A Sarnia woman and her three-year-old border collie are off to Germany next week to compete in the prestigious European Open against teams from 35 other countries.
“I’m still really new to (the sport),” says Karen Childs, 32, who qualified with her dog Cash for the Canadian Kennel Club Agility team after tryouts in Hamilton three months ago.
The sport involves obstacle courses that test a dog’s agility, as well as the handler’s ability to command and control.
Agility training is something Childs stumbled across three years ago as she tried to find a social and exercise outlet for one of her other border collies.
She grew up in Dawn Township on a sheep farm and always had collies around. When she moved to Sarnia, Childs got her own collies and one of them needed something more than obedience school to harness her energy.
“They are active dogs and they need a job. I took her to agility training where she could have some fun and I got hooked.
“I love it,” smiled Childs. “It’s taken over my life.”
She got Cash as a puppy and, as he grew, she discovered he has the speed that could make him a winner at competition. Agility contests involve jumps, tunnels, and racing through weave poles.
Childs said Cash is young to have made the Canadian team and she’s excited for his future.
Many of the best handlers were in Hamilton when they qualified for the European Open, she explained. Cash did well there, placing first in the steeplechase class.
When they arrive in Kreuth, Germany July 24, they will be part of the Canadian Kennel Club team of 16 large dogs.
“It’s a huge event for agility. There are 450 dogs in my jump class,” she said.
After the overseas flight with Cash – he’d rather have a seat in the plane but he’ll settle for his crate in cargo – the team is guaranteed to compete in four events. Some will be over in a matter of seconds.
“You line up, you breathe, and you go,” she said. “We could be running for less than a minute.”
Professionally, Childs is a pedorthist and owner of Tender Touch Orthotics on London Road. She is also an agility trainer at the Fox and Hound Canine Retreat in Sarnia.
Cash and Childs are also entered in two other national agility competitions this fall in Nashville and Georgia.
“My goal in Germany is to have a good time and a good experience,” she said. “I’m competitive but I’m also realistic. We’ll be with the best of the best.”