A furry partner’s separation anxiety thrust Melanie Del Villaggio into the agility world.
Del Villaggio’s mixed-breed Tasselhoff was intelligent and well behaved but had that one quirk. So Del Villaggio brought Tasselhoff to obedience classes in the late 1990s to cure him. The duo attended an agility class and became hooked.
Dara began showing with Del Villaggio in 2003, and the Sheltie completed her Master in Agility Championship and American Dog Championship titles. The two have participated in three FCI Agility World Championships and are preparing for their fourth, which will take place in September in Dornbirn, Austria.
Although the two are veterans of the world championship, the thrill of the event never fades, Del Villaggio said.
“In some ways the more you go, the more you know what to expect,” she said. “The excitement and the nerves will always be there. You have an idea how everything is going to go.”
Del Villaggio’s goal is to make the podium this year. The team gathered for training in June and the meeting went “very, very well,” she said.
“I think it’s awesome there’s so much talent in both handler and dog,” she said. “There is a lot of experience, some new people and one new dog with an experienced handler. We have a combination of all that. That is success right there at the top.”
Del Villaggio was born in Georgia and lived most of her life in Tennessee. She has traveled all over the country and the world for agility events. Dara recently scored six out of six times in an all-breed agility trial at a Dalmatian Club of America show. Del Villaggio said she enjoys working the dogs and the community surrounding shows.
“The bond that you make with the dog is exciting – it’s like nothing else,” she said. “And you see that in not just yourself but other people and their dogs. The agility community is a great wonderful group of people. I made a lot of good friends – interesting, neat people.”