Monday, July 27, 2009

C-ATCH Django

This weekend, we competed at the Stony Creek Canine Academy CPE trial. We entered Saturday and Sunday as they were offering Jackpot both days, and so Django had two chances to earn his C-ATCH.

Saturday's course was a traditional Jackpot and particularly tricky, with a challenging send out to off-side weaves. Not Django's strong suit, so we had fun, gave it our best try, but I wasn't surprised with the NQ. Still, we had another try Sunday.

Sunday's course was a non-traditional Jackpot. The team had to earn the required number of points (44 for Level 5), and also in the process successfully complete three designated obstacles at any point before the time limit. The three required obstacles were an A-frame, tunnel, and jump. So, not too bad of a Jackpot course. The main risks would be blowing the A-frame contact, dropping the bar on the jump, or not getting enough points in the time limit. I planned out a nice course that would get us enough points, so just had to keep fingers crossed for a successful contact performance. Django is pretty reliable with his A-frames, and rarely drops bars, so as long as there was not too much silliness in his first run of the day, I felt optimistic.

As we stepped to the line, I kissed him on the head and whispered to him that I loved him and that we should just go have fun. I led out past the tire, and was happy to look back and see him intent and focused on me (sometimes I look back and he is making googly-eyes at the leash runner or something). The A-frame was our fourth obstacle, and he solidly hit the contact zone. I breathed a little easier at that point, but still had a lot of points to get so couldn't relax yet. Overall, the run continued to go smoothly, with just a little Django silliness with a dogwalk/tunnel distinction. He REALLY wanted to do the dog walk for whatever reason, but I called him off as I just couldn't diverge from my plan. Of course, the couple seconds spent there felt like an eternity, but we just needed another jump, teeter, and one more tunnel after that. Once back on track, the ending went smoothly and as he came out of the final tunnel, I cheered him on telling him what a great boy he is. We took another jump for good measure and headed to the table to stop our time with still a few seconds to spare.

He hit the table, sat and looked at me. I said to him, "Good job, boy - that's your C-ATCH!" and gave him a hug before taking a quick victory lap. As I leashed him up afterwards, I gave him a big hug, buried my face in his beautiful red fur, and told him how proud I was of him. Then we proceeded out of the ring to get him a big reward of chicken!

The great thing about dogs is that all he knew was that he was having fun running with his mom. It was just another run to him, though when it was over, it became obvious to him that everyone was making a big fuss over him, coming up to congratulate and praise him. He didn't know why, but he knew he was quite pleased with himself and lapped up all the extra attention.

This trial marked the two-year anniversary of what I think of as our serious agility career. We had trialed some with our first dog, Jade, in the past, but he always preferred flyball. Tristan and Django had started to compete a few years ago, and earned up to about Level 2 titles. Then in 2006, we took some time off when we bought a new house and moved. After a few months we were preparing to get back into it, but then I broke my arm and so was sidelined for another few months. Once life settled down a bit, we had to re-hone our dogs' now-rusty agility skills for a few months, and returned to showing again at Stony in July 2007. So, it was fitting that we were able to earn this title at one of our favorite venues, under a judge that we trial under often.

Django may not always be the fastest agility dog out there, but he is reliable and forgiving on the course. More than anything, Django has the greatest desire to please that I have seen in any of our dogs. He wants to be right, and will not stop trying until he gets there. I believe he would do anything I asked of him. He has come a long way from the shy but loving street dog we met a few years ago, and he makes me proud and happy every day. I absolutely adore him.

Many don't know that he is named after a famous jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt's hand was seriously disfigured in a fire, yet he went on to become regarded as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. The name, "Django," is a Gypsy name that means "I awaken." I have always thought that it was a fitting name for my guy, as he has come out of his shell and blossomed so much more than I even could have hoped since he won me over with his playful grin years ago.

Titles aren't what it is important, by any means. I treasure all the time I spend with my dogs having a good time with them, and the wins, points, Q's, and other achievements are really just nice things to strive for. But, this weekend's milestone represents to me a lot of hard team work on both of our parts, and I will always treasure the time and fun we have on the journey for a title.

Here is the video of Django's C-ATCH run. As you see, there is a little snag as I have to convince him that we are not, in fact, doing the dog walk, but otherwise he ran very nicely. What a good boy!

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