||Well, it was a cold and wet Melbourne we arrived in at 5:00 o’clock in the morning. I think we all have this thought in our minds about how hot Australia is but you could fit the UK into it many times over and it can take four hours to fly from one side to the other and of course to put this into perspective, it only takes a couple of hours to get to Spain. The hosts for our stay in Melbourne were to be Clive and Sue Makepeace. As well as being a member of the governing council for working dogs in Australia, Clive is also an obedience judge and one of the most respected handlers in Victoria, and Sue likewise.
When you travel abroad, it is sometimes good to stay at a hotel rather than with people but we have been very lucky in our travels in staying with some very nice people and this was to be no exception. They had a lovely bungalow in a suburb of Melbourne and they couldn’t have been nicer and really looked after us well.
After resting up on our arrival day, on the Thursday we went to have a look at the Victoria Kennel Club facility (correctly called the Victoria Canine Association and previously referred to as the KCC). There is obviously an Australian Kennel Club as the governing body but each state has, for want of a better word, its own Kennel Club. I suppose it could be compared to the way that the Scottish Kennel Club governs under the auspices of the Kennel Club in London. We never cease to be amazed in other parts of the world by the facilities that are on offer. Normally we would be telling you about the buildings and grounds that the dog training clubs have and we have seen some of the other country’s Kennel Club showgrounds such as in New Zealand but we were still amazed when we arrived at the Victoria CA’s facility which was just so impressive. They are still developing the site and in total it covers one hundred acres with at least 50% of it already developed and superbly landscaped. There is a very easy-on-the-eye low office block which contains all the administration for Victoria, next door there was a single storey building which looked a bit like a very large bungalow but which in fact housed the storage area and the Victoria CA Museum, and in buildings behind this there were lecture halls which are used as bases by dog clubs when they are not being used for lectures. However, the piece de resistance was a single-span 4,500 square metre exhibition hall permanently laid out in show rings, completely enclosed, and we were absolutely stuck for words. And all this of course was in addition to the numerous manicured lawned areas for outdoor rings.
The building itself is booked out for 48 weekends of the year and the only weekends free in the outer areas during the year are in December and January as I’m told the temperature is just too hot to show outdoors. The society which was hosting Mary in Australia tried to book the CA facility but unfortunately the only dates available for the exhibition hall were during December and January.
At the rear of the Victoria CA grounds, some of the area which was being developed there was allocated to all kinds of canine pursuits including gun dog training, working trials, lure racing, ridgeback lure racing, afghan racing, agility, obedience and breed etc and something I have never heard of, a special area that had been build for earth dogs - a sport that is growing in popularity in Australia and where the facility consisted of a network of underground tunnels which the dogs had to go in to find an item that had been left in there then bring it back out again! This is probably a bit of a simplistic description but I didn’t have much time to dwell, although I did ask if anyone crawled into the tunnels to hide the lure, but they told me that when they built the facility they put in various trap doors which they could open up to drop the lure into the tunnel.
We were very lucky that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Victoria Canine Association, Mr Roger Hampson, found the time to give us a personal guided tour of the facility and a very interesting private viewing of the library and museum which is a relatively new feature and which, at this moment in time, he told us, they were still trying to build up. But even though it was not yet up to full capacity, there were still an awful lot of doggie items to look at.
The following day, Friday, we were due to go and have a look at the venue where Mary would be taking her training weekend but before that I went with Clive to help lay out the rings for the Croydon Dog Club one day agility show which was to be held on the Saturday, although there was some doubt when we walked round as to whether they would be able to hold it as the ground was already waterlogged and the forecast was much more to come. But then I think we are all familiar with that kind of tale! This also gave me a chance to have a look at the Croydon Dog Club’s building because, here we are again, a quite familiar theme, dog training clubs in other countries receive much more help from the local council than we could possibly dream of in this country. In the case of Croydon Dog Club, they were given a piece of land in a recreation area by the local council and built their own clubhouse with the council’s help and support which consisted of a big training hall, club rooms, storage, kitchens and offices. And they didn’t need to purchase any land to go with it as, directly in front of the clubhouse, was all the grass recreation areas to be shared with other clubs. If only we could get our own councils to be as helpful and supportive! We ourselves at Rugby Dog Training Club have approached the council after seeing small parcels of land for sale which we thought we could afford and have been told quite categorically that we would be wasting our money as they would not grant us permission to put even a rabbit hutch on it!
