Monday, August 2, 2010

The story of TillyBelle

I'm writing this post from my position on the couch in front of the air conditioner- and there is a chance that I will stay here much of today! Horses are fed, dogs are walked and a very small amount of housework has been done. Perhaps that is it for the day!
Many years ago I gave the sport of agility dogs a go. I put several titles on my sheltie Jakey (aka Jake the rocket dog) and a few on my golden Charlie. Then I discovered freestyle and began devoting my training time to that sport.
Since I began freestyle I have become a judge and have had the great fortune of traveling all over the country- plus a fabulous trip to Holland last year as lead judge for the International and European Championships- and making amazing new friends along the way. My sheltie Jakey was my first real freestyle dog and he has paved the way for all that has come along since then.
But unfortunately our dogs get older and sometimes for health reasons we need to retire them. Jake already had degenerative arthritis in his wrists when we began freestyle and after a couple of years his big high spins and jumps and extremely fast speeds began to take a toll on him. He refused to slow down (and was miserable when I tried to work him slowly) so he retired and I took a year off of competing in freestyle.
Then along came TillyBelle. Tilly had come from a breeder who raises many litters of puppies each year. She has homes for many of them, but Tilly was both shy and very plain looking. So Tilly ended up spending her first year in a kennel without very much human contact and absolutely no socialization. She had never even worn a collar or leash. Every now and then this breeder would spay/neuter any of her excess older dogs and would them place an ad in the local paper offering them free to a new home.
My best friend Lisa went out to take a look. She loved mini aussies and was hoping to find another one to ad to her family.
When she got there, Tilly was the only one left. Not only was she unwanted as a sale puppy, she was not even wanted as a free puppy. She was not what Lisa had hoped for, but she brought her home anyway to at least give her a chance at a decent life.
But Tilly was a lot of dog. She did not know how to live as a pet and started tearing things up in the house and causing havoc with Lisa's other dogs. Long story short, I began playing with clicker training with Tilly and soon she became my dog.
Today she is a very different dog than she was when she came home three years ago with Lisa. A year after she became a house pet she was competing in her first freestyle routine. And while nerves and early experiences sometimes still come up for her, she has become an amazing partner for me, earning 6 titles in freestyle so far and not showing any signs of slowing down.
But it is obvious to me that she does not relish being out in front of a crowd of people. Clapping still concerns her and I know that she is working because she loves me- not because she enjoys it. She loves to train at home and learns very quickly.....but when she gets to a competition she is still nervous even after two years.
But then we tried agility. I thought that it might help boost her confidence if she enjoyed it. At a Christmas party last year I won a six week course from Twister Agility in Edmond, Oklahoma. I took Tilly to class and she loved it! When it ended I unpacked a few of my old pieces of agility equipment and set them up around my very small yard. We played with the pieces for a while off and on and then I took her to an agility fun day.
She had such a good time that I registered her with TDAA (Teacup Dogs Agility Association) and entered her in a trial that was about 6 weeks away. I really meant to get more training in, but the weather got really really hot, and the mosquitos got really really bad in the evenings- so we really did not do very much.
But even so, off we went this past weekend. Entry fees had been less than freestyle, the building was air conditioned and I knew that many of my dog friends would be there. Anything else would be gravy.
Teacup agility is for dogs 17" and under. They jump in their own height divisions against dogs of their own size. Much of the equipment is scaled down somewhat (smaller diameter tunnels and tire jumps, lower A frame and teeter) but other than that it is just like regular agility. Tilly measures at jumping 16" just as she would in other venues.
Well we had a blast! Tilly did really well in all of her classes and finished two of her titles. We came home exhausted but happy. And cannot wait to try it again.
Will it help with her freestyle? That remains to be seen......but while we are waiting to find out we are sure having a good time!
Two weeks until our Austin trip! WooHoo!

And how am I doing with my weight loss? Not sure....I took food with me on Saturday of the trial and stuck to eating healthy. Probably ate too many cashews....but tried to balance it with fruits and veggies that I carried along. I thought that I left the food at the trial for Sunday, but Kaity packed it up when we left and brought it home. So when I got back on Sunday I did not have my food. By about mid day I was pretty hungry and ended up eating some of the snacks that the club had set out for competitors. I made sure to try and be conservative, but I was not completely successful. It was still much better than I would have been a few weeks ago, and I came home and ate watermellon for dinner to try and balance the day out a bit. But I will not be surprised if I do not lose any weight this week. I can live with that, I am back on track and have to accept that there will be days and times when circumstances may dictate that I revert to old habits. So we will see what we will see on Wednesday. What I do know is that even with the small amount of weight loss that I have experienced that I had a lot more energy this weekend than I would have had a few weeks ago. I ran 8 agility runs this weekend and lived to tell the tale!
So back on easy day today of eating healthy and drinking lots of water!

Thank you for really does help!

Laura and TillyBelle the agility fiend!


  1. You continue to inspire me with your dogs and your weight loss efforts. I start today-at 200 pounds-oh MY-did I type that out loud?

    A year ago I was actually underweight-my lap band malfunctioned and I was starving to death. I fixed it a little too well. Now I'm ready to pull off some weight for health-not appearance. For the first time in my life I can really say that.

    Casper and I are making great progress too-riding is a midlife thing for me and I'm shy around riding around people who know how to ride-but I'm getting there too. Some day I really hope we can ride together.

  2. Oh Debra- I am so glad that I had even a small part of your decision to get healthier! And I cannot wait for Gussy and I to go riding with you and Casper!