Posted by: jility | March 18, 2012

The Big Jility Invitational

Since retiring my nine year old agility dog, MACH 2 Charisse Poodle MPD, I have done a lot of agility soul searching. My goals haven’t changed much (just go have fun), but my expectations have come full circle. My youngest standard Poodle, UPGRAYEDD (aka Uppity, Upp, Pankin Pants, Pankins, Pankies, etc.) has taught me more about agility and life than anything or anyone else.

Recently, I wrote a couple of blogs about how agility was before I knew what I know now. One is titled When I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know and the other, more recent post, is Ignorance is BlissAgility was more fun for me before I learned how it was supposed to be. Now, unless my dog performs everything at World Class speed, I feel disappointed in myself as her trainer. I am never disappointed in my dog, only myself for being a big fat failure! I hate that about me and vow to change it! I am trying hard to silence the voices in my head that keep telling me I am not good enough no matter what I do.

Now, if somebody wants to get on an agility World Team or compete Internationally or win the Nationals, all the power to them. Just because that is not something that holds interest for us, however, it doesn’t make us damaged or lazy or less than. It also doesn’t make the overachievers better or more important or their goals more valid. For me, having fun with my dog in my backyard is just as good as a Gold Medal AND the dog doesn’t give a crap what titles it wins: another lesson I have learned the hard way in agility. I have had people tell me that the quest for MACHs is stupid and meaningless. I say, WHATEVER and anyone who feels the need to judge another’s goals and tell them what they enjoy is stupid, is not worth listening to. We trainer/handlers deserve as much positive reinforcement as our dogs and belittling students has no place in teaching. The ONLY person who looks bad when that happens is the bullying instructor.

When my friend Uncle Jef quit doing agility because it was no longer fun for him, I felt betrayed. How dare he quit and leave me  without my partner in crime at trials! We have been friends since the beginning of our agility careers. We met at our first match in 2001 and became instant buddies. I love nothing more than laughing and Uncle Jef makes me laugh. We have the same sick and irreverent sense of humor (think 12 year old boys).

So, when we were talking recently about agility trials and how they have become less fun, I started thinking about how to change that. My solution? Have our own trials! We could make up the rules, set the courses and invite only the people we like (or, more importantly, only those who like us, or at least pretend they like us).

I have learned a lot from email lists. There was a time when I was part of a billion email groups. Because I am opinionated and vocal about said opinions, I am not always a popular poster on those lists. It got to a point on many of the lists, that no matter what I wrote, there was somebody waiting to jump on me about it. Slowly, I realized that these lists were no longer fun, so I left. Sure, I could have stayed and lurked, but that  just isn’t me. Consequently, I started my own list  for agility called, the Jility list.  We have some great discussions and there are no members just waiting to ambush me. I love my agility list and the people on it! They “get” me and my twisted sense of humor.

So, with that in mind, I thought how wonderful it would be to do the same thing with agility trials. The results? The Big Jility Invitational! We would only invite people who make us laugh, or who laugh at our sick, warped jokes. At first, my thought was to only invite nice people, but that would have precluded Uncle Jef, Sir Cussalot and me. So, nice aside, the only requirements for an invitation to the BJI would be a great sense of humor and no overt nastiness towards any of us.

The rules are as follows:

  1. You must be nice to your dog
  2. Food and toys are allowed in the ring
  3. You may pat or kiss your dog anytime during a run.
  4. Training in the ring is encouraged
  5. You must never blame your dog for ANYTHING that goes wrong or risk being booed out of the ring and called names!
  6. You must have a sense of humor and not take ANYTHING we say seriously!
  7. You can jump any height you like up to 20” but be prepared for boos if you run a big dog in the 12” jump class (unless the dog is old), or a small dog in a tall jump height.
  8. Contacts are optional (teeter is not allowed – Uncle Jef made that rule) and are always low (dog walk at 2’ or less and A-frame at 4’ or less) so if a dog falls off or jumps off, they wont get hurt (my first agility dog had to reite due to falls from the DW. It is the most dangerous piece of equipment in agility!)
  9. Contact performance is not judged but is booable
  10. All approaches to the contacts must be straight!
  11. Weaves are optional. If there are weaves in a course, you can choose to do them or not
  12. Table is optional and will be set no higher than 16″
  13. There will be a 5 second penalty for each dropped bar, but since we don’t time the runs it really doesn’t matter
  14. The winner is decided by popular opinion

So, last week Sir Cussalot set up a course for the first ever Big Jility Invitational (BJI). The only people in attendance for this one were Sir C and Yours Truly. The course was a blast! It was an AKC jumper course Sir C found online at and it was designed by Terri Campbell. There were no backsides of jumps or back jumps or other absurd and demotivating elements to the course. It was straightforward agility, just the way I like it. The course was about having a blast with your dog and going fast.

