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A day in the life of an agility mum

Is there agility after childbirth? Can you still do agility and raise a family? Janet Wagner, half of a well known agility partnership on the circuit, wife of Richard and mother of two small boys, shares her day with us. They say never share the stage with dogs or children. So if you are feeling broody and your partner won't sanction another dog, read this at your peril.

The radio summons me from the coma into which I fell the night before. I haul myself out of bed and clamber downstairs. Breakfast for the dogs is first. They yawn and come to greet me. I rub ears and smile at Jo.

Today is special. Iíve been waiting eighteen months for this and now he is finally old enough to compete. Fumbling at the child lock to release the biscuit tin, I growl at them to stop barking. Two each for the spaniels and four for the collies.

'HENRY THAT ISÖwas Beckyís. Here you are Bec...'

'Eemee! Leave Mitzi ALONE.'

Back to the kitchen,
Eggs on to hard boil. I decide Small son will have to have cheese today as I canít face cooking the sausages. Glass of milk for me and I start on the food. Two rounds of chocolate spread for Larger son, not what Iíd like him to eat but what I know he will. Two rounds of plain bread and butter for Small son one to eat in the van the other for lunch. I add Ďrollyí cheese to the second pot. Then ham rolls for Richard and me.

I reflect that it would have been better to have had the energy to do this the night before, and then start to dream of how it used to be... twenty minutes from radio on via shower and out to my Romahome with two well behaved spaniels and off I used to go. Often I didnít have to be there  at dawn  or could go home early with only Mini classes to run. A Mars bar for breakfast and money for the burger van. Now it's two boys, eight dogs, one husband, a long wheel base high top Transit and about two hours from radio on to out of the door.

Time is getting on.
I shovel the extras, crisps, apples, biscuits, sweets into the cool box and grab the liver cake off the side.

Upstairs again. Pull duvet off Larger son, ignoring groans and head for the shower. Out of shower, haul duvet off again and remind him that the time for breakfast is NOW. He goes off downstairs to dad and Rice Krispies (too messy for eating on the move.)

I throw clothes on and push assorted comfort objects including snake, blanket and Rainbow fish into a carrier, traipsing downstairs to chivy on the breakfast and dressing routine. At least, today, the forecast is good and I donít need to find wellies, coats etc. They grow out of them too fast to make it financially possible to keep a second set in the van.

The dogs are yelling again. We worry about waking the neighbours.

Next step car seats into van.
The dogs are going potty so I load them too and then kneel in the seats to tighten them.

Back upstairs, small son is still asleep. Ah.. He is half way dressed before he rouses and 'Hello Mummy. It's morning?Ē fills my ears.

Once fully dressed I cart him downstairs and shovel him into his seat, doing up the straps. His comfort objects go in next; Purple Puppy and Very Big along with a much chewed, very old, terry nappy! His bread and butter - in pot - is placed in his hands, and I return to the kitchen to make drinks. Two large blackcurrant and apples for small son, one plain water for the larger son. Insist on toilet for larger son.

'Itís a long way.
With mutterings about time from Richard, we are off.

I relapse into coma, closing my ears to various requests from the back.

Soon a prod wakes me, and I navigate us the last few miles watching out for signs and other agility cars to help us find the way. This is a new venue for us. We park where directed, and Richard disappears to walk his courses. I unload the boys.

'We want to come out and head at two year old speed through the long grass to walk mine. Itís the furthest one. It would be, wouldn't it. Can we make it in time? It is easily identified because of the small jumps. Agility children learn to recognise numbers early on by walking courses and Larger son, age 5, shows me round the course, small one wailing 'Wait for me.'

Itís very hard to concentrate
Eventually I abandon them and rush round it by myself, quite nice. Collect two boys and head back to the van as they call for the first 20 dogs to each ring.

Back at the van the boys donít want to help walk the dogs and overcoming their resistance takes more time. The exercise area at any show is full of dangers for small boys. Low flying collies and the danger of Ďpoo.' Mine keep watch and are useful to stand next to performing dogs to mark the spot as I go from to place to place clearing up. Small son needs to be reminded to STAND STILL.

Back to van with relieved dogs and daddy is there to help load them in. Several have early runs, so we collect a few toys, liver cake, dogs and head back to the rings again, ignoring the protests.

So should you take your kids to shows?
Well, it is hard work, and you will need lots of things to occupy them. On the other hand, you do spend time as a family in the fresh air and they do become ring trained. We take them because we donít have anyone to leave them with! And weíd miss them too.

And Jo? He did some good bits, but we must practice our weaves.

About the author
Janet Wagner
is Richard's wife, Louis and Oliver's Mum, her dog's owner and a pretty good Mini handler, too.


From Julie McQuillan
I laughed when I read the article. It reminds me of myself, but I've got five kids (6 - 13 years) and two dogs but it is just as hard.

I'm profoundly deaf so whilst training or during shows I have to kept an extra eye on my children. I always take my children everywhere with me because I'm a single mum and it is hard to arrange babysitters.

But it is worth it. My children enjoy watching me train, and it helps them learn for the future, when they are a bit older and have a dog of their own. My eldest daughter trains our Collie X puppy, and soon she will hopefully be going into competitions. It is best for me to have people there, because I'm deaf I need people to show or tell me what needs doing or even help me communicate with people all around the country.

So I know what it is like for all you agility mums out there. Keep up the good work! (27/09/02)

If you have photos of your kids - aged eight or under (pre-YKC) - with your agility dog, at training or on the showground, share them with your friends and club mates. Just send them as either .jpg or .gif images to Agilitynet.


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