Friday, April 2, 2010

Where We Belong

Man, oh man. Rather than make it all suspenseful and drag on the story forever (kind of like I did after our very first trial in November), let me just cut to it.


Today could not really have gone much better. Our first taste of AKC agility - our first runs under its newly instituted Canine Partners program - was deliciously sweet.

As I hope will be the case several more times this year, I woke up at the crack of dawn and geared up for a long day out at the park. Louie (thanks so much for everything) was at my house before 6 AM, and we were at the trial site before 7. After what looked like some intial nerves to me, Marge settled down and trotted around in the dew-soaked grass. My feet were completely immersed in water within minutes of getting there.


She was measured by the AKC field representative, who was extremely nice and patient with Marge, who was somewhat afraid of his hatted, sunglassed, and tall self. She measured 20.5", putting her well within the 20-inch jump height range.

Then, the wait began. My good friend from the club offered to let us stay in her tent, since Louie, Marge and I are still basically trial nomads (think I'm going to invest in a tent later this year). This turned out to be really good for Marge, who was able to settle in her crate repeatedly for long periods of time, even while I left her with Louie to go walk the courses.

Novice Jumpers with Weaves was the second class to run in the first ring, following a smallish Open class. I have the course map in a folder somewhere, but haven't uploaded it yet.

All of a sudden, I found myself back in the ring with Marge. It feels like it's been an eternity since we competed, and, in many ways, still felt like it was our first time out (it kind of was).


We ran really well on this course. I knew the opening would cause us trouble, and it did. I know exactly what I did wrong. But, I didn't fret about it then and I'm not fretting about it now. Why? Because Marge came out of this run with a big grin on her face and her tail swooping back and forth. One silly off-course kept us from a qualifying score, but nothing - nothing - could stop our happiness.


Then, more waiting began. We walked around a lot, hung around the crate a lot, mingled with friends from both near and far. Though there were a couple of things that took getting used to (like the sudden voice coming over the loud speaker), Marge ultimately took everything in stride. This may not be the usual indicator of a dog's comfort, but she even pooped in public. On leash. She hasn't done that in nearly a year. Don't worry, no photos of that.


After at least two or three hours, I was back in the ring again, walking the Novice Standard course. I do have the map of this one uploaded to my computer. I could already tell from the map that this flowy course was one that Marge and I would enjoy immensely.


And, we did. You'd better pinch me, because I might be dreaming, but Marge QUALIFIED in this class with a CLEAN RUN. It was close on the teeter (because she thought it was the dog walk and barreled over it quickly), but the rest was flawless. Really and truly flawless.


We were a few tenths of a second out of first place. We went and got our second place rosette.


Our future trials won't be perfect, and many won't be as good as this one, but I think this was just about the best start we could have gotten off to.

While talking to a friend, he said to me that he knows that "it is not easy," referring to our shared experiences of working with fearful dogs. I told him that no, it was not easy.. but that this makes her come alive. And, then I thought to myself, that this is why I do it. This is what makes it all worth it.

I'm so happy I could cry. Not because of the agility - but because my dog spent nine hours at a park today, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, and actually enjoyed herself. Because my dog slept in a crate. Because she tried to play with other dogs (and only grumbled at one). And because of the image that will be for ever embedded in my mind of Marge clearing the final jump and spinning around to look at me with an expression on her face that seemed to say, this is where I belong.

32 comments:

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom April 3, 2010 at 12:49 AM  

Our smiles are as big as the ones I'm sure Marge and woo are sporting!

KHONGRATS!!!

Hugz&Khysses,
Khyra

houndstooth April 3, 2010 at 1:30 AM  

We're smiling with you! Way to go to both of you! Congratulations!

Carolyn April 3, 2010 at 1:32 AM  

WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!

I admit I got some tears in my eyes after that last run (video). She's got it, and you did it!

You guys didn't just do good - you did freakin' GREAT!!!!

CONGRATS!!! (for so many reason!!)

-C

Training my Mammoth April 3, 2010 at 1:36 AM  

CONGRATULATIONS!!! That is SO FANTASTIC!

I can't tell you how many times I kept checking Facebook today to see how you guys did. I was pretty nervous/excited on behalf of you! I guess because you're the only other Novice A person I know that's competing and is about the same level of ready as we are; any Novice A people I'm training with (and there are only 2 others) aren't planning on trialing for a long long time.

