My first trip to AKC nationals kind of snuck up on me. Seemed like it was so far in the future and we had so much time and then, BAM, there it was and we hadn’t really done anything to prepare for it. Quite frankly I was surprised that Bright didn’t break, or I didn’t get sick or injured – just seems like that’s the sort of thing that would happen at the last minute. But, no, we were perfectly healthy and nothing dramatic happened at all! Well, other than the freak snow storm that decided to arrive right as we were supposed to go over the mountains to get to Reno.

This did end up splitting our awesome traveling group, I was bummed Mary didn’t end up driving with us as that was a big reason I wanted to go. I understand not wanting to get caught in the snow though! Heidi and I had grand time on our roadtrip, with just a little snow action to make it interesting, but nothing too scary. VERY pretty though!


So it ended up we just had Bright with us, which was both good and bad. I think she loved being the center of attention and we had such a good time together. I do think that she draws a lot of her confidence from her inner ‘bitch-ness’ though, and without having another dog to boss around she was a bit lost and reverted to some behaviors from her younger days. I didn’t quite have the New and Improved Bright that I expected to over the weekend, which caused some issues. But Bright did amazingly well and just continued to adapt and blossom as the weekend went on.

There was a lot for her to get used to, turns out that Reno is not big on grass – and our hotel only had a gravel/rock area to potty. Bright had no concept of this and caused some issues when she basically leaked poo on my bed the first night. Ooops, poor girl! Thankfully it really was a crappy hotel, so at least I didn’t feel too bad about it. And Bright was mortified and after that started to adjust to pottying in these new and exciting places – by the end of the weekend she was pooing every single time I took her out to potty just because she was so proud of herself! Bright and basic bodily functions have been a challenge with her and traveling, but it’s a good measure of how comfortable she is. She quickly settled into normal potty and eating habits, which was nice to see.

The hotel was really big and filled with dog people – and other sorts. It was old and run down and required riding an elevator from the 12th floor – usually with lots of stops and other dogs and strange people getting off and on – it was a lot for her to adjust to! Once again, by the end of the weekend, she was an elevator pro. She was happy in the hotel room and very much enjoyed all the Bright loving and playing involved – especially as Heidi had bought her a very special dragon toy!

So, yeah, lots of new experiences just from the travel alone – and the event itself was another big new environment for her. Obviously a very loud and busy place, with tons of dogs and people, often crowded and going up and down stairs, weaving through crowds, and even the public – complete with children and rude dogs. Whew, it was a lot for little Brightness!

We had gotten a stall for the event, which I was very thankful for, she needed to get away. Unfortunately one of the dogs would bark and lunge when she came into the stall, so she really hated to be in there.  I think it would have been much worse with the crating in public though, so she was a trooper. I loved having the stall as it was all a lot for me to take too! Heidi decorated with flowers, a rug, table, chairs – it ended up being very cozy and private.

As for the agility, we had a rocky start. Friday we were in the ‘separate’ ring, not the big arena. We had our warm up run where we could use a toy and premier standard. Bright was definitely more nervous than she normally is at trials these days, but still seemed pretty happy. Our warm up run went pretty well, I rewarded for a nice stopped dogwalk, tested some weaves, had two attempts at the teeter (neither of which she stopped on, so, hey, good to know) and then a smooth flowing course on out. I felt she was a little nervous, but it seemed like she was having a good time.

Later that day we had premier and she was much more worried, unfortunately. Had a slow, creepy dogwalk and was much slower and cautious than she’s been in forever. It was like running Bright when she was 2. We ended up clean, but not at all what I know we could do, we ended up something like 14th place. The course was choppy though (I have it on good authority that was NOT the original design, and I liked the original plan much better!). Still, we had fun together, lots of play and rewards, I was hoping she would gain confidence as the weekend went on. It’s a very busy environment, and combined with all other new traveling issues she had come up against, a lot for her to take in at once.

Saturday we had standard and jumpers in the big arena, pretty simple, straightforward courses. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what dog I was going to have, which made it hard to plan how I wanted to run and what would be best for her. Standard went okay, but I found myself making these blind crosses way too early as she was no where near where I expected her to be. She still took the jumps, but she would have been well within her rights to pull off of things. Our timing was just really off, I was used to a much more speedy Bright and couldn’t seem to stop handling like she was still that dog. But her dogwalk was nicer and she ended up clean and like 12th place (out of like 270 dogs, so, not bad!).

