My little dog Siobhan AKA Bonnie is a Border Collie, or BC mix, that came to me via an animal shelter and Border Collie Rescue of Northern California. She had been brought in to the pound by animal control because her people had been taken to jail. She was two or three years old at the time, and after spending two weeks in the pound, BCRescue took her in. She went out to a home, but was returned after the trial week. Quite a bit of bouncing around for a neglected, worried little dog!
I saw Bonnie’s photo on the rescue website and just loved her look: pretty face, on the small side, balanced body. My older agility dog was nearing retirement and, looking for the next one, I made the trek to meet her. I was told that she was “standoffish,” and slow to warm up, but she spotted me as she got out of the car with her foster mom and just threw herself forward, with kisses and whimpers and joy. The foster just laughed in surprise, and I just loaded her up for home.
Agility was an accidental discovery for me. Some years ago a shabby Border Collie followed me home from a walk. We tried to find her people, failed, and finally decided she was ours. I hunted out activities for her, knowing that herding dogs need to work, and found a wonderful agility facility right down the road. The rest, as they say, is history. The dog was, and is, the perfect friend, teammate, the best living thing I have ever met, and we climbed to the top of several agility venues including getting her PDCH.
Bonnie, I soon learned, was not quite the same bundle of perfection and goodwill. Several times I almost drove her back to the rescue group. Thankfully for both of us, I did not. Housebreaking, defensive behaviors, obsessions, and general distrust were all issues for Bonnie. As for agility, she started well, was a lightning fast learner, and is a nice little athlete, but also very prone to complete collapse if she is stressed, which is often. Her path through agility has had shutdowns, and a few long semi-retirements but as we learned about each other, and I learned to celebrate who she is, not who we all wish she were, she has become a joy that I cannot imagine living without. By looking at my assumptions, disregarding some usually excellent advice, and honoring her needs, we have made running together fun again. Bonnie has her USDAA MPD title and is two super Q’s from her PDCH. She has moved from an also-ran to a solid competitor with real triumphs in the very tough performance 16″ group, and a fun and funny character to live with. It seems as though she knew, the day she flung her little body at me, that she was meant to be my girl.
If you are considering a rescue dog with an eye towards agility, go for it! Look for a balanced structure, a certain boldness, the ability to make eye contact. Look for an instructor who sees the dog you have, who you are, and is willing to think outside the box. Just be aware that there are no guarantees, know there are lots of ways and levels to running agility, and mostly, savor every moment of discovery, learning, and the fun of building a bond with a special friend.