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Health Warning

Agility can seriously damage your health

Poison - danger signsSince starting Agility, Soraya Porter has discovered there are several, admittedly rare, complaints peculiar to the sport. Sit back and enjoy this humour look at our sport which first appeared in the Suffolk Five Rivers newsletter.

The first ailment that normally develops is the common ‘Pointy Finger.' This is generally to be found in some part of the canine action shots proudly displayed in photo albums. I challenge you to stop for a moment and examine your snaps, both professional and amateur. Even though you may have managed to miss your head, or other offending parts of your anatomy, from the picture, be assured the Pointy Finger may well have crept in!

A variation of this is the more flamboyant, and perhaps for this reason, less commonly captured ‘Aeroplane Arm(s)’ This involves more co-ordination along the lines of ‘patting your head and rubbing your tummy’. As if steering your dog around an Agility course wasn’t challenging enough; certain individuals can be seen doing Spitfire impersonations as they negotiate the obstacles. Be warned if you have a sudden urge to call your dog ‘Biggles’ or ‘The Red Baron’ you may be incubating this disease.

Next up is a predominantly winter ailment. Competitors for no obvious logical reason, suddenly launch into impromptu break dancing sessions. Normally incited by the clogging up of studded trainers with the peculiarly glutinous and greasy mud found only at Winter Match meetings, victims suddenly find themselves capable of feats of athleticism that would challenge an Olympic gymnast.

These sessions are often conducted at high speed which makes them very difficult to catch on camera! They do, however, bring light relief on cold, wet or snowy days. If you see a competitor with a long brown skid mark on their tracksuit bottoms (or waterproofs for the better prepared) then you can be fairly sure that they have been playing to the crowd. However, before you become addicted to this particular malady, do be aware that the rapid arm and leg movements tend to baffle dogs and can encourage anarchy in your canine partner. I have yet to see a case of mud induced break dancing lead to a rosette of any kind – but I’m willing to be proved wrong!

Dalmatianitis is next on the list.
Before you start writing letters of protest, this is in no way a slur on Dalmatians! Oh no! It refers to the small to medium (depending on the size of the dog) generally circular, bruises that your canine partner in crime inflicts on the strangest parts of your anatomy. Parts that reason tells you a dog shouldn’t be able to reach - even at the height of their excitement at being allowed to use you as a human springboard without reprisal. These bruises appear two to three days after a doggy event and have been the cause of some consternation when the ‘Human Springboard’ has to explain to their somewhat suspicious partner how those bruises got there!

The best solution is to take your partner with you so they can see for themselves. Otherwise the reply of 'The dog did it' can sound lame at best, and at worst, may cause more than a few raised eyebrows!

Toilet humour
Returning to the myriad of problems that accompany the Winter Agility meetings we come to the delicate matter of Underwear. Just ‘nipping to the loo’ takes on completely new dimensions when you have to negotiate the layers of clothing you thought were such a good idea when you got dressed in the dark at five in the morning.

Cast PhotoWinter competitions are not for the weak of bladder as it takes an average five to ten minutes to remove the aforementioned layer in the cramped cubicle of the Ladies loo, particularly if you don’t want any of your items of knitwear to end up down the loo!

Visits also need careful scheduling; after all if you spend too long negotiating your thermals, your class might have finished. This is particularly applicable to owners of mini/midi dogs on days of seriously foul weather. For the image conscious among you I’m afraid sacrifices must be made. You must accept that you will not emerge from the Conveniences in the same state of sartorial elegance that you went in. Cramped conditions and an inbuilt inability to recreate the smooth seal where thermals and outer layers meet, mean that after multiple cold or nerve induced visits, you will have an outline and fashion flare of Worzel Gummidge!

A word of dire warning here, which I can’t stress strongly enough: always, ALWAYS, zip your bum bag containing your dog treats closed before visiting the lavatory. Dog treats in the knickers are never to be recommended under ANY circumstances – particularly if it is liver cake! Not only is it a possible contravention of the rules, but it is extremely uncomfortable. It’s almost impossible to completely extract from the gusset once placed there, and you could be accused of sabotaging other people’s dogs as you innocently pass by. If you find yourself suffering from this agility ailment I suggest you seek immediate medical attention.

So there you have it; a list of the more common agility induced perils – you have been warned. Prevention is better than cure...

About the author...
Soraya Porter trains 2-3 times a week at three clubs - 5 Rivers, West Suffolk and Deben and teaches regularly at two of the clubs. Last year, with the help of the ever supportive Ernie, she managed to survive and pass the Agility Club Approved Instructors Course, which was a real highpoint of my year