The following article was written by Deb Schneider, my first obedience training partner. She recently unearthed the newsletter in which it was printed, and put it on Facebook. I have her permission to share it here.
Third Saturday of October, 1986
It was a fine autumn day, crisp and clear, tinged with the red and gold highlights of fall colors near their peak. The drive to Allegan, Michigan would have been a complete pleasure except for Adele's mounting nervousness. There was tension in the car's closed space, tangible to me and Adele's Australian Terrier, Casey, who sat panting on my lap.
We were on our way to their very first Obedience Trial.
We found the fairgrounds after several misguided circuits around the tiny town. Getting lost did nothing for Adele's nerves. She had barely turned off the ignition before grabbing the dog paraphernalia and rushing off to the trial building. Unloaded and signed-in, she started to warm up Casey.
The little dog had a history of "wimping out" when stressed, and Casey was displaying more and more of these traits: flattened ears, panting, even her normally perky whiskers had started to wilt. Adele wasn't in much better shape.
Finally, their number was called. I hid discretely behind a pole where I could watch their performance and not be distracting. They started slow ... Adele was white and trembling and Casey lagged a wimpy half body length behind her. The little dog that ordinarily heeled well had disappeared. Casey had also forgotten how to sit at the halt. Adele managed to remember a sage's advice to go ahead and give and extra command when things looked bad in the ring. She proceeded to squeak "Casey, Heel!". Then she did it again. And again. And... from where I was standing I could almost see the big, black mark the Judge made next to the "Unqualified Heeling" square on his score sheet.
"My knees were Jell-O!" Adele exclaimed on their release from the ring.
And then the question I dreaded... "How did we do?"
I tried to be encouraging, but Adele knew as well as I did what had gone wrong. Adele took her first non-qualification well. After all, Casey was her fun dog... the dog she was going to learn how to train and show in preparation for showing her second dog, Tramp, who had exhibited more competitive potential.
But on her return from Allegan, Adele started looking for ways to improve Casey's performance. And over the next year she found many.
Third Saturday in October, 1987
The drive to London, Ontario was hectic and mostly done in the dark. This time we were both showing in Novice B and if Adele was nervous, I was too nervous to notice. Her husband, Fritz, was along and we were all exhausted by the trip. At least all the humans were, but when we got up to the hotel room, the three dogs started tearing about like overtired children. At last we all settled down to catch what sleep we could before our morning show times.
Next morning we left with plenty of time to spare. We found the show grounds easily and got the dogs settled quickly. A year of experience showing both her dogs had given Adele a new confidence. She left them in their crates, having learned that absence not only made their hearts grow fonder, but also added an edge to their performances. While the dogs waited quietly, Adele attended to the problem of a conflict between Casey's obedience time and Tramp's breed ring time. Casey was moved back a dozen dogs, and we all settled into the hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere of the dog show.
With Tramp finished in breed, Adele rushed off to change. Casey could tell something exciting was up... people kept stopping by her crate and telling her how cute she was. Adele returned and took Casey for her last minute trip outside and a quick warm-up. Then into the ring they went.
I watched from ringside, confident that Casey's attention would be on Adele. From the first "Forward", it was obvious everything was all right. Casey's ears were up, her gait perky, her tiny face poked in the air to meet Adele's confident smile. No Jell-O knees this time, Adele strode out at just the right pace for her little dog.
Casey was glued in heel position. Her sits were fast and straight. The performance gave me chills and I noted smiles of approval from many of the familiar faces in the audience. Casey's recall was not only fast and precise, it was also adorable, and drew coos from the crowd. She did her long sit in a half doze and her down without a twitch.
Adele was met with many congratulations as she wove her way through the crowds back to her crate. As she switched Casey for Tramp, I teased her "Wouldn't it be funny if your dogs tied each other with high scores and were in a run off together?" Adele pooh-poohed the thought, but we hastily planned what to do just in case.
Tramp's performance was also very good that afternoon. Not as good as Casey's, Adele said, but more than acceptable. She was very pleased. Adele was warming up Casey and I, Calix, neither of us expecting to be in a run-off, but wanting to be ready just in case. Fritz had Tramp on a leash nearby. Suddenly, I heard the steward call number 113. It was Casey!
As Adele rushed to ringside, I heard the second number, 141. Oh no, Tramp! At the gate Adele remembered she had only on six foot lead for both dogs and we did some fsast shuffling, putting my leash on Tramp.
The dust settled and Adele and Casey were in the ring with Tramp and me at their side. I managed to get Tramp's attention just long enough for the first step at "Forward", and then she wrapped around my legs looking for Adele. At the halt, the judge said, "Well, I guess it's obvious!". Casey had won the run off, the class, and earned High in Trial with a 199.5!