Perfecting the Team

Starters Snookers, 51 points, November 11 Dawg Trial.

Starters Snookers, 51 points, November 11 Dawg Trial.

I’m obsessed with dog agility, totally and completely. I feel withdrawal symptoms if I don’t get to play at least once a week in the VanKlaveren classes. But being obsessed with agility doesn’t mean I’m good at it. Willie on the other hand is incredible, and would be a perfect agility dog if it wasn’t for his handler. Or so I’m always telling myself. 

 
Recently, we attended the Scallywags NADAQ agility trial in Victoria. I registered Will and I for two days of trials, totalling five runs a day. I thought I was ready. I knew Willie was. I packed up my tent, portopotty, giant air bed and blankets, stowed the camp stove, filled the cooler, loaded the crates, toys and treats and headed off to what, I was positive, would turn out to be a weekend with at least a 30% Q ratio. 
 
The first run, we were on fire, hitting every contact, nailing every jump and moving like a carefully choreographed dance team, until the very last hoop with the finish gate attached. Instead of going thru, Will did the unexpected and veered around it, stopped, looked at me with a Bambi in the headlights look and came back through…our first elimination. Second and third runs produced the same results, while the fourth, whether from frustration, sore feet or a menopausal mind fart, had me lost in the middle of the ring desperately trying to read numbers on cones. 
 
Sunday’s performance wasn’t any better. I got lost again, Will missed a tunnel….a tunnel for crying out loud! And once again went around a couple of jumps. Though we got firsts in five of the combined days runs, we got a ‘q’ on only one. 10% success ratio. What went wrong? Better yet, what had I done wrong?
 
I spent the drive home, the pink sunset sky washing the roads in pastel, with Willie’s head gently resting in my lap, thinking about what went wrong. Patting his soft fur, each run got a replay and in depth analysis. Did I miss a cross, use the wrong hand gesture or turn my shoulder in the wrong direction? All of the above and a few more mistakes.
 
Losing never comes easy. And I am very quick to put all the blame on my shoulders. 
 
Perhaps it didn’t all belong there. 
 
We are so careful to not blame our dogs for mistakes in the ring that sometimes we make ourselves responsible for the dog just having an off day! Will was running in a new venue. My friend from Seattle came up to camp with us and watch us work. He’d never met her before. He slept in a tent, not with his favourite boy, on said favourite boy’s bed, but in a tent, with lots of noise going on outside and a cold draft coming in the window. And then there were all those new people who just wanted to hug and snuggle him! Yes, I made some mistakes, but Will did too. We are after all a team, and as such need to take team responsibility.
 
Lesson learned? I’m not always a big klutz, I don’t always screw up and I have a great partnership with the love of my life. Forget the self flagellation, get on with it, and try, try again!
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