Does your rescue dog have what it takes to compete in a dog show?

One local Nashville dog does – and you can catch him on Hallmark Channel’s American Rescue Dog Show this February.

If you haven’t heard, the American Rescue Dog Show differs from the traditional variety by showcasing shelter and rescue dogs in all sorts of categories. “Best Underbite,” “Best Sofa Sleeper” and “Best in Talking” are just a few of the competitions you’ll see. What a way to highlight shelter dogs!

Jim Bear Rigney is known and loved by his fans here in Music City. Jim Bear’s distinctive underbite gives him that tenacious “take on the world” vibe. His owners, Jennifer and Jason Rigney, always knew he was a winner.

Jim Bear Rigney - winner of American Rescue Dog Show best underbite

“We adopted Jim Bear (Finn at the time) in March 2014,” Jennifer told me.  Jason and I had always known one day we wanted a dog.  We had just bought a house and we knew it was time.  We spent almost a year looking and debating over what we wanted in a dog.  We visited every shelter in the area.

“Then one Wednesday in March we walked into Nashville Humane Association to do our normal walk around…  But this day was different.  After our first walk though I went BACK into the small dog room.  When I turned around to leave I got trapped by an open kennel door.  They were returning a dog from a day out.  We looked down into the kennel and saw nothing but teeth staring back at us.  At that moment my heart skipped a beat because I knew my life was about to change.”

And change it did!

Jim Bear and Jennifer began training in agility and now they compete in AKC trials in the area. Jim has his Novice Standard title.

Dog with AKC ribbons
Dog running agility course
Dog taking a jump in agility

Not only is he an agility competitor, but he loves learning tricks and chasing waterfalls with his mom and dad.

Jim Bear hiking with owners
Jim Bear Rigney with hiking vest enjoying the mountaintop views
Jim Bear chasing waterfalls

Jennifer is also a big advocate for canine dental health.

So how did Jim become a contestant on the American Rescue Dog Show?

“One of Jim’s Instagram friends, @jesseunderbite, messaged Jim with the casting call information.  I’ve never had success with things like this so I wasn’t going to do it but Jesse convinced us,” Jennifer explained.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

“We needed to submit photos, a bio, and a video.  I had the photos, knew I could write a bio but I had no video.  I spent the next week on it between work and Jim’s agility class to get everything sent in on time.  By the end of the night I heard back [from the producers] requesting a 5 page application filled out, 16 photos, and 3 videos about Jim and his underbite returned in two days.

“I spent the next two days shooting whatever footage I could on our hike, answering questions, and deciding on final photos.  I spent that entire Sunday fighting with iCloud and YouTube to get everything in on time.  From there it was a waiting game.  I found out we made the semifinals for Best In Underbite mid-November!”

Jim had another first in front of him – his very first flight!

This little dog handled it like a champ. Jennifer told me “There and back, Jim never made a peep. Jason and I made a few rookie mistakes leaving BNA during takeoff  – which left Jim almost halfway out of the carryon.  If you have ever been in that situation, dogs do not want to go back in.  Luckily we had his hedgehog, Hank, and Hank was able to convince Jim back in.  The first hour of the flight was pretty crazy.  Jim never made a peep and the guy next to us with his headphones in had no clue what was happening next to him.  We learned from our mistakes on the way back from LA and Jim was amazing.  LAX is also super dog friendly.  We walked him through the doors, check in, security, and to the gate before putting him in his carryon.  I don’t know if it was because it was LAX or if just no one said anything to stop us.  Either way, it was so great!”

So what was it like being a competitor on such a big show?

“From the moment we arrived in LA we were treated like celebrities.  Someone from the show picked us up from the airport with a sign and all.  They put us in a great hotel and got us to and from set,” Jennifer explained.

Jim Bear with his pawrents at the American Rescue Dog Show

“When we arrived on set everyone knew Jim’s name and were taking pictures with him.  It was so cool considering I was so nervous.  I wanted things to go as smooth as possible and you can’t exactly prepare for everything. They had set up a holding area with turf for all the pups with PAs there specifically to make sure the dogs were comfortable.  They had big kennels set up with water bowls and beds for everyone.”

When I asked Jennifer what her favorite memory was, she had this to say: “There were definitely some first time on camera moments that I know the viewers will love.  You’ll have to watch for some of our best experiences.”

You can cheer on Jim Bear and all the rescue dogs competing on Hallmark Channel  Sun February 17th and Mon February 18th 8pm/7c.

Jennifer added these final thoughts: “Rescues are amazing!  There were so many beautiful and cute dogs there.  I have no idea how the judges made their choices.  Every dog there had found their forever home and were winners already.  I know we won the jackpot when Jim found us.

“Just like when you get any dog, make sure you think before you adopt a pet.  Dogs are so smart and they need guidance.  The space and time you have should be thought about before bringing an animal home.  New dogs and owners make mistakes and you have to be ok with that.  It takes hard work to teach habits and behaviors you desire out of your dog.  They don’t come preprogrammed and you have to educate yourself and your dog. 

“Rescuing a dog can be the greatest thing you ever do in your life.  They teach you new things and help you realize characteristics about yourself you never knew existed.  The love and companionship a rescue dog can bring you will make the worst day the best.”

Good luck Jim Bear – and all you amazing rescue dogs!!

Want to know how your rescue pup can be in the running? Keep an eye on casting call sites such as Auditions Free.

Do you have a rescue or a mixed breed dog and want to compete in AKC sports? Find out more about the AKC Canine Partners Program.

Follow Jim @Jim_Bear_Rigney or www. jimbearrigney.com

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