Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Agility (and Animal Welfare Awareness) Day @ Wilhelminaplein!

I won't try to catch up all at once with everything that's happened in the last — whoa, 11 months! (Has it really been—? Yes... yes, it has. And I'm sorry for that. I love this blog.) I'll start with last weekend and — maybe, slowly — work my way back to some highlights.

So. This past weekend.

I-Animal (an animal welfare organization here in Curaçao) had its yearly Animal Day celebration at Wilhelminaplein — an open space, kind of like a city square, in Punda (downtown Willemstad) — and we were invited to join the agility run hosted by Yuka's Hondentraining. It was free of charge, geared to demonstrate the potential any dog, regardless of breed or previous training, has for conquering the agility course — and the fun they have while doing it.

More importantly, I think, it's a great way to prove Cesar Millán's point about training humans (and rehabilitating dogs). Any sort of "dog" training is, at its core, a way to establish (or, ideally, deepen) the bond between human and dog — and the agility run is a fantastic way to demonstrate it.

Out of the seven-pack, I chose to come with Duncan... For several reasons, which I can get into at length for another post, but in short: he's not the best-behaved (so the training would benefit him and me) but not the worst, either (so I could feasibly be setting him up for success); he's also really food-oriented (unlike, for instance, Sam), which makes everyone's life easier. But, mostly, I chose Duncan because we have a bond. A good, strong, special bond.

Bond which would be put to the test.

Photos courtesy of I-Animal and Yuka's Hondentraining.

The briefing, before setting us loose on the course. Eveline Reints, the über enthusiastic girl on the left,
is the behaviorist at Yuka's (and, from previous experiences, I'd trust her not just with my life but with Duncan's —
which is saying a lot). That's Duncan (and me) at the center. Duncan is looking to his left, probably towards
where Cor (his other human) was sitting. More on that below.
The first run started well...

First hurdle cleared on second try. (First try got me a look of total, utter confusion. You want me to do what, now?

Then slowed down a bit...
Third hurdle, and Duncan is... winded already. No, no more jumping, please.
(Says the dog who jumps up on the patio table—or the couch—or the car—at the first opportunity.)

And then came the A-frame.

Duncan and I watch a dog and his awesome (and super young) human conquer the A-frame.
The look on my face says exactly how confident I felt about being next in line to try.
(And Duncan's tail is hanging looooow...) Even Cor — dude in the gray cap just barely visible behind me — looks doubtful.
Okay, Duncan. Here we go.

No, not around the A-frame.

That's it!

No, no. Don't freak out. It's all good, buddy. You're doing great! Come on!

But... he wouldn't budge. Just a couple of steps from the top he decided it was all too much and we—and our enthusiasm—could go screw ourselves.

It's amazing how much more of my "bad" habits I see in these pictures... Stuff I don't even realize I'm doing when I'm there. I'm holding the leash too high, too tight, and—what's with looking at Duncan under my arm? No wonder he freaked. I should've been looking ahead at where we were going (top of the A-frame). And I should've been dropping treats in front of Duncan.

Nope. Duncan was not having it. Three times he made it a step before the top; three times he turned back. And the third time he pulled me over to Cor and climbed up to him — rescue me, man.

So we enlisted Cor's help.

That was what Duncan was missing to build up his courage and MAKE IT TO THE TOP!
Even with Cor there, it took a little extra convincing (in the form of super healthy and extra yummy treats from the trainer).
But he did it. Once he stepped over the top, it was all (sort of) smooth going.

He was still lip-licking (see previous photo), but his tail was almost hanging at its normal, relaxed angle.

And then, after a relaxing jump to celebrate...

He got to do it all over again. *Sigh*

"You guys. Seriously??"

At least he was getting some awesome treats.

Keep coming... keep coming...
One more step, baby.

You own it, Duncan!

Terrified and all—I mean, look at that face!— he did it. No major cajoling required (we don't count treats as "cajoling"), no turning back, no big drama. This is what it looks like, people: the conquest of fear.

Bravo, Duncan!

Then came the tunnel run, which he rocked—but, unfortunately, there are no photos to prove it. All in all, though, it was a marvelous day for us. All of us. Duncan is still riding that high of facing down his fears. And our bond was not just strengthened but widened to include Cor, which makes me very, very happy.

It's good to be back, y'all.


  1. Your doggie looked at you in these last few pictures as if he is saying.."Seriously, stop making me do this. All I want to do is climb on the couch." What a wonderful way to get exercise, meet and greet and get accustomed to other dogs

    1. Exactly, Birgit :D He was not a happy camper... Until he realized he actually could do it, that it wasn't all that scary at all... And then he was roaring through the course like a boss :D It's too bad we don't have those photos of the end run, especially the tunnels... Ah, well. Next time ;) Thanks for the visit!


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