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IFCS 2016 Team Member Profile: Catherine Laria

A profile on IFCS 2016 Team Member Catherine Laria and her dog Blizzard.

We will be featuring regular profiles of all of the IFCS 2016 Team Members. Today we feature Catherine Laria and her dog Blizzard:

Where do you live? 
Bulverde, TX

How did you first get involved with agility?  A friend of mine and I thought it would be a fun place to meet guys, with the added bonus that they liked dogs... :) lol. I'm sure most would agree that was a misjudgment on our part.

What made you decide to compete? My dog Taco was a 26" jumping Husky mix back in 1999. People where I trained went to competitions so I thought we could too.  There were very few 26" jumpers at that time so we were relatively successful so I caught the bug. Went to my first nationals when GP and DAM were separated. It was the Team Event (in New Orleans, I think) Taco and I went to run in the GP and cheer on friends in Team. It was Border Collie Palooza! I had never seen so many cool dogs in one place. Then I saw Steve Frick run before me in was like watching a ballet! I was like, "Wow..." We even placed! I still have that ribbon! 

Do you participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs? I do Sheep herding with some of my other collies. We use to do it very competitively until my current dogs took off in agility, then we just didn't have enough time to do both.  We've also played in obedience, rally, dock diving, and lure-coursing.

Tell us more about the dog you will be competing with as an IFCS Team Member?  My partner for this trip is Whirlwind's White Out Aka Blizzard, Bizzy Bee, Bliz, Beaver, and when in trouble, Anastasia Beaverhousen! She is a little Border Collie at only 18" but she's a great jumper and super thoughtful. She excels at the international style courses because she is extremely efficient and doesn't like to guess. As long as I show her where she's going she's very solid.

Does your dog have any quirks or unique habits that you loved to share? Bliz likes cave style living. In every hotel or house you will usually find her in a crate, under a chair, or tucked up in a nightstand shelf....unless you get up from your chair or bed...then she's right up in that warm spot and won't move.

Are there any challenges you have faced with your dog that youd be willing to share and how you both overcame the challenge and achieved success?
  OH YES! I have three generations of this line (Whirlwind Border Collies) and the first two agility dogs were boys (father and son). Both tough, pushy, no matter what correction, they came back for more and wanted to repeat tasks over and over. Then came Bliz (Paint's daughter). The first time I grabbed at her or yelled, she was like "NOPE, Bizzy don't play that, you be nice or I'm leaving." She also could not repeat much because if she did it right once and you asked for it again right away, she would change. Obviously I wanted something different because only an idiot would ask for the exact same behavior two or three times, according to Bliz. :)  She has made such an impact on the way I currently train. She did not come with crazy drive like the ones before her or her siblings. I didn't recognize that early on so we've spent the last couple years working on it and it's definitely paid off :)

Do you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them: I have lots. Paint and Chase are the boys who came before Bliz and baby Jelly is Bliz's little sister. Those are my agility dogs. Then there is Shine, the matriarch of my group, Rae (her daughter) and Rip (her son). Those are my herding dogs. The oldest, Shine, just turned 14 and still wants to work each day but I save that for Rip and Rae. Jelly is the youngest and just turned two. She loves EVERYTHING! If you meet her she will demand you hug her, then will want to show you all her tricks.

Describe for us what you do in your "other" non-agility life, work life? If retired, what did you do before?  I really don't have a non-agility life, and I'm ok with that. I don't have a husband or kids so I don't really have any other obligations, outside of me, my dogs, and work. I own K9 Country Club and Training Academy in Bulverde, Texas. It is a commercial boarding and training facility with 65 runs, two training yards, and a beach club. It sort of runs itself so I spend most of my time doing lessons there or traveling with my dogs. I also own a second business as a distributor for Life Vantage. Just another way to help me spend more time playing with my dogs. :)

How does it feel to be on the IFCS Team this year? I am beyond thrilled! I don't jump Bliz at 26" so this was the main team I was interested in making. I tried for teams in the past with her father Paint at 26", made podiums but could never quite make a team. 

I thought the only chance I had to get on the team was to win first place. I didn't realize second and third got on too, lol, so this was a must-perform weekend in my mind, and she did. Bliz took first place in the 22" division. It was a great test of mental management meets training meets performing under pressure and I loved every minute of it. I am SO proud to be representing Team USA for the first time!

What are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in The Netherlands this April?  Well there are many things like seeing different sites, handlers, dogs. But I'm super excited to be traveling with so many other TEXANS! Four of my friends made the team, including Bliz's sister Hype, so this is going to be a lot of fun to explore and compete with people I know well.

Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for a big competition?
  Over the last two years I've spent a lot of time focusing on my mental game AND my physical abilities. I make sure I put some focus on both of those before a big competition.  People who have known me a long time have seen the major transformation over the years and are always asking what I'm doing specifically. So I started a site called to share with people all the things that have been influential in my successes and my dog's health.

People who enjoy agility with their dogs are often intimidated by the idea of competition - what advice would you give them to encourage them to take the plunge? If you are not sitting on the sidelines then you have more courage than anyone are already a winner! I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that new people are worried everyone is watching and you are going to look like a fool if things go wrong. The truth is no one is really watching, maybe your coach or your family, but honestly everyone else is too busy focusing on themselves. :)  We've all had those embarrassing moments (or 20). If in doubt, check out my mammogram run on the Dog Agility Bloopers Facebook Group. You'll never worry about looking stupid again. So let that go for sure. That should not hold you back.

Do you have a favorite dog from a book, movie, TV-show or video game? I probably say I love many but the first cartoon one that always comes to mind is the dog from the Grinch...I love that little guy :)

Photos courtesy of Catherine Laria


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