Through the Eyes of a Junior Handler
All of my life I have always had a great interest in purebred dogs. From my first word being "dog," to being a dog trainer at 18 years old, dogs have always played a huge part in my life.
I am so happy to be able to call myself an agility enthusiast for these past 5 years. But I didn't always have a dog, and there was a time when I didn't know what agility even was. Ever since I was 5 years old all I asked for, for every birthday and Christmas was a dog, but it always came down to the fact that my dad did not want one. The summer of 1999, when I was 12 years old, was the summer that changed everything.
One of our closest neighbors was going out of town for the summer and asked me to watch their 1 1/2 year old Sheltie, Scooter. Scooter was untrained, and mainly an outdoor dog. So all summer I had fun playing with him and training him with basic obedience commands. My best friend Erica Wilson, was involved with agility at the time, and got me hooked. I just wished I had a dog of my own so I could start agility too. Then I had the idea to ask our neighbors if I could do agility with Scooter. They thought it was a great idea and gave me permission to start right away.
I started agility classes with Laura Yarbrough in the Fall of 1999, and it was a lot of fun, but the first year was really rough. Scooter refused a lot of obstacles unless you made him do them, and he was also really slow. My first show was in May 2000 and Scooter qualified barely under time. The second show was in June 2000, and that was the worst show I have ever had. Scooter refused every contact obstacle that weekend, and we came home with no qualifications. When we got home I was grooming Scooter and realized that when he was neutered about a year before, the stitches had not been fully removed so there was a portion of the stitch that was sticking out and poking him every time he jumped or went up an obstacle. I had finally figured out what had been holding Scooter back!
Over the next couple months I helped Scooter gain confidence, speed and accuracy. From December 2000 to November 2003 Scooter and I have gotten 14 titles, including Agility Dog Champion and are competing in the Masters and Excellent B levels.
Meanwhile, while training Scooter, my dad had a change of heart and realized that I was really serious about wanting my own dog, and it would not just be a pet that sat around untrained and had nothing to do. So, for my 15th birthday (June 2001) my dad said I could get a puppy! I decided on a Border Collie puppy, which I got from an AKC breeder in August 2001. I named him "Shoreland's Sky's the Limit," or "Sky" for short, and he is a blue and white male Border Collie. Getting Sky was the best gift I had ever received. I couldn't ask for a better companion, friend, or agility partner. To date Sky has gotten 10 titles and is also competing at the highest levels of competition.
From 2000-2004 I have received over 275 ribbons between Scooter and Sky. Sure, it feels awesome hearing your name and your dog's name called to go get that 1st place ribbon, or even just a qualifying ribbon, but no matter what there are always 6 things every Junior Handler should always remember:
Agility and Dogs have
been a huge part of my life. I have grown so much as a person, and learned
so much from my agility instructor and friends. The thing I love best
about the dog show world as a whole is the atmosphere and camaraderie
of the people and their dogs. In the end you realize it doesn't matter
if you have the best show dog or a pet, but it is the memories you create
and experience together and they are memories you have forever and will