The last couple of weeks have been pretty quiet. Tessa and Dean both had a really good Agility night on Thursday. Tessa continues to be more and more fun to work with every time she and I are on the floor together. After finding out that the building is finished at Periland, I entered Tessa only in the trial. I always scope out a new situation for Dean before taking him into it. So, Miss Tess and I will have a girl's day, which I am sure we will both enjoy immensely. We will be going for our second Level 2 Fullhouse Q, our first ever Level 2 Standard Q (complete with teeter!), and our final Level 2 Colors Q, which would finish our first ever Level 2 title!! We are getting into the thick of it now, and it is getting to be very fun.
But the big dog related event of the last couple of weeks for me was yesterday when I took Speedy and Dean down to West Virginia to do some filming for the Dogs Can Dance Challenge. This was for Speedy. Dean really just went as company and moral support.
Many years ago, Speedy and I had a routine to the Beatles Here Comes the Sun. Our very first ever routine was to the Beatles Octopus's Garden. It was a good Beginner routine, and we enjoyed performing it at competitions and demonstrations. But by the spring of the following year, I was starting to get tired of it. It had been a very cold, icy winter, and Here Comes the Sun seemed to fit. I got myself some craft foam, cut it into the shape of sunbeams, glued on some velcro and Speedy has his own sunshine collar. I also used a yellow dowel as a cane for the routine.
Speedy, wearing his original sunshine collar. This was taken at Barkaritaville on the day he earned his Novice Title!
That routine is attached to a lot of great memories. Our first big demonstration of the very early form of the routine was at this amazing Freestyle Festival that was held in Weyer's Cave, Virginia. It was an amazing weekend with workshops by many excellent presenters. I learned skills at that festival that I still use to this day.
We had just adopted Dean the December before and this was my first trip with two dogs together. Dean didn't enjoy everything about it, but by and large it was an adventure for him.
Speedy and Dean at the Freestyle Festival. It's amazing how YOUNG they were!! Speedy was 5 and Dean was just a little past 1 year old!
One of the most memorable parts of the festival for me, and for many who went, was the demonstration night on Saturday. There were people there from different Freestyle venues, and performers of different skill levels. Speedy and I had not even competed in Novice yet, so we were demonstrating a WCFO style routine at the Novice level.
Speedy did such an amazing job. To this day, this performance is among my favorites of all time. I watch it now and I am surprised by how young he was! We were in the midst of such an incredible journey together and I really had no idea.
Our performance from the Freestyle Festival . . . .
Wasn't he adorable? I love how his tail wagged when everyone clapped. All in all, it was just a very endearing performance. He showed the best in himself in this one.
We went on to earn our first Novice leg with it at the Star Spangled Swing, the first that either of us ever attended. That was where a judge suggested that I develop more in the way of costume, so to the drawing board I went. I took a blue dress that I had that was really more like a long shirt and I painted white puffy clouds on it. I wore that with white capri's, so it was like I was the sky with the white clouds and he was the sun.
We took that to our first ever Hershey competition in September. Hershey was unique in several ways. It was held in conjunction with a big grooming exposition, and it took place in a parking garage!! I wasn't sure how Speedy would handle performing in a parking garage, complete with yowling dogs down at the far end (the groom expo dogs), but he ended up liking it very much. In addition to earning his second Novice leg, he also earned his first ever first place for a Freestyle routine!
And we earned something even better - an invitation to the big invitational competition at dinner for the groom expo that evening! Ten teams were invited to this event and there was no separation of levels. Everyone was encouraged to pull out all the stops - food use was permitted - and it was judged by audience applause. And the audience . . . about 500 people!!!
I think dancing in front of that amount of people with Speedy was one of the single most amazing experiences of my life. And Speedy seemed to think so, too! He did a really nice job. After all was said and done, we walked away from that with a prize for honorable mention - 4th place. Not bad for a Novice team!!
But the biggest honor for me came after we finished our performance and the audience literally thundered applause. For a split second, Speedy looked startled, but immediately, his face relaxed into an expression of sheer joy. He looked around for a few seconds and then he looked at me, just beaming! That meant more to me than any Q or title ever could. I wouldn't trade that for the Intermediate title that he and I just couldn't earn together (not for lack of training and trying). It was an experience that will always be unique to Speedy and will always stand out as one of his most important accomplishments.
Speedy had started his life as a dog who would hide behind my legs if anyone looked at him. On that day he danced in front of 500 people and loved every second of it. That routine took us to a place I never would have dreamed Speedy could go.
The story of this routine finished up at Barkaritaville, the competition held in Red Lion, PA every November, one year from his first ever Freestyle Q (with Octopus's Garden). He earned his final Novice Q with it, and that finished out his Novice title. We also went back the next day, with it slightly revised, and earned our first (only one of two) Intermediate Q.
That was really an indescribable year for us, and that routine is just attached to so many memories. I retired it at that point. Speedy was starting to get overstimulated by the leg weaves and the cane. I tried several different routines for Intermediate, but none really worked like Here Comes the Sun had. We did not have another routine like it until we created Reunion a couple of years later. That routine has a story of its own that I will likely share sometime in the next few weeks.
Here Comes the Sun will always be a special routine to me, but I am not the only one who feels that way. Since that time - even this year - people that I don't even know have come up to me from time to time and asked if I was the one who did that routine with the dog with the yellow collar and the outfit with the clouds. People remember it. They remember Speedy. And that makes it extra special to me. When we first started Freestyle, my only goal (beyond giving Speedy a good time) was to entertain the people. That routine certainly accomplished that goal.
Since that time, Speedy and I have never performed that routine again, and I never had any intention of doing so. In it's original form, we actually can't perform it. Speedy would end up very stiff!
But I heard Here Comes the Sun a few weeks ago and I started thinking about it. I started imagining performing a new version for the Dogs Can Dance Challenge. Since we are supposed to edit for Feature Presentation, I thought I could pull it off if we filmed it in small sections that I would edit together. I did modify it quite a bit, but I also included some of the original elements, including a few that Speedy never gets to do anymore!
I created a new prop to modify the beginning. I took a large ring gate and draped blue fabric over it for the sky. I no longer fit into my blue outfit with the clouds. I could not find Speedy's sunshine collar, which I do have somewhere, so I made a new one out of yellow felt. I did have the original yellow dowel, though, so that went along.
Yesterday we filmed. Ann, Speedy, and I all had an absolute blast. I can't remember a time when I have filmed for a video event that I have just had so much fun! Speedy was a little nuts, but he was loving every second of it. He adored working to that song again. He was enthralled by the ring gate! And he was overjoyed to work with his cane again.
Somehow we came up with enough footage, and when I got home, I spent 3 hours editing it together. I couldn't stop once I got started! Editing is interesting. In the end, I think I actually like it a lot. I can't say this was a professional level editing job, but I think I did a pretty good job of it for a first attempt.
Alas, I must end there! I won't share the final project until after it is judged! It will be entered in the November event in just a few weeks now, and then we will have to wait 3 - 4 months for our score! But once we have that, I will put it here!
In the meantime, our scores for Reunion for the summer event should be out sometime soon, and I will write all about that one and share it here.
I am really glad to be adding a version of Here Comes the Sun to our Challenge. I really feel that through the Challenge I am creating a portfolio of Speedy's work. Now all of the major routines that we have done will be part of it in some way. Also, by adding this to our Entertainment Division work, it will be the only one of the three titles that all four of my Freestyle dogs - Speedy, Dean, Tessa, and even Maddie, will have been a part of. That will make it extra special, and a fitting grand finale for Here Comes the Sun.