Friday, March 31, 2023

Windham student to represent USA at world dog agility competition in England

By Ed Pierce

A Windham student is walking on air this week after learning that she’s been selected by the American Kennel Club to compete with two of her dogs in the 2023 AKC Junior Open Agility Championships in England this July.

Annaka Miller of Windham, 16, has been
selected to represent the USA by the
American Kennel Club as a competitor
in the 2023 AKC Junior Open Agility
Championships in two events with her
dogs Shamu, left, and Cody. The 
competition will be held in England in
July and Miller needs to raise $9,000
to make the trip.
Annaka Miller, 16, will compete as an alternate on the USA team in the Small Dog category with her Corgi, Shamu, and she also earned a place on the USA team in the Intermediate Dog category with her border collie, Cody. Miller is a sophomore at Gray New Gloucester High School.

She’s one of 24 junior dog handlers and their K-9 companions to earn a position on the USA Junior Team for the global competition which tests teen competitors at the highest level of dog agility.

“Training daily and traveling the world to compete at the highest level of dog agility takes mental and physical skills, commitment, dedication and heart”, said USA Coach Susan Cochran. “The Junior Open Agility World Championships is just as spectacular as the Olympics.”

Competitors in the world championships and their handlers undergo two rounds of testing at the event measuring jumping ability and agility. USA team members represent 14 states across America including Maine, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Miller said that she first learned about the competition at a boundless junior agility camp from some previous participants.

"I’ve been working with dogs for about 13 years since I was 3 ½ when I started,” she said. “I have six dogs of all different breeds.”

According to Miller, she’s been training with Shamu and Cody over the winter months to get ready for England and she believes the standard event in the Junior World Agility Competition will be the hardest for her.

“The most difficult event to train for is the Standard course and I think there are more things that could go wrong in the standard course because it has more of a variety of obstacles,” she said. “It changes by week usually in the winter less due to snow, usually we train each dog at least an hour on different things not always agility related.”

“Working with dogs in general can pose a significant challenge all in itself”, Miller said.

“I think a lot of the time it can be hard to focus and deal with distractions,” she said.

To best prepare for the competition, Miller says that she’s been perfecting everything for the agility courses and sharpening skills that she and her dogs already have.

“It takes a lot of time, hard work, and perseverance to get ready for this and build the connection we need,” she said.

Spending time with her dogs getting ready to compete makes all her hours of training worthwhile.

“Cody is 7 and Shamu is 10. They both have two personalities, crazy when they are getting ready to run, and snuggly before and after,” she said. “They both adapt to various places well.”

Miller, who is interested in pursuing a career in radiology while continuing to work with dogs in the future, says she’s excited about visiting England and the opportunity to experience a different culture there.

“I’m not sure what to expect but I’m hoping to have a good time and doing my best and hoping the dogs do too,” Miller said. “My friends at school don't really seem to understand what the competition is but they are happy for me. Friends at shows and family are super excited and really proud, just ready to see and hear about the whole thing.”

To get to the event, Miller figures she has to raise about $9,000. Unlike the Olympics, these junior competitors do not have sponsors and are responsible for funding their trip.

Cochran said the public can help them through donations which go directly to the USA Team, a specific handler such as Miller or a dog breed. Donations may be made through the Team’s PayPal account: PAYPAL.ME/AGILITYJUNIORS

Miller said that she also will be doing various fundraising at some local events in the near future to help defray her expenses for the trip. <

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