I don't talk about the Invitational much, so here you go. This is what it means to me.
To most people, this piece of paper probably doesn't mean anything. It is obvious that it is some sort of accomplishment, but no one ever thinks about what it truely represents.
For me, this piece of 5x8 card stock represents a large part of my life. It represents hundreds of hours of training, traveling and competing. Most importantly, it represents the outstanding team that my dog and I have become.
A little bit of background on Darci. (CH Bilgay's Rock the Casbah CD RE MX MXJ MXF, as the certificate refers to her.) Darci is three and a half years old. From the moment I met her, which was about 30 minutes after she was born, I had this feeling that there was something special about her. I went to visit her almost every single day from the time she was born until the day she came home with me.
I think I should mention that the breeders tried to talk me into another puppy. "She is too small.", they said. "She won't carry enough coat for the show ring.", they said. "To hell with it.", is what I said. At four weeks old, Darci would stare me right in the eye and play tug with me. Almost as if she was challenging me. Asking me "Are you sure you can handle this?" Yes, I was sure.
Darci came into my life at a point where I needed her the most. I won't get into the details, but I truely believe she understands just how important to me she really is. I have never had a bond with a dog they way I do with her.
My escape from reality when Darci was a puppy was to go out and train. All the time. She loved it. Every single moment of it, she would never get bored or tired. True to Darci form, at nine months and two days old, the smallest puppy without enough coat finished her breed championship. With three majors, two best of breeds and a pull in the group ring, no less. Every time I showed her in the breed ring, it always felt like she was showing me. Saying to all the other dogs "Look at MY mom! I bet you wish your mom was this great." We adore each other.
After we had gotten that confirmation stuff behind us, Darci and I tackled obedience. It is still an ongoing process, but at a year and a half old, she had already earned her RN, RA, RE and CD titles. (She is working on Open and Utility now.)
So at twenty months old, I entered Darci in her first agility trial. It was clear to me the first time I stepped into the ring with her that our journey together in the world of agility would be very different from any other that I had taken before.
At two and a half years old, Darci broke into the top 5 for Belgian Tervurens in agility. She moved up to #3 before she even had her Master Standard title. I am still amazed that, at three years old, she ended up as #1 for the Invitational season by over 300 points. Needless to say, the day that certificate came in the mail, I went out and bought a frame and hung that sucker on the wall.
It has been a road of ups and downs that led us to this point. (Including Darci having a severe seizure in May, where for a brief moment, I thought I might lose her. To this day, we still do not know the cause.) I am so grateful for the opportunity to go and compete at this huge event, I really and truely am. Most of all, though, I am grateful for the opportunity to go and play my favorite game with my dog and let others know just how special I really think she is.