Rally is significantly different from the more well-known events of agility and obedience. Agility is a steeplechase race against the clock. Obedience is like a marching drill. Rally is a ballet. Only in this ballet, you have to read, count and signal while pirouetting.
I know what you’re thinking: What is Sisiggy doing in something that is, even metaphorically, ballet-esque?
And that’s what I’m thinking as I stand at the first station: What am I doing here? I don’t belong here doing something…well…physical. It is extreme irony that, having spent a high school career trying to think of ways to get out of gym class, I am purposely standing in front of people moving. I can write, I can sing, I can sew and knit, I can cook. But I don’t move well and that’s a fact.
For Zsa Zsa this whole event is an opportunity to please me and become Most Favored Dog. She is terrified she’s going to misstep and, therefore displease me. So she is hesitant instead of fluid and timid instead of confident.
So Rally is a sort of therapy for the two of us. I pretend I don’t feel like a hippo lumbering through a swamp and Zsa Zsa pretends she has every confidence that she is reading my signals correctly.
I like to think that, after weeks of practice and a sort of aversion-training, we’re getting better at this. I like to think that one day we’ll go onto the rally course with total confidence and perform as one unit, smooth and graceful, the epitome of dog-human bonding.
One of us is getting better. And she looks hopefully at the opposite end of the leash for some sort of miracle that will render me something, anything, approaching the words “graceful” or “smooth.” We have been able to complete the course without her looking embarrassed for me, so that’s progress!
Zsa Zsa is happiest at the final station because that means “Lots ‘o Cheese.” For me it means, “I survived and no one got hurt!”
We all need our little motivations.