Jumpers was a bit more interesting and I felt it was one we could do well, a lot of dogs were having off course tunnels, but I felt with the Bright I had been running that it would not be an issue for her. And then I totally just didn’t support a simple send jump in the opening and she came right to me. Ugh, I do that so often with AKC courses, it’s our number one NQ, “Didn’t support a jump”. Sometimes AKC courses seem so ‘obvious’ that I get really sloppy – and this was just crappy handling. So bummed, such a stupid mistake! So that put us out of finals, which wasn’t my goal, but I did want to run every course to the best of our ability and it was frustrating we didn’t really get to run that course.

So Sunday we just had Hybrid to go, another simple AKC course, including a tiny pinwheel, not a good ‘Bright’ course. She still wasn’t running like she can, but she was MUCH more confident by Sunday and put in respectable time, maybe like 10th place this time. I was happy with it, I felt much more in sync with her and that was a really nice way to wrap up our national experience. She even got some leftover steak to celebrate! By that point she really did seem to be relaxing and feeling confident in the environment and really happy to go run. She got all her contacts and didn’t knock one bar all weekend – what a good girlie!

We wanted to watch challengers and finals, but decided to go check out the wild horses around Reno while we waited for those to start in the afternoon/evening. Over half of the total amount of wild horses in the US live in Nevada, apparently – and you can go drive around their industrial area and there they are! We saw I think 3 or 4 different herds, and got out to see a little family. Who know Nevada had so many horses?

On our way back Karen called us, apparently Bright had gotten into the Challengers round! Which I was skeptical about, how does that even work, she wasn’t even near a placement and our jumpers run wasn’t just a little knocked bar but a whole messy NQ. But, there she was, somehow managing to get in – that Bright has skills I don’t even know about, apparently. No complaints, I love a bonus round and the challengers round is the MOST fun – and the course looked way more fun than the others too!

Challengers certainly was fun, loved to see everyone really pushing and actual handling challenges. I was excited to see what we could do, but realistic that we didn’t have the speed to beat most of the other dogs in this situation. We were going to do our best though! We had a great opening, nice dogwalk … and then Bright misses her weave entry! I was so shocked I actually stopped and fixed it – I think Bright was surprised to. Of all the things I thought might go wrong, that wasn’t even on my radar. Go figure. (Interesting fact, I’ve been to one other national, USDAA, with Fenwick – he got into the steeplechase finals – exact same thing, missed a weave entry) But the rest went according to plan, I would have loved to see how we compared without the weave fault, there was no reason to stop and fix it, I was just so surprised. We wouldn’t have won, but I would have liked to have a smooth run, as other than the weaves it felt really good.

So, yeah, ended up I screwed up our jumpers run, Bright messed up challengers – I think we’re even. I had no expectations or plans to make finals or do anything other than play with my wonderful girl – so challengers was a really fun bonus. It was our special agility trip and I loved stepping to the line with my incredibly special Brightypants, and I’m really glad we ended up going, it was a lot of fun.

Neither Bright or I are really ‘big event’ personalities, but Bright deserved to have a big special trip just about her. Agility really is her thing and she loves it these days. It was too bad we didn’t have more runs, as I think with more exposure she would have continued to settle in. I’m thrilled with what she did though, that girl tries so hard for me. I didn’t know how she would react to all the yelling/cheering with challengers – and once again, she surprised me by stepping up to the plate like a total pro.

It was really fun to watch some amazing dogs and handlers over the weekend, and especially fun to see handlers really handling aggressively and actually going for it. I just don’t see that much anywhere anymore, agility has become so ‘q-centric’, there is no benefit to going fast, it only matters if you qualify. Agility is WAY more fun when people and trying to do their best, and, wow, there was some very inspiring handling going on – that’s what agility SHOULD look like. Made my heart happy to see there are still people out there just laying it all down. Fun stuff.

The big highlight of the weekend was getting to see Bright’s puppy, DareDevil all grown up. I hadn’t seen him since he was 8 weeks old and it was so cool to see the dog he had turned into! He’s kind of an adorable nerd, it makes me laugh – he had the funniest expressions and loved to bounce around with toys in mouth. Such a border collie, but I could see a lot of Bright in him, even though they look nothing alike.

