As your Poodle representative competing in the European Open, here is:


HOW WE GOT INVITED:  JIB qualified for the AKC World Team Tryout, and
when coach Nancy Gyes learned of the ban in Norway on cropped and docked
dogs on the team, she came up with an additional "team" opportunity for
the USA.  This was the sixth EO trial, but the USA had never been
represented.  There is one day of individual competition, and one team
day.  Dogs that qualified for Team Tryout were considered qualified for
Italy.

HOW MANY WENT:  The trial rule is that no country could have more large
dog entries than small dogs.  Small was a combination of Small (jumping 14) and
Medium (jumping 18"), but the balance kept four rings going full time,
two for large dogs.  We ended up with four Medium dogs, JIB HEMI
JIMMY-DEAN and SWISH.  There were twelve small dogs, allowing a total of
16 Border Collies to compete.

TEAM USA UNIFORMS:  Because this was not an AKC funded event, there was
no financial support.  However, a supply of team shirts, jackets and
sweat shirts was created for purchase.  Shirts looked good and had a big
USA on the back.  The jackets are gorgeous, but were not possible to
wear in the weather we faced.

TRAVEL:  Flights were difficult due to routing with dogs.  We could not
fly through London, but I found Brussels worked well.  The large dog
handlers also had to worry about temperature rules on domestic flights
for dogs in cargo.  Most competitors traveled alone of in small groups.
I was on my own until I drove my rental car to the B&B in Italy.  I
found driving in Italy very challenging, and navigating was even harder.

THE CONDITIONS:  Brutal.  My husband had the wisdom to decline traveling
in August in Italy, as he told me it would be miserably hot.  Right.  We
suffered, especially Saturday.  It was HOT, humid, and full sun on the
rings.  JIB is very heat tolerant, and so am I.  We soaked down before
our runs, drank huge amounts of water, tried to seek shade, still it was
brutal.

FOOD:  Yes, there is Pizza.  NO, there is NO ice.  Cold drinks were hard
to find, and harder to keep.  GOOD side was beer (Becks) at the trial
concession stand!  Better, was cold Bier (Italian "Moretti" bier a double malt)
in town a two minute drive away.  The bar also allows dogs!

THE RINGS AND COURSES:  The horse area rings were some kind of crushed
granite or sand, and were sprinkled and rolled nightly.  Still, handlers
ended up digging out of deep holes in quicksand like traction where
tight courses created pits.  Nancy Gyes, Alan Gersman, and Wendy Wallace
each took a fall.

RING SIDE CRATING:  Team USA set up literally on the outside of the
fence on one ring.  We had a low hedge by the fence, and about ten feet
to a line of trees and hedge behind us.  The team spread along this
corridor on dirt, with crates under a few canopies.  The large dog team
soon created a spot to climb over the fence to short cut to their rings.
There was more smoking, more trash, and fewer porta potties than USA.

RULES AND COURSES:  This was the part I was least prepared for, but it
didn't stop me from competing.  I just did the best I could, and let the
results be whatever.  I know more now of course, but the score doesn't
change.  There were NO course maps.  You just watched the course builders place
the numbers.  The courses were very tight, using much less ground than we are
used to in AKC.  Long stretches were rare, especially in jumpers.  Off course
jumps were numerous, and they were a disqualification.  Like USDAA, refusals at
the weaves could be fixed, with faults.  Missed contacts were faults, jump
refusals were faults.  OFF COURSE was a DQ=E (elimination).  Ouch.

LANGUAGE BARRIER:  I never was able to figure out the PA announcements.  It was
very helpful that the competitors were grouped in running order by country as
well as jump height.  That put Elizabeth Evans and her Pyrenean Shep HEMI right
in front of JIB most runs.  Since I train with EE, that was super!

THE INDIVIDUAL TRIAL DAY, SATURDAY:  Jumpers was first on our schedule for JIB
and HEMI.  There were 150 dogs in our Medium 18" jump height and we were in the
second group of 50.  Surprisingly, all weekend, a group would walk and then run
the course, before the next group walked.  We watched the first group of 50 run
our course, and were shocked to see only about FIVE clean runs!  EE and HEMI ran
what looked like a super clean run in front of me, but it turned out HEMI had
come around the viaduct, for an E=disqualifacation.  I had a portion of my run
that was not handled like 95% of the class, and it became obvious why, when I
over rotated and sent JIB over an off course jump.  It was his only error on a
fast run, but still.... an E.

The standard course, or "agility" as they call it in Europe, was in the mid
afternoon heat.  EE and I again walked after watching over 50 dogs, and few
qualifying runs.  This time I had a better plan.  HEMI suffered an E in front of
us, and we were on the line.  We had a GREAT run!  Too bad about the E.  This
time the off course was just my position error.  As the dog exited the weaves,
there was a single bar jump that was perfectly aligned to be invisible at that
angle.  I needed to push into JIB to move him to our right so he could see the
jump, then we would take off to our left.  I did not make the spot, and he "back
jumped" taking the off course E. 

Marcy Mantell and her sheltie WAVE won this class in the Small division!  Nancy
Kleinhans with sheltie JIMMY DEAN was third in Medium.

INDIVIDUAL FINALS SELECTION:  Following the two rounds of individual
competition, there was a single round of agility (standard) to decide the
winning dog in each jump height division.  Every country sent their three top
scoring dogs in each jump height to the final round.  This selection included
teams with an "E", if there were not enough clean runs.  Since HEMI and JIB were
tied, a drawing was made by the trial secretary.  I was pretty oblivious to all
this.  Nancy Kleinhans walked by and told me HEMI was in the final.  I was so
pleased for Elizabeth I ran to give her the good news.  Then I got in my car and
drove to town to buy bier.  When I returned and offered Don St Croix a bier, we
were told JIB was the dog drawn for the third slot, not HEMI.  I have no idea
how that mix up happened, but we had to put the bier on hold.

So, the shelties JIMMY DEAN and SWISH (Wendy Wallace) were the medium dogs with
us from USA, among 66 dogs in the individual final.  The sand was deep, the
course was tough, and I missed JIB's weave set up.  Weaves are one of his very
best talents, and it really hurt to miss my spot.  JIB had to work the entry
twice, earning 2 refusals.  I figured we were cooked, so I took off aggressively
trying to just clean out the pipes.  JIB was called on his running contact dog
walk.  I never saw it, as the next line required a huge run in deep sand to get
my spot, and I was determined to get there!  As JIB crossed the finish line to
great applause, I thought we had just gone down in flames.  I had no idea, that
it was a Q.  I did not know until reaching home and reading the web site results
that JIB was the highest finisher among the USA small and medium team!  He was
25th of 66 in the finals.  Daniel McDonald and his BC finished 8th in the large
dog finals which ran until almost midnight, for our best USA placement.  Daniel
is 21 years old, and the youngest on the team, to my 59 and nearly oldest.  What
a hoot.

TEAM COMPETITION:  Sunday was team competition with each team including four
dogs.  Small and Medium could mix, but not with Large.  Our team was Marcy/WAVE
Joan Meyer/NEIL EE/HEMI and JIB.  HEMI and JIB finally got the clean run we were
looking towards, in the jumpers ring.  HEMI ran 30:69 and JIB was 31:30.  WAVE
had an E in standard, but NEIL pulled it out with a nice run.  We swapped rings,
and WAVE ran a 29  second jumpers to cover NEIL's E.  With those three scores in
jumpers, our USA team of four WON FIRST PLACE IN TEAM JUMPERS!  Too bad the
awards were only for combined;( 

The pressure was on Elizabeth and me.  The agility course was wicked.  Team
after team crashed.  The crux was a 270 after the dogwalk.  Listening to Webb
Anderson trying to figure how to handle this spot, I realized I was not alone in
my concerns.  The first jump of the 270 was  parallel to the DW, about 15' after
it, and six feet to the left.  The successful handlers were able to stop there
dogs in the deep sand at the bottom of the DW, pull backwards, then turn hard
right to send out over the jump.  THEN, you had to drive deep into the pocket
for the 270, or incur the back jump of the second jump.  MANY dreams died in
this spot.

Both HEMI and JIB missed the DW contact watching their handlers play in the deep
sand.  It was frustrating to then lose traction and incur the off course jump to
boot.  We ran it out, and JIB still thinks I was having a grand time. 

POODLES:  JIB was the largest Poodle I saw at the trial.  Most were the European
Dwarf size, and all colors were represented.  Mixed breeds were also allowed in
the trial.  Several of the Poodles placed very well, including one moment in the
award ceremony when all three dogs on the podium were Poodles.  Grooming did not
seem a priority except for the one Poodle I saw in show coat.  Most of the
Poodles had serious drive, bordering on Papillon level.  The language barrier
kept us from more than smiles, nods and cheering.

CONCLUSION:  I'm glad I went to Italy.  I think it was a golden opportunity to
be on a USA team, a chance that doesn't come easily.  My dog proved he is up to
this level of competition. We will be enjoying some serious training over the
next few weeks, looking forward to some big clean fast runs in the cool of the
morning on green grass.  Pure pleasure.