It's funny how before any important agility event first like 95% of my FB friends write that they are on the way and then after the event everybody writes their impressions, so of course I can't be different and will note mine as well. I commented jokingly that AWC impressions become sort of Oscar gala speeches with "thank my team leader, my team members, my physioterapist, my dog's physiotherapist, my mum, my boyfriend/ girlfriend, my best buddy who bought me the best socks for running etc" to one of my buddies, to which she replied that I'm just jealous, cause I don't have any friends and then I realized that bugger, not only that, but also I don't have a physiotherapist, my mum doesn't even know where I was, our team didn't have money to delegate a seperate team leader so another team member and I were sharing the duties and hence I can't really write a proper Oscar-AWC-gala speech :(.
But what the heck, I had tremendous fun and won a medal anyway. So I can write about it.
First of all, I have to say that I fell in love with Spain and want to go back there, even though for the first time ever I felt like a proverbial stupid Polish tourist who can't speak the language of the country visited and has to revert to finger poiting and speaking very loudly in Polish, English or Italian in a "watch my lips" kind of way. BTW, Roman and me can communicate at basic or not so basic level in six different languages, so that was really like the first time ever we experienced this. As a result visiting restaurants was quite an adventure, especially as the waiters in Spain don't speak English (nor German, French, Italian, Polish and Czech)and in spite of all the finger pointing at photos in menu seem to aim at bringing you something completely different that you ordered (like tuna instead of pork and then they insist it's not tuna even though it smells of fish to high heaven). But Spain is so so beautiful and people in general are so friendly and relaxed and love dogs, that all that was forgiven. And I mean it about the dogs - they are everywhere, pretty much as friendly and relaxed as the people and everywhere we went we were stopped because people wanted to say "hi" to Evo and Brava and chat with them in Spanish for a while. One guy even showed THEM the photos of his family.
The journey was as good as it could be - we decided to take a flight from Berlin to Madrid and Air Berlin was excellent choice. They took excellent care of our dogs and made sure ten times that everything is as it should be and were so so nice about them all the time.
We had an unfortunate incident after landing when the tow tractor hit the plane so hard that people already standing in the aisle fell down and most probably so did Evo in cargo as he was a bit painful in the evening. Fortunately we had the chance to have him checked by a great physiotherapist and he got some laser treatment as well, so was as fit as rain before running on Thursday :).
After spending a night in Madrid we drove to Zaragoza together with Nina and Maciek, enjoying the views on the way. In Zaragoza we had awesome hotel with spatious rooms and bathrooms, delicious breakfast and a very funny parking, as you had to get in an elevator with a car to actually get there. Which was quite an adventure in itself, considering that the elevator was like 5 cm bigger in each direction than a car, we were driving a rental car, the car had proximity sensors on all sides which went crazy in such a tiny space and Evo was barking constantly to our excellent driver Maciek's ear.
Now for the big event itself. Things that I loved:
- the arena where AWC was held was air conditioned :) including the place were dogs crates were,
- there was a park with olive trees and palms quite close,
- all the ring helpers, stewards and staff working at the AWC were awesome, really nice, thoughtful, sympathetic and smiling all the time. I loved the fact that they let you play with the dog as long as possible before the run and then immedietely after the run even before checking the chip (those girls were really great, always waiting patiently and then asking if you're ready for it - I want to thank them all!).
- the fact that there was an option to buy massage or laser therephy and physiotherapist on the site - it was an excellent and very thoughtful idea!
- the pyrshep meeting on Saturday - thanks Patricia Princehouse for this idea and hosting us! Pyrshep people are indeed very special, very crazy and lovely - that was lots of fun with 15 people and 10 dogs packed into one hotel room. I think thanks to Patricia feeding them with tapas and sandwiches both Evo and Brava thought it was the best party EVER!
- meeting crazy pyrshep people and friends from all over the world :) that is always my favourite part of big agility events! Here with Rita, owner of Babou the father and Serge Damon from France:
And one new friend... I think he might have owned a Pyrshep :P.
- the courses in general. Yes, I do think the last large individual agility was a bit too much and I would change an angle or distance a bit here and there, but most of the courses were really difficult, really fun to watch and really fun to run, which is as it should be. Being a judge at AWC is extremely demanding job and I have lots of respect for people who do it - special thanks for Tamas for always checking the equipment before runs and making sure the bars can fall easily etc. He definetely remains one of my favourite judges :).
- the judging in general - again, it's really tough job and noone is perfect, but in my opinion the judges were fair and pretty consistent and by the way, I know we all hate up contacts, but as long as we have them in the regulations it was really not okay to boo at the poor "up contact judge"just because he was doing his job.