After our socialising and sightseeing it was time to get down to business. We had lunch with Jane Fall who is Vice President of the Golden Retriever Club of Victoria Inc and it was Jane who had organised the weekend Obedience and Heelwork to Music Seminar which Mary was due to take. I think she was a little nervous about how things were to go as they had never organised anything like this before, it was a big financial commitment for the club in organising it and obviously to an extent the club’s reputation was on the line to ensure it was a success, so I am sure that she worked extremely hard on it with her co‑organisers Cheryl Gibson, Neil Paterson and Sharney Marmo.
The venue for Mary’s seminar was Myuna Farm in Doveton and the place itself is like a city farm where families can bring their children to see all the animals. Also, one of the main features of the centre is an indoor riding school which is used for riding for the disabled during the week and the Riding for the Disabled Association had their base there and it was this indoor school that Mary would be using. A total of ninety people had taken a place on the course but only about ten would be handling dogs - the rest would be learning as they watched the others being trained. As far as facilities are concerned, this was probably one of the best courses that Mary has ever taken. It just so happened that a member of the club was also a sound and vision engineer with his own company, so he provided the professional sound equipment including a head-mike for Mary and anyone who has been on one of her courses before will know that we have our own PA equipment for use in the UK because we do not think it fair to pay to go on a course and not hear what is being said. He also had a disco type set-up for the CDs that were to be played later in the day and a high-tech projector connected to a video player which was projected onto a six foot square screen high on the wall showing Mary’s routines and videos in all the breaks and both before and after the seminar.
It is difficult sometimes when I am doing a write-up on what Mary does because I am obviously biased but she has got a worldwide reputation for dog training and I would think she is one of the most well-known and talented people in the dog training world now, so although virtually nobody on the seminar had met her in person before lots of them had seen her on video or heard about her reputation. So there is an awful lot of pressure on poor old Mary when she takes an overseas seminar to ensure people leave at the end of the course having achieved two things: firstly, to have furthered their learning on dog training and secondly to have had value for the time spent on the course and the money they have paid to be there. Well, I think it is safe to say that both of those aims were achieved. From her very beginnings in taking courses fifteen years ago, Mary has developed her own inimitable style especially since she has become a devotee of clicker training. But unlike some clicker trainers, Mary still recognises that this is not the only way to train a dog so if handlers have a problem and they are not clicker training then she can still come up with the relevant answer to deal with it. She quickly developed a rapport with the audience and as soon as you heard them laughing, you knew she was getting the point over in a humorous manner and even the handlers working on the floor with their dogs and who she had to put right, sometimes in a humorous way, rose to the occasion. In fact, they did say there is a new phrase in Australia now, started by Mary, called “come on girl, shift your ass!” If you have ever been a spectator on one of her cabaret nights then you will know exactly what I mean.
In the morning, Mary covered most of the topics that the handlers wanted in Obedience then after lunch she moved on to Heelwork to Music and I have never seen people have so much fun. A lot of them had never attempted it before but even if you don’t intend competing in HTM there is so much fun to be had in training your dog to do the tricks. Let’s face it, most dogs are very intelligent and do not get enough to do, and this is where sometimes Obedience can be a little boring for them, so it does make life that little bit more interesting and exercises their brain cells if you can just introduce some of the most simple HTM moves. Also of course it expands the trainers own horizons. Well, the afternoon finished with a mass Heelwork to Music dance with, if you like, all the handlers performing on the floor to a simple routine.
