Champion’s seven-year road to glory
Reaching the lofty heights of New Zealand Dogs Agility Grand Champion is no mean feat, and Blenheim trainer Natasha Neame has now claimed this top accolade with a second dog, Jazz, after more than seven years of competition.
‘‘What makes it a big thing for our club is they’re both double Grand Champions, in jumping and in agility,’’
Neame said. Neame’s first champion dog, Tri, is now enjoying her retirement at the age of 13. Jazz, however, who is originally a ‘rehome’ collie, still has plenty of agility left in her. ‘‘She’ll keep competing. ‘‘She’s got every title that she can get so it’s just running her for the love of running her.’’
To become a Grand Champion in agility, dogs must first make their way through the grades, up to senior.
‘‘Once you get to senior, you run to win,’’ Neame said.
Once a dog has attained the senior rank, they must compete and win in 20 challenges to be considered for the elite events.
‘‘I have to do a lot of travel to get to the events where I can compete at the grand championship level.
‘‘There’s five or six of us that do a lot of travelling all over the country,’’ Neame said.
The process is repeated for jumping.
‘‘Jazz is nine now, she’s been doing it since she was 18-months- old.’’
After travelling the length and breadth of the country to reach the top level, it was fitting that Neame’s final event on her path to Grand Champion was held at her home club in Marlborough. In keeping with tradition, club members gave her a celebratory dousing.
‘‘When you make champ it’s water,’’ Neame said.
‘‘When you make grand they think up some pretty horrible stuff to put in there.’’
Neame’s life-long passion for training dogs and competing in agility was first ignited while watching classic Kiwi TV show Tux Wonder Dogs.
‘‘I didn’t realise it was a sport back then, but when I did, I got involved with my first dog, Shade.’’
Neame has seven dogs, that allegedly ‘don’t eat too much’.
‘‘I have one German Shepherd but most are Collies or Collie crosses.
‘‘If you’re doing a lot of competing and doing well, they pay for themselves.
Unfortunately, there’s ‘pretty much only one way’ to clean up after them.
A member of the Blenheim Canine Training club, Neame also teaches others to train their dogs in obedience and agility.
‘‘I’m on a roster, I take junior and senior classes,’’ Neame said.
‘‘If people want to come, there’s an eight-week beginners course.
‘‘We have a lot of people who come just because they love to spend time with their dogs. Any dog, in any shape or form, can do agility.
‘‘They don’t have trained from a puppy.’’ to be
Natasha Neame’s dog Jazz is her second to attain the rank of Agility Grand Champion.