Shelter dogs shine at National Dog Agility Championships |

Shelter dogs shine at National Dog Agility Championships

Jessica Cabe
A dog handler leads her hound over a hurdle during a DOCNA state championship in Carbondale in June.
Colleen O’Neil / Post Independent |

IF you go...

What: Dogs on Course in North America (DOCNA) National Dog Agility Championships

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Ball Field at North Face Park, 305 Meadowood Drive, Carbondale

How much: Free

Schedule of Events

Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Snakes ‘N Ladders

Traditional Gamblers

Round 1 Standard Agility

Round 1 Jumpers

Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

North America Challenge Championship

Round 2 Standard Agility


Round 2 Jumpers

Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Strategic Time Gamble

Standard Agility Finals

Jumpers Final

When he was just a newborn puppy in 2008, border collie Jackson was abandoned with the rest of his litter in a box in New Castle.

This weekend, he’ll be competing for the fifth time at the Dogs on Course in North America (DOCNA) National Dog Agility Championships in Carbondale, which is free for the public to watch.

“Seeing rescued dogs competing in agility shows people the potential of these dogs,” said Bill Lukes, Jackson’s owner and a longtime volunteer with Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), from which he adopted Jackson. “Some of the best dogs I’ve ever met have been at the shelters.”

Lukes’ other border collie, Kate, whom he adopted from the Western Border Collie Rescue in 2013, will be competing as well — actually, since she’s in the same class and jump height as Jackson, she’ll be competing against him. This is Kate’s second year competing.

“At first she was a little hesitant about it, and she wasn’t very coordinated,” Lukes said with a laugh. “She was real young, about a year old. But it became her passion, so last year we started competing.”

Jackson and Kate are two of about 85 dogs competing in Carbondale this weekend. About 20 competitors are local, and the farthest a dog will travel is from Alaska. There is a simultaneous and identical competition in New York, the results of which will be combined with the Carbondale results to name national winners.

Jim Mills, owner of DOCNA and organizer of the championships, said he always collaborates with local shelters at his events.

“CARE volunteered at our event last year, and they had a booth where people could see pictures of the dogs that they have,” Mills said. “It gives the opportunity for people who can attend for free to see what the abilities are of a rescue dog. You don’t need a purebred dog or some kind of special dog to do something exceptional like agility.”

CARE will have a booth again this year with a list of adoptable animals and information on the shelter. Keira Clark, special events and volunteer manager at CARE, said the center got involved with the National Dog Agility Championships in Carbondale last year because of Lukes.

“He has taken rescue dogs, and he trains them to become agility dogs,” Clark said of Lukes. “He got us together with Jim Mills. It’s a good fit because I don’t think a lot of people know what shelter dogs can do. I just think there are a lot of negative stereotypes about shelter dogs, and a lot of people don’t realize they have this potential. But when you give a dog a job, he’s going to excel at it.”

Lukes said Jackson was the first dog he’s entered in competitions, but he’s been doing agility training with dogs he’s worked with in shelters and his first rescue dog, Bo, for about a decade. He said most of the shelter dogs he works with will probably never compete, but they’re happy to learn, play and get their energy out in a structured way if people are willing to take the time to teach them.

“I think a lot of people have misconceptions about shelter dogs — that they come with baggage and problems, and that adopting a shelter dog means taking on a bunch of trouble,” Lukes said. “In fact, many of the dogs we get have great potential. I would just encourage people when they’re looking for animals, we’ve got a number of great shelters in the area.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.