Frankly, I didn’t feel like going to the Miami Obedience Club Trial this morning. I resented the phone ringing to wake me up at the same time it rings to wake me up on a work day. In the back of my mind, I figured Baby had some new tricks up her sleveless arm, and boy was I right!
Before we get to the trial, let me preface this with how much I prepped for this trial. All week, I had Baby on her prescribed muscle relaxers. I made sure she got sufficient supplements, most importantly, the Platinum Performance Plus. Last night I gave her a thorough massage all along her spine, and she purred. This morning, she got a mini massage and two raw chicken wings in her breakfast bowl, along with turkey, rice, and shredded carrots. All week long I’ve been giving her, and moreso me, pep talks. I had realized, though, when I reached for my shoes this morning, that as pepped up as I was, this was really up to Baby. Indeed we are a team, but if she doesn’t want to participate in listening to me, the alpha dog, than this won’t work.
At home, Baby resents my being the alpha as much as I resent the phone ringing to wake me up on my days off. Because if she were alpha, she’d have chicken wings for breakfast every morning. So she has to bust my chops whenever she has the opportunity, and believe me, this DoberDiva knows an opportunity when she sees one.
I’d given Baby one last muscle relaxer last night with dinner. They are good for 12 hours, so by the time the trial started and our class began, 12 hours had passed. But I believe there is enough residual to make her comfortable, as there is when I take them. I also gave her a half pain pill this morning, Tramadol. I packed the truck with Baby’s gear, which included water, Liver Biscotti treats, a Dr. Noy’s duck with a rabbit hair squeaker toy tucked inside, Raven’s crate, the dolly, and my gear, which included a chair I’d won at the raffle in February when this whole quest for Baby’s CD started. Then I put the Queen Mother in the back seat, and drove to Miami.
The drive was nice. It was. No hold-ups whatsoever, unlike Friday night when the traffic.com website indicated several sore spots of traffic. That’s why we didn’t go to the Practice Match then. Oh, there were other reasons, too, but driving to Miami typically isn’t fun, let alone on Friday when the whistle blows and everyone is driving home, and this, a holiday weekend. I could not persuade myself to take that drive. Plus it all went back to Baby knowing how to do this, as she practices every week at the arena, and would it help either way? She did some quirky things at the two trials she NQ’d at in the arena, so I was rolling the dice by not going or going. Either way, Baby is who she is and does what she does when she wants to do it. Hence the Diva part of her Doberness.
The directions I had been e-mailed by the club would have led me in a panic drive to tears. They had mistakenly directed handlers to take exit 13 off I-95, which didn’t exist as far as I could see. It had been changed to 10A. I double checked the directions not only on the Barry University website, but on mapquest. Yes, that is more prep work. Training a dog is fun. Preparing to show in a trial is fun. Prep work to get from home to the trial, eh? Not so fun, but necessary.
Once you got onto the right off-ramp, we next were led to the smallest parking lot on the universe. There was one spot left out of two, (OK, I exaggerate, but not much), and the car behind me could fit in it very fine. My big F-150 could have squeezed into it, but I was not in the mood for a parking war with my truck and that spot. Let alone the person in the coppery gangster car behind me. You know the car I mean. They look like police cars from the 1920’s. Cute enough, especially in the spot. I drove out of that lot, and after a few turns, found another parking lot that was much more suited to the size of a dog show. Let me say that the rest of the obedience club’s work and prep for this trial was primo. The e-mails were promptly sent when our entry was received, and the questions I had were also answered promptly.
Baby stayed in the back seat getting more and more excited as I unloaded Raven’s crate onto the dolly and bungee corded them together. I put a new clean cushion in Raven’s crate and in the house, I had washed that crate out with soap and water so as not to insult the Diva by giving her Raven’s cooties. Baby has enough of her own cooties, and they were getting ready for some excitement as I innocently grabbed Baby’s leash, the dolly cord and steered us into the gymnasium hall.
