Video Credit: 4LeggedFlix
Perry Dewitt, a member of the Wildcard team at this year’s World Agility Open (WAO), chatted with 1TDC about winning gold in Games with her dog, Verb, and more.
Question: How long have you been doing agility?
Perry’s answer: I have been competing in agility for six years. My oldest agility dog, Goose, is eight. I got him when he was a puppy.
Question: How long have you been competing in agility with Verb?
Perry’s answer: Verb is almost five, and I started him when he was a year and a half.
Question: What were you doing with dogs before you got into agility?
Perry’s answer: I have been obsessed with dogs my whole life. When I was little, my family had a Border Collie named Tippy. I used to do my own kid agility with him in my backyard. In high school, my parents got me a German Shepherd/Husky mix who was really difficult to train. Because of him, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about dog training. In the meantime, I was competing in lacrosse intensely and when it was over, I still had the competing desire inside. So, I converted that energy into competing in agility with my dog—basically combining my obsession with dogs and dog training with my love of competition.
Question: Can you explain, for those who may not know, what it means to be a Wildcard?
Perry’s answer: A Wildcard at WAO makes their own team; they even have their own flag. When the Wildcard wins a medal, it is not for their country but for the Wildcard team. I believe this is the only international dog sports competition that does that.
Question: What was the process for becoming a Wildcard?
Perry’s answer: In order to apply for the Wildcard position, you had to try out with your own team or have a good reason for why you could not. In my case, Verb was pulled due to minor injury.
You had to show that you were part of another world team or were an alternate. You also had to show a video of an international standard run. Then Greg Derrett had a committee review it. Apparently, this year, they had their biggest number of submissions.
Question: What were your thoughts and feelings when you found out you were going to be part of the Wildcard team?
Perry’s answer: I was really excited. I did not expect to be picked. I figured there would be a lot of competition. I was going to travel with Jessica Ajoux anyway, so I thought I might as well apply!
Question: Were you disappointed that you didn’t make the USA team, or just as excited to be part of the Wildcard team?
Perry’s answer: I was disappointed, as I could not try out. But I was really excited to be part of the Wildcard team. And the USA team treated me as part of their team. Jan Padgett, Mike Padgett, Lorretta Muller, and Ken Bain were the best!
Question: Was this your first time competing internationally?
Perry’s answer: No, I competed last year at the EO and earlier this year at the IFCS. The prior year I was an alternate for both the WAO and FCI world teams.
Question: Can you tell us about your history of trying to compete at the international level in the past versus what you feel changed this year?
Perry’s answer: I feel like the connection I have with Verb and his natural talents made this possible. I felt ready after my years of training and learning, especially studying the OneMind Dog methodology. Even when we tried out for world teams together when he was younger, it was mostly little errors that held us back. This helped me in refining my training and handling to get him and myself ready. We had a constant upward progression learning to be consistent. I knew Verb was the dog I could make it with when we won the USDAA National Steeplechase in 2015.
Question: What was it like to win gold your very first time at the WAO?
Perry’s answer: It was amazing! I was a little bit in shock. I was worried about being too excited, as we got preliminary results immediately but had to wait for the scores to be confirmed. (Perry noted that the competition was extremely well run and organized, as scores and other information were delivered promptly via app.) It felt surreal considering it was “Gamble,” as some of the skills it required I had never tested in competition before with Verb. We don’t train a ton of gamble skills because Verb has always been a phenomenally independent worker. He is amazing at adapting. Walking out of the ring and seeing my name at the top of the board…this was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. And for sure in agility!
Question: As someone who has traveled with their dog internationally more than once, what tips do you have for others who are preparing to travel with a pet for the first time?
Perry’s answer: You have to know your dog and know if he/she adapts well to new environments. Ever since I got Verb, I have been exposing him to as many new environments as possible. He takes everything in stride. The time zone change did not seem to bother him like it bothered me.
Question: Do you have a set process you go through to get Verb ready to travel?
Perry’s answer: I do with the paperwork! It is my fifth time traveling overseas. It is getting easier, and I have a good vet helping me manage the process to get all the appropriate certifications on time. I also want to make sure Verb gets good exercise two days before travel so he is not restless on the plane. I decrease his food the morning of travel too.
Question: Do you have any suggestions when it comes to diet/supplements?
Question: What’s next for you and Verb?
Perry’s answer: The next big event is the EO in Austria.
Perry wanted to give a special thanks to her partner in agility and in life, Jessica Ajoux, as she believes that working together that accelerated her progress tremendously.