Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pinch Handler

In baseball there are pinch hitters and runners, and some times in dog agility you need someone to step in when you're not able to handle your own dog. If you're lucky, your dog and the pinch handler will mesh well and run well at a trial. If you're not...well...sorry about your luck, I guess.

Luckily, my experience was a positive one. After suffering my stress fracture at the CPE trial, Merinda offered to run Dally at the Hamilton AKC trial for me since I had already sent my entries and it's one of our favorite trial venues. I went ahead and withdrew Mesa's Novice FAST entry, since I knew there was no way she'd run for anybody else. For three weeks Merinda worked with Dally in Melanie's class getting some pointers from me and learning from Melanie about handling a non-distance dog. (Porter, her Cardigan, works very well at a distance from her, and he runs totally different from Dally.) I'd go along to the classes, but I'd take Mesa outside to work on other things that my booted-foot could handle on uneven ground.

Just a couple of days before the Hamilton trial, I was released from my walking boot, but I wasn't 100% yet. I wanted Merinda to still handle Dally as planned because I wasn't sure how my foot would handle things, plus I knew she had been working so hard trying to figure out Dally and giving more than 110%.

I couldn't have made a better decision. Merinda and Dally meshed quite well (though it didn't hurt that Merinda introduced Dally to tripe patties from the Bluegrass Barkery). Her first standard run, Dally was running great, but I think Merinda took her eye off of Dally for a split-second and Dally ran past a jump. No worries--that could have easily happened (and has happened) with me handling her. Her first jumpers run saw Dally popping out of the weaves, but still a solid run.

Finally Merinda was able to break through and handled Dally to her first Excellent B Standard Preferred Q (first MXP leg) on Sunday! It was a great run to watch. Unfortunately another weave bobble in jumpers meant no double Q, but at least we scored one Q with the experiment.

Let me tell you, it was hard watching someone bond and work with your dog. I knew Merinda was a great handler because she's a great trainer and teacher, but I didn't think the experiment would be as much of a success as it was. I'd walk the course with Merinda, trying to predict what Dally might do on the course and show Merinda what I would do if I were handling Dally. Then I'd tell her, "This is what I would do...but you're running her and I trust your judgement."

Oh, and I can't forget to boast that Merinda and Porter earned their first ever Double Q on Saturday of Hamilton, then on Sunday Merinda earned a Double Q herself with Dally's standard Q and Porter's jumpers Q. It was a great weekend for her, and it was great celebrating her success.

I'm very grateful to have such a good friend like Merinda that stepped up and offered to work with and run Dally for me. I had always offered to run Porter for her while she underwent her chemotherapy a couple of years ago, but she always sucked it up and had the extra strength gumption and ran Porter herself every time. I wish I had had that gumption to run Dal myself in my boot, but I think that'd be a little too awkward. :-)

(I had some video issues, but I was able to get a couple of Dally's run recorded, so they'll be up soon.)

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