Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Inside the "National Dog Show" 2012

Three years ago, I went to the National Dog Show in Oaks, PA to visit my Kooikerhondje breeder for an update on my newborn pup "beans" and to catch up with the breeders. After we were done chatting my mom quickly dragged me over to the papillon section. She was still set on talking me into another pap. We spent a long time chatting with Nancy and petting her papillon Mojo.

Fast forward 3 years to 2012.Not only did I attend this year, I was competing in it.

I was there showing for all 4 days of the Philadelphia Cluster. I dragged Selina along with me on Thursday to help me with Mia. I was so stressed out with the idea of showing two dogs with such a low breed entry. On top of that... Well, honestly? I was scared to go back in the ring with Mia. Whatever connection we have on the agility course evaporates in the show ring. We had gotten to the point where she'd gait nicely for me, but was absolutely dreadful on the table. She'd try to melt into me, act absolutely terrified of the judge, and just look all around awful.

When Selina took her into the ring, Mia showed beautifully. Not even the tiniest waver on the table. Together they took Best of Breed. I left the show site thrilled that Selina and Mia took a BOB, but a little saddened that I lacked the confidence to show her to her best ability myself.

My plan had been to have Selina show her all 4 days. I wanted her to be shown to her best, with such low entries there was a high chance of her getting a point each day. I had entered Mia Thursday and Sunday, so I tagged along Friday just in case Selina took WD with Twister. The only way for Mia to get points would be for her to go BOB again. Since Jackson was there Selina encouraged me to show Mia, just to get in some good practice. She agreed to watch how we handled the table and give me tips to improve.

I tossed caution to the wind and quickly set her up on the table and stepped back. Mia held it. For the first time, she didn't melt on the table for me. I was over the moon!

Selina generously allowed me to practice some more with Mia on Saturday and we had similar results. Sunday followed a similar suite. Little to no melting on the table front. Thanks to Selina's persistent encouragement, we made progress. I feel so much more confident in the ring with her. That's not to say we have a long way to go before she's finished... But now it's something I can seriously see myself contributing to. Before I had the will, and now I can see the way.

Knight also showed Thursday and Saturday. Thursday we took a 3rd in class, naughty boy growled at the judge. All my fault, I knew the judge's hands would be cold, I should of brought bait to distract him. Saturday went much more smoothly. Knight took Reserve Winners out of 4 dogs. I'll be entering him in a few more shows for sure, he's really great practice :)

All in all, a fantastic weekend. I'll be entering next year again for sure! It was so much fun hanging out with Selina, campaigning papillons, showing off a few tricks, very fun stuff. Terribly tiring, but oh so much fun! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going Up

"I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend." -John Green TFIOS

We are officially back on track for dog events. Starting November 11th, I have a few weekends lined up to get out and run around with my crazy crew. It feels good to be back in the game. 

Last weekend I attended another Dream Park trial. This was one of the cases where I thought I read the schedule and decided to give myself an extra hour or two to sleep in.... Those days never go well.

I pull up, get one of my 3 dogs out of the car, and swing by to see how the rings are progressing. Much to my surprise, 12" standard is already running and Open Jumpers is walking.

At this time I have Lilly with me. Without walking either course I run back out to my car to swap dogs. I managed to watch the dog before us run so I had a general idea of what the course was. Oh boy. Mia was on FIRE! NQ due to skipping the last pole, but wowza. She pulled in a 4.35 yps run even with all the wide turns she had to take due to me not really knowing the course.

That girl just rocks my world. I'm loving every single second out on the course with her. She's built so much on what Lilly started. We go out and we have FUN. The highlights of the run are always foremost in my mind, while the rough patches are little side notes that I'll strengthen through training. No matter how things go, I always leave the ring grinning like an idiot. Love my Missa Mi.

I run back to the car to put Mia away after our "victory" party, and swap her for Lilly again. Not having walked this course either, I wasn't expecting too much. I was stressed, Lilly had just been dragged back and forth... I had no idea what I was going to get.

I strutted into the ring with the familiar confidence I feel when training Lilly. I set her up and instantly felt her with me. She was ready to bring it. She nailed her RC and turned exactly when I asked coming off the dog-walk. She had some BEAUTIFUL verbal rear crosses at a distance too. I messed her up in standard with a fumble of being on the wrong side at the wrong time (side effect of not walking the course). She took her turn too wide and didn't see the chute. Once she passed it I could see the light go on, she tried to save our run by attempting to duck into the chute the wrong way.

She gave me a huge play bow and just charged. It was hilarious. I'm laughing, and next thing I know she's got another explosion of energy. She finds the right end of the chute, charges through, and dives into the weaves like nobodies business. That insane drive caused a few missed poles, but no biggie. I know she can weave, there was no way I was going to risk this attitude going unrewarded. She polished off the last two jumps like a pro and out we went. NQ, but so proud. Here I was, 20 minutes into my arrival at the grounds and I already had two amazing runs with my unbelievably awesome girls.

After a victory dance with Lilly, I trade her off and run into the Novice jumpers course. I manage to walk this one once before I have to rush off and get Knight. (He's running 4" these days)

Knight, attentive to detail as always, brings home the first Q of the morning. My goal was just to keep him speedy and having fun. I didn't disappointing him. I brought my A-game and bag full of reminders from the Tori Self seminar. Kept my steps shorter and kept everything exciting. He bounded over the last jump and proceeded to engage in little tiny zoomy donuts until I grabbed his lead.

Next up was the Novice standards. Mia still needs some touching up yet before we'll be bringing home a title in that, but her dog-walk confidence has improved by leaps and bounds. She was certainly much more daring this run. If I wasn't on top on my next cue she was off trying things herself. Love it! Crazy Fun.

Knight whipped around Novice Standard bringing home another Q. Again, focus on keeping it fast and super fun. He ate it up. Complete 100% difference from the dog I had in the ring last year. I'm hoping the combination of the lower jump height and my contagious excitement will keep reminding him why trialing is so much fun. Nothing beats that moment in the run when he remembers how fun it is. His whole face lights up with this goofy smile. Again, I'm out there, laughing like a fool and cheering on his excited romps.

Lilly's jumpers run ended the day with another Q. It was a tricky course. One that I really needed her to be "with me" for. We had a few shakey seconds... and then we clicked again.

The key to handling Lilly is trust and confidence. She really showed me that this weekend. Trust in our training, and confidence in my handling. Everything else falls into place. Every single time she went wide, it was due to me babysitting, hanging around a second too long. The millisecond I started moving in the right direction she would pick up speed.

Also, the extra weight she lost this summer helped too ;) Fun fact, last year her average was 2-5 points per jumpers run. Now 11 is her average. She rocks.

All in all, I love my paps so much. I'm evolving (slowly) as a handler. We laugh in the face of NQs and have just as much fun getting them as we do when we Q. Paps FTW