Author Topic: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game  (Read 2723 times)

Amber Fountain

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Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« on: April 12, 2015, 11:41:42 AM »
About eight years ago, I took Braddock, who was three years old, to our first agility class. Our manners class teacher, and our vet both recommended it, and Braddock seemed to love it right from the start. In manners and trick classes, he was like a high school kid forced to take some class they think they’ll never need. In agility, he beamed! If dogs had thumbs, he’d have given me two thumbs up!

Only a few months later, we decided to go to a trial since he seemed to be doing so well. It happened to be a NADAC trial—WAG’s Thanksgiving trial. Braddock got a Q on his first run, and then ran out of the ring on his next two runs. I was mortified, but no one else seemed to think much of it. A couple of months later, I tried a USDAA trial. Braddock stayed in the ring for all of his runs. Maybe he even got a Q, but I don’t remember specifically. What I do remember is that there were several people there, including the judge, who just didn’t make me feel welcome. So, we went back to WAG for another NADAC trial. We had a blast! Then we went to K9X, back to WAG, even had our first hotel stay for a trial with New Hope, etc… It didn’t take us long to get hooked! In the meantime, we dabbled a bit in AKC, but I just wasn’t having as much fun at the AKC trials. I finally decided, with a little prodding from my husband, that I wasn’t going to spend that much money to not have a great time, so I quit going to AKC.

Through the last eight years, we went through times where I thought we weren’t very good. Moving from Novice to Open was hard! But, just like at our first trial, no one else seemed to notice that we weren’t very good, or if they did, I never knew it. We always got plenty of encouragement. We could walk off the course after a horrible run, and there would be someone who would point out the best part of our run. I never imagined that we’d get a NATCH. We still haven’t, but we’re only two Qs away.

Who else has waited eight years (or longer)? I would love to hear other stories of teams who persisted for that long and finally earned their NATCH! We’ve seen so many other friends achieve a NATCH with their dogs, often those dogs weren’t even born when Braddock and I got started in this! It’s funny, but it’s kind of our “thing” now. I have some odd sense of pride in having taken so long. Maybe it’s because I never thought it would be possible. I only started believing it would happen when Braddock successfully did a distance challenge at Champs in 2013…I was so excited when it happened that I literally fell on the course! Maybe I have this sense of pride because we just didn’t give up. We were having fun, and it has all just fallen together. I should also mention that we’ve had an awesome support team around us, encouraging us to keep working at it, and that has been HUGE!

At the same time, with Braddock turning 11 this summer, I feel some pressure. In early 2013, I decided to go back to grad school. I knew I’d have to cut back on some things I enjoy. Less trips to San Antonio for Spurs game. I even missed the State Fair this year. That may not sound big to a lot of you, but we Texans take our State Fair pretty seriously! And agility. I’ve had to stay home some weekends to do homework. I’ve had to celebrate friends’ NATCHs on Facebook. There are first runs by new dogs that I’ve missed. Braddock and I also haven’t had as many chances runs as would have had if I weren’t in school. I have some friends in other areas who do VT, so I thought it might be worth a shot to do some VT runs to try to make up for what I wasn’t able to do at trials. We’ve blown way more of those runs than we’ve Qd on, but we have been able to earn a few. Combined with the trials I’ve been able to fit in around my class schedule, we’re almost there!

I suspect few people know how it feels to work at this for eight years. If you are one of them, please share your journey!

Right now, I can’t wait for June, when I’ll have a few weeks with no work, and no graduate school. My favorite part of my schedule as an educator is the ability to travel in the summer, and go to trials in other areas. We’ve been to trials in Montanan, Wisconsin, and several in Missouri. It’s so fun to meet new people, and see the different dogs that people have in different parts of the country! I haven’t figured out exactly where we’ll go this summer, but I’m sure we’ll show up somewhere! Maybe we’ll even luck out, and have an extra special memory to bring back!


Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

Sharon Nelson

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2015, 12:38:07 PM »
Amber, what a great story!!  As I always say, it IS about the journey and you have had a great one!  It has nothing to do with a large number of NATCHes or how fast you earn them.  It is the journey!  Some people will earn several NATCHes a year and they also have a great journey.  Each person and dog handler team is different and each journey is different!  Congratulations on your incredible journey and good luck on that NATCH!

