European Open 2011 Recap

I wrote this on my flight home from Germany – on my flight over I had wifi access, and I was hoping for the same on the return trip, but, no such luck.  The European Open 2011 was amazing.  I’m so glad I went, and I’m so glad I camped on site; that was definitely the way to go for the sake of the whole experience.   After all, how often do you get to step out of your tent and see this:

View from the front door of my tent

A gorgeous church in the background. I tried to take a few pictures at night but of course I’m no good with the camera; I was lucky to not break or lose it.  At night, the church tower was lit up.  One night there were fireworks beside the church tower for some reason or another.  And, no need to ever check the time when the church bells ring every hour, as well as every 15 minutes.

There were so many cute little motorhomes, I could have spent hours just touring them and taking pictures of them.  None of the ginormous Class A diesel pushers we have in the USA, just these cute little fuel efficient motorhomes, or cute little trailers similar to mine. All those trailers were being towed by the tiniest tow vehicles you can imagine; there was not a truck to be seen anywhere on site. One little car even had a tent on TOP:

Car Camping EO Style

The whole thing folded down to a box just like the Yakima and Thule boxes you see on top of cars all the time here in the USA.  Man, how cool! Of course, that particular setup was apparently 2000Euro, according to the Italians who owned it, but they also noted that it comes in a 4-person variety. Europeans know how to camp. The other people from the USA seemed to feel a bit sorry for us in our tent, but really, it was quite warm at night despite the rain.  One person even asked if our tent was waterproof, which has got to be one of the strangest questions I’ve ever heard, as I thought the whole point of a tent was to protect you from the elements 🙂

The Training Field at EO 2011

The first day, Friday, the USA team got to practice as well as all the other teams, 1 minute per dog. These practice days are the most invaluable training time – imagine, all the excitement of a big event, but you can TRAIN, although you’ve got to be quick, as the team is only allotted 1 minute per dog! And at this particular event, food and toys were both allowed, which was GREAT. We practiced with Team Argentina, who is a team of 1, Leticia Bot, who I met in Colombia at the Americas & Caribbean.  Leticia is from Gabon originally, has lived in various European, South American, and African countries, and is currently living/working in Senegal, represented Argentina, and her dog, Soju, is a rescue from a Korean shelter.  How’s that for globalized agility? It was great to connect with her again and cheer her on.

Team Argentina

An Oompah Band at Opening Ceremonies

Team USA at the Opening Ceremonies EO 2011

Of course, there WAS plenty of rain to be had.  For the most part, it was at night, which was perfect.  However, it had its drawbacks.  On Saturday, the two individual classes, Agility and JWW, were held.  The top 25 dogs in each class in each height made the Finals that evening, as well as one dog from each country, as long as that dog hadn’t eliminated.  Solar and I came in **2nd** out of 339 dogs in Agility, which was awesome, so we made the finals.  Nancy and Ace were the 2nd highest scoring large USA dog for the day, so they were in the Finals as well.

By the time the Medium dog Finals were wrapping up, it was around 8pm and getting dark.  Silas Boogk, from Germany, ran his dog last, ran BAREfoot in the wet grass and rain, slipped two times in just the right spots, and won the class….at the cost of a dislocated shoulder. OUCH. He was taken off to be treated and showed up the next day in a sling. Due to the fading light, the Large dog Finals were moved to the fields we had run on during the day, as they had lights. Keep in mind, it had been raining already for hours, for all of the Small and Medium dog Finals. Nancy ran fairly early in the class, and had a great run, coming in 7th at the end of it all.  But, shortly after her run, the lights went out, probably because of all the campers in their motorhomes running televisions, heaters, lights, etc. And, once those lights went out, it took several minutes before they could come back on, because of the type of lights they were.

After several minutes, the lights came back on, only to turn off again a few minutes later.  A semi-drunken Conga line made its way around the ring in the dark.  By the time the lights came back on (and not all of them, just ½ of them), and the rest of the class ran, it was 11pm.  Solar and I were 4th from last.  While the footing was good, I just couldn’t see well enough to do right by Solar, and although we had a good run, and would have come in 2nd with our time, he missed his dogwalk contact early in the course. Five minutes later I was sound asleep in my sleeping bag in my tent.

