Watching cartoons for a living isn’t a bad gig, according to David Henden, VP of international acquisitions at distributor Luk Internacional in Barcelona, Spain. And it only makes sense that someone so immersed in the wacky world of animation would be a kid at heart in other ways as well. For Henden, that child-like spirit bubbles up when he’s with his dog Drac, a beautiful Catalan sheepdog with a natural talent for competing in agility. For those not well-versed in the canine sport, agility courses feature up to 20 obstacles that dog-and-owner teams race up, over and through against the clock.
Joining a dog agility club wasn’t something Henden had planned on doing. After suffering a back injury eight years ago, he thought getting a dog would motivate him to take more therapeutic walks through the woods. His purebred pup quickly caught the attention of dog experts, who suggested it was the right breed to excel in agility. It wasn’t long before Henden’s vision of gentle strolls through the trees turned into high-energy sprints to guide Drac through mazes of weave poles, teeter-totters, tunnels, tire jumps and balance beams.
Besides the fact that a Catalan sheepdog is incredibly smart and energetic, Henden says training a dog in agility takes a lot of patience and positive reinforcement. He devotes hours each week to practice sessions and weekend competitions, and he and Drac have won more than 30 trophies so far, including a second-place finish at the Spanish nationals.
Henden has done his fair share of face-plants trying to keep up with his nimble dog, and even Drac has made some gaffes. Henden remembers one head-to-head final called a knock-out in which two dogs race through two identical and intertwining short courses at the same time. In the ensuing melée, the two dogs somehow wound up with the wrong owners at the finish line!
Of course no one loves the training and competition more than Drac, who Henden says can’t contain his excitement when they’re on their way to the practice club. He’s even got a favorite obstacle – the A-frame. ‘Anytime he goes by it, he tries to go up it,’ says Henden. And his least favorite would be the slalom weave poles. ‘He finds those boring.’
At press time, Henden was getting ready to leave Drac at home with his wife and embark on one of his semi-annual trips to Japan for meetings with animation producers. He’s always on the lookout for new kids programming for the Spanish market, which is highly receptive to anime, and he puts a premium on comedies with a high episode count. One of Luk’s biggest hits, Doraemon, boasts more than 800 half hours and keeps a loyal following by continuously freshening up with new eps.