A Profile of Sandra Zajkowski and her dog Benny
Tell us about your dog. Where did he come from?
Benny is eight and a friend of a friend purchased him out of the back of a pickup in Walmart parking lot. The parents were also there so they were able to see that they were both Border Collies. The person decided with a young son and a toddler that maybe a two-month-old Border Collie puppy in a townhouse was a little much so it was arranged for me to go see him. The person did an excellent job socializing by taking Benny to work where he got to meet a lot of public visitors and show off all the tricks he was learning. Needless to say, one look and he was in my truck headed for his first agility show. He was quite the hit there and met more friends than he could count. In August he completed his Agility Dog Championship with the most awesomest snooker run you could ask for.
How did you get involved in agility with your dog?
I was not having the best of fun showing horses and not all my dogs had the talent for herding so “the nameless friend above” started looking for something else. Through another friend that is an AKC judge and trainer (Ann McQuillen), started us on the path to where we are today (especially when it was politely suggested from another trainer that maybe my original dog was not suited for agility). I’m having a blast. I designed trail classes for years and showed in the class so running agility courses was like riding my horse.
Did you find that agility helped to improve any behaviors your dog had before you started? How did you feel it helped your relationship?
With each dog I approached the foundation work different ways. When I started I did not know what advantage foundation work gave you in the sport. After all, I had a dog and said dog did what I asked of her and we progressed quickly. As I stayed in the sport my training changed and so did the success of my dogs. But, like horses, you train with what works for that dog.
What’s something about your dog’s personality that you find unique/endearing/special?
Agility has taken me from having just ranch dogs to life-long companions. We both want to please each other so we play on each others’ strengths and at many times, patience. Benny tries very hard in spite of the handler. Some days I am sure I will wake up to a sign in the front yard soliciting for a new handler. But we have fun. He is quite the snuggler.
What USDAA events have you competed in with your dog?
I have shown locally and nationally with various dogs. With my dog Sis, we went to Kentucky and I’m glad I did as that was close to the last year she showed. She ran her little heart out and I couldn’t have been prouder. This is Benny’s year at nationals and we are ready to roll.
What would you say to people who are considering adopting a dog who might want to do agility some day?
After fostering for Border Collie rescue for many years, I see what training people put into their fosters to make them ready to find that right person. I would go to a rescue if people want a little bit of history with the animal. Just know that with anything, it takes work on your part to make a team. My younger agility partner, Scout, was a foster failure and my new pup came from a cattle ranch.
Photo credit: Katie Robertson