AJ's Rally Excellent journey - January to September 2023


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AJ and I had a wild ride with his Excellent journey. He got his first two legs in January with scores in the 80s. I was in bad shape. Three years ago I was diagnosed with COPD, but I really had double walking pneumonia. It was at it's worst in January. I was so sick, I got lost on the course. I caught myself and we finished with two scores in the 80s.

I was then hospitalized with lung inflammation and other nasty stuff. I came out of the hospital pumped on steroids and AJ got two 100s and a title. I asked my wife if she was serious about going back to Ohio, and she was. AJ needed one 94 to get invited to the Rally Naitonals again, so I went for them the first week of August. Those trials were totally my bad. Both runs had signs that I didn't know with certainty, so I guessed. Naturally, I guessed wrong. We got two high 80s. I then realized I had to do more than study the signs and watch YouTube videos - I had to develop muscle memory.

I never took Rally seriously. It was something we did in between Obedience titles, and a title is a title even if you get a 70 each run. But now I decided I better get my act together if we want to go to Ohio. The Nationals are held near Columbus and one of my oldest friends lives there. We had a great time in June and my wife said she wants to go again next year. I checked the calendar and saw there were six trials that were relatively convenient to enter before the cutoff date of November 30.

For a month I was doing ballet in the driveway every day practicing the signs. Rally is a weird sport - it's easy to Q, it's hard to NQ and it's hard to get a high score. You lose points if not performed perfectly. For instance, if the exercise states you call the dog to heel and move forward when the dog clears your path, you lose points if you call the dog to heel and sit the dog in Finish position before moving forward (and vice versa). I got to be pretty good and by the time we trialed last weekend, I was confident I could do it.

The first trial we got a 97 2nd place. That was all my fault. I left sign 3 and saw sign 5 right in front of me. I abruptly halted dead in my tracks and looked for 4. It's a good thing I stopped because I almost passed sign 4 on the wrong side which would have been an NQ. After the run the judge said I stopped just in time and she dinged me 3 points for a Redo. I don't go fast in the course because the slowest 100 beats the fastest 99. Even going slowly and doing the ten minute walkthrough, I still forgot where a sign was.

The second trial we got a 99 1st place. We did everything right, but by then it was very hot. The judge said AJ was out of position once, so he took off a point. He said he was lenient because of the heat and realized the dogs weren't working at their best. He said there were other times AJ was borderline oop and he didn't ding dogs that were borderline because of the heat.

I was entered both trials the following day. It was hot and I didn't want to put AJ in the ring again after he already got his National qualification, so I came and was a steward. There was a different judge who I knew for years, so I stewarded for her. A funny incident happened. After the second class, I got a donut hole from the secretary table and the judge saw me eating it. She asked where I got it, so I went and brought the box for her because she was in the ring during the walk through. She said she normally would take one, but she can't eat in the ring because the other judge would take issue with her. I knew the other judge and couldn't believe he'd bust her chops, and said so. She replied she busted his chops earlier in the day and she doesn't want him to get even with her.

So AJ earned an invitation to the Nationals next July in Excellent class. He needed three scores and has four - 100, 100, 97 and 99. I hate chasing a Q, but I found out it's even worse chasing a score!

A benefit I never thought of before is that Rally substantially cleaned up our heeling. I hate heeling because it's so boring. Rally made it interesting because you heel between exercises and it's fun to do the exercises which makes the heeling fun.

AJ - 99 and 97 at Tuxedo Park 9-8-23.jpg
Congratulations! Rally is fun and surprisingly difficult in its own ways. Rip and I on a whim took a rally advanced/excellent class to support a friend who was teaching it. I mostly signed her up to get her head ready for our Novice obedience trial 4 weeks into the class. It helped SO much. I didn't plan to push past advanced but I may just try for her RE in the future now and who knows from there! So glad to hear you are discovering some similar results from Rally! Good luck at Nationals next year!
Congratulations! I know you work really hard with this stuff and I've never been good at rally, even if the dog knows what to do.

I don't go fast in the course because the slowest 100 beats the fastest 99.
That's exactly what all of my friends with the highest scores and titles say too.