Since Dr. Roger O'Sullivan adopted a corgi from the CHA Animal Shelter in Columbus in 2008, their partnership has been like magic.
The duo will compete in the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge Eastern Regionals at Spa Beach Park in Tampa, Fla., on May 4.
O'Sullivan, a local chiropractor, said he named the dog Keebler because she looks like an elf.
"She was a nightmare when we adopted her," said O'Sullivan's wife, Elissa, an animal behaviorist. "She chewed everything and tried to run away. Once we gave her a job, her whole demeanor changed."
O'Sullivan said he took a lot of classes with Keebler because agility requires the ability to move and change direction and position the body quickly and effectively while under control.
In Florida they will compete in the small agility competition, featuring dogs racing through a course that includes jumps, weave poles, tunnels, slalom gates and other obstacles.
"I had to step up my game with her," he said. "I've had to learn. People will watch me run and ask, 'Why did you do that?' You don't have time to think out there. You don't have time to change your mind. I want to make sure I look like I deserve to be out there."
Keebler already has earned her AKC MACH2 (Master Agility Champion title). She has been invited to the AKC Agility Nationals for two years and has qualified for next year.
O'Sullivan practices agility with her daily and even made a course along the side of his home.
A banner with Keebler's picture hangs on a fence beside the weave-pole track, announcing that she will compete in the Purina challenge. The banner encourages passersby to honk and cheer if they see her practicing her "Elfin Magic."
O'Sullivan, a New York native, said he grew up with dogs.
Elissa said the joke is that she never would have given him the time of day if it weren't for the rottweiler pup that was with him when they first met.
"He was a power lifter," she said. "If he wouldn't have had the dog, I would have walked off."
They both enjoy dogs so much that they almost married at the Rottweiler National Show. The couple opted for Las Vegas instead.
The O'Sullivans are the parents of two teenage sons, and they have six dogs, two cats and a ferret. They breed and show rottweilers and have been involved in dog sports for about 30 years.
Elissa does pet therapy with Keebler for special-education classes at Westerville North High School, and she has taken one of the rottweilers to Children's Hospital for pet therapy.
"The rotts are our sedans, and the little dogs are like our sports cars," she said. "They're fun to play with. I've also taken Keebler to reading programs for kids. She loves little kids."
Roger O'Sullivan said practicing agility with Keebler helps him forget about everything that happens during the week.
"Even if we're having a bad day (doing agility), it's better than doing paperwork," he said.
If the two advance at the regional competition, they will compete in finals in St. Louis in October.
"It's for bragging rights," he said. "You need to say you've gone."
The Purina challenge is a premier canine sporting event featuring dogs competing in a variety of Olympic-style activities, including dog diving, freestyle flying disc, head-to-head weave poles, Jack Russell hurdle racing and agility.
The day's winners automatically qualify for the national finals.