Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introducing: Scorch CD RN

I finally have a minute to sit down and write about our amazing, emotional, victorious return to Orlando for our latest obedience trial.

Coming off of the high from the previous weekend's scores of 87 and 100 in Rally, we were raring and ready to go. However, during the week, my dad was hospitalized with pneumonia, adding a major layer of stress over the proceedings. Training was minimal in the week before the show; depression is a real pain. But buoyed by dad's improvement, we arrived in Orlando ready to do our best.

The Orlando Dog Training Club is a large, fairgrounds building. Compared to Sarasota, which has room for two rings, and St Pete, which has a divider between two sets of rings, ODTC is a massive, echoing space. There were 6 or 7 rings, and a massive amount of activity.

Entering the Novice A ring on the first day was nervewracking. ODTC was a place I used to train, but Scorch has never been there before, or been any place quite like it. When we started the on lead heel, and indeed through most of the exercises, I felt like I had a dog barely restrained. He was giving me pretty good attention, but was forging repeatedly and bouncing. Still, we got through the heel on lead and figure 8 ok. After being a little shifty during the setup, his stand for exam was steady, although he moved his feet right as the judge said "exercise finished".

Then came the off lead heel. Again, I felt he was right on the edge of control. Scorch was bouncy and there was a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. He started the "fast" without me and came completely out of heel position... but somehow, on the about turn, responded to my call to heel and we finished gracefully enough. I was proud of him for ignoring the Open ring Drop on Recall occurring right next to us. As we set up for the recall though, the lure of the Open ring was *nearly* too much, and the judge mercifully told us to wait until it had quieted down. Then Scorch gave me the best front and finish on a recall to date.

Stays were not a problem, and so Scorch became Scorch CD. No placement, but a new rosette and new letters to his name.


We had a little bit of a wait to try and burn off some more of his energy. I see so many people keeping their dogs in kennels to make sure they bring them out fresh and to reduce lagging. We do not have that problem. I need to keep Scorch burning energy. I don't want him too fresh.

Next came Rally Novice A. We were only entered once in Rally, so this was our only chance that weekend to finish the title. No problemo. Scorch's only mistake was a little bit of interference during the 360 left. We rocketed through fronts and finishes, halt 1-2-3 steps, pace changes, and turns. We finished our run with a score of 99, first place, and our title.

By the end of Saturday, I was the proud owner of Scorch CD RN.



I spent part of the afternoon at the hospital with Dad, then Bryan and I had dinner with Mom. Dad was improving and would get to go home soon; still, I was glad I happened to be in town that weekend. It worked out well, but I was exhausted.

Sunday was a long day. We arrived a bit later to the show but ended up having a much longer wait than I anticipated. Bryan is a trooper. However, there was trouble afoot. I had bought Scorch a new slip lead at the show, and the night before had taken his collar off to do some work with the slip.

I forgot to put it back on.

So we showed up at the trial with no collar on his neck. There was one in my bag, but it had tags on it. I went into the Novice ring with Scorch on his slip lead, unaware of the points it would cost me. His performance, however, was much improved on the day before. He gave me steadier attention, did not try to bounce ahead, and overall gave a beautiful performance.

After our nice on lead heel and figure 8, I handed the leash to the steward and the judge asked, "Is that dog wearing a collar?" My heart sunk. We waited while a Novice B competitor (with a lovely red border collie) generously took the collar off of her dog for us to borrow. I stammered out an apology and the judge said, "Don't apologize to me." I knew we were in trouble, but I held it together, put the collar on, and started our stand for exam. My wonderful, wonderful dog gave a perfect performance. His off leash heel was nice, with a brief lapse of attention, and he gave me another perfect recall.

We got a nice round of applause from the Novice folks (the only people left at the show), and the judge told me he docked major points for handler error, but that otherwise my dog was very nice and we'd qualified. I held it together until I'd give Scorch his treats, and then I went outside to cry.

I didn't have long to calm down. We were near the end and we had stays to get through. I calmed down and Scorch gave his usual rock solid performance. Then, when we came back to the ring for ribbons, I stepped on his foot AGAIN and he screamed. I fell apart. I got down on the floor and cried into his fur, then lined up for ribbons, tears running down my face. It was extremely embarrassing, but I stayed there. I don't even remember what the judge said, although I do remember he said something about Novice A being hard work and sometimes tears. But all of a sudden, he was announcing, "And in 4th place, with a score of one-eighty-something [my memory goes blank here], dog and handler 510."

