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Saturday - February 06, 1999
Preparing for an Agility Trial - A Fun Match
  The day didn't start out well. We slept in; it had snowed the night before; and the car got stuck in the driveway - ah the joys of owning a small car. As we drove up the on ramp to the highway, a large bus passed us. With the highway being elevated, the bus sprayed the top of our car with a snow slush/salt mixture. The car was completely covered and our visibility was definitely compromised. It was not a good start to the day. This all occurred at 7 am on a very cold February morning.

We arrived on time at the agility trial and our group was all there. The facility was nice, good equipment, a snack bar, and warm. We registered for one run in "prestarters" and another in "starters" - the 10" high group. Each run cost $ 6.00 Canadian, which we thought was a great deal. Baxter was measured for the first time and was 15 1/2" tall, which put him into the 16" high jump group. Considering this was our first "trial", we picked the 10" high jump group. Since most of the people there we preparing for an indoor meet in 2 weeks, they also registered in groups that were just a little lower than what they would be competing in a few weeks.

Because we registered first in our group, we were the very first into the ring. I felt we were under enough pressure, and suggested that a Yorkie go first. (I was glad this was an informal meet, and we could make changes). Well the Yorkie was simply too much. This dog spun around like a tornado all over the course. Spin, bark, jump - spin, bark, jump and on and on. Well I thought we couldn't look any more ridiculous and off we went.

Unfortunately Baxter decided to be a terrier first, and then maybe do some agility on the way. He wandered all over the course, sniffing and inspecting, and definitely ignoring any of my commands. The more he ignored me, the more I fell apart, but I did manage to stay on course. I not sure how we got around the course - it all became a blur. He eventually did do most of the equipment, but refused the collapsible tunnel because it was a different colour and length than he was use to. The dreaded weave poles had guide wires on them. He had never seen guide wires before, but then neither had I, and of course he refused them as well.

All I can say is that we made it through and exited the course with a "little" dignity. Of course we got the usual comments of what type of dog is he, how adorable he was, etc. but it didn't make me feel any better. I talked to Ed and he made some very helpful comments on improving my performance. Our friends who we were sitting with offered good criticism, and finally we went and saw our coach. She pointed out that Baxter was being Baxter, meaning that our first run is always going to be a throw away. However, he technically did everything well, and since it was all new equipment he did remarkably well. As I watched the remaining prestarters go - about another 1 hour, I began to realize we were not as bad as thought. It wasn't until another dog ran off the course and directly into the kitchen that I realized that Baxter at least stayed on the course. THIS WAS A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT. Baxter also completely ignored the judge who was also in the ring - another plus.

The second run - "starters" - was run as a real trial. All of the equipment was set at regulation height, no collars or leashes allowed. Again, another dog (a poodle no less) went ahead of us due to their time restraints. I didn't mind at all. This time, I ensured that Baxter focused on me with a little treat. You were allowed treats in the ring for prestarters and starters only. And off we went. The little bugger nailed every pieced of apparatus without the assistance of any treats. I couldn't believe it. Our positioning was good. Baxter was following commands - hell he was acting like an old pro out there. We had only 2 refusals. He went thru the chute, but turned around with only a foot to go. Again the length of the material was different, and he decided he had gone far enough and the thing was never going to end. We tried a second time, but without much success. He also refused the weave poles, of course. We finished the course perfectly, and I was really thrilled with his performance. He couldn't have done better given that we are both novices.

And the crowd reaction to him was really different this time. Suddenly we were no longer rank amateurs - and I had a dog that could do agility. I know it was a small accomplishment, but it felt great. We are now ready for competition!

This was a big hurdle for us to get over (sorry for that pun). Now we can focus on subtleties of commands, body movement, timing, positioning. I am not worried about the chute. Baxter just needs to be exposed to more equipment, and we will spend this season perfecting weave poles. I have already put an order in with my Dad to make a set of them for the back yard. We have also been signed up for 7 demos this summer, and I will have to get organized and find out about meets.

All in all, I was really pleased with the day. Baxter got the usual treats and hugs. And we had lots of attitude from him by the early evening just to ensure that he was still Baxter. But the thing I really like about Baxter is his attitude. He knows he can do it, he does it, and then gives this look of that was no big deal. But don't ask him to do it repetitively - that is just plain boring.

Bill & Baxter (I am a STAR and don't you ever forget it)