Friday, August 23, 2013

Alberta Bound

We arrived in Halifax from Frankfurt, and with only three hours separating our landing time to our take off time, having to go through customs, getting pulled to the side, having Mach fly off the cart, and getting Toffee ready to fly was extremely stressful, and I was almost in tears. Of course we ran to the wrong end of the airport after flinging chocolate, and dirty laundry at my dad (who drove 5 hours to bring Toffee to us. What a good man!). The gentlemen working at the West Jet ticket counter were very kind thankfully, so I didn't want to throw things at them. Just like that, the dogs were off again, we were through security and off for the next leg of our adventure!

Of course mom and I didn't get seats together again, because we were so late, so there we were in the middle seat, a row apart from Halifax to Edmonton. I read my book, and Logan was right, I did cry on the airplane (The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, it is a tragically beautiful novel. You should read it). I tried to cover up the fact that I was crying, but the old people on either side of me definitely knew, and comforted me by scratching their dead skin cells all over me. It was a long, long, long flight.

Upon arriving in Edmonton, I ran to Elisabeth and hugged her because that was the worst flight ever, and because it was another sleepless 24 hour day, and I was so happy to be somewhere again. We picked up the dogs and off we went to our hotel. We were all confused about what time it was supposed to be when we woke up (far too early), but we relaxed all morning, went for breakfast at the hotel, took the dogs for a walk near Fort Edmonton Park, let them swim in the river, went grocery shopping, and back to the hotel for a swim! I met up with some friends of mine who live in Edmonton, so we went out for supper to catch up! Their adventurous souls are inspiring. Bucket list. In the meantime, the rest of the crew got in trouble for drinking by the pool. Who's laughing now??

Thursday was a long day, but steeplechase is always fun. I was so glad to be running Toffee! I missed her so much. She ran two fantastic runs, placing 2nd in her first, and 4th in her second, which put us through to finals on Sunday! Mach ran really fast, just knocked bars in his run, so no finals for him. They announced that they were awarding the Lifetime Achievements at opening ceremonies, so we stayed so Mom could get Newman's plaque. She ended up taking everyone's plaques from the Maritimes up for the picture. I think there were five or six of them in her arms, and she held them up as if they were her own. She was excited. Newman! Newman! Newman!! [Newman and Bailey had their 14th birthday while we were away. Best looking 14 year old hounds you ever did see!]

Friday was Gamblers 1, and Jumpers 1. I will stick with my opinion on not liking gamblers. Toffee ran well, but we got caught on the other side of the field with the buzzer went, and then we bobbled around to get her to the #1 tunnel, and we ended up 0.34 seconds over time. I didn't check her scribe sheet, as I had to run to go get Mach, so when we were looking at the scribe sheets at the hotel that night, we saw that I had all the wrong points, and was missing 10 of them. I moped around that evening while eating Boston Pizza, and swimming at the pool because I knew I wouldn't get those points back even if I talked to the judge. Lesson learned: always check your scribe sheet, especially if it's gamblers. Always. Jumpers 1 was super fun! Definitely a tough course for the big dogs to keep the bars up. Mach knocked two bars on the back line after opening up to catch me, and because of that I went for a blind cross that I wouldn't have done otherwise. It worked so well! It was a "oh what the heck" moment for me, and I'm so glad I did it! It made the bars not even matter. We came out of that run with the 6th fastest time, our slowest of the weekend, but not slow at all. Toffee kicked butt, and even with my super late decel/front cross (man, that girl still has speed! I keep forgetting. She was only 1.21 seconds behind Mach), we placed 4th (0.72 seconds separating 1st to 4th)!

We were right, I didn't get the points back even after mom talked to the judge. But there was no time to worry about that, we had Standard 1, Jumpers 2, and Gamblers 2 to run! The courses were more technical, and I was excited about it! Jumpers was shotgun tunnel central. Toffee kicked so much butt (when does she not?), and placed 4th again! The first place dog left everyone in the dust, but from 2nd to 4th was within 0.42 seconds. Toffee, you are amazing. Mach gave a totally kick ass time, and even with a bobble going to the back side. We placed 3rd in that run. :)

Toffee's standard run was my favourite of hers all weekend. She placed 2nd in that one! Mach's standard run was a little angry on his part, or just super high. I liked it either way, but we kind of fell apart in one section where this happened: didn't stick his teeter, destoyed the tire, I'm now behind so can't get into the front cross, awkward decel into a rear, knocked bar, oh frig I have to rear the dogwalk, missed dogwalk contact, knocked bar. On either side of that part, it was really nice! He forgot to touch the top of the aframe, so he did that in one stride, and he barked at me twice. So yeah, it was a little angry, RAWR. BUT he still had the 3rd fastst time right behind Feature and Summit (by 0.72 seconds).

