poniedziałek, 30 lipca 2018

Best EO ever ;)

European Open 2018 in Austria, Magna Racino, was definetely one of the coolest ever and I couldn't be happier. 

It already started great with a pre-EO party at Laura's place, when I finally got to see two of my "grandpuppies" (Zookie & Aivo) and they are awesome 🧡💗💜💚💙❤️💛, plus we got to see some friends and meet some new ones. After some delicious food and ice scream we arrived at the venue, which I think is one of the best in Europe to host such an event - no problems with facilities, good bar (aperole!) and decent restaurant with a shaded terrace, lots of space, perfect surface, lots of water hoses to cool the dogs and yourself, plus there was even a nice place by the stream to walk the dogs (thanks Elisabeth for showing it to me!). 

On Thursday we had vet check, measuring for Mojo (so now very officially small) and training, which went really well for both Mojo and Brava - no problems with new frameless tyre (love it!) or anything else. Then in the evening there was opening ceremony which like for the first time ever was actually quite cool with a different song chosen for each country (we got "Do przodu, Polsko!" and Sweden got an ABBA song and so on) and beautiful horse dressage demonstration with Fresian horses and riders in historical outfits. Then we had a lovely evening with our friends and Agility Board Game. I also got to meet Mojo's family - beautiful little Rosalie and Pippi, both of them really cool and really beautiful. Obviously I also HAD to do some shopping and got a new leash and new Floramicato toy (you just can't resist, they are the funniest, most colourful and greatest toys ever and my dogs are CRAZY about them!).

On Friday we had team runs, both Brava and Mojo had clean jumpings, Brava dis in agility (but the course was... well, not my favourite type let's say) and Mojo mistake in the slalom. There was some fuckups with the results and at some point we thought our small team was third in agility, but then it turned out we weren't after all :P. Actually the results and especially live-results were the only really bad thing about the competition - they were even horribly late or incomplete or both. Anyway, I was really happy with my girls performance, especially baby Mojo for her first big event, so here are Mojo's team runs:

Brava's team jumping - same course as small and it's funny to see how much more relaxed and trusting I am when handling her in comparison to how I handle Mojo - of course it's only natural and that's the place we're gonna be with my super spaniel in 2-3 years time:

In the end Poland ended up with just one medium team in the final, despite the fact that one of large teams ended up second place in jumping also. I finished my runs quite early on, so could enjoy aperoles from the bar, great company and watching others for the rest of the day - I totally love social aspect of agility competitions 😃💛. I couldn't even feel bad about all the calories consumed as I walked over 20 km each day, so burnt all the alcohol I drank (or so I tell myself). Speaking of the social aspect - we had a family meeting with five of Brava puppies present at the EO (sadly, Daniel and Neo couldn't come even though they also qualified). The best Pyrsheps in the world for sure!

Left to right: Brie, BB, Babou (team European Open 2018 winner), Brava (EO 2018 vice champion), Brego (AWC 2017 team large winner), Zookie (EO 2016 winner, team European Open 2018 winner). 

Saturday was the individual runs. The agility medium course seemed a bit too easy and I was actually a little bit worried that on such speedy course 9,5 yo Brava wouldn't be competitive enough, but well, she proved me wrong, ending up on 5th place which was enough to qualify for the final. She also had a nice jumping run later, with one tiny refusal, because I was too slow :P. Mojo was again awesome, one mistake in the slalom in the jumping course and unfortunately dogwalk fault in the agility run (we sure have a list of things to train after this EO 😀), but in general I was really happy with her performance, we just had some young dog's mistakes, but she handled the heat and the atmosphere brilliantly. Other Polish competitors also had some super cool runs, so we ended up with one small, four medium and three large dogs in the individual final! Not bad at all, especially that all of them are such great and mostly quite young dogs!

Sunday came - since I was not participating in the team finals, I let myself a bit of lie-in and woke up just in time to see our medium team - three smashing clean runs and one elimination sadly - but since it's the same team that will be participating in the world championship, I'm very optimistic about their chances! My puppies made me proud again, since the medium team final was won by Austrian team with Babou and Zookie among them! 
Small individual finals was really interesting and challenging course by Svetlana Zolotnikova - I actually liked the course the best of all the final courses, it was great to watch and the winning performances of Marusa Podjed with Nai and Sandi Okanovic with Mia were really amazing! It was great to see friends on the podium again! 
Medium course was set by Wolfgang Tieber - most of it was fluent and nice, I just didn't really like the ending, since it was a bit of "who can outrun their dog" and I'm really not very fond of courses in which the dog has to push forward even though handler's body is showing a wrong line... 

