The Travel Dictionary defines “Unexpected” as pertaining to that which happened that you would have never, ever thought of in all the pre-game scenarios.
As in, that was REALLY unexpected.
You think you know The Dog, and then she throws you more loops. More! We’ve got more loops here than a cable knit sweater.
Before I get into the analysis too far, let’s first congratulate our well-deserving travel companions: Black Dog was an amazing baby, making it all the way to Finalist Status in BOTH the Steeplechase AND Grand Prix where she had a lovely clean run for an 11th place finish out of a bazillion 22” dogs originally entered. She was a real star (really, she claims full Diva Status now). White Dog was White Dog and may have been the Aframe-hating butthead we know and love, but was her good reliable self all week. Her team finished 4th out of 174 teams, their best finish yet! The Dog’s third teammate, BFAM, did really well too- especially in the team classes- so he earned Team VID (Very Important Dog!) for sure. Lots of MN teams ended up in various final events (and some even ended up on the World Team!) so it was overall a successful week for our frigid state. I’m really proud of you all, and I hope you heard my cheers, you earned it!
And then there was The Dog.
So I think I left off after the warm up day, before Gamblers ran. We had the advantage (really?) of waiting all day to run. It was a terrible design- I really hated the time penalty premise and the fact that the on course gamble was weaves, again. But we ran, The Dog did the weaves, and so we moved to the other on course gamble which we blew as The Dog blew past the last obstacle. Then the whistle blew while I tried to save it. Bye bye points!! Sigh. 28 seconds of well, blowing. I was happy she did her weaves but couldn’t believe how badly she missed my cue. Very unusual move for her.
The next day was Steeple QF and Team Standard. I got her out and headed to the big arena with her for the first time.
Where she promptly melted.
She didn’t want to walk around the rings- she kept diving for the exits. She didn’t want her treats. Her eyes were popping at everything but I could barely get her to look at me. When it came time for our turn in Steeple, she wouldn’t go into the ring. She came with me at some point, after hiding behind the partition, but then didn’t want to leave the line. She did run eventually, but was not herself. A bar down clinched it- no semis for us again. More concerning to me though was where did that come from?
I took her to get checked out on the chance that there was some physical reason- she did have a sore back and a large lump on a muscle in her knee- but I knew it was more than that.
Team Standard sometime later (in the other, emptier building) was better. I spent 20 minutes playing tug with her before our run outside and waited until they called for me to get on the line before we went in the building. Her immediate start wasn’t great but we did survive and she was pretty happy once she got to do the Aframe and a tunnel. I was still left thinking a lot after that day.
She is such a sensitive dog; I could only guess that the atmosphere was overwhelming her. It was extremely intense by the main ring- crabby people, high dogs, everything was buzzing. After that day I decided not to crate her in the main area anymore and instead kept her in the RV whenever I could. I also switched to the ball for warm ups and kept her away from the bustle of the crowds before our runs by hiding on the stairs or in the stands. After some serious shaping we got to the point where she would head up pretty willingly but she never really looked herself on the start lines in the main arena the whole week (where the rest of our classes were). There was a lot of zoning out and for all the runs the first 4-5 obstacles were pretty rough.
I can really only describe it as feeling extremely disconnected from her. This was kind of how it felt when we first started showing. I felt barely on the edge of her consciousness- like something else was on her mind. And it showed a lot- besides those unfocused starts, we had an off-course almost every class. The two clean runs we had still had that fuzzy, unplugged feeling and I think we made it through based solely on the type of course (and a nice judge) as my path was forced to be in front which made it impossible for her not to notice me.
It was pretty similar to the Regional too I guess. Not on the same scale, but I think the loud and crazy is just not for her yet. It took her a long time to enjoy training, to enjoy trialing and to enjoy traveling. This is only her third big event and by far the craziest. My hope is that she can enjoy this type of setting as well, but it will probably take time.
Good things…hm… I am proud of her for trying. She was clearly unhappy in the facility so anything she gave me was just because she’s a good girl. When we got going, she tried to run fast (probably why there were Es this year and not last year- she was moving quicker). Certain things held up which I really didn’t think would survive a whole week. She had fantastic weaves actually; I think she has missed 22” poles. She hated the slow tip teeter to start but really accustomed to it well and started charging through the tip (eventually getting a fly-off! Good girl!! never thought she’d be that brave). In fact, she had really nice contacts all week. For being the Year of the Contact Calls even (they were down there with microscopes!), she didn’t miss one. There were four dogwalks this week of varying difficulty and she ran them all. Legitimately. As in, really truly running like we trained. The most difficult set up for her was the GP QF: it had a bad entry as far as no speed into it, was on my right and exited into nothing really, with the tire off to the side. She totally rocked it with great acceleration on the descent. And that was her other clean run, so we did at least get to play in the semis for GP (on that one I completely failed to manage her DW exit correctly and lost her right after that).
So now what? I feel really bad about Team, but who saw this coming? All I can do is continue to expose her to things like this- chaos and noise- and make it fun. I almost wonder if it isn’t time to get her into flyball. What’s louder and crazier than that?
Training-wise though, I don’t think there was some huge deficit in what we’ve been doing. I do want to try and figure out something about her start line behaviors. Though not usually to this extreme, she will show some stress still. Time to experiment. I have no problem running with her, it’s the whole' looking like she is about to barf' thing that I wonder if I can’t do something about.
Also it’s clear that we need to work out how we are going to manage the dogwalk. If she is actually going to run in shows now it’s time to figure out how I’m going to handle it. Details!
The Pup also would like it noted that she had a BLAST despite being kept in solitary confinement for part of the trip, then spraining her massive jaw, then burning two pads watching dock diving. She still wishes every week was Nationals week.
MANY BS family reunion pictures are on the way, so consider yourself duly warned!