usually tell by his nose if he's sitting straight.

When Trouble is heeling on a leash, I can feel where Trouble is based on how tight the leash gets, but it got a lot harder when he went off leash!  We still use the mirrors, and I also watch for shadows on the street when we train at home. I can also hear Trouble on the mats.  When we do a fast or about turn, we can hear the change of pace on the mats. Oh, the hard one was the figure eight!

Annette:  Connie Cleveland at Dog Trainers Workshop found this special dog for us. She searched for months for the right one. She is the one who has figured out how to teach Elliott to train his dog. For the figure eight, Connie had Elliott practice the figure eight without the dog for a long time. We also have to ask the judge to give a verbal on the recall, not a signal.

Elliott and Trouble have been training with Connie for 13 months and he has be introduced to almost every exercise through Utility!
Trouble practices scent discrimination by retrieving the dumbell that contains his owner's scent

TDWL: How long have you been competing?
Elliott: This is our first year competing. We showed in Beginner Novice A seven times and got six first places and one second place.  We showed in Wildcard Novice three times and we got a fourth and one first place!

TDWL: How old is Trouble now?
Elliott: Trouble is one and three-quarter-years old and since he is a rescue we did not have his exact birthday so we made it on April Fools Day!

TDWL: What is Elliott looking forward to most?
Annette: I'm sure that Elliott wants to do well, but when he found out that his class had a large entry, his response was, "Wow, think of all the new friends I can make!" So I guess making new friends at the show is what he is looking forward to the most!

TDWL: How is Trouble helping Elliott as a service dog?
Annette: Because Elliott can't see on his left side it is difficult for him to maneuver through crowds without running into people. Imagine a high school with nearly 2,000 students in the hallways between classes. Having Trouble on his left side lets people know that they have to give him room to get by. He is also a comfort to Elliott and an ice breaker.

TDWL: Does your sister also compete in obedience?
Elliott: My sister Sarah has a dog Sam, a wirehair Dachshund who also will be competing in the Beginner Novice/ Novice  division. She's a freshman in high school, training for a half-marathon, and she also started a facebook group called Adventures of Trouble!

Sarah and Sam just won HIT (High in Trial) at the North Georgia Hound Obedience trial in Atlanta in October!
Sarah and Sam
TDWL: So does performing with dogs run in the family?
Annette: I showed in conformation and obedience from 1983 to 1990. Got married, had kids and that's end of that story! I had a champion Corgi with a UD (Utility Dog title).

When we started this journey with this puppy named Trouble. I figured that either Sarah, Elliott's sister,  or I  would train the dog and Elliott would show the dog in Novice B for a lifetime. I'm being honest by saying that we are all amazed on how well Elliott has done training his dog. Elliott is learning disabled also. Even before the strokes he was struggling in school after the strokes it got even worse.

His speech never recovered well.  He reads at about a fifth-grade level. Elliott knows that God has a plan for him, and while we may not understand why he had a stroke and lost most of his vision,  Elliott keeps a smile on his face and he loves this dog! This rescue came into our lives and changed it forever. Elliott has dog show friends and dog class friends.  We went to Life is Labs (outside Atlanta) and picked up Trouble.  Can you imagine going to pick up a puppy named Trouble, and a Lab at that!

Trouble has eaten his fair share of things -- he seems to be able to read labels and he prefers to eat expensive clothes...  not the Walmart ones! The first night we took him to obedience class the kids where saying, "awww, he is licking the seat!" Until Sarah yelled, "OMG he ATE the seat!"

Oh, life with a Lab!  Trouble took the drain cover off right before a storm and our drain near the basement clogged with leaves! 130 gallons of water flooded into our basement.  That was a fun day! Not! A rescued puppy came into our lives and changed it.  Trouble is Elliott's helper, training partner and his best friend!

TDWL: Elliott and Annette, is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Annette: Elliott says that he knows that it took him and Trouble a lot longer than most people to be good at heeling, but he never thought about giving up!

Elliott: My words of advise to kids:  Never give up!  If a training method is not working, ask a trainer for help. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Stay positive with your dog. Have fun!

Great advice for anyone, Elliott! Best of luck this weekend to you and your sister!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Road to AKC/Eukanuba: Kara Knotek and Ivy go the distance to compete in AKC Juniors Agility

Kara and Ivy
This week we're highlighting several competitors who have overcome all sorts of obstacles to make it to the biggest dog show in the country -- the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Here we chat with Kara Knotek, who is traveling from Moose Pass, Alaska to Orlando with her Corgi Ivy to compete in the AKC Junior Agility Competition.

This is the first year juniors have their own agility competition, held in conjunction with the AKC Agility Invitational and the AENC at the Orange County Convention Center this weekend.

Kara Knotek, age 15, has traveled far and wide to compete in agility with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Ivy. Each week since she was 11, Kara has commuted more than one hour each way to train for agility. This week, she has traveled more than 5,000 miles to compete in the AKC Junior Agility Competition.

Kara researched flights, hotels and car rentals; made a budget; and raised over $2,000 in donations in order to travel from Moose Pass, Alaska to Florida!

