Thursday, 26 July 2012

Caerphilly: By Postman Chas

I arrived at Agility Training on Friday....or so I thought! I got out of Mummy's car and she handed Gail and Lesley a box with my favorite things in it (Food, treats, bowl, toy, the best doughnut bed in the world EVER). I barked at them to tell them to hurry up and stop faffing so we could play agility but they kept chin-wagging. The Skinner dogs started joining in with my barking, I think they wanted to get out and play agility too, they wouldn't be barking at me, of course.
My Mummy gave me a hug and a squeeze and left me with Gail, 'that's fine, Auntie Gail can play agility with me, she did earlier in the week' I thought. But Gail did not play with me, she put me in a crate next to Stitch and underneath Baby Elephant feet; Voodoo and we hit the road at about 3.30pm to go and see some Whales, which I know live in the sea, so I remained excited, because I like the beach.

There was no beach or Whales when we got to where we were going (after a small detour thanks to TomTom... not my Daddy Tom, he doesn't make mistakes.) but the Skinner Pack were excited to be where ever we were and the Skinner People made us a Garden to play in. Here we are waiting for further instructions on where to find the Whales:

Voodoo kept annoying me to play with him, he has big feet and I'm not sure what he thinks he is doing with them, but he kept bopping me on the head with them, I did tell him that I didn't like it, but he kept it up any way. Gail and Lesley told Voo he needed to stop hassling me but his Mummy Hex stayed out of it (too busy sunning herself), so I turned to my crate neighbour Stitch; he's actually alright you know. I wasn't sure I'd like him at first, he has an annoying voice and looks funny, but he knows how to deal with Voo and let me tag along on his walks and hang out in his part of the garden with him. 

I had a lovely Dinner that night, Gail knows just how my Mummy does it - she must be a mind reader!

The next morning we were up early and it turns out we were not going to see Whales, we were actually at a show to catch DRAGONS!!! I did not sign up for this! And where was my Mummy?! I'd hoped the Dragons hadn't got her. Stitch went out and got the first Dragon of the day, Dragon's aren't as scary as they are made out to be- they are quite small and stay relatively still. Here's me and Stitch making sure his stays put now that we've captured it!:

The Skinner's seemed very happy with their Dragon and as much as I was enjoying my walks and time in the caravan, I was starting to wonder if I'd get a go and catching a Dragon myself. Especially as Lesley seemed to have lost the knack of it with both Hex and Stitch. Apparently she kept coming really really close but little things kept going wrong. I went to bed Saturday night after a nice long walk with Stitch but still no more Dragons.

When Gail woke me up on Sunday morning she said it was MY turn to try and catch a Dragon, but that I'd have to wait until the afternoon. I waited patiently at the Caravan:
After Lunch Gail and Lesley took me in my cool coat to the next field and much to my delight I saw AGILITY! I wasn't sure what this had to do with the Dragons but I sure was excited to join a queue, 'maybe my Mum will turn up now so that we can have our go' I thought. As Gail took my lead off on the start line I started to realise my Mummy was not going to come and play with me, so I thought I'd give it my best shot with Gail (although I couldn't help thinking about where my Mummy could be on my way around the course). I did a clear round and that made lots of people smile and give me cuddles.

Not long after that run, I had an Agility run, I tried to be good for Gail and do my contacts, I did a lovely A-Frame but decided that I would then have some fun and played Diving Board on the Dog Walk - Gail didn't see the funny side and told me to do it again properly... for FREE, no treats! The cheek of it!

My third and final run was a jumping run again and as it was my last run I thought I'd give it my all, everybody was pleased with me when I did another clear round. Apparently this run had won me the opportunity to go and hunt a Dragon! Where was my sister when I needed her?! She loves chasing birds so the idea of Dragon hunting would no doubt delight her....or so I thought. It turns out the Dragons were hiding, yes HIDING from me in the Marquee - Not much of a hunt after all, the Judge from earlier in the day handed one to Gail and that was it. Gail told me my Mummy would be very happy with the Dragon (she needn't know that I only had to do some agility to capture it).

