I dressed pretty lightly for this trial, because it's been an unseasonably warm weekend in Philly and I figured my usual winter getup would be major overkill. What I forgot (because we had only trialed at this venue once previously) was that Nazareth is both north of Philly and at a considerably higher elevation.
So we got to the venue and it looked like this:
Anyhow, the trial itself was pretty uneventful. Pongu was a stressy shaking mess for the first few hours, which is about what I expected since he was a mess the last time we were at this venue, too. It's a perfectly nice facility, but it's on the small side (single ring with the crating area only separated by about 5' to 10' of floor space depending on how crowded it is) and it's relatively unfamiliar, and Pongu doesn't exactly need a lot of prodding to have stress issues.
This trial marked the beginning of our quest for ARCHMX triple Qs. To earn the ARCHMX, which is the final and most difficult championship title in World Cynosport Rally, you must (a) have earned all prior combined championships; and then (b) earn 10 separate QQQs with scores of 195 or better in Levels 1B, 2B, and 3B, all at the same trial.
So it's a lot like the RAE and UDX in that you need to get multiple Qs in separate runs, but it's three Qs and you have to score high in all three, whereas for RAE and UDX you just need to Q, it doesn't matter what your score is. (That said, getting a Q at all in Open and Utility is plenty challenging already!)
Our scores were 207, 200, NQ for the first set (sadface), and 207, 207, 203 for the second set (first ARCHMX leg! yay! nine more to go! less yay!).
The only run I got on tape was our Level 3 NQ in the first trial. For the last few trials, whenever I've asked somebody to tape us, we've gotten a really crappy score and/or NQ. I think it's a sign from above that I should give up my hopes of getting a good run on tape and just accept that we're always gonna look terrible when I try to record things for posterity.
But in the interest of failing massively in public (and demonstrating just how hard it is to get the ARCHMX), here is our crappy NQ run and a breakdown of why it sucked. Even if I hadn't NQ'ed us, we would have gotten a terrible score and no triple Q on this one anyhow.
0:00 -- good attention while waiting for the timer to get started; no stress scratching! yay!
0:27 -- my shoulder tilt pushes Pongu back and out of position (at least 1 point off there if it was just scored as a crooked Sit, or 5 points off if it was scored as a double Sit. Either way, that was my fault for bad handling. Hnnnrrrgggghh)
0:37 - 0:40 -- good backup, I'm happy with this. Liiiittle close to an auto-Sit at the end there. His butt doesn't touch the ground so we're okay, but I need to fix that for later runs, because I don't need to be losing 5 points on a dumb mistake like that
0:47 -- slightly out of position Sit, borderline scoreable; it would depend on the judge whether we got a point off on that or not
0:48 - 0:50 -- good pivot, I'm happy with this
0:53 -- front paw movement on the Sit-Stay, probably not scoreable but I'm not thrilled with it
1:04 - 1:07 -- we were getting a bunch of sloooowww Downs this whole day. Pongu's position is correct and there's only one cue, so it's not scoreable, but the slow time would hurt our placements on a tie and I'm not happy with that
1:14 -- what even IS that way-leaned-back Front position? I think that's a weird stress manifestation. A really tough judge might hit us for a point on that -- most judges wouldn't, because his feet are close even if his body isn't -- but even if it's not scoreable, blegh, that is not something I want to see for multiple reasons
1:20 -- Pongu notices the person filming him, stops to stare. No serious lag in positioning (because I caught him doing it and stopped moving) so not scoreable, but that's another time hit
1:31 -- another spider brain moment. I was actually surprised Pongu gave me a good Front after this (even with me helping him out a little with my hands) because usually he will pull out of position to keep an eye on whatever imaginary threat caused him to stare, but nope, that one's straight and close. Progress or a fluke of luck? Who knows, but I'm happy to see it!
1:34 -- smooth movement into Heel position, I'm happy with this too
1:50 -- I was super nervous about Pongu breaking his Stay on this one because that was a Major Issue for us the last time we trialed. We had been working on this, but it had only been two weeks since our last set of trials and he was clearly nervous in this venue, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But he was good!
1:58 - 2:03 -- distraction from the puppy squealing in the waiting area. Pongu self-corrected for missing his Front, kinda, but that's still massively crooked. 1 to 3 points off there.
2:10 -- this is where we NQ. Sign #17 was an About Turn away from the jump, while Sign #19 was right next to it and was a re-take of the jump. So I did #19 instead of #17 and skipping a sign (let alone two!) is an instant NQ. OOPS. I registered the correct sign and had a "dur" moment at like 2:11, right after I sent him.
2:13 -- from this point on we already NQ'ed and I knew it so whatever, we're doing the rest of this run just for practice.
2:31 -- that's what we were SUPPOSED to do. lol/sigh, oh well
2:36 -- wide on the turn, a persistent issue for us. A little bit of lagging coming off of it. This would probably have been 1 point off, maybe 2.
2:47 -- spider brain moment. Pongu did not hear my first cue to "Down." It wasn't that he heard me and ignored me; he is so stressed that the sound just does not register in his crazed little brain.
2:50 -- so we will make this a Teachable Moment since we already NQ'ed. Pongu does a MUCH faster Down with a finger point to help him along, which was what I had hoped for. Look! You CAN do a Down in the ring at something more closely approximating a reasonable speed! Wowww!! This would have been 3 points off for a re-cue if we were still counting.
2:59 to 3:00 -- I have no idea what is happening here. You can see Pongu start to go into a nice straight Front and then he makes a split-second decision to veer into Heel position instead. Why? Who knows. I'm not giving any mixed signals that I can see. This is a straight-up Crazy Dog Is Crazy moment.
3:02 -- I tried to reset him but he thought it was a sidestep so, welp, I guess we're done here. Pongu was so stressy at this point that he was just not thinking, so that was the end for us.
Because of various point losses, that complete disaster of a bonus exercise, and the re-cued Down, our final score would have been below 195. Therefore this would not have counted toward our ARCHMX triple Q anyway and it doesn't matter that I NQ'ed us. Personally, I'd rather have the NQ than a crappy score.
Then we went back to the car and Pongu took a nap and cleared out some of his brain spiders.
All the gray that's starting to show on his muzzle makes me feel a little sad. I spend a lot of time thinking: He's not even four yet! Why is he starting to look old!
Life is unfair.
Anyway, after that we went back in and our second set of runs was much better, so we did get one triple Q to kick off our Grand Final Championship Quest of 2014.
And that's it for us this year. 55(-ish) NQs! Some slightly larger number of Qs! 1188 Championship points! (...according to my extremely sophisticated "scribbled on the back of a course map" recording method, that is; actual official results may vary.) Three combined championship titles! Some other number of little ones that I'm not counting anymore!
Onward and upward. I'm hoping we accomplish some good things in 2014.