Photo by Tanya Consaul Photography
After her son graduated from high school, Kim Parham was given Casey, a golden retriever puppy, to keep her company. To complement her work at Shands as a nurse, Kim decided to take Casey to obedience training to become a therapy dog. Her trainer recommended agility training, and the two have been active together ever since!
What are the names and ages of your dogs?
Casey is a 4 ½-year-old golden retriever and Jette is a 9-month-old miniature American shepherd.
How do you live a 360life?
Being active with my dogs. It’s my drug, it’s my therapy. It brings me joy when everything is so hectic. Like any job, my job is pretty stressful, and I think that if I did not have my dogs to play with and interact, I would not be able to do my job. They are my calming source. Some people like to sing or go work out, but they are my out.
How long have you been active with your dogs?
Since I got Casey, so about four years.
Tell us how you started.
I went to a trainer, Marj Spence at A Pawsitive K9 Training, to help me with obedience when Casey was a puppy. I wanted to get him to be a therapy dog. She recommended agility training, mainly for exercise and as something for us to do together. We loved it. It is great exercise for me, physically and mentally, and Casey enjoys it.
Please share your favorite competition, in detail, and what it meant to you.
We do AKC (American Kennel Club) and CPE (Canine Performance Events). AKC to me is a little more uptight, whereas CPE is a lot more laidback. It’s kind of like going to the park for a day. You take your dog, you run a course, you come back, you have lunch and you watch the other dogs run. And in CPE they have more games that you can do. We also do Rally, which is AKC, and it is like obedience. You don’t run, you just do certain signs. I kind of prefer CPE, but just for the challenges we also do AKC. Casey likes to do everything. I would think that he would prefer agility because he’s running, but he has fun in Rally too. He is a true golden. He is always happy.
Casey just titled in standards and jumpers in AKC. We were at a novice level, but now we are doing open, which is the next level. In CPE we are in level three (the levels run from one through five).
How often do you do competitions?
I’d say two to three weekends a month from October until it gets hot. This October we ran every weekend.
What keeps you motivated?
I am not a competitor. Titles are really not important to me. What is important is Casey and I and Jette having fun. Our last competition in agility, Casey did not want to run. He just wanted to visit. I did a couple of runs and then I decided not to push him. If he’s not digging it, we are not doing it.
What are you and your dogs training for now?
We started dock diving around September after I found a place down in north Ocala that had a pool. I mainly was doing it with Jette because his dad is a huge dock diver. We finally got Jette to go in on the second visit, and the trainer said “bring your golden, let’s see what he does.” Well, on our first visit Casey jumped in. It was just amazing. When it warms up, that’s what we’re going to be working on.
Would you encourage others to start agility training with their dogs?
Absolutely. Not only does it help you build a great bond with your dog, it is physically and mentally active. I don’t think that people realize that you have to have a plan on how you are going to direct your dog through the obstacles, and you can have anywhere from 16 to 20 obstacles. You have to know what direction to send your dog and what you will do if your dog goes off course — and you are doing this while you are running. It really keeps the mind sharp.
How do you and your dogs train regularly?
I have jumps in the yard, and Casey and I try to do an agility run through with our coach every Thursday. Then I try to work obedience every Wednesday with both dogs. But I would go every day off that I’m not running if Marj had an opening!
What is your daily workout routine?
I walk with my dogs. We do our training, but I try to walk them every day. I have to bicycle with Jette to help burn up some of his energy, and then the three of us walk. So that is my exercise, too.
What is one thing you and Casey wouldn’t compete without?
We have a little meat container, like an ice box but metal, with turkey hearts. I cook up a batch because that is his favorite. We have other little kibbles that we train with, but he loves his turkey hearts. He knows when he sees that little pot that I want him to do something.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I think everybody should have a dog, especially if you have children because that is unconditional love. I think every child should have a dog and have the responsibility of feeding, cleaning up poop, training, the whole gamut, because that teaches them about life.
“A Wolf Called Romeo” by Nick Jans
Go-to meal/restaurant in Gainesville?
Dogs’ favorite treats?
They both love the turkey hearts and they like peanut butter. Jette’s not crazy about cheese, but Casey likes cheese.