Crufts IR Rally Part 2
Crufts, here we come!
My first training day was one of the coldest in the winter – the barn we were in should have been heated by enormous gas heaters, but the liquid gas had frozen, so no heat! It certainly encouraged us to keep on the move.
So I was really looking forward to the next, which was to be held in the Guide Dog training centre in Forfar, about three hours’ drive from Glencoe. Sarah and I planned to leave at 6.30am, allowing plenty of time for a ten o’ clock start. The snow had gone, although the rain had been torrential, so we had no worries about getting over the moor. At 6.15 am we discovered that the road over Rannoch moor was blocked in both directions by a jack-knifed lorry.
At 6.45am we set off, not east but south to Connel and drove through a downpour on a road which was more like a river, arriving at Tyndrum at 8.15am to find six inches of snow. However, a quick coffee to recover, and a check with other travellers in the café to confirm that the snow only reached Crianlarich, and off we went, finally making Forfar about 11.15am in dry, almost sunny conditions. It was quite difficult to explain our lateness!
The training area was fantastic – big, airy, and warm. Another busy session wakened Rowan up, and he began to look as if he belonged with the rest of the team. Coming home, we just raced the next snow over the moor. A few flakes fell at the highest stretch, but the road was open, so perhaps training days weren’t altogether jinxed.
And then the last one had to be cancelled altogether because of “The Beast from the East”, and for a while I even wondered if we would actually get to Birmingham at all. But we did, and I won’t give a mile-by-mile account of the journey which was completely uneventful.
Thursday, 8th March, 6.15am and the NEC Birmingham. Being early paid off, as we got parked a mere eleven minutes’ walk from Hall 5, according to the sign post on the car park. By 8.20am all the team were at the benches and ready for the opening parade. It was actually happening!
“I would walk five hundred miles” was a great choice of music for the Scottish team – it really got the spectators going, and after that things seemed to go remarkably fast.
The Scottish competitors were second to go in each class, and in each of the first four classes our handler was placed, so by lunch time we were doing pretty well.
The reserves expected a chance to do the Level 1 round during the lunch break. However, the judge decided that the Level 4 course should stay in place, so our round was quite a challenge. Apart from the send-away jump, which was nothing like anything Rowan had ever done, he made a really good stab at it, off the lead and all. (He did step over the jump, but still at heel.) I was just so thankful that he didn’t take off out of the ring! It was all over so quickly, and yet it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Like agility, when you’re in the ring there is really just you and your dog, nothing else matters, and it’s a very intense experience.
After lunch and Levels 5 and 6, we all paraded in again and saw the handlers who had been placed get their rosettes. Then the team results were announced, and to our delight Scotland came third. (O.K. first would have been better, but there’s always next year.)
I’ve tried to give an idea of the amount of time and effort the team put in to get this result, but it’s harder to convey the sense of excitement and mutual support there was around our benches. Hall 5 was also the ring for Working and Pastoral dogs that day, so we saw some beautiful dogs going past, and Sarah was able to get over to catch up with Jackie, and report back to us that her Myley had made the judge’s final cut. Although in fact we didn’t see much of Crufts, there was still a sense of being part of a huge whole, and I came home truly feeling that we had lived the dream.
The final word must be of thanks to everyone involved: Lochaber and District Canine Society, where it all started for us; Elaine, the Team Manager, Sarah and Susie, our Assistant Managers, and Liz, without whom Rowan and I would never have been there at all.