There were lots of refusals or eliminations on the very last obstacle and that was not so fun to watch actually. It also happened to Magda with Mora (Brava's younger sister), who had clean and fast as crazy run until then... Otherwise I liked the fact that the course demanded the dog to be able to work independently (like the best solution on the slalom was to let the dog find the entry themselves, almost everyone who tried to help with the entry pushed the dog too much towards the tunnel, or you really had to let the dog do the "out" after the dogwalk alone if you were to make it in time to number 17). I told Brava she needs to read the numbers since and I told my body to make this last effort in horrible heat and despite my sore muscles (I walked over 20 km on each day of the competition and that's not counting the running...). Well, what can I say - she is the most amazing dog ever, she did everything I asked of her, found the weave entry alone, nailed the dogwalk contact, sent to number 18, found the tunnel after the A-frame even though I was miles away already, trying to make it around the dogwalk and cleared that double even though I was so out of breath I was not able to give the command I optimistically planned to give when coursewalking). I don't remember ever being so exhausted after a run though, I couldn't speak for like 5 minutes after. We were beaten by Daniel Schroeder with Cashew who had a smashing run 😲 and ended up being European Open 2018 vice champions - that is more than I would ever imagine this year! especially that Brava had a small injury in May, didn't run our AWC qualis at all and had very little training before (but lots of swimming, walks and conditioning instead). 

Video of the run:

In the large final Poland had amazing dogs and it was great to watch them - actually all three of them had great runs, but this time luck was not on our side - Applause dropped the first bar, Yuca had fault on up contact, Chica also one bar. But I really believe that if one year luck is not on your side, one day it will help you, so it all balances itself. In general it was fantastic to watch Polish team this year, we had some great dogs and super runs and it really made me proud. There were lots of clean runs in large final, it was great to see that so many dogs had perfect running contacts, interestingly enough there was a tie of Mona Grefenstein and Lisa Frick in the second place (maybe we need to measure even more exactly now?) and many many fantastic perfomances that made me feel inspired about what to train now. 
Big thanks to our team leader, Michał Pieniak, who stood, or rather walked constantly between four rings, in this crazy heat, carried all the water bottles, bags, hats, toys and what not between start and finish lines, measured times for fastest lines, updated all the important info by messenger for everybody, cheered and supported all of us and still managed to be calm, composed and in good humour all the time. As always, huge thanks to Roman for driving, helping ,filming and supporting me 💚💙🧡❤️💛💜🖤. 

niedziela, 25 marca 2018

On fair competition

I don't know why recently I tend to post more "philosophical" posts than "what's up with us" kind of posts. Maybe I'm getting middle-aged know-it-all :P (the change is in the "middle-age", I've always been unsufferable know-it-all, my best friend on the university told me once that she used to hate me for this and then realised she was the same 😂). Anyway, here it goes, three situations, three lessons:

1. Years and years ago on the way to my first AWC ever, we stopped on the way and I was waiting in a queue to the toilet holding someone's dog and someone from our team was walking by with their dog and said something like "ok, let's go tread on ours competition paws", which was said jokingly of course (and not actually stepping on anyone's dog) but my then-trainer got really furious about it, saying that for f.. sake, you're on the same team after all. That was lesson number one. 

2. Some years later, when Evo and Brava were already competing but still young, we went to some competition in Motesice in Slovakia and met with Martina Klimesova there and she said something like: "Oh, it's so cool that you came, I really like having some good competition in medium". That was really nice, first of all hearing from someone with much more experience and succeses that we were treated as good competition, secondly that kind of attititude that competition is good and welcome (I will elaborate later). That was lesson number 2. 

3. I already mentioned it before, but when Laura Reinhalter with Zookie got their 3rd place in EO 2017 final, I saw Werner Goltz sincerely and happily congratulating Laura on her run and looking genuinely happy about it, even though she "pushed him out of the podium". That's lesson number 3. 

Anyone who knows me, can attest to the fact that I am a competitive and ambitious person. But there it goes: in order to be competitive, you need fair competition. You need someone to give you the run for your money, to really push your limits, to really work on getting the best possible line, the best turn, the best running contact. If you have good competition, you cannot allow yourself being sloppy - so simply you get better. That's first reason why competition is good for you. Second reason is that easy win does not taste as good. If you were running World Championships alone and all it took to win was to finish the run, would you still feel a champion? While I am truly happy with every good run with my dogs (there is this magic feeling of flow and connection that I always strive for and that is best part of agility for me), I have this additional pleasure coming from objective fact that it was not just my feeling that the run was good, but it was actually good enough to beat teams that I admire and respect.  And when I lose to someone because that someone was faster, had better line, chose better handling option - it's a valuable lesson. It is not a shame to lose to someone better. It is not praiseworthy if you win because there simply was not anyone else in your league. 

And seriously, if someone in your country has a great dog in the same category as you run in, be happy. That means you have someone to push you without having to go to compete abroad and that also means that potentially you  have a great teammate. Team world championship cannot be won single-handed.


poniedziałek, 12 marca 2018

Say yes to a wocker, but...