A sophomore at Seward High School and a member of the Kenai Kennel Club, her other interests include marine science, debate team, and drama classes.

TDWL: Is Ivy your first agility dog?
Kara: No, Ivy is not my first agility dog. I learned agility using my first coach's retired golden retriever, Tucker.  I got Ivy for my 12th birthday.

TDWL: What titles does Ivy have?
Kara: Ivy has an excellent JWW title, Open Fast title, and Open Standard title.
Kara and Ivy with AKC agility judge Don Farage
TDWL: How many years have you been competing in agility -- with Ivy and/or with other dogs?
Kara: I have been competing for four years, three of those wtih Ivy. I also competed with Tucker, the golden retriever, in the NADAC venue. I primarily show AKC with Ivy.

TDWL: Why/how did you get started in agility? (how did you get introduced to agility?
Kara: Every Sunday, I would attend my mom's practice. My mom's coach asked me if  I wanted to learn and run her dog. Of course, I said YES!
Ivy is among 13 dogs competing at the 8-inch jump height in the Junior Agility Competition in Orlando.
Three are Corgis.
TDWL: Have you competed at the Invitational before?
Kara: No, I have not competed at the Invitational before but I did show two dogs at the AKC National Agility Championship this past April.

TDWL: How did you raise the money for your trip?
I held a cheesecake stand at an agility trial. I also asked for sponsorship from area kennel clubs and sportsmen's clubs. I also received generous donations from individuals. I can not thank everyone enough for helping me get to Orlando.
Ivy and Kara on beautiful Tern Lake in Moose Pass, Alaska
It's a long way to Orlando from Moose Pass!
TDWL: What does it mean to you to be coming to the AKC Junior Agility Competition this year? 
Kara:  It is a milestone in my training and showing we are going farther and getting better.

TDWL: Have you ever been to Florida? Is there anything you're looking forward to doing aside from the Invitational?
Kara:  Although I've been in 22 states,  I have not been to Florida. I'd like to see dolphins.
Kara with 3 1/2-year-old Ivy

TDWL: Do you know what you want to do after High School? 
Kara: I'd like to be a veterinarian or work with animal behavior.

TDWL: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Ivy or competing in agility?
Kara: One of my favorite parts of competing in agility is all the friends I have made. My friends have been very supportive, including financially, to make this trip possible. I'd especially like to thank my coaches!

TDWL:  Safe travels and best wishes to you and Ivy in Orlando! 

Road to AKC/Eukanuba: Judith Swan and Taylor, a big-hearted agility dog in a tiny body!

This week we're highlighting several competitors who have overcome all sorts of obstacles to make it to the biggest dog show in the country -- the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Today's focus is on Judith Swan and her Schipperke Taylor, who will be competing in the AKC Agility Invitational, held in conjunction with the AENC in Orlando this weekend. Judith and Taylor are from Silver Spring, Md.

At age 10, Taylor is not only a more "mature" dog, but she's also a rescue who had a difficult start in life. Four years ago, Judith found her in a shelter after she had been turned in by a family. Taylor had to spend some extra time in “jail” because she would not let anyone near her.  On the intake sheet, the family had listed her personality as “weird.” After a few months of obedience training, she came to like other people and became a very loving little dog. It was obvious that Taylor needed a job and she took to agility quickly.  At the age of 10, she has made it to her first AKC Agility Invitational!  

Taylor will be jumping with other "8-inch" dogs at the Invitational, her first time at the event.
TDWL:  Is Taylor your first agility dog? Judith: Taylor is my second agility dog, the first being Georgie, another Schip who is working on her PACH title (still needs points). 

TDWL: What titles does Taylor have? Judith:  Taylor has her MX (Master Excellent) and MXJ (Master Agility Jumpers).  She is 23 points away from her MACH (Master Agility Championship).  So maybe she’ll get it this weekend or maybe after the Invitational at the coming trials in December or January.

TDWL: How many years have you been competing in agility? Judith:  I have been competing about 3 years, so relatively speaking, I couldn’t be called a veteran.
Taylor is the No. 4 Schipperke heading into the Invitational. The top five in each breed qualify.
TDWL: How old was Taylor when you adopted her?
Judith:  Taylor was six years old, according to her intake papers at the shelter.  Now she is 10 and just starting to blossom as an agility dog.

TDWL: Did you have to do anything special to allow her to compete in AKC agility?
Judith:  Taylor has an ILP number so she can compete in AKC trials.

TDWL: Do you find her age has slowed her down or affected her in anyway? Judith: It hasn’t slowed her down much, but she needs to rest a little between trials.  I don’t run her in more than 2 classes per day.  She can’t do outdoor trials because her eyes have aged and she squints in bright sunlight, so she can’t see all the weave poles.  Her eyes may be her eventual limiting factor.

TDWL: How long do you think you'll compete with her? Judith:  As long as she enjoys it.  You can tell she loves to get into the ring.

