Search Menu

Heather Santella wasn’t planning on getting a puppy when she met Rose. In fact, Santella had taken her son to Oklahoma to get a puppy for himself from a litter of Australian Cattle Dogs. But while they were there, a six-week-old red and white puppy began to follow her around and wouldn’t leave her side. Santella made it halfway home before turning around for the dog that chose her.

Now, their bond has only grown stronger as they compete in many dog sports together, including Fast CAT. They’ll be speeding towards the 2023 AKC Fastest Dogs USA competition, taking place on May 19 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Santella quickly learned that her new companion has a lot of energy, and it became clear that she needed an outlet. Santella already had a background in the dog world, growing up doing Conformation events with Irish Setters. But getting Rose took her involvement in dog sports to a whole new level.

First, they tried Diving Dogs, despite Rose being a little uncertain at first. They practiced a lot together, and once she was familiar to it, she really enjoyed it, qualifying for Diving national competitions soon after. Fast CAT soon followed. Even in some of her first runs, Rose was recording times that ranged around seven seconds. At first, Santella didn’t really think about just how fast that was, just that she and Rose were having fun together. Right under her nose, a dog sports star was taking shape.

Mark L. Baer/MLBaer Photography

Rose was almost three years old by the time she worked her way up to bigger competitions. Her first major event was in 2020 on Halloween, in which her best run of the day was 7.35 seconds. “At that point, we were hooked,” says Santella.

A Very Fast Dog Indeed

Since then, it’s been one supersonic run after another. Among Rose’s most memorable efforts was an event in Springfield, Missouri, where she first finished a sub-seven-second run, completing a run in 6.92 seconds. Perhaps the most unforgettable for Heather was an event in Oklahoma, where Rose ran the 100-yard track in an astonishing 6.28 seconds. This may seem like a small difference, but that time translates to traveling at 32.5 miles per hour! This run earned Rose her FCAT2 and made her the first Australian Cattle Dog on the Lifetime Board for running over 30 miles per hour.

Mark L. Baer/MLBaer Photography

None of this gets old for either human or dog. Santella says she never expected Rose to achieve such milestones, since her focus is on enjoying herself with Rose. In December 2022, Rose competed in the Fast CAT Invitational, held in Orlando, Florida. She earned Best of Breed with a run of 7.01 seconds, finished among the top three in her division (12-18″), and achieved her FastCAT3.

Dog Sports Changed Owner’s Life

Working with Rose has changed Santella’s life. She says, “Everybody I’ve met on this journey has been amazing. It’s opened so many doors and changed where I want to go in my life.”

Previously, Santella has worked in retail for two decades. Rose showed her a whole new world of opportunity, and this introduction prompted her to leave her past career and begin working with dogs. She now manages the NADD Diving Dogs facility where Rose got her first taste of dog sports.

Heather Santella

Speaking of “first taste,” Santella describes Fast CAT as their “gateway drug” to dog sports. The unstoppable Australian Cattle Dog is now trying her paws at Disc Dog and Herding. Rose has already earned her Fast CAT4 and plans one detour on the way to South Carolina. She’ll be running in a four-day event in Alabama, where, it’s safe to predict, she might well gain her Fast CAT5.

From not wanting to get a dog herself to trying dog sports to participating in high-profile events like Fastest Dogs USA, Santella is most thankful for the strong bond that she has with Rose.

At Fastest Dogs USA, an AKC and ESPN production, the country’s speediest canines gather for the fifth annual, invitation-only event. Dogs of all breeds participate year-long, around the country, in AKC Fast Coursing Ability Tests (Fast CAT) – the 100-yard dash for dogs.