Some time ago I wrote an enthusiastic post about wockers and why everybody should get one. Since the popularity of the breed in agility seems to be on the rise, I feel like I need to expand a little bit. 
I still am totally in love with my own working cocker and still think that generally speaking the breed is a joy to live and to train with. However, before you jump into buying a working cocker (or any other breed for that matter), stop for a while.

First of all, well, that might sound obvious, but think if you actually like the breed for what it is for 24 hrs a day. Agility or any other performance sport is just a little part of your journey together and for the rest of the time you'll have to live with a breed with strong hunting instinct, high energy and excitability and yet tendency to be rather soft and shutting down under pressure. Best if you like the looks, the size and the character of the breed, especially that well, we might plan all we want, yet sometimes things go their own way. I admire some border collies in agility - with the right handler and trainer they come to the absolute top of the discipline and are as close to perfection as possible. Yet having met many BCs I know it's not a breed for me, not a breed that I would enjoy on everyday basis, not a breed that would pull on my heart strings. As hard as it is for me to understand, you might be a person that doesn't feel any particular personal sympathy for wockers or Pyrsheps, even though I couldn't imagine my life without them. 

Second of all, find a reputable breeder. Whenever a breed becomes popular, some people think it's an easy money and would breed without proper respect to the dogs and breed's welfare in mind. Don't choose a breeder solely on basis that this or that animal that comes from this kennel is succesful in agility, as this stems from many factors.

What a breeder can (and should) do:
- answer questions about dog's lines and pedigrees, provide factual information concerning those matters,
- show you the health results of the parents. In working cockers, genetic tests are available for several serious conditions, including prcdPRA, FN, AMS. In addition, it is recommended that the parents are also tested for slipping patellas, ED and HD as well as eye diseases (ECVO certificate) and heart conditions
- answer honestly questions about breed's characteristics, including problems that might occur,
- welcome you into their home, showing where and in what conditions all their dogs live and how their puppies are raised. Of course, it you're buying puppy from abroad, you might not be able to visit, but it shouldn't be a problem for the breeder nowadays to send you pictures and videos regularly,
- discuss with you openly and upfront the legal agreements concerning your puppy. Things like price, details of purchase contract, co-ownership etc. should be discussed before you pay any kind of advance and should never change later,
- give you full documentation of all the above (health checks, pedigree, contract in writing etc.). 

What a breeder shouldn't do (or can't possibly) do:
- guarantee 100% that the puppy will remain competely healthy and of sound temperament. Genetics is a bitch and you need not only knowledge but also huge amount of luck, especially that while we know some things are hereditary, we don't really know how they are inherited. If the breeder claims they have never bred an animal with health or temperament issues, they are either not breeding for a long time or lying. This is not to say the breeder should "wash their hands" from any responsibility, health testing of the parents and proper way of rising the puppies go a long way to ensure healthy dogs, but noone can control everything. 
- ensure the size of the puppy as an adult. Working cockers are usually medium for agility, sometimes they happen to be in small, but this is not a rule, and while there are smaller lines, noone can predict the exact size of the adult dog (same as with Pyrsheps by the way). You get small wockers out of medium parents and vice versa. Find out the healthy range of height and weight in puppies of certain age, having in mind that it can vary a lot - still, a puppy wocker should not be the size of puppy Great Dane or a chihuahua. For instance, Mojo was over 3 kg and 22 cm as a healthy, happy and plump 8 weeks old puppy and she is just over 8 kg and 34 cm as an adult, being on the smaller side of the breed. Also, size should never be the main objective of the breeding and should never come before health, good structure and sound temperament.
- the breeder cannot sell legally puppies less than 8 weeks of age by rules of most national cynological organisations,
- the breeder cannot guarantee that the puppy will become succesful agility dog. That again depends on many conditions and mainly, but not solely, you. 

What you as a buyer should do:
- ask questions. Reputable breeder has nothing to hide and will answer. 
- educate yourself. Thanks to the internet and social media it's easy nowadays to find owners of particular breed, ask their opinion, ask them to tell you about their dog, ask if they would recommend the breeder of that dog (and WHY). Of course, noone is liked by everybody, and what suits one individual, doesn't necessarily suit another. Hence, don't stop on just one opinion, whether enthusiastic or otherwise, but try to find more. 
- don't rush into any decisions. Take your time. Think. Sleep on it. Be critical. 

Picture of Mojo, because she is perfect 💚💙💛💜💗.

środa, 17 stycznia 2018

Back from B.A.C.K.

