Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hounds for the Holidays...My Agility Tradition

MacDuff was my long attendee, competing from 1998 through 2008 & there in 2009

Robbie will go for MACH2

Ghilley will make her agility debut

Thursday, December 9th marks the 13th time I have attended the 4 days of agility in Milwaukee that the exhibitors fondly refer to as "Hounds for the Holidays".  I started competing in 1998 at this trial and have many fond memories of it.

The name relates back to the origins of the show when the Norweigan Elkhound club would sponsor a day or two.

Regardless, the name was so catchy that it caught on.

I remember feeling overwhelmed when I first arrived. Fortunately, I was part of a larger group of fellow agility competitors that I trained with. They took me under their wing, showed me the ropes and helped me acclimate to everything.

Now I find myself, with a different group, acting like one of the experienced competitors helping to tutor the newer competitors into handling all of the activity surrounding Hounds.

It has been and continues to be a very festive time with 3 rings of agility with up to 990 runs each day. Lots of people, lots of dogs and great doggie wares shopping.

The All Fours group (http://www.chicagoagility.com/) that I attend with make a whole event of the experience.  We crate together, plan crate decorations, plan meals and snacks. We also plan where we go out to eat (humans only) each night to celebrate the day and each others company.

If I have yet to get into the holiday spirit, Hounds always brings me into it.

I head into the 2010 Hounds event with a positive outlook, albeit a certain sadness too.

2010 Hounds will be my first time without MacDuff. While my household is actually more peaceful without him, his absence from agility with me is palpable. He was a tremendous presence.

But, I go with the opportunity to net an elusive Hounds MACH for Robbie. It is a distinct possiblity but I am not betting the house on it. Yes, within our grasp but I am bound and determined not to put pressure on him. He tends to crumble under that and the more zen I am, the better Robbie runs.

Ghilley makes her agility debut at Hounds. The last time I had a dog running in Novice at Hounds was in 1998 with MacDuff.

She shows a lot of promise and we have been preparing for awhile now.

But, as I learned with Robbie, we will take things as they come. I honestly do expect Ghilley to be a really nice agility dog. But I will not hold the memories of my superstar, MacDuff, over her head as something to equal or exceed.

Ghilley has a more experienced handler than my two boys did. She has someone who has felt the utter joy of running with the fast dogs and also the unbelievable thrill of accomplishing a MACH with a dog that was convinced the ring would attack him.

I am looking forward to the quickly approaching long weekend. I have my Chicago Bears gear all ready to wear as we still have bragging rights over the Packer fans.

Bring it on baby!


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