In 2017, FTF rescued a litter of 9-week-old terrier mix puppies from the Tunica Humane Society in Mississippi. Christine C. submitted an adoption application for 1 of the 2 females and scheduled a meet & greet. But, it turned out to be tiny Aspen, not her sister, who made the immediate connection, jumping into Christine’s lap, falling asleep, and finding her forever home. Aspen was head over heels in love with her new family, including her canine brother and sister, but she was terrified of the outside world, a behavioral condition called global fear. Despite 3 years of trying, nothing seemed to relieve the little white dog’s debilitating anxiety. Then Christine decided to enroll Aspen in agility training, a sport in which dog and handler teams navigate through a timed obstacle course comprised of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and walkways. Aspen was a natural and quickly discovered that it was safe—and fun—to explore the universe beyond her front door.
“Aspen was a very quick learner, so we started competing about 6 months into her training,” Christine says. “As far as placements, she’s gotten everything from first to fourth, or no placement at all. But agility isn’t just about being fast and doing the obstacles. It’s about building trust and a bond with your dog. The running and jumping comes naturally to them.”
Aspen’s scores in local agility events in 2021 qualified her to compete in the 2022 American Kennel Club National Agility Championship, to be held April 1-3 in Ocala, Florida. Christine says what she’s looking forward to most is just being there with Aspen and knowing how far she’s come from being a scared little puppy who used to hide behind her mom and shake to the confident dog she is today.
Christine is preparing Aspen for the big event by continuing to take her to weekly agility classes, maintaining her diet, and ensuring she’s getting enough rest and regular (non-agility) exercise. Christine’s preparations primarily involve learning how to maneuver the course at the Ocala World Equestrian Center, in order to give Aspen the cues she needs to stay fast and fluid.
FTF has always been a proponent of adopters signing up their new pets for training classes because of the many benefits. When asked what she would like potential adopters to know about training and how it’s helped Aspen, Christine says her favorite part has been watching her dog’s excitement and enthusiasm when things click. And she stresses that if you have a dog with fear/anxiety, don’t give up on them.
“It takes a lot of work to help a dog become comfortable with their environment, but when you see them succeed, and the fear dissipate, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Regardless of how Aspen does at nationals, Christine says she’ll still be going home with the most wonderful dog in the world.
“Although winning is fun, the best part of the game is walking to the start line with your best friend.”
Written By: Michele G.