Ok, this year B.A.C.K. was certainly one to remember. Almost to the last possible moment we weren't sure if we would be actually able to go, since we had considerable financial problems and also dog and human health problems. In the end, we decided to go... thinking we need something to get our minds from all the difficulties. Everything was going fine up until the moment when we were about 60 km from the destination, still on the highway and our beloved Pyrkobus just stopped... the engine broke completely. After lots of waiting and a debate on what to do, we were towed to the competition site. Since it was already past midnight, it took us a while to actually find a place where to put our car and then the cable winch in the towing car broke sending lots of sparks all around. So we were like, ok, maybe we will have to sleep on the towing car, but then, what to do with the elderly driver? I wasn't so keen on sharing bed with him ;). Anyway, turned out he was quite resourceful and somehow managed to short-circuit the winch with a screwdriver (more sparks and little exposions) and lower our car on the ground. It was already past one o'clock in the morning and before we showered and so on, we went to bed about 2 am. 

So when the first coursewalking started at 8 am in the morning I was far from ready - add to this numerous worries I had and that might explain why I had the weirdest run ever with Brava. Frankly, the course was awful and I didn't like it a bit, which might also be a factor. Brava normally runs clean or gets eliminated, she might knock an occasional bar once in a year or so - but in this run she jumped ALL the contacts (and I mean, she really jumped), turned the other direction than I indicated, missed the long jump and in the end finished with like 5 mistakes and a refusal or so :D. Worst run ever. That was so weird I actually started to wonder if everything was fine with her... but I guess it was somehow my poor shape that was responsible. 

When it was time to run with Mojo I was already after a nap and coffee, so I was in considerately better shape and had pretty nice run with one mistake (ok, so Mojo doesn't really like Galican dogwalk it seems). Jumping medium 3 course was even worse than agility 3, which I hardly thought possible - but I had pretty nice run with Brava with one bar and then really nice clean jumping 2 with Mojo and first place. 

Roman was running with Brego and even though I was worried that due to lack of training Brego would be totally over the top and crazy, he was such a good boy :). All his runs were nice and Flaszek actually had runs of his life, really fast and cool. It's so funny how he just gets better and better every year - well, apart from the A-frame, but that doesn't even count :P. He rarely does it properly in training, so we don't really expect him to do it properly in competition either ;). 
By the end of the day I was in considerably better mood, mainly thanks to our friends there, who helped us a lot, driving us for shopping, making phone calls in German to sort out the car problem and generally keeping us company and cheering us up. You were all awesome and I am so grateful to all of you :). 
Second day was the important day in which you might qualify for the final - and Brava did with a pretty nice jumping run. Mojo unfortunately no luck - one dogwalk fault and elimination in jumping. Final was judged by Sandra Deidda and I was really happy about it, since she is one of my favourite judges. I was also really happy with her course - challenging, but fun. When I was going to the preparation ring with Brava I thought that I really want one of those runs in which you feel that amazing connection and everything just works out. I could see before the run that Brava was really happy and crazy also, so I approached the course with good energy and wow, that was such a cool run! See for yourself, but I think my wish came true and it was one of those runs which make agility such a wonderful sport for me. Thanks to Franky Vanroy for the streaming and video. 

Meanwhile we learnt that we will get the replacement car from ADAC to get home. Our Pyrkobus would have to stay there till next week. 

Sunday was for fun runs, again I got clean jumping with Brava (and stupid elimination in agility), stupid elimination in jumping with Mojo (rather than turn into the tunnel she went straight ahead and took an additional jump... not something I would expect with a spaniel :P), pretty nice SA2 run with nice dogwalk (finally!) and then stupid refusal because I tried to babysit her too much in the slalom. Brego and Roman had two really nice clean runs. Roman decided not to run with Flaszek, since we could see he was getting tired, hence a bit more reactive. 

In the evening we got our replacement car which turned out to be a VW Golf... so we had a puzzle of how to actually squize seven dogs and the most essential things (like dog food, LOL) into it. Well, we managed, although it wasn't perhaps the most comfortable drive home. Roman said though that the car was really quiet. Personally I think it was because he was sitting in such a position that his knees blocked his ears. 

Anyway, I hope all the bad luck with the cars etc. is behind us and the rest of the year will be splendid :D.

poniedziałek, 27 listopada 2017

Heading South... and back :)

I doubt it's even possible to fit almost a month worth of travelling into one blog entry, so it will be more "bunch of impressions" kind of post, rather than detailed description. First of all, thanks to all our amazing friends who hosted us, organized my seminars & trainings or devoted their time and money to show us around, in particular Virginie de Andrea, Christine de Andrea Welpen from Switzerland, Martine from France, Carlos and Oscar from Barcelona, Xavi from Valencia and Nina and Rafa from Seville - without you all that wouldn't be possible and we're both extremely grateful to you all.

