This shelter mutt from Erie was returned numerous times. Now, he’s competing at the Westminster Dog Show.

Miles, a seven-ish-year-old mixed bred dog from Erie.

Miles, a seven-ish-year-old mixed-breed dog from Erie is competing in the Westminster Dog Show's agility competition. (Photo: Katie Carr)

By Patrick Berkery

May 10, 2024

Miles, a seven-ish-year-old cattle dog-border collie-lab-hound mix, will compete at Westminster’s Masters Agility Championship for the second straight year beginning Saturday.

When you think of the dogs who compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, you don’t usually think of mutts who were returned to the shelter numerous times before finding their forever home. But unlike Westminster’s main competition, the dog show’s agility competition isn’t about bloodlines and poise. It’s about speed, smarts, and the ability to navigate tricky obstacles.

Miles, a seven-ish-year-old cattle dog-border collie-lab-hound mix, has all those qualities and more, according to his owner, Chrstine Longnecker, a horseback riding instructor and animal communications specialist from Erie.

“Miles comes to all the barns with me,” Longnecker said. “All of my clients, and the horse community at large, call him Coach Miles. Miles has always loved jumping the jumps with the horses, that’s why I decided to try agility with him. He actually knows when the horses mess up — hit a rail, miss a distance, etc. — and he’ll start barking at them as if to yell at them.”

This weekend, Miles will be competing in Westminster’s Masters Agility Championship in Flushing, Queens for the second time. Miles will be among 350 dogs who will compete in two qualifying rounds Saturday consisting of a Standard Agility course and a Jumpers with Weaves course. The 10 dogs with the highest combined scores from each height class will move on to the Championship Round Sunday, consisting of a total of 50 dogs.

Miles is classified as an All-American dog, which is the term the Westminster Kennel Club uses for mutts. Border collies have been crowned the winner in eight of the previous 10 agility competitions, with a Shetland sheepdog and an Australian shepherd taking the title the other two times.

Miles is currently working toward his third Master Agility Championship (MACH). He has competed twice in the agility nationals — an annual competition separate from Westminster — finishing as the top All-American dog in his category each time. Last year at Westminster, Miles successfully navigated the Standard Agility and Jumpers with Weaves courses, to finish third among 20-inch All-American dogs, and 28th overall out of 108 20-inch dogs.

Longnecker said Miles has come a long way since she adopted him from the Because You Care animal shelter in McKean in 2018.

“Miles was pretty much considered unadoptable by the shelter when I got him,” Longnecker said. “He was petrified of his own shadow, the car, almost all noises, and he had horrible undiagnosed colitis. It took a few years to really find the right food and feeding schedule to keep his colitis under control. It also took months before he was brave and secure enough to bring his tail out from between his legs and stop worrying about everything. Now he’s so confident that sometimes, I wish he wasn’t so confident!”

You can watch the preliminary rounds of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show agility competition Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the FOX Sports app. The finals will air Sunday from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. on FOX, and stream on the FOX Sports app.

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