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Mick Chamber's First Time Ever

The first time or how I got to be at the Vyne show

As a child Mick Chambers always had dogs around the house, and he would have loved to have one or two of his own. When he married Lorraine, they were both in full time employment so they felt it would be unfair to have a dog. They agreed to wait until the time was right. That time was 20 years later!

It's not a long story so, if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin.

Discovering dogs
In 1997 we went to a 'Hug a Husky' day at Wellington Country Park and fell in love with the sled dog breeds. This prompted us to go to
Crufts '98 on 'Working' Day,  primarily to look at these lovely animals. Our 'slow tour' of Discover Dogs took up most of the day, and we jokingly made a shopping list of dogs we liked. On the way home, as a joke I said to Lorraine and Chris, our son who was then seven years old 'so which one are we going to get?'. The discussion got serious, and we spent the next couple of weeks discussing the possibility of getting a dog of our own.

But what breed?
The time was right and all three of us agreed that we were ready to take on the responsibility of a dog. We decided on a puppy as we wanted to be able to have a dog of known background and, at least, some idea of its potential character.

After I was out voted over the Husky by Lorraine and Chris who wanted a Border Collie. We started to read up about them and decided that they would they be ideal for people in our situation. An ad in 'Dogs Today' advertising a litter had a fairly local telephone number, so I rang and asked a few questions. The conversation ended with me getting an invite to come on over and see the pups with Mum and have a chat.

This was where we met Lisa Jeffery and Rosie Rocket with her pups. There were two black and white pups and six merles, blues and reds. Lorraine and Chris picked out the black and white dog. He was only one week old, but they felt he was the one for us. He was called Bryn.

Lisa told us that her Rosie was an agility dog, as was the pups' father, Simon Peacheys' Mr Moss. We thought that Agility sounded like fun, and as we wanted to get as much as possible out of having a dog, we decided to have a go when Bryn was old enough.

Teaching this old dog new tricks!
We joined the Wallingford DTC (because that's where Lisa went) where we did the Good Citizen Bronze Award, or rather Chris did for his Beaver Scout Award. Bryn passed with flying colours at six months of age. At 11 months he started a beginners agility class where we stayed for several ten-week sessions before being promoted to the Improvers class and then on to Class 1 -  more I think for Bryn's potential than my ability. Our instructors have told me that when the two of us got it right, we would do well.

I find that sometimes I take it too seriously and that is when it all goes wrong. Relaxing and going with the flow makes it smoother and more fun, just keep on smiling whatever happens. After all, it is just for fun.

On the subject of fun
On Easter Saturday we went to a country show at Thames, just outside Oxford. The club had entered a team in a flyball competition - two dogs new to the sport and two who were old hands. We were appalling in the first run so carried on as 'not for competition,' just enjoying the day. With a few changes to the running order, things just got better and better. It was more enjoyable and we met a lot of friendly people..

On the Monday we were back for a sport called 'Clever Dogs' which is a mixture of agility and flyball. (I think our American friends call it Flyagility.)

May Day morning and off to Newbury Showground
The Vyne Show followed a week later, and you can guess what happened there. It was our first ever agility competition at the Vyne Club Agility Show. Arriving just before 8:00am, I went and checked the rings for Elementary Jumping as well as Starters Agility and Starters Jumping.

I walked the courses and decided that the jumping rings held most promise of any good runs. I had an early run in the Agility. We got a well deserved 'E.' What a pair! A very fast, long-legged fit young dog and not so fast, not fit enough 45 year old handler.

Putting it down to experience, I checked my estimated run time for the first jumping session. There was time for a look round. I watched the old hands and that's where I got a lot of hints and a boost to my morale. Even those who have been at it for ages can completely mess up and get an 'E.' It made me (if not them) feel better.

The first of the jumping runs started okay. Bryn shot through the weaves without error which caused me to lose my train of thought! This caused me to turn him too early for a left hand jump turn and off course. Oh well, another 'Big E'.

The final jumping course seemed easy enough at first look but had a very tight right hand turn over a jump onto a long jump. Bryn being fast and a big jumper overshot and tried to take the long jump while turning. He couldn't do it and we collected our third elimination.

Talking to several fellow competitors afterwards, they said we had done well!

