How do I even start to write about CPE Nationals? It was such a big experience for Molly and I.
I love long drives and trips. I love the Turnpike and rest stops and endless cups of coffee and flying down the open road. All was going well until I did a slight detour into Pittsburgh to visit Point State Park. I was giddy to check some western State Parks off of the list. Traffic was absolutely horrible and of all things, an enormous arts festival was in full swing on a Wednesday evening right at the park. No parking. No park visiting. I literally could see the park but had to just ... leave. I sat in an hour of rush hour traffic until it finally let loose on the Turnpike again. My GPS took me on and off the turnpike for no good reason. My credit card got declined because of fraud protection (being several hundred miles west without calling one's credit card company will do that!) My mood was darkening, I don't care for set backs. I had to scrap my plans to visit Raccoon and Hillman State Parks because of all the lost time, and that was extremely disappointing.
As soon as we shook loose of the grid locked traffic and plans gone amiss, I put on some Bad Dog Agility podcasts, stopped at a rest stop for a Molly-walk and geocache find and we flew through West Virginia and onto Ohio. With 90 minutes to go, fighting to arrive before sundown, I switched over to fun music and shameless speeding. We arrived at Buck Creek State Park, our home for the next four days with plenty of daylight to spare for tent set up and a sorry meal of a Spam sandwich (hey, camp food!). I just recently discovered that Spam slices come packaged in single servings, and turn your nose up at Spam if you will, but it is quite tasty when you are camping or hungry from a long hike!
Thursday morning I staked down our tent and EZ-Up before leaving for the Champions Center, the sprawling fair grounds where the National Event would be held.
I knew acclimation would be a challenge for Molly, but we have worked hard on those mental tools and I was counting on our progress. Molly was as chattery as ever walking into the Champions Center, she was leash pulling. We did LAT, we took it slow. Molly was road tired, she did not sleep well the night before in a new place. Her threshold for dealing with this overwhelming experience was severely diminished. We rented a stall with a friend of ours so I got to work setting up our crating area and decorating....
There were 6 rings - two outdoor, two indoor, two in a covered pavillion outdoors. There were countless vendor stands. There was A Lot Going On. The place was huge. I parked three different times actually, trying to figure out how on earth to simply get to our stall. There were handlers walking dogs, handlers whizzing around in golf carts, there was a lot going on. I was on overload. I had to check in, get my welcome packet. My Nationals t-shirt (I had pre-ordered it.) My goodie bag (enormous!)
And then I needed to get Molly to her practice runs. We had one scheduled in the pavilion ring at 12pm and one in the outdoor grass ring at 1pm. If I was on overload, Molly was on mega overload. She tried to pounce on a red dachshund, much to the terror of its owner and my embarrassment. The dog looked just like my mother's dachshund and it was truly just a completely rude Molly-greeting, but still completely unacceptable. Molly was tired, overwhelmed and her self control as at a terrible low.
Our practice run in the pavilion was decent! She exploded off the start line and did a zoomie loop, nothing I didn't expect. She came back and worked with me for her Wubba, did nice weaves. Before I knew it our 50 second time slot was over. Then things took a nose dive.
I had to rush to the outdoor ring, our walk through was already in progress. A friend offered to hold Molly for me while I walked. Molly was hot and snapping and squeaking her Wubba like a lunatic. I left her and could hear her screeching and lurching around while my friend held her. Her self control was fraying even further. When I came out from the walkthrough Molly was so jacked up with frustration that she latched onto me and started humping me. Sigh. I took her inside to our stall, got her some water and tried to get her to calm down and did a little engagement work. Then back outside to wait for our run. I sat down to chat with our friend, barely noticed an old time tractor starting up near the main building. Molly noticed. It sounded like...a generator. She saw movement in the ring.
Bag Brain. As far as Molly was concerned, it was lure coursing. It was last September all over again. Up on her hind legs, screaming and chattering bloody murder, putting on a horrific and scary display for anyone who doesn't know her. Lurching forward, yanking me and even tried a few snaps at me. And I will be honest, I wanted to pick her up off the ground by her ears. Not that I would! But I was exhausted, we worked so hard to get there. So hard. And we drove all that way and I work so damn hard every trial, every day to help Molly deal with her reactions to the environment and sometimes it just feels like we are chasing our tails. In fact, we are.
Distance always helps with the Bag Brain. I got her away though she did keep looking. I tried to get her to do her tricks and she gave me 10% effort. And I normally would have just scratched and walked away but I needed to get her into that ring so that she could see: no bag. Max200 was randomly set up and vending equipment next to the outdoor ring. They had a pause table-top laying on the ground and it saved us. I asked Molly to "Up" and that made some sort of sense to her. On and off the table until finally she came down from outer space and could do her tricks. We returned ringside....and quite unfortunately there was an electrical cord laying on the ground. Even more unfortunately, some unsuspecting young man chose that moment to pick up the extension cord. He drug it along the ground towards himself...well guess what that looked like to... My horrible pitbull. Lure coursing line! She let out her loudest screech yet and started pouncing and pounding the ground and air snapping at the cord. Trying to bite it and letting out horrible screams of prey-lusty joy. By now I was ready to rip her ears off.
Back away from the ring. Restarting engagement work (we had none, the bag trumps all.) It was just about our time to go into the ring and I had Molly's mind with me as much as possible...which was not much. She did her start line stay and kindly exploded to the other end of the ring with a screech as soon as I took the leash off. She was looking for the bag and I could see that. And then, almost comically, she looked at me...scandalized. There was...no bag? I asked her for a tunnel. I praised her lavishly when she exited it. I sent her back into the tunnel and asked for two jumps. More praise and I told her "leash". We approached the exit chute and I asked for another tunnel and we did the finish jump. She got her Leash.
No one else has to deal with this, I'm sure of it. Why me? Why. Me. So here I am 500+ miles from home. I remember when we started agility. She was so naughty. I refused to enter a trial that was 90 miles away - she simply wasn't trustworthy. It would be a waste of time, of money, of gas.
And it sure was easy to feel that same way, standing on the grass getting air snapped at and humped by my own dog. Having her on her hind legs shrieking at the ring like a completely out of control monster. What have I done? I was a fool to trust this dog.
I felt really sad the rest of the day. I tried my best to snap out of it. We were at Nationals! My dog is healthy (physically, not mentally. Ha!) and sound and here we are on the brink of the experience of our agility lives. But when you run a pitbull and she is acting scary and out of control and you have no idea how the next three days are going to go....it's hard to see the sunny side.
We went to the lake with our stall friends. Molly showed Mack her teeth when he gently kissed her face, she stole all of his tennis balls out of the water, only to spit them out and leave them behind. She was a complete brute. I retreated to our campsite with a good book, aiming to relax and get an early night's sleep. There were at least two stray cats and assorted wildlife roaming around (I can't make this stuff up!). Molly was out of her mind, racing to the end of her cable tie and screeching at all of the animals that she couldn't chase. Forget about relaxing. My husband and I laughed about it on the phone that night. We laughed about the entire day. Molly was a total embarrassment, but she was our embarrassment.
This is Molly! This is life with Molly. She is who she is. She was maxed out and completely exhausted. Tomorrow would be better...it had to be.
So, I think I will leave off writing about Nationals for now. I certainly did not plan to write so much about the set up/practice day but there it is! More to come!