Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Double Qs and Blues Times Two

Achievement Unlocked!!! Knight-man has all his Double Qs for the 2014 AKC Agility Nationals now!!!!

We're just over half way on points and Master Qs now, so still some work to do, but one requirement has been checked off the list!

All in a day's work

QQ #3
QQ #4

This past weekend we had a two day AKC Agility trial. Saturday morning was like a dream. Excellent/Master JWW 4-8"  was the first class of the morning. I'm usually a nut case for the first run of the day so I did not have any expectations in mind. Lilly was the 3rd dog in the ring and...... WOW. She just took my breath away. She broke 5 YPS for the first time at a trial in a FLAWLESS jumpers run. 

10 dogs later I was back in the ring with Mia. I was brimming with confidence after a flawless run with Lilly and Mia just ate it up. She not only ran it beautifully, she ran it a full second faster than Lilly for her first AXJ leg. Two for two first thing in the morning? I was on cloud nine. 

Knight's run was up next. I had just had two of the best runs of my life so I was ready to bring it. The Little Dude did not disappoint! I'm so proud of how far this little guy has come. Just last year I was dragging this dog around the trial ring. Now he's starting to give me lots of extension, he's tugging before runs, and he's wildly looking for the next obstacle when we finish our runs. Such a Rock Star.

I had a few people track me down throughout the day to congratulate us on our beautiful jumpers runs. They have no idea just how much their kind words of appreciation meant to me. Them being able to tell just how much fun the dogs and I are having out there means I'm doing my job right :) Here I was, with a crew of dogs that all had days where people doubted our ability to succeed, running full speed with confident, happy, and speedy partners. Life is good. 

The rest of the weekend followed in a similar suit. Knight-man was quite the knight in shining armor this weekend, pulling in 4/4 Qs and 4/4 1st placements.  While the Qs and Placements are fantastic, I was really blown away by his attitude. Every Single Run was approached with a strong desire to GO PLAY! He was TUGGING!!!! At a trial guys! He hasn't done this since whatever got into him back in October of 2011 when all his trial stress problems started. He wanted to play, he was pushing for speed, he was extending his stride!!!! I'm so so SO happy with him. It's easy for him to get overshadowed by the girls raw speed at trials, so I feel that it's important for me to stress just how proud I am of him and his accomplishments.

Lilly did not Q the most, but oh boy did she bring some competition!! I'm just trying to treat every single run as a gift. Q or no Q, I'm putting in 110% effort and she's putting in just as much to meet me there. This girly rocks. BEAUTIFUL RCs all weekend :)

Mia's Jumpers both days were to die for. She got a little nervous at one point in our Sunday Run, the judge moved and freaked her out for a second. But she kept her YPS over 5 both days! This is a dog that's just over 9" tall. Our timing is really starting to come together in Jumpers! In standard we still have some work to do, I rushed ahead on her teeter Saturday and caused her to jump off. Sunday I took extra caution- slowest teeter ever, but we did it! 

We have a lot of work to do to get our timing right in Standard, but she's having a blast out there. That's all that matters right now :) She's having fun, I'm having fun, the rest will come with time. 

I'm so grateful for every day I get to spend with these dogs. My dad has been SO supportive of my goals for Nationals this year. I can really see it in our grasp :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seeing Double

Another fantastic day of trailing. I was blown away by the confidence and speed I saw in all three paps on Sunday. Not just the paps though, I've started to feel so much more confident in my abilities as a handler too. There's less baby sitting and more running. Progress is being made!

I've always heard handlers say, "You never know when your last run with your dog will be; So run each run like it could be your last." But it never really sunk in until recently. Having to rush Lilly to the emergency clinic last month really snapped everything into perspective for me. I've always tried to make sure my dogs never know I've made a handling mistake at a trial, the primary goal each run was just to have fun. Now I'm chasing that down with new enthusiasm. Every time I stepped onto the start line with Lilly or Knight (still working on this mentality with Mia) I was prepared to make this the best run ever. We weren't just going to have fun, we were going to have a BLAST. Q or no Q, we'd run our hearts out. I'd cheer and laugh with a huge genuine smile on my face while my dogs raced next to me in the perfect picture of bliss. At the end of the run we ran out of there like we just won the National Championship, cheering, playing, and dancing around like fools. Best. Runs. Ever.

Lilly-girl's brags get to come first. She took to my more confident handling with a fiery passion and RAN with it. Just the confidence boost I needed to know I'm moving in the right direction. 4 years later, I'm finally starting to feel like I know what dog I'm walking into the ring with. She's feeling SO much better post-surgery. She's playing with me during our warm ups at trials, something she's never done before. She beat the YPS personal records she set last week with a whopping 4.95 YPS in JWW (big deal for a dog that could barely make course time two years ago). Her standard run was one of the best ones we've ever had. She was spot on to my every cue. Listened to all her turns and rear crosses, beautiful running contacts. Nothing but Pride for this dog :) She brought home another 49 points and a Double Q for 2014 Nationals.

I felt so connected in both of our runs. We've finally reached that point that I've been pushing towards. I know that she's having a blast, and I trust her to run with me. I, Hillary Graff, TRUST my papzilla to run with me! Some days, I was convinced this day would never come. Watch out world, The Papzilla is back in the agility world and she's ready to kick some serious ass in the 8" P class!

Next up is the Knight-man. WOW. My little dude just keeps getting better and better! He's coming back round to the happy speedy boy I see in our training sessions. Fantastic run in Jumpers. His weaves were to die for. By the end of the run his ears were back is "zoomie" position and he was clearly having the time of his life.

In standard, we had the best NQ ever. Sir Knight-man got pushy with me! Instead of waiting for me to release him off the table, he took off running at the sound of the judge's "go." This is not something he has ever done before, so my millisecond of standing still in shock caused a refusal for the next obstical. I've never been so thrilled to have such naughty behavior. This means Knight was chomping at the bit to get back to playing agility. Such a rock star! I can honestly say that I no longer feel like I'm dragging him around the course anymore. Before, he was doing it simply because he loved me and I asked. Now he's doing it because he loves running agility :)

Mia! Ooh Mia. I finally pull my act together with the other dogs just to fall apart on you! So sorry girly! She was my first jumpers run of the day so my handling was a little rocky and my stress levels were through the roof. I was watching her weaves like a hawk so my shoulders were directing her to the wrong end of the tunnel... things got sloppy for the next 3 jumps till I pulled my act together again. Ended on a nice note and had a party.

I'm proud to say, Mia has finished her Novice Standard title!!!! After a refusal on the first jump and nearly stepping on her while directing her to the first tunnel things picked up and went beautifully. Absolutely fantastic ending to a Novice title. Beautiful ending with a strong feeling of connection. She deserves extra cookies for putting up with me during our first run haha.

So to recap:
Lilly QQ
Knight JWW Q, Std NQ
Mia JWW NQ, Std Q and NA title

I'm madly in love with these dogs. They're the best.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cheer Team

Lilly "settles" while we wait for Riot's turn

Riot! Getting ready to go for his 3rd CD leg

Knight and Mia

The Whole Gang
Today we got to visit my good friend Jessica (who runs Focused K9) and her GSD boy, Riot, as they hopped back into the Obedience Ring for their 3rd CD leg.

He was so awesome all day. Riot only NQ'd after another dog flopped over onto his feet during his long stay. Seems like an odd call to me, but I'm an agility person, what do I know about the ways of obedience judging?  That being said, they really did look great out there!

It was absolutely beautiful outside, so we took the dogs for nice walk in the park after. Saturday well spent :)