Posted Date: July 26, 2017
A profile of USDAA competitor Adrienne McLean and her four rescued dogs Judy, Jimmy, Jinx and Jazz.
Tell us about your dogs. Where did they come from?
All of my dogs have been rescues and smallish mixes.
Judy (2002-2017), my first ever dog, was dumped at a shelter by a backyard breeder and was an "accidental" doxie/Boston terrier cross. Jimmy (now 12), a scruffy terrier mix, was 14-weeks-old when I got him and had been dumped at a shelter because he had ringworm.
Jinx (now five) was abandoned on a highway at around eight weeks. She was entered at the 2015 USDAA nationals in Murfreesboro as a Gremlin-Ewok mix, and everyone who sees her gets why.
Jazz (somewhere around a year old now) is a smooth terrier mix who was dumped at Dallas Animal Services in 2016, picked up by a local no-kill shelter before her euthanasia in December, and adopted out to a couple in January 2017 who returned her two weeks later for being too much to manage. I adopted her shortly thereafter, when I saw her in a concrete pen literally jumping as high as my head over and over.
How did you end up adopting them?
Judy I adopted because she was sweet and had a beautiful brindle coat. She turned out to have Legg-Calve-Perthes disease that necessitated the removal of her left hip joint a couple of months after I got her from the Richardson Humane Society, where she was fostered after being pulled from the shelter. She later suffered from several spinal issues as well and eventually had percutaneous laser disk ablation, and retired a few years ago because of arthritis in her front feet.
Jimmy was also fostered by the Richardson Humane Society, and I got him simply hoping he wouldn't have Judy's physical problems and because he was very cute too. Jinx I acquired because a friend asked me to take her after finding her running across a highway and Jinx was really tiny and I'd never had such a young puppy before.
Jazz I picked out because she is really nicely built, has a pretty smile, and it looked like she had a lot of drive (being returned for unmanageability was actually on my list of desirable attributes!).
How did you get involved in agility with your dogs?
I got involved in agility because of Judy's hip removal. The surgeon said I needed to find some way to force her to use the leg after the FHO, and we tried agility and I was hooked. Jimmy, whom I evaluated much more thoroughly in terms of structure because I knew so much more, has been an amazing agility dog. He is, however, now blind in his left eye because of faulty corneas that only recently have begun to cause issues and he still runs like a maniac. Jinx is a wonderfully trained tiny mix--likely Chihuahua/Shih Tzu/terrier--but is physically low-energy compared to the others. She consistently Qs, but Jimmy had given me a taste for speed, so Jazz seemed like a logical next step. Jazz is young but already fully grown--she will be a 14" jumper--and she's very well built and likely has both terrier and some kind of sight hound in her. She loves to run for the sheer pleasure of it, and will do so until I tell her to stop.
Did you find that agility helped to improve any behaviors your dogs had before you started? How did you feel it helped your relationship?
I had no experience with dogs OR agility when I adopted Judy in 2002, and so I do not know whether I would have started training without her health issues requiring it (she had already become a Heart of Texas therapy dog; Jimmy is one too). But I had seen agility on TV and maybe would have explored it at some point because to me it is like dancing with my dog and my background is partly in dance. Once I understood dogs and the sport better, I knew the bond that training for agility creates--regardless of competition outcome--was a phenomenal benefit both to them and to me and I can't imagine not at least doing agility foundation work with any dog that comes my way in the future.
What's something about your dogs' personalities that you find unique, endearing or special?
Judy was and remains my heart dog; without her there wouldn't be anyone else. She was sweet, smart, and very, very spunky. She was felled only by her compromised physique. Jimmy is my red-haired boy who is a weenie about storms and flies and strange beeps but put him in the agility ring--class or show, he doesn't care--and he forgets his fears and runs as fast and as well as he can.
Jinx is just one of the cutest and strangest-looking dogs ever, and while she could take or leave agility she knows more tricks than any of my other dogs and when she's on, she's ON (I just haven't had much luck finding the switch to flip--Jimmy's was always set to "Go!"). Jazz, whom I have had less than five months, absolutely LOVES the training, and while her drive makes her annoying at times--naps are not her favorite activity--her curiosity and energy are a joy. She's beautiful to look at as well :-).
What USDAA events have you competed in with your dogs?
Although after her first spinal disk episode I had to drop Judy's jump height so she competed in 8" Performance after her AD, she earned her PDCH easily and made the PGP finals three times and the PSJ finals once; she placed third in the PSJ finals in Scottsdale in 2009, and her last Cynosport was in 2012 where she placed first in the Veterans' Showcase and also won snooker.
Jimmy, like Judy, has earned championships in every venue in which he's competed, and in USDAA he is ACDH-Platinum and LAA-Platinum as well as having Diamond Jumpers and Snooker titles. He is now in Performance 12", and at Cynosport in Tennessee in 2015, despite his partial blindness, he worked his way up from the quarterfinals in both Performance Grand Prix and Performance Speed Jumping to the finals round. At Cynosport in Denver in 2012, he placed 4th in the 16" Grand Prix finals. He and his teammates have numerous local and regional DAM team gold medals, and in 2014 he was the 16" South Central Biathlon Champion.
Jinx has made the podium at every regional event in which she's competed, and while I would never go to Cynosports to run just HER, to my surprise she and her teammate ended up in 16th place in Versatility Pairs when we all went in 2015. She earned her PDCH as well last year.
What would you say to people who are considering adopting/rescuing a dog who might want to do agility some day?
In my opinion, it is not rocket science to get an excellent agility dog from a shelter or rescue organization. Two of my dogs had some sort of physical issue, but in the first case I didn't know about such things when I adopted her and in the second case Jimmy's corneal problem didn't manifest itself until an advanced age; before that he literally had missed only two runs ever because of injury--and that's only because he knocked his knee on the barrel of the chute and I felt it would be safer not to run him the rest of the day! I also feel, right now, that I will never seek out a puppy again. Jinx was somewhere around eight weeks old when I got her, but while we have a strong relationship that hasn't translated into drive, and I think that's easier to see in an older dog. Jazz's extreme energy was what drew me to her, but while she was completely untrained the fact that I could shape a sit at the shelter showed me that her drive was combined with intelligence and willingness to learn, and while it's too early to tell she's a great dog no matter what (the only thing I missed with her is puppy photos!). They all have taught and are teaching me every single day, and I'm grateful for each one of them.