On July 4, 2009 (and on my birthday no less), with a beautiful STD run at the Blue Ridge DTC trial under
judge Donna Gomer (on a June Ebert course), Soren became the first French
Bulldog in history to earn a MACH!!!
I hope you enjoy the slide show, as
with it, I have tried to capture all that Soren has meant to me. It is
so full of my wonderful memories, of an incredible dog, and my incredible
journey with him.
Soren is the dog I tried hard not to
take (I don't want a Frenchie for agility I thought), but clearly the dog I
was meant to have. And I am so very grateful that, with the help of fate
and some persistent friends, we ended up together. What a shame it would
have been to miss this adventure, which has been one of the high points of my
life. We may not be the usual agility team, but I am sure no one has had
more fun running agility than we have.
The connection I share with Soren
extends beyond the agility course. Besides being an incredible agility
partner, Soren is just an incredible dog. He is the dog we all dream of
having ... the one who adores us with endless devotion, who would give his
heart and soul for us if we just ask, and even when we don't ask. The
one who makes us laugh, who seems to read our minds, and know what is in our
Something about Soren just draws
people to him. Wherever he goes, he makes new friends, and consequently,
so have I, and that has been as much a part of the fun as anything else we
have achieved. I am truly touched by how many people love this little
dog. And I am so proud of him, and so glad to see him grab a piece of
history for himself -- one that will be his for all time -- because he is that
special and he deserves it.
I hope this is only the beginning of our
journey together, but for today, I will just gaze in awe at the beautiful star Soren plucked from the sky and gave to me for my birthday, with a MACH ribbon
on top. And I will thank my lucky stars for the day he came into my
On July 4, 2009, Soren and I waited
by the gate for our turn. With 45 double Qs and 741 points, only 9
points stood between us and breed history. Linda was at the gate and
reminded me to breathe, twice ... it was good advice, and timely because I
believe I had, in fact, stopped breathing.
Standard Course Time was 71 secs, so
we needed 62 secs or less. We stepped to the line, and after some
negotiation and compromise regarding a sit at the start line, we were off and
running. Soren was focused and fast, and it appeared he was on a
We survived a tough A Frame - Tunnel
discrimination with ease, blew through the next tunnel and over the dog walk,
and took advantage of the 5 second count on the table to try to regroup.
So far so good. And one and GO ... off to the teeter...
From the teeter it was into the
tunnel and then a loop back to a 180 entrance to the weaves ... always a
source of stress, but with only 3 obstacles to go, more so than usual. I
smiled as Soren aced the entry and quickly hit his weave rhythm...
10, 11, 12 ... Whew... I can breathe
again as he exits the last weave and ignores the tempting off course tunnel.
The double, and then that last
beautiful bar. WOOHOO! I hear a scream and turn to the clock
behind me .... it reads 61.34. It takes a moment for that to sink in,
and then it does and I am amazed -- EXACTLY 9 POINTS. It seems surreal,
but I can tell from the cheering that it is true.
The rest is really a
blur... Soren leaping over the last bar again as I went to take it, wondering,
I am sure, what all the fuss was about. Some switching around of the
MACH bar, Jacqui appearing with the MACH ribbon.
A "moment" with my amazing little
buddy, and then some more hugs, and then Soren's favorite part ... some
MACH cake, thanks to the thoughtfulness of the O'Neills.
The MACH Party Part Une...
Barb Miller and Andrea Kelly
made an amazing and appropriate banner: "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" and it
certainly has been that. And having Peg, Andrea, Jacqui, Sandy and Ann
there made it all the more special. The VA crowd was very gracious and
made us feel we had MACHed in our own backyard instead of several states away.
A kind exhibitor was nice enough to take a picture of "the locals" (sans Ann
who was probably running her Novice dog).
From Left to Right: Sandy Mainardi,
Peg Forte, Andrea Kelly, Jacqui O'Neill, and me (Deb) down in front, and of
course, Soren in the middle. Andrea and Peg came all the way from NJ
just to be there in case Soren got his MACH !!!
The cell reception was lousy so
I stepped outside to call Suzanne (Soren's other mom) and give her the news.
She answered from her car, and I said, "Suzanne, he did it!" "Did what?"
she replied, thinking I meant he had qualified. "His MACH," I answered.
And then the screaming began. She told me later she had to pull over.
So after some celebration and a trip
to the Red Roof Inn to check out early, we headed off to MD to Suzanne and
Ron's 4th of July (now slash MACH) party, with the promise of champagne and
crabs and the excitement of a chance to celebrate with our MD friends,
especially some (like Ron, Suzanne, Carol and Brenda) who have shared this
journey with us from the very beginning.
