Sunday, June 23, 2019

Three YouTube Channels!

A big part of the reason why I rarely write blog posts anymore is because I have gravitated much more to creating video.

I have three YouTube Channels and I would like to tell you about them!

The first is the one that I post to the least.  That is my personal YouTube Channel where I post personal videos.

This is where I post my entries, and most of the public videos on this channel are Parkour entries and video Freestyle entries.

There are some older training videos on this channel, but the majority of the recent videos are entries.

This channel can be found here:

Kristine's Personal YouTube Channel


The next is probably my favorite: my general Poised for Success Channel.  I post my "fun" training videos on this channel, there are examples of Parkour and Freestyle training on this channel, and other random training videos live on this channel.

It is a bit disorganized, but most of the videos on this channel are short and to the point!  If you would like to check out an eclectic mix of training, demonstration, and even a bit of nonsense, be sure to take a look at this one!

This channel can be found here:

Kristine PFS - My General Training Channel

Finally, the one I am most excited about: the Poised for Success Freestyle Titling Program YouTube Channel!  This is the most organized and developed of the three channels.

On this Channel I post longer videos where I discuss different aspects of the Poised for Success Freestyle Titling program, Freestyle training topics, general training topics, and more!  Eventually, I hope to have full-length Freestyle demonstrations on this channel, as well!

Please do stop in and check it out!

You can find this Channel here:

The Poised for Success Freestyle Titling Program YouTube Channel

Please, stop by any or all that are of interest to you!  If you select "Videos", you will see a menu of all of the public videos that are available on that Channel!

If you particularly enjoy any of them, please do leave a "like" and a comment!  I'd love your feedback!

And if you really like any of the channels, please do consider subscribing!

I do create videos on topics by request!  The Clicker Training video on the PFS Titling Channel was created by specific request!  So, if there is a topic you would like to see covered, just let me know and I will see what I can do!

Bandit's Truncated Tango


Yesterday, I got something of a very pleasant surprise when someone on a Facebook Group recognized me from this blog!!  It was totally unexpected!  And it meant a great deal!

And, after that I got the idea to stop on in here and write a brand new entry!!

As much as I would love to go back and fill in all of the blanks that exist from the last time I posted and now, what I really want to do, and what I am going to do, is just pick back up as if I never stopped blogging, and write a post about something that just happened.

These days, Bandit is my Freestyle dog.  

Dean, whose back end doesn't work so well anymore, is enjoying a quiet retirement with short hikes as his main activity.  Tessa, who is still doing well, and is reasonably active, also enjoys hikes, and we are still involved with Parkour.  I do have one last Freestyle goal for Tessa.  We are just one leg away from her Melody Title in Poised for Success Freestyle.  If we film her Artistry Leg, we will finish that up.  I would like to do that, so we probably will at some point.

                                    Dean Dog enjoying a hike in a nearby State Park

I do dabble just a bit with Rocky with some Freestyle, but he is more Ben's dog than mine, so my training with him is more casual on-again off-again.  I "borrow" Rocky often when I need to film a demo with a dog who has not been trained for a certain skill!

But, for all intents and purposes, Bandit is my Freestyle dog.  He is the one who goes to the building weekly to work on Freestyle.  He is the one with whom I spend the most time training and building new skills.

My main goals for Bandit right now in Freestyle are to work on the skills that he needs to earn his Harmony Title in Poised for Success Freestyle, and also to work toward creating demo routines for the Dynamic Division for the venue.

I do plan to enter a WCFO competition with him in November.  He needs one more leg toward his Novice title, and I would like to finish that.

One goal that I did not have for him was further work in the Cyber Rally-O Dance Divisions.

I love the CRO Dance Divisions.  I love the concept of pattern dances.  I enjoy working toward mastering performance of a specific structure.  I have always wished that they came around when Dean was a little younger because we thoroughly enjoyed them, but he got to where he could no longer had the physical ability to do them after we had finished the pre-Bronze Level.

Bandit, on the other hand, does not love too much structure!  He prefers things much more free-form.  He generally does not enjoy repetition, and he is rarely thrilled when he does not have input into how things a movement sequence is going to go.

I like for my dog sport activities to be those that an individual dog of mine and I mutually enjoy, so I long ago gave up any plans to continue with Bandit in the CRO Dance Divisions.  Especially since he particularly seemed to dislike duration heelwork!

