What a whirlwind few days! The trip to Belgium was relatively uneventful, and as we didn’t head off till just after 2pm we were lucky enough to miss the French/ Belgium traffic that earlier travellers to the WAO had been caught up in that afternoon. Late night though, and what with early start on the Thursday we were pretty bleary eyed at our first visit to the venue. It is a fantastic place with both a beautiful indoor arena, well maintained outdoor arenas and lovely viewing areas with a nice bar/canteen for refreshments. Training slots that day were organised alphabetically, so Australia’s session in the indoor main ring was first thing, hence the early start. It was hard work for both Tracey & Spud, and perhaps not the best start to the weekend. The whole team were all training together at once, in only a 20-minute slot so it was pretty frantic. Spud’s start-line which had been so good over their weekend at the UK Agility show, went a little awry, and an obstacle discrimination of tunnel/dog walk had them both pretty frustrated. But both looked so tired from the long journey, Spud especially hadn’t settled well for the trip, convinced I’m sure, that we would be there soon!
Ella’s first training session with Maria wasn’t scheduled until the end of the afternoon as they were a wildcard entry, so we were able to let the dogs have a bit of a walk and popped back to our chalet accommodation for a bit of a rest and some food before we were needed. We found a great local eatery which greatly restored our spirits, and the dogs enjoyed some chill out time in the chalet garden with Martin whilst he read, so by the time we headed back we were all feeling much better than first thing that morning!
Ella’s training session with Maria was a big success, and they both looked great together – we were all very excited. However after Ella had cooled down by splashing around in a bucket of water (she can be very special!), we walked her outside and found that she was lame on her back left leg. Not good news at all. After that training session I was left with a big decision to make about whether or not to let Ella compete with Maria. Tace Allen-Hunt was an absolute star and helped by feeling Ella over and working out where she was sore. Had it been a lameness that had meant long-term pain for her, such as a cruciate injury, then it would have been very simple to make, but fortunately it didn’t appear to be anything as serious as that. But it was my call on what to do, and I wished I had Lowri from the SMART clinic on hand to help me make the decision. Fortunately I was able to get hold of her on the phone and her sensible advice and help calmed me down. We decided to use heat & ice for pain relief and see how she was in the morning.
The lameness was much better in the morning, though she was still not 100% and she was a little short striding on the back leg that had been sore the previous day. But I decided that my Ella-bella wouldn’t be that impressed to have been brought all that way for nothing, and that she was sensible enough to do enough to run with Maria without doing any serious damage to herself. Sure enough, my special little dog ran her heart out for her Australian handler, and gave Maria some incredible memories to take home with her. As I said to Maria, Ella had never let me down before and it didn’t seem likely that she would start then. Sure enough a visit to SMART clinic when we returned home assured me that she'll be back to full fitness very quickly :-)
Spud was equally impressive all weekend for Tracey, and we can't see how it would be possible to be prouder of them than we were. He did everything asked of him, but so much more besides. For a start he hasn't had contacts like he had that weekend in a very long time! But mostly, the two of them developed an exceptional bond, one based on mutual trust and admiration. Oh and perhaps a bit of Frikandel sausage ;-) Together they achieved a clear round in one of the testing WAO jumping courses, and had many positive moments on the other courses they competed on - they really did gel incredibly well, and made some amazing WAO memories that we'll treasure forever.
I missed our dogs whilst we were away. Watching other people with their dogs, the tricks that they were offering, the games that they were playing – yes I had my darling Ella with me, but she wasn’t here to play with, she very much had a job to do. What I really missed was having one of the youngsters to play with; to watch them learning, to see their interest in the new surroundings, to test their understanding of cues they know and perhaps teach them new ones. Each of our dogs has their own unique personality, and I realise that each of them has a role to play depending on the mood I find myself in. I am even more aware of how much training we need to put in to get them to the level that we take for granted in Ella and Spud, and I’m desperate to get started. My thirst for knowledge has led me to purchase many a book, DVD and more recently, online courses, to further my dog training and instructing ability. I’ve realised that I have all of it at my finger tips, and rather than to continue to seek out new ideas with such vigour, actually what I need to do is practice and succeed at what I already know, so that I know where the gaps in my knowledge lie. Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, but just because it seems daunting isn’t reason enough not to get started. And after all, I have some great dogs to inspire me along the journey :-)
Today I'm grateful for the new friends that Ella & Spud have led us to meet - Tracey, Maria & Gordon, we miss you and look forward to seeing you again for another adventure soon, Spain perhaps?? ;-)