The last time I blogged through, I was pondering the effects of a rut of bad luck/stresses/downturns in a number of areas in my life–the slow transition to floundering joy and the sensation of ongoing loss and failure.
The solution, I decided, is to reframe the journey. Targeting not being [anxious/stressed/sad] is still, in the end, focusing on those negative things. Seeking confidence, on the other hand…
Definitely working better. But not without ongoing opportunities to practice.
Since last fall, amidst the various stupid back luck situations with Connery Beagle at trials, I’ve had the sense that things weren’t right. He was making atypical errors–no pattern that I could perceive, just…not right. He’s a hard eleven after a lifetime of vaccine-induced auto-immune issues that have threatened his life any number of times, and I’ve had the sense of Time Running Out as we crept on toward our agility goals.
(Connery has three master agility championships [MACH], and last year when he finished the third, he moved into the lower jump height of the preferred class and has been running for his preferred agility championship [PACH]. Along the way he’s pegged in at #1 AKC Preferred Beagle and #1 Preferred Fastest Beagle.)
The last weekend of April, we went to a lovely little 3-day trial in Alamogordo, NM–an outdoor trial held on a beautiful sports field. (Another sort of challenge for Connery, because they had just mowed it, and he reacted so strongly to the clippings that I had to pull out the steroids in addition to his regular Atopica.)
For a MACH or PACH, a dog must earn 20 Double Qs–that is, qualify in both the standard and jumpers course of the day. We were running for QQ#20 that weekend, and had three chances to get it. On Friday and Saturday, Connery continued his streak of strange little mistakes. Then on his final Saturday run, a friend asked me what I’d said to him as he went into the weaves (where he missed the entrance).
Well, I hadn’t said anything. But he’d still turned briefly away from the weaves to look over his shoulder at me, and had missed the entrance because of it.
Back at the hotel, I thought hard about that. I thought back to his other recent missed weave entries (a situation muddled by our Very Bad Luck with misassembled weaves last December, where Connery hit his toes on the braces and then mistrusted weaves at trials for several months), and realized that they were largely occurring with Connery on my left.
Then I looked at his eyes. And yes…his right eye has gotten cloudy.
So my wonderfully honest dog, while approaching weaves with me on his bad vision side and the weaves on his good side, tries to check in with me while entering the weaves–by turning his head enough to see me with his good eye. And that means turning away from the weaves. And leaves the opportunity for all the other little errors he’s made lately.
Boy, do we have to be detectives sometimes.
Well, back to the trial. As it happens, on Sunday, both weave entrances put me on Connery’s newly recognized good side. We had a chance! And we knew there was rain forecasted that day, but nothing intense–and otherwise the cool and cloudy day made for excellent running conditions.
I ran the first course in chilly shirtsleeves. (No one runs in a jacket if it can be avoided –they just get in the way.) Connery Q’d with happy style! But on the horizon…
It was pretty evident that the non-eventful rain was going to hit in a classic desert stormfront. As we walked the course, the wind whipped up, and just as we finished, the front edge hit.
We all dove for our shade shelters, hanging on for dear life as gusts tried to rip up staking and tear off canopies and otherwise wreak destruction. We hung on to dog crates, too, while the dogs hunkered down inside. My guys are pretty seasoned about wind, but at some point enough is enough! (I was really grateful that we got Tristan Puppy to the van right before the worst of it hit.)
The trial went on delay, and within moments, it seemed, most of the teams had decamped. When the stragglers regrouped, we were missing ring crew and gate sheets, and competitors were still securing their shelters and dogs, so it was very much a “run in whatever order you can if you can run at all” sort of thing. The wind still gusted high, the temps had dropped significantly, and the rain alternated between threatening and big hard spatters, but hadn’t yet settled in.
The circumstances were utterly insane on all fronts, never mind adding a PACH run to the mix, but…there we were! The only truly good thing about it? There wasn’t time to think about any of it. Just to DO it.
I ran Dart first as scheduled. The weather made it…interesting.
Most of the dogs between Dart and Connery were missing, so I’d barely gotten back to the crates when the gate started yelling for me again. I grabbed Connery and warmed him up –back rubs, stretches, and playing with his treat bottle–and off we went, into the absurd!
Because, you know. GRRR. BITE THAT COURSE IN THE BUTT. BITE THE WEATHER WHILE YOU’RE AT IT.
CH MACH3 PACH Cedar Ridge DoubleOSeven VCD1 GN RE TDX PAX MXC MJG MXP2 MXPB MJP2 MJPB XF
Go ye forth and GRRRR!