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Cynosport Judge: Carol Kramer

Meet the 2015 Cynosport World Games "Judge of the Day!"

The 2015 Cynosport World Games are just a few weeks away! The event begins on Wednesday, October 21 and ends on Sunday, October 25 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Visit the Cynosport websitefor more details. Judges Wim Bekendam, Francisco Berjon, Sandra Katzen, Carol Kramer and Eric Quirouet will be presiding. We're going to take some time before the event to get know each of our judges better and will be featuring profiles over the next few weeks. Today meet Carol Kramer!

Where are you located?

I live in St. Paul, MN but am from the Great State of Wisconsin! (Green Bay Packers Shareholder - yes I am one of THOSE! :-) ) 

Tell us about your experience competing in agility?

I started in the mid 90's training and showing my Keeshond Keesha. We competed in USDAA, NADAC and AKC. She achieved her MAD, Relay Master and Jumpers Master in USDAA, Elite titles in NADAC and Masters titles in AKC. Pixie was my second Keeshond that I showed to her AKC Breed Championship. We obtained her P-ADCH and LAA-Bronze titles and MACH2 in AKC. We competed at a few AKC and USDAA Nationals. 

Do you participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs?

The training always continues with your dog, no matter what the age! Walking the dog in the neighborhood is sometimes a sporting event.

What types of dogs do you have and what are their names, ages, and any titles?

Tess is my 10-year-old Keeshond. She is Queen of the House and Last Comic Standing. 

Tell us something unique or that you love about your dog(s).

A Keeshond truly fits the description in their breed standard - clown like personality! No matter the day, she continues to perform antics that make me and many others laugh! In my experience they are smart poof-balls. When I had both Keeshonds and Border Collies, in the morning they were asked to get in their kennels for the day. The Border Collies of course would oblige, and the Keeshonden would stand there looking at you with the. "What's in it for ME?" look on their faces. So who's the more clever breed?  

What do you do in your other non-agility life?

By day I'm a Quality Engineer for 3M Consumer Health Care Division at the Corporate Headquarters in Maplewood, MN. On weekends and national/international agility trials, you can find me working on dogs and people. I have a keen interest in healing arts, having achieved certifications in Canine Sports Massage, Healing Touch for Animals, Tellington TTouch and various other modalities. So I'm Quality Assurance for those teams!

Sports has always been a part of my life; I grew up watching Packers football and I continue to watch them. A couple of years ago I started watching hockey. That sport is amazing because it's fast and it doesn't STOP! I'm now a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Wild. At least my green wardrobe works for both teams! I've also competed in a few fitness competitions. Being in your 50's is not fatal, it's fabulous! 

There is a life outside of agility/sports too. International travel, arts, concerts, museums, nature, theatre are all on my radar screen. 

What events will you be judging at Cynosport?

Great Question! I know what courses I was asked to *design* but those may not necessarily be the ones I judge. The judging assignments will be finalized at Cynosport - so if inquiring minds want to know - ask Tom Kula! 

Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for your judging duties at Cynosport?

I've stepped up my exercise program and paid closer attention to my eating plan. Judging the Central Regional in Kansas City provided insight into what the days could be like at Cynosport. Hopefully there will be no repeat of that Saturday where we started judging at 8 am and didn't finish until close to 10 pm. So exercises for mental capacity and focus are important! 

What expectations to you have for judging at Cynosport? Do you anticipate any challenges?

Thanks to USDAA and the judges selection panel for asking me to judge - it's an honor and vote of confidence! Expected are long days with fast dogs with handlers demanding perfect calls and non-calls, no matter if it is the first or 600th run of the day. That attention for at least four days is mentally and physically demanding, so being in top shape is important! Being calm in tense situations is vital. Using instant replay will bring new experiences. We will learn more when we get there. As a friend commented, what are they going to do, give every handler a red challenge flag like in the NFL? If a handler wants to challenge, are they going to pull the flag? So that might not happen, but that story does lighten the mood around it. 

Keeping a positive mental attitude, being thoughtful and setting a fun atmosphere are all part of my playbook. 

When you are designing a course for Cynosport, do you have any goals and/or concerns?

My goal for course design is generally the same for a local trial or Cynosport: safe, flow, fast with multiple ways to handle the course. Present subtle challenges at speed while fulfilling the rules and the intent of the class. Give dogs a chance to land and turn without having them crash into another obstacle. Being thoughtful that there are no *stupid* challenges - one of those - I dont want to watch THAT all day. Keep it Fun, fast and with flow! 

We may be judging a course that another person has designed. I'm much shorter than Francisco and Eric and Tom Kula and I don't plan to wear heels while judging, so I want to make sure I can get to all the places on courses they design!  

I was honored to be asked to design one of the Masters Challenge courses. Having attended WAO, IFCS and FCI every year since 2008, I have seen thousands of runs on European courses. Comparing the courses on paper to seeing and most importantly feeling the way they are handled have expanded my course design skills. The line of flow is definitely there. It's just that the obstacle configuration and orientation doesn't make the flow obvious. My product design is to have a course that looks and feels like a European course without being jerky or stupid. My customer satisfaction measure is to have exhibitors comment that it was fun, safe and challenging regardless if they qualified or not. 

Have you competed at Cynosport in the past?

Yes, in the late 1990's through early 2000's. Remember TRAIN in Ventura, CA, anyone? I remember flying to the (then) USDAA Nationals shortly after 9/11. The planes were empty, and dogs were not allowed on the flights. Fortunately friends from MN drove the dogs out and back.  

For several years I was on site working on dogs and people. Several of my clients have been in the Finals and were eventual medalists. I've been there in the background with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Although I haven't competed in several years, those first hand experiences are memorable. They have influenced my course design, conflict management and mental management skills for my canine and human clients as well as my own. 

Do you have any tips or advice for Cynosport competitors?

Celebrate all the accomplishments that brought you here!

Work every speck of dirt and every blade of grass. Do all the obstacles in the correct order. Pay attention to details!

If it's a great run - take time in the moment to celebrate it! if it didn't meet your expectations, do what you need to do to work through the disappointment, go for a walk to cool off. If playing with your dog helps you through that, then do so. If not, hand the dog off to someone else to cool down and work it out yourself. Focus on what went well, accept what didn't and learn from that, and then remind yourself on all the things that went well. You've earned the right to be here!

Breathe, smile at your dog, breathe! 

Do you have any advice for competitors thinking about doing competing, either at Cynosport or local/regional trials, but are intimidated?

Take it easy on yourself! Put in the foundation work to prepare you and your dog for competition. Focus on you and your dog and what you have learned If something happens, rest assured that someone has faced the same. We understand!

To quote Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X!

In retrospect, you learn that this sport teaches you much more about yourself than what you realize. Lifelong friendships develop. It's much more than just an obstacle course for dogs. 

What's your favorite dog-themed book or movie? 

"Babe" is classic - mice, dogs and a pig. "Dogs who Know Their Owners are Coming Home" by Rupert Sheldrake provides insight into morphic fields and the anecdotal studies on the dog/owner connection. Focus and think about the *correct* obstacle.


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