Photography by Jessica Turner & Shelby Tauber

TULIP

Story by Alejandra Puente

At home, her name is Tulip, but on the big stage she is Pure Delights Kaleidoscope Dream.

Michele Albright bought shy, reserved Tulip, a Biewer terrier, to become a competitor. Albright wasn’t new to agility competitions — she had a Yorkie before taking a break from competition.

“It’s a great bonding for trainer and dog, owner and dog. It’s just really, really a fun sport,” Albright says.

They started taking lessons at a Rowlett outdoor facility in January 2021. Albright readjusted how she trained with Tulip to accommodate the dog’s timidness.

After more than a year of training, Tulip entered her first agility competition.

“Tulip was quite scared of people who were in the ring,” Albright says. “In the beginning, I was not really good at memorizing my course, and I’ve gotten a lot better. When mistakes are made, it’s usually the human’s fault, not the dog’s.”

Their schedule includes weekly three-hour training sessions and monthly competitions.

Dogs compete in groups based on their jump heights, measured from paws to the top of their shoulders. Tulip jumps 8 inches, while other larger dogs can clear 2 feet off the ground.

“She’s 7 pounds and a little love bug,” Albright says.

They just moved into the “Excellent” competitive category after a memorable contest in Magnolia, Texas. “I wasn’t thinking about moving up,” Albright says. “You can’t make any errors when you get up to that level.”

Run For The Roses Rosie

Story by Natalie Murphy

Ever seen a quadruple-threat dog? Run for the Roses Rosie is a barn hunt champion, therapy dog, model and soon-to-be movie star.

Owned and trained by Carrie Atkinson, Rosie has been competing since 2020. A rescue Jack Russell terrier, Rosie earned a senior title in barn hunt, a competition that tests a dog’s natural hunting senses and skills to find a rat along a tricky course.

“She is a hunter extraordinaire,” Atkinson says.

Barn hunt, like many dog competitions, is a sport that highlights the relationship between the instructor and the dog.

“It’s a team sport, but I’m letting my dog take the lead on everything, letting my dog do the hunting. I’ll direct them some, but they get to use their instincts of smell,” Atkinson says.

Rosie hunts the rats during trials with ease, but it’s up to Atkinson to know to make the call that Rosie has found her prey.

“That’s one of our mottos in our training with barn hunt is trust your dog,” Atkinson says. “You know if your dog’s telling you there’s a rat there, go ahead and call the rat, and if it’s not and you don’t get a qualifying run, it’s OK. You know, you had fun and you left with the best dog in the world.”

This level of communication between dog and trainer is necessary for successful competition runs.

“You need to have that connection with your dog and be able to read their signals and their indications,” Atkinson says. “It’s the same with therapy: I have to train my own animals, so they’re responding to me and looking to me for guidance or backup. It’s creating a bond.”

The Jack Russell works with Pet Partners, an internationally recognized animal therapy group. Year-round, Rosie visits patients to provide stress relief in nursing homes and hospice care, as well as child abuse centers, schools and universities.

“It’s what I like to call a nice distraction, especially if we’re in a hospital setting, and we’re working with patients who might need an extra lift or just a distraction from their days,” Atkinson says.

Recently, Rosie was cast in a short film as the dog of the main character, who lives in a nursing home. This isn’t the first time Rosie has been on set — she and her siblings have been models for greeting cards.

“She’s a great dog. I love her to death,” she says. “I’m thrilled that I got the chance to adopt her.”

Coco & Teddy 

Story by Natalie Murphy

You are coming home with me and I am going to make you brave,” Betsie Bolder said to her shy rescue, Coco, on their first meeting.

She enrolled Coco in agility classes to bring Coco out of her shell, but it quickly became a passion for both.

Then Bolger started looking for a second dog to compete alongside Coco.

She stumbled upon a Facebook post for Teddy, returned by previous owners for having too much energy. That’s just what Bolger was looking for.

“Teddy was following her around over obstacles in the backyard, so I was like, ‘Let’s try him with some lessons, too,’ and he seemed to enjoy it ,” she says.

Coco has been competing in agility since 2018 and Teddy since 2019. Their show names are Coco Quickly and Steady Teddy.

Bolger never expected the dogs to become the #AgilityTwins.

“I’m proud of the fact that they run for the joy of it. That is our mantra,” Bolger says.

The two dogs have won many titles, including Agility Dog Champion, Master’s Agility Champion, Champion Speedstakes and Novice Trick Dog.

Bolger describes Coco as “the embodiment of joy” and Teddy as “chill and happy-go-lucky” with smiles on their faces as they run the course.

“This was the advice given to me at my first trial, and it was the best advice ever: Make sure your dogs keep having fun. Because the whole point of this sport is to have fun with your dog,” Bolger says.

Outside of competitions, Coco and Teddy live normal pet lives. In their free time, they like to lie around, chew on the occasional house object and play with siblings, one of which is training to be Bolger’s next agility dog.

“Every time you step to the line with your dog is a privilege and a gift from the universe,” Bolger says. “And it will behoove you to remember that because there’ll come a day when you want even your worst run back. Just to have the chance to step to the line with that special dog again.”