I finally took the leap and decided it was time to start trialling Listo.  Our first weekend we entered Gamblers.  I like to start dogs in Gamblers because you get to make your own opening.  You get to choose what your dog does.  That trial is its’ own story so I will just say that a lot happened and it truly allowed me to see that Listo was ready.  So I entered him in Jumpers.  To be honest I had not yet run a full outdoor course with Listo and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  He has shown a great deal of respect for the jumps so I was pretty confident about that.

I had a series of goals in mind for this trial but I tried to keep my expectations in check.  Here are the basics.  I expected to enter and leave the ring under control.  I wanted to have him set up nicely for the first jump and hold his sit/ wait while I established my lead out position.  He had to hold his wait until I released him.  Once released I hoped that he would listen and we would attempt the course.  Anything else would be a bonus.

Now for a little bit of history.  I have not run a course since I ran Apex at the Ontario West Regionals in 2018.  Apex went on to win that Championship and then I retired him.  I have had a bit of a break from running agility courses.  During that time away from the ring I started to question if I missed entering trials.  I enjoy training Listo and I enjoy teaching others to do agility and I began to wonder if maybe that was enough.  I was fooling myself.  I had forgotten what it was like to run a dog.  Running a dog in agility, when everything goes as planned, there are not many things that give you the kind of elation you get from the teamwork achieved.  For me the only thing that has given me that kind of satisfaction in dog training was sheep herding.  Working with a dogs’ natural instinct and the teamwork that it takes with human and animal to work with other animals is highly rewarding!

When I entered the ring with Listo I had no idea that my goals were about to be exceeded!  I left him in his start position and led out past the second jump, just before the first turn of the course.  When I released him, he started towards me and I began to signal his turn and then we were both running.  We were in sync right away!  The rest of the run was magical!  I can’t ever remember running a Jumpers course with a green dog with that degree of connection!  We continued our turns and I made sure I put myself exactly where I needed to be while keeping out of his way so that the bars would stay up.  As he came out of his last tunnel I checked his speed a little on the way to the next jump with an “easy” command and from there it was a straight line to the finish and I sent him forward away from me to the last jump.  Complete!  Our first successful Jumpers run!  There was a certain ease in the way we handled that course.  The two of us were in complete sync.  That in itself is a great feeling.  It is like a dance with a partner that knows your moves.  Running the course just added to the satisfaction.  Having the judge compliment us with a “nice run” comment and that we beat the course in under 20 seconds was icing on the cake!

What I realized from that moment was how much it means to me to run agility with my dog.  I love big competitions and I thrive on being competitive but I had forgotten how nice it is to enter a local trial and run with your dog! I am sure there will be times when things don’t go well and those will be learning experiences but for now it was nice for Listo to show me just what agility means to me.  And yes, Listo left the ring under control.  Goals met, goals exceeded!  I look forward to this journey that is just beginning!