Our trip started on quite rainy day and we got so cold and miserable that on the second day we decided to stop in Badesparadise in Schwarzwald. You can imagine hot mineral baths, Schwarzwald mist room and swimming pool surrounded by palms when it's cold and rainy outside - it was perfect. From there we headed to a competition in Fraschels - I was running with Mojo and Flaszek, Roman with Evo and Brego, so I had two A1 dogs and Roman two A3 dogs ;) (Flaszek is A3 with Roman, but since our license counts for a team, when running with me, Flaszek starts in A1 again, which is exactly what we wanted, since it's better for him to run on easier and more open courses). On the first day Mojo was getting more and more histerical with each run, screaming more and more and in the last run she knocked like three bars - I know she knows HOW to jump, so I was sure it was connected with her level of excitement which might have got just a biiiiit too high. So I changed my starting routine for Sunday - a bit more food games rather than toy games etc - and we got two clean runs and one very nice elimination (no bars at all!!!). I was really really happy especially that all contacts were done, new dogwalks and all, and flat tunnel which I think she saw like 2 or 3 times in her life (yup, not our favourite obstacle). Flaszek was really nice, decent speed and horrible A-frames as usual, so this is our winter project with him ;). 

After the competition we spent three awesome days with Virginie and Christine, sightseeing in lovely Valais, training a bit agility in the most beautiful place, visiting friends - we had REAL raclettes which turned out to be a bit different from what we know under this name. On one of our trips we found a dog:

Couldn't get a better picture, but it was some kind of Swiss hound. She was really scared and clearly lost, fortunately she came to Roman and Evo and had her ID tag on, so Christine could call her owner and we met at the parking some 20 minutes later. As a thank you gift we got a bottle of local wine 🍷. 

From Switzerland we headed to France, visiting Chamonix (just to take a picture of Zelda with Mont Blanc of course ;), Annecy and then spending a day hiking in the Alps. We found perfect camping high in the mountains and you could walk around it for hours... Perfect 💓💙💚💛💜. Later I had seminar near Lyon, organized by Martine (lovely people, super dogs, wine, cheese, different kind of raclettes... ) and from there we headed towards Spain. On the way there we visited Avignon (I loved it!), Carcassone (to be honest, a bit of disappointment, especially after Avignon... ), Foix and a couple of other nice places. We planned to visit Andora on the way, but it snowed during the night and then we found out you had to have chains for the tyres to actually go there, so in the end we choose different route. We took a little walk in the Pyrenean Mountains and had a little adventure there. It was raining, so nobody was there (or so it seemed...). At some point I heard something like barking, but then it went away and also we've chosen to head back. All of a sudden, we heard really bone-chilling noise that I can't really describe 😰... horrible howling, screaming and I don't know what and suddenly we found ourselves chased by three bloodhounds, screaming at the top of their lungs! Of course Punia Zeldunia decided she needs to tackle them and went to them, barking her high-pitched bark like a yorkie 😆 The bloodhounds looked a bit nonplussed 😮and turned back eventually. 

Finally we reached Catalonia and Barcelona... oh, what a beautiful city that is! Carlos took us sightseeing with his car - it's virtually impossible to park anywhere there with our huge van - and we even managed to visit Sagrada Familia, something that I've really dreamed of for quite some time. For the second time in my life, I was speechless (the first time was in really small church in Cracow, which I didn't know had stained glass windows designed by Wyspiański and it got me totally by suprise). Sagrada Familia was a bit like that - after seeing the exterior with all the ornaments, countless figures, sculptures etc. you are totally not prepared for the inside... beauty, simplicity, space and light. I still have goosebumps just thinking of it.  I really wish I was a better photographer of architecture or at least took the broader lense - although I doubt if I could do this city justice. 

After a very nice and very joyful seminar in Barcelona we headed to Valencia for another short training organized by my friend Xavi (I must say I'm getting quite fond of Spanish Water Dogs after the seminars in Spain...) and a bit of sightseeing the day after. Valencia is also very beautiful and somehow much more dog and people-friendly than Barcelona: lots of space to walk (they have beach for dogs! and a river bed turned into a beautiful park!) and actually finding parking spaces even for a big car. I think if I were to live in Spain, I would choose  Valencia. From Valencia we drove more South... finding more and more palms, deserts, dust... a bit like a different world, spectacular to view, but I think much more difficult to live - especially that we were there in sunny yet mild November rather than really hot times. Finally we reached our destination - Nina and Rafa's house. For a couple of days we had probably the biggest concentration of Pyrsheps on a square meter in Spain... and again I saw that really Pyrsheps communicate with each other much better than with any other breed. We spent a couple of lovely days walking the dogs, playing board games, eating jamon from #AppyPih, sightseeing and relaxing :). 

