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Photo by Katie Maess. Introducing Rally Master Buzz and his sidekick.

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Buzz did it.

He is one of the first dogs in the country to attain the title of Rally Master.

Here’s a video of our Master Title run so you can see what we do.

In a nutshell, each time we show, a judge designs a different course of 15-18 numbered signs that have printed on them instructions about what skill is to be performed at each one. You have a chance to walk the course without your dog before you run it and many of the judges hand out actual paper versions, or post them on a wall, so you can study the course before you show.

Points are deducted from a perfect score of 100 for mistakes, and to qualify, you must get 70 points or higher. 

On the afternoon of Nov. 18 in Toledo, Ohio, Buzz earned the 10th qualifying score he needed to get this title.

We traveled 1,000 miles, stayed in a couple hotels, braved lots of rain, slush, snow (and did I mention lots of rain?) traveling to Flint, Cleveland, Kalamazoo and Toledo to accomplish my goal. I could not be more proud of my wonderful dog and how he handled my crazy plan. In a very short time period. It meant a lot of sandwiches and cut up cheese and peanut butter crackers and coffee and Gatorade. And, a vehicle that allowed me the comfort of feeling safe driving very slowly in all kinds of weather along the way.

And did I mention that I was by myself? Usually, friends go with us to the dog shows, but this time, we wound up going it alone.

As readers know, I don’t normally show very much. Maybe once a month. But since the American Kennel Club introduced this new title, which required learning a lot of new skills, I decided while sitting in traffic on Jackson Road by Meijer back in October that perhaps, with all the dog shows within driving distance of Chelsea, maybe I could get this new title in the month of November?

Since everyone who wanted to get this title was on equal footing, it was “just” a matter of who could find enough dog shows and qualify enough times the fastest to become one of the first in the country to do it. And yes, someone was crazier than I was. She drove 3,000 miles and got it the day before I did. I think with the training involved and all that driving and who knows how many hotel stays, she deserved it. And, yes, I was one of the first to send her my congratulations. She really earned it. I am still waiting to hear from AKC about where we wound up finishing in the pecking order.

Buzz finished with respectable scores of 90,85,96,89,99,100,95,97,98 and 97 out of 100. Most of the lost points were mine because I have a tough time with my left and right, and I goofed a bunch of times. We placed first three times, finished second twice, third once and fourth three times.  In one class, we were out of the placements, which ironically, also happened with one of our higher scores of 96. 

Several of us at the shows had the same crazy goal, so I made new friends during our journey, which was fun, too. One of the many wonderful things about showing in rally is the positive and complimentary nature it creates among competitors. We all cheered each other on because in the end, our dogs are our pets first, and we deeply love them. We’ve developed a special bond with them while training to complete in this dog sport. And when it all comes together on that course, in that moment, you can’t help but understand what that feels like. 

Since everyone knew we were going for our title, you could literally hear a pin drop in that building when we showed that last time. I know because I promised myself that in addition to being really nervous, I wanted to live in the moment and try to take it all in. In the video, you may have noticed, I leaned down and gave my dog a kiss on the head before we started and he kissed me back. This little dog and I have such a special bond, it’s so much fun to play this game together.

For me, at the very core of showing a dog in performance events is loving your dog. I live by the saying: Love your dog just as much when leave the ring as you did when you entered it — no matter what happens in between. Buzz is only doing this because I asked him to participate in this sport with me. He’s a dog, not a robot. And he is putting his trust in me that nothing bad will happen to him at a dog show. Or in every day life. 

I’m the only one who understands what these 10 green ribbons mean. Buzz doesn’t care. He only knows that I was happy when I was handed them. And he got to spend time with me, just the two of us.

So, with this goal accomplished, what’s next?

Also as of Nov. 1, AKC added one higher level to the sport of Rally.  It’s called a Rally Champion, or RACH. To attain this, the dog has to qualify in three classes in one show 20 times and in addition, earn 300 points. We’ll slowly work toward it over the next five years or so, but I’m not in any hurry. It’s very expensive to enter that many times and I’m looking forward to just spending time with my dog and yes, continuing to train because he enjoys it. 

We’ll show one more time this year to try for the first of those needed 20 triple qualifying scores. But I’m looking at this dog show in Lansing as a give back to the sport because Buzz gained a fan club while we earned our Rally Master title. The judges and the competitors loved watching this happy little red dog wag his tail and zip around these courses. He has such fun on course and I want people to see that rally is fun for the dog and Buzz is a perfect example of that.

And, oh yeah, there’s the Rally National Championship show in St. Louis in mid-March.

Thank you everyone for your positive thoughts, I felt the good will and love coming from Chelsea every step of the way.

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7 Responses to “Publisher’s message: you may call him ‘Rally Master,’ but he’s still Buzz to me”

  1. Crystal Hayduk says:

    Congratulations to you and Buzz. You have certainly worked hard for your accomplishments. Thank you for sharing this journey with your readers.

  2. Bernadette Malinoski says:

    Congratulations, Lisa and Buzz! Rally Master, on to Rally Champion!

  3. Kathleen Neuman says:

    WOW! Congratulations Lisa and Buzz! What an amazing accomplishment for you both. While I never showed dogs I think showing my horses created much the same bond between trainer/ rider and our 4 legged partner. It’s always a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you are able to showcase the talent and perseverance of the creature who trusts and loves you unconditionally, And doing it all by yourself is that much more gratifying. Continued success to you and Buzz. Enjoy every moment.

  4. Elizabeth Wells says:

    Congratulations! It was an honor to be one the the judges along the way. You and Buzz did an outstanding job and are a true credit to the sport. Good luck to you as you continue the journey. I expect you will have no problem finishing that next title!

  5. Kim Longworth says:

    YAY, Lisa and Buzz!!

    So happy for you both, and I had no doubt you would do it!

  6. Deanna Robbins says:

    Thank you for sharing. It has been fun to watch/hear about your journey with your best friend. Go Lisa and Buzz!!

  7. Jan Starr says:

    Thanks so much for including your video. I really had no idea what a rally was like. πŸ™‚