Seven years ago, Westminster added agility to their event program. The agility portion has been a smashing success, with widespread TV and media coverage and sold-out stands. Late last year, I was beside myself with excitement when I got the news that Miles and I were invited to Westminster. The Westminster agility chair told me that Miles would be the first Welsh Terrier to compete.
It is safe to say that for nearly any agility competitor, being invited to venture to NYC to be in the little pool that is Westminster agility is a great honor, but once the proposition is real, it feels a bit like you’ve been invited to skydive on live TV! Miles and I have worked very hard, and many doors have opened for us. What is behind those doors has been unknown. Like a Welsh Terrier, I dove in, brambles and all!
When Miles and I arrived at Pier 94, the purple carpet extending far and wide was so exciting to see, that I couldn’t contain my smile, even though it was very early in the morning and the uncertainties of the day ahead permeated the then largely empty space. As we moved towards the small but busy crating area, I recognized many famous competitors. I immediately noticed the looks of tension on their faces. Even the border collies didn’t seem their usual selves. Westminster agility isn’t just a competition: it is a performance.
In our early years of agility, Miles and I couldn’t have put on more classic performances for a Welsh Terrier team: off-course tunnels and wild zoomies littered our stage. Welsh Terriers are sensitive to environment, and in agility, they demonstrate their sensitivity through actions that look anything BUT sensitive! I worked hard to develop training methods that would allow my WT work in highly distracting environments. In 2013, as an unknown writer and dog trainer, I won the Maxwell Medallion for training article from the Dog Writers Association of America for an article about this topic.
For any competitor, regardless of their dog’s breed, it takes immense courage to go to Westminster agility. For Miles and I, the bulk of our courage happened before we stepped onto the famous purple carpet.
There is no pretending at Westminster. You get out there, you have your shot, and your dog knows exactly what you are feeling. As Miles and I walked to the ring, children rushed to pet him, and members of the public asked me a onslaught of enthusiastic questions. There were seconds to go before we’d need to compose ourselves to enter the ring for our less than minute competing. Cameras would be rolling from all angles.
I took in my last breath before entering the ring, and stroked Miles’ chest one last time as I allowed my own chest to exhale. As I walked into the ring with Miles at my side, I felt my body flush with pure, unfiltered excitement and joy. I was ready. I looked into Miles’ eyes. There was no hiding between teammates in this moment. It was in that moment that I knew. We were ready. We belonged there.
1st published in the Welsh WAG, May 2020
Miles and Emma had all clean runs at Westminster, and placed 4th overall in their division! Visit Miles and Emma at www. milesandemma.com to see the video of them competing at the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster on February 8th, 2020.