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"Petroplolis", June 15, 2005

Dogs Explore Their Inner Athlete

Jump City Agility owner, Cara Callaway, was featured in an article in the LA Times Saturday edition article in the Petropolis Special Advertising Supplement on June 15, 2005.  The following is an excerpt from the article written by By Bekah Wright, Special Advertising Sections Writer.

Dogs Explore Their Inner Athlete
After listening to friends rave about the great activities they’d been doing with their dogs in Los Angeles — everything from hikes to yoga — I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Undaunted about not having a dog of my own, I organized a play date with my friends Susan Hartzler and Kimberlee Smith and their four dogs, Baldwin, Bliss, Ginger and Simon. It didn’t make a difference whether it was Frisbee classes or K9 Basketball — the dogs proved that if you have double the number of legs, you have double the fun.

Agility Training

At first glance, an agility course looks akin to a circus ring with teeter-totters, tunnels, weave poles, jumps and contact obstacles. But the dogs didn’t clown around when they tried one out at Singer’s ranch.

Experienced 6-year-old Baldwin, a Hungarian sheepdog who was ranked No. 1 in his breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) for the most agility wins in the U.S. in 2001, ran the course with Hartzler sprinting alongside to give encouragement.

“You work as a team and rely on each other to negotiate courses,” is how trainer Cara Callaway of Jump City Agility in Van Nuys describes it. “It’s truly a bonding experience.” A derivative of equine show jumping, agility training originated in England in 1978, reaching the United States in 1994. According to AKC, it’s the fastest-growing dog sport in America.

Callaway said any dog older than 6 months can participate as long as they’re in good physical condition. All that’s needed to get started is basic command knowledge such as “sit,” “stay” and “come” and once-a-week training to keep the routine down. After six months, most newbies get the hang of it. Their owners then can enter competitions, where they’ll be judged on speed and agility.

“You can’t do anything wrong,” said Callaway. “Agility training is all positive.”

But when Simon, a newcomer to agility training, tried the course, the miniature Australian shepherd found a way to beat the system. Instead of leaping over the course jumps, he scooted under them.

Jump City Agility’s weekly one-hour classes at Balboa Park in Encino cost $65 per month. (818) 920-0622; www.jumpcityagility.com. To learn more, visit the United States Dog Agility Assn.’s website at www.usdaa.com.

How I Survived My First AKC National Agility Championships
by Cara Callaway

The AKC National Agility Championships will be held in Long Beach, CA this year(2003) in December. Since several Jump City students have already qualified to participate, and hopefully many more of you will be attending as spectators, I thought it appropriate to share this article I wrote after my first "Nationals" experience.

As the time to leave for the AKC National Agility Championships in Chicago in October 1997 got closer and closer, the buzz in my head got louder and louder - "What was I thinking?"

Yet here I was, planning on subjecting my precious Teddy to the perils of his first airplane ride (hadn't I heard all the horror stories of what happens to dogs on planes?), spending probably $800 to $1000 on the trip (didn't I have bills to pay?), and leaving my neurotic little Scout home alone with my son (was he really listening when I told him where to find the number for the vet?).

I always believed my dogs and I had gotten as far as we had in agility because of some fluke, but here I was thinking we could run with the big dogs at the NATIONALS where the Best of the Best come to rack up perfect scores on courses impossible for mere mortals to navigate. A lack of self-esteem you say? Not when you're a fifty-something klutz with a hard-headed Cattle Dog who forgot how to weave in his last few shows. And if you think you get nervous before a run at a regular trial, try waiting for your first run on the first course of your first NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! Holy Dog Walk, what was I thinking!!

Okay, the scene is set: Chicago - sun rising over Lake Michigan, dogs and crates waiting at the hotel to be loaded on shuttle buses headed for the show site; exhibitors in running suits walking like astronauts, nervous but excited, down the last ramp to the space craft. Opening ceremonies - National Anthem, rules of the games and "good luck" from the head of the AKC agility program. But who could pay attention? I had the first course map!!

Time to walk the course. Yeah, you and all the 150 other handlers! The field was so full of handlers it was almost impossible to get a clear view of the course ahead of you. Luckily, they later broke down the course walks into two jump height groups. Nonetheless, the 16" dogs ran last in the 2nd round on Saturday and it was 4-1/2 hours from the time I walked the course until I actually ran it - Yikes! What was I thinking!!

I sat and watched, waiting for my turn, glued to ringside and mesmerized by the agility and skill of the Best of the Best - but wait, what's this? My Agility Heroes, the Best of the Best, the International Champions - they're what? Making mistakes? Getting refusals? Taking wrong obstacles? Wait, this course - why, why it's just another course, hard but "do-able" - over, over, tire, tunnel, A-frame!

Slowly the fear started to subside and was eventually pushed into a corner making room for pure, unadulterated excitement that we were here, at the NATIONALS, me and my dog.

The scoring was tough with 18 points off for every fault. The times were fast and minus the extra 5 seconds for the table. Runs with a single wrong course that would have qualified in "real life", pretty much knocked you out of top competition. But you ran each round as if it meant everything because even the Best of the Best could bungle a weave pole entry or knock a bar and move you up a few notches.

Before we left for Chicago, a friend tried to put if all into perspective for me when she said that even if things went very, very badly, we could at least consider ourselves the Worst of the Best. And as it turned out, we weren't the Worst of the Best. We were more like the Mediocre of the Best, and it was, after all, an honor just to be invited to run with the big dogs, the Best of the Best.

Do I want to be in the top ten next year at the AKC National Agility Championships, pulled out of the regular running order, pale faced, shaky and sweaty palmed, to run last against the Best of the Best to see who wins? You bet I do!

