As told to the AKC by Cindy Lutian. Cindy is an instructor at Canine Star Training Academy, where she teaches CGC and Rally. Currently, she owns five Pekingese who compete in CAT, Fast CAT, Rally, and more. Her dog Buster was the first-ever Pekingese to be invited to the AKC Fast CAT Invitational.
When I came across my first Pekingese, she immediately won over my heart. I was volunteering and working at a veterinary hospital in my hometown of Armonk, New York. One day, in came a sickly little Pekingese with cute antics and a clownish personality. I named her Moet.
Years later, my family moved to Florida where I met my husband Bill. By that point, Moet had passed, but I knew I wanted another Peke. That’s when we got our Pekingese as a couple — Barney. Then Betsy. Then Boomer — a special needs dog that needed a wheelchair cart (Bill never said no!)
It wasn’t until bringing home my Peke puppy, Beaver, that I discovered a local obedience club. They offered AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy so we enrolled Beaver, the tiniest dog in the class.
After S.T.A.R. Puppy, Beaver went on to earn his CGC, CGCA, and CGCU. That’s when it hit me — I liked training and competing.
I was a nervous wreck when I first got started, but as my dogs did well, my confidence increased.
Gracie was our next Pekingese — a little pistol even more outgoing than Beaver. At a local event, I saw dogs coursing and was intrigued. Meghan Wolfgram, the CEO & Founder of the lure coursing equipment provider SwiftPaws, was patient with me and let my Pekingese try the Coursing Ability Test out. Needless to say, they loved it and I was hooked.
Beaver and Gracie became the first Pekingese ever to complete the ten runs required to get their advanced Coursing Ability Test titles.
We continued to compete. All of our Pekes were introduced to AKC Rally, which can be difficult — Pekes are stubborn! But when they are “on,” it’s a beautiful thing. It takes many, many hours of practice and dedication.
Then Fast CAT came along and opened up a whole new world for us. What could be better than a 100-yard dash for dogs? This was a new sport that I knew all dogs could do — especially my Pekingese. Today, Beaver and Gracie are retired so it’s up to my current rising stars Buster and Oscar to carry on our streak of athletic Pekes.
As an instructor at Canine Star Training Academy, I make sure both Buster and Oscar train twice a week. Training is constant if you want to see results. Buster even trains for Agility at Indian River Dog Training Club — the only Peke in the class, of course.
While many people shave down their Pekingese here in Florida, I love their coats too much to do it. We keep them cool in a full coat by using cooling pads and fans as needed along with plenty of water. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than to come home from a frustrating day at work and groom my dogs. When they are on the grooming table being blown out, it’s such a beautiful thing and feels like such an accomplishment when you’re done.
I believe that when you own a dog, they are part of the family. That’s why all of my dogs are trained and well-behaved. You have to take the time to expose them to things. Almost everywhere we go, we get stopped by strangers who want to take photos. For safety, my Pekingese usually ride in strollers so passersby are intrigued. But spectators are even more shocked when they see my tiny Pekingese, in full coat coats, get out of the stroller and sprint for 100 yards.
Fast CAT has completely transformed our lives. That’s why when I got an invitation to the first-ever AKC Fast CAT Invitational, I was over the moon. I finally felt that all the work I put into this breed will be seen. As the fastest Pekingese of 2019, Buster was invited to run in Orlando along with the fastest dog in every breed. Although he was the slowest dog at the event, he proved that Pekingese can get out there and do anything. He even made his way onto the TVs of millions of homes during the ESPN broadcast.
Oscar is up-and-coming and is completely focused on chasing the plastic bag. Maybe next year, it will be his turn.
I would tell anyone with an uncommon breed to seek out a training club. Learn what is out there. Don’t get discouraged! Every dog learns stuff at a different pace. You have to be patient and don’t give up!
My dogs over the years have made me such a better person. I am more outgoing, way more patient, and don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.
Yes, my dogs can run. In fact — they love to run. And yours can too.
Get Started in Fast CAT With Your Own Dog
Your first step to learn about Fast CAT is to call or visit your a local AKC club and see if they offer one or both of the two types of tests: Lure Coursing or the Coursing Ability Test. You can also ask to speak with someone who has already taken part in Fast CAT as they would be more than happy to share their expertise with you.
Then it’s very easy to participate: Just find an event and fill out an entry form that you can get from your local AKC club’s premium list.
Christmas Day just got better. Watch Fastest Dogs USA, an AKC and ESPN production, on ESPN2 at 12 p.m. ET on December 25.