This training center just built on a whole new Big Deal addition for crating. It used to be jam packed in the crating area, and that was if you could get a spot. Standing room only, even on weekday trials. I did not rush to get there, thinking crating would be a non issue.
The entire crating room was full with inefficient crate set ups. One spot in particular was an enormous floor covering that consumed its entire sprawl, with a tiny x-pen in one third of the area. So many crates could have gone in that spot. I was absolutely fuming but I had to have a spot inside - my car was parked so far from training building it would have been impossible to meet my girl's ringside and warm up needs and not be rushed to get in for my class. I started setting up in front of someone else's crate set up where there was an open space! and she scolded me that it was a bad choice. Yes it was a totally open space, but her crate doors were facing that area. I was really frustrated and felt cracks in my normally very stoic tone. Internally, I wanted to rearrange some inconsiderate people's furniture in a fury and lecture them on being respectful of crating space. Externally I seethed, "Well where should I go?" Now this lady was very nice and I think she could see I was frustrated and not trying to be a jerk - and as soon as I apologized for being frustrated, her and another competitor helped me find a space. I had seen the recommended space before, but there was a ring gate with a twelve inch long base sitting beside it, so there was no way I could lay down my mat and crates there. They both helped me move the gate to a better location. The spot was absolutely terrible, it was crowded and there was no room for a chair (I can live with that.), there was no breathing room for either of my dogs when they would come out of their crate (sucks, but better than being too far away and out in the car!). I thanked them both and apologized again for being testy (and seriously, my testy is like...pathetic.) and set up my crates.
So, that was boring right? It did not set my day off to a good start. I was even more frustrated when there were no Open FAST maps. None. And here I had planned to arrive, set my crates up and plan my FAST course while enjoying a cup of hot coffee while sitting in a chair? Too much to ask... I asked the judge in the briefing what the send was and I think he took it as a complaint on the lack of maps - I did not mean it to be so! I was starting to feel like a very unsportsmanlike jerk. Another competitor straight away showed me her map and I thanked her a million times over. She even offered it to me while we were all walking again in case I needed it for points.
I'm going to take a little intermission from my boring whiny rant to say this: I see AKC Agility competitors slandered on Facebook and in other venues as being snobby and rude. I have not only never experienced this in any excess than I do in other venues, but there were specifically three people just in my first hour of being there that went out of their way to help me when I was having a bad day. I hate generalizations, hate them. People are people. We are not "CPE People", "AKC People", "USDAA people", we are all just people and individuals. And to be honest I notice many individuals that compete in CPE exclusively who put up an angry shell towards other venues and viciously claim that they are just "out to have fun" and end up being far more rude to others on that basis than I ever experience when I show in other venues than CPE.
So! What about the dogs?
Molly was revved to the moon. I made the mistake of trying to "hide" from the other dogs in the area towards the back of the building and there was a whole stand of the finest animal parts for sale and her focus was G-O-N-E. I took her away from that and we spent some time in the practice jump together, and while she was still chattery and UP!, she remembered that I existed. Unfortunately the dog ahead of us was a barker, for the entire class. It was too much. Molly broke her start line stay and we managed a loose approximation of my plan, only with her blasting full speed ahead of me. She flew all the way down the Aframe though! Unfortunately from there she launched into the Send area and took two of the obstacles there in a row...without doing the first Send obstacle. I attempted the Send again, even though it was Faulted but I pushed her too far and she took the wrong end of the tunnel. (It was a jump, with the wrong end right in the dog's line.) I think if Molly had not been so charged she wouldn't have pushed out so hard, but Molly was taking any motion of mine and going with it. I heard the judge laughing to himself while calling out points , again. That's my girl! And hey, it's another day in the Molly Life. If I am going to NQ, I love to hear the judge enjoying my girl.
And now, it was going to be a long wait. Hours long. Novice FAST and the entire Excellent/Masters Standard had to run. One ring trial. Oof. I loaded both girls into the car and we went geocaching. It was the last day of rifle season, so no going into the woods for us! We made our way around and found a bunch of "park and grab" caches: a teeny tiny magnetic nano hidden on an iron gate at a cemetary, a cache hidden for a four year old inside of a guard rail, a post office hide, and another easy guard rail hide. I returned when the 16" class was starting. Ate a sausage sandwich and brought Perri inside the building. I fed her treats and she schmoozed a few different people. People are always surprised to find that such a beautiful and striking animal as Perri (their words!) had mange (I always get asked about the black spot of fur on her back.) and was a Chicken Killer.