I figured he wouldn’t remember me, border collies, well, they live in the moment. And he didn’t seem to when we met and then we were letting him and Bright run around. He  thought she was cute, she thought the same – but for a different reason. Daredevil is a sweet soul and more than happy to let Bright make ugly faces at him and let her have the toys and to flirt in an adorable nerdy way – Bright loves boys she can boss around. They had fun together and then after we’d been hanging out for maybe 10 minutes he suddenly seems to notice I’m there and came and jumped all over me – it was really sweet! Apparently he’s like Bright, he doesn’t have much use for people he doesn’t know, so I’d like to think he did actually remember me.

DareDevil was entered in the 24C class, which is the latest ‘international hopeful’ class, so very competitive. And he did very well! I believe he won some classes and ended up in the Finals and looked fantastic. It was incredibly exciting to see him run in the finals, and him and Laura just nailed it – National Champions! There was much screaming from me and Heidi, to see that tiny puppy all grown up and winning nationals was just amazing. Him and Laura will go far, she’s done such a lovely job with him, and I just adore him. So happy for them, really exciting to actually be there and see them win in person.

Bright also got to meet her older brother Vette! It was funny, as soon as Bright met up with DareDevil and Vette she was instantly relaxed, which is not at all her normal reaction to meeting new dogs. She knew these were her people and the boys were so good at letting her have all the toys and attention – it was adorable.

I didn’t get any pictures, but it was also really cool to visit with Nim and Fawkes, both Haku littermates – hard to believe they’re going to be 9, so glad to see them doing well. Another very wonderful moment was when a younger sibling to London, Kristin and Spell, won the preferred 16 inch class. They had a lovely run and Spell moved and barked and smiled just like London – made my heart happy to see and so happy for them to win. London loved his agility, miss that boy.

So many more folks I would have liked to visit with, just didn’t get the time or end up running into them. But it was a nicely run event, everyone seemed to be happy and having a good time. I did find it amusing that the surface ended up being … compacted dirt. Thankfully that’s all we see around here too, so we’re used to it. Surfaces … it’s hard to get a nice consistent dirt surface. Loved all the electronic running orders so you could see where they were at any time, it seemed to all run very smoothly and I think I ended up pretty lucky in the running order lottery. The days didn’t seem too long, I didn’t mind getting started early in the morning, there was always something fun to watch and lots of cheering from everyone – a very supportive environment.

I had a good time, it was easy to relax and enjoy myself and I’m really glad I ended up going. I’m still not a big event kind of person, but if it were somewhere relatively close I would go again. I enjoyed it more than USDAA nationals, but the AKC courses were not fun or interesting. To be fair, I don’t expect AKC to have interesting courses – but that really would have made the event much more exciting.

As for Bright, this may or may not be her only big competition. I don’t think she would enjoy flying at all, so unless it’s something within driving distance, it’s not going to happen. I was happy to see how she adjusted and relaxed as the weekend went on, so another event isn’t out of the question – but it comes down to logistics. I’m so glad we had our special Bright event though!

Traveling with one dog is REALLY easy, I must say. It was fun to do a little exploring in Reno with Bright. Once again, she’s not really a city dog, but humored us and let us do a little photoshoot out by the casinos. Crazy weather over the weekend, it was snowing! Nothing stuck though, so it was just pretty. I’ll always take cold over hot, and really it was about perfect all weekend, especially inside the arena not too hot, not too cold – and you can’t complain about that!

Back at home my mother gamely stayed at home with everyone else while I was gone. I think they behaved themselves for the most part! My cats are more trouble than the dogs, I think. Both Haku and Navarre were very happy to see Bright again, and she was happy to see them! Those three are adorable together, I’m so happy they have each other.

I do feel inspired to train after nationals, mostly with Navarre. Bright, as always, is free to do whatever she wants to do. 😉 I do want to work with Navarre and our teamwork though, fix the driftiness, work on coming into me. He’s going to be THREE in April, not quite prime time yet – but not a clueless baby either. I do love agility!


One thought on “Nationals!

  1. You are one energetic lady. Congratulations are in order for a successful Reno trip. Your dogs are lucky to live with you; never a dull moment.


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