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.
Friday, April 2, 2010
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.
MargeBlog started in early 2009 as a training journal for my newly adopted, skittish Lab mix, Marge. Marge's world was small back then; her fears really limited the things I could do with her. Aside from trips to the park and attending beginner training classes, Marge was mostly a stay at home gal - not because either of us wanted her to be, just because the demons from her unsuitable upbringing continued to haunt her.
Slowly, the fear diminished, her world grew. Now, Marge is a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing, winning Agility and Rally dog who accompanies me to a wide variety of places. Here, you will frequently find detailed training updates, snippets from Marge's every day life at home, and photo-filled posts detailing our many outdoor adventures.
This is more than just a dog blog - it is an actual look in to what one shelter dog's life ultimately became when she found her first and forever home and began to blossom.
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A rescue from Georgia bounced around from shelter to shelter and state to state with her siblings, Marge did not have the luxury of living in a home - my home - until just past her first birthday. A life behind bars had taken its toll on Marge, whose obvious fear of people, noise, and city life in general left a lot for her to learn about how to get by in New York.
Marge is a different dog now than she was back then. It took years of new, positive life experiences, but her fears, which used to consume everything we did, are now only one theme in a great big book of adventures.
These days, Marge enjoys going to training classes, taking trips to agility trials, having play dates with friends, and eating anything that's even remotely edible - not bad for a dog who spent her puppy days in cages.
My time with Marge has been a learning experience for which I am ever grateful. As my first dog, she has taught me and continues to teach me so much more than I ever imagined about dogs, training, and behavioral/fear issues. She's a fun dog with a sense of humor who loves life and learning.
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