Gamblers happened, and I will leave it at that. Toffee did get the main gamble, but yeah, gamblers happened. Have I ever mentioned that I don't like gamblers? To be fair to my dogs, though, I haven't been focusing on training gamblers leading up to the EO. Toffee did all of the gambles, and Mach tried really hard, and did most of them. Kudos to you, kids. [I set up Gamblers 2 the other day, and Mach did everything perfectly on the first try. That dog...]

Saturday after the runs had finished, there was quite a bit of time before the ribbon ceremony was going to start, so we took it upon ourselves to enjoy the beer tent. There was a lot of dancing, sommersaulting down the hill, and making friends with the children running around (I'm pretty sure I rolled over one of them...sorry), and with a fun group of people standing behind us. There were many high fives given, cartwheels done, and the wave happened a few times. We laughed so much, oh we laughed. The videos are hilarious, and I just might upload them. Our crew and our stray were the last ones there, so we helped set up the steeplechase finals course. When people arrived in the morning, I'm sure they thought drunk people set it up, and well....they were right.

We were all in the second group of the day, so we cheered on the little dogs in the morning with our free hot chocolate and coffee. The course was easy peasy lemon squeezy, but was definitely going to get some super fast times out of it. Toffee and I got ready for our run, and I can`t tell you just how much I love this girl. Another clean run for her, and a 5th place! She kicks so much butt. Mach had a kickass run, but a little bounce on the dogwalk made him miss a whole entire stride (the pictures are kind of gross; his leg is bent in half haha), and miss the contact, and then dropped two bars, but wow, he was so fast! He was the 2nd fastest out of the 26", and an entire second faster than the 1st place dog. (Such a dramatic story that only Andre can tell. Timer issues, rerun for time, faults not counted, and ended up winning the class!).

As I'm sure you can tell, I love stats. Mach has become so much more confident this year, and in turn has become so much faster! We are still struggling with keeping the bars up, but one thing at a time. The speed came, so now the bars will stay up. I didn't think that he would ever run agility with much enthusiasm at all, so where I sometimes feel at a loss with his avid bar knocking, I know that this too will get better. Up, up, up we go!

Steeplechase finals was a blast! Cool shirts, and cool people! When asked to write a little bio for the announcer, I felt rushed and the best I could come up with was "Toffee is an 8 year old sheltie that started me off in agility when I was 11 years old. She is the Queen. Go Toffee!". These things I wrote down are in fact all true, but I didn't think about writing down our accomplishments. Nope, not one Regional Champion, National Champion, or Lifetime Achievement title popped into my head at that moment. Of course, after we started I thought of a beautiful and witty bio. Dang, it happens all the time.

The course was so bizare. When the judge was asked to put two aframes and two weaves in the course, he took it literally.

I was so excited to run Tof in the {finals} again. There is always that exhilirating feeling of running with the energy so high around you. She barked, we ran, got every weave entry, and kicked butt. I was sitting in 2nd place going into it, and the 3rd place dog ran in 29.52 seconds. I know exactly where we lost the 0.1 seconds that pushed us to third place, but nonetheless, it was super fun and Toffee *is* the Queen.

Just as we wrapped up the steeplechase finals, it started raining. Thankfully we didn't have to run in the rain at all on the weekend, but the nasty thunder and lightning storm was not so fun for the dogs. I've started to not like thunder either, so it was just a bad time trying to get everything packed up, get the dogs settled, and cram under the big tent to wait for results. It was a long award ceremony, and the rain certainly didn't help. But Toffee and I were able to go up on the stage once again and take home another 4th place finish in the 16" specials division!

It's funny, I know her so well that I can tell you how she is going to run the course before we run it, and I 'm not going to lie, I trust that we will probably always run it clean, but she surprises me sometimes when we do, and to be able to take home another National placement like that is pretty cool if you ask me!

Fortunately, the 10 points we missed out on in our gamblers didn't affect the final placements (I was 13 or 3 points behind 3rd place, whichever way you want to look at it), but of course once I arrived home, I did the math for where we would have placed if we weren't 0.34 seconds over on that gamble, and got the 10 points they missed. If my math is right (it's very possible it's wrong), we would have won nationals. Now, that is pretty cool too! Go Toffee!!

We packed up from my 7th Nationals, and headed back to the hotel to pack up our things for the early morning airport trip. Thank you Mom, for travelling with me, and supporting my every move. Thank you for making this trip possible, and thank you for making me laugh! I feel very fortunate to have parents as good as you and Dad. Thanks Dad. Thanks Andre for pushing me to go to the EO, and Thanks Sissi for being the best Team Manager you could ever find. Thank you to Del Marsh for all the work she did leading up to our travels to Europe, and to all of the team members who helped us along the way, and for all who made the two weeks a laugh from start to finish. Best two weeks of my life. I felt a little sad saying goodbye to all the wonderful friends we made. The agility commuinty holds a lot of genuine people, who are funny, and wonderful to be around. Until next year, kind folks! See you in New Brunswick!!

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