Retirees Association

A Shaggy Dog Tale, by Mary Kenton

Pug running agility trial

WSURA Treasurer Sheryl Provens is the proud owner of a five-year-old Pug of undetermined ancestry. His mother was a foundling. Near the end of a dog show, she was discovered alone in the parking lot. No one claimed or even recognized her. She wasn’t chipped, so the man who found her took her home. A pretty pug, she was eventually bred to an AKC registered male. Sheryl was thrilled to get a handsome fawn puppy from this mating who would come to be known as Tucker Provens.

The Provens household already had a dog, an Australian blue heeler cattle dog named Hank. Sheryl signed him up for an agility class to keep him busy, but he was not enthusiastic about it. Little Tucker, just seven months old, watched Hank’s class and performed the moves on his own. The next session Hank went back to playing ball and Tucker started agility training. He loved it. From the beginning he was confident and fearless, never once hesitating on any obstacle. He was patient with Sheryl but always let her know when she made a mistake that held him back.

He excelled to the point where Sheryl wanted to give him a chance to compete in official AKC sanctioned events. And for that he had to be registered as an AKCPAL (Purebred Alternative Listing), and he had to have a registered name—thus Tucker Provens. Tucker was a natural in his event, Jumpers and Weaves. He started racking up points. He enjoyed training and loved competition. After Hank died Sheryl got another pug, Dexter. He and Tucker became fast friends. Their favorite game is chase, in which Tucker runs his heart out on the sprints and turns with Dexter in hot pursuit. In 2018 Tucker was ranked by the Pug Dog Club of America as the nation’s top performing pug in his agility event.

In late October, Tucker and Sheryl will be recognized at the Pug Dog Club of America National Specialty in Hunt Valley, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. Tucker will be formally presented at the Top Twenty in Agility ceremony and will receive a large beautiful rosette. Sheryl will beam with pride. She takes no credit for Tucker’s success. In her telling, Tucker wins in spite of her mistakes, not because she does everything humanly possible to let him shine.

At the weeklong event Tucker will compete for the first time in an all-pug agility trial. He is accumulating points for 2019 rankings. He will gladly participate in the Wednesday night costume party dressed as Frank from Men in Black. Sheryl and human companions will appear as his entourage. Sheryl says pugs are strong-willed and smart. They have a fun personality—loving, playful, competent and not too noisy. (Hmm, sounds a bit like Sheryl.) What an unlikely trip it’s been for both of them—the son of a foundling and the post-retirement novice agility trainer enjoying their moment in the national spotlight!

Editorial Note: The New York Times reported on September 3, 2019, that owning a dog may lead to a longer, healthier life. People with any pet are better off than those without, but dog ownership was associated with the largest cardiovascular benefit. The study was based on a randomly selected group of 1,769 in the Czech Republic, 42% of which owned pets. Owning a dog by itself does not necessarily provide the benefit—walking the dog may be the key. But the authors point to other positives such as an increased sense of well-being, a decrease in loneliness, and decreased rates of depression.