Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coal Region Freestyle Weekend

This past weekend, Tessa and I headed up to the Pennsylvania coal region to try for our second Beginner Heelwork to Music leg, and title.

This was a particularly meaningful event for me because it was held in the Schuylikll Mall in Frackville, which is just 10 minutes from Shenandoah (pronounced "Shendo"), where we used to live.  Our first three dogs were all coal region dogs when they were young.  We adopted Sammie from the Hillside SPCA near Pottsville.  Speedy lived in the Shendo house from the time he was 12 weeks old until he was nearly 2.  And Miss Maddie was there with us for a year before we moved down to our current home in the Cumberland Valley.

We have lots of memories in the coal region.  Walks around the town of Shendo - back by the Shen-Penn pit with Sammie and Speedy, at block parties with Maddie, and all around town with all of them.  Playing in the park behind Mrs. T's pierogies.  Meeting Ben in the Schuylikill Mall parking lot and a parking spot we called "the stupid place".  All three dogs were so young and they were always crazy when we went out and about in the car!

Ben and I still laugh when we remember one time when I went to meet him at the mall and when he pulled up in the truck, all three dogs were jumping around in the car!  They always got so excited when a tractor trailer would show up and he would step out of it.

Speedy playing in the park behind Mrs. T's as a puppy:

Of course, Tessa never lived up there, but I was eager to take her up and create some new memories.  And, at the last second, I decided to take Dean along, so both of our youngsters had the chance to hang out in Sammie, Speedy, and Maddie's old stomping ground.

Dean was most pleased to go.  I decided that he could be our "service dog".  Afterward, Ben dubbed him our "moral support dog" and that's exactly what he was throughout the entire day.

We had a nice ride up.  The weather was perfect.  Once at the competition site, I was able to squeeze into the crate area.  Luckily, Tessa and Dean crate together so I only needed one spot!  I actually wouldn't have taken Dean if he would have used an additional crate space.

I was grateful right from the start to have Dean along.  When we arrived, we had to walk through a bit of a corridor to get to the performance area.  Tessa balked even with Dean.  When she hesitated, I told her, "follow your Dean Dog!" and she rushed right up to go with him!

After briefing, I got changed because Tessa and I were fifth in the first group!  Again, I was grateful for Dean.  With Tessa and Dean in the crate together, she didn't fuss at all when I went away to change, use the restroom, or go anywhere.

After watching the first few routines, I took our pedestal prop, and into the ring we went!

Now, I typically try to get to a competition early enough to "walk" my routine, but I hadn't this time!  The funny thing was - I didn't care.  I didn't care about anything, really.  Not in a bad way, but in a good enjoying each moment, being relaxed kind of way.  If I could bottle that and use it before every competition, I would be in really good shape!!

Tessa was really sniffy outside the ring.  I didn't stress out about that, either, and I am glad because once we walked in, she was her normal focused and dependable self!

We had fun in the ring.  Such a contrast to our Star Spangled Swing performance, which had fallen completely flat!  Tessa had her usual "sparkle" and she improvised a good deal.  She even got up on her hind legs at one point and I grabbed her paws and "danced" her backwards!  It was super cute and it absolutely must be trained!

Our performance . . . 

I was extremely happy with it.  Tessa isn't a close working dog and we haven't worked a whole lot on precision.  But she danced with enthusiasm and at this point that's what I want to see.

We did qualify and we earned our Beginner Heelwork to Music title!!  We also got first place for our performance!

So, we got to sit back and enjoy the rest of the day.  We watched the other performances.  I did take Tessa and Dean out a few times, and during the break I took them into the little practice ring and gave Dean a "turn" (with food).

Dean just had such a good time.  I have never taken him to a competition before just to tag along and it suited him really well.  With no competition stress, he seemed to like hanging out in the competition atmosphere.

He made himself quite comfortable throughout the day . . . 

A "Tessa Pillow" . . .

A "Water Bowl Pillow" . . . 

My big, goofy boy!!

A lunch time I took them on a walk down memory lane.  We drove into Shendo and I went by the old house.  There have been some improvements on the street, but by and large the town is, sadly, dying out.

After a drive through town, we took a ride out to Locust Lake State Park and took a walk in the woods.  That was Dean's reward for being such good moral support to us all day long!

Then we returned to enjoy watching the afternoon performances.

In addition to our first place and Q, Tessa and I got an award for "Highest Scoring Border Collie"!  That amazed the heck out of me.  It isn't often that a dog in the Beginner class gets highest scoring anything!

After the long day, I went to a local pizza shop and got a sub.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!  Coal region food is SO good!  There were chunks of mozzarella cheese on the sandwich and the bread was the best I've had in ages!

I will remember that day for a long, long time as a great one!  Also, I am now excited about Freestyle again.  I am planning to take the music we worked with this time and make our Intermediate routine to it!  My goal is really to make it a fun routine!  No more Heelwork for now!

Tessa's Traditional Ribbon Photo:

Congratulations, Tessa, WFD-HTM

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