What am I thinking !!

The sequel to this, "The Nationals Revisited", will appear in the next issue of Jump City Barker.
Rescue Me! - Rescue Dogs and Agility
by Katie Grant Shalin

Jump City Agilty's canine student body is choc full of pedigreed pooches with bloodlines that can be documented for generations. Running right along side these dogs are pups that are just as pampered and loved but whose histories are less clear. I am talking, of course, about rescue dogs. They have found their homes and agility via pounds, breed rescues and even the busy streets of Los Angeles.

Dog sport participation is booming in the USA and it is not just for AKC registerable dogs anymore. NADAC and USDAA are both completely welcoming of mixed breed dogs and have had many national champions who are rescues. AKC's ILP program allows purebred rescues the ability to compete in Agility as well as other non-confirmation events.

The AKC is giving more and more attention to their ILP rescue dogs. They could not ignore them if they wanted to.. The highest titled agility dog in the AKC is MACH 8 Molly a rescued Keeshond."We know that a fair amount if ILP dogs that have come through rescue." Says Krista Woolf, Special Services Coordinater of the AKC, "We are always pleased to hear about rescue dogs that have fun competing. We encourage breed rescue programs."

Talk to anyone who has a rescued dog and you'll see right away that the bonds run deep. " Every time I plan on getting a puppy from a breeder", says Eileen Hayworth" I end up with another rescue. They speak to my heart." Eileen and Dan Hayworth may be Jump City's rescue King and Queen. They have several border collies and a shih tzu, all rescues. " Border Collie rescue is overflowing all the time because the breed is so popular and people just can't handle them. These dogs need homes that can manage them."

Rusty Leavit and his family are the third and final home to their rescued Aussie Isabel.
"She had some abandonment issues when she came to us." Says Rusty " Agility has helped to calm her down a bit."

Training rescue dogs in agility is not always the easiest thing to do."The principles are the same [as with any dog] However, the baggage can be different." SPCLA and Jump City trainer Jill-Marie Yorey says , "With some rescues you need to spend time building a bond before you start training. I find with many rescues, people don't spend enough time trying to figure them out in the beginning. I do think agility is a great way to rebuild confidence in dogs that may have had it shattered for any number of reasons. In the beginning these dogs may appear to be those types that hate agility, but with a little perseverance you often find these dogs turn out to be the best dogs as companions and agility partners".

My own dog, a rescued shih named Zoë, came to me a smelly sickly pound dog Thanks to a lot of mutual love and the joy of agility, Zoë and I were ask to line up right behind all of the puffed and fluffed shih tzus in the Parade of Champions at the Shih Tzu Agility Nationals to accept award for high in trial. As any rescue worker or owner will tell you those kinds of moments are all the more rewarding because you know how far you and your dog have come.


August’s Teacher Feature: Cara Callaway

by Katie Grant Shalin

If you have ever been to a Jump City agility trial, you know Cara by the bright orange vest she wears so everyone knows that she is in charge. At Balboa, park it is her laugh and good mood that tell you she is Jump City's fearless leader. This month, as the first in a series on Jump City's teachers, I talked with Cara about her career in dog agility with her cattle dogs Teddy and Scout.

What moment stands out in your mind as the best agility moment ever?
I still get teary when I talk about this but it is the state team finals in 1998. All day my friend was saying you're in the top ten....you're in the top five... and then you're on the team! Right before I was getting ready to run everyone was screaming but suddenly we just focused in and it went very quiet. It was Teddy's kind of course, lot's of serpentines and really tight turns and we had… it was just the perfect run, and it was that run along with another of my teammates run that got California the Silver medal.

What has been your biggest agility challenge?
Weave poles. His whole career Teddy has had inconsistent weave poles. I have tried every technique and workshop and at ten years old they are still inconsistent.

You have often said that Scout,  is your strongest dog? Why?
 Scout has more attitude and edge than Teddy. She forced me to be a better handler. With Teddy it is "slow and steady wins the race", but with Scout, because she is so tuned in to me, one false flick of the wrist on my part and she is over the wrong jump. Teddy saves me a lot, but with Scout I have to be perfect, but when a run is clean it is fast and awesome.

Any embarrassing agility moments you care to share with your students?
Scout used to ALWAYS poop on the course. I mean ALWAYS. The gate steward used to ask me if I had a bag before I ran. She outgrew it. Thank God.

How has the sport changed since you started in 1994?
Times are faster turns are tighter and the handling is way more sophisticated. I also think we are seeing more of the giant breeds competing than we once did. Danes etc.

What attracted you to Cattle dogs?
The Challenge! They are smart like border collies but not as compliant.

How do you like life outside the 9-5 world?
I have never worked harder in my life, but I love it. I would never go back. I owe everything I have in my life today to Teddy.

Los Angeles Magazine thinks we're the best!
Here's what the August, 2003 issue of
Los Angeles Magazine says about us in its annual Best of L.A. cover story:

Dog Agility Class
Seven years ago Cara Callaway quit her law firm administration job to focus on her first love-helping Rover to be nimble. Now she runs JUMP CITY AGILITY, where obstacle course programs get schnauzers and pointers into shape. Callaway, who teaches group and individual classes at her North Hills home and at Balboa Park in Van Nuys, has well over 100 students and often maintains a waiting list for the beginners class in which dogs of all sizes undertake a variety of challenges. Many of Callaway's charges have gone on to competition, but that's not necessarily the goal. "It's a very happy place," says Callaway. "We reward the good and ignore the bad."

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