Posted Date: July 8, 2016
A profile of Alice Reinkemeyer and her dog Tess.
Growing up on her family farm in South Central Missouri, Alice Reinkemeyer is used to being around all types of animals. Her family has always had working dogs to help with the farm stock, but never considered agility competition until she and her family brought Sophie, a Golden-Doodle, home.
In true breed fashion, Sophie is the super fun, party girl who thinks with her belly. They were a successful agility team since Sophie took joy in chasing Alice around the ring trying to "eat" her. Now semi-retired, Sophie spends most of her free time snuggling and chasing creepy crawlers and buzzing insects around the farm. When she does compete, she now only does so for a specific brand of fried chicken. (At least she has her priorities straight!)
Enter Tess, a five-year-old Border Collie who is the complete opposite of Sophie. Tess is a no nonsense girl, an over-thinker, a perfectionist, super sensitive and struggled if she thought she was making a mistake. She'd squeeze herself into tight areas when she got stressed such as under the fish tank or behind the rocking chair.
At first, Tess was very uninterested in both people and agility when she came to live with Alice and her family. Learning new things, like agility, was stressful for her too. Thankfully, Alice experimented with and learned a variety of techniques to improve her abilities as a trainer and Tess has come out the other side as a confident, trusting, brave, independent and amazing dog and agility partner!
Their hard work has paid off. Alice, Tess and Alice's mom, Michele, made the thirteen-hour drive to Title Mania in Ohio last month with the hopes of winning a spot on the 2017 IFCS Team USA.
"Title Mania was an amazing event!" said Alice. "The surface was incredible, courses fun, judges friendly and fair and the competition challenging, yet also supportive of each other." She also stated she "loved the opportunity it offered to gain titles or looking to improve their trialing performance."
Besides the hopes of winning a spot onto the team, Alice also set some personal goals of maintaining consistency and connection throughout the entire weekend. Her strategy was on being attentive to her mental game and focusing on one course at a time.
When the classes to accumulating points came up, Alice simply concentrated on the run and tried to have the best run possible she could. Her strategy was working and she and Tess had very respectable scores in the first four of the six runs.
On Sunday, the last day of competition, Alice and Tess had a 16-point lead going into the last two classes to accumulate points. Unfortunately, they E'd on the first run of the day. This left them with just a one-point lead going into the final course against some very tough and generally faster competition.
"I couldn't have asked for a better group of competitors to challenge, push and support each other," Alice recalls. She never once heard an ill word or wish against another 26-inch dog or handler, and there was always cheering and congratulations for everyone's success.
Alice took this support and this mental test to task. During some down time to mull things over, Alice approached her last run with the simple, yet powerful strategy of 'one run at a time' and her coach Lori Michaels' advice of 'hot feet, cool head' which is basically get where you need to be, but stay calm and focused inside and out.
This strategy worked and Alice and Tess won a spot on the Team by .67 points!
Alice and Tess's training and conditioning for Spain next year has just begun. She'll be fine tuning her handling skills and mental preparation. The most challenging prep will be improving her communication with Tess at a distance for handling and directional cues.
In the meantime, Alice will continue to live on her family farm with her sister, parents, five dogs and an array of livestock doing chores, bookkeeping and customer service for the family business.
Congratulations to Alice and Tess! They are an incredible team and Alice says Tess proves that if you don't give up on your dog, are willing to adapt to their individual needs and open to learning what it is they are offering to teach you, anything is possible!
Photo Credit: Black and white photo by Tamara
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