Making the most of a second chance

Victory more significant after near death

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
Kaiwera farmer John Chittock with his dogs
DIANE BISHOP/Fairfax NZ

BEST MATES: Kaiwera farmer John Chittock with Angus, Trump, Pod and Blue. He has qualified all four dogs for the Tux South Island and New Zealand sheep dog trial championships at Geraldine in May.

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Four months after suffering a near-fatal cardiac arrest, Kaiwera farmer John Chittock is at the top of his game.

The 55-year-old won three of the four events at the Mossburn sheep dog trials this month - the short head and yard, the straight hunt and the zig-zag hunt with Blue, Pod and Angus, respectively.

Chittock said he had won two hunt events at a district competition before, but this was the first time he had won three events in almost 40 years of dog trialling.

"I took it with a grain of salt.

"It wasn't until people started congratulating me that I thought it was pretty special," he said.

Chittock said he was "rapt" with how his dogs had performed at Mossburn, but at the end of the day he knew the final result rested with the judges.

"As long as the dogs do what I ask I'm happy, but it's up to the man in the box to make his decision," he said.

Chittock also placed third in the long head with heading dog Trump at Mossburn and has now qualified all four dogs for the Tux South Island and New Zealand sheep dog trial championships at Geraldine, which start on May 26.

His success on the dog trial circuit is even more significant because he almost died four months ago while competing in the sport he loves.

Chittock was running Pod in a hunt event at the Canterbury A&P Show last November when he suffered a cardiac arrest, which caused his heart to stop.

It took four attempts by a paramedic, who had been standing nearby, to revive him.

"I was brought back to life.

"I was really lucky I was in the right place at the right time," he said.

Chittock, who manages the Salvation Army-owned Jeff Farm at Kaiwera, said he would have died if he had been working at home at the time of the cardiac arrest.

He spent several weeks in hospital and underwent a major operation, a quadruple bypass, and was fitted with a defibrillator and pacemaker.

Chittock credits medical staff and a "very good nurse at home" (his wife Liz) for his speedy recovery while his staff kept the farm running.

While convalescing Chittock set himself a goal.

"I was determined that when I was fit and able I would get back into it (dog trialling).

"It's my enjoyment and my sport," he said.

Chittock, who also mentors young farmers in dog trialling, said he also enjoyed the comradeship and banter that went with the sport.

Since the cardiac arrest, he has made a few lifestyle changes including modifying his diet and making sure he gets plenty of exercise.

He had also learned to live life to the fullest and make the most of every day which involves spending quality time with his family and his team of dogs.

"A lot of people don't get a second chance," he said.

AT A GLANCE

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart develops an arrhythmia that causes it to stop beating.

A person will die within minutes without medical attention.

This is different from a heart attack, in which the heart usually continues to beat but blood flow to the heart is blocked. 

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