The jumps were set at 20” (the highest jump height allowed in the BJ Invitational) and the tension in the air was nonexistent. Sir C was the first to go. Barque was fast and tight on her turns, however, a misplaced front cross cost him time and bars. It would come down to how Pankies and Crushie handled themselves on course.

Pankies was only two weeks out from being spayed. It was done with a laser, so the recovery time was extraordinary! She was released to go full out at two weeks after the surgery, so we went for it! Ball in hand, we approached the startline. She sat. I led out while she barked, scooted and bounced. Sure, I could fix that and make her a little lock step soldier, but why? She loves doing her startline dance and I love watching her be happy and excited, so whatever.

I released her and took off walking. We made the first turn without a hitch. She was wide on my next post turn but drove well. Then, it was all the way down the arena to the weavins. Two jumps out I yelled “WEAVINS! GET A WEAVINS!” and she took off like a shot and dove into the weavins. She wubs her weabins. While she was in the weaves, I layered two jumps to get to my next location; the tunnel. She ran into the tunnel, I called and she came to me as she exited. Then it was two tight turns to the finish. I bungled my verbals and let the first verbal turn cue go on much too long, so she didn’t get the second verbal cue until she was taking off. She read my mind and got a nice tight turn to the left. Then it was home free and the ball toss baby!

GREAT RUN! YEAH The crowd (me) screamed, cheered, jumped for joy and went wild! I was deafening!

Sir C went to get Crushie for her turn. It was a beautiful run but, sadly for Sir C and Fwushie, a bar dropped, giving them a 5 second penalty.

I WON!!!!! I WON!!!!! We were only 2 seconds slower than Crushie too (Sir C timed it on the computer.  I think that was against my rules, but, since it went in my favor, I let it go).

Now, in what other organization can a 62 year old, fat, crippled woman with polio, post polio and a freaky scared Poodle, beat one of the fastest dogs in agility?


Agility just the way I like it 🙂

Here is the winning run in slow motion.


  1. Helen, enjoyed the BJI….Felt like Sadie and I were on the course again. Sandy + 3

  2. This is so great! I think you hit the nail on the head Helen and I would also like to participate in this Agility Invitational!! I would even host at my place as well so we have multiple locations to trial at! This is how agility should be and how fun it used to be before all the “rules…” You got it and I want it!
    Thanks Helen!

    • Start the movement going!

      • Also, I think the motto for the club should be:

        The greatest handler in the world is the one who’s dog is having the most fun.” My favorite saying and our team shirt for snobby AKC trials where you cant wear your training team shirts or photos and names of your dog…ai yi yi…like it really matters???

  3. Please, please Helen let Bryce and I join your next “Big Jiility Nationals” ~~~ It sounds just like what Bryce and I would love. Lots of fun, no big expectations, limping by handler perfectly acceptable, perfect positional cue not so important and a barking, happy dog, that doesn’t always have great contacts, would have furry friends just like him — no other venue can compare! Sign us up!!!
    Thanks for speaking out for us older, not in shape, limping, in pain (most of the time), women who just love the game to have fun with our pups!

    • Of course Carol! You are always welcome!

  4. This blog makes me WANT to learn agility. You’ve shared your journey, full circle. This is what it is all about. Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. Can you kiss you dog during the run? If so, I would like to enter my 4 pound toy poodle, Rosie. The trial must be virtual since she recently had a craniotomy and isn’t allowed to jump yet (that part is true). She can,however run with no bars. Is that allowed at your trials? If so, she is fast and accurate so she has a good chance of meeting your criteria….especially the one about having fun? Now, can I stop her to give her a big kiss along the course?

    • YES! Kissing is encouraged! You can have your own BJI in your backyard!

  6. What fun!!! As I was watching Cruft’s agility and so jealous that the leash runner was handing not only the leash but the toy to the handler in the ring at the end of the runs…I was thinking what a dumb rule to not let us reward our dogs immediately after our runs! Having fun with your dog while running agility…what a concept!

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