Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Our Agility Winter and the Monkey Off Our Backs!

Tessa and I had quite the adventure this winter, entering trial after trial after trial!

We slumped a little bit in the late summer and fall, having some success, particularly in the games, but we stalled out horribly when we moved into Level 4 Standard.  Suddenly the Standard courses got too long, too complicated, and we just couldn't qualify to save our lives!  And I was still not in a great place emotionally after losing dogs last winter and every challenge seemed to be a lot worse than it normally would be!

This also came at a time when we were struggling with Rally FrEe and Freestyle and the whole verbal cue thing, and by mid-November I felt like Tessa and I were stalled out and going nowhere.

It started in August with the Artful Dodgers trial.  We ran a nice Standard course, with only a little bobble, and were significantly over time!!

That burst my bubble pretty good.  Suddenly it seemed that Tessa and I were going to have to come up with a whole lot more speed that we simply don't have.

Here is that Standard run . . .

So, the next time we ran Standard at the September Periland trial, I felt very rushed, and I managed to completely mess up the run by putting too much pressure on Tessa.  Turned out, we would have had plenty of time.

By this point, the fun was completely gone (from Standard - we were fine in the other games).  With the need for 18 Standard Q's at Levels 4 and 5 ahead of us, it seemed we were going nowhere!!

But we kept on.  At the October Periland trial, we did a bit better.  Just one off course.  Time was fine . . .

By now I was just feeling flat.  We needed 60 more Q's for our C-ATCH, 18 of them in Standard!  Being 0 - 3 in Standard after three months made it seem like Tessa and I were going to need years and years to get this done - years we probably don't have!

I had entered Standard, and two other classes on the Friday after Thanksgiving and then . . . I got a flat tire and wasn't able to go to the trial!

And even though that had nothing whatsoever to do with our actual trial performance, I was counting that as 0 - 4 in Level 4 Standard!!  A dismal record, especially for a team that rarely NQ's!

At this point I knew I had to reassess my attitude.  I was too hung up on trying to finish our C-ATCH.  I will be honest - I want this.  Tessa enjoys trialing, she loves Agility, and she is genuinely having fun on this Quest-for-the-C-ATCH-Title that we are on together!  She may not know what we are running toward, but she is a willing partner in the game.

But at this time, I was taking the fun out of most of it.  Even the games weren't as much fun as they had been because I felt like success in the games wasn't getting us where we need to be (although we do need every one of those game Q's!)

So, I made myself forget about it!!  I forced myself to focus on my lovely girl and on going out there to enjoy every minute, no matter what, with this beautiful dog that I have the privilege of stepping into the ring with.  I reminded myself of where she came from and I made the effort to appreciate that she is remarkable just for being able to do this!

The next time we ran Standard - at the Dulles Gateway trial at Periland in December - we finally did it!!  A Level 4 Q!!!

That felt awesome!!!  I still didn't like Standard - still loved the games so much more, but now I knew we could pull at least one out of three off!!

And then we earned another, and then a third . . . .

And then, at January Periland, a fourth Level 4 Standard Q!!

Throughout all this time, we also had some absolutely lovely game runs, including this absolutely lovely Level 4 Wildcard run from this past weekend!

Every time we trialed, starting with that one in December, we enjoyed ourselves more and more.  The more we went, the more I found I was able to enjoy each moment and appreciate the opportunity to run with Tessa.

We gained our confidence back.  We got our enjoyment back.

This series of trial after trial has come to an end and I love where Tessa and I are at right now!

Yes, I still have the C-ATCH in mind, but I am truly enjoying the ride, and am not so worried about how fast we get there.  God willing, we will not only have time, but we will get there while Tessa is still strong and agile.

Over this winter, we earned 14 Q's, four of them Standard.  We only need one more Colors Q at Level 5 to finish Colors altogether!  We finished Level 4 Jumpers and in doing so earned our first Level 4 Title!

It was just good.

Now I am looking forward to spending the rest of the winter, and early spring, getting both of us into better condition, and doing some fun team building exercises with Tessa.

I love where we are right now.  I love this road we are on!  I am so grateful for my beautiful girl who always gives it her whole heart!

I am thrilled that we threw this monkey off our backs together and we are enjoying this in exactly the way we should.

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