FAIRHAVEN â If you see local dog enthusiast Jeff Botelho out and about in the community with his two handsome border collies, stop and shake their paws. Both canines continue to achieve great success in national and international competitions.
The canine enthusiastâs younger dog, Matrix, competed last month at the Agility World Championship held in Kristianstad, Sweden, an event that drew competitors from 40 countries.
Botelho, a longtime Fairhaven resident and owner of Mount Hope Physical and Aquatic Therapy in Swansea, and a graduate of Quinnipiac University, purchased his first dog, Jet, in 2010. Two years later, he realized the energetic canine needed an activity in addition to playing fetch in the backyard, since border collies thrive when they preform a task, whether they are working on a ranch or engaged in a performance sport such as agility.
âHe needed a job,â said Botelho, adding that he learned about agility training from a patient at the therapy clinic who suggested that the active dog owner contact Terri Arnold of Freetown, an acclaimed dog trainer and owner of Steppinâ Up Dog Training School.
Botelho credits Arnold for âteaching [him] everything about agility and dogsâ and for helping her students to achieve success.
âThat was it,â he continues. Once Botelho and his canine companion got started in basic agility classes, the two team members forged an even stronger bond and soon started to compete in competitions.
According to the dog fancier, agility is a growing sport in which dogs race against a clock as they navigate an obstacle course with strong concentration and speed. He adds that the sport offers participants a fast-paced rewarding experience that allows dogs and their owners to bond, have fun and get into the best shape in their lives. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are eligible to compete at trials, which is also open to All American (or mixed-breed) dogs.
âWe got better at it as we advanced,â said Botelho, adding he and Jet eventually attended three National Agility Championships and the celebrated canine was selected as a three-time national finalist.
âI knew that border collies were smart and very active,â he added, noting that prior to purchasing the handsome black and white-colored dog, he conducted extensive research about the breed and discovered a litter of puppies in Rhode Island, where Jet was purchased.
Now age 10 1/2, Jet still competes in agility and will retire at the end of the year to enjoy life at home.
âHe will stay play fetch in the yard, â Botelho quipped. âThat is his first love.â
In 2014, the dog owner purchased Matrix, whose registered name is Lock-Eye Leads the Revolution, from a breeder in Oklahoma who is known internationally for producing high performing dogs.
Botelho says that he had seen one of the womanâs dogs bred from a previous litter and was smitten.
âThat dog, named âElvis,â was unbelievable,â he said. âI thought that this was the type of dog I needed to get to the next level.â
Once his young charge started competing, Botelho knew that Matrix was destined for success.
âI knew that he had potential,â he said. âHe has a ton of energy and a ton of drive.â
Botelho says it took him an entire year â all of 2017Â â to get Matrix qualified for the 2018 AKC National Agility Championships, which were held in March in Reno, Nevada. Matrix placed third at that competition and gave Botelho and his dog the confidence to travel to Minnesota to try out for a spot on the World Agility Team, sponsored by the American Kennel Club.
Matrix finished second in that competition, and earned a placement on that team.
âI went to Minnesota with the thought of trying to determine where does my dog stand with all of the dogs at our level,â Botelho says. âI had no expectations of placing on the team. We placed in three out of five runs.â
Botelho and his wife Susan, his parents Joseph and Cindy Botelho, and Susanâs sister and her husband Ben and Christine Wells, traveled to Scandinavia to witness the competition.
While Botelho and Matrix didnât earn any ribbons or awards at the international competition, they enjoyed an exciting experience that the dog owner sayâs he will never forget.
âThe competition was the pinnacle of our sport,â he said. âTo know that I have a teammate that allows me to complete at that level was exhilarating.â