I recently competed with the golden retriever Gitchi (co-owned/trained with Susan Fraser) at the 3rd Annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster that took place in New York City on Saturday, February 13, 2016, taking third place in jumpers and third place in standard, and earning a spot in the live televised 20” final as the top seed, where I finished fourth after dropping a bar near the end of the course. The entire experience was wonderful and memorable while the final was exhilarating with just a touch of disappointment. I loved having family and friends watch me run on live television; seeing the finals on Fox Sports 1 emphasized the fact that dog agility is a sport. We enjoyed all of the support from the agility and golden retriever communities; thank you to everyone who met us in person, sent messages and texts, or posted about us on social media!
The event was very well run, and for the third year in a row, the public interest in dog agility spiked as a result of this televised event, as shown in the chart below:
Interest in “Dog Agility” January 2015 – February 2016
The All-American Dog Winner was Hailey and Karen Profenna of New City, New York. The 20” grand champion and overall winner of the event was Holster, an Australian shepherd, and Wendy Cerilli of Greenwich, New York, who was gracious in victory and gorgeous at the special awards presentation at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Official results for the finals, where the top four in each class earned a ribbon, can be found in this pdf file.
A wonderfully written Times Union article took a suspense-building approach to the 20” final.
The official Fox Sports article about the event, which includes video Holster’s finals run, was well distributed by the national media.
Gitchi’s three runs, including her finals appearance, can be viewed in the video below (video credit: Yay! Good Dog for JWW and Standard):
The very friendly and patient judges for the event were Kitty Bradley of the United States and Nalle Jansson of Sweden; together they raised the level of difficulty on course from last year; hopefully, this trend will continue. Thank you, judges, for your hard work!
I enjoyed the camaraderie, class, and happy enthusiasm of my fellow competitors; thank you to Russ Thorpe, a finalist from last year and this year, for taking the time to show me around the set up for finals. The relaxed atmosphere made for a great experience. I wish I had been able to spectate more, but I managed to watch a few outstanding dogs and their runs. Two of my favorites from the 20″ class were Rusty, a fantastic toller handled by Liz Armstrong,and Phineas, a powerful and fast All-American who ran with Elizabeth Randall (both dogs made the finals). Tara Baggerman and her border collie Leda didn’t make the finals, but edged us out in jumpers and had a beautiful standard run but with an unfortunate error. Before my prelim rounds, I had a very nice conversation with a gentleman ringside, and it happened that his significant other was Mary Lou Hanlon, who ran Shazam! Shazam was the lone border collie to make the finals this year, but I missed all three of their runs because Shazam ran right after us in both preliminary rounds (they won jumpers), and right before us in the finals (they also made finals last year).
During the briefing just prior to the finals, the event organizers told the finalists that there was a 40% increase in viewership from the 1st to the 2nd event, and that next year’s final will be moved to Madison Square Garden! This year marked the end of Westminster’s original 3-year contract with Fox Sports 1, but the agility event’s successful ratings have led to a new 10-year agreement.
Thank you to the AKC, Westminster, and all the hard-working folks who sacrificed warmer weather to put on a great event for the competitors and the dog-loving public. For all of our thoughts and a behind the scenes perspective on the event, be sure to listen to our podcast on your way to work, or your next agility trial. I’ll leave you with some of my keywords from the event: Westminster, televised finals, family, friends, fans, golden retriever, running contacts, happy children, Manhattan traffic, record-breaking cold, Korean BBQ, Gitchi, Sarah, Isaac, Susan, Steve, Linda.