Saturday, November 19, 2011

Secret Dog Performance Enhancement Kit

Good friend Josh decided to accompany us for both days of the agility trial. It meant he had to be up and out at 6:30 a.m.
"I warn you Josh," I told him, "If you are not out there ready when we drive by, I will leave without you."
I take my nervous anxiety seriously. But Josh was up and ready and turned out to be a secret weapon in our Dog Performance Enhancement kit. Josh is incapable of being serious, at least as far as I have ever seen. Thus, he is a constant stream of entertainment. This had the very favorable effect of keeping Asherel very calm and relaxed. In some mother's eyes, she may have seemed a little too calm and relaxed and thus Danielle, another secret weapon in our Dog Performance Kit, came when she could to sit with me as Asherel's trial run times approached. She would pat my knee and say, "It's ok. It's still early. Calm down. Eating 50 gummy bears right before her run will not hurt her."
By the way, Danielle had showed up when we first arrived with a 6 pound bag of gummy bears for Asherel. She wanted to counteract the "mother hover effect" with sugar, a very sound strategy, at least in Asherel's eyes.

Meanwhile, good friend and mentor, Polly, watched the preceding day video of Asherel's very nice but non-qualifying run, and texted me:
"She needs to draw the line better for her dog. Nice run, but remind her to draw the line."
I told Asherel what Polly had said, as Josh listened.
"You need a laser pointer," said Josh, "Are you allowed to bring in a laser pointer?"
"Just imagine you have a laser pointer," I told Asherel, "Draw the path you want Honeybun to follow."
As Asherel got up and gathered the rewards and dear Honeybun, Josh and I chanted, "Draw the line. Laser pointer."
Asherel and Honeybun then ran the prettiest jumpers course she has ever run. Fast and no mistakes at all. Honeybun did briefly stop at one point, and consider defecting, but then went slowly to the weaves and nailed them the first time- a rarity for her. She not only qualified in Open Jumpers, thus securing her Open Jumpers Title and advancing to Excellent Level, but she placed second overall!

Time for her second run came- her Open Standard run. Honeybun never does as well with the standard classes, which include all the agility equipment, some of which we don't have at home thus can only infrequently practice.
Danielle showed up and sat beside me.
"Asherel, don't you think you should head down there?" I fretted.
"She's fine," said Danielle soothingly.
As she walked the course, Josh stood up in the stands and bellowed out to her, "Laser pointer!!!!"
Asherel looked up, and shook her head laughing. Had I been the one to shout that, I guarantee she would have been digging a hole to China. She returned from walking before the time was up.
"What are you doing back here?" I asked, "You should be walking til your time runs out."
"I tried to tell her that," said Josh knowingly, shaking his head at her, "You should walk it til you can close your eyes and see the course."
Josh has never run agility, but he was right on.
"OK," grumbled Asherel, returning to walk the course.
"Laser pointer!" called Josh.
When she returned, Josh, who had been studying the course map, quizzed her.
"What obstacle do you go to after jump 13?"
"What is 14?"
"The teeter," said Asherel.
"Very good!"
She again gathered Honeybun and headed down to the field.
"Laser pointer!" called Josh. I was too busy chewing my nails to say anything, and Danielle was repeating her mantra when she is around me at Agility trials:
"It's ok, she's fine...."
"But she never does well in standard..."
"But maybe she will," said Danielle, looking at me sternly.
"You're right!" I said, grasping her arm, "Maybe she will!" I settled back, wishing I were a calmer, more optimistic person.
Asherel walked onto the field. Honeybun was looking all around, everywhere except at Asherel.
"Oh no!" I said, "She is not paying attention."
"She will," said Danielle, "It's ok."
Honeybun looked at Asherel.
"Go," said the loudspeaker.
Honeybun barreled through the tire jump start. The first 6 or so obstacles went just as planned. Then she came to the weaves, her nemesis. She got half way through and then popped out of them.
"Oh dear!" I groaned.
"It's ok," said Danielle, "That's only one refusal. She can have one refusal."
Honeybun ran through the weaves beautifully on her second try. Then she raced to the "pause table" . She skittered onto it, and slid off.
"Ohhhhh! She never does that!" I groaned.
"It's ok," said Danielle, "That is a different error than a refusal. She can have two different mistakes in Open level. She can still qualify."
I nodded, and we both fell silent. She had to be perfect the rest of the run. And she was. Honeybun hit every obstacle beautifully after that, and as she sailed over the last jump, Danielle said, "I think she qualified."
Asherel assumed she had not, but she came back pleased with a good run.
I hurried over to the computer read out.
I saw that not only did she have a big fat Q after her name, but she placed third! And this was a major milestone in Honeybun's agility career. She had "double Q'ed",  the only time she has ever qualified in both her classes on a single day.
I came hurrying back to Asherel and her entourage.
"You q'ed!" I cried joygully, "You just got your first ever double Q!!"
Danielle smiled and said, "Good run, Asherel. And congrats on your new title."
"Oh does she get a title ribbon?" I asked, "Where do we go to get our ribbon?"
"Our ribbon?" asked Danielle, raising an eyebrow.

Later, I posted the perfect Open run video on facebook. The rescue group who three years ago had helped us when we found Honeybun, a boney aggressive mess, cheered and then reposted it on their farm page.
"The stray that became a star..." wrote Hollow Creek Farm.

In retrospect, I think saying OUR ribbon was perfectly apt. It is a ribbon that was earned by Hollow Creek Farm, Josh, Polly, Danielle, Laura, and all our other agility trainers, Asherel, Honeybun...and yes, even me. After all, I have to drive her to every practice...that counts for something, doesn't it?

God is so gracious. The double Q was very nice, and certainly a thrill, but that was not the real joy of the two days. The joy was sitting and laughing with friends, cheering them on and being cheered on, encouraging and being encouraged, and joining together in a common love. As a child, I had few friends. As an adult, I find myself encircled by support, even by people who know what a mess I am inside. My advice to everyone today- tell your friends how much you love and appreciate them. They are one of God's best tools in His  Human Performance Enhancement Kit, critical for any and every trial.

Proverbs 12: 25-26
25 Anxiety weighs down the heart,
   but a kind word cheers it up.   
26 The righteous choose their friends carefully,

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