The MACH Party Part Deu Was in MD
The Return Home: Soren Surveys
the Beautiful View from His Old Stomping Grounds
The MD party was awesome.
As we approached the house there was a "MACH Soren" sign already on the front
door, and I wasn't 5 steps inside before there was a glass of champagne in my
hand. Soren was off mingling, but with an "I'm Somebody Special" balloon
tethered to his collar and hovering above him and the crowd, I could tell
where he was at all times. I did misplace Peg temporarily, but she was
already off learning how to crack crabs, and was fully trained and ready to
assist Andrea and I when we arrived at the table.
And just when I thought the birthday
couldn't get any better, I finally got to meet Soren's kids, Audra and Sagan,
now almost 6 mos. old. It was amazing to see them in person and get to
hug and smooch them finally. They reminded me so much of their daddy
that I felt I already knew them.
Peg and Sagan Get to Know Each Other
After dinner, Andrea decided to head
home and rescue her wonderful husband Patrick from all the rescues --
bullmastiff rescues that is -- he kindly volunteered to care for them alone so
Andrea could come to VA for Soren's MACH. Peg and I were staying in the
Readmond's motor home, so when the party quieted down,
Suzanne, Ron, Peg and I had a little more champagne and a nice visit, Ron
and Soren did some serious male bonding, and we said goodnight. After a less than
successful search for light switches to turn off the lights in the motor home
(without accidentally retracting the slide out where Peg was sleeping mind you), we gave up and
collapsed for the night with some of the lights still on.
The next morning we played with the
puppies, which was heavenly. And brought Soren and Lulu over to play
with them too. A nice lounge in the hot tub, and then some more puppy
play time. Finally it was time to tear myself away from little Audra and
Sagan, say goodbye, and start the trek home.
The MACH Party Part Trois ... Agility Class
A slight side bar is necessary
to explain the cheese fest that follows. We have often joked during
training that Soren is simply "in it for the cheese." If it's really
good cheese, large, anticipatory bubbles actually form at the corners of his
mouth. Andrea's agility lesson is right after ours on Mondays, and she
comes with a huge, bullmastiff-sized bag of cheddar cheese cubes that would be
Soren's treats for a year. This is the stuff Soren's dreams are made of,
and about half way through his lesson, whenever there is a pause in the
action, you can find Soren sitting facing the door, intently waiting for "his
Andrea" to arrive with "his" cheese.
For Christmas, Andrea bought Soren
his very own "big bag o' cheese," and for his birthday, she bought him
(imported from Wisconsin no less) his very own cheese hat.
As Barb astutely remarked when
she saw this photo of a somewhat peeved Soren in his cheese hat, "Clearly
Soren prefers his cheese inside rather than on top."
So when we arrived at agility class
on Tuesday night, pizzas in tow and prepared for a little MACH celebration, in
walks Andrea with a large cardboard box. In black marker on the side it
is suspiciously labeled, "Cheese Hats." Note the plural. Yes...
cheese hats for everyone! And so, as you can see, the fun ensued
Lucky for us, Andrea has a Wisconsin
Connection -- Cheese Hats for everyone!!
Our agility instructor extraordinaire, Barb
Miller avec fromage, holding Soren
THANKS BARB FOR ALL YOUR HELP!!! YOU
ARE THE BEST!!!
Ahhh ... The Power of Cheese
Soren rests atop his bed of cheese, next to the beautiful flowers with the
Well, most other accomplishments this
year take a back seat to the MACH. But still there were many worth
At the top of the list ... Soren made some more breed history by
becoming the first ever French Bulldog to qualify for the AKC Agility Nationals.
The requirements are 6 double Qs and 400 points. Soren blew this out of
the water with 40 double Qs and 713 points in the qualifying period. This
also makes him the Top French Bulldog in AKC Agility again this year.
Even more amazing to me, Soren
ranked #9 in the country
in Agility in the Non Sporting Group for 2009!!!
It's incredible to be the
top ranked French Bulldog, but for a French Bulldog to make the top 10
rankings in agility in the Non Sporting group, against far more athletic
breeds like Poodles, Schipperkes, Boston Terriers, Keeshonds, American
Eskimo Dogs ... it just blows me away.
Just when I thought the firsts couldn't
get any better, I got a note from photographer Nicole Fischer, letting me know
Soren's photo was selected for the elusive cover of the
October 2009 issue of Clean Run Magazine!
Thanks to Clean Run
for selecting Soren for the cover, and thanks and congrats to
Nicole Fischer for a gorgeous photo.