Welcome to Part 2 of my adventures in the Czech Republic competing at the 2023 Agility World Championship (AWC) with Keeper, the second youngest of my pack of five dogs. You can read part one of this series here.
In part one I shared my journey to the Czech Republic, and gave you a run-down of what happens behind the scenes prior to an International Competition. So, what came after the vet check and on-site team practice? Let's get into the meat of things!
Wednesday, October 4th – The day has arrived.
AWC officially begins! First, we had opening ceremonies, and then the small dogs competed (12” height division) in Team Jumpers – this would be our first run!
Opening ceremonies was incredible, minus the waiting in cue for the countries to be called in. All 43 countries and close to 1,000 handlers were jammed packed together waiting to go into the arena in alphabetical order. The environment was certainly not for all dogs; it was crowded, loud with dogs barking and people all squished together! Not ideal, but thankfully it wasn’t more than a 20-minute wait. Keeper handled it SO well, minus one little meltdown following a dog bumping into her – she is a very gentle soul at heart. Here is a video of the opening ceremonies:
For this event, Keeper was selected to compete in Teams – meaning we had 2 runs – Team Jumping (Wednesday) and Team Agility (Thursday). For this event, all 16 handler/dog teams for Team Canada compete in the Team event, guaranteeing them 2 runs. Then, Team Canada has an additional 12 individual spots that are awarded to selected individuals across the four heights – small, medium, intermediate and large. We didn’t make the cut for individuals this year, but it is one of our goals for the future! The maximum number of runs you can have at AWC is 4 (2 team + 2 individual).
With this being the first international competition for Keeper and I, my goal for this event was not to get eliminated in both runs. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy feat given the energy of the venue, the challenging courses and maybe a few nerves from me! I have to keep telling myself that Keeper is only three and we are still learning to gel as a team together. I can proudly say – we didn’t E in both runs! Much homework came from these two runs, but I was SO proud of how she handled herself.
In her first run in Team Jumping, she was SO high! I don’t think her eyes could have gotten any bigger. I feel she found a new gear – if that was even possible. This event was live-streamed, and I had to chuckle at some of the announcer’s comments. In the first run, Keeper came out of obstacle # 2 faster than I had anticipated – I was late for the blind cross and then had to think on my feet (to avoid an off-course) and quickly front cross – that wasn’t my plan! At that moment, the announcer said “That is some kind of individual handling.” Nope, nothing special – I was just trying to save the run! I also loved when he announced Keeper’s name followed by “Alright, let's keep it clean." Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with how we both performed. She held her start lines (not an easy feat in this environment), hit all her contacts, kept every bar up and showed that she deserved to be there. We walked away with our heads held up. One of my favourite compliments I heard from someone was that “we didn’t look out of place”. Here are the two course maps and our running videos.
Here are some of my favourite pictures from these two runs. Memories that will last a lifetime…
Although many people think 2 runs might not tire a dog out, I can tell you, I have never seen Keeper crash so hard in my life! Any chance we stopped, she would be draped across me sleeping. Environments like this are mentally taxing on these dogs. She even fell asleep on me in the car while waiting for my friend Kayl to hold her.
After completing my two runs, it was time to sit back, have a well-deserved beer, decompress and watch the best agility in the world - LIVE! There may have been some shopping involved as well; SO many vendors.
Overall, this event runs SO smoothly and efficiently! After completing a class, 20-30 volunteers would run out into the ring, gather all the equipment and place it in the middle. Then, they would immediately have the awards of that class for the top 3 placements. Music would be playing, and the winning countries would come in, waving their flag proudly and completing a lap of the ring. The stands would be cheering and clapping - it was so cool to watch! Team Germany must have brought half their country with them! They took up a huge section of the stands and were louder than ever. Following the award ceremony, they would start to build the next course.
Fun fact: they would send out a ‘white’ dog to complete and run the course once the course was built. Often, this is a young dog or a handler who didn’t make the National team looking to gain experience. They would run the course, and then the judge would tweak the course based on how that dog ran. There was always a lead judge, and then when dogs started to compete, another judge would also be in the ring. That’s right – 2 judges! Faults were not missed! After the final tweaks of the course, the handler walk-throughs would start.
Check out this video of the AWC atmosphere – from the course building to the dancing – it was efficient, organized and filled with SO much energy!
Throughout the five-day event, Keeper and I met some incredible handlers and dogs. Here are some of our new friends:
Speaking of Siren, I sadly missed her 1st birthday while I was away, but, I brought her back a few presents and told her all about her future husbands LOL. A massive shout-out to my pet sitters who made this trip possible and for caring for my dogs like theirs.
It was truly an honour to compete at this event. A VERY big thank you to everyone who has supported Keeper and I along this journey – it takes a village, and we certainly feel the love and support. Now, we take a few weeks off, pat our backs and then return to the grind! I am so excited for our future together and the many adventures we will go on.
Carolyn and Keeper.