'Three Es is doing well?' I said astonished.

'Yes,' they reassured me, 'at least you finished the courses! Bryn didn't leave the ring half way round and you're still smiling, and anyway three 'Es' is nothing. A fellow Wallingford handler who shall remain nameless got a full dozen over the Easter Week-end, 12 x Es out of 12 runs.

What next?
I went to Cippenham Sunday morning after a mad dash down the M4. I should have stayed in bed! We were greeted by two ladies who were very wet indeed and had the awful task of informing would be competitors that the show was off due to flooding. What a shame! I was looking forward to competing especially as the judge for two of my classes were to be judged by Mark Saunders who has Bryns' brother, Smudge.

The Bretford Solstice Show on 21st June is our next show when I'll be back for more ego destroying fun. My target for our first year of competition? A clear round rosette!

After all, Bryn and I have the litters' reputation to maintain.  Apart from dad, Mr Moss, who appeared for Wallingford Gold at Crufts this year, Bryn's brother Calamityville Horror (Blue) owned by Layla Delaspee and sister Fraserphire Mist (Saphie) owned by Debbie Fraser have both been placed, Second and First. There is also Mark Saunders with their brother Smudge, while Lisa kept a litter sister Raid, both of whom are showing promise. That is five out of the litter who are in agility. One day we will get the five together for a team event, I have suggested 'The Litter Louts' as the team name!

So what happened at Wallingford?
You may be asking, if I am a member of the Wallingford club, why I wasn't at my own clubs' show the day before Vyne. Well, on Sundays between September and the first Sunday in May, there are 14 nine year olds with first claim on my time. I coach my sons' Under 9 team at Abingdon Rugby Club.

On the day of the Wallingford Show, we were taking part in the Oxfordshire Festival of Youth Rugby, the nearest thing to the county championship. We lost in the final to arch rivals Banbury, who we beat in last years' final at Under 8s!


One year later...
I finally got it, or should I say, WE finally got our first clear round!

It was at the Aylesbury Limited Show Starters Agility. We did the Helter Skelter - a first for us - messed up as I am sure the course shrank after I had walked it. 'E' for that. For some reason Bryn took a dislike to pole no. 4 in the weave in Starters Jumping, hence five faults and another five fault run in Novice Jumping.

After lunch we did Starters Agility, flying round with only the A-frame and finish jump to go. I sprinted to get in front of Bryn to slow his descent and ensure the contact. He got it and I sent him on - CLEAR! I just yelled, made a fuss of him and was 'over the moon' as they say. A fellow Wallingford member congratulated me and told to check my time. The gent with the task of sorting the slips confirmed that we had done a good time, two seconds faster than anyone else.

'if you don't win with that, he said, 'I'll be suprised'. No chance I thought, but what an emotional turmoil the next three hours were. I had gone from being pleased with the clear round to elated at the time and thought of a possible placing to a gut wrenching 'have we/haven't we'. There was another fast dog, a fellow Wallingford pairing who got to within 0.6 seconds of our time, but at the end the class Bryn was the winner.

Can you believe it, our first clear round and we won the class, a trophy and a smart purple rosette with No.1 in the centre, but then it is our first!

Chipping Norton is next and with a chance to qualify for the Crufts team event at Severnside the following week. It's all go in this game.

We finished the afternoon with a very fast Elementary Agility with five faults on the A-frame and a much too fast round in Elementary Jumping, so fast, in fact, Bryn overshot the weave entry. Even taking that into consideration, we were four seconds faster than the leader. If only... I mustn't complain, out of six runs runs we had a first place, four runs with five faults (3 of which I will take the blame for) and 1 'E', and most importantly lessons learnt.

Roll on next Sunday! (13/08/01)

About the author
Mick Chambers
is  45, and has worked for BT. in Oxford for 28 years. Born in Cardiff, he is a passionate Welsh rugby supporter, even in the dark days of the 80s and 90s.

Mick and his wife of 22 years Lorraine live in Abingdon  with their nine year old son Chris and, of course Bryn, or to give him his full KC registered name Royal Oak Bryn Brith. (Brith is Welsh for 'speckled' as he has lots of 'naughty spots' all over his face.)

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