Whoever said that agility was cheap?
If you are like most of us, you probably never admit to yourself how much money you spend on agility. The final sum would send you into epileptic shock. I would rather have my dogs than a Ralph Lauren wardrobe, and you can keep the Costa del Sol for yourself Ė Iíll spend my holiday at Dogs In Need. These days I make few purchases that are not dog orientated Ė whether they be a pair of shoes or a new car. Agility is not a hobby Itís why I go out to work! Mary Ann Nester calculates the real cost.
Be honest. You bought the video camera to film your dogís contacts, not the family get together at Christmas. Donít lie. You choose that wristwatch not because it was stylish but because it had a stopwatch mode. It all adds up. In fact, training fees are getting so expensive that in order to finance your dogís education you buy a complete set of agility equipment and set up your own private club. At least that will get the A-frame out of your back garden and you can have a lawn again.
You need a large van not only to transport all your dogs safely around the country, but to store waterproofs, wellies, and spare vet beds (someone is always sick). The custom made cages (approx. £500) you order for the van will stop your terrier perching on your shoulder to point out passing pheasants. You become a snail that carries his home on his back and you pack everything, just in case. You may be seriously over drawn at the bank, but you wonít starve if you break down in the Peak District.
no business like show business
As your commitment to agility grows, you book more shows and start to buy envelopes and stamps in bulk. The Agility Aid Organiser (£7) lists all the qualifiers you want to attend and helps you prioritise your entries. You subscribe to The Eye (£21.00 per year) and The Voice (£21.50 per year) so you can see how you are doing in the league tables.
Can you really justify the expense of a computer just so that you can download schedules? Choosing between an agility show or your sisterís wedding is a major headache. You start booking your holiday so you can attend weeklong agility extravaganzas. No matter, the weather will be good and your friends at work will see your tan and think you have been to the Med, not Ipswich.
You may have saved yourself the cost of a foreign holiday and kennelling fees, but donít delude yourself. With entry fees averaging £2 a class and the amount petrol you are using, you could have circled the globe. And when you canít get to a show in a single journey, you book a B & B (£15-£35) the night before.
When the proprietors refuse to let your six dogs sleep in the bedroom with you, you consider buying a caravan (Caravan Club membership £27.50 per year). You can save a little bit by offering to ring party at shows in exchange for free camping, but Iím so sorry. You will have to do a lot of pole picking up if you want to recoup the price of you caravan.
- You are what you wear
No matter what the weather, I have something appropriate to wear on my head or on my feet. I have shoes to wear when the ground is dry, wet or lumpy. Did you really want Dita Terminators (MRRP £34.99) instead of those kitten heels? But, what the Hell. Youíre going training instead of whooping it up at the workís dinner dance. Once again, you can do your best to qualify for the big finals and get a sweatshirt or fleece free. But you will have to take what you are given and you wonít be able to choose your favourite colour.
And my latest puppy was allowed home only if I promised to replace it with a new one. This pup has chewed through two leads, two collars and a Halti in the space of ten days. The only time I get any rest is when I lock the dogs up in their cages (Barjo Folding Kennel 24 x 18 x 20 inch £40.50 and Vet Bed 20 x 14 inch £7.95). I suppose the next step is to build outdoor kennels with runs. Itís really a question of semantics. You donít buy 'toys' (Exelpet Fun Ball £3.99), but 'training aids.' How many rubber bones has your dog dropped in the river? Ever loose one of those balls on a rope up a tree? Do you buy new squeaky toys when the old ones stop squeaking?
In the end, almost every item on the household budget is agility related. Few decisions are made without considering how they will affect the dogs. I know that there are lots of short cuts and savings that can be made, but as I get older, I crave my creature comforts more and more. Iím tired of getting in the passenger side of my car because the driverís side is stuck and I wonder how much it will cost to get a TV for the caravan.
I confess that every penny I earn is spent on agility. You may think Iím a nut, that Iím blinkered, or that Iím wasting my time. Well, you donít know what youíre missing and you couldnít even begin to imagine what a good time I have with my dogs - theyíre worth it! So, come on down. The price is right!
Running Aslan, a lurcher dog, at agility competitions got Mary Ann hooked on the sport and Bounty, a German Shepherd Dog, and Tam, the Border Collie were soon added to the household.
Mary Ann's most successful dog to date has been Brillo Pad, a Miniature Poodle who took her to Olympia and Crufts. Brillo also competed in the Draw Challenge on National Lottery Live!, winning Mary Ann the privilege of pushing the button that released the evening's lottery balls in front of millions of television viewers.
Daz, another miniature poodle and most recent addition, was bought for competition in the Mini ring, but grew too tall! He has proved that size doesn't matter. He entertained the crowds at Olympia as one of the 'fun dogs' and has strut his stuff in the ABC competition (Any Breed but Collie) at Crufts. She and Daz placed second in The Agility Club Midi Dog of the Year 2001.
Mary Ann is a member of the first British Team to compete in the FCI World Championships 2001 in Portugal.
She has recently moved to Northamptonshire and writes regular articles for both The Agility Eye and Agility Voice as well as Agilitynet.
From Jane Gemmill
From a first timer...
For one vehicle and two adults on the boat - it will cost us £300 at Easter and £400 at August. Also if we brought the caravan back with us that would be another £250/£300 on top. At least the dogs go free.
We work all year - so that we can enjoy and afford our trips away. (01/03/02)
From Liz Stedman...
I well remember a couple of years ago meeting a stall holder who was surprised to see me although the show was less than an hours drive from home. Apparently a few years earlier when embarking on my new hobby, I had remarked to him, as my obedience trainer, "oh I will only do local shows".
When he reminded me of this I replied 'but this is a local show, I now travel 2-3 hours to get cold, wet and disheartened!' I started with a Standard Poodle which necessitated changing my Mini to a VW Polo and then, as the three Vizlas were added, I had to get the standard agility car, Vauxhall Astra Estate. The 3-man tent became a trailer tent and then a small caravan. (25/02/02)
From Penny Cockerill
From Sam Butchart