Tomorrow, Ledyard's own Nemo, an AKC registered Black Lab, will be competing in the 2013 National Rally Competition being held in Tulsa Okla. This story would be “made for TV" or an “after school special” if it were not true.
Nemo, a 5-year-old Black Labrador Retriever, was rescued by Gales Ferry resident Kristi Koltavary (who was living in California at the time) from what she described as a bad situation.
At first Nemo had been labeled “a mess” by others, as well as by Kristy who says "he would shred everything in sight, he was fearful, timid and didn’t make friends easily.”
But not one to back down from what she believed sounded like a "crazy awesome challenge” Nemo was packed up from his Phoenix, Ariz. residence and 14 hours later he had a new home with Kristi.
Being familiar with the breed (Nemo's her eighth black lab!) and knowing their natural athletic ability, Kristi thought that she would be able to harness that athleticism and introduced Nemo to the world of competitive Rally sports.
Koltavay’s hunch proved true, when, at less than 1-years-old, Nemo earned the AKC Puppy Star Award, a Canine Good Citizen title for puppies.
Soon after moving to Ledyard in 2008, Nemo joined Dog Scouts Troop 188 where he continued to socialize with other dogs. In just over three years, Nemo has earned his Rally Novice title (2010) his Rally Advanced (2011) and Rally Excellent (2012).
Kristi was notified in January that Nemo was accepted to compete in Tulsa and not long after she booked her flight. Of the competition Kristi said, “everyone loves winning but its really about having fun together.” And the cumulative effort of everything Kristi has done and all the training Nemo has endured will now allow them to compete on a national stage alongside 1,600 other hopeful canine competitors.
“AKC Rally is the new dog sport that is taking the nation by storm, a successful stepping stone from the AKC Canine Good Citizen® program to the world of obedience or agility.
A rally course includes 10 to 20 stations, depending on the level. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. Communication between handler and dog is encouraged and perfect heel position is not required, but there should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler. The main objective of rally is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.”
Kristy, who is employed by Pet Smart in New London as a professional dog trainer, says that when not training she and Nemo love to hike, swim and roll in the snow. She hopes one day to expand and open a canine training center.