The following day was a repeat and just as successful as the Saturday. Also at the closing of the weekend course it was good to hear one of the participants getting up and giving a speech of thanks not only to Mary for what they thought was a tremendous weekend but also to the Victoria Golden Retriever Club for having the courage and foresight to bring in a trainer of Mary’s calibre and they hoped that after the success of this event, the club would look at repeating the exercise.
So a great seminar which was hugely successful and a good start to our Around the World trip. This was followed by a little more sightseeing with Clive and Pam as there is some really beautiful scenery in Australia and it also gave us a chance to see one of the peculiar local customs in Australia. We were driving down one of the main routes along the coast when we were flagged down at a police road block and whilst sitting in the driving seat, Clive had to put a breath test machine in his mouth and give a good blow. It appears that they just choose a road and stop every single vehicle to give everyone a breath test. Perhaps it’s also a quaint old custom we should adopt.
I must just mention another little happening whilst on the way back to Clive and Pam’s one day as even on the main roads, habitation is a bit few and far between and we were desperate for a drink and perhaps the toilet when we came across a small village a filling station with a sign saying there was a café behind it. Well, I think the filling station consisted of two pumps and the café/museum was like something straight out of the 1950s. Everything on sale there was home-made - a really quaint little place. The husband of the lady running it came in and insisted that we went to have a look at his museum which was a bit like the size of our living room with some interesting pieces of local history but mostly of little value but he was quite proud of an English number plate he had and that was one of his prize exhibits because he said it came from a very old car that belonged to a lord but he didn’t know why it had got a little round circle on one end with the letters “CD” printed on it. We then informed him that it had come from a diplomat’s car. Well, you can imagine the response to that! Before we knew where we were, it was obviously going to go back on display as a number plate from a member of the royal family’s car. He then asked whether we would like to see his car and opened a door which led directly onto a garage and standing there was a 1926 Chevrolet Pick-up which although I insisted he shouldn’t get out of the garage as it was getting near closing time, he insisted that he should and promptly drove it round to the front. They were a lovely couple and it was one of those surreal and strange experiences that we are not likely to repeat anywhere in the world.
Anyway, it was soon time to take our leave of Clive and Pam. We had a two-hour flight ahead of us along the coast past Sydney and on to the Gold Coast just down the road from a very popular resort called Surfers Paradise where Mary would be taking another weekend training seminar.
It was a two-hour flight from Melbourne to Coolangatta Airport on what is the Australian equivalent of EasyJet, an airline owned by Qantas called JetStar. We knew that we were going to a holiday-type place because the plane was full of families obviously in the holiday mood, so we were looking forward to a bit of warm weather after the very cool conditions in Melbourne. And we were not to be disappointed. We flew into Coolangatta Airport on a wonderful hot summery type day with blue skies and lots of sunshine and as we landed we could see that the place was full of palm trees so we were looking forward to putting our shorts on.
Coolangatta is at one end of what you would term a glorious stretch of coast which is a magnet for holiday makers and surfers. The Coolangatta end of the coast is very quiet but with very good facilities as opposed to the other end of the coastline called Surfers Paradise and which attracts lot of overseas holiday makers as it is full of bright lights, clubs and general holiday-making entertainment. But there’s one thing both places have in common and that’s good beaches and a lot of surf, although I have to say why anyone would want to go surfing I don’t know! They do say in Australia that there is more chance of being knocked down in the street than being eaten by a shark, but when someone is eaten by a shark they put it in quite a quaint way they say someone has been ‘taken’. There is an amusing tale of a group of senior citizens from the Sydney area who used to meet on the beach for a swim each morning then one day a couple of years ago a man had his legs taken off. You do understand though, he wasn’t killed, he was only ‘taken’. This was rather upsetting for the group but can you believe that after his funeral they resumed their normal group swimming off the beach!
