Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Trip to the Czech Republic - Part 1 (of MANY)

I don't think I have ever had this many thoughts running through my head... at full speed... at fast forward...  And trust me, I have MANY thoughts under normal circumstances.  I also don't think I have ever been as inspired as I am after returning from this trip.  Not only inspired in Agility, but also inspired in life.  There is no way I can do a concise post of this amazing opportunity, so let's just start off with the first part.

For my non-South African followers and other random readers, I feel a short explanation is in order.  We live on a continent where only one country actively does Agility.  There are one or two guys doing it in Zimbabwe and Namibia, but rarely any cross-over, so we are completely isolated as far as the sport goes.  On top of that, we get no sponsorship worth mentioning for competing at the World Champs or the European Open.  I will be honest, my little two week excursion cost me roughly R38 000 (or 8 800 dollars or 3 300 euro or 2 700 pounds).  The only reason I mention this, is because you (as a non-South African), have to realise the difference in pressure and expectation this trip puts on us as handlers... and as people for that matter. You really do want to make the best of the whole experience and learn and grow and observe... all of this while doing your utter best and trying to remember all the valuable information to bring back and share, coming from nowhere, coming from a completely isolated Agility country.

Okay, all the dramatic nonsense aside, let's start with the blow by blow of our ACE (Amazing Czech Experience):

Day 1:  We were only flying at night, but the dogs had to be in Cargo by 16h00, seeing as how we live MILES (and miles and miles and miles) from the airport, my and The Nerd left very the house very early... well that and my itchy 'can't wait for the trip @ss', couldn't sit around here for much longer.  We had to go with my car (The Nerd's was way too small for airline crates and luggage), so at least driving to the airport gave me something else to do other than bounce around with ants in my pants... okay well driving AND giving the hubby instructions and reminders for my absence.  I dropped hubby, crates and luggage off at Cargo, before driving to the terminals to pick up a team mate that had just flown in from Cape Town.

Booking the dogs into Cargo was hard... but I mean very hard... not for them mind you... they both passed out in their crates while I got all teary eyed and emotional.  They were obviously both born with that natural 'international traveller instinct', which most people are not!  Lucky for me, I had the awesome Nerd and some good friends that came to see us off and take my mind off things.  The flight was uneventful (minus the sever turbulence that made several passengers scream) and fellow team-mate and travelling partner's entertainment monitor malfunctioning... repeatedly...  I have to say though, the service on the super-cool A380 we had from the KLM staff was superb!  Way to go KLM, you are definitely on my list of approved airlines!

There was a small logistical issue with the two rental vans that eventually got sorted, although it did add some time to getting the dogs from the Animal Lounge at Frankfurt... but my two awesome boys handled it all so well and travelled like stars!  Haha, well at least Stein was happy to see me... Chaos was all business, you know 'oh cool, new place, what do we get to do next?!?! Well... where we went next is trying to fit a crap-load of luggage and dog crates into two relatively small vans...  Well for NORMAL purposes they were not actually small.. but for 11 dogs, 13 people, airline crates and luggage... whole different story.  Anyhow, won't bore you (well any further in anyway) with silly details...

Two things I have to say though... first of all... when are they EVER going to get done with roadworks outside Frankfurt (I have had to drive through that a million times now, yes, exaggeration included in the package of reading this blog) and secondly... I LOVE the German Autobahn, when (and only when) there are NO roadworks... it is fantastic for making up time (according to SatNav lady anyway) and people are so considerate and polite in their driving, even at high speed (well considered by South African Standards in anyway).  Or maybe that is just my perception and some poor German working class drivers are still swearing at the crazy South African lady... who knows.  At least now FINALLY someone (well all my fellow travellers in 'the cool car') understanad why Chaos earned the nickname Spaz... nope, he can't just sleep like a normal dog... see if YOU can figure out these pics...

After a short night's sleep in our hotel in Usti nad Labem, we had to get up at cock's fart to attend a local show.  Now here comes my first official 'report' part of the whole Czech blog... I have SO many thoughts on it... one small little show, but still!

We were a bit late (GPS lady 2 (the one from the other car)) was a slight spot confused as to where exactly we were going and insisted on taking us to... well the wrong place... luckily for us another gps lady from a Czech competitor experienced the same confusion and her having a dog in the car allowed us to deduce that she was also going to the show.  She then phoned her Czech buddies and spoke in Czech to get us to the right place in... well Czech... and we could follow her!  This did mean that we didn't have much time in between parking, walking the course and actually running... and they started with Large Open Jumping!  So as you will see on the video, Chaos's round is rather dis-jointed and awkward and... well... all over the place.  I had a bit of time to settle and set up crates before Volt's Open Jumping... and who would have known, my little Stein managed to win against the other 34 small dogs (that is A LOT of small dogs by SA standards just btw), even with the wide turns and hesitations.

Next up was the graded Agility... Chaos knocked a bar and them somehow came off the side of the see saw... and speaking of see saws, Volt also had an issue with it... I am happy with both rounds though, I achieved a lot more than a 'clear round' with both boys.  Our last round of the day was Open Agility... a fantastic course (more on that later) that would have cause heart attacks in South Africa and FORCED me to USE skills I only train behind a dark curtain at home where no-one ever sees me... how cool is that?!?!?!?  I should have had better weave entries with both boys, but alas, not enough training to proof that whole 'go get the weaves concept'... Honestly, Volt was not ready for a course (awesome as it was) of this magnitude, all my fault of course!  So even though he wasn't going at full speed and I kind of (and by that I mean A LOT) sucked in my handling, I think he handled himself well.  Chaos's issue will be discussed in a later post...

Me and Bean accepting our first prize!

Now non-South Africans can probably stop reading, since the rest will just seem like gibberish to you, but I would like to comment on the following:

1.  The courses were fantastic and CLEVER and damn hard and technical... if I put that up in SA I would be crucified (considering the moaning I ALREADY get that my courses are too hard)... but be prepared ladies and gents, I am prepared to go through that crucifixion :D  On that note, I did not see one competitor moan or be upset or throw a tantrum or even be unhappy....
2.  You know this whole drama we have been going through about bitches in season competing (oh don't lie, we have ALL followed the insanity)... well in Czech bitches in season compete IN their running order, use the SAME warm-up ring, crate their dogs in between the others and only use a mat at the start... coincidentally both my ENTIRE males competed right after BIS and did not blink an eye or care or be affected at all (please look at the video, sure that will prove it).
3.  Everyone helped.  No questions asked, I can't say no moans, since I don't understand Czech and most of them didn't understand English, but I can say there were no dropped shoulders, loud comments about 'but I pay to enter the show'.
4.  We started at 8am and finished at 4pm, but it seemed that everyone stayed for prize-giving... prize-giving was awesome, with a podium and trophies and people laughing and cheering and shaking each other's hands.
5.  Their equipment was 'older and more worn and less FCI compliant' than our stuff here in Gauteng, yet no-one minded and the dogs sure as hell didn't.
6.  Even the Daxies ran at full speed (you know what I mean)...

So that whole spiel sounds like a reprimand... and well maybe it is.  Maybe I am a cynic, since I have to deal with all the crappy politics or maybe my perception is wrong... but I think around here, most of us have lost perspective... we get to share the most amazing sport ever, with the most amazing partners ever, we have all the potential and all the opportunity, we need to learn how to love it!

So that is it for part 1... haha, stay tuned if you are ready for more!

Our show in Czech Republic:

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