Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pixie's Tail Dances A Reel...

or a jig, or whatever this song might be. As some of you know, Pixie is more or less the most mellow dog I've ever known. At least her tail is happy!
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Michele Pouliot Comes To OKC

Well, no rest for the weary... My friend Karen arrived from AZ on Thursday afternoon, and she helped me finish up some last minute errands we needed to take care of for the seminar. Michele's flight came in late - and was even later due to a weather delay, and we were even later due to construction on the highway... so, we finally rolled into bed about 1am on Thursday.

Friday was a great day. We started off with a private lesson with Shelby. Michele had some good ideas for a routine concept I have playing with for some time - but, boy do we have a lot of work cut out for us now! We had another private lesson with Michele in the afternoon to work with Pixie - again, she had some really good suggestions on how to go back and work some of the basics to hopefully eliminate Pixie's idea of running out of the ring.

We had a nice dinner with Michele and the gals from Little Rock on Friday night. Saturday began the two day workshop. We had 18 working teams and 10 auditors - what an amazing group of freestylers!

The seminar was fantastic - one of the best I have been to in quite a long time. If you have an opportunity to attend one of Michele's seminars - RUN, don't walk to get in line to sign-up. I simply cannot recommend her highly enough. She is not only a fountain of knowledge, but just a lovely person as well... you couldn't hope for a better combination.

I'm hoping to sign-up for her online class starting next month. The "training" aspect of freestyle is the part that I usually find the least "fun" - so I need to make sure I have a way to stay on track and keep motivated to reinforce some of the foundation work I've been a little neglectful of lately.

Of course, I was thinking of taking some time off of freestyle this year - but Darn, That Michele! - I am now full of all sorts of ideas... even considering hosting a competition here in OKC in the fall. We'll see...

PA Competition

Well, our first competition this year came a little bit earlier than expected when I made the decision to attend the freestyle competition in Pittsburgh, PA that was held at the end of March. Roxie & Shelby needed one leg to finish their Brace Championship, and since Roxie is getting older - I felt that taking this chance was the right thing to do.

We entered Roxie & Shelby's brace routine, Shelby & Pixie's brace routine, Shelby's MF routine, and Pixie's HTM routine. The brace routine has been a challenge since Roxie had a seizure during the routine about a year and a half ago. It wasn't so much a technical challenge for her - as it was an emotional one as I know she still carried some anxiety about doing the routine with Shelby.

Our last practice before we left for PA did not go as well as I would have hoped. After some initial confidence in our "new" routine, I could tell that Roxie was very anxious - and then a miscue that resulted in me almost falling on Roxie and actually stepping on Shelby only added to the concern. Of course, we only had a mere three days before we left for the competition. I knew I had two choices - worry about whether Roxie will shut down, or try to find a solution that might help. Going back to when we made a music/costume/choreography change for the last competition with good results - I decided that I would change out the music and rechoreograph on my drive to PA (I had a good 16+ hours in the car).

Fortunately, I found a piece that I really liked and was editing like mad the night before we left. I had the new choreography planned even before I was done editing. I really liked that the new music had a much softer feel and not so heavy a beat/rhythm - I knew this would make it easier for Roxie somehow.

We had a nice drive - just a bit of weather. My friend Chuck, who runs the beagle rescue, tagged along for the ride as his family lives in Pittsburgh and he hadn't been able to get back home for several years to visit. So, it worked out well. Of course, Shelby went all kinds of crazy when she saw him... once she figured out he'd be in the car for a while - she FINALLY settled down. Chuck is one of Shelby's absolute favorite people.

We got to the hotel on Friday, dropped off our "gear" at the competition - three crates, one chimney, two circus buckets, three clothes racks, one chair, 6 costumes... all the while I was thinking "why I am unloading this much stuff? I can't possibly NEED this much stuff!" Then it was off to find a grocery store to pick up hot dogs, and then off to bed.

Saturday morning started with Roxie & Shelby's brace. As we entered the ring, I could tell Roxie was a little unsure. The music started and she responded - a bit slower and a bit less enthusiastic than normal - but she hit every cue and performed as best as I could hope. Shelby was an absolute rock - totally focused and needing very little additional direction from me, which was nice because then I could really focus on supporting Roxie through the routine.

I really enjoyed the new music and the choreography just seemed to "happen" - I didn't even really have to think about it... they did as well as I could have hopped for... and managed to get their final Q!

I promised Roxie that if they qualified on the brace on the first day, I wouldn't make her do it again on Sunday - so I bumped the entry over to the individual class and danced with just her. We had a great time and I saw her be able to relax and have fun with the performance. Roxie is now "officially" retired. We'll continue to do freestyle - but just for us, and just for fun. We won't be pursing any titles - if some come along, great... if not, we'll just enter and do the routines we want to do because we want to do them. It seems appropriate that Roxie ended her "serious" competitive career dancing to a song called "FairyTale".

Shelby was an absolute rock all weekend, and it was a pleasure to see her so focused. We did her Mary Poppins routine and Saturday was probably one of the best performances of this routine she has done in competition.

Pixie is going through a learning phase - on both routines on Saturday (her individual HTM and her brace with Shelby), she ran out of the ring just as we started the routines. I actually think this is a good sign - as it shows she is starting to "think" on her own and not just follow me - but it is definitely something we will have to work on in practice - back to the basics!

She did better on Sunday, after an initial attempt to run out as we entered the ring for the brace routine (but before we actually started), she was going along quite well... until I cued a beg and realized I was getting a "oops, gotta poop now" instead. Since I didn't want it to hit the ring - I just reached down and caught it... to everyone's amusement of course. I guess I just figured that is what soap and hot water is for! I definitely didn't want it to be a problem for whoever came in the ring next - and I know from having "dogs" that are really just noses with four legs, that it would still smell "different" (either of poop or of cleaner)... so it was just a natural reaction - of course, I ended up winning the "Fastest Scooper" award!

But Pixie ended the weekend on a positive note and did a very nice job on her HTM routine - and was able to get a Q and finish her Novice HTM title.

We had a really great time - it was so good to see old friends and to finally meet some list friends in person. I don't often get to travel to shows in this region, so that was a lot of fun.

The drive home wasn't too bad - we had achieved a very long time goal of finishing our brace championship, and Pixie managed to finish a title as well. Of course, when we arrived home on Monday afternoon - we had little time to rest. Michele Pouliot was arriving on Thursday for the seminar I was hosting... pretty good timing, maybe she'll have some suggestions for Pixie!

New Titles...

Well, once again - I have fallen a little bit behind... we received the results of the December video competition and our pairs routine (me with Shelby & Megan with Pixie) Q'd and won a 2nd place. Not too bad for having two beagles in one routine! That finished our W-PFD (Pairs Freestyle Dog) for this routine. If Megan comes out and visits again this summer, maybe we can work on a new routine.
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