Cham­pion’s seven-year road to glory

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - MATT BROWN

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

PHOTO: SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Natasha Neame’s dog Jazz is her sec­ond to at­tain the rank of Agility Grand Cham­pion.

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