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Millbrook Agility Dogs

Kathrin Tasker

When I was little my dad used to sometimes take me to football matches and balance me on his shoulders so I could see. The best bit was when Switzerland scored a goal and the crowds erupted and my dad jumped up and down, sometimes I think forgetting I was on his shoulders! The memory of the jubilations, the happiness and celebrations of the crowds when one little ball made it into a goal is one that has stayed with me to this day. However this childhood experience did not even come close to what was waiting for us in Germany at the Agility World Championships.

The championships were held in a large indoor stadium and when we got there, the pre-competition party was already in full swing. 32 countries were taking part and they had all reserved seating areas for supporters and fans. The British were sandwiched in between the French and the Italians, (a very noisy fate!) looking straight across at the Swiss with their cowbells and the Japanese who on record were probably one of the more quiet nations! All countries were wearing different colours, large flags for each country were flying and the atmosphere was electric, with each country trying to find a better and louder way to chant on their competitors.

The competitions took part over three days. The courses were fluent and looked great fun to run, although the carpet caused problems for some of the dogs, who lost a lot of time on turns. To my horror I saw that some courses were made up of more than 20 obstacles (the legal limit in Britain). Having to prepare pupils in this country to remember 20 obstacles is a hard enough job, but 23 or more!- What happens is, that they have a combination of obstacles which are numbered for instance 15a, 15b, 15c!

The judging is much harsher than in England, the slightest hesitation or movement away from an obstacle is given a refusal and any contact at all with the dog is marked as 5 faults even if it appears accidental. Jumping over obstacles by the handler culminates in elimination which one British handler found out the hard way. Bitches in season were allowed to compete, but had to wait to the end of the competition, when a mat was rolled out for them at the start line. I suppose it would be very disappointing to come all the way from Brazil and find your bitch had just come into season!

All the countries cheered on each other and by the third day exchanged shirts and hats. At the prize giving the whole stadium was invaded by supporters from all countries who danced and celebrated each countries achievement, with cheerleaders from France trying to get some “follow my leader” techniques going. What surprised me, was that this friendly, colourful display of pure fun, music and celebrations was tolerated by the Germans, but come to think of it, they couldn’t have done a lot about it, there was no stopping anyone!

At the end of it all we didn’t do too badly, and came away with two places, a 3rd overall and a 2nd in the jumping.

We had a great time and are already making plans for next year’s travel to France!

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