The best agility dog is a rescue dog...

Over Easter Weekend, Adams Agility hosted the 2019 Dog Agility Rescue League (DARL) Final. 101 dogs came from across the country - from Carlisle to Wales to Berkshire and everywhere in between - all for one thing. Their aim was to prove that rescue dogs really do make the best agility dogs. Any clear rounds or even winning their category would be a bonus. Beth Rachlis reports with input from international agility judge Neil Ellis.

The Dog Agility Rescue League has been run now for over a decade. It is open to any dog not bought by the handler from a breeder. If it's rescued from anywhere else, it's classed as a rescue. This year was going to be our year.

Izzie had qualified for the Large for the League Finals for the third year in a row, and this year she was in Large G4-5. You can read about her previously here and here.

However, this year it wasn't our time to shine. Izzie cut her paw on Thursday at a pit stop on the way down. Sometimes you have to make those tough decisions, and I pulled her from the Final and all of her runs that weekend. When life lives you lemons...

So, what next? We have a busy summer planned. I'm going to try my hardest to qualify for the Finals again and if we are successful, no more pits tops on the way down! I'm also hoping to represent the UK in Spain as part of the PAWC Team.

Not being able to compete, however, meant that I got the opportunity to assist in the behind the scenes, watch some fantastic runs, chat to people from across the UK who came to compete and write this report.  For me, what shone throughout the day was the was the love that people had for their dogs. There were the Border Collies, crossbreeds and then some more unusual dogs such as the Xoloitzuintli, a Chihuahua entering his first ever KC show and a Beagle. Everyone wanted to celebrate, and everyone had a story about the adversity made them and their dog stronger.'

After the event, I spoke to Nigel Perry who has been the DARL organiser since 2018.

He said, 'I'm proud to run the Rescue League and I really want to take it to the next level. I think we are doing so when a world class judge like Neil Ellis wants to fit us in with their busy judging commitments. I first Neil him at the IMCA/PAWC Championships, and knew as soon as I saw his courses I wanted him to judge for us.

I think it is surreal that we have rescues in the League that are and have competed for our countries. It is an amazing achievement all round. My motto is that ‘The best agility dog is a rescue dog.' I saw the comment on the reverse side of a handler's hoody whilst judging at a show a couple of months ago, and it stuck with me. It resonates so much about what we do, what we stand for- rescue dogs really are the best agility dogs.

I want to thank everyone who has helped support the League and the Final. I couldn't do what I do without the huge amount of support beside me. I have a great team.

Pizza was ordered for all.

Meet Some of the Winners

When the Finals had finished for the day, everyone was invited to a pizza party, and I talked to some of the competitors about their rescue dogs and their runs.

Katherine Newcombe - Winner of G1-2 Small (Overall)
I met Indie when she was just four months old. She was the runt of an accidental litter and had been dropped at a local rescue as unwanted because of her size. They called her Shrimpy. I sat on the floor and played a little game of tug with her with an old towel. She was so feisty for such a small dog that I knew I had to have her!

I started training in agility after watching the Small Champ Finals at Crufts. At that point, I never knew how a big part of our lives it would become. I have met some of my closest friends through training and competing - people whom I trust for their advice, understanding and motivation. We are making so many incredible memories as we go. I can't wait to see what we can achieve together.

Indie is now three years old and is in Grade 5. This year we are travelling to the World Agility Open as part of Team Wales

I didn't even question the three hour journey to made the DARL Finals. Indie had worked super hard to be there. As the raffle grew and I saw how much work Nigel was putting in, I felt super proud to have been invited.

The best part of the weekend was running the courses. I got so excited just walking Neil's courses, and I knew we were going to have a blast running them. We are so lucky to have been able to run them. When we run, I'm competing against myself, the course and what we've trained. Our runs in the Final showed me both how far we have come since entering the League and how far we have to go.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Nigel and everyone who put together the Finals this year. Already it's the highlight of our 2019.

Lucy Wheelwright - 2nd place Medium G4-5 (Overall)
Tubby is a Spanish rescue. He was due to be put to sleep at just six months old as no one wanted him. He was brought to the UK by a rescue charity, but once again no one wanted him. He had never been lead walked, had never played with a toy and was often picked on by the other dogs.

