At Westminster Dog Show, Ellicott City dog fetches historic win

May 21—Nimble, the 6-year-old border collie-Papillon mix from Ellicott City, lived up to her name earlier this month when she took home the top prize in agility at the Westminster Dog Show.

The pup is the first mixed-breed dog to win the Masters Agility Championship in the event's 11-year history. She's also the first dog from the 12-inch height division to take home the top title, according to the American Kennel Club.

Nimble's winning time completing the obstacle course at the competition in Queens, New York, was 28.76 seconds. Making her achievement even more impressive, she bested dogs as large as 24 inches and with much longer legs for the win, which is compared across size classes with a yards-per-second calculation.

"They actually have to beat the large dogs by a few seconds," due to that size calculation, said Cynthia Hornor, Nimble's owner and trainer. "This is why the small dogs have not typically won it in the past."

Nimble's mixed-breed genome is also a distinctive factor in her win as the competition is generally dominated by purebred Border collies who are typically the fastest, turn the best and are the most focused, she said.

Hornor, an accountant turned full-time agility trainer, has been preparing the canine for this since she bought the 8-week-old puppy from a friend in Georgia in 2018 and named her Nimble, hoping the name would prophesize the pup's athletic ability.

"A lot of people will tell you, 'Watch what you name your dog when you want to do agility.' Because I've seen people name their dogs names that sometimes the dogs do live up to," Hornor said. "Like, I don't recommend the name Crash."

Agility training was a natural fit for Hornor, who grew up competing in equestrian events. When she had a Shetland sheepdog in the 1990s that she wanted to socialize, agility seemed a perfect combination of her "love of dogs and my love of that type of competition," she said.

Hornor started training her dogs at Oriole Dog Training Club based in Halethorpe and now trains others how to prepare their dogs for agility competitions through her company CH Dog Agility LLC. She believes the work is both fulfilling to herself and the dogs.

"The sheer joy that dogs get from it is very, very special," Hornor said.

She believes working hours at a time, week after week with the dog also forges a human-animal bond that's hard to comprehend for those outside the sport.

For Nimble's win, Hornor was gifted $5,000 to donate to a dog training club of her choice. She hasn't yet decided on a recipient.

Looking ahead, her top goal is for the pair to win the European Open, a competition the duo is headed for this summer in the United Kingdom representing the United States among other top dogs around the globe.

"The Germans there are very tough to beat," Hornor said.

To honor the win at Westminster, Nimble received some steak, went swimming and played ball, but none of that was especially out of the ordinary for the champion mixed breed.

"I treat her like a princess anyway, whether she wins or loses," Hornor said.