Promoting structure, health, and temperament in performance dogs.

Posts tagged ‘Agility’

European Open Agility 2013 Wrap Up

Bella completing a turn to go up the a-frame in our agility course.

Bella completing a turn to go up the a-frame in our agility course. Photo by Carrie De Young, AKC Director of Agility.

Wow, what a great experience at EO in Belgium this year! It was a good opportunity to reconnect with friends and the international agility community, especially as I was camping on site with good facilities and a fun atmosphere. Our excellent coaches and the comradery of the U.S. team added to the event. In all I came away feeling satisfied that the training over the last year prepared us well for the course challenges and inspired to take our skills to the next level. In particular I marveled at the fitness and attitude of the German handlers that let them get where they needed to be on those long courses and at the fantastic distance and verbal control of the Russian team. Everyone’s dogs were well conditioned and highly motivated. There’s a reason many countries had teams called “All or Nothing”! This year Bella and I ran completely clear and fast in 2 runs with very respectable rankings and had 2 other qualifying runs with only a fault or 2 – no off-courses at all!  This year I felt we stayed in sync through all the sequences.

The weekend prior to EO Bella and I along with 2 other North American friends enjoyed the hospitality of a local club at the Lihos trial in Genk, Belgium. The weather was extremely hot but luckily we were able to borrow some shade tents for the dogs and take refuge ourselves in the spacious clubhouse, where we also enjoyed the Saturday night BBQ. The courses were extremely challenging and gave us a good lead into the EO weekend. Bella had a great first agility run at that competition taking first place.

There was a trophy for first place – the miniature weave pole set !


The club also hosted the U.S. team for practice during the week prior to EO, where Bella was snapped in action over the wall jump.

Photo by Carrie De Young.

Photo by Carrie De Young.

Maya – her story – the later years

Maya at Christmas 2007

Maya at Christmas 2007. Shh don't tell her it's really a cat costume. She's already suspicious.

After the diagnosis in 2008 we remained cautiously optimistic about Maya’s health. We started consulting with Dr Woodfield, our local cardiologist to have her monitored every 12 months. Statistically she was somewhere in the middle – we knew that 50% of Cavaliers develop Mitral Valve by age 5. Her prognosis wasn’t as bad as a very young Cavalier with Mitral Valve disease but it would play more of a factor in her health than Cavaliers who developed it later in life. She continued to eat, sleep, run, and enjoy life without any additional medication. I was busy with additional dogs in the house so the subtle signs of heart problems crept in slowly, e.g., she started to get uncomfortable sitting on laps.

Maya and gang in 2008

Maya eagerly awaiting Bella's first birthday cake along with the other puppies.

Also, during this time we brought our own Cavalier puppies into the world. Beth and Denzil, another great agility Cavalier, produced 3 lovely ruby girls, a black and tan boy and and black and tan girl. Again I had hoped to keep only a black and tan boy for breeding and showing but when my surprise black and tan girl showed up last of the litter I just knew she wasn’t going anywhere. And it’s no surprise that she’s sitting on my lap now 3 years later as I type.

Minnie and Granger shortly after birth

Minnie and Granger our younger generation of Cavaliers shortly after birth.

Maya continued to compete in agility and again got invited to the AKC Agility Invitational in California at the end of 2008. With other dogs in the house now competing in agility, knowing that her fastest years were behind us, and that we’d soon have 2 new human daughters in our house I prepared for this to be our last big competition. Maya did great and still ran the fastest times out of all the Cavaliers there, but a missed contact kept us out of the finals. One of the highlights for me was meeting the father of our puppies Denzil in the flesh, as the breeding was done through AI.

Maya in the garden

Maya in the garden with her characteristic long ears and coat

Over the years Maya’s coat got quite thin with the long term Prednisone treatment but she always had a long straight coat with long, long ears that looked magnificent.

Long Ears

Another picture from what I call the "really long ear period." Some people claimed the long ears gave her an unfair advantage in agility.

During the first part of 2009 our lives very much revolved around our daughters who arrived home with us from Ethiopia in February 2009. I concentrated what little time I had on training my new black and tan girl Minnie and my Pumi Bella. With 6 MACH titles under her belt Maya didn’t have to prove anything more about her agility skills. However, she really still enjoyed getting out and running agility, barking madly at the start line the same as she ever did, so I thought let’s finish out our MACH 7, which we did at the Evergreen Golden Retriever trial on August 30 2009.

Maya with her cool coat

Maya with her cool coat on which she wore during trials in the summer

By summer 2009 Maya’s heart disease was being classified as moderate and the murmur was about grade 3. She was on Enalapril now as well as Prednisone and after MACH 7 I prepared to hang up the agility leash forever. But Maya seemed bored and depressed without anything to do so we gradually brought her back into agility competition at a lower height.

Maya – her story – the middle years

After Maya’s successful decompression surgery everything seemed to progress like a dream for the first few months. I remember close to the end of her 4 weeks of confinement and drug therapy that she started tearing around the backyard with Lucy like we hadn’t seen her do for months. Of course we were cautioned that the outlook would be uncertain. SM could return and the damage that had already occurred that we could see as tissue death on the top left of her spinal cord in the MRI would never heal. After that she walked on leash, ran, played, and even restarted in agility. Sean Sanders our neurologist was supportive of trying agility again and moderating activity based on symptoms. Others told us Maya should never do agility again. We began our life of post-operative uncertainty.

Maya progressed in her agility career going from an uncertain beginning to starting to be competitive in the highest class in AKC Agility. By this point I’d fallen hopelessly in love with the Cavalier breed and looked to find a strong and healthy girl that I could do agility with in the future. We became friends with Sandy Robinson, a local Cavalier breeder, with the most beautiful Ruby Cavaliers I’d ever seen. With their fantastic bone structure and beautiful flowing red locks I felt certain they were the dogs for us. Sandy kindly entrusted us with one of her boys Kyle, who I trained in agility.

Lucy, Kyle, and Maya 2003

Our original Cavaliers Lucy (left) and Maya (right) with Kyle (middle), a long term visitor in our house from 2003 - 2004.

In late 2003 a litter arrived a Sandy’s house – 3 ruby girls born to Dazzle. We had been holding out for a ruby boy, convinced that would be the way to have a successful show and agility career. However Sandy called us up in January 2004 and said I think you should come over and look at one of these ruby girls. There’s one who is running so fast around the house that she’s jumping over the backs of the adult Cavaliers.


Beth our ruby Cavalier girl at 8 weeks in grandpa's arms.

Thus Beth entered our family. She quickly learned that Maya was boss and cuddled up to her to see what she could learn from “the master.”

Beth and Maya cuddled up

Beth and Maya cuddled up

Maya did not have the classic SM neck scratching before the operation but did have afterwards, and the scratching wasn’t too bad for the first year. However in the early summer of 2004 it became clear that the other SM symptoms were returning again. She started slowing down in agility and just seemed to withdraw a bit from life. I remember driving to agility trials at the time wondering if this would be her last one.

I took Maya back to Sean Sanders, who did another MRI that showed the fluid had returned. He prescribed a low dose of Prednisone, which I had been so happy to avoid after surgery, but now seemed our best option. I didn’t want to go to gabapentin as I knew that could make her quite groggy, so we persevered with the Prednisone and added MSM. We played with the dosage to mitigate the scratching as best we could but it was always there when she got excited but never when she ran in agility. We also tried Omeprazole and Cimetidine at different times but those seemed to make her tired and out of sorts. We stabilized with Prednisone and things felt good. Shortly after Maya’s medication was stabilized Jim and I remember her just taking off one day after a trial and chasing down a flock of birds down at Vancouver Park and loving it.

Maya in the snow

Maya sees her first snow in the winter of 2004

Knowing that SM progression was unpredictable I only planned one goal at a time – first it was Maya’s Master Agility Championship, which we achieved in March 2005 at Seattle Kennel Club in the Exhibition Center in Downtown Seattle.

Maya's first MACH

Maya's first MACH

In the summer of 2005 I had another MRI done that showed the syrinx had subsided again. I was cautiously optimistic knowing how the condition could wax and wane depending on the weather (always worse when a cold snap hit) or just randomly change. Next we went to Agility Nationals in 2005, thinking that we might not get another chance, and then we just kept on competing and competing with 5 MACHs by 2007 .

Maya and Karen at AKC Agility Nationals in January 2005

Maya comforting me after a disappointing run at our first nationals.

Over the years we got used the modified routine of a dog with SM – medication in the morning and suppliments in the evening and maybe an extra Prednisone every once in a while when things seemed bad. Maya couldn’t do regular walks on a leash. After a short while any type of collar or harness was too irritating and believe me we tried every one on the market. From time to time we’d insist she walked because it seemed inconceivable that she’d train hard in agility but couldn’t go for a walk, and then she developed an alarming spasm in her front right leg if she walked too long, so we lowered our expectations about walking.

During these middle years Maya enjoyed life. She traveled to Florida, California, and Arizona for dog agility.

Maya relaxing on a couch in Florida

Maya relaxing on a couch in Florida between competition days

She was my constant companion. I could not close my office door without Maya needing to come in and sit curled up in my lap as I typed. We were a team in every sense of the word. She snuggled with us on the couch in the evenings and generally kept our growing herd of dogs in line.

Zoe with Maya and Beth

A very young Zoe tries to muscle in on Cavalier territory with Maya and Beth.

Maya with Jim at Dinner

Never one to be out of the action in those days, Maya would install herself at the table every night after dinner was eaten.

She was the undoubted boss of the family guarding the house and the car from unwanted and wanted visitors. The other dogs took their cues from her and never dared cross her especially if she had a rawhide or food.

Do not approach

Do not approach, I repeat do not approach

She was fearless and she especially like to rush at men in big black coats, including one of our VPs at work 🙂 She was the queen and we thought we had her health under control.

The Queen

The Queen in her finery.

After perhaps our most exhilarating moment in agility ever where she was televised in the finals of the AKC Agility Invitationals, I remember sitting with Maya in the stands. She was ecstatic standing on my lap wagging her tail furiously and licking my face. She interacted with her adoring fans in the stands who just saw her fun and they thought she was incredible. I remember thinking that she was taking a while to catch her breath, but who could tell in such an exciting moment. Also, I remember being worried before the event that she was slowing down just a tad from the fastest she could run but she was still brilliant.

At Maya’s annual exam in early 2008 her heart murmur was first found – grade 1 – 2 but nothing that required treatment at that stage. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that’s what would get my special girl in the end, not SM.

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.