Yesterday we emerged from our monthlong break with a WCRL trial in Nazareth PA. I meant to spend our time off working on various issues that plague us in Rally competition, but instead I mostly ended up working on Utility scent articles because of... absolutely no good reason, since we're nowhere near trialing in Utility in any venue. And when we weren't doing that, we were working on the broad jump (which doesn't exist in WCRL) or breaking down aspects of the drop on recall (which does exist, but only shows up occasionally in Level 3).
So I wasn't really sure what to expect from Pongu in the Rally ring when we went back. This hasn't been his favorite venue in the past (although I like it a bunch, because it's next to a dollar store where I frequently find awesome training props and across from a supermarket that has the best guilty-pleasure donut case on Earth), which doubled my trepidation.
But he did fine. In fact, he did better than fine.
Pongu started the day stressy and squeaky and dandruffy, as usual, and it was a long day (single ring double trial = we got up at 5 am and didn't finish our last run until a little after 5 pm), so by the end he was running out of steam.
But in between, he was miraculously, totally relaxed for a couple of those runs, and he stayed relaxed for the entire run. Pongu was happy and smiley and eager to work in a trial environment. I have never been able to get that from him before, and it made me indescribably happy to actually be working with 100% of my dog. That NEVER happens. Never! But it happened that afternoon, and he pulled perfect scores on those three runs.
Final tally: 207 (repeated cue)/210/NQ (difficult off-set jump on a Level 3 course; I would have been really impressed if Pongu had managed to hit that one, since it involved veering out and then back in at really sharp angles and was tricky for a dog to differentiate from a straight recall with a booby trap jump) on the first set. 210/210/206 on the second set (repeated cue, crooked Sit). Picked up one more QQQ, so we now have four to go for ARCHMX.
We took High Scoring Rescue Dog in both trials and landed in the ribbons on every run where we qualified, which made me happy because there were some great teams at this trial. Both of our second places were to Edith the border collie, who is a rockstar and extremely difficult to beat (when she doesn't beat you on score, she'll beat you on time), and our third place was to two dogs being run by a multi-OTCH/MACH handler, so it's hard for me to feel too disappointed about that one either.
But the most important thing is that for much of that day, my fearful dog wasn't fearful. He was just happy to play this game with me in the ring.
And while the magic of that moment quickly faded, and crazypants dog went back to being crazy, the memory of it is still with me.
We did it once, we can do it again.