Mickey and I danced yesterday. We trialed in Newbury Park, CA (Thousand Oaks). The temperature did get up to 87 degrees and there was some humidity. I love the coastal chaparral of the Conejo Valley area.
I had such success with my mind set at my last NW3 trial, I needed to get into that mental mode again. it is about making Mickey happy. At the trial, I couldn't be too animated because it was warm, but I did have an occasional whoop whoop, which always gets Mickey's spirit up. Mickey is an awesome dog. He always did what I told him to do, even when I'm pushing him. He is such a compliant dog. He tries so hard. I'm so blessed to be partnered with this fantastic dog.
For the last six months, Mickey has been recuperating from his Ilioposas injury. He has had laser, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment and aqua swimming. Two weeks ago he stopped limping after doing nose work searches. So my hope yesterday was him not to limp and Mickey to have a good time. If Mickey can learn that trials are ok and fun, he will look forward to them. If he learns I am stressed out, and not attentitive to his needs, he will learn to dislike trials.
When I first come to a trial in the morning, I like to see who is there. I also like walking around to see who needs help with their canopy. This interaction and chatting with folks gets me in an upbeat mood. The more trials I attend, the more people I know. I got there early, so I had plenty of time to set up my "stuff" and time to help others.
The morning we started off with vehicles. We had to have it in a quad area of the school since a group doing an NFL challenge took the area they were going to do vehicles. So our trial got squeezed in a much smaller area. My attitude was, show me where to search and I'm OK. It was about 11:00am when we did our run . It was hot. There were four vehicles between two buildings on concrete. There was a light breeze.
As I stood at the start line, allowing Mickey to get a whiff of the odor, I let him go. He did start drifting to the sides, but I brought him back to the vehicles. I tried to cover all my vehicles best I could. Mickey did want to go in the shade or over to a bush. "Drat" I thought, he is getting too hot. Eventually I got him to one car and he started sourcing odor. He alerted, and it wasn't as strong as he normally does it. The past week I've noticed his alerts have been not as distinct. I took him away and brought him back, he alerted again, I called, "Alert" and the judge said, "Yes". I tried to cover the other vehicles but Mickey wasn't showing any interest what so ever. I couldn't tell if he was hot and not interested, or there was no odor. It is a hard call to know when your dog is checking a vehicle.
I heard the 30 second warning and 15 seconds later I called, "Finish!". I tried to be happy for Mickey, but the back of my head kept thinking, "was there another odor?" That was on my mind. Surely there must have been another odor, I kept thinking! But we happily walked back to the parking lot, trying to keep Mickey's spirits up and he did get happy. Whew, ok Christy, don't over think this thing. You are not going to know until the end of the day anyway.
Our next element was interiors. We have option off leash, and all three rooms I did off leash. At level NW3, we do three rooms. The first room was an instrument storage room. It had two sliding doors and in the center a large storage shelf/bin. As you walked in the door to the left, there was a bunch of stuff stored to the right, so you couldn't walk through there. Mickey found the threshold hide immediately! Wow good boy! and I had him walk down to the end, then around the back to the other side of the storage shelf/bin. We walked up and no interest until we got to the front where the second door was located. So we made a U. Mickey went into the corner, and I wasn't sure if that was pooling odor from the first hide, Even though there was junk there, it is open enough odor could have pooled. Mickey alerted, It just didn't seem strong enough for me so I pulled him away, sent him back in, a strong alert, I called, "alert!" and judge said "yes"....which good call I was thinking, it wasn't pooling odor. I turned around, had Mickey check corners, when to the other side, Mickey went to the first odor he found and I called finish.
The next room was the band or music area. Parts of the room was taped off. I sent Mickey, he found one odor, I covered the rest, he showed no sourcing behavior, went back to the first odor two times, I called "Finis!"
Last room was the teacher's office. Just the judge and I were in the room because there was a big window in the wall and in the door. Mickey searched and I had him go in corners, he went back to the door and sniffed the crease of the door. I could tell he was getting odor but he didn't alert. I bet he was getting some odor from that other room. I didn't call alert on anything and just said "Finish!"
Out we went and I actually felt good about these hides. Si I bounced back to the parking lot a little happy. I could tell Mickey's attitude was good. It was important that we just take everything in stride.
