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Magic moments in agility

Agility handlers share their personal triumphs and disasters - hopefully not too many of those - with you. If you would like to add your special memories to this page, send your story and photos via an email to Agilitynet.

Going Advanced

by Evelyn Price

I was recently asked to write a few words on 'winning out' so here goes. This is the story of how I got to be an Advanced handler.

I started agility 1991 with a crossbreed called Honey. She was fast enough for me at that stage, and we came second a few times in agility, but not jumping. We didn't do jumping! As I'm also into Obedience, it's not surprising that I liked the control factor as well as the blast. Alas as Honey was very nervous - collapsible tunnels, no way. She'd rather run out of the ring and queue up for a hot dog!

Then I had a beautiful red and white thrown at me. It had been my dream to own a red and white collie. KC was a nice fast, steady dog who couldn't just win Starters. He went right on to win two Novices and go straight to Senior, He did win NCDL final though, but his speed was more down to his shape, and at five I resigned myself that it was cruel to let him carry on as it was starting to give him a bad back. So there here i was won out of Starters and Novice with a nice steady dog.

Next I got a new puppy - just a little farm dog to keep me going. Boy, I didn't know what I'd got, no way! He's so very fast. I should have called him Einstein. We're a good team - he loves to work and I love to work dogs. it's taken us a long time what with injuries and with learning how to control his speed - is speed came pole knocking, but my ultimate dream is now fulfilled, we're Advanced. I would dearly loved to have done it with my KC, but it not to be, so Buzz has done it for me.

The only thing that makes me want to be a Starter again is the constant moaning and groaning among the lower classes where people seem to think they're the only ones to have any fun. Agility is fun. It's a partnership between dog and handler. When we get a puppy, we don't know what it's going to be like. You can only do your best. If your dog is fast enough and clever enough, you'll go Advanced. If it isn't, you'll run your dog in whatever class suits it's speed. There's no point in climbing the ladder, then giving up because the dog struggles in that class, never to get a rosette again. You don't get clear round rosettes in Senior or Advanced, so please stop moaning at the so-called top handlers and enjoy your own dogs. It's not our fault; it's just the way it works. All I can say is you get out what you put in and I know that I give my dogs a lot and they return the favour. We all have fun. Thanks HONEY KC BUZZ

Bad news for you moaners
I've got a rescue and boy does he think life's a ball so if you hear me screaming and shouting at him in the ring - and even taking him out when he's being so naughty there's no point in continuing - just remember I'd rather drag my dog out, than drag it in. What fun is that? Moaning over. Got a big semi final date Monday week. Fingers crossed for Buzz and hope he doesn't cross his legs. And yes, qualify or not, it'll be FUN.

My Rescue Champion

by Carol Hughes

Nearly nine years ago, I took on a tiny scrap of a dog from Valgrayís Border Collie Rescue. I immediately fell in love with her - she was a cross between a Collie and a Labrador, but only measured about 13 inches in height. I named her Valgrayís Mini Mouse, but called her Chocki, as she looked like a lump of chocolate!

I started to train her for agility, which was quite different at first as I had only standard dogs before her. You never really know their full potential at the beginning, but as a few seasons had gone she went from strength to strength. Chocki has qualified for Crufts for six years running and has been to Olympia twice. She has also won four Pedigree Classics at Dogs In Need, plus well over one hundred first places in her career to date.

When the Championship was first discussed, I have got to be honest and say that I wasnít bothered one way or the other, but having a dog that was eligible; of course I wanted to have a go. At the first one we competed in, at The Agility Club Show in June 2001, we were eliminated in the first agility round, so were out of contention. The second was at Rugby in July, where she won both the Agility and Jumping rounds to enable her to compete in the final round, which Chocki also won, thus gaining her first CC.

Having done that, we realised that we might have a chance to accumulate three to become a Champion. We competed in our third Championship class at Chippenham in November, gaining a Reserve CC.

