On October 28, Spice and I did the impossible thing and reached our big audacious goal of finishing her Agility Grand Champion title with her 75th FAST Q. My amazing girl is the first PBGV to earn this title. 

The AGCH is a lifetime achievement title that requires 450 qualifying runs in specific classes.

100 Master standard Qs

100 Master jumpers Qs

50 Premier standard Qs (Premier courses are more difficult than master, with international elements and more handling challenges)

50 Premier jumpers Qs

75 Time to Beat Qs

75 Master FAST Qs, which felt like a million. FAST is a distance game where the dog has to work at distances up to 25 feet from the handler. This is harder for small dogs and was especially hard for Spice since she has always understood that her job in agility is to follow me. I understand why FAST would be a fun class for some teams, but honestly it isn’t my favorite. 

It’s been a long journey to get here and it’s really one that started long before I even knew that this was the goal, which I think is often the case for the really big things in life. In some ways this was definitely a dog training journey and I owe a lot of our success to Susan Garrett’s Handling 360 and Recallers. Spice was raised with Susan’s training programs from the beginning and I know that a big part of our success comes from that. Spice also wasn’t my first agility dog so she benefited from all of the others who came before her and to her current pack mates. Running multiple dogs at every trial isn’t easy, but it does give you a lot of trial experience and opportunity to figure out what does and doesn’t work. The reason the AGCH is such a difficult title for any dog is because you have to qualify (a lot) in classes that require really different skill sets. There’s no short cut to that, you just have to do the work. 

In a lot of ways this adventure began in 1990, when I fell in love with a dog and a breed that would change my life. My first PBGV appears 6 generations back in Spice’s pedigree and there are still times when I see her mannerisms and quirks in the dogs I have today. Another important milestone towards where I am now was in 2006, when Spice’s grandmother Maya joined my pack. None of Spice’s ancestors were the level of agility dog that she is, but the breeding decisions I’ve made along the way are a big part of where we are now. Before you accuse me of breeding just for agility or altering breed type, please keep in mind that Spice is also a champion and master hunter. 

It was said recently in our breed club magazine that if only one dog has achieved a title, that title isn’t meaningful. This statement was really upsetting to me because they only way for breeds to continue to improve is for dedicated breeders and owners to be willing to set big goals and do the work to attain them, even if it’s something no one has done before. There’s a lot of emphasis in the dog world on attracting new people the sport, but without breeders who are willing to commit to breed preservation even when it comes at a huge personal cost, there won’t be any dogs for the new people to own. Accessibility and inclusivity shouldn’t only be about making things easy and entry level or there will be no motivation for improvement. 

I can’t ever remember a time when dog breeders weren’t under attack from the outside world. Too many people have no idea where puppies come from and don’t really understand how truly endangered many of our rare breeds are. Maybe it’s too late to change the mindset of the general public, but lately it feels like breeders are treated like the enemy within our own communities also. Preservation breeding is hard, can be done well in more than one way, and never results in perfection because living animals are never perfect.  Without people willing to dedicate a huge part of their lives to breed preservation, the dogs we love will not exist. Breeders can be hurt in big ways, like through legislation, but also in smaller ways that you may not even realize that you are doing. 

When you share “Adopt Don’t Shop” posts on social media instead of recognizing that this is a complex and nuanced issue, you are hurting breeders by promoting anti-breeding propaganda. 

When you look the other way when a mixed breed dog is misrepresented as purebred, you are hurting breeders by telling them that their life’s work is meaningless. 

When you believe rumors and take toxic people at their word, you are hurting breeders by not taking the time to learn the truth. 

When you ignore breed history and change requirements for progeny based titles, you are hurting breeders by implying that a single litter is the same contribution as a multi generational breeding program. 

When you hurt breeders, you are hurting dogs. Without breeders, there are no dogs- they aren’t magically hatched from unicorn eggs at the animal shelter. Every dog was bred by someone. 

To me, the real heroes of my agility journey with Spice are the breeders and stud dog owners behind every dog in her pedigree. Almost none of them have any interest in agility, but all of them were invested in producing healthy, confident, athletic, and stable dogs we wouldn’t be here without them.  I don’t know when or if I’ll have another PBGV talented enough to become an AGCH, but I’m so grateful for the fun ride that I’m on with my awesome Spice-girl.