Athletes are some of the most inspiring individuals in the world. Their determination, work ethic, and tremendous abilities give people something to strive towards. For children and adults alike, seeing an athlete at the peak of his or her abilities can be a life-changing experience. This is particularly true if the athlete has overcome difficulties like a troubled upbringing or illness. However, not all inspiring athletes have to be human.
Rex is a Belgian Malinois who, in 2016, became the DockDogs Sonic Speed Retrieve World Champion. Although this title may be obscure to those unfamiliar with canine athletics, it is a remarkable achievement. However, Rex is an inspiration not simply because of his outstanding abilities, but also because he overcame some significant hurdles in order to win the title.
Firstly, Rex is quite a bit older than most dogs who compete at the World Championships. Coming into the competition, he was 9.5 years old. Although he had demonstrated his strength and speed, his human, Lianne Shinton, was unsure about how he would fare. She simply wanted Rex to participate and have fun. Her reservations were compounded when Rex missed out on the first round of qualifications, barely making through the second day.
While Shinton was not convinced that Rex would win the competition, she had faith that he would perform admirably. The two had been together since he was a puppy. Rex was rejected from police training and was rescued by a dog trainer. As a dog trainer herself, Lianne heard about Rex, and adopted the puppy. While his mother had reportedly been put down for biting a human, Rex never displayed anything but affection and playfulness. After a while, Lianne found that Rex loved playing in water and with toys.
This led her to train Rex for DockDogs, an aquatic athletics competition. There are three events: high jump, long jump, and Speed Retrieve, which is an all-around athletic event including running, jumping, and swimming. Incredibly, Rex managed to win the high jump event. However, it looked as though he might miss out on a title in the 2016 event.
Aside from his age, is relatively disappointing performance in the first couple days of the competition could be attributed to another factor. In 2013, Rex was diagnosed with cancer. With Lianne’s support, he was successfully treated. With his health and age in mind, Lianne was unsurprised that Rex was not leading the field.
Then, however, something unexpected happened. Rex hit another gear in the prestigious Speed Retrieve event, outclassing the competition. At age 9.5, and as a cancer survivor, Rex once again became a world champion.
His story is an inspiring one. Not only is he an example of someone who faced rejection in one field only to find success in another, he is an elite canine athlete who managed to become the best in the world despite being older than the other competitors and having survived cancer. If more people understood the heart, determination, and resilience that drives dogs like Rex, there would probably be far fewer dogs who are neglected or abandoned. He has shown that dogs can be every bit as inspiring and courageous as humans.