Posted Date: March 21, 2016
A profile of IFCS 2016 Team Member Joy Mercier and her dog Chiquita.
We are featuring regular profiles of all of the IFCS 2016 Team Members. Today we feature Joy Mercier and her dog Chiquita.
do you live? Elgin, Texas, which is near Austin.
did you first get involved with agility? I was in graduate
school and a friend of mine enrolled in a beginner agility class at a local
agility club. She kept telling me about
what they were doing and how much fun she was having with her dog. It didn't take long before I was harassing the
club, asking when they would be offering another beginner agility class!
made you decide to compete? I remember thinking
that competition was going to be hard and "scary." I don't remember what happened to convince me
to enter my first trial - it was probably the steady encouragement of my
instructor at the time, Mary Marshall. And
I used to compete in sports in school, so it was a natural progression to start
competing in my new sport.
you (or did you) participate in any other dog sports or training with your
dogs? A couple of years ago, Chiqui and I
tried out flyball. I really enjoyed the new training challenges, and Chiqui was
a very promising "height dog." But unfortunately, I wasn't able to pursue both
agility and flyball. I have also dabbled
in herding and nosework in the past, but quickly found that agility doesn't
leave much time/money for anything else!
us more about the dog(s) you will be competing with as an IFCS Team Member?
Chiquita (Chiqui) is an 11 pound "mutt" from a country shelter near Austin. My
best guess is that she is a Sheltie/Rat Terrier/Dachshund mix. Chiqui was one-year-old
when I saw her at the shelter. She looked like she would be an agility rock
star - sure enough! She is feisty, noisy, playful, and a totally food hound, but
also eager to please, incredibly devoted, and a committed snuggler. I could not
have hoped for a better teammate!
your dog have any quirks or unique habits that you would love to share? Quirky
or unique habits ... yes, there are a few! Chiqui is obsessed with The Lap. Half
the time, she gets in my lap and I don't even notice - suddenly she's there! Also,
Chiqui growls when she is saying "Hi" to other dogs, whether it's a dog she
loves or a dog who is supposed to keep his/her distance. Similarly, she
postures to her older, larger "sister" after they have been separated every
time, even if it's only for a few hours. Luckily, her sister (a Labrador/Border
Collie mix) is incredibly tolerant of this ridiculous ritual. Oh, and Chiqui
LOVES to raid my garden and steal leaves off my "broccoli-ish" plant when I'm
not looking. I have to protect my plant with vigilance!
there any challenges you have faced with your dog that you'd be willing to
share and how you both overcame the challenge and achieved success? Chiqui
sprained her knee a couple of years after I adopted her. I didn't recognize
right away that she needed more than "a couple weeks off." Once I did, I needed to find a vet who knew
more than the average bear about canine soundness. Through a friend's
recommendation, I found Dr. Van Winkle in Austin, who is trained in chiropractic
and acupuncture modalities. She explained what real "crate rest" is, patiently
coached us through a long and conservative rehab program, and discussed a
chiro/acupuncture maintenance schedule that would help prevent re-injury. I later found that Chiqui responds extremely
well to trigger point therapy. Overall, the experience of resting and
rehabilitating an injured dog has made me into a better canine "coach" since
I'm always watching her to see if she is feeling ok, and taking counter measures
if I think she is getting tight, tired, or sore.
you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them: I
have two 11-year-old dogs, a Doberman male named Orion, and a Border Collie/Labrador
named Amiga (Miga). Miga is my first
agility dog, and I will be forever thankful to her for playing this silly game
with me just to make me happy. The most important thing I learned from Miga
(other than how much I love this sport), is that I must put my dog's mental
well-being ahead of my desire to compete.
for us what you do in your "other" non-agility life/work life? I
am a hydrogeologist (groundwater) by training. I work at a Texas state environmental agency, overseeing a number of
remediation projects. All of my sites
have voluntarily enrolled in this cleanup program (called the Voluntary Cleanup
Program, go figure!). The sites
investigate historical activities on the site and assess soil and groundwater
for contamination. And when necessary,
they implement a cleanup (remediation) plan. I particularly enjoy the technical
challenges involved in the initial characterization of the site's historical,
geologic, hydrogeologic conditions, and how these factors may have influenced
contaminant fate and transport.
does it feel to be on the IFCS Team this year? Exciting!
I am so happy that my first international competition is with Chiquita. And
it's nice to have several other Texans on the team!
are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in
The Netherlands this April? I've watched European
agility competitions on TV and heard seminar instructors talk about what
"European courses" are like. I'm excited
to experience a European competition first hand and compare the course challenges
to the challenges I see in USDAA Team and Masters Challenge courses.
you do anything special to prepare yourself for a big competition? For
any competition, I get trigger point or chiro/acupuncture work on Chiqui in the
preceding week. And I try to get as much
sleep as possible in the days lead up to the competition.
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? Competing in agility is an excellent
way to motivate you to become a better handler and trainer. Even if you're doing agility "just for fun,"
your dog will have more fun as you improve your handling and training skills,
so it's a win-win for you and your dog!
I strongly encourage my beginner agility
students to attend local agility trials to "see how it works." Students who attend local trials and
volunteer as ring crew (like bar setter or leash runner) learn the most about
agility competitions ahead of time. I encourage my students to attend the trial
without their dog for part of the time so that they can volunteer as ring crew
(and I advise them which jobs are the easiest jobs and how to do them). But I also think it is important for them to
attend the trial with their dog for part of the time (when allowed), because it
gives their dog a chance to experience the energy of an agility trial without
the pressure to perform.
you have a favorite dog from a book, movie, TV-show or video game? No, growing up, I was all about
horses. I especially loved "The Black
Stallion." It wasn't until after I had
owned a horse and a dog that I realized that dogs are the superior companions.
Sorry, horse people!