We failed our test today. I'm ok with that. Actually, I'm pretty proud of us.
Czar and I passed up to class three just before the baby arrived. After that, we had about eight weeks off. Since then, it's become a routine that on Sunday mornings, I leave Wee Monster with his daddy, and take Czar to class. It sounds simple, but it actually takes J and me over an hour to get me out the door, and that's even though I'm saving my shower til later and eating an apple as we walk to the dog club. So I feel happy every time we manage it, proud of my little family and our team work, proud of my husband who is so supportive and so ready to step up and take on baby duties whenever he can.
To start with, I was still moving pretty gingerly after my surgery. At first we worked with Toby's Mum, who knew we'd been away and why, and was understanding about my slow pace. Not that she let us off lightly! She recognized that Czar was in top form after our break, and eager to work with me while he had my attention back - so she put us for testing almost at once. Czar would have passed that first time, if not for me - I completely blanked on one new exercise and muffed up several commands. I was so proud of Czar's efforts though, and it renewed my motivation.
For the last few weeks, Toby's Mum hasn't been able to take our class. We're trying to adjust to a new instructor with a different style, who doesn't know us at all. Neither does the chief instructor, who conducts the testing. So, we've had to find confidence in ourselves instead. Which has been particularly difficult, given that we're pretty self conscious about certain breed traits.
Back when we first started obedience, one thing J and I were very worried about was off lead work. Czar did not have any recall at all. Instead, he had the husky tendency to take off looking for adventure - a love for the feel of the open road under his paw. In Beginners, Class 1 and Class 2, this didn't really matter, everything was done on lead. But Class 3 included more and more off lead work - in fact, the test to pass up from 3 to 4 is almost entirely off lead. Toby's Mum saw the panic in my eyes early on, and helped us build up to it.
So, what I am most proud of today is what happened when Czar had to be off lead. What he should have done was stayed put, waiting for me to either call or return. Instead, he broke nearly every time, leading to us failing the test. But, when he broke, he didn't go sprinting off - he trotted towards me. Which means that we've succeeded in one major goal of our training - bonding. Czar would rather be with me than play chasey with all the other dogs present.
Even if it's only because I have the biggest bag of treats in the park, I'm still pretty proud of that achievement.