Monday, December 10, 2007

Ian Places 11th at the AKC Agility Invitational Finals

Ian and I had the weekend of a lifetime at the AKC Agility Invitational. Ian was invited on the second round, because for the 2007 qualifying period, he was the #6 Belgian Sheepdog and they invite the top five dogs of each breed. Lucky for us someone declined the Invitational. I figured we should go because you never know when the opportunity will come along again!

We arrived in Long Beach on Friday, Nov. 31, in the pouring rain. I left Indiana on Tuesday afternoon, and we drove all the way. After setting up and moving Ian into the crating area, he looked up at me, and I could swear he was thinking, "We drove 3 days for an agility trial? Couldn't you have found something a little closer to home?" That put it all in perspective! Ian was just there for another agility trial, so I decided that should be my attitude too. After all, we had nothing on the line -- we couldn't accumulate MACH points or double Qs and we were the lowest ranking Belgian Sheepdog there!

So, with that perspective, we ran the exhibition FAST class Friday evening. It didn't exactly go well, but we didn't have a meltdown either. We headed back to the hotel where Ian chilled out with his half-sister Donita and his "Grandma Julie," Julie Hite his breeder. I went to dinner with two high school friends who now live in Southern California, Julie and Lauri. It was so great to see them and I was thankful that they took time out of their busy schedules to come to Long Beach in the rain! We went to Outback, and I brought home my leftover steak and tucked it in the hotel refrigerator for "just in case" treats.

Ian ran beautifully Saturday and Sunday. He was calm and collected the whole weekend, and I wasn't at all nervous for the early rounds. Ian wagged his tail and took cookies up to the start line, a clear sign he was ready to work and not stressed. Round after round, Ian was clean. After Day 1 and two rounds, Ian was #18 out of 97 dogs in the 24 inch jump height. There was one other Belgian Sheepdog that was clean at the end of Day 1, and he was #5.

Round 3 on Sunday morning was a tough Standard course, but Ian was again clean. Rings, the other Belgian Sheepdog still in the running, had two errors in Round 3, eliminating him from consideration for the Finals and clinching the Top Belgian Sheepdog Award for Ian. At the end of Round 3, Ian was #11 -- the top 12 dogs make the Finals. Ian had to be clean in Round 4 to make the finals, and the Round 4 Jumpers class was the toughest yet.

Frankly, I wasn't nervous until Round 4, because I never expected Ian to do this well! My goal for our weekend was for Ian to handle the whole experience well, and he surpassed my expectations in many, many ways! Ian felt the stress about two dogs our as we waited to go to the start line. He stopped taking treats, but he never missed a beat on course. He ran that round clean, earning us a spot in the Finals and ending the four qualifying rounds #7 out of 97 dogs.

What I didn't know immediately after our run was that Julie, his breeder, watched Round 4 from the back corner of the ring, screamed loudly when we finished and then turned and raced back to her setup to grab Donita and run into the Best Bred by Exhibitor Group ring. Donita also made "Grandma Julie" proud by winning Best of Opposite Sex and Best Bred by Exhibitor at the AKC Eukanuba National Championships.

The other good memory I will always have is friends Esteban and Sarah at ringside hugging me and cheering us on! Esteban and Sarah have a Gaylan's Golden, but they were at the invitational with their Rottie Sammie, who won Round 1 of the Invitational. As we walked out of the ring after Round 4, i got hugs and cheers and Esteban handed me the phone so I could talk with Gayle (Devon's breeder) in New York! Esteban had called her and given her a "jump-by-jump commentary" as we ran Round 4!

The Finals were amazing. It was so fun to have the crowd go nuts when we walked out for our walk through! Ian was tired (we got in the building at 5:30 a.m. that morning and we ran the finals around 6:30 p.m.). Good thing I saved my leftover steak from Outback in case I needed it! That got Ian to the line. He was stressed, but he handled the cameras and the new things in the ring just fine.

We got to obstacle #14 where he took an off course into the wrong end of the tunnel. We finished just great, placing 11th in the Finals. So I guess if Ian had to take an off course, I'm glad he did it in the finals! He worked his butt off all weekend, and he provided me with the weekend of a lifetime.

