Agility
by Gaea Mitchell (Tallahassee, FL) Gaea Mitchel of Tallahassee, Florida shares her Wennie's introduction to agility. It was a brisk spring day when the young dog and I first faced the agility course. We are talking about an adolescent Rottweiler, fairly overindulged, some might even say spoiled. She brims over with enthusiasm, often unbridled, and lacks only discipline to be incredibly bright and well trained. So here we were, tiptoeing onto an imposing obstacle course. We decided to start where there was a high probability of quick success, since instant gratification appeals to us both. A some mutual self-congratulation, complete with hugs and licks. A few more jumps like a pro, and we looked for new worlds to conquer. Our next choice was a ramp of plywood, to be climbed to the peak, and then run down the other side. About halfway up Wennie gave me a look that said "Whoa... You're kidding, right?" For a moment it looked as if I would be wearing a seventy pound dog like a mink stole on my shoulders. Then she realized that wouldn't work to her advantage, so she bounded over the top and down in two big jumps. Again we had reason to celebrate success, and did so. Bounding with joy, and playing with the other pup that was showing us the ropes, we made our way to the tunnel. A quick look down the tube and Wennie made it clear that she would require a flashlight and hard hat before venturing into that. It took some sweet talking, and her new pal positioned at the other end, and finally she crept through on her belly, dragging the lead behind her. More hugs and congratulations, and I was ready to take a break to talk to the other handler. The dogs were playing together when suddenly the lead was jerked from my hand; I turned in time to see Wennie's rump disappeared into the tunnel, and she zipped out the other end grinning with glee. I love to see dogs enjoy their work, and this one was really having a ball. The big challenge I chose for the day was the cat walk, four steps up to a walk about six inches wide and six feet long, ending with four more steps down. this shouldn't be so tough; we have five steps up to any door in our house, so that part wouldn't be a problem. WRONG! The front feet went straight to the top of the steps, but the rear ones were rooted to the ground. I had to help them up one at a time. Then came the narrow walk. I never knew a dog could hug so much wood. Belly on the beam, she wrapped all four legs around the walk and dug her nails into the bottom of the boards. That's it -- this is where I stay! It took several minutes of coaxing, chin tickling and ear rubbing to get her on her feet and moving. At the other end she launched herself into my arms, skipping the steps altogether. Not pretty, but there was a lot of trust shown to get that close to completing the exercise. I could honestly give the praise she deserved. More solid success was needed here, so we ran the tunnel again; in fact there were two tunnels, and Wennie flew through them both, several times and from both directions. A skip over the low jumps, a romp up the ramp, and I was ready to quit on those positive notes. We paused on our way out to visit with the resident Rottweiler, who was tethered by her house. The two exchanged appropriate dog greetings, and Babe shared her water dish in a gesture of hospitality. Then Wennie caught sight of the doghouse door. She flew in and came to a screeching halt at the back wall. No light at the end of that tunnel, in fact no tunnel at all. What a disappointment! Still puzzled by the dead end, but happy to have had an entire morning with my nearly undivided attention, Wennie hopped into the car for the ride home. I know she was looking forward to a snack and her bed, but my dreams were of a tidy young dog flying flawlessly around the entire course. Maybe - someday......