We received an invite from the Kennel Club to compete in the Championship class at Crufts in March 2002, which was a very exciting and unexpected prospect. Peter Lewis was the judge and put up two very testing courses on Friday morning, in which Chocki went clear in both, so it meant that we could compete in the final, in the Main Ring later that day. Another slightly testing course was set up, but not quite as difficult as the morningís. Well, she managed to pull out all the stops and win. Chocki became the first ever UK Mini Agility Champion.

I find it very hard to explain the feeling Ė I am so proud of her, and to me she can never better what she has achieved. It just goes to show what a rescue dog can do, given the chance.

Cassie The Lassie from Battersea

by Glenda Cutler

CassieIt all started a couple of summers ago at one of the agility shows when Glenda Cutler attended with her two dogs Jennie and Sam. She was discussing  the possibility of extending my pack to three with some friends and they convinced me to look for a rescue dog.

When I look at Cassie and remember that conversation that took place on that sunny day, I am so pleased. My friends would be proud of me. As I was unable to get a additional dog until the end of that year, due to a holiday abroad, it gave me plenty of time to make the necessary enquires. One of those enquires was to Battersea Dogs Home. I specifically wanted a bitch Border Collie, and she had to be a merle under a year old and I was prepared to wait. I know it sounds fussy, but I believe that when you take on a dog it is for life, and I knew somewhere out there would be the dog for me. How right I was!

A few weeks before Christmas 2000, Ali Taylor from Battersea phoned me. Yes, they had the ideal dog for me. A blue merle bitch, about one year old with an outgoing personality, just the right dog for agility. She had been brought in as a stray.

Off I went to see Cassie and it was love at first sight. As Cassie had the dreaded Battersea Kennel Cough it was another three weeks before she could come home, but having two other dogs I was not taking any chances with their health! She finally came home about two days before Christmas. We had planned to spend a quiet Christmas at home, but with three collies all romping around together it was, in fact, far from quiet but happy. All three dogs hit if off immediately, the girls are very much alike and have been mistaken for siblings. (I have a red merle Border Collie as well). Cassie settled in immediately Ė she is now top dog, and accepted as that by the others. When I see Cassie running and playing with the others as only Border Collies do, I feel that we were meant for each other. Aahh I hear you say...

The agility training started about three months later and now, one year on, she is ready to compete. She is far from perfect, it has been a challenge and hard work to train her, we have had our ups and downs but I do not regret one moment of it. When I look at her now and what she can do there is no comparison to what she was like a year ago. I know she will be good. I have faith in her, and one day she will prove me right. In the meantime, I am having great fun getting there. If the day ever comes when she will be good enough to go in the Battersea Team for the Rescue Dog Agility at Crufts, I will be the proudest mum around.

The heelwork to music training started about the same time as the agility. Cassie can now twist, twirl, roll over, shake hand and loves every minute of it. This is something I do with the girls to keep them on their toes and mentally stimulated. One day I will compete with Cassie and we can dance together but, until then, we will enjoy learning.

I thank my friends who convinced me to adopt a rescue. I thank Battersea for letting me have this wonderful girl. It has not been easy, there have been problems, but we have learnt a lot together and the pleasure and rewards far outweigh any disadvantages.

Lastly, I thank Cassie for just being Cassie. (21/03/02)

Winning Out of Starters

by Jenny Lovegrove

Saturday, 2 March 2002 is a day that will live in Jenny Lovegrove's memory forever. It happened in Starters Agility at the Mid-Downs Show and she still finds it hard to believe it really happened except that coveted trophy  - a lovely silver photo frame  as well as a red rosette, congratulation cards etc. remind her otherwise.

After experiencing a few years of agility with my beloved Spaniel X Benson (Blueberry Bensie Babes) who is now more or less retired-was a steady and consistent little dog and lovely to work, but I knew he would never be fast enough to win although he was placed many times and we got countless clear round rosettes.

Along came Razz
Flicras Razzamatazz is son of Brian and Joyce Hazellís Border Collie called Lady who is a lovely girl-and fast! As Razz started to progress with his training, I thought, Well, I wanted a fast dog and 'by The heck'
Iíve got one!! I knew I was in for a lot of hard work, and at one time nearly gave up as Razz would not only do his set exercise in lessons but joined in everyone elseís. l struggled to gain control but Kathrin Tasker soon had him sorted for which I was so grateful.

