Monday, May 25, 2009

MACH Miller

Wow, so much has happened this weekend that I don't think my feet have hit the floor! We had the Truine show in Lawrence this weekend, which is kind of our home turf. Went into the weekend needing two QQS for my MACH. Had been in this position the past three shows and hadn't been successful yet. Started out the weekend with a great day on friday. Got QQ number 19 which was also my 6th QQ I needed for AKC nationals. I was pretty relieved because I had gone three shows without a QQ and I was beginning to get frustrated. It really helped that my trainer was also there to keep my head screwed on straight. It is so funny, she can say things that totally calm me down and really put things into perspective. Saturday had a very technical first standard course, but Miller got through it no problem. Got in jumpers and he popped the poles but boy was I nervous. I am sure I was holding my breath or micro managing the poles and he felt pressured. Everyone was hugging me telling me not to worry but I wasn't because I knew we could do it eventually.

Day three came with standard being first and yet another very technical course. Miller qualified and the pressure was on. I think I was more nervous the day before because I thought the jumpers course was easier on saturday. Sunday's jumpers course had alot of front crosses with the weave poles being near the end of the course. If my timing is off on my crosses, he brings bars down so I knew I had to be very smooth and very quick. I had also asked my husband to come to the show and bring our other aussie just in case we were to get our MACH that day. I was hoping he was going to be our good luck charm. I went into the ring and took a big deep breath and took off. I think this was probably one of my best runs in my life! Very smooth, very flowing and very fast for a ten year old dog. I think I stopped breathing in the poles but made sure i was laterally away from him so I didn't crowd him. Two jumps and I was done and the crowd went wild! They had put the bar in the ring and i ran over and got it and went out to shake the judges hand. Well, I guess Miller thought I was going to hit him with the bar and he was very confused as to why we were still in the ring, so I had to cut my victory lap short to leash him up. With AKC's new rules about dogs being off leash, I was terrified that I would loose my Q if he left the ring. Someone yelled, "run around", so i ran in a tight circle and got out of there! Of course all of my friends were there giving me hugs and lots of them were crying. You know it is so funny, you think, "oh when i get my MACH, I am going to this and this" but I was just so in shock that I couldn't do anything! Someone grabbed miller and took him to get cookies and I finally got to hug my husband tony who I think was also in shock! I cannot believe we finally got to this point! I have been dreaming about this day for so long and am still not sure if I am awake yet or not!

My friends all had presents for me which was all so sweet! My All Star agility family had bought me an engraved picture frame with MACH Miller on it and then had put in inscription on the back "Congratulations from your All Star Agility Family. May you always RLH (RUN LIKE HELL). Some of the other ladies had a magnet made up for me that is purple and says MACH Miller. Joc gave me a new leash and I got a new shirt too. WOW, agility friends are the best. They are there to cheer you on, cheer you up, and hug you when you need it. They are also there to celebrate with you and commiserate with you. I can't believe after all of these years and all of the problems we have had with the dang dog walk that we finally did it. It makes all of those shows and all of the friends we have made so sweet!

Someone asked me, "so what now?" to which I replied "on to MACH 2". We still need points for AKC nationals (less than 100) and one more PNS Q for USDAA nationals. I am going to keep running him till he tells me he is done. He still pulls me to the ring when it is time and he still seems to love it. I will keep him in great shape and keep him going for as long as he wants to do it. Miller has been such a unique dog and has such a unique past.

Miller was a rescue, one that I didn't think I needed. I had a friend who worked at the local kill shelter and she called me to let me know that they had gotten a red aussie in. I currently had a red aussie, Strawberry, that I did agility with and I was a grad student, so I really couldn't afford another dog. Terri was insistent that I come and look at "bear" as they were calling him. I even made one of my fellow grad students go with me and told her under no circumstances was I to leave with this dog. Well, I took one look at this poor scraggly dog and realized I couldn't leave without him. Even though he was cowering under my friend's chair in the visitation room, I could see in his eyes that he needed me. I took him home the next day with permission from my husband, who was then just a boyfriend. He was going to move in with me from TN to help split costs and to be in KS instead of TN. I figured he would say no because he had a dog of his own and I had told him that we didn't need two dogs so he was giving his golden up to his brother and parents.

The first few days of having miller was very trying. He wouldn't eat and wouldn't come out of his crate. I had to drag him out every morning to get him to go potty. I tried every delicious food I could possibly think of to get him to eat. He was skin and bones, so skinny that the vet wouldn't even neuter him. I was teaching at the kennel club so I took him to classes with me and my kennel club friends helped me groom the mats out of him and tried to help socialize him. Terri thought he was around 2 but we weren't really sure. I also tried to start him in agility once he put on some weight and was neutered, but he absolutely hated it. He would do one jump and go and hide or run into the tunnel and not come out. I had really given up on him as far as agility because he seemed to not like it all. I had decided that I did want to continue in agility so we needed a dog that liked it so we found an aussie puppy from a great breeder in MO. About the time we started taking Harley to agility classes, Miller all the sudden decided that he wanted to do agility too. Tony took harley into the beginning class and I took Miller.

Miller was a very funny dog because he had alot of space issues. He didn't want anyone touching him and making him do anything, and at that time, two on two off with target training was all the rage so that was how we were training him. The problem was, at that time, if they missed the contact, you had to pick them up and put them back on, something he absolutely hated. He had alot of problems with the aframe because he saw no reason to stop. It was out of frustation that we examined his aframe and said "wow, he has natural running aframe!" His dog walk was another story. We battled constantly on it because he did not have a natural running dog walk! Teeter was easier for whatever reason but for years we did battle on the dog walk contact. I finally started taking him off if his dog walk contact was not perfect and I really think that is why he has such a great dog walk contact now. Wish I had done it sooner though and maybe this MACH journey could have been a little shorter! Miller also liked to bark on the course which is very un-nerving. We at first wanted him to run silently, but we found that reprimanding him for barking shut him down. So we decided that as long as he was running forward and going, he could bark, but if he stopped to bark, he had to stop and not get to play anymore. He is such a character now and is famous for barking and running! He is one of the most handler focused dogs I have ever met and loves to run in snooker because of the handler focus. I love him and hope he lives forever, but know that he won't. He has been an awesome agility dog and will continue to be for a few more years I hope. He has taken me to AKC nationals and USDAA nationals and has helped me meet some of the best friends in the world. Strawberry and my friend Barb got me into this mess but he has been my best agility partner for 5 years now and will continue to be until he can't run anymore. Love you MACH Miller!