Maya – Life and Times of an Agility Cavalier – The Beginning

Maya, our first black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was an unlikely agility dog and we were unlikely dog agility handlers. In 2002 we’d never seen or heard of the sport and thought weekends were for wine tasting, shopping, socializing with friends and other activities perfectly reasonable to accomplish when not at a dog agility trial.

From the age of 8 weeks Maya showed she was quick, physically and intellectually. She picked up running up and down stairs in one day despite never having seen them before and she delighted in retrieving toys thrown down the hallway.

Maya was actually meant to be Jim’s dog and at 12 weeks or so he took her to puppy preschool while I took Lucy to intro to obedience at Seattle Agility Center down at the old site in Renton. While I was battling Lucy sniffing at every square inch of the carpet in her class, Maya was having none of that socializing in puppy class so she hid under the table.

One of the other Cavalier owners suggested we try agility as her dog was shy too and she though it helped with confidence. Somehow it transpired that I (Karen) would bring Maya to agility class, which I started when she was 16 weeks. Wow, from day 1 she really took to everything – delighted running through tunnels, jumping the low jumps, and finally learning the a-frame during those first 6 – 8 weeks. I remember our first instructor – a kind lady who ran Shelties – who had infinite patience with the baby dogs and made a wonderful salmon treat with eggs, wheat germ, and flax seed that I made for years afterwards.

From there we progressed with Karen, Diana, and Doug through the next levels of agility class and moved to the large green agility center along Hwy 900. I have fond memories of extra practices on the weekend and everyone marveling at how fast Maya was running until SM was diagnosed in May 2003. After her successful surgery everyone was thrilled and surprised to see us back training after a couple of months and we progressed towards our first trial. Things that stick in my mind from our early training was a seminar with Bud Huston where he was teaching us turns at 180 degree jumps with blind crosses – must have been before blind crosses were removed as a legal handling move for a few years. That was my first agility seminar in the cold, wet, fall mud and Bud was impressed with Maya’s enthusiasm and speed.

Our very first agility trial may have been NADAC at Argus Ranch as I vaguely remember getting the registration and running 12-inch jumpers. However, the first trial I really remember running with her was the Boston Terrier trial at Elma at the end of 2003. I know we had taken the pictures and written up the justification for AKC that she was really a Cavalier and received our ILP # 100535.  Somehow for this first trial I had convinced myself and Jim that we needed a place to stay at trials that wasn’t a hotel and was sturdier than a tent so we purchased our first popup camper. With 2 king sized beds and a pop out dinette it was super comfortable for 2 adults and 2 Cavaliers, if a bit chilly in the NW winter.

The trial at the Gray’s Harbor Fair Grounds was overwhelming – lots of rules about run orders, walk throughs, course maps, and I was as nervous as could be. Despite Maya’s brilliance, in the first 3 runs we failed to qualify even once. Uncharacteristically she was too afraid to go through the chute so we rigged up one inside the trailer using the shower curtain and practiced. And on the very last of our 4 runs for that trial in Standard Maya and I got our first Q and that’s where her agility career really got started.

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