We had to admit it, after hearing about it for probably the third or fourth time . . . we had no idea what IPO was. I think even after it was explained to us, we were still looking it up online to figure out what this thing was. I contacted a few local clubs but didn’t get very far especially if I mentioned the words ‘can we bring cameras?’ I’d seen a video with a petite young lady doing some of the most remarkable things I’d ever seen done with a dog and she was in Brisbane! I had to talk to her. She had her dogs doing things I’d only dream of and she would be a wonderful addition to our GSD story.
Sharonika agreed to meet with us and even be interview for the documentary. We couldn’t believe our luck. This was difficult to acquire but we’d come to understand the politics surrounding the sport soon after.
Then Jason and I were invited to attend the IPO Helpers Training Seminar held by the WGSDCA in Brisbane by president Sanne Pederson and Director of Helpers, Jay Balakrishnan. Our hopes were to go deeper into the world of IPO for a closer look behind the scenes for those wanting to become certified handlers to assist in their respective clubs and to make the acquaintance of the clubs’ members. We were more than impressed working with Sheronika and some members from her club and now during our two-day visit we had become won over entirely. The dedication and camaraderie between its members was something we’d not seen at this level of competition and we had the pleasure of meeting Metro Dogsport President and Australia’s first SV certified judge, Reg Worth.
That evening we observed a trial where several dogs and handlers competed for higher levels after years of preparation and with participants traveling interstate to the event. One of the highlights of our weekend was to see such a strong bond and connection between the dogs, their handlers and their stunning performances.
The standards of training upheld by the clubs were tough and nerves were affected for those competing and training, but we came to quickly understand the necessity for this high level of judging and scoring when it came to Australia’s reputation nationally and its participation at the WUSV World Championships. Both dogs and handlers would be more than prepared to compete at this level of precision and at some points perfection with the expertise, support, and knowledge of such judges behind them.
Our experience with this group showed us the professionalism, the dedication, the enthusiasm and the bond between the competitors and their dogs who dedicate so much time, effort and expense on attending and assisting to become competitors. These people are great ambassadors for the sport and we found everyone involved to be highly passionate and motivated leaving us with a much richer experience and an eagerness to know more.
There were several interviews, 24 in fact, for our first documentary with a lot of opinions on a topic I wanted to learn more about; food. I consulted specialists and did a considerable amount of research about the different options pet owners had when it came to feeding their animals. This was not of much interest in the beginning because I wasn’t educated enough to understand what was going on in the pet food industry and worst of all with my own dog.
I came to the realisation during an interview regarding GSD rescues and I’d learned about a few of their dogs that came in with perennial fiscal disease. They were able to treat their dogs using a specialised raw diet. Suddenly I was faced with a very uncomfortable revelation; Did I potentially feed my dog a harmful diet? And had I put him down unnecessarily? He was put to sleep on my vet’s advice because he was apparently too old for treatment or so I was told at the time. Had I known then what I do today, I would have whipped him out of that surgery that very day. The project became harder and harder to do and questions came up that I didn’t want answered. But I was blessed enough to have my boy for 11 years and had to be kind to myself as well as respectful of the time we had together.
There was so much to learn and particularly about commercial pet food. This led us into a horrific discovery and the floodgates of greed and corruption opened right up. But what could we do? I wanted to find out all I could about the raw, fresh, vegan, sustainable, beef free, grain free, you name it diets that were out there. I wanted to consult the alternative and holistic vets and hear them weigh in on this debate. It felt like you couldn’t trust your local vet anymore as they were heavily subsidised by modules in veterinary school paid for by the large pet food companies. I could see all over my news feeds all the recalls from these so-called recommended dog food brands! How did I not know about all of this and how many more, like me, were feeding their dogs potential poison?
One evening watching Shark Tank we were delighted to see people like Diana Scott from Frontier Pets who were recognising the need for alternative food suppliers and consumer demand despite Petbarn’s Glen Richard’s and Steve Baxter’s opinions. Jason and I also had the opportunity to meet founder Anna Polonsky from Lyka in Sydney developing healthy sustainable fresh meals for dogs and the expansion of their business into the Chinese market. As I looked through GSD Instagrammers details I suddenly noticed the ‘Raw Fed’ in their descriptions and I realised this is a ‘thing’ and it is growing. There were even dry food companies dedicated to the cause of fixing the problem.
Was I now an expert? No, far from it. Did I want to start my own pet food brand? Definitely not, I wanted to make films and Jason would probably leave me, but one couldn’t help but want to ditch the traditional lies and seek to go back to giving dogs what they were created to eat or do the best we could in that pursuit.