Monday, May 28, 2007

Life in the Slow Lane

Seamus and I just returned from a weekend in Rhode Island. We entered an APDT Rally trial at Lincoln Woods State Park and came away with Qs in three out of four trials, plus a rosette for placing fourth in the second trial. Whoopity whoopity!

Since Seamus already has his RL1 title, we moved into the Level 1B category, and we're shooting for our Level 1 championship title (RL1X). We need ten Qs to make the title, and now we're 3/10 of the way there. This was an outdoor trial, so you can bet we only entered the on-leash portion of the trials. We'll shoot for an RL2 at the indoor trials, thankyouverymuch. After our first off-lead showing in AKC rally, I'm not taking any chances.

I love APDT rally for many, many reasons, but most of all for the relaxed atmosphere. By the end of the weekend, many of the dog/handler teams were old buddies. I shared a shade tree with a friend of mine from the Cape and her Akita, whom we know from AKC rally trials. On Sunday, a beautiful little Aussie mix named Amy (who had a crush on Seamus) and her mom Gale joined us under the tree. We had ourselves a fine old time. We shared treats and stories and cheered noisily for one another. Much as I like AKC trials, they could hardly be described as having a party atmosphere.

Actually, it was downright inspirational to be sharing a shade tree with Sissy (my friend with the Akita). She's managed to put an AKC RAE on her male and an RE on her female. She came away from this trial with a first-place ribbon from one of the trials, so she's further inspired to go on in APDT. Just FYI, an AKC RAE doesn't automatically entitle you to shoot to the top in APDT rally. You have to start at Level 1A like everyone else.

The inspirational part of hanging out with Sissy lay in hearing how many times she tried, and how hard, to succeed in rally and regular obedience with Akitas. I no longer feel quite so bad about having bombed out in our first attempt at Rally Advanced. Persistence does pay off. She stuck with it, and stuck with it, and entered trial after trial until they managed to get there. If she can keep trying, then I can. Thanks, Sissy. I am no longer discouraged.

All three of us took part in an interesting conversation about whether to do the best you can in rally with your chosen breed and your quirky dog, or to get yourself an "easy" breed and presumably do better, faster. The answer depends on what you like better: the sport or the breed. If you like the sport better, then good for you -- as long as you don't simply discard your dog for not performing up to your expectations. Go ahead and enjoy the sport with your "easy" breed, and have fun.

For those of us determined goofuses who are out there with non-traditional breeds, or mixed breeds, or simply with extremely quirky dogs, the road may be harder, but the rewards along the way are mighty sweet when they come. It will always take us longer to get to the big titles, but it will be worth it -- and hopefully, so will the long journey.

It's nice to be reminded that other people are taking long journeys, too -- not everyone gets to ride the expressway to the championship. We don't have to struggle in the slow lane alone -- and on this trip, it's mighty nice to have company.

No comments: