CLAYPOOL — Willow, a 14-year-old Parson Russell terrier, has just recently retired from years of successful dog competitions.
Once her sons had moved out, Shelly Sausaman wanted something to do. At 10 weeks old, Willow began obedience training and competition. With Willow’s intelligence and high energy, moving to agility competition was a simple next step.
Competing in canine performance events, American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club, Willow has easily won more than 100 awards. She has won 21 titles in agility competitions, two titles in fly ball competition and numerous other awards in barn hunt, frisbee and more.
Training for fly ball incorporates any of the skills learned in obedience and agility. The dog must jump over four hurdles, jump on a spring load board to catch a ball and then return over the four hurdles with the ball. Sausaman and Willow also learned tricks such as retrieving the mail, jumping rope, dancing, jumping and even getting Sausaman a tissue when she sneezed. These tricks were performed at schools, nursing homes and even children’s birthday parties.
Willow acted as a pet therapy dog at Miller’s Merry Manor for years also. However, one award Sausaman remains the most proud of is when Willow won the UKC grand champion June 6, 2015.
After retiring from dog grooming, Sausaman put her skills to the test along with Willow by competing in Pawject Runway in Fort Wayne. They won Best Pawformance one year for doing tricks to the music while going down the runway.
While Willow officially retired from agility competition approximately four months ago, she did compete one last time with Sausaman’s granddaughter at the Kosciusko County Fair. It may seem easy for her granddaughter, Kaitlyn Sausaman, to compete with an award-winning dog but having only worked with Shelly, Willow had to practice showing with Kaitlyn. The training seemed to pay off, though. At the fair Willow won reserve champion in her class back to back in showmanship and agility. She also competed in obedience and obedience rally.
“She’s a one in a million dog,” Sausaman declared, and she wanted Willow to finish on top. Now Willow will be given the chance to lay around, play ball and help keep her furry siblings in check. She may also continue to compete in an occasional barn hunt to release her excess energy.
Willow’s sister, Wiggles, is also a retired competition dog, but her brother, Otis, will carry the torch. Otis has been competing for four years and is only three points away from reaching champion status, so Sausaman intends to continue competitions with him so he, too, can be a grand champion like Willow.