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Are we mad or just addicted?

Richard and Sheila Partridge took on a second-hand Papillion.  He was - and still is - a super little chap. The only thing which prevented him settling down into his new family was that he had been trained in Agility and they had not! What we do to accommodate our dogs!

Bandit tried so hard to jump onto, over, under and through things to please us, but was getting frustrated because we could not wave the right arms and say the right words to encourage him. Partly through this and partly because I was feeling a pressing need for exercise, my wife, Sheila, and I joined an agility club. I took Bandit and Sheila took our tiny Yorkie Poppy, who has already plastered her paw prints over these hallowed pages.

In our ignorance we imagined that we would toddle along on a Wednesday evening, run around with the pooches, have a bit of exercise and socialising, then quietly return home until next week. How can a person who is generally considered to be fairly intelligent, be so wrong?

Time flies
We started in late Summer. The year progressed to Autumn and then Winter came upon us. We soon discovered that a barn with wet sand floors is cold - very cold - but we all kept turning up. We were invited to a Sunday morning training session, outside in January. It rained, and the only reaction of the trainees was to mutter such things as 'It always rains at time like this, doesn't it' and turn up our collars, still grinning bravely.  The seasons turned - Spring became Summer, and the previously freezing barn became like a sauna, breathing became difficult when sitting, impossible when chasing a dog. But we kept going, we kept enjoying it.

As the winter progressed and the season started and our fingers began to thaw we found that we were being 'encouraged' to enter competitions (note, our encouragement came from 'DW' of Hailsham. If you identify this person you will realise why I have used inverted commas!) 

So, instead of having a pleasant lie in on a Sunday, we found ourselves happily crawling out of bed before the cockerels were up and hauling off across the country to run after our dogs in strange fields, usually with spectacular lack of reward. Humiliating enough in front of strangers, excruciating in front of people we know.

About this time we decided that one training night a week was not enough, so we joined other clubs. We are now out three nights a week.

At this stage we had three dogs. The other one is an elderly Pap which we inherited from Sheila's Mum when she was no longer able to keep him.  Although he has never done Agility, it was through him that we originally met the aforementioned DW, so all of our problems can be placed firmly at his paws.

This picture was taken just before Christmas when Bandit failed miserably at a show - his fault, of course - and was stuck into the oven. If he wanted to act like a turkey, they threatened to cancel the order with the butcher. (Joke)

Sheila voiced that, although she loved our dogs to bits, she had a special soft spot for rescue mongrels. Enter Murphy, a ten week old collie X from Ireland, immediately identified as the sole example of a pedigree Irish Twerphound (I: At a companion dog show I entered him as this breed and that is exactly what was written on the sheet!)  Imagine if you will 20 or so 50' long bungee cords stretched to their limit and you have some idea of the energy wrapped up in Murph.

At about six months old we introduced the pup to agility. Now we have:-

  1. Bandit - a sound reliable competitor able to interpret his handler's every command and would be very successful if the handler gave the right command
  2. Poppy - a bit of a circus act
  3. Murphy - a complete idiot, who is willing to learn, but 'just a minute, this looks interesting.' 

We are out three nights a week; we are out most weekends; we get wet, we get cold. In order to accommodate all these hounds on the move, we now have to change our nice comfortable car for a van!

BUT WE CALL IT FUN

Then I discovered Agilitynet*. In browsing the pages I discovered that there are many others like us. Not only do they do the same things as we do in the name of enjoyment, but they actually admit it!!  I will confess that I was barmy enough to send one note about a dog's first round written in the first person, but cannot take responsibility for the other one. I read of embarrassments which have happened in the public gaze at a local level being published to a much wider audience. I read of folks who have spent a whole weekend of cold, rain, agony and failure, and then tell the world.

Now all of this must surely beg the question. When we go to training or to a show and hear all that noise, is it the dogs that are barking, or is it us? 

Editor's note: Richard was not paid to say this!

About the author...
Richard and Sheila Partridge joined Just Minis Agility Club when it first started around 18 months ago. They had Bandit, a second-hand ready trained Papillon and Poppy, the mini-mini Yorkie who you have already met.  Entirely unexpectedly they have become more involved with Agility and competing, and are now busy training their new Collie X Murphy, who is now just on a year old. Hopefully he will have his first competitive run at Stour Valley in late summer. He is a completely fresh challenge because despite our orders to him he did not stop growing at Midi stage, so they now have a Standard to cope with!