On Sunday we went to an agility trial at All Dogs Gym, to play USDAA games. It was an early start, I got there too early – at least two and a half hours before our first run, it was hot outside and crowded inside – not the most favorable conditions, but far from the worst. In the ring, there were good moments and not-so-good moments, as you can see in the following videos, but outside the ring some really neat stuff happened.
Our first run was Standard. The opening was fine, the weaves presented a problem. When I go back to try the poles again he runs through the tunnel a second time, when started at the poles again he has absolutely no interest in them, so I decide to go on. Chico misses a jump, but gets back to me to go into the second tunnel correctly, we do great until the table, where he can’t quite stay for five seconds with me walking away . . . so we have to start over. And I sort of lose energy when he breaks the table stay – you can see it in my body language, I slump. Julie calls it “deflating” and I can really see it in this video. Needless to say, that doesn’t help my team mate. Then I’m late at the end of the dogwalk showing Chico what obstacle is next, and he goes wide and wild again for a moment, taking a big loopy path back to me, and we finish cleanly, if not 100% gracefully.
Next was Gambers, which was really interesting for us. The “gamble” is asking your dog to work at a distance (you can see me tread one side of a line on the floor made with masking tape) – and this gamble involved the weave poles. Even in our home arena, nice and safe at Auntie Julie’s, Chico weaves best with a lot of support from me (in other words, I stay pretty close to him). All I could do in the trial was try my best, and it didn’t work so well. Maybe next time things will go better for us.
Third run of the day was Pairs, in many ways my favorite of the games we play. I don’t have a regular partner that we practice with, so every time I enter us in Pairs, it’s luck of the draw who we’ll be playing with. At this trial, through some mix-up we were entered in beginner level Pairs, not intermediate level where we’ve been competing. Since we have no qualifying runs at mid-level, it is allowed for us to run at starter level, and since changing would have made an uneven number of dogs in both classes, and caused a lot of bother for everyone, I offered to compete as assigned. And we got a very nice partner, who was as relaxed as I am about not being let down if we have a clean run and the other team doesn’t. So, with no pressure, we went in there and both dogs got clean runs. My partner was sure that her dog missed the contact (the yellow zone) on the A-frame, and it looks like she did, and the judge called it, but maybe the scribe didn’t write it down for some reason? Perhaps she didn’t see the judge’s signal? Dunno, but our team Q’d and that was a new title for my partner and her dog.
I learned more about getting Chico ready for a run. Our best run, in Pairs, started with me needing about fifteen seconds more than the three minutes between walk through and dogs-in-the-ring to get Chico from the car; we came running into the building and went straight into the ring. No time to sit around and get nervous, or over amped watching other dogs run, just trot right into the ring and go. That timing is dicy, and could easily make one miss a run, so I won’t try to repeat it, but it does give me a look at what happens to our mental game when we wait too long at the gate, in semi-readiness, before a run.
There were two things that happened outside the ring on Sunday that made the day for me. First, while waiting in a very confined space for our turn in the ring, the dog that was running at the time left his handler and came shooting right at us, into this narrow passage way, ready to sniff and (maybe) snarl with Chico. I was able to put my body between them, others stepped forward to grab the errant terrier, and my good, good, GOOD dog just looked at me asking for his paycheck. In class if another dog goes wild, racing around the arena, the drill is to start feeding our own dogs. And, thank you Julie, that is the best training we could have had for this day. After Mr Terrier was reunited with Caroline (yup, he belongs to the nice woman who keeps being parked near me), Chico and I ran to his treats and he was amply rewarded. As I told him how excellently he played that hand, another person waiting to run looked at me and confirmed that my dog had done a super-duper job. And she didn’t even know that Chico is reactive to other dogs.
The second thing that really knocked my socks off was a compliment from Lisa Barrett. She’s a USDAA judge that we trialed under this spring. I had a nice chat with her then, and have since competed at at events she was also entered in. On Sunday, I was walking by her and she looked at Chico and said “OH, I remember this dog, I love this dog.” Made. My. Day. That woman looks at several hundred dogs a day when she’s judging, she judged Chico in May, and she remembers Chico. And not because he was bad, or made trouble, but because he’s a cool guy, having a great time. I could have gone home right then – I was so happy for Chico, two really-big, good, things in one day – that’s enough for me on a ninety-plus-degree day. And then we had our nice little Pairs run and went home without waiting an hour for the fourth class, Jumpers, that I had entered. “Quit on a high note,” that’s what I said as I drew a line though our entry in Jumpers. “Quit for the day on a high note.”