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The Perils of Canine Agility Training

Olly Takes a Face Plant

This week my friend Stephanie sent me a video of Olly, a Jack Russell terrier who recently became an instant celebrity after face planting at the Crufts 2017 Agility Trials. An incident that many viewed as comical and even heroic unleashed a landslide of social media rants about canine safety, training, handler competence and the like. I, for one, viewed Olly’s header from a different point of view. A novice handler of a novice JR enrolled in agility training, I concluded it was time for me to start wearing a protective helmet.

In My Experience

Canine agility presents more torqued ankles and goose eggs for humans than it does for their doggie partners. In our case, I suspect Minnesota weather plays a role in this. For example, when winter forced my JR Winnie and me to move our training activities indoors, we soon realized that I was the one who needed a personal agility trainer. Winnie’s first run through an improvised kitchen weave pole course launched an impressive face plant of my own. It happened when the sprinting dog startled our fluff muffin cat that hurtled himself directly into my path. A hard landing and some lively language followed. I managed to escape with a nasty rug burn and a bruised knee, but the cat now spends his time downstairs in the clothes dryer.

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Cats, Cats, Cats

Surprisingly, a second mishap also involved the cat. He must have been looking for payback when he took leave of the clothes dryer long enough to needle the JR. It happened as I was setting up a jump course in the living room. The dog and cat were practicing warmup laps around the house, and I could hear them coming my way. The two of them rounded the corner at a full gallop. Surprised to see me on my hands and knees adjusting a jump, the fluff muffin leaped onto an end table and skidded into an antique lamp. The glass lamp shade produced a deafening crash as it hit the fireplace hearth sending glass flying and the cat back to the clothes dryer. Meanwhile, the end table tipped over and conked me on the noggin causing an impressive goose egg. That’s when I decided it was time to pull out my Charles Owen riding helmet—at lease for in-home training.

70fb035a38479c64da6fa67209a950b7Fortunately, spring arrives soon and we’ll move our agility program back outside where a large maple tree, bird feeders, and a few lawn chairs provide the only serious obstacles. Winnie and I still enjoy her agility classes, though we recently had to pay a fine when she piddled on the classroom turf. I don’t think we’ll ever compete in the Crufts Agility Trials, but we certainly have come up with a creative way to exercise the cat.