Last weekend, Gromit and Spice competed at the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster.  To compete in agility at Westminster, a dog needs to have a MACH or PACH title, which is an agility championship.  Entries are highly limited so you also need a lot of luck and the help of FedEx to get to play at this event. Preferred dogs need to have earned their championship in the preferred classes and they compete with the regular class dogs in finals. 

 

I hadn’t been to this particular site before and was apprehensive because Dave was at Aussie national, so I was on my own for unloading, parking, and getting to the ring on time. Gromit was second in the running order, so this last part was more of a concern than usual. The morning was a bit stressful since the crating area wasn’t really big enough and the valet parking was full, but the rest of the day went really well. 

 

This is a challenging environment for any dog and my perfect Spice-girl could not have done any better for me- even when I over-estimated my own speed and completely got in her way on the standard course.  Scoring for finals is time plus faults, so we just weren’t fast enough to get a spot.  

 

Gromit was also awesome in his own way, doing everything I asked while completely charming the crowd and playing to his audience the whole time. Westminster is unique because the spectators don’t really know anything about agility.  This tends to mean that they cheer and get excited more when the dogs make mistakes than when they run clean. Gromit’s jumpers run was a pretty classic example of that. He started slow, which is his habit, and the crowd when wild when he casually walked into the weave poles. He responded by looking at the crowd, wagging his tail at his admirers, finishing the poles at glacial speed, and then speeding up to have a beautiful end to the run and just barely make time.

 

I realized after that the way I handled things was really different than I would have a few years ago.  In the past I would have been upset that the audience distracted my dog. On Saturday, after his snack of chicken tenders, I took Gromit over to meet his fans and share some PBGV hugs. Recently circumstances have forced me to decide whether to prioritize agility or breed preservation and the fact that this felt like the right thing to do confirmed that I’m on the right path. My dogs were the only PBGVs running on Saturday and the event was plastered with billboards of Janice and Buddy Holly from last year. Taking some time to let the public see how awesome our very rare breed can be was more important than a few PACH points.  Gromit may a “good enough” agility dog, but his skills as a PBGV ambassador can’t be topped- I’m pretty sure that he was the cutest dog at the whole trial.

 

The winning dog from our jump height was actually the overall winner, which is extremely hard to do with a small dog. This was a purpose-bred Border Collie- Papillion cross named Nimble, who is a really terrific agility dog. I support all forms of responsible dog breeding, but I have to admit that it is frustrating to see Nimble’s win promoted as especially wonderful because she is a mixed breed. Mixed breed isn’t the same as rescued and I have a hard time seeing an organization like the Westminster Kennel Club imply that owning a sport mix is morally superior to having purebred dogs. 

 

Here’s a video of the Clever Hounds enjoying the spotlight at Westminster: