Independence Day … and Agility

For the first time ever, Barney and I went to College Station for a two-day agility trial over the July 4th weekend. I had really looked forward to this trip because I enjoy getting out of town and staying in a hotel for a night or two and having a short drive to the agility field.

You would think if I was looking forward to the trip, I might have done a bit of planning. You would think. But, you would be incorrect.

I am not a planner by nature. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. That was never more evident than on this trip.

Getting There

I had a busy week prior to leaving. I had chemo (immunotherapy) on Monday. Class on Tuesday and Wednesday. A movie on Thursday. Brunch with friends (both also fighting lung cancer) on Friday before heading out for College Station.

I packed up most of my stuff on Thursday afternoon after the movie and lunch out with Anna. I didn’t do much planning – just started throwing stuff into the bag. It doesn’t take a lot for agility – some socks, underwear, shorts, and t-shirts. No big deal. Not much thought has to go into it. Of course, since I’m taking Barney along, we do have to remember food, bowls, leashes, crate, chair, etc., but really, packing didn’t take a lot of thought.

I finished packing on Friday morning after I had my shower and got my  makeup on. Loaded the crate, chair, camera, and my clothes bag into the car before going to meet my friends for brunch so that all I had to do was put together my cooler and grab Barney and my map.

Naturally, I stayed longer at brunch than I should have. I wanted to leave town at around 1 (if not earlier). I got back home from brunch at about 1. So, I was in a real rush to get the rest of my packing done and get out on the road.

Barney and I were all packed up and on the road by 1:30 or so. I called my mom so that I could catch up with what was going on with her while I drove. We talked for an hour or so when I realized that I really had not even read the directions I had printed on how to get to College Station. I had spent several minutes agonizing over the best way to get to the restaurant in Dallas where we were having brunch, but had not even read the directions to a town three hours away where I had not been in over 30 years. Hello????? Anyone home in that brain of yours, Donna????

Somewhere in my mind, I had decided erroneously that there would be an exit to Bryan/College Station off of Interstate 45 and I would just follow the road signs. Sounds plausible, right? After all, College Station is home to Texas A&M, a large, popular university where lots of kids from Dallas choose to go.


Fortunately, I had not gone so far on I45 that I had to turn around, but if I had not gotten off of the phone and looked at my directions, I might have ended up in Houston instead of College Station. I learned as I drove that not only was there no exit off of I45 for Bryan/College Station, once I left the Interstate, I was going to be on multiple two-lane highways.

That’s okay, I thought. I will just use my Google maps to direct me. Wrong. Google Maps didn’t want to find me or direct me. Uuuuggggghhhh! Fortunately, I had printed the directions, along with maps, so I was not completely without resources to guide me. (Naturally, I do not have a paper map.)

It was quite an experience, but I made it fine into College Station. I was shaking my head at myself much of the time. I am still amazed that I failed to prepare for the drive there. What was I thinking? Obviously, I was thinking it was a much easier drive than it proved to be. (Actually, the way we came back home WAS pretty easy, but the backroads way Google had me go was NOT easy!)

The Trial


I was so excited to go trial at the A&M horse arena. I mean the AIR-CONDITIONED A&M horse arena. Anyone who lives in Texas knows the importance of air conditioning in July! I had heard I might even need a jacket there!!

Well, it wasn’t cold enough for a jacket, but it was a very pleasant trialing experience. Because there was a big price break if you signed up for all of the runs offered, I signed Barney up for 12 runs – six on Saturday, six on Sunday. I drove down on Friday, but originally planned to come home on Sunday after the trial. Thank God, I changed my mind and booked a room for Sunday night as well.

As it turns out, there were 965 runs booked for the weekend. That is a lot of runs. Especially since many of them were novice runs. It was very exciting to see so many dogs in novice. It means our sport and our venue will have people coming up to continue it. On the flip side, novice handlers and/or dogs tend to take a lot longer in the ring.

So, we arrived at the arena at about 7:15 AM on Saturday and we didn’t leave the arena until around 7:30 PM that evening. We had fun, but it was stressful. The arena is air-conditioned, but it is not an easy place to be with a dog that tends to be aggressive toward other dogs (which is how Barney is, unfortunately).

There were many places where people and dogs congregated that were difficult to navigate with Barney. Also, there were many novice people there who haven’t yet learned the importance of keeping their dogs close to them.

There was a lot of noise in the arena. Dogs barking, people talking and enjoying themselves, just a lot of noise. My hearing is not very good – I can hear sounds, but I can’t make out what is being said, especially when there is so much background noise. It is a bit nerve-wracking for me.

Barney had six runs on Saturday: Elite Weavers, Open Chances, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, Novice Hoopers. We earned three qualifying scores and three non-qualifying scores. We only got a few of his Saturday runs on video.

A recap of the runs (as best I remember two days later!)


