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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FCI World Agility Championships 2010 Part 4: ZEN

It was our last run. I felt really relaxed as I had nothing to lose; we were in 28th place so the reality is that we could not medal. The course was not difficult at all and I knew there would be too many quick clears.

I did not feel down about it; I just made sure to enjoy it even more. This course was so easy I did not even need to ask for help in deciding how to handle it! (VBG) I went to the start line knowing this would be Zen's last FCI World Championship run. Probably the only thing I did differently was to run her Aframe as I figured we had nothing to lose. My goal was to run the course relaxed and efficient with Zen's typical smooth style.

I promised Zen that after her last run she could have an ENTIRE cup of tea. Zen's favorite treat in the world is tea. She usually shares a cup with us in the evening but only gets what we leave at the bottom. This time she deserved the whole cup to herself. So I brought a Thermos of water from the hotel and made the cup of tea before we ran. After her run we went back to our little room and I let her drink the whole cup. These little dogs don't ask for much do they?

After Zen had her cup of tea and I had a little cry I gave her the biggest hug and told her she was the best little dog in the world. Zen loves her agility and could run agility all day long. What she does not like is the travelling and the commotion at the large venues. She has done 4 FCI World Championships for me and I don't have any doubt that she did it for me. Zen placed in the 2nd in team agility and 4th in team jumping (she was not in individual that year) in 2005. In 2007 she came 3rd in Individual Agility, 2nd in Team jumping and 3rd in team agility. That year her medium team earned the Silver medal. In 2009 Zen ran two clears in her individual runs to come 5th in the world. This year she ran two clears in the individual and came 13th overall. In between she has had 3 litters of puppies and kept me from losing my mind after I lost Hex. I have no right to ask anything more of her and she has earned the right to just chill and run in local shows.

What a star...Thanks Zen.

FCI World Agility Championships 2010 Part 3

Saturday morning began early with small individual agility. I was more nervous watching Nicky with Indy and Suzanne with Unique. Each one had a shot at a medal. They were lying 4th and 6th going into the individual agility. Both dogs has also had double clears in the two team runs with Unique actually winning the team jumping class. Both Unique and Indy are super little dogs with such talented handlers. I am lucky to have matched them up all those years ago.

Here are Indy and Unique's individual jumping runs. I love watching Nicky and Suzanne's individual styles in handling.

Unfortunately Indy was up first and he misread a rear cross picking up a fault. After that Nicky gave up and finished up with an Elimination. That was stressful enough but next up was Suzanne and Unique. Unique has been so close; always at the top but just missing out due to bad luck. He was putting in a foot perfect run when a slight bobble caused him to drop the double. It seemed like the bar came down reluctantly! It was such a shame as the rest of the run was gorgeous and he would have had the silver medal.

Indy and Unique are about 3 years apart in age and have the same Mother. True really made the best babies!

After the stress of watching it was now my turn again!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FCI World Agility Championships 2010 Part 2

On Friday we had our first run. Team Jumping. All three dogs ran well and our team went into 8th place overall with the best combined times but with one fault.

Zen and I ran last and this always seems to be the case for us in team. People have asked me if I run last because Zen and I are more consistent or because I am not nervous at big events. Actually we run last because no one else wants to! I guess the pressure of running at the end after two clears worries some people. One of my former team mates said to me recently that he really wanted to see me run last after both my other teammates have run clear. I think he was implying that I wouldn't be so relaxed at that point. (VBG) Actually I would be just as relaxed as I know that neither my life nor my dog's life depends on that run. Each run is a moment in time that is meant to be enjoyed not worried about. Yes I want to run clear and fast and YES I want to win! But wanting to win and needing to win are two different things.

I take the runs seriously and obsess about how to run the course and how to remember the course. In fact my most nerve-wracking moments are getting the course map and trying to decide how to run the course. I always feel like that is the time I really could use help. I also worry about remembering the course and trying not to fall down! But once I step into the warm up area I let all that go and just try and enjoy the course and my dog. By that time, what will be will be.

All I can say to anyone who is thinking about competing at these events is DO IT! And take every moment into your heart and enjoy it.

Here is Zen in the team jumping.

The next day we had two runs. Individual jumping was first. The course was fairly straight forward and I was happy with how Zen ran. A misplaced front cross confused Zen and caused us a wide turn and almost wrong course. I was concerned about this sequence because it required a front cross followed by a pivot turn. Pivot turns for some reason are difficult for me. These are the times I wish I was more agile myself but I cannot beat myself up about it. I just need to work harder at figuring out other ways of handling the type of sequences that require pivots as it is where I really struggle. Luckily Zen saved me again although that wide turn cost us big time and we finished Individual Jumping in 28th place. I think we could have shaved off 1-2 seconds in that spot so I was slightly annoyed with myself but happy with Zen.

Team Agility was next on Saturday. I was really excited about this one as I felt we had a real shot at a team medal. I kept visualizing running last after two clears! Unfortunately my 2 team-mates made uncharacteristic mistakes and the two eliminations put the team out of the running. I felt good that we had a very positive and encouraging team and we all know that it could be any of us that made the errors. Either way we all looked good out there even with mistakes! My team-mates were so sweet and tried to talk me into joining the team again next year.

Here is Zen in the team agility. I have to encourage the GB supporters as I think they were in shock about the previous two eliminations! (VBG)

This was Zen's only mistake all weekend. Poor little thing!

I am used to seeing her jump more like this!

At the end of the day on Saturday none of our GB teams had made it to the podium. Such is the way of teams! Anything can happen.

Sunday would start early with the small individual agility followed by medium and large. So exciting!

FCI World Agility Championships 2010 Part 1

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...