By Josette Keelor
Joey is the third in a line of agility golden retrievers the Rory and Carol Nansel of Woodstock have trained, but he's first in a lot of other ways.
Adopted through the national Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training group, he is the first GRREAT dog to achieve the highest American Kennel Club agility title of Master Agility Champion. He also is the first GRREAT dog to qualify to compete in the AKC National Agility Championship, which took place from March 27-30.
The Nansels fostered Joey through GRREAT when he was only a year old. Early on he showed an aptitude for agility.
At the recent championship in Harrisburg, Pa., 10 1/2-year-old Joey ran three clean runs out of four, exceeding the Nansels' expectations. They would have been satisfied with one clean run and one ribbon to bring home. He brought them three, coming in 68th out of 205 dogs of his jumping class and 11th among golden retrievers.
The competition featured 1,640 dogs representing 112 breeds from 48 states and Canada competing for the title of National Agility Champion and Preferred National Agility Champion.
According to the Nansels, the sport of dog agility is gaining in popularity, and more than 3,000 dogs -- the highest number ever -- qualified for the championship that rotates among the Western, Central and Eastern U.S. It will be on the East Coast again in 2017, they said.
Dogs are rated for eligibility on a point system, accumulating up to 500 points and qualifying scores in trials throughout the year, Carol Nansel said.
"There's a standard course time and Joey normally runs faster," she said. "Each second under is a point."
There is no age limit for dogs participating in agility as long as they're healthy, the Nansels said. Dogs that can't jump as high as others can compete in a subcategory with a 20-inch height goal, but Joey still jumps 24 inches.
"He's healthy and sound, so he doesn't have any trouble jumping," Carol Nansel said. In addition to agility, he also competes in dock diving.
The Nansels have raised other agility dogs from puppies, but Rory Nansel, who runs with Joey, said the animal's late start as a foster dog has not affected his chances at placing high in competitions.
"I'd say no, because agility is proof of that," he said. "We did notice his aptitude for agility and his great willingness to achieve, and he gets a great joy out of it just like we do."
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org