  1. Weavers: oh my! This was our worst run of the weekend. I am not usually nervous when I run, but for some reason, I was a little nervous before we started this one. I don’t know if that’s what the problem was or if Barney was just so excited to be at a trial, or what, but we had a bunch of errors on this run. Most were my fault – I did a poor job of telling him what to do. A few were his fault – like not staying in the weaves. We did have a video of this disaster!
  2. Chances: We have been trying to earn a qualifying score (Q) in open Chances for at least a year. To no avail. Finally, FINALLY, we earned a Q on this run. Admittedly, it was not a very difficult course, but a Q is a Q is a Q! I was so excited! Fortunately, this run was also videoed!
  3. Regular 1 and 2: Neither of these runs were videoed. Barney did a beautiful job in both runs. He earned a Q in Regular 1 and did not earn a Q in Regular 2 because his handler (me) momentarily forgot the course. I sent him over an off-course jump before remembering the flow of the course. HE did a wonderful job and did exactly what I asked him to do.
  4. Hoopers: This is not a game we play very often. In fact, this was only our second time to run a Hoopers course. This one didn’t require any thinking. You just had to guide your dog through a bunch of hoops. The first time we played, several years ago, it was Strategic Hoopers, which requires a lot of planning and thinking. Anyway, Barney did a very nice job in this game.
  5. Jumpers: This was the last game of the day. I was so exhausted I could just barely lift my aching feet. Barney had a perfect run, but apparently we were too slow because he did not earn a Q because we had a time fault. Others also got time faults they didn’t understand or anticipate. We don’t know if the standard course time was incorrect or if we were really that slow at the end of the day.
I was so glad to go home! We stopped and got a pizza that we took back to the room. I rejuvenated a bit after eating, so Barney and I went and walked with Linda and Louie and Diane and her two dogs, Izzy and Sampson. We sat out on a main street and watched what fireworks we could see that were being shot off at A&M. It was a great time to train Barney not to worry about lots of cars zooming by!


I was so tired on Sunday morning that I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to go back to trial. I was not in a great mood when we got there and it got worse before it got better. The incessant barking, the woman sitting next to us who did nothing but complain and talk negatively about other people, the tension at the arena … it was all more than my tired mind could process kindly.
We moved our crates away from the fussy lady and the day (and my attitude) improved appreciably. Thank goodness. I didn’t even like myself. Others sure didn’t want to be around me.
On Sunday, we ran Open Chances, Open Touch N Go, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, and Elite Tunnelers. Like on Saturday, we split the day with three qualifying runs and three non-qualifying runs.
A recap of our runs:
  1. Chances: I had so hoped we might earn another qualifying score in open Chances on Sunday, but it was not to be. It was a much more difficult course for us as Barney still doesn’t do a great job of working away from me. Darn it!
  2. Touch N Go: We need one more Q in Open Touch N Go to earn our title. We have been in Open Touch N Go for way too long. This was a fun and easy course (although it was more difficult than I imagined it would be, for Barney and me and for lots of other handlers, too). I could taste that Q! But, I directed Barney poorly which caused him to take a jump or hoop the wrong direction. However, much of his run was very pretty and we handled the areas that gave most dogs/handlers problems.
  3. Regular 1 and 2: We didn’t earn a Q for Regular 1. The fact that I have no start-line stay in trials (but I do in class), caused us an issue in Regular 1. I wasn’t able to direct him as well as I needed to because of where I had to begin our run. He had a pretty nice run other than an off-course early on … and popping out of the weaves near the end.It was funny. Someone was setting up the tunnelers course in the ring behind us. Just as Barney started the weaves, the young man popped a tunnel, trying to straighten it, I think. The noise startled Barney. He stopped. Turned and looked. And popped out of the weaves. I started him over. He got to about the same spot in the weaves and the tunnel behind  us was popped again! Barney stopped, looked, but this time he didn’t leave the weaves. I finally got his attention back on the course and we finished. I was not upset because we had already had some faults. Nevertheless, the judge apologized and offered us a chance to run again and the young man who was popping the tunnels came to apologize as well. I appreciated both apologies, but Barney is in elite Regular. He should be able to tune out distractions like popping tunnels.

    I finally broke my curse in Regular 2. I had quit running two regular courses back to back because I tend to get confused. Regular 2 is usually an exact flipped course of Regular 1. It is easy for me to forget what course I’m running and start running the previous course. This time, we ran Regular 2 quickly and accurately.

    Yea! Finally a first and Q. I kept trying to get a first place because the club hosting this trial had cute toys that I wanted Barney to win for Cotton. I chose a little husky dog that Cotton loved for about 5 minutes after I gave it to her this afternoon. She has already destuffed it. I was sad to see that.

  4. Jumpers: Barney had a nice run in jumpers. I was hoping maybe we would come in first here, but an Australian shepherd beat us by tenths of a second.
  5. Tunnelers: Again, we had a nice run with over 5 yards per second, but we came in second again. No more toys for Cotton 🙁
The courses this weekend were a lot of fun. Looking back, I had more fun than I felt like I was having while it was happening. The very, very long days were quite difficult for me. I think I am not healthy enough, no matter how much I want to be, for such long days. I hate that. A lot.

Coming Home

Thank goodness, Diane knew a better way to come home than the way I traveled to get there. Linda and Louie rode home with Barney and me. It was nice to have company. We followed Diane to I45, which was also nice! I didn’t have to worry about whether I was on the right route or not like I did when I was on my way there.
It is good to be home … at least for awhile!


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