Sunday, October 3, 2010

I Love You, East Freehold

Let's take a look back, shall we?

In November 2009, Marge and I made our agility competition debut at East Freehold Park at a tiny NADAC trial on a damp and gloomy day.  Our first run was a disaster, with zoomies of epic proportions and Marge's premature exit from the ring.  Our second run, though not a qualifying run, was a huge step for a dog who had only been training in agility for six months.

In April 2010, we trialed at an AKC event for the first time ever, again at East Freehold Park, on the first weekend that mixed breeds were allowed to run with the purebreds.  Our first run was absolutely wonderful, and though a handler error kept us from qualifying, I was as happy as could be.  Our second run was even better - a clean, qualifying Standard run - and we earned our first ribbon ever.

In October 2010...

Yesterday, we were back for more.  We arrived around 10:30 or so, giving me more than an hour until we were due in the ring.  We set up with our good friend, Gloria, and milled around the trial site, saying hello to those that we knew (and there were a LOT of our friends there).  Marge was cool as a cucumber.  I firmly believe that she knows this site and loves this site.. maybe it's just that I love this site and she picks up on it, but I like the former explanation better.

Once again, I looked at my Open Standard course map, and thought to myself about how wonderful the course was.  It didn't require a huge lead out, which would take the pressure off on the start line.  The only issue I saw was at the end of the course, where I had to get a cross in somewhere near the teeter.  Best of all, there was no automatic table.. just a plain ol' judge's count.

But, we didn't get that far.  I walked Marge in to the ring, and before I knew it, I was walking her off.  Again.

But it was different this time.

At the start line, I had to wait a few seconds for them to set bars, for the judge to be ready, and all of that. I stood right behind Marge, my hands on her shoulders.  I pointed at the jump.  She lurched forward.   She has never done that at a trial. She wanted to GO.

I ran on the outside of the Dog Walk (I credit Sara and Oreo for planting the idea in my head) to block Marge from the ring steward and the outside of the trial.  But it wasn't fear that brought her down today.  It was excitement.  She did the #1 jump and the #2 walk with no problem, but when I tried to send her to the tunnel, she veered sideways and wound up on the other side of the ring.

Rather then get frantic and call her, though, I just stood in place and waited for her to realize where I was and what I wanted.

She came back, but still didn't get in the tunnel... she jumped on top of it.  People laughed.  *I* laughed. Then she took a jump, then went up the A-Frame.

The judge said, "Once you harness this power, you're going to be unstoppable."

I said, "I had it harnessed for a little while.  I think I'm going to take her over a few obstacles and walk her off."

And I did.   I took her over 5, 6, 7, and 8, told her "good girl," and walked her off.  I gave her a few cookies (er, meatballs) afterwards.

I met with my friends, and the first thing they said to me?

"That's not stress.  That's a GREEN DOG."

And I knew it in my head, too.  She wasn't stressed at all.  I didn't feel it like I did at the last trial. She wasn't looking sideways at the start line.  She wasn't looking for Louie.  She didn't sniff, or lick her lips, and although she ran amok, she wasn't really running zoomies.  She was excited and lost her mind. She was taking obstacles. She wanted to take the obstacles.  She was self-rewarding and didn't need a handler!

You'd think that I would have felt horrible after this attempt at a run, just like I did at the last trial, but I didn't.  I was actually in a good mood.

So was Marge.  Look at her, playing with her Portuguese Water Dog classmate, one of her best doggy friends, who I was thrilled to find in the tent next to me.  She also initiated play with Diesel, the black Labrador who she used to despise, and Spirit, a Golden Retriever who she hasn't always been great with.

I kept saying aloud, to convince myself.. she wouldn't be wrestling with Star if she was stressed.  (She never wrestles in the first place, she's not a very diverse playmate for other dogs.)  She wouldn't have her back turned to the trial going on outside the tent and doze off in to a sleep.

And so began the wait until Jumpers.  So began my thoughts about what would happen, if I would go home with two No Time runs.

I liked the course.  It was a tunnel opening, which, again, the agility gods must have conspired to give me so that I wouldn't have to worry about start lines.  I walked the course and, though I had a plan, I could feel myself giving up, thinking I wouldn't be able to run the whole course anyway.  I tried as hard as I could to snap my tired self out of that line of thinking and just go in there and do what had to be done.

I went in to the ring, and was told to wait, because they had to fix a tunnel that had gone awry after a powerful dog bumbled through it.  I ran up and down the side of the ring with Marge as I waited.  I went to the start line, told her to wait, tossed her leash away.  I waited for eye contact, I released.

And it was over before I even realized we were running.  It was wonderful.  She was still flying high, and I definitely got lucky that the run was as nice as it was, but we did it.  She read my crosses.  She did the obstacles that I directed her to and no others.  And we qualified.  Our first Open Jumpers leg.

I needed that.  I needed it so bad.  Maybe I'm dramatic. Maybe I am spoiled with a dog who flew through Novice in 4 trials.  Maybe I am quick to react after only one bad weekend of trialing.  But that doesn't mean I can't feel bad when my dog is stressed or doesn't want to work with me.  I needed her to show me that she still wanted to trial, and she did.  By goofing off and jumping over a tunnel in Standard, by playing with her friends, by connecting with me and running to a 2nd place finish in Jumpers.

It's not about the Q's.  It never has been. If it was, I wouldn't have been so upset after our last trial, because the runs were pretty darn close to qualifying. It's about Marge being perfectly comfortable in a sea of people and dogs, with sights and sounds and smells all around her, playing the sport that she loves.

I love you, East Freehold Park!  You always come through and give my dog a great day out.


Sara October 3, 2010 at 6:23 PM  

I'm so glad you had a good day!

Your positive spirit is back, and that is going to go a long way.

I went to a seminar for stressed dogs today. She said, "If you're not feeling it that day, then definitely don't bring your dog in the ring."

Maybe that was part of the problem at the last trial. It surely wasn't there today.

Congratulations on two happy runs!

Sue October 3, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

Wow, she looks like she's having a great time.Certainly looks relaxed and happy to me. Congrats, you two.

BRUTUS October 3, 2010 at 7:06 PM  

AH, SO GOOD TO HEAR! Sounds like you have some great friends there too. Congrats on the run, and moreover congrats on having come so far! Go Team Marge!!


houndstooth October 3, 2010 at 8:18 PM  

I'm glad you and Marge both had such a great time there! May you have many more!

Chris and Ricky October 3, 2010 at 9:12 PM  

WooHoo Marge and Sam! So glad you had a happy and great experience at the trial yesterday! I am thrilled that you decided to go and look at what happened! I love the video of Marge's open JWW! She is flying around that course! Totally awesome! Congratulations on two amazing runs!

andrea October 3, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

so glad you had some challenges and worked through them
and even gladder (hmm not sure that's a word) you had success too :)
major congrats to you both

AC October 3, 2010 at 10:07 PM  

Yay for a good trial!! I loved watching Marge in the video. She looked on top of the world. She was certainly in her happy place out there.

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog October 3, 2010 at 10:19 PM  


Amy / Layla the Malamute October 3, 2010 at 10:55 PM  

Ahhhh I'm so happy for you guys!!! I'm most happy that now you know it's excitement and green dog and not bad stress. I agree, you needed that! I can completely imagine the weight off your mind now. Such good news! And congrats on the Q too!

Amy / Layla the Malamute October 3, 2010 at 11:31 PM  

PS ~ What a fantastic compliment from the judge!! That's freakin awesome.

KB October 4, 2010 at 9:09 AM  

You both looked GREAT in that run. Marge was so fast but also looking to you for direction. You both look like you had a great time!

I especially like that you were able to produce that run after a first run that didn't go as you hoped. Your attitude about that was awesome, perfect for both you and Marge, which is probably a big part of why you had such a wonderful second run! Yay!

Cyndi and Stumpy October 4, 2010 at 10:48 AM  

I'm just about in tears, I'm so happy for you and Marge!

Kathy Mocharnuk October 4, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

That is exactly what I thought was going on with Marge last time and what I have had to go through with each of my dogs, ....they are STELLAR the first few trials....and then....THE BUG HITS, and they want to go, all of a sudden your nice Honda Civic turns into a Mazaradi and it is a bit shocking and takes a little while for all the excitement to wear down and focus. You and Marge ROCK! I really see the thinkng behind running on the other side of where you were going to...but I personally would never run on the outside of my line I was going to run, it might actually cause Marge to look to you and notice the judge more, and with Marge who is very fast, very smart and very driven you want to always handle as consistently as possible she she watches your body language so well, and as she gets faster...and she is going to become a lot faster very soon-you can tell she is that kind of a dog... if you keep giving her consistent will need to depend on her trusting your body language, she turns toward you and she prepaires to turn the way you are going, if you are on the outside of that arc you either have to teach her to ignore you or she is going to be very confused. Just keep doing what you have been doing and trust the journey, Marge is really a very awesome girl, she is just takng those training wheels off so there will be a few falls. .

Gus, Louie and Callie October 4, 2010 at 5:55 PM  

Marge we are so proud of you and your Mom. You both are doing so well..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Dawn October 6, 2010 at 7:26 AM  

You go Girls!!

NCmountainwoman October 6, 2010 at 3:12 PM  

I cannot believe how far you have brought Marge! You must feel so good about it.

Cinnamon and Mint October 6, 2010 at 5:19 PM  

That is really cool! Congratulations!!

Kari in Alaska October 6, 2010 at 9:52 PM  

Oh wow those are big ribbons! Congrats on the awesome weekend. Sounds like you have a favorite home site which isn't unusual!


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart October 7, 2010 at 3:12 PM  

Terrific news. Marge looks so pretty with her ribbons.

Muttsandaklutz October 10, 2010 at 7:46 PM  

Oh, wonderful! I'm so happy that she showed you she still LOVES, loves, loves this game. Sounds like East Freehold holds a pretty special place in your and Marge's heart. :)

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