Monday, September 1, 2008

Kaylie's Journey for her Merit of Excellence - DOCNA Agility

We did it!!! Kaylie and I became the first team to start at the Beginner level in DOCNA to earn the Merit of Excellence (“MEX”). It sure wasn’t easy, but gosh it has been a blast. The trials we've been to, the friends we've made -- all the laughs and all the tears. It's been quite a journey.

Kaylie’s agility career began in 2005. I showed her in a few trials through 2005, but at that time, my focus was on Takara, my Akita. I just entered Kaylie in a couple of runs at each show to get some experience. Then DOCNA had its first trial on February 19, 2006 in Phoenix. Kaylie Q’d in all her runs but the Gamblers run. Through 2006, Kaylie and I were coming together as a team and I was getting used to running a pretty fast dog (I was so used to running an older Akita -- so I had to starting thinking and cueing much faster!) But we were doing pretty good, earning lots of Q's. In early 2007, we hit our first road block. All of a sudden, we couldn’t buy a Q to save our life. I hadn’t been feeling well, but I kept going, showing in agility, obedience, rally obedience and conformation – I had shows almost every weekend for about 3 months straight. I was worn down and exhausted. It turned out I had pneumonia. I took some time off from showing to recuperate. The fall shows started up, and Kaylie and I were back! Woooo hoooooo!! Then my mom got real sick towards the end of the year. There was a DOCNA trial the weekend of December 29 & 30, 2007. My mom was in the hospital, and Friday, December 28, my mom had a really bad day. I was at the hospital the entire day, because the doctors didn't think she was going to make it through the day. I was torn whether or not to go to the trial, or be with my mom at the hospital. I decided to go to the trial – figuring my mom would want me to be doing something I enjoy doing. Our first run that weekend of course was Traditional Gamblers. We didn’t Q – I don’t even think we got over 10 points – it was a disaster of a run. One of my friends told me that it was probably because I was preoccupied with my mom, and I should probably leave the show and go to the hospital. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes down to it, and I wasn’t going to give up and leave, even though in the back of my mind I did keep wondering if I really should be there. I did stay. We ended up Q-ing in most of our runs that weekend. I couldn’t wait to see my mom on Monday to let her know how we did. My mom actually had a “good” weekend, and her health started to improve. I saw her that Monday and told her that we had done well. She was heavily sedated, but I’m sure she heard me. Unfortunately, that Wednesday, her health deteriorated quickly, and she lost her battle with diabetes the next day. I know she’s there watching us at every trial, although she never has helped us with those darned Traditional Gamblers Qs!!! Mom!!! :)

Fast forward to May 2008. There was a trial in Prescott – all we needed to finish the MEX was 2 Standard runs and 2 Gamblers runs. Of course the first run Saturday was Traditional Gamblers. We didn’t get it. BUMMER!!! At that point I knew I had to go to the Pinetop trial over Labor Day weekend. We did end up getting the two Standard legs we needed, and we got 1 of the 2 Gamblers legs we needed, by qualifying in the Strategic Timed Gamblers class. Now I had to fill out the entry form for the Pinetop trial. All I need to earn the MEX was ONE Gamblers leg – it could be either a Traditional Gamblers leg or a Strategic Gamblers leg. I had to decide if it was worth spending the money on a hotel room Friday night, take off work early Friday so I could get to Pinetop at a decent time, and take a chance on that Traditional Gamblers run on Saturday morning. Money is a little tight right now, so I decided to forego that Traditional Gamblers run (we've only Q'd in 3 Traditional Gamblers classes in 2.5 years anyway), drive up Saturday morning, do a couple of runs Saturday, and focus on the Strategic Time Gamblers on Sunday. Everyone thought I was crazy to put everything on the line for that Strategic Time Gamblers run. But I had faith we could do it. We got to the show site at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Kaylie was just entered in the two Jumpers runs, and Conor was entered in a Standard run and a Jumpers run on Saturday. All of a sudden it started raining. And it rained, and rained and rained. It would stop for a bit, then rained some more. The show did go on though. Kaylie ended up doing awesome in her two Jumpers runs – she didn’t miss a beat – no wide turns or anything – they were perfect runs, and she got 1st Place in both runs, finishing her Specialist Silver Jumpers Merit Award. Yay! Conor did well in his two runs, although he didn’t Q. He was under much better control than he was in Utah at his first trial – he looked like he had actually had some training! Finally Sunday came, and it was sunny, but there were dark clouds all around. We got through Trigility and most of the Specialist level of the North America Challenge and then it started raining – it was pouring. Jim Mills (DOCNA's fearless leader, and my great agility trainer) decided to stop the trial for about 30 minutes to see if things would let up. It was now pouring. I was so sure that Jim was going to come to me to tell me that the trial was going to be cancelled – I kept trying to prepare myself on how I was going to react – I wanted that MEX so bad!!! I didn’t want to have to wait for the next trial (I’m NOT good at waiting). The rain wasn’t letting up, so Jim decided to stop things for a couple hours, see how things looked, and if there was a break, he would finish up the North America Challenge runs, and then instead of doing the scheduled Standard runs, we would do Strategic Timed Gamblers runs instead. A few people mentioned to me that the show was going on just so I could get my chance at that MEX. Oh my!!! The pressure!!! What if we didn’t get it?????

