Dogged Pursuit

Meet Dusty, the world’s least likely agility dog.

Dogged Pursuit

Dusty, digitally enhanced to look his best. Photo by Steve Grubman.

When novelist Robert Rodi embarked on a yearlong quest to turn his adopted Sheltie into a champion agility dog, he assumed that ribbons, prizes, and glory were just around the corner. Little did he know that his protégé—a skittish, scrawny rescue with a decidedly anteaterish look and Cujo-like disposition—would consistently come up small in competition, often humiliating him in the process.

Yet, Rodi—an urban epicure who is more Food Network than Animal Planet—continued to enter trials, inspired by the devotion and all-four-one-and-one-four-all mentality of the canine competition community. Much to Rodi’s surprise, he bonded with the white bread-and-shredded beef crowd that dominates the agility scene, and in the process, developed a newfound respect for his dog.

In the new laugh-out-loud funny book “Dogged Pursuit” (Hudson Street Press), Rodi chronicles his misadventures with Dusty, their travels punctuated by a handful of small victories, numerous defeats, and countless “accidents”—as in dogs discharging all manner of bodily fluids at the most inopportune places and times. With Dusty maintaining media silence, Rodi gamely agreed to talk with Failure about his four-legged friend and the strange world of canine agility.

What drew you to Dusty?
It was pity. He looked unadoptable and he seemed to be unadoptable. Even though I was looking for a real gutsy go-for-the-gold-type Sheltie, I ended up going with him because I thought he was looking at a grim fate if I didn’t take him. He broke my heart a little.

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