We were met at the airport by Ann Bulke who, along with her husband Tony, owns and runs the Coolangatta Pet Motel. We had first met Ann two years ago when Mary took a course in Perth and she travelled across from the other side of Australia to attend the seminar and actually booked Mary to take a seminar then, full of enthusiasm and really dedicated to spreading the word of positive dog training. But unfortunately during the last few months before our visit Ann went down with a very debilitating viral illness then to make matters worse about four weeks before our arrival, both she and her husband Tony caught flu and I don’t mean just a cold, I mean the proper flu. Luckily Tony had almost recovered but Ann was still not well from her original illness and had not recovered from the flu either, so it was going to be a very hard weekend for her and I have to say we have the very highest regard for Tony as not only did he help and assist as much as possible in the forthcoming seminar but also even though he had staff at the kennels, he had to run them as well.
Spot on time, Ann collected us from the airport and we were very pleased to see her again. It was about a 20 minute drive from the airport to their home at the Coolangatta Pet Motel. Although the kennels are only 20 minutes from a really busy coastal town they were in the middle of nowhere and up one of the steepest drives I have ever seen in an isolated position on the top of a hill. The property encompassed almost one hundred acres with at least one third of it as forestry. Our home while we were there was to be a small detached cabin just next to the main house and right next to the paddock which Ann kept for her own dogs which were six Golden Retrievers and an old GSD. Tony took us on a tour of the grounds in his Toyota estate car and I can tell you we had a most gripping journey through the forest in this normal Toyota estate and I would have thought we were taking a chance even in a four-wheel drive. Some of the tracks we went down were absolutely horrendous and I’m just amazed that the car got back with its exhaust and wheels still in place!
Just behind the house was the kennel complex, half of which was built five or six years ago with the second half being completed only last year. They told us this was the most modern complex in that part of Australia and I can well believe it. The facilities were superb, all the food the dogs ate was home-cooked in the kitchen every single day and I could see why people drove from great distances to leave their dogs there. And of course the hospitality for us was first-class, waited on hand and foot but also told that whatever we wanted we could help ourselves to at whatever time we wanted. We had a vehicle at our disposal and I could even have gone surfing with Tony if I felt like getting up at 5:30.am! But even if I had managed to stand up on the board, I would probably have fallen over looking for sharks!
Those deciding to camp for Mary’s course would be staying at Ann’s kennels in the big field opposite. Ann’s husband, handyman Tony, who seemed to be able to build or fix anything had put up a toilet block and shower block on the field and all the camping for the competitors was to be around that area. So it was nice for Mary to meet a few of the handlers before the course started. The venue for the course was just a few hundred yards down the road at an outdoor adventure centre called Camp Goodenough. This outdoor adventure camp is used all year-round by parties of school children; a bit like an outward bound centre and they had managed to hire the facility for the weekend while there were no children in residence. Parallel to the road at the entrance was a nice big paddock where Ann and Tony had erected a marquee because it was going to be too hot to train outside. As usual, Mary had a “pa” provided with a head-mike as I may have mentioned before that she will not train anywhere now without one. I always take the view that if people have paid money to come on a weekend seminar, they should be able to hear every single word said by the trainer, whether they are handling a dog or spectating.
Unfortunately, all the facilities including the dormitory accommodation and restaurant were at the other end of Camp Goodenough and the unfortunate part was that these were at the bottom of a vertical hill. And when I say hill, I mean hill. The only vehicle which could drive down and back up again even though it was a concrete road, was a four-wheel drive. The facility had to be built like this because all the various activities that the children did at their camp were situated in certain areas down the hill and the whole place was built amongst very thick forest. I think some of the participants who were staying over at the camp had a bit of a shock when they arrived on the Friday and the owner did finish up running a shuttle service with his four-wheel drive but the facilities were superb. I think it had been a few years since some of the girls on the course had slept in a dormitory but I hear they had a good time and the food was excellent. They also had a large indoor lecture hall facility with a big screen and video so this enabled us to play some videos one evening and show them a copy of the ‘Faking It’ programme, although we were quite amazed to hear that some of them had seen it on television in Australia!
For me, the most memorable part of the facilities at Camp Goodenough was when it was pointed out that on the roof of the kitchen curled round the chimney was a 12 foot python! The owners told me there were several of the large variety about but if they looked as if they were going to cause a nuisance then they contacted the snake man who arrived to take them away and release them in an uninhabited area. I can tell you that after that, we kept a close eye whenever we were walking through grassy areas.
