Photo courtesy Jo-Anne Collis Ian Pate and some of his canine friends take a break from practising the sport of dog agility. Pate is recognized as the founding father of the sport on the North Island.

Founding father of North Island dog agility remembered

Confidence, strength of character, discipline, and just plain fun, made it an extremely worthwhile activity

“Agility is a fun sport for dogs and the owners. The dogs have to go over, or through, a variety of obstacles. There are few dogs that do not enjoy jumping, running through tunnels or climbing up obstacles. This is a sport for all dogs.”

– This is a direct quote taken from a news article written by Ian Pate in the fall of 1993,19 years ago.

A few of us who saw that article, took him up on that invitation and began taking weekly classes.

It quickly became an all season sport for us, as we never worried very much about the weather. We became hooked on Pate’s passion for his dogs and the sport. The more instruction and interaction, the more engaged our small group became. However, Pate did not believe in keeping the group small. He wanted more involvement, more dog people involved. He felt it was a captivating sport in so many ways for both handler and dog.

Confidence, strength of character, discipline, and just plain fun, made it an extremely worthwhile activity. Why not get out and advertise? What better way to share and spread the sport was to take it out to the community. We hauled his equipment to many places: demos were given in the Ironwood Mall, the Comox Valley Fair, and Willow Point Days in the field beside Woofies.

Scotty Stewart would even share in the fun having his border collies herd his ducks through the course. The RCMP Musical Ride accepted Pate’s offer of participation when they came to Campbell River in 2001 in a Hoof and Woof. Classes moved around from his backyard, to the playground of Discovery Passage School, and the horsebarn on Shetland. Dog agility was now starting to grow on the North Island because of Pate’s efforts.

Dog agility was just what Pate needed now that he had retired. Life became meaningful for him once again. Little did he know that through his passion, determination and hard work, he sowed the seed deeply in our souls. His passion had become ours. His love of his dogs and brilliant training of Sara and Becky had ignited the fire.

Due to Pate’s passion and determination, the Agility Association of Canada (AAC) has blossomed on the North Island. When Pate registered his dog Becky in 1993, her AAC registered number was 809. Now registered numbers are close to 20,000. On the North Island, our dogs and their handlers thank Pate for the wonderful activity he initiated through his constant devotion.

His original students, myself, Dave Collis, Brigitte Pletscher, Glenn Tiede, Debbie Tiede and Anne Johnstone, wish to thank him for his dedication in nurturing the sport on the North Island  and want to make others aware of this huge contribution. We have followed in his footsteps as students, instructors, or both, and now have created The Ian Pate Memorial Agility Award. This is to be given to one agility student at the TaG Trial, April 28 at Pacific Playgrounds.

This person will be honoured with an individual plaque. Also, each year the winner’s name, dog’s name and date will be inscripted on a larger Ian Pate Memorial Agility Trophy, thus, accumulating a history of exemplary dog-handler teams.

Winners will be in keeping with the attributes which best resembled Ian.

Spectators and new dog agility enthusiasts are always invited to our AAC Trials and Fun Trials. However, please feel especially welcomed to come out on April 28, mid-day. Discover who the first honoured dog team agilitist is. Come to Pacific Playgrounds to enjoy the 2 1/2 day trial, Friday, 5-8 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 27-29.

– Jo-Anne Collis, Special to the Mirror