Local dog, handler competing in national event

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Sue Phillips and her miniature schnauzer, Rudi, compete in a recent agility event.

Columbia dog handler Sue Phillips and her miniature schnauzer, Rudi, are headed to the big show — the Westminster Agility Championship, held annually in conjunction with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.

“I’ve been doing dog agility for about 10 years now,” Phillips told the Republic-Times.

Phillips started with Gretchen, a rescued schnauzer who just recently retired from the ring. Rudi started training right away with Phillips on obedience and foundation agility skills.

“She took right to agility and was super fast compared to Gretchen,” Phillips said. “So, we started taking private lessons and got interested in more competitive handling.”

And 6-year-old Rudi just continues to rack up the accolades. She is a master agility champion and has traveled across the U.S. to compete in various events. Recently, she has taken her talents to the international circuit.

Phillips and Rudi recently returned from Hungary and after the upcoming competition at Westminster in New York City, the duo will head to Colombia.

Rudi is known for her speed. In fact, she was ranked as the third fastest 12-inch schnauzer in the 2015 breed power rankings.

As part of her competition, Rudi will compete in a standard obstacle course run and a jumper with weaves run. Rudi will have to qualify to advance into the second day of competition, during which she will have to complete her run “cleanly” with no faults and with the fastest time to take home the championship, Phillips explained.

Phillips and Rudi practice every day. They take a one-hour group class each week, have a private lesson with Joan Meyer at Dog Sports at Kim’s in Caseyville two to three hours each week, and they practice at home daily on foundation skills that they can perform with limited agility equipment.

Then on most weekends, they find themselves traveling to agility trials.

In fact, even the amputation of a toe a couple years ago didn’t put Rudi out of commission for long, such the consummate athlete she is.

“I really don’t think it’s phased her a bit,” Phillips said. “It healed really quick. She’s just a dynamite little dog and was very spoiled while she healed.”

It’s safe to say that Rudi is back at full strength — running, jumping and weaving with abandon.

And if Rudi competes like Phillips knows she can, she can be seen in the Westminster Agility Championship Finals, which will be broadcast live on Saturday, Feb. 13, on FOX Sports 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. To find the channel with any local provider, log onto msn.foxsports.com/foxsports1 and enter zip code and cable provider.

And be prepared to cheer on Monroe County’s shortest athlete with her loving handler.

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