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Proud pup - Boston terrier Foster is shown with some of the awards he has won along with owner and handler Anne Weidemann. Below: Foster makes his way through one of the obstacles in competition; Weidemann’s kitchen wall is adorned with ribbons Foster has won over the years. submitted photo
Hungary bound: Foster and Anne pawing their way to the Worlds by Kris Svela
When you walk into Anne Weidemann’s cozy country kitchen it’s obvious she and her seven-year-old Boston terrier, Foster have a strong connection.
It’s a bond first established shortly after Weidemann rescued the four-week-old pup from less-than-desirable conditions and one that has grown stronger as the two have trained and participated in agility competitions in Ontario, across Canada and, more recently, at a national level in the U.S.
Adorning the walls of the kitchen are hundreds of ribbons Foster won in competition together with his handler Weidemann.
And even though Foster can’t show his pride for the awards, Weidemann makes up for it by talking proudly about her dog’s accomplishments.
The pair is now preparing for what will probably be the biggest show they have ever entered: the upcoming ParAgility World Cup in Gyula, Hungary in September.
The competitions they entered have to include a dog and a handler with a handicap. In Weidemann’s case, the handicap is diabetes, from which Foster seems keenly aware his handler suffers.
Low blood sugar is a constant threat for diabetics and can result in confusion and, if untreated, a coma.
The dog’s ability to detect when Weidemann’s blood sugar is low is part of his service dog designation and their competition as a pair. His warnings allow Weidemann to test her blood and take snacks to bring her blood sugar up.
“He was with me twice when I had those fits so maybe he thought if I stay with her she’ll come around,” Weidemann said of Foster’s ability. “As soon as I do my testing he goes back to his business.”
Foster is usually found at Weidemann’s right side, but when he switches to her left side it makes her aware it’s time to test.
“He’s just like Velcro, he stays with me,” she said.
Despite that inconvenience, competition is what the duo is about.
Weidemann has been in agility competition since 1996 when she had her Chihuahua-toy poodle dog, Penny, competing. She also had a collie, Brodie, who has picked up many performance ribbons in competitions.
The handler is as proud of Penny as she is with all her dogs, including the six dogs now living with her and husband Wayne on a Wellington North sideroad.
The competition partnership with Foster has been going on for about five years. They compete at various venues hosted by either the Agility Association of Canada or the Canadian Kennel Club.
Their recent U.S. competition in Springfield, Ohio was hosted by Canine Performance Event. From that competition, Foster walked away with eight ribbons out of nine and several first and second place positions in other categories.
The competitions are comprised of agility courses that include weaving between spaced poles, jumping, catching discs and rally obedience where the dog takes part in a course off-leash. The dogs are also judged on timing to complete a competition.
Weidemann has been working on freestyle dancing and currently is training Foster to track a scent.
“For freestyle dancing you take a piece of music, put different moves to the music,” she said, noting at a recent competition Foster “won everything.”
His good demeanor means he gets along with all types of breeds and sizes. It’s an essential ingredient for a dog competing against different breeds, particularly in disk throwing, where up to 15 different breeds are competing out in the open.
“He’s oblivious to other dogs,” she said.
Foster does bark when people approach the house; more an assertion of his space than a threat, Weidemann said.
Known for her humour, Weidemann decided to set up a sign outside the farmhouse which reads, “This property pawtected by Boston terrier security.”
She admits when she first saw Foster she wasn’t fond of the Boston terrier breed.
“I never thought I’d own a flat-faced dog,” she said.
Weidemann gets serious about the conditions in which she found the dog. Foster had been abused from birth, when his mother gave birth to several pups and killed them all except Foster.
He was saved from conditions Weidemann won’t elaborate on. The mother was killed, leaving him “abandoned,” Weidemann said.
The puppy was then put in with another group of pups, which were older and dominated when it came to feeding time, often biting the smaller rival. Foster was eventually rescued by Weidemann.
“He’s got scars on his face from all the chewing he got, but because of his wrinkles you can’t see them,” Weidemann said of her dog’s first difficult months.
It took several months to teach the dog, who would bite her at every opportunity, to learn proper obedience.
From there competition training began and Foster caught on quickly.
There’s was a time when Weidemann had to have hip and knee surgeries, which has slowed them down in entering competitions. Then there was a knee surgery for Foster after an accident.
When Weidemann had to have her final knee surgery, she decided it would be an opportune time for Foster to have his other knee operated on. They both recovered nicely even though, Weidemann admits, Foster’s surgery has slowed him down in the pole weaving.
She noted she has also slowed down, but that doesn’t detract from the way they compete.
“I still have pain, but he waits for me,” she said of the reality of how they work at a competition.
It works easier for her and Foster when the competition is off-leash. It’s a technique known as “working away,” the two are training on.
Since 2011, they have been competing about twice a month and through those competitions Foster has become well known.
“He is one of the top Canadians,” she said of Foster. He’s also been classed as a “veteran” in competitions, which means Weidemann has lowered the jumps he can take from 16 inches to 10 inches.
Changing obstacles is at the choice of the handler and sanctioned by the association running the competition.
“The association is giving older dogs an opportunity to play more,” she said of perks associated with dogs that have competed over several years.
Weidemann said both she and Foster are looking forward to the ParAgility World Cup, where they will be representing Canada.
“These games are for handicapped handlers and their dogs, giving them a chance to compete against others with similar disabilities,” Weidemann said in a letter to the Advertiser.
“This is the first time a team has been sent from Canada and we are really excited and looking forward to it.”
Despite representing Canada, there is no money allocated to cover the cost of travel and accommodations.
As a ParAgility World Cup participant, Weidemann also has to have a companion with her, which in this case will be her brother Brian Reid.
She is undertaking fundraising to offset the costs.
To make a donation call Weidemann at 519-323-2569 or mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She is a bit apprehensive about the seven-hour flight, not having flown herself for over 54 years.
But she knows Foster will handle the trip as her on-flight companion and competitor.
Vol 46 Issue 28
July 12, 2013
The Wellington Advertiser
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