Friday evening, Dori collected her packed bags and went home. I'm so happy for her; I think she'll be happy and well loved, and I hope she makes her new people happy too.
Saturday morning, I got up at 4 am to drive Pongu to the Obedience Training Club of Harrisburg for his very first competition obedience trial.
We entered two runs in CDSP Novice, because I figured Pongu might need a couple of extra attempts in order to earn his CD-C at BVTC in November, and with the help of my beloved Student Driver sticker, I'm totally willing to drive two and a half hours each way for a chance at dog ribbons.
Despite my total willingness to wake up at ungodly hours and drive more ungodly hours to the trial, however, I hadn't really spent much time training the Novice obedience exercises. We'd done the Figure 8 heeling pattern a few times in class, and beyond that I figured Pongu's Rally experience would carry him through Novice. Other than the Stand For Exam (which is still just really a Stand with a pretty hefty distraction), all the exercises are very similar to Rally exercises, so I thought we could just kludge our way through.
My main concern wasn't really so much getting high scores in this trial as just finding out whether Pongu could qualify, anyway. Little Mr. Crazypants's confidence has improved immeasurably beyond where he was a year ago (one year ago, almost to the day, we had just bombed out in our second-ever Rally trial -- the Day of Many NQs -- and I wasn't sure we'd keep going with dog sports at all), but I didn't have a ton of faith that Pongu would be able to tolerate the Stand For Exam, given his reticence about being touched by strangers. And he still refuses the Recall Over Jump occasionally in Rally, particularly when it's an unfamiliar jump, so I wasn't sure how he'd do with that exercise, either.
As it turns out, he did okay. Here's the video from Pongu's first ever attempt at competition obedience:
He earned Qs in both of his runs, scoring 192 and 190 for second- and first-place finishes. Those aren't super awesome scores, to be sure, but it was a small field -- only 4 Novice dogs total, and one of them was in Novice C.
Because Pongu did pretty well on his Saturday runs, I got greedy and entered him for a morning run on Sunday, hoping maybe we could pick up the third Q needed to finish his CD-C title. (What can I say? The venue had nice title ribbons. Dog sport addicts know the power of a nice title ribbon. It overrides any and all rationality we might still possess. It's hypnotic! Next thing you know, you're hitting your alarm off at 4 am and blearily dragging your dog into the freezing cold of a still-dark parking garage.)
Sadly, Pongu NQ'ed his run because he anticipated my cue on the Recall Over Jump and started moving on the judge's cue instead of waiting for me, which is an instant NQ under CDSP rules. In retrospect, I might have seen that one coming; Pongu is used to Rally, where the judge never speaks once you begin the run, and he gets tense enough while holding a Stay on the far side of an obstacle that he's on a hair trigger to move as soon as anyone says anything.
That's the sort of thing that made me wish, looking back, that I'd actually spent some time training for this specific venue. In a way I'm glad we NQ'ed on our last run, because it gives me a reason to prepare more seriously for our next trial. Not that I expect we'll get dramatically better in two weeks -- the downside of scheduling trials close together is that you don't really have much time to fix stuff! -- but hey, we'll do what we can, and we'll see how it goes.
I bought Pongu some consolation chicken tenders from Steak N' Shake on the way home. We sat in the back seat and shared the chicken, listening to The Supremes sing "My World Is Empty Without You" (a song I put at the beginning of our playlist as we left, too).
One thing I noticed at the obedience trial was that some (not all, but some) of the competitors got VERY AGITATED when their dog NQ'ed. It was too bad, because often their dogs were very good dogs who just made one small mistake at the higher levels (which is all it takes), and you could watch the dogs stress about their people's unhappiness.
I didn't care too much about Pongu's NQ. I mean, yeah, sure, it would have been nice to get that hypnotizing title ribbon. But the NQ itself didn't bother me. We already have something like 50 NQs in Rally (I don't even count anymore), so what difference does it make if the number is 52 or 53? Ooh, yeah, crushing.
I'm just thrilled that my insane little pound muppet can do competition obedience at all. That is huge for this dog, and it makes me so excited about where we can go in the future. If Pongu can handle the SFE, and can even do it with strangers in unfamiliar venues, then really there's nothing holding us back from moving full steam ahead in this sport -- no more than holds back any "normal" dog, anyway.
I never dreamed that my fearful dog would be able to do this. And he can. And that's amazing to me. I'm so proud of my little guy.