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Christine Natale

Delilah the Boston Terrier is the very definition of “small but mighty.” Also known as Gaines’ What You Do To Me FCAT2 ACT2 ACT2J RATCHX CZ8P TKN, she clocks in at only 16 pounds and competes in multiple different dog sports, including Fast CAT, a Coursing Ability Test focused on speed.

Now, she and her family are taking her talents – and their refurbished purple school bus that they use to travel to dog sporting competitions – to Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she will compete in AKC Fastest Dogs USA, held on May 19. AKC Fastest Dogs is airing on July 29 at 2 p.m. on ESPN, and just like the Collins-Natale family’s purple bus, you can’t miss it!

Involved With Animals in Work and Play

Married couple Christine Natale and David Collins both already work with animals, so it was only natural that dog sports eventually became part of their life in one way or another. Natale works as a Barn Hunt instructor, which many of her dogs compete in, while Collins works as a veterinary pharmacist.

Of all eight of their dogs, comprised of Border Collies and two Boston Terriers, Delilah is the pack’s leader. “She lives up to the name of her breed as a “Bossy Terrier” in our house,” says Natale. “All the other dogs recognize that she’s number one, even the big Border Collies.” Despite her size, she is headstrong and the other dogs in the house follow her example.

Christine Natale

Along with being smart and biddable, Delilah also proved that she was athletic early on. “From our Barn Hunt class with Delilah, we watched agility dogs run every week, and I thought, ‘I need a sport dog,’ so I got Border Collies,” Natale recalls. While she put her Border Collies into agility classes, she put Delilah in too. “She proved that I had the ‘sport dog’ all along.” Jumping from the floor all the way up onto the kitchen counter made it clear to the couple that she was a natural athlete, and that’s when they decided to get her more involved in dog sports.

Collecting Dog Sport Titles

Delilah took the leap to Barn Hunt with her Barn Hunt instructor-owner at a young age. In her first lesson, Natale quickly noticed she had a knack for it, and they didn’t stop there. Agility soon followed Barn Hunt, in which Delilah earned her ACT2 and ACT2J. Over the years, Delilah has racked up titles in Fast CAT, Barn Hunt, Agility, and Trick Dog.

Despite enjoying a wide range of sports, there is one that Delilah doesn’t take to. Natale says that although her Border Collies took to Herding, Delilah definitely didn’t— she prefers to chase the flock rather than herd it.

From a Slow Start to a Fast CAT Phenom

Over the years, Delilah has made quite a name for herself at Fast CAT competitions. In 2022, she ranked as the top Boston Terrier in the country in the sport. But despite her success and her natural athleticism, this Boston Terrier didn’t take to Fast CAT as naturally as other sports. In fact, she completely refused to do her first run.

“Delilah hated Fast CAT the first few times we tried it with her,” Natale said “[We] all but gave up and let it be our other Boston’s sport. It was on a whim at a cluster that we let her try one more time, and everything changed.”

Delilah only earned her first ribbon while running a tortoise-like 12 miles per hour. Dogs that typically rank in Fast CAT and AKC Fastest Dog competitions typically run over 30 miles per hour.

Christine Natale

But it was all uphill from there. Since then, Delilah’s fastest time was 31 miles per hour, and she’s earned her FCAT3. Even at seven years old, she averages 7.8 seconds per run, which means she clocks between 26 and 27 miles per hour.

A Busload of Family Members

“Over the years, we’ve brought eight dogs into our family, as well as adopted our niece, Lena,” Natale says. “We each have our favorite sport, including the dogs, and we love doing them together. We even spend Christmas at Barn Hunt trials!” Lena has even gotten more involved over the years, trialing with Delilah in all of the sports she does.

Christine Natale

So how do they get around to all of these events around the country? They take a unique route to traveling to all their dogs’ events: a refurbished purple school bus named “Louise.” They travel to Fast CAT, Diving Dogs, Agility, Herding, and Barn Hunt competitions in the bus together, but they aren’t roughing it by any means. Louise has dog crates, a queen-sized bed, plenty of space, and even many of the comforts of home.

A Different Kind of Incentive

Along with the fact that Delilah loves to run, her speed may have to do with who she’s running toward. Not only is she chasing the lure, but if she knows Collins will be there to “catch” her at the end of the run, she really puts the effort in.

We’ve tried changing up releasers and catchers in Fast CAT, but nothing makes her run like seeing [David] at the finish line,” Natale says. The celebratory party after her runs is nothing to scoff at either, where Delilah receives gifts, like stuffed animals and mini-marshmallow treats.

Christine Natale

While Delilah and her owners are busy traveling to their next dog sport competition, keep a lookout for the purple bus cruising down the road. Don’t count the little dog out either – she’s fast!

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.
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