Saturday, May 31, 2014

Open Purgatory

Open Purgatory.  I have heard that term dropped here and there at the AKC Trials that I have been to.  The first time I heard it, I knew that if such a thing truly existed - it would happen to me and Molly.  And I do believe that we are finding ourselves in the grip of this "Open Purgatory".

From her first qualifying score in Novice JWW (in November), Molly earned her NAJ title in three straight tries, no NQs (unbelievable, I know!).  Standard took longer, of course.   But still.  In Novice JWW you are allowed two refusals, and you are allowed to attempt the weave poles (and there are only 6 of them!) three times and those are not counted as refusals.   In Open, that all goes away.   You get one refusal fault in JWW and that is it.   There are bam! 12 weave poles and if your dog doesn't enter them or pops out, there goes your allowed fault.  (The same is true of Open Standard, except that you are still permitted one off course or one table fault.)  The times are tighter, so if you make just about any mistake (and we always do!), you go overtime.

Open class seems to be where teams hang out until they are more consistent.  There isn't one thing that seems to be the culprit for Molly and I continuing to NQ in Open - we just are.  Missed weave entries, weave pops, off courses, too many refusals (and not all on the weaves.)  And almost always, we are just one agonizing fault over the allowed amount.  And in Molly's entire baby agility career of 15 months, Open Standard is the only class that I have ever pulled Molly from the ring for out of control behavior - three times now.  Yep, we are in Open Purgatory.  And hey, we deserve to be there.  We really do.  Through some sort of dumb luck we have gotten two OAJ legs and one OA leg - but I am completely convinced that every now and then both Molly and I happened to both be on our game on the same day.  And in Open Purgatory we will probably stay until we have more and more of those oddball (and wonderful!) days.

Yesterday we went to our second outdoor AKC show of the season.  We started with Novice FAST and I groaned when I saw the Aframe in the send.  Again.  A friend encouraged me at last weekend's show to stop being so verbally and mentally negative about Molly's Aframe behavior, so I tried my very best to envision a dog who would run down the contact zone.  64 points later, 1st place...and we have our Novice FAST title!

Next was Open JWW.  This was another one of those "almost made it" moments.  We also had a moment that made me realize that Molly and I really are getting somewhere.  I waited to go ringside as long as possible.  When we got there there were two dogs ahead of us and a completely out of control golden retriever was bouncing, barking and lunging on his harness while his owner talked on a cell phone.  Right there at ringside.  Molly began chattering and was really having difficulty focusing on me.  (or, I was having difficulty getting her to focus on me.)  She did not want the cheese that I had.  She did not want to do her tricks, she did not want to look at me.  I thought we were absolutely doomed.  I was completely shocked by how well Molly ran with me.  We got the tunnel discrimination in the beginning.  She took the dummy jump, but I blame myself - I am sure that I didn't decelerate properly although I really really tried to.  The 180 went well, I rear crossed the jump after that and over the triple just fine.  We got a refusal on the jump in front of the poles but I brought her back around and she did it.  She hit the weave entry and stayed in the poles and I was so proud of that.   For some reason I didn't notice the next jump while doing the walk through so my handling was a little improvised, but we sailed through the rest of the course.   Oh, if only we had not had that one off course!  (For the record, you are not permitted an off course in Novice either.)

End of the day was Open Standard.   I got to ringside way too soon.  Dogs everywhere (to be expected at an agility show!).  The bouncy golden retriever included.  Molly was chattery, yawning...not focused.  The dog before us peed in the ring, more waiting.  Waiting waiting waiting.  As soon as we walked in the ring two terriers ringside started barking at each other very very loudly.  Molly was all ears, her head whipped back to them.  I was again surprised when she ran with me!  She went for the Aframe but came to me when I called her.  I front crossed the teeter and sent her over the next jump - she did not get on the table.  She missed her weave entry.  I backed her up and I could see on her face she felt stressed by this.  Put her back in the poles and she popped the very last one.  I was also not where I wanted to be for the Aframe but she blasted off the left onto it and was already running the down ramp when I caught up (she did hit the contact.)  She got another refusal running around the next jump and just started sniffing the ground.  I asked her if she was done and we left the ring.  Why drag her through a course she has already NQd when she is telling me she is tired and stressed?  I did not see any reason.  Another day!

Molly NF!  Ask her if she cares.
That was that, we went home.  I truly had a great day playing with my dog, working the rings and enjoying a gorgeous spring day!  Ein got to participate in a Glory Run for retired/disabled agility dogs - but more on that later. (A video of the run will be e-mailed to me sometime this weekend.)  We won three beef tracheas tied together with twine in the worker raffle (SCORE!).  

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