Junior Handlers in Companion Events

The AKC records its first Junior Handler to earn a VCD title!

Congratulations to Kate Eldredge of Vernon, NY for earning the VCD1 title on her Pembroke Welsh Corgi Culdi's Hearts On Fire (aka -Flash). Kate is the first Junior Handler to be recorded with a Versatile Companion Dog title. Way to go Kate and Flash!

Flash's VCD1
Culdi's Hearts On Fire HSAs VCD1 (Flash) and I have been working together since February 14, 1998. I was just 7 years old when I got this great Corgi puppy. Flash has been a great dog, and we have competed in just about every dog sport imaginable from obedience to freestyle to herding. Being the first junior handler team to earn the VCD1 is just another accomplishment for Flash to boast of to her canine buddies.

VCD1 stands for Versatile Companion Dog 1 and consists of four titles: Novice Agility, Novice Agility Jumpers, Companion Dog and Tracking Dog. It is a huge accomplishment for a dog and handler to compete in all three sports, if nothing else because everything is specialized these days. Sure, you have top agility competitors, top obedience handlers and top tracking competitors, but very few people do all three. Thus, the VCD1 title encourages people to try different things with their dogs.

Flash and I started out with agility when she was 2 years old and I was 9, though she had already earned her first herding title. Flash loves agility and gets quite excited, barking and quivering at the start line. And boy is she fast! Sadly, I hadn't trained a solid enough contact and we kept failing in standard for missed contacts. Flash's other difficulty was her speed. She often got going so fast that she would flatten out and hit the bars on the jumps. Even so, after a few years of hard work Flash finally started qualifying.

Kate and Flash getting ready to track
photo by Carol Donnelly

Surprisingly, Flash earned her standard title first. We got our first and third legs at trials in Cato, NY and the second leg in Syracuse, NY. By this time Flash was 5 years old and I was 12. You can't imagine how excited I was. There was a photographer at the trial and the day before he had gotten a lovely picture of Flash soaring over the last jump. The one drawback was that the bars were flying everywhere. When she got her title the next day, I got a t-shirt with that picture that said, "Miracles happen…Flash NA". By that time we had two legs on our Novice Jumpers title. I hoped she would finish that day, but she knocked one bar.

That spring Flash had been entered in a local tracking test. Unfortunately, one of our turns was in 4 inches of water. Poor Flash was just about swimming! That fall we tried again, but to no avail. This time Flash lost the scent due to excessive wind.

And so 2004 rolled around, and Flash and I entered Novice A obedience in Rochester, NY. It wasn't pretty, but we squeaked by with a 171 ½! In April, we showed at the Springfield circuit and earned our second CD leg under a fellow Corgi enthusiast, Denise LaCroix. Our score was 187 ½. Good job Flash!

Finally May arrived, and with it the PWCCA National tracking test and the Mayflower Regional Specialty. Flash, her mother Susan, my mom and I drove out to Gardener, MA Saturday night to await the test on Sunday. The conditions were perfect and I drew the first track. It was in a huge field with grass three feet high. Luckily the coverage was fairly thin and Flash plowed right through, sniffing all the way. All the spectators could see of us were my head and the bright pink tracking line. After 5 turns, Flash finally found the glove! Hooray!

The following Thursday, Mom, Susan, Flash and I were back in MA for the Mayflower Regional Specialty. Flash had a spectacular day, finishing her CD under Ed Whitney with a 184 (3rd place) and winning both the Novice and Advance rally.

A few weeks later, my mother was contacted by the AKC asking if I had finished my NAJ. It had never occurred to us that Flash was nearing her VCD1, and the AKC was pretty sure that Flash and I would be the first junior handler team to do so! But that last NAJ leg was elusive. One day Flash would tear up the course, the next she would only knock one bar (almost always the last one too). Every now and then the AKC would contact us and ask about the leg. 2004 ran out of steam and 2005 set in.

Kate and Flash pass their tracking test successfully
to earn the VCD1 title!
photo by Carol Donnelly

By this time Flash was 7 and I was 14. Despite her age, Flash still looks like a 2-year-old nutcase when she runs, barking and running as fast as her little legs can go. We were showing at the Salt City Cluster in Syracuse for four days. Flash was entered in Open A obedience and Novice Jumpers. The first day Flash took out roughly 5 bars. Hey, she keeps the ring crew busy. The next day we had a spectacular run on a difficult course. You guessed it, one bar down. I had been so immersed in the run that I never saw it come down and came out of the ring beaming with joy until I heard about the one bar. I was still pleased with the run. The third day Flash hit three bars and my young Aussie doubled Q'd, finishing her NA.

I guess jealousy can be a useful tool. There was no way Flash would let Tia be the star of the weekend. The mere thought of it horrifies her. And so, on the fourth and final day, my last run of the weekend, Flash qualified. Ironically, it was right after a friend of ours finished her MACh. It was a beautiful run, not our smoothest, but still great. As soon as we were done I raced out of the ring and went straight to our crating space, where I proceeded to feed Flash five pieces of roast beef. What a dog and what a weekend.

I would like to give special thanks to the Syracuse Obedience Training Club for all their help and support, Over Rover Agility for helping us with our bar problem, Awesome Ability Agility for improving my handling technique 100% and the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club for their support and a lot of laughs! Also a BIG thank-you to my mother Deb who drove Flash and I all over the northeast and beyond and was always there to point out the highlights of our performance.

If you ask her, I'm sure Flash will tell you that it was nothing and that she could have finished all her titles the first time around but hadn't wanted to take all the glory for herself. But I guarantee that she won't offer to share her roast beef! As well as agility, obedience and tracking, Flash and I also compete in herding, musical freestyle, backpacking, carting and anything else we can fit into our tight schedule. Our next goal is a CDX and Novice preferred titles in agility. Hopefully we will be ready for our TDX this fall. Wish us luck!