A new challenge

Kat & MegIn July 2004 Kat Nicholl graduated from university, and left Northern Ireland to emigrate to the Netherlands and live with her Dutch partner. Perhaps the hardest thing to leave was her Border collie Meg, but unfortunately due to co-ownership she couldnít take the dog with her. It was very difficult to not have a dog for companionship or to train and compete with, so she found a dog training school in the city where she lives that trains a wide range of dog sports including agility.

Now that I live here I have become a fully integrated Dutchie - at least thatís the plan if Iím not exiled by the immigration service as I appear to have been branded as an 'illegal alien!'

Kat & Meg doing Obedience at CruftsTeaching
At the dog school, which is called Quiraing Hondenschool and owned by Annette Helder, I have been giving agility lessons and basic puppy behaviour lessons. Of course, speaking double Dutch is a bit of a problem and most of my lessons consist of 'Englified Dutch,' but the dogs seem to get the idea even if their owners donít.

Some of the names of the agility equipment are weird and wonderful, too. The dogwalk, for example, translates to catwalk. Of course, you have the standard Border collies, but it is also lovely to see a wider variety of other breeds including some true Dutch breeds like the Dutch shepherd or the Schapendoes. Try pronounce that when you have had a few to drink... Shhkapenduz or something like that.

Within the next few weeks I am going to start instructing English style competitive Obedience at the school, which should prove to be interesting when Iím learning the names of the different exercises in Dutch. As long as I donít say any swear words by mistake then thatís fine!

As well as having classes to teach, I have also been loaned another Border Collie which is owned by Annetteís Mum to train. This particular bitch is called Caelidh - the collie not Annetteís Mum - and has just turned five years old. If ever a dog could be different to my wonderful calm Meg, then Caelidh is. Caelidh has challenge written all over, but we seem to have clicked rather well and after the first nip on my heel, she seems to now actually hold some respect for me, although that could also come from the titbits.

I am training her for both Obedience and Agility. We are both learning from each other it would seem. I use her as a guinea pig to test out my Dutch commands and she uses me to bounce her energy off. Her agility needs rather a lot of work, and she seems to think that the concept of contacts is a silly idea and prefers to launch herself from a distance well clear of the contact.

Caelidh also loves to hear her own voice although she is quickly beginning to  understand what the English 'shut up' means. When I ran Meg, I think Meg barked once on a course, and I was so shocked that I stopped and looked at her. How on earth do all you folk with barking collies put up with them?! Okay, so thatís the agility.

Obedience I am pleased to report is going much better. Considering I only started obedience training with Cael in the middle of September, she is showing so much potential as an Obedience dog. She is hooked on heelwork, which of course is a great asset for both her and me! Perhaps in a few months we will be entering our first competition together. How weird to go back to Pre-beginners!

Anyhow watch this space and who knows Caelidh may be destined for greater heights in the show ring other than launching herself from the top of the A-frame.

About the author...
Kat Nicholl started doing obedience and agility in 1997 at the age of 16 with her co-owned Border Collie Meg (Megan Pride of Plandail O.W.) Learning from each other, they went from pre-beginners in Obedience and from Starters in agility to achieve the heights of working championship classes in both obedience and agility together.

Meg is a dog in a million, and she has taught Kat all that she knows and taken her to places that she could only dream off. Crufts 2004 was especially very memorable as they represented N. Ireland in the Obedience world cup and were placed third  overall which was more than they had hoped to achieve. That day Meg looked at the thousands of people seated around the main ring and was overwhelmed just like her handler. They reassured each other and again Meg tried her best. She fuelled Kat's passion for behaviour and through being more involved in the canine scene, she changed from doing a Veterinary nursing course to doing Zoology.

Kat graduated in July 2004 from Queens University of Belfast with a BSc. Honours degree in Zoology majoring in canine behaviour. Her thesis involved studying social behaviour in groups of Border collies and will be published next year. 

She now lives in the Netherlands with her boyfriend Sander and is running her own canine behaviour and training business. She loves living here but  enjoys getting back to N. Ireland every few months to see her dog, family and friends - all in that order!


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