Monday, August 31, 2009

Small Victories and Big Ideas

Jazz and I did not qualify at the Amana trial this weekend. We entered Friday and Sunday. Friday was our usual terrible heeling. The judge was generous and we only lost 29 points in total. That would have given us a 171 and the barest qualifier you can imagine. I was feeling pretty confident after he managed to stay in a sit position for the whole long sit. (Our only problem in long sits and downs was occassionally laying down.) We started the long down with an English Bulldog named Rufus on our right and the Boston Terrier Reilly on our left. Jazz looked fine and I was really feeling confident. Then I heard a weird noise. It was the strangest sort of whine, strangled grunt, space ship kind of noise, I have ever heard. I finally figured out that the noise was coming from the Bulldog. He then started a froggy, squirmy, land swim in the direction of his handler. If I hadn't been so busy giving Jazz a happy smile and praying he would stay put, I would have been giggling hysterically. The looks on the other dogs' faces, the handlers, and particularly the poor woman that was watching her Bulldog lose his mind were really very funny. I was busy trying to show Jazz how happy I was that he was only watching Rufus and not practicing land swimming. Finally, Rufus got up and walked over to his handler. I saw Jazz wiggle a little and then settle down. I was still looking at him and thinking we had dodged the bullet when he got the most surprised look on his face. I honestly think he had been contemplating the Bulldog and suddenly realized he was laying on a mat across the ring from me. He didn't seem to have any idea why he was laying there, so he got up and wandered over to see what I was doing. I guess I should be grateful he didn't run off, disturb anyone else, or pee somewhere! I think we were about 15 seconds short of qualifying. To quote Charlie Brown - ARGHHH!!

Saturday we went to a focus seminar in Muscatine taught by Nancy Reyes. This seminar was so perfectly in tune with the problems Jazz and I have been having! I learned so much about volunteered behaviors and we worked a good eight hours. Poor Jazz was almost asleep in the practice ring by the end of the day. I had worried about spending the money. Worried about wearing out his patience with another trial day to come. Worried about all kinds of things. It turned out to be so much fun and so helpful!

Sunday we went into the ring and I was feeling the glow from our seminar the day before. I was so much more relaxed in the ring than I have ever been. We began the heeling on leash with Jazz looking intently at my face! Those of you who have this experience in the ring on a regular basis have no idea what a blessing it is. I said, "Jazz heel!" and he did! We heeled a little ways and the judge said halt. Jazz wandered off, but came right back and sat. Again - it's the little things in life that can really make my day!! The very best part was a portion of the heeling pattern where I looked down and saw my dog trotting along, watching me and looking very proud of himself. He came to one nice, straight halt at my side. The joy I felt is ridiculous! He then fell madly in love the lovely young ladies that were the figure eight posts and tried to leave me for them. He did a perfect stand for exam. We got to the off leash heeling and he was kidnapped by the evil hamburger grill that was on the other side of the closed garage door. He just could not stop wondering how to get to the burgers. We weren't able to complete the heeling pattern. We did get the very nicest recall front and finish, but very slow recall. He managed to complete the long sit and down correctly.

I really can't tell you how great I feel about Sunday's performance. For a very short time, I felt the teamwork and sheer fun of heeling with a dog who wants to be there. I am so encouraged. I am marching briskly around the yard and if he falls behind or doodles, I just keep going. He is returning to heel position more and more quickly. I have so much hope.

Des Moines, here we come.

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