Whole world at border collie’s paws

REPRESENTING AUSTRALIA: Sarah McDowell and her dog Cali will head to Holland next year to take part in the World Agility Open Championships.
REPRESENTING AUSTRALIA: Sarah McDowell and her dog Cali will head to Holland next year to take part in the World Agility Open Championships.

QUICK and intelligent long-haired beauty Cali is prepared to get her paws dirty after being selected as South Australia’s first competitor in a worldwide event.

The affectionate and talented five-year-old border collie, with the help of owner and handler Sarah McDowell, will head off to Holland next year to compete against hundreds of other well-trained dogs from 50 different countries in the World Agility Open Championships.

Selected as one of only five to represent Australia and the first from the state, the Mount Gambier resident said it really was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It is an absolute passion of mine to be working with dogs – Cali gets just as much enjoyment out of it as me and it is a privilege to go over and represent Australia,” she said.

Cali – which is part of the South East’s thriving canine obedience scene – has undergone strict training in order to prepare for the big event.

“I used to compete in working dog trials and then switched to agility around five years ago,” Ms McDowell said.

“Somebody I knew asked me to come along and give it a try and I just got hooked on it.

“For training, initially there were really short 10 minute sessions four or five times a day, then probably five times a week we would do skills-based things plus there is the general fitness you have to keep up.

“You definitely have to be dedicated to it and willing to put in the time.”

With guidance from leading handlers in Canada, Ms McDowell said they were currently working on perfecting their technique.

“I video each of my training sessions with Cali and send that off to the handlers in Canada for them to review,” she said.

Quick to pick up the skills, Cali has successfully represented South Australia in two national competitions and is the current state champion.

Now in the final stages of preparation with only six months before they travel to Holland, Ms McDowell said excitement was starting to build.

“I am really excited – last year I went over and did a demonstration which was televised around the world,” she said.

“That was a real buzz and I really enjoyed it.”

Travelling solo, Cali will be the first to make the long trip overseas without her best mate by her side.

“I have friends and family over there so she will go over a week before me to start the vaccination process and get her settled in,” Ms McDowell said.

“Cali is used to flying around Australia and takes it all in her stride as she does most things in her life.”

Although it is an exciting experience, the trip is expected to cost Ms McDowell around $20,000.

“It would be great if we could get some people from the local community behind us to help cover expenses so I can represent Australia,” she said.

“We would be very grateful for any donation no matter how small – every dollar counts.”

Ms McDowell is aiming to raise a total of $10,000, with the other half coming from her own pocket.

Visit www.gofundme.com/help-support-usworld-championships to donate towards Ms McDowell and Cali’s involvement in the World Agility Open Championships.

TOP DOG: Border Collie Cali will show off her skills next year at the World Agility Open Championships.