Garstang rescue dog Skeeter wins numerous canine agility competitions

When Julie Anne-Darlington from Garstang took in rescue dog Skeeter she never expected to transform him into a multiple agility competition awards winner!
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Rehomed as a puppy, the Lurcher mixed Bearded Collie, lives with Julie and her seven other rescued dogs after he became too much for his original owners. Julie said: “He was a handful when I got him and still can be. He needed the freedom and exercise that I can give him. Skeeter just wasn’t in the right home.”

Now a national agility champion, Skeeter's life has turned around over the last three years all thanks to Julie who’s a full-time dog trainer.

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Julie has been doing agility for 12 years as she was brought up in a family that owned gun dogs, then went on to rescue dogs where she focuses on training her own dogs.

Julie-Ann Darlington with Skeeter, the former rescue dog, and just some of his winner's medals. Julie, from Garstang, took in Skeeter from a rescue shelter but in just a few short years and has trained him to compete in agility competitions.Julie-Ann Darlington with Skeeter, the former rescue dog, and just some of his winner's medals. Julie, from Garstang, took in Skeeter from a rescue shelter but in just a few short years and has trained him to compete in agility competitions.
Julie-Ann Darlington with Skeeter, the former rescue dog, and just some of his winner's medals. Julie, from Garstang, took in Skeeter from a rescue shelter but in just a few short years and has trained him to compete in agility competitions.

“My dogs and my family are my full-time life,” she said. “I have always done agility, I got Skeeter for agility purposes, not knowing whether he would be able to do it. But I have been very lucky. He hasn’t reached his potential yet he will get to that in a couple of years I think.”

With the number of rescue dogs ever-increasing across the country, Julie believes in the importance of giving those dogs a chance at a better life. She said: “Breeding is a big thing now, you can get a dog from a ‘breeder’ and a lot of them don’t know what they’re selling anymore, they don’t care whether they are pedigrees. They’re breeding for money aren’t they, and now a lot of these dogs end up in rescue.

“I just like to give a dog a second chance, that’s why I have ended up in rescue. I like to believe that almost any dog can be rehabilitated, it is determined by how hard you are willing to try and what help you can receive.

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Bohemian Spirit (Skeeter) is a rescue dog who now competes in Agility Shows and has won plenty of awards. Photo: Kelvin StuttardBohemian Spirit (Skeeter) is a rescue dog who now competes in Agility Shows and has won plenty of awards. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Bohemian Spirit (Skeeter) is a rescue dog who now competes in Agility Shows and has won plenty of awards. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
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“That’s why Skeeter and all of my dogs are so special because they do so well in the agility world and they are known by everybody and they’ve come from nothing. That to me is so much better than taking an agility dog and working from that.”

The pup won the Rescue Agility League 2021 for all Grade 3 dogs in the country. Julie said: “This is worked out by points given to the awards he has won and with this, we now travel to Derbyshire to compete and see if we can hold this title. For the Novice ABC, anything but Collie, we have traveled the country where the qualifiers are held and have come number 6 out of the 15 taken through to the Crufts Semi Finals which are held at the Excel in London. From this, the top winning 8 dogs go through to the main arena at Crufts 2023.”

Skeeter’s newfound purpose gives him pride and ‘pats’ as Julie is always applauding her dogs, regardless of the final result. She said: “Skeeter lives for agility, the reward is whether he has done good or bad he gets praised whatever. He has to come out of that ring thinking he is the best dog ever. They are all the best dogs ever, they are special.”

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