Thursday, July 19, 2012

Losing My Virginity

Okay before we get started no, I am not making a blog post about my sex life.  Although that would be pretty comical.  I haven't made a blog since June 2011.  A lot of things have happened since then.  So let's get to the point!

Homer turned 9 this April.  He is definitely a once in a lifetime dog.  I have done things with him I never thought of in my wildest dreams.  So I thought I would take the time to tell you his story.

April 27, 2003 Homer was born.  He was a black and white male Border Collie from a small farm breeder in Sandwich, IL.

I was only ten years old when I got Homer.  Homer was meant to be my dog.  Not just the family pet.  I knew very little about dogs and absolutely nothing about Border Collies.  I didn't know this at the time, but I was getting in slightly over my head.

Homer was the world's worst dog.  My grandmother used to call him "The Destroyer".  He would chew the carpets, learned how to open doors and in the mean time scratched them, got into the garbage...  You name it he did it.  He wasn't even fully potty trained until a year old.  The only thing Homer had going for him was his heart.  He was the world's sweetest dog.  I knew there was something inside of him that no one else saw.  I just had to find a way to get there.  This dog had potential.  What "potential" that was I was not sure.

[Embarrassing picture alert!]
Here is Homer at 1 year and me at 11.  For the record yes I let my mom cut my hair.  LOL!

When he was two years old we went to the local dog fair and saw agility demos.  My mother went and talked to the person and she was holding agility, flyball, and obedience classes.  I didn't have much interest in agility but I thought flyball looked very fun.  The instructor convinced me to give agility a try first and then give flyball a chance once I have more control.  I wasn't too happy with the idea but I am so glad I was able to try the amazing sport of agility.  In no time I got addicted.

Homer was my first agility dog.  I had no idea what I was doing like majority of the people who first start out.  Homer was oozing with drive that I had no idea what to do with.  He was the fastest dog in class and I had the slightest idea how to train and handle him.

Okay that's better.. sort of.
Homer at 3 and me at 13

Homer had his first trial November 2006.  It was a UKC trial (yes they still have those)  Homer did pretty good. He received a 1st and a 2nd.  His first AKC trial was in May of 2007.  I absolutely loved AKC.  It was competitive and the courses were fun.  I would spend many years in that venue.

I was still a horrific handler.  I ended up switching to a different instructor which helped.  I was sometimes able to get through a course but it wasn't pretty.  But hey Homer and I were having a blast.  I didn't plan on being the best.  I just wanted Homer to be his best.

In April 2008 Homer had his first USDAA trial.  I didn't do another USDAA trial for a few more years after that.  But I had no idea how much I would love this venue and all the people and experiences I would get there.

Years went by.  I was doing AKC and trying to work my way up to my MACH.  I had my MX and MXJ and I was getting warped in the AKC venue.  Stressing about getting the "almighty QQ." In Summer of 2010 I once again change instructors and he showed me the great venue of USDAA again.

I was incredibly shy.  I never looked anyone in the eyes and only talked if I was spoken too.  Everyone at USDAA was SO nice.  They would come and talk to me and everyone looked so stress free and looked like they were having such a good time.  In 2011 I worked hard and qualified for both AKC nationals and Cynosport.

Copyright Tamara Fanter

In October 2011 Homer and I had our first national event (well we went the UKC premier back in 2008)  I was so excited.  I had zero expectations though.  Homer was 8 at the time and was diagnosed with Hip Dyplasia.  He was in the 22" Championship class so the odds of us making finals were low.  I planned on this just being a super fun learning experience.  Little did I know what was actually in store for me.

Homer was unbelievable at Cynosport.  His only mistakes were a knocked bar in jumpers and popped his weave poles in Steeplechase semis.  Our team was only a few points away from making finals, placing 27th.  If they took the top 30 teams like they originally said we would had been in the finals.  

We had a regional bye for Steeplechase but we had to start in the quarter finals in Grand Prix.  Okay get through round 1 and push in round 2.  Got it.  I was honestly okay with being in the quarters.  I thought to myself, "Hey, it's one more run we get to have!"  Round one was a fairly simple course but it definitely had its challenges.  He got through round 1.  It was pretty wide but we made it through.

Round 2 was a very hard course.  Not many dogs were getting through it.  They allowed 22 dogs in the 22" class to go into the finals.  By the time I ran only 20 or something had actually qualified.  In that moment I knew we had a chance.  I have never been so nervous for a run.  I definitely didn't handle they way I should have.  But unlike a lot of people we made it through.  We were sitting in 8th place when we were done if I remember correctly.  Group A was still to go and that was the group with the World Team tryout dogs.  I crossed my fingers and watched closely.

Homer and me waiting patiently after Grand Prix semi finals.

Homer ended up placing 20th.  We made Grand Prix FINALS!!!  And like in the quarter finals, I was mostly happy we were able to have one more run at Cynosport.  The course looked really nice.  Homer was the 3rd dog to run in the finals.  He ran really good!  I was so happy with his run.  We ended up qualifying and placing 10th.  He exceeded way past my expectations.

Homer with judge Peggy Hammond after Grand Prix finals

In February of 2012  Homer had his first trial back in a month since he had to have surgery on his foot from a tumor that wasn't going away.  Luckily there was nothing in the tumor but I was glad to get it off.  Homer's trial was a Boone County Dog Sports USDAA trial in New Berlin, Wisconsin.  I was really excited for that show.  My favorite judge was judging and Homer only needed two Standard Q's and a Gamblers Q for his ADCH.

The first day Homer got a Standard Q but not a Gamble Q.  On Sunday he needed one Gamble and one Standard.  The Gamblers course definitely looked doable.  He made it through Gamblers with no problem.  Okay just needed one more Standard now.  The Standard course didn't look difficult but everyone was struggling on it.  Homer was towards the end of 22" and only two dog had qualified up to that point in all heights.  As we were on the startline the timers broke.  I waited on the startline for what seemed like hours while they tried to fix it. Believe it or not I actually think that calmed my nerves.  Homer and I had a perfect run.  ADCH Homer :)

ADCH Homer with judge Frank Holik

In the mean time Homer and I were still doing AKC.  He received his 19th QQ at Hounds for the Holiday in December.  I was concentrating on USDAA so my next AKC trial wasn't until March.  March 23-25 we had our first AKC trial of the year.  The first day he knocked a bar in the first run and was clean in the second run. The next day he went clean in JWW.  Take a breath, time for Standard.  I've been working for my MACH for years.  I did AKC for a very long time (looking back longer then I should have. LOL)

Somehow I wasn't nervous for my second run.  I was talking to Tim about unimportant things right before my run.  In the middle of the run I actually had to remind myself this was an important run as I was running so relaxed. We made it through.  MACH Homer :)

MACH Homer with judge Rachel Long

The following week Homer and I traveled to Reno, NV to play at AKC national agility championship.  Although Homer didn't make finals we had a great time and I learned a lot of things that weekend.  I was happy to spend it with my best friend.

Homer and Pressure touring San Francisco before AKC nationals

Well, this is an incredibly long blog.  For those who actually read the whole thing thanks for reading part of Homer's story.  He really is a once in a life time dog.  He was my first dog, my first Border Collie, my first agility dog, my first dog to go to nationals with, my first dog to make finals, my first dog to qualify in the finals, my first dog to get an ADCH, my first dog to get a MACH, and my first dog to go to AKC nationals.  I have accomplished a lot of things with him.  I'm blessed to be able to have him in my life.  Now we are ready to slowly end our career in USDAA in performance.  Looking forward to Cynosport this year and getting his PDCH.