Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore...

Because we are home!

So Go Dog and I followed the yellow brick road and what did we find? Well. I got some COURAGE and the Dog found what she had inside all along: the ability to GO!

This was a very eye-opening weekend for me. Lesson filled and very good for the whole Project. And I don't think I've ever enjoyed running The Dog so much in a show, but not necessarily because we qualified or had some amounts of glory or anything like that. 

I have been struggling for awhile now to let go and stop playing it safe when showing. I admit it-GUILTY! I heart clean runs (Especially now that I pay my own entry fees!) and titles and enjoy those milestones, and since joining Masters I have fallen into the trap of running conservatively in order to accomplish those things.  But running that way is not nearly as fun to me or the Dog, nor is it fair to her- I know that besides the fact that I have been like a body-snatched alien handler it shows that I wasn't trusting her or being confident in her skills. And MY lack of confidence was showing in HER times and attitude, causing all sorts of frustration. The trialing break we've had has been wonderful and helped me realize that this was happening- she runs really well in practice! Enthusiasm AND attention abound. So I went into the weekend resolved- handle like we practice- not like the body-snatching show handling alien. Be daring. Go for it. After all, that is the ESSENCE of Project Go Dog!!

We started on Friday- Team Tournament Day. Up first- Team Gamblers. I planned my usual 9 obstacle opening and a close.  Lesson One: it turns out, when one runs a dog how they are accustomed to running in training, they do really well. They also run a lot faster than you are used to them running in a show. We sort of ran out of stuff to do. Oops! 
Team Snooker
Next run- Team Snooker. Most everyone did some combination of 1-5-1-5-1-6-1-7 for the opening. Looks pretty straightforward (key word: looks)- however this ran in some very unexpected lines for most dogs, resulting in spin outs all over the place. It proved to be the 'herd thinner' for the team classes. The Dog had a marvelous run though- smooth and fast, with one spin in front of a red (MY fault!), but otherwise not a paw out of line, for second place. 
Team Standard
 Team Standard was probably my favorite class of the weekend. Slightly hairy from 5-6 (not quite laid out like on paper) but the Dog was simply amazing. I did my job of setting the lines for her, but it was all her after that. I held off the urge to over-handle and manipulate every maneuver (that's what body snatchers do...) and we worked it mostly with distance, only meeting at crucial turn points. She ran every step (from the start line even!), had an awesome time and if we can be only slightly bested by an awesome world team dog I consider that a high point!

Jumpers ran very well also. There was a super fun five jump line at the end which was the perfect reward for the Dog- the making of a Go Dog lies in jumps chutes because they spawn flying!  After that we ran Relay, which was slightly scary (pipe tunnel- the spawner of Evil Flying Go Dog!). Our Team survived though, and won relay with just two teeny (ok, terrifying) refusals. And wouldn't you know, our awesome team took the whole tournament too! Black Dog and Brother Dog had amazing days of their own, with Brother looking strong at 26".  They both ended MVPs in their heights, with Go Dog just slightly behind Black Dog  in 22." Top three dogs of the day? Cool.  

Saturday started with Gamblers and Snookers, both Qs. In Snookers, we attempted our first ever Blind Cross off the Aframe in competition. It worked! Solid hit! Much better than the other Aframe we attempted, which was a pull off to the side and much more questionable. And she read the next obstacle perfectly- there were several inviting obstacles she had to bypass, so I was thrilled that she both read the side change (no sneaking behind me!), and followed the line I indicated. 

We followed that up with Standard, Steeple and Grand Prix.  While those were big fat NQs for us, they were nonetheless valuable. 
Steeplechase Round 1
Steeple involved the Dog running like I've never seen in a show from 7 to 12, then continuing on to back jump #2. Oops. Reminder: Standing and calling is pointless. Movement required! If no movement occurs, dogs will make decisions on their own accord. It was SO (soooo) apparent after her off-course how much impact I can have on her line by moving into her, and how little impact I have by trying to pull her (I was on the left of the A trying to pull her back into the tunnel). Excellent lesson! 
Master Standard
As for Standard- we had a marvelous run going; she ran an independent dogwalk and came in over 4 for a push through the tire to teeter; then I met her for a cross into the poles. After an awesome fast auto-drop on the table (first ever in a show!) I sent her through the tunnel and intended to shoot her out over the jumps while I made a straight line to the Aframe, where we would meet again for another cross.  Unfortunately, she tripped over the tunnel bag on exit and that threw her off enough to cause a run out on 15. So we scurried back and grabbed the jump, and then went on to throw in another blind in front of the Aframe to pull her into the chute, which was possibly our best move of the weekend. Standard's valuable lesson : Sh*t happens! 

Grand Prix
The next lesson was... trust your dog, stupid! I know she will always pick the dogwalk. As far as she is concerned, the tunnel in a contact-tunnel discrimination does not exist unless I take her up to it and hand deliver her into it. YET I somehow decided she was heading for the tunnel over #2 and called (no, wait, screeched like a banshee demon monster from hell, complete with flailing limbs) her off the tunnel she wasn't really going to. She smashed the jump because of my verbal beating, landed on the dogwalk and froze in fear.  Ice Dog then melted off the dogwalk, and slithered into a puddle in the tunnel. She was then very reluctant to run the dogwalk and was very sticky (wouldn't you have been if you had just melted??) on the downside. After we moved away from the scene of the crime, she resumed running and we finished up beautifully with, you guessed it, another blind cross off of the Aframe. I thought for sure trying to put one in there would result in a China trip after the jump, but the constant movement from the A through the 180 turn kept her super tight.  Bonus lesson: We have a new super power- Ultra Blind Cross Action!!! 
Sunday was a perfect day for the Dog- Qs in all three classes: Standard, Jumpers and Pairs with Black Dog. Nice runs, courses weren't quite as fun though so not worth posting the maps. She was a bit tired (as was I) so things were a little less GOish, but still much better (faster, happier, tighter) than most shows. 

I think that Black Dog only missed one Q this weekend- she decided her birthday present to her mom would be being a Perfect Pup, since the White Dog was not running (much needed R&R!). Black Dog is an honorary Go Dog for sure! 

And if you get the chance to get to Lawrence, KS sometime... Go! The club is awesome and the arena is very nice (not dirty or dusty- no Black Lung!).  They do a great job offering lots of classes and getting through things very quickly. One ring show and we were done by 1 on Sunday. And who knows, maybe you too can have epiphanies.  How circle of life- earlier this year, this show busted my confidence, and now it has restored it!

PLUS. Home in plenty of time to see Harry Potter, so it really was the best weekend. 

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