. . .we keep getting better with time.
I will admit I was worried about our time in the ring this weekend. We weren’t nearly as prepared as I would have liked to have been. Freestyle is such a complicated and demanding sport; I was afraid we’d see our first NQ. But Risa was the shining star I know she is and she pulled off two spectacular performances at the show.
With the mishap (read: handler error) yesterday, I wanted to make sure it was clear to Risa that I did want her to do the ‘peek’ through my legs while my back was turned. She also goofed up a bit on the final moves leading to our ending pose so I decided to run through that with her again as well. So I got us to the show site early so we could get some ring time before it got crowded. I ran through both of those segments with her and rewarded heavily with a good game of chase and silliness. She was having a blast racing around. Then it was back to her kennel until game time.
I was even more lax with her about what we did before we entered the ring than I was on Saturday. I trotted her a bit outside and had her do a couple spins to warm up. I also stretched out her back. But, while we milled around waiting for our turn, Risa did what Risa wanted to do. I did reward eye contact but I didn’t really ask her for anything. No nagging Mom! (I think that sort of thing frustrates us both and, if doing ‘nothing’ before entering the ring is what Risa needs, that’s what we’ll do!)
As I walked into the ring with her, I felt blank. Not excited or nervous. Just there. Risa started off a bit slow and I caught her wander a wee bit (nowhere near what she does in rally, though!). But she picked it up again quickly and nailed almost everything. Her backing behavior today was so much nicer (even if it wasn’t straight) and she responded well and quickly to the spin at a distance and the high 10 afterwards. While she didn’t wait in place for the ‘blind’ peek, she (and I) still did it right this time. Overall, ignoring the nit-picky stuff, she was outstanding. She really gave it her all and put on a good show.
We got some nice comments from everyone including our judge today. While I was again reminded that I need to move my upper body more (I’m gonna work on it), there was not much else negative about the routine. The judge really liked the variety of movements, Risa’s energy, and the flow of the routine. No comments about the costume today (though a fellow competitor said we needed more sequins 😉 ).
I gave Risa some out of the crate time because she didn’t seem to want to go back in there and be alone all day. She was pretty good and lounged around. I also had her out for the awards ceremony again. There wasn’t really a great spot to stand so I chose a place up near the ring gating so I would only need to watch 3 sides instead of 4. Things went well for a while until one of the dogs came over to say “Hi” to Risa. She handed it well at first by just turning and trying to get away. But there was no where for her to go or for me to move her to so she panicked. It could have been ugly but it wasn’t. In the chaos, she did slip her collar but she didn’t go far. Afterward, she was a bit on edge but not too bad. Though we were still enveloped on 3 sides by other dogs, none of them paid any attention to Risa so she was cool. She also got plenty of treats for checking in with me while we waited.
We didn’t earn any special awards this weekend but Risa did qualify again Sunday and took home a 1st place medal. Not bad, fuzzball. Her first time in the freestyle ring she got 3rd place. Last year she didn’t place on Saturday (but she did Q) and took first place on Sunday. This year, she took 2nd on Saturday and 1st on Sunday. What great improvement, Risa!
I got to talk to one of the judges after the day was through and she commented to me about the ending pose in our routine. She said that Risa has such energy during the whole routine and then she comes into a perfectly still sit at the end. The judge loved it. 🙂 I hadn’t thought about that aspect of the movement but I’m glad it worked out that way. I like to have some slow stuff with Risa because she is so fast and active.
Speaking of fast and active, once we got back to the hotel, I did a quick playbow to her and she set off like her tail was lit on fire. Risa did mondo crazy zoomies around the room getting a heck of a lot of laughter out of me. I’m not sure how she still had the energy. (Are you sure you’re almost eight and a half?) Now, of course, she’s passed out and probably dreaming about the awesome weekend we had. I cannot wait to do it again. In fact, I think we may take a break from AKC rally this year and just focus on freestyle. Clearly, that’s more fun for the both of us. 🙂