Madison is an 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier who introduced me to agility when she was just an adolescent.  Gifted to me as a 6 week old little bundle of squish by an old friend in college, Maddie has turned out to be a very pivotal part of my life.  Between sneaking her in/out of my college apartment (no dogs allowed) several times a day, she and I dabbled in fun tricks and she passed her first obedience class with flying colors.  We found fly-ball, and along the way discovered that her zest for fetching was not something she wanted to share with the masses, preferring instead to act far too dignified and in charge to actually bring the ball back reliably.  Deciding this was not our thing was simple enough – we went back to long bike rides and rollerblading a few times a week instead.

Along the way I saw Renee King run her amazing JRT Hamlet at the Great Outdoor Games on ESPN.  He had the games’ logo spray painted on his side, and he was taking no prisoners out there on the field – he was amazing!  I sat there with little Princess Madison by my side and said “shoot… we can do that!” and away we went.  I was in school at the University of Texas at Arlington studying Civil & Environmental Engineering with a grueling schedule both in school and as an intern in my “spare time”, but I made Maddie’s “school” a priority and once a week we trekked out to northeast Dallas for agility instruction.  Our first agility instructor preferred punishment over reward, and Madison let me know how she felt about that in the form of running amazingly well at practice, and turning into a greyhound at a racetrack at trials.

I learned a lot training Madison in agility, about both agility and training methodologies in general.  All the positive reinforcement in the world couldn’t undo what had been done in her brain early on, so she was granted “early retirement” at the ripe old age of 4.  I had brought Josie and Ivie into the house by that time, and I vowed to just let Miss Maddie decide to love agility on her own terms.  For nearly two and a half years she was nothing but a pampered house pet.  I hardly asked her for a single behavior in that time, and certainly never asked her to play agility.  I would take her with us to the training field where I practiced with the Border Collies, and she chased bunnies out from under the sheds, munched on field mice, and made sure the neighboring horses knew she was there.  I will never forget the moment she decided she wanted to play again.

I was doing a big jump circle with Josie, jumps at varying heights, getting her to understand using both extensions and collection in the same line, and here comes Maddie just hopping over a 24″ jump!  I sent Josie off to take a dip in the stock tank and cool off while I explored this odd little white creature before me.  I scrounged up some treats and had her do a few jumps and a dog-walk, and I sent her on her way.  For months, this same sot of behavior occurred with increasing frequency.  I never asked her for more than a few obstacles, and she always did them with excitement and eagerness.

At the prodding of friends and my instructor at the time, Elizabeth Evans, I entered her in a local agility trial and took her to a few classes for refresher.  She was so enthusiastic about playing with me that she even learned how to weave, and weave well!  I entered her in Starters Jumpers and lo an behold she qualified her first run out!  I continued to enter her in local trials, Jumpers and the occasional Gamblers only, and before I knew it she was in Masters Jumpers!  I never thought I’d see the day she finished a course and qualified, much less earned titles and got into the highest level of competition!

Maddie now enjoys spending time at her home away from home with my friend Denise when I’m out of town trialing, as she doesn’t care for the hustle and bustle of a long agility weekend, preferring instead to remain on squirrel patrol in the backyard.  Denise has shown her in TDAA trials where she has earned 3 High in Trial awards with limited showing.  They are rounding the corner to her TDAA Championship title, and yo’d better believe there will be tears of joy in everyone’s eyes the day she finishes that title, just as there were the day she earned her first qualifying score in Starters Jumpers.

Madison is the easiest dog to live with , absolutely nothing like a JRT gets the reputation for being… well, except maybe the part about rodent/pest control – she’s fabulous at that!  She sleeps more often than not nearly all day long, and has since she was itty bitty.  In the winter especially, it’s akin to pulling teeth to get her out of bed in the mornings.  If we’re successful in getting her out to potty, she will be back in bed under the covers before I make it back inside.  Spoiled?  Absolutely.  Rotten?  Not quite.  When she greets you, it’s always with a smile and a quick beat of her metronomic little tail.  I often entertain and she’s the official Welcome Committee, testing everyone’s lap for suitability and their nails for effectiveness.  She sleeps at my feet at night unless I move too much, in which case she resorts to the cat bed in the corner.  My life would not be the same without my little clown in a white package, and she’s a true joy to everyone who has the pleasure of knowing her.

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