The American agility scene
American ex-pat Mary Ann Nester has lived in England for the last twenty-eight years and admits that she still says 'side-walk' instead of 'pavement.' It was time for her to go home and see the family.
I found a week-end when I wouldn't be missing an important show, arranged a dog-sitter and booked the airline tickets. I would only be away a week, but I would need an agility fix. My husband suggested dropping in on some agility clubs near my old home town. What a good idea!
Anne Smith lives a mere 24 miles from my mother's house and holds agility classes in her back yard at Pound Ridge. She gave me a warm welcome, and I loved every minute of my visit - even when it started to snow! Anne taught two classes with breaks in between for coffee and chat. These people were agility educated and up-to-date with the UK scene. They knew everyone's name, their dog's name and they were eager to learn more.
These were people who could talk contacts - my kind of people. We even had a quick comparison of UK vs. US trophies (bigger, of course) and track suits. Anne pulled her USDAA team suit out of the closet, and I modelled my red Pedigree Olympia fleece.
My agility fix for
Next day, I was out in search of more agility. I had the address for the Skyline Agility Club in Garnerville, New York and headed out on the Palisades Parkway. They advertised their indoor training facility as 'heated and fully matted, with plenty of crating space.' What they don't tell you is that it's upstairs on the first floor! They boast that they haven't lost anyone out a window yet. I climbed the steps and came face to face with Chris and Jeff Bolton who had been giving privet lessons and clinics all week. You just can't get away from the Brits!
Allsorts of agility
One lady asked me, 'What is the point of competing if so few people win? Here, we compete for clean runs that gain legs towards titles like Agility Dog Champion.
Having spent four years in starters, I knew my answer to this one. Whatever dog I run, I aim for the best teamwork I can produce. What results may not be what the judge has in mind, but it's been fun for someone. I don't think I'm alone. But, I do like the American system of titles because it not only encourages but favors handlers who train their dogs for accuracy and control. Speed is not necessarily a winning ingredient. Much as I would like a title, I continue to resist the temptation to sign my emails to the States with 'Idadoun Black Buttons AC (Agility Clown)'.
I came home reassured. If the Home Office ever decides to deport me I know that there are places I can go to in the States to Continue enjoying my agility. And maybe one day, I can take my own dogs with me - they can wink with both eyes at once!
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.
Comment from Bonnie Harrington about American agility. I believe that one of the reasons that we Americans like to compete for titles is that agility is so expensive here. Entering a two day AKC show will cost me at least $50.00 in entry fees, plus hotel and eating expenses. So most of the time I spend $125.00 dollars or more for one week-end unless I'm lucky enough that the show is within commute distance.
As Mary Ann said, there is a greater variety of dogs competing here in the States. I'd hate to see that change. However, I am seeing more and more people getting BC's the second time around. Personally don't know if I could handle that kind of speed. They are wonderful.
Input by Rebecca Leslie