Hannah Kampa and Australian shepherd ‘Satori’ participate in national dog agility competition

Australian shepherd Satori and Hannah Kampa demonstrate an agility obstacle in their backyard course.

Kampa works agility with two Morrison County Humane Society rescue dogs

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Hannah Kampa has taken two surrendered dogs from the Morrison County Humane Society and turned them into agility specialists.

Tracy, a Cairn terrier, was found tied to the door of the Humane Society with her abdomen covered in open sores. The Kampa family took her home, and once the sores were healed, Hannah started Tracy in agility classes with Carol Voelker of Tails in Motion dog agility in Little Falls.

Hannah’s parents, Jeff and Roxanne, agreed that if Hannah stuck with the agility training for the entire season, then they would get her a real agility dog — one of the breeds generally better suited to agility skills.

“My dad and I went to the Humane Society one day and saw that they had an Australian shepherd,” Hannah said.

“Then I got a phone call about the dog,” Roxanne said. Pretty soon, Satori the Australian shepherd belonged to Hannah.

Satori and his brother had been surrendered to the Humane Society, but his brother was such an aggressive dog that Satori was extremely intimidated.

“I had to really work with him to let him gain confidence,” Hannah said. “I had to be careful not to raise my voice in training, or he would just shut down. Wrong moves had to be worked through in other ways.”

Satori has done agility training for four years. His first attempt in a competition was about 18 months after joining the Kampa family, with an event called “Gamblers.”

“He did two obstacles and ran out of the ring to greet another dog,” said Voelker. “It’s usually a good easy event to start a dog on.”

“For a while we really questioned whether Satori would be able to do this,” said Roxanne. “Would he be afraid of the judges, would he run off the course? Then in the summer of 2011 something just clicked. But Hannah had believed in Satori’s ability all along.”

“He was doing so well in class that we just knew it would have to transfer over some time,” Voelker said.

However, Jeff and Roxanne still do not sit anywhere near where Satori is competing. Everyone involved knows that if he were to see them, he would be too distracted to compete.

In September of 2011, Satori was eligible to qualify for the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) national competition. It wasn’t until July of this year at a show in Duluth that he earned a qualifying score through a Grand Prix event.

The Grand Prix is an obstacle course with 17 to 20 obstacles and many challenges. It resembles something from the equestrian world, and is used to showcase dogs’ natural speed and agility. Some of the obstacles are a teeter board, tunnel, collapsed tunnel (chute), standard jumps, tire jumps, weave poles, a pause table and a dog walk.

“Dogs need two qualifying scores to go to the national Grand Prix,” Voelker said. She holds two local shows annually at her training facility south of Little Falls on Hillton Road.

On Aug. 11, Hannah’s birthday, Satori earned his second qualifying score with another Grand Prix event.

“Satori is not the fastest dog but he is very accurate,” Hannah said. “We have a good working relationship.”

There are other events at agility competitions, such as Snooker, Jumpers, Pairs Relay and Standard Class. But Satori does best in the Grand Prix. All events are run off-leash, with dogs following signals given by their owners/handlers.

Carol Voelker, left, with Zyme and Hannah Kampa with Satori pose in front of the United States Dog Agility Association display in Commerce City, Colo. in late September.

The national dog agility competition sponsored by USGAA was held in Commerce City, Colo. Sept. 26-30.

“There were 700 – 800 dogs there from all over the world, including Japan, Russia and Mexico,” Voelker said.

Satori and Hannah were featured in the junior handler showcase, which is basically an introduction for the young handlers. Then came the Grand Prix.

“It went really super well for it being our first year there,” said Hannah.

“Satori made it to the semifinals and had a flawless run, but it was not quite fast enough to place,” said Voelker.

“Since starting agility, I’ve learned not to be so nervous,” Hannah said. “The first couple of years I was so nervous that it freaked out the dogs too.”

“As parents, we are glad that she is surrounded with really good people — good role models,” said Roxanne. “It’s a wonderful place to learn a lot of good life skills.”

Voelker, who has judged several national agility competitions for a number of years, just took her border collie/blue heeler Zyme to nationals for the first time. She and Hannah and their dogs competed in a team event.

Connie Bursey, director of the Morrison County Humane Society said, “We’re really excited that the dogs have worked out for her, that she was able to give them a loving home and something to do.”

Regarding Tails in Motion dog agility, Bursey said, “Carol does a very nice job; she keeps it upbeat and it’s a lot of fun. My daughters and I have all done agility with her.”

Hannah turns 18 next year and plans on attending a judge’s clinic shortly after that. Agility clubs holding competitions pay for the judges’ travel, lodging and meal costs.

Voelker, who began competing with the horses she used to have, appreciates the comparatively low cost of competing with dogs.

“For the cost of eventing with one horse, I can show five or six dogs,” she said.

“We appreciate the fact that this sport is very affordable,” Roxanne said.

Hannah still competes with Tracy too, in maybe one event at each show. Tracy is now 11 years old. In addition to Satori and Tracy, the Kampas have Dirka, a German shepherd/chow chow mix that belongs to Hannah’s brother, who is in the Air Force.

“Working with Satori is a lot of fun — it’s a really good feeling,” Hannah said.