The EO 2016 tryouts were held this past weekend in Middleton, WI at Canine Sports Zone. Luna and I attended trying to earn our way on for a 3rd year in a row for a chance to compete in France at the end of July 2016. If we’re fortunate enough to earn a spot on the team, I hope the 3rd time is the charm for us at the European Open event. As for the tryouts themselves, it was a, at time, trying event. But with those trying times also comes the good times. We had some emotional lows and highs as well as some mentally exhausting times. But in the end, those things make you better able to handle things thrown at you.
The weekend started with a somewhat sobering reflection on how sometimes we need to be thankful for what we have and how it could possibly be taken from you quickly. I was so happy to see Elicia Calhoun at the event despite all of the significant health problems she’s been experiencing the past 6 months. Unfortunately, she would not be running her wonderful red BC Tobie, but her husband was there to run in her place. We talked for a bit because I was genuinely concerned about her health and wanted to know how she was doing since I had last seen her in Germany. What really struck me is that at one point in our conversation she said that 6 months ago we were both in the same building running our dogs. And now I was the only one going to be running my dog. I say all of this not to take pity on her because I think whatever is wrong she will conquer it, but because it really brought forth the thought that I need to enjoy every single second I am able to play this silly little game with my dog. I think sometimes we all need to be reminded that what place you finish, how many ribbons you get, or what awards you earn ultimately don’t mean a whole lot to your dog. Just playing with your dog is the world to them.
As for the event, I headed into it with some health question marks of my own. Not quite as severe as Elicia’s, but enough of one that I was wondering how I was going to hold up. About 3 weeks ago I dropped a large bookshelf on my foot and busted my big toe on my left foot. No broken bones, but the toe nail will probably eventually come off. And the toe was still tender enough that every time I planted with that foot my toe would hit the top of my shoe and send a little jolt of pain. On top of that, about 6 weeks ago my left knee started hurting after doing a lot of squatting one night working on my mower and it’s been painful ever since when it’s bent. I tested both out over Thanksgiving weekend by practicing so I knew I wasn’t going to be completely immobile. However, it was still enough to make me a bit concerned.
Round 1 was an agility course and we started off about the worst way we can. We E’d on jump number 2 when I got impatient/lazy/rushed and didn’t Q the backside enough. She came with me and took the jump straight on for an immediate E. As for the rest of the run it was OK, but I found myself in about 4 spots just not making it. So when I came off the course I started getting really concerned that my knee and toe were really holding me back. On top of that, after that run every time I put pressure on my left leg my knee was quite painful. Now, the smart person would take some painkillers, but I’m not always a smart person. I was initially going to tough it out in round 2 and make the decision after that. Thankfully, though, the pain became a little much and so a 400mg dose of naproxen was going to happen. I ended up taking 2 doses that day and didn’t have any issues for the rest of the weekend. In fact, on Sunday, I felt no pain in my knee for the first time in weeks. So maybe with the pain dulled and my ability to run full out again “fixed” whatever was going on in my knee.
Round 2 was a jumpers course. It had a very worrisome sequence that required a dog to completely ignore a tunnel they were damn near landing in and instead turn 90 degrees to go to the weaves. With my mental state at the time (still worried about the knee) and my E in the first round I was not feeling it. As I was walking off after the walkthrough a friend asked me what I thought of the course. I just replied that I didn’t feel mentally there at that moment in time. However, I couldn’t allow that to stay with me walking out to the course. Walking to the line I cleared everything out and just focused on the goal. It worked quite well and we laid it down. We ended up finishing 2nd by .07 seconds to a great team in Chris and Jungle. YES! Points on the board.
Round 3 started LATE. I don’t think the large dogs started running until around 9pm. This was an agility course. It didn’t have an ideal dog walk exit for us, but it was definitely doable. The tricky part was keeping them off the tunnel at the entrance of the dog walk as they were going to be landing on a line looking straight at the tunnel. We ran the course fast and I kept her off the tunnel, but we were called for a dog walk fault as she missed the contact. We had one other little bobble near the end, but still only incurred that one fault. So now we had points from 2 rounds. I was upset with Luna after the run because she “leaped” off the dog which in our training is about the only thing she can do that will incur any type of serious correction. Later, though, a friend told me to watch the video because it looked like Luna was struggling to stay on the dog walk so her striding wasn’t correct. They were correct. After watching the video it’s very clear that she was not balanced well and was struggling to just stay on the dog walk. That did make me feel better as I know she didn’t do it on purpose.
After the long day 1, we had 2 rounds left. One agility and one jumpers. First up was jumpers. Unfortunately we incurred an E on this course after Luna scoped a tunnel out which forced some emergency handling that eventually resulted in a back jump down the line as I was scrambling to try and save it. I’ve watched the video over and over and can’t pinpoint exactly why it happened. She had her eyes on me the whole time as I was running to the jump, but she still thought it was the tunnel. The only thing I can surmise that she saw was that I kept my shoulders open to the tunnel instead of rotating them to the jump. Oh well. Reflecting on my handling choice for that sequence, I could have made a better choice. I decided to try and do a whiskey cross on that serpentine, but should have either gotten farther ahead to do a front or just simply serped the line. After getting off the course, it did prompt me to update FB and ask myself when I was going to figure out that I can’t handle from behind as that is often when I make mistakes.
So now going into round 5 I was pretty confident I had no chance to earn a win on spot so at this point the only option I had (and really the only option I ever have) was to run balls to the wall and put it all on the line. I had 2 rounds scored (with 1 placement) and 2 E’s. A 3rd scored round would go a long way to putting me into consideration. A 3rd scored round with a placement would go even further, in my mind, to put me in consideration for a spot. Round 5 was an agility course with a perfect dog walk scenario. Straight exit to a backside jump. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup. The teeter sequence worried me a bit because it was going to require me to move lateral to her position while front crossing. In the past that has caused a premature exit of the teeter so getting to that sequence I knew I had to make sure she understood to touch. So out came the “big” voice saying touch. Thankfully, she did it perfectly. The dog walk was shortly after that and she hit it perfectly. We finished the course clean with a very fast time. At the end, we squeaked out a 1st place finish by only .08 seconds to a very fast BC named Flex.
Unofficially, we finished in 9th place for cumulative points with 2 placements. Now we play the waiting game to see if we did well enough to be selected for the team. I feel we did enough, but you never know if we showed what the coach wanted to see out of her team members. Either way, I feel we had a successful weekend from a results perspective as well as a mental perspective. Now we prepare of our next world team tryouts at the end of January in Texas. That will be for the IFCS world team.