Sorry - this is going to be a long and boring post about our DDX test last year. I want to make sure I write it down so I don't forget the details of the day. I don't expect anyone to want to read all of this.
We headed out late Friday morning to drive the 8 hours to Regina. If anyone has ever driven through southern Saskatchewan you will know this drive is, to but it mildly, boring. Not much to see but prairie and the further east you travel, the flatter and more boring the drive gets. Fortunately, the drive was uneventful and we arrived in Regina in the early evening, found our hotel and then took a drive to find the test site so I wouldn't be stressed trying to find it in the morning. I also wanted to get an idea of what kind of terrain we would be dealing with - I knew Bosley was well conditioned for any type of terrain, so I want worried about that, but it is nice to know what you might encounter at a test. The test site was at a private acreage and from the road I could, not see anything too daunting, but you never know what the judges will find as obstacles. There were lots of trees and a pond all surrounded by farmers fields. I could not see anything really challenging in the way of steep hills, but I could not see everything from the road - so I would have to wait until the morning to see what challenges the judges set up.
The next morning we headed to the test site to set up and get ready. There was lots of shade for the dogs and everyone there was friendly (as draft people tend to be). Bosley got to share his x-pen with his Berner cousin Sophie who was entered in the DD test. Equipment check went well and we had lots of time to inspect the load and to figure out the best way to secure it in our cart. The test load was money! Pennies actually. 2012 was the last year that the penny would be made in Canada and to celebrate going penniless, the test committee had bags of pennies as the weight. Luckily, the pennies were packed nicely in the boxes that they come in from the bank so the load was stable and easy to secure. It was time for the test to begin.
The DD dogs went first with their basic control exercises then it was my turn to do the ring cart manouvers. I got Bosley ready and we went into the ring. I'm sure all the judges and spectators thought we were going to fail right then and there. Bosley pulled me into to ring, was sniffing and not paying any attention to me at all. Not a great start. One judge even said "don't let him pee on anything". I got his attention took off his leash and put him in a stand stay to go get his harness. Once Bosley realized his cart was there he settled down and was ready to work. I harnessed him and we walked to the cart where I hitched him up. So far so good. The judge did their inspection and we were ready for the exercises. There were lots of people sitting around the outside of the ring talking and as soon as we were ready to go the entire place went quiet. I could feel everyone watching us - no pressure there! First was the backup - 4 feet and it must be perfectly straight. Bosley has a strong backup and went back straight on our first try. On to the beside the cart work. The ring had several trees in it as obstacles and we negotiated the course well - I didn't expect any problems here. Next was the behind the cart work. We had been working so hard on this and it is a very daunting part of the test as this is where most DDX teams fail. Bosley started strong as we headed into the first turns. We then needed to pass though two pylons and then do a slow. The slow was the weakest part of our behind the cart work. I called "easy" and Bosley didn't slow. I called it again and he turned back to look at me and I thought he slowed but wasn't sure if the judges would think that he slowed enough. On to another turn that took us between two trees - we made it thought them without bumping anything and then two more turns to finish. Bosley went wide on the last turn and I had to really work to get him back on course. That part of the test was done. I felt good about everything except for the "slow".
Next was the freight haul part of the test. We loaded the cart and began the haul. There was nothing significant for hills - a longish gradual incline and a small ditch that were no problem for Bosley as I had been making him do steep long hills and steep ditches in training. There were a few tight spots in the trees that we needed to negotiate but overall the freight haul went well.
Last was the backpacking portion of the test. By the time we got to this part of the test, it was later in the afternoon and hot. Backpacking is not Bosley's strongest event and I was worried he would want to lay down since it was so hot or would pee on something (both are fails). I put his pack and and loaded it and we were ready to go. The backpacking portion of the test can be very challenging with major changes in terrain. We started by walking through the farmer field and then down a gravel road. We then turned off the gravel road and down a ditch into what seemed to be an old pond. There was very high grass (Bosley could not see over it) and the ground was uneven with thistles and low underbrush. I tried to stomp down a path for Bosley so he wouldn't step on any thistles while keeping a close eye on him so he didn't try to pee on anything. We then came up out of the grass onto another gravel road. Bolsey kept trying to leave the road and head down the ditch on the other side. I finally realized it was because there was a pond on the other side and he must have smelled the water and wanted to go get a drink. We finally turned off the road and went into the trees (and shade). We walked thought trees and long grass and then down a long stretch that was between the trees and the farmer's field. We got to the end and turned around and walked back, cut through the trees again and then we headed back to the ring area. We got back and I unloaded Bosley (hoping that he didn't lay down at the last minute), put his pack on the ground and we were done!
It was finally time for the awards. The only thing I was unsure about was the "slow" during the behind the cart maneuvers. The judges came out, gave their speeches and then were ready to announce the qualifiers. Bosley was the only DDX dog competing and I was holding my breath. We did it! They called Bolsey's name! I was so happy - we worked so hard and to pass on our first try was thrilling. It was a long road and many, many hours of training to get there, so it was so rewarding to have all 3 judges pass us.
So, now we just get to cart for fun! Not that it wasn't fun before, but there are no more tests for us to enter. There are brace draft tests, but when you do not have a second carting dog, it is hard to use and train someone else's dogs and I'm not sure Bosley would appreciate being hitched to a cart with someone else.