Newtown’s Sarah and Pip prove to be the best in Scotland

Sarah Kirk and Pip with their Scottish junior handler of the year rosette

Sarah Kirk and Pip with their Scottish junior handler of the year rosette

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An 11-year-old schoolgirl from Newtown St Boswells is the new Scottish Junior Dog Agility Handler of the Year.

For Sarah Kirk and her beloved Jack Russell, Pip, won the title in Ayrshire at the end of last month.

Sarah Kirk and Pip in action

Sarah Kirk and Pip in action

Proud mum Caroline said: “Sarah is so proud of herself, but more delighted with her little dog, who she has a great bond with.”

And she revealed: “The pair have now also been invited to compete in an international agility competition in the south of England in February.”

Now in first year at Earlston High School, Sarah’s interest in agility started when she was given Pip as her ninth birthday present.

As soon as she could, Sarah started obedience training at Tweedbank with Dryburgh Dog Training Group, where the pair gained their puppy foundation course, Kennel Club bronze and silver awards for obedience, before taking up agility in 2012.

The pair were also part of the club’s team taking part in a obedience display at Crufts the same year ... and it was then that Sarah set herself the goal of competing at Crufts in agility.

The girl-and-dog team train once a week with the Dryburgh group and put in hours of work at home to perfect the skills required for each obstacle, said Caroline.

The pair began competing in April last year and quickly started winning, finishing the year in agility’s grade two level.

Sarah joined the Young Kennel Club and the Scottish Junior Dog Club, and was invited to train with the Scottish Junior team once a month in Perth over the winter.

Her recently-gained national title is the culmination of a very successful year for the duo.

For Sarah qualified for the Scottish Junior Dog Club Agility Dog of the year at Scone Palace and was part of a team which came second in a Young Kennel Club Team Agility qualifier, and so will go as part of the team to Crufts next year.

Mum Caroline continued: “Not satisfied with that, Sarah then set herself the goal of competing individually at Crufts as well, which she achieved last month after winning a Young Kennel Club Agility Dog of the Year qualifier in Edinburgh.”

The pair now compete at Grade four level.

Her granny, Miriam Foran, who takes Sarah to her training and competitions, took her to the Scottish Junior Dog Club Agility Dog of the Year final in Ayrshire, where she gained her national young handler’s title, on August 30.

After winning the under-12 final, Sarah went head to head with the over-12 (under-18) finalist: “Sarah held her nerve and ran a double clear round to win,” said Caroline.

She said: “Sarah would like to be a paramedic when she grows up and would like 10 dogs of various breeds to compete in agility in her spare time.

“She loves the social side of agility and has met many people and a lot of friends through it.

“She says the best thing about agility is getting to spend time with nice people and, most of all, getting to work with dogs and see the rewards of all her hard work in training.”