Give It All You Got

Risa took first place with her first leg in Advanced on Saturday.

Risa took first place with her first leg in Advanced on Saturday.

Our last competition left me feeling a bit down on myself. I felt like I’d let Risa down because we hadn’t prepared well enough. While she does enjoy adding her own flair to the routine, she does much better when she knows what’s coming. Neither one of us knew the choreography that well and the performances suffered for it. I learned a lot from my “failures” (read “learning experiences”) that weekend which will only make us a better team.

We worked hard on breaking down the sequences and really polishing things over the last month so we would be better prepared for the competition this weekend. It’s very rare that we get the opportunity to compete in freestyle so close together. Usually I have months between competitions. I wasn’t sure it was enough but we were ready to give it a go.

Risa was back to her usual self for the first day. She was a bit slow to start but she soon fell right into the groove. There were a couple moves she missed and I improvised several sections because I hadn’t really choreographed a couple spots. It wasn’t noticeable, though. I even had the chance to think on my feet when Risa slapped the basketball instead of going around it and knocked it over. I had changed the ending to a high five while I sat on the ball rather than squatting on the ground to get the high five. As I continued dancing with my dog, I was considering whether or not I could sit on the ball now that it was laying on its side (there is a holder on the bottom of it to keep it from rolling around). I decided I could still sit on it. 🙂

We received high marks; our highest scores to date, I think. The judge gave us great compliments on variety of movements and her execution. I even got praise on her focus which is always a tough spot for us. 😀 She earned her first leg in Advanced and took first place. Granted, we were the only team in our class so we got first by default.

I had high hopes for the second day. Risa is typically much better the next day and she was so good on Saturday. I was really looking forward to having another stellar performance. But it was not to be.

We got to the show site early so I could work her a bit on going around the basketball since she didn’t do it right on Saturday. I ran her through a couple reps of that and did a couple other things and rewarded her with some racing around the ring chasing me. She was fine and even got a comment about her high energy from someone watching us work. But, when I got her out of her kennel to compete, something was wrong. I could tell right away something was off. I asked her if she was okay. . .even though I know she couldn’t explain to me what was up. I thought it could be her gut or maybe she was sore. She was not limping or favoring a limb so I decided to give it a go.

I only got photos taken on Sunday which is a shame.  You can tell Risa wasn't feeling right!

I only got photos taken on Sunday which is a shame. You can tell Risa wasn’t feeling right!

She started off slowly and, as soon as I started heeling out with her, I could tell she didn’t feel right. Bless her heart, she wanted to work for me. She WANTED to dance. Risa just couldn’t. 🙁 I didn’t know what to do so I just tried to get her to do anything so she could have fun. Her backup away from me was beautiful. . .but that was about all she could pull off. When she refused her flying high 10, I knew something was definitely up. She loves that move.

As soon as we finished, we were met at the exit gate by several of our competitors and friends who wanted to know if Risa was okay. That performance was so uncharacteristic of her that they knew something must be amiss. It felt great to know how much they cared. How could you not love people like that? I told them I knew something was off but was unable to determine what. (Had Risa been showing obvious signs of pain or distress, I wouldn’t have shown her. But she just seemed “off.” I wanted to give her a chance.) Throughout the day, people asked about her to see if she was alright. I eventually determined that it was probably her back. Poor thing hasn’t had her back that sore in a long time. Which is a good thing. It just picked a terrible time to flare up. A trip to the chiropractor is in order!

I really had a blast this weekend. Spending time with freestylers is always so much fun. It’s like getting together with family. I love talking to everyone and sharing experiences, successes and failures. I couldn’t ask for a more fun weekend with my dog.

But I’m also sad. I wanted Risa to enjoy Sunday as well but, due to her soreness, I’m not sure she did. This also reminds me that, despite how she acts 95% of the time, she is getting older. And that reminds me of her mortality. This dog owns my heart. With everything we’ve been through together, we are so close. She always gives me everything she can and I love her for that. She is my Rock Star.

We are done with freestyle for a while at least competition-wise. Now we have time to perfect some of those behaviors that we’re still having some difficulty with and really polish up this routine for the spring. By then, I think we should be ready to earn those final two legs in Advanced and earn our championship. And have some fun dabbling in Heelwork to Music too.

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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