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Meet Allison Coolidge: Dog Training is her World

Name: Allison Coolidge
Age: 17
Hometown: Stuart, FL
Grade: 11th
Family: Parents, Jeannie and Rick; sister, Melissa, and brother, Ryan

Allison was 9 years old when her family adopted Dharma — Allison’s first dog. They started training for agility using furniture in the house, until Allison’s father built some equipment. She competed with Dharma in the 2018 AKC Junior Agility Competition in Orlando, FL. They also enjoy hiking together and kayaking down the rivers in North Georgia. Dharma knows more than 100 tricks, her most impressive one being able to rebound off a wall.

AKC: How old is Dharma and how did she come into your life?

Dharma Karma Coolidge NA NAJ NF OA OAJ CGC (Dharma) is 8 years old. We used to go to Colorado Springs, where we had a house, every summer. I loved going to the humane society in the city. One day we went just to look, and I saw this scared, curled-up dog in the corner of one of the small dog cages. She didn’t bark, was not trying to jump on the glass, but just lay there terrified. As soon as I saw her I knew she was the dog for me. I showed her to my parents, and they agreed to visit with her and to see what she was like. We asked the front office and they said someone was already looking at her. I was devastated; I remember starting to tear up because something deep down told me this was the dog for me. Luckily, Dharma was scared of the woman’s wheelchair and that made her decide to not adopt her.

We got to visit with her. She curled up in the chair with me and it was actual love at first sight. When it was time for her to go, she ran straight for my dad and curled up right to his chest and looked into his eyes. He had always said one dog only, but this was the breaking point. My sister and I split the cost of adopting her, and I had gotten the dog of my dreams.

AKC: What got you started in training and competing with dogs? Tell us about what dog training has meant to you.

No one in my family remembers how I got into training. All I remember is that one day, in Colorado, I decided to set up pillows and chairs to resemble jumps and tunnels. I have no clue what made me do that. When we got back to Florida, I enrolled in PetSmart obedience classes. I had homemade equipment in my backyard and I started training there. I then decided to enroll in classes at The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, where I started agility classes. Ever since then it’s been an amazing experience.

Dog training means the absolute world to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have met my trainer, Heidi Fischer. I have trained with her since I first started, and she has become my “second mom.” I have also met so many other amazing trainers and have gotten to know some great people. Dog training has helped me through any struggle I have gone through and has helped me to continue pushing through life. Agility has taught me so much; I don’t know where I’d be without it. Besides agility, trick training has also strengthened my bond with my dogs. Dog training as a whole has boosted my confidence and has helped me shape the way I am today.

AKC: Is your family involved in dog training/showing?

My family has never been involved in dog training or showing.

AKC: What sports does Dharma compete in and what titles/honors has she earned?

Dharma just competes in agility. We have trained in rally, obedience, nosework, and barn hunt but have not pursued them competitively. She has her Canine Good Citizen title and, in AKC agility, the OA, OAJ, and NF titles.

AKC: Tell us about any other dogs you may have – names, ages and what sports they compete in.

I have a Lhasa Apso, Buddha, and he is 5 years old. He competed in agility a few times but then had to retire due to double luxating patellas. He now has his Novice Trick Title and CGC. I train him in scent work, tricks, and a bit of rally but have yet to enter him in a trial. I also have a 3-year-old Sheltie, Jax. He just started competing in agility and has his NAJ, NAF, and NA title. I have started him in scent work, trick training and barn hunt. He has gotten his Novice and Intermediate titles through AKC’s Trick Dog program. I have also taught him rally signs, a bit of coursing, and herding. He has excelled at everything I’ve tried with him.

AKC: Do you own any “non-dog” pets?

We used to have a fish but now just dogs.

AKC: What are your goals in the sport of dogs?

My goal is to have fun and be the best that I can be. Big titles and recognition are nice, but I just want to keep having fun and building bonds with my dogs.

AKC: Do you plan to do something animal-related as a career?

I want to continue training dogs and making a business out of it but for my main job I want to be a trauma nurse.

AKC: What extracurricular activities are you involved, in addition to dog sports?

I play soccer and used to run cross country and track.

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