Thursday, September 15, 2011

DogSport Essay Contest

Earlier this year I won a free subscription to DOGSport Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine covering all aspects of canine sports. It's a pretty good read, and I was happy to start receiving the publication because I follow them on Twitter as well. I had noticed in the first issue I had received that the magazine was running a contest where the winner received a year's worth of entry fees from DOGSport Magazine (about $4,000 total for the year of 2012).

Basically you had to write (in 500 words, or less) why the magazine should pick you to win the prize. In return, the winner will help promote the magazine at the trials entered and do photos and write-ups for the magazine. Sounds perfect for me, right?

Unfortunately, you had to pick only one dog and one event. I originally was going to write about LaMesa and our new budding partnership, but after the latest successes with Dally and the sudden change in her attitude towards competing, I had a tough decision between writing about each girl. So I did my best to try to sum up my desire to represent DOGSport with Dally in one essay and LaMesa in another, and asked a couple of co-workers to choose which one they felt was the better entry. Here are both essays:

A Few Roadblocks Towards a Partnership

Have you ever been given a golden opportunity, only to not be able to fully embrace it due to circumstances that you really can't control? That’s how I feel about my young Swedish Vallhund, LaMesa, and her agility career.

Thanks to a family friend, I got an opportunity to own a Swedish Vallhund puppy with great athletic potential. The breeder said this one pup showed more interest in running around and jumping than standing stacked on the groom table, so she thought the runt of the litter could be a success in the agility arena. One look at her little nubbed tail scurrying around at high speeds and I knew we would make a great team.

"Mesa" is my second dog, but she’s been a whole new challenge for me. While my first agility dog's early career was full of just making the time and almost a lack of enthusiasm, Mesa is a firecracker with the drive to do whatever she can to please me. When she looks up at me after we’ve completed a series or finished running a course, it’s like she’s saying, “Did I do good, momma?” She waits for nothing more than just a pat on the head and a “good girl.” Working with her has been refreshing for me and very educational.

I see so much potential in my little furry partner, however it’s been hard to get the ball rolling and keeping it on the right track. Things have been slow for us to due to a lack of funds for more training and more trials. When looking at the budget and trying to decide if I should campaign my older Corgi (who's own agility career blossomed this year) more than the younger Vallhund, LaMesa generally gets the short end of the stick.

I always assumed it’d be physically and mentally challenging to run two dogs at a trial, but I never really realized how hard it would be on the on the pocketbook. I’d do just about anything to not have to think twice before travelling to support my favorite American Kennel Club agility trials and show both dogs to their full potentials. Mesa has a strong potential to compete annually at the AKC Nationals, and even make a run at the AKC National Invitational once she's solid in Excellent B.

So why should DOGSPort Magazine choose Mesa and I as the recipients of the entry fees? It would mean that LaMesa never had to sit on the sidelines in 2012, giving us the chance to accomplish our goals and making things were just a little easier when it comes to difficult monetary decisions. The advantage of not having to worry about entry fees also means being able to attend clinics to improve our partnership, all while sporting the DOGSport brand.

The Trials & Tribulations of Training a Corgi for Agility

“Training a dog is a lot like training a horse, only the animal is smaller and you’re not on top of them--unless you fall on them.” This has been my training mantra since I started training and competing in dog agility four years ago. I grew up training and showing horses, but after life took me further from my horses, I turned to my Pembroke Welsh Corgi and decided she needed a job and I needed something to train.

Dally is my heart-dog. I got her as an 8-week-old puppy before work forced us to travel around the United States for various lengths of time. Because I had to leave my horses and family behind, Dally became my everything--and she still is. She’s been through the tears and the laughter, the moving boxes and the long hauls. We embarked on an incredible journey when we discovered agility after finally settling in Lexington, Ky.

At the beginning, we struggled with the typical agility challenges: the weave poles, distance work, consistency, etc. It was then that I also learned about that infamous “Corgi attitude.” We’ve had those days--and by "we" I mean Dally"--where she just didn’t feel like running the course my way…or even running the course at all.

And Dally’s not your "typical" fast Corgi. She often somehow "knows" the standard course time and run just barely under time to qualify. For a while, it felt like she just didn't feel the urge to put forth much effort in running faster than a gently lope.

She’s been a challenge, but has rewarded me by teaching valuable lessons in patience, forgiveness, and humor, and the best part of all, recently, Dally has simply blossomed.

At the mature age of 6, she’s decided that faster is better. We’re now racking up the AKC PACH points. Something clicked in her mind and she now believes that trials can be just as much fun as training, and she’ll pull me to the ring and be feisty at the start line. We make the ring crew laugh as we do our normal preparations of getting excited to run, while she makes very ferocious Corgi noises, only to be all business upon hearing, “Go.”

Now that we’ve hit our stride, we’re looking to qualify for the AKC Nationals. Unfortunately, my tight budget seems to hold us back. While Dally's potential is unlimited, my limited funds put a cap on how much training we can receive and how many competitions we can attend. I’d love to have more money to put towards attending clinics to learn more to be a better handler for Dally, but those goals seem like they're just out of reach. Instead, we enjoy our time at local trials.

I’d love to see Dally's potential fulfilled in 2012 before her age starts to catch, and the help from DOGSport Magazine would be a giant step in the right direction with the DOGSport brand.

Can you guess which one I chose? I decided to send in my essay about Dally because it showed more about what we've been through, while I'm sure there were probably quite a few entries about budding partnerships like mine and Mesa's. The winners will be chosen no later than Oct. 1, so I have a few more weeks until I know my fate. It would be a big help to have this opportunity next year, since I'm sure my ability to train and trial will be stunted due to wedding savings and preparations.

Keep your fingers crossed, and I'll keep you updated!

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