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May 28, 2002 Hi Gail,

I'll see you in the morning, but got the urge to tap out an entry for "Notes of a Sportswriter's Daughter" first. The occasion is recovery from the NADAC meet at Elk Grove over the Memorial Day weekend. I think I'll need at least twelve steps and a higher power.

Ms C. Pepper needs a new name; and a temperamental, hypertalented, flagrantly unpredictable opera star comes to mind. Diva Dog. Saturday morning, she burned through an Open Gamblers course with seventy-one points, a Q, and first place. We would have had eighty-one points if she hadn't popped poles in her weaves. There was time to spare before the whistle blew, but we were in position. She made her ten-point optional last obstacle in the Gamble after the required two, four, six, eight. She also did a sizzling Tunnelers, earning a second place, a Q, and her Novice Tunnelers title. She and the first-place dog (a border collie, I am forced to say) got the fastest two scores out of all the dogs of all classes and sizes in the Tunnelers event—about a hundred dogs.

But then Sunday, Cayenne was in her own zone, flying to the beat of some unknown canine devil. She held her stays at the start line with a wild look in her eye and every muscle taut. There were no breaks before the "all right" at the start line no matter how far I led out, but we had precious little control after she flew over the first obstacles. She was either rigid with anticipation on the start line or flying in some personal gravity-free space all day. It was all wide turns and failure to touch any part of the contact obstacles—up, down, or top! Some of this was flawed handling, some inconsistent training, and some was something else. She was just plain wild and unfocused. I was nervous and telegraphed that to her. I left the rings muttering that I'd consider taking bids on a certain young agility prospect; I savored the fantasy of turning down the million dollar figures for Cayenne that would be forthcoming! Frank Butera was very calming, reminding me of the wild ride he and Cayenne's brother Roca (same parents, earlier breeding) had a couple of years ago. Rusten propped up my despairing soul.

Monday, I had signed up to run only with Roland. What a different dog! He got a fourth place in Novice Jumpers, but didn't Q because he had a 1.8 second time fault, consequent on his checking out a human pole setter on his way round the hurdles. He got a solid fourth place and Q on his Novice Touch 'n Go. He missed his Gamble after a nice but unspectacular thirty-three-point opening (he got six Gamble points). Only one dog got the Gamble in the novice twenty-inch class. Renzo, Cayenne's brother and Paul Kirk's new dog from the Oxfords' last breeding of Randy and Bud, got the top score in that Gamblers run, but no Q either. Roland got a rock-solid but not fast Q in his Tunnelers run. Finally, he was solid and within time in his Standard run. Running with Roland felt very nice, very calming. He was a rock-solid partner dog. All the mistakes were obvious handler errors, and he gave me plenty of time to think on the course. Cayenne looked utterly unbelieving that Roland was getting all the attention, and she was left waiting in her crate. I was unsympathetic.

Trouble is, I am in love with Cayenne and want to be good for and with her. Really good. Desire is a devil in a red merle coat.

See you in the morning, Donna

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