I was so happy after our last practice, it was the first time all summer that we executed everything we attempted perfectly and I felt like we were in the best shape possible for the test.
Later that night I got a phone call with devastating news about a family member and I quickly made a plane reservation on the first flight possible. I had no idea what the future would hold and was slapped once again with the realization that life can change in an instant and we have no control when it does.
I returned home at the end of the week, forever changed and feeling completely out of it. The last thing on my mind was going up to the water test, but then when I thought about it, that was something that made me really happy so I decided to go and I’m so glad I did. When Winn and I are working together I don’t think about anything else and that is exactly what I needed so I packed the car and headed up there and was able to push all of my other emotions out of my mind.
It was such a relief to be somewhere so familiar. Our training partners were there along with several other people who I had gotten to know over the summer. The mood was one of excitement and it was great to be a part of it. This time was different for me because we got to be part of the “main camp” since Winn had finished her heat which also meant that I got to watch and cheer on all of the other entrants.This was a two-day test, we had entered both days and had two chances to make it happen. Saturday morning was incredibly foggy and we were delayed getting started but then it turned out to be a beautiful weekend. Each day was considered its own test but I’ll recap each exercise including both days.
On both days we had several dogs ahead of us before it would be our turn so I took Winn further down the beach to practice heeling and fetching to get her worked up and ready to go. We got a treat bag when we checked in that had dried chicken hearts in it and Winn thought that was about the best thing she had ever had in her life. By the time our number was called, I had her full attention and I was feeling pretty good about our chances for success.
Basic Control has always been something that we’ve done well but on the first day she started veering away from me and I had to alter my path to keep her in the required 4 foot radius. While doing that, I tripped over one of the cones and was sure that we didn’t pass. To my surprise, when I asked the judge she said we passed, but on Sunday we performed it perfectly which made me feel much better.
The Single Retrieve (bumper throw) and Drop Retrieve (life jacket off of the boat) didn’t give us any trouble either day, although Winn did stop for a drink on the first day on her way to her life jacket which almost caused her to time out. She finally got swimming with 5 seconds to spare and my heart going double time.On Saturday, Winn surprised me with Take A Line. She grabbed it from my hand and then turned and started to march out of the ring with it. Fortunately, I was able to grab her and steer her back to the water, but that was a fail. Our training partners offered to stay late with us and put a long line on her to practice it at the end of the day and I took them up on their offer. They wanted to stay and practice jumping off of the boat with their boy so once everybody was packing up and leaving for the day, the three of us were back in the water and I’m so glad we stayed. Winn tried to do the same thing two more times but with a gentle tug from the line she got right in the water and then seemed to forget about trying to leave the beach. The next 3 attempts went exactly as they should. On Sunday, her Take A Line was perfect and she passed that exercise!Tow A Boat was next and this was the moment we had been training for. I knew she could do it, I just wasn’t sure that she would do it. On Saturday she came close but the boat drifted in and she dropped the bumper right on the edge of the water. When I tried to get her to pick her bumper back up she just stared at me like I was asking too much. She had worked so hard and when she got the boat up on shore she turned to go say hello to the steward that was in the front of the boat. On Sunday, she took her time going out to the boat. Sometimes she stops to eat seaweed or look at a dead bug, whatever it was I think she forgot what she was doing and she started to come back to shore. I don’t usually use a firm voice with her but I wasn’t messing around when I pointed my arm to the boat and said “Winn, go out” and fortunately she turned back around and went to the boat. She did the most beautiful pull all the way in but at the last second she let the boat drift in and she dropped the bumper on the grass and once again looked at me like “I did it, are we done now?”. She just stared at me when I tried to get her to pick her bumper up again and then our time was up and the judge blew the whistle. It was the best she had ever done in a test and that was good enough for me. We had come so far, it wasn’t a pass in the judges eyes, but it was to me.Swim With Handler was our big finish both days. We didn’t get a new Water Dog title this year but we came as close as I could have hoped for. Next year we will reinforce everything we learned this summer and train for the senior test as well. I loved being in the water with Winn and she continues to amaze me with her abilities.
This winter we will go back to rally and obedience and I’d like to introduce her to draft work. That’s the next thing for us to figure out together and I’ve got a new book to read!