Torrential rain, deep rumbling thunder, windshield wipers on high, cars ahead suddenly stopped. The dogs silent in their crates, enjoying the van’s cool air blowing across them. Another weekend, another dog show, this time in Folsom, Louisiana. An early morning drive across Interstate 10 to 12 to Covington, to a new hotel because the La Quinta, our usual site, was bought out but this new Inn even better, a studio apartment, cozy, perfect, with a kitchenette. The dogs and I walking in the rain in the hotel parking lot, Bodie tiptoeing in the spongy, flooded green grass, hopping back to the black pavement, the depth of water feeling foreign to him.
My dogs don’t like elevators. It must seem like a closet that rumbles, a floor that sways and dips. I must accept that the only access will be up the carpeted stairs to the third floor to our room. Three days of up and down and up and down. Good exercise, I remind myself as my legs start to tighten.
Then off to a training match, more torrential rain, forceful drops, thrown down to the ground from angry black and grey clouds. At the show site parking lot, sand turns to mud, then is covered with fingers of water as the mud and rocks can no longer absorb the flood. As the afternoon went by nature kept the exhibitors prisoners in the dog show building until in desperation we each ran to our vehicles, getting drenched.
The next day the blinding morning sun with its shades of white, yellow and orange, rose above the mist and fog. Water from last night’s storm still hung on branches like gold droplets. I turned my van toward the countryside and the show site. I slowed down to admire the horses in country estates, show horses with white vans parked near the barns, jumps with wooden white bars in distant pastures. I savored the moment, the unspoiled morning.
Nervous, excited at the show site. It is near a baseball park with a walking path surrounding the fields. Razzie and I start to walk when I see something light-colored on the wet, freshly cut green grass. It was a large feather, white on one side and brown on the other. The feather is so large that Razzie thinks it is a toy and leaps up to grab it over and over as we walk around the park. I consider the feather an omen of good things to happen that day and breathe a sigh of relief. There is no reason to be nervous. Nature has provided me with a message to be the best I can be and rely on my months of training with my dogs.
Sure enough blond Bodie brought his joie de vivre into the Novice obedience ring. He pranced by my side. We were not perfect but good enough to capture first place with a 197.5 out of a possible 200 points. High in Trial was a 198. We were close and for that I was grateful.
Razz maintained her positive energy in the Preferred Open class. She dropped on command and retrieved with no problems, even correcting herself when she started to go around the jump. But would she go over the broad jump, our nemesis? No problem. We qualified with a score of 196.5 which stood for High in Trial in the Preferred classes. Yes, I believe in omens, a sign or a superstitious belief that something good is going to happen. Why not? The thought gives me something to concentrate on at dog shows. It has happened before, the last time I also found a feather before winning High in Trial. Would I find a sign before the next day’s trial?
Early the next morning Bodie and I started to walk around the park before I settled him in his soft crate ringside. Almost immediately a small brown rabbit appeared in the back baseball field. It froze when it saw my dog, then ran haphazardly across the field, slipped through the tiny galvanized steel fence and disappeared into the woods. Bodie never saw the rabbit, too busy sniffing out the bushes, trees, leaves and who knows what along the path. But was this our omen? Are all omens good or can some be bad?
Ringside I felt discombobulated, nervous, not part of a team with Bodie. He was not paying attention and in fact, was jumping into my arms without being commanded. This is our good dog, love ya, routine. I suspect he was feeling my nervousness and reacting. We went into the ring. During the fast heeling portion Bodie jumped for joy, grabbed my pants leg and was not the same dog I had the previous day. We still got a good score, 195/200 but clearly we have to work on composure and professionalism to become a smooth working unit.
Razz went into her Preferred Open ring but lacked some of the zip from the previous day. I wondered if the umpteen trips up and down the stairs had her legs burning too. There’s no excuse for missing my drop command but at least she did the other Open exercises with no problems. Razzie is dependable, reliable and when she understands me I know she will do a great job. She has proved herself already. We need more work in different environments, fewer stairs at hotels and more warm up time.
No dog trainer always wins. If that were the case this wouldn’t be a competition, it would be an exhibition for one trainer. No one is perfect, no dog is perfect. I do want my dogs to be the best they can be at the shows but sometimes I’m not perfect either and we fall apart. This is what keeps us training and coming back to a new show each weekend. The occasional good, perfect, winning days are worth the time and travel and hotel rooms on the third floor.