Posted with permission from NJ.com

She's always been Fame(US), but on Saturday night, she made it official. 

After a relentlessly fast run on an obstacle course, Fame(US) -- "famous" -- a border collie from Sparta, won the Masters Agility Championship at the 2018 Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Pier 94 in New York.

The traditional breed show starts at the venue on Monday, but the agility competition, putting sport over strut, is the most fast-paced of all the Westminster events. The winner of best in show will be named Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. 

The 7-year-old dog, who usually goes by Fame, bested a series of other lightning-quick canines to take the title, with a time of 29.53 seconds. 

Of 330 dogs entered in the event, 77 were from New Jersey, making the state the biggest source of agility competitors. Lithe border collies and spring-footed papillons are among the most popular breeds for agility.

Dogs competing in the agility contest must successfully navigate obstacles including weave poles, a seesaw-like teeter implement, a tunnel and hurdles, and they must do so while consistently charging ahead in order to stay in the game.  

Fame's brisk run, which will air Sunday afternoon on Fox, was significantly faster than last year's winner, a border collie from Rhode Island named Trick, who notched a time of 32.65 seconds. 

Fame has been competing in agility her whole life, says owner and trainer Jessica Ajoux. 

Ajoux, 32, an alumna of Princeton University and native of Southern California, is a longtime agility trainer, having started when she was 15, when her mother had to drive her to events. She works as a trainer under the ReadyGo Agility and teaches at Bauman's DogDome in Wantage.

To recognize Fame's win, Westminster Kennel Club said $10,000 will be donated in Fame's name to an American Kennel Club dog club of Ajoux's choosing (she says she hasn't chosen yet). 

Fame's win comes after a trying year for Ajoux. In April of 2017, she sustained injuries from a head-on collision and took a break from agility, but was back in action by January.

"Fame, you won the big ribbon!" she told the border collie after she triumphed in the 20-inch jump height division, making her a frontrunner for the title. Ajoux kept Fame's lucky unicorn toy, Tereschlam, at her stall for good luck. The dog also wears a unicorn collar (for extra good luck). 

"She ran as fast as she could go," Ajoux said, taking a break backstage after Fame's run. "There was no wasted time."

She said she had to keep an eye out for P!nk, another border collie known for its amazingly swift runs. 

"That dog could get me," she said. P!nk, owned by Jennifer Crank of Baltimore, Ohio, ended up winning the 16-inch division with a time of 29.78 seconds. 

There are a total of five height divisions in the agility competition. A papillon named Pink owned by Howard Carr of North Kingstown, Rhode Island won the 8-inch division; a poodle named Pre, owned by Laura Dolan of Westford, Massachusetts, won the 12-inch division; and Kaboom, a border collie from Bedford, New Hampshire, won the 24-inch division for the second year in a row. 

The agility competition is one of just two Westminster events (the other is obedience) that are open to "All-American," or mixed-breed dogs. A record 29 mixed-breed dogs entered agility this year. The award for highest-scoring All-American dog went to Jefe, a dog handled by Liza Buckner of Sebastopol, California. 

Westminster added agility as a precursor to the traditional breed show in 2014. As in years past, some dogs became distracted and stumbled during the run of obstacles. One dog seemed to want to fix its attention on the audience instead and lost interest in pushing forward, so its owner just carried it out of the ring as the crowd applauded anyway. 

How would Fame, a fan of raw beef, be rewarded for her exemplary performance? 

"She wants her dinner," Ajoux said after the big win. "She's pretty hungry at this point." 

The 2018 Westminster Masters Agility Championship will air on television from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, on Fox

 

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.