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Putting the abled back into disabled...

Photo: Dave PettitAt 5.00am on Monday, 9th August Janine Greenwood found herself with her seven year old Jackapoo Alfie, eagerly awaiting a coach which was to take them to the 2019 International Mix & Breed Championship Agility / ParAgility World Championship (IMCA/PAWC) in Valencia, Spain. She had to pinch herself to check if this was really happening. Was she really going to represent her country as part of the UK ParAgility team?

I first learnt about the IMCA/PAWC competition after reading a piece on Agilitynet last year, asking for applications to join the ParAgility team. As I have severe arthritis and two knee replacements and I also suffer with severe depression resulting in several long term hospital admissions, I thought I might just qualify for the Team.

To be eligible for the UK Team you needed to complete an official application form and provide a report from your GP detailing how your disability affects your ability to handle your dog along with a video showing your handling in competition and your dog's current grade.

I sent off all the necessary paperwork to Team Leader Linda Croxford to check and forward to the PAWC Organisation Board. It was their responsibility to review it and check the video to ensure the handler's capability is in line with diagnosis statements.

Amazingly Alfie and I were invited to join the team.

When competing in PAWC, you are placed in a group depending upon your disability so you that compete against people with similar difficulties, not according to the height of your dog. There are seven group classifications and you are placed in a group based ony our levels of ability in both movement on land and means of commanding the dogs to negotiate a course.

The next step was to look at raising money to fund the trip. Alfie needed his rabies jab. I would need to board my other dogs. Plus the cost of the coach journey, overnight hotel costs on journey down and back and then hotel costs for Valencia, entry fee for the competition plus food and drink etc. My partner and I spent two Sundays every month from September till May making bacon/sausage baps at my training club (CKT) for hungry team members. We also had a chocolate raffle, an afternoon tea party and a supper party night. Through these events, we managed to raise 1200 which helped with the funding.

Forward to August
On the coach, all the seats down one side were taken out and the dogs' crates tied in allowing us to sit opposite our dogs. Alfie does not travel well although he did improve. It was two long days travelling down to Valencia with short stops to allow the dogs out to stretch their legs and us to buy supplies.

We arrived very late on Tuesday night at our home for the following days and I have to say the hotel staff was amazing - so helpful and friendly both to us and our dogs.

Wednesday afternoon we went to the Stadium to have our dogs' health checked and measured and to practice on the carpet. Alfie was not at all phased by the surface and managed well. I think being small helped as he didn't slip as much as some of the larger dogs. The venue did not have air conditioning so it was quite hot. The spectators had to climb a long flight of steps to the seats which meant that a number of members of PAWC Team could not manage this and were seated in a downstairs area.

The competition starts
Once we were booked in, we were ready for the Opening Ceremony on Thursday. This was our chance to meet with team members from other countries and for some to renew friendships made in previous years. A gift exchange between all countries took place and the 2019 competition was declared open.

It was an early start, and I was very anxious - and quite overwhelmed - by the whole thing. Waiting to go to the line, I questioned why I was even there. Luckily Paul Hinckley took me to the line and he was so calm and positive I did start to think I could do it.

Every time a UK team member entered the ring, it is a tradition for the whole team to cheer and shout, really making you feel valued and part of the whole team. When I entered I heard the 'Oggie oggie oggie... go UK' and 'Go Janine' which really helped me. I do not remember much of my run. It was a little scrappy but clear! This turned out to be my best run, and I just missed a Bronze medal by a hair.

Watching other Para competitors made me feel very humble. Even those with severe disabilities demonstrated amazing skill. Everyone in the arena was there to enjoy and support each other an remarkable experience to be part of. And that we did!

The Para team had three runs altogether - one on each day of the competition including two Jumping and one Agility. It was early starts every day and some late finishes. Even Alfie, who is incredibly fit went to bed and didn't move until the alarm went off the next morning!

Would I do it again?
I found the whole experience very different to what I had thought it would be. In my mind, I assumed that the Para team would not be as valued as the IMCA team, but this was definitely not so. Certainly the UK IMCA team was always there to help and support. I really did feel part of the team, and new friends were made.

I felt incredibly proud to represent not only my country but also my trainer Kate Truluck and other club members who had - and continue to be - so supportive. Without their help, I couldn't have gone to Spain.

I travelled with my partner and could not have managed without him he was a fantastic groom and made the event manageable. Linda worked tirelessly throughout to make it an easy enjoyable time for us and certainly deserves a huge round of applause for all her efforts.

So would I do it again?
Being a member of the PAWC team was a great honour and gave me a major focus that really helped with very dark long days.

Next year the competition is in Switzerland. My partner and I have started with the bacon butties!

About the author...
Janine Greenwood has been competing in agility for a number of years. She started her love affair with the sport with a Standard Schnauzer who got her to Grade 3 and believes that if you can run a Standard Schnauzer you can run any dog!

Then she got Alfie who has been amazing and now runs as a Grade 7. Janine's disability means many courses are not for her and Alfie. The state of the ground is a major factor for them. Suffering with depression means she is often not able to attend competitions as well.


First published 16th October 2019



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