When a dog scoots through a tunnel, rocks a see-saw, and scales an A-frame on four paws flying, it’s a glorious sight.
But spot Rascal, a dog with only three legs sailing through an agility course, and its sweet history in the making.
The 3-year-old Norwich Terrier is the first “tri-pawed” dog to compete in an AKC agility trial.
This allowance changes the long-standing AKC policy limiting participation to dogs with four legs.
At a recent two-day AKC agility trial, Rascal—also known as Kilyka’s Lucky Day, OA, NAJ, NF, TKN, CGC, ran six agility courses. He earned four qualifying scores at Doggie U K9 Academy in Bay Shore, NY.
The success stands as a testament to the three-legged terrier’s spirited personality and opens the door for other tripod dogs to enter trials.
“Over the years, we’ve had other disabled dogs run agility, ” says Rolissa Nash, owner of Doggie U. “Rascal is the first one who has gone all the way to compete.”
How can a dog with one less limb not only walk and run but measure up to full-bodied, fast-moving competitors?
Class Over Cancer
It helps that Rascal and his owner, Lark Shlimbaum of Bay Shore, NY, are no novices to the sport. Rascal is Shlimbaum’s third agility terrier. She began this dog’s agility training when he was a pup and before losing his appendage.
“I wanted to do something fun with this dog,” remembers Shlimbaum. “Of my three agility dogs, Rascal had the most drive, energy, and enthusiasm.”
During COVID, the owner took Rascal to a private trainer and practiced in the backyard—even going so far as buying a competition See Saw.
In August 2020, Rascal began trialing and quickly earned Open Agility, Novice Agility Jumper, and Novice Fast titles. He also qualified as the fastest Norwich Terrier in the 100-yard AKC Fast Coursing Ability Test (FastCAT).
Sadly, four months later, and shortly before the Norwich’s second birthday, his nimble mastery came to a halt.
Shlimbaum noticed a lump on the back of the terrier’s right rear leg, below the knee. A visit to the veterinarian revealed cancer, requiring immediate attention. Because the tumor had spread, the veterinary oncologist could only remove 95 percent of the growth. The doctor recommended daily radiation treatments spanning four months.
“Rascal had a port in his leg for his treatments, but when we weren’t making the three-hour round-trip to the specialty clinic, I took him to class twice a week,” remembers his owner. “He had the same get-up-and-go personality that he had before his cancer diagnosis, so we practiced stays and stop contacts.”
In March 2021, Rascal’s radiation ended, but the lump returned with a vengeance in May.
“Amputating the leg was our only choice to save his life,” says Shlimbaum. “I was devastated.”
The veterinarian told us to keep Rascal quiet after the amputation, but it was a joke, remembers Shlimbaum. “The day after surgery, the dog sat on the sofa and barked at me before trying to sprint.”
The terrier’s doctor permitted Rascal to return to his regular activities two weeks later. For the active Norwich, it meant going to Doggie U the same day and running an entire agility course.
“Everyone was supportive and happy to see him come back,” recalls Shlimbaum.
People might say that a dog with one less limb can’t leap, race, and swerve over, under, and through obstacles. And if so, why would it want to?
And after losing a leg to cancer, Rascal could easily opt to spend his days lounging around the house and catching some zzz’s. But the ordinarily short-legged Norwich doesn’t have a clue he’s another leg down. Barking his way through a course, Rascal is a joy to watch.
“Seeing him having fun, I couldn’t understand why a dog with only three legs wasn’t allowed to compete,” says Shlimbaum. “When you look at him walking, you can’t tell he’s missing a leg.”
According to Nash, Rascal’s owner continuously checks that the dog is in the best physical health before a practice session. The dog receives regular physical therapy, a mile walk each day, and completes an exercise routine.
Rascal doesn’t receive any special allowances on the agility course and runs the same routine as other dogs. Before his amputation, he soared the 8-inch jumps. The owner legally entered the dog in the 4-inch jump category to avoid extra pressure on his back leg.
“Shlimbaum doesn’t demand more from the dog than from herself, and it’s a wonderful partnership,” says Nash. “Agility is all about building a partnership between dog and owner.”