Here I am with my Dragon and the round I did to get it:

And here are some of my friends with their Dragons:

We left later that day and I was reunited with my sister Zara to await my Mummy's return....I wonder if she saw any Whales?


Gail & Chas - 1st, 1-3 Jumping
Gail & Chas - 6th, 1-4 Jumping
Lesley & Stitch - 1st, 1-7 Circular Jumping
Lesley & Hex - 8th, 1-7 Collie Sprint
Mike & Bonnie - 2nd, 1-3 Jumping
Mike & Bonnie - Clear 1-3 Jumping
Ant & Amy - 3rd, 1-2 Agility
Ant & Amy - 10th, 1-2 Jumping
Gill & Mollyanna - 3rd, 1-3 Jumping
Gill & Kassey - Clear, 1-7 Circular Jumping
Gill & Kassey - Clear, 4-7 Jumping
Helen & Lily - Clear, 1-2 Jumping: Their first Clear and what an achievement with such a difficult dog!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mud Slinging


One of my favourite shows of the year; great trophies and pretty rosettes, great company, a Cider Tent, lots of stalls, the beautiful backdrop of Berkeley Castle with a large exercise area but this year was different... I was ill and the show ground was threatened by a rising river and MUD!

Now, lots of shows have been disappointingly cancelled by rain and flooding this year but last weekend Lansdown went ahead (and I hear incurred costs of over £1,500 having everyone towed offsite in doing so). Tuffley also bravely opted to go ahead.

The entrance to the camping was trashed before Friday evening and people were being towed to their pitches from day one, by Saturday the path ways between rings resembled that of a festival and by Sunday the rings were holding some surface water (particularly Ring 7).

Spirits AT the show were reasonable high, Tuffley had a number of 4x4s assisting with moving people around and everybody seemed well prepared with waterproofs and a 'once you're wet, you're wet' attitude. I scribed for Dairin on Ring 7 on Saturday (it was all I was good for) and saw 2 handlers end up on their bottoms but not a single dog nose-dived (whilst I remember - Thank you to the A-SITters who lent a hand on this ring when the people who were down to help were nowhere to be seen).

What seemed to put a downer on what was otherwise a salvageable event were the comments made on Facebook about the 'risk' factors of the mud. People hiding behind their computer screens, 'trolling' as Matt puts it. I would say that pretty much everybody having a 'dig' at the organisers and competitors had not actually been to the show ground and seen the rings for themselves. There were a couple of pictures posted on Facebook but most were of the festival-type walk ways BETWEEN the rings, not actually of the rings. And people were therefore opting to stay at home based on that and other things they had read on the internet posted by people who weren't actually at the venue. Here is what I would say is an accurate picture of Tuffley at the END of the show (so at it's worst) taken by Debbie Fuller. You will see that the walk-way is trashed but that the rings still contain grass.
Judges carefully constructed their courses around the worst part of the rings which had been used the day before, if they are anything like me, they would have thrown away course plans which they had planned weeks in advance in favour of a course they designed on the spot using what they had in the way of ground and reducing any tight, twisting manoeuvres. Handlers ran through the muddier bits (and the odd puddle by Sunday) and dogs were left running on the green stuff.

For not the first time this year, we walked each course and made our decision on whether to run our dogs based on each individual course and how the ground was used in that ring. Anybody who knows me, knows that my dogs are the most precious thing in the world to me, I would do anything for them and love them with all my heart. So it is understandably upsetting to read comments on Facebook insinuating that people running their dogs at Tuffley didn't care for their dogs safety or love their dogs enough. Based on the fact that these people were not at the show to view the ground or courses for themselves I can only assume that they did not want to get their hair wet or their clothes muddy and therefore used the risk which they could not actually accurately assess as an excuse which reflects well on them and badly on others who were just trying to make light of a bad situation.

