When selecting a puppy from a litter of Tibetan Terriers, Heidi Wanner had her eyes on two dogs. Although she picked Tashi, 6 months later she heard that his littermate, Wolfi, was still available and knew she had to have them both.
“Wolfi was an eager youngster, who naturally walked beautifully on a leash,” Wanner says. “He picked up on the training I was doing with brother Tashi very quickly – Wolfi is a quick study.”
Although Tashi passed away at 14 due to nose cancer, Wolfi is still active as a 15-1/2-year-old Agility competitor. In fact, he’ll be the oldest dog competing at 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 to do training and dog sports to build that bond.
“So I started Agility, I didn’t know anything about it really like so many other people,” Heidi says. “I just wanted to build a bond with my dogs. I figured as a first-time dog owner, there’s a lot I needed to learn and I wanted to. It really does build the bond, and I basically have a very deep relationship with him because of that. And Tibetan Terriers are not a biddable breed, if you will.”
She recommends those getting started to have a lot of patience and understand that the dog is the driver in the sport.
“Not every dog learns the same way or at the same speed,” she says. “A lot of people said to me that I had incredible patience training Tibetan Terriers and I think there’s a little truth to that, but you have to understand your dog. It takes time and investment of your energy.”
Wanner also found that Wolfi was quite the natural athlete, which made it easy to want to get involved in more sports. Wolfi has also competed in and earned titles in Obedience, AKC Rally, and Trick Dog and has gotten his PACH title in Agility. He’s also been invited to the AKC Agility Invitational five times, skipping two years because of an injury and the pandemic, achieving the breed medallion in 2018.
“He’s like the Spanish dancer,” Wanner says. “He would always do funny things with his hind legs and dance around when he would get excited.”
Making the Journey From Alaska
In Anchorage, the Agility community is small but quite active and stretches across the state to Fairbanks and Kenai, which are five and eight hours away. However, training facilities can be limited, and the best one is still an hour away, which can get dicey during the winter.
“So you make do,” Wanner says. “And then, of course, we have our summers and they’re pretty nice. So you can practice outside, but there are definitely people here that have expertise.”
Anchorage is approximately 4,700 miles from Orlando, Florida where the Agility Invitational is held. Getting to tournaments outside the state is hard because they’re so far away, but they make an exception for this special competition and will be flying over 10 hours with a layover in Seattle.
The only other time was to attend the Tibetan Terrier National Specialty because both Tashi and Wolfie got high honors at different times.
But the long journey is well worth it. Wanner remembers how Wolfi lit up during his first Agility Invitational with the cheers and excitement from the crowd. “He was so jazzed up, he loved it,” she says. “And when we ran there, it was incredible.”
Competing as the Oldest Dog
Wolfi competes in the 12-inch Preferred class, and although he’s slowed down since his prime he still has a lot left in him. “He was never a super-fast dog in general to begin with, although he’s had his moments of being super-fast,” Wanner says.
During the 2017 Invitational, he managed to do 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 jumpers run, which is impressive for his age.
Otherwise, Wolfi stays quite active for his older age. He gets regular exercise and goes on hikes with the family. Plus, there are two younger dogs, Togo, a Border Collie, and Rudy, a Schapendoes, that keep him moving.
They also keep him sharp with training.
“When I work with them, he’s always there, ” Wanner says. “Wolfi’s always there watching the working. If I’m training Rudy to do something, Wolfie’s there. He’s like, ‘I want to do it too.’ He’s always been watching what I do.”
Wanner was worried what would happen to Wolfi after his brother Tashi passed, as the two were deeply bonded.
“I could tell it affected him, but he’s a very resilient dog and he’s managed to plug on really well,” she says. “And I think dogs live in the moment and it’s just really amazing to me that he just kept going.”
The AKC National Championship is right around the corner, and you don’t want to miss the action! Tune in to ABC on December 31 at 2 p.m. ET to see who’s crowned Best in Show.
Did you miss last year’s show? You can watch the 2022 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin on demand on AKC.tv!