The night before my second and third showing for my Novice Rally A class and Beginner Novice A class, I was reading a book on "tips" that were sharing about reality. It shared that some of the best dogs and teams mess up. That I might not qualify at these two shows. I was humbled, but also nervous of the unknown. What will happen? But it gave me a sense of it is OK to not qualify. That alone reduced my stress.
The morning of the show I woke up tired and dragged. I was trying to tell myself I had a show to attend and I better get moving. My body still dragged. I was cursing my fatigue and joint aches because I just couldn't move faster. I ended up leaving an hour later than I originally planned. I had enough time, but I wanted to be there extra early, since that is my nature. The extra early person to make sure everything is in place and ready to go. But with fatigue and health issues, this makes it much harder. I try my best. I left at 8:00AM. It was a Saturday morning. Driving north and through Los Angeles, from San Diego to Ventura was easy sailing.
The three hour drive to Ventura County Fair Grounds gave me time to think of a lot of different things on my way. My thoughts covered, what I read the night before on cloths to look respectful to a judge and how will I present myself, etc. I was driving nervously and with slight tension. Oh I know this is bad because any slight tension I have, goes right to Mickey. He's such a sensitive boy, that sometimes he doesn't know what to do. He will check out and go some where else. But in a truck it is hard for him to escape, he needs to stay there.
As I drove north and passed the Ventura County line, it was overcast and cool. What a sigh of relief! When I arrived, I had 45 minutes before the printed time for my class to start. I looked at the map and started heading out towards where the map showed the obedience rings would be located. It was clear on the other side of the parking lot. As I hurried, I ended up in no man's land, going in circles, going right, going left, looking at the map. DANG! I need to find the rings to check in! Time is ticking away. It is now 30 minutes until my class starts. CRUD! Where are those rings!! I saw all the conformation rings and the concentration of people and dogs. I then went in buildings which had even more conformation rings. Wait a minute, I KNOW how to read a map! I really do! What is going on here. I ended up asking people. Turns out they had to move the rings to a different location. Ah HA! I knew I had map reading skills! So off I went into the direction the woman pointed. Turns out they were situated to the front by the parking lot!! I checked in about 20 minutes before the time for my class was suppose to start. As I checked in, turns out they were behind and I had some 20 more minutes to get my act together. Now to scout around for a spot to put my things. Another adventure!
People crammed in tight. As I scanned around, I realized there is no way I am going to be able to set up my canopy. Ok, so I will just bring Mickey's crate. It was a nice overcast beach weather and I can roll down my windows of my truck for Divine. It had a constant sea breeze to keep her cool. I dragged out Mickey's wired crate, grabbed my suitcase on wheels and off Mickey and I went. A nice woman helped carry my crate part of the way, I thanked her several times and thought she was so kind to go out of her way to help me. When I got to the ring area, I couldn't find anywhere to put my crate. I asked one woman who tweaked her nose at me and did not want me to put a crate next to her tent. Not that I like to "run away" but who wants to be around a person like that? I found a palm tree in the back, a breed ring away from the obedience and rally. Well, its a spot! I pulled out my blanket to cover Mickey's crate and put him him. I then got lunch. two little soft tacos for $8.00. Yep, fair food. Always highly expensive. Thought the tacos were just right, light, some vegetables, chicken and a tortilla for sugar energy. Just what I needed. I ate 1 1/2 of them.
Went back to the Rally ring and discovered that I didn't get to walk the course. The judge was exceptionally kind to allow me to walk it right after Rally Novice B. I walked it two times and out I went, right back to Mickey. I took one more bite of my taco, took some water, put Mickey's special obedience show ring leash and collar on and off we went. Got to the ring and they said you are UP! I'm like REALLY? Three people didn't show so I didn't realize it was my turn THAT SOON. OUCH! I was late! What a painful lesson, won't do that again! Mickey didn't even get to walk around to get use to the area, boom we went right into the ring. Mickey instantly started to sniff the ground. Not because I was all stressed, but this area reeked of urine all around the area. Even I could smell it and it was a strong smell too. Because they moved the rings to a different location, that previous area was a potty area. When you watched many dogs, most of them had this issue with the smelly ground in their own way. Some sniffed, some rolled, some had to leave their handler and check out an area. Dogs will be distracted, but this was more than usual.
