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When our current vocabulary doesn’t quite cut it...

Sally Jones wrote this article in the halcyon days of 2003 when a handler who could work their dog equally well on their right as well as their left was seen as an over-achiever and, quite frankly, a show-off. A life-long agility enthusiast, she used to write under the pseudonym 'Perennial Starter' for Agility Eye magazine where her irreverent take on our beloved sport was a reality check to many. She attracted an international following of like-minded daft sods and had the pleasure of travelling to South Africa to meet with Sally Adam - the first person to achieve the Agility Champion status with her dog in that country - and her friend Susan Smith who owned Dobermans famed for what they could find to roll in. Enjoy.

Agility is now a worldwide phenomenon and although it may vary in flavour from country to country, there is no doubt that the agility experience is universal. This was brought home to me during the recent visit of my South African friends after the World Champs. It was irrelevant that we live in different hemispheres, once we got onto agility as a topic, we might as well have belonged to the same club. Dogs are dogs, humans are humans, and competition brings out the best and worst in both the world over.

Something that we both agree on is that the language of agility is very much in its infancy and there are many common objects or experiences for which no word or phrase yet exist. We are both fans of the Douglas Adams' book,  The Meaning of Liff in which he lists hundreds of these objects and experiences and gives them a name. Unashamedly stealing Adams' idea of using British place names as the words or phrases, Sally Adam spent most of the long flight back to Cape Town coming up with the lion's share of what follows.

The awkward, hopping dance performed by a handler in the superstitious belief that it actually assists their dog through the weave poles.

The silent whoop of delight you make when the only dog who could still beat you takes down the first pole.

Sutton Coldfield
The glare you receive from the competitor lying in 1st place when they realise that you have yet to run.

The least popular person at an agility show, whom no-one ever applauds.

An indoor show held in unconscionably cramped conditions.

A handler who enters with the sole purpose of winning prizes.

The signal a judge makes when eliminating a dog.

Burton Agnes
The sinking feeling a judge gets when they realise that they are not going to make it to the end of the dog walk in time.

A handler who kisses their dog before starting a round.

The sort of person who, without fail, will always manage to avoid doing any sort of work at a show, but will always be the person most likely to complain about anything.

The sort of rickety equipment that gives a distinct home-ground advantage to the host club's dogs.

The sort of competitor who annoys everyone by messing around on the start line with an elaborate and time-consuming set-up routine.

The course a judge sets up when they want to go home early.

Suckley Green
The feeling of panic you experience at a 12-ring show as you walk the fourth course of the morning and realise you have completely forgotten the first one.

Chipping Norton
The irritation felt by the scorer when competitors continuously hang over their shoulder trying to see their results.

A handler who is perpetually disoriented on a course.

The type of judge who loves eliminating dogs.

Sible Hedingham
The lady in charge of judges' lunches.

Watford Gap
The often infinitesimal difference between a clear round and disaster.

An outdoor show held in unseasonably fine weather.

An outdoor show held in unseasonably horrid weather.

The tendency of certain competitors to wildly praise a dog which has clearly missed the contact, in a vain attempt to influence the judge into thinking that the dog did not, in fact, fault the obstacle.

The drivel that some handlers use to drag their dogs around the course by the sheer force of their own personalities.

An expletive audible to both judge and crowd.

That person at ringside who knows exactly what everyone should have done... and not done.

The slow creep down the contact of a Border Collie trying to work out exactly where the handler wants him.

Knocking down the last pole on an otherwise perfect round.

A slow handler accompanied by a Velcro dog.

The handler who comes off the course making a face, while his dog hops around him waiting for a word... and waiting... and waiting.

The reward for a dog who has tried to nip his handler in the ring.

The little dance done after a perfect round.

Meysey Hampton
The type of man who competes with a Bichon Frise.

The small crowd of handlers who wait for five hours after their run to pick up a clear round rosette.

With thanks to both Sally Adam and Susan Smith

© Copyright Sally Jones




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