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Samantha Lawrence

French Agility Champion ((Under 11)

Samantha  Lawrence and her family moved to the French region of Brittany (Bretagne) from the UK in 2004. At the time, her mum Theresa was a Senior handler but Sam was just not interested. All that changed when, at the age of eight, she started to train her first agility dog. Sam battled through very poor health but kept up with her agility. Her proud mum said that she could run their Border Collie Kye (Touchango in Time). The partnership clicked, and Sam ended the season as Junior French Agility Champions (Under 11). She wrote this article which first appeared in Fetch, the YKC magazine.

Junior Agility in France is very different from the UK.  All the juniors have to run the same course as the adults. We have to walk the course at the same time but cannot run until the end. Unfortunately in France, you can only run as a junior until you are 14 and then you have to run as an adult.

At first it was very difficult working Kye as she was faster than I had been used to and used to suddenly change direction before I could do anything about it.  After quite a few eliminations and a few tears - Kye and I started to bond and were making a good partnership. I then qualified with Kye for the French Regional Championships where I had two fantastic clear rounds to win my class and became the Brittany Agility Champion (Under 11s).

After speaking to Mum, I agreed to represent Brittany at the French Championships which were to take place in the Limousin region of France.

In August, just after her tenth birthday, Kye had a mild stroke. She was on medication for a couple of weeks and seemed to return her usual self.  After speaking with the vet who agreed that Kye was fully recovered and full of life as usual, we decided to go ahead with the Championships.

Vive le competition
The weekend came and we prepared to leave on the Friday morning. Off we went with the dogs and all essentials packed into the car. After a nine hour journey we arrived at our destination, Limousin. By this time, both Mum and I were very nervous.

We had to be at the venue early. By 7.30am all the representatives from many regions of France were collecting ready for the Parade of Regions. Each region entered the hall, one by one, carrying their various flags etc. This was a fantastic experience for all the kids - around 120 children in all.

Finally the competition started with two agility rounds. Unfortunately it was an inside venue with a very slippery carpet which Kye had never liked and usually slowed her down. Nerves were really setting in. Finally it was my turn. Off I went to the start line. Kye put in a great, noisy, but clear round in a good time. The pressure was now on for the second agility round. The pressure had really clicked in now. The atmosphere was great in the hall. Once again Kye gave her all and gave me a great clear round.

There were to be two presentations - one for the French Cup and the other for the French Championships. The Cup is based on the accumulated results on the day. The French Championships are decided by the results which qualified me for the regional championships and, of course, my results from the regional championships.  When the results for the French Cup were announced, I was placed 2nd in my group. My mum was so pleased.

We then had to wait for more than an hour for the results of the French Championships. My mum was first to spot the results going up and went up to the board to look. She was there for quite a while and walked away, looking really strange and not able to talk. So I had to look at the board myself and I found that I had actually won. There was only two of us without faults. My time which was 10 seconds faster. I could not believe it - my first time at the championships and I had actually won. There was mum blubbering and ringing everyone to let them know I had won.

We then had the presentations, which in themselves took a couple of hours. The organisers did a great job and make everyone seem so special.  I had two cups - one for the French Cup and the other for the French Championships. What a day! 

It was now nearly 10pm and we were all really tired so off we went to the Hotel. I was so proud of Kye. She is such a special dog. Without her I could never have done it.

About the author...
S
amantha Lawrence (11) has lived in France since 2004. She spent much of her early life in the Birmingham Childrens' Hospital with some serious illnesses. Some of you may remember her arriving at the Rugby show in a wheelchair after having major hip surgery.

Her health improve and and she started to train her first dog, a small French rescue called Bella. She learnt a lot but, when it came down to it, Bella did not really enjoy agility. Sam's mum then said that if she was serious that she could run her Border Collie Kye (Touchango in Time). Unfortunately during her time training Kye, Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and was very poorly. Being a fighter, however, Sam continued working Kye during the 2008 agility season and ended up the Junior French Agility Champion (Under 11). 

She now has a young Australian Shepherd to train as Kye will be 11 this year.

First published on Agilitynet 18 April 2010