Last Sunday, Pongu had his second Rally trial of the year, and in it achieved the first of our competition goals for 2013. I am just so proud of my little crazypants scrodbasket!
We drove out to Harrisburg for this event -- a little over two hours each way, and considerably farther than I'd ever asked the long-suffering spousal unit to drive for a Rally competition before. I thought it was worth it, though, because this event was offering three runs at each level instead of the more usual one or two runs, which meant I could get Pongu in six runs total and potentially rack up a bunch of championship points in addition to possibly completing our Level 2 title. Pongu needed two more L2 Qs to title, and he had three chances at this event.
It was a good thing he did, too, since he NQ'ed his first L2 run due to excessive anxiety at competing off-leash in a new venue with new sounds and new Astroturf flooring (our previous venues all had matted floors). Once Pongu was disqualified, though, the judge suggested clipping his leash back on and finishing the course on-leash, to see if that would help him calm down. Indeed it did: once he had his "umbilical cord" back in place, Pongu was able to get his head back in the game.
If this had happened to us last year, I'm sure I would have melted down myself and been unable to get anything good out of our remaining runs. But we've been doing this for six months, and I don't stress about Rally trials anymore: we'll do how we do, and I'm honestly not nervous at all, because I know Pongu can do it, so my job is just to help him until he does do it.
And he turned in a great series of runs once he recovered. He kept working with me for the next five runs, stretching across nine hours, and turned in a series of scores ranging from 201 to 207. In his remaining Level 2 runs, he scored 204 (Pongu's very first blue-ribbon #1 finish!) and 203 (a second-place finish). He was still slightly anxious, and as a result he didn't always get the highest scores, but he earned consistent scores, and that makes me really happy. Previously, I'd never asked him to do more than two runs in a day, and now I know he has the endurance to work a full day.
We still have room for improvement, of course. Lots of room. But I am so happy that Pongu has gotten this far. He's come a long way from the frozen little fearful puppy who wouldn't come out from under the bed. He was the only mixed-breed dog at the entire event -- there were other rescue dogs, but no other mutts -- and he still took home a first-place ribbon, a second-place ribbon, and a new title.
So here's to Pongu the Insane, RL2 (AOE), my special little nutjob dog.