Sweet Senior Dog of the Week: Zorro
Now that's is one happy and relaxed dog

Can a blended rescue dog become an AKC National Champion?

My dog Cleo is a big part of why I started Grouchy Puppy four years ago. She showed me that dog adoption is worth the risk. Cleo is my first blended dog, and has since convinced me that you don't have to be a pure bred dog to be smart and cute. A rescue dog can give fearlessly and influence positively. I'm forever grateful to the San Francisco SPCA because they saw Cleo's potential at a shelter. They gave us a chance to have this wonderful life with her, and gave this dog a chance to be the ambassador and success story that she is today.

Roo the rescue and new role model

Roo the rescue dog is a new local success story that began at the SF SPCA. Her tale will make you cheer and cry at the same time. This previously abandoned dog is the first rescue mix to become a national agility champion!?! How did she go from rambunctious pup running loose near the Excelsior District to the 2013 AKC National Agility Champion? Read this amazing San Francisco story to find out how Stacey Campbell, SF SPCA dog trainer, and longtime volunteer trainer for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, sees Roo's potential and guides her all the way to the top! Enjoy this wonderfully inspirational story, it reminds me a little of National Velvet. Roo along with Stacey's loving dedication is why I believe in the power of the human animal bond, adoption, and blended dogs.


Abandoned rescues and blended dogs can be champions and role models

Roo, a 6 year old, husky mix, was found abandoned in the hills of McClaren Park in 2007 when she was just 11 months old. This scrawny, big eared dog was picked up by San Francisco Animal Care and Control.  She was a rude and rambunctious adolescent. Before being admitted to the SF SPCA, Roo had to undergo a behavior test to evaluate her suitability for adoption. She almost failed the test, because she would resist being handled. Fortunately, the people at SF SPCA saw that there was much potential in this youngster and decided to give her a chance. She was soon adopted out, only to be returned on two occasions; she was simply too much dog for her adopters.  

Fortunately, a trainer at the SF SPCA fell in love with this big eared beauty. Stacey Campbell had been looking for a new dog to train for competitive obedience. The second time Roo was adopted, Stacey deemed her to be “the dog that got away”. However, two weeks later, a colleague called her to let her know that “her dog” was back.  Stacey immediately went in and adopted her. When they first met, Stacey remembers seeing Roo’s alert face appear over the top of the kennel gate, revealing her trademark big ears. Roo was bored and bouncing off the walls in the kennel; Stacey had no hesitation naming her “Roo!”.

The first six months were not easy. Roo had an endless supply of energy and zero training or socialization. An important first step was a vigorous daily exercise routine that helped to burn off some of Roo’s youthful energy.  Roo had to work for every ounce of her kibble; a solid recall and other basic obedience skills were a top priority, as was desensitizing her to handling. Roo also needed to learn to walk on a leash. Step by step Stacey helped Roo. Time and dedication were the key. 

As Roo matured, she started to bark and lunge at other dogs when she was out on leash. She always had excellent off leash play skills but on leash she started to act like Cujo.  Stacey signed up for several local training classes, but progress was slow and challenging. In the beginning, they would only spend a few minutes in the class because Roo was too distracted and would not focus. She would often start barking and lunging at the other dogs. Thus they spent more time training outside the building, where the distractions were more manageable, versus in the class with the other dogs and their owners.

After six months the training started to pay off. Roo became more focused and her problematic behaviors started to disappear. At last the foundation was in place and Stacey started training Roo for competition obedience.  Roo easily obtained her Companion Dog title by the AKC. She was well on her way to receiving her title for the next level when she was attacked twice by other dogs, shattering her confidence. Though she was uninjured, the attacks had a huge negative impact on her mentally and emotionally. Stacey took Roo out of competitions and focused on rebuilding her poise and confidence.

While training for obedience, Stacey and Roo took a class just for fun called Agility. Agility is a sport where dogs jump over hurdles, run through tunnels and climb over obstacles with their handlers running alongside. Roo was ideally suited for the sport with her long legs and her endless energy. She loved climbing over the obstacles and bounding around the course. She became happy again. Her stress from obedience competitions never spilled over into the sport of agility, so Stacey decided to use agility to rebuild Roo’s confidence. The training though was not without some challenges. At one of her first agility classes, Roo chased goats in the neighboring field whenever it was her turn to practice the course.  Stacey and Roo never got to actually practice the course because Stacey would have to leave the field to get Roo’s attention back.  Also, the dog that once had trouble being handled now was a social butterfly!  Roo wanted to greet anyone and everyone, which presented problems due to spectators and judges at ringside.

Over time, Roo matured and became more focused. A dog that used to get easily distracted now put on her game face before each performance in the ring.  Not only did Stacey see a huge improvement in agility but this spilled over into Roo’s general behavior. She became Stacey’s dog training assistant in her classroom; patiently waiting to be called to help demo her obedience or agility skills.  Roo also became a therapy dog for Stacey's business, Go Fetch Dog Training. This dog that once barked and lunged at dogs on leash was now helping dogs with the same problem.

After about a year of training, Stacey and Roo entered their first agility trial. 18 months later, Roo! earned her Master Agility Champion Title.  A title only earned by dogs that demonstrate superior speed and consistency on agility courses. In the beginning of 2012, Roo and Stacey participated in their first national event: the AKC National Agility Championship. They placed 5th beating out 88 dogs in their jump height.  By mid-2012, Roo was ranked the 2nd All American dog in the country. This earned her an invite to the AKC Agility Invitational in Orlando, Florida, where only the top 5 dogs of every breed compete.

Roo won the competition and became the 2012 AKC Invitational Champ. Roo and Stacey returned to the AKC National Agility Championship in March 2013, determined to do better than the previous year. This time they won the competition and  Roo became the 2013 AKC National Agility Champion. Not only have very few dogs won both AKC National events but Roo is the first Mixed Breed (I like the term blended) to do so.

In May of 2013, Stacey and Roo headed to Minnesota to try out for a place on the USA large dog team that will represent the country at the European Open, one of the largest agility events in the World. Roo and Stacey not only made the team, but became one of the first All Americans to represent the AKC and USA at the European Open. 

What an amazing story. What does it tell you about adoption, rescues or the capabilities of blended dogs? Do you have a dog who is a role model? Email me or leave your comments below.

For more information:

Read Roo's Blog

Learn about the SF SPCA Agility classes

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