Annami van Rooyen

Q. Annami, tell us a bit more about yourself, how did you get into Agility?

A. I am 28 years old and I am a teacher at Paul Roos Gymnasium. I studied Conservation Ecology, worked on a farm for a bit and then did my post grade in education. My love for agility started 14 years ago when I was in Gr. 9. I saw an agility demonstration one day and immediately told my mother, Heidi Grabe, that we should find out what it is and how I can start. So, we got hold of Maryna Cilliers, owner of Vineyard Dog Agility at that time and I took our rescue Kelpie, Bobby for our first lesson. Bobby didn’t really like the jumps at all, so the next week I brought our 2-year-old rescue, a German shepherd – Rottweiler cross – needless to say- he loved it, and I loved it. Grumpy taught me all there was to know about starting agility. From there I was a part of the Vineyard family, and I never left. Lilly, my first border collie joined the family in 2009 as a 4 week old puppy and in 2014 I rescued Piper, a BC cross.

Q. You used to do Flyball as well, why did you stop and do you think you will ever do it again?

A. Yes, Grumpy and I were part of a wonderful team that won a lot of titles and broke a few records. Grumps was amazing at Flyball, it was his life. Unfortunately, I didn’t train him how to hit the box right and that resulted in his front paw joints to become injured. He just couldn’t slow it down when hitting the box. So, I decided to stop Flyball in fear of causing a major injury. I think Flyball is an amazing sport and the dogs just love it, but it needs proper training right from the start – just like Dog Agility – but in Flyball you see the injuries much sooner.

Q. You have recently retired your Border Collie from agility, do you think you will get a border collie again or is another breed that you are interested in?

A. Yes, Lilly is retired – but she doesn’t seem to know or understand that. According to her, she is still a 2-year-old BC entering the course for the first time and not an 11 year old senior dog that needs to take life slowly. I will definitely get another Border Collie. I absolutely fell for this breed, their personalities and their sensitive nature. My next dog, hopefully in the not so long future, will have to be a smaller breed though as there is only space for one active Border Collie in our house, but room for one more 4-legged child – I believe the right puppy will come along when the time is right.

Q. Are there any other forms of dog training that you have done before or are currently busy with?

A. No, I do not do any other forms of training except for the basic obedience.

Q. Tell us a bit more about your dog Piper, how did you find her, and how does training a rescue dog compare to a Border Collie?

A. My first glimpse of Piper was this fat, dirty brown Border Collie looking dog, chained up to a 1m rope eating a small bird for supper. She had no water, but some old dishes with potatoes and garlic for her to lick out. I was working on a Conservation Farm in Ceres when I had to drop off some of the workers, Piper was one of theirs. Instinct told me to get out and go and pet this poor dog. She was so scared, but still happy to see her owner return home. When I told her owner that she is a beautiful dog – she said that I can take her if I want. My heart immediately broke into a million pieces as I knew I had to leave her there until I had permission to collect her. I was only allowed to go home 3 weeks later and take her with me. I used a pocket knife to cut the rope loose, I couldn’t get it off of her neck, so I loaded her into the car with rope and all. 2 hours later we arrived home. My parents were very sceptical about this new addition. She just froze on the lawn. I don’t think she has ever been on grass. My dad helped to get the rope off of her neck. It took a good few hours before she was walking around on the grass and a whole lot more before she entered the house. That was her biggest and bravest step – was to enter the house. I still remember her expression when she realised that she could enter the house AND that it had more than one room to explore. She adapted very quickly as she was showered with love and cuddles. She didn’t trust anyone except me and my mother at the start, but now she knows she is beautiful and that if she gets onto your lap – cuddles will follow.

As I didn’t get Piper to be an agility dog, I had no expectations of her. I thought that if she wants to do it, we can give it a try, if not, then she is allowed to just be a dog. It took some time before she lost her fear of being alone somewhere without Lilly. But once she realised that going to agility training is fun – she started to exceed all my expectations. The biggest difference between training Piper and training Lilly was that although Piper enjoys it – she is doing it for me. For Lilly, it was her job and it came naturally to her. Piper needed and still needs a lot of encouragement and I need to be very careful with my tone of voice. One slight change and she shuts down. Piper took a lot of patience, and that meant leaving training if she wasn’t up for it, or doing one jump at a trail, leave the course and have the biggest treat party ever. I eliminated her from all her rounds for about a year so that I can run with a toy or reward her when she was happily running 3 or 4 obstacles. In the end it paid off – at times she is so excited that I get left behind on the course, and some days…she just doesn’t feel like it and I have to accept that and love her for still trying.

Q. If there is any advice you can give someone that wants to start Agility what would it be?

A. Be ready for an amazing time with your dog. Your dog changes form a pet to a companion and the bond that forms is unbreakable and almost unexplainable. Figure out what works for your dog and always remember that you are a team and that the 1. time spent together is worth much more than a medal or trophy could ever be. Lilly taught me that you could win every round, it just depends on your perspective – through her eyes, every round was a clear round and one that got us a medal. (Note: She retired after 9 years, still in grade1 😉