Picture says it all. Scoop got one of these fancy pages when he won the ‘Pixie Prix’ last weekend, what us locals call the Performance Grand Prix. And his performance team with my friend Mia Grant & Vic won the Team event winning every single one of the 5 classes in overall points. Yep. The PERFORMANCE classes. This was the first time 6 year old Scoop and I competed in Performance. He measures into the 26 inch division and has been competing there since he was 18 months old. Over the years I would say he has been competitive locally at 26 inches. He’s won many local GP’s and a Regional GP and our share of DAM Tournaments as well as local and Regional Steeplechases- when we are lucky and the bars stay up, and of course- if I handle him correctly. 🙂 In March this year we finished second at the AKC Nationals at 24 inches, just .02 seconds off the winner. But at 24, not 26. Scoop takes off early, especially on spread jumps and the table. This past year he has had some spectacular table crashes in both USDAA and AKC. I dreaded the 24 inch table. At least when he creams through a spread jump the bars are displaceable- not so those big unmovable metal tables. The feeling in the pit of my stomach when he hit those obstacles is horrible and frightening and at some point I know he could be seriously hurt. It was hard to finish a course after those crashes with tears filling my eyes and a knife in the pit of my gut. I have talked about retiring Scoop or doing performance now for a couple years, but then I would come home from a trial with some impressive wins and I’d be buoyed to keep on keeping on. Deciding to move to performance has been something I have done with my 10 to 12 year old dogs- not one in the prime of his life. It felt like giving up and giving in to a less competitive form of agility. But Scoop and I want to do stuff together, and what we like to do besides tricks, and hiking and swimming is agility. He likes agility, a LOT! Maybe I was waiting for a ‘bigger sign’ that it was time to move on. We are in the beginning of the qualifying season for Cynosport and I needed to make a decision. Stay the road, retire from USDAA or move to Performance. I am a Libra, the scale sign- and I can tell you that I went back and forth way too many sleepless nights making the decision. However, I had no time left to contemplate things if I wanted to compete with him at Cynosport this year. And the answer was that “I do!” My stress over the decision was all to naught. Last weekend was so freeing, so much fun to let him jump lower with no spreads to crash, and I know the decision was the right one. It was wonderful to walk a course without worrying about how to help him over those gigantic spreads, and not even giving a second glance at the low table. Anyone whose dog struggles with jumping has these concerns and worries over balancing up what we WANT to do with our dogs, and what we SHOULD do with our dogs. For me, last weekend I knew I made the right decision for Scoop’s mental and physical well-being, and certainly for MY mental health as well. And to top off the joy of the moment, Scoop got re-measured two weeks ago at an AKC show and easily got two measurements that moved him from 24 to the 20 inch class. I was sitting with friends on day two of a three day show, whining (yep, sometimes I do that) about how he had crashed almost every triple two weekends in a row and I had tried everything in my arsenal to help him to no avail. A friend suggested I get him re-measured. Scoop’s AKC measurement at 18 months got him just over 22 inches and at the time I was fine with that: 24 inches in AKC (as well as Nationals) and 26 inches in USDAA. No problem- until it became one. I had never measured Scoop again, and I believed he was just over 22 inches tall. Moments after this conversation I walked over to a measuring judge who just happened to be available, and she got him at 21.3/4. 20 minutes later I asked another judge to measure him and she had him right at 22. Within a half hour our competitive life was changed. No more 24 inch spreads and tables for Doobie! I believe Scoop jumps early because he is somewhat cross eyed. His strabismus has been noticeable since he was a puppy. He has always struggled with jumping but for some years I believed it due to other kinds of health issues. Maybe there are other unknown factors as well as strabismus, but I think the biggest factor is that his binocular vision is off because of his eye placement. I can only guess that his depth perception is inaccurate and that is the biggest underlying cause of his Early Take Offs. I am working on an article right now to update everyone where we are in researching the causes for Early Take Off. Not all dogs that take off early for jumps have strabismus.There are likely at least a few causes for ETO. You will notice I am referring to this problem as "ETO" not "ETS". We do not know if there is even a syndrome to be found- so Linda Mecklenburg, the ETO researchers and myself have begun using the acronym that actually describes the problem. So ironic that I started that project long before I suspected my own dog to be affected. But I'll save that story for another day. My long post is over, but happily not Scoops’ agility career and all the fun times ahead for both of us playing at our favorite game.