At my last workshop, Denise Fenzi mentioned how to get over ring fear. She said to write out the worst case scenario. This is to live it and think of it over and over to the point it doesn't really matter anymore. I thought this was rather crazy and I didn't want to go through this emotional roller coaster. So I didn't. I went to three shows and right in a row got my Rally Novice and Beginner Novice title. I was on a roll, I didn't have to do that writing of a crazy story.
Nope, I didn't have to write the worst case scenario because today, at my first shot at my debut of my Novice A trial, I got to live pretty much the worst thing that could happen. Mind you, this is what I would have "thought" could happen, not that it would and guess what, it did, today!
I have dreamed going into Novice A for 20 years. Thinking I'm now really doing obedience competition. Mickey a seasoned service dog who does so well with public access, awesome with loose leash walking in stores malls and restaurants where there are many people and food smells around. He's flown in a cabin with me, been on a train, trolley, boats, etc. He is a great service dog that does his work well. Now, let's put him into competition obedience.
The temps were horribly hot today. When I got home at 4PM, my thermometer on my porch said 96 degrees. I got to the show somewhat early, about 11:10am. By the time it was time for Mickey and I to show, it was loosely around 2PM. Mickey was panting a little heavier and his tongue was hanging out longer. A week prior, I had e-mailed the show organizer about my accommodation with my microphone and today made sure that the ring stewards were aware. Judges in the past had worn my microphone with no problem and were told about it ahead of time. They were extremely willing. I thought today would be no difference. I told the judge about my microphone and he said he wasn't told about it and he wasn't going to wear it. I'm 5 seconds from going in the ring and this judge doesn't want to wear a microphone that I have used for an accommodation for the past 25 years at several college courses, lectures, business meetings and is a well documented accommodation. Who wants to argue with a judge? Especially when you are nervous and probably coming across a bit more frantic than normal. I told the judge that I'm not just a "little hard-of-hearing, but that I have a moderate to severe hearing loss." He still said he didn't want to wear it. I then said, "what do you do when someone is deaf?" He said I stand in front of them to make sure they will hear me. I said, "will you do that for me?" He then decided to wear it. The sad things was, I was so nervous at that point, I have no idea how I was coming off to the judge and of course this tension was most likely going right down to the leash of Mickey who was a little warmer than usual.
We went to the ring gate and Mickey wasn't really paying attention and kept looking to the left of the ring where there was a light breeze. "Ut oh" I thought, he smells his Kong from the crate. We enter the ring and Mickey's attention was still left. We walked into the right and went into the corner to start our heeling pattern. It was hot. Mickey did a weak heel but was there, as we went further into our exercise he started shifting his nose in the wind as if he keeps getting a whiff of his Kong. Drifting 1-2 feet from me. It was as if he was air scenting. I kept going thinking maybe he will realize oh, let's work together. Things were falling apart more and more. I didn't want to get upset with him and just kept going. As heeling was non-existent and sometimes him heeling on the right side, I could see his mind was on that Kong, that smell that kept drifting into the ring. Many times I have had a Kong in the distance and he would check in with me to get it, but something else was up. The heat? Me still uptight for the challenge of my reasonable accommodation? Most likely the combination of the heat, me uptight and he wanted his Kong. Ok, at least I know what to do the next time.
Half way through the exercise my ear receiver for the microphone flew out of my hear and pocket. I fumbled to pick up the device. Judge was talking to me, not realizing when the device is out of my ear, I HAVE NO EAR TO HEAR! I picked it up and stuffed the ear piece in my ear and the unit in my pocket. Can we say, Comedy of errors? Who is putting on the show here? The ring nerves to the max.Yes, and here I am proudly writing about my worse ring experience. I lived to tell about it!
