Last night I took Ein and Perri to our local Friday night CPE trial. Wildcard and Standard for Perri, only Wildcard for Ein. I normally do two runs with Ein but since he has made it clear he is no longer a fan on the Aframe, we don't need to do Standard.
Wildcard was first and there was a straight extension line with some weird angles in the beginning, leading straight to a tunnel trap. The hosting club began the trial 15 minutes early, so I did not get to walk the course. So much for being organized and confident for Perri's sake! I worked ring crew for "small dogs" so I could be in the ring and get a little bit more familiar with the course.
Even when we set up on the start line I was not set on how I wanted to handle that first line! I decided to be very brave indeed and set Perri up on a start line stand. Whoah. It let me set her line over the first two jumps but then do the necessary push out to the next three. At the end of that was a tunnel trap, but I rear crossed the jump and pulled Perri - which she did very nicely. I was doing a lot of mental management to be confident of doing that and to not agonize over the potential for a wrong course. With Molly she would have taken that tunnel no matter how much deceleration or rear crossing I did and I had to remind myself that Perri is not Molly. She is more handler focused and if I am confident in my decisions on course and she is not stressed, she will follow me. And she did! Entered her weaves and stayed in them. From there I needed to stop and see where to go next, as the angle of the next jump was hard for me to see from where I had been ring crewing. No matter, we qualified and finished well under time for at last, our first Level 5 Wildcard Q. Ha!
This all meant a lot to me, as in the beginning of August was when I "fired" Perri for a while. It was after we drove to a farther away club specifically to get Wildcard legs, but Perri was so stressed out that we NQd both Wildcard opportunities. It was nice to come back with a Wildcard Q at Perri's first true planned trial back since then. (The other two trials were Pairs for the sake of a friend, and unplanned substitution for Molly at a CPE trial last month.)
We also did Standard! I was feeling really great about this course. I ran with Perri off the start line, cheered her up majorly on the teeter and then did a front cross at the end of it. I did not have much other option as the only way to run with her on the first line was to be on her left, and rear crossing the teeter is a super non-option for Perri. Unfortunately that big front cross all the while cheering and carrying on and not asking for her stop criteria (I haven't been lately because Perri has been having confidence issues on the teeter)...anyway it caused her to bound off the teeter early as my shoulders were pointed at the Aframe and she happily ran towards it.
I forgot myself and called her and she stopped dead in her tracks. Not a stressed out stare for no good reason, but a stink eye. A stare down at me! I deserved it and I welcome it! She was doing what she thought I asked for and I called her off of it and I was getting some attitude! She stared me down for a while, and then finally did the #5 jump even though she seemed thoroughly disgusted. There were some weave stress issues then and I did ask her to repeat them. That was a risky decision. She weaved fast and then ran the rest of that course fast and confident! The gamble decision played out okay, whew. She did her second set of weaves, entry and commitment, great! And the rest of the course was a lot of extension with a little tunnel trap at the end. Again Perri pulled towards me and took the correct end. She was sassy and proud on her dog walk, which was second to last obstacle, and finished the course with her tail up and happy!
To bounce back from a moment of some confusion and weave stress was a really big deal for me and I am almost happy it happened! I do question my decisions. Maybe I should have left her take the Aframe. Maybe I should not have asked her to repeat the weaves. However, our dynamic was not what we had been dealing with a few months ago. The issue a few months ago was random disengaging with no discernible triggers and slowing down to a trot while staring at nothing. Last night it was unclear handling and truly, some sassiness on her part. Perri is a sassy dog when she is not stressed out and she was right to go to the A-frame and she knew it! So. This time, a clear trigger. I kept my mind clear, I acted playful, I judged where Perri's mind was and if it was strong enough to handle a slight readjustment, and I judged correctly. Had it been that mindless drifting and environmental stress, I truly believe I would have played along with her to get her back in the game and feeling brave again.
It will still be a month before Perri does more agility and that is okay. I have given considerable thought to moving Perri to Enthusiast level in CPE next year. She would have to jump 16" which is the only thing I am not happy about. What I am looking to do is skip a class and gain more time to run courses. Skipping a class would allow Perri and I to skip Standard class as we pursue a CT-ATCH. CPE is kind enough to do a one time transfer of any legs earned down to Enthusiast or Specialist, so all of her Level 5 legs would be retained. I had this idea after last month's CPE Agility trial. Now after last night I am unsure. If I were to move Perri to Enthusiast it would be because I believe that Perri and I absolutely cannot tolerate Standard class, that it would be detrimental to us as a team to continue playing in that class. At least for now. However, last night we both kept our cool and rode out a little mini storm and came out with a wagging tail at the end. That means a lot to me. That means maybe we could dig in together and work on a goal of playing in Standard class. Maybe. We could. We will see how December goes. I am learning that life with Perri is one day at a time.
And by the way, Ein played in Wildcard Level 1 with a faster YPS than Perri and a time of 18.88 seconds. He was so fast, his commitment to obstacles was so improved and he is so loving the game. I even layered the last wildcard (he did the tunnel and I layered the weaves between us once he was committed!). This boy!