Thursday, February 04, 2010

Life in the Agility Lane

SUMMARY: Dogs + class + car + yard + blahblahblah
For some reason, people seem to think that I'm into dogs. Go figure.

For example, my nephew gave me a lightweight fleece blanket with a picture of golden retriever (or maybe lab) puppies on it. Very nice blanket. But, see, dog stuff is not part of my *normal* life (in which I might use a blanket); it's part of my *dog* life. My house is decorated with dragons, not dog stuff. But, well, it gets cold around here with the heat turned down, so, nifty, a blanket. I take it down to my office chair to wrap around myself.

Also, here's a collection of greeting cards I've received over the last year. (Did I ever mention to anyone that I'm also known for things piratical? Apparently I did--)

Despite trying to keep my dog life and regular life separate, they all intertwine. Last night, backing out of the driveway to go to agility class, I broke off a sprinkler riser by the driveway. Eight and a half years in this house, backing out of the same driveway, and I've never touched it. Go figure.

Dogs did well in class last night. Tika's contacts were beautiful (sigh), very fast 2-on/2-off. Boost's weaves were beautiful. Boost still knocking some bars and not wanting to come in to me on serpentines. We were lucky: Tuesday classes were cancelled due to rain and it's supposed to be raining again today, so we just squeezed in Wednesday.

I'm trying to transfer out of the Wednesday night class because it's getting close to Real Hikes season with the sierra club Wednesday Night Hikers. But evening classes are very popular and at the moment there might not be any other openings. (My old Thursday night class was turned into a world-team class. Go figure there are enough people at that level around here for their own weekly class. Tough competition all the time at local trials.)

This morning the Merle Girls and I dropped off MUTT MVR at the dealer to take care of a few things. I set the alarm for 6:30 to be first in line, and the dogs were VERY excited because alarm always means going to dog agility. They were a little confused when I did a few things that I don't normally do on agility morning. (Yes, they did really look puzzled.) After dropping off the van, we walked home the two and a half miles. I remember making this walk back when i first moved here, and being exhausted at the end. Now? Piece of cake. I don't hike all that often at the moment, but when I do walk or hike, it tends to be more than a mile, so am I a studly hiker or what, doing my 2.5 completely level sidewalk walk?

At home, I'm sitting at the breakfast table, which on my split level looks down over my office, just a wrought-iron railing separating them. Tika comes over, looks through the railing, and starts growling, then when I say "What?" she goes into full offensive barking, looking down into my office. I look that way to see what evil she has detected (note that Tika is NOT Boost, who sees evil in many places, but not Tika ever). Go figure. Here's what I see:

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Agility Activity

SUMMARY: Class, fun match.

Halleluia, it was not raining yesterday so we had class last night! Dogs were happy to be running. Tika did beautifully, she's such a good experienced girl--and seems so slow in comparison to Boost. (Although she's not by any means a slow dog.)

Boost did pretty good. Did all her weaves beautifully, even when I cut away toward the end to get to another position (the thing she COULDN'T do correctly 2 weeks ago in class, and no, I haven't worked on it since). Knocked a bar almost, but not quite every, run--hmm, ok, I think I did three exercises with her and 4 with tika, so that's not a great sample size.

There were only 4 of us in class last night, so we all pooped out on the early side and headed home in the dark.

Sunday is Boost's and my birthday! Boost will be 5--gasp, how is it possible?--and I'll be older than that.

To celebrate, we've signed up for a UKI fun match. UKI is a creation of Greg Derrett and Laura Manchester-Derrett, and Laura's from our general agility area originally before she moved to England for a while, so it's fun to see her back again. If you haven't seen the buzz about UKI agility, here's their web site. It's up in Fremont, only about 45 minutes from home, and has limited entries and 4 classes, so we don't start until 8:30 and expect to be done by 12:30, a huge difference from regular trials.

And it's supposed to rain a bit between now and Sunday, but Sunday itself should be clear. Happy birthday to us!

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey, Well, Qs and Titles are Overrated Anyway

SUMMARY: One rainy day of USDAA agility doesn't have a lot of high points. But dogs were happy to be running!

Saturday was supposed to start with a little rain and then clear up. So it started with a little rain and continued with a little rain almost all day. We were under cover for the trial, but it's a metal roof, so when it started raining, especially heavily, you could hardly hear each other to talk. Wonder whether the dogs could hear one's spoken commands.

After all this rain recently, the huge lawn where we usually play some frisbee at the end of the day to burn off any remaining exercise was a bit of a lake. Dogs didn't much care.

If I had taken time to post "what I want from this weekend" before the trial, I'd have said a Jumpers Q to finish Boost's MAD and a Standard Q to finish Tika's Performance MAD-equivalent (PD3 I think). Short answer: Didn't get either.

Both dogs, however, were delighted to be doing agility after weeks of little or none and after a solid week of rain. I could tell from the way they went at it. Very, very happy dogs.

Tika remained in full healthy form, not a sign of pain at all. Halleluia! I did give her a rimadyl Friday night and another Saturday morning Just In Case. She looked great. She started the day with a lovely Gamblers run in which she completed 4