Another year, another USDAA Cynosports finished. Or, as I called it, Rebound’s Last Dance.
OK, yes, I did say that he was retired after last year’s Cynosports. And he did spend some serious time doing what he enjoys most: sleeping on the couch, on my feet under the covers, and in sunspots. And eating. And play bowing at voles in the field.
And, Rebound certainly deserves a rich retirement, as life certainly hasn’t always been easy for him. Any time in the agility ring with him is simply a bonus, as he was *thisclose* to death a few years ago. He survived that, thankfully, and now lives healthily thanks to the amazingness of modern science and good drugs. Maybe one day I will write the tear-jerker about what happened, but today is not that day.
Over the summer, the schedule for the 2011 Cynosports event was published and once again it looked to be a long week with one 30-second run (maybe 2!) per day for much of it… so I entered Rebound in Veterans just to keep myself from going stir crazy (or from eating like a wildebeast because I was bored.) Rebound was going to get lots of cookies no matter what happened in the ring, so I figured that he might be happy to get off the couch.
And I chose to ignore the fact that he hadn’t run a standard course for me or done contacts or weaves (in competition or in practice) since the previous Cynosports…
I didn’t mention any of this to Rebound until he was near the ring for his first run – “By the way, buddy, I need you to run this course. Pretty please. It is only 30 seconds. And I promise you will get string cheese when you are done then back to the couch as quickly as possible.”
The other part of the deal was that he would run under “The Outback Rules” – also known as “No Wrong, Just Right” – followed by permanent return to retirement.
He accepted the deal and ran for me in the four Veterans classes. Here was the plan he agreed to: he promised to do all the weaves when asked (except in gamblers) as long as I promised to implement my fancy “Run-Yell-Point” handling to show him each obstacle and contact.
The R-Y-P Handling System might be a little more noisy and tiring than some of the other methods out there, but it is extremely effective with certain dogs.
R-Y-P is a subsidiary of the A-O-F (Ass-On-Fire) handling system I use with Export and Matrix. Generally AOF works really well, although the results indicate that I was a little too AOF in Steeplechase semifinals. Oh well, there is always next year to implement my SLAOF method (Slightly-Less-Ass-On-Fire) with its primary rule: Remember to tell the dog he is supposed to turn.
Anyway – Rebound ended up actually winning two of the classes and he was entirely unimpressed with his ribbons (it is all about the cheese for him.) He did stop to see if the golf tee with pink tape (under a jump in jumpers) was edible, as it looked far more interesting than my handling choice at the moment. He was correct, as I was neither Running nor Yelling, simply Pointing and Praying (P-and-P is not an effective handling system, as praying is commonly misread as deceleration by the dog, leading to errors and loss of drive.)
His Last Dance came in the Veterans Showcase, run just before the Grand Prix Finals. We got a special white polo shirt (white? seriously? not the best color choice for a dirt arena with a dog that spends most of his waking hours walking around with his front feet on my belly…) and had the chance to run the GP course in front of the lights, cameras, music and cheering crowd.
And it really is special to get to run a course in that environment – the energy in the air is palpable and we are all united by the excitement. Rebound was joined by Cueball (JRT) and Rhymer (Sheltie) in the 12″ Vets Showcase finals – and it turns out that Cueball and Rhymer were probably also having their Last Dance. Each dog had a different journey to the Last Dance, but there we were – sharing this really cool moment with our beloved buddies!
Rebound’s body cannot release the proper hormones/steroids to control his response to stress. So, I do my best to help him regulate his response to each environment so he can relax, enjoy and run fast. It was time to whip out the super special secret weapon!
I am now ready to share my motivation secret with the world. The secret weapon is…
Yes, Pop Tarts. He gets a quick bite of a Pop Tart for that sugar rush just before a big run and the promise of the rest of the Pop Tart after the run, and it has never failed us. In fact, I am thinking of approaching the Pop Tart people for some sponsorship opportunities for future World Teams.
Rebound prefers the Strawberry or Blueberry flavors, frosted or unfrosted. (I prefer frosted for myself.)
This time, the Georgia contingent of supporters chose the strawberry flavor and hand-delivered them to Rebound while he was on the couch. And the Pop Tarts came through, as always. Rebound and I both held up our end of the deal – he did all of his weave poles, and I ran hard and showed him everything else on the course. Our Last Dance was fast and fun, finishing with zero faults and the fastest time of the 12″ dogs in the Veterans Showcase.
And now, I will make good on the last part of the agreement. Thanks for the dance, buddy. The double-digits rules now apply. Welcome to your real retirement. Time to take up your spot in the sunshine!
And here is Rebound’s song for the Last Dance at his final event. It was singing in my ears all week!