Sorry to have kept you all in suspense for so long! It was a busy weekend, followed all too closely by a return to busy weekday life!
Brutus as I survived our AKC agility debut. As you'll read below, we actually did more than just survive it. Our sincere thanks to so many who wished us good luck both here and on Facebook! I can honestly say that I thought of all the fans and followers who were out there rooting for us, and it really did make a difference in how I felt waiting to go in the ring. With so much positive thought out there, how could it go badly??
This photo below is from the start of our first run, Novice JWW (Jumpers with Weaves). It's a frame from the video of our maiden run. It's not as good a quality as an actual photo, but still it's a great moment frozen in time. If you look closely, you'll see Brutus on the start line, me using a "lead out advantage". Time does not begin ticking until Brutus crosses the plane of the first jump - there's an electric sensor on there that starts the clock (you might be able to see it if you biggify).
Talk about an adrenaline moment. As soon as I released Brutus from his stay ("OK, Jump!), it was pretty much a blur. Thank goodness for the video, since I seem to have some sort of amnesia when I get out of the ring."What just happened out there?" is a question commonly heard ringside!
Let me backtrack a little now. The trial was at the biggest agility venue in the area, a huge indoor soccer complex. When we arrived early Friday morning, the lot was already filling up. Seeing many out-of-state license plates (Michigan, Pennsylvania and even New York) did nothing to calm my nerves. Lots of "MACH" stickers on the cars (the highest AKC agility title) didn't help either, only made me feel like we were in way over our heads!!
We got settled in the crating area, got Brutus measured (12.5 inches at the withers, in case you ever wondered), and it was already time for our walk-though of our first course. To those of us who compete in agility, this is a hugely important opportunity to do a trial-run without the dog. To anyone who is unfamiliar with this sport, it's probably the funniest thing they've ever seen! Watching handlers run & twirl around out there giving commands to an imaginary dog IS pretty entertaining, if I must say so myself!
JWW has only jumps, weaves, and tunnels, but tend to be lenghty, twisty-turny kind of courses. Luckily a few friends from our training club were there to reassure me that Brutus & I were perfectly capable of running this course. They were there ringside to cheer for us, and one was even nice enough to videotape a few of our runs (thanks, Katie!!!). If you are lucky enough to have a high-speed connections; sit back, relax, and enjoy about 50 seconds of entertainment courtesy of me & Brutus!
For those of you who couldn't watch the video, let me say that Brutus did me proud. There was a glitch mid-course at the weave poles (which ate up about 15 seconds, I edited that out, no one needs to be looking at my behind for that long), but other than that, Brutus handled very nicely. Better yet, he was fast too! Even with the debacle at the weaves, we only had a few time faults. To my huge surprise, we qualified (albeit by the skin of our teeth, 85 points - which is the minimum qualifying score). Our score was also good enough to get us 3rd place in the 12" Novice division. Here's Brutus modeling his new decoration. He looks sort of shocked, doesn't he?
What have I done? Now she'll expect that more often!
So our weekend was off to a good start. I had entered two more classes for Friday, Standard and FAST. Being a newbie, you get the worst schedule. It was SIX hours between our runs, ugh. I didn't mind watching a lot of other competitors (there were two rings running all day), but poor Brutus just never really relaxes at a competition. That, and everyone who walked by us wanted to meet/play with the cute little Frenchie on my lap. Brutus soaked up all the admiration, but he really was fried by the time our classes finally ran. The other two runs ended up being NQ's (non-qualifying), but at least I did have some good ring experience in the process.
Early Saturday morning we were back at the soccerplex. JWW first class of the day, so we were in the ring right away. An OK run, but thanks to an early mistake by me (that was capitalized on by Brutus!) we did not qualify. Good ring experience again, and Brutus actually ran really nicely once we got our act together. The photo above is from the video of that run, finishing strong.
Then it was another LONG wait for our other run, which was scheduled as literally the last run of the day. It's too far to head home, but I decided Brutus & I could both stand a break from the trial environment, so we went for a little drive. Found a nice spot to park, and soothed by the sound of raindrops on the windshild, Brutus and I took a team nap. There was plenty of time, as it turned out to be nearly SEVEN hours between our turns in the ring!
We returned to the trial a few hours, rested, relaxed & refreshed. It was time to study the couse map for our Standard run. It was a nice course, but by far the hardest we had attempted in competition. To run it in training would have been no big deal, but Brutus is a lot less predictable & a lot harder to maneuver when he's in the show ring. Lots of turns in this course, which contained the full assortment of AKC agility obstacles (jumps, tire, broad jump, tunnel, chute, dogwalk, A-frame, pause table, teeter). I really saw not being able to finish the course as a possibility, but strategized & memorized it nonetheless.
Finally it was time for us to check in at the ring. The dogs we were running against were more experienced team, including Jack Russels, King Cavaliers. Shelties & Cockers Spaniels. I warned Brutus up, and as I headed to the startline I was thinking "Well, here goes nothing, so let's at least have fun...". I released him from his startline stay, and my liyttle bulldog was off like a rocket! Uh, oh - this usually ends up in a zoomie. But I stuck to my handling plan & before I knew it we were through the hardest part of the course, with only one little mistake (by me) that only cost us a few seconds.
Brutus summiting the A-Frame. He's 6 feet off the floor here, having climbed a 65º incline.
As Brutus cleared the last jump & stopped the clock, I was elated! We had done it it - a clean run!! Even with my mistake (I had ended up on the wrong side of jump #4 and couldn't manage the sharp left to the teeter, so I had to regroup & get Brutus heading back in the right direction), we finished 10 seconds under course time! Woohoo! Way to go Team Frenchie!!
The only bad news is that I don't have the run video. But it's 60 seconds that I'll never forget. Brutus had charmed everyone at the show (he even made the judges smile), but now he had also proved himself to be a real competitor & agility dog. Scores were posted quickly (everyone was in a hurry to wrap up the day), and I couldn't believe my eyes - we won our 12" division! Talk about a payoff for all the hours of training, worrying & waiting! I am still beaming, in case you can't tell...
Safe to say that we had a successful debut in AKC agility. Sure, we had our share of ugly moments, but none of my worst nightmares materialized. The event staff were friendly & supportive, and even got some compliments of one of the judges. We learned a lot, made a bunch of new friends, and had a great experience overall. I think I can speak for both myself & Brutus in saying it was great to head home and relax, but we're already looking forward to another trial at the same venue in a few weeks.
Look at me, mom! I'm flying!!
I've included some photos from the trial photographer (Cathi Winkles), who captured Brutus in some great moments. If that's not a picture of a focused Frenchie, I don't know what is! Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. As I said before, it really did make a difference to know you were all out there rooting for us.
So for now - this is Team Frenchie, signing off!