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Mission SA: Army medic transforms shelter dogs into international competitors

Sgt. Alyssa Slifer hopes to change the perception of shelter dogs by showing that patience, consistency and training goes a long way.

SAN ANTONIO — An army medic is taking rescue dogs from the euthanasia list to become international competitors.

Sgt. Alyssa Slifer, who’s always had a love for animals, saw how shelters dogs were often misunderstood.

“When I was 13, I started volunteering at rescues. I just saw such a stigma and saw so many people don’t want rescue animals. It kind of became my mission that I want to show people that mutts are awesome too,” said Slifer.

Dogs at the shelter weren’t getting adopted because of their behavior. Slifer said with patience, consistency and training, dogs can change. She’s proven that to be true with all of her dogs who can do a number of impressive tricks.

“Your dog is bored. Think about it. How long are you standing until you're pulling out your cell phone,” said Slifer. “They don't have anything else to do except chew your couch. I think mostly people don't understand their dogs. That's why they get rid of them.”

Slifer first learned how to train her dogs by researching tips online. When she was 16-years-old, she qualified for an international competition.

“Within 6 months, we got to go to the world championship,” recalled Slifer. “Japan comes over, competitors from China, Europe as well...Czech Republic.”

Since then, she’s continued to compete in local, state and international competitions. She often competes in the freestyle category. The numerous techniques her dogs can do include back vaults, flips, handstands and coordinated balancing acts. In March, Slifer hopes to go to USDDN, an international disc dog competition with her dog Stryker.

“The Japanese are phenomenal at Frisbee. At Worlds this year, I think they took the top 3 spots. They’re just amazing. So, I was just humbled and enjoyed working with them more,” said Slifer.

Eventually, Slifer wants to start her own rescue group and run a program where the dogs are already trained before they’re put up for adoption. You can check out more of Slifer's work and her dogs here.