Landing on my feet...
Pam Jameson's first thought about agility was that it would be a great form of exercise for her Bedlington Terrier Dash as she had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and couldn't be as active as she would like to have been. She never expected it would test her so much and bring so many new people into her life. They had tried Flyball but found that Dash was totally incapable of catching a ball. Instead he was very good at jumping the barriers in between lanes! Agility it was then.
I took early retirement from my role as an office manager in the Civil Service (Crown Prosecution Service) at the start of the 'austerity cuts' about the same time as I began feeling unwell. Fibromyalgia can be brought on by stress and I admit that I did have a stressful job. While it can't be proven, there was possibly a link there. Then IA worked as an on-line tutor for about five years (Lean business techniques) but, as Capita took over the course provider's business, they wanted more and more for very little return so I decided to retire properly.
In August 2017 I lost my old horse, and I had to move on from many equine friends because it was just too painful to be around horses. I've been lucky to meet new dog people - some of whom are experienced agility competitors and others who are just trying to make sense of it, like me. They've accepted my limitations, pushed me to do more and supplied Dash with all manner of tasty treats.
Our first year of agility went by in a Dash-shaped blur! His zoomies around the arena were legendary – and occasionally involved a jump in it was in the way.
After a break for his boy-op, we started training with Linda Cummings who was able to help me understand the ways of the Terrier. Dash is very sensitive (aka stubborn) so I had to learn to be patient, positive and change my own behaviours in order to start to progress with him.
I like to learn new skills and knew the technicalities of agility would be a challenge and good for my brain. Because I suffer from Fibromyalgia, an incurable, long-term condition that causes muscle stiffness, pain and fatigue as well as problems with memory and concentration, I don't have good co-ordination or balance, I was sorely tested by remembering a course, running around obstacles and avoiding falling over Dash, all whilst looking in the opposite direction in order to achieve the elusive connection! I might be tempting fate, but I've only had one face plant moment so far. That's pretty good going for someone who could trip over a matchstick!
The last month has brought big improvements in our agility, and I now feel that Dash and I are, at last, a team.
We're both enjoying agility and entered Linda's first fun competition. I was running on adrenaline for two days afterwards and am now making plans for the next one.
Dash is a star. He is so laid back and loving and gives lots of attention to anyone who stops by and says hello to him. I'm a good talker and can make conversation with just about anyone so we're probably well matched.
I was inspired by many to continue when I thought we weren't making any progress, specifically my trainer Linda for what she's achieved and her very positive training methods and Selena Bray who quickly summed up the relationship between myself and Dash as well as so many other people who I've met in training groups who have kept me sane when life was challenging and made training nights so much fun.
Pam and Dash volunteer for a charity called Therapy Dogs Nationwide where they go to a school to help four and five year olds with the 'Paws & Read' programme. In addition, they attend an activity unit at Ouston for people with brain damage and stroke damage.
Last month they were also invited to the Teikyo University of Japan in Durham and will be visiting to welcome new students each year.
First published 4th November 2019