The first week of August we packed our bags, loaded up the dogs, and headed north to attend the Rose City Dogs of Defense first ever French Ring seminar and trial. I arrived at the field Wednesday morning to discover it wasn’t set up yet, but true to the spirit of the FR player, everyone pitched in, put up fencing, blinds, painted lines and soon we were working dogs. Hector Dulac, our judge for the trial, also gave the seminar. There was a lot of hand waving and “huh” going on (he speaks limited English) but with a combination of basic Spanish, French and English we were able to converse with him and got some very good training in. I had taken my female Malinois Cali along, hoping to debut her in FRIII. However, Cali had surgery less than 1 month before the trial, and I was uncertain if she would be up to competing. So shortly before leaving CA, I took Cali’s daughter JaJa, who was my Sch dog, and started cross training her so I’d have a dog to compete with in the trial. The very first day there, Cali tore 2 pads on her front feet playing fetch, which cemented my decision not to trial her, and allowed me to focus my efforts on JaJa during the seminar. Unfortunately we just didn’t get enough training in, and the lack of preparation showed up during the trial. The seminar was mainly attended by the Rose City Dogs of Defense members, and a few out-of-towners like myself, which gave all of us plenty of time to work with Hector and the decoys. Hector has a nice style of training, very black and white with the dog. He balances compulsion and reward equally, and tailors the level of pressure to the individual dog. If a dog was corrected in positions for not taking a position, then the dog was equally rewarded on the next position that it did correctly. This philosophy held true in every exercise he taught. He also worked closely with the handlers, and under his guidance I turned what would have been 3-3.5 and 7-7.5 heeling exercises with JaJa into 4 and 8 point exercises. I saw other dogs and handlers cleaning up their heeling, reducing creeping on the positions, fixing their jumps, improving general handling skills, and of course cleaning up their outs. And true to the PNW, the weather was all over the place. We had overcast, heavy rain, sunny, and hot during the week. With most of the cool/wet weather reserved for the seminar days, and the hot weather reserved for the trial.
The trial started bright and early Saturday morning. With over 20 entries, Hector wasted no time. Each dog in white was done quickly and smoothly, and the “on deck” competitor was expected to be on deck and ready to enter the field as soon as the current competitor was finished. We ran through 11 Brevets and a couple of FRI’s before lunch, then took a quick lunch break and started back up. The remainder of the FRI’s and the FRII’s were finished before dusk. Hector proved to be a fair but firm judge, people earned the scores they received. Trial results were mixed, with some excellent scores and some disappointments. A number of Brevet teams were “young” dog/handler teams new to the sport. They should do much better next time out, now that they have a little experience under their belt. There were also a few teams, such as myself and JaJa, who had experienced handlers and nice dogs, but whose dogs just weren’t quite as well prepared as they might have been. Overall though this just wasn’t the day for the Brevets, with only 3 passing scores out of 10. And then the FRI’s started, and there were the teams like Chester Rivasplata and Zar. They walked on the field, and walked off with a 197.25 and made it look oh so easy. Their routine was almost flawless, as Chester walked around the field with a relaxed air and showed us all how it should look. Another notable performance was put in by Becky Antonson and Te-ka, a nice long haired GSD female with very clean bite work and obedience for a 193.93. Overall the FRI’s had more success than the Brevets, with 7 out of 10 passes. Another personal favorite for me at FRI was Francis and his Am Bulldog Gubbie. Gubbie turned in a nice performance, and showed that not only Malinois can play this sport. Later he helped with the upper level dog in white, eventually I expect to see this dog playing at FRII and FRIII. Another success story for the day was Vince Nelles and his Belgian Tervuren Bomber. Vince took HIT Brevet with Bomber, then went on to earn his first leg of the FRI. The next morning they went on to help with the dog in white for FRIII. But the real crowd pleaser and success story of the day was Dawn Spivey and her Staffordshire Bull Terrier Brooks. Brooks has a long story, having started training in Ring when she was younger. However when she was about 4 years old she disappeared from Dawn’s yard. 4 years later she showed up in the pound covered in scars and wounds. A worker recognized her, and she was reunited with Dawn. 1 year later she’s back on the FR field, trialing for her Brevet. And there isn’t anything cuter than a little brindle dog who probably weighs 35 lbs racing down the field to launch at the decoy. Because despite her small size, Brooks believes she’s an upper body dog. Or at least as upper body as a small dog can be, which generally means in the stomach area. Unfortunately Brooks had a few issues in the obedience and couldn’t pull in a passing score but IMO just having been reunited with Dawn and walking on that FR field is a success in itself. Next time they will earn the title. The FRII’s didn’t have as much luck as the FRI’s, running into some problems that were big losses on the point scale, and there were no passing scores. We ended the first day with the judge’s dinner and a presentation of awards to all the passing competitors.
The next day we started bright and early again, with a new trial. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be a successful day for any of the competitors. First the FRIII dog went, so they could trial before the heat of the day. Art and ZuZu turned in a nice performance, with fast entries in the bite work and happy obedience. ZuZu flattened Jose on the flee attack, but he turned right around and stole her basket in return. That plus general nickel and dime things meant a qualifying score wasn’t to be. A number of Brevet competitors tried again the second day, only to be plagued with either the same problems they had the first day, or a whole new set of issues. Dawn and Brooks fixed their issues in obedience, and had lost only 3 points when they started the very last exercise, the face attack. Unfortunately Brooks was just a little to excited and broke the line to soon, 0’ing the exercise. JaJa did the reverse heel and bit in the defense, but then we had a little issue with the out part. And it continued like that. The run of bad luck continued into the FRII’s. Chester and Zar turned in a nice performance but had problems in the blind search, making a passing score difficult. Overall RCDD put on a successful trial, with a very large turnout. I look forward to heading north again in the future to attend more trials and catch up with old friends.