When one thinks of the types of dogs that typically run in agility competitions, sleek border collies, weimaraners and boxers might come to mind.
Kim Spande, a bookkeeper in the payroll department at the North Branch Area Education Center, has a wall of ribbons behind her desk she and her dog Maggi have won.
Maggi is not one of the aforementioned breeds.
In fact, Maggi is substantially larger than almost every dog she competes against.
She’s an English/Neapolitan mastiff, weighing around 100 pounds.
Her own Marley
In many ways, the story of Spande and Maggi parallels the book and movie “Marley and Me”.
Maggi was a handful when Spande first adopted her from a Lacrosse, Wis. shelter about four years ago.
“She was nine months old and she was an unwanted dog,” Spande said.
Spande explained Maggi had lived in six homes before she adopted her, but Spande didn’t find out how much Maggi had been bounced around until sometime after she brought her home.
“I went to work for about three hours one day and I kept her in a kennel in the same room as my two other dogs,” Spande said. “When I came home, she had pretty much destroyed my house. She knocked over bookcases and ripped up books. She jumped the baby gate and went into my kitchen and threw food everywhere.”
The substantial amount of damage Maggi had inflicted on Spande’s home prompted her to call the shelter from which she had adopted her.
A person at the shelter informed Spande that Maggi had been moved from home to home, and at least one of her previous owners had kept her kenneled, by herself, for about 12 hours a day.
It was suspected Maggi suffered from separation anxiety.
She was a challenging animal to own, but Spande decided not to drop Maggi off at another shelter.
“I made the decision I would keep her and I would work with her and see what I could do,” she said.
The training begins
Spande’s first training classes with Maggi were at Total Recall in Hugo.
Maggi, unusually energetic for a dog of her breed, didn’t behave through the first few sessions, but the more she went, the more she learned.
Trainer Sue Mills-Kothe noticed how high-energy Maggi was and suggested Spande get the dog involved in agility competitions.
Agility competitions are very unorthodox for mastiffs—Spande only knows of one other woman in the United States who competes with a mastiff.
The competitions are outside the norm for large breed dogs, but Spande decided to take Mills-Kothe up on her advice.
She enrolled Maggi in another training program at On The Run! Canine Center in Ham Lake to hone her skills with the aid of trainer Jacque Hoye.
Spande and Maggi didn’t start winning competitions right out of the gate, but have been piling up the accolades by securing top finishes in the upper Midwest for about the past year.
Spande noted Maggi is scored slightly differently—kind of like a golfing handicap—than the other dogs in her division because of her size.
Spande and Maggi have won two American Kennel Club championships in the preferred agility category.
The pair will be competing in the AKC National Agility Championship March 15-17 in Tulsa, Okla.
There will be about 900 dogs at the competition, which will be the first national contest for the pair.
“Maggi will be fine, but I’ll probably be a nervous wreck,” Spande said.
It was a rough start for Spande and Maggi with the dog destroying many of Spande’s belonging and training has been difficult at times, but through the years owner and animal have forged an inseparable bond.
Maggi follows Spande almost anywhere she goes, and she’s now better about respecting Spande’s belongings.
However, if Maggi thinks she’s being slighted, she’ll let Spande know in a none-too-subtle fashion.
“I went out to mow once and I left her inside,” Spande recalled. “When I got back in the house, I saw she had grabbed my work bag and literally spun in circles with it in my kitchen until every last thing I had in it was out on the floor.”
Even though Maggi occasionally regresses and shows signs of her former mischievous personality, Spande loves her and would never think of getting rid of her.
“She’s just amazing,” Spande said. “She has just turned out to be my best friend. I just wish I could show the people who gave her up what she turned out to be.”
Click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8OAfkAOIpg to watch Maggi in action.