Sunday was the team day.  Teams are supposed to have four dogs, and the lowest score from each run gets dropped.  We had only three dogs, so no room for any eliminations or faults.  Our whole team ran clean in JWW, and it was looking great for us in Agility, but then our last teammate sadly went off course halfway through.  It was heartbreaking, we all had such lovely runs, and the Team Finals were a blast to watch. Even that Agility run with the E was a lovely run – because of the way the Finals went, though, it wasn’t clear to us whether we would have been allowed to run even if we HAD made it to the Finals, because we didn’t have four dogs. Maybe next year J  I was absolutely THRILLED to see that at the end of the day Solar had WON Team Agility, again, with over 300 Large dogs competing! All in all, Solar and I ran clean in all four runs – our only error being the dogwalk contact in the Individual Finals.  I couldn’t be happier with our first EO experience.  Between the camping, the rain, the mud, the competition, the sun, the people, it was just AMAZING.

I was prepared for rain and mud and even had my rubber boots with me – Anna, who camped with me, looked a little skeptical when she first saw I had brought them, but I was glad I did! Like many others camping, our car got stuck in the mud when we tried to leave, but with some help from a Team USA supporter and a Team Japan (yep, Japan was there too!) member, we got unstuck.  There was a tractor pulling trailers and motorhomes out of the mud Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.  The mud wasn’t really THAT bad, but once vehicles had sat for a few days, they just couldn’t get out, and the mud that was there was pretty sticky.

The grass we ran on held up beautifully.  I was really amazed.  I only slipped once, in team JWW, and only a tiny bit, didn’t even go down all the way.  And as usual, I slipped cuing a turn so the slip actually helped anyway.

The Team Finals were really interesting.  The course was HUGE, four courses in one.  Each team member had to start in their own corner, and when they crossed the finish line for their course, which was about 15 obstacles long, one of the four judges who was standing at the finish jump whistled and the next team member started their course from their corner.  It was wild. If any team member got an E, the whole team was eliminated, and it was looking for a while like no teams were going to run clean, but then things started picking up.  Finland won the Small/Medium Team Relay AND the Large Team Relay.  One of the USA Teams made the Finals in Large (Nancy Gyes, Channan Fosty, Laura Jones, and Susan Cochran), so it was fun to cheer them on.  Although the Team was eliminated in the Relay, they went in to the Relay with a cumulative score that put them in 3rd place, and so they got some Podium Time, which was an unexpected surprise, as nobody thought that those cumulative results would be rewarded with Podium Time or hardware, and the team got both!

A USA Team on the Podium – 3rd Place cumulative Team Agility/JWW scores

A USA Team on the Podium – 3rd Place cumulative Team Agility/JWW scores

There were some simply amazing runs, all in all.  I absolutely LOVED being able to watch so many people trying so HARD to give it their all, and at such speed! My JWW run Saturday wasn’t great, it was clean, but a lot like my 2010 WC JWW, and I was in the 40’s in terms of rankings.  On Sunday, I had what I thought was a pretty decent JWW run with no bobbles, but I wasn’t giving it my all or pushing, and again ended up in the 40’s.  It’s just crazy what all these people can get out of their dogs, they’re so animated.  Being able to watch run after run where the handlers are really GOING for it was worth the trip alone, and was very motivating for me.  I’ll be working on my screaming and hand flapping in JWW – I feel like I already do my fair share of that in Agility, and it seems to pay off, but to be honest, I don’t love JWW like I love Agility (STD), so my homework is to learn to LOVE JWW 🙂

A celebratory sip of wine from the trophy – had to be quick, it wasn’t watertight!

Yet another amazing agility experience.  Solar and I got a trophy for our 2nd place in Individual Agility (STD), which I am *very* proud of, given how many dogs were underneath us in that run.  And although the placements from the team runs weren’t officially recognized, I’m very proud of that 1st place as well! I can’t wait til EO 2012, which will be held in Sweden next year!

Solar and Daisy EO 2011 2nd Place Individual Agility

Here are all the photos from the event:

Created with flickr slideshow.