I stood there for a moment, then looked down at my armband. THAT WAS US? Suddenly, we were getting a trophy, and a toy, and a leash, and a ribbon, and a rosette, and I was crying even harder, from shock and happiness this time.

I can't believe it. Not only did we achieve our titles, we even managed to salvage a stupid error on my part and come back with a placement.

We're now getting ready for Open. Dumbbell work has been great, on the flat and over the jump. We just need to raise the jump to full height, and broad jump needs A LOT of work. Out of sight downs are pretty good but I'm not fully confident on the sits. Drop on recall needs to be, erm, started.


But my little boy loves the new stuff we're learning, and I love working with him. I'm hoping to debut Wolfie in Rally next year as well, since I think his hips can handle that. Scorch is just about ready for Rally Advanced.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Most Aggressive Dog Breeds

My brief thoughts:
I will say as much as I love pitties and border collies, I'm not surprised by the presence of either. The pit bull is a much-maligned and mistreated breed, so the fact that bites occur isn't surprising.

I *am* shocked by the lack of chows, dalmatians, cockers, and GSDs. I would think all are more common than the Akita, and therefore would have a greater number of bites total. None of the other breeds are much of a surprise to me, just the omissions are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rally day 2

Today was the second day of Rally trials. I was still nervous, but feeling better about what we were facing and felt better prepared. This morning, I took Scorch out for a chuck-it session and did some obedience practice. He felt more "on" and focused. A lot of his frenetic energy seemed to have dissipated. Seeing that gave me a big boost, and we set off for St. Pete.

Our judge was Robert Withers again, and we had a wait while he finished up his traditional obedience judging duties. There was a fairly large Rally entry, and one poor pooch had diarrhea in the ring, so we had a lot of downtime. I took the opportunity to practice the elements of the course. It was a bit more complicated than the prior day's set-up, which I viewed as a positive; it seemed to be a course that would keep Scorch more engaged. My biggest worries were the spiral with the dog inside and the halt, 1, 2, 3 steps.

After some remedial "slow" work and a good leash correction during "fast" practice, we seemed to have the spiral tackled. I worked on smoothing out my handling for the halts and took slightly more deliberate steps. This seemed to help (as well as liberal amounts of bologna).

Finally, it was ring time. One of the stewards told me that I looked nice, and conspiratorially whispered that it drove her crazy when people didn't make themselves presentable for shows. I was pretty busy trying to slow my heart rate down, but I did register the compliment/gossip. I asked for Scorch to heel into the ring so I had complete control from the beginning. I kept my voice even and cheerleaded less. The judge asked if I was ready, and one glance at my dog told me all I needed to know: Scorch was locked on and ready to go. My "ready" reply intensified his gaze, and I HAD HIM.

Heel, halt, sit. One step with an immediate sit, then two steps, then three... perfect, quick responses, maybe just a touch forge-y but still in position. A couple of 270 degree turns to the left, a sit-stay walk around dog, a 360 right circle, no problem. Spiraling around cones with the dog on the inside... he held his heel position! I reminded him "back" and "easy" on the turns around the cones, and he was responsive without crowding. I began to get very excited as we came out of the spiral. Only one exercise left: front, finish left halt. I called him to front... and he gave me one of the straightest fronts he's ever done. Then he heeled up into a lovely flip finish, and we heeled to the finish line. I heard the judge's "YAY" that signaled the end of the run, and I got on the floor with my wonderful, wonderful dog.

We ran out of the ring to Bryan, and the first thing I said was, "That felt good."

While Scorch played/feasted on bologna, people came by to compliment our run. Everything was a whirlwind of activity, and my memory is a blur up until the point where the steward from earlier came up to me. What she said to me is crystal clear in my mind.

"I think you got a 100."

It felt like my head was floating away. Bryan and I looked at each other in shock and elation.

MY dog? MY dog got a perfect score his second time out in Rally? But I already knew... I knew it was perfect when we completed the left finish. I'd known then but hadn't wanted to hope. But it had felt so good.

We won the class yesterday. But today, I felt we REALLY, TRULY earned our blue ribbon. I couldn't have asked for any more. When we lined up for our ribbons, the judge commented that our time had been 1 minute and 9 seconds... almost a full minute faster than the next fastest time. He just laughed and shook his head. I laughed too and told him, "Well, he IS a border collie!"
He replied, "It shows! But you did a great job keeping up with him; you're a good team."

Yes. Yes we are. And hopefully, our teamwork will continue to shine through next weekend when we attempt to finish our CD and RN.

I asked for a picture with Mr. Withers, because I felt our first perfect score deserved documenting, and also because he was one of the most encouraging judges I've ever encountered.

I think he made the weekend a positive experience for all that competed under him, no matter how they fared. Let's hope next weekend is as amazing as this one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Broad jumps and a Rally Trial

Only my dog.

Scorch and I had class last night, and the instructors set up the broad jump. Angie offered to put a short bar over the top of the jump, to prevent the dogs from ticking it with their feet (or trying to climb over it).

Scorch decided that, when called to jump, he would CLIMB OVER THE JUMPS WHILE GOING UNDER THE SHORT BAR.

I reiterate, only my dog. I wish I'd had a camera.

Anyway, we got the broad jump going better but I definitely need to build a set to start working on it at home.

Scorch's dumbbell work has improved tremendously, and he had several successful retrieves. He even made a liar out of me and retrieved it perfectly over the high jump. I was so sure he wouldn't... but he can make a liar out of me any time!

So TODAY was the first day of our Rally trial. I'd never been a competitor in Rally before, but I was somewhat cocky about Scorch's skills. We warmed up and everything went great. I was hoping for a score in the 90s (and maybe even the elusive 100). So into the ring we went (although despite my cockiness, I still had a crampy tummy and suddenly had the urge to pee).

The serpentine weave went well, and Scorch stayed right with me as I babbled at him. But then his attention began to wane. He was with me, but his eyes were wandering and I may have had a tight leash a few times. Still, he turned appropriately and I tended to get his attention back on 270 and 360 degree turns. The front and left finish (no halt) went ok, but later when there was a front and right finish, I lost him. I don't know what he was looking at, but he was whining and not watching me at all. I told him "front" and nothing happened. So we backed up for our one retry, and he sort of crooked fronted but ended up more in heel. I asked for a right finish and he didn't move. Sigh. So we went on to the final halt-stay-walk around dog, which he did perfectly, and then we were done.

The judge, Robert Withers, was really nice and encouraging. I was definitely frustrated, but I was always conscious that I never wanted to take any of it out on Scorch. So we ran for treats and the tug rope, which I played with him while I figured out if we'd NQ'd or not.

Thank god for my mentors. Bev and Fran were both warm and reassuring, and helped me understand the rules of NQ better. They thought I'd just get 10 points off (which was fine with me!). Bev told me to go and see if they'd written my score up yet.

So we went by the scoreboard and waited... and waited... we watched another couple of performances, and I prevented Scorch from eating an intact male lab that got in his face. Rally Novice A was a rough ring that day, and I knew I wouldn't be alone if I had a low score (or an NQ).

I heard one of the stewards ask another, "Do you need any other scores?"
"Yes, border collie 603."
She flipped through her paperwork. "87."

87?? Not only did we qualify, but when I looked over the board... WE HAD GOTTEN FIRST PLACE!! Granted, it wasn't our best performance, and I'm more proud of the second place we got in Novice a few weeks ago... BUT WE DID IT!


I definitely think I cheerleaded him too much. Scorchie is wound up enough as it is, and doesn't need any help from me. So tomorrow, we'll try again with a more formal presentation. I'm still so proud of him, and all we've accomplished. Now we have a blue ribbon tacked beside our 3 green qualifiers and our red second place.

Good, good dog! And I cannot stress enough what a relief it is to have amazing mentors. I encountered a teensy bit of bitchiness today, but it didn't bother me, because I have an incredible support system. Bev is becoming not just an instructor, but a friend. Scorch has even decided that her intact male Aussie, Jack, is NOT the devil. So I think that's a good sign.

We'll try again tomorrow!