Posted Date: May 8, 2012
Deborah Davidson Harpur interviews our last WAC team member of the day, Andy Mueller, about the event, which is almost here!
Handler Name: Andy Mueller
Dog Name/Breed/Age: Crackers/Jack Russell Terrier/3.5 years old
Hometown: Pierz, Minnesota
Occupation: Dairy Nutrition and Technical Support at Land O' Lakes Purina Feed
Years competing in agility: 2
This year the IFCS World Agility Championships are being held in the U.S.A. Did knowing this affect your decision to try out for the team?
[It] did encourage me to try out because, since I am new to agility, I wasn't sure if I should try to make the team, but knowing the event was in Texas seemed to make it less of an issue for me. I have never been overseas before so I thought the home field advantage and having friends and family in the stands cheering for us would help Crackers and me do better.
Have you ever tried out for the team in the past?
Crackers is my first [dog to do agility] so I have never tried out for the team before.
Have you represented the USA at an event before?
What were some of the challenges you faced during the world team qualification process?
One of the challenges I had in trying out for the team was in improving my handling skills. I had only had one year of competition with Crackers under my belt before I started the qualifying process, so I knew I needed to tighten things up a lot and learn to cue turns and obstacles earlier to help him more on the course. We usually [qualified] at local trials but it was not always pretty or the most efficient way to run the course. The international handling courses were the hardest to get used to running and handling as I had never seen courses like that before. My wife, Loretta, helped me out a lot by finding and setting up a lot of international handling courses for me to practice on.
How did your family and friends react to the news that you made the USA IFCS team?
My family and friends were ecstatic when they found out Crackers and I made the team. My wife was overjoyed and Crackers' breeder smothered us both with hugs. When we got back home from Cyanosport, Crackers had treats and balloons sent to him from friends.
Will any of your family or friends be traveling to the event to cheer you on?
My wife will be attending the event with me, as well as my parents, and Crackers' breeder.
What is your goal at this year's event?
My goal at this year's event is to not let the team down and to Q in all our runs. If we did happen to earn a medal that would just be the icing on the cake.
As the event comes closer and closer, are there additional stresses to your daily life because of your participation on the team?
There have not been any added stresses added to my life from making the team. I usually train with Crackers three or four times a week anyway so I have just focused more of our training on skills that will help us at the event.
Have you done any specialized training to prepare for this event?
In preparation for the event I have been working on both Crackers and my conditioning along with trying more challenging handling at local trials. We have also been working more on Gamblers, which is our weakest event, and I have taken a couple of lessons with fellow team member Dana Pike to improving my handling and timing.
What do you think will be the most difficult part of the event for you and your dog?
Being new to this level of competition, I am not sure what will be the most difficult part of the event for Crackers and me. I know I will feel more pressure and nervousness at the event than I have had at other trials and I am hoping to get some advice from my fellow teammates on handling the nerves and pressure. Also, Gamblers is our weakest event so I am not looking forward to that event.
Do you want to give any "shout outs" or share any other comments?
I would like to give a shout out to my wife Loretta for all her help and support in training and trialing Crackers. We would not be on the team if it was not for all her assistance. I would also like to give one to Crackers' breeder, Bonnie Griep, as outside of Loretta she has been our biggest supporter.
Photo of Crackers courtesy of Ami Sheffield.
Photo of Andy and Crackers courtesy of Loretta Mueller.
Deborah Davidson Harpur has been competing in agility since 1998. She currently handles 16 dogs of various breeds including Rat Terriers, All Americans, French Bull Dogs, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a Shetland Sheepdog, a Border Collie and more. She enjoys competing in USDAA agility and is the proud mom of USDAA roving reporter Rickie Roo. Her dogs are all proud canine ambassadors for the Active Care line of dog food by Breeder's Choice and for ilovedogs.com, tj.la, and ilovedogsdiamonds.com. You can learn more about Deborah and her dogs at pm2dogagility.com.