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MACH Jesse’s Girl CDX RE MX MXB MXJ MXB XF T2B CA SWN CGC THDA owned by Christine and Robert Ballenger of Wheaton, IL

“There hasn’t been much that’s been good about 2020 but I can say my good dog, Jesse, made it good for me,” Christine said. Nine years ago, Jesse was a 12-week-old stray found wandering the streets of Rockford, IL, impounded and then rescued by Christine because in a room full of anxious barking dogs she made eye contact and never stopped watching her as she perused the room.

Christine didn’t even know then what dog sports (other than obedience) were. Their exciting journey began when they started training in obedience, rally, lure coursing, and agility all at the same time because everything with Jesse was so much fun. She was a wonderful therapy dog for years, too, bringing joy to many at their local convalescent center. They added trick training and scent work along the way. “Every minute spent with her, and my other dogs, taught me so much about goal setting, perseverance, patience, and teamwork.”

After retiring from teaching first grade, Christine had more time for training and competing. “Agility was the hardest of the sports for me because I can honestly say I have no natural talent for it and in fact am directionally challenged,” she said. “There were many days I just wanted to give up as we slowly worked our way through the performance levels until we finally were one QQ short of a MACH.” Then the pandemic hit, and everything was shut down. They didn’t train for four months and Christine began to believe their MACH wouldn’t happen. “But never give up on your dreams! On July 24, 2020 at the Lyons Township dog Training Club trial in McCook, IL Jesse gave me that MACH we worked so hard for. She was nine years old and I was 71! It was a first time MACH for both of us although I think Jesse would say, ‘I could have had had a couple of MACHs by now with another handler, but I wanted to wait until I got it with you!’ Thank you, patient, honest good girl, Jesse. You’ve kept me younger than my years, and I love you so much!”