AFTER writing about whether agility might one day become an official ‘sport’ I was delighted to hear from the man himself, agility pioneer Peter Lewis.
He says: “I had already noted that the Agility Council was to debate again a possible approach to the Sports Council. Now I am prompted by your appraisal of the current position with your end note ‘What do you think?’
“First my mind goes back to the early days of our sport, and I make no apology for referring to it as a sport. Other countries had heard the buzz about the new game we were playing but at that time the Kennel Club was not interested in trying to influence other countries to take up agility as played under KC rules which were first published on January 1, 1980.
“Thankfully the KC has been much more enlightened since those days but at that time there was the big possibility that other countries would formulate their own rules and we would end up with hotch-potch of ideas around the world. Frankly, the variations would have been numerous.
“I was given the opportunity by a major dog food company to visit the counties they sold in, which was worldwide. As they were French-based that is where the efforts started and quickly I explained to the French that if we were to eventually have international competition we needed unified rules. That is when they explained to me all I needed to know about the FCI. As our KC would not budge I backed the French in their approach to the FCI to adopt it and thus unify rules.
“Indeed I was asked to lunch with a senior FCI official in Strasbourg where I put the case for agility. The rest is part of the history of our sport.
“You mention the definition of the European Sports Charter’s definition of sport and I quote: ‘Sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.’
“It surely goes without saying that agility ticks all these boxes and, furthermore, international competition has formed social relationships around the world let alone in each country that plays the game.
“Indeed one could go much further for agility, by its very existence, promotes a culture of domestic dog training which has to be an asset. Furthermore the bond between handler and dog becomes much greater and at the highest level the dog’s understanding and desire to carry out the handler’s directions becomes almost like telepathy.
“Obese dogs stand no chance in agility competition and indeed most are super-fit animals. While people of any level of fitness can take part and, indeed they worthily do, it is rare to see obese handlers or unfit ones at the top.” Peter wonders if the Paralympics could beckon.
He ends: “It seems the major stumbling block is that the animal becomes the champion and not the handler. Well there is an obvious answer and that is to confer the title champion on both dog and handler. But of course others could also handle a champion dog in a bid to become a human agility champion so perhaps such a dual status should apply only once for each partnership of dog and handler.
“Already I hear the clamouring of other dog disciplines to become recognised as a sport and yes, they all could put forth the same arguments. However agility is the only discipline that is truly international and athletic in its very characteristics for dog and handler.”
Thank Peter – you make a strong case!