Canine Cancer Survivor Proves You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks!

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
This special canine cancer survivor is going for the gold! Even though Rex is a senior, he was unstoppable at the DockDogs World Championships and crowned World Champion.

Lianne Shinton is a dog trainer with twenty years of experience teaching and coaching very special dogs. As the owner of IQK9 Training in Oceanside, California, Lianne has seen many dogs excel in many areas of athleticism and behavior, but her own special athlete has shown that we can never underestimate the power of a dog’s heart.

Lianne came across Rex, a Belgian Malinois, nine years ago when he was just a puppy who flunked K9 training. Rex’s sweet disposition wasn’t suited for the police dog life, but made him the perfect laid back pet. Initially, Lianne had to coax Rex into ‘dog’ things like swimming and retrieving a ball, but once he gained some confidence, he loved toys and the water.

Related: The ABCs On How To Extend Your Senior Dog’s Lifespan

Lianne eventually got Rex involved in DockDogs, which is a canine aquatics competition that has three events: Big Air (long jump), Extreme Vertical (high jump), and Speed Retrieve (combines running, jumping and swimming and is timed). Though Lianne was just glad to allow Rex to have some fun participating, she says Rex was a natural–it was clear he could jump much higher than other dogs and he was just something special.

They entered their first DockDogs competition in 2010, and Rex won the World title in the Extreme Vertical Category. For six subsequent years, Rex competed at the highest level, always remaining in the top five rankings for the Speed Retrieve category, despite major obstacles to Rex’s health.

In 2013, Lianne received the sad news that Rex had cancer, and though he was able to have the mast cell tumor removed and has recovered well, Lianne remained vigilant about any lumps and the possibility of the cancer coming back.

This year, Rex was 9 1/2 years old and a cancer survivor. Lianne just knew that this was going to be Rex’s last year in the competition and when Rex didn’t make the first qualifying rounds the first day and barely made them the second day at the World Championships, she assumed that this would be a year of good memories and fun, but certainly not a trophy!

Related: 5 Age-Old Facts About Senior Dogs Dietary Needs

Yet, surprising many, including Lianne, on the day of the competition, Rex outran, outswam and out jumped dogs half his age and once again, became a World Champion–this time in the Sonic Speed Retrieve Category. It was a different category than his original World Championship, but still Lianne said he nailed it and clearly showed that he was not quite ready to let go of the limelight, senior dog that he is!

And so, sweet Rex is a perfect example of why we never underestimate the stamina of a dog. Even though Lianne is helping Rex slow down some so he doesn’t push his body too far, she recognizes that her old boy is still in competitive mode and says the will be playing in DockDogs well into his golden olden days.

We guess he’ll be teaching some of those young whippersnappers a thing or two in the process!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis