When i Love Dogs traverses the country for various events, we have the pleasure of meeting dog lovers from all paws of life. This previous December, while at the AKC/Eukanuba Agility Invitational, our booth had an intriguing visit by a woman and her pooch who had come to the invitational all the way from Brazil! Simone Lessa and her 6-year-old medium Border Collie Hera were in the United States for the very first time showing off their pawsome agility skills.
A systems analyst by day, Lessa trains with Hera three times a week with one goal in mind: to make the Brazilian Agility World Team and go to the next world championships in 2010. Formed in the year 2000, the Brazilian Agility World Team is already a considerable agility powerhouse. Since their formation, the team has taken home first place Large Team at the FCI Agility World Championships in 2002, and first place in Large Team and first place in Small Team in 2008. These are only a few of the team’s many accolades. The team’s hard work has made Brazil’s Agility World Team the top ranked team in all of Central and South America. How do you say “Wow!” in Portuguese?
The team is gaining speed, no pun intended, and it’s no wonder that World Team hopefuls include driven agility junkies like Lessa, who started doing agility eight years ago with her mixed breed named Pandora.
“When my husband and I went to obedience training with Pandora, her trainer had some agility obstacles set up and my husband, Ernesto, asked him what they were. The trainer told us it was agility. Afterwards, Ernesto looked agility up on the Internet and we began agility with Pandora right away,” says Lessa.
As her love for agility grew, so did her doggie family. Her two medium Border Collies Hera and Kelly were introduced to the sport, and soon Lessa was on a roll. Hera had some big paws to fill. Hera’s father is Fidel do Kanove, a Border Collie who was the 2002 World Agility Champion, and her brother Petit de Leão took sixth place in the Individual Standard in the 2009 World Championship.
Keeping up with her predecessors’ success hasn’t been a hard task for Ms. Hera. She’s taken home several awards in the past two years, including first place at the Brazilian I Copa Paulista, Individual Medium in 2008-2009, and third in the FCI Americas y El Caribe Championship. She’s well on her way to securing one of the coveted spots on the Brazilian Agility World Team.
The 2009 team has eight handlers and 10 dogs:
Marcela de Andrade Checchia with Border Collie Magic
Felipe Minet with Border Collie Petit
Samy Wroblewski with Border Collie Chester and Shetland Sheepdog Theo
Jose Luiz Filho with Border Collie Dino
Samir Abu Laia with Shetland Sheepdog Lola
Alexander Schcolnik with Shetland Sheepdogs Tyller and Skipper
Katia Cilene da Silva with Shetland Sheepdog Candy
Paulo Rogerio L. Prado with Shetland Sheepdog Blanka
Though the Brazilian Agility World Team was formed in 2000, it became a sport in Brazil in 1998. The President of the Brazilian Confederation of Cinofilia (CBKC) appointed Henrique Garcia as National Agility Coordinator for the sport that’s overseen by CBA (the Brazilian Commission for Agility). The country holds three yearly championships: Brasileiro, Paulista and Copa CBA.
Their website says, “CBA is made up of a commission with various sub-committees, all working voluntarily with one main goal in mind: making agility a healthy sport, fun to watch and do, and most importantly: a sport that brings humans and their dogs together!”
Twelve years of agility in Brazil has brought the dogs and their handlers a long way, and the sport is only gaining ground. But Garcia notes that the country’s size limits their ability to expand dog agility to all parts of the country.
“Unlike Europe, where countries are smaller and very close to each other, Brazil is very big and logistics to transport the [agility] obstacles is complicated, especially to very far areas where agility is unheard of,” says Garcia.
He goes on to explain that despite this kink in their goals, Brazil is the “second largest pet market in the world,” second only to the United States. There are 45 million dogs in the country, and the CBA intends to reach all pet owners across the country by bringing agility demonstrations to their front steps in the form of exhibiting talented dogs in town squares and similar areas.
Their three championships make for 60 rounds of competition yearly. Lessa informed us that Hera has competed in every single championship since her start in agility. She finds much inspiration in competitors across the globe, including Natasha Wise and her dog Dizzy of the British Agility World Large Team, who clinched the championship at the recent FCI World Championships. She also holds great admiration for Brazilian team member Samir Abu Laila (her coach) and the Brazilian team’s coach Jose Luiz Filho.
Lessa and Hera’s road to the championships is littered with hard work, sweat, and biscuits, and it’s obvious that they’re headed in the right direction. The AKC/Eukanuba Invitational was their first competition abroad.
“The whole competition was exciting, but I especially loved the last day, the final. It was amazing. I had never seen so many dogs of different breeds competing together!” said Lessa.
But at the end of the day, when the glitz and glam have faded, what agility handlers have to show for their hard work is the dog that they love.
“Hera’s best quality is her dedication to me; she is so careful and lovely. She is my partner not only in agility, but in my life. We work well together because we trust each other very much,” said Lessa.
It’s good to know that the bond between human and pooch is just as deep and heartfelt across all borders.
We hope to keep you updated on Lessa and Hera’s progress. Best of luck to both!
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Simone Lessa
Have a passion for agility? Share your story with us in the comments below.