Monday, July 15, 2013

CPE Agility Trial Report @ Breakaway Action Dogs [Westminster, Maryland]

Let me start this off by saying that despite NOT having a perfect day .... it was all about personal bests -- which, quite frankly, is all I can ask for! This may also end up being something of a novel, so if you make it all the way through -- bless you.

I've been working with our coach Melissa in tweaking a few aspects of Bristol's training regimen, from downgrading her to the 12" jump height from 16" to different methods of handling her weave poles and the one-two-skip-a-few routine. Needless, I was excited to put all that we practiced into play.

Got ourselves up at 4:30 in the morning (before the crows no less!) and made our way to Westminster via 95/695/795/97 with zero problems. Carroll Indoor Sports was extrememly easy to find, and seeing as we were there 30 minutes before judge's briefing -- gave me plenty of time to pick my spot. I've learned that I value my geography. I want a good view of the action without being directly in
the flow of traffic.

Bristol, as per usual, was energy for miles -- and usually? First thing? I snag a ball and throw it for her to burn off some of the excess to keep from having an out of control dog, but apparently, I'd forgotten our tennis ball in the mad dash this morning to hit the road. (OOPS)! It also wasn't immediately apparent to me where the warm up jumps were ... so I shrugged and thought, "Welp. Heregoes nothing ... she'll be quicker than lightning, but she's *usually* good
about focusing."

I was already mildly concerned about Jackpot (similiar to FAST in AKC). Distance is *not* a forte of ours by any means, but I was confident that as long as I could show her the path and be pretty clear with my body language -- we should be fine. Not having played this game before, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Here's what I've learned: when you have a fast dog? It really blows during the first part of the game... "playtime". :35 is a heck of a lot of time to fill. But here's where things get interesting: leave it to my dog to start doing things she's never done before. I had a great, flowing course mapped out in my brain and all of that got shot down in say, 10 seconds? For the first
time, she not only got herself a case of the zoomies ... but blew her dogwalk. I've never, ever seen her leap off the contact before the yellow zone before. I've also *never* had her directly ignore me on course so that she could do whatever she wanted to do. And in this case? All she wanted to do was play with tunnels. Why in the world go up an A-frame when there's a tunnel right there just begging to be raced through? Nevermind the fact that your handler is blocking it -- go ahead and plow right through her. (GRR!) By the grace of God, the buzzer *finally* sounded and I was in a good position to hit the gamble, but we blew it at the end when Bristol skipped the last jump in the combination and
dove into the tunnel instead. (Dang!)

I left shaking my head and mumbling "What in the WORLD was that?! Who are you and where did all of these problems we've never seen before come from?!"

And at this point? I was frankly nervous. I had no idea if all of that was a fluke and we can call the first run a Mulligan or if I really just developed a series of problems that needed addressing. I stuck her in the crate, grabbed all of my course maps -- and went outside to mull it over and potentially re-think how I was planning to run the rest of the day. At this point, the trial chairman found me outside and she took me by the shoulders and said, "Hey, you know? I run my dogs in level 5 and sometimes, our first run really stinks. In fact, at our last trial, the theme of the day was 'What was THAT?!' -- so hang in there! Happens to the best of us."

I thought that was a really nice thing to say. Made me feel a *little* better, but ultimately -- I still wondered what was going to happen with the next (4) classes.

Turns out? That first run *was* a Mulligan. I kept in mind that today in particular, she was all about the tunnels above everything else and I adjusted accordingly. I was a little more aware of the fact that she might need some more help on her contacts to ensure that she hit them and didn't depart early. She ROCKED the remaining (4) classes and qualified Standard, Snooker, Wildcard and Jumpers ... all under 28 seconds ... and came home with *two* titles: CL1-H and CL1-F ! WOOHOO!!!!Considering her last 2 trials have been a little shaky -- it was a huge victory purely for personal reasons. I know where she was and I\look at her now and I think "YES! That hard work is paying off."

Wildcard was singlehandedly the surprise of the day. When I looked at the line between jump 3 and I had to choose between 4a and 4b ... her line of vision was straight in line with the triple jump, not the weaves off to the right. Imagine my surprise when the dog swerves out in front of me from the outside to dive into the weave poles. (Frankly, I'd had her set up to do a straight line and was
preparing to book it). If you had met Bristol 6 months ago ... she hated weave poles. And now here she is CHOOSING the weaves over a jump straight in her line of sight -- and believe you me, she loves to jump and she loves to do it fast. While on the one hand, I'm pleased that she apparently loves to weave .... I think we now have a new problem to trouble shoot: a dog that is making her own
course choices rather than listen to the body language/verbal cues her handler is giving her. Gosh, I love agility -- you solve one problem only to have a new one show up.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thank God for Unanswered Prayers

There is no point to this post, really. Other than I've been thinking a lot recently about how my life didn't turned out remotely the way I had planned it ... and I wouldn't have it any other way. Not only did my life not go according to plan, it's been turning out a heck of a lot better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


"Has your husband ever wanted to deploy? How did you react or take the news? My husband is thinking about volunteering to deploy and I'm lost for words! I don't care about the extra pay!!

