Zeke's Last Run - An Interview With Kay Watson

Zeke and Kay
by Michele Fry, 2010, June 30

NOTE:  I decided to try interviewing certain people in our dog club to unearth the secrets of how they train and compete with their dogs.  This is the first article I did, which was published in the LCCOC's  Long Sit Newsletter, in July 2010.

ADCH Mach2 Story of Zeke, VCD2 RN HSAsd HSBs HIAd XF, an 11 year old border collie owned by Kay Watson of Pride, LA., is the very canine charging out of the tunnel on the home page of LCCOC's website. Zeke has been competing in agility for 9 years, has earned 2 MACH and the coveted USDAA ADCH and innumerable other titles. Zeke qualified to compete in National Agility Championships 9 times during his long career, 5 times for AKC (he and Kay went 4 times), and 4 times for USDAA (they went 3 times). In AKC, you have to have 6 double Q's out of the Excellent B classes and 400 speed points that year. In USDAA, you have to have qualified twice in Grand Prix and once in Steeplechase for the year.

Zeke performed his last agility run, a clean run, this past April at LCCOC's Agility Trial in Baton Rouge. I caught that run on video at Kay's request (now posted on LCCOC's Photo Gallery). Asked why she retired Zeke, Kay said "because of his age, I don't want to stress his shoulders with so much repetitive jumping, nor his spine with too much weaving". Zeke remains active in herding trials.

Zeke was Kay's 3rd agility dog. Her first one was Tally (border collie), then came Bart (schipperke), then Zeke, and she is currently competing with Gator, her 7 year old schipperke, who has already earned AX (Agility Excellent) and AXJ (Agility Excellent Jumpers) titles. She is also training a new border collie, Toozie. "Each dog is very different to train", says Kay. "Gator is smart but stubborn. Zeke's best quality for training was his biddability (willingness to do what I ask). He also earned a Dog World Award on his Novice and Open titles in Obedience. That means he got his titles with 3 legs in a row with scores of 195 or above."

Zeke in the Weave Poles
Kay has been an LCCOC member for over 35 years and was one of the original organizers of the Red Stick Agility arm of our club back in 1997. Club members interested in agility practiced at her home in Pride before LCCOC got its field. She served as Obedience Training Director for 3 years, and has also served as our club's Vice President.

For many who enroll in LCCOC agility today, Kay is the first instructor they encounter, for she has faithfully taught our club's Intro To Agility class nearly every Wednesday night for almost 10 years. In fact, Kay was this author's first teacher. So when I approached her for an interview on Zeke's career, Kay agreed reluctantly to it only if I would also agree to be interviewed. For as it turned out, Zeke's last run occurred the same day as my and my papillon's first run! Kay liked the "Out with the old, in with the new" angle, as well as interviewing one of her pupils who stuck with the training to competition level.

Kay's questions for me were: What got you interested in doing agility? What got you started competing? Not having much interesting history to relate, all I could answer was:

"When I got Max I could tell he was smart, athletic, and eager to learn, so I started looking for classes. I saw an AKC agility competition on TV, Googled "dog agility" and found out that Papillons were winning national prizes; Googled "dog agility Baton Rouge" and up popped LCCOC's website. In my first class, February 2008 (I remember it was freezing), while other dogs were toeing the Wobble Board cautiously, 9 month old Maxie just hopped on and starting jumping up and down for his treat. I knew right then -- he had it. Since one hour a week of training wouldn't be enough and I didn't know about the club's "field fee", I built all my own agility equipment that spring so we could "do tricks" whenever we wanted. As for competing, I was not interested. Truth be told, I was terrified, until I noticed that even my instructors made mistakes at trials and it didn't seem to bother them. They all told me "Just have fun!" So, I figured I could NQ too, without embarrassment! I swore, though, that I would never get addicted to the sport.

Maxie posing with NA and NAJ Novice Titling ribbons
But when Max won 1st place ribbons (with perfect scores) on his first and second runs (at LCCOC's trial this past April), we charged on to Hattiesburg 3 weeks later where we ran 4 times and earned 4 more 1st place ribbons and both NA and NAJ (Novice Titles). And now dadgummit, I must be addicted, for within a month after that we headed to a 4 day trial in Monroe (end of June) to try for our Open titles in both Standard and Jumpers. Max did 4 more clean runs that weekend (out of 8 runs) and earned his Open Standard Title and one Q in Jumpers. Now we're looking for the next nearby trial to secure 2 more Q's and that Open Jumpers title. After that who knows, but it is a blast to compete, and its great hanging around so many knowledgeable, motivated, dog-loving people. And best of all, me getting up out of my computer chair, for my dog's sake, will likely add years to my life. It's a healthy addiction."
I had one last question for Kay: What has kept you teaching, for free, all these years? Kay's reply: "The club gives me so much; it's my way of giving back. I learn as much as I teach. I stick with the Intro classes because the basics are so important, and because if someone doesn't teach beginners, how will we grow the sport? Plus, if some of us didn't volunteer, the LCCOC would surely fold and I can't imagine my life without this club. I've made some good friends, and what would I do with my dogs? "