After all the emotional ups and downs of the last few weeks, OH and I decided to go ahead with our participation in a local charity working test, run in aid of assistance dogs. It's a lovely and prestigious working test, on the grounds of an old hunting lodge, and people come from all over Germany to take part. I thought long and hard about starting with Merlin, but decided that the tasks in the pre-beginner class (Schnupperklasse) would not be too arduous for him. OH decided he wanted to compete with Poppy in the advanced class; only the second time he has ever taken part in a working test. The pre-beginner class started in the morning. When we got there, Merlin was ALL OVER THE PLACE with excitement - 40 dogs!!!! So many buttholes to sniff!!! Guns!!! Dummies!!!!! - he did calm down eventually, but I was glad I got there really early so he could get used to things a bit before we were sent off in our groups to the various tasks. He was so excited I was sure he would run in at the sound of the starter pistol with each task, but actually he was very concentrated and worked well, except on one task where he lost the plot a bit and ran around sniffing, before peeing on a bush... This would have been an automatic disqualification in a higher class, but in the pre-beginners they just took marks off. There were five tasks in total; two simple marks, one walk-up with a mark, and two searches with two dummies to be returned from each. He ended up with a score of 83/100 (including one perfect score of 20 on one of the tasks), an evaluation of 'sehr gut' (very good), and a very respectable 9th place out of 40 dogs. I was very pleased with him Here he is, looking studious and concentrated in the waiting zone: Poppy as usual was like a small dummy-guided Exocet missile - starting off with a 100 meter blind (with no shot!) through the woods, followed by various marks, blinds and search combinations. She was such a star, and OH was calm and collected and wisely just let her do her stuff rather than whistling all over the show and trying to correct her. I watched from the sidelines, and was so proud, especially on the final task where she pulled off an extremely difficult mark in a meadow of long grass, which all the other dogs found very difficult. There were a couple of occasions where I would have handled her differently on the blinds, but nonetheless they did so well, and ended up with a score of 91/100 and an evaluation of 'excellent' - and third place out of 40!!! It was a lovely day, and we all had a wonderful time. I don't think I'll be entering any more competitions with Merlin this year, so it was really nice to have this day out with him, and the experience alone will have been excellent for him. He took the physical exercise in his stride, and if you didn't know he had a problem with his hips you would never have guessed. I will continue with my modified training plan with him this year, and if he stays fit I may enter him into a couple of low-level competitions next year. And as for the Pocket Rocket... Well, she is just amazing.