The course itself which Mary took was going to be Obedience again with some Heelwork to Music. There were almost 100 participants and in some cases they had travelled thousands of miles to be there. I think the furthest travelled attendees were from the Melbourne area, Tazmania and Alice Springs. Quite a few of the participants were clicker trainers or had a basic knowledge of the clicker and if they knew nothing at all about it then they soon would through Mary as nearly all of her training techniques are now based on the clicker.
And Mary was on form once more so it didn’t take many minutes for her to win the whole audience over and set the tone for the weekend. She always tries to ensure two things happen immediately on a course one is that she retains a good rapport with the participants to try to make the training serious but light-hearted and also she preaches the fact that all training should be fun. One of her sayings they soon learnt was “come on, shift your arse girl!”
There were some cracking dogs on the course with a variety of breeds. The morning was spent on pure Obedience which, as you may be aware, is more based on American Obedience than British, so the closeness of heelwork is not required which means that unlike the UK a lot of other breeds can be successful. Then the afternoon was spent on Heelwork to Music moves and routines. And as with Melbourne it was really good fun to watch all the handlers trying their hand at HTM especially when there was a mass training session at the end of each day. It is really enlightening for me to watch the seminars that Mary takes. I obviously pretty well know what she is going to say now, but I like to watch the audience and it’s great to see them learning and even if they are not handling a dog then it’s amazing to watch their reaction when under Mary’s tuition there is suddenly a vast improvement in the dog training on the floor.
I think I can probably measure the success of a seminar by the fact that Mary has already been booked to go back to Coolangatta in 2006, probably to take a five-day seminar. She has also had invites from participants on the course to a town just outside Melbourne and also Alice Springs, again all in 2006. I’m just wondering how we are going to fit it all in!
We now had a couple of days off before flying on to New Zealand and on the Monday Ann had booked us in to Sea World, so they lent us the car to go ourselves accompanied by Jill Houston from Perth who had been staying with Ann and Tony over the weekend as she was then travelling on to Melbourne where she was judging Agility at the Melbourne Royal Show. Sea World is situated at the other end of the coast at Surfers Paradise and is a huge place I suppose you could say it’s something like the Sea Worlds they have in the USA and they had reserved two places for us to swim with the dolphins and which was to be the highlight of the day. However, I declined to let Jill take my place but unfortunately what she had not told us was that she couldn’t swim! So although everyone was asked to use life preservers, in Jill’s place this would prove to be quite imperative! Anyway, Mary said it was an amazing experience and it was incredible to watch what they can do with these dolphins. Of course, this is how clicker training in all animals started, with dolphin training, and although they use a whistle rather than a clicker, the principle is exactly the same. If the dolphin does something correctly, the whistle is blown and the dolphin knows he is going to get a fish for what he has just done. Mary even managed to have a chat with one of the trainers afterwards, to get an insight into a couple of points she had noticed. It’s a good job we don’t live there as she would be applying for a trainer’s job!
We also took in the rest of the attractions at Sea World, being the bears, sharks and the seal show plus some of the other numerous events including an amazing water-skiing show by some world champion water skiers on the big lake in the park.
We had Tuesday off ready for our flight to New Zealand on the Wednesday so this gave us the chance to have a rest and get our packing done as we were leaving early in the morning. It had been a great trip to Australia, we met some smashing people and our hosts, Pam and Clive in Melbourne, and Ann and Tony at Coolangatta, could not have been more hospitable and friendly. So it was with some regret that we left the Pet Motel with Tony to go to Brisbane Airport after Mary had got rid of all the fruit she had purchased but not eaten in Australia. We had to do this of course as you may be aware that it is an offence to take fruit into New Zealand.
