Featuring Susan Jacobsen and Benz, GCH CH Amawalk Wish Upon a Star RN CAX FCAT23 SWN SCNE RATN CGC TKP FITG
Susan Jacobsen (SJ) It’s kind of a long story. Way back when, I actually found a terrier book and I just fell in love with the Aussie, with the photo, the breed description and the Aladdin lamp silhouette. Twenty years ago, I went to the Westchester Kennel Club show and got to see some ATs. Soon after I acquired my first Aussie, Cooper. He was a great companion and family dog. In 2010 I had recently lost my Westie and wanted to add a second AT. So I started my search. It was not easy but I finally found a breeder, Lisa Violette, from Massachusetts. I took a female pup, named her Izzy (GCHS CH Rock Village Izabella Dinki-Di MXE2 CAX CGC TKN) and started an exciting journey as a newbie team in conformation. We were quite successful, and Izzy became a Silver Grand Champion. She even earned two back-to-back Best of Opposite Sex awards at Westminster. Not bad for a novice owner handler team. I bred Izzy, and she produced three puppies. I kept two of them, Benz and Sophia, and showed both in conformation as well as performance events.
As far as mentors, there were plenty of helpful folks as I started in conformation. Of course, Lisa Violette, Izzy’s breeder, was very helpful. I was also encouraged to participate in Earthdog by you (Heather Rife) and Izzy was a successful competitor, earning her Master Earthdog title. In addition, Izzy ran CAT (Coursing Ability Test).
(SJ) Fast Cat was a very new event in 2017 (when Benz started) and came along at a good time.
It is a timed 100 yard run down a fenced track. There is a 10 foot start box and a catch pen with a 30-50 yard run out at the end of the course. The dog is released from the start box and chases the lure to the end. The run is timed in seconds and converted to miles per hour. MPH is converted to points. You need two people, one to release the dog and one to catch the dog.
(HR) So how do they calculate the points from miles per hour?
(SJ) There is a formula …204.545 divided by the dog’s time equals miles per hour. Then there are three handicaps based on the dog’s height. Under 12 inches is a handicap of 2, over 12 inches and under 18 inches handicap of 1.5, over 18 inches handicap of 1. Multiply speed by handicap to get points earned. First level title BCAT = 150 points, Second level title DCAT= 500 points, top title FCAT = 1000 points. Points are cumulative. Thereafter FCAT is earned every 500 points (FCAT2, FCAT3 and so on).
(SJ) Well, he ran CAT very well, earning CAX in June 2017. Since he was definitely lure focused I knew there would be no problem transitioning to Fast Cat. So he started Fast Cat as he finished up his CAX title.
(SJ) In the very early days of fast cat, they used noisy generators to run the lure. Benz would stop about halfway down the track and investigate the source of the noise. Eventually he would come to me but it was a distracted run. With the help of friends, we solved that issue. So many people were yelling for him at the finish that he eventually just ignored the generator and stayed focused on the lure. He was also an “auto return” dog in his first few runs, meaning he would return to me (I did not call him) at the start instead of running to the person in the catch pen. That was an issue, too, so I used a person he was comfortable with at the start and I was the catcher at the end and that solved the matter.
(SJ) With Benz, there is no motivation needed. He is very motivated. He knows when we’re going to an event, and when we get there, he gets so excited to run. He knows exactly what to do. He does tend to attack the lure and break the line with his enthusiasm at the end of the run, so I need to get to him quickly and pick him up. The lure operator is not happy if he breaks the line.
(HR) So are you still doing Fast Cat with him?
(SJ) We continue to do Fast Cat exclusively. He recently earned FCAT23 with points totaling over 12,000.
(SJ) We were at an event and there was a photographer at the finish line. The photographers lay on the ground to get the best pictures, and as Benz was coming down the line, he latched onto the lure right in front of the photographer, whipped around and his rear ended up right on the camera lens. Everyone in the catch area thought it was so funny.
(SJ) I have to say, in my experience, Fast Cat is one of the most supportive, welcoming, friendly events I have ever experienced. It’s all about the fun of the run for the dog. The hosting clubs, lure operators and exhibitors all contribute to a positive experience. I do get at least one person asking what kind of terrier he is and I’ve been surprised when someone actually asks me “Is that an Australian Terrier”.
(SJ) I’m not sure, but I always share info about the breed. It is so great to see so many terrier breeds active in Fast Cat. I certainly hope they would consider an Aussie in the future.
(SJ) It’s actually the most exciting year for us. In 2021, Benz attained a lifetime average speed of
25.03 mph which was a personal best, a top lifetime speed for an Aussie that still stands to this day. He ran 92 events that year, so frequent running kept him in condition and improved his speed. To calculate the average speed, AKC averages the top three speeds for the year. Also Benz has been invited to the Fast Cat Invitational in Orlando every year since its inception. AKC invites the top 4 dogs of each breed.
(SJ) We do a lot of walking but more importantly we do short bursts of speed, such as chasing the ball. That keeps his response quick and legs strong. At almost 8 years of age, I do have to watch his weight. He is in great shape and I do expect a bit of a slow down as he ages. And that’s just fine, after all, it is the fun of the run for Benz.
(SJ) Get your Aussie out there and just try it. Since most ATs are prey driven there really is no learning curve. Don’t overthink it, read the AKC guidelines to become familiar with the sport and search for an event in your area. So nice to see many more Aussies doing Fast Cat. In 2017 there were only 3 ATs listed in the rankings. In 2022 there were 21 ATs listed. The lifetime list currently has 48 ATs. A dog must run 3 times in a year to be placed in the rankings. I am lucky that I am in an area where there are plenty of events with experienced clubs, secretaries and lure operators. When I take Benz to an event, I feel confident that it’s going to be a positive experience.
(SJ) We have done Scent work and we may return to that at some point in time. Recently Benz earned the 3 levels of FIT Dog titles. When not doing events Benz is an active helper/supervisor/companion in the garden and on the property. He is always on the lookout for snakes and critters.
(SJ) Absolutely! I can be reached at my email firstname.lastname@example.org