For the weekend, we went to competition near Gibraltar (so of course we had to call it Copa de Africa) and each of our dogs won it in their category :D Brava and Flaszek on Saturday, Evo, Mojo and Zelda on Sunday. Yes, Zelda got to run too as they had a pre-agility competition for young dogs there :D.
Mojo progressed to A2, Flaszek hadn't (A-frame 😝), Brava was back in the game after her short break and boys were perfect as usual. Really fun courses by Zsuzsa Veres and Hugo Santos and lots of fun in general. 

After that... we went to take some photos of Africa in the distance.. and slowly started heading back home. 

We couldn't resist stopping in Barcelona again for a visit in Pablo Picasso museum and visiting the food market again (and there is still lots of things to see! I want to go back there one day definetely) and then again in the spa in Germany :D to flush some Spanish dust out of our system (I swear I had it in my tonsils until then). 
And now we're back home... sun batteries charged a bit for gloomy Polish winter, some new training ideas for all of our dogs... time for a little down time now. Maybe.

If you like - more pictures from our trip under this link.

wtorek, 10 października 2017

Nothing is impossible

I checked in the morning after waking up and yup, I'm still one of the team Agility World Champions 2017 in large :). So not a dream, although dream came true :).

Photo of the best yellow doggy on the planet (C) Marc Gaub

Well, what can I say, it was AWESOME AWC :). Some time before it we learnt that Polish team will the first one to run on Thursday and I was like "Hell, yeah, we're opening the AWC, it's gotta be good" :D. I like running in the beginning, I ran as the first competitor in agility individual medium run in Liberec 2012 and I won my first AWC medal then, so I also thought of it as a good omen :). 

The training on Thursday went really well with Brego - he knocked two bars, but I thought it was because the distances on the training course were quite tight, so didn't really think a lot about it. His dogwalks and weaves were great though, so I was really pleased. Brava, on the other hand, was a bit weird, jumped the dogwalk twice, did a fly-off on the see-saw and generally something felt off. 

Finally, the competition began and our large team did three clean runs by Natalia, Magda Z. and me in lovely fluent jumping by Petr Pupik and we finished on 11th place, which I thought was perfect - not too much pressure, but a good chance to improve in agility run. 

Photos of the best weird coloured doggy on the planet: (C) Guido Kuester

As Mirja Lapanja was judging the agility course everybody knew it would be challenging and then yet everybody got a bit suprised by HOW challenging it was. I said  that whoever wins this course will become the world champion. I really liked it though - I felt it could be pretty fluent and would allow me to use Brego's strenghts, like running dogwalk, independent A-frame and commitment on turns - so I felt quite good about it. I was quite calm on the startline, just wanting to run the best we can and I felt I could trust Brego to do well. Magda with Issy were going first and they had cracking clean run (turned out that they actually won it!), then I ran with Brego and it felt awesome - everything worked out as I planned and when I got to the finish I was really pleased with that run. Natalia with Yen got eliminated, but then our team got another awesome clean run by Magda with Mawr and we all started jumping like crazy and waving to our Polish supporters as for the first time ever Polish team managed six clean runs and we knew that would give us pretty good place in combined. 

We hardly expected we would win this run... and then it turned out we also became team World Champions in large!!! First "combined" podium for Poland and GOLD! 
Than was more than I have ever dreamt of - I'm extremely happy and grateful to all my teammates, especially that we all contributed to this success. And it was really like - nothing is impossible, even becoming World Champion with a just-large Pyrenean Shepherd :D. 

Photo: (C) Marc Gaub

The emotions were so strong that I could hardly focus on our team agility medium run which was just after the prize-giving ceremony. We had two eliminations in jumping, but we could still fight for a good place in agility. I ran as the last one, and on hindsight I think I should have used stopped dogwalk command, since I knew after the training that this time dogwalk was problematic for Brava. I got her checked by physio before the run and she was a bit tense on her shoulders, but nothing horrible. Anyway - we got pretty good run up until the dogwalk which she JUMPED as hell and then I got distracted, Brava missed one jump and went into the tunnel and we got eliminated. Oh well.
Saturday was individual jumping medium run for me, since Brego was only running teams. Again, nice jumping course by Petr Pupik, but somehow I didn't feel so good about it. I didn't sleep well and it was difficult for me to get into the right attitude. I did my best though, used some visualisations, "super-woman" postures to boost my confidence etc - well, I guess it helped, since we got a clean run, but somehow Brava had an "almost refusal" on a slalom entry that normally she is really good at and even though we were clean, we lost lots of time and ended up on 26th place.

I was a bit worried about Brava, since something felt off with her and it's really not like her to jump the dogwalks or miss slalom entries ;). In the end I consulted  with our physio, Brava got a massage and we decided to wait until the next day to see how she feels. On Sunday morning Brava looked really happy and moved with ease so I decided we got nothing to lose and will just run as hell and have a good time :). So we did :) We got really nice run and were 0,01 from the podium in agility and less than half a second from the podium in combined - yes, we progressed from 26th place to 4th!!! I'm quite proud of it... and so grateful to my best yellow doggy on the planet for always giving her best! 