We started to get a few places in competition, and last year won out of Elementary with a second. Even so, I Knew we still hadnít 'gelled' - my fault, not his. But with further the help and encouragement of people at Wallingford DTC and also training days with Dennis Macaulay and Sarah-Jayne Davies, we improved a lot. Thanks guys.

When I walked the lovely flowing courses set by Dennis M. and Sue Culmer at Mid Downs, I thought then that I must give it my best shot. In Dennis Mís Novice Jumping - Part 4, we did a fast time but with five faults. Still I was pleased with Razz as he worked really well.

I then went to watch Sueís S/A course and saw where we could get caught out. On the start line I said to myself itís sÖ or bust. I told Razz to wait so I could call him over the first jump and make sure he got the UP contact on the dog walk, I then 'worked' him over every obstacle and yelled at him for the turns to the seesaw and A-frame on the way back, then from the A-frame into the weaves and a jump to finish. I knew we had got a fast clear and then was told I was in the lead.

Then, of course, itís the dreaded wait until the call went out that the class was now closed. My daughter Karen and good mate Becky kept had to keep checking to see if I had kept my lead as I couldnít!! Then came the presentation with friends and family without support I couldnít have done it. A big cheer went up when I collected the red rosette and trophy, still not believing I had won. Friends who have won out of Starters and gone on to other wins have told me that the starters win is the best, and Iím certain they are right.

My grateful thanks go to Mid Downs and all the other clubs that also organise shows. Your hard work is greatly appreciated.
Also thanks to the judges and ring parties for without you, agility would be the poorer.

Mencap Charity Cycle Challenge

by Nick Jones

Costa Rica, 14 - 24th November 2001

In November 2001, agility competitor Nick (Nicola) Jones completed the trip of a lifetime and in doing so raised £2,500 for Mencap, the charity for people with learning disabilities. She decided to undertake this challenge started after seeing a poster in February 2000 which explained the purpose of the fund-raising and was determined to try to raise the money for them.  However, it turned out to be much more of a personal challenge for her!

If somebody had told me twelve months ago that I would cycle across Central America in just eight days and enjoy it, Iíd have called them a liar.  I completed that trip last week and yes, I did enjoy it.

How strangers became friends
Forty-eight people from all walks of life united in a common purpose - crossing a continent and in the process raising approximately £164,000 for Mencap.  How good did we feel?!!

 Itís hard to describe the mixture of emotions we experienced as we stepped into the Caribbean Sea, having been paddling in the Pacific Ocean just over a week before - elation, relief, joy, pride & humility. Nobody had expected to feel humble but we did, for in our group was Ellen, a lady from Oxfordshire who completed the challenge on the back of a tandem. Why on a tandem? - Ellen is blind.  This challenge was hard enough for an able-bodied person but Ellen tackled it with such gusto  that she was as an inspiration to the rest of us.

Several people overcame real fear - how many people would get back on a bike after a horrific accident the day before? Or carry on white water rafting after being trapped underwater? With the support of the group these people did carry on and, again, left the rest of us in awe. 

The trip was a tremendous leveller - lawyers next to delivery boys, English Professors alongside mechanics, medics and housewives. We met as strangers and will probably remain friends for life. I had hoped for the trip of a lifetime, I got a whole lot more.

I picked Costa Rica for the country and the wildlife, but my memories are full of the people I travelled with as the trip became about our goal and ourselves as individuals and as a team, not a small country in Central America. We went on an emotional & physical roller coaster and all came away smiling, many of us with the intention of completing another charity challenge.

What did I enjoy most about the trip?
Apart from the mud and rain, the laughs and tears, we all had as we worked through one of the most exciting, exhilarating and hard challenges we are ever likely to face will stay fresh in my mind for ever!

For anyone thinking about completing something like this Ė go ahead and do it. You will achieve things you never thought possible and go through what you imagine to be insurmountable barriers.

The added bonus? - a worthy charity benefits a huge amount from your efforts. (21/03/02)


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