TDWL: What does it mean to you to be coming to the AKC Agility Invitational this year? Judith: It is fabulous to be able to come and see all the great dogs in every breed.  I am so happy to bring Taylor, who was a “throw away dog” and now has accomplished so much.  I feel this is an acknowledgement of her value as a partner and our ability to work as a team.

TDWL: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Taylor? Judith: For a tiny dog (9 lbs), Taylor is very brave and feisty.  Since her “jailhouse” days, she has come to love people, but will still snarl at other dogs -- although only to get them to move away, not to bite.  It doesn’t matter how big they are either, so I have to keep my eye on her when I get her out of her crate at a trial.  Imagine “Rocky” as he punches the air on his way to the fight ring.

TDWL: Can't wait to see Rocky, I mean Taylor, run this weekend! Good luck to you both!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Road to AKC/Eukanuba: Agility Handler Stephanie Pickerill and Oreo battle back after injury

Stephanie and Oreo
This week we're highlighting several competitors who have overcome all sorts of obstacles to make it to the biggest dog show in the country -- the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Today's focus is on Stephanie Pickerill and her Cocker Spaniel Oreo who will be competing in the AKC Agility Invitational, held in conjunction with the AENC in Orlando this weekend.

At 10 ½ years old, Oreo will be attending his third AKC Agility Invitational.  But what makes this trip even more special for owner Stephanie Pickerill is that Oreo had a collapsed L6/L7 vertebrae injury the first week of August and was paralyzed and unable to walk.  With x-rays, doctor visits, lots of rehab and patience, he has regained feeling in his rear legs.  On only his third time on agility equipment after the incident, he won the high-scoring Cocker Spaniel award at the Capital City Cocker Club agility trial on November 13th. Oreo has his MACH 3 title, which means he's achieved the requirements needed for his master agility championship title three times. Stephanie and Oreo, from Springfield, Va.,  appreciate every minute of their time in the ring together and are looking forward to competing!
Photo by J.J. Hanlon
Stephanie and Oreo earlier this year

TDWL: Is Oreo your first agility dog?
Stephanie: Yes, I got him before my junior year of college, first dog and first agility dog.  He now has three cocker spaniel sisters!

TDWL: How did Oreo get his injury?
Stephanie: I noticed he wasn't quite right the last couple months and was requiring more and more chiropractor and massage visits.  The weekend prior to the "official" injury he ran five first-place finishes.  The following Thursday I got home from work and he wasn't upstairs in the front window waiting for me like usual.  That night he had trouble jumping on the couch, but it wasn't a huge red flag until he didn't jump on the bed to go to sleep like he usually does.

The next day (Friday) I went to work and came home to my worse nightmare. Oreo was at the front door (again not at the front window upstairs), shaking and with an arched back in a statue position.  I rushed him to my vet.  My vet couldn't extend his rear legs at all without him screaming in pain, and he is a very tough dog so we couldn't get x-rays.  He gave Oreo an injection of pain meds and I took him home that night, slept on the floor with him and carried him everywhere. The next morning (Saturday) my vet met me to sedate him to do x-rays, which showed the collapsed L6/L7 vertebrae.  He had a very grim prognosis, and as you can imagine, I was devastated.  The one thing we love to do more than agility was hiking in the woods and like agility, that was out of question. 

TDWL: So scary! What did you do next?
Stephanie:  At first I was devastated cried for many days and nights.  But then I became empowered that I was going to do everything I could to fight this... and Oreo was the best teammate. He has the fight-and-never-give-up-despite-the-odds spunk about him!  At first there were a lot of meds, vet visits, and strict crate rest. Then we slowly built up his endurance to make sure his body could hold up.  A huge thing I had to learn was patience.  At first I was so devastated and emotional, but then I did my best to make every effort to help Oreo recover.
Photo by Barry Rosen
Oreo worked hard to regain his strength so he could do all the things he loves best!
TDLW: Do you find his age has slowed him down or affected him in anyway?
Stephanie: His age has not slowed him down in the least and he still keeps me on my toes.  Even after the injury, the first time he saw equipment he was rearing to go.  However how quickly his body recovered has changed, which is why even before the injury we took it a little easy. And since his injury he's run just two trials -- one day and then a two-day show a month later --  to see if his body would hold up to run two days at the Invitational.

Photo by Mary Susan Billingsley
Proud doggie! 
TDWL: What does it mean to you to be coming to the AKC Agility Invitational this year?  

Stephanie: Not only is it a huge accomplishment to be invited, it is even more bitter sweet as I have the privilege and confidence (with vet approval and my conditioning) that we are able to step in the agility ring and compete together. A couple months ago I thought that would never happen.  However I'm also a little emotional -- running once monthly is my dream now as long as he stays healthy -- and this will be our last invitational. :( 

TDWL: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Oreo?

Stephanie: He's taught me so much about not only the game of agility but about determination, patience and beating the odds. When you put your heart to something you rise to the occasion. And about what being a team is... you take turns being the stronger link  He's a forgiving teammate that holds no grudges.  I couldn't ask for a better teammate in or out of the agility ring.

TDWL: Thank you Stephanie and best of luck to you and Oreo this weekend!