Let’s just start out with the happy ending: Cooper earned his RAE title today at the Vancouver Kennel Club show at Ridgefield, Washington. Cooper has worked so hard for me for quite a while now, and I am thrilled to reach this goal at long last.
He earned leg 9 (out of 10 needed for the title) by qualifying at both the Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B levels yesterday. (For the RAE title, an exhibitor and her dog must earn qualifying scores in Advanced B and Excellent B classes at the same trial 10 times.)
unofficial photo by Jill Roman
The Excellent course had some tough sections to it. One of Cooper’s least favorite, for some reason, is the Send to Jump at station 9. I think that was at least partly my fault. For this exercise, your dog has to go out ahead of you to jump over a jump, while you stay behind the jump. There are ways to make your dog think that you are running with him, so that he’ll keep going, but I think I must not have done any of those. He got to the jump, stopped, looked at me, and then walked around it. Oh well, 10 points gone for that.
But beyond that, notice especially stations 11 through 14. At station 11, you take a left turn, then at station 12, start moving quickly for just a few yards. Then, you slow to a normal pace at station 13, but that normal pace lasts just a few feet before you all of a sudden have to put your dog into a stand-stay at station 14, while you keep moving. Essentially, your dog goes from a run to a sudden stand-stay, all within just a few yards.
As you can see from the legend and score sheet below, Cooper actually did this tricky part with no errors. What really got us was missing the jump, plus some slow sits, a bit of lagging, and some sniffing in the ring.
Even with the score of 79 in Excellent, Team Cooper got a 4th place in the class. A lot of teams were challenged by that course.
We did really well on the Advanced course, with a score of 96. Quite a few teams did that course really well. We tied with another team who also got a 96, and we were edged out of 4th place because that team did the course 15 seconds faster than we did.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel quite right. Seemed like I had to go to the bathroom way too often, and I couldn’t get down more than a cup of coffee and half a pancake. Nerves. Today might be the day that Cooper finally got that 10th leg, but I couldn’t expect it. Only once before has Cooper succeeded at two Rally trials, two days in a row. Chances were good-ish that we would reach the RAE title today, but not great.
Today’s Excellent course was weird. Note the transition from station 2 to station 3. At station 2, you and your dog are facing at a diagonal to the ring. Then, station 3 (Spiral Left) requires you to heel for 5 steps or so, and then, just as you get to the first cone on station 3, take a sharp right onto the opposite diagonal, so that you can enter the spiral properly.
And later I got lost. After doing the 360* Left (station 13), I got myself all turned around and couldn’t figure out where station 14 was. I finally said, “I’m lost. Where’s 14?” The judge kindly pointed at it. And without thinking, I repeated station 13 (fortunately – the just told me later that we’d have lost 10 points if I hadn’t), and then went on to 14 and the Finish line.
But I will say this: this course was set up perfectly to allow Cooper to actually jump that Send to Jump (station 7), the exercise that confounded him yesterday. We had pretty much half the length of the ring to run toward the jump, and by the time I had to stop so that I wouldn’t go past the jump until Cooper had jumped and returned to me, Cooper was already mid-air and over the jump before he realized I wasn’t with him.
I was very pleased with our score of 89, which put us just below the 4th place exhibitor, who had a score of 90.
While waiting for our turn at the Advanced course, I did everything I could think of to stay calm. Slow, deep belly breaths. Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose. Reminders to self that Rally is fun. Picturing Cooper when I first got him, and reminding myself how much I care for him, no matter what happens.
All the same, I kept thinking: If we can just qualify one this one last course, Cooper will earn his RAE title.
But Cooper and I both kept it together in Advanced. He was very slow to sit at the Start line, and I almost lost him a couple of times when he got distracted by something outside the ring. But we didn’t miss any stations or make any horrible mistakes, and we got out of there with a 93 and another 4th place.
So with all of that, Team Cooper earned our 9th and 10th RAE legs. As soon as the AKC records the RAE, Cooper’s full name will be CH Realta Rosario Cooper CD RAE SH SHU.
I started on the RAE path to honor Cooper’s daddy, Balloo, who earned an RAE. I was so impressed, mostly because at the time I was really struggling just to get the initial Rally Novice title with Cooper. Cooper did it because he loves me.
I am so grateful to Russ, who went along with my Rally goals; to Joan Armstrong, my Rally instructor; and to Rosemary Sexton and Tammy Lewis Walker who trusted me with this wonderful dog.