Obviously the day was all about me, so naturally enough I left Leah to carry everything apart from my hand bag. That is after all the point of having a groom ... isn't it? Leah was an excellent groom in every respect even though she was a little slow getting from the car park into the NEC. I had drunk two cups of coffee and had a little nap by the time she and Zeki and all my stuff arrived. Still, at least she made it in the end.
Here is Zeki next to her sister Zaz at the benching area. They both look so cute with their little good luck hearts which were a gift from Karen. The pillow cover was a gift from Johanna. I love it and have already taken it on a training session with Tidey where people laugh at me because I am the only one who has a cushion and a blanket for my deck chair!
Zeki and Zaz
As previously mentioned Zeki and I had been drawn #1 in the running order for the first leg of the championship class which was jumping. Mediums were up first and so we would be running #1 of all the dogs. A bit scary but nothing you can do about it.
I liked the course well enough but found when I put in a front cross after the weaves it felt as if my feet became glued to the carpet and I just didn't push up the line to the two jumps after the collapsible. Poor Zeki thought I was decelerating in order to pull her to the right hand jump rather than driving straight ahead to the left one. When I tried to push her back, she thought she should be doing a go round. I am still not quite sure how I managed not to get eliminated but I am so glad I had the presence of mind to save the round. We almost came to grief at the wishing well (as a result of losing our pace at the aforementioned combination) but Zeki saved the day but flinging herself sideways at the obstacle. What an honest little dog she is.
I was less disappointed than I thought I would be, maybe because I felt some sense of relief that I hadn't been eliminated and therefore there was a glimmer of hope for me. Anyway I resolved to really attack the agility course and see if I could get a good place which would help my cause.
So, after forcing myself to eat some lunch it was time to go back to the collecting area ready for round 2 of the agility championship class. I always prefer agility to jumping and somehow felt more focused this time. The course seemed a little bit trickier than the jumping which I liked and soon it was our turn and once more we were on the line. Zeki did a few naughty shuffles on the startline as I led out, it made me laugh at her and that relaxed me. We set off and managed to put in a good clear round which finished us in 3rd place for that round. Much better!
Here is our agility run. So much better than the jumping round for sure!
Zeki and I with our 3rd place rosette after round two of the championship class
As the other heights ran, a friend was adding up the points and trying to figure out if I had made it into the final. First she thought I had and then she said possibly not. Then she came back and said yes you have made it qualifying in last place. I decided to wait until I heard the official announcement before getting too excited. When the results were called out I had made it by the skin of my teeth. This meant we would run first of the mediums but at least this time we were following the small dogs so I would get to see how the course ran. Clever little Zeki!
We took Zeki and Zaz for a walk down to the lake, we turned the wrong way out of the building as we didn't listen properly to instructions (what's new there then!) and ended up circumnavigating the whole NEC. Still, it gave the dogs a good stretch and some fresh air.
More sitting around, drinking coffee and fretting. We got a copy of the course plan and started to commit it to memory. We moved to the collecting area at about 3.30 pm ready to walk the course at 4.00 pm. Then there would be a break whilst some rehearsals took place in the arena whilst we could sit and contemplate the course. I walked the course as many times as I could in the allotted time but there were a couple of places where I just couldn't make up my mind. I kept fretting over them but in the end I made my decision and in both cases decided to run them differently to how I had walked them. Usually this is not good for me but in this case I decided to go with my gut feeling as I had been so uneasy about the choices I had made whilst out on course. Basically I decided to handle the top jumps into the tunnel before the dog walk from behind rather than putting in a front cross and to blind cross the A-Frame rather than try to get across from the tunnel exit. I was worried I would put Zeki back up the dog walk but really wanted to end up with the A-Frame on my left hand for the finish without having to use a rear cross. I am very glad that I made these choices!
These items helped me to believe that Zeki and I could do it! The bracelet is from Bernadette and Dennis one side says "nothing is impossible" and the flip side says "if you believe". Bernadette told me to ping the elastic before I ran to remind myself to "believe". If you watch me lead out in the final you can see that I remember to do this! The other present was the gold chain from Andy. The crucifix belonged to my Mum. She gave it to me for safe-keeping when she was taken in for her ill-fated operation in Kings College Hospital five years ago. Sadly she never got to wear it again but I kept it safe all the time she was in hospital and the nursing home. When she died last January I decided to wear it always. One night at training the chain broke and the cruxifix dropped into the riding school surface. I burst into tears and everyone rushed out to help me look for it. I honestly don't remember who it was but somebody found it and it has been awaiting a new chain. Andy decided it was the best good luck present he could get me and I'm so glad I was wearing it when I ran at Crufts as my Mum would have been so proud. When I stood on the start line of that final course, I truly believed Zeki and I could fly together such was my belief that we would run well.
Unfortunately I didn't get the final filmed on my camera but luckily it is on the official Crufts YouTube channel. You can see Zeki and I running at 12.20.
Bernadette & Zaz (winners of the small championship) and myself and Zeki (3rd place in the medium championship final). Zaz is having a well deserved rest in this picture as she had been at the NEC for four days winning everything she was entered in, well done girls. Zeki is of course preparing to bark at Leah who is taking the photo.
And finally, my clever, beautiful little dog with her prizes and her good luck presents. I cannot say how proud I am of our achievement together. We were under 2.5 seconds off a two times world champion and this has given me a huge amount of belief in what we can go on to do together!
Obay Tiz Zensational 'Zeki'