Lance in 2013

The usual video highlights of all the good in the year:


Now Lance's year in review.  Spoiler alert- the corgi is awesome.

Obedience:
Lance started the year with 1 lowly UDX leg from 2012 and was just starting to gain confidence in the B classes.  I had also just begun a get rid of the cookies campaign after attending the Denise Fenzi seminar in December 2012.

Wow, did we have a great year!  Lance picked up his very first OTCH points in January and then slowly accumulated more and more.  A bit of some problems hit us when of course his sit stay problem re occured.  Knock on wood, Lance has now done 13 of the last 14 sits, with 8 in a row.   He rocked the Corgi specialty in October and then decided to almost give me a heart attack as he pulled off a 199 and high in trial at a big show a few weeks ago!  We finished the year with a total of 8 UDX legs, 35 OTCH points, 4 wins, and his OM1 title.

I credit a lot of our success to the huge increase in personal play and decrease in cookie dependence.  The Problem Solving class I took online from Denise Fenzi and Nancy Little also helped a lot in fixing his finishes.

Other accomplishments this year in obedience include his UDX-C and OTCH-C in CDSP (a versatility type title).  And of course he continues to be the happiest obedience dog ever.

Agility:
Lance and I were going to trial more in agility this year, but that didn't happen.  We started the year with 1 Q each in elite regular, jumpers, and chances and my goal was to get as close to the NATCH as possible.

I'm really pleased with how far we progressed in how little trials.  Lance completed the last 2 Q's needed for his Open Versatility title and even got his Elite Versatility title this past weekend. He has 21 out of 23 needed regular Q's, 13 out of 13 jumpers, and 8 out of 13 chances.  We went from not really having the distance skills needed in elite chances, to me being fairly confident at our ability to go for it.  Our qualifying rate in chances is still pretty low, but our distance and teamwork skills are definitely there now!

I didn't continue Lance's jump work program like I wanted to, but it also hasn't been a necessity.  Lance still stutters, especially towards the end of the day, but for the most part is loving jumping 4 inches.

Tricks:
:(  We did almost nothing.  Beginning of the year I started out strong and was working on several new tricks.  Last 2/3rds of the year I did absolutely squat.
1. Shaking head no: I so wanted this trick!  Lance already knew to move his head over his left shoulder so the plan was to teach the other direction and then switch back and forth. We struggled.  I got the right shoulder, mostly, but I certainly didn't get switching back and forth. Instead I got repeated twitches in one direction.  It's awkward.

2. Walking in slippers: Kinda done. I got stand in shoes, if it's the right type.  Otherwise I got squish the opening and frustratedly stomp.

3. Penguin-forwards: In the past I got beg and hop backwards.  I wanted forwards.  I mainly got barking.  But sometimes I get a few hops.  Corgi says this was hard.

4. Paw alternations, quickly: Check!!!  Totally nailed this one.  He does cute hops back and forth.  And gets mad and barks if I make him do it to much.

Goals for 2014:
1. Get the UDX!!!! Only 2 more double Q's needed!
2. Increase our average score in open and utility. Hoping for consistent greatness rather than moments of brilliance mixed with moments of *ahem* much crowd appeal.  His current ave from the last 8 Q's in open is a 196.  From the same time period in utility (september) he got 5 q's and an average of 190.5
3. Keep working on fronts and finishes, straight go outs, good glove pivots with no auto-marking from Lance, and decreasing his barking during obedience.
4. Get his NATCH in agility!
5. Give UKI a try as there will be a massive increase from 1 local trial to 4.  And he can jump 4 inches!

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The Bestest Agility Trial Ever!

Vito today gave me the best present ever.  Had a NADAC agility trial this weekend and Vito didn't let Sad Toller make an appearance even once.  He was insanely happy and had moments where he DECIDED TO RUN on every single course.  Trial Vito got to be merged with Practice Vito for many, many moments.  


I had a blast.  I tried very hard to remain super aggressive in my handling of Vito and I'm pretty sure there were more blind crosses in one run than I've done all weekend before.  It can be difficult to figure out how to avoid rear crosses in some NADAC courses, but I pulled out my super cape and hauled butt to make certain he didn't have to do any.  I almost succeeded in being 100% free of rear crosses for him (outside of chances forced rears for the distance) until the very last course of the weekend, touch no go, I chickened out after I went in deeper than I planned after his running dogwalk and decided to just rear cross the tunnel.  
Best video of runs ever!

