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Bitten by the Bug

Life will never be the same

A little while ago, Theresa McAteer read something that not only made her smile, it made her think back over the last four years to a time when she was free of this contagious disease called Agility. She wrote this article for the Letchworth DTC Agility newsletter about how she and her husband caught the bug.

My husband Bob and I got into agility through reading regular email updates from a friend living in Chicago who, at the time, did agility with her Collie X Chow. It spurred me on to find somewhere to go and give it a try. We found Letchworth DTC.  They were offering a ten week introductory course which is just what we wanted Ė somewhere to  go on a Tuesday evening for a couple of months during the summer months Ė perfect!

MollyThat ten week course was a struggle all the way. In fact, Iím surprised that we didnít drop out after Week 3. All the other dogs in class were full of confidence and showed no fear of anything. Our two were the complete opposite. We had made the mistake of doing everything with the two of them together since they were puppies which had lead to them being overly reliant on each other with no confidence what so ever to try anything on their own terms. This had never presented a problem before until we started agility. The first time we tried the big, bad, scary A-frame Molly just would not do it. Because Molly wouldnít do it, neither would Mika. The same went for the see-saw and the dog walk.

Week 3 seemed like a good time to drop out!!  But we didnít. We persevered and we got through those ten weeks. The girls took to each piece of equipment and became more confident.

We'll never compete... never!
I donít think we ever made a conscious decision to carry on after those ten weeks. It just sort of happened. Before we knew it we were in Class 2. I think we may have discussed carrying on for a few weeks until the winter set in and then by that time we were in Class 3 - all the time learning more and more. One thing, however, that we were sure of was that we were NEVER going to compete!

Thatís why a few weeks later I found myself asking for two Kennel Club registration forms and then sat dreaming up KC names... because we were never going to compete!

The following year we entered our first show! It was actually our own show and we planned to go home each night and come back as day parkers. Someone persuaded us to stay and lent us a tent Ė nothing else Ė just a tent. We borrowed an airbed which we spent 15 minutes blowing up and wondering why nothing much was happening before we realised that there were, in fact, two rubber bungs that should be in and not just one! We woke up the next morning cold and damp but weíd had fun.

MikaOkay, so we would compete but we would only ever do shows within a 50 mile radius of where we lived so it wasnít too far to go early in the mornings and we would be back at a reasonable hour after a long day competing.

This train of thought lasted for all of maybe two or three shows when getting up at the crack of dawn to get to a show by 7.00am suddenly lost its appeal and we found ourselves scouring the ad-pages for a second hand trailer tent. This conversation came up at a BBQ soon after and we were told that we  would be wasting our time getting a trailer tent, that we may as well go straight for a caravan Ė because thatís what we would end with eventually. Well, no offence, but caravans were for old farts who like to hold up the traffic on busy roads!

Welcome to the club
One month later we purchased our first caravan. Basic? Yes. Good enough for going to dog shows? Yes. Two weeks later we bought our second caravan! Two weeks earlier we were never going to own a caravan and now we had two! Sold the first one, loved the second one and happily became a pair of old farts that likes to hold up the traffic on busy roads on many a Friday afternoon!

We were happy with our two dogs and the thought of getting a third just never entered our heads. Then the unthinkable happened. Molly decided she didnít want to run for my husband anymore and before we knew where we were, Sammy had arrived. Only now we had a completely inappropriate vehicle to carry three dogs so we made the decision to sell our nice little family hatchback and join the ranks of the estate owning fraternity. At the time of purchase, I remember standing on the forecourt and thinking that maybe we should go and look at a nice looking transit van that was for sale and just cut out the estate car years! After all, isnít that where we would end up anyway?!

Now here we are, almost five years on, eagerly scanning Agilitynet to see what shows we can enter... because we were never going to compete! Hitching up the caravan that we were never going to buy to an estate car that we were never going to buy, nearly every weekend of the year and setting off with our three dogs that should really only have been two and have we thought about a fourth dog? Well, Iíll never say never again.

And what was it at the beginning of this that I said that I read? 
It was a t-shirt which read 'Agility is not just a sport, itís a way of life.'

So, a very big welcome to all the newbie handlers who have started in the last couple of weeks! You thought you had joined up for a ten week course but the moment you walked in you probably caught the same bug that has gotten the rest of us. Congratulations!

SammyAbout the author...
Teresa McAteer and her husband, Bob started agility just over four years ago with their collie bitch, Mika and their Bichon Frise X, Molly.  After a year or so Molly decided to literally sit down one evening at training and she never ran for her husband again.  Then they got Sammy, a rescue collie.  He had never seen the outside world before and had been kept indoors for the first 18 months of his life.

Sammy took to agility like a duck to water and for the first couple of months all was well until an accident in the garden left him with a dislocated hip which the specialists could not save. The hip was removed and they were told Sammy would never participate in agility again. They were distraught.

However, he confounded the specialists and made such good progress and they gave Theresa and Bob the all clear to let him return to his favourite sport at Allsorts height. You should see him go!

Agility has done so much for not only them but for the dogs as well.  They have made so many good friends and agility has turned two very shy dogs into confident, happy dogs. And after almost giving up in that third week, they are now the proud owners of countless clear round and many placed rosettes.