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2007 Agilitynet Rescue Dog of the Year

One day Barrie James had a text from a friend saying that there was a short haired, black & white bitch with massive ears on the Rescue Me page that he would like. At the time his wife was away on holiday in Turkey so he replied that it was not the right time. The next text said, 'Take a look...' and that was that. Now that little pup is the 2007 Agilitynet Rescue Dog of the Year.

Let me introduce you to Diva (Ouja Fink), pronounced 'who da you fink.' She is a little rescue WSD from the Dogs Trust in Bridgend who appeared as 'Cora' on the Rescue Me page in November 2005.

At this time, my wife Sam, was in Turkey with her mother for a fortnight, so I replied and said it was the wrong time. The next message read 'I have just seen her. Take a look at Agilitynet rescue page. I think she will really suit you.'

After visiting the site on numerous occasions, I called a friend at the Dogs Trust at Bridgend and said if she was still there in a fortnight I would have her. For the next 14 days, the Agilitynet rescue page was red hot, just in case someone else took a shine to her.

A fortnight passed and my wife returned home from holiday. The first thing she said was, 'Have you got another dog then?' I had planned to get another rescue when my youngest dog Smug (Seriously Smug of Valgray) was seven and she was. I explained the situation, and we agreed to go to the Dogs Trust later that week.

When we arrived I was expecting to go to the kennels, but luckily for me, Lisa at the Dogs Trust had kept her in her home as she lived on site. On first impression, I thought she was quite chunky looking, possibly a Staffy x WSD. How wrong could I be?  My vet thinks she is a whippet cross!

Anyway, I completed all the paperwork and checks, and the following week we went and collected her. She settled in fine with the rest of my pack of six, In fact, it was like she had never been anywhere else.

I did all the playing and basic obedience stuff at home and she used to also come and run around the agility field before and after training with my other dog, Smug. Her agility training started well, but she lacked a little confidence. She mastered most of the basic things by the time she was 15 months, but we hadn't started on the weaves. 

After the sudden passing of my mother in September (RIP), my friend Susie Josty offered to take Diva and Smug for a few weeks to make it easier for me with family commitments. When Diva and Smug returned, miraculously Diva could weave. Thanks, Susie. 

Since that time Diva has gone from strength to strength, though steering can be a bit of a problem on occasion. I must thank our trainer Susie for putting up with me. I know I am not easy to train, and only being able to train for one hour a week, I often bombard Susie with what I want to do. I know I tried to rush our training. Diva will do whatever I ask. She loves to work and will try her heart out for me all of the time, and I thank you D. 

The one thing I will say I have done different with Diva, is that less training with the equipment and more fun with me, toys and games and her faithful piece of Astroturf for her down command. Not having access to my own equipment to use, I trained her to run to a piece of Astroturf at home and then introduced it to floor at the bottom of the contacts. It's working so far. Touch wood.

We still have a long way to go yet, but I can honestly say I would not want any other dog than her. She is only two years old now and to date she's had 11 KC wins and qualified for the Pedigree Novice Semi-final and the CSJ Novice Final.

The Olympia Novice semi didn't really go to plan for us, though she worked really well. We got the big E from taking an extra jump on the course, but with an early running order on a challenging course, we had to go for it. She did get all her contacts and weaves at least.

Diva at CSJ Final

The CSJ Final also was a great experience for us both. We won the Invitation Agility in the morning. I was so pleased! Unfortunately nerves played a big part in the afternoon. We were just three from home, when after getting all the contacts superbly on the course, Diva slipped in the weaves. The commentator was heard to say that we were nearly three seconds up on  the clock at this point. It wasn't to be our afternoon, but I was very happy that we did that well the morning event.

Another highlight this year for me was at Diva’s first Grade 4 show, which was the Kennel Club Festival where she won Grade 4 Jumping and also Grade 4-5 Jumping. 

I did join UK Agility to give her some confidence in the Beginners classes in the winter. So far she has won 18 classes and is currently working and winning at Champion Level. She is my dream dog. I am over the moon!

So after a great first season, I am really looking forward to 2008. We start in Grade 5 and I would like to stay there for a while, as it is very easy to forget Diva is only a youngster. I would like to thank everyone for there encouragement and support the last year and a special mention to Karen Fuller for being the backbone in Rescue Agility and promoting it in such a great way, with the site, leagues and Final.

About the author...
Barrie James (35) lives in Cardiff, South Wales, with his wife of 15 years Sam and six rescue dogs. He first started agility 14 years ago having successfully competed with horses.

His first agility dog was a retriever/GSD X called Simply Smartie who was never the fastest dog at agility, but sure taught Barrie lots about motivation!

Barrie's day job is in customer relations for a large utility company. He is also a Director for Mutley Crew T-shirts and apart-time agility trainer. He is well known for training Susie Josty and Ag.Ch. Spratt Attack amongst others, but probably better known for winning Boozy Millionaire at Easter Eggs'travaganza or being hypnotised at Rugby show in Coombe Abbey.

Barrie trains at K9 Capers in Bedwas, near Caerphilly, and regularly judges at KC shows including heats and finals. He can usually be found at the end of hard days competing with a large takeaway and a few drinks.

First printed on DARL web site


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