Great State: A Champion’s Pedigree

NORMAN, Okla. – If there’s one thing you’ll notice about Henry when you meet him, it’s his enthusiasm.

He’s an 8 year old Black Lab who’s excited about potential new playmates, and who’s excited every day to work with his training partner Dennis Butler.

“He is,” agrees Butler. “He’s just a lot of fun.”

Henry comes from a champion’s line of retrievers.

Dennis got the pick of the litter. Henry stood out.

“Was he frisky,” asks a visitor?

Dennis recalls, “All the pups were there and you know what that’s like. Gosh what am I going to do here? He was just sitting in the middle, looking around.”

He was bred to be a field trial dog but at his wife’s urging,

Dennis started working his dog on an agility course.

They both liked it.

“Henry was just like, ‘wow, this is fun’ , so we just started doing it.”

So began 5 years of work and competitions.

Henry’s enthusiasm never flagged.

Neither did his speed.

When the American Kennel Club held their National Agility Championships in Tulsa this year, Dennis and Henry were ready.

They won the competition in March, something no Lab had ever done in the history of the event.

“People were just ecstatic,” says Butler. “The whole place just erupted over the fact that he won it and that I was from Oklahoma.”

Dennis and Henry train on a creek bank in rural Norman, Oklahoma.

Their team name, Hillbilly Agility, fits the setting.

The Butlers also run the American Dog Obedience Center, a kind of summer camp for regular dogs.

Butler’s training secret is teaching when his animals are really paying attention, never longer.

Henry is the same.

He gets breaks when it gets hot and his attention starts to wander.

Around here, ‘dog days’ are always fun.