Vito ended up going 5.5 Q's out of 8.  Silly knocked bar for a half point Q in regular on day 1, and then of course he didn't qualify on either chances course.  But even on the distance chances he did an amazing effort.  On Saturday Vito actually did a tiny re-direct out the jump after the dogwalk and continued after a rear cross to go out one more obstacle.  And Vito not only did a rear cross on Sunday's challenge, but he continued on his own and did his very first tandem turn in a trial!

Lance also had a fabulous weekend. 8 out of 10 Q's for the weekend.  Naughty moments for him were completely blowing off the weaves his first run of the weekend that had them, and popping out of them his first run with weaves on day 2.  He also sailed off to a far far away off course hoop at one point.  Other than that I take blame for his 1 NQ in chances on Saturday.  He did the distance challenge beautifully despite my sudden switch in handling to a person who doesn't move at all.  Lance slowed down, but did it.  And then didn't do the easy dogwalk/tunnel discrimination as he hesitantly stepped onto the dogwalk closer to me.  I'm not sure why my feet were frozen when I had room left to move.  

His jumping looked great, even on Sunday's jumpers course when he was starting to get tired.

I had such a great weekend I'm not even going to comment on the barrels :)  Not even on the extra weird non wrapping of said barrel on the Touch n Go course.

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Vito Friday Night CDSP

The Toller had one last CDSP obedience trial of the year.  Still sticking with Open C to help him gain confidence.

Overall I am very pleased with how he did.  Vito was very focused and happy to work with me.  Not quite the level of edginess I typically like working him in, but still a happy toller.

Beautiful, beautiful ring entrance and set up.  Nice drive going into the ring, immediate set up in heel, and 100% eye contact as I took off the leash.
First exercise was the drop on recall which Vito immediately failed as he didn't actually drop.  Or stop.  Figures that the one exercise I've actually been practicing with him he fails!  Ah well!  I just clap my hands and call him to come to me.

Heeling is next and I'm happy.  Set up nicely and nice oomph in that first step just like we've been practicing for months.  Fast time was almost immediately and while he did lose some momentum, he did a spectacular job considering how hard that is for him.  Bit of a bobble on the first halt immediately after the right turn, but recovered for a beautiful about turn, Lance should take note, and perfect rest of the pattern.

Broad jump I kinda tried something new, which of course is a neon sign of red flags.  I marked the jump so he knew it was there based on his last tripping over it experience in the trial a few months ago.  He looked on and then held a nice little stay as I told him to heel (CDSP has a running broad jump).  I had to give him a second command to get moving and then he cut the corner of the jump.

Retrieve on flat was nice, with a little bobble on the pickup.  Retrieve over high just had the front.  On the mini go out Vito looked ahead nicely and just arched about 2 feet to the right off center.

Between all the exercises he happily jumped up on me, engaged with me to the set up of the next one, and didn't get his first cookie until after the 4th exercise!  A bit of looking around, but seemed very relaxed and happy about it all.

The run was a nice way to end his obedience year, NQ and all.

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Adjusting

Been moved in for almost 2 weeks now.  This past week we've been mainly grounded at home.  All the doggies at work went out to fosters for the holiday break so that means I've been off of work.  And since I'm not really planning on leaving the Toller alone in the new house, with the newly lowered dose of Fluoxetine, we've all been cozy together.


Vito did get left alone twice for about an hour each time and both times went surprisingly well.  The first time was because the cat decided to scare me into thinking he was blocked.  Luke has had a history of peeing blood when "stressed" and while he's never been blocked before it's not something I want to wait and see about.  So when we moved I immediately put him on amitriptyline.  Seemed his crazy obnoxious self almost right away, and then he started peeing blood.  Concerned, but not too worried yet.  Then he started making frequent trips to the litter box and seemingly nothing was coming out all day.  Sigh.  Trip to the emergency vet.  Good news, he's not blocked.  A few more days of continuing the amitriptyline and adding in pain meds and an antibiotic and he's back to his annoying self.  Fingers are crossed that he he stays this way.

Which reminds me of the best invention ever.  
Trash can with a lock!  Even after cutting away the scrap meat from the ham and tossing the bone into the trash, I didn't have to wake up to trash all over the kitchen floor!  I don't know why it took me so long.  It also fully earns Lance his freedom at night since I don't have to worry about him joining in with the cat's efforts.

Gracie is a bit bored due to the lock down.  No Labradors to play with :(  Instead, when the "feels like" temp is actually above zero degrees, she's been practicing bowling into the corgi and playing keep away with the toller's toys.  It is freezing though.  A bit embarassing when I take her to a store and she becomes a tripod during the walk from car to front doors.  I promise that my service dog doesn't need one herself!
Merry Christmas!

At Grandma's house.  Hello Rowan!

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Review: Evanger's Freeze Dried treats from Chewy.com

Chewy.com sent us some Evanger's beef liver treats this time to review!

I was super glad I had these treats on hand for the big move.  When the internet guy had to come over to the house to install a cable line, Vito needed something new and extra tasty to distract him.  The initial entry into the house went really well as I stayed outside with Vito and shoved these treats down his throat.  There were a few barking episodes back inside, but Vito was also excited about the cookies and was soon throwing himself into heel position and begging to be fed.

The treats come in pretty big squares, but it's possible to break them up into smaller pieces.  Several times though I really wished I had precut them with a knife.  They will leave a few crumbs from breaking them up, but pretty minimal.


Vito loves freeze dried treats and these ones seem to be the lowest price ones I could find.  They're grain free, gluten free, and single ingredient.  Pretty big win in my book!

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The New Place!

We did it!  Signed the papers on Friday and got most of our stuffed move over this weekend.

I'm actually shocked at how well Vito seems to be adjusting.  Not sure if it's the new drug or just the fact that all his things are here with him too.  Pretty barky at any noise from the snow falling to the cat getting into trouble.  But that's to be expected.


Yard!!!  We made it just barely past the garage/barn before the dogs started freezing.


See, Lance is already heading back to stand by the door.  Vito's enjoying the zoomies.

Our first Christmas tree!!!

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The Toller's Nose

Vito would make a great searching type dog.  Drugs, people, balls...  At least he rocks the ball category.
Found both rubber balls in the snow drifts at work today that were lost from earlier.

He pretty much searches the gigantic yard every single afternoon, just hoping that someone forgot to bring a ball back in.  Tennis balls, and tiny tiny pieces of tennis balls, takes him about 3 seconds.  The black rubber Kong balls are newer so it takes him longer.  Of course most days there's nothing to find.

 
 Today was a heat wave in Minnesota.  Wednesday had a windchill of -19 degrees, today's playtime temp was a balmy 14 degrees.  Thank God!
 

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Obedience Seminar

I just finished attending a big name obedience seminar on problem solving and I'm not quite sure what to say.  I definitely wasn't prepared.  I knew this wasn't a force free trainer but I also knew she was big into motivation and drive building so I guess I was thinking the corrections wouldn't be as frequent or as harsh.  I was wrong.

For the most part I saw dogs who didn't know how to win, not dogs who were lacking on effort.  I guess I didn't find it funny when a few of the dogs tried to avoid the situation by hiding behind mom or even running to their crate.  There were repeated comments about needing to release the pressure by doing fun tricks afterwards and putting dogs back in drive.  I guess that's good and all but I don't see why dogs need to be pushed so hard that they were in danger of shutting down.  There were several moments where dogs were repeatedly asked to a do a behavior over and over until they failed just so they could get a correction for lack of effort.  That Have To moment that supposedly is so important in obedience training.

It honestly was a great seminar though and I have quite a few ideas that should be easy enough to apply in a force free manner.  I'll just focus on building that Want.  In the presenter's defense, she did speak often of building that Want as a puppy so that you don't have as much shutdown with corrections in the future.
Seminars are so hard as you only get 10 minutes to spend evaluating a team and trying to show solutions that should takes weeks or months to implement.


Actually the most fascinating part for me was all the focus on cookies.  Cookies to keep the dog in drive, cookies as part of the correction process to lessen the defensiveness, and cookies to keep behavior's valued. I certainly wasn't expecting that.  Some of the methods were similar to what I've been doing with Vito in his training.  He's not ready to fully immerse into the get rid of all the cookies! plan I did with Lance this past year.  No cookies, no force, building the Want towards the joy of working just for me.  Vito's on a modified jackpot type of training plan, mixed in with a lot of personal play.

Anyway, here are some ideas I'm excited about trying, or re-visiting, with my crew:
- scooting back in a down and in a sit for our signals and drop on recalls.  Re-fixing it so Lance actually does it instead of just barking at me :) Vito actually has a decent version of both.
- doing multiple really fast spins with Lance to try and incite some forging in practice.   He actually doesn't forge very often in practice anymore (yay!!!) so it will be fun to try and get him really high and see if he can collect his brain.
- fronts after fast spins
- working on tiny fixes of fronts instead of bigger, easier ones: setting up a front, cuing wait, and stepping to the side only 2 inches in either direction instead of 12 inches before calling him to front again.
- Working on more moving tricks with Lance as I realized I generally don't do very many spins or touching while heeling due to his smaller size.

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Vito's Behavioral Recheck- New Plan

Big changes will be coming soon for Vito.  He had his recheck appointment this week with his behaviorist.  A long overdue appointment since we had a hard time getting in on the schedule.  We talked about his 3 core issues and how for the most part he is worse in all areas:
- Separation Anxiety
- Car anxiety
- Reactivity to people/ generalized anxiety

Vito likes to stick to his habit of great improvement with each new drug or dosage we try, and then a slow shrinking back to normal.

SA- We continue our habit of not really ever leaving him alone.  If he does have to be left, it better be in the morning when he has the best chance of just deciding to crawl back into bed and sleep.  Otherwise he's anxious after 5 minutes and has restarted his panting and has even gone back to some howling.

Car- Vito has been slowly getting worse for awhile now.  I was hoping that when we were gifted a minivan earlier last month that it would make him happy.  Vito seemed to enjoy the Honda Fit we've sometimes borrowed and I thought maybe he liked the flat surface vs being on a seat.  But the van is apparently out to eat him.  Vito has taken to stalling about getting inside as it takes him forever to cross our miniature yard space and of course he then has to stretch.  About half of the car rides now are panic attacks.  The other half range from light panting to a few nice ones.

Reactivity to people is the lowest of his anxieties.  He's reacting quite a bit at work to sounds of people coming by.  Even to me.  Vito was nice enough to demonstrate his increased anxiety by totally flipping out when the exam room door opened.  But overall not bad.

By all accounts, we're pretty close to where we were last May.  I guess there's one good change since then as I've mostly fixed/managed the issues we were having with redirecting onto the dogs at work.  Vito was rushing and snarking at the labs with the excitement of being let out into the big yard.  Just leashing him and waiting a little bit wasn't helping as Vito is proud of his ability to obsess and explode.  So I went to requiring Vito to take, and swallow, treats.  I've already taught him this requirement for past problems so it didn't take Vito too long to get the rules.  I love that the simple act of eating helps to calm dogs down.  Even though Vito really doesn't want to the treats it's remarkable how much he demands them now, he likes routines you know, and then how much this calms him.  We're not at 100% success, but most days this problem is conquered.

The new plan:

Start over with his drugs.  The big solution that was sticking out back in June that I wasn't quite ready to do.  I became ready this September. Unfortunately the vet wanted to meet with us and talk it out in person first.

1. Scrapping Diazepam which has just too short of an effect and is creating lots of spikes throughout Vito's day.
2. Replacing Diazepam with a longer acting drug.  A very, very expensive longer acting drug :(  We will start Clorazepate.

(3. Sticking with Clonidine to keep helping him during all the transitions.  I definitely notice a difference when it's wearing off.)

Because of the big move, the rest of the plan will be delayed some more.  But hopefully Vito will settle into the new house quickly and we can start.

4. Good bye Fluoxetine.  The daily dose of 40mg is very high and clearly not helping.  Weaning process will take awhile.  This will be rough.