On the way to the airport, we stopped for a final visit at the Olde Worlde Scottish Restaurant called MacDonalds for breakfast, bid our farewells to Tony and off we flew to New Zealand. I don’t think Mary was really looking forward to three days of Obedience judging but we were fortunate in that we would know a lot of the people there from a previous visit. And I remember my final thoughts as we set off on the plane from Brisbane I hope we threw all that fruit out!
We had a good flight to New Zealand from Australia but unfortunately there was a delay on leaving which meant that we were an hour late arriving. But all was well until we got to customs when they x-rayed our luggage before entering the country and disaster struck they found a tangerine! Well, it appears that this is a criminal offence. Even though the same sorts of laws are used in Australia and it was actually a tangerine from Australia, it was hidden in the bottom of our bag and had not been noticed. Mary was hauled off to the Customs Office and given a lecture about importing foodstuffs. Then we were absolutely stunned to be told that Mary was to be fined $200! Well, Mary was not amused. I did get my credit card out to pay and she told me not to pay it, so they gave us a statutory notice saying that we had to pay within fourteen days and the Customs Officer removed the offending piece of fruit (I think that was after he put on gloves). We left customs with Mary mumbling something about “I’m not paying $200 for a tangerine!”
The original intention had been for Mary to take a training day in New Zealand as well as judging, but that was before we realised she would be judging for three days which means three days walking around an Obedience Ring on her feet. Also I had forgotten that the first day’s judging was to be on the Thursday and we only arrived on Wednesday evening, so when we were met at the airport we really just wanted to get to the motel after all the delays.
The motel we stayed in was just round the corner from the venue which was a brand new one built by Waitakere Council called the Trusts Stadium. It was a huge single-span rectangular building with five breed rings, followed by a grooming/benching area and then on the other side of the partition wall were two Obedience Rings. Finally, on the grassed area outside were two Agility Rings for the one-day agility competition which was to be held on the Saturday.
It was a nice comfortable motel with a good sized room and we were informed on arrival that there was to be a pre-show meal with all the judges and officials at 8:00 pm that evening which, due to our late arrival, was going to be a bit of a rush. But nonetheless we made it into the private dining room for 8 o’clock. There followed a little bit of uncertainty as we were informed that we could not get our meal unless we had our meal tickets and the lady who had them was not there. But in due course they turned up. Although all the food was laid out in a hot buffet, we then had to wait until the show officials came back from the venue and unfortunately by the time they did arrive back, the food was not quite as hot as it could have been, Diane, the lady in charge of Obedience and Agility, did come to speak to us but we never actually spoke to anyone official from the New Zealand Kennel Club; in fact, that really set the tone for the whole show.
It was quite interesting to see how the New Zealand Kennel Club made use of the facilities they had hired. At the close of the show each afternoon, a breed society moved in and held an evening show in the venue. They call these Associated Shows, so on the Wednesday evening before the New Zealand Kennel Club Show started, there was a Pekinese National Show, on the Thursday evening shows were held by the Schipperke/ Collie/Auckland Working Club and there were more shows held on the Friday evening. It’s a bit like Crufts finishing, then instead of the halls and rings staying empty for the evening, a single breed society could move in to hold their Open Show which certainly seemed a good idea to make use of all the facilities there.
On Thursday morning, the first morning of the show, Mary was due in the Obedience Ring to judge Test ‘A’. She had 50 dogs to judge and in the adjacent ring a local judge, Mr Bobby Brown, was judging Novice. Mary had judged in New Zealand before and was impressed with the improvement since her last visit but still thought that, like the last time, there was a lot of hesitant handling which in turn makes the dogs lag in the lower classes, and she did pass comment that perhaps some of the exaggerated movements of the handlers seemed to be more acceptable over there than they would in the UK. Her Caller Steward for all three days was to be Ted Willis. We have known Ted and his wife Sue for a long time and Ted was an absolute first-class steward who also arranged scent cloths, sendaways and retrieves to save Mary having to carry it all in her luggage. Her Scribe on the Thursday was Ray Murray. Apart from being an excellent scribe Ray is a Maori so a few bright sparks took great pleasure in announcing that “Maori Ray was stewarding for Mary Ray”!