The hall was packed, I steered us by a Weimeraner and some friends who had their two Rotties and Sheltie superstar there in a nice corner spot. Baby waddle-walked us right to into a spot that was miraculously right in front of our ring. Right there!
I pulled the innards out of the crate, and put Baby inside. She was not happy with that set up, but I needed to visit “the tinkle room” and check us into our ring. When I came back, I let her out and we walked in the small space that was available for foot traffic. Baby was hyper. (No that’s not strong enough.) Baby was HYPER! (Yes, that’s better.) She was everywhere with her eyes while trying to pretend to heel with me. That is a trick just about everyone of my dogs learned – on their own! How to look like they are heeling, “yeah, I’m paying attention mom,” when they’re eyeing all the goings on that well, are going on. Baby’s sits got further and further ahead and in front of me, so I decided to take her outside for some instruction on calming down and sitting faster and p-a-y-i-n-g a-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n!
Once outside in the heat, Baby gathered herself and returned to her angelic disposition. And when returned to the lovely air conditioned hallyway, she was half angel, half devil again. I could see them both. One on each shoulder whispering into her adorable floppy ears. God, I hoped the angel would win out.
We didn’t have much time to chat or buy raffle tickets before we were going into the ring, but I saw a lady out of the side of my eye who was showing in an advanced class, which preceded Novice B in Ring #1, our ring. She didn’t pass, but I got to talk to her, and mentioned some “mini Aussies” I’d seen on-line recently and how unusual they looked. She then said that was because mini Aussies are not Aussies. I had heard this comment from another Aussie person through e-mail. When I asked her what exactly they were, she didn’t answer me, but this handler did. Evidently, the mini is a mixture of Aussie and Papillon, which is EXACTLY what I thought of those minis I was looking at on a website last night. They just don’t look right. Mystery solved. Onto the rest of our adventure.
The handler who taught the recent Novice Handling class that Luigi and I took, Joann, showed her Standard Poodle, Merlin, in Novice B a few handlers before us. Merlin did well, but the off-leash heeling was where he fell out of the routine. He got lost and lingered where he shouldn’t, but his owner got his act together each time, and did a good job putting the pieces back together. I thought to myself that I was glad Baby didn’t have an off-leash problem, and that I just had to concentrate on the stays. (Note to self: Never ever think thoughts like those again!)
Sooner or later, it was Baby’s and my turn to go in the ring. I felt like I was walking into a trap. I did feel that way. Baby was still flitting around, but I had done my best to settle her down. I wished I had brought a couple bottles of Rescue Remedy. One for her and one for me, but such mistakes are made and lived with.
On-leash heeling started out as a catasrophe and continued. This was because Baby started without me, then was back to watching everything else but me, and this time, I was not allowed to say a word to her about it. So imagine her surprise when I walked into her, stepped on her feet, and had the leash in place to keep her anchored to my general area because she was not able to keep an eye on me and her other life well enough to carry the heeling pattern off. By the time the first hault, left turn, slow, about turn was finished and we were making our right and into the fast, Baby came to her senses and finished up nicely. The figure 8 was a job well done, too. Honestly, that was such a lovely job on the figure 8 she did. I gave the stewards my leash and prepared Baby and me for the stand for exam.
The judge, Mary Happerstat, was still counting all the points we had lost thus far, so I waited till she looked up before I stood my beast, er, I mean Baby. When I put Baby on the stay, Mary did a very sturdy push on three parts of Baby’s back, and let me say I was sweating a little over that. You know, with Baby’s tender arthritis that flares up more when she’s doing something she doesn’t want to do than when she’s doing something she wants to do. But she stayed throughout the entire exam, and Mary doesn’t linger in the end. When the handler is by the dog, “Exercise finshed!” Yeehaw!
