Sunday, January 12, 2014

AKC Rally Trial - Essex County Obedience Training Club, Verona NJ

We return Triumphant! from our second AKC Rally trial. This one was hosted by the Obedience Training Club of Essex County, NJ, and was held in a high school that had been (I guess?) rented for the purpose and thoroughly Saran Wrapped so that dogs could be crated along the lockers without fear of getting dog hair in the students' gym clothes. Or something. I don't know.

It was almost as big as Saturday's trial -- over 200 teams entered between obedience and Rally -- but because it was being held at a high school rather than a college's sports hall, the six rings were split up into two different gymnasiums. Each gymnasium held three dog rings, and much of the crating space had been moved to the hallways outside, so the level of sheer deafening pandemonium was much lower. Still extremely high, though, so I wasn't sure what to expect from Pongu. I thought maybe he'd be tired from Saturday and not up to full strength on Sunday, and it was a new scary environment again, so I was worried about that too.

But he did okay. Not great, but okay. There were a lot of distracted moments and some disconnects and one repeat cue on a Sit-Down-Walkaround (but AKC doesn't penalize you for repeated cues), but he stayed with me well enough to pick up a score of 98/100, and that was good enough for a first-place finish in the class of 11 dogs*.

(* -- once again, almost all of these were "fake" Novice A dogs, and almost all the same ones who were in the class on Saturday. By way of illustrating how non-Novice A these "Novice A" dogs were, the lowest qualifying score in the class was a 94.)

I was happy. My crazypants fearful dog managed to work out another Q in a Super Scary Overwhelming Venue -- and sure, it wasn't our prettiest run in the history of the world, but it was so much better than I had any right to expect, and I am just bursting with so much pride for him.

It didn't matter that there were no cookies in the ring. It didn't matter one bit. What mattered to Pongu is that we were doing his Important Job and he knew how to do it and he was proud to do his work, even though it was hard and scary for him to do that. I could see him working through his fear -- and he did it!

Up against the pedigreed performance dogs, he held his own. Not perfectly, but respectably. It was enough to renew my optimism and determination about my panicky little mutt's career.

I am inordinately proud to have a blue ribbon that says "AKC" on it. I really am. As much ambivalence as I feel about that organization in many respects, I am still so proud to have that win. It means a lot to me to have my crazy ol' Pongupants win a competitive class against Seriously Serious purebreds. I didn't think it would, but it does.

I just get such an absurd glow of satisfaction out of that.


In other news, Shakespeare met with his first set of prospective adopters this evening. He was a sad and shivery little dog for most of the meeting, because he stepped in some poop this afternoon so I had to wash his legs and tummy, and he wasn't entirely dry when I took him out to meet the adoptive family. And he's still in full-on shutdown mode outside the house, mostly, especially since I haven't worked with him much this weekend between Pongu's Rally competitions and the miserable weather.

But I think the meeting went as well as it could have. The prospective adopters seem like a lovely family and Shakespeare seemed to take to them, albeit very tentatively. On the way home, he was actually feeling confident enough to walk on his own feet for two blocks, which he has never done before.

We'll keep on keepin' on with his rehab exercises and see how far he gets by the end of the week. He's making progress at a good clip, really. Shakespeare is supposed to meet with his second group of prospective adopters on Wednesday and then I'm hoping to be able to send him home pretty soon after that, because I'd really like to clear out this foster space by Sunday if I can.

One minor setback though is that he's come down with kennel cough. It doesn't sound too serious and just about every foster dog has broken with kennel cough after the shelter/boarding/transport sequence, but it's another minor thing to deal with temporarily.

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