I am back home now from attending my first International competition with Keeper – the Agility World Championships (AWC) in the Czech Republic. What an amazing 12 days away competing and experiencing one of the most prestigious agility events in the world! I’d love to take you with me on journey inside my trip, and highlight my experience with little Miss Keep Keep. Hands down, this was a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget! After coming off such a disappointing first world competition with Shades in May (when he got injured), I was hoping this experience would re-energize my excitement for world-level agility – and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
Previously, I have only been to Europe twice, both in the Netherlands. For this trip, we had to fly into a different country before heading in to the Czech Republic as there were no direct flights into Prague. Members of Team Canada flew into either Amsterdam, Berlin or Vienna and then travelled by car to the Czech Republic.
I chose to leave a few days early with my fellow teammate and friend Kayl McCann, as both our dogs needed extra decompression time before the event. It was also Keeper’s first-ever flight, so I wanted to ensure she had spare time to relax and unwind should it be a stressful event for her. As many of you know, I have been flying with a service dog (Shades) for the last 4 years. As a daughter of a retired airline captain, you would think flying is second nature to me; it sure isn’t and it’s quite stressful from the moment I walk into the airport.
Once we made it to the Czech Republic, Kayl and I had a couple of days to tour Prague – it did not disappoint! What an unreal city – the architecture and history were incredible. If you ever get a chance to travel to Europe, I highly recommend Prague! The city lay out is like a museum – nothing like what we have here in Canada! So many castles and unique buildings and the streets are filled with different patterns of cobblestone! Not always an easy terrain for little paws to navigate! We also ended up having a guided tour by a local where we caught some of the classic tourist areas but them some hidden gems.
Here are a few of my favourite pics from touring Prague.
Following two days of sight-seeing in Prague, we ventured to Liberec, where the competition was being held, which was about an hour outside of Prague. We put a lot of miles on the rental car and I will say, driving in a foreign country can be stressful! To this day, I am still confused by some of the traffic signs.
Liberec, Czech Republic
Prior to the event starting on Wednesday October 4th, Team Canada members had an action-packed schedule.
Monday consisted of a 2.5-hour off-site team practice at Tachyon Sport Arena, about an hour outside Liberec. This facility was state of the art! We were all blown away. Apparently, this facility was ‘typical’ in Europe. Not only did it have the best turf in the world with Galican equipment, but it also had a full grooming suite with 4-5 bath stations, a restaurant, a bar and little tiny cottages onsite that you could rent and stay in while you trained and travelled through the city.
Here's our small dog team:
Tuesday was a BIG day - on-site team practice, vet check and measurement!
The vet check came first in the afternoon. I had no idea what to expect, having never done this before. It was definitely overwhelming! First off, all teams are patiently waiting outdoors to get into the vet check. Dogs (and handlers for that matter) were only allowed into the arena once they passed the vet check, and the handlers had donned a yellow competitor wrist band. The best way I can describe this experience was organized chaos. You are led into a big room where they have four exam tables. There is lots of talking and barking – it is loud and there are people everywhere – a sea of pink volunteer shirts! There were at least 4-5 staff at each table waiting for the handler/dog team to arrive. You placed your dog on the exam table and then BOOM. Someone is grabbing for your arm to place the yellow wrist band on, you are showing them the necessary paperwork (e.g. rabies certificate, microchip, proof of CKC registration) and the vet immediately starts to complete their exam. It all happened VERY quickly. Keeper was a bit unsure of the whole situation but stood and didn’t move a paw! We were both a bit shell-shocked, just following orders and trying to get through the chaos! From vet check, you then moved into a different room where your dog is measured. For dogs who are new to FCI, they require a height measurement to ensure they are in the right height category for the competition. Once your dog gets their FCI measurement, they never have to be measured again. Thankfully, we aren’t close to the cut-off height for the 12” category so we sailed through that!
Team practice occurred later that evening. For the practice, they split one ring into 4 sections – each height had its own section – small, medium, intermediate and large. They do this to save time as no jump bars have to be changed or adjusted. It really is quite efficient. Each ring has the same layout and you weren’t allowed to move any of the equipment. Each team had 10 minutes and 30 seconds for warm up! Although it doesn’t seem like much time, it was plenty. Each dog had about 2 minutes to warm up.
The countdown was ON!!!!!!!!
After the vet check and warm up, Keeper and I were ready for a good-night sleep. T minus 24 hours till I set foot on the famous green carpet to compete on the International stage - I was beyond excited. This feeling was better than any Christmas morning....