Ok so the NC Regional.
On Monday I was all “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Tuesday was still “Yeah no thanks can we talk about something else?”
Today…ehhhh. Okfine. At first I figured if I skipped the written record it would be pretty easy to pretend it never happened, but admitted that overall that isn’t very good for posterity‘s sake. Remember, one of the key originating principles of the whole ‘Project Concept’ was that I could also be able to look back and see what went wrong. So here we go.
Let’s just go there- not our best weekend. Probably a top two lowest low actually (no weekend will ever be worse than the Great Lawrenceville Confidence Crusher of February 2010). I’m still struggling a bit deciding on the WHY but here are the theories:
Too much AKC, not enough USDAA. I’ve been showing much less this year and more AKC than USDAA recently. I felt, the weekend prior and last weekend, very out of sorts and really out of practice. I think that my little team noticed quite the change moving from one to the other- jump heights, spacing, endurance, course technical difficulty and range of skills needed all differ between the venues. Reasons I think this is a valid theory: We didn’t hit our stride until day three. Day three felt normal again. Like our snow globe had been shaken and the glitter had finally settled. Or maybe more like fitting a puzzle together- we had pieces but it wasn’t until we worked away at it for awhile that you could see the picture. But reasons I dunno: We flip back and forth all year, every year…don’t we?? And we train at higher heights and we train all the games and we train the spacing. Hmm.
Structural problems. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not the disastrous first day was Unpredictable Dog Attitude rearing its head or if she was really just that ‘out.’ Problems we were having were her deciding to wing out (China!) as opposed to coming in to me resulting in sad WHISTLE! or running Really. Slowly. Reasons I think this is a valid theory: We had a TOPS appointment for Saturday morning, they adjusted a LOT in her head, neck and shoulders turning her into Dog Jelly and she had no issues with not turning into me or running really slowly after that. But reasons I dunno: She DOES have her preferences and Day one was especially against those preferences. And she DOES run more slowly when she doesn’t get her way or when she perceives that she chose wrongly. Running slowly ensures correctness in her mind.
Courses. It is rare that I don’t enjoy a challenging course. Very rare. Usually, we fare exceptionally well the more challenging and impossible the course appears. But I didn’t love too many of the courses. They were very challenging, but really not in a fun way. Many challenges were exactly opposite our strengths. Reasons I think this is a valid theory: We didn’t do very well on these courses. The challenging courses I did like or that at least we could use our Super Powers on we did well on. But reasons I dunno: Mmm, none. I think this is pretty valid. At least as an excuse. (Insert smiley winky face)
In a general rundown of events, Day one was Master Gamblers, Team Snooker and Jumpers, Steeplechase and ICH Jumpers. Gamblers was pretty impossible with the noise and chaos and impossible gamble- 2% Q rate in Performance and maybe 9% in Championship. It was also the start of horrible non running dogwalks, as the theme for the weekend seemed to be dogwalk into nothingness. So that was the first thing to go downhill. Snookers was funny- our team showed why we are called Solidarity: all three dogs made it to 6 with the same opening and bombed 6. Go team! Jumpers was nuts, The Dog had her sad WHISTLE here and it was a mega disaster. The rest of the team fared well luckily. Steeple was next and was the Very Slow Dog’s turn to make an appearance. So very heartbreaking to see that side of her. Might have made it through anyways, but she had a runaround on the broad jump clenching that NQ. Needless to say I skipped ICH Jumpers and went to the hotel deeply depressed.
Day Two was Masters Snooker, Grand Prix and Team Standard and Gamblers. Snookers was terrible- she didn’t want to leave the line, didn’t want to do my plan; I changed on the fly to give her an easier (fun) tunnel plan. Ran out of time. Very depressing. Went to TOPS. Grand Prix after was actually lovely but one bar down on a wild rear cross. No byes for us (hence, Here we come, Quarterfinals). Very nice time though, even with a horrible slow dogwalk. Then I flubbed my opening a bit in Gamblers, losing a few points, but all three dogs managed well enough. Team Standard they all ran without Eing and The Dog and I finally pulled a clean run- but with the stickiest dogwalk I’ve seen in ages and overall it was pretty dirty for being clean. Day Two ended again at the hotel in cranky depression.
Day Three was Masters Gamblers, Standard and Jumpers, Team Relay and IHC Standard. Gamblers was ok as a warm up, again I messed up the opening and lost about 10 points from my plan but she did get the gamble at least. Standard was clean too, with another sticky icky dogwalk but a great listening dog and a really nice auto-drop on the table. Jumpers was probably the one run I truly, truly enjoyed from the whole weekend. She ran beautifully and fast and responsively and ended up in 8th with all the placements within a second (I think?). Relay was deceptively hard- it really thinned the herd but resulted in far more teams getting a Q then before the class ran. Our team ran a lovely clean relay; apparently it was also very fast as they ended up winning out of 70 or so teams. We are still scratching our heads over that but we will take it! It also bumped us into a final overall placement of 6th which was really encouraging.
We ended on the IHC Standard course- crazy hard but in that fun way. She ended up in 10th, 8th for time, with the last bar down and about 1.5 seconds left out there on two turns. Given that, I was really proud of her for keeping up with or besting the times of the actual ‘contenders’ and for just plain surviving the course. Oddly, this was her best dogwalk of the weekend; no idea where this one came from other than the course was so engaging to her that she didn’t have time to stress. And boy, was she engaged- normally a tight controlled course like that would put her into Thoughtful Dog mode, but this one seemed to crank her as she went. Very nice to see at the end of the longest up-and-down weekend ever.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound (read?) that bad- but it was more the inconsistent nature of things that had me so depressed. If you run a dog that goes out and runs predictably every time, consider yourself very lucky. Even if it isn’t lightening fast, or consistently clean, it is still better than the alternative of never knowing what you will get or how long you will have it. I would love to get to the point where Practice Dog and Show Dog are the same Dog. Sometimes there are flashes. But we’ve got a long way to go.
On a light and fluffy note, The Pup had the most amazing time ever. She reunited with all seven or so of her siblings that were at the Regional. She played with anyone that would have her. She screamed and screamed at the dogs running and only knocked one little gate over with her baseball head. She is very grateful to her friend AMP who showed her the joy of watching dogs run and then the part about tugging on stuff when it gets too exciting, and to her other new puppy friends who let her actually tug with another dog for the first time (The Dog doesn’t tug so much as staunchly freeze in a position until The Pup tires of trying to wrest the toy from the statue’s mouth). She worked on the practice jump for toys for the first time and stayed engaged. She only ran away one little time, and only because she was really obsessed with the skinny girl from Jersey for no explicable reason. And she came back so there.
I love that she is learning to thrive in a show environment; she’s seen from day one that shows are exciting and to embrace the energy. At this point, she works for me better in the high intensity settings than at home where it’s quiet. I don’t think there is going to be any problems with show stress in this one. She might lose her mind, but she will have a wonderful time doing it.