Oh, and if I'm EVER nervous before a run again, someone shoot me! If Ian and I can make it to the AKC Agility Invitational Final Round, what's a weekend trial???

This is the medal that Ian won for being the top Belgian Sheepdog at the Invitational. Thankfully, he is large enough to wear the medal without falling over. ;)

This is the coveted AKC Agility Invitational Finalist shirt. For those of you who aren't familiar, this is the "green jacket" of agility.

Friday, December 7, 2007

AKC Agility Invitational Awards

Check it out! This is one of the best give-aways from the Invitational - an official AKC pick-up bag holder!

Very cute and very portable. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Devon's Portraits

I recently had several portraits of Devon done. I get so many compliments on what a beautiful girl she is -- I hope you think so too! (photos by Paw Prints Pet Photography)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Devon TDX

Devon passed her TDX test on November 13, 2007, in Frederick, Maryland, at the Potomac Valley Golden Retriever Club test! This is the same test where she passed her TD last year. It was her second attempt at a TDX. The week before she got 70% of the way through her track when her mother didn't read her turn signal (she pulled me so hard left my right foot came off the ground according to the judge but I don't remember it), and I didn't follow her. My motto for our second test was TRUST YOUR DOG!!

Devon ran an 860-yard track with 5 turns in 28 minutes. She drew the first track of four. We had beautiful sunny weather with temperatures in the mid-30s and little to no wind. Our obstacles were woods, going across a dam on a pond and a hedgerow. Her start article was a pair of red and green plaid boxer shorts -- a very fun start article! She briefly checked the first set of cross tracks but didn't blink at the second set. She didn't hesitate at the woods but didn't like tracking across the dam along the pond at all. Twice she followed the scent down toward the water and in the far end of the pond near the track was some type of filtration system. Devon was sure it was a swamp monster that just might eat Golden Retrievers! But our biggest challenge was yet to come.

The hedgerow we ended up having to track through was quite a barrier. We got into a pocket of grass between the trees and she didn't know which way the scent went. There was open space to the right and left, but a wall of twigs and trees in front of us blocked the scent (the track went straight, but we didn't know that at the time). We must have spent a total of 10-15 minutes searching in the area. She went every direction in 360 degrees and some of them twice. She went at least 6 different ways and tracked for 20-30 yards and then said that wasn't right and came back to where she lost the scent. Finally she headed out and was fairly confident. I followed. About 30 yards later she turned right and pulled hard for about 20-30 yards and found her third article, a sock. She had actually been angling off the line of the track, but then caught the scent of the article which drew her back to the track. I have never been so thankful to see an article! We had a great big party with that article, and it gave her confidence to go 180 yards and one more turn to her final glove.

Our track layer was the first to race down the hill to give us a huge hug, followed by judges Phil Gallagher and Allison Platt. My first words were, "Thank you for that sock! Great article placement!" The judges said it was a pleasure to watch us track to our TDX. Devon was complimented for her perseverance, and I was complimented on my handling and patience with my dog as she struggled in that hedgerow.

We had a gallery of about 20 following us, so Devon was able to have a big party and show her glove to everyone! That was when people started asking, "How old is this dog?" There were many stunned looks when I said 20 months old!

I have been blessed with a wonderful dog from Gayle Watkins and Carvel Gold, and I have had so much encouragement and help in tracking from those at Camp Jigsaw, the Gaylan's family, White River Golden Retriever Club and Steve and Janet Ripley, who have become good friends and great supporters. Devon just knows she loves to play this fun game with her mom where she finds things someone lost.

Now, on to VST!

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Welcome to Deb's Dog Blog!

Visit this blog to learn more about Reece, Connor, Ian and Devon! I want to thank my good friend Katie for creating this Dog Blog for me as a Christmas gift. It was a wonderful surprise, and I can't wait to use it in 2008.
I am very proud of my dogs' accomplishments. Together, we have achieved a great deal and overcome difficulties. I have a variety of breeds in my household, and they entertain me and challenge me to train them. I hope you enjoy our adventures!

Right: The lovely Devon at 11 weeks.