Sportsmanship and Finding Your Smile at the AKC Lure Coursing Nationals

By Jocelyn Brody (age 12)

Early in 2007 AKC announced there would be a Lure Coursing National Championships to be held at Reidsville, North Carolina in early October 2007. I was so excited about it because since last year I’ve been attending and competing at many of the big events that I have trained my little basenji boy Buddy to do. (DC Nowata’s I Did It Again) We’d been to Eukanuba, Westminster, the World Dog Show, and when I saw AKC was having a National Championship in lure coursing and that is Buddy’s most favorite event to participate, I was like "I WANT TO GO, PLEASE !!!" Well my parents were not as enthusiastic about traveling yet again so far away from our home in Phoenix, AZ. Then AKC did something really magical which totally changed my parents outlook on the event. They put my little boy Buddy’s picture right on the AKC Lure Coursing National Championship web page.

No kidding that was Buddy the basenji on the bottom right corner! So after that we all agreed we and he just had to go to NC to compete.

We weren’t sure what the dogs would be like at the event and nobody around here had ever been to a coursing championship before. My dad got a background training racehorses and Buddy last year was ranked #4 AKC coursing basenji, so we thought he had a good chance as anybody if we just prepared Buddy to be really athletically fit. The premium list came out and oh my gosh it was going to be a very grueling weekend. Each course was at least 800 yds and to make it to the Championship Finals the dogs had to either win BOB on one of the days or have the highest overall combined score from both days and the dog had to compete on both days too. So we figured to make it all the way Buddy would need to be fit enough to run at least 9 x 800 yds or get this over 4 miles! In Arizona most of our Trials are just barely 600 yds because we have a hard time finding fields other than city parks. So what we did was every Sunday we would get up really early like at 4 am and drive an hour to Gilbert and lay out a course so that soon as the sun peeped up enough for us to see the whole field Buddy could get in his exercise and training runs. In Arizona it gets to be over 90 degrees temperature by 8:30 am during the summer, so we had to hurry. Buddy would run about 10 X 400-600 yds courses each Sunday. Sometimes they would be nothing but long straight-away and sometimes the course would almost all blind 90 degree turns.

When we’d run him we’d keep the lure just about ten feet in front of him so that he was almost always about to catch it. The idea was to keep him from guessing where the turns were and keep him from cheating courses. We wanted him to focus on nothing but the lure. We also trained Buddy to drink water and recall better after he ran. When I’d take him to the line I would put him in a sit stay and the lure would not start until he sat. It was hard for him at first he would get very frustrated because he really wanted the bunny to move, but I needed to work on obedience with him, because he had a previous problem of avoiding me at the finish and then running the entire course chasing the string lines until he was so tired that I could then catch him. Of course that hurt his chances in the Finals or during runoffs for BOB. I also would swim Buddy in our pool starting off at just 15 minutes but then adding 5 minutes each week till we got to swimming continuously about 45 minutes every other day. OK probably some of you might of overlooked something I just said. Buddy is a Basenji and YES he was swimming in the water! Anyway by the end of summer Buddy was like sprinter fit and he was eating about two cups and a half of dry food a day. Right before we were to go to NC for the Championships our club had a Trial in Gilbert. So we experimented with carbohydrate loading by giving him cooked noodles the night before the Trial. Well Buddy loved the noodles but I guess the noodles didn’t love Buddy and he threw them up that night. So then early the next morning we went to the Trial and Buddy was really looking tired. He ran really good, but it was really obvious that he had no energy from not eating since the morning before meal. Still he came in second at the Trial to a really good ILP basenji. So after the Gilbert Trial all I did was let him rest and eat his regular food. By the end of the week Buddy was going berserk in the house doing Basenji 500s. I trimmed back his nails a couple days before we left so he wouldn’t grab and rip them at the Championships.

Buddy is also a Support Dog so I’m able to let him just walk with me on the plane and he sits at my feet. He is really obedient trained for this and it’s kind of weird because honestly that was the only thing obedience related that he took to doing well right away. It’s like he knows if he’s good on a plane then soon enough he gets to have some fun wherever we are going. The Captain of the plane walked by, petted him, and even gave Buddy some wings! So Buddy sat at my feet, licked ice to keep him hydrated, chewed his protein bones, and we flew all the way to NC with connection at Atlanta first. We got our rental car and headed to the Motel 6 outside of Burlington, NC. We had dinner and then went straight to bed with a 4 am wake up call set.

