Of course going into Nationals this year, my great big giant goal was to defend our title, so to speak, or to add a "2" to our current title. And we did it! I was very concerned about a couple things going into the trial; Drifter's brain was a bit iffy on and off due to Trig being in heat at home, and also he missed a couple dogwalk contacts over the winter as he has suddenly decided that if I converge too strongly he may randomly switch up his striding. So I spent the last few weeks leading into the trial doing some simple driving over the dogwalk to a toy or an obvious obstacle to get him settled back down again, and doing some involved and difficult, but short, handling sequences to keep him in synch with me. Friday morning he actually was not really paying attention, and his ISTT Jumpers run was not a particularly nice one. He started out by refusing to stay (this trend continued all weekend, actually), then tried to skip the first jump, then knocked a bar. I was a bit tough on him for this run, as I really, REALLY wanted him to buckle down and focus for me, and he can be a bit of a hard-headed dog sometimes. But once this run was done, he did fine. I felt that he slipped a lot in the dirt in ISTT standard later in the day, but he ran a nice clean run for me, including a dogwalk into the corner followed by a turn, and he was actually 3rd place so couldn't have been too wide despite his sliding. Saturday he ran great in both rounds, and was 2nd in Standard and 3rd in Jumpers - I was thrilled with both runs, especially the JWW run since he often doesn't do as well in JWW as he does in Std (contact advantage!). And Sunday morning he gutted out a nice clean run in Round 3, and might have even placed except that as he went to enter the tunnel, his feet went out from under him and he sort of flipped over and fell in the middle of the tunnel and took a long time to come out. He came out running and looked fine though, so we continued on. He didn't place but his time was still fine, and overall after the 3 rounds he was sitting in 1st place, cumulatively FOUR entire seconds ahead of the 2nd place dog! I couldn't be more pleased with that.
This was the first year I did not have a dog in Challenger Round (only my 3rd year attending), and I found it fun and relaxing to sit in the stands for a change (and not because I didn't make Finals, which is not so fun!). i got to hang with my friends and put my feet up, and Drifter got a nice comfortable nap after Ria worked out the kinks from his tunnel acrobatics. The Final course was not one I was particularly comfortable with. It did not really play to our strengths. It gave an advantage to dogs with a good start line stay and an independent see-saw. I do not have those things with Drifter. In fact I had barely gotten past the first jump wing when he got up and left. Still, he took my wrap cue for #2 very nicely, hung onto the see-saw JUST long enough, and did the next sequence pretty nicely with double rear crosses instead of the fronts I might have used if his see-saw had been independent. After that I handled a bit differently than most, as my goal is to drive him forward and show him the next obstacle as quickly as possible, and it worked great. I should have video sometime soon, as I paid BowWowVideo to video my runs all weekend.
Kiba did OK over the weekend, but unfortunately had some bar troubles that prevented her from making Challengers or Finals. Friday she won 16" ISTT JWW with a fabulous run:
Saturday she actually ran into the wing of a jump in the first round, and just had an unfortunate bar on the panel jump in the 2nd round, and so sadly her weekend was really over then and there, since you have to run clean in 2 out of 3 rounds to make it into Challengers. Sunday morning she did fine in Hybrid/Round 3, and placed 2nd and that was the end of her weekend. I don't believe she'll be able to go next year, since she's a poor traveller and rumors all say "west", so she may not be doing much AKC. I will have to decide next year whether the 18 hour drive to Tulsa in 2013 is something she can do or not. I think if I take my time and split the drive into two 9-hour days she may be OK. Last year it was hell for her, but I had to be back by Monday night to be at work on Tuesday, and so it was a bit of a marathon drive.