Perhaps the most nerve racking part of competing in Obedience is the fact that Rugby isn't going into the ring alone.
We are a team. We have to walk into the ring together over and over again and offer up the best performance we can manage. For every way that Rugby can mess up an exercise, there are at least two ways that I can cause us to fail. I have to be ready to change and tweak my handling to reflect how Rugby happens to be feeling and responding to me at the time. I also have to be ready to manage his pre-trial activities to optimize his performance.
Rugby and I made our debut in the Obedience ring during the summer of 2009. Every time we show, we get a chance to practice working together to accentuate our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. While one would think two years of this is plenty of preparation, our teamwork is constantly evolving. Rugby's trial preferences are changing with age and experience. I am becoming better able to read him, and the trial environment. None of it comes without work. It takes countless hours practicing our skills, countless miles traveling to different shows, and endlessly observing Rugby and listening to what he has to say.
We have only just begun. We have many more hours to spend, many more miles to travel and so much more to learn from each other. I have to keep reminding myself when the thought of the NOI becomes intimidating that this weekend is just one more step on that road to better teamwork. No matter what happens, I will be able to walk away from this weekend having spent time with friends, watched some of the top Obedience teams in the country, met new people and most of all... I will have learned an enormous amount about my dog. We will be a better team.
Now, I really need to pack before our flight tomorrow morning.