Thursday, February 25, 2010

Entries for Murphy

We have exactly two local trials every year - one in April and the other in July. Last year I ran both dogs in both trials, Teller ran in novice preferred - his second AKC trial and Murphy ran in excellent. It was a little chaotic, but the one ring trial made it more than possible.

The random draw for the April agility trial closes next week and I've debated my entry. It's a local show, I'm a club member and I'm on the event committee so I'm already committed to be there all weekend- so Teller's entry is a given. My consternation has been Murphy's entry. Should I put him into novice preferred jumpers just so he gets to play? I did process and fill out an entry for him and signed it...it's ready to go. He's historically liked footing like the stuff at the new trial location. But I kept going back to why.

Any entry I put in for Murphy is an entry for me. Do I really need to walk and run a novice course? Do I really need to run a dog that has told me he'd rather just have free cookies and go on therapy visits? Why is Murphy's retirement so difficult for me? It's not difficult for him. He happily goes along for the ride at trials, enjoys visiting the people and the better cookies that come with dog shows of all flavors.

At home and among friends and students I've called it semi-retirement because at almost six years old he does actually like to train and play training games, He enjoys running some agility from time to time - though he's not a fan of repetition or skill drills. Murphy LOVES helping me teach my CGC class, it's fun to watch him strut his stuff in the "greeting a friendly stranger with a friendly dog" exercise. Murphy has that lesson plan mastered...trot (bounce) out in quasi-heel position to the handler and their dog, sit while the other dog either jumps on his head, strains at the leash and then finally a few weeks later sits politely while I shake hands with their handler. As soon as the handshake is complete Murphy takes exactly four more trotting bounce steps before he switches to reward mode and gallops to his cookie - only to repeat the process ten or fifteen times.

Murphy excels as a therapy dog, his quiet and introspective demeanor is so ideally suited to therapy work - he particularly enjoys reading with children who show him pictures, lifting his head as if he understands (and appreciates) their explanations of the scene in front of him. Murphy excels in puppy play and socialization too - he has so many wonderful skills and joys but he has never been one who's loved to trial, the pressure of trialing or all of those eyeballs on him.

So I mailed my entry for the BOTC trial - and it's one entry. One dog. Only Teller. Murphy will go along as chase crew and cheering squad. Murphy will get the special trial cookies (I make a special trip to Papa Franks for meatballs) and Murphy will get his chance to work the crowd, pick pockets and try to convince the sweet spectators that he never gets any cookies (or cheeseburgers) and never gets any attention...but I'm not going to ask him to run agility this time around. He doesn't miss the spotlight. I know it's the right decision -  but it's still a hard decision.

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