I'd had big plans for this year - debut Anu and Ami in flyball, earn some barn hunt titles, finish some scentwork titles, earn Anubi's Rally Excellent and maybe his Masters. I intended for running sports to be a little bit less of a priority so we could focus on other venues. COVID changed all my plans and disrupted everyone's lives. I'd intended to take three months off from shows and trials to raise Amalu and then jump back into trials. Those three months were up in March. The whole world changed in March. I will admit this was slightly fortuitous timing because Anubi sliced a toe open almost to bone while hiking and it took two months for him to recover. We ended up not trialing until small, outside events started up in June.
I jumped in with both feet once lure coursing and LGRA (Large Gazehound Racing Association) straight racing meets started being held. We'd been hiking 20-30 miles a week in isolated areas during the worst of the quarantine so thankfully my dogs were in excellent condition. Fortunately, coursing and racing are cheap compared to pretty much every other sport we play so we went trialing on a budget (COVID affected mine and my husband's jobs just like it affected everything else). It was an escape for me and the dogs, which was much needed due to the craziness of the pandemic.
Fortunately, sighthound running sports are very easy to do social distancing. You stand 6 feet or easily more apart, you wear masks, you crate out of the car. I definitely feel less safe grocery shopping than at an outdoor small trial.
We did three AKC Lure Coursing weekends this year, including driving to Wyoming to help finish up Amidi's half-sister's Field Championship. We did 4 ASFA (American Sighthound Field Association) Lure Coursing weekends. We did 4 LGRA weekends and have (hopefully one more on the books for this year). And we did one weekend of Open Field Coursing. We spent 13 weekends doing running sports and I can honestly tell you this has been my dogs' favorite year even if it's been crap for us humans.
We've earned some titles. Ash and Amidi earned their Senior Courser, all three (Ash, Anu, Ami) earned their Junior Straight Racer title, and Anubi earned his Senior Straight Racer title. We've earned some points. All three of age dogs are AKC pointed now and Anubi is halfway to his Master Courser (25 qualifying runs, it's a title that takes a long time to earn). Anubi is 3/4 of the way to his
racing championship (GRC). Anubi and Amidi are both over halfway to their ASFA field championship (FCh) and Ash is incredibly 2/3 of the way there. And Amidi and Ash both took home Best in Fields this year both in 100 degree heat, which was an incredible honor. But truly, what has remotely salvaged this year for me personally wad the incredible experiences, memories, and friends I've made. I got to test my dogs' stamina in a way I had never done before. My dogs ran 3 consecutive weekends and 4 consecutive weekends and they were enthusiastic every single trial and, aside from the 6 year old Saluki having a minor rear hock strain early on in the season, my dogs stayed sound.
I got to try out LGRA for the first time and discover Anubi's absolute love of competition. Yes, I know he's a dog. No, I'm not anthropomorphizing, he wants to get to that lure first. Racing is his absolute favorite sport now. I even discovered that he'll bay (yes, like a scenthound) while waiting his turn. And I got to see Amalu beat Amidi her first LGRA meet out. The Azawakh impressed the hell out of me by willingly allowing compete strangers to put them into the racing boxes (this is honestly a huge huge accomplishment for an Azawakh).
I got to see my pandemic puppy go from short puppy practice runs to certifying despite running with her best buddy. She has a lot of growing up to do and we'll take things slow with her, but it's been fun that Amalu really grew up in the sport.
On an even more emotional note, I got to watch Ash go from a decent coursing dog to an impressive one. Through all of these trials, his follow is always incredibly true and he will run the same solid run no matter who he's running with. I've always considered him quite slow for a Saluki and I shockingly got to see him beat competition in LGRA and take Best of Breed over other Salukis. Understand,
Ash is the dog I brought out so he could have fun. I never expected him to win anything so the fact that he's been successful this year is such a delightful added bonus. I'm not sure how many more years he'll course, his structure isn't the best and I keep a close eye on him, but I can't deny him his favorite thing in the world as long as he can run soundly and it makes me unbelievably happy to see him so happy.
It's been delightful to watch Anubi and Amidi share their wins and course so competitively with each other. I never know quite who will take Best of Breed going into a weekend and more than once they've tied and had to run off the tie.
Between the three of them Ash, Anubi, and Amidi ran with at least fifteen green dogs to help them qualify to run with competition. The breeds they ran with included lots of whippets, a Borzoi, a Saluki, my own Azawakh, and a Greyhound. Being a bye dog is hard, specialized work. They have to run clean and reasonably true. They have to ignore whatever out of the blue things green dogs might try - not running, running only part way, potentially interfering. There are often reruns. And then, if your bye dog is entered in the trial they are doing an extra run that day by serving as a bye dog. And I'm very proud of my three for doing the work well. (A bye dog can be so hard and stressful to find, especially when you're new to the sport, so as much as I can I try to help out with my dogs).
I got the chance to try Open Field Coursing and let me tell you there is nothing like watching a sighthound run after a jack rabbit. It was so much walking but ultimately again, my dogs loved it and it's hard not to love what my dogs love. I've met so many wonderful, incredible, knowledgeable, helpful, hardworking people this year. I have the upmost reflect for everyone who works a trial: Field Trial Secretaries, Huntmasters, Paddock Masters, Restringers, Lure Operators (I will never be able to thank them enough for the safety of my dogs), and more. Everyone who puts on an event is invaluable. I've gotten to not only meet but get to know and stay in contact with so many sighthound breeders: Greyhounds, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, Pharaoh Hound, Basenjis, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Silken Windhounds, Borzoi, and honestly more. There have been so many impressive breeders and exhibitors out running their dogs and I learn from them every single weekend. I'm grateful they're very tolerant of me drifting over and listening in on educational conversations and I have never not learned something by seeking those conversations out. They have always been willing to answer my questions. I appreciate that they're willing to talk to be about their breeds, about their breeding practices, about conformation, and sighthound sports in general. I got to watch a litter of puppies be gone over by no less that four breeders who all had different sighthound breeds. As I said, the titles are a bonus, but the stories and information I've learned that goes with those titles I will remember for the rest of my life.
All of the professional coursing and racing photos and headshots are by the very talented Lisa Foxworthy Stine.