5. Hello Amitriptyline.  She was reluctant to do another SSRI due to the Fluoxetine dose and effect on Vito.  This new drug is in the same family as the very first drug Vito tried.  At that time we stopped after 4wks because Vito was becoming more reactive and anxious in places.  In hindsight I'm now not sure if we weren't giving the drug enough time to work and the anxiety shown was the new Vito just starting to emerge.

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Getting Your Dog's Head in the Game

Today many dog agility bloggers will be writing on the topic of the Mental Game.  Having a special dog like Vito I find that there are so many variables that need to be thought about in order to get him both feeling comfortable about his environment and excited about the task at hand.  Here are a few of the many things I'm constantly re-evaluating to get my Toller in the right frame of mind.

1.  Where to crate from?
Many people find that dogs who are a bit worried about the crazy atmosphere at agility trials, and dogs who seem to feed off that atmosphere, getting more and more hyped, do better if left in the car.  Others do best if crated in the building, giving them time to acclimate to it.

If you choose to crate in the building, please try and practice this skill before it's really needed.  One constantly barking dog can make it difficult for other dogs to relax, especially for the other worry wart dogs.   I find most dogs do best with a crate cover if they are in a busy area where dogs and people might constantly be getting to close to their space.  I've even seen some people put a little jar of dog treats and a sign telling people to feed their dog when walking by to help get them used to the environment.  I'm lucky that Vito does very good in the environment itself as long as he can hear people near by and has his crate covered to block out stimulation.

2. How much stew time is needed?

Once you've arrived at the site and have gotten set up, does your dog need time to look around and take everything in?  I will often walk Vito around a little bit at trials or at least let him hang out with me outside of the crate.  I typically don't focus on walking everywhere on the trial ground as ultimately part of the test is the ability to walk through the ring gates of an unexplored area and focus.  I find this is a bigger challenge in obedience than in agility, but it's still something I carry over.  Mainly I let Vito look around versus walk around so that he can see everything is safe.

For dogs who get hyped up, one could also experiment with some mat work on arrival, and calm delivery of treats.  I think that the ability to relax on site, when you're not asking for any specific engagement from the dog, is a crucial part of the trial experience and one that some dogs will always need work on.

3. What type and length of warm up is needed?
Coming out of the crate does your dog need additional stew time before he will engage 100% with you?  At first I was asking Vito to tug and play with me immediately upon exit of his crate, but it was always a struggle to get the attitude I wanted right off the bat.  I was certainly working harder than he was.  So now I let him look around, without the ability to wander off anywhere, and wait until he is asking me to play.  Way less effort on my part and better results as he just needed a small amount of time to ground himself before being ready.

Type of warm up is also a huge question.  Rev them up or calmly focus them?  In general I lean towards the rev up side for most dogs.  Dogs who stress down often need to do a lot of moving tricks.  Vito's favorite trick is vaulting off of me and many dogs respond well to any jumping or fast moving tricks like spinning.  Barking on cue is often a great way to get a dog more excited.  I am thrilled that while it took awhile to get Vito to scream at me before going into the ring, it's now uncued and chaotic!

I also believe that many dogs who stress up would do well with a rev up type of warm up, mixed with some quick responses to control behaviors like sit, down, or heeling.  Calming warm ups might work well for some dogs, but for many it just gives a false sense of control if the dog immediately spirals up on entering the ring. Ultimately, warm up length and type take the most experimentation.

4. When and how do you enter the ring?
Do you keep the dog focused on you with tricks, or do you let them watch the dog ahead of you? Do you sprint into the ring with intensity at the last minute or do some controlled heeling?  If the leash removal isn't required to wait until the judge's signal, how early do you remove it?  Do you do a lead out, or run off together with variations of starting including drop and go, pushing back, or a quick trick?
Screaming Toller!!!

Vito's current solution starts with me letting him watch the dog ahead of us, or at least looking into the ring if he's first.  I whisper are you ready?! type talk into his ear and try to get him excited about entering.  For the most part it's a good answer for us, but sometimes he will find a scary person to fixate on so then I try and jump to having him scream at me.  When I tried to focus on him just playing with me, he often needed to look around upon entering the ring and didn't get enough time to decide everybody was safe.  For crazy dogs, looking into the ring may be a disaster if the dog loses the focus they hand on you!