The next morning, yawn, got up and we headed to Flintrock Farms in Reidsville, NC where the Trial was to be held. We got there at 5:45 am and it was still very dark. So we let Buddy go stretch his legs and set him up some water and then left him to curl up and sleep till Roll Call at 6 am. The Field Committee was just starting to assemble. I introduced myself to Donna Richards who was the Field Secretary and volunteered to help. She was very nice and asked me to help with Inspections during Roll Call. They let Buddy go first. So I went got Buddy and everybody laughed because they said my down and back was so professional looking. LOL even at 6 am, which really was 3 am for me with the time change I still was doing Junior Showmanship patterns in my sleep. So of course Buddy was sound and intact for inspection so I put him back in the car and let him curl back up again while I helped inspect all 101 of the other hounds entered at the Trial. By 7 am the sun had come up finally and it was time for the Test dog to run and Donna called a meeting to discuss how the event "was going to go". Donna said that we had a lots of dogs to run and the only way we were going to finish was to keep things moving and the judges word was going to be final so nobody was to interrupt their getting the dogs judged during the Trial. So then we sang the National Anthem and the first course of dogs were to get ready to go to the line.

Us Basenji folks gathered around everybody introduced themselves to each other. It was cool, because I’d heard of most of their names before and read about their dogs too. Susan Schroeder had two basenjis in the Open Stakes so she asked me to release one of them for her. My Dad was like "hey wait a minute, every time Jocelyn releases somebody else’s dog then she winds up beating our own dog with that dog." He was just kidding but it has happened every time before. So I agreed to help Susan release her young dog Jacen. I brought Jacen to the line and he was so much easier to release than Buddy ever is because he would just stand there waiting patiently. Buddy on the other hand always starts screaming and jumping and twisting about. Jacen ran really good and scored higher than Gator, Susan’s other basenji in the Open Stakes.

Then it was Buddy’s turn to run in the Specials Stake. We went to the line and the Huntmaster helped me put on Buddy’s muzzle. I need help putting on the muzzle because Buddy always starts twisting and turning when he goes to the line because he’s so excited he’s going to run. I use a muzzle on him so when he is finished coursing he stops and tries to bat it off so that makes it easier for me to catch him again. Anyways the Huntmaster said Tally-Ho!!!

Buddy flew away straight down the string line and the other two basenjis started running far away from the bunny, like they were trying to guess which way it was going to turn. The start was a long 275 yd straight away and Buddy was easily about 40 yds in front of the other two basenjis at the first turn. He made his sharp left turn and was flying after the bunny but one of the dogs had cheated a bunch and the Lure Operator had to bump the lure far in front of Buddy to keep the cheating dog from coming back towards Buddy. No matter before the next turn Buddy had already passed that dog. Then the other dog who had cheated to the right side of the course was now coming back towards Buddy so again the LO bumped the bunny faster and again Buddy passed that dog before the next turn which really was like a box turn. The other two dogs didn’t go into the box turn, one of them got kind of lost on the field and the other dog waited patiently for the lure to finish the box with Buddy chasing the lure. So now it was time for the long 175 yd run back to the finish. Again the LO had to bump the lure far ahead because the waiting dog had already started running back to the finish, but again about 30 yds from the finish Buddy had passed it again. I was there at the line and caught Buddy in my arms and we walked off the course. I took the muzzle off and walked Buddy back to the car to toss his jacket in the bag and to cool him out, only he wasn’t breathing hard at all and he just kept trying to lunge back to the coursing field. So I kept Buddy behind the cars and walked him a few minutes and let him drink water like he was trained, then put him back in the car again only now with the a/c turned on. After all the Course A dogs were finished they posted the Prelim scores and Buddy had the highest score of all the basenjis by 2 points. COOL! So we ate some lunch and waited for the Finals.

Final colors were posted and I went to help Susan again with Jacen. Jacen ran much better the second time with me. Then it was Buddy’s turn again to run. We stepped to the line and the Huntmaster helped me with his muzzle again and then Tally Ho! Buddy went straight down the coursing line again, almost a repeat of the Prelims.

Only this time the other two basenjis really didn’t run much after the lure. One of them was very lost and the other just did run into the first box turn but then waited by the return line for the bunny to come back. Buddy looked at the dog that was waiting as he ran by him to go into the second box turn. So here comes the finish and Buddy passes the waiting dog and makes it to the finish and with me standing on top of the lure line crouched down to catch Buddy when he came to me, only Buddy was running so fast to pass that other dog that he knocked me to the ground and I let him slip thru my fingers and then he circled back to get the bunny. Only the handler of the other dog was standing on the bunnies with her dog. So when Buddy stuck his head in to get to the bunny the other dog bit Buddy on the ear. That’s when Buddy got really upset and because he was wearing a muzzle, he started growling loud and jumped on the other dog to push him away. Guess that last part was what the judges saw. I did get Buddy and for sure he was snarking loudly, but we walked off the field to go cool out. The Huntmaster stopped us and asked if Buddy’s ear was OK because he was bleeding. That’s when we noticed Buddy had been bitten. So my dad told me to just go walk Buddy out and give him some water. The Huntmaster went to see the judges and then she came back and said the judges apologized really a bunch but Buddy was disqualified. So my dad came and told me the news and said well there was nothing really to do about that so we just need to accept it. He told me to take Buddy to see the veterinarian about Buddy’s bleeding ear and get some disinfectant put on it. It is the breeding season for Basenjis so rough housing is always a concern for intact males like Buddy and the other dog when they get too close. Everybody including the judges and Mr. Mason told me to work on getting Buddy reinstated because they said he was an amazing coursing dog. Being DQ’d means he isn’t eligible to run in lure coursing events anymore till he goes thru the reinstatement process. Well we just decided what’s done is done and we’d just make the best out of being at the National Championships.