I had my lunch and had a nice long sit in my chair and rested. The temperature was getting hotter. Occasionally we did have a breeze.
Then it was time for the exterior. Due to having a small area to do our trial because of the NFL challenge and a few other events, our exterior was right next to our vehicles. At lunch time the CO had the cars removed and then placed the odor.
Knowing that it was hot, I wanted to have Mickey's toy with me. He sometimes gets too fixated with it, but I also wanted to get his spirits up after the hide. The problem, he smelled it on me. As we started searching in the exterior search area, Mickey kept looking back at me for that toy, I had to cue him several times to "go search." It was getting really irritating. I knew exactly what was happening. So I had to do a more mechanical search with Mickey telling him where to search. Low and behold, he found all three odors and I called finished after the last odor, and pulled out Mickey's toy. The whole idea of the toy was to keep his spirits up and I actually accomplished that. Was he focused? More on the toy than odor, but I was able to get him to search. He knew he had to search before I would give him the toy, but I was holding out after the third odor or until I called finish. Normally I would not do this, but it was hot and how he dragged on vehicles, I would say he was more engaged over all for the exteriors.
Then containers. They were large tins, similar to what you see for popcorn gifts. Two were trash can distractors. But Mickey is rarely distracted by distractors if he knows he can't get to them. We went through, he and I (all the dogs were) tired going through this last element. There were a lot of spectators and Mickey wanted to run over and say "Hi" to everyone. I pulled him back into the search area. Found two containers he alerted, I said "Alert" and after the second one I said finish.
Wow, what a day. No nos, all day. So now the wait to see if I got my title. This is the hardest part about trialing at NW3 level. You just don't know due to the unknown number of hides. Most people start talking to find out what others found. I didn't do that. I didn't talk to anyone. I wanted to hear from the Certifying Official (CO). The wait really isn't that long, but when your anxious, it does seem long. I did walk over to friends and they were about to tell me and I said I don't want to know. One said it would drive her nuts. I said I want the great feeling that we might have a little longer in case we didn't. I walked away and waited.
Everyone started to slowly walked up near the room we were going to have the debriefing. The CO posted where the hides were located. People were looking and I waited. When the group cleared away, I walked up, went through each block and OH MY GOSH!! I got all the hides!!! People congratulated me, I got a few hugs....but I said, we have to make sure I didn't get more than 3 faults. They laughed. I was thinking there were two places I could have faulted.
We went to the debriefing and hearing the CO and judges, It started to sink in that I most likely titled. They gave out all the ribbons. I got an element title for Exteriors and vehicles. Then they were handing out titles. They kept calling names and not mine. The table was becoming more and more bare. Do they have a title ribbon left? I started getting anxious thinking, maybe I didn't title, then the last name they called was "Christy and Mickey' I was so elated! We did it. Our second NW3 title. Now the next big hurdle is to get into a trial, then title!
The biggest thing that didn't happen in this trial is I didn't go blank. I have had issues of going blank I don't know what to do. I wasn't overly anxious or nervous. Yes, I had a little nerves going, but those are the good nerves that keep you on edge. I had the right amount. I have suffered from trial anxiety in the past. I have been worked up over a trial, which sabotages me. What helped me get over this is what a Sport Psychologist taught me. She is certified to counsel and coach the Olympic Equestrian team. I wanted her over any other sport psychologist because she knew how to coach when you have an animal involved. Most top sport psychologist are for football, softball and other big popular sports that they don't have to deal with a living animal. What my Sport Psychologist taught me was to have compassion for Mickey. While waiting between searches, I sat and wrote how much I love Mickey and what a wonderful dog he is. I didn't do it a lot, just enough to bring a different set of hormones out in me, not my fear, but my oxytocin. I really think this helped Mickey a lot. I even noticed walking to our last two searches he was Mr. Happy. And I embraced this and connected with him during our walk to the last two elements. I kept it in my mind that It was about him and him being happy.
I remember one trial I was so upset I blew an element, Mickey really went downhill after that and I saw what my disappointment did to him. It broke my heart. I also told myself, it isn't fair to him. I did this at twho trials and after that, I changed my outlook and it has work.
I was proud to find out I did not get any faults. I will have to find out later our ranking. I'm never really fast, but my goal was to title the whole trial and get the two element titles.