Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover
Not just a club but
the Coronavirus lockdown began on 23rd March 2020, Ian Smith and the members of
Barkaway Agility have made a real effort to stay in touch with each and every
single member of the club, either by email, text, phone or Zoom chats so that no
one feels alone. Ian asked members to contribute their lockdown experience for
this article, and these are just some of their stories which illustrate why this
club is more than just a dog training group.
For a long time,
Barkaway Agility Training had a public Facebook page but, at the start of
lockdown, we created a Members Only page so people could stay in touch. Then we
started our Zoom chats, and the response was so positive that we created a
WhatsApp group as we were aware that some members weren't on Facebook and we
wanted to reach out to everyone. It's hard for individuals to be locked down
with family but even harder when you are alone.
That's when the club
members picked up the baton. Without any prompting, they started organising
things to do such as quiz nights, silly head wear nights, bingo, keep fit
sessions and a weekly get together to have a chat - all been done via the Zoom
app. In addition, we have sent out different agility training videos for members
to practice in their gardens.
Following on from
Lucy Poyner's impromptu call to BBC Radio 5 Live to say how much she was
missing her agility club during lockdown, we decided to ask members for their
known that the agility is a great one to belong to but never more so
than now that I have been social distancing for the last six weeks on my
own with just my two dogs for company. I say 'just my two dogs' but they
have actually been my great companions. Without them, this whole episode
would have been almost unbearable. I like my own company, but six weeks
with no human contact is blooming hard.
the start, Ian Smith and the other members of the Barkaway family have
been brilliant, regularly checking in on me and other members who are
also doing this alone.
One day a
couple of weeks ago, somebody suggested we Zoom. Me, a technophobe, had
never heard of Zoom but the desire to connect with my dog friends meant
the app was installed immediately with only a bit of swearing! (Sorry
Ian.) Our first remote 'get together' involved lots of laughs and
support for struggling members as well as lots of alcohol,,, lots and
lots of alcohol! It's rather like being at a show but without the actual
classes and not having to run a class with a hangover.
We have since
had a Zoom quiz. I found out that I'm not as intelligent as I thought
and I was last! We've discovered shower caps are great for covering 'bad
roots' and we've drunk lots of gin. There is now a keep fit or rather a
'get fit' class on Thursday via Zoom and a bingo session is being
organised. And all this is because we have a common interest and a love
of agility. I can honestly say that my dogs and Barkaway have been my
saviours during this tough time. We cannot wait to get back to training
but, in the meantime, we will carry on staying safe and doing Zoomies!
I first met
Ian when I joined a club to start training agility. At this time he was
competing in Starters. I loved his competitiveness and passion for the
sport so a little while later, when he left the club to train on his
own, I badgered him for lessons. And lo and behold, that's how Barkaway
started. So I have known Ian for almost half of my life... and I'm no
The club is
so supportive. Ian is able to combine competitive agility peeps with
others who want to do it for 'just fun.' At least that's where it starts
as we all know. He has retained his passion for the sport and blames me
for many things including getting a Cocker Spaniel cross!
a really big heart which beats stronger and stronger. It has never been
more obvious than through this current situation when Ian has taken up
ideas from members and made the club even greater than it was before.
He is an absolute rock and I will forever have memories of having
laughed and cried together over the years. I can't imagine life without
It is a great
highlight to be able to get together with the Barkaway fraternity via
that I do manage to go out on a daily basis as I work as a part-time
care worker, but I admit that I also find it worrying as I'm nearly 70
and I live on my own. I worry about my four dogs if anything happens to
me, so to be able to get together on a weekly basis on Zoom, has lifted
my spirits with silliness, wine and just chatting.
discovered that the Barkaway spirit is not just for agility training or
shows. We are like a large family which for me, who lives alone, is a
Last year was our first season competing and we got to Grade 3.
Unfortunately, my dog was injured at Christmas so we have done no
training since then. It's been hard going as I love my new hobby so
During that time, Barkaway members have been amazingly
supportive. I still went training - left my dog at home - and even had
the loan of my trainer's retired dog, just to keep me going. She was
Grade 7 and really made me work! I loved it.
Throughout my dog's recovery, I received many get well
messages from the Barkaway family which meant everything to me. I know
that people genuinely care about each other.
Now my dog is better, we find ourselves in lockdown and,
yet again, this club is there to help me through. I am high risk so not
going out much. Learning to Zoom wasn't easy, but to be met with the
friendly faces on the screen made my day. I quietly sat there, laughed
and listened to friends talk about past shows, their dogs and their
general well-being. It has made me realise how lucky I have been to find
this club and it's members who have become personal friends.
We have a fitness Zoom session set up for Thursday and drinks and
fancy dress on Saturday. People need people, and I couldn't be prouder
than to be accepted as a Barkaway member.
Agility for me is so much
more than just training you and your pooch. I just love this club. It is
the people in it who make it amazing.
My first dog was Monty, a grumpy
rescue dog with a bad history - definitely not a friendly dog. I can
count the number of times I nearly got dragged over or pulled out in
front of traffic and then there was a way too close a call involving a
young child. He came to us at six years of age and didn't trust anybody.
My family and friends kept asking me why we would keep such a dog, but
club members gave me good training advice and, more importantly, the
belief that dogs can improve.
The club was the lifeline that
kept us together. I had never done Agility before and was a new starter
or a greenhorn. Sometimes I would go home after training very tearful,
expecting to get told never to go back again but it never happened - and
I'm still there now.
What did happen was that I was
surrounded by a lot of very supportive, lovely peopl. My not very
friendly dog turned out to love agility and was definitely much better
at it than I was. The bond it created was a very special one. Monty
proved that a very troubled pooch can turn ultimately into a very
friendly couch potato, usually curled up on top of somebody. All of this
was the result of training and friendship and, equally important, we
even got to compete at shows which was incredible when you consider how
grumpy Monty could be.
I'm now on my third agility dog.
Thanks for all the support @ Barkaway.
community has brought us all together. Members are very caring towards
each other, and everyone puts in that extra bit of effort whether that
is helping on rings when we are at shows - remember those - sharing
food, drinks (really) and laughs at the group BBQ in the evenings after
running around all day having fun. If we forget to bring something, we
always know that we can knock on each other's caravan doors, tents or
motorhomes to ask to borrow anything. Someone will always have some
spare. We provide delicious homemade cakes(thanks Mum Walker) to
celebrate friends' achievements. And we encourage each other no matter
how good - or not so good - we are doing, offering
training tips, as well as general help especially if we arrive late at
shows on a Friday evening.
Keeping in touch with each other
away from shows is even important now.
I joined the club to have fun with my dog but, what I
found was a family who genuinely are for each other, I have made life
long friends. Barkaway really is the best.
When Ed and I first joined the
Barkaway family, I instantly knew that it was going to great. Not only
was Ian a wonderful trainer, friend and listener but all the members
were lovely, bubbly and fun.
As time went on, I began to rely
on my training sessions more and more so, when the lockdown started, I
felt as if a big dark cloud had descended. What would I do?
training! No catch up with my pals! As the weeks went by, happily our
Barkaway family came together again using WhatsApp, Facebook and
something called Zoom!
It's not easy to social distance
from people when all you want to do is talk and have a hug, but our
Barkaway family did just that in other ways
press pause on the chaos of the world outside, if only for a moment.
Barkaway family will always stand together, and it's an honour to be
part of it.
Agility is a great source of fun
for me. Just to have a 1-2-1 session with our lovely dog Chester was fab.
Now Chester loves the club sessions even when it is wet and rainy. We
got support from a lot of friendly people, and I get a great sense of
achievement from them.
I run my own pet business which
is a seven days a week job. Due to work commitments, we can't make many
shows. Having a break from work and a busy family life - however short -
is a personal time for me and Chester and hopefully my young dog Rosie
when we all return to training again.
Not everyone knows this, but
five years ago I lost my son. If it hadn't been for Barkaway, I would
have had no reason to carry on. Ian and Catherine were amazingly
supportive. I tend to hide my feelings and bottle things up but they
both made sure I was okay. I felt that because of my dog Pixie loved
agility so much that if I didn't take her I would be letting her down as
well as myself.
I'm not saying all of this
because I want your sympathy - which I don't. What I want you to know is
how much this amazing club means to me. And Ian is not just a trainer.
Thank you so much for all your help.
When I first joined Barkaway, I
remember that I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. At times, I
even struggled to remember my lefts from my rights. My Cocker
Millie loved agility and, although we didn't always stick to the course
doing most of the jumps in one go, we always had fun.
Ian is not just a dog trainer.
He is a friend and a confidante and a good listener. I've unfortunately
had a lot of ups and downs and he has always been there to listen and to
advise. It is such a welcoming club with some fabulous members.
Before I started agility, I
suffered from severe anxiety. I struggled with over thinking things. My
dogs were my friends. Although one of them was born deaf, I was determined
to prove that he could do whatever hearing dogs could which is why I
started doing Agility.
I trained at a different club
for about a year but when it closed down, I went to Barkaway. Ian didn't
even bat a eyelid when I asked if he would take me and my deaf dog Toby
on and, ever since, we have improved so much with his support and
advice, pushing to make me a better handler!
I've made a lot of friends
within the club. They all seem to love Toby. It's made me want to go
out, be active and even talk to people. It is likely that my anxiety
will never go away but during the Coronavirus lockdown - as with
previous hard times - agility is the only thing that has kept me going.
Being able to talk to my agility friends and get advice about training
in my little garden has kept me sane. I can't wait to get back to it and
see everyone again properly.
Barkaway Dog Agility is more
than just a training club to me. I call us the Barkaway family.
members are so important to me. They are very close friends. Some of
them have been with me almost since the first day the club began in
There have been times when I
have considered closing the club due to health issues, but these amazing
people make it impossible to give up as they are so loyal and always
willing to help out.
members who have stood in for me as the trainer when I have been laid up
in plaster after 14 ops in approx 12 years. I never have to ask; they
always volunteer. (Don't you Caroline Key and Catherine Mullen.) When we
are at shows and I'm judging - and when you consider on average I judge
approx 12/15 shows per season - these people are there to help run the
ring incredible really.
The club community is incredibly
supportive. Regardless of the situation, they are always willing to help
out. Catherine Mullen will organise a series of club shows throughout
the winter to help people maintain the competitive spirit and to give
our newer members the opportunity to find out what a show environment is
Times are difficult now for
everybody, but I am aware that we have some club people who live on
their own. Isolation is bad enough when you can get out daily and chat,
but being shut in - with no contact - is not good.
We make a
point to make contact with every single member through social media at
least once weekly, just to check that people are okay. This club
is more than a club; it is a community. My thanks to every single person
within this club. We are what we are because of you.
Barkaway Dog Agility Training
was started in 1998. It was never intended to become a club - just a field where
Ian Smith could do some extra training.
As time went on, a
friend asked Ian if they could do some extra training. That friend is still with
the club today nearly 22 years later. More people joined and gradually Barkaway
gradually became the club it is today with Ian as a full-time agility trainer.
Over the years,
members have competed at Olympia and Crufts as well as various other finals with
a lot of success. Junior members are treated as adults, not kids, and are
encouraged to get involved in all competitions and events.
The club endeavours
to put on different club events throughout, organised by the members themselves,
for other members to enjoy. These range from club competitions to evenings out
and quizzes, etc.
Barkaway is located
4th May 2020