Duncan and I returned from AKC Agility Nationals in Reno early this week. After working all last year to earn our points to go, I wondered if would be worth it. In a word – absolutely. It was most definitely worth the time, the effort and the trip.
We arrived on Thursday to find three identical courses set on the floor of the rodeo arena. (With a fourth course set in an adjacent arena in another building). At that moment, gazing across the immense space, I realized what a huge deal this was, and was simply happy to be there, having earned the opportunity to run here with Duncan.
There was a lot to learn the first day…mainly how to get to the gate on time! With about 170 dogs in our 12″ jump height, we had three walk throughs, with a big crowd in each 8 minute walking group. That meant that I rarely saw the lines of obstacles, simply because there was always someone in front of me, walking their course. More than once when actually running, I saw a line of jumps only to wonder if that was the correct direction…because that was the first time I’d seen it clearly! I was impressed with that many people on the course at once, most were very polite, with no major crashes. With one small exception…you know who you are Sheltie-lady. I felt no sadness watching your pup go flying to an off-course jump, while Duncan nailed it. Listening to an Ipod while walking the course may maintain your zen-like sense of concentration, but it really sucks for the twelve other people trying to walk right behind you…
Meanwhile, Duncan was handling the crowds and the arena with finesse. I was most impressed with his ability to walk through the dozens of dogs and across the massive arena while squeaking with joy. He took it all in, shrugged and his look asked me plainly “it’s just another trial…mama, why are you so excited??”
But back to the main event – running! Friday was Time 2 Beat, basically a practice run. Duncan ran beautifully, nice, solid and fast, with no issues. Good thing he had his brain together because I used up all of my energy trying to figure out how to get in the ring. We were given tags with UPC codes to attach to our leashes. As the dog before us crossed the start line, they would scan your tag. Fantastic for knowing which dog was running, terrible for handler focus! But the cool part was that on my way back to the crating area, I could scan our tag and find out our time and score…immediately.
They also had the run order updating in the crating area, which was a 5-8 minute walk from the rings, and in a separate building. This was so helpful in knowing when to leave for the rings without having too much time waiting in a crowd ring-side.
Early Saturday, Duncan and I got to meet the other 11 Canine Partners running in the NAC. They brought us together for a group photo, and I met several amazing teams who we cheered on through the finals. That day, we ran JWW and Standard (sans table). Dunc had a lovely JWW, and his Standard was again fast and happy. I would throw my support into a campaign to eradicate the boring table from the Standard courses…Dunc loved it! After two combined runs, Duncan was sitting somewhere around 70th place Saturday night.
Sunday we ran hybrid. I will admit to doing a crash course in what hybrid was the night before. Basically, take the table and dogwalk from a Standard course, and there you go…hybrid. And finally…we got the Nationals course that I’d been training for. Our three previous courses were great, but not the technical monsters I’d expected to find at the NAC trial. All three early courses flowed fairly well. Sunday morning’s hybrid changed that. At first glance of the course map, I counted three front crosses in the first five obstacles. A huge smile came across my face. Now THIS is nationals!! While Duncan may not have the most speed on course, he is consistent. When the courses go all twisty, he really shines.
And shine he did. His speed was steady off the line and built through the run. He ran beautifully for me all weekend, and that last run just was the icing on the Dunkie cake. After we crossed the line, I spent a moment on the arena floor with my boy, taking it all in. We ran 4/4 runs clean. He ran happy in the most chaotic environment he’d ever been in. And not only had he earned his way to Nationals, he’d run an amazing four runs there.
When the final standings came in, Duncan finished his three cumulative runs in 36th place, out of 171 dogs. I am so very proud of how brave, how happy and how amazing this little boy of mine can be.
Even better? How great everyone from Idaho and Utah did! Our fantastic traveling partner, Muligan also went 4/4, earning 30th place in the 12″ overall. And our friends in 12″ P and 20″ really rocked, too.
Watching the challenger and finals rounds was amazing…I witnessed some beautiful handling, and fantastic teams. Des and I have our work cut out, but I’m definitely inspired!
Overall, the experience for me was all about the people and dog friends. My Team Little Dog partner and I had a great trip, and a great trial. I cheered for our Idaho/Utah friends, because no matter the standings, simply running there was an achievement. Once again, I’m simply proud to be part of this crazy dog person world…these are my people, and we are honored to be a part of it.
Duncan and I got to run together…in a National trial. That’s all. And that’s amazing!