A 5-year old Shetland Sheepdog, commonly known as a “Sheltie,” Harley competes regularly in the sport of Agility, a timed and challenging obstacle course for dogs that involves running, jumping, balancing and crawling through tunnels. His siblings also compete—a 3-year-old female Australian Shepherd named Bindi; Jive, an 8-year-old Sheltie; and the baby of the family, Jetta, a 4-month-old Australian Shepherd who is already in training.
It’s never too early to begin training for Agility, and Harley began as a puppy too.
But a knee injury, caused by a romp in the family’s backyard, almost ended his championship career before it even began.
That would have been a shame because Harley showed early promise as a natural, and extremely enthusiastic, athlete. He has the personality; he’s easy going but competitive. And when he shows up at the doggy gym, where he goes at least twice a week for workouts, he dashes over to the piece of equipment he wants to work out on first. Harley challenges his owner, Terri Reel, and his instructor to be ready.
Harley is at the top of his class, competing at the master’s level in American Kennel Club competitions. He wins awards, due to a regimented physical exercise routine and quick, expert medical attention that healed his knee.
It all started with a tiny tear in his knee when he was 9 months old that at first wasn’t obvious, owner Reel recalls. He was playing in the backyard, and when the puppy came in he was favoring the knee, like it hurt. He wasn’t yelping in pain, but she was concerned, so they visited a veterinarian.
Since it would have worsened, there were two options: surgery or “prolo-therapy.” The latter is a mixture of knee injections for healing. Harley opted for the injections. He started rehab exercises and has stayed fit since through workouts that involve running, weight training and core work.
He runs on a treadmill at the D.O.G. of Jax training center, a facility not far from his Callahan home. He can leap over bars as tall as his 16-inch shoulder height. He works out on a Wobble board, a training ladder and on exercise balls.
As an Agility competitor, he jumps over tires and zooms through tunnels—some straight and some curved. Harley also races over A-frame structures and other obstacles including sections that require superior balancing abilities.
The exertions give Reel a workout as well. “I have to do Pilates and weight training, too, to keep up with him,” she says.