Spoiler: They both did very well and I am so, so proud of them.
Pongu, my little crazypants spazzlebutt, turned in his best run ever and scored 208 out of a possible 210 points. Going in, I was a little worried: this was Pongu's first trial since getting off Prozac, and while he's generally coping quite well without the medication, he's become noticeably more reactive and quick to startle. I wasn't sure how he'd do in the trial environment.
Obviously, I needn't have worried. He was confident, happy, and focused throughout, and although we did make a couple of tiny errors (partly my fault -- my handling is not as clear as it should be!), I could not be happier with Pongu's performance. This is just his fourth trial experience of any kind ever, and in my opinion he's doing brilliantly.
We are going to rock some trials next year. Pongu needs another nine Qs in Level 1B to earn his RL1X title, and 82 points plus 5 Level 1B/2B QQs at 190 or higher to earn his ARCH (which is the one I really want, because doesn't that just look impressive?). I'm hoping to get the remaining Level 2 exercises to a comfortable level of proficiency by the end of the month, so we can start competing in that level right away next year. The next trial in our area is in January, and I'm hoping to be ready by then. With luck, we may have Pongu's first championship title by August or September.
It'll just be me and Pongu, though, because Crookytail is retiring from Rally after completing his first title.
Crooky has never enjoyed competitions. This is the face he made for almost the entire time he was waiting on his turn in the ring:
Crookytail generally enjoys practice, I think, although he has always been inconsistent in his performances. One day he'll be brilliant, the next day he's completely deaf to my requests and would much rather stare at the Squirrel Tree in hopes of spotting a furry gray snackbite.
But most of the time, at home and on the street, he seems to like playing the game.
This enjoyment vanishes instantly in the trial venue. Even before we set foot in the ring, Crookytail gets anxious and stressy and starts pleading to leave. Once in the ring, he really does try hard, but he doesn't seem to like it. I never get the sense that Crookytail is having fun, as opposed to dutifully trying to make me happy.
Crookytail earned a score of 188 at yesterday's run. It was the second-lowest qualifying score of any dog in the division. Again, some of the errors were my fault for sloppy handling, but a lot of it was that Crooky just wasn't that into it. He had his moments of brilliance and stretches of good heeling, but overall it was just... adequate.
Adequate is still good enough, though. I promised Crooky that if he earned his title, I'd let him quit doing competitions (at least for a while). He did it, so he gets an honorable discharge from the ring.
I may bring him back down the road. Crookytail does show promise, and when he's on his game, he can execute the movements with great flair and precision. For him, it's just a matter of building value into the exercises, so that they become fun and rewarding in and of themselves. I don't think that this would be too difficult; I'm just not sure I should make it a priority. I don't need him to love Rally -- or any sport, for that matter. He has a job already. And when I'm actively fostering, I honestly do not have time to train Crooky to a competition level. So, at least for the time being, I'm content to let him retire.
Crookytail's career scores reflect his general inconsistency: 186, 198 (and third place!), 188.
Pongu's reflect his steady gain of confidence in the ring: 196, 198, 201, 208.
And so we close out Dog Mob's run in APDT Rally for 2012. Both dogs entered the sport for the first time this year, and both of them earned their beginner titles in short order. Not bad for a couple of muttly pound dogs. I do believe they're the only dogs in our neighborhood who have any title (other than maybe a couple of CGCs, and I'm honestly not sure we even have any of those around), and I am inordinately proud of them for that.
All hail Crookytail the Benevolent, RL1, and Pongu the Insane, RL1 (AOE).