Thursday, March 1, 2018

Agility: What was I thinking?

Zumi and I have been taking taking agility classes since last summer. Once a week, we go to class and learn a little bit more. Zumi is FAST. So fast that I have to be a couple of steps ahead and directing her from a distance. And that would be fine except I don't think fast. I am always a step behind her in my mind. Keeping track of where the next obstacle is challenges me to the breaking point.

Poor Zumi. She wants to do what I tell her. When she thinks she has made a mistake, she loses it. She zooms around the enclosure, jumping, going through tunnels, careening around obstacles at 30 mph. Then we start again.

Anyway, after 8 months of classes, I asked Susan, the instructor, when we could do an agility trial. This was back in December. I told her I had to have a goal or I would stop taking classes. She said, "March." OK! Now I have a goal. I made some jumps and some weave poles and promised I would work with Zumi outside of class. And I did. Once. Or maybe twice.

The first of February rolled around and it was time to pay for another series of classes. I again asked Susan about registering for a trial. She hemmed and hawed. I asked if she thought Zumi and I should just give up. She hemmed and hawed. Finally she said, "I was told that your first dog is a throw away. You learn on them and then take your next dog to competition." I looked over at Zumi and could read her mind, "My first handler is a throw away. My second handler will take me to competition."

I looked up agility trials in Albuquerque. I found one for March 16, 17, and 18. I told Susan I was going to register. She hemmed and hawed. She said we aren't ready. I registered anyway. I figured we could be ready in three weeks. I would practice with Zumi every day. I would take private lessons. I would watch videos and read articles on training and prepping for your first trial. After all, I rationalized, I am never really ready for a 100 mile race. We all go into a hundred miler knowing that only about 60% of us will finish it. And that includes the elite runners! We know that our chance of real success is pretty low. I would never enter a 100 miler if I had to run 100 miles before I could register. And anyway, I had three whole weeks to get ready for this trial!!

I started working with Zumi every day (almost, anyway). I signed up for drop-in classes. Our first drop-in was yesterday. I watched the other dogs and handlers. They were much better than I expected for novices. Zumi and I did our first run. I became totally flustered. Zumi read my energy and freaked out. She zoomed around the arena, through tunnels, over jumps, from one side to the other until she finally got herself together and came back to me. The other people in the class were tolerant. The instructor was supportive. We settled in and learned a few things.
Image result for dog on teeter agility
Our last run of the day was three straight line jumps and then the teeter and a couple of more jumps. Very straight forward. I didn't tell anyone that Zumi had never been on a teeter except when it was only about 1 foot off the ground. This one was about waist high. She ran up one side and when it tottered, she launched herself from the top. For those of you unfamiliar with agility, the dog has to put at least one foot in the yellow part of the teeter. She not only missed the yellow, she missed all the grass between the end of the teeter and the next ten yards!! I heard all the gasps from behind me. I sheepishly admitted she had never done that level of teeter before. It took us another ten minutes to get her back on the teeter. I am sure she had nightmares about it.

I keep telling myself that my dog is so beautiful that no one will care that she totally messes up on the course and is DQ'ed.

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