Last week our road trip continued to Helotes and Kerrville, Texas for the PBGV National Specialty. Prior to the show we attended a 3 day all breed agility trial at the same site as the national. We had a great time in a really nice facility, even if the private ranch road on the way in was a little scary. Everyone was extremely welcoming and helpful. By the end of the weekend, many of our PBGV agility friends had also arrived to give their dogs a chance to acclimate to the show site. In fact there were so many PBGVs running that on Saturday afternoon, one Texan turned to me and said “Y’all are multiplying”.  

Monday was a day off and then Tuesday was the PBGV National Agility trials. Because of our small entry we do 2 trials in a day, limited to PBGVs. This is a lot of runs in a day and unfortunately, jumpers was scheduled as the last class.  Knowing that this was likely to be the class that High in Trial came from, I opted to scratch Spice from Time 2 Beat to preserve some energy. This had the immediate benefit of allowing Alice to get enough points to finish her Time 2 Beat title, but also paid off later in the day. Spice finished off an awesome weekend with 4 qualifying runs at the specialty, including a FAST Q (important for a big audacious goal that we are currently chasing), a QQ at the regional, and High in Trial from jumpers at both trials.  The national HIT run was a nail biter, but she came out ahead by almost 2 seconds on a challenging course. 

Tuesday was also the first time that FAST CAT was offered at the specialty. It was nice to let people who don’t normally do performance events try this sport and many PBGVs had success. Ginny was a bit tired from agility (and as I learned the next day, probably a bit hormonal) but had some fun with the fake bunnies. Cara just turned a year old so this was her first trial, but she pulled off a 20 MPH run.  She barked the whole time just like her mother- looks like I may have another FAST CAT star. 

After a long day we got settled in at the hotel in Kerrville. This is a very Texan location complete with a lot of stuffed dead animals in the lobby- admittedly not my style, but it is a nice site for the show.  You’ll be glad to know that if signage can be trusted the giraffes died of natural causes. I’m also happy to report that I had two veggie burgers in Texas and unlike last time, neither was served with bacon.

Wednesday morning started off with the discovery that Ginny was in season, so that ended her week of performance events. Everyone else had some nice runs in scent work. Alice was the rock star of the day- she needed to qualify in both rounds of master interior and exterior to finish her overall Scent Work Master title and managed to do this. These classes require large search areas with unknown numbers of hides that can be almost anywhere, so it’s hard to have a perfect day. Alice is the third PBGV to earn this title, but at 4 she is much younger than the others were. I hope that Detective trials become more common in the next few years so she and I can give that a try. 

Thursday was the regional obedience, rally, and show. Alice and Cara both earned rally legs and somehow I managed to bathe and dry (with some help from friends) the six dogs I had entered in the show. I wouldn’t have entered so many, but I wanted to do pack class this year. Muse still looks really good, but she is getting older and I won’t be able to show in breed next year, so this may have been the last opportunity to bring her out with her kids and grandkids. Gromit and Spice had a great time and some nice wins in the veteran classes and everyone else had some nice class placements at the two shows. 

Friday morning started out with the awards banquet, where club members are recognized for titles earned in the previous year. Muse received her Elite hunt title, which was a goal I had been working towards as a breeder for a long time. It was really disappointing that as soon as we reached this milestone, it was announced that the hunt committee had decided to significantly reduce the criteria for this title.  The previous rules had been in place for many years, but the committee felt that not enough dogs were getting the Elite title. This change was announced after it was already done, with no warning or opportunity to comment. Particularly upsetting was the statement in Saber Tails that  a title is not meaningful if only one dog has earned it in 17 years.  I’m sorry, but just because something is hard, doesn’t make it meaningless. Having been in dogs long enough to remember when Novice obedience was “entry level” for performance events, I’m glad that we have easier gateway sports for new people now. On the other hand, in order to keep improving our breeds and our sports, long time breeders and exhibitors also need something to strive for. Not every title (especially one that is by it’s very name “Elite”), should be attainable by every dog and handler team and no one should have to apologize for having Big Audacious Goals. Even if no one has done it before, even if it’s different than what everyone around you is trying for, we are all allowed to decide what our goals and priorities are. 

The Elite title is based on progeny, and in it’s original form required a dog to produce 3 Senior Hunter offspring with at least 2 different mates. This was important because it demonstrates that the dog is able to produce quality hunting dogs when bred in different directions, not just in a single litter. From a breed diversity standpoint, there is also a huge value in using different breeding pairs and not simply repeating the same cross multiple times. If the hunt committee wanted to recognize dogs who produce hunters in a single litter, it would have been more appropriate to create a new title with a new name, not to reduce requirements that had been in place for so many years. Hunt tests require a lot of time, travel, and expense to pursue advanced titles. I will think twice about doing so in the future if rules and requirements can be changed at any time and with no warning. 

Saturday was the national conformation show. Pack class was a lot of fun with Muse, Gromit, Spice, Alice, Ginny, and Cara. These dogs represent 3 generations of my breeding program and all go back to Maya, who we lost in November of last year. Sunday morning started the long drive home, where we were lucky to avoid the nasty storms that we crossing the country.