I really feel like I brought two world champions home, I have most wonderful dogs on the planet and it feels just awesome to run with them. This is the thing I have always loved about agility the most - the trust between me and my dogs, the communication, the joy of just being there together. It was my sixth time on AWC with Brava... and who knows, maybe 7 times lucky... ;) Although I'm blessed as I am - I realised that it was my fifth consecutive time on AWC that I came back home with a medal (2012 - individual agility medium silver, 2014 - team medium jumping gold, 2015 - team medium jumping bronze, 2016 - agility individual medium bronze and this year team large agility gold and gold in combined). Not bad, huh? 

Photos of the best yellow doggy on the planet: (C) Marc Gaub

In general AWC is always one of my favourite competitions and so inspiring! I just love watching the best of the best run, I love the atmosphere, the emotions - and I felt really happy for this years winners, especially for Tereza Kralova with Say and medium vice champion Katerina Malackova with pyrshep Izzy :). 

On the other hand, this AWC felt a little different for me. First of all, it was suprisingly challenging  to run with two dogs (although I guess I could get used to that ;)). Secondly, while I'm happy with my concentration and runs, I missed a bit more of crazy time - eating, partying, fooling around with friends. One of the reasons for that was that even though the organisers charged for the camping spot for camper as for a pretty good hotel, they still didn't think it was necessary to provide us with showers (which is really stupid, as there ARE showers in the facility, they were just closed). So each evening instead of going to a restaurant or partying, we walked 2 km to crash our friends staying in a hotel to get a shower :P. So just a word to all organizers of future EO's and AWC's - people staying in the camping cars etc. also need showers - and they deserve it, especially when paying about 40 euros per night for the parking spot with electricity (which worked on and off due to rain). Second reason for not partying hard or sight seeing more was lousy weather, which was nobody's fault (although I blame a bit British and Finnish people who walked around saying "it's just like back home" - why the hell did you feel it was necessary to bring it with you then?!). I blame the weather for me wanting to just crawl into bed and go to sleep each evening, otherwise I would have to blame my age and I am so not ready for that!

Last but not least, very short Oscar-gala speech (I know I made fun of it last time, I guess that's what becoming World Champion does to you... naah, I will get back to normal soon, I promise :)).. Big thanks to dr Aneta Bocheńska for taking regular care of my dogs and Jana Dąbrowska for checking on Brava on the spot. Huge gratitude to my teammates Magdalena Łabieniec, Natalia Lichecka and Magdalena Ziółkowska and whole Polish team for lots of beautiful moments and emotions - we just get better and better and I watched our runs with pride! Lots of kisses to our Polish supporters - I heard you! Big thanks to my friends from other countries - cheering for us, writing messages, recording the videos and sending good energy  - it means a lot. 

Thank you Marc Gaub and Guido Kuester for allowing me to use the photos - I know how much time processing photos takes and want you to know that it really brings me lots of joy to see your beautiful work. 

And finally the biggest thank you to my love, Roman, for being there for me all the time <3. 

poniedziałek, 31 lipca 2017

EO 2017 - Salice Terme

First of all, I think there should be new FCI rule that EO has to be organized next to a swimming pool 😊. Actually the whole place in Salice Terme was perfect: the rings were even and with good grass, there were lots of trees around them, so one could wait in shadow for their turn, there was a small river nearby to cool the dogs – and the swimming pool for humans as well, and then lots of restaurants nearby to hang out in the evenings. My next request would be that whenever there is some big agility event, the Italians should take care of the food and especially bring the lemon ice cream.

The swimming pool and the food were sort of enough to make this EO good, even though of course there were some organizational fuck-ups, like for instance initially they didn’t think it would be necessary to provide any toilets for the campers’ camp  (they said it’s campers… so people have it… but didn’t think that a/ even if you do have a toilet in your camper, you still need to empty is somewhere b/ most people are really not so keen on using them in above 30 degrees temperatures, considering they are sleeping right next to it in a space of a few square meters). Eventually we got some portable toilets, but then no one thought it was necessary to clean them regularly :P so they became UNUSABLE pretty soon. The other sanitary facilities were not much better I would say…

There were some problems which occur in pretty much every EO I’ve ever attended like some mistakes in the results, problems with changing your running order if you ran with more than one dog and so on, but nothing really serious, so I actually think contrary to what lots of people feared, the organizers did a great job (although after France last year pretty much everything would have been better :P). I also really liked the courses and mostly the judging as well. And the speaker was the best ever, I don’t think I will ever be able to get rid of my new Italian accent when English speaking (Get out of the ringE, pleaSE!).