Sharon
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Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2015, 12:48:14 PM »
Thank you, Sharon! I am really excited!! I used to feel like taking so long meant that we weren't as good as other teams, but somewhere along the way, my way of thinking shifted, and now I wouldn't have it any other way!
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

Laurie Graichen

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2015, 01:08:13 PM »
Hi Amber,

It took me and Bravo 10 years and 1 month from first Novice Q to NATCH - he actually got his NATCH and Versatility NATCH on the same run 5 days before his 12th birthday, but for THREE YEARS we lacked that last elusive Elite Standard Q - though I will admit a large portion of that 3 years was spent in rehab after 2 groin injuries, separated by about a year.

As I sit here typing I can see his Versatility NATCH plaque - and I would give it back in a heartbeat if it would bring him back alive and healthy so we could have spent another 14+ years together.
********************
Laurie Graichen
Sky High Belgian Shepherd Dogs, Catawba, SC USA
skyhighbel@comporium.net
See Videos of Our Dogs at http://www.youtube.com/user/skyhighbel

arlene

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2015, 02:33:37 PM »
My Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Skye and I have been competing in NADAC since 2007. She is a fast, fast, fast corgi and I am not! We have been working to be a team this whole time. I have always found tremendous support from the competitors at the NADAC trials. As the years passed I realized it was about having fun with my dog and not how many Q's you earn. We have earned 1035 total points which for some are not many but for us incredible. I am very proud of our accomplishments and appreciate the support I've received through the years.
Congratulations on being sooooo close to your NATCH. The memories really are EVERYTHING! Arlene
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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2015, 02:57:52 PM »
I've had a similar experience with positive feedback at NADAC trials.  One tends to focus on the missed contact or the off-course or some other goof, but then after the run someone approaches with wide eyed amazement celebrating it.  Those positive comments after a run have had such an impact on me that I try to pay it forward to other teams.  I make an effort to watch other runs, especially new dogs, and offer some praise for whatever went well.  Even if its just to say the dog had a really good time.  What's really fun is to see the same dog at a trial a few months later.  Its usually easy to find some way they have improved.

I checked Casey's first Q! - jumpers Sep 2011 - against her NATCH in Mar 2014, and its about 2 and a half years.  Looking back it seems pretty fast.  But I can remember when we started and a NATCH seemed like a fantasy.  It was this huge accomplishment that I could not imagine attaining.  NATCH dogs were in a whole different league from us.  We continued to train and compete and chug along with 1 or 2 Q!s per trial, usually just tunnelers and jumpers.  Contacts, weaves, and distance were very challenging for us.  We got a little better and then we started getting 3 or 4 Q!s at each trial.  Casey snuck in to Champs 2013 on the second chance entries, we only had 1 TnG that year.  She had 1 run at Champs without course faults and I felt like we had won the whole thing!  I remember feeling that she proved she deserved to be there with that run.  That was a big deal for me.  And I saw that many of the dogs we trialed with on a regular basis did really well there.  That was also a big deal for me.  I mean I didn't consider us to be as good as a lot of other local teams, but then I saw the other local teams were placing and winning at Champs.  So maybe we were pretty good too.  Then we started getting 6 or 7 Q!s at each trial.  Then a NATCH started to seem possible.  Then it started to feel probable.  Then one day I decided it was inevitable.  It was only a matter of time.  Then when she got it, I felt a great sense of relief.  And once again everyone else there was celebrating with us.  I hope you get your NATCH at a trial in front of a lot of supporters.  Everybody wants to see your team succeed.

Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2015, 03:16:50 PM »
Laurie, I hear you on trading the awards in for more time. Getting the NATCH at this point will definitely give it a different meaning for me than if we had gotten it years ago. We have battled some very mild back issues this year, and it makes me nervous. We got our first elite chances Q two years ago this past week, and our elite chances title 1 year ago this past week. Back in October/November, I was super stressed about getting what was then my last 4 Qs. I went to a trial in December, and I was so sick. I had no business being at a trial, but I went anyway. My voice wouldn't work, and I alternated between sounding like Mickey Mouse and someone who had smoked a pack a day for 50 years! Braddock and I had the most fun we had had in a long time, and we took home a few Qs. I don't think one was chances, but it helped me focus on bringing the fun back and enjoying every moment that we have left!