I don't know Kirsty Bennett but she wrote this on the Agilitynet Facebook page and I think it is a fair description of the show:
"Just back from a lovely day at Tuffley. Yes, it was wet and there was mud but we were safe enough and I saw no dogs slipping at all. Best of all, nobody was moaning!! We walked a course with a few puddles in it and everyone was joking about whether the puddles were part of the course instead of whinging about the position of the obstacles :) It was lovely! Most of the rings were just a bit muddy, not too wet and certainly no problem for my dogs or, miraculously, for me! Thank you to Tuffley for keeping the show going so I could make my own decision about running my dogs and to those of you who didn't come so I could get all my runs in before 12 and be home in time for an afternoon nap ;-) Definitely booking camping next year!"

In the past year Hex has hung herself on a tyre (below, for those who haven't seen it), spun herself off a dog walk and caught a jump at a funny angle putting her out of action for 5weeks, all 3 of these incidents happened on bright sunny days.

Coincidentally a dog also dislocated its hip on a tyre at the KC Festival the same year this video was taken (on a beautiful August day). Agility is a sport which contains an element of risk, (most sports do!) the weather can increase the risk, but it also increases the risk when you walk your dogs or throw a ball, even driving your dog to the vets has increased risks when you drive on wet roads or in the fog. The way my guys push each other around on walks (see video below) they'd be far more likely to injure themselves tearing around on a walk that day than under control for 30seconds in a ring. If you really don't want to put your dogs at risk, don't do agility! Do Obedience, if it's a Pedigree, then show it but don't judge me for letting my dogs do what they love best whether it's wet or not.

Some of the top handlers in the UK ran at Tuffley, if the conditions of the ring were that bad, do you really think that they would not only risk their Champ dogs, but also their reputations and in turn their careers for running their dogs in such conditions?

If you want unfavourable conditions let me take you to the European Opens 2010 in Liberec with the following video. I wasn't there, so I am unable to pass judgment based on media propaganda as to how bad the entire European Open was, but parts of the rings shown in these clips look pretty dire. A couple of dogs do slip and/or misjudge jumps (which often happens at most shows) but this video actually provides an extremely good look at how well our K9 Counterparts cope with uneven surfaces, wet surfaces and tight turns - you can see every limb and muscle working wonders in slow motion. We must remember that much like the vehicles towing everybody around the show ground, our dogs have '4 wheel drive' and are built for what they do. We on the other hand have two wheel drive; our brains, not our bodies are the strength of our species and that's why most of the competitors in this video end up flat on their arses!  

My dogs will always be pets first and foremost but I employ them to do a job and that job is agility, I give them holidays, I give them time off when they're sick and I pay them a pretty sweet wage in toys, livercake, food, walks, a roof over their heads, specialist treatments at SMART and they love their job raining or otherwise. Much like Sheep Dogs, Gun Dogs, Sniffer Dogs and Search & Rescue Dogs my dogs see Agility as their purpose and as working dogs they thrive in their working environment. 
The last show Sprite attended, his joints and kidneys were failing him, he had one eye, I had retired him 2 months prior and I decided to take him for a lead walk in lunch break, as we passed a ring he pulled on his lead and sat in front of a jump in the ring ready to start a run he was not physically able to do - nobody can tell me that my dogs would rather have a walk than go to a show and run.

This is not a well constructed piece of writing, despite my A-Level in English Literature I would still disappoint my teachers by not planning my piece, I just write things as they appear in my head and type it how I'd say it - hopefully it makes sense. Nobody made any comment DIRECTLY aimed at me, but that doesn't mean that their comments on open social networking sites and forums didn't have an effect on me. My main point I guess is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, everybody has had different life experiences and have taken different life lessons from these, everybody's dogs are different, some more careful then others, some like the mud, some don't and that's fine. I respect that some people saw it as too much of a risk and wanted to stay warm and dry but some people stated OPINION as FACT and that's just wrong - suit yourself and don't sling mud based on the speculation and cynicism you have picked up from others; Negativity breeds negativity. Let those of us who want to sing in the rain do so. No matter where you go, or what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. (I am aware that my English teachers would now be disappointed with my use of punctuation).

