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Rochelle Fugate

If you’re the owner of a senior dog, you might think your dog sports days are behind you. But participating in dog sports with your dog can provide mental and physical exercise, the thrill of competition, and a chance for you both to have fun. With veterinarian approval, there are still many sports you and your dog can participate in. In fact, there are dozens of senior dogs competing in the 2019 AKC Rally National Championship March 15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Generally, dogs are considered seniors starting at seven years old, but how your dog ages will vary depending on what breed he is. At the 2019 AKC Rally National Championship, 120 of the 406 competing dogs are age seven or older. The oldest dog competing in the 2019 AKC Rally National Championship is 14-year-old Tess, a Border Collie. This makes Tess more than a year older than the second-oldest competitor, and more than twice the age of the average competitor (5.8 years old).

Meet Tess, Age 14

Rochelle Fugate has been competing in Rally since the AKC started it, in 2005. From Cincinnati Ohio, Rochelle breeds Border Collies but also owns Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and a Rat Terrier. In fact, she started out with Chihuahuas but soon realized she wanted a bigger dog that “could do it all.” That’s when she landed on Border Collies, her “second love.”

Rochelle’s Border Collie Tess was born before Rally was even an AKC sport. At six months old, she began showing in Conformation. Over the years, she has completed her Conformation championship and competed in Herding, Obedience, Agility, Tracking, Trick Dog, Farm Dog, and Lure Coursing on top of Rally. She has been to the AKC Rally National Championship three times.

Rochelle says many people are often surprised by Tess’s age.

“If she didn’t want to [compete] or couldn’t, she would let me know,” Rochelle says. “She is not a stay-at-home kind of gal. She wants to go to dog shows and dog class. She loves to work and learn.”

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Tess and Rochelle just completed trick dog advanced.

Tess’s full name is IntCh UCH CH Tess XXVI VDC2 UD MX MXJ RAE3 PT TD CGC TDA.

Want to read about more inspiring senior dogs? Meet the oldest dog competing in the National Obedience Championship here and the oldest dog competing in the National Agility Championship here.

If you can’t attend the AKC Rally National Championship, tune in to the live stream March 15 by going to on any device or download the AKC.TV app on RokuApple TV, or AmazonFireTV.