Last weekend Chico and I went to an AARF-organized USDAA trial in Westford, Massachusetts, and boy did we have fun, and do well. The site is a 4H fairgrounds. Parking is in the shade, with lots of room, and the possibility to camp. We didn’t but we could have. I settled for a Motel 6 about 20 minutes away.
The weather on Saturday was beautiful. I had spent days rehearsing with myself to give Chico’s correct-entry marker (Ja!”) when he went into the weave poles, then turn off my voice and add a smile to my face, do my funny little fake running thing or really run as needed, and leave him the heck alone while he did the poles. And it worked both times I asked him to weave. His poles were slow, and took a second try to enter at all, but he did complete them for me. In Jumpers, there are no poles, but we were not quite awake, I know I wasn’t, and Chico dropped a couple bars. In Gamblers, Chico did the weave poles, and we got the gamble part, but Word Girl here didn’t put together a course in the opening that accumulated enough points to make it a qualifying run. But I was looking for weave poles in competition, and thrilled to get the part where we have to work at a distance, so ribbons-schmibbons.We got a qualifying run in Standard, our third, which puts us into the middle level in all the USDAA games we play.* And we had a Q in Pairs, our first at the middle level, and- I learned Sunday afternoon- the only Q all weekend for our pairs partner. Later in the afternoon, I won TWO prizes in the worker raffle. That’s always so fun for me because, I think, for years I was always thinking, “Oh, I’ll enter the raffle, but I never win anything.” It seems that was a mistaken belief, maybe because never is a VERY long time.
Here’s Chico posing for a picture of our haul.
The next day we did pretty well while it was cool, with a qualifying run in Jumpers to start the day. In Pairs our team went over time. In Gamblers, I put together the points in the opening, but missed the gamble. By the time we ran Standard, in retrospect, it was really too hot and humid for either me or Chico to be anywhere but in the shade, so we were again over allowed time, but he gave me his best, including a full set of weave poles, so it was jackpot of treats, a few minutes in the car with the A/C on full blast (I don’t usually do that, but my face was so red it seemed like a good-if-drastic move), and a stop on the way home for ice cream**.
This agility stuff is addictive, and we’re all a bunch of enablers, helping novices enjoy their experiences. USDAA has even added introductory classes, easier and more forgiving than the starters level courses. I watched a number of people who were in their first trial, and at one point a nice run went wrong and the handler just collapsed. Not on the ground, but she went from running tall and smiling, with a body that said “you’re doing great, keep following my directions,” to stopped, with slumped shoulders and a sad face. Before I knew what I was doing, I yelled “Don’t quit on your dog.” And, bless her heart, this “it’s my first trial” handler pulled herself together, smiled, clapped, and started to run again. Of course her dog came right along, happy to be moving again, and they finished nicely. As I blurted out, someone, who might be that novice handler’s teacher, looked at me and said, “Good advice.” Someone appreciated it.
* That’s a new title, a reason for celebration. We’ll be taking cake to our classmates Monday night.
**Permission to rant? It is really hard to find a small portion of ice cream. A half-single, the smallest size they sell where I stopped that evening, was two scoops. Huh?