My First MR Trial
For the last couple of years I’ve been dabbling in Mondioring training. I’ve been a slow convert over the last 5 years or so, after becoming disillusioned with some of the other competitive dog sports. I competed in AKC obedience and Schutzhund from the mid eighties to early 2000’s. I tried agility for a while, but had a hard time committing to a sport with no bitework. After moving to Wisconsin in 2003, I continued working my own dogs at home. Ed and I met Michael Ellis in 2004 while I was still occasionally training in schutzhund. It took me a while but I started to see that the fun and challenge was there for the taking if I decided to pursue Mondioring. I also had my eyes opened to a training system that made sense to me. Up until I met Michael, I only had bits and pieces of the type of training program that I felt were good for both me and for my dogs.
I didn’t begin really training for mondio until late in 2007 when I kept a puppy from one of my litters. I bred my Fontaine D’Or bitch to Jackson LdS and held back a male I named Rush. He was a quick study and once I understood the steps to teaching the exercises he made great progress. I was limited by my lack of experience in this sport and my lack of motivation at times. I didn’t have anyone to train with regularly, so staying with the program was difficult. The fact that I wasn’t even sure I knew what the program was made it doubly difficult. I received a lot of phone and email coaching from my mentors, Michael Ellis and Donna Matey. It’s their fault that I’ve now passed the point of no return. :)
I did all my training at Michael’s seminars up until Rush was about 14 months old and he would go months between bite work sessions. I began training with other decoys around this time and continued to train with Michael at every opportunity.
Fast forward to summer of 2009 when I began training with a core group of people here in the WI/MN area. Without them, I never would have been able to get my dog ready to trial. Ed Frawley, Donna Matey, Jeremy Norton, Robin Larson, Maureen Haggerty and Aida Flick have given their time, energy and experience to helping Rush and I grow as a team.
I was aiming for summer of 2010 for my first leg of MR1 but I had a trip planned to Michael’s School for Dog Trainers that happened to be 2 weeks prior to the 2010 USMRA National Championship. After a family meeting it was decided that I would attend Michael's school and also prepare Rush for showing in the nationals for the first leg of his MR1. Keep in mind that I’d only watched one or two trials a couple years ago, so I had a lot to learn about rules, horns and handling. I was hoping that if I was not ready, my friends and coaches would tell me to pass on the Nationals and just continue to train for June.
In mid March, my friends and I drove the 2100 miles to California and attended a week long course at the school, and in the evenings I worked Rush on the mondio exercises. I met an incredible group of people over the 2 weeks of training and the help I got was amazing. Local decoys came out and worked the dogs getting ready for nationals, the support and sportsmanship was outstanding. I had a wonderful time visiting with old friends and making new ones.
I was extremely stressed and nervous in the months leading up to the California trip, mostly due to fear of the unknown. I never thought I was a very competitive person but I wanted to show well and make my “people” proud of me. I didn’t want them to think they had wasted their time on me so I felt increasing pressure to present Rush in a way that didn’t scream “look at the nervous newbie! She’s falling apart!” I didn’t want to choke on the trial field and make mistakes that took points from my dog.
I was assured by everyone that I would do fine; that my dog was ready and that we would look like we knew what we were doing. I had my doubts but tried to remain positive and confident. I was told by a good friend that by the time the trial rolled around I would no longer be nervous because I would have depleted all my stress hormones. I would have a bad case of ‘adrenal fatigue.’ I think that is exactly what happened.
Trial day rolled around quickly and I woke up at 3:30 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was excited for the day to begin and nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. The MR 1 competitors were to meet early Saturday morning and I was anxious for my first official Mondioring trial experience. I had my notebook and 2 pens ready during dog in white and tried hard to focus on the task at hand. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t remember much about dog in white, and when I look at my notes, I don’t even remember writing them down. One of the more nerve wracking things about a Mondioring trial is the way the competitors draw to determine trial order. It’s not like other sports I’ve competed in where you draw your position and know when you are expected on the field, they draw the first two and then each competitor to report in draws the next handler. First on the field draws the number 3 dog/handler team, second handler draws number 4 team and so on. I feel incredibly lucky to have been the third team to hit the field. The waiting around for the competitor draw is as much a test for the handler’s nerves as anything out on the field. There were 23 MR 1 dogs so many of the competitors had a very long day of waiting!
Once I hit the field my nervousness evaporated. It was a series of firsts for Rush and I and it was a great experience. I saw the weaknesses and strengths in my training and hope to come out again next time with improved performances in those areas. We ended up with 188 points and second place. I am extremely proud of Rush and how he handled being on the road for 3 weeks leading up to a big trial. I hope we have many more mondio adventures in store for us in the future.
I want to thank everyone who made the 2010 USMRA possible; you all did an amazing job pulling off a big event. Congratulations to all the first place teams, Terrill & Rocket MR 1, Sandrine & Thor MR 2 and Donna & Jackson MR3 (for the third year in a row!). A big congrats to everyone who participated, it takes guts to get out there on the field.
Last, but certainly not least, thanks to everyone who helped me get Rush ready, it’s been said over and over that it really does take a village. Ed Frawley, Michael Ellis, Jeremy Norton, Mark Keating, Robin Larson, Maureen Haggerty, Donna Matey, Aida Flick, Jill Fryling. You guys are the best!