Take Your Buddy Out on the Town
Take your pup to the beach and toss a stick or a ball. Who is having more fun?
Barbara and Alan Wilkinson discovered the answer to that when they found out just how much fun they could have with their all-American mutt, Buddy, and each other.
We met them in 1978 at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Alan, now 71, and Barbara, “in her late 60s,” both worked there. He was chief ranger and she was director of the Interpretive Association. They have been married for 48 years.
In retirement, they have found a new passion — something they can do together that challenges them physically and mentally.
They took Buddy, 7, a rescue dog, to an obedience class and were introduced to dog agility competitions, where the dog runs through tunnels, jumps over bars, climbs teeter-totters and weaves through poles. The handler runs alongside, giving voice, body and hand signals to keep the dog on course.
It takes hard work and lots of love to get your furry pal to do this.
There’s no prize money, but the rewards are great, they say.
Both of them were runners. When their knees started to complain, they wanted to stay fit and do something together. Taking Buddy to compete in this fast-growing sport was a natural. They go to competitions all over the West.
“It’s fun,” Alan says. “We get to visit and stay with family and friends, run into old friends at the competitions and make new ones. We all share a common love of dogs and the excitement of the day.
“At our current level of competition, this is an ‘elder sport,’” he said. “It is time-consuming and not cheap, but worth the sweat and time.”
The other day, we watched Buddy run the course that Alan has built in the yard. They are a team, each anticipating the next move and ready for the next obstacle.
Alan is the handler, but Barbara is A.S.S.—Agility Spousal Support (her term). When Buddy completes a good run (meaning fast — he rarely makes mistakes), she is there to give him love and praise.
And from the number of ribbons on the wall, Buddy has done plenty to earn that praise. In national competitions, he has earned MACH2—Master Agility Champion — status.