Agility is Fun
And it can be funny, too!
Have you got a good agility story to share. Make us smile. Here are some funny tales to start you off.
The Garden Party
As a Rosarian as well as a new person to agility, I had taken my two dogs along with their X-pen with me to go and do some volunteer pruning alone in the city rose garden. As I was pruning, some women arriving at the nearby picnic tables recognized me. There's nothing nicer than getting caught red-handed doing a good deed. They called me over and invited me to join them for the Garden Club picnic that was about to get underway. There were about 25 members that were bringing pot luck items and setting them on a couple of picnic tables they'd covered with tablecloths... In making conversation, I remarked that Buttons, Blondie and I were learning agility the past several months. I decided to give the ladies a little treat - an agility demonstration using what impromptu agility equipment was at hand, an unused picnic table off to the side of the gathering.
Getting Blondie, a 9" 14-month old toy poodle, I set her
down on the grass and said in a clear voice, 'Up. Jump, walk-walk-walk', pointing at the vacant
table to be used as a dog-walk. Only I didn't see her get up there. I turned around to look for
her, and found Blondie proudly and happily walking as fast as she could across the table,
between the potato salads, bowls of strawberries, over the table cloths of the tables of the
Garden Club members who were in the process of serving...
The Derby Twister: A Strange but True Tale!
Derbyshire's 1999 agility show on the 31st July and 1st August basked in temperatures rarely seen in the UK when the thermometer touched 85 degrees (F) on Saturday and peeked at 90 degrees (F) on Sunday, although more freak weather conditions were to come before the end of the show.
On Sunday afternoon at about 2.00 pm a piece of agility history was made when the showground was hit by a tornado, this time, the weather kind rather than the Jo Rhodes and Kelbie kind. Approaching across the nearby A38 the funnel of wind which was already carrying a pile of debris, grass and paper decided to lift a garden umbrella out of it's stand and carry it some 60 feet into the air. Clearly the tornado was reaping a vengeance on the owner who was just taking an afternoon rest after working hard the previous day on a ring party.
The umbrella was twirled some 350 feet through the show ground although some first reactions from the competitors were more concerned with the stupidity of someone flying a kite over the rings at an agility show, rather than the potential danger it presented to all the handlers and dogs. After the umbrella landed briefly in Rings 3 and 2 it finally came to rest in Ring 1 judged by Keith Brookes who managed to stop a dog and competitor running to judge the umbrella. After clearing several jumps the umbrella unfortunately missed a contact point incurring 5 faults and knocked down a couple of jumps for a total of 15 faults, which proved to be quite a lot better than some handlers on such a hot day.
The tornado then proceeded past the secretary's tent, missing it only by inches probably because the secretary had taken out insurance for such an occasion, and hit a transit van next door, partly ripping a tarpaulin from the roof and scaring the hell out of the dogs inside. It then moved through the club camping area battering several caravans and cars in it's path before leaving the show ground for a residential area, never to be seen again. After retrieving his umbrella intact the owner John Gilbert admitted to seeing it flying through the air and noticing that "it looked familiar and very like his own". Thankfully John didn't get caught up in the tornado with his umbrella to give everyone his own rendition of Mary Poppins!
After a very short and impromptu DDAC committee meeting, Tornado Annabelle was named and the Derbyshire Show became the first agility show in the UK to be hit by a twister and survive with no damage. Needless to say when everyone had gone home at 6 o'clock on Sunday night British weather returned, the heavens opened and torrential rain hit the showground providing welcome relief for the dogs and those remaining behind to clear away.
At the end of the show the secretary was heard to say
that she had booked lots of sunshine for the show but couldn't remember putting a cross in the
boxes where it said 'Do you want a tornado or torrential rain?' Still, you can't remember
everything when you're running a show, can you?
Illustration: W.W. Denslow in The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Rand McNally & Co)
The Very Good Dog
In the run up to our show in 1998, I received a phone call from a gentleman from deepest Devon with one of those rich rolling accents. The conversation ran a bit like this:-
Competitor: I'm just filling in this here schedule and I'm not quite sure what classes my dog's eligible for, can you help me sort it out?
Show Secretary: Of course I can. Has your dog been to a show before?
Competitor: He has indeed. This will be his second show.
Show Secretary: Right, so how did you and your dog get on at the show?
Competitor: Oh, he's a very good dog, a very good dog indeed.
Show Secretary: Did you win anything?
Competitor: We did indeed my maid.
Show Secretary: (Taking a deep breath) Right, so if you tell me what you won, I'll be able to tell you what classes you can enter at our show.
you, well - we won a bottle of wine in the raffle.
The Watford Agility Show: From the Perspective of a Damp Ring Manager
Lincolnsfield Playing Fields witnessed a kind of concentrated insanity on Saturday, 24 October 1998 as agility folk demonstrated exactly to what lengths they will go to pursue their sport of choice. We probably should have known after being an April weather casualty that the weather gods wouldn't let it go that easily.
Friday was okay. Just the odd shower. Sunday was great, but on the big day it rained, and it rained, and it rained. I thought we had thought of everything, but when putting together the list of vital show equipment no one thought hmmm...jumps, tents, ring ropes, rosettes, and oh, and don't forget the ark!
The show must go on
In the Helter Skelter ring we saw some amazing displays of courage under spray, plus a few wet dogs in the queue trying to tunnel into the tent, having quite obviously had enough. Poor lambs! That's one thing I will say for the rain, it sorted out the dogs from the pups. The benefits of a forward working dog were very apparent in my ring as we feeble two-legged ones tried to stay upright in the mud. However, just in case some are feeling smug at this point, an enormous number of these decided to take the Number Two obstacle again and get eliminated while their handlers tried to get there in one piece.
A special mention here to my own ballistic Heinz 57, the lovely Oh Rosie!, for getting eliminated by doing Number One again instead of Number Two. I am reliably informed that this was unique, and was actually quite a difficult elimination to achieve under the circumstances.
The spray flying off the collapsible tunnel was quite spectacular. Not a few dogs changed their mind halfway down the canvas and went into reverse gear. Some were obviously just not having a good time in the mud and constant downpour, but most dogs still gave it 100%, which I think says a lot about how much dogs enjoy their agility. I don't think I will forget the poor dog which frantically circled on the table looking for a dry bit to jump off onto. By this time, it was surrounded by a sea of mud. The dog jumped off eventually, but I think if it could it would have closed its eyes and held its nose.
By the end of the day the dog's feet had disappeared into the mud up to their ankles (do dogs have ankles?) but the brave handlers and soggy dogs just kept coming. A lot of people left early, and this was probably quite a wise decision - they got out before cars started getting stuck - but many stuck it out to the bitter end. I have to give all credit (and more) to the army cadets here. They spent the afternoon pushing, pulling, and otherwise extracting mired vehicles from the field. I saw one overcommitted lad go down face first at one stage. Drivers of 4-wheel drive vehicles also proved worth their weight in gold.
Behind Every Cloud
A cheering thought though - this was the last outdoor show this year. We can all look up at a roof with a sigh of relief for the rest of the season. To those weather gods up there - ha, ha, we did it anyway. We Watfordians don't give up easily.
Answers on a postcard please.
I had one final thought as we cleared up (getting
a quart of equipment into a pint pot of trailers in the process), 'I wonder what the Council
are going to say about that field?'