The Highland Lakes has the nation’s No. 1 athlete on four legs.
It’s Jack O Lantern, a two-and-a-half-year-old Afghan Hound, who is a lure coursing champion who clocked 28.08 mph in 2021. He runs courses in all sorts of shapes while chasing a trash bag. Dogs may not always follow the course the way it’s designed, so the dog that finishes first in the race may not be the winner. Dogs must show an ability to follow the designed course while the trash bag leads the way. The bag takes various sharp turns, reverses course and other moves that challenge the dogs.
“He is officially a field champion, senior champion lure courser,” said Jack’s owner Nancy Ebeling, a Marble Falls resident. “He can do the 100-yard dash in six seconds. (The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) won’t let them chase stuffed rabbits anymore. It’s supposed to be how they chase game. Cutting corners is cheating. At the end, they bite the trash bags.”
Jack got his name because he and his relatives were born around Halloween. His cousin, Blazin Saddles at Star Drift, is ranked No. 3, while sister Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, is No. 7.
Afghan Hounds have been helpers to mankind for thousands of years. The breed is thought to date back to the pre-Christian era and is considered one of the oldest dog breeds.
“This is how you got your food back then,” Ebeling said. “Your dog ran it down for you.”
The daughter of Robert and Jean Ebeling has been an animal lover and their caretaker for decades, which runs in the family. Robert and Jean met at the Houston Livestock Show showing cattle. Jean was a horse jockey.
The younger Ebeling started with showing cattle. One was crowned the grand champion of the 1970 San Antonio Texas Livestock Exposition. Ebeling was 14 years old.
“I had difficulties relating with my family, but I got along with all my animals,” she said. “Every morning, I’d take the animals with me and disappear until it was time to come in. I showed cattle my whole life. You learn to work, you learn to win, you learn to lose graciously.”
When she became a parent, she wanted her daughter, Marie, to do something similar. They raised a goat, chickens, a hog and a lamb.
“But we lived in the city,” Ebeling said. “This was a house, not a farm, so we had to get rid of the chickens.”
They decided to show dogs, and “Marie was quite good at it.”
Ebeling enjoyed watching them compete and decided to join in the competitions, too. She also has another show dog, Joe, a small Australian Shepherd, that has won for his obedience.
To say that her pets keep her busy and entertained is an understatement. On the top floor of her home lives a cat. Ebeling checks on her daily, which doesn’t sit well with Jack. To keep the two apart, Ebeling installed a fence. But Jack, who is known for his intelligence, figured out a way to unhook the fence to make his way upstairs. As soon as the cat and dog saw each other, it was on. The cat backed up into smaller spaces that lured Jack to follow, eventually going into the attic.
“Then he jumps for her and goes into the sheet rock,” Ebeling said. “You know how people are when they are slipping and losing their footing on solid ground? That’s what happened.”
Jack fell from one floor to the next.
“He broke his neck and he’s not going to suffer,” Ebeling thought as she made her way down the stairs. “But he meets me coming back up the stairs.”
Needless to say, Jack didn’t suffer a scratch and was ready for the next adventure.
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