I took Molly to the Kruisin Kanines AKC Agility trial today. A year ago, at this trial, we earned our first Open Qs. This morning when we got to the trial Molly was in the stressed up, reactive, panting red eared mood that I know all too well. I don't see her in this mental state very often anymore, but I was cringing mentally. Molly in that mood means: the first run is going to be a disaster. In the past no matter how early we had gotten to the trial site, or no matter what I did: LAT reps, obedience behaviors and tricks, fetch until her tongue is hanging...no matter what, she could never shake the chattering, screaming stressed up mindset. Until today. We did a ton of LAT, we took a walk together, I focused very hard on my body language: I forced myself to smile, I forced myself to stand up straight and make my eyes soft and relaxed. It was very exhausting for both of us. But somehow, for the very first time at an agility trial, Molly calmed down and centered. She was focused on me, she was eating cheese and had eyes only for me ringside, and we ran Open FAST for our third leg and Molly's OF title. Yes!
We had a long break in the afternoon until Open Standard. Molly was stressed-tired for her run, and she was hot. This facility gets super warm inside, even if it is a cool day outside. We had a wrong course fault and a refusal fault, both area permitted in Open Standard so we got her third leg for our final Open title, OA!
We were in conflict with the Excellent JWW ring and made it for our run with about eight dogs to spare before the class ended. Stuff like that stresses me out! By now Molly was absolutely exhausted, she was hot. We ran the course but my usual abrupt decel that works so well with Molly when she is flying fast and high was too much and I pulled her off of two obstacles ever so slightly....two refusals. By the end of the class she sounded like...an alligator, breathing and rattling. Poor Molly! Two runs within ten minutes in a hot building when she was already mentally exhausted, too much. We had a great first go at Excellent JWW and it was amazing to me we were in the "Big Girl Ring" (as I think of it.)
So, Open is behind us. My crazy, bad dog Molly is in Excellent 100%. We earned our first Open Qs here a year ago, and our final Open Qs today. Wow. Just, wow. "Open Purgatory" really is a thing. It is a thing that we deserved. You become a team in Open, you are forced to confront your weak spots and make them better. And when you do, when it all starts coming together, the Qs start happening on skill rather than just luck. Overcoming a reactive stress up episode on top of blasting out of Open Purgatory was beyond beautiful for me and Molly. Oh, how very very far we've come...