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In the Pink: Border collie wins Westminster Kennel Club agility contest

Associated Press • Feb 9, 2020 at 1:54 AM

NEW YORK — She might have looked like a black-and- white blur, but this dog is pretty in Pink.

Pink the border collie streaked to the Westminster Kennel Club’s agility title Saturday night with determination, dazzle and a stream of barks.

No wonder the vocals: She’s named after the singer of such pop hits as “Get the Party Started” and “Trouble.”

And no wonder the win: “She is 110% all the time,” says handler Jennifer Crank, a dog agility trainer from Pickerington, Ohio.

Meanwhile, a 10-year-old border collie-and-probably-Labrador retriever mix named Moses won a special award for the top mixed-breed dog. Bounding with gusto, he outdid some purebred rivals.

“He doesn’t have papers, but he’s still a dog with four paws and a tail,” said handler Jordan York, an emergency room nurse from Evansville, Indiana.

“He’s one of those ‘show him once, and he’ll do it’ dogs,” York said.

Pink’s prize extended an all-but sweep for border collies in agility’s seven years at Westminster, save for an Australian shepherd ’s 2016 win.

Traditional judging toward Westminster’s best in show award begins Sunday, with the finals set for Tuesday night.

Some 325 dogs from dachshunds to Doberman pinschers took on Saturday’s serpentine agility course of jumps, ramps, tunnels and other obstacles.

Top “awwws” — if no formal awards — went to competitors including Carly Rae, a poodle that puzzled over a line of weave poles, and Lobo, a lovably wayward Siberian husky.

Scores depend on both speed and accuracy, with handlers using verbal cues and body language to guide the animals.

“You have to memorize. You have to strategize. ... It’s a delightful challenge,” said Marcia Lyons of Seattle. She reached the finals with her Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Liberty.

To border collie owners, their success in this event is no surprise.

“They’re very focused, and they love to work and learn new stuff,” said Westminster competitor Jim Koras, who has three border collies.

But dogs that aren’t quite such naturals at the sport “actually teach you the most,” says Koras, of Wethersfield, Connecticut. “You have to learn more about them, and it’s harder to build that teamwork, but it’s really satisfying to do.”

He was at Westminster on Saturday with his first and so far most accomplished agility dog, a husky-border collie mix named Cote.

If there were border collies, Shetland sheepdogs and golden retrievers by the dozens, there were also some far rarer dogs, such as Valur the Saluki.

The leggy, ancient Middle Eastern hounds are fleet but known for independent-mindedness, so owner Christine Klein of Sharon, Vermont, makes sure to “keep it fun.”

As a pug, Niner comes from a breed more associated with snuggling than speed. But after a bystander spotted her zipping around a dog park some years ago and suggested agility, “we saw how much she liked it,” said one of her owners, Cindy Pichotta of Minneapolis.

Seven-year-old Niner made her Westminster debut Saturday, handled by Pichotta’s partner, Dan Webster.

“People are surprised when they see her,” Pichotta allows. “You don’t expect to see a pug.”

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