This morning I found my first caching FTF*, yay!
This got me thinking about other firsts, namely the first time I stepped into an obedience ring.
It was an outdoor sanction match in the middle of nowhere, Ontario, and I had Coda by my side. We had done well in obedience classes but had never proofed our routine anywhere else. Were we ready to trial? I wasn't sure but was about to find out.
The weather was not cooperating and the rain turned from bad to worse as my minutes in the ring ticked closer. I knew nobody there, I was totally unprepared in the clothing department and I had no idea how to ready my dog before entering the ring. No matter, sometimes you have to swallow your fears (along with some of the rainwater pouring down your face) and just dive in, right? Learn as you go!
Coda was pumped and distracted but we managed to make it through the heeling portion of the novice routine unscathed.
When it came to the stays all the dogs were wired. A few of the dogs broke their sits and ran around until collected, Coda held his position but just barely.
At this point I wanted to excuse myself and leave. But I don't think you can, and besides, we were almost done. Just one down stay and I could leave... Three more minutes.
What could happen in three minutes?
We downed and left our dogs and I proceeded to watch in horror as the dogs broke like a line of domino tiles, joining each other in a spontaneous free-for-all play session. When I saw the chaos erupting before my eyes I wanted to bolt for Coda and reward his stay but was unsure of the protocol in a sanctioned match (or a real trial for that matter). Coda finally couldn't take it any longer. The last dog to break, he lept out of his down and bounded over the ring enclosure. Barking the whole way he took a running tour of the field with other dogs following close behind. (This all happened in a split second.)
It was mortifying.
After I had called Coda back to me and had him safely leashed by my side I apologized to the judge. I never wanted this to happen again.
Were we ready to trial? Yes, we probably were under normal circumstances. What this experience taught me was to prepare for the unexpected, the abnormal circumstances, and to train for as many situations as possible. Because the unexpected WILL happen and your training will be put to the test.
Truthfully I despise trialing. When I pay good money, drive long distances and spend an entire day or two in an anxious state of mind I want results. My aim isn't perfection, or to beat anyone or qualify for nationals. My goal is to quantify my training, to do the best I can do with the dog at my side. There is also pride involved. Good enough doesn't cut it. Praying and hoping I pass is not the standard I want to keep.
Coda and I entered the obedience ring one more time after that - my first real trial. It was at a Giant Schnauzer Specialty and I can't believe I worked up the nerve to enter, but I did. I can't remember our score but it was good enough to win high in class - my first blue ribbon. We were also the highest scoring Giant Schnauzer that day winning us a bottle of shampoo! Considering we were the ONLY Giant Schnauzer doing obedience it was nothing to be proud of, but I gladly accepted the prize. :)
*When a new cache is published the "first to find" it gets to declare FTF. Depending on the size of the cache, some cache owners will have a special FTF prize, but other than that it's just a fun part of the caching experience.