Monday, June 11, 2007

I love this dog

Really, honest, I do. Cala keeps me humble. She teaches me things every day. She keeps me guessing, she pushes all my buttons, and sometimes I truly want to strangle her. She's 60 pounds of beautiful sleek black-coated grace. Sharp as glass, too smart for her own good, impatient and intolerant of my mistakes. And lordy does she love life. Everything about it. She attacks her world head on, no-holds-barred, a black sledge hammer of determination and speed.

This past weekend there was a Rally trial in Moberly. Cala just needed a leg to finish her Advanced title and was pretty close to ready for Excellent. There are a few Excellent signs I was worried about though. I hoped for no broad jump (a low, wide jump) because we haven't practiced one in years. The halt, side-step right, halt was another challenge—it involves the dog sitting at heel, then the human moving one step sideways away from the dog, while the dog (optimally) gets up and moves directly sideways too in a sidepass type motion. Cala tends to bring her front over, but not her rear. I really haven't practiced the honor much, I didn't know if she'd stick it. And finally, the one I really worried about was anything where Cala would have to stand from a sit. She's just been totally blanking on that exercise. She used to know how to do it, but now, I tell her to stand and she just looks at me, confused. We've both been struggling with it for weeks and it's so not like her to not catch on. In Advanced, you can help the dog by physically posing it, so that's not an issue. But in Excellent, you cannot touch the dog at all. Cala seems convinced that if I want her to stand, I'll pose her.

Saturday was a perfect day weather-wise. But I was a bit more nervous than usual, and Cala's performance reflected it. She was often wide, barely looking at me, forging. She sniffed one of the bowls on the figure 8 and was out of position fairly often. I redid one sign because she was so wide she went around the number cone instead of with me inside it. Despite this, not only did she qualify but she got 2nd place with a 96. I felt the judge was far too lenient. Cala did not deserve the score she got; I would have had her in the high 80s or low 90s. One of the big problems with Rally is inconsistency and too much lenience in judging and I felt it here. Nevertheless, I was happy to finish her Advanced title, and we moved up to Excellent for Sunday.

Sunday was rainy, with a constant drumming on the metal roof. Getting my Excellent course map I sighed in dismay. One of the jumps was a broad jump. There was the halt-side step right-halt, and, curses of curses, the dreaded stand from a sit. In this particular sign it was halt-sit, stand, down. Okay. Well, you just do your best. I wasn't nearly as nervous this time, and when we went in I waited for Cala to focus and get eye contact on me before starting. Off into a serpentine, she was right on target and much tighter than Saturday. A lovely 90 degree left pivot, then on to the Broad which she cleared easily (whew!). A left into a nice rapid moving down, then to a halt, call front, finish right. Cala executed an almost straight front and yipped a bit getting back into heel. She was starting to amp up a bit. There was another left turn, a 270 right, then the bar jump.

And then I made a huge mistake. I sent her to the jump the minute she saw it. Instantly she accelerated into a full gallop and sailed over the bar, landing about 6 feet out on the other side. I thought "oh holy shit" as I broke into a dead run to try to catch up. I called "CALA!" hard and she came back to heel but she was starting to yodel. There was a 270 left which she did, still amping up. Just a step or two beyond that left was a schutzhund (left about) turn. I told her "around" and began my spin left. She should go around me to the right as I spin left. Instead, she body slammed me and ran back to do the jump again. I called her back. She was majorly pissed and starting to bark. I tried the schutzhund turn again. Again she tagged me and ran back and jumped the jump. I called her again. By this time she was screaming like a banshee. She ran back to me, body slammed me again, and went back to fly over the jump for the third time. I called her back, she came skidding into a sliding sit, protesting at the top of her lungs. I had to fold my arms, turn my back, and wait. She finally shut up. I sort of got her past that darn schutzhund turn by accident and she (amazingly) pulled herself back together. I got a nice halt, side-step-right halt out of her and on the last sign she actually did it—she stood up from a sit.

As the judge said, "you handled that very well, but, um, that's an NQ."

So how could you not love a dog like this? I mean, what other dog could get SO excited about taking a stupid 16" jump that she has to do it 4 times? There's just no other dog like her. That's my Cala. 110%, all the time, never say die, never do anything once if you can do it 4 times, with volume!

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