Monday, March 29, 2010

The 2010 National Agility Championship

I have to start by explaining a little about the jump-height thing (agility people can skip this paragraph.) Dogs jump height is determined by the dog's height at the shoulder. Maggie should have been jumping in the 20" group all along, but we've always bumped up to 24". We've done this for a couple reasons. 1. I hoped it would slow her down and give me a chance to keep up. 2. The team that we practice with 99% of the time also jumps 24" and I'm too lazy to reset the jumps every time we run. Anyway, the National Championship REQUIRED that you jump in your own height, unless you wanted to jump 26", with the competitors for the International team (these are the super-competitive, really fast dogs). I knew we would not be competitive against these teams, many of whom have done agility for years and even earn their living at it-nevertheless, we went with the 26" choice rather than jump 20".
Friday was like a dream come true for us. Maggie ran exceptionally well and we posted good times in both runs despite the fact that we've never run at 26" before. I didn't feel like she was blazing fast, sort of her normal run speed. The Nationals do not use scribe sheets, everything is electronic, so to get your time, you have to go to the area where all the times are posted on computers. Our times looked okay to me, but I had no idea where we stood. After all the 26" dogs had run, the placements were posted and I was shocked to see the "Fast Times" box checked behind our name and a number 6 in front. Against some of the fastest dogs in the Nation... maybe even in the world, we had placed 6th. I thought at first that this was a mistake, and asked someone next to me... "are these placements?" and when she said yes, I almost cried. My little Maggie-girl, born to a homeless mother, rescued by a good samaritan, adopted through a rescue, and then trained by a first-timer (me) had just placed 6th among the best of the best.
I wish that I could finish this story with how well we did in the finals, but my own nerves and handling errors pulled her off course in the subsequent runs. Despite being eliminated due to mistakes, her times were still respectible. Not fast enough to have seen us take home one of those huge ribbons or gain an invitation to the elite World Team, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of, either.
Several strangers at this elite event remarked on how much they liked her and said they were surprised to hear that she was a rescue (it was announced over the PA system as we ran that Maggie was adoped from Mo-Kan BC Rescue) If even one person thinks about going to rescue for their next dog, it would be worth more than any of those ribbons anyway, so maybe we were more of a success than we know.
I can't finish this post without a few shout-outs.
Congratulations to our friend Jeri Frye who finished in 4th place in the finals with her Aussie, Rocket. You two are a wonderful team and a great role model for us all!
Also, I cannot say enough about our wonderful trainers... First, Kim Berkely (Dog Sports at Kim's) who got us started in agility and provided us the very best foundation training. Kim warned us early on how ugly it can get if we don't get the basics down before we move on and that advice has been priceless. She's been with us since the beginning and always been our cheerleader. Second, Joan Meyer (Triune Training Center) not only an experienced world-team member, but a world-class handler and teacher. She has patiently been working with us to make us a better, faster, more reliable team. Just working with a handler of her calibre has been an honor. I think that both Joan and Kim are proud of our performance this weekend, given where we began 2 years ago.
For us, it is back to regular trials, and hopefully earning our Agility Championship (MACH) title before too much longer. But no matter what, this previously homeless dog has given me the thrill of a lifetime this weekend in Tulsa. I love you Maggie-girl!