Tuffley Results:

Anthony & Amy - 6th, G1 Jumping
Gill & Kassey - 9th, 1-7 Jumping
Gail & Stitch - 1st, 6-7 Jumping
Gail & Stitch - 1st, 1-7 Jumping
Gail & Stitch - 3rd, 6-7 Agility
Gail & Stitch - 4th, 1-7 Agility
Gail & Hex - 11th, 1-7 H/Skelter
Gail & Hex - 20th, 1-7 Jumping

Monday, 9 July 2012


Lansdown used to be a show I really enjoyed; although usually there were only 2 runs per dog, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and a good boogie at the evening Disco.
Last year I came to realise that actually, I only properly enjoyed the show as part of the Club running it. Once I left Clifton I no longer could camp in the inside enclosure and Ring 1 seemed that much further from the camping and Ring 7 seemed that much further from the day parking.
2 Runs per dog hardly seemed worth the effort, so instead of going to the hassle and expense of getting my camping stuff together I would day-run the show, therefore missing out on any evening entertainment...which for all I know, no longer goes on?
But it is relatively local which means I can go and support lots of A-SIT members and this year there were 3 runs available for each of my dogs!
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like the show, it's just that it's no longer one of the shows I look forward to each year and when something has lost it's special appeal, it seems almost more disappointing than if it had never been special in the first place.

Anyways this year A-SIT were asked to run a ring party on the Sunday which with our growing club numbers I estimated to be no problem at all. I took a show of hands and we agreed to it, thinking it would be a good way to make the show special again and raise some funds for the club's gazebo.
Running a ring as a club can be good fun and a nice social team building exercise, the only problem is that most of our members are new to agility and are therefore all in the same classes disappearing to walk courses at the same time and also have not done any ring partying before! So every time I got excited about it, I then got equally nervous. On Saturday I was then given more of a reason to panic when I had another attack of what I have now had diagnosed as Pancreatitis. I have been told that when I have these attacks I should go straight to A&E to be admitted to Ward 2 and monitored until they pass, but I figured I could monitor myself and that providing I stayed seated I would be no better off in hospital than I would in a score tent (less the drip) so Mum reluctantly drove me back to the show Sunday to manage my Ring from a chair. Was it stupid? Yes, apparently extremely stupid, but it was worth it? - Our Ring ran like a dream.

We were never short of staff or smiles, we received compliments on our cheery nature from the competitors and from the judge on our efficiency in running the classses and changing the courses. Our judge, Paul, was coincidentally also a happy chappy when you consider the weather conditions and that he had to keep tweaking his courses.

A special thanks must go out to Claire, Rosie and Jennine (along with her daughter Emily) who came out to help in the rain even though they didn't have any dogs entered at the show and to Mike & Anne who have only just joined us, added their names to our helpers list just the week before and offered our Judge a great amount of help first thing Sunday morning when Mum and I were running late because of my struggle just getting to the show as well as helping throughout the day. O and Sarah C who helped Paul set up Saturday evening.

Thank you Ring Party! I know I could only bark orders from a chair but I really, really appreciate every single persons contributions and the understanding and concern everyone showed for my lack of mobility, we could not have done it without each and every one of you and we have been invited back to run a ring next year, which I have accepted knowing that if we did that good of a job this year with THAT weather, depleting numbers and an incapacitated Ring Manager - well, we can handle anything!

RESULTS (taken from Agility Club website so sorry if I've missed anyone, let me know and I'll add you on!):

Anne & Chas - 2nd, 1-3 Jumping
Anne & Chas - Clear
Anne & Zara - Clear, G3 (Their 1st Clear round at their 2nd Show)
Gill & Mollyanna - 3rd, 1-3 Jumping
Gill & Mollyanna - 4th, 1-3
Gill & Mollyanna - Clear, 1-3
Anthony & Amy - Clear, G1 Agility
Gail & Stitch - 2nd, 6-7 Jumping
Myself & Stitch - Clear, 4-7 Jumping
Gail & Hex - 14th, 6-7 Jumping