Hey everybody! Sorry to keep you all in suspense for so long. Thanks for all the good wishes in the comments to our last post. It was heartwarming to know you were all out there rooting for us! What a weekend it turned out to be for us!
The good news is that Brutus had an amazing, hugely successful debut at the agility trial. The only bad news is that I had to experience the whole thing with a miserable cold. At least the adrenaline kept me going for three days, and now Brutus & I can recuperate together with a day in bed (I never call in sick, but I genuinely needed to today). Too sick to do dentistry, but not too sick to post apparently!
Going to do this post in two installments. Not a lot of still pictures, but I do finally have some actual video footage of me & Brutus in action. No flash photography allowed during the event, so today I'll share the story of the weekend in a text-heavy post. You'll have to tune in tomorrow to see the video (you've waited this long, what's another day?).
Friday morning I strapped Brutus into the car for the 20 minute drive to the trial. He knew something was up, and perched expectantly in his seat on the way. It was a cold, dreary morning, but when we arrived there were already quite a few other competitors there.
Luckily our good friend Courtney (who also competed with several dogs) had saved a prime spot for us in the crating area. I toted in all our stuff and got settled with some other people from our club in some nice ring-side seats.
This was a CPE (Canine Performance Events) trial, in which each level (there are six) has 7 different classes to compete in. Some are numbered courses, others are "games" where each dog/handler team designs a run that satisfies certain rules in order to accumulate points. Competitors must complete each event with a set of minimal errors to earn a qualifying score or "Q". Once you earn enough Qs in all of the events in one level, you can move up to the next level, where courses become more difficult and have fewer allowed errors. In short, for each event entered, the ideal result is to "Q" as well as to score higher than similarly-experienced competitors in the same jump height. Enough of that.... (If you want to learn more about CPE agility, visit their website). Now back to our story!
Our first order of business was to check in. Since Brutus is newly registered, he had to be measured before the start of the trial (to official determine the jump height he competes in, which is 12"). Got that accomplished uneventfully, and picked up our course maps for the two classes we were competing in the first day. Here's one of our maps (we'll show you the actual footage of this course tomorrow in the video):
Before each class there is a walk-through, so that the handlers (without their dogs) can get on the course to do a sort of dry run (check timing, distances, ect). This was a much easier course than what Brutus and I had been training for, so I was quite relieved. Basically a loop around the ring. Easy enough, but I still went over & over the run in my mind in preparation. The only warm-up allowed for the dogs is one practice obstacle (typically a jump) placed just outside the ring for all competitors to share.
In all types & levels of agility, dogs must compete with nothing attached to them (not even a collar), and no treats/toys are allowed on course. Handlers can use unlimited verbal and visual cueing (hand signals, ect), but cannot touch the dog or the obstacles during the run. Here's our view of the course from the gate:
So after my walk-through of the course, I got Brutus ready with a quick walk & potty break, then back inside to get him focussed. Warmed up with some basic obedience maneuvers, lots of treats, and several practice jumps to get him just excited enough. The runs go pretty fast, and soon it was our turn. My mouth was dry (thanks in part to copious decongestants, as well as a good helping of adrenaline) as I placed Brutus at the start line & tossed aside his collar and leash. I had practiced as much positive visualization as I could, but couldn't help fearing that Brutus would just take off with a case of the zoomies or totally ignore me. Yikes.
I got the go-ahead from the timer, gave Brutus his release command ("OK, jump"), and off we went!
Our first run is a total blur in my mind. Thank goodness for Courtney's videotaping us, or I still would be wondering what we had actually done out there! It seemed like everything happened in fast-forward. But other than few seconds wasted in distraction (to go try to make friends with the judge, since she stands in the middle of the course), Brutus did EXACTLY what I asked him to. Jumps, tunnels, dogwalks, A-frames, changes of direction, he actually did it. My handling was certainly a bit wild, but still - we accomplished what we went out there to do! Not only did we finish the course without disqualifying ourselves, we did it pretty darn well!! In fact, we actually managed a qualifying score on our run. Our very first agility Q on our maiden run, and we placed 2nd in the class! Here's a proud Brutus, relaxing after our run and modeling his winnings:
The second run of the day was even better. I wasn't as nervous, knowing Brutus was actually performing better than he does in training. Seems like he knows when he's in the spotlight & rises to the occasion. We finished the second class with a completely clean course, no faults/errors. As if that wasn't enough, Brutus was actually FAST - much faster than any of our training runs. Once I adjusted to this fact & settled down a little myself, the rest of the weekend got even better. We ended up qualifying in all our of 6 runs over the course of the three days (5 of which were clean/no faults), much to my complete amazement. Talk about a successful weekend - yippee!! Here is an actual score sheet to prove we had the the best score out of about 8 dogs that ran the course (although placements are awarded in each jump height), we still would have 1st if the whole class had been scored together. We're listed about half way down, with a time of 22.65 seconds and 0 faults. That's out of an allowed time of 49 seconds - only one dog (a lab) ran faster (by less than a tenth of a second), but had 10 faults:
Brutus & I actually won all but one class (came in 2nd there) we entered, so home with 5 blue ribbons and one red, in addition to the 6 teal qualifying ribbons - but the ribbons are just the icing on the cake. The fact that Brutus behaved so well at the trial, and even more importantly that we both had fun was my biggest gratification. We are apparently pretty entertaining to watch, with people being surprised how agile Brutus is for his build (it's been said he jumps like a frog), and gather quite a crowd when we run. Not surprisingly, Brutus just soaks up all the attention and showed no sign of stress whatsoever (wish I could have said as much for myself!!)
We were both tired at the end of three days of trialing, and very happy to go home and rest on (or in Brutus' case in this photo, under) our laurels for a few days:
Hope I didn't bore you with all that commentary. I'm just so excited to share our accomplishments, however silly they might seem in the grand scheme of things. Now if I could just get Brutus to be less crazy at home.... Anyhoo....
Tomorrow I promise to have a shorter post for you to enjoy, including a video I have been promising our followers for the last 6 months!! So tune in then to see me & my fabulous agility Frenchie in action!