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Joanne Harker

Addicted to agility and doodles...

Mention agility to anyone and most people think of fast, sporty, Border Collies speeding their way around a course. Most of us in the know, however, also appreciate that special gang of dogs known as ABCs (Anything But Collies). Joanne Harker has just reached five years of competing within Kennel Club competitions and still doesn't own a Border Collie. Now she's standing for the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council in the North East, and has taken the time to reflect on how her life has changed during those years.

When we got our first dog, I dont think Id ever really thought about agility.  Possibly Id seen it on the TV but thats about it.  I was a typical, nave, first-time dog owner. I didnt think about breed, or what Id want to do with a dog. Then I met a Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle), fell in love and had to have one. Three weeks later we picked up Freddie, a bundle of black fluff that was about to change our lives!

One thing I did know when we got a dog, was that I wanted to train it. Id had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel growing up that Id always wanted to train and wasnt allowed. So, off we duly went to puppy classes with Freddie. That got me into further training, so when the training centre said they were starting puppy agility classes and did I fancy it. Of course, I said yes.

Fast forward just under two years, and my trainer said I might be ready for some 'little competitions.' So I Googled agility shows, ended up on Agilitynet and entered the Weardale show. About the same time, I joined South Durham Agility Club.

Our first ever run was in an Olympia ABC qualifier oops!  Of course, we got eliminated, but I had caught the bug and started competing more and more.  It took a few months to settle in but we soon started climbing the grades, with Freddie currently in Grade 5 (Large).

I clearly have an addictive personality because, as well as getting the agility bug, I soon started collecting more Poodle crosses (aka Doodles.)  Six months after getting Freddie, we rescued a tiny Cockapoo puppy from Many Tears rescue, a little blonde girl that we called Darcey. She competes too and is currently in Grade 6 (Small).  A year later Jasper, a Labradoodle, joined the family.  Ive also got a youngster, who has just started competing, another Cockapoo called Matilda. She has made Grade 5 within two months, so I am very excited about her future!

And am I tempted by a collie?  Erm Ill stick with my curly gang for now! 

So, my addiction with agility continues.  
I have made many great friends in the agility community.

I took my judging exams in November 2011, just over a year after I started competing, and Im in my fourth year of judging at KC shows, mainly in the North of England.  I love judging and seeing some wonderful partnerships progress.

I am currently the Chair of South Durham Dog Agility Club, and am standing for election for the Kennel Club's Agility Liaison Council.  If elected, I look forward to getting 'stuck in' with some of the issues facing our sport / hobby today, and representing the views of the North East region.

About the author...
Joanne Harker lives in the North East with her husband and four doodles Freddie, Darcey and Matilda the Cockapoos, and Jasper the Labradoodle. 

She set up the Doodle Agility League but handed it over to the Doodle Trust who unfortunately are not running it this year. She was also founder of the Northern Doodles, a group of Doodle owners in the North East who get together for walks and social occasions. I

By day Jo is a civil servant, but spends as much time as possible outside of work hours enjoying the dogs with training, competing and judging agility.  Her other passion is treading the boards with her local theatre company, Darlington Operatic Society. She has just started as a volunteer scanner for Harvey's Army.

First published 24 July 2015