We were now in position for the heel off leash. Last time we showed at the Rodeo Arena in Davie, Baby’s heel on leash was not so good, but the heel off leash was magnificent. I was expecting the same results. As soon as we started off lead, or thereabouts, Baby decided freedom was looking pretty good. The matts felt good on her feet, the ring was humongous, and the air was nice and chilly, so the bean that had been up her butt for God knows how long, came alive and jumped! Right then and there ignitions on, blast off! Baby took off for a run down the extremely long long long ring, and I had stopped. The first thing that flashed through my mind was the little devil was winning, and I didn’t like that. The second was Baby had done something like this the time she ran out of the ring on the recall. The third was, I’m doomed. Doomed! I’ll be showing Baby till she’s using a walker.
After those three thoughts shot through my head at warp speed, I decided to call her. I hadn’t moved, I just said, “Baby! Come!” I used my hand to emphasize, and low and behold, the little witch came back to me, and I said “Heel!” and she did. I screwed up the slow. Well, I thought I was going slow, but when I heard the judge say, “Slow” a second time, I went slower. Then we ran into the gates on our about turn, and I just heard the calculator going on all the points we were losing! But Baby was still with me, and we picked up as a team in the exact spot we had on leash, on the right turn, fast-paced section. And truly, that’s where I thought I might lose her again, on the fast, but she finished the about turn, and we stopped together. I have to admit, there was a time during her little “event” that I was laughing, but it was not something I let her see or will ever tell her. Not today anway.
After that and exercise finished was called, the judge had a heart-to-heart with me. She asked if Baby every got into mischief like that before. I told her she had not done that on her heeling exercise before, and that she had a bean. Judge said, “What?” I said, “Baby has a jumping bean up her butt today.” I explained that she was 11 years old and this was totally unexpected. That was true. If I had expected it, it would have been on the recall or sit stay, but I guess Baby was exercising her options. Mary said that she had not NQ’d us because I regained control over my dog, but had Baby not returned on my first call, or had Baby done a second round of ring around the Rosie, we would have been out, caputz, done for. Eek! I’m glad I didn’t know that before.
Then Mary discussed reference to Baby’s age, and as a sidenote told me she, herself, was 76 and did not dye her hair. I swear to you, I saw one, maybe two, gray hairs in that red head of hers. She looked at my hair, and I knew she was waiting, so I told her my age and that my gray hair was as a result of trying to get Baby’s CD. Before February, I was a complete blonde.
With that, the recall was just ahead of us. And the ring was long long long. Don’t think I hadn’t taken a breath of relief yet. Baby was facing another chance to humiliate me.
I put Baby on one side of the ring, and said STAY really really firmly, walked and walked and walked to the other side. I was praying Baby would still be there by the time I got to the other end. MoG! I turned around and she was. The horns on top of her little furry head were never sharper nor more alert. I was given the signal to call the little witch, which brought her straight onto me like a freight train. No, like a twin engine jet! Yeah, that’s it. I thought, “This will be a fabulous ending!” Baby had done such a bang up job on the recall on all our practices of late, that I was expecting the … well, you know by now, do not expect from Baby. She did not stop in front of me. Instead, there was a whoosh, and a whirlwind around me where she came back out front and sat in between the heel position and the place where she should have done the front. She’s such a bee-otch sometimes. When I told her to heel, she looked at me and said with her eyes, “I just did, ditzy one. That extra step should be obsolete.” I think she was giving it to me two-fold for having stepped on her during the on-leash exercise, but God Almighty, she did an acceptable recall, and it was good enough to qualify.
I waited for the next handler to go in, as after that, it was the stay exercises. I had no time to calm down. I sat on my chair, and petted Baby. That’s when I noticed that she’d been rolling in the dirt in the back yard. My hands had gotten black from all the petting I’d been doing. I’d been so worried about what was going on inside Baby, I’d forgotten the all important outside of her via a bath on my prep work. Eww.
While I was thinking that, the instructor from the Luigi handling class, Joann, was kind enough to come over and offer me a bit of praise for the way I handled Baby in the ring. Wow! That felt good. Then another lady came over and said how mahvelous Baby looked with tail and ears, and they all should be that way. I agreed. The lady she was with agreed too, but only about the ears. People! Then another woman came over and said that Baby worked so happy. She had never seen a Dobie work with such enthusiasm. And she said that Baby worked like a Golden Retriever. Really? Wow. I had never gotten so many nice compliments ever, and after coming out of a ring with a performance like that, well, maybe it was amusing? I was feeling pretty good,though, and Baby was demanding treats. I gave her some Liver Biscotti, and it was time for the stays. Yes, already.
