Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Just back from our first agility training session, where we had a real ball. The class is taught by Sumac Grant-Johnson at the Wagit Training Center: she's very nice, very fun, and has an easy-going, bright way about her that is very affable. Her intro to agility class didn’t make, so Ari and I are actually in an intermediate class. The meant we literally just leapt into the whole agility course/time trials concept without a lot of warm-up. The rest of the class members were very nice about these scruffy, novice interlopers invading their class.

A lot of the agility process reminds me of being back in the showjumping ring; in fact, Sumac told me she trained in equitation for quite some time before starting agility work. That makes a lot of sense to me, and I was happy to see that at least the basic concepts translate. Basically, there’s an enclosed ring (remember that detail; it’s important later) with any where between 10-20 elements like jumps, hoops, seesaws, and big a-frames. The humans get to walk the course and see the order of the elements, then their task is to call the dog through the standards as quickly as possible.

We started warming up on each of the elements. 20 minutes into the session, Sumac had pronounced Ari a real natural. She seemed legitimately impressed with the Wub, who really did take to each of the elements like she had done them before. As Ari ran over the seesaws and serpentined through hoops, Sumac kept saying things like “wow, she’s really smart.” After one or two tries, the pup was even running up and over the steep A-frame (about six feet tall with a very steep pitch), though Sumac had warned us it would take several sessions before the pup would become comfortable with it. I was so impressed and proud of our little blue-eyed dog.

45 minutes into the session; however, everything became a very different (and far more familiar) story. Each dog got the chance to run the course from beginning to end alone in the ring. Sumac was so impressed with Ari she suggested we do it off leash like in a real competition. The pup did a great job and raced through everything. And then, in classic Ari fashion, she turned into a raging coyote. She tore around the ring in those tight, crazy circles she does, and then she found the only hole in the fence and slid right through it. We (and when I say we, I mean me, Sumac, the four other people in the class along with their high-priced pure bred dogs) spent the rest of the session trying to get coydog within striking distance of us. The ring isn’t far from Route 90, and I was scared to death she was going to bolt into the road.

Mostly, though, she just kept racing around like she was on fire, occasionally coming just close enough to make you think you might have a chance to catch her. Sumac, the Ari novice, tried toys and treats—naively thinking the pup could be persuaded by such paltries. Meanwhile, she just kept repeating (and now in a VERY DIFFERENT tone of voice), “wow. . . she’s really smart.” It took nearly 15 very scary minutes to get Ari back on leash. On the way home, I kept glancing at that angular, self-aware profile next to me and I couldn’t help but laugh. Where in the world did we find this wily creature?