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#AgilityHusky

To blog or not to blog...

Cathy Withall never had any intention of writing a write a blog. She'd has never considered herself as a creative writer in any way, shape or form. In fact, she used to hate having to write stories at college. Her heart would sink when faced by nothing more than a title and a blank page. At one stage, she did keep a diary, full of the usual teenage angst,  but as she grew older, a diary became just a way of tracking appointments and events. But then she got Storm, a Husky X and now it is a mission...

I think my blog #AgilityHusky actually started in my head when we lost our first dog, Gypsy, over four years ago. I had always wanted a pet as a child, but had to be content with goldfish and stick insects. So when my then fiancée and I moved in to our own house, it was only a matter of months before we welcomed a small bundle of black Labrador fluff into our family.

Most of you reading will already know this, but there is nothing that can prepare you for the loss of your first dog. For almost 14 years she was my constant companion, and I didn't realise how interwoven into our lives she was until she was gone. My head swam with stories and memories of her.

I couldn’t cope without a dog, so we were soon joined by a new puppy – Storm, a Husky x Northern Inuit. I had always wanted a husky - probably because I realised I wasn’t going to be allowed to keep a wolf. I can now say that I’m glad she wasn’t our first dog!

A very steep learning curve began
I was told several times in our first year that Storm wasn't a suitable breed for agility. I would never be able to let her off lead and that she wouldn’t be trainable. Well, three years on, we are now in Grade 4, Storm has her Bronze Agility Warrant and we’ve just taken part in our first finals.

I never intended to compete - sound familiar? But Storm loved agility so much, I was just along for the ride. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but the doubters have been proved wrong, and I have been dragged into and drowned completely in the wonderful world of agility.

I never intended to compete - sound familiar - but Storm loved agility so much, I was just along for the ride. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but the doubters have been proved wrong, and I have been dragged into and drowned completely in the wonderful world of agility.

A sucker for punishment, we now have a youngster as well  - a Husky x Rottie x GSD.

#Agility Husky
A few months ago, the stories in my head became overwhelming, and I felt I had to write them down.

I didn't want to clutter my personal Facebook page with long rambles about our dogs which most of my friends wouldn’t read or appreciate.

I started first with Wordpress, but I found it a bit of a tie, and I couldn't load videos on the free version. So I shifted it onto Facebook, but created a new page, #AgilityHusky. This gave me the freedom to remain semi-anonymous - or as anonymous as you can be when you compete with a husky - and also to tag the people who were part of our journey and let them know how much I appreciated them.

I don’t plan my posts – they come purely as a result of our adventures with our canine family.

Basically #AgilityHusky is ongoing story of an independent dog and her humans in the world of agility.

Writing as #AgilityHusky, rather than as myself, allows me to write more easily. I don't have to explain the excitement of getting great running contacts in training, or mastering a difficult handling manoeuvre. My audience understands. The support I get from followers gives me confidence, and I'm happy to share our highs and our lows.

Perhaps the hardest part now I've started writing is to keep writing but not to ramble on about nothing.  I know from following other people's blogs that I like to hear from them fairly often.  I want to write regularly, but I also want our posts to be interesting. I like to add photos and videos to my posts - after all, a picture says a thousand words, and a video often more so. So along the way I'm learning to edit videos, add filters and slow motion - which has the handy side effect of being very useful for training!

I rarely edit what I’ve written, except to read through and check for typos. I do use the blog to thank people and the businesses we use. As the wife of a small business owner, I know that good publicity is priceless, and I believe that good service deserves recognition.

I’ve had some wonderful comments over the past few months, both from friends and strangers. We even have followers from as far away as South Africa! People share their stories and videos with me, and I love to hear about their dogs. Though I started writing mainly for my own benefit, just to be able to record all the wonderful memories, I also hoped it would help and inspire others, particularly those with Northern breeds. In addition, I wanted to reassure anyone who has hit setbacks on their agility journey - and who hasn’t - to show that things sometimes happen for a reason. Just when you think you’ve hit a brick wall, a whole new path can open up ahead of you.

I follow a few blogs, but I’ve struggled to find many agility-related ones. The few that I follow are:-

  • Victoria Stillwell – General positive dog training articles by various authors

  • One Mind Dogs – A UK agility training company, some useful information can be found here

  • Eileen Anderson – A well-known American writer, this includes lots of positive dog training and some really entertaining stories

  • Bad Dog Agility – An American agility company, mostly videos of training tips

  • Denise Fenzi – Another American writer, really good articles covering behaviour, general dog training, obedience and agility

Other blogs

  • Mark Laker -Agility Team GB International Team Manager shares interesting stories and observations about his work with top UK handlers and clients.

  • Boomer's Blog - This is a Puppy's Blog - the puppy belongs to an agility handler

  • Susan Garrett - Say yes to dog trainer Susan Garret, one of the most successful AMerican agility competitors of the last two decades

  • Yellow Hound - Chris Tarling is a keen photographer with a deep love of dogs and animals

  • Win Agility - A top competitor Bonnie Quick and physiotgherapist Nicky Grant vive you an insight into the best movement and fitness for you and your dog.

So now over to you – do you write a dog or agility blog? Whose blogs do you follow? I’d love to read your stories, and those you enjoy, so please let us know!

About the author...
Cathy Withall
was born in Devon and still lives there with her husband and two husky crosses - crossbreeds when they’re good, mongrels when they’re bad! She is a relative newcomer to agility, having only started competing in 2015, but has found that it is taking over her life with frightening speed.

When occasionally not doing something dog-related she is also a Scout leader, a member of the local amateur theatre society, and handy with a sewing machine as several of her friends can testify when it comes to mending dog coats.

First published 2 March 2018