Sunday was an early morning, with walk-throughs starting at 6:30. Dally was one of the first dogs on the line, so I had to get there to walk the course, walk her, and wake her up and get her revved and ready to go. And of course this was a morning that Dally decided to not poop before our run, which made me nervous (while she's never done it on an indoor course, she has been known to eliminate some extra weight right before she climbed the Aframe, which is what I was worried about her doing in Hybrid--trust me, it's an agility handler's biggest fear and embarrassment).
The opening for the Hybrid course was a very demotivating one for all dogs, especially Dally. She's the kind of dog you don't want to do a start-line stay with because that demotivates her from the start, and it's hard to get her going after that. With Dally, I'm more of a rev-her-up-drop-and-go handler (as you have seen from my videos) because that's what works--make it a game and make her chase me. But with this opening, and with my heel still hurting badly, I couldn't easily do that--so I had to rev her up, then tell her to wait real quick while I got into position--this confused her greatly (not really what you want in Round 3 of Nationals). It was a slow, but steady run--we were clean, but just two seconds over the standard course time, which left us with a score of 96 (three points for every second you're late). I had hoped to have a clean Hybrid round for a cumulative score of 300, and a better chance at making the Challengers Round. Instead, the score of 96 placed us 10th in Round 3, and I was nervous it would hurt our chances for a fourth run on the weekend.
|Revving Dally up with the tennie before|
So then the long wait began... It had been my primary goal to make it to the Challengers Round. I wasn't sure if Dally would be fast enough to win it, but just to be in that round is an honor. (Deep down inside I had a goal of making it to the finals, but once I saw how slowly Dally was moving on the weekend, I figured it'd pretty difficult to get into the top three in our jump height.) After a couple of hours, I went upstairs to the computers and stared at the giant screen for what seemed like forever, chatting with some handlers in my height class, just waiting to see who made the Finals and who would be challenging for the fourth Finals spot. I chatted with the gal who ran behind me all weekend, with her (very) Miniature Schnauser, Dudley. She was just happy to have qualified for Nationals with all the problems Dudley had had last year. I felt the same way, but my competitiveness wanted more. Finally, the results came up and there was a "C" by Dally's name--we made the Challenger's Round! It was time to walk her until she pooped and study the course map.
After 20 minutes, or so, of walking around the fairgrounds in the chilly air, studying to course map, Dally did her thing and it was time for me to do mine. I stood by the ring for more than an hour waiting for our walk-through (they were running behind, but no one bothered to tell the mass of people waiting to walk that it'd be a while before we walked). That was the worst part--the waiting. My foot hurt, I had to use the bathroom, my mind was playing tricks on me from the course map--so many things were going through my mind that I just wanted to walk the course, then get my dog and run. After walking with the rest of the Preferreds, I raced to my crate to grab Dally (we were the third dog on the line). I got her warmed up and moving--threw the tennie, did our stretches, focused on my plan. It was time to line up....and then it wasn't. (There was an error on the gate sheet where they had the #1 dog in our height running in Challengers when she didn't have to.) So I pulled Dally out of the line up and tried to get her focused back on me. Again, time to line up.... Wait...there's been another mix up. So, again I pull her out and keep her focused. People with little dogs were picking them up, allowing their leashes to swing to the ground, each time hitting Dally on the head, in the face, or on the butt--she did not approve.
FINALLY...it was time. The crowd was roaring for each runner because in Challengers (I don't have the video from that run, yet, but I will soon) you give it all you've got--it's all or nothing. Winner moves onto the Finals, the rest enjoy a seat in the stands and start planning for next year. When Dally and I finally got on the start line, the crowd started cheering, which spooked her more than I thought it would. She started over the first jump for the opening 180 (yes, the judges love those now) and when the crowd cheered, she jumped sideways between the two jumps towards me, causing a refusal and the crowd to go "Awwww..." No worries. I pushed her back around and we continued through the course....slowly. Dally was stressing, and I was fighting back the stress of not wanting to lose my dog in front of everyone--I just wanted to finish the course.
|Dally enjoyed a beef tendon while we watched the Finals|
Round--she deserved a special treat and time with her
We made it through...she popped out at the end of the weaves (which caught a lot of the top teams, since they were weaving white poles towards a white fence with a white wall behind the fence). I decided not to make her go through the weaves again because I wanted this to be a positive experience for her, not a stressful one. We weren't going to win Challengers with a score of 90 (that is, if we made time), so why force it? We ended the run, and I picked her up and hugged her, kissing her head and thanking her for being my partner through the weekend. It was an emotional ending to the weekend, and I was glad it was over...
TO BE CONTINUED....