- my own runs in general. I'm happy to say that going to "healthy spine" classes have helped and I was able to run (unlike last year where due to my back problems I was behind Brava all the time) and heck, I even managed the crazy "outside jump - straight jump - running dogwalk - outside jump" sequence :), I had good attitude and focus and Brava was her pyrfect self as usual. We had really nice clean team jumping that would have given us 9th place individual in that run, an awesome team agility run with above mentioned sequence and an odd missed A-frame contact (for like the first time ever... normally her A-frame is even better than dogwalk). The only run that wasn't so nice was the individual jumping. She was distracted and looking for someone at the startline, then we managed the first difficult part and then I don't know what happened - I called her and turned my shoulders but somehow she missed the wall and ran all around it and then my concentration was gone and I blew the rest of the course. I'm really sorry that we could not fight for the good placing in combined jumping and agility individual as I know we are capable of even reaching a podium there... but well, not this time. I still had the chance to get an awesome agility run and we took it - it was a great clean run, Brava was first just after her run and then only her daughter Babou with Simone Ulrich-Pansi and invincible Kiki with Martina Klimesova took over, so we landed on the third place :). It was literally a dream come true with Brava sharing an AWC podium with one of her puppies and I can't even describe what it means to me! And I know that with a Pyrshep such success is only possible with great love, bond and understanding between the dog and the owner, which means I was so lucky (or so smart with my interrogation techniques) with the owners who are not only great trainers and competitors but foremost were able to build this kind of amazing relationship and that is most important for me!
And the Brabousies are just three years old - I just can't wait for what the future will bring for them!
- our team runs: small team consisting unfortunately only of three dogs managed three clean team jumpings with really good placement, Basia Członkowska with Łata landed on excellent 10th place individual combined, Pepe with Iwona Kalisz and Evo with Roman were 10th and 11th respectively in individual jumpng runs, Iwona Gołąb with Kite were really fighting for a podium and had a cracking run at this crazy difficult individual agility course, running as the very last competitior at this year AWC, which means incredible pressure... I mean with so many great people I'm sure we will just get better and better as a team so watch us in the future :D.
What I didn't love was that for some reason the organizers choose a different artificial grass than Juta grass used for a previous couple of years which was very good. The new one wasn't and on some courses it was pretty painful to watch dogs slipping :(. Another thing that I didn't like was that the obstacles and pretty much everything around was mostly red, which is a colour dogs don't see. I realize that red and yellow are national colours of Spain, but it would be much better to use them in opposite proportions that is more yellow than red. Just to give you an idea how gaudy everything was: when I went into the training ring I said that the small ring didn't have a dogwalk, because I couldn't see it at first. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for the dogs.
Then, well, I HATE METAL JUMPS. I hate metal jumps, I hate them with all my heart and no matter how many times and how many people would say that they are the best and the safest, I will never believe it. They are not. I have never seen a dog hurt or cut themselves on plastic jump or plastic bar holder but I hurt myself on a metal jump and I've seen numerous dogs injuring themselves on metal jumps and the very sound of a dog hitting metal jump is enough to make my skin crawl. One of the best dogs with one of the best handlers of the world hit herself on a metal jump on this AWC as well, fortunately sustaining just a minor injury - but it looked horrible when the dog started crying and held the paw in the air :(((. Also on several occasions the wings were put too close together, causing the bar not to fall immedietely after the dog hit it, thus resulting in the dog hanging on the bar and pulling the whole obstacle down with his body.
I do hope that one day people will stop thinking that the metal jumps are the best because they can last a century or because they don't break when the dog hits them (I mean personally I'd rather buy a new jump than a new dog but what do I know) and that one day the organizers of the AWC will be brave enough to use Kelbel or Polyjumps or any other excellent and safe equipment made of yellow and blue plastic :P. I heard that AWC 2018 will be in Sweden so at least colours should be right :D.
And there was also the hiccup with the display not working and the results of individual agility runs not being shown ANYWHERE which caused me a bit of anxiety as I didn't know whether I should rather go and prepare my dog for ceremony or go and congratulate someone else :P. Thanks Rolli Schiltz for taking over and making it all clear :). And no, I was not shouting it was just really really LOUD there, so I had to raise my voice up a bit, right?
And last thing I did not like was the closing ceremony. It lasted forever. Noone listened. Everyone was bored to death and dreaming of taking a shower and then going somewhere else to drink some Sangria and eat tapas. And I mean why on Earth do we do it like that, year after year?
So here's an idea: why don't we just thank the organizers, thank the helpers, thank whoever it's appropriate to thank BRIEFLY, then decorate the winners, play the APPROPRIATE national anthems and then have a huge fiesta together with music, dancing and lots of wine? I think everybody would love it and it would be much more appropriate ending of such a wonderful event as AWC - especially in Spain :D.