Later after the Finals were over both judges told me that they had Buddy way higher scored than any other dog on their field that day. It hurt a bunch and I cried in the car so nobody would see me, but I found my smile and came out to help anybody I could at the Trial. Donna was really nice and she gave us juniors a nice mobile, mine had a basenji in the middle. Jacen eventually won BOB! So after the awards we headed back to the motel, but first we stopped at a really nice pizza restaurant along the way and my Dad and me pigged out and drank more ice tea than either of had even drank before. We were laughing so much at the restaurant that the owner came over and he started laughing too. When we read the rules back at the hotel room we realized it says that a dog can defend himself and not have it count against him. Oh well it was too late and probably it was best for everybody at the event for us not to create a commotion about it all. Besides Buddy was so upset after that all happened, who knows maybe he would of started something later on anyway. I would much rather be known for good sportsmanship than for just being the event winner. So back at the motel I finished my Math homework and then took my shower and went to bed.

The next day Buddy was allowed to be the Test dog and he flew around the course like he was riding a roller coaster. The judges on that course said Buddy was a great Lure Coursing dog and we should work on getting him reinstated. Sunday both judges from the day before also said when they DQ’d him they didn’t realize Buddy had got bitten.

We had a lot of fun at the AKC Lure Coursing National Championships and it was so cool to meet Mr. Ljungren, AKC Vice-President for Performance Events and it is always great to see Mr. Bob Mason, AKC Lure Coursing Representative. Mr. Ljungren just came up to my Dad and was like he already knew who we were so that was kind of surprising. They wanted to get a picture with me and Buddy and so we laughingly invited the judges who DQ’d Buddy into the picture to show we were good sports about it all.

On Sunday I helped release Gator for Susan, because she had really wanted him to win because she felt he might run better against dogs of other breeds. I also helped Dr. Sue Campenau too with all her basenjis. So Gator goes and wins BOB too!!! My dad he went out and Apprenticed judged too. He told me being a judge is really hard because lots of the time the decisions aren’t really all that clear. That really helped me deal with what all happened. Sometimes things just don’t work out and life isn’t always fair and perfect like. I realized nobody intended anything bad, things just happen. I know I sure made mistakes too.

Gator – AKC Lure Coursing National Champion Basenji

So Gator and the other dogs that won BOB got to run in the National Championships runoffs. The course was laid to be 1100 yds WOW, that is so far compared to courses in Phoenix.

Buddy got to be the AKC Lure Coursing National Championship Test dog. I took him to the line and released him and he ran so hard and fast. He did get a little confused when the lure kind of dropped down a slope and out of sight after a crossover, but soon as it came back into sight he was full charge flying after the bunny again. When I went to walk him out he still wasn’t breathing hardly at all, so I guess one thing we’d done right was to condition him really well. We watched lots of dogs run and lots of them got really tired and started tearing pads or becoming exhausted. Even Gator tore a pad right down the middle and had to be bandaged, so did the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Afghan looked like it had lost about 3lbs and was so funny looking all wetted down. At the end it was a tie between the Ibizan Hound and the Pharaoh Hound for Best In Event. The lady who owned the IB was crying as she decided whether to run her dog just one more time. Well when the two ran for the last time, Violet the Pharaoh Hound did an amazing performance and was still full of energy to keep running hard and she became the 2007 AKC Lure Coursing National Champion!!!

So after it was all over I helped pick up the field and put things away and said my good byes and thanks to Donna and everybody. Grabbed my AKC Lure Coursing National Championship Test dog and we drove back to the motel. I did my Social Studies homework and Buddy ran the Basenji 500 in the motel for awhile and then he finally settled down to curl up and sleep. My dad and me went to Outback and got one of those big onions and had steak dinners. It was so good after working so hard that weekend.

The next day we drove to visit Appomattox Courthouse because in Social Studies we’re studying about the Civil War. Then we dropped of the rental car and waited at the airport for our flight home. We had delays and Buddy was good as always on the plane. Finally we made it back home to Phoenix, AZ.

It was really disappointed with what happened to Buddy because in my heart I feel he was the best basenji on the course, but that’s OK because I learned one of life’s lessons and was still able to find my smile. I was really glad to meet so many nice people and they all said nice things to me, so for that it was like winning anyways. But yep I literally let the National Championship slip thru my fingers, Oops!!!!

by Jocelyn Brody age 12