So small that she almost blends into a photograph, a local dog has made a big impact on the national competition circuit.
Olivia, owned and handled by Judy Shackel, of St. Clair Shores, was one of the top three Yorkshire terriers to be invited to the American Kennel Club (AKC) National Obedience Invitational in December. Once there, the four-pound dog came in first place for toy breeds and in the Top 10 out of 126 dogs throughout the country and Canada.
“It is huge, I mean really, really huge,” said Linda Brady of the Canine Community Center in Warren, where Shackel and Olivia train. “Just being in the top of your breed to get an invitation — people strive for that.
“Then to become, end up 10th overall, when you have the top golden retrievers, top border collies, top shelties — that’s what you always see up there — and for her to end up number 10 overall: unbelievable.”
Shackel said she has had many Yorkshire terriers since the 1960s and had a dog place at the World Series of Dog Obedience in 1974.
“That dog was my first dog and I always wondered if I’d get another dog of that caliber,” she said.
She wasn’t sure if Olivia would ever get the chance to try. The dog was injured in 2011 climbing a frame during an agility event. She tore a ligament in her left shoulder and had to be crated at all times for months on end to heal.
“That was so hard, so hard on all of us because she’s so active,” Shackel said of the 4-year-old dog.
To repair the shoulder, Olivia had shockwave therapy and then physical therapy three times a week on the treadmill and swimming. Now, Shackel said, her tiny dog has “muscles that she didn’t have before.”
The injury almost made Olivia miss the cutoff date of June 30 to qualify for the national championship, but she was able to get her Utility Dog title to qualify in early June. But then she didn’t have much time to compete in other trials before the national competition.
“That’s why she was so ‘dark horse,’” Shackel said. “She was also the only dog in the Top 10 that had a therapy-dog title.”
Olivia was the youngest and smallest dog in the Top 10, and the only dog to enter Nationals without an Obedience Trial Championship. As an AKC Therapy Dog, she visits hospitals and nursing homes, which was the only thing she could do while rehabilitating from her injury, Shackel said.
Brady said Olivia and Shackel train at class for at least three hours each week, in addition to intensive sessions one-on-one with Brady twice a month. Shackel also takes the dog to plenty of mock shows and fun matches just to get Olivia exposed to other dogs and people.
“When you have a dog that you’re working to that caliber, you need on-the-road training: you need to get that dog to other places,” Brady said. “You don’t have 50 people and 50 dogs in your living room.
“It takes a village to become the dog that Olivia has. Her village has got 100 people in it — I’m only one of many.”
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