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Ace, astoundingly, aces agility

There’s not much cooler than finding out your dog has a hidden talent.

Ace — despite his many talents, people skills near the top – has never been much at catching Frisbees. He’s never been the speediest beast at the dog park. Fetch has never held his interest. And he doesn’t swim, preferring slow wading in gentle waters.

So when we showed up bright and early for agility class at Four Paws Kingdom, the dog-dedicated campground in North Carolina where Ace, my son and I spent last weekend, I had low expectations. Ace is graceful, maybe, but, given his size, about 130 pounds, I never considered him agile.

Once I turned over the treats and Ace to my son Joe, who we’d designated official handler for the day’s activities, Ace — under the tutelage of dog trainer and campground owner Birgit Bartoschek — amazed me to no end.

His name now stands for: Agility Canine Extraordinaire.

Granted, he started off slow — rather than jumping over a series of three six-inch high hurdles, he found he could just as easily walk through them, knocking the rail down on each one he went through. On the third try though, and after the rails were raised higher, he began leaping, clearing most of them until, on his final try, he went back to just knocking them down.

Next on the course was a tunnel. I didn’t expect him to do any more than stick his head in, but with some encouragement, and a treat waiting at the other end, he rumbled right through it.

Moving on to an A-frame, about five feet high, Ace, after watching a Chihuahua named Freckles climb up and scamper down, followed suit — also to my surprise.

Then came a narrow elevated beam, only about 10 inches wide, and about four feet above the ground. No way, I thought to myself, or maybe out loud, is he ever going to get up on that.

But, in pursuit of the treat dangling from my son’s hand he did, not even watching where his paws were going, his eyes on the prize the whole time as he walked — quite gracefully — from one end to the other.

The only obstacle he didn’t master was the curved tunnel. Without seeing the light at the end — or the treat at the end – he refused to go in. (And I don’t blame him a bit. Possibly, being from Baltimore, he feared he’d have to pay a toll once he got through.)

Birgit didn’t think he should attempt the see-saw during his introduction to agility, as that’s usually for more advanced dogs. The weave — where dogs slalom through the poles — was too advanced as well, she said.

Later on though, at the Agility Fun Park that Four Paws has in addition to its regular agility course, Ace, with my soon to be college student son Joe manning the leash, was able to succeed at beginner versions of both.

And I felt bad for ever doubting him — Ace, I mean.

It’s not good to have too-low expectations for our dogs; even worse probably to have too-high expectations.

Where’s the line between them? Beats me. But one thing’s for sure, you never know how you, your dog, or your kid is going to handle something new — until you try, or watch, with crossed fingers, as they do.

Comments

Comment from Lakota, Sophie, Charlie, Cleo’s mom
Time August 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Ace, I’m so proud of you! (I never would have doubted you, tho.)

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time August 4, 2010 at 7:03 pm

JW & Ace, I just can’t express how much I enjoyed your long, detailed, 2-part story about your adventures at Four Paws Kingdom! What a fabulous spot and equally impressive owners! It all reads like some award-winning short story that I just couldn’t put down until I got to the end….and then I had to read again for additional meaning and emotional kick! (All this while I was at my office, but WHATEVER!) Thanks for introducing us to folks who TRULY embrace and accomodate the multitude of ways we love & manage & challenge our quirky, beloved dogs. This is EXACTLY what we hoped that you would encounter on your adventures. Your blogs never disappoint, and yeah, you probably don’t even fully comprehend that quality and engaging manner of your writing vs. getting the message to us. THANKS — Venture on!

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