Soaring temperatures didn’t slow down Sugar and Tressia Toole at the Agility Association of Canada National Agility Trial this past weekend.
After pulling in five clean runs, they took first place in Veterans double drop 16-inch and became Canadian National Agility Champions.
“It was a true winner’s performance,” said Bernadette Van Klavaren, Toole’s coach and trainer. “She held it together during training and in the competition physically and mentally. That’s very impressive in someone that’s only 21.”
Toole said the last run was the most stressful. It was Standards and a runoff where the order of competitors is reversed.
For the event, the course is set and dogs have to take the obstacles in a set order within a specified amount of time. If they get a clean run, they earn a bonus 27 points.
“Up to the last run I knew we were in first place. That usually means you go first. With a run off the order is switched so Sugar and I were up last,” Toole said.
For Toole, going at the end of the pack meant her fellow competitors would be lined up around the ring watching her run, waiting for any mistake that would catapult their dog into first-place contention.
“It’s not as though they want you to fail, but if you make a mistake it moves them into better position to win,” Toole said. “I knew we had to have a perfect run, so we were slower in time but she nailed every obstacle.”
Now that the competition is over Toole is relieved that all the training and hard work paid off. Sugar will be semi-retired and any practise will focus on play and fun.
Having an event of this magnitude in Nanaimo took considerable planning, organization and commitment.
At the opening ceremonies Mayor John Ruttan commended the work done by volunteers, adding that it brought a huge credit to the city.
“The volunteers were incredible,” said Van Klavaren, who was also the event chairwoman. “They went above and beyond, some staying past their two or four hour shift and helping all day.”
Though most of the volunteers were from the Island, many came from across the country. Some were partners or family of competitors while others volunteered simply for the joy of watching dogs compete.
“One couple drove from Alberta just to be a part of the action,” said Van Klavaren.
The hottest temperatures of the summer kept everyone extra aware of the dangers of heat stroke.
But with pools set up in centrefield for the dogs, tents at ringside and water coolers and hoses readily available, everyone kept cool.
“It helped that on site St. John Ambulance volunteers kept announcing to drink water and stay hydrated,” Toole said. “Every time they got on the PA I made sure I got some fluids in me.”
Extra protection and shade was provided for the dogs by opening up the horse stalls and Agriplex with volunteers acting as security to keep the animals safe.
But it wasn’t just the competitors that were well looked after.
Quality Foods donated a healthy array of food and throughout the weekend kept trays and tables well stocked. To help those working in the field, the Parksville store manager, Randy Henson, and a helper delivered water to timers, scorekeepers and other ringside volunteers.
Whether it was the hot weather, the allure of watching dogs in action or the chance of petting a puppy, the event brought more than 5,000 spectators of all ages, more than city officials had previously estimated.
Families, seniors, and young couples sat on blankets or bleachers to watch the dogs perform, some returning for more entertainment on multiple days. And they weren’t disappointed.
Toole wasn’t the only local winner.
Anne Charlton and Nick podiumed at eighth place in Regular 26 inch; Janice McAllan and her beagle, Piper, took fourth in double drop six inch, and tenth in Veterans with Beagle Addy. Angela Maharajh and her Havanese, Bella, stood third on the podium in Veterans six inch and Tom Ikeda placed 13th with Pepper in Veterans.
In addition to her podium finishes, Janice McAllan and Piper also won a Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest standing an agility dog can earn with 100 standard class qualifying scores and 125 games or steeplechase ‘Q’s.
For more information and results, please visit www.aac.ca.