Everything kept getting worse, I kept going. Tried the stand for exam and he wouldn't stop. I remember the judge saying earlier don't command them again when you stand them or you will get a disqualification or NQ, I didn't, but Mickey didn't want to stand. What? I can do this in a restaurant, Target, Wal-mart with screaming kids running around, but not in this ring! I have been practicing and he did such a beautiful job with this in Beginner Novice. It is like we haven't practiced for a year and just threw ourselves in a ring.
We tried the heel off leash and well, there was no connection. A dog that I have awesome eye contact with where we gaze in each others eyes like a love affair, just not there today. WOW! I mean, we have been sloppy before and even with a practice run two days before, we weren't the greatest, but good enough to qualify. This just got so bad, Mickey tried to leave the ring and the judge excused me. In all honesty, I'm surprised he didn't dismiss me sooner. I was just a frozen walking person not knowing what to do when my dog just wasn't connecting. Oh I know, I can and will get a zillion words of advice, but I actually know what to do, but that's for another blog entry......
I was numb and stunned as I left the ring. Did this really happen to me? It's what I get putting the pressure to get my CD before the end of the year. OK!!!! Guess what happens when you push. It blows up in your face. When you pace right, things work more like magic.
As I walked back to my crate area, the steward brought me my microphone, he walked away. I looked in that case a minute later that had the microphone unit and then checked my pocket...OH NO!!! Where is my hearing aid!!! The thought of loosing a $3,000 hearing aid that your life depends to function, like looking your glasses, your cane, your wheelchair. My work really depends on me to use it. OH NO!!! I was going to run back to the ring because the visual person I am, envisioned the person currently in the ring stepping and crushing my hearing aid. As I was moving quickly, this root that was anchored in the ground that Mickey earlier tried to pull out was sticking up high and WHAM! I went flying face forward in the dirt. UGH! My leg muscles cramped BIG TIME, both of them. The fall didn't hurt, but the "charlie horses" sure didn't help me try to get back up.......BUT! as my mind raced as I fumbled with my legs to get back up on my feet, I need to hurry back to the ring before my hearing aid gets stepped on and CRUSHED! Doing poor in the trial didn't matter anymore, my ear was there. A co-exhibitor ran to me and said, "don't worry" I'm like yeah, she doesn't know what it is like to NOT have a hearing aid that I need for work, my livelihood and to communicate with people. She said she would run to the ring to see if they can find it. I decided to look in the case again, and sure enough, there it was. My hearing aid fine and all ok.
I certainly could go through a long list of being grateful I didn't sprain my angle on that root, or Mickey didn't get heat stroke or who knows what else could have happened. I'm still alive and well, I didn't have a heart attack, etc. My hearing aid is just fine as it was when I started out the day,. I HAD a ring experience today. I got out today, which me fighting fatigue is good thing when I can get out. If you are going to do something, do it well and if you are going to screw up DO IT WELL!!! Nothing like experiencing to the fullest.
I know people do not think the way I do, but for me, I really think I would rather get an NQ than a low score. I honestly would have felt worse with a low score. It is like I have another chance to really show the hard work we do. Mickey does have high penitential for getting a score of 196 again, like in Beginner Novice. I realize Novice A is harder than Beginner Novice, but he does have the potential to do that well. Now I have that chance to get it, that I don't have only 2 more chances, I have three. A chance to show what my boy is capable, which really is an exhilarating feeling! Yes I know, after qualifying, no one knows your score, but this is a dance to me. It means so much to me, if I can get my head right, we can work and achieve this. I do believe Mickey and I have that potential. Why sell us out short? It is my way of thinking. To want to show that some deaf-blind person and her quirks can actually succeed very well. No one understands that really.
But I always remember my dad's advice that I carry with me. My dad always told me when I use to be so extra careful when trying downhill skiing, "you are NOT skiing if you do not fall!!!" YES! That means I'm now really doing obedience! Then when someone says "you don't know what it is like to do bad," I can say, "I have had all kinds of experience" with a big smile on my face. I have been seasoned well.What a great experience!!!!