Agility training with canines takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. It also takes the right dog. Water agility is an even more challenging skill to learn. You’d never know it by watching Whitney Rupp and her pack of Labrador retrievers. They make it look easy. Rupp trains dogs with her husband, and they have a laundry list of awards to prove that they are good at what they do.
Currently, the Rupp’s are the proud owners of 5 yellow Labrador retrievers between the ages of 1 and 11, and Rupp spends most of her time exercising, training, and caring for the dogs. The pack consists of Felix, 1; Warden, 4.5; Remi, 9.5; Alex, 10; and Abby Jo, 11.5. After the purchase of their fourth dog they realized that they may need a bigger house and more outdoor space.
That’s what brought the Rupp’s to Bull Valley in McHenry County, Illinois. They now own a house on 5.7 acres that boasts plenty of yard space for the dogs to run and play and also their new 41 X 21 foot swimming pool. Rupp says she was essentially looking for a piece of property where she could have a dog park in the backyard.
Most members of the Rupp pack are champion, award-winning agility and dock-jumping dogs. They can jump more than 20 feet in distance and 6 feet vertically. If you’ve ever seen canine dock jumping competitions, you can fathom how much distance that truly is. These dogs are highly conditioned jumping machines, and they are amazing to watch.
The Rupp’s have traveled the country for years with their dogs to go to competitions. In the summer they competed almost every weekend, and in the winter they competed about twice a month. If you think that’s a hectic lifestyle, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Rupp. She also owns Chops Photography, a pet photography business, and volunteers for the McHenry County Animal Control and the Bull Valley Dog Park Committee.
Unfortunately it was a serious injury for Rupp, who blew out her knee while running an agility course, and her favorite dog, Alex, who tore a rotator cuff, that motivated the family to stop traveling and spend more time at home. Rupp says that after Alex’s injury they took him to Baltimore to see the top orthopedic pet sports surgeon, and after that her focus quickly shifted from competitions to enjoying the time she had with her dogs.
The Rupp’s have lived an amazing life, and their dogs have had an amazing career. A shot of Alex retrieving a ball underwater went viral on the internet and three of the dogs were featured in Underwater Dogs, a best-selling book by Seth Casteel. The dogs have been on television and sponsored by a large natural dog food company. The Rupp’s have boxes full of stored away awards and medals.
Despite all the hardware, they spend their days by the pool, exercising, and training. They still compete, but not nearly as often. I think the Rupp’s have figured out what life as a dog lover is all about. Unfortunately for us humans, our dogs do not live as long as we do or nearly as long as we wish they would. The bond between humans and canines is amazing.
In such a short amount of time many of us form stronger bonds with our canine companions than we do with other humans. We trust each other and have a mutual respect for one another. The Rupp’s are living proof that nothing in life is worth wasting that time by working constantly. The more fun you can have with your dog, the better his quality of life and yours.