Then it was finally time for Open Standard. As if the day could not get any more excruciating, it was running Small to Tall. Perri and I did our usual warm up with her favorite treat (Ham) and worked on tricks. I was surprised that she was happy to offer drops out of a sit ringside! Then, we were up. It was tire to Dogwalk. I swear I heard the wind in my ear when she flew through that tire and she hit the dog walk hard and ran it. For the first time ever, no cringing or slowing on the walk at a trial. And she was beautiful! We had one moment of a jump run out and a play bow with a naughty gleam in her eye and I thought, "Oh great, here we go!" I told her firmly to "Stop. Focus." And she did! The rest of the course was absolutely flawless. This line of 11-12-13 a lot of dogs were curving out and running up the Aframe instead of taking the tunnel. I put up my outside hand (Perri reads that really well.) and she didn't even think about the Frame. I was so far behind her when she went over 14, I thought she would never get the weave entry. She did. She hit it hard and collected and then just rocked right through. So proud! OA, first leg!
And now...another hours long wait for JWW. We went back out geocaching: we found a magnetic one hidden on a Verizon shed in the middle of a field, one hidden above the roaring Conewago Creek on a guard rail by a gorgeous bridge, made my 400th find at a tiny little cemetery in the woods, went to a ski resort and an abandoned baseball field. I arrived back to find the 16" class starting Masters JWW. I got a good parking spot, I found a spot for my chair in the spectator area and enjoyed watching the course.
Molly was first since she was 20" and we ran our best ever Open JWW together. She was flying and I was handling her properly. She read my rear cross and entered the weaves independently - she has never done that at an AKC trial in Open! We ran up the next line and into the 180 and I thought..."My god this is going to happen. We are going to get our OAJ."
I even walked this, experimentally, with a front cross after 13 as she came over 14. Something about it felt right to me. I ended up deciding to pull her with me over 15. She went right over 14 and flew into the tunnel. I saw as soon as she landed what was going to happen and I lost myself and called her name for her to come to me. Off course. NQ. I can't remember a single NQ out of this entire year that broke my heart more than this one. The front cross felt a little smoother, but I never even considered the off course possibility there. As pathetic as it is, as embarrassing as it is, I was completely crushed and cried probably half of the drive home. It feels ridiculous to even type it. It's not that we didn't get our title. It is that my dog did everything, everything right. That whole course she showed how far she has come in every way, with the weave poles...and I let her down. And worst of all, I called her off of the wrong line that I sent her on, which I hate. Misery. Total misery. It was just too much after a 10 hour long, exhausting day. I am fully aware that I live a good life, with great dogs and am so lucky to be able to trial and it was totally silly to cry over an NQ for a(nother!) handling mistake, but that's where I was at. (I will note that I showered Molly with praise and kisses and told her a million freaking times how amazing she was when we got back to her crate - as well as two sausage meatballs and half a piece of ham.)
Perri ran this course as well and we got two refusal faults for jump run outs, but hey - she's green without solid obstacle commitment that comes with a seasoned agility dog, and I am still working on how to handle Perri. She doesn't run "tight" like Molly, she runs like a poodle. I don't know how else to describe it! Jumpers is actually more difficult for me with Perri because of how she "floats" around. And I was anything but my A-Game with exactly three dogs in between my two girls and with my emotions barely held together. Our first refusal was on a straight line towards the jump before the weaves and I actually suspect some Poodle silliness on her part there. I wish I had a video. The next one was on the 180 and I didn't pull her tight enough over the 14th jump. She ran right around it for our second refusal. I will fully admit that my brain exploded as we approached that spot, and I had a hard time thinking anything other than "You screwed up so bad here with Molly!" and not "decelerate and front cross for Perri!" like I should have.
But, I feel better now. Really, Molly and I will have our OAJ in no time next year. Our first Qs in Open were in the Spring and they were truly all luck of the draw. To think back on our run last night, we have got what it takes and I made a mistake and that happens. Our runs from Spring? We were still quite disjointed and beaten down by stress, with Molly not understanding her weave entries or enjoying the obstacle. If we Qd it was on occasion and by luck, and if Molly got into the weaves and stayed there while I held my breath it was a miracle. We have grown so much as a team this year, so much. And I am determined to conquer contacts with her next year (the weather is being very unkind to my Running Contacts training mission, but winter won't last forever!). Out of the ashes we will rise, and try again. And again. And again.