Then, a few days ago, the owner of the CRO Dance Divisions made a post on the Cyber Rally-O Facebook Group to announce some modifications to the existing rules and patterns.  I saw at that point that one of the Preliminary Level Patterns - the Scenic Route Tango - had been chopped in half to provide a shorter option called the Truncated Tango.

I saw that and thought, "maybe Bandit and I could do this".

We had the building rented that evening, so I set up the proper sized ring, set up the camera on a tripod, and we gave it a shot!

 It was such a great experience!

First, we attempted the whole pattern "for real".  To my surprise, Bandit was "in the game" for the whole pattern!  His nose hit the ground several times, but he returned to offering attention when I quietly said his name.

That was an enormous success right there!!

So, to sharpen it up a bit, we went through it again, with food and a clicker.  I clicked good focus, and a couple of times used the clicker to help Bandit self-interrupt that nose touch to the ground.

Here is a video of our first attempt and the first of our two training runs:

After that, we did another training run, and then took a short break.  He hung out in his crate and then we played around a bit with a target.

Then, we went out and tried it again, "for real" and ... WOW!!!  We had a great run!!

I can honestly say that for the first time I felt like Bandit and I were connected and moving together as a real heeling team!  I could see that he was working to keep his focus up and to work with me!!  That is the first time I have ever seen that from him in a heelwork context!!

Here is the video that we submitted for our Truncated Tango!!  I will have results within a couple of weeks!!

Now I am really excited to work with Bandit more on heelwork.  I think we will work with a couple more of the CRO Dance Division patterns and see what we see!!

One really cool thing is that Bandit and I had been working on an option toward our PFS Harmony Title that I believe helped prepare us for this!!  We had been working on a Floor Pattern with Transitions.  I had been using reinforcers in a way that was very motivating to Bandit as we ran through the shorter heelwork pattern.

If you would like to see that Floor Pattern, and some of the other things that Bandit and I have been working on, check out this video!!  (As you can probably tell, I am very much into video these days!!)

To anyone reading this, thank you for stopping in!!  I am glad to "see" you here, and hope to be back again for another update soon!!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Find Inspiration! Be Inspiration!

Today I am going to talk about something that I have held back from sharing for a long time.  It is my hope that through writing about this, you will take away something good.   💜

When I look back to my earliest days as a dog trainer and dog sport handler, there was a "spark" that drove everything that I did with my dogs.  It was fresh.  It was exciting.  I had a lot of hopes and future expectations.

I used to pack my dogs up and dash off to Rally, Freestyle, and Agility competitions, and I simply could not get enough of any of it!  Even working with "challenging" dogs did not deter my enthusiasm, drive, and high interest in training and dog sports.

In recent years, however, some things have changed, and I came to a point where I continually struggled to find motivation and drive to continue on, especially with Canine Musical Freestyle, the art and sport with which I had once fallen head over heels in love.

This was somewhat confounding to me because I was not able, for quite a long time the exact problem.  I realize now that I did not yet know what the issue really was.

But I have come to a point now, through something totally unexpected, and completely unrelated to dogs, where I realize precisely what was lacking, and what I needed to finally make positive changes.

What Happened?

Looking back, I would say that there are two particular things that led me to the low point where I found myself.

First, Speedy's death.

When it came to training, and especially to Freestyle, Speedy was my inspiration.  There was something about him that always made Freestyle a dynamic adventure.  Whether we were noodling around to music by ourselves, or training something, or filming a performance to enter in a titling event, or performing in front of a live audience, Speedy brought something to the experience that made it come to life.

When I think back to the time and the work and the struggle that I put into training and performance with Speedy, I almost find it hard to believe that I was that driven!  Something about Speedy always brought forth the best in me, and giving up on him and on the things that we did together was unthinkable!

I found it incredibly difficult to continue in the sport after losing him.

One bright spot in my life after losing Speedy was the continuing quest for Tessa's C-ATCH.  Tessa and I both put heart and soul into chasing that down, and that accomplishment will always be one of the high points of my collective experiences in dog sports.

It was not long after - just the following winter - when I hit an unexpected wall.

This had nothing to do with dogs directly.  I had to deal with some unexpected medical issues.  The issues themselves were not serious.  There was never anything life-threatening involved.  But .... the issues had major consequences in my life.  And, within the course of a couple of months, I went from someone who had gone out with Tessa to trial a couple of times a month to someone who could barely get out on a weekend.