The winner of Mary’s Test ‘A’ was Karuz with Caddo owned and handled by Karen Sadler who we have actually known for many years. She is an excellent handler and also trains dogs for films and television work. Cruz was a GSD crossed with a Siberian, a stunning worker! In second place was Sue Willis with Torquins Dancing Queen, a cracking young dog imported from the UK from a litter bred by Lyn White, a previous Crufts Obedience Championship judge. And Mary could only split the first and second places after a run-off.
On the Friday, Mary judged Special Beginners and in first place was Tara Sweet Pea, a soft coated Tibetan Terrier, owned and handled by Miss K Magorian. Then in second place, by just half a mark, was Todd, a New Zealand Handy Dog.
On the Saturday, it was time for me to do some work as I was going to judge Novice Part 1 and Part 2 and the Senior class with Mini, Midi and Maxi in each class. My co-judges in the other agility ring would be Bernadette Thompson and Alan McClumpha. The last time I judged in New Zealand, I did feel that I had made the courses a little too difficult so this time I did make them much more open and at the same time there is no doubt that the standard had improved. But in saying that, I still had quite a number of eliminations and faults although I was well satisfied with the number of dogs who went round clear. In fact, I have to say there were some absolutely superb agility dogs but the major problem the dogs had was the handlers. In almost every case of elimination, it was the handler at fault and not the dog, through not giving a command, commanding at the wrong time, not being in the right spot or giving out the wrong body language. But, as I said, the standard had improved and I was really pleased with the placed dogs in my classes.
The winner of Novice Part 1 was Pico Santa Bear, a Toy Poodle handled by Mrs C Bennett. Almost two seconds behind her in second place was Huntersfarm Hez Nico, a Jack Russell Terrier owned by Mrs K Wheaton and seven seconds behind her was third placed Titian, a Staffie Cross handled by Miss R Baker. In fourth and fifth places were a Miniature Poodle and a Golden Retriever.
In Novice Part 2, in 30.98 seconds clear, I had Neva Dee Question, a Border Collie owned by Miss C Marriner, and in second place was Highland Breeze, a Herding Dog also owned by Miss C Marriner. We had the opportunity to meet Miss Marriner again the following week and she is quite an exceptional young lady. I say young because she is only 14 years old and she is already one of the top agility handlers in New Zealand. I think they had all better watch out though as she is now also starting to train for Heelwork to Music! In third place in Novice Part 2 was Jodi AD with Mr E Hamster and that was a Labrador Cross. A Sheltie was in fourth place and a Golden Retriever in fifth.
The last class I was to judge was Senior. Again, I tried to make the course challenging but not difficult and of course the same thing happened the handlers found their own faults but I was very pleased with my placed dogs which were all clear. The winner in 34.48 seconds was Agility GR CH Ace in the Hole ADX, a New Zealand Herding Dog handled by Mrs D Jackson. In second place and in 36.52 seconds was Kiss Me Quick, a New Zealand Herding Dog handled by Mr Rhode and in third place in 36.77 seconds was Karamea Bell ADX, a Kelpie/Border Collie handled by Mr B Ireland. In fourth place was a Border Collie and fifth was a Dalmatian.
While I was getting wet outside, Mary was judging inside in the dry and it was Test ‘C’ for her that day. She had 44 dogs to judge and as with all Obedience, it was in a complete running order so they had to work in their correct place. Again, she was very pleased with the standard and in first place was OB GR CH Castaways Just a Hussy CDX, a Working Sheepdog handled by Mrs L Ferguson, losing just 3.5 points. This is exactly the type of handling that Mary was looking for. She was a smart handler, with no-fuss handling and just got on with the job and her dog is super - this pair would do well in the Championships at Crufts. Close behind her in second place and losing just 4 points was OB CH True Blue of Milton CDX, another Working Sheepdog handled by Mrs J MacInnes. Then in third place, after winning a run-off was OB & AG CH Jalain Deal Me In ADX, losing 4 points, a Border Collie handled by Mr J Muir. In fourth place, also losing just 4 points in the original round was OB CH Oquido Van De Badhoeve CDX, a German Shepherd Dog handled by Mrs E Farrell and in fifth place was a Working Sheepdog called OB.GR.CH. Forever Magic Silver Fern CDX handled by Graham Hawkyard and this was another dog bred in the UK, this time by Pat Evans.
