We nearly didn’t make it to the Saturday Tweedbank agility show at all. I had a terrible hangover after a work do, we were over two hours late, and I missed walking three courses. So I had to work them out by watching, walking round the ring to try to figure out the layout, and sketching out my handling plan in my little notebook. Not ideal.
We were eliminated in the combined agility class & then … maybe I was beyond caring. Maybe I had no expectations. We went clear in what was (for us) a challenging agility course, but our run felt really slow. So slow that I didn’t even bother going up to the prize giving to see if we’d got anything. And then there were our names on the tannoy in first place … we’d won grade 1. Unbelievable!
So, after 2.5 years and 4 previous 2nd places in agility classes, we got the coveted 1st place that wins us into grade 2.
Just to explain to non-UK or non-agility people, there are three ways to progress to a higher grade in UK Kennel Club agility. 1) win a 1st place with a clear round in an agility class, 2) win 3x 1st places with clear rounds in jumping classes (i.e. no contact obstacles) or 3) gain 75 points with clear rounds, of which a percentage must be gained in agility classes. All those rosettes have been quietly adding up, and we could have been in grade 2 on points after our first season, and had the next 75 points a few months ago. But we hung on. We were encouraged to try to win out of grade 1, as you only ever do it once. Once you’re out of grade 1 – and in due course, grade 2 – you don’t go back. Grade 3 is the default starting grade for all your future agility dogs. So your first 1st place in grade 1 is special.
I was starting to feel very special, and thinking we’d never win out – we were always the bridesmaids & never the bride, with 4x 2nd places where we missed the 1st by half or even a few tenths of a second. I was starting to wonder whether we should go up on points. But now it’s safely in the bag, it IS great that Jake is the dog to win me out of grade 1.
As it is, this win also took us well over the 200 point threshold required for Jake’s bronze agility warrant, but more of that another time.
And then we came first in the graded jumping course as well. You wait years for a first place and then two come along at once.
Sunday we were less slick – I sent Jake over the wrong jump & got us eliminated in the graded agility (though I was pleased with how we handled a twisty-turny course). A clear run in a twisty-turny combined jumping class, though we’re not fast enough to place in a class of 200 dogs. And a 5th place in the grade 1 jumping class that day: Jake was tired & really just wanted to snooze in the sun in his new cooling coat – it’s not often he has to be coaxed to start his run.