Even though the situation did improve, I was no longer the person that I had been before.  Remembering the things I used to be able to do was disheartening and depressing.  I no longer had the energy to get out there all that much.  And, when I did, I was usually left completely exhausted.

I lost a lot of my creativity, and even the ability that I had always had to express myself in writing diminished.  And, when it came to training dogs and participating in dog sports, I found myself going through the motions most of the time, without a whole lot of heart or interest.

I am deeply grateful that Canine Parkour came into my life at this time.  It was something new that had no connection to Speedy.  All of my dogs could participate.  And, I was able to train and film Parkour entries when I was able, and at my own pace.

Parkour got me back "out there" to some extent.  Sometimes, when I was out filming a Parkour entry with one of my dogs, I felt glimmers of normalcy and I felt like the person, trainer, and handler that I used to be.

Finally .... a Change!

So, this past summer, I found myself at a place where I was feeling unsatisfied.  On one hand, I missed involvement with Freestyle, and other dog sports, and with being a more active person in general.

But .... I did not really see any way to change the situation.  On occasion I would try to push myself forward, but to little avail.

And then something happened that I never expected.  Everything changed.  I never saw it coming, and I still almost cannot believe the degree to which things turned around.

I was spending a lot of my time last summer watching YouTube videos.  Various and sundry YouTube videos, about all different topics.  Dead malls, urban exploration, and .... people living in different parts of the world.

Following a somewhat random and complicated chain of YouTube video recommendations, I ended up landing on a channel full of videos created by this South African guy who was living in China.  Yes, China.  I had absolutely zero interest in China, but I found myself watching video after video and learning things about China that I never knew I wanted to know!

Of course, it was not China that kept me watching him over and over.  It was the man himself.  Something about him resonated with me.  Something about him brought a part of me that had gone dormant back to life.

I know .... this sounds really bizarre .... but it's true.

I do not really understand why, but all of a sudden, after watching his videos for just a couple of weeks, I found myself suddenly wanting to get up, step back into the world, and start living life more fully again.

And, I did.

At first it was incredibly difficult.  I did not have the energy.  But .... then I did.  And I found that I was suddenly able to do more and more and more.

Not only that, I rediscovered creativity, and I started to be able to write again.  I found myself interested, once again, in getting involved with Musical Freestyle, and I have real hope that Bandit and I will have a rich future in the sport, as we explore many, many ideas that I have in mind for us!

What the heck happened?

All I can say is that in this man who I do not personally know, who will probably never know that I exist on this planet, who talks about topics that no direct connection to my life this man I have found inspiration.

Find Inspiration!  Be Inspiration!

Since that time, I have thought a lot about inspiration.

I have noticed that we rarely talk about inspiration, and I am starting to wonder exactly why that is.

Maybe we do not discuss it much because inspiration is something that is going to be a little bit different for everybody.  You could watch the same videos that have changed my life in dramatic ways and they could have no effect on you whatsoever!  And you could find inspiration in people or places that would have no effect on me at all!  Different people are inspired differently.

In spite of that, I am starting to think more and more that inspiration is something that we need to start talking about in the dog sport world.

As time has passed since I started watching his videos, I am continually amazed by the ongoing positive effects that he has inspired in my life.  😎

So ... inspiration .... it matters!

And I want to start talking about inspiration, and hearing about inspiration from others!

What inspires you?  And what effect does that inspiration have on your life?  I am keenly interested in this!

Of course, this is not the first time in my life I have been inspired.  And, I have certainly found inspiration much closer to home.

Years ago, I found my inspiration in Speedy, especially in our shared experience of dance.  When Tessa and I were running for her C-ATCH, I found my inspiration in her, and in our mutual goal.  In Parkour, I find inspiration in the filming experience, and - with Tessa - in the beauty of what we create together.

But, given the difficulties of the last couple of years, I am starting to think about inspiration in new ways.  I see now that I need inspiration.  As a dog trainer, as a handler, as an instructor, as a creator, as a titling venue owner, as a participant or competitor, as a presenter .... all of it!

And, when I think about what I want to give back to the dog sport community, I would say now that the very best thing that I could do is to strive to be inspiration to others.  Granted, that is not something that I can strive to do as an end in itself, but it is an effect that I can hope to have along the way!!