I was asked this question a few days ago.
And here's my take:

I expect that my husband will deploy multiple times throughout his military career. Most men (and women!) want the combat experience. They joined the military to serve their country and some don't feel like "real" soliders, sailors, marines, airmen etc until they've gone overseas and into a war zone.

That being said, I will be far more amenable/receptive to a volunteered deployment or unaccompanied tour if Drew comes home and talks to me about his wishes ahead of time. If he had made that decision all on his own without talking to me first, I'd be without question: hurt/insulted.

I fully expect my husband to deploy multiple times throughout his career, so that's not the problem. But I would draw exception to his making a decision that would affect our family unit in a HUGE way without consulting me, his partner, in it. If I understood what his wishes were ahead of time -- I'd be far more receptive to a volunteered deployment. With the knowledge that my Marine enlisted with the intent to deploy, for me, personally, while maybe he shouldn't HAVE to talk to me about it [maybe it's a given/implication that deployments are something he wants to do], I think it would be a respectful, considerate gesture to at least give me, his spouse, the heads up. I would certainly involve him if I was making a decision to say, go to Africa for 8+ months to assist a nonprofit group with their humanitarian efforts. (Let's just pretend that this was something I was passionate about for argument's sake.) I think my husband would be not only shocked, but wounded that I made a decision like that without communicating how passionate I was for the cause and how I would feel doing such important work!

So what say ye? How would you feel if your service member came home and told you that s/he volunteered for a deployment/unaccompanied tour?

Back in the flesh!!

I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging because I really didn't think I had anything worth writing about. This, as it turns out, just isn't true.

I'll start with the most exciting. 
Long before we brought a dog home, I knew I wanted to try my hand in agility at some point. It looked like such fun! Bristol, our Cocker Spaniel, is love on four paws. She's the dog of my twenties and the very apple of my eye. From day one, she's had a natural ability for canine sports -- but boy, we had a long way to go before we were ever going to be ready for an agility trial. A year and a half after we began our agility journey ... we were finally ready and competed on April 7 in Knoxville, MD.  Truthfully, I was much more nervous than she was! Bristol took wonderful care of me that day.

(c) Here for Dogs
I gotta say, I love her "crazy" eyes!
(16" Run in 'Wildcard')

At the moment, we're working with our fantastic coach Melissa Frye [Skyrocket Cocker Spaniels/WOOF'S Agility] in Arlington, VA on our handling skills and continuing to improve. It is my goal to not only title before the end of 2013, but I would like to one day compete at CPE Nationals.
I've made some wonderful friends while living on Bolling AFB this past year, and the hardest part is saying goodbye when one of these friends moves. I'm hoping at some point, we wind up at the same duty station. How does the saying go... "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver an the other gold." This wonderful lifestyle of being a military spouse means I have great friends in spades. It's hard to say goodbye, but I look forward to making new friends along the way. 

We're still not sure what Drew's future is with the Marine Corps at this point in time. Are we staying in DC? Moving to LeJeune? Getting out and going God knows where?? Talk about having a need for exemplifying the concept of SEMPER GUMBY! Whatever the future holds, I'm trying not to worry. It's not something I have any control over, but I have full confidence that it will work out one way or another.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rewind 365

This time last year ... I had just moved to Washington DC by myself. I recall this blog post from a year ago and I smile. I had just started my job in Arlington, was still figuring out public transit and living with my Aunt and Uncle north of Baltimore, MD. I missed my husband and my fur children terribly, but the separation was a small price to pay for the much bigger picture.
When I say "figuring out" public transit ... I mean being a creative problem solver when I either missed my train or wound up on the wrong one. Both of which happened the same week! Luckily, the public transportation system for Washington DC metro area = superb, and getting myself back on track was actually not hard. But then again, I'm the Queen of getting myself turned around or otherwise misplaced -- so I'm definitely no stranger to getting "un-lost".
365 days later, I am a happy camper. There's a lot about this area in general that appeals to me -- although truthfully, some days? I wish I could leave the brutal, heavy traffic in the dust. Or maybe I should start taking a motor boat from Bolling AFB to the Capital Marina....  Just saying. I can see my office building from my house.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cherry Blossom Adventures!

This is without a doubt, the prettiest time of year in DC. We've also seemed to jump straight from winter into summer with sultry 80 degree temps, so I took advantage of the good weather and took a personal day from the office.

Bristol with the Blossoms

Bristol and I

Bristol with FDR's Scottish Terrier, Fala