As I was driving home, elated from this amazing, successful weekend, I had a thought: very few people get to be conscious of being right in the midst of some of the best years of their lives.
That's where I am, working with my dog Scorch; trialing and training with my brilliant, enthusiastic, happy-go-lucky border collie, the first dog I've ever been able to seriously compete with. Scorch really is the dog of a lifetime.
This dog has not met a training task that he could not overcome.
And so it was with Rally Advanced B. Scorch and I were up against the "big dogs". Most of the dogs in our class were also working on their RAE titles, and so had already worked in Rally Excellent that day. We don't have an RA title, but Rally rules state that any other obedience title (our CD in this case) excluded us from Advanced A, where the "green"er dogs usually compete.
Day 1, Scorch held his own, even as he rushed out of position with excitement upon spotting dad, with a respectable 93/100.
Day 2, Scorch scoffed, "Big dogs, schmig dogs," and dominated the ring. We left with a score of 100/100 and a time of 1min 8sec, nearly 30 seconds faster than the only other 100 in the class.
I KNEW as we finished the day 2 course that we scored highly... I was hoping for that 100 but you never know if there was an error you can't see from handler perspective. Overall, Rally has been a great, positive way to get more trial experience. I'm proud of Scorch for more than holding his own against "B" level dogs, even beating them.
Judge Bob Withers (probably my favorite judge so far) called Scorch a "spirited animal". Scorch's fan club has grown; "that fast dog" has gathered a group of spectators that look forward to our ring time; they ask when we're competing so they can watch. He was by far the fastest dog in any of the Rally classes; I'm finally learning the pace that best showcases his heeling.
At one point, Bryan and I crated Scorch and went to watch some more of the runs. There had been a dog nearly out of his soft crate earlier, so when Judge Withers calmly called out, "Loose dog!", I curiously looked over to see if the dog had gotten out.
"OH MY GOD, THAT'S MINE!"
Scorch was being held by the collar by another competitor, grinning and straining to get to me. The competitors laughed and remarked, "He sure knows his mama!" I don't think they would have nearly been so genial if Scorch had run amok, but all he wanted was to be with his people.
When we went back to the crate, I discovered that he UNZIPPED IT FROM THE INSIDE. There are very few doors, windows, and now crates that can best Scorch. He casually attempts to open everything; he is never destructive, just resourceful. Ugh. He spent the rest of the runs happily in a down-stay by my side.
Needless to say, it was an eventful trial.
While we were there, we heard an explosion of applause and cheering at the Utility/Open half of the building. Even though I'd never witnessed one before, I instantly knew that someone had just won their OTCH. Sure enough, a man I recognized from training at ODTC years earlier won his OTCH on his Novice A dog. I had goosebumps. A woman sitting near me mentioned, "That's always in the back of my mind, but I just haven't found the right dog."
I replied that I had... hopefully he has the right handler.
Time to buckle down on our Open level training. Unfortunately, Scorch scraped up his paws playing with some neighbor kids so we've been taking it easy. I entered him in the St Pete Rally trial and hopefully we'll finish our RA there. My goal is to be showing in Open this summer. Might that be the time we meet our first NQ? If it is, so be it; I'm just happy and honored to work with this amazing collie.