I've been meaning to write up some entries about Tessa's CPE experiences since her first CPE trial in March, but I haven't had a chance with all of the work that the last couple of months of school required. But here we are close to the beginning of summer break and I can finally take the time to sit down and write all about it.
Tessa's first CPE trial was back in March. I entered her in Snooker and Colors on a Friday evening. I thought this might be a good introduction to the venue since there would be less people present and it would be a bit quieter on the Friday evening. This was a wise decision.
I had very mixed emotions about taking Tessa to this trial. On one hand, I was eager to try CPE with her and I've always loved Westminster. On the other hand, Westminster trials were always a "Maddie and me" thing. Because it can be loud there, I never take Dean. So Westminster was always "girls day" with Maddie. And she and I always loved that. She also ran very well there, and Snooker was Maddie's game. She loved Snooker and excelled at it. I knew that I was going to be missing Maddie the entire time, and that, while I would also enjoy being there with Tessa, it was going to be a tough hurdle to get over.
But it had to be done. I was enjoying NADAC, but I missed CPE. I missed the games, I missed the atmosphere of the trials, I missed the people, and I really wanted to go play CPE with Tessa. If I'm going to do that, all of the "first time without Maddie" hurdles are going to have to be cleared. CPE Agility is going to have to become something that Tessa and I do together, and not just what Maddie and I did together. Fast forward to now, and this is definitely happening. But back in March at Westminster, we were literally taking the first step and it was kind of emotional for me at times.
Westminster isn't a "dog place", as many of the other trial sites are. It is an indoor sports complex. Tessa found it very overwhelming at first. She hesitated even going in the door because there was a set of two doors with a small vestibule in between. That's a "small room" to Tessa, and she is wary of small rooms. But another dog came along and went in before us and Tessa tucked herself in behind that dog and went through the entry. I hadn't seen her do that in ages and it showed me how strange and unfamiliar she found this particular venue.
It didn't get better once we were inside. The first area we came to was an area along the side of the arena separated from the Agility field by plexiglass. I doubt Tessa has ever seen anything like this in her life and she was set to turn tail and get out of there. But . . . there was noplace to go. The doors behind us were closed and, to her perception, there was really no way out. So she followed me down the hallway, slipping on the floor all the way!
I honestly didn't realize how overwhelming that was going to be for her, but really there was no alternative than to just get through it. Once we came out into the area where crating was, she found some relief. There she understood that she was in a "dog place" and she was eager to get to a spot of her own. I set up her crate and she popped right in, obviously glad to find herself somewhere familiar. As yet I don't think she realized that there was an Agility ring very close by!!
After that I had to get her measured. That took some doing, but we got it done!
Then I needed to go to the car to get more of our stuff. Tessa did not want to go back out into that strange corridor. She hesitated at the entry to it, but when I went that way, she followed. She didn't slide around quite as much this time, and she stayed very close to me as we moved through. I was a bit concerned that she might not go back in the other way when we came back, but that wasn't the case. When we returned, she entered with an air of "I know what we're doing now". She hardly slid at all that time, and she obviously understood that it was merely someplace we had to go through to get to the "dog place'.
I am proud to say that by the end of that evening, Tessa was literally prancing down that corridor, tail held high and eyes bright with confidence and pleasure. I think she felt a real sense of accomplishment in having conquered a fear of a strange new place. Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing this just a bit, but clearly she went from almost panicked at first to downright pleased by the end, and she clearly felt very good about that. And so did I. There was a time when I doubt I would have gotten her in there and watching her become comfortable with it that quickly was a real testimony to how far she has come, and how ready she really is to be out and about doing these things.
End of Part 1 - More to follow about the Agility portion of the evening in Part 2!!