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Agility Isle of Man Style

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Where even the 'Vicar of Dibley' does agility

June Burrow and Glynis Whittle were invited to judge the Agility classes at the Isle of Man show in Castletown this year and they decided to extend our stay for a weeklong holiday. Glynis thought it would be nice to put the show on the agility map with this light hearted report.

We sailed from Heysham, not on the Queen Mary, but on a very crowded floating chip van. The overcrowding was due to the ferry at Liverpool having been turn round an hour out to sea, as it had a hole in its side. The passengers had been given a fiver compensation and a map to Heysham to catch the afternoon ferry. Scary or what?

We arrived at our accommodation, a converted barn, on the Douglas to Peel Road, a few hours late, due to an extended, bumpy, ferry crossing - clearly a learner boat driver - and getting lost, for the first of many times, on the Island. The barn was beautiful with every luxury, probably wasted on someone who exists, most weekends, in a small camper van with two wet dogs. Before we unpacked we had to dig out the rock from under the front wheel of the van as I had not seen the rockery on the patio and attempted to park on it.

Day off
Friday was a day of site seeing and finding our way around the island. We had a problem adjusting to the road signs, that is, when there was one. In the IOM the signs are placed just after the turning, so you have actually passed the opening before you see the sign. June got very apt at a one handed, three point turn using the other one to wave politely to the ‘would be TT riders.’

The show
In the evening we went down to the south side of the Island to set up our agility courses.

We judged both Saturday and Sunday. Competing dogs, at all sizes, had four runs a day. The IOM team worked like beavers to produce a well-organised show incorporating obedience with agility, with the emphasis on relaxation and enjoyment. Once Brenda had got over the wondrous technology of electronic timing, she scribed, chauffeured, provided refreshments, organised lunch and above all provided excellent company.

John would wander off at the end of the class to find the stragglers, get them out of bed or the bar, put on their boots and usher them ringside, making sure no one missed their run.

Obviously obedience stays took precedence over the agility and the ‘Vicar of Dibley,’ a keen obedience competitor, usually came at the end of the class to run three dogs in quick succession in both rings. a feat very few of use could manage, myself having lungs that are limited, at best, to a 50 second dash.

The nickname ‘Vicar of Dibley’ stuck because it was the name of one of her dogs, but apparently she was a lady of the cloth. We did wonder how she managed to get Sundays off. Probably had an understanding boss.

Entertainment and a buffet were provided on Saturday evening, with prize giving, although I have to admit, we slid off for a walk on the headlands with the dogs.

On the Sunday, the locals set up archery practice at the side of the jumping ring, giving a new meaning to the saying ‘shoot the handler’. Luckily they weren’t bad shots!

The rest of the week we had to ourselves exploring the headlands, towns, and glens.

Thank You
I wish to say a big thank you to the IOM crew for making our stay so enjoyable. We’ll be back.

About the author...
Glynis Whittle has been involved in the dog world since 1981, when she took her unruly spaniel Floss to training at the local village hall. She became hooked on agility right at the beginning and has seen it evolve into the sport it is today.

She became a member of Newton Heath DTC when she got her second spaniel Jenny. She says that Jenny never got a contact point in her life, but she did very well in the Knock Out competitions, taking her into the Barbour and Spiller finals. In her later years, Jenny appeared on a number of pet food products and starred in a Sherlock Holmes film.

These days Glynis competes in both agility and obedience with Midge, her handsome red and white collie. She has judged for the best part of 20 years, probably having in that time made most of the mistakes she's read about on The Agility Forum, but there is no substitute for experience.