Our next junior interview is with aged out junior, Rachel Rivkin. Rachel attended BJAC in 2018 and is attending again in 2019. Not only does Rachel compete in agility but she has also done conformation. Rachel currently attends Temple University and got to intern at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
Q: What is your name and age? What state do you live in?
Rachel Rivkin, I am turning 19 in March, and I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Q: What is your agility dog’s name, breed, and age?
My agility dog’s name is Branson, he is a 5 year old standard poodle.
Q: What is your intended major in college?
I am attending college currently at Temple University, majoring in biology.
Q: What is Penn Vet Working Dog Center, and what was your internship like there?
Penn Vet Working Dog Center is a training, education, and incredible research center for detection dogs. Over my first semester of college, I received an internship here, and learned so much more than I could have ever imagined. At this amazing center, which is apart of University of Pennsylvania, they have the goal of educating and spreading their research in detection dogs, all while training many successful dogs for live saving careers. Each week I spent between 10-15 hours alongside one of their trainers assisting in data recording, hiding for search and rescue dogs, learning how to handle high drive working dogs, and got to help in research too! Some of the research studied here includes training dogs to detect ovarian cancer and even detecting stolen artifacts (such as paintings) through airports. In addition to their research, they train dogs for all different detection careers including search and rescue, single odor detection for explosives or drugs, and as well as dual purpose careers (odor detection and apprehensive work). Over my semester long internship I was able to open my view to many more careers involving science and dogs outside of the veterinary field.
Q: What responsibilities do you have as an intern at Penn Vet Working Dog Center?
Many of my responsibilities included walking dogs, data recording, hiding for search and rescue dogs, helping handle dogs on field trips, and helping as an extra hand in many of the training exercises. Working alongside the positive reinforcement trainers taught me so much as an agility handler, from learning new shaping techniques, to fitness exercise plans, and learning the foundations of training a detection dog. With these new training skills, I have already started applying them to my own dog, Branson.
Q: Have you faced any challenges being in college and still trying to stay active in agility?
Yes, being in college and staying active in agility is a challenge for me, but I still manage to add an agility trial to my schedule occasionally. While I attend college an hour away from home, it is difficult to constantly make plans to come home every weekend and travel to a trial, then immediately hop back into the busy school week. While I miss agility, what I miss more is being able to come home everyday to Branson. I did not realize how much of a stress reliever playing with Branson every day was until I got into college. There are also multiple dog events that I have attended for many years that I have had to turn down due to my college schedule. While sacrificing agility for college seems like a really scary idea, it allows you to step out of your comfort zone and experience new adventures in life outside of the agility routine.
Q: How long have you been doing agility and what got you started in the sport?
I have been doing agility for about 7 years, but became competitive in AKC trials about 5 years ago. I first got started in this sport when my family rescued a local standard poodle and my older sister began training her tricks in the yard. I saw how much fun it looked, so eventually I got my first standard poodle, William. William, at 7 years old, was given to me from Joan Mcfadden and Gail Woluniuk of Unique Standard Poodles. Because of William, I became dedicated to agility and found my passion in working with dogs. William retired about 4 years after I began training him, which lead to the addition of Branson into my life.
Q: What is one of your favorite memory with your dog?
One of my favorite memories with Branson is competing in Luxembourg at the European Open Junior Competition. That was my first trip overseas and my first high level competition. From that single trip, I made lifelong friends, learned a ton about my handling and how to push myself, and I learned that I have a passion for traveling the world. Together, Branson and I took on a European adventure, pushing both of us out of our comfort zones, but allowing us to learn the international ways as a team. It was beyond an incredible experience that I will never forget.
Q: What has been one of your biggest challenges in dog agility or training?
One of my biggest challenges in agility was finding a balance between everything I wanted to do outside of agility while still including agility. Throughout high school, I maintained a job, high honors, agility competitions, and a social life. It was very difficult at times to make sacrifices to attend agility events I really wanted to attend to do something else, but it was all worth it in the end. Finding ways to balance my schedule and manage my time is a skill that carried on with me through college, and will throughout my life.
Q: What was your favorite part of camp in 2018? What are you looking forward to at BJAC 2019?
My favorite part of camp in 2018 was reconnecting with all my friends and making new ones! Seeing so many young kids all with the same passion was very encouraging. What I look forward to at BJAC is learning more, working with new trainers, and pushing myself further with my best teammate.