Taking home the reserve ticket! Willow & James

This year, the 2020 agility season simply never started due to lockdown measures. Although we agree these measures were necessary, they left us feeling a little gloomy because after Willow and James’ success at Crufts in March, we anticipated an amazing season ahead for the pair.

However, with some very careful planning and organisation, the “Bretford Agility Championship Show” went ahead in October, with full Covid safety measures in place.

This being one of, if not the only agility championship show in the UK to take place this year, meant it was high-stakes but also a very exciting opportunity for all the top grade (7) agility handlers around the country.

The large and intermediate dogs ran on the Saturday, the small and medium dogs on the Sunday. Splitting the heights over two days is common for Bretford, as there is only one ring. However, this year it seemed even more appropriate as it meant the show ran smoothly with plenty of space and time between runs for competitors entering and exiting the ring.

James and Willow haven’t competed since March. However, they have spent many weekends training and developing their skills and speed as a team.

In agility, Championship classes consist of two rounds: one agility and one jumping. From these two rounds, the dogs’ results are combined (the placings) and the top 20 overall are invited to a final.

James and Willow in their true “go hard or go home” fashion put in two smashing appearances in the agility and jumping rounds, winning both! Placing them in the overall 1st place position.

In the final, the dogs run in reverse order, i.e. the dog placed 20th overall runs first and James and Willow in this case running last. The pressure always builds in the final, the atmosphere can be cut with a knife as often times and places are split within hundredths of a second of each other. Just one paw out of place can have you sliding down the results table.

The final came. All dogs and handlers put in an amazing run – it was clear that a lot of handlers and their dogs had trained hard during lockdown. James and Willow ran last and put in a smashing time. They were pipped to the winning spot by 0.005 of a second – the winner coming in at 33.671 and James in second place at 33.676. This meant they took home the reserve ticket, which is certainly an achievement and something to be celebrated.

The winner of the Medium agility ticket was Shannon who runs a beautiful Blue Mearl collie called Gift. James and Shannon are fellow team GB members who in fact travelled to the Netherlands together in 2019 for the Agility European Open. So, if James had to be second to anyone, he’s pleased it was Shannon!

Even though the 2020 agility season hasn’t quite panned out as initially expected, the few runs this weekend reminded us how much we love our sport and more importantly, how much we love our dogs. Well done Willow! Even though you’re the naughtiest dog at home, you always pull it out of the bag when it comes to shows.

James, Lizzie & Willow