Well, we both enjoyed our judging. Mary was exhausted after three full days and I was still a bit damp and muddy from standing outside in the rain but someone had mentioned re‑presenting the winners’ trophies in the Best in Show Ring and as I walked past this ring I saw the other two Agility Judges presenting trophies but I really was in no state to go into the ring to present them and had not been asked officially. When I got to Mary, who was just preparing to leave the venue, no-one had told her at all that the trophies were to be re‑presented so we just left without seeing or speaking to anyone official, We did hear that there was an after show dinner for the judges and officials but due to the long journey ahead we had to leave.
Mary’s ring steward Ted Willis and his wife Sue had invited us down to Taupo for a couple of days before our onward journey to South Korea on the Wednesday. They had very kindly picked up all our luggage when we checked out of the hotel that morning so when we left the venue we joined Ted in his vehicle for three hour journey to Taupo, Sue having left three hours earlier in a separate vehicle. It was a fairly long journey although in miles it probably didn’t deserve to be three hours but once you get away from Auckland where the majority of New Zealanders appear to live, it is extremely rural including the roads. And I think that is part of the attraction of New Zealand to me; if I had to choose anywhere to live other than the UK, New Zealand would be very high on my list (sorry Australia, but they don’t have spiders and snakes!) Once you are away from Auckland, the scenery is absolutely stunning. We had one stop on the way down and in fact that was the very place they filmed the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, or I should say the town adjacent to the site. And this small town, in common with a lot of places is New Zealand, is a bit like thirty years ago in the UK and I mean that in the best possible way.
If you visit New Zealand, part of your tour has to be Taupo. It has a lake the size of an ocean, hot springs, stunning rivers and waterfalls in fact as a tourist it has everything you want. And if you live there, you just haven’t got the pressures that we have on land at home. So for a very reasonable price and within minutes of the town centre, you can own a home on between one and two acres of land. Ted and Sue have a large detached house with a wonderful view over the town and lake and with their own training paddock. We didn’t need to do much sightseeing as we had been there before but they did take us for a look round and we did do all the usual tourist things but it was just lovely for Mary, after three days of hard work judging, to have a couple of days to relax and do what she enjoys most, which is training dogs. So Sue invited a few friends round for some training with them. One young lady who came to see Mary and do a spot of training was especially memorable. She had actually won first and second place in my Novice Agility class and won first place in Starters Agility. But her talents didn’t end there because she is also a competent competitor in Obedience and the reason she wanted to see Mary is that she is also doing Heelwork to Music. She is extremely talented, fully supported by her parents and is destined to be one of the most talented working competitors in New Zealand and she is only 13 years old, so definitely a candidate for the YKC if she lived in this country! I did ask her if she would be interested in competing in the International Agility at Crufts but unfortunately I think cost may be a limiting factor unless she can get a wealthy sponsor.
We had a lovely couple of days with some smashing people at Ted and Sue’s and as with dog training people throughout the world they are so hospitable. But on the Wednesday it was back up to Auckland Airport for Mary to face the music, or I should say to face the Customs people to pay her fine for the offending tangerine! We had persuaded Mary to pay her fine for two reasons - mainly because Mary has had several invitations to go back and take some training seminars in 2006 but also because we didn’t want Interpol turning up on our doorstep! So we paid the fine in cash and got ready for our flight to South Korea. It was very nice of Diane who was in charge of the Obedience and Agility at the NZ KC Show to come to the airport to say goodbye and we did appreciate that gesture. And finally, I would have to say that the hospitality of Ted and Sue, and the pleasantness of some of the other people we met again, made it a very enjoyable visit.