Meet Frankie Alves – An Irish Setter
with a gigantic heart, and the titles to match
No matter how you look at it, nine-year-old Frankie Alves – CH OTCH MACH Shine-On Polka Dots & Moonbeams UDX OM1 MXB MJB – is special. She’s the first Irish Setter in AKC history to earn breed, obedience, and agility championships. She’s also one of just 50 AKC dogs of all breeds to post this championship trifecta. That puts her in elite company indeed.
What’s even more impressive is that Frankie had to conquer some formidable obstacles just to get into the ring in the first place, obstacles including periodically serious sound sensitivities, a troublesome shoulder, and an obedience owner and handler who herself has health-related challenges.
After finishing her breed championship — more on that later – in April 2012, Frankie and Anne Alves turned their attention to
obedience. “Frankie was a great heeler,” Ann says, and she finished her Novice title before her sound sensitivity set in.
Never give up!
After that, Ann explains, “A text alert on a cellphone, playful noises in training, even music on TV – and eventually dogs barking and loud voices – all could send Frankie running for her crate while training, away or even at home.” Having never encountered this problem before, Ann was discouraged. She even considered abandoning obedience with Frankie and working more with her young male Sully, who was two at the time and awaiting his turn.
Ann didn’t want to give up on Frankie, though, and fortunately she had friends who made sure she didn’t have to. Mary Ruth, a local obedience maven, had experience in training dogs with pressure issues, and she volunteered to help.
Kim Berkley’s contribution was also key, as Kim worked on reintroducing sounds and eventually people while Frankie worked. “Kim was constantly evaluating and making adjustments,” Ann points out.
Frankie was finally ready to return to the obedience ring to tackle Open and Utility. Her return was a success, and she finished her OTCH in February 2015.
By that time, Frankie had already been running some in agility with Kim. Frankie was faster than any other Irish Setter Kim had handled, so they put her in some trials to see what she could do. She quickly finished her Excellent titles and started posting Qs and earning MACH points in Master classes, so they thought, Why not keep going?
Would a balky shoulder hold Frankie back?
Sadly, there was another major setback yet to come. Frankie had all her QQs and 650 MACH points when she started exhibiting a new behavior: She’d run most of a course, then refuse a jump near the end – which of course meant the run was an NQ. And occasionally at home she’d get into a skirmish in the back yard and limp afterward. There was clearly some kind of problem with her shoulder, although most of the time she showed no symptoms.
Still, the problem had to be addressed. An ultrasound showed that Frankie’s biceps tendon was pulling across an arthritic place in the shoulder, causing intermittent pain. Frankie could have surgery to release it, but the rehab was serious and Frankie was already eight. Both of Frankie’s veterinarians counseled against doing the surgery then and instead suggested focusing on warm-ups, cool-downs, and massaging the shoulder.
Ann also decided to give Frankie six weeks of rest. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when the team decided Frankie would henceforth compete in Standard only, to keep her jumping to a minimum while maximizing MACH points earned per run.
Frankie started competing again, and with Kim by her side as always in the agility ring, she finished her MACH on May 13, 2017.
“I know how hard Kim worked with Frankie,” Ann says. Even when Frankie was really struggling, “Kim just looked at me and said, ‘We are going to get this done!’
“I don’t think anyone else could’ve finished Frankie in agility,” she adds.
“Frankie loves Kim,” Ann concludes. “I have to admit that when people use terms like ‘trifecta’ and ‘Triple Crown,’ I can’t help but smile, but now she is a very happy retired girl.” A very happy retired girl who just made AKC history.
All in the Irish Setter Family with Ann Alves
All of Ann’s previous competition dogs – before Frankie – were from the same line of Irish Setters. When she suddenly lost Roo, the boy she’d been training in obedience, Ann decided starting with a new puppy would be the best medicine. A California breeder whose dogs did breed and obedience had a litter on the ground at the time. Of the three girls, Frankie had the best crushed paper ball retrieve, and Ann was sold! From the day they flew home together, Ann knew Frankie was the most loving dog, and certainly just what she needed.
Competing in breed came first for Frankie. Ann knew that running often brought bad results for her, which meant Frankie would need a handler in conformation.
Frankie was able to accumulate single points close to home, thanks to handler Patty Huffman. Significant driving would be needed, though, to find majors. Sharon Luther was a great travel buddy, Ann says, as was Ann’s sister-in-law Tammy. Krista Musil handled Frankie on drives east, where Frankie captured one of her majors. Frankie finished her breed championship in April 2012.
Frankie stands alone as the only CH OTCH MACH Irish Setter in AKC history, but Ann has had four other OTCH Irish Setters in her illustrious career. This signal achievement speaks for itself: Of the 30 Irish Setters ever to earn an OTCH, five of them were Ann’s.
Chessie (OTCH MACH2 Token Chessie The Railroad Cat UDX OM1 MXG MJG). Chessie was the first-ever OTCH MACH Irish Setter, and in fact the only one until Frankie came along.
Sully (CH MACH Redtale Sunshine On Ice CD MXB MJB). Sully is currently working on his OTCH, following in his sister’s pawsteps.
…and the late…
Fancy (CH OTCH Bentree's Tickle My Fancy UDX)
…and her daughters…
Ritz (CH OTCH Fallon Fancy Put on the Ritz UDX), and
Jackie (CH OTCH Fallon Jackie O'Fancy UDX)
Fancy in foreground, Ritz to left, Jackie
Ann also has a puppy, Daisy. “She’s the cutest thing and the sweetest,” Ann says.
“I didn’t need a puppy, but I got interested in her,” Ann explains.
“Who knows what lies ahead for her...”