2012 saw some subtle but definite changes in Marge's running style in agility. Still plagued by random slowpoke runs contrasted with blazing fast runs out of nowhere, one thing that has gotten more consistent is Marge's overall performance. Unlike 2011, Marge qualified in the Standard class several times. The teeter and table became less of an issue for her. She also boasted an even higher Q rate in Jumpers than ever before. These two things considered, this meant that we stood a pretty good chance of picking up some double Q's at trials.
Marge finished the year with a total of 4 QQ's, 167 MACH points, 7 MX (Standard) legs, and 15 MXJ (Jumpers) legs. Of that tally, 3 QQ's, 141 points, 6 MX legs, and 12 MXJ legs came in 2012.
AKC Nationals are coming to the East Coast in 2014. 2013 will be the qualifying year for the event. Nationals only come this way every 3 years, so I figure that if we are to ever go, 2014 is probably our best shot. (Marge will be nearly 10 years old next time it's here, in 2017.)
Qualification information for the event has changed; to qualify, you now need 4 QQ's, 20 total legs between the MX and MXJ classes, and, get this.. a whopping 500 MACH points.
Clearly, I know where our problem lies. With a decent amount of showing, Marge can easily reach 4 doubles and 20 total Q's within a year. But 500 MACH points? I'm not sure she can do it.
I oscillate back and forth between wanting to make a try for it and brushing it off as too difficult. The problem lies in that if I truly want to try to qualify, Marge's show schedule will need to be beefed up considerably. That would be the only way to even come close to that amount of points. To put things in perspective, Marge showed about 25 days (equivalent roughly 12 weekends) this year and only scored 141 points. She'd probably need to show closer to 40 or 50 days to amass the points needed, assuming an even higher Q rate and even faster runs than she had this year.
I have basically decided this: to not decide just yet. Marge will be entered in at least four days of shows in February and March. She will probably show another four or five days in early April alone. She could come out swinging and rack up a hundred-plus points right from the get-go. Or, she might slug along with a high Q rate but not enough speed. There really is no telling with Marge.
Based on how well she does in the beginning, I will decide if a bid for Nationals is viable for us. If it is, and I see that she is enjoying an increased trial schedule (which I happen to think she will enjoy a lot), then I will continue. If it's not, or I see that Marge is not enjoying herself as much as I'd like, then I will enter the same amount of trials that I have in years past.
There are other questions surrounding an appearance at Nationals, should we even qualify. For example, if it conflicts with my or Louie's school schedule, then there's a good chance that we won't be able to go. There's also the money issue, since increased trialing for qualification purposes is a financial strain I'm not sure I can afford (and Nats entry fees are not cheap, either). Lastly, there's the issue of whether Marge will be comfortable in a setting like the AKC Nationals, where multiple rings are running and loudspeakers are on and people are all over the place.
But, the joy of getting to trial with my dog more often, and the thought of realizing the feel-good story of scared-dog-becomes-agility-champ, are definitely two motivators for me.
My honest prediction is that we won't make a try for it and will settle on a different, less lofty but still respectable goal (like working our way back in to the AKC's Top 100 Mixed Breeds list, or finishing our MACH within the next couple of years). But, it doesn't hurt to dream, and I'm not pushing a run for Nats outside the realm of possibility.