Andrew & Stephanie Sanderson's AG CH 500 Arwen
Arwen was born on the 14th April, 2006. She was bred by Dr Megan Smith, coming from the second litter of Trethowan Madeleine Rose (Maddie).
In late 2005, shortly after Andrew and Stephanie got married, Stephanie raised the subject of getting a pet dog. Having not been raised in a family with pets, Andrew was reluctant to say the least. After several months of persistent badgering Steph convinced Andrew to meet “her mum’s friend, Megan, that breeds chocolate Labradors”. After a couple of meetings with Megan and her Labradors, Maddie and Tahlia, Andrew was convinced (conceded?) that they should get one of the puppies from Maddie’s next litter.
Having a dog suitable for agility was not even on the radar for Andrew and Stephanie when they picked a dog out of the second Alanglen litter. A dog with a mild-mannered and stable temperament that would be good around children and was easy to train were the highest priorities. Ultimately, Arwen (the purple dog) was picked because when Andrew and Stephanie were visiting the puppies one day she separated herself from the litter to go to the grass for a wee – this sealed the deal for Andrew as obviously this dog was toilet trained!
Arwen (named after the elf princess from Lord of the Rings) joined Andrew and Stephanie at home on Queen’s Birthday weekend, 2006 and shortly after commenced obedience training at Southern Obedience Dog Club. Her obedience training was disrupted in late 2006 when Steph moved to Perth for work for 3 months, and Arwen went with Steph to keep her company.
Arwen resumed obedience training at Southern in late 2006 and in 2007, with some encouragement from Steph’s mum, Heather; Steph, Andrew and Arwen all began learning about agility. Arwen quickly learned to enjoy agility and would often exit the obedience class mid-lesson and make a beeline to the agility ring.
With some encouragement from Heather and Megan, Andrew and Stephanie entered Arwen in her first trial – the Hungarian Vizsla Club Restricted to Group trial in May, 2008. Her Novice Jumping run was not particularly memorable, other than to say she didn’t get a pass, however her first foray into the trial ring in CCD was memorable in that she fouled the ring. Andrew learnt the hard way to always carry a poo bag in his pocket.
The trialing bug bit Andrew and Steph from that point on, with them entering Arwen in many obedience and agility trials, however it was over 12 months before they tasted success in agility with Arwen achieving her first agility pass in Novice Jumping at Sale on the 7th June, 2009.
It was around this time that Andrew and Steph joined K9 Agility Club, and completed a formal foundation class – a chance to reset and re-learn. It was also about this time that Arwen started to get much more consistent in her trialing and in the space of 15 months completed eight agility titles including her Masters Jumping. However this period was not without its challenges – a slippery dog walk in training seemed to throw Arwen’s confidence and she started consistently refusing dog walks. For a period of four months, Arwen was only entered in Jumping events while she regained confidence on the dog walk. There were times when Andrew and Steph thought she would never do a dog walk again and would never compete in an Agility ring again.
Thankfully, Arwen did regain confidence on the dog walk (she rarely misses one now – although her 2o2o leaves a lot to be desired!) and she gained her Masters Agility title in late 2011, almost 12 months after completing her Masters Jumping.
The 2011 rule change presented Arwen with the potential to achieve an Agility Champion title. It was about this time that Arwen started to become very consistent in the ring – with clear runs and whilst she was within the SCT, she didn’t have the speed to place her in the top three of the 500 height dogs, especially in Jumping. She had a number of top 3 placings in Agility that helped her accelerate to the 500 Agility points needed for Agility Champion, however Jumping was always going to be a hard slog – 10 points at a time. By the end of 2014, at the age of 8, the Jumping course times were becoming difficult to achieve. In the second half of 2014 alone, Arwen had 8 non-qualifying scores where she missed the course time by less than a second.
At the start of 2015, Andrew and Steph made the decision to reduce the events that Arwen entered into and focus on getting the remaining 100 Jumping points (10 passes) required for her Agility Champion. Arwen seemed to respond to this – charging out of her crate to compete in only two or three events per day. Arwen struggles with the heat and much prefers the cooler weather to run in – most of her passes came in the cooler months during the middle of the year. We may have been the only handlers praying for cold, wet conditions at trials – not only did Arwen run better, but judges were also a bit more lenient on course times. It took over 12 months to get the last 100 Jumping points – fittingly the last qualifying score was achieved on a cool day in May at Ballarat (is there any other kind of day in Ballarat?).
Over the years, Andrew, Stephanie and their family have spent many a weekend trialing with Arwen, and later, Strider. Whilst Arwen has never been particularly successful at the Nationals, we did enjoy our adventures to Sydney (2012), Brisbane (2014) and Adelaide (2016) to compete at the Nationals. We honestly didn’t think she would compete beyond the Sydney Nationals where a heavily pregnant Stephanie handled her to a Masters Agility pass, but she has surprised us by competing at both Brisbane and Adelaide. However, the highlight of our dog trialing road trips is the twice annual trip to Warrnambool. Held over long weekends, the Warrnambool trial always has a great atmosphere and is a great opportunity for us to combine dog trialing with family holidays.
Arwen (right) with her Pairs partner and half-sister,
Alanglen Jindabyne Rose.
There are a few people Andrew and Steph would like to thank. Firstly, Megan Smith for breeding such a gentle, placid dog. She is a great companion (as I am typing this, Arwen is at my feet quietly snoring away) and a most tolerant dog. Thank you to Heather Eaves, for encouraging Andrew and Steph to try Arwen in agility, for the instruction and for being our trialing companion. Finally, we’d like to thank all the people that gave up their time to provide instruction, words of advice and support, particularly Eddie Catton, Trish Attard and the instructors at K9 Agility Club.