Hey blogaroos!!! It’s Squirmy here!!!!!! I hope you have all recovered from your chocolate overdose from Valentine’s Day. But don’t worry – if you’re concerned that you ate too much – Lent starts tomorrow! So you can give up eating chocolate. And like if you’re not into Lent – it’s OK. Giving up chocolate for like 40 days probably isn’t a bad idea no matter what! Lent is kind of like a second shot at New Year ‘s resolutions. Personally, I’m not giving up ANYTHING for Lent. I have no self control- so why pretend? If I have to- I’ll give up cigarettes. That’s what My Enforcer reportedly does. Even though she has never smoked in her life.
So. Yesterday, the Boss and I were in something called a Rally Obedience Match. Now for those readers who don’t know what rally is, let me explain. If you DO know what rally is, you can skip the next 50 paragraphs….
A room filled with a variety of signs in a particular order
Objective: The dog and human go from sign to sign and the dog must perform an action at each sign. For example, walk slowly; down immediately; go over a jump; walk backwards; circle next to the human… you get the idea. The signs are put together in a course and you have to go in the course order. The human must be able to read the signs and understand them in order to tell the dog what to do. And they’re kinda written in like hieroglyphics.
Levels: There are several standard levels of performance – or titles you can get: Novice, Advanced, Excellent and Masters. Dogs at the Novice level do everything while on leash and have to know 142 different possible signs. Even though the course only uses like 14. Dogs at Masters are off leash and actually need to know over 300!!!!!!! But they do 20 something in a course.
Where to compete: Dog clubs put on something called trials. And I hear they can be very trying, depending on how you do.
What happens: A judge watches you as you go around, and you get a score if you do each sign correctly, and points are deducted depending on how much you screw up. You need a particular number of points to pass. You have to pass three trials to get your “title” – like Rally Novice , before you go on to the next level. Sometimes you get totally expelled for something- like if you pee or poop in the ring. So always remember to go before you start.
So those are the basics. Like there’s more stuff- but that’s all I understand.
So. The Boss has his Rally Excellent title . And now he’s been practicing for his Rally Masters title. Before you go in a “trial” which, in other words, is a real competition, you can do something called a match. In a match, it’s set up like a trial – but it’s a practice. And you don’t get a score. It gives you an opportunity to see how you do with distractions (other dogs and people watching you) and what you still need to practice before you enter a real trial.
So. There was a match yesterday. The Boss was entered in Rally Masters and I was entered in Novice. And the Boss knows the drill. He’s learned the signs he needs to know for his Masters title. BUT, he has My Enforcer going around the course with him. Which is his only problem. And it’s a big one. Why? Here’s a little secret… when My Enforcer was working, she could do a speech for several hundred people. She could do live TV and radio interviews. She was excited and a bit nervous doing those things – but it was really no huge deal.
HOWEVER- put her in a competition with one of us canines – and she literally shakes. Really. It’s nutso.
So. She and the Boss were competing early in the morning in the MATCH. The MATCH. No points. No serious competition. A PRACTICE match. And she got SO nervous, she could barely read the signs! Even though you get to walk the course ahead of time – AND the courses are also posted to study before you go in. The poor Boss didn’t know WHAT was wrong with her. If it had been a REAL trial, they would have failed. Really because she was so wonky! I mean it wasn’t a total blow out – but it wasn’t pretty.
So after they finished, she took a photo of the Rally Novice course, and brought the Boss home. Because although yours truly was entered in Rally Novice, it would be several hours before I needed to do my thing. And we live like 15 minutes from the facility.
My Enforcer figured she could practice the signs for the course with me, before I got there. Because- get ready- I HAVE NEVER EVER EVEN SEEN A RALLY COURSE. Most dogs take a class and practice doing the signs in a class. Not me. I had never even seen the little signs set up on the floor. And I LOVE to grab stuff on the floor. So was it premature to even enter me in a Match? Hello? Yes!!! But she did. So when she got home she decided she had better see if I could actually do the actions for each sign on my course.
We practiced as soon as we got home. And I wasn’t too bad at home – but she figured in a place with lots of dogs and noises – she would need reinforcements like super duper treats. In a REAL competition trial, treats are NOT allowed. It is illegal to have treats. BUT – in a practice match you CAN USE treats.
As you know, we PONs like ANY kind of treat – but My Enforcer figured something “different” would be good. Like novelty would somehow work better. She thought I would LOVE hotdogs. She thought hotdogs would be the answer to everything. Almost every dog loves hotdogs. So she raced to the closest convenience store. They were out of hotdogs. Really. So she bought ham and cheese stings. When she got in the car, she Googled and found that ham is too salty for us canines. Seriously- I’m not making this stuff up. So she went to another convenience store. They had hotdogs. Praise the Lord.
She raced home, diced up and cooked three hotdogs in the microwave. Then, for some unknown reason, she suddenly decided she should practice one of the signs again with me. She took me downstairs to practice and I was wild – but got the idea.
So we came upstairs and found that the Boss had stolen the bag of cooked diced hotdogs off the counter. And ate every tiny piece . I think he was mad because he only got regular treats for his practice.
My Enforcer diced and cooked up more hotdogs. Suddenly our time to get back to the site was quickly approaching. It’s because she spent all that time in the hotdog quest and in hotdog dicing and cooking. She loaded me in the car to go back to the site. We got 1/3 of the way there and she realized she forgot my leash. Really.
If you’re still reading – you’re more patient than me…..
So we got to the site – after we went home to get my leash – with little time to spare before I had to go in to do my thing. Of course, when I entered the building with a bunch of dogs, my head exploded. I didn’t even know my name. And frankly, although I will eat anything- I can’t say I was THRILLED with the hotdogs. I mean she may as well have given me kibble. So much for the quest…
BUT. I did like the cheese strings. A LOT. So those were going to be my secret weapon. I was escorted back to the car to wait my turn.
So. She knew the course. She had the cheese. And THEN – before she got to walk the course (which everyone does first without their dogs), the instructor announced she was changing it. What?!!! A different course?!!! With signs we didn’t practice at home? It appeared that we might be totally doomed.
And guess who was the FIRST dog on the list to compete? Yup? Me. The Squirmster.
Drumroll……finally. We walked in the ring and the instructor said “Are you ready?” My Enforcer said – “kind of” – because she had retrieved me from the car and with her mask on, her glasses steamed up. She took them off, waved them around, put them on and said “ready.” She still couldn’t totally see.
The first two signs I was a bit confused (probably because I was being led around by a partially blind woman) , but after the third sign, well let’s just say the smell of those cheese strings hit me. I heeled like nobody’s business. I think I heard fireworks. My Enforcer almost started crying. I wasn’t perfect – but I was in my groove. I was on fire. OK. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I was sparky. That’s better.
We finished the course and the crowd went wild. OK. They clapped. Even though they clapped for everyone, I didn’t know that – so I was all excited. I was a Superstar. In my mind anyway.
So what started out as a rather poopy day ( which was not the Boss’s fault at all), ended up being a good day after all. I think My Enforcer wasn’t as nervous with me – because she had no expectations! A case of underdog success.
So that’s IT for the longest blog ever. And now guess who is going to be enrolled in Rally classes?! Yup. Back to academia for me!!!! I sure hope she skips the hotdogs, though and just brings the cheese strings…..
Have a good one. Peace and paws up. Stay safe.