We then always sprint into the ring together.  I ideally like to get in  the ring just early enough to build some anticipation, but not too early that he has time to look for people.  I take off the leash as soon as possible (NADAC is harder) and toss it far away so the leash runner doesn't approach.  Then focus needs to be 100% on me and I encourage him to scream at me and do his favorite tricks if there's a delay.  A tiny lead out works best as it builds a little anticipation and allows me to get just enough ahead that he's chasing me.  He does not like push backs in trials, although he does in practice.  I often chant to him as I do the slight lead out, getting him on the edge of self control and breaking.  And then if he breaks I smile and let him :)  The Corgi is upset at Vito's special rules!

Are there any other considerations you think about for your anxious or overly excitable dog?
Check out all the other blogs for more great ideas on improving your own mental game!

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High in Trial Corgi!

If nothing else, read the end and celebrate with me!

Very big AKC obedience trial this weekend.

Saturday Utility
Oh my.  Lance was very excited to be in the ring.  A little too squirrley.  Gloves were first and a loss of 5 points kinda shows you where the class was headed.  He made a slight bobble of the glove on pick up and then spit the glove at my feet, culminating with not sitting.  Articles were pretty good, but on the 2nd send Lance hesitated and almost didn't go to the pile until he saw me looking at it.
Go outs were very exciting.  Lance locked onto the glove #3 location and went there both times, (although we had glove #1 earlier).  Barking on both jumps.  Signals were also costly.  It's been a very long time since I've heeled with Lance's butt instead of his front end.  He punched me on the recall as well.  The moving stand was borderline NQable.  Lance was a good body length ahead of me on the heeling, continuing his fine work from signals, and while he usually still has a great freeze on the stay, Lance chose not to show that part off today.  Walked very far but I kept walking too.
The judge did qualify us!  Not a pretty score.

Saturday Open
Much better.  The Corgi was happy but in more of a thinking mode.  No real issues although his fronts were off.  Lost only 1 point on the heeling due to a slightly wide about turn (can't seem to fix that!) and the 2nd halt.
Held his sit stay!  And I didn't notice any sniffing this time as I walked away.  Was almost crushed by the nice golden next to him on the long down.  Alternate handler was needed as her momma needed to handle the sibling in the same group.  Apparently the golden felt the need to sass and was not going to move to where she should've been set up.  They were very close but Lance didn't seem to be any more stressed.

UDX leg #8!

Sunday Utility
Much better than Saturday but still pretty squirrley.  The moving stand was first and I'm pleased to report that Lance heeled nicely and stuck the stay just fine.  Go outs were second and Lance managed to lose even more points than the day before.  First go out he went crooked like the day before, but not quite as bad as he arched a bit more to teh center.  No sit.  Picturing yesterday's disaster I gave a 2nd verbal cue to remind him of his job.  He barked on the jump.  Second go out he sits, but gives a sassy bark back in response.  Gives another bark on taking the jump.  Sigh.
Heeling was greatly improved!  It's nice to heel with your dog instead of after him.  But sadly, Lance stared at me blankly when I gave the stand signal and sat instead.  The remaining signals, glove exercise, and articles all went very well.  NQ for us.

Sunday Open
Lance was ON!  Heeling was gorgeous.  Fronts and finishes, almost perfect!  Lance did almost give me a heart attack as he did a small jolt when the judge said to call him and I feared was anticipating.  But he was a good boy and waited for my cue.  Drop on recall he gave a loud grumble as he did the down signal.

I knew he did very well for us and was hoping maybe we could get a 197ish score.  Lance was the first dog in the ring and dogs after him were making silly mistakes.  There were 4 groups of stays and after the first half of the class was finished there were only 3 qualifiers including the corgi!  My hopes started to dash as the second half of dogs broke free of the curse and did very, very well.  I almost went home several times.  But finally the large class was over, a run off was done, and we went back in the ring.  As he announced 3rd and 4th place as a 198 my heart sunk.  Second was a 198.5.  And then suddenly my number was being called and Lance won the class with a 199!!!!  Pretty sure nothing was processing after that and I may have been in a long daze.  199.  High in trial CORGI!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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