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Doctors bamboozled by epidemic

Occasionally articles and letters in dog magazines mention that Agility is an extremely contagious disease. Some people catch the illness from friends; others from unknown sources. There are folk who have contracted the bug after tiring of the family collie herding the furniture during Coronation Street, while children can be at risk of developing the winning strain from infected parents while still 'in utero.' Jayne Edwards contracted a rare form of Agility from horses at about age ten. She would like to share her story with you as fellow sufferers.

I loved the show jumping on telly, wrangled rides constantly, and just knew that the money my parents insisted on wasting on shoes, food and mortgage would be much better spent on a pony. I was forced to find solace in our Labrador(ish) Blackie and a vivid imagination. In the peculiar corridors of my mind - no, you do NOT want to go there - he became a fearless black stallion, taking fences and ditches in his stride. 

Good old Blackie
He was a typical Labrador. If an item was vaguely edible it counted as biccie. If not, he followed it over the scariest collection of 'mop and-bucket jumps' for the simple pleasure of fetching it back.

Eventually I realised I had forgotten about horses. Not only was Blackie willing to sell his soul for a mouldy biscuit, he could  pass a scary old crisp bag without sweating profusely, jumping sideways and depositing me on my head! Actually, that is only a half truth. He  pulled  like a tractor despite the Barbara Woodhouse special choke chain - sorry Blackie, I didnít know any better - and he never could pass a crisp bag without insisting I join him in a thorough investigation.

Allowing for the rosy glasses, we were a superb team. Nobody told either of us about gundogs being too slow to work ahead or prone to 'going flat,' and the issue never came up. We spent hours building and running courses, little knowing we had been bitten by a bug we didnít know existed!

Weird or what
By my mid-teens I thought I might be a bit strange. I tried to conceal my odd agility habit from my trendier friends. An inability to step out of the door without a hairy shadow was dismissed as mild eccentricity, but playing at show jumping with a dog would have been the social equivalent of pointy collared shirts and flares. I honestly didnít realise my behaviour was perfectly normal until I saw a Blue Peter episode featuring Agility. That was the very moment I discovered dogs werenít just put over the jumps as a laugh at horsy events; people ACTUALLY DID THIS FOR REAL. I was no longer alone with my affliction.

Agility was not widely available during Blackieís lifetime, so we never got to compete against, or even meet other partnerships. In many ways this is good, as we will always be unbeaten. I have to confess I will never have another Labrador. Blackie has been dead for almost a decade, and I still get a tight throat when I see a shiny black lab sailing to the finish line, then wagging itself in half at a job well done.

I no longer think I am a bit weird... I know I am. For my non-agility friends, 'clubbing gear' is a sixty quid hanky that just covers your bum, and an expensive perfume. When I go out clubbing, I wear hairy trousers and a whiff of old cheese. A search of my many pockets for car keys or money releases clouds of poo bags and slightly unpleasant rope toys, but I donít care. Peculiar I certainly am, but Iím in extremely good company.

About the author...
Jayne Edwards has been competing since 1998 with Rocky, her eight  year old rescue Lurcher. Lurcher people tell her Rocky is ľ collie and ĺ longdog, so unfortunately he is not an ABC despite having a physical disadvantage compared with the BC and WSD. This makes her doubly proud of him for getting to Novice level, and she wouldnít swap him for anything.

She also has Baldrick, a Beardie X Lurcher who is approaching three years old, and an absolute maniac. Her ambition is to have enough time window between him maturing and retiring to qualify for the ABC final. Her fantasy is to get him to Crufts, though the way they are going she will have to smuggle him in under her coat!

Jayne's philosophy is simple/If agility helps her dogs to feel fulfilled in their lives, then she is a successful handler.

TIP

When choosing a black and white rescue puppy from an abandoned litter,
never say 'oh look, a little sheepdog'.

From Lisa Jordan
I had steroid injections in the heels of my feet on Friday at 3pm for a complaint known as policeman heel. When they told me I would not be able to drive for 24 hours my only thought was not for the pain but how could I get to Norfolk! Insanity or dedication.

I got a cover note for a friend to drive my van. Left hospital at 4:30pm, came home loaded van with dogs, waited for Jason and set off about 5pm. So feeling bruised and slightly P***ed from the sedation, I was too sleepy to erect my tent  so slept the night in my dog cage (very comfortable.) I was kindly offered floor space in a tent but not sure how the sedation would affect me.

It does prove one thing, however. What an addiction this agility game is! (10/10/04)