Arlene, it sounds like you and Skye have got that teamwork thing down! Our first competition was November of 2007. I see fewer and fewer registration numbers that start with 07-. Are you amazed sometimes at how much has changed since then? Not just with agility, but with just the world in general? I sure didn't have a smart phone back then, and I didn't post anything on Facebook! I hope you and Skye have many more years of fun!
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

Lynda Bowors

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2015, 03:20:23 PM »
Amber:
I applaud you for hanging in there and persisting even when you didn't feel you are as "good" as others.  I too started agility in 2003 with Mishka (Bichon/Shi Tzu) who at that time was an active puppy with too many smarts and not enough things to keep her busy.  I only took the agility lessons to occupy her mind, but I found it something we could do together and have fun at the same time.  It became evident that even though she was fast and skilled, it wasn't her favourite activity and would only do it if there was enough value (food) at the end.  She learned quickly that food was only available in practice sessions and not during the run at a trial.  BUT we persevered and like you, some runs were awesome and some not so much so as she found other things on the course more interesting than the obstacles.  She taught me so much and the journey has memories that will last a life time.  We did reach our NATCH in Oct. 2013 which I never expected to achieve with this little imp, so it is possible and even when it looked like a road that would never end, we kept going and worked together to achieve this milestone.  I officially retired her and she's OK with that, I occasionally enter her in a tunnelers or EGC (she loves EGC) and she's an eager partner.
So, yes it sometimes takes a long time, but really what is time when you are enjoying the journey and having fun with your partner.

Lynda Bowors
Lynda Bowors

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Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2015, 05:59:51 PM »
Lynda, so true! What is time when you are having fun with your partner? I can't imagine we would have had any more fun if we had an armful of NATCHes!

That's so awesome that you and Mishka kept at it! I can just imagine her face as a trial when she didn't get her food right when she wanted it!

When I got my graduate degree, one of my high school teachers sent a card to me. He scribbled inside, "Perseverance pays off, doesn't it?"  You'd have to know him to know how much him writing just that simple question meant, but it's so true, and your story reminded me of that note!


Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

KathieT

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2015, 07:12:12 PM »
My mini Aussie, Red, and I trialed for almost 5 years for the first NATCH.  She was 7.5 y/o and I never would have dreamed that we could do it.  I did the vast majority of the training and a lack of trials made it hard.  I wouldn't trade a moment of the journey.  With a lot of perserverance, she got her V-NATCH last fall at almost 10 y/o and a 7 seconds under sct (yes, weavers does require extra training as Sharon said).  It was also bittersweet because jy younger and bigger dog yanked a toy and we haven't been able to trial.  Enjoy every minute and best wishes on getting your NATCH.

Kathie, Red and Bryn
Kathie
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cheyaut

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2015, 01:55:07 AM »
Way to go on getting near your first NATCH! What a great accomplishment, and I'm sure you'll be celebrating when it gets here :)

I've been doing agility for over 15 years I believe. I've started several different dogs. Some just for bonding/relationship type reasons, and while they enjoyed it, it wasn't their THING and we didn't push it. Some did pretty well and were in Elite in some classes. I've yet to get a NATCH, but we don't have any less fun and enjoyment out of this game than those with multiple NATCHs :)

My BC, Dash, is my first dog to be in Elite in all classes (other than EGC classes, we're working on that though!). Oh, and not hoopers, but it's not offered in a lot of trials and I honestly don't like the class so I don't even enter it anymore when it is. But anyhow...

Dash will be 5 this year. We started puppy class when he was... 6 months? When he was old enough to compete, we started off easy. I work every other weekend, so that really cuts into how many trials I can do... I hate that they often are on my work weeks! LOL I have faith he will be my first NATCH dog. He's awesome. All we need now are Chances runs... we only have 30 Elite Chances points. Not our best class ;) But we will get there! Just like you will :)

Of course, I don't do this for Q's, ribbons, titles. I do it for a ton of fun playing with my dogs and great company :) Some of my bet runs aren't Q's! Even a messed up run, I'm always happy. There's always something to smile and cheer about. I'm glad you've found that out, too!
Jessi Zamboni

Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2015, 05:59:51 AM »
Wow, Kathie! That awesome about the NATCH, and especially the V-NATCH. Braddock really struggles with weaves, so V-NATCH isn't even on my radar. Kudos for sticking to it and not giving up!


Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

Sara Langston

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2015, 07:51:52 AM »
Kane came to me in January, 2006, as a 14-month old rescue who was afraid of anything and distrustful of everything and everybody.  The first time I put him over a jump and through a short tunnel in my  agility practice area, he came out with wide eyes full of excitement and a smile on his face as big as Texas.  I stood there looking at him and just thought "Wow!!"  Because of his issues, I never dreamed we would be able to attend trials or get out of Novice, but we decided to give trials a try.  We ended up competing in NADAC, AKC, and USDAA.  Kane did well is all venues and earned many titles in each, but he absolutely glows at a NADAC trial.  I kept Kane in Novice and Open in all classes until he earned his Superiors at both levels.  (Isn't it great that NADAC offers us the opportunity to keep our dogs at a lower level and still earn points and titles!!!)  The reason I did this was to make sure he was still having fun and a NATCH never entered my mind until we finished our Open Superiors.  Then, I realized a NATCH might just be possible. 

Our first NADAC trial was in Dec., 2006, and Kane earned a Novice Tunnelers Q, the only class he ran that trial.  Kane earned his first NATCH in Feb., 2012!!!!  Five and a half years of having a great time together.  Now, at age 10 1/2, he has NATCH3 and is still loving agility.  He is not as fast as he once was, but he still comes off a course smiling from ear to ear and wanting more. 

You don't see many Collies in agility and when you do, they aren't usually really fast.  Some are, but most aren't.  Kane never has been screaming fast, but he has been fast enough to get the job done.  More than that, the look on his face as he runs a course is worth all the speed records in the world to me.  He absolutely loves agility.  We are still running several classes a day at trials, but only the ones Kane enjoys.  He absolutely loves Chances.  Thank you, NADAC, for giving older dogs so many options like VT and lower jump heights.  There are so many old dogs out there who still want to play and would not be able to if it were not for NADAC. 

My journey with Kane has been amazing.  Never in my wildest dreams when I started working with this little black Collie did I imagine we could do the things we have done and have the relationship we have.  Kane and I have become one because of his love of agility.  It is truly the JOURNEY and NOT the titles that makes our life together so special!!!!

Sara Langston         
Sara Langston, Laughing Dog Agility
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NATCH3 V-NATCH Kane, Mac, Blaze, & Rocket

Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2015, 09:24:45 AM »
Sara, thanks for sharing you journey with Kane! I know I had heard some of it before, but knowing that the fearful, shy guys can succeed and have fun is awesome! My other schnauzer is fearful of the world. He only believe that tunnelers is worth blocking out the world for, but man does he love his tunnelers courses!!

I also love knowing that when Braddock can't run full courses anymore, we have the option of dropping to open, novice, and now even Intro!


Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX

Amber Fountain

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Re: Thoughts as we near our NATCH...after 8 years in the game
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2015, 05:07:55 AM »
Way to go on getting near your first NATCH! What a great accomplishment, and I'm sure you'll be celebrating when it gets here :)

I've been doing agility for over 15 years I believe. I've started several different dogs. Some just for bonding/relationship type reasons, and while they enjoyed it, it wasn't their THING and we didn't push it. Some did pretty well and were in Elite in some classes. I've yet to get a NATCH, but we don't have any less fun and enjoyment out of this game than those with multiple NATCHs :)

My BC, Dash, is my first dog to be in Elite in all classes (other than EGC classes, we're working on that though!). Oh, and not hoopers, but it's not offered in a lot of trials and I honestly don't like the class so I don't even enter it anymore when it is. But anyhow...

Dash will be 5 this year. We started puppy class when he was... 6 months? When he was old enough to compete, we started off easy. I work every other weekend, so that really cuts into how many trials I can do... I hate that they often are on my work weeks! LOL I have faith he will be my first NATCH dog. He's awesome. All we need now are Chances runs... we only have 30 Elite Chances points. Not our best class ;) But we will get there! Just like you will :)

Of course, I don't do this for Q's, ribbons, titles. I do it for a ton of fun playing with my dogs and great company :) Some of my bet runs aren't Q's! Even a messed up run, I'm always happy. There's always something to smile and cheer about. I'm glad you've found that out, too!

Somehow, I didn't see your post yesterday, Jessi! We didn't start agility to "win" either, though I have always thought my dog was pretty awesome. :) I didn't realize the relationship builder agility would be, but my guy was just a wild child! Agility  has been full of surprises in the relationship building area. I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

Isn't that a neat feeling when you realize you can count the Qs you need on just your fingers?! LOL! Like you, we don't get may EGC runs in, and we usually only have hoopers on Fridays. I usually can't make it on Friday afternoons. I hope the trials line up well with your work. Those next 10 Qs will come!!
Amber, Braddock, and Magic
Round Rock, TX