Tubby is my first competing Agility dog, and we made it all the way Grade 1 to Grade 7 in just two years.

He is super clever and a very loving boy but he also can be very nervous. He is at his happiest when he is with me whether when I am in bed, going to agility or at the pub. Agility means that Tubby and I get to spend a lot of time together, and he trusts me to protect him. If he gets scared, he runs and jumps in my arms. So as long as he is happy, I am happy!

This was our third year of being invited to the Finals, but I think it may be our last as he is now Grade 7 which is a lot harder! And it took us over four hours to get there!

The best part of the weekend was finding out he had won the Finals Agility class! It was a massive shock and I really wasn't expecting it. We just went for fun!

Nicole Turner - Ring Manager and 2nd in Large G6-7 (Overall)
I got Taff from Lily's Rescue when he was 13 weeks old. He was one of two puppies left from a farm litter that the farmer was going to get rid of until somebody stepped in and saved them. I fell in love with him as soon as I saw his photo.

He started Foundation Agility when he was 10 months old, and he took to it like a total natural. He now competes in Grade 7/Champ where he has made it to a few Finals. His best result to date was a 3rd in the Champ final at Rugby of which I'm very proud. He has competed at Olympia and won the Crufts Novice Cup at three years old.

Taff is my best friend and has changed my life. I can't wait for more exciting times ahead. This was his fourth consecutive year competing in the DARL Finals. It's so much fun and I will always aim to make the journey to compete in the Final if I can.

This year's finals were so much fun. I massively enjoyed the challenging courses set by Neil Ellis and the atmosphere around the ring was perfect! Very proud to be part of such a great cause. I hope my young Many Tears Rescue will gain some points to compete in the Final next year, too!

Judge's Report from Neil Ellis

I first met Nigel at the IMCA/PAWC World Championships last year and was inspired by his desire to compete at the highest level despite the challenges he faced. This motivation and dedication from Nigel was seen also through his dedication to the DARL, and no way I did not want to support him with this great competition after he had asked me.

The stage was set at Royle Farm (Burton upon Trent.) The weather delivered. The competitors were raring to go and spectators present to watch the competition with front row seats. I was tasked with designing Agility and Jumping courses for all heights and grades, setting some fair challenges but also making for a great spectacle for the Finals.

The finals was an accumulation of 12 months of hard work and successful competing by so many who have done an amazing thing in rescuing a dog. I was so very impressed with the standard of competition across all heights and the skills showed in a pressured environment of the Finals. These Finals showcase the best of the rescue dogs, and celebrate the progress that can - and is -  made with dogs that have often had a bad start to life. It also shows off the talent of the owners who have done such a great job of training these dogs and I feel so honoured to have been asked to judge such a competition.

Finally, no competition can happen without a great team in the background. Nigel, you have orchestrated a fantastic team behind you to make a great event, and I congratulate and thank you all for your hard work in making it a success. I must also give a more personal thank you for the raffle that you ran to support the newly formed charity, Forever Running, that raised a substantial amount of money.

Below is one of the courses from the event, but please visit my website for the rest of the course plans from the Finals and from all my other judging appointments from 2017 onwards.

Dog Agility Rescue League Finals 2019 Course & Results

Small, Medium &  Large G4-5

Well done to all who attended. There were some fantastic runs, and some, oh so close. Irrespective of the results, you were all brilliant!
Nigel Perry

Winners are ascertained by combining the points from a Jumping round followed by an Agility round.