I put Baby on a mini sit stay for 15 seconds, returned to her at the end of the leash, exercised finished, then lined up. In line, I stood over her and grounded her as I learnedto do in Joann’s Handling class. I also added some subliminal touches of my own. I repeated over and over, “You will stay.” I may have grabbed her by both sides of the neck, ever so lovingly and blew the devil right off her shoulder, too. Yeah, I have to admit, I did that. I exorcised the devil right out of Baby as we waited in line.
We all walked in, and we were lined up to face the other end of the long long long part of the ring. I think I made mention to my friend, Rose, who was next to me, something like, OmG! But Mary came down to us and made sure we at that end near the entry (also the exit) moved up far enough away from it, so that was good. Less temptation for a dog to run out. It was. And Mary was snappy at moving us along, and wasted no time. We were sitting our dogs and leaving our dogs in no time. I gave Baby such a STAY command and stuck my hand right out in front of that Diva snout of hers and left it there and kept my palm opened all the way to the other end of the long long long ring, where I immediately put my hands behind my back and started counting as I watched Baby shift her rump from one side to the other. Then I held my breath for the remaining seconds. It was AWFUL! Waiting for a dog to break is AWFUL! You don’t want to wait for that, though. You want to turn that around and wait for them to stay so that if you start goming back to them, they will continue to stay, and praise Goddess, that is what happened. We got through the the sit stay! If she’d stay on the down, we would win!
The down stay was just as long, but longer. The sit stay in Novice is 60 seconds to count, and the down stay is 180 seconds, but I never get to 180. I count 60 three times. But this day I couldn’t keep that straight because Baby was alert and her ears were perky like I always want them to be when I’m taking her picture, but they never are because, did I tell you, she can be a bee-otch? But during these 180 seconds, her ears were perked and her head turned from one side to the other depending on what noise she was into. All I can say was I watched the judge, the dog, and started counting so fast until I had to sigh. The palms of my hands behind my back were starting to hurt. I realized it was because I was digging my nails into them. So when I heard the judge tell us to go back, I was about to pass out. If Baby just stayed till I walked around her, we’d have it made. And guess what…she did! She did she did she did! And Rose was the first to congratulate us on our new CD title! Yippie!
At the end of it all, the first prize went to Rose and her Sheltie with a 195, second was to another Ssheltie and I didn’t hear the score, and 3rd and 4th had a run-off at 186. My instructor, Joann, won 3rd with her standard Poodle and 4th went to the Collie and her handler. Lil, who had been at the M&M rehearsal with us! I was the only other qualifier. So five of us came out of it today. And three of us in that group got our CDs.
When the judge gave me my score, OK, have you been waiting for this, 174.5, (170 is passing), she asked me if Baby had Greyhound in her. Now to this very moment I am wondering if that was a trick question. You know, the AKC does not allow mixed breeds to show, and by no means is Baby anything but 100% Dobie, so I had a brain freeze. I said, “No,” I wanted to say that all Dobies have Greyhound in them because that’s one of the breeds Herr Dobermann used to produce this breed, but it didn’t come out. Instead, I just stood there bewildered with the motivation behind that question. Maybe she lost herself. She had told me she was 76 when she told me her hair was its natural red color. Did I mention I had thought about saying, “My mom had been 76 when she died?” But I thought better of that. So I was at another threshhold I thought better of crossing and decided to just keep quiet.
So, Baby and I have finished our journey to our CD, and I never did get it together to buy a raffle ticket today. Meanwhile, Baby is entered in the Palm Beach trials next month. I don’t know if I want to resent the phone ringing on another Saturday morning or to go “just for fun.” It would be a different experience to go with a DoberDiva who has taught me not to expect anything, especially when expecting anything from her in the ring now would be inconsequential.