Many of you probably do not know Maggie's story. At 18 months old Maggie was a phenom in agility. After competing in just three trials she had amassed 21 Qs and 3 titles. Sadly my competitive nature pushed her too far and did not provide her with the suport she needed in the ring.
In her fourth trial she suddenly started running out of the ring as soon as I would give her the release command to start running. It broke my heart. Clearly Maggie was not enjoying herself.
I tried for two years to convince her to compete with me. Every time she would warm up beautifully, walk into the ring only to try and run out again. I tried giving her some time off. We took a full year off away from competition. It broke my heart leaving her at home as Bear and I would head off to a trial.
It wasn't that Maggie didn't want to play at agililty, she just didn't want to compete and she is so sensitive to my feelings that we were in a vicious cycle. We would walk into the ring and I would get so nervous that she was going to run out again that she would respond to my anxiety and nerves by running out of the ring.
While getting ready for Nationals in 2014, Jennifer Laird suggested I bring Maggie along for my training session with Bear. Maggie worked beautifully with Jen coaching me. Jen suggested that I try puting Maggie into trials FEO (For Experience Only). Jen thought this might take the pressure off me.
2018 Nationals in Montreal - Running second standard
2018 Nationals in Montreal - On the Podium final placing 4th - 563.88 points
I took Jen's advice and low and behold, Maggie ran her first run with no issues. For fun, I put Maggie in the Steeplechase class at Nationals ( she loves steeplechase). I entered her FEO, but the organizing committee missed the FEO and put her in full standing. Not knowing this before I ran, Maggie ran beautifully and placed 9th with a Q out of 34 dogs.
That was the beginning of Maggie's comeback. Rick and I agreed that I would only put her in two to three runs a day, not the five or six runs that I was doing before. Maggie was amazing. She took three titles her first trial back in the ring - in fairness she only needed three clean runs to take three titles. That was in September of 2014.
Rick and I decided that I would try to get Maggie ready for Nationals in 2016 because they were in Montreal. As Maggie didn't enjoy running indoors it was a challenge trying to get her ready for Regionals in 2015. I put her in the steeplechase run the day before and she came out slow and tentative. I spoke to Jennifer and said that I was going to pull her from Regionals the next day. Jen agreed and suggested that she and I go to a Jessica Martin clinic a couple weeks later. Jen arranged with Jess for us to go.
What a tremendous breakthrough for both Maggie and I. Not only did Jess help with building up Maggie's confidence, but she provided me with so much insight into my handling skills and understanding of how to connect with Maggie while we ran.
Maggie and I did only three trials in the summer of 2015, but her success rate continued to astound. I registered for clinics with Jess over the winter and prepared Maggie to try indoor trialing in February. I am happy to say that after her initial hesitation the first day of indoor trialing, Maggie came back on the Sunday eager and aggressive on her first course taking a Q, 1st place and best run in Advanced Snooker.
Maggie continued to have moments of brilliance while I struggled to figure out all of the new handling techniques I was learning from Jess. At Regionals Maggie did the best she could with me making a mistake in 5 out of the 6 runs. We placed 10th and qualified for Nationals.
For the rest of the summer I didn't over-do-it with trialing or training. I had reduced Maggie's training sessions to a max of two per week with playing on the off nights. She only trialed twice after Regional's.
When I heard that Jess had qualified Dice for Nationals and was in my class I figured that I didn't have a hope. Also when I heard that Michel Brunet and Foxsee had qualified I figured that my objectives for Nationals had to be realistic - I just wanted to try and run clean. If I could make the top 15 that would be amazing, but I would be happy if I was in the top 20.
We brought Bear with us to Nationals as he probably doesn't have much longer with us. Maggie adores him and he is a very steadying force for her. I can honestly say that Maggie showed no signs of being nervous with the exception of her very last run and that was most likely me.
Her first run was Gambler and she came out on fire. She did the first two minis without hesitation for a quick 36 points. she went on to amass 51 points before heading into the main gamble. She took the first 3 out of the 4 obstacles fast and clean. I sent her to the 4th and, without realizing I did it, I pulled her off the out jump to number 4. I had my arm up and when I thought she hesitated I pulled my hand back to push her again and she quickly thought I was asking her to go to jump number 1 again. We argued and she would start going out and then come back to do number 1. Jess told me after what I had done.
That would be my only real mistake the whole trial. Or, almost my only mistake. While walking the second Jumper course I somehow was skipping jump 12. I think I walked it 10 or 11 times, totally oblivious to the fact that I was skipping Jump number 12. I know a few competitors had watched me do this without saying a word. At one point, Michel Brunet who was beside me as I walked the course again, pointed out to me that I had missed jump number 12. If it weren't for Michel pointing out the error of my ways, Maggie and I would have had an off course and 20 faults - no way would we have been 4th. To Michel I say "thank you from the bottom of my heart - you are a true champion!"
Maggie went on to be clean in every round. She placed in the top 10 in all of her 6 runs:
5th in Standard 1
7th in Gambler 1
8th in Jumper 1
9th in Gambler 2 (succeeded in the main gamble)
10th in Jumper 2 and;
amazingly had a clean final round in Standard 2 with a 6th place finish.
Maggie amassed 563.88 points over the weekend to take 4th place in her first Nationals appearance! I cannot tell you how proud I am of her and how much I love my little girl! Two hearts One Team was the motto of the Championships and I believe Maggie and I are two hearts one team!