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Pugnaciously Passionate About Pugs

| Sheri Nadelman |

I am shamelessly proud of my ability to handle my two 80-plus pound Golden Doodles, who I might add, are very cute and are for the most part good boys.  I feel I’ve earned bragging rights because I can take “Daboyz”, as I like to call them, for walks in my neighborhood and arrive home with my arms intact – which on some days is no easy feat.  Yes, I am quite proud of the fact that we can usually walk past the many creatures in the neighborhood without flinching.  This includes, but is not limited to, the taunting squirrels, bunnies, deer and the occasional yappy dog who seems determined to ruin our cadence by humiliating his human, who despite having a death grip on its leash, is clearly losing the tug of war battle.

So, you get the idea about why I find a simple walk in the neighborhood to be such a great accomplishment.

This is one of the many reasons why I have great respect for people who have the discipline to train their canines for competitions.  I believe it is a gift that my lovely neighbor Jill Chodelka has.  Jill has won countless competitions with her Pugs, beginning with LuJack, her indisputable pride and joy, who she lost several years ago and misses fiercely.  A grim reality that any dog lover can relate to –including me.

It is no secret that Jill loves Pugs.  She tells me it’s the only breed she’ll ever have, and I believe her.  I will occasionally see Jill out “playing fetch” with her two very cute, good boys, Tampa Bay Ray of Hope (better known as “Ray-Ray”) and Joker’s Wild Mardi Gras Maskerade (better known as “Jester”).   When I say fetch, I mean reinforcement exercises.  You can’t help but be enamored with these adorable boys with faces that look like they have perpetual smiles.  Clearly eager to please, they are fixated on their human and watch Jill’s every move.

Jill showed me some of the practices they do, and although everything may seem like a game, these actions are quite deliberate.


Jill’s passion for agility competitions began back when she enrolled LuJack in puppy obedience training classes which didn’t quite work out for them.  However, while there, she saw the agility training in session.  Thinking they would both find it fun, she signed up.  That was all it took for both LuJack and Jill to fall in love with the sport.  Not surprising, Jill would become an agility instructor herself.

Like any type of competition, training is crucial.  That goes for both the handler and the dog.  It is a process that takes patience, dedication, perseverance and mental preparation.  Jill and LuJack repeated level 3 several times with her pugs.  He was 4 when they felt confident enough to take the field.   LuJack would go on to have quite an illustrious career.  In addition to being a prize-winning champion, he was also trained as a therapy dog visiting hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

While training for the most important event of their career – the prestigious AKC Agility Invitational, where the five top agility dogs of each breed compete, the devasting news came that LuJack was diagnosed with cancer.  Although treatable, it was not curable.  Heartbroken but not discouraged, Jill went to every length to get him treatment.  Jill credits her tight-knit agility family for helping to get her through a very tumultuous time, even holding fundraisers to offset medical costs.  Through it all, a resilient LuJack still loved his competitions.

It was during this time that one of Jill’s friends convinced her to consider adopting a puppy she found advertised on Petfinder.  Not having any intention of bringing another dog into her life, a reluctant Jill changed her mind and agreed to a meet-and-greet when she found out the 9-month-old was a Pug.  There in the parking lot of Petco, Ray immediately jumped up into Jill’s arms and her heart melted.  There was no question that this puppy lived up to his name, Tampa Bay’s Ray of Hope who was meant to be with Jill and LuJack.

The two Pugs bonded and were very close and started training together.  LuJack had qualified for the biggest competition of his career which was just days away.  Sadly, their time was cut short as LuJack lost his battle to cancer.  Ray-Ray has been the perfect dog in every way since, winning countless ribbons which Jill proudly displays.  Then one day, a trainer friend put Jill in touch with the owner of a nine-month-old pug named Chester who was in her puppy obedience class and was interested in getting information about agility training.  After a slew of e-mails and an array of reasons, Jill wound up adopting Chester, who now goes by the very befitting name, Jester.  It took a very challenging month for him to adapt to his new surroundings but adapt he did.  Before long he was doing training classes as well and then Jester took to the field, and according to Jill “found his purpose”.  He would go on to take the title of #1 agility Pug in the USA!

Too many to count, the vast array of titles, ribbons and trophies won by all three boys are proudly displayed throughout Jill’s home. 

“Plan Your Run, Run Your Plan” are words that Jill lives by and even has tattooed on her arm.  You can see her passion and her love for her pugs who are true celebrities in the agility world.  Every now and again I am lucky enough to see these two adorable boys “playing” – each with their own larger than life personalities and I can attest that there is no death grip on a leash for these guys.

Photos from Sheri Nadelman

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