It’s been a couple weeks now since Steve’s debut in CPE Level 1 agility. Now that the initial high of three qualifying runs out of three has worn off, I’ve been doing some thinking about agility, about my dog, and about the various organizations out there.
First, I did not enjoy the experience. I have such a ridiculously hard time with nerves. I was waking up in the middle of the night for a week in advance. I was so nervous the morning of that I was dry heaving. It was not a pleasant experience, for all that everybody was super nice and we were extremely successful in the ring. I am told that the anxiety will get better and that the camaraderie I’ll develop with other competitors will grow and outshine the ring terror. I am skeptical. I never got over my ring nerves with Luce in rally, though they did get better. But you have so much more control in rally!
Second, I am extremely grateful that there is an organization out there that makes it easy to be successful early on. I chose CPE to start out in because the courses are shorter, because it draws a generally less competitive crowd, and because it is, well, “easy”. I know that there are people out there who look down on CPE, and that’s fine. Yes, you can have a bar down in Level 1 and still qualify. Steve didn’t have any bars down at all, but it was nice knowing we had that little bit of breathing room.
CPE has seven different classes that make up five different titles, and then when you get all of the Level 1 individual titles, they come together to become a full Level title. (Ok I’m not explaining it very well.) For the Level 1 “Handler” title, for example, you need just one qualifying score in both the Colors and the Wildcard games. I love this, because it lets me be successful fairly early on. And I am the kind of person who needs to feel successful.
It’s the same with flyball- the early titles come fast. Steve got his FD title with one heat, and his second title came that same day. Now it’s been over a year since his last title, and that’s fine, because I know it just takes time and continued effort. But those early titles in the anxious green dog days did a lot to bolster my confidence and my enthusiasm.
So I think CPE will be a good venue for us to get our bearings. To figure out our routine for getting into the ring without my dog’s brain falling out. I think I will probably play AKC down the road, when I have more confidence in what I’m doing. (I’m confident in Steve, for the most part.) I am in no hurry.
I did sign us up for another CPE trial at the end of this month. We’ll be trying Jumpers, Standard, and Wildcard this time around. If he qualifies in everything, that will be three of his Level 1 titles (Standard, Fun, and Handlers), and all we’ll have left for his complete Level 1 title will be Snooker and Jackpot, which seem scary and confusing.
I’m not looking forward to it, but at least I have a better idea of what to expect this time around. I am very much looking forward to having letters to add on to the end of his name to show that finally FINALLY I have gotten this dog in the ring and we have been successful. It has been so much hard work, and it has been such an emotional and mental struggle for me, and I am so proud that he’s a “real” agility dog now.