See, LaMesa's permanent card for AKC was 11.1". Yep, that's right. We were unlucky when it came to her permanent measurements after her second birthday--it was at the Swedish Vallhund National Specialty, which was held in conjunction with a big AKC event in Concord, N.C., and it was just days after her second birthday. The measuring wicket was placed next to the jumpers course, and we had to be measured first thing that morning, or they wouldn't let us run. The two VMOs got her at 11.1" and 11.5". It stunk, considering she had earned her Novice titles at 8" (majority of our first runs there wasn't a VMO, so she had quick measurements before each trial up until then). So for about 1.5 years, she's been jumping 12-inch regular (which always surprised people when they'd see her line up).
At AKC Nationals this year, I was lucky enough to run into a former World Team member who gave me the name of two patient and understanding measurers. I later found out one, Tom Slattery, would be our judge at the Hamilton AKC Trial in May. So Merinda and I plotted and decided we'd have both Porter and LaMesa measured at Hamilton. We waited until the very end of the trial on Saturday (and, of course, it went small to tall) and both dogs got their measurement--both at 11". Perfect! However, we then discovered you needed two measurements for a challenge--very similar to getting your permanent card. That night I talked with different people, including a Corgi friend from Colorado, and got more names of good measurers and I decided I'd wait until the right trial to get LaMesa's final measurement.
That ended up coming a lot faster than I expected. While at the Derby City Agility Association trial in Buckner, I mentioned LaMesa's challenge measurement to a couple of friends. Everyone instantly said I should Mary Mullen, a judge who was there competing with her husband, measure LaMesa. I had never heard that she was a good measurer, but after about the tenth person telling me to have Mary do the challenge, I bit the bullet. Mary agreed to measure LaMesa immediately after her jumpers run (which would be tight, since I needed to walk the course for Dally soon after). So I filled out the form, warmed up LaMesa, ran her (which ended up being a train wreck of my poor handling), then met Mary at the table.
It didn't take long for Mary to get LaMesa to relax. She had me step away from LaMesa (which is different from Tom--he had me scratch her under the neck/chin to get her to relax) and she worked away on the wicket. She couldn't believe someone wouldn't take the time to work with my pup to get her to 11"--she was so close! Mary ended up getting her at 10 7/8"--good enough for both of us! And that was it--LaMesa is now officially an 8-inch Regular jumping Vallhund! The relief I felt was massive--this will do so much for her longevity, not to mention help her keep the bars up!
Merinda decided to have Porter done, too, after hearing about the success with LaMesa. Mary ended up getting him close to 10.5"! So now Porter is in 8-inch Regular, 4-inch Preferred! Of course Dally isn't too keen on having her "boyfriend" compete against her in 4-inches, but she'll get over it. Just more competition, right Merinda?
So I was able to run LaMesa in 8-inch regular a week later at the Hoosier Kennel Club trial this past weekend. The AKC rules say that if I had gotten her measurement before our jumpers run, we could have run 8-inches because that measurement is final and is active. But, that's alright.
I'll give a full report on the Hoosier trial later--let's just say the only reason why bars went down for LaMesa was because of timing issues. But, still it's a relief to know she's now at the best height for her!
Here are some tips to do a challenge measurement:
- Do some research on measurers. Talk to people at your trials about VMOs and AKC representatives and see about others' experiences with them.
- Let the VMO know this is a challenge measurement. They'll want to know why you're doing it, and you can be honest with them. I think honesty is definitely good because then they know the situation and can work with you.
- Do not do a challenge measurement at the beginning of the day. If you're able to, wait until the end of the trial, when you've already run your courses and you, your dog, and the VMO are more relaxed and not pressed for time.
- Wear your dog out. LaMesa had run two courses, plus I really wore her out for the first measurement by having her run score sheets back and forth with me. You definitely don't want your dog amped up for the measurement!
- Listen to the VMO--if they give you tips like scratch your dog's neck/chin or to step away, do so.
- Do not bring treats to the table--that just amps up your dog because he's then looking for treats all the time and standing taller.
- Work with your dog on the measuring wicket with different people before you do your official measurement--I had friends of all types (male and female) work with me and LaMesa on the table for months.