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.