Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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Two Legs Up

September 13, 2009

That's the short version: Travvy did indeed earn the first two (of three) legs on his Rally Novice title.

The long version is more interesting, but it is, well, longer. Let me tell you about yesterday's weather. When it wasn't drizzling, it was pouring down buckets. If you left your rain slicker in the truck because you thought the sun was trying to come out, it was a sure thing that the skies would open before you got to the arena where the Rally trials were being held and you'd get royally drenched. I got drenched so many times that I lost count and it didn't matter. The upside was that it was cool enough to leave Travvy in the truck for 10 and 20 minutes here and there, and Travvy consented not to further torment the upholstery. Not that I could tell if it had been further tormented, because it's already a mess.

Another upside is that you couldn't even pretend to practice. Travvy and I spent a lot of time exploring the venue, the Barnstable County Fairgrounds, and absorbing dog show vibes. Dog show vibes are not unlike horse show vibes only on a smaller scale. People groom horses on crossties; they groom dogs on tables. At horse shows the people live in campers and the horses live in stalls. At dog shows everybody crams into the campers. With the rain pouring down all day you can imagine the campers probably smelled like trenches, and how the hell did the handlers keep those fancy coats poufed up in the rain?

From Travvy's point of view the smells were irresistible and there was no decent place to poop. Both days he saved it till we got back to the island and his usual scrub and thicket facilities. He peed to mark trees -- that could be a full-time job -- but he didn't take a long, leisurely pee till we got home either.

I really like the Barnstable County Fairgrounds. They felt like the various 4-H and county fairgrounds of my youth: functional, not fancy. Farmish. Unlike the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Fairgrounds, which breath money! showplace! Potemkin village! from every shingle. The affluenza frantically pour more and more money into shoring up their illusion that Martha's Vineyard is a rural or semi-rural area, and plenty of us play into their illusion because we desperately want to believe that they think we have something to offer them. If they cease to believe, then we wink out, just like Tinkerbell.

Travvy's test on Saturday felt like flying a kite that was always on the verge of breaking away. We did, however, get through it, and the judge gave us an 88, out of 100. The judge was lenient. Minimum qualifying score is 70, however, so we had our first leg on Rally Novice, and a white ribbon for fourth place. There were only six entries, so this was not a big deal. The best thing was that now the place and the scenario were Known Quantities and I was no longer hallucinating The Actor's Nightmare.

We actually came closer to the Actor's Nightmare worst-case scenario on Sunday. Sunday the sun came out and the afternoon was gloriously bright and warm. "Bright and warm" are not 100% virtues in Travvy's book, and by early afternoon he was displaying reluctance to get up when asked to move from shade to sunlight. The trials were held in the (shady) arena, but there Travvy decided that sprawled on the cool concrete was the place to be, and if Karen hadn't had a small treat handy, I think he would have snoozed through our test. He was much more attentive and did a better test, but this judge was a harder scorer and I made a big handler error that cost us 10 points. We wound up with a 73, still good enough to qualify. Travvy was especially pleased because the qualifying prize was a small squeaky whale, which he likes very much. The judge admonished us all that the toys were for the dogs. Right.

Our little group did quite well. Orion, Karen's senior Golden, won his Rally Advanced title on Sunday, and Sochi, Julia's Golden, won his Rally Novice on Saturday and won Sunday's class with a very impressive score of 99. Katy's Dundee, Karen's Nolan, and my Travvy all finished the weekend two legs up on their Rally Novice titles. People were friendly and helpful, and there are more kinds of dogs in the world than I usually imagine. I didn't see any other Malamutes, but I talked with several people who had Mals at home, or who had Mals in their past. One of the former was next to me in line for the five o'clock boat. If you want to ace obedience trials, get a Golden Retriever. If you want to start lots of interesting conversations, get a Mal.


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