In December, The Clever Hounds are took their annual road trip to Orlando, Florida for the AKC Fast CAT and Agility Invitationals. Spice, Alice, and Ginny were invited to represent PBGVs in the performance events and Gromit and Cara were entered in the breed ring.

Fast CAT Invitational is a lot of fun, but ends up making for a long week. The invitations are based on last year’s Top 5 dogs of each breed so it’s not a surprise which dogs will be invited, but the event doesn’t open until October and you don’t know which days you’ll run until very close to the event. This makes travel plans hard and makes the event more expensive than it needs to be, which probably has some impact on entries. I like that the invitations on based on a dog’s 3 fastest runs, so qualifying has more to do with actual speed than with some often you run Fast CAT. This makes it possible to qualify when you also compete in other sports, since there are only so may weekends in a year.

What I don’t like about any of the Invitational events is that dogs with unknown pedigrees who are registered through the PAL (Purebred Alternative Listing) program are allowed to compete as purebred and potentially take spots away from dogs from preservation breeders. It would be much more consistent with the original mission of the American Kennel Club to have all dogs with unknown pedigrees either have breed confirmed by DNA testing or compete as All-American dogs at all events where participation is limited to a small number of dogs of each breed. Many uncommon breeds, like PBGVs, are so rare as to be endangered. Events like the Agility and Fast CAT Invitational have the potential to serve as a showcase for breeds that need more support. As a preservation breeder, I find it incredibly disheartening that AKC doesn’t take its role in breed preservation more seriously.

This year in Fast CAT, Ginny and Alice were the only PBGVs to make the trip. Alice hadn’t run since last year’s invitational but was happy to play one of her favorite games again. Ginny surprised us all and ran faster than she ever has before to win the gigantic Best of Breed ribbon. Ginny also finished her FCAT title on Wednesday. Ginny’s times from the weekend may earn her another invitation for next year, but otherwise the girls will both retire from Fast CAT and leave the fake bunnies for Cara. Fast CAT is fun but it gets expensive and I’d rather focus on things like agility that require more training and skills.

Since we had to be here so early, Cara showed in the breed ring every day also. She’s a little young to be competitive and she’s been struggling to get her tail up in the show ring lately. She did such better this week- I think she likes it when there are a lot of PBGVs around. (Really, who doesn’t?). She also came into season soon after we got home, so this may have been part of the problem. There was a large entry and it was nice to catch up with some PBGV friends who we don’t see often. Breed shows aren’t my favorite activity for a lot of reasons, but they are definitely more enjoyable when there is a large entry and a chance to visit with friends.

When I moved Gromit to the preferred classes in agility, I knew I was probably giving up his Invitational spot since only only preferred dog in each breed is invited. This was the case, so he played in the veteran class at the specialty on Friday instead. Gromit had a great time in the ring and came away as Best Veteran.

The rest of the weekend was focused on the Agility Invitational. I’ve had PBGVs since 1990 and have competed in agility with them since 1998. Over the years I’ve always tried to attend big events to show what these awesome hounds can do, but it was always with the belief that getting to finals was not a realistic goal. I’ve had 4 clear rounds at Invitational many times before and so have other PBGVs that were faster than mine, but we were always just a little too slow to place high enough. Spice has not only broken through this barrier, but she has done it more than once.

When we made finals in 2020, the entry was smaller and the building was quiet- that was definitely not the case this year. Spice ended up ranked #10 out of 117 of the most consistent twelve inch dogs in the country. She didn’t only make finals because of the “one dog of each breed rule”. She made it because she is fabulous. Spice is the most amazing dog I have ever had the privilege of running and because we have worked incredibly hard this year. Going into Round 4 was the most nervous I’ve been before an agility run in a long time. We were 15th overall prior to that run, so I knew a clear round gave us a good chance at finals. We pulled it off and then had a clean run in the finals too. We got to enjoy the “hot seat” (where the current leader for the jump height waits) briefly and ended up with an 8th place finish. The finals have aired a few times on ESPN2, so it was great get to show the world what a PBGV can do.

Alice and Ginny also had a great time representing PBGVs at this event (and Fast CAT Invitational). They are young to be running at this level and had some mistakes but also had some really great moments. I’m proud to have represented the breed I love more than anything with these breeder-owner-handled girls.

It was good to get home for a holiday break after this long trip, but we had a fabulous time with the Clever Hounds!