On Aug. 4 we were invited to perform a musical freestyle demonstration at the Pioneer Valley Kennel Club dog show in Greenfield, MA. Since they were offering rally trials, I figured we'd be there anyway, so I might as well enter and hopefully finish Tripp's advanced title. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that rally might be scheduled at 8:30 in the morning! Ugh. And it's over a 2.5 hour drive from home. I hadn't planned for an overnight stay but I was NOT prepared to get up in the pre-dawn hours to drive south. Thankfully, our PomPoms leader, Honey, very hospitably put us up for the night in VT and we had an easy drive to the show from there after a more reasonable night's sleep. :-)
The heat was already bearing down when we arrived at the show at 8 am. I packed a spray bottle of water to mist Tripp's coat to help cool him down (a trick I learned at agility trials), and seemed to use it almost continually throughout the day on Saturday. I even misted myself a few times! The judges were well aware of how hard the weather would be on the performing dogs, so I do wonder if they went easy on the scoring just a bit. As Tripp and I navigated the course I ticked off in my mind all the single point faults he might've deserved. Lots of positioning imperfections, although I must remember that while precision obedience is what I want, it is not required in rally. Still, AKC judges are usually a bit stricter - I joke that they must've stolen this one from UKC. LOL Perhaps the nitpicking was all in my head - he does indeed look better on video than I remember it - but I was not imagining the need to keep on him constantly to stay in position, esp. at the jump. It took all his willpower not to go into agility mode, and that does show in the video. I seriously thought I was going to lose him there, but he came back to heel when called and I'm very proud - we worked hard on that. Even a couple times later in the course it felt like he wanted to take off. But of course as always his charisma outshines the minor faults, so he looks good regardless. ;-)
I still don't know how, but we managed to score a 98!! I really expected lower 90s, at least. Not that I cared about score for once - I just wanted a Q and to finish that RA title that has eluded us for so long. But I certainly am not complaining. I was very happily surprised to get a 98, along with first place, which came with a $15 cash prize! I've said it before and I'll say it again - now that's the way to earn a title!
It wasn't until noon that our freestyle demos began. Oh boy, was it hot by then! Apparently somebody at the show had already collasped and I saw them being hauled away to an ambulance! Needless to say, we spent lots of time in the shade, taking it easy, with lots of water for everyone. I even bought one of those cooling neck ties that you soak in water for Tripp to wear (I figured any little bit helps). No, I don't think I'm capable of taking him to a show without buying him something. Believe me, I spent far more than that $15 prize on the neckerchief and a bunch of treats. Oh well, he's worth it.... and it was all stuff we were in need of. Well, ok, so maybe he didn't need another antler to chew on, but everything else was a practical purchase, really. ;-)
I can't say everything went smoothly with the freestyle performances, but we got through them without melting and the crowd was pleased, so that's the important thing. For some reason the sound system didn't play the music well - the base notes came through but the lyrics were barely audible. Unfortunately this caused us to miss most of our cues in the Poms' group performance. We even thought it was the wrong music at first as it sounded so different without the words coming through - I swore it sounded like "oompa" music. LOL We tried adjusting the volume, but it was the same even with my solo performance which followed the Poms - however I know the song well enough that I could hit most of the cues. (I actually rarely practice with the music at home.)
The dogs of course all moved at a slower pace... but for that matter I think we humans did too! But we are all very proud of our canine companions for performing for us at all in that heat. What good dogs. Tripp was extra tired after an already busy day, but agility nut that he is, he was still happy to jump over my head in our solo perfomance. Although you'll notice his groundwork is much less enthusiastic. At least we finished the whole thing this time. ;-) He crashed out after that, but was up and at 'em the next morning and ready for Sunday's events...