Monday, July 27, 2009

My Inner Athlete

I didn't grow up playing sports of any kind. In fact, Kev had to teach me how to throw and catch a ball while we were dating. I tried out for my middle school track team once thanks to much persuasion from the coach. She thought I would be perfect for hurdles due to my tall and lanky build. There was just one major oversight in her plan - she didn't realize how uncoordinated I was. It looked like I had been beaten about the shins with a bat after the first practice. Needless to say, I didn't run track. I'm just not an athlete at heart.

Based on my girly nature, I guess most people would expect me to have a fufu dog, not an athletic one. And while greyhounds can easily be treated like cream puff dogs, I've realized that they are happiest when they can be the athlete they are born to be. So I've been in search of something that will allow my girls to express their inner athlete while allowing me to bond with them.

We gave lure coursing a shot and Seka took to it like a duck to water. It is fun, but for the handler, there's not a lot of skill involved. And let's be honest, when it comes to training a greyhound to course, there's really nothing to it. It will either chase the bunny (plastic bag), like Seka does, or it won't, like Roxy. I'd also like to mention that coursing isn't for the faint of heart. Dogs get hurt regularly on the field, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

I watch all of the sporting dog competitions on ESPN and Animal Planet with envy, wishing my girls could possibly do these things. Dock diving. Fly ball. And the creme del la creme - agility. Agility is a total team sport between dog and handler. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience. You also have to have access to these types of training facilities near you. I live in the middle of nowhere which makes signing up for a quality beginners class nearly impossible without a 2 hour drive one way.

Thanks to Facebook, I connected rather randomly with one of my former 7th grade teachers who by chance is huge into agility. They have shelties who live to work in the backyard, climbing the a-frame or shooting a tunnel.
When I expressed my interest in seeing her dogs work, they invited me over for an introductory session so I could see what I was getting myself into. I was instantly hooked. Just a couple of weeks later the girls and I found ourselves at the local ag center for a huge agility trial watching my new mentor compete with their two champions (Duke, MACH II, is pictured above). The next week I had Seka and Roxy in their backyard learning to jump. I think they say the rest is history.

Roxy has been slow to come around. She's a fruit loop after all and lacks confidence, but she has the build and brains to be great. Seka on the other hand cannot get enough (I think you can see the look on her face in the pic to the right). She will go out in the backyard on her own and jump over the two makeshift jumps I have created while we wait for our professional practice jumps to arrive. It cracks me up to watch her have her own practice sessions.

They aren't jumping at competition height yet (24 or 26 inches - see the wirehaired pointer to the right), but after three weeks with little access to equipment, Seka is successfully putting two jumps together and jumping on the table without hesitation. The tunnel on the other hand is a tad bit scary and I'm sure it will take awhile. While Kev was watching all of the dogs run at the Perry trial, he said he couldn't imagine a greyhound on the teeter or dog walk. I have to admit I'm a bit intimidated by these elements too. Just as long as they don't end up looking like I did at the end of my first day of track practice I'll consider it a success.

Most readers of this blog may also read Jen's blog and know of her amazing agility greyhounds. They are just two of the very few in the country competing in the sport. I'm a huge fan to say the least. Jen is my greyhound yoda. I cannot wait until my girls are at a point to where I can take my girls to a private agility session with her. But right now, I think I would be reliving the time I tried to play intramural volleyball in college and ended up being hit in the face so often that I had to wear a hat to cover the bruise on my forehead for a week.

Maybe my girls can help me channel my inner athlete, at least enough to make them look good out on the agility course. Fingers crossed - and shoelaces tied.


Diane Greene said...

This is too cool. Duke and his Dad are the greatest to learn from. Welcome to our world!

BrittBeah said...

Yay! I'm so glad you've getting into agility. I really think you will love it!

Zan said...

Very exciting. Love the pic of Seka!!

pattysea said...

Just when I think, What's next for my granddogs, Seka and Roxy I log onto GreytBlackDog and VOILA ...
Sounds exciting for ALL of you!

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Can't wait!

gyeong said...

I did agility with English Cocker Spaniels a dozen or so years ago (back when no other guys were doing it), and it was a blast. I'm sure you and girls will have lots of 'coordinated' fun.