Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tackling the Tenth by Alice Woodyard

The experience of being a finalist at a National Championship is a very special one.

Saturday morning for these special teams that have made the cut for the Tenth is nevertheless likely to start with a very mundane task: a visit to the local car wash to rid the dog truck of two week's worth of grime. With each truck now ready for the Finalists' Caravan, the 16 finalists for the 2019 National Amateur Championship gather near the grounds where the event workers organize them into an orderly procession.

The Finalists Caravan is greeted by the cheers of the workers and gallery on its arrival at the site of the Tenth Series. Everyone gathers and the National Anthem plays, after which the teams of gunners (three out of four of the stations today will be shooting flyers) take their places throughout the field.

Next it's guns up for the test dogs. In keeping with established tradition, the birds for the first test dog are decorated with streamers. And, in keeping with what is becoming yet another tradition, the second test dog runs under the watchful buzz of the overhead drone that is recording her every step for later upload to the internet!

After all the final details are checked, we are ready to watch 16 of the most talented and fortunate amateur retriever handlers in North America run the big land-water quad and wrap up a week's worth of the challenging testing that will determine the 2019 National Amateur Champion.

After each contestant completes the test to the applause of the gallery they swing by the sponsor's tent for congratulatory handshakes and hugs from the representatives of event sponsors, Purina and Avery. Then its back to that recently washed dog truck to care for their dog - and with more hugs there for this amazing retriever that has made it to the Tenth.

Finally the handler proceeds to the gallery to decompress and watch the remaining contestants tackle the test they have now completed (with of course an occasional check of the blog to see the latest announcements).