Overall Winners on the Day


  1. Sarah Dalesman with Anethum Graveolens

  2. Freda Campbell with Bohemian Flashfox

  3. Alison Williamson with Chilli Peppa at Willowyarde

  4. Helen Jones with Sweet Bonnie Bon Bon

  5. Nigel Perry with Molly Moo of Warwick

  6. Freda Campbell with Twizzling Thomas

  7. Lesley Wells with Grade Jem of Scorney &
    Jo Maisey with Bee Boppa Bella

    Large LHO Grades 1-2

  1. Karen Brooks with Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

  2. Diana Whitmill with Rhodium Black Knight

  3. Helen Stevenson with Handsome Little Buddy

     Large Grades 1-2

  1. Eleanor McMahon with Spot the Birdie Twitcher Tor

  2. Ally Weller with My Teddy Boy

  3. Lydia Phillips with Hoosier Best Buddy

  4. Sarah Hamblin with Karma Naglis

      Large LHO Grade 3

  1. Sarah Norman with Mister Slinkee Malinkee

  2. Mandy Davenport with And Then There Were Three

  3. Jenny Hastie with Miss Elligance of Ainmhithe

  4. Jan Thomas with Little Miss Twinkle Paws

  5. Ken Ricketts with Treasured Mutt

     Large Grades 4-5 LHO

  1. Abi Weake with Mr. Parker PawS
  2. Carol Luckett with No Added Sugar
  3. Myra Tubb with Lightning Gem
Large Grade 4-5
  1. Fiona Keast with Mum's Bright Star
  2. Keely Foster with Ally's Magic Super Socks
  3. Sarah Weller with Mazy Moomina of Ainmhithe
  4. Ann Button with A Little Bic Lucky
  5. Michele Curtis with Without Rhyme or Reason
  6. Myra Tubb with Morgansr Fly in Finn
Large Grades 6-7 LHO
  1. Ros Kinloch with Solving Sophie

  2. Abi Weake with Miss Willow Eclipse
Large Grades 6-7
  1. Colin Veal with No Tears for Many Ears Milo
  2. Nicole Turner with Lily's Gift for Valentines

Medium Grades 1-2

  1. Karen Brooks with Driving Miss Daisy Crazy

  2. Jane Helsby with Princess Pepperkins

Medium Grade 3

  1. Michelle Drawwater with Sticky Whiskers

  2. Roz Greening with Regi Sprocket Pocket Rocket

Medium Grades 4-5

  1. Gill Duroe with Dialynne Candy Girl

  2. Lucy Wheelwright with Rub A Dub Tub

  3. Kim Kraushar with The Skye Fox

Medium Grade 6-7

  1. Lesley Wells with Merry Go Round of Valgrays

  2. Caroline Green with Run Run Rosie



Small Grades 1-2

  1. Kathrine Newcombe with Indie's Little Shadow

  2. Gina Colton with Dexy Midnight Running

Small Grade 3

  1. Lesley Dexter with Lolly Lola Lollipop

  2. Nicky Deakin with Dougie Dancer of Many Tears

  3. Philippa Verstraete with Ring a Belle of Valgrays

Small Grades 4-5

  1. Gwen Holland with Llangeinwen Roxy

  2. Sue Roberts with Brightstars Little Lion

  3. Beryl Brander with The Gruffalo

  4. Sarah Howarth with Bristle While You Work

Small Grades 6-7

  1. Sophie Grove with Woodside Treasure

  2. Carole Stone with In The Ringoing Mad






More about DARL

The Dog Agility Rescue League is open to anyone who competes with a rescue dog. It runs from the 22nd December to 21st December the next year. As long as the dog and handler get a rosette at a show, even if its only for a clear round, they can claim points towards the League. There are separate Leagues for grades  G1-2, G3, G4-5, G6-7, all heights. Our Veterans / Allsorts League is for older dogs and those which are coming back from an injury.

In order to qualify for the Finals, handlers must enter their points on-line after every show - irrespective of it being a KC, UKA or an independent show. The handler and dog must be in the top 50% of their respective height and grade to qualify for a invitation.

All of classed are sponsored, so there are trophies and rosettes for all heights / grades. After the Finals presentations are awarded to the winners of the league. It all makes for a really great day out for all our 4-legged, second chance pals.

Anyone wanting to join in the fun can find out more by joining the Facebook group where there is a lot more information including a walk through of how to log points onto the system, and more details about qualifying for the Finals. Alternatively, visit the DARL web site.

 We are also starting our own quarterly emailed newsletter with a lot of different things going on inside it.

Forever Agility
In addition to the Final, DARL and Nigel have also organised a raffle for Forever Agility, a new charity set up by Neil Ellis and Ryan Hennessy, in memory of Ann Hennessey who recently passed away. From the raffle alone, over £1,250 was raised for Forever Agility, with an almost £200 added by Adams and their Pay on the Day Ring.

For more information about Forever Agility, visit their Facebook page at

About the author...
Beth Rachlis currently lives in Newcastle with her two rescue crossbreeds and competes in agility. 


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