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Teen Vancouver Island dog handler headed to Europe to take on the best in the world

Mackenzie Bailey and Luna bound for World Agility Open Championships in the Netherlands this spring

A Nanaimo girl and her border collie are headed overseas this spring, hoping to thrive at the World Agility Open Championships.

Mackenzie Bailey and Luna had previous efforts hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with regional and national event cancellations, and will compete in their first major event representing Team Canada from May 19-22 at Ermelo, Netherlands.

The 15-year-old and her dog will compete running a course in the 600-millimetre height division. Preparation consists of daily training in their yard, as well as twice-weekly training with coach Dan Steel of Agility Unleashed.

“There’s jumps, tunnels, an A-frame, a dog walk, in some competitions there’s a collapsable tunnel, there’s a teeter-totter … there’s jumps for length and height, there’s a wall jump, there’s a lot of different obstacles,” Bailey said of Luna’s training.

In an e-mail, Steel said Bailey and Luna will have to cover more ground at the championships, as they will be navigating an international course, and training will concentrate on “building endurance.”

“She will be faced with greater distances between obstacles, and the running surface will be much longer and wider than we are use to seeing here in Canada,” said Steel. “This will require that she run faster than she is use to, and that she ask Luna to be more independent on the course … we will be timing her manoeuvre options for effective course planning during the walk-through, where you get to physically get on the course prior to running it with your dog.”

Bailey says she is one of two who are under the age of 18 on Team Canada and hopes people don’t judge her because of her age.

“Everyone looks at kids and say, ‘Oh, there not going to know what they’re doing’ and people trying to give advice that’s not needed, is what I’m worried about,” said Bailey.

Steel has faith in Luna and Bailey.

“She has great skills as a handler, not just as a junior handler,” said Steel. “We’re very proud of her and excited to see this opportunity unfold.”

Regardless, Bailey is excited to be competing, as all the delays were difficult.

“Competitions were cancelled repeatedly, so [Luna] hasn’t competed in a long time,” said Bailey. “Training was difficult for a while because of masks and social distancing all that, so there hasn’t been any competitions. There hasn’t been as many classes that are indoors, so that was hard.”

Fundraising efforts for Bailey and Luna’s trip will begin closer to the event and Steel says more information will be made available on the Agility Unleashed Facebook page. For more information or to donate, e-mail

More information on the event can be found at

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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