This was Cinder’s year to be competitive. I had dropped her last year to 22” Performance in protest of the high A-Frame (and then Ken changed it after I had gotten all my qualifying legs) and I felt Cinder had a solid chance to get in the Finals in everything. She was teamed up with Max (“This Should Be A Good Team”) for Versatility Pairs and we have always done well as team-mates. Patches was along for her final hurrah. She is 11 ½ years old and has done EVERYTHING (and more) than I ever dreamed of. She was teamed up with a lovely Husky named T’ai (“First and Last” – his first Nationals, probably her last) and my only goal with Patch was to have a good time. Which we did.
The drive seemed to take eons. 500 miles is not a short jaunt from home. But we managed to get there (with a stop in Blythe so the beasties could run around) and made it to our condo. We decided that Mia should have the Master since it was furthest from the neighbors (she had Finn) and we settled in. We arrived at the show site the next morning to discover three things: (1) the crating spots seemed smaller than last year (2) Kate Moureaux had just dumped her three crates in our area since she hadn’t bought a spot and (3) the crating area was a very long way from the agility rings. We got everything sorted out and went to look at the Grand Prix Classic course. I decided immediately not to run Cinder. The open was 3 jumps to an A-Frame. Now Cinder has had a chronic problem relating to the A-Frame since Bay Team of ’06. I have spent so much money on massage and acupuncture, the last thing I was going to do was mash her on the Frame the first day of Nationals. Sigh. I knew going into this trial that Cinder was hurting but she got massages every day and I could only hope I could keep her Frames to a minimum. But Patches had a lovely run and it started the show out well. Although I never really felt like I was at a show – I think the late start (we couldn’t even arrive until 10am) had me a little bit “off.”
Thursday came early. We had Team Jumpers and Team Snooker – both courses were relatively easy. Patches and Cinder both ran clean in both and we left feeling fairly confident about the show. Max had also run clean in both so we thought we might be in decent shape for the team standings. Patches’ partner only got 6 points in Snooker so that was the end of that team.
Friday was a nerve-wracking day for me on a couple different levels. One level was the agility: we had team standard (which was a total weeder course) and both the semi-finals for PNS and PJS. On another level, an old friend of mine, Steve, was coming to the show. I haven’t seen Steve in 10 years (had a major crush on him when I was 15 that lasted for years) so I was thinking about that as well. Let’s just say that I wasn’t great about the dual pressure. I (all by myself) kept Cinder out of the PSJ and PNS Finals. She had the times – I just ripped her off her contacts too soon. Sigh….The good news is that we made it around a horrible standard course with only a refusal. Max was 100% clean so despite our disappointment (Mia hadn’t made either of the Finals with Max either) we thought we might be in good team position. The other good news is that I found out Cinder had WON 22” Performance Jumpers! We got a pretty ribbon, a medal AND a trophy! Woo hoo!!! Patches had some of the best runs of her life and ran clean, but just wasn’t fast enough. But we had a blast!
Saturday was another brutally early day – not made better by the fact that the night before our dishwasher had exploded and left water all over the kitchen floor. Oh, and did I mention that the TV in Mia’s bedroom didn’t work? Or that neither bedroom TV had remotes? But the dogs were having fun…I didn’t have to run right until almost 3pm so I sauntered over to check the team standings. Imagine my delight when I saw we were in FIRST PLACE!!!! YAY!!! Then I started looking closer and it was really scary: the 2nd place team was only ½ point behind us and the 10th place team was only 10 points behind us. The competition was alarming! Max and Mia had a lovely Gamblers run and then it was Cinder’s turn: she was lovely through the opening although a missed weave entry sent my timing off. Then she dropped a bar in the gamble – AUUGHH – and lost us 9 points!!! DOUBLE AUUGHHH!!!! Oh well…. Life continues right? Mia and I got onion rings and beers and sat in the competitor tent commiserating. We didn’t think my error in Gamblers would drop us out of relay totally, but….there was a little niggle of doubt. So we hung around until the team standings were posted and we were in third! There was still a chance of a podium spot which had been our goal all along.
We crawled home, completely exhausted, knowing we not only had another early start, we had to pack, then on Sunday check out of the hotel, walk our courses by 7am, run in the Finals and then make the 500 miles trek home. Then Mia’s shower broke: it wouldn’t turn off. We had to wait hours for the maintenance guy to come fix it. Needless to say, I am not thrilled with the whold “condo thing” at the moment.
Sunday came as early as expected, but it was exciting because (1) we were in the Finals!!! and (2) we got to go home! Relay was a blast - Max ran first and I am SO GLAD I had an arm around Cinder when she started (which I have NEVER had to do) – she almost went with him! Max was fast and accurate and it was our turn. We had a blazing opening and then Cinder ran up the walk, ran across the top, ran partway down the bottom and then STOPPED. Dead-ass stop a couple feet above the yellow. I couldn’t move – I knew if I even twitched an eyeball, she was leaping. It probably took her 1 to 1 ½ seconds to finally step into the yellow. That cost us 1st place in Relay and an overall 2nd place finish. The good news is that we finished up in 3rd overall and got a ribbon, plaque and polo shirt. AND, we got our pictures taken on the podium. YAY!
The drive home was ENDLESS. It didn’t help that the sun went down relatively early on in the drive (we left at 2pm) and that we were in totally unfamiliar territory. But the over-riding memory of the drive home was me moaning about how much things hurt and Mia said “My tongue hurts.” I couldn’t top that – she wins.