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Talking with Cynosport Games Judge Emiel Vervoort

Meet this 2008 Cynosport World Games judge.  Interview by Brenna Fender

Emiel Vervoort hails from Belgium, where he lives near Antwerp.  He currently has two dogs. One is an 18-month-old male Border Collie called Gives it All, also known as Popeye.  The other is a female BC puppy formally called Happyfeet, but whose nickname is Billietoo. 

Photo courtesy of Emiel Vervoort.

BF: Tell me about your agility experiences in your homeland.
EV: It started about 1981. I was at Crufts dog show; that time it was in London and I saw agility. I was fascinated.
I had a Fox Ter(rorist)rier, and wanted him to do tunnels to keep him busy instead of him making holes in the grass or destroying my shoes. The year after, I went Crufts again and met some breeders of Border Collies because Athos, my Fox Terrier, was a disaster (or was it me?). I liked agility and I wanted to do agility, so I needed another breed.

So in 1984 my first BC, Fly, joined us. In 1988 came Kate, in 1990, Cap, in 1991, Queenie, and in 1992 came Angie. Also in 1992 came Billie, a rescue dog. Cap and Queenie are the parents of Toccata, Ken Tatsch's dog. No doubts, I had a lot to do with my dogs. I was competing all those years with good results at the national and international level, competing at European Championships and winning the Belgian Championships with Fly and Kate, and winning the Nationals in the Netherlands and Germany.  Unfortunately, these dogs are all gone now; the last one, Queenie, passed away last Summer.  Now I have to start competing again.
I started judging in 1990 after a judging seminar in the UK, where I met Ken for the first time. Because in Belgium, we only had judges who were used to judging obedience, so the Kennel Club asked me the become a judge. In 1995 I came to America and judged at Fair Hill.
After a competition in Germany where I won the first three places, they asked me to come and give some lessons teaching agility at the club.  I went to Germany and the students were very pleased.  I had to come again, since other clubs asked me to give a seminar. Agility was growing.  I gave seminars in a lot of countries in Europe. 

In 2000, the Kennel Club asked me to coach the Belgium World Championship team.  I did that for six years; circumstances outside of agility forced me to quit.
BF: What are your expectations for handlers competing on your courses at the USDAA Nationals?
EV: That's a real good question. In first place, I hope they enjoy handling their dog. I hope they enjoy the course. I hope and think that the courses are not too difficult; [the handlers] will be nervous enough.  What can I expect more than a good clean run from each handler who then finishes the course with a smile and a hug for the dog. I wish them all the same result as Marcus had in Finland! [Editor's note: Recently in Finland, American Marcus Topps won the Gold medal in the Large Dog individual competition at the 2008 FCI World Agility Championships.]
BF: Are you preparing in any way for judging at the big event?

EV: Yes, it's really special. I prepared courses and had to send them for a review. That's not usual for me. It is a professional way, it means that agility is taken seriously. The dogs and handlers are taken seriously. Preparing such an event takes time, and no one detail is forgotten by the organization. Congratulations!
BF: Do you have any comments on your upcoming judging experience?

EV: When you see how the USDAA is organized, in a professional way, nothing can go wrong. I went judging [in another country] weeks ago, and the week before I had to beg the organization to tell me what kind of courses I had to judge. I judged the FCI World Championships FCI in 2003 and comments came on Monday after the WCC about the courses. Comments from people who never handled a dog, but are in the commision of FCI.

In 2005, I judged the international event in Middelsbrough (UK). In 2008 I judged Crufts. Judging experience? Yes, in a competition like this, one needs it. It's in favor of the sport and the competitors.

I wish every single competitor a clear round.  Why? Because everyone will be happy. And when the handler and dog doesn't make a mistake, the judge will not make a mistake.


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