This is a new mindset for me, and one that I am grateful to have developed.

I owe my South African inspiration in China a debt of gratitude I can never quite repay.  So, maybe I can pass on some of what I have gotten from him to others.

At least, I can try!

Find Inspiration!  Be Inspiration!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Balance in My Training

For many in the world of dogs, "balance" can be something of an emotionally charged word.  The term "balanced trainer" is used as a designation for a trainer who holds a particular training philosophy, which I am not going to discuss here because that is actually beyond the scope of this particular post.

Suffice it to say, I do not fall into the category of "balanced trainer".  

But that is not to say that there is not balance in my training - there absolutely is.  However, the balance in my training is a different sort of balance.

Allow me to explain what I mean ....

When it comes to training, or to titling endeavors, or to competition, or anything that I do with my dogs, I always strive to balance: what is truly in the best interests of my dog with my own hopes and ambitions for that dog in that activity.

I am not always 100% successful in achieving this balance, but I do my best to make it happen to the greatest extent possible.

This was not always the case.  I would imagine that pretty much every dog sport enthusiast grows and matures and moves far beyond the point where he or she started, and I can certainly say that for myself.

When Speedy and I started in Rally Obedience back in 2005, I secretly wanted him to go out there and perform perfect runs, earning high scores and placements.  I really gave very little thought to how the experience of competition might benefit him.

After all, that seemed to be what everyone around me was doing.  I heard many talk about their scores, and about having hope for higher scores.  One time a fellow competitor showed me a binder that she had brought along to a Rally trial where she had a written record of all of her Rally scores.  She pointed to a page and said, "See, I used to get really low scores".  Then she pointed to another and went on to say, "Now I get high scores".  Her "low" scores were actually pretty nice scores that I would have been more than thrilled with at the time.  It was clear to me that working toward high scores was a priority for her.

Back then everyone's attitude seemed to be centered on striving for perfection in their Rally runs, and in earning high scores.

So, I poured my heart and soul into training Speedy to a level where he could perform perfectly.  I dreamed about earning those high scores and those pretty blue ribbons, and working our way up to the point where we could earn the giant ribbons!

There was just one teeny tiny little problem ..... and that was Speedy himself!

On one hand, Speedy was a trainer's dream of a dog.  He had a gorgeous work ethic.  He loved to learn.  He loved to drill.  I used to get confused when I heard people say, "never drill a dog".  The more I drilled Speedy, the happier he became!  Speedy had to-die-for heads-up focus that I find utterly astonishing when I watch video of him now.

But then there was the other hand ....!  Mentally, Speedy was a mess.  He started out fearful of dogs and people, and later he became reactive toward other dogs.  We spent years working all of that out.  The even bigger challenge with Speedy was his tendency to become overstimulated by movement - even his own!

Speedy was trained to perform all of the exercises in (then) APDT Rally at all three levels.  He was good at them, and he performed the beautifully .... in class.  But, when we got to a trial, he could become so overstimulated that he could barely perform in the ring!  He would make wild circles around me, run around cones, back-jump the jumps (which, in those days, was an automatic NQ!), and sometimes even grab at my clothes.

He completely and utterly shattered all of my dreams of perfection and high scores.

After banging my head against the wall for a time, trying to come up with ways to help Speedy be "perfect" in the competition ring, it came to a point where realized that I had to make a choice.  I could shift my focus away from perfection and high scores and create goals that were more appropriate for Speedy, or we could stop participating in competitions.

Because .... really .... with Speedy those were the only two choices.

Speedy and I ended up taking a break from Rally and we got into Musical Freestyle.  In Freestyle I was determined, right from the start, that my goals with Speedy would never be for perfection or scores.  When Speedy and I stepped into a Freestyle ring together, I had two goals: to allow Speedy the opportunity to express himself, and to entertain the people.

Speedy could do both of those things very well.  No matter what happened in our performances, he was always entertaining to watch!  He drew everyone's eye with his gorgeous movement, with his intense focus, and with the artistic flair that he demonstrated in just about every performance.

Speedy always expressed himself better in the Freestyle ring than anywhere else.  It was a joy and a pleasure to provide him with the chance to perform as often as we could.

That is not to say that I had no concern for the rules of the discipline, nor that I did not create our routines with the performance criteria in mind.  Those were simply not my first and highest concerns.

What happened is that I learned to find balance in our training, and in our work together.

I came to recognize that Speedy was an individual with his own strengths, talents, and limitations.  I started to see training and titling and competition events as means to enhance the quality of his life instead of as a way to accomplish something solely for myself.

Later, Dean came along and taught me this lesson yet again, so that by the time I started my work with Tessa, I was not even thinking of success in terms of high scores or perfect performances.  I consider any Agility run, or Freestyle performance, or Parkour filming session, or anything that we set out to accomplish together, to be successful when Tessa is confident, joyful, and she comes away from the experience with a happy and satisfied demeanor.  Results still matter to me on some level, my priority is always the well-being of my dog.

This, in my book, is the most important balance I can have in training and dog sports. Results matter, to some extent.  But the quality of the overall experience of training and working toward titles, and seeing a clear benefit to my dog from the experience is always what counts the most.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Quick Hike on White Oak Trail

Since this past summer, I have been getting out a lot more with the dogs.  We almost always film Parkour entries, but every now and again we just go for a plain-old-ordinary hike.  Yesterday evening, Bandit and I took a very quick hike on the White Oak Trail at Kings Gap.

This is one of two paved trails in the park.  It is a short loop - only about a quarter mile.  It is one of Bandit's favorite places to hike, and I appreciate it because we can complete the loop quickly.

The area is always beautiful.  Right now it has that poignant beauty of late fall.  Most of the trees have lost their leaves, but the leaves are freshly fallen on the ground.  There is still a "living" feel, but that will not last for very much longer.

Much of the trail is moss-covered, which feels really cool underfoot.  It can be a little bit slippery when it is damp, but I still love to walk on it, wet or dry.  And, of course, it is beautiful!

One thing that I have started to do on many of our outings is to take a photo of the sun-in-the-trees.

Bandit and I hiked around the loop.  I had some chicken from a bit of training we had done just before, so I did have Bandit do some Parkour Interactions - a Go Under a picnic bench, a Go Around a post along the trail, and a Get On 4 on a low rock.  Bandit really seemed to get a real kick out of that.

It was a quick hike, but one that we both enjoyed thoroughly.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Long Overdue Update!

Blog, blog ..... how long it has been!

I never meant to let this slip away, but in the rush and busy-ness of life, it did.  Somehow it has been almost a year and a half since I last wrote a blog post!

Life with the dogs has been moving along.

Dean is still with us, and he is now going on 13 in February!  Last winter he suffered an injury to one of his back hocks.  By summer he was doing better, but I was concerned about him.  I honestly did not think he was going to last the summer, but he rallied, and now he is doing very well.

I know that our weekly summer Parkour outings made a big difference for him!

He can no longer jump up to pluck frisbees out of the air, but every day we take him out side and roll these plastic rings on the ground for him to chase and retrieve.  He absolutely loves it!  So, Dean still runs every day.

Next, Miss Tessa!  She is doing well.  Tessa is also starting to show her age - she is "about 10" now.  But, she seems to feel pretty good, and she is still quite active.

Recently Tessa and I completed her second Grand Champion title in All Dogs Parkour, and we are now working in the Premier Division.  I hope to earn a Premier Grand Champion title with her.  We currently have 13 entries to go for that.

Ever since we finished our Grand Champion 2 title, I have been seeking out new locations to go film with Tessa for Premier, and we have really enjoyed going out to some new locations.

In addition, I have kind of started moving "beyond" just going out to film titling entries.  When we are out and about filming our entries, I often have Tessa perform Interactions, or train, on Environmental Features that actually do not meet submission criteria, just for the fun of it.  Sometimes I have her run over bridges, for instance.  Then, after creating our submission video, I make an informal "Parkour Excursions" video to document and share some of the fun that we had while creating our entry.  These videos contain a mixture of submission clips and clips that would not be submitted, and I set the whole thing to music.

Here is an example of one of these.  This is our Canine Parkour Excursions video from our filming at the White Oak Trail in Kings Gap several weeks ago:

Tessa is also still running Agility, although we are not as involved with it as we were when we were running for our C-ATCH.  We go to class weekly, and we do go to a trial every now and then.

Bandit, going on 5 in February, is in the prime of life.  He is a happy, active dog, and I could not love him more!

He loves Agility.  We are not super serious about it, but we go to class weekly, and very occasionally I trial with him.  He also enjoys Musical Freestyle, and I hope to have more Freestyle video to share of him in the near future!

Bandit and I have not been as involved with Parkour as I would like, mainly because I have been focused on my two older dogs with that.  But, he did earn his All Dogs Parkour Champion Title over the summer, and occasionally we get out to film.

Finally, Rocky, our little Beagle Terrier, also in his prime at about 4 years old!!  I do not do a whole lot with Rocky, although I do train a bit of Freestyle and Parkour with him from time to time.  Ben still takes him to Rally and Agility classes when his work schedule allows for it.  Rocky adores training, and it is something that I hope to get into with him more in the future.

Now that I have given a general update of everyone, maybe I will get back to writing a blog post every now and again!  It is good to be back, and I hope to stay!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Joy Rediscovered

Ever since we moved to this area in 2003, hiking with dogs has been a favorite activity of mine.  Sometimes Ben and I would take Sammie, Speedy, and Maddie to Colonel Denning State Park and hike the Nature Trail with them.  Maddie and Sammie would actually cross over the creek on large fallen logs, and we used to enjoy calling them back and forth over those logs!

Speedy and Maddie in the woods near Currituck Beach Lighthouse in North Carolina

Speedy always seemed happiest in natural spaces, especially the woods.  Whether we were at one of our nearby State Parks, or at the Ecological Preserve down the shore, or at Glen Highland Farm, he seemed the most confident, the most whole, and the most at peace in wooded areas.

 One of my favorite pictures of Speedy enjoying the Nature Trail at Colonel Denning!

Speedy and Dean Dog eager to get into the woods at Glen Highland Farm!

And when Tessa came along, I found the same thing about her!  The first couple of times I hiked with Tessa, I was amazed with the joy and wonder in her eyes as she would gaze away from the trail into the trees around her.

As Speedy got older, and I became very interested in giving Tessa good quality exercise as my Agility partner, I began to take most hikes with Speedy and Tessa.  I called this little group "The Walking Club".  Sometimes we included Dean, but most often it was just the three of us together.

We went many different places together, but most often we hiked on the Nature Trail at Colonel Denning, the Pine Plantation Trail at Kings Gap, and, on our favorite trail of all - the Watershed Trail at Kings Gap.

All of this changed when we lost Speedy.

When spring of 2014 came and Tessa and I set out to enjoy our favorite trails, the experience felt like I had a deflated balloon inside.

Tessa and I did continue to take our favorite hikes, and I always enjoy them to some extent, but without the other member of our "walking club", the experience was always lacking something that I had loved.

"The Walking Club" - Speedy and Tessa


This is another of my favorite places to hike - the Nature Trail at Colonel Denning

I hoped that including puppy Bandit in our "Walking Club" would restore some of the joy that had been lost, but that did not happen.  As a baby dog, Bandit was not really ready to be a hiking partner.  And, Tessa did not really seem to enjoy Bandit's company on these walks.

We still went out and about from time to time, but I found that my interest in hiking with dogs seriously waned.

That was, until last summer, when everything changed.

Of course, last summer we began our involvement in Canine Parkour.

I distinctly remember the first time I packed up my camera and tripod and a bag of chicken, and set off into the woods to film Parkour Interactions with Tessa.

To my great surprise, I found that going out into the woods with Tessa felt right again.  Once again, the Watershed trail was beautiful, and Tessa and I were walking along with a shared sense of adventure and purpose.

Stopping to have her interact with various objects was different, and Tessa did seem a little confused at first, but she got right into the new game, and she and I have never looked back!

This is the very first Parkour Interaction that Tessa and I ever filmed together!

When Tessa and I started going around filming our Parkour entries together, I found, very much to my surprise, that the distinct feeling of something being missing vanished.

Not that I forgot about Speedy!  I always think of him when Tessa an I are out on a trail together.  But somehow it was almost like his heart and his spirit were again with us.

 Tessa and I had no idea how important these bridges would become for us someday!

Lately Tessa and I have been working hard on the Grand Champion track in All Dogs Parkour and we are currently in Level 4 (out of 5).  This has been a worthy challenge for us!  Some of the skills that Tessa has needed to master to be able to Q at this level on this track have not come easy to her!

I actually did not plan this deliberately, but the location where we filmed our third submission toward our Level 4 Grand Champion title turned out to be . . . . the Watershed Trail!