As I walked Mickey through the course, there wasn't a lot of attention. I got nicked for a lot of "tight leash." It is hard when you go one way and your dog goes the other to check out all the variety pee spots. With about 2,500 dogs entered at this show, who knows how many dogs peed in this area before it became a ring area. A good guesstimate would be 1,000!! Could be more. I call this the good distraction show. A good place to learn. For Rally Novice A, getting Mickey's attention is harder. But, we ended up on the first day with a score of 81 and the next day 83. I really wanted to do much better the second day, but the same issue with distractions, bumping into Mickey and his attention else where. But we still qualified. Honestly though, my focus has been on obedience and the scores reflect that. Rally has been just a fun side thing to get Mickey exposure and ring experience for obedience. I think Divine will shine better in Rally than obedience. I will practice a bit more before entering Rally Advance. I most likely will not enter Rally the next show, I want to concentrate on the Novice class. My goal is I really want to get a UD on Mickey. Rally can wait. Mickey is 7 1/2. I saw one age charge for his size of dog to be like 55-56 years old. Honestly, Mickey doesn't act or function this old. He's more like a late 30's or early 40's. I will continue with him, monitor him carefully.
My obedience experience was a good one. I did some warm up exercises with food and a little play. This was to help Mickey get engaged. My last show I had no treat warm ups. I learned from the first time to best have some kind of warm up to get him to remember we are going to heel here.
We walked in the ring. His heeling had some issues and we did have some attention issues, but then the last half of the heeling we did much better and he started to get in the game. We then went to the figure 8 beautiful! IT was nice, nice eye contact and nice pivoting. The stand for exam was good, and the sit stay was good. Then, the last exercise. The recall. I set Mickey up, called him to me and I was in shear delight! He did it perfect. What a gorgeous straight front! This is what you want to see in a Utility class!!! I just loved him for this and we ran out of the ring and ran to play with his Kong. He deserved it!
We were called back in for the awards. Six people were in this class, only two of us went back in for qualifying. I was stunned when the other girl got second place and then when the judge handed me my ribbon and medallion, she said the score was 196. I was utterly shocked and said, NO WAY!!!! and the judge responded YES WAY!! in her dynamic fashion. The judge was Bonnie Lee from Las Vegas, NV. That evening I was just so happy. I just couldn't believe we could get such a score. Will it happen again? We are in beginner novice. Can I do this again in Novice? Open? Utility? To think! But I need to get there and work, work, and work! I don't want this to be a one time excitement, but it gives me hope that if I keep working, it can happen. I also have to be careful with emphasizing "work" as this also needs to be a FUN dance with Mickey and myself. Our love affair when we lock our eyes with each other and gaze like love birds. This magic is what I awlays want to keep. I don't always get it, but boy when I do, scores show it!
The past week I had worked with Mickey and took him every place I could think of to get him out and exposed. I took him to two new parks. I took him shopping. I knew this would make a difference because before our debut show, I didn't do this. Mickey is no longer my 24/7 service dog. I forget that he's at my house A LOT. I have to really put conscious thought and effort that when I get home from work, I need to take him out and about. This method I think worked.
Next show day at the Ventura County Fair grounds: the sun was out, but about an hour before my Beginner Novice A obedience class, the wind was really blowing. Score sheets flying every where and blowing all over the ring. Tarps and table covers flapping. Even I started to get cold. But, I thought, we could get a 200 score today. We could. Then I told myself, don't do that to yourself, you might not! Don't get cocky, just blend and work with Mickey. I had to really work on my frame of mind. This is about you and Mickey in your love affair with each other, not stinking POINTS! You go there and you will loose.
We got in the ring, some goof ups on the heeling, the wind was blowing so hard the signs turned and fortunately I remembered what one sign said. I took two steps past that sign and because I walked the course several times prior, my memory kicked in and said, "YOU MISSED A SIGN!!!" I took another step and my brain remembered, "SLOW!" and I started the slow part of the heeling. Whew, that saved me! The figure 8 had a little bit of issues, and the recall he ran right past me. What happened! MICKEY! Wait, yesterday you did it as well as a Utility Dog and just now, you ran to the fence and sniffed, just like that German Shepherd did earlier in The Novice A class. We got a 188 1/2. Not that bad really. That is a score to be happy with, no it isn't highly competitive, but it is good.
As I was driving home, I shifted that Mickey screwed up to realizing what "I" did. I turned into the stiff soldier and looked straight forward slightly above normal. What happened is I didn't connect and look at Mickey. Mickey interpreted this as, "oh, you are not connecting or paying attention to me, I can wonder as pleased." But what an awesome lesson to learn this early in the game. What an awesome thing I realized it was me, instead of blaming my dog. That was growth. Now I know how to get that gorgeous recall. Remember that Mickey is STILL THERE, this isn't about standing tall to over impress a judge, it is how well Mickey and I connect and work together.
I have the most awesome dog. He is capable of doing it all, its up to me how I work in our dance.