Selecting a puppy from a litter of Tibetan Terriers, Heidi Wanner had her eyes on two dogs. Although she chose Tashi, 6 months later she heard that her littermate, Wolfi, was still available and she knew she had to have them both.
“Wolfi was an eager young man, who naturally walked very well on a leash,” says Wanner. “He realized very quickly the training he was doing with brother Tashi: Wolfi is a fast learner.”
Although Tashi passed away at the age of 14 due to nose cancer, Wolfi is still active as an Agility competitor at the age of 15 and a half. In fact, he will be the oldest dog to compete in the 2022 Agility Invitational on December 17-18.
An unexpected snow dog
Living in Anchorage, Alaska, Wanner and her husband, Chuck, thought a Tibetan Terrier would be perfect for their snowy lifestyle, especially as a breed that originated in the mountains. But as a first-time dog owner, she wanted training and dog sports to build that bond.
“So I started Agility, I didn’t know anything about it, like many other people,” says Heidi. “I just wanted to build a bond with my dogs. I thought that as a first time dog owner, there was a lot I needed to learn and wanted to do. It really builds the bond, and I basically have a very deep relationship with him because of it. And Tibetan Terriers are not a docile breed, so to speak.”
He recommends to those who are starting to have a lot of patience and understand that the dog is the driver in the sport.
“Not all dogs learn in the same way or at the same rate,” she says. “Many people told me that he had incredible patience training Tibetan Terriers and I think there is some truth to that, but you have to understand your dog. It takes time and investment of your energy.”
Wanner also discovered that Wolfi was quite a natural athlete, which made it easier for him to want to get involved in more sports. Wolfi has also raced and earned titles in Obedience, AKC Rally, and Trick Dog and earned his PACH title in Agility. He has also been invited to the AKC Agility Invitational five times, skipping two years due to injury and the pandemic, winning the breed medallion in 2018.
“He’s like the Spanish dancer,” says Wanner. “He always did funny things with his hind legs and danced when he got excited.”
Making the trip from Alaska
In Anchorage, the Agility community is small but quite active, stretching across the state to Fairbanks and Kenai, which are five to eight hours away. However, training facilities can be limited, with the best still being an hour away, which can be dangerous in winter.
“So you get by,” says Wanner. “And then of course we have our summers and they are quite nice. So you can practice outside, but there are definitely people here who have experience.”
Anchorage is approximately 4,700 miles from Orlando, Florida, where the Agility Invitational is held. Getting to out-of-state tournaments is difficult because they are so far away, but they make an exception for this special competition and will fly 10+ hours with a layover in Seattle.
The only other time was to attend the National Tibetan Terrier Specialty because both Tashi and Wolfie had high honors at different times.
But the long journey is well worth it. Wanner remembers how Wolfi lit up during his first Agility Invitational to the cheers and excitement of the crowd. “He was so excited, he loved it,” she says. “And when we ran there, it was amazing.”
Racing like the oldest dog
Wolfi competes in the 12-inch Preferred class, and while he’s slowed down from his prime, he still has a ways to go. “He was never a super-fast dog in general to begin with, although he has had his moments of being super-fast,” says Wanner.
During the 2017 Invitational, he managed a 36-second run, which is much faster than anything he’s run in Alaska, according to Wanner. This year, he ran a 42-second jump race, which is impressive for his age.
Otherwise, Wolfi stays pretty active for his old age. He exercises regularly and goes on hikes with the family. Also, there are two younger dogs, Togo, a Border Collie, and Rudy, a Schapendoes, who keep him on the go.
They also keep you alert with training.
“When I work with them, it’s always there,” says Wanner. “Wolfi is always there watching the work. If I’m training Rudy to do something, Wolfie is there. He says, ‘I want to do it too.’ He has always been watching what I do ”.
Wanner was worried about what would happen to Wolfi after his brother Tashi’s death, as the two were deeply close.
“I could tell it affected him, but he’s a very resilient dog and he’s managed to fit in very well,” she says. “And I think dogs live in the moment and it’s really amazing to me that he kept going.”