Day job: Chair of the Department of Music
Secret life: Dog agility competitor
It started with a tear-off sign and a dachshund named Mattie. Twenty years later, it’s become a way of life.
“I saw a sign for dog agility lessons, and I thought, ‘You know — that would be fun,’” says Dr. Angela Morgan, chair of the Department of Music. “Mattie was about 2 or 3 and very energetic, and I thought it would be a great way to do something with her. I’d done dog obedience before, but it wasn’t terribly exciting.”
It turned out dog agility was everything dog obedience wasn’t: fast-paced, aggressive, competitive.
“It was one of those things that just clicked,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is for me.’”
Dog agility is easy to describe but complicated to explain. Just think of dogs running an obstacle course made up of jumps, ramps, tunnels, seesaws, A-frames, tire jumps and weave poles. The handler runs alongside the dog, directing it through the course, and the dog is evaluated for speed and accuracy.
Mattie proved difficult in many ways, which Morgan says was probably a good thing for her first dog. She only jumped 8 inches and never weighed more than a little over 9 pounds. There was only so much those little legs could do, and Morgan wanted to go fast.
Now, she runs Shetland sheepdogs, and she runs them well. Blazer, a 15-year-old male who’s now retired, has two master agility championships to his name and has been to American Kennel Club (AKC) Nationals twice; Ariel, who’s almost 10, has been to AKC Nationals once, and Tempest, the aptly named youngster, is hot on their heels.
“She wants to be in charge and is upset that she’s not,” Morgan says. “Ariel’s in charge, but Tempest is trying to topple that arrangement.”
Morgan starts basic obedience training with her dogs as soon as a puppy is in the door, and the training never stops.
“My dogs are so well-behaved that they could come to my office and sit in the crate all day, and nobody would even know they’re here,” she says.
Her home training equipment — complete with LED lights in the backyard — surprises new faculty members whenever she hosts a gathering, and three years ago, she and her husband purchased an Airstream trailer to make traveling to competitions a little easier. They go to about two a month when her schedule permits, which isn’t always easy. She’s a member of the Augusta Symphony and helped direct the recent $3.5 million renovation project at the Fine Arts Center. The ribbon cutting was on Feb. 24.