Nationals was always going to be an incredible learning experience, regardless of outcome, for Bolt and I. We were going as a very young team— showing for just over a year total, with him still only two. While it sometimes feels like we’re a seasoned team when we’re running, other times it becomes apparent that we’re not just there yet. Close, but not quite yet.
The original goal was to get to nationals, no pressure on results at the event, just— be. But, inevitably, thoughts of bigger goals (& ultimately bigger doubts) started to creep in the closer the event got. It was hard to balance the expectations of a baby dog, and the expectations of this baby dog… who no longer can be called a baby. So I settled on a smaller goal: a clean round, see what happens after.
Our T2B round was nice, fast, clean. It was a confidence booster. But with four days of competition, with just one run a day, the stress and anticipation proved to be a lot. When the second to last bar fell in jumpers on day two, my heart sank. I knew it was my fault immediately. I clapped, praised and loved on my dog, but beat myself up. Amazing how this sport can take us from the highest high, to the lowest low in an instant. I try not to let Bolt see the low times.
Standard was one of our best runs of the weekend. Bolt’s criteria held up. Start lines (start lines!!!!) amazing, fast dog walk, running a-frame (he was allowed) and an awesome see saw despite the jumpy J&J equipment. I did a risky move in an attempt to tighten up the ending line (meat and potatoes vs. loaded baked potato). Again, praised my dog, told him he was brilliant, and beat myself up. What’s a national event if you don’t need to walk outside the building, allow a couple tears and then pick your chin up and move on?
Glad to say that by the time hybrid rolled around I had sucked it up, and worked to be the handler my dog deserved for the weekend. We had a wide turn, but a clean, fast round and placed 10th overall among a group of very talented dogs and handlers. The weekend showed me some things to work on. It made me mentally tougher, it showed me that my young dog can handle an incredible amount of stress, pressure, noise, and competition. It showed me that we’re heading in the right direction.
Chin up, game face on. Looking towards May.