Spot On K9 Sports

Fun activities for all dogs

Is 10 Too Old to ADCH?

Me with senior spots,
Jolie & Darby

Aging has been on my mind a lot lately. This October, I will celebrate my 41st birthday and 15th wedding anniversary. In February 2014, I will welcome my first child, a baby boy. It’s a fact that he will change my life – which has largely revolved around my dogs and agility till now – but merely a series of educated guesses on my part as to how exactly he will change it. Will I be able to devote the same hours to my other “baby,” my training business? Will I still have the time and money to train and show in agility? Will friends run the other way when they see me set up a play pen beside their crates and X-pens?


Jolie jumps 22″

Until I found out that I was pregnant, my main obsession was the window of time closing on my Dalmatian, Jolie, and I as we earnestly focused on earning her ADCH (Agility Dog Champion) in USDAA before she turned 10 years old in December 2013. She needs two Master Snooker Super Qs, one Steeplechase Q, and two more Tournament Qs. After a series of setbacks, including back surgery in 2010, heartworm treatment in 2011, and being attacked by another dog in 2013, it’s extraordinary that she’s doing agility at all, much less showing in the highly competitive Championship 22″ class.

Now that Baby Boy Lane is on the way, and my own agile ability wanes, our window of time is a mere crack of opportunity. Earlier this year, I was panicked and anxious at shows, suffocated by desire instead of appreciating time spent with friends and my pretty spotted girl. With the baby coming, I realized I had to either do something different or retire Jolie and cherish her as a beloved companion couch potato.

Thus, Journey to ADCH was born. This new Facebook community is for anyone working to attain their team’s ADCH or PDCH and could use some support and motivation from peers along the way. As the number of likes surpassed 100 within just one day, I realized that this had gone beyond me and Jolie; it was now about many other hard-working teams who had hopes, dreams and aspirations.


Happy girl!

The day after I started Journey to ADCH, Jolie, Baby and I attended a USDAA trial in Naperville, IL. She went 1/3, Q’ing in Master Snooker for the 10th time, but was too sore in her lower back to weave in Steeplechase and Grand Prix. Regardless of the outcome, at the finish of each run, I threw my hands up in the air, excitedly exclaimed, “Good girl, Little Monkey!” and we raced to her container of treats. There was no sign of the panic or anxiety I had experienced at previous shows. Instead, I was filled with joy and happiness at being able to run my dog, visit my friends and their amazing dogs, and yes, I’ll admit, obsessively check for updates from fellow Journey to ADCHers who were sharing brags and support for each other on the page.

After the show, I finally had the emotional clarity I needed to make an important decision. Jolie had earned her last Q at 22″; it was time to move to Performance 16″ and maybe – or maybe not – begin the Journey to PDCH. She will never again be the 8-month-old adolescent that leaped over the couch and inspired my then 30-year-old self to sign her up for agility classes. But our journey together continues, as does the varied and inspiring journeys of many other teams for whom I will be loudly cheering … all the way to the finish line.

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What Makes a Good Coach

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” – popular wisdom

If you agree with that sentiment, I’ll wager that you haven’t yet experienced a great coach. Recently, I’ve taken up running again, an activity I enjoyed competitively in high school and college. It’s brought back a lot of memories of my high school girls’ cross country coach, Allan Goodman.

He was an excellent mentor despite many odds. For one thing, he was obese. He never ran with us like the boys’ cross country coach did. Instead, our co-captains lead the runs. When we did wind sprints, he drove his car behind us – one honk to go faster, two honks to slow down.

He was a bachelor, with no kids of his own, yet somehow he could not only relate to but inspire a group of awkward teenage girls. It didn’t hurt that he was a talented cook and prepared a carbo-loading feast the night before a meet.

He taught math, which generally isn’t the subject of choice for a gregarious leader. His quiet thoughtfulness and wry humor were perfect counterparts to our emerging social butterflies, eagerly seeking direction and approval.

In 1988, the Conant Cougars girls’ cross country team won the state championship. It was the first time in the team’s history that it had even qualified.  The following year, we came in second to #1 ranked Palatine. It was extraordinary.

Me & Brian after running 5K in August 2012.

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” – Jim Rohn

Since retiring my first agility dog and Dalmatian, Darby, in 2010 after earning her ADCH in USDAA, I have been unable to show regularly. My younger Dalmatian, Jolie, has suffered a series of setbacks, from lack of motivation to back surgery to heartworm treatment. My Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach, prefers showing off freestyle Frisbee tricks in front of a crowd than agility. Our newest pack member, Magnum the Border Collie, is only 10.5 months. He loves the game, but we’re still learning about each other. It will take time to become a team, both inside and outside the agility ring.

A trial once in a blue moon is not enough to keep in touch with my old agility friends, make new ones and experience firsthand the evolution in course designs and handling trends. Most importantly, I am not there to encourage my students. The majority are new to competition and would benefit from having someone in their corner.

At one point, I debated whether I should even be teaching a sport in which I was not actively showing. How could I best guide my students if I wasn’t out there myself, leading the way?

“Work the hill!” – Allan Goodman

As Coach Goodman proved, leading is it’s own form of doing. While initially disappointed that I did not have a teammate of my own to show, something remarkable happened. My students became my teachers, and their dogs became my teammates. Their enthusiasm and curiosity reignited my passion for this sport. The love of learning and the discipline required to practice it doesn’t require a competition-ready agility dog at my feet.

This past weekend, a group of my students attended the same trial together. They shared their collective wisdom about trial etiquette and how to remember courses. They cheered each other on during runs, celebrated Qs and the less quantifiable mini victories. They enjoyed each other’s company and friendship. Photos of happy people and dogs kept popping up on my Facebook news feed. It was extraordinary.

I think Coach Goodman would be proud.