We ended up going to my friend Jill’s cabin during the break, because we didn’t want to hang out in the cold rain for two hours. She cranked up the heat in the cabin and we sat and chatted, and I agonized the whole time about not being able to qualify in that Gamblers run. At about 12:00 we noticed blue skies and we headed back to the show site . Things started back up pretty close to 12:30 or so. The North America Challenge classes finshed up, and it was finally time for Strategic Timed Gamblers. For those that don’t know how this class works, you get 30 seconds to run a course that you make up. Each obstacle is worth a set amount of points, and at the Specialist level you have to get at least 19 points. You plan your course so you can rack up as many points as you can in 30 seconds. At 30 seconds, a horn blows. At the sound of the horn, you get 15 more seconds to get some more points and then cross the finish line. BUT, it’s not quite that easy. You actually have 12.5 to 15 seconds to cross that line. If you cross the line before 12.5 seconds, or if you cross after the 15 seconds, you don’t qualify. So you really have to know your dog, know where you are on the course, and know how long it takes your dog to complete the obstacles you choose on your path to the finish line. It sounds crazy, but it’s a very fun challenge. As I was planning my course, my stomach was turning, and I could feel the pressure mounting (I don’t normally get nervous – this was a new thing for me). I finished my walk through, made sure I was checked in, then went to get Kaylie. We did our normal routine, playing catch and tug and we did some heeling and fun stuff. It was finally our turn – we walked into the ring, and all of a sudden everything seemed very calm and all I could see was Kaylie and the course ahead of us. I couldn’t even tell you at this point if it was raining or not, I was so focused on our run. We ran everything perfectly – she was right where she was supposed to be at that 30-second horn. We did what we needed to to get out and cross the finish line. I looked over to the right, and there was Jim with the MEX medal!! Woooo hoooo!!! We made it!!! We got our medal, and then ran a victory lap for us, and for my mom. It was very cool. Turns out it wasn't raining during our run -- I think mom stopped that rain for at least those 45 seconds we were in the ring.

So that’s Kaylie’s journey to her MEX. She’s a one-in-a-million dog, and I’m so blessed she fell into my life. I knew the minute I saw her that she was a very special dog, and that as a team, we were destined for great things.

As for Conor’s runs on Sunday – he qualified in his Strategic Time Gamblers run (despite my totally forgetting about him and not planning a course he could run!!) AND -- he got 1st place in that Gamblers run. He also qualified in his Standard run, with 1st place!! WOW!!!!! I’m always just stunned what this little boy does. Hopefully in a couple of years we’ll be earning Conor’s MEX!!!

1 comment:

Diamond Girl said...

Awesome, Vickie! It was wonderful to be there to see it!!!

Kaylie - The True Wonder Dog

At our last DOCNA (Dogs on Course in North America) agility trial in Prescott, Kaylie did fantastic! We are trying to be the first team to earn the MEX (Merit of Excellence) who started in the Beginner level. We are getting VERY close. All the other teams that have earned the MEX were grandfathered in at higher levels. Kaylie was just starting her agility career when DOCNA was created, so we had no choice but to start at the beginning. And as it is, I believe there are under 20 teams that have even earned the MEX to this point.

Well, going into the trial at Prescott, we needed 2 Specialist Gamblers legs and 2 Specialist Standard legs. In DOCNA, there are two types of Gamblers runs -- Traditional and Strategic Timed Gamblers. Unfortunately, we have only earned 3 Traditional Gamblers legs -- one from the Beginner class, one from the Intern class and one from the Specialist class. All the other Gamblers legs have come from the Strategic Time Gamblers. So, I knew going in that the chance of getting that Traditional Gamblers leg on Saturday was slim. We walked into the ring, and I knew Kaylie was on fire and ready to go. The Gamblers class is usually the first class of the trial, and Kaylie is usually absolutely wild in the first run. Well, this was no different. She was incredibly fast, and I was not -- I kept getting in her way, and things just fell apart. At 30 seconds, the buzzer rang, which meant I had to get to the gamble portion of the course. I sent her over the jump to the tunnel -- she took the wrong end of the tunnel, then came right back to me over the wrong jump and that was the end of that. No MEX for us this weekend. BUT, she did qualify in the two Standard runs she needed, getting First place both times, and she got her Strategic Timed Gamblers leg on Sunday, earning a Second place. Wooo hooo Kaylie!!! Out of 10 runs over the weekend, we qualified in 8 of them, placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in all but one run -- our Jumpers run on Sunday. I got lost on the course and just got confused. Luckily, Kaylie can read the numbers on the cones (that's the only explanation I can come up with) because she ran the right course despite my mess ups! Hence the name "Wonder Dog." So we still Q'd, but got 6th place. Still, not too bad!!

So, our next DOCNA trial will be in Pinetop the end of August. Hopefully we'll get our MEX there! Just one Gambler leg to go.