I’m pretty happy with my runs, even though Brava seemed to have a bit of bad luck with an odd knocked bar and two really weird refusals. We managed to qualify for both team and individual finals (from 5th place in jumping, so pretty cool). Brego was also really good, this time his handler was not and twice I forgot to use any command, causing us elimination. I’m really proud of Brava’s team final run and quite happy with myself for it. The team finals look a bit overbearing and I had my moment of panic about whether I would be able to even remember the sequence among so many obstacles and for a moment doubted if I can leave Brava at the startline when the other dog would be running, but then I realized, well, it’s actually no different than any other run, except the timing is a bit more tight (you need to start immediately after the previous dog finishes and the judge whistles, because the time is still going). So I just led out as I would do in any other run and waited patiently for the judge to whistle, everything worked perfectly and I think it was actually my best run in this EO. I’m not a big fun of the team finals formula, but it was sure fun to run it for the first time ever – maybe we’ll do it better as a team next time, if we ever get the chance.  

In the individual medium final Brava was the only dog that turned so tightly on the jump number 3 that she missed the long jump after, so we got a refusal and lost tons of time, then managed to somehow continue with pretty decent second part of the course. But I had another reason for joy this year as Zookie and Laura finished third place, winning another podium in EO final year after year. They are a great team and Zookie is maturing and getting faster and more consistent (she also won agility team run in the individual ranking and won a medal in individual jumping) – I’m really proud of them <3.
Roman and Evo had three clean runs and pretty decent times, so it looks like Evo is getting back in shape and actually runs better and better on every competition.

Of course, meeting lots of friends from different countries is another awesome thing about EO and it was great to see our friends from Norway, Spain, Luxembourg, Austria, Great Britain and Slovenia and spend some time with them. We’re on our way for short vacation in Slovenia and then B.A.S.E.  – pyrshep competition in Germany, where we’ll meet some more of the best people in the world.

Speaking of which – I used to think about agility people as some sort of family – of course not everybody loves everybody, but so far, agility competitions, even the huge ones, were really safe and it was absolutely customary that people left their possessions pretty much anywhere, cars were left open, dogs in crates unattended and so on. Well, that weekend at least two cars were broken into and one of Polish competitors was robbed, losing a backpack containing her wallet, mobile phone, all the documents, car keys, dog’s passports… Can you imagine being left in a foreign country without anything, without an option to go home with your car (the other set of keys was left at closed home back in Poland, so someone would have to break into it to get them and then ship it to Italy)? It turned out someone was trying to withdraw the money from the credit card the very same evening… Fortunately the next day at least the backpack with car keys and dog’s documents was returned, which solved the biggest problem, but she still needs to go to the embassy to get some kinds of temporary documents and so on. That is just such a mean and evil thing to do to somebody and we suspect it was not an entirely random crime, but that it was actually one of the “dog people” that did it (especially that the dog’s documents were returned) and that makes me so sad, like it’s some kind of end of an era…

And another not so pleasant thing, I don’t really even know how to tackle it properly… and of course it’s my subjective feeling, but it’s also something that didn’t start of this EO, but much earlier.
I watched Werner Goltz congratulating Laura Reinhalter, who “pushed him out of the podium” as he was third and ended on fourth place after her run and I saw that he was genuinely happy for her success and for the best teams to win and I thought that was fantastic and this is the true sportsmanship and something we should look up to. But I missed a little bit of that in our Polish team. We had some successes this year – for the first time ever we qualified for the team finals in all three height categories (we didn’t do particularly well in either of them, but I really think the team final is such a peculiar run that it’s kinda difficult to rock it the first time you do it), we had three medium dogs in the individual finals (Iwona Kalisz and Pepe qualified from 13th place in agility run, Magda Domańska with Mora from 10th place in jumping and me with Brava from the 5th) and we had “best of the country” dogs in small (Basia Członkowska with Łata) and large (Magda Ziółkowska with Mawr) categories that both ran very nice clean runs in the finals (and Magda ended up on 10th place in large, which I think is awesome result). So I would say there was something to celebrate and to be proud of. Yes, we did have really good dogs especially in large category that didn’t qualify for the finals and I can understand the disappointment of knowing you have a great dog and than not getting a chance to fight for the highest podium, but still… It’s not even sometimes you win, sometimes you learn, it’s just sometimes you don’t win and that’s it, we all have bad days, bad runs or sometimes a bit of bad luck. At the same time someone else might be having a run of their life, that bit of luck in just the ideal moment, and we should be there to celebrate it with them and congratulate them. I don’t think we had a team at this EO, I think we had a bunch of individuals with their own plans and agendas. We weren't there for each other. Some of us didn't even come for the closing ceremony and I don't mean the people who actually turned up and then had to run save their tents / campers as the storm was coming. Something is not right and I think we should all work to change it.