a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Classmate As National Champion

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Classmate As National Champion

SUMMARY: Ashley and Luka win again.

Just got word that Tika's classmate Luka (and therefore my classmate Ashley) have won the 16" AKC National Championships. This follows their December win in the AKC Invitational. They are on quite a roll. They seldom seem to misstep these days.
Luka and her family at the USDAA Nationals in November after a run.

One of the things that has been both wonderful and hard for me here in the San Francisco Bay Area is that my "peers" have so often been at the top of the agility heap. For a while a few years back, I was in one class where it seemed that almost everyone in the class and the instructors were current or past national champions or multiple-times-over Top Ten teams or both simultaneously. It's motivational in some ways because you always know that you have to push yourself to be anywhere near the top finishers--which I hardly ever have been. But at the same time, I always also found it a bit discouraging--these were almost all experienced dog trainers, excellent athletes, people with credentials a mile long and I was just me, not always that agile, not always that coordinated, not always that quick at figuring out how to communicate with my dog.

This is different I think because Luka and Ash are new to agility; Ash isn't an experienced dog trainer (I think this is their first dog, and he and his wife have also been experiencing their first child at the same time that all of this is going on and they're also inspriational as a supportive, cheerful, and loving family); he doesn't have years of experience behind him. And while we're usually quick to point out that he's naturally athletic and long-legged and fast, at the same time he's just a regular guy who has just worked very hard with himself and with his dog and taken advice from anyone who'll give it (not just the superstars) and learned from it, and you can still see that he's learning things as he goes--every once in a while their lack of experience still shows. But more often than not they're winning, winning, winning. And with times and performances that are usually right in there with the national-class and world-class BCs and handlers in this area.

It's just so much fun to see. AND as I've mentioned here before, it motivates me more rather than discourages me, because I can see that you don't have to be a dog-training expert or a long-time canny competitor to find ways to succeed with your dog.

And the last thing that inspires me is not only that Luka isn't by nature a bold, driven, full-pedal-to-the-metal dog, but she isn't even a Border Collie. It's wonderful. Watch videos of some of their AKC runs.

And revisit my December comments about our Wednesday-night class.


  1. You are very lucky to have that type of camraderie in your classes. In the class I have switched to it is more like that. We have a lot of fun and joke around and challenge each other to try things that might seem out of our range. And our instructor helps us to stretch. It's the 1st place I've trained that is like that. And there are a couple people who are capable of landing on a podium. (not me of course, I am too old, slow and decrepit).

  2. I agree that it's inspiring to train with people who are better than I am. And it's one reason I prefer doing USDAA--I see better dogs and handlers there as a rule.
    But, it can also be discouraging when you see that, unless you can run at your dog's head like most of the successful teams nowadays, you probably won't have the fastest time.
    I am most inspired when I see an overweight, middle-aged woman with short legs beat people who look and run like Ashley. (Rhonda Carter, for example, and Barb DeMascio). It proves you can sometimes win even when you have to handle from behind. It keeps the hope alive :-)

  3. Can I ask what Luka is? From behind she looks a little like a Pyr Shep...but different colour.
    - Simone

  4. Yes, Pyrenean Shepherd. They come in various colors and coat lengths.