Groovy goes to UK - May 2010
Maiden trip overseas with my owners and they were overly excited and concerned at the same time … worried that they may have missed out on my paperwork which means I could end up in jail aka. quarantine, but all was well in the end. On day of departure, I checked into MASkargo Animal Hotel and was taken aback to discover a couple of live crocodiles held in wooden crates in the weigh-in area. More than relieved to find out that the crocs were not on the same flight and were being delivered to Johor instead.
After 20 hours (4 hrs check in + 12 hrs flight + 4 hrs clearance) in the crate and airplane cargo, I laid paws on foreign soil. Think I had minor toe and tail cramps on release, hence needed some serious stretching and zoomies to help regain my senses. By then, there were a number of humans waiting at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre to collect their pets and was quite a scene to see the over-the-top greetings extended by the dogs when reunited with their humans … big hugs and sloppy face licks were the order of the day! Cats gave their usual unbothered and bewildered look upon checking out.
Nose went into overdrive as I worked out my bearings and surroundings. Shivered a little as it was chilly on arrival, so Ms Owner put a sweater and scarf on me. Large furry K9s will adore the weather, whereas short haired ones will need time to acclimatise. We expected moderate spring conditions but the chilly tail end of winter persisted throughout the week.
First impressions … I could have done with a beanie over my frozen nose.
First couple of days was spent driving through the English countryside, cobblestoned towns and villages in Costwold, Gloucestershire. Green farmland and yellow fields of rape seed flowers peppered the flat country with occasional hills on the wayside. At smaller towns with little traffic, you can spot locals walking their dogs offleash and it all seemed very natural for them. Dogs offleash in the town center … and they don’t even bother to stop and sniff at the red telephone booths, I’m impressed.
You could tell that the English love their pets, dogs in particular. No funny stares from funny people, instead you will be greeted with a smile and a welcoming pat on the head. Popular comment, ‘I have a Jack just like that!’
We stayed at Limes B&B in Stow on the Wold which has my vote for best English garden and breakfast. The English breakfast for humans was a feast and could keep one going for a couple of days, no kidding! I was too preoccupied with checking out the well kept garden and gnomes. Was terribly tempted to start digging away at the well manicured grounds but I managed to keep myself sane and orderly, somehow. We fitted in a couple of short walks at Chipping Camden Dover Hill and Broadway Towers nearby, but the wind chill meant that we couldn’t stay outdoors for long. Bumped into plenty of sheep and cows along the way but owners didn’t allow me to display my hidden talent for herding livestock, so it remains a hidden talent to date. We also ran into a minor hailstorm in between … it’s true what they say about the English weather. On competition days, we stayed at York Cottage in Langford, which was 20 minutes drive from the Hand Equestrian Arena in Clevedon, site of the World Agility Championships. I met my best English friend at York B&B, Mungo a 3 yr old male Border Collie with wonderful temperament despite his grungy looks. Like me, he enjoys playing ball … only downside is that the human has to do the fetching most of the time. We played bitey face and tuggy fur under the breakfast table, then ran out to the garden to play ball, chased birds and trotted back indoors to warm up. We got along like bacon and eggs and pretty soon, Mungo was knocking on my bedroom door in the mornings calling out for me to resume play … those Border Collies are truly smart chaps! Has my vote for most comfortable B&B room and most dog friendly as well. I have missed Mungo ever since. Stomping all over from garden to backyard to kitchen to dining room as and when you please … without having to wipe your paws at the entrance, groovy!
Team practice sessions went smoothly, were well organized and on time. Vet checks and height measurements were taken and I wondered what all the fuss was all about. Vet noticed my clouded right eye and Mr Owner mentioned that I have been running like that for a number of years now, so it wasn’t such a big handicap. Organisers, UK Agility, had an appointed official to show us around the arena and benching areas, which was nice.
The indoor surface was a mix of sand and vaseline, (much like the brown padding material in old school pin up boards) which was soft and easy on our paws. Certainly different from grass and carpet surface, which we were more accustomed to. Team Japan was scheduled to run before us and we snapped photos with Maxi team of Naoko and Kirin, a tall, slim and swift Border Collie. Each team was allotted a 30 minute session For full teams with 12 dogs, that meant less than 8 minutes for each class, which wasn’t much to play with.
For Team Malaysia with only 1 dog, me, myself and I, this meant we had the whole ring to ourselves and even had time for play in between. I managed decent enough contacts during practice, pity I couldn’t emulate it during the competition. UK Judge, Bob Griffin, took time off to chat with us after our session and he was impressed with my bag of tricks. Think he noticed my inconsistent contacts though, oops. Russian team arrived late for practice as they were driven to the wrong venue, so they wasted no time in warming up their dogs. They ran very swift dogs who could hit the contacts hard … certainly looked like the team to beat. Those dogs are fast, too fast!Gala Dinner was held in the evening for the humans to welcome teams and sponsors. Owners were seated with Team New Zealand who were also first timers and exchanged notes on agility; a couple of them owned up to 7 or 11 dogs in their farms! Owners also caught up with Cathy Slot, team captain for Australia, whose team had a swell team table décor set up, kangaroo toy mascots and all. However, they lost out to Team Netherlands with their loud bright orange gear and garlands which won over the judge to snatch the Best Decorated Team Table award. I stayed home at Mungo’s place, snugly hidden amongst the puffy quilt and pillows … big day ahead.