And what a cool adventure it turned out to be for us!

I took Tessa to the Watershed Trail back in March to do some filming for an online Parkour class that I have been teaching.  I found that after a long winter of low activity, we were both completely out of shape and out of practice!

We managed to get a couple of Interactions filmed, including a sequence that was really cool, but that it turned out that I could not use in our submission.

I decided after that to put filming at the Watershed Trail on hold, and we filmed at Willow Mill Park instead.  That turned out to be something of a difficult entry to film.  At Level 4 Grand Champion, we needed to include four different Advanced Interactions, and a 5 Interaction Sequence!  Tessa struggled a bit with the Sequence, and we needed to visit the park several times over the course of about a month before we were able to complete our submission.

However, we did get it done, and it was a Q!!  One down!

Our Submission for Leg #1 of Level 4 Grand Champion at Willow Mill Park

I considered going back to the Watershed Trail at that point, but I happened upon another location with Bandit - the White Oaks Trail - and I decided to film there with Tessa instead.

That entry turned out to be very straightforward to film, and Tessa and I managed to complete the whole thing in just two visits to the location!  We even took a bit of a side trip over to the Watershed Trail, which is nearby, on one of those occasions, and we filmed a couple more Interactions there!

The White Oak Trail entry was a Q, as well - two legs down!

Our Submission for Leg #2 toward Level 4 Grand Champion on the White Oaks Trail

After we finished our second submission at this level, I decided to finish our Watershed Trail entry.  By this time, summer break had begun and I had plenty of extra time to get there with Tessa to film.

But that did not make it simple . . . !

Tessa and I set out on an overcast day and I had the goal of walking the entire Watershed Trail loop - which is about 2 miles total - as we filmed some Interactions!

It started out as a beautiful day, and it was a lovely hike ... at first!

Cooling off in the creek in between hiking/filming

With about 1/4 of our hike left, it started to rain!  It was a light rain, but Tessa was none too pleased!  She started making a beeline toward the car, making exactly the right turn at each place where the trail split!!

By this point we had filmed almost all of the Regular Level Interactions that we needed, but we still had to film our four Advanced Exercises and the Sequence, which were the most difficult components of the entry!!

Since one of the Advanced Exercises that I had planned was Advanced Novel Uses, which consists of seven Interactions in and of itself, I decided to break those up and visit the location at least two more times.

And so, on another overcast day, Tessa and I returned to the trail.  I hoped to film Trick on a Platform Small, the Sequence, and possibly a couple of Interactions or Advanced Novel Uses.

We did get the first Interaction filmed (although I ended up re-doing it), but as we moved toward the area where I planned to try a sequence, there was a sudden clap of thunder!  I didn't even know there was thunder in the forecast!  Fortunately, we were not very far from the car, so we headed right home!

At this point, filming at this location was starting to feel a little . . . . drawn out!  Granted, I love the location, and I was enjoying our frequent trips there.  And I was very pleased that Tessa wholeheartedly approved of these ventures.  But I was starting to feel like we were stalling out!

On our next visit, just a couple of days after our session got cut short by thunder, we finally had a "break through" filming session!

We re-did the Trick on a Platform video, and the sequence turned out to be very straightforward to take care of.  Then we went and filmed seven Interactions for Advanced Novel Uses before Tessa started getting kind of tired.  We also had a bit of run-in with a bee while we were filming Novel Uses!  Tessa did not get stung, but the bee brushed against her side and it took a while before she was convinced that it was really gone!

So, now we were down to needing just two more Interactions - Go Around Distance and Get on Send.  And we finished those off today!  To celebrate, we filmed one more Interaction where Tessa and I sloshed into the creek together!  After all, it is the Watershed Trail!

In the end, getting this entry finished felt absolutely wonderful!  It had taken quite a bit of time, and we did a lot of walking and filming, but in the end I find that it is intensely satisfying to finish up an entry that we needed to put so much of ourselves into.

And this one is for you, Mr. Speedy!  Just as you always put your whole heart into everything you did, Tessa and I put our hearts into filming every bit of this entry!  In some mysterious way you are always with us out there.

Our Submission for Level 4 Grand Champion - Leg #3 - Watershed Trail

Now, on to Level 5.  This will be one of the most difficult challenges that Tessa and I have ever taken on together.

And I know we will love every minute of it!