Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To Enter or Not To Enter

That is the question. 

My "trialing" switch has been stuck on OFF for so long it's difficult to decide when to start trialing again.  People say Riff has been running well during our weekly agility class.  But are we really ready?  I keep talking myself out of entering. 

There's the money issue.  But!  A couple of Bay Team USDAA trials are coming up Right Here In Town - and since I worked a few trials this year, I have certificates!  Otherwise - yes, it's true, we are pinching pennies these days. 

There's the training issue.  I haven't been training much agility, outside of class.  A few rental sessions on the same field as class, is all.  I like to work on short-sequence foundation exercises during our practice sessions.  So Riff has led a very quiet life during the last year-and-a-half.  We haven't been to any "fun matches."  (The OFF! switch....)  We haven't been to the AARF field (or any field other than LeapDog) since May.  I haven't even taken him to the fairgrounds to hang around at the AKC trails there, other than to run him in the exercise field a couple of times.  (OFF!)   

There's the ringside issue.  He was really nice at the Regionals in Prunedale, back in August, when we skated in as "guests" on LP's shirttails.  That's actually the last trial at which we "hung around."  Even there, I kept him mostly by the RV.  Foolishly, I did not bring a wire crate for ringside!  All I had was the soft crate.  I didn't want it to rip or break a zipper, since he had to travel in it. Riff does not have the best crate behavior, ringside.  
Mostly we went hiking on the trails....alone...or playing in the exercise field....alone.  When I took him to the Regional ringside areas, he stayed on-leash. 
Riff is a gracious, well-behaved handful, ringside on-leash.  He's sweet and friendly with almost every person, although if someone he doesn't know well suddenly leans over him, he gets nervous and ducks away.  He's interested in playing with some dogs, and he is politely friendly with most dogs....but he does take a disliking to a very few dogs.  I can always tell because his ruff goes up.  History:  He's been thoroughly jumped on - a few times - by loose dogs, when he was younger.  Three times at LeapDog (during field rental), and once at the sheep lady's house.  He was on the losing end of all of those encounters.  And his older sister Keeper has jumped him a couple of times here at home, putting him in his place.  (I really wish they were better friends.  She'll play with him a couple of times a day, out in the backyard...but in the house she's Queen Bee, and will always remind him, if he forgets).   So if a dog runs up on him, or if the dog's ruff goes up....he gets weirded out.  Pretty typical dog stuff, actually.  (I think.)  Regardless, I always keep a close eye on him.  It is what I expect from all other handlers with high-drive dogs, so it is what I do. 
Riff also gets quite excited if someone is using loud verbal commands while running their dog in a nearby agility ring.  Especially if the handler has a high, shrill voice.  He wants to get out there and run, too.  Sometimes he starts barking.  (Bad crate behavior, in my book.)  If he's in his crate I usually give him a toy, and he plays with that instead of barking.  It's a nice diversion.  It tires him out...but it's worth it.  Basically we don't hang close to rings, if we don't have to.  It seems silly to put anyone through the angst of that kind of excitement.

Having worked quite a number of trials over the years, I can guarantee you that our ringside problems are not unique.  In fact, they're very low-key and minor, compared to many I've seen.  Still...what a pain in the back it can be, to handle.  Riff is very fit, and very strong. 

There's the health issue.  So, yeah.  I tell myself I'm not afraid of falling, or of being pulled over by Riff on our way to the startline.  You can't be afraid of falling if you're going to RUN your dog in an agility trial.  Everybody falls, once in a while.  Riff works best if I RUN.  He loves running, and gets excited about running a course.  (Thank goodness!)

Sure, I've fallen while practicing agility, or while jogging...but I always get up.  Sometimes with a sore knee (arthritis).  And - one time I wrenched my back pretty bad.  And - another time I broke my humerus...a nasty little break right up by the shoulder.  So, yeah.  Those things are difficult to forget.  But you just need to let that stuff go....

In spite of some of the uneven and hard surfaces where these trials are held (like the dirt at the fairgrounds)...I know I need to RUN.  But...honestly?  Afraid.    So I read (and re-read) the book NERVES, and I do understand the mechanics of my fear, and I just have to work my way through it.  I mean - I'm already nervous just because I'm competing and I always want to win and I'm never sure we're ready.  Then the "fall factor" got added....

The other day, I a-a-almost fell at practice.  I had Riff by the collar, because he was excited about another dog on the field, and I didn't have his leash.  He swerved in front of me and I tripped on his back legs.  We were on grass, so it wasn't TOO scary.  I just reached out to brace myself with my free arm (the left, which I recently broke), and....just seeing that arm reach out in such a familiar way (ouch!)...I thought "NO!" and somehow twisted myself back up onto my feet.  Riff helped, because I never did let go of his collar, and he really didn't want to be underneath me again (yeah we've done that one before, too....cracked my sternum on his hard little head).  Somehow, Riff pulled me back up.  He's such a good boy.  It's been five months since I broke my arm and I have to just Get Over It. 

I have to trust myself, and trust my dog.  I have to stop being such a big weenie.  And get out there and show him again. 

The GIANTS never gave up, in spite of all odds.  Giving up is not what I want to do.  So I tell myself I haven't totally given up.  I still really like our agility classes.  I really enjoy our practice sessions. 

What I have left to do is...what I haven't done yet...is.....I need to enter a trial....and be around all the excitement and population of a trial.  I need to enter, and then actually show up for it. 

Some day....


Elf said...


I need to go practice this, too; I've hurt myself pretty badly trying to catch myself on falls.

Celeste said...

Thanks, Elf! I watched that video, and it took me back to the days when I learned how to fall off of horses... (hold onto reins or mane as long as possible to keep head up...or tuck chin to keep head up, and roll). Nice. I sure don't want to roll on the shoulder that just healed, though. Ah, well - I'll figure it out, and practice, and ALL WILL BE WELL! :-)

vici whisner said...

At the Santa Rosa Trial, I work out of the car. You can too. Just park and walk back and forth. Then you wouldn't have to worry about ring behavior as he would hang out in his crate in the car. You could just sign up for a couple classes in the morning.

I hear ya about the hurting yourself thing.

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