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PAWC Where Anything Is Possible

Oggy, oggy oggy...

Seven years ago, Nigel Perry started on the road to a new sport - Agility. He has a degenerative disc disease and is classed as disabled, so it wasn't surprising that things didn't get off to a great start. He was told by his first 'proper' trainer to hand over his dog Molly to an able-bodied handler as they would never get anywhere in agility. But he persevered and in 2018 year he proudly represented Team UK at the IMCA /PAWC.

It took us over two years before we got our 1st clear round. To be honest, I was on the verge of giving up the sport so, when we got our first clear round, I was so excited that I gave the judge a hug. It has now become somewhat of a ritual. Whenever we get a clear round, I always give the judge a hug. Doesn't matter, if they're male or female.

Over the years, we've learned different ways of getting around a course. Mine is to side step, and compete using distance handing whereever possible.

When I heard about the IMCA / PAWC, an international competition to be held in the UK for the first time, I decided to apply for a place on the PAWC UK team.

Disaster strikes
Then in November last year, I noticed that Molly went under the first jump at a KC show which is something she never ever does, so I pulled her from the rest of the show. The following day, I made an urgent appointment for her to be seen at our vets. The diagnosis eventually was Lumbar Sacral Stenosis (LSD.)

Since then, we have been having weekly sessions with our physio. I reluctantly decided to pull Molly from the DARL Rescue League Finals and all other competitions, in the hope that she would be fit enough for the IMCA/PAWC event. After the diagnosis, we have literally completed just six runs in training and the odd occasional competition run in Anysize Small.

The Monday before IMCA / PAWC was our last physio session before hopefully setting off on Tuesday, to Godmanchester (Cambridge) and the IMCA/PAWC Championships. After happily trotting along on the water treadmill for a good 20 minutes (breaking up sessions), thankfully my little girl was showing no signs of discomfort. The physio told me that Molly was good to go.

So off we went, travelling down South, eventually getting to the Champs at 22.30. That meant setting up a trailer tent in the pitch black with just headlights on which is no mean feat. There we met up with a couple of friends. I was, to put it bluntly, blatantly crapping myself.

Training on Thursday went okay. We were put into Group 5.

You don't need to be able bodied as a handler to get on the podium
I think I spent more time Friday morning keeping the toilet seat warm than doing anything else.

Too soon it was our turn. It was a really nice course set by the judge which suited our style perfectly - distance work whereever possible.

I knew that the event was being livestreamed across Europe, and we were being watched by everyone on the Team. I put all this to one side. In my mind, no one was there, not even the judge. It was just Molly and mey, having a blast together around a course.

We ran well. More accurately Molly jogged casually around the course, and then did her usual Meatloaf impression (Bat Out of Hell), down the final straight. We got a clear round. I was buzzing and on Cloud 9. I gave the judge our ritual hug. He was somewhat bemused.

Comes to the results. I hear in 6th place was W, 5th was X, 4th was Y. I was thinking, ahh well, we got a clear, and hopefully some points for our team. That was all I could think of. Then I heard Molly and I we were 3rd. To put it bluntly again, I was in complete disbelief! The tears just rolled down my face. My little girl made it onto the Podium. I cried all through the national anthem. I was in tears when Claire was taking these pics. Even now, when I think about it, I still tear up.

Saturday didn't go too well. I messed up the Agility run. I completely forgot there was a No.10 in the course. I am still kicking myself for that one. Molly's distance control towards the end of the run, however, was exceptional as usual.

I had a major kick up the posterior from the lovely Joanne that night during a little drinkipoos. She told me to stop 'asking' and start 'telling' Molly where to go. I listened and incorporated what she said that into our run - and Molly did run. We gave it our all. With the roars of 'oggy, oggy, oggy' from the Team UK crowd cheering us on, Molly picked up another gear through the weaves and left me breathless at the the finish line. We got another clear. Sorry Neil, you didn't get the hug, as you were so far away from us.

Results time, and we came away with a 5th!.

On Sunday, even more time was spent keeping the white seat warm.

It was another lovely jumping course. At first glance, it was a case of I will never get around that one, but I gave it our all and went clear.

In the end, we had 2/3 clear rounds and came 5th overall in our disability category. Words cannot express how I felt.

Tony Putnam  official photographerWhat an experience1
All I can say is what a wonderful and truly soul searching time it was watching handlers with varying forms of disability work their four legged pals around the course. Cheering when getting clears, commiserating when things don't go too well for them. The competition is just something else.

These results meant more to me than any of the other results and wins we have ever had. We have competed against the best of the best in terms of disabled handlers throughout Europe, and have proved we can be just as good as some of them. Words just cannot express how I am feeling right now.

I can also remember shouting 'oggy oggy oggy' after every 1st place The UK achieved on the podium, after the applause and the national anthem. It started off as a joke. I was thinking I hope the team join in with it. By the end, I had a Netherlands IMCA handler next to me, nudging and egging me on to do it, and high 5'ing when we did it. Everyone loved it.

Thank you
To all the backroom staff, thank you especially Linda Croxford for being the Team Manager, Show Organiser and general everything else; Leah Gardner for helping all us PAWC members with everything; all the UK Team members - far too many to mention - for all the support; Claire Perry for being there with us every step of the way, through all the trials and tribulations leading up to the competition; and finally our trainers Karen Ingram and Carolyn Snowdon.

Well done to all the people who train PAWC members throughout the world, who adapt their training to help us reach and succeed with our dreams and goals, rather than telling us to hand our dogs over. Yes, we may be different, but we all have hearts, and dreams and desires. These should be encouraged, not dowsed on. If we dream enough - and put in the required work - we can all succeed.

About the author...
Nigel Perry is a 47 year old with serious mobility issues.

He loves agility as it gets him out and about, meeting people on a regular basis. Molly and Agility has brought him back to life.

Nigel is a judge, and is regularly asked to judge all over the North West England at UKA and independent shows. He says that nothing is impossible with determination. All you need is a dream. He also runs the Dog Agility Rescue League (DARL) and organises the Finals.

He has been self-employed since 2006 and works repairing computers which is something he can do with his disability at his own pace. His company is called Cadishead Computers which is also the name of the place where he lives.

Photos of IMCA / PAWC with kind permission of official photographer Tony Putnam / World of Agility Photography

First published 5 September 2018