Well once the anxiety of releasing my dog from quarantine and getting him measured in was over, we had our final practice. Drifter popped off a dogwalk or two in the outside practice ring, which made me a bit concerned, although he did the one inside quite well. Later that night we discovered his toes were all quite sore, so I suspect that was the culprit. One thing I've found with a good solid running contact is that usually when something goes wrong, the dog is sore somewhere. We also had our brief vet check, and I got to tell the vet that he was right last year, that Drifter really did have a heart murmur. He didn't seem to remember, but he was the first one who ever told me he heard something unusual. What a way to check in to IFCS, with "Has anyone told you your dog has a heart murmur?". That was a shock.... Anyway, this year I know exactly what it is, and that he's perfectly fine.
Friday dawned bright and early, with our hotel-site shuttle bus arriving at 6am. I did ok with the time change, and luckily this year our hotel had nice dark curtains, so i was able to sleep past sunrise at 04:30 or whatever ridiculous time daylight starts in England in the summer. We got to the site and our first task was getting course maps as soon as they were released so that we could all decide who was running the Team class for each jump height. Much of our team consisted of very experienced handlers, so this was a hard task simply for the depth of the talent to choose from! Usually it boiled down to personal preferences. I was game for Team Agility 1 in the morning, but another dog in my height seemed more eager and since Drifter is no spring chicken, I didn't mind her running it. We had Snooker first thing instead. Why do they always start with Snooker? IFCS did too... Anyways, Snooker was not overwhelmingly difficult, however if you wanted to get all 7's in the opening you had to be able to heel your dog past multiple obstacles, which is NOT one of our strong points. We usually excel at Snooker simply because if I stand at a "pinch point" I can pull past one trap area, and then send to the next obstacle. But this style wasn't possible here, and so I went for a plan I knew we could do easily, and finished our 47 points more than 6 seconds under course time. We ended up 7th in that one, the only class we didn't get a ribbon for.
The afternoon was Biathlon Jumping for me, and Team Jumping 1 for the team. The Team course was *very* technically challenging, involving some Snooker-like traps where you had to pull past and send. Regardless, I was sure we could handle it, and so we were selected to run it as the 22"/55cm dog. Drifter ran that course brilliantly, with only a single bar which he knocked in a somewhat odd fashion, and I think the footing must have given out on him at the last second because as he was about to take off, he suddenly tried to add another stride, which failed. Otherwise brilliant, and our other 2 Team dogs ran it cleanly, and so Team USA won that round of Team Jumping 1. our next afternoon run was Biathlon Jumping. This course was more similar to what we see in the US, and was from a judge I am already somewhat familiar with. Drifter did well, and we placed 3rd, which meant we were in 3rd going into Biathlon Agility on Sunday, a good place to be considering we are usually relatively faster in Agility due to our running contacts.
Saturday morning was 2 Individual Pentathlon classes, which we weren't entered in, and Team Agility 2 in the last ring. After some discussion, I was again chosen for Team since i was sure we could handle it, and I wouldn't be hurried or hassled running 3 courses all at once. Again, Drifter ran the course great except for one minor fault; apparently he came off the dogwalk just above the contact, reading my turn cue a bit too early perhaps. This was our first dogwalk in competition, and I actually thought he had hit it when I was running the course, so obviously he didn't miss by much. I decided I'd just be OK with that since his striding didn't seem off. Team USA won this individual class as well, even though one of our dogs went off course, so it must've been quite tough for all the teams. Saturday afternoon was the Gamblers class, which was the 2nd half of the Games Championship. Scoring was simple enough, where you just add your Snooker and Gamblers points together to get the final scores. It was tough going in reverse order though, because I have a very strong Gamble dog, but I did not know ahead of time whether the last 6 dogs in my height would be able to do the difficult gamble or not. For my opening plan I changed last minute and imitated the enormous point-gathering plan of the English handler who ran Rusty the malinois (fabulous job!), going absolutely balls to the wall and doing 19 obstacles in the 32 second opening. It worked perfectly and we were in great position for the closing gamble, but as he approached the jump I said his name softly so he wouldn't jump it in too much extension, and unfortunately he took that to mean "don't jump" and he turned and earned a refusal on the jump. I circled him around and did the gamble anyhow, and he did the entire difficult 20-point gamble and was only .7 over time even with the refusal, so if I'd just kept my mouth shut and let him jump we would've had 20 more points, won the class, and won the entire Games Championship. Imagine me, the quiet handler, didn't keep my blasted mouth shut!! Oh well, we still got 2nd in Gamblers, and our teammate Jeannette won the Championship, which was well-earned as she is known as a bit of a Gamblers guru in our area.
Sunday was a slightly less early day, being all inside in the main ring, and all Final Rounds! I thought this was a great format, and it made for a great day of everyone watching the same ring, feeling the pressure, and cheering each other on! First up was Individual Pentathlon, again not my class, but several Americans did very well, with Karen Holik winning the 16"/400cm height Championship with the amazing Sizzle (who is TEN years old!!) and Dudley and Linda placing and earning medals for the overall as well.
After that was the Team Final, which was a four dog relay course, and it was quite a test. Again, I was selected, and again we did very well except for one minor fault, when I tried to pull Drifter in to serpentine a wall jump, and he didnt' quite decelerate enough to make the corner and came round the wall, but I stopped him and quickly corrected it so we only earned a very quick refusal. Our Team was in 2nd coming in, and even though one of our Team members earned an off course in Relay, it looked like we wouldn't have been able to catch the first place team anyway, so we ended up 2nd overall for the Silver medal! Lots of fun!