MEET Poppy, a dog with a troubled past and a bright future.
The rescued Huddersfield lurcher is blazing a trail for the rest of her breed to follow as she strives to become top dog in the competitive sports of flyball and dog agility.
Poppy, aka Tiger Pops, faced a bleak future after being abandoned as a puppy before she was saved by the Tia Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue charity and then taken on by Katie Ford, of Milnsbridge.
The charity gives a new life to hundreds of dogs every year.
Seven years after her rescue Poppy is now one of the UK’s top dogs. She is an elite dog in her class, having won praise and prizes galore at shows and events across the country, including Crufts.
Student vet Katie, 19, is responsible for Poppy’s rise to prominence. She rehomed her from Tia and has since devoted countless hours to building her confidence through sport and channelling her natural energy and exuberance.
Katie said: “Pops was in a bit of a sorry state when I first met her at Tia, although she immediately caught my eye because she was living under a desk in the main office because the kennels were at capacity.
“I’d actually gone to see another dog, but there was no way I was leaving without her.
“We’ve always had dogs at home, but Pops was a lot more energetic than the others and she quickly developed an obsession with the ball – or anything round for that matter, including oranges, apples and tomatoes!
“Agility involves negotiating tunnels, ramps, beams, jumps and slaloms.
“Flyball is a relay in which dogs jump a series of hurdles before releasing a ball. It seemed a natural progression and she took to both extremely well,’’ added Katie.
“Being a dab hand at both is quite unusual, especially for a lurcher, as border collies have traditionally dominated these sports. The challenge now is to take her to the next level and secure recognised honours.”
Katie and Poppy’s proudest moment so far came at Crufts, when Pops became the first lurcher to qualify for both the agility and flyball finals. She finished fourth in flyball with the Young Kennel Club team and then stunned Katie with a superb clear round over a challenging agility course.
Katie, who is partway through a veterinary science degree course at Liverpool University, hopes there are many more accolades to follow.
The pair will fly the flag for Tia Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue on their way to the top, with a sponsorship deal for the centre from Burgess Pet Care.
Christine Neasham, marketing director of Burgess Pet Care, said: “Katie has done an amazing job with Poppy, not only in giving her a loving home but also in demonstrating how successfully lurchers can be trained.
“Agility is a great way to build trust and confidence between dog and owner. It’s also great fun!”