Another FCI World Agility Championships is over. There is such a long build up to this weekend that is takes me a week or so to get together with my thoughts about our experience.
The day before we left I received a call that I was not expecting. We lost Zen's brother Lucky to Lymphoma. It was so unexpected as Lucky has been doing so well in his fight against the cancer; he had only just come back to running agility in August after undergoing months of chemotherapy. I kept thinking of the special people and dogs we have lost recently to cancer; agility seemed like the last thing I wanted to do at this point. One part of my brain said why bother with something as trivial as agility when there is so much sadness. On the other side my brain said Go for it while you can; life is too short.
Zen had other ideas...She had her pink union jack bag packed and ready to go. I must admit every time I stepped to the startline I said to Zen "Let's do it for Lucky".
A gift for Zen from Lesley; what could be more "Zen" than a pink union jack?
Our World Champ build-up started the weekend before with our "official" team practice. I have never understood why we have the official practice on the weekend before we leave for the champs. It always seems to be too late by that point! Luckily the girls from the medium team got together for a few sessions the month before so that we could work on some European courses. That was so helpful; having Nancy set up courses that we could walk and run together. To me that is the best practice and a great way to get the team working together. It was those sessions with Nancy and the medium team along with a few extra lessons with Lesley that helped me feel confident going into the competition.
The official team practice has the potential to be great as Steve sets some fantastic courses and gives us all good inspiring words of wisdom. For me it is also inspiring to see the each dog/handler team from each height attack the courses in their own particular way. I just wish this session was the month before and that we had more of them. Since we all love attacking these type of european courses we just cannot help ourselves from running each course. This can be a detriment when it is only 3 days before we leave for our journey! After some close calls on injuries (handlers and dogs) we were lucky to go into the competition with all dogs and handlers able to run.
At the official practice we all got a lovely suprise from Lesley! Union Jack Dog beds for all the dogs!
On Tuesday I said Good bye to Zaz and Itzy and left them with Nancy and Andy. Gosh that gets more and more difficult; I hate leaving them. But I knew they would be both spoilt and wrapped in bubblewrap for the week. Nicky and Indy arrived on Tuesday and the evening's entertainment was watching a DVD on Russian Agility training. It was not meant to be a comedy DVD but it kinda was....just saying! Still we learned a few things about their methods of training for our own dogs and about new ways to handle our own students! Lets just say they have little patience for people who "do not listen!".
We had an early morning start to get to the Eurotunnel and start our trip across to Germany. It was one of the easier trips; not too long and fairly straight forward. Dennis drove the entire way and we got to our hotel in enough time to take a walk, unpack and shower before a nice dinner. The hotel we stayed at was gorgeous! The hotel was right on a river and you could walk along the river into the town of Amberg. The rooms were beautiful and the food was good and we were only 20 minutes from the venue. As compared to other years at the WC and EO; this was heaven!
The next day was the team practice at the venue. We were suprised to hear that other countries were able to rent equipment at the venue during the previous two days. While we probably would not have taken advantage of this; it would have been nice to know. We found out during the ride to Germany from Facebook postings of other countries!
Practice was chaotic as usual. Every year I try and go in just to work on getting Zen relaxed in the environment and used to the equipment and surface. Best laid plans and all that; the atmosphere sends her over the edge and she gets a glazed look in her eyes! I just cannot keep her from barking non-stop and after 5 minutes any advantage is gone. Zen is just not a dog that trains well in that type of environment. I walked out of the practice a little discouraged. We just did not feel in sync and as usual I feel like Zen and I are so slow compared with the border collies and younger members on our medium team. Not a good way to start our last world champ experience.
After the practice I walked Zen around for awhile and mentally slapped myself. I had the most gorgeous talented little dog in the world. I was determined to enjoy this experience with her and celebrate our time together. How lucky am I to have had this dog by my side for the last 7.5 years making me look like a good handler and trainer?
I love to hug Zen as she puts up with it with such a look of distain on her face!
After the practice we headed back to the hotel and took a walk into the town of Amberg. Such a cute town; until the Brits got there and posed and abused the local animals...