Our first class was Open. He was a rock star. He bounced. He pranced. He bit my sleeve between exercises. He worked his fronts. He worked his finishes. He looked at me like, "Seriously, Mom? Why did we ever get so uptight about this? It's kinda fun." I rode a wave of euphoria through the whole class.
While I'm no longer worried about Phoenix breaking his group stays, they still make me uncomfortable and I'd be doing a major happy dance if the AKC ever got rid of them. I wasn't too excited that the dog on one side of us was a dog from my club that Phoenix has an unfortunate "history" with — it was one of those surprise, dog-in-your-face incidents that didn't end well. We've done group stays next to this dog since then with no ill effects so I figured it was no big deal. The dog isn't aggressive, just makes some bad social decisions.
So I nearly had a stroke when we were leaving the ring and that dog stood up and started walking toward Phoenix. The judge was totally on the ball and quickly snagged the offender's collar while Phoenix held his sit, displaying one gleaming canine tooth. No harm, no foul and of all the incredible things that happened yesterday, I think I'm proudest of Phoenix for that simple decision to do his job. I don't think that dog had any evil intentions but when a dog breaks and starts wandering around the lineup, anything can happen.
There were several run-offs and when we went back into the ring for ribbons, winning Open was the last thing on my mind. I'd already achieved one of my goals for the day - not being an uptight stressball who telegraphed tension and worry to her dog. When the judge called our number for first, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. Phoenix liked all the clapping and tried eating his ribbons.
By the time we went into Utility five hours later (yeah, it was a loooong day), all I wanted was to do keep the same "having fun with my dog" mindset that carried us through Open. Our warm up was a little heeling and a lot of silly tricks. We went into the ring with our brains in the right place.
It was tremendously rewarding to see Phoenix working and trying in Utility - something that was clearly missing from our ring skills last fall. Back then, if he ran into a problem, he just quit. Although he had a few bobbles (good lord, the handler needs to brush up on HER heeling skills), he did a nice, steady job. Not quite as confident as Open but a total 180 degree improvement over last fall.
The last exercise was articles, one of his favorite things. It was fun to see him light up when I sent him after his "sniffers." OMG, my dog was having fun! I was waiting for choirs of angels to break into the Hallelujah Chorus.
Again, when the class ended there were run-offs. This time we got called! It was a three-way run-off for first place. We came in second and I was ecstatic. (Note to self: work driving into ring gates with the public sitting on the other side. Hey training buddies, you guys get to mimic the "public." I'd better be careful what I ask for.)
When it was all said and done, Phoenix got an Open first, his first OTCh. points, his first UDX leg, had tied for first in Utility and to put the icing on the cake, got his first High Combined.
But best of all, for the first time in a long time, we had fun in the obedience ring together.
Video soon. Promise. Spent the day with my mom and my aunt. Spent the evening with the Farmer, birthday supper and losing money at a local casino. Now am going to spend time with my pillow.