Yesterday’s rally trial was a bigger test for team Katie/Dawn than just whether or not we remembered what the signs said. East Lansing is a little over an hour from here, and the rally was in a big, old, noisy arena that Katie has never visited before.
In the old days I would have stopped at every rest stop to let her out and arrived an hour before the event so that she could get over her fear as we explored all the scary corners of the building. In the old days she wouldn’t have accepted treats from me for at least forty-five minutes, and would have been shaking the entire ride.
This trip we didn’t hear a peep from her until I pulled into the parking lot on campus. In fact half way there I felt maybe I had forgotten to load her up at all! Once out of the car in the stadium parking lot she had her nose on the ground and was ready to go, pulling me toward the big building, stopping to sniff messages from all the other dogs along the way.
She wasn’t afraid when I opened the door to the venue and she marched right in. She was a little freaked by the largess of the area, and all the noise…for about 10 minutes. And she took treats from me right away. I hadn’t arrived very early at all, and we only had about 20 minutes to wander before stuff started happening and she was relegated to her safe crate. Occasionally as we waited our turn (there were only 5 total in excellent rally and 2 in advanced rally A ahead of my advanced B class.) I’d take her out of the crate and we’d go for a little walk. She took treats and was engaged with me every time.
As I watched other entrants run through the course I saw that this particular judge liked to follow close behind the participants. Another sheltie, one I’ve seen do excellent work in other trials, kept looking behind him and sometimes refused to move, because this strange lady was ‘right there Mom! She’s right there!!” I worried how Katie would feel when we were in the ring.
And then it was our turn. Katie pulled me into the ring and sat looking at me expectantly. She knows when it’s time to work. There were lots of distractions, and she was sucked in a couple of times, starting to wander away from me, but I called her back and every time she trotted right back happily. She never once looked back over her shoulder at the judge, nor noticed all the other people and dogs in the neighboring ring. She was never once startled or scared or unhappy. She’s grown so much as a dog.
Husband and I were sitting about 5 feet from the start gate for the rally ring, so while Katie rested in her crate after our run, and while I was off busy working with another classmate, she lay down (which she has never done before at any trial!) and watched the dogs come and go. Sure she knew her Dad was right there, but she never cried or begged to be let out. She seemed content to lay there and watch. When she was out of the crate she was curled in her Dad’s lap, eagerly watching the goings on.
She was no work at all at this trial, and I’m so proud of how mature she was, how accepting of new things, how unafraid. We didn’t hear a peep from her on the way home either. She took a long nap when we got home. So did we. It was a big day.
Today she’s full of herself and does not understand why she is not the center of attention at every moment of every hour. Takes a while for a rock star to come back to earth after a performance I guess. Still. I think she deserves a bit of lavish attention.
She’s earned it.