I forgot that you had done NADAC! The Gloria that you mentioned in the post, is she the one with Diesel the Lab? They're in Layla's Wednesday morning class. He is insane, I've never seen a Lab as fast as Diesel. I thought he was a crazy puppy, like a year old, I couldn't believe it when she told me how old he was.

I'm so, so happy for you guys. I LOVE the pictures of Marge. My favorite one is either her big smile after the first run, or her relaxing in the chair. It's so great that she loves the atmosphere. Thanks for the videos, too! She really looks great!

I'm going to have to invest in a tent myself. I'm trying to find one that's not expensive, and that I can hopefully set up by myself. Pat doesn't get a very flexible work schedule, so I'll probably end up going to a lot of the trials by myself. If you come across any that look easy to set up, let me know.

I'm absolutely petrified about my own first trial, and I'm not even entered anywhere yet! I just know how Layla gets her first time out at places. She acts like a crazy dog, like she hasn't had a day of practice in her life, and like she has no idea what any commands are. So I'm trying to prepare myself that the first couple trials might just be very expensive training sessions to get her calmed down, but I still won't be able to help feeling embarrassed by it.

I really can't tell you how happy I am for you guys. I agree, it couldn't have gone better!

My Name Is April April 3, 2010 at 1:56 AM  

I too wondered when Daisy would realize that she found her forever home. I waited for the moment when the "light would come on" in her head and it didn't take long either! I relate to your happiness completely!
By the way, Marge looks good in red!

Sara April 3, 2010 at 6:27 AM  

Tears in my eyes for all those Q's!!!!!! Your official Q, but even more important all those personal, harder to earn Q's of the day. Congratulations. You've earned them, after all those hours of love, patience, and dedication spent helping Marge maneuver through the scary world around her.

Marge looked full of joy while she was running, especially in that standard run.

Big Cheers for you both!

Dog_geek April 3, 2010 at 7:48 AM  

Woweee!! Great job - congratulations to you and Marge! I hope that B's debut goes as well, but I have no idea what to expect for her.

Ricky the Sheltie April 3, 2010 at 7:49 AM  

WooHoo!!!!! We are so happy to hear things went well yesterday - congratulations on your Q! Marge did great during her runs and in between. It is just so awesome that she felt that comfortable and relaxed and happy! Gosh, Sam, you are doing such an amazing job with her! Way to go!!!!

Mango April 3, 2010 at 8:12 AM  

Marge is so happy doing her agilities! She was totally focused. Hey, jump to weave is hard! Contact on the dog walk was great. Congrats to both of you.

Kisses,
Dexter

giantspeckledchihuahua April 3, 2010 at 9:06 AM  

Awesome! JUST. TOTALLY. FREAKING. AWESOME!

You don't have to cry, I'm doing it for you! It's a wonderful thing when someone, through love dedication and respect, can take a fearful dog out into the world for fun in a busy, confusing enviroment and win!

Congratulations to you and Marge!

Thanks, Louie, for the videos! I take back the threats and all the bad things I said about you!

LauraK April 3, 2010 at 9:57 AM  

How exciting! I'm so happy for you girls- your runs were beautiful, and Marge is definitely loving her job :) There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing that smile on dog's faces just proving how much they love agility.

Looked like a gorgeous day to be trialing, I'm excited for outdoor trials to start up- but that doesn't happen until May or June around here.

I'm so glad that your first AKC trial went well, I'm a little nervous about our first one! Awesome job, thanks for sharing!

mayziegal April 3, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Oh Marge and Sam! Did you know your post and videos made my mom all kinds of leaky? We know how very much hard you've worked to get here and we are both Most PROUD of you!

Big HOOGE Congratulations!

Wiggles & Wags,
Mayzie (and leaky mom)

Kari in WeHo April 3, 2010 at 11:28 AM  

Congrats! looks to me like the both of you had fun and that Marge was comfortable with the whole experience!

Bijou April 3, 2010 at 11:28 AM  

CoNgRaTuLaTiOnS Marge & Sam!

We are very proud of you!!

Waggles,
Bijou

AC April 3, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

I stayed up late last night waiting to see if you would post. What a treat to come back from my morning hike to this amazing news!!!

Yay Marge! Yay Sam! While I watched the videos I kept thinking, "Does Marge realize that she's surrounded by people who are staring at her? And there's a judge in the ring? And that loud speaker?!"

I'm so happy for you! This seems like such a confirmation of all your hard work. And to get that beautiful red ribbon on top of it all!

I'm going to re-watch Marge's videos now!

Muttsandaklutz April 3, 2010 at 12:33 PM  

Your post has brought tears to *my* eyes! I'm SOOOOO happy for you! Huge congratulations are in order to both you and Marge. Way to go for all of your accomplishments. Well done!!

Jules April 3, 2010 at 1:25 PM  

Great post! I am SO happy for you and Marge.

Sue April 3, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

I have tears in my eyes, I am so very very happy for you both. You've worked so hard for this. I'll bet you're walking on air today with a big silly grin on your face. Enjoy, you earned it!!!

Channon April 3, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

I have tears too... of joy! That's so wonderful, for you and for Marge!! Congrats!

The Army of Four April 3, 2010 at 2:47 PM  

Our mom's all teary-eyed for some reason, too!
What a great, great, GREAT success story! For BOTH of you!!!!! Ha rooooo! Way to go, Sam and Marge!!!
Tail wags,
Storms

KB April 3, 2010 at 4:42 PM  

I've got tears in my eyes. I'm so HAPPY for you and Marge. Your last paragraph said it all, and the last photo captured it. Marge looks like she's in her element, with her best friend, you.

BTW, K has that same phobia when she's stressed (the pooping in public one)... so I know what a big sign of relaxed happiness THAT was!

Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!

BRUTUS April 3, 2010 at 4:49 PM  

WAY TO GO TEAM MARGE!!!!! We KNEW you could do it! Congratulations on a hugely successful outing in all ways! A Q and a 2nd place to boot? Woohooooo! I'm sure you'll be basking in the glow of your success for a long time, as you should! You both SO totally deserve it!!

Michelle & Brutus

Cinnamon April 3, 2010 at 4:50 PM  

Hi Sam and Marge,

Congratulations on your achievement! I am so happy for you!

Love,
Cinnamon

Diana April 3, 2010 at 8:11 PM  

Wonderful runs!!! Congrats! Diana

River April 3, 2010 at 9:02 PM  

How beautiful and professional she looks! Congrats on the success of the park visit. WE are so proud of you!

love & wags,
River

Kathy April 3, 2010 at 9:58 PM  

OMG, that brought tears to my eyes knowing how much you have both worked for this. WOW, you did so awesome, you let Marge do her job and to me it looked like you ran like you train-it did not look like you were running just for a Q, it looked like you were out there to really run with your dog, you did not cheerlead but you kept Marge happy so perfectly, you looked so confident like you had a plan and felt good about it, seeing you look so confident had to make Marge feel good, I love how you handled any mistakes, I am sure Marge had no clue there were any mistakes-just like it should be and MARGE, WOW, she was amazing-even on the video I can see that huge smile of hers!!!!! WOW, and a Q to boot. I thought Marge would like AKC type of courses, and she sure seemed to. CONGRATS!!!! THAT IS SO AWESOME!!! Give Marge a HUGE hug for us and tell her her cyberfriends here in CA are soooo proud of her!

Dawn April 3, 2010 at 10:26 PM  

HOW WONDERFUL!!! You and Marge had fun and that's the most important thing! Amazing that she was so comfortable all day, and she sure loves to run with you! Congratulations on the Q too!

Lorenza April 3, 2010 at 11:42 PM  

I am so happy too!
Congratulations to you two!
Pawesome job!
Kisses and hugs
Lorenza

RILEY AND STAR April 4, 2010 at 12:42 AM  

Oh Our Gosh! Look at that beautiful Red Ribbon! Congratulations to both of you. You deserve it for all the hard work you do. We know you must be very proud!

Have a wonderful Easter!

Luv,
Riley and Star.

Ruby and Penny April 4, 2010 at 4:22 PM  

Congratulations. Marge looks very pretty wearing her red ribbon.
Glad Marge had fun.
Love Ruby & Penny

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart April 5, 2010 at 8:03 PM  

Congratulations. I'm so jealous.

T April 6, 2010 at 1:14 PM  

Oh Wow!!! Congratulations!! You have accomplished so much!!

Awesome!!

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