RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Eighteen days into the new year, and it has already gone to the dogs.
However, every day belongs to them at Level Up Dog Sports in Mechanicsville, and because of that, it’s paying off.
Three of the facility's four-legged students have been invited to compete in this year's Westminster Dog Show.
So, I dropped by to see how the pooches are preparing to perform in a competition simply known as the world's greatest.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
That’s probably why these dogs work so hard on their craft, just to make sure they stay off the menu.
Meet 5-year-old Solo, 8-year-old Thunder and his 5-year-old daughter, Seal.
Together, they make up a talented trio of energetic border collies at Level Up Dogs Sports, where their paws pound the pavement several times a week to remain top dogs in dog agility.
"Their job is to follow you through this obstacle course and the path that you're taking them," said trainer and Level Up co-owner Ashley Castro.
They waste no time running, jumping, weaving, teetering - proving that these obstacles present no obstacle for them.
In fact, all three are local and regional award winners when it comes to how they navigate courses with ease.
But trainers and Level Up co-owners Ashley Castro and Merritt Speagle say it has taken years of hard work to perfect the passion and precision of these pooches.
"It's what you put into the dog. So, it's how you're conditioning them, how well you're training them, and how strong your bond is with your dog," said Speagle.
And it's a combination that is now paying off for these four-legged friends.
They have been invited to participate in the world famous Westminster Dog Show in New York.
It's the first invitations for Solo and Seal, and the second one for Thunder.
The competition is coming up in February, and it is a big deal - sort of like the Olympics for dogs.
Needless to say, they’re all ‘doggone’ ecstatic.
"I'm super excited that this is happening, and I love that agility is growing as a sport, and that Westminster is allowing us to get on a national televised level to show how cool our sport is and how fun it is," said Castro.
“It’s so thrilling. There’s a huge crowd. I think there are about 2,000 people when Thunder was running last year. So, the dogs have to be very focused, very happy, very stable,” said Speagle.
Speagle and Castro believe these cute canines are ready to represent Richmond and take center stage next month.
They're all keeping their fingers - and their paws - crossed, in hopes of bringing home the title of the world's best.
"I'm excited. I'm stoked," said Castro.
The Westminster Dog Show is Feb. 8 - 10 in New York City. We will keep you posted on their progress.