Back in May we introduced you to agility competitor Susannah Chalmers and her Papillon Arran as they prepared for the adventure of a lifetime — competing as part of the UK team in the ParAgility World Championships in The Netherlands. Susannah brings us up-to-date with the latest news as the countdown to the competition begins.
The past couple of months have quite frankly been a bit of a whirlwind, as Arran and I prepare to step onto the world stage, representing the UK at the ParAgility World Championships. Finally, all the training, competing up and down the country, blood, sweat, tears, and joy are about to culminate in our first international competition. Arran has now achieved Grade 7 — the highest agility level we have — and received his Gold Warrant Award from the Kennel Club for points gained in competition.
With less than 48 hours to go before we left on the UK Team coach, I was frantically packing every essential we might need to perform at our best. For Arran, that meant his vast collection of toys! He hasn’t got a favourite, and trying to limit what he took proved tricky, as he would have liked to take them all! But the fish was definitely not going!
And so the day of our adventure finally arrived. We travelled down to Whitstable where we met up with Linda Croxford the UK team manager, and our fellow competitors, and loaded the enormous team coach with our crates and cases.
After a fish and chip supper, we spent our first night in a local Travelodge. Arran thought this was all so exciting, and really embraced hotel life!
The following day we were on the coach for our European journey by 5.30am. After the vet checks, and a play in the dog park (pic of Arran on Le Shuttle) we boarded Le Shuttle for our crossing to Calais and set off on the five-hour drive to The Netherlands.
The vibe on the coach was electric! The UK team members and their dogs were excited, and so eager to take part in the world championships!
We arrived at Hellendoorn late afternoon, with most of the team staying at a local hotel, but Arran and I and a few others staying at the most beautiful bed and breakfast a few kilometres out of town.
Following our arrival, there were further vet checks, and team practice, which went very smoothly with Arran showing clearly that he was ready and keen to get started in the first competition.
The opening ceremony was incredible. We were introduced to all the other participating countries, and a gift exchange took place between the UK and Germany. There were traditional dances, an introduction to the international judges, and a gala dinner. It was a very moving experience, as many of the awesome competitors are wheelchair users, relying on their unique connection with their dogs to navigate an agility course. Many tears were shed, and I have never experienced anything more humbling.
After a very long day, we were taken back to our B&B to prepare for our first day of competition. I am pinching myself to make me believe that all this is real, and my amazing little man and I are all set to go onto the world stage!