5 Years in the Making

8 04 2008

Madera is over and done with…the tournament has been scored and finalised in the books and on the Ufli website, and yet this one will stand out in my mind for years and years to come.

It started off as any Madera tournament. The dogs and I drove in late, the other teams had already set up their camps and headed off to their respective hotels or RV’s. We stayed with a fellow team mate in her parent’s RV on the tournament site. 

The green dogs, Loki and Izzy, had made their debutes and both did fabulous. Loki actually had a dog chase him, and he did his job regardless. He ran a presonal best time of 4.3. Izzy also did well and ran a time of 6.0.

Saturday morning started off with me very anxious and excited, how i usually am before racing begins. I left Riley and Jet at the RV, in an X-pen where i was hoping they would behave themselves and relax away from the morning barking and let me get the pre-race jitters out.

There were 3 teams entered this time, each team had more than 4 dogs running, so each dog had to site one race, or share time.

Loose: Jinx/Jet/Riot/Bailey/Loki/Emma (JRT) BEST TIME RAN: 18.325 SECONDS

Stray: Jinx/Ringo/Zoe/Emma/Mystery/Mirage/(Flick) BEST TIME RAN:19.985 SECONDS

Unleashed: Emma/Prize/Mirage/Rampage/Floyd/Spud/(Izzy) BEST TIME RAN: 22.920 SECONDS

Since each dog was technically sitting a race, Jet would only have 3 races each day. What matters, though, is the quality and not quantity of racing.  Jet was runinng over 10 inch jumps, and we were in a non-jet-favoring division. We were racing teams of 20 seconds and higher, which is bad for Jet since he likes to race fast dogs. Indeed, through day one Jinx was always beating the other teams start dog before it finished, so that when Jet began his run there was never any dogs for him to race against. Even still, caught up in the pure joy of Flyball, Jet was running 4.4’s  with no competition.

Loki and Izzy ran some team races, and earned some of their first titles. Flick, who was not ready to run any full runs, did warm ups on the box with no problems at all.  All our green dogs are showing proof of their skills to come.

On day two, Jet started a few races, and got to race against some old rivals and friends that he knew when he was a pup. Over the same 10 inch jumps, he ran some 4.2’s and 4.3’s. Racing lasted very, very long that Sunday. At 9.00 pm, only Heather and I elected to stay and pick up titles and awards. I knew there would be a not-so-fun drive ahead, but its was worth seeing Jet’s updated stats. Even without running full time, Jet finally earned double digits in points, and ended the weekend with 10,960. The next title is at 12,000 points, and the ever illusive PLaque is at 20,000.

 

I am always happy when Jet does well. He is my pride and joy, my partner and my friend. But the hightlight of this weekend was all for Riley. I always bring her along, to get her out of the house and see some things, but she usually sits in her crate alot. At practice  she runs by herself and brings the ball back, and getting more and more consistant. She is even enjoying herself. Its been since 2004 since i stopped really training Riley for Flyball, and since 2003 since we first began with her. I stopped pressuring her because i had Jet, and just let her have some fun. So i was suprised when a team mate told me she was pulling Izzy from her singles races, and would Riley like to have them?

I thought about it alot…Riley had never done anything in a tournament environment, never raced with another dog in the other lane, and would only bring back a squishy, water-bomb ball that were for the height dogs. Even then, you had to yell “Bring it!” when she reached the box, as an insurance policy. Then again, she was bringing the ball back consistantly in practice, helping the class dogs learn passing, and looking happy. So i said yes.

It wasn’t long before old team mates who had been with me from the begining were approaching me and excited about watching Riley run. They had been there from the very start…watching for 5 months as i struggled to get Riley to look at a tennis ball…for another year to get her to tug during a recall, and see her MAYBE lope down to the box, hit it, and leave the ball to come back. They heard the frustrations, the hopes, the tears, the joy at a sudden break through, and now even though they were on different teams, our friend ship kept us together.

They crouded around the racing lanes when the time came. I warmed up Riley with one jump then two to the box, and she happily brought back the ball. I stayed calm, this was nothing more than a practice session. We did a recall to finish our warm-up.

Our competitors were a friend from another team, and her Chiuauah. Neither dogs had ran with another in the other lane. We planned for each dog to take turns and wait for the other to finish before sending. Riley did her job…the biggest goal for us was to always bring the ball back, which she did every time.  She was supposed to be turning right, but kept turning left with the ball…but no matter, her eyes were bright and willing, and thats all that mattered.  Then we decided to run the dogs at the same time. I said ok, since Riley is the type of dog who, if decided to chase, I could call back to me in an instant. I figured this was the worst that could happen. So, starting Riley at 10 feet, we both released our dogs on the 3rd light, and both made their way to the box. I only remember one little hic-up the first run…Riley reached the box and hit it, ejecting the ball and leaving it on the mat as she turned to look at the little dog in the other lane. Then, she picked up her ball and ran back to me. That was it. I held my breath, but all the other runs she made were clean and easy…speed didn’t matter…(she ran a best time of 6.5 seconds over 6 inch jumps), the look of joy in her eyes as she wolfed down a Charlee Bear cookie well earned and then asked to go again was enough…finally, she was having fun.

Everyone came up to us after the race. Old and current team mates petted Riley and gave lots of hugs and high fives, cheering our accomplishment that had been 5 years in the making. People from other teams whom i didn’t know approached me on a job well done, asking me when I got this “new” dog, they had always watched Jet, but had never seen this newbie. A new look of respect and cheer adorned their faces when I told them of our story…Riley had been my original sport dog. The journey Riley and I had made together, the way she taught me about how special a dog really is, the way we learned to communicate together and create our strong bond of friendship and love had been on display for all to see that day. And when we left the ring for the very first time, we did it together, partner with partner. Riley was a Flyball Dog at last…after 5 years, this was our begining.

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