At the end of December, I took Tessa to her first Agility trial. Technically, she wasn't ready, but I needed really needed to get my first trial without Maddie over and done with and I wanted to take Tessa. So, I did. My goal was not to qualify or to meet any particular standard, but just to go and enjoy an Agility day with my girl.
Tessa surprised the heck out of me. She was far more ready than I had expected her to be. She came very close to qualifying in all four runs, and this was in NADAC where times are super tight!
Since that trial, everything has been different with Tessa at Agility class.
Last winter, of course, Tessa was just getting started with her training. We literally started, just a year ago, with her learning to follow a lure. She had miles and miles and miles to go before Agility would even be on the radar.
And during that time I really came to appreciate Maddie as my Agility partner. Here I had a dog that I could go out in the ring and try anything with. She knew what she was supposed to do and we could just enjoy herself. I will never forget, in particular, one day when there was a course of almost all jumps and she was just powering over them, having a blast. She was so smooth, and strong, and in command of her jumping.
So, I really took the time to enjoy the slow ride with Tessa. She struggled for the longest time with jumping simply because she lacked the confidence, but we took it one step at a time. She was nervous about tunnels because she had to go into them, but we went slowly and she gradually became more comfortable with them.
Everything was perfect until Maddie died. I really lost her on two levels. First, of course, I lost her for who she was and for who she was in our household as a beloved companion. To this day I miss her every time I walk in the door and she's not there thumping her tail like mad. But I also lost my Agility partner. We had a rapport, we understood each other out there, and running with her really was like a dance.
And suddenly, trying to run with Tessa seemed clunky and disjointed. I felt like I was out there with a total stranger and it felt all wrong.
Now, I realize that was part of the mourning process. Tessa literally started Beginner class (just out of foundation) the week we lost Maddie. Really, her progress has been lightning fast. But at that point, it felt like it was taking forever.
But we went on. I made myself be patient and every class she made slow but very steady progress. By December I started to notice something about Tessa - she was actually working just as hard as I was out there. She was actively trying to figure out what the heck I wanted her to do and she was trying to do it! And when I understood that, I began to really appreciate that about her.
We ended up getting something far better than Q's at that trial. We finally became a team. Since the trial, she has become my Agility partner. I can't explain what the difference is, but now Tessa and I are in this together. Yes, she still has skills to learn and she is very green. And I still have a lot to learn about handling her. But something changed in a big way. I feel it every time I step into the ring with her.
It is like we have discovered our own language and we "speak" to each other out there. It's still pretty basic right now, but we're "talking"!! And it's only going to get better and better!!
Tessa gave me a tremendous gift that day - one that I will not fail to appreciate.
I still miss Maddie and I know I always will. Tessa does, too, I know. But I feel better about Agility than I have since I lost her. I am enjoying it more with Dean than I have since then, as well.