I'm proud to announce that Belle and I reached another milestone at this weekend's QCDC NADAC Trial. On Sunday, we completed Belle's second NATCH with a qualifying run in Chances. The NATCH bar we received is particularly special since it was signed by Sharon Nelson when she was here in October.
I put my all into almost every run. I was getting tired and punchy by the last run on Sunday, Hoopers, and although it was a qualifying run, it was not pretty and it was not smooth. However, the Q was all that really mattered since that was the last Q we needed for Champs.
During the last week, I've been working on getting Belle to respond with a loud bark to "Are you ready?" I had tried giving her a bark command at the start line in the past, but wasn't very effective in getting her excited. Asking a question to elicit a bark seems to be more exciting. Maybe that's because "bark" is such a harsh-sounding word, and by using a question instead, you can vary the tone and energy of your bark cue.
Increasing my ground speed seemed to get Belle's little motor running--especially the running lead outs. I made some handling mistakes--pulling when I should have pushed, pushing when I should have pulled. The worst bobble we had was on Saturday's jumpers course. Belle sliced over a jump I was layering and almost got stepped on. I'm not quite sure what caused her to come over that jump, but I hope nothing like that ever happens again since one or both of us could get hurt.
When I let Belle out this morning with the others, I came to the realization that there is a definite limit to how much faster Belle can run a course if I depend on my own speed to motivate her. Handler energy is not just a matter of how fast you can run, it is also a function of how much of yourself you put into a run. I feel like I can truly say I put in a 100% effort into all of our runs except for the last one on Sunday. Even when I wasn't running physically, I was running and pushing mentally.
One last brag. Sunday, David and Dusty went 4 for 6, which is huge. Additionally, their Chances run was one of those runs of a lifetime. At least it was for me. I hope David felt the same. I'm really sorry we didn't capture it on video so that we could enjoy it again and again.