After winning the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) Flyball Open World Cup that took place August 17-19 in Gravelines, France, Julie Jenkins of Fur Fun Flyball talked with 1TDC™ about the event, her team, and how it felt participating in last month’s flyball competition.
Question: Was this your first time competing at the FCI Flyball World Cup?
Julie’s answer: Yes, it was. It was the first Flyball Open World Cup.
Question: How long have you been preparing for and dreaming about competing at an event like this?
Julie’s answer: We learned about the event in fall 2017. We did not know if we were eligible or logistically able to go. But we worked hard as a team and received lots of help, and so we were successful in making it happen.
Question: Was this also your first time participating in a flyball competition internationally?
Julie’s answer: Outside of North America—yes!
Question: Did you change anything about your training to prepare for this event specifically?
Julie’s answer: We did; we knew we needed to train our height dog to jump higher. So, we did extra conditioning training at a higher height jump. At NAFA (North American Flyball Association) our height dog jumps at 8” and at FCI our height dog had to jump at 25 cm or 9.8”.
Question: Who traveled with you to France? What was your role?
Julie’s answer: Ten members of Fur Fun Flyball made the trip: Ben Hill (handler of Envy – border-whippet), Leerie Jenkins (handler of Elphaba – border-jack and Tuppence – border-border), Braden Simmons (handler of Homestar – border-whippet), Phil Getty (handler of Ion – border-whippet), Erin Rakosky (handler of Trinity – border-whippet), myself (coach), Patrick O’Leary (boxloader), Mandy O’Leary (mattress), Breanne Long (team manager), and Shari Glickman (team manager). All 6 of our dogs are related. Homestar and Envy are brother/sister, and Ion and Trinity are brother/sister as well.
I was the coach of the USA team. I was responsible for making sure the heights were correct, watching for flags, and facilitating during race warm-ups. We have 6 dogs on the team, and only 4 dogs run for a race. I determined which dog would run in what order. I spoke most of the French as well!
Question: How did your dogs do traveling?
Julie’s answer: Our dogs did really well. None of our dogs had traveled internationally before. They did really well and acted completely normal. It’s stressful but doable.
Question: Did you do anything special to help them prepare for the flight?
Julie’s answer: No, they are all used to traveling in crates. They know each other, so traveling on the same plane together, being able to crate near each other, and smelling and seeing each other made it a familiar experience. We also taught them to be crated and wheeled around.
Question: How big was the event in terms of teams, dogs, spectators, etc.?
Julie’s answer: It was a large event. There were 36 teams from 9 countries competing. There were more than 150 people and 200 dogs. As for spectators, the building was part of a sports complex (Sportica in Gravelines), which attracted the public and resulted in a good turnout.
Question: Can you tell us a little about who hosts this flyball competition?
Julie’s answer: The event was hosted by the FCI with help from the French Kennel Club, and the Belgium team also helped in making the event successful in conjunction with experienced European flyball clubs. The mats for the event were supplied by a British club.
Question: What countries were at the event? How were you received by the European teams?
Julie’s answer: USA, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were at the event. We were thrilled and shocked by how well we were received. They were curious, supportive, and kind. The Thunderdogs (the Belgium team) brought us chairs, tents, and coolers—things we couldn’t take on the airplane—so we would be comfortable.
Question: Did you have an area to warm up before your runs?
Julie’s answer: The setting was great. There was plenty of room in the parking lot, along with grass and an area to warm up.
Question: Do you have any special rituals your team does before a flyball competition? Are there any words of encouragement you give to your dogs to get them pumped up prior to a run?
Julie’s answer: Usually they are plenty pumped up before a run. For the most part, we are trying to stay calm and cool. We give the dogs little warm-ups and get their wraps on. They know where they are and they are plenty excited.
Question: Did you feel confident going into your team’s run? What did the competition look like?
Julie’s answer: We did feel confident based on our seed time. We knew we had the fastest team out of all that entered. We knew if we could execute and run clean, reaching our potential, then we would do well. We really enjoy the competition. We ran against fast, experienced teams. The final race was with the Flying Dragons, the Belgium team. They gave us a great race and pushed us; we enjoyed racing them.
Question: How did Homestar do?
Julie’s answer: He handled it like a champion. He was all fired up as usual. He posted a 3.64—the fastest time we saw at the event. Not bad for a dog that was supposed to get his leg amputated!
Question: How did your runs go? Tell us what you were thinking and feeling.
Julie’s answer: Very excited and a bit nervous. While very similar to North American flyball, there was a language barrier and some of the timing was different. In the first race on Saturday, we set an FCI world record! It was a great way to start. The previous record was somewhere around 16.2 s, and we ran a 15.44 s. This made us feel like it was all worth it to get there. We were in France and just had a great accomplishment! We were motivated for the rest of the tournament.
Question: How does it feel to have won the FCI Flyball Open World Cup?
Julie’s answer: It was an amazing feeling. I cannot even describe it. Happy, joyful, and proud!
Question: What was the prize for winning this flyball competition?
Julie’s answer: A big cup! It was too large to take on the airplane. They shipped it to us. And we get to keep it!
Question: How did your team celebrate the win?
Julie’s answer: We stayed at a great farmhouse Airbnb, so we had a great time celebrating with a few bottles of wine and some takeout pizza. We partied hard and treated ourselves…and also punished ourselves, as we suffered from the worst flyball hangover the next day heading out to Charles de Gaulle Airport at 4 in the morning! The next time we are staying longer to recover.
Question: After a major flyball competition like this, how do you help your dogs unwind and have a successful recovery?
Julie’s answer: We just return to normal life. Just living back at home, doing the things we usually do, and relaxing. We get back to our normal activities.
Question: What’s next for you and your dogs?
Julie’s answer: The CanAm Flyball Classic in a few weeks!
Question: Are there any special thank-yous that you’d like to give?
Julie’s answer: We’d like to thank the Fur Fun Flyball team that traveled with us and those that could not but were instrumental for us to make it to this event. A big thank-you for the donations, time, and money to make the trip happen. We could not have done it without their support. The Flying Dragons and Thunderdogs—they made us feel at home away from home. Also the Doubledogs and the Hobbits for exchanging shirts with me!
Question: For our aspiring flyballers who hope to someday compete at the international level, what’s one tip you can give to help them achieve their goal?
Julie’s answer: Find a flyball club and teammates that share your values and goals. Cultivate personal relationships to train as a team to meet your goals.
The staff at 1TDC™ wants to congratulate Julie and the entire Fur Fun Flyball team for winning the first FCI Flyball Open World Cup!