Jr handler Mary Cope and Katie lead the Beagle Brigade at AKC Agility Nationals

Jr handler Mary Cope and Katie lead the Beagle Brigade at AKC Agility Nationals
Katie loves tunnels and chutes.

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At the upcoming AKC Agility Nationals in Virginia, there is at least one upstate NY team that will really stand out. Beagles are not one of your "classic agility breeds" and junior handlers are definitely in the minority when it comes to national tournaments.

Jr handler Mary Cope and Katie lead the Beagle Brigade at AKC Agility Nationals
Kate Beagle can fly!

Mary and Katie Beagle are veterans of national competition, even having made the trip out to the Eukanuba Invitational in Long Beach, California. Still, every competition is exciting and fun

Asked why she ended up with a Beagle, Mary recites a family history. "My parents had beagles when they were kids, my mom had a beagle when she met and than married my Dad. After that dog died they bought another beagle--Molly. When the time came to get me my own dog, the primary consideration was which breed did our family want as a pet..and of course it was a Beagle. They make fantastic family pets and they are soo cute!! Just don't over feed them!!" I guess you could say Beagles are in her blood.

It was friend Jean Carmen who got the family into agility. She suggested to Mary's Mom that Molly would be great fun to run in agility. After that, they were hooked. Agility can be addicting!

Mary and Beagle Katie have been training together for six years. Katie took to tunnels right away but had to be convinced that doing weave poles was worth her while.

Mary offers advice to other kids thinking of trying agility with their dogs. "Give it a try. You will meet a lot of new people and make many friends. It's great fun as everyone has the same interest and enjoys the sport together. You spend a lot of time at trials, so you get to know everyone and their dogs, really well. The atmosphere is VERY supportive and everyone is happy to see a new face! If Jr. handlers are interested in agility, I strongly suggest finding a professional trainer, or if you have a local 4-H club that has a dog program, join. You DO NOT want to just sign up for a show without it. Your dog will not know what you want them to do and it will be a very de-motivating experience for both of you. It is a lot harder than it looks, but it is also a very fun sport that allows you to connect and play with your best friend!"

All of our area trainers and dog clubs welcome juniors to their agility programs. In addition Oneida, Lewis and Madison counties all have active 4-H programs through Cornell Cooperative Extension. SOTC even has a "junior club". Many programs give discounts to juniors. Agility is a sport that expects everyone to give bacj and pitch in. Juniors are great help at trials as leash and score runners, chute fluffers and bar setters.

Since Mary has plenty of national tournament experience, I asked her for advice for fellow competitors heading out to Virginia in two weeks. " HAVE FUN!! Don't get wrapped up in all of the 'competitiveness' of the national competition. I actually enjoyed competing at the invitational more than the nationals as it has a more relaxed atmosphere to it, but the finals at nationals are far more exciting as truly the "best of the best" are competing there." Wishing you the best of Luck with clean and fast runs!

DOTCORNY agility results and conformation stars up next, then a feature on MACH 2 Summer! If you would like to receive upstate NY dog news directly to your email, simply hit the subscribe button. Best of all, it is free!