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Miley's joy and focus is apparent as she clears a hurdle at a European Open pre-trial practice for the American Kennel Club team in Vienna in 2018. Photo courtesy Adriana Nottestad.

It would be tempting to call Miley the Walmart waif, for her beguiling origin in an asphalt parking lot nine years ago.

Officially, this 9-year-old AKC Agility Premier Cup competitor is recognized as an All-American Dog but her rescue and subsequent successes are a powerful statement for never judging a dog by its looks or size.

Finding the Missing Dog

Running loose and with no owner in sight on a cold December evening in Dallas, Texas, this little character was rescued by Debra Tyler, a client of Dallas area dog trainer Peggy McConnell, who became the conduit in the placement of Miley five months later with Julie Hill of Mandeville, Louisiana.

Here’s the scenario: Tyler had just finished shopping and went to get into her car when, oops, Miley jumped in, too. Tyler returned to the store to ask management to make an announcement if the stray dog in the parking lot belonged to a shopper inside. No one responded.

Within a day or two she posted flyers around the parking lot and in the nearby neighborhood and contacted the local shelter to determine if anyone was missing a dog. No one missed her. A trip to her veterinarian for a chip check produced nothing, either. Although uncertain about the dog’s future, Tyler paid to have her chipped and spayed.

It wasn’t long before Tyler named the tri-colored, 10-pounder Precious and informed McConnell of her household addition.

Miley is dwarfed by her two housemates, Smartie, a Belgian Tervuren, left, and Keen, a Belgian Malinois. Photo courtesy Rebecca Breaud.

Welcome Home, Miley

Tyler’s backyard, which has a wrought-iron fence, borders a golf course. Precious managed to regularly escape through the fencing and hitch rides on the golf carts. This quickly drew the ire of the course manager, who threatened to take her to a nearby shelter if Tyler could not confine the escape artist.

At that point, Tyler took her to McConnell for training but determined that her home was not well-suited for the wandering Precious.

McConnell and Hill, also a dog trainer, regularly talk and at some point Hill mentioned, “I want my next dog to be a terrier,” prompting McConnell to quickly respond, “I’ve got just the dog for you! She’s very special.”

McConnell detailed the rescue and emailed a photo to Hill. “I’ve had a lot of rescues,” Hill says, “and some developed physical problems within a short time. I wanted to avoid that this time around, so I only agreed to take her if my vet gave her a clean bill of health.”

About five months after Precious’ rescue, Hill took possession of the Parson Russell/Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix, who she quickly renamed.

“I was driving to an Agility trial in Belton, Texas, where I was going to pick her up. While going through the farmlands the scenario reminded me of the scenes from ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’ (a 1988 comedy/drama). I thought of Milagro and that morphed into Miley.”

Part Jackelope? Miley is known for her fantastic leaps over the agility obstacles. Here she is soaring across the dogwalk at the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro Golden Retriever Club Agility Trial in McKinney, Texas, in February. Photo courtesy Mark Fletcher Photography.

Early Tests in Patience

It’s not uncommon for someone to dote over Miley and characterize her as “precious,” prompting Hill to laughingly respond, “Not anymore!”

Another Miley admirer wanted to know what aisle she was on at Walmart, and which Walmart. He then mused wistfully, “I don’t believe my Walmart carries those.”

So, what qualities did Miley exhibit to convince Hill to keep her?

“A desire to work and a happy-I-love-life attitude. She has great exuberance but also great self-control,” Hill says.

But that same control was about to be tested two weeks after Hill took possession of Miley when she took the newcomer to an agility field on her brother’s farm about 15 miles away in Covington, Louisiana.

”It was early morning,” she recalls, “and my brother and his family were still asleep while I did some maintenance work at the field about 200 yards from the house. Foolishly, I let Miley wander off-leash while I worked. Suddenly, I heard a ruckus near the house, which turned out to be the sound of panicked, clucking chickens. I immediately realized Miley might have been the instigator.

“I went running up the road yelling for her, and I immediately realized with only a little training, any commands were futile. When I arrived, Miley was in hot pursuit of a rooster that managed to get under the raised house. It was total chaos everywhere. The rooster flew right at me and into my stomach, bounced off me, and continued around the house again.

“Eventually, I caught up with them and Miley had the rooster down on the ground, pulling off its feathers as it lay motionless. I snatched her up as she was trembling and her pupils were completely dilated. My brother arrived on the scene and bent over the rooster, put his hands on him and the rooster jumped up and went running off completely uninjured except for the missing tail feathers. Lesson learned: Don’t take an untrained dog off-leash!”

Here are several members of the 2018 AKC/USA European Open Agility Team, from left: Cassandra Schmidt and Bliss (Miniature Poodle), Julie Hill and Miley (All-American Dog), Erika Kiss and Mazsi (Mudi), and Barb Davis and Skecher (Shetland Sheepdog). Photo courtesy Adriana Nottestad.

Becoming an Agility Star

It wasn’t long after her rooster escapade that Hill began introducing agility obstacles for Miley to determine her prowess in the sport. “I had been training her for about a year or so before I had an appreciation for her speed and how well she followed me around the course,” the Louisianan adds. Her first trial was August 2014.

At that point her focus was on her two other Agility contenders, Smartie, a Belgian Tervuren, and Keen, a Belgian Malinois, both of which have since been retired.

The one-time stray has wasted no time making a name for herself, however, with 12-inch class placements at several AKC National Agility Championships, plus qualifying for the Challengers round once and the Finals twice. Add to that a spot on the 2018 AKC/USA European Open Team.

Hill calls Miley her second-best agility dog since 1996 when she was introduced to the sport. “She has plenty of speed, follows well, seldom knocks bars, and gives everything she has.”

Her weak points? “Because of her power and light weight, she tends to defy gravity and enjoys bouncing into the air over jumps and over the A-frame and dog walk. The teeter does not come down fast enough, in her opinion, hence she does not want to wait for it to hit the ground,” Hill replies.

The two compete in about 20 trials a year, the bulk of which are in the South, but retirement looms soon for little girl. “I always want to retire my dogs while they are still running well and while they can easily do the physical things I ask of them,” Hill adds.

Outside the ring, Miley stays busy with neighborhood walks and ball chasing at home. She is still quite the hunter and enjoys giving the squirrels and rabbits a good chase around the yard.

Asked to characterize her little Agility partner, Hill smiles, “Joyous, energetic, bouncy and happy-go-lucky.” Not a bad return for a Walmart waif!

Related article: Get Started in Dog Agility at Home
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