It was a beautiful morning, a day for success.
It had been many months since Teddy and I competed in the Rally ring.
Real competition always trumps training in the backyard, so that’s why I ignored the temptation to sleep one recent Sunday to go to a match where we could test our skills without the stress of a real show.
It was only a match, a practice trial, so there was no pressure.
I knew we were a little rusty, but our performance was terrible.
It was a disappointing few minutes in the ring.
But before the day ended, I would learn a beautiful (and much more important) lesson.
My plan for success
Teddy already has his Rally Novice and Rally Advanced titles, so my plan was to enter the next level, Rally Excellent.
I made my way to the sign up table and heard my instructors’ words in my head. Those voices reminded me to set my dog up for success. I listened and decided to go back to basics, entering the Novice test as a warm up to Advanced and totally scrapping the idea of testing at the higher level.
We would keep it simple, no stress, easy peasy.
It should have been a breeze
Novice should have been a piece of cake. It’s the simplest course and it’s on leash.
But by the time we got into the ring, we’d been at the show for 3 1/2 hours. We were weary and the temperature was rising, but off we went.
I made a few handling errors in the ring and Teddy had a few missteps too.
The concept of sitting straight went out the window, as did Teddy’s understanding of the down command.
We would have qualified if it had been a real show but we should have had this and a great score to boot.
I blamed our poor performance on not having competed in a while, and I called it a warm up. No sweat.
What went wrong?
In 30 minutes, we went back for the Advanced course which is off leash and tougher than Novice. Off came the leash, and it was more of the same. I decided we wouldn’t do all of the exercises, just make it fun for Teddy and call it a day.
Was he hot? Was he not feeling great? Was he stressed?
I don’t know.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t try to analyze all that went wrong as I drove home.
One thing is for sure. I still went home with my very best friend.
A detour and a revelation
About a mile from home, I remembered we were getting low on dog food, so I pulled into our neighborhood Ace Hardware to pick up a bag.
When I saw the huge crowd in the parking lot, I realized that one of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales was visiting.
Yikes! I picked a bad time to find a parking space.
Our favorite store was packed with kids of all ages and their parents.
Teddy loves kids and they love him back.
In a steady stream, they asked: “May I pet your dog?”
Teddy steals the show
In his element, Teddy held court in the store like a king.
He parked his butt down and was showered with attention.
Hands reached out to pet him from every direction, and he was a gentleman all the way.
Watching, I couldn’t help but think of how the rough start to our day had turned into a public love fest for Teddy.
THIS was his ring.
If I were keeping score, he would have earned a big blue ribbon for just being Teddy.
What more could I possibly want from this wonderful dog.
I love this story, appreciating and loving his strengths…. Giving Teddy back the same unconditional love, no matter what!
Ginny Bevins says
Sounds like our Toby. He draws a crowd wherever we go. Just a walk in our village brings people out asking about the breed, his food, age, origin, etc. Going to Lowe’s is his favorite store and they all know him. He is a blue ribbon winner in our minds and hearts.
Grace Lavoie says
What a great story ! He aced the most important test of all . If all dogs could be so lucky ????
For me, you couldn’t have shared this at a better time. Thanks for providing the perspective I need when the Rally ring is not our forte.
Anne Copeland says
A Berner doing what they do best: loving and being loved by children!
Nancy Patterson says
I just read your story and it rings true for Remy and I as well . We started rally excellent but it has not been going well so we are going back to basics!
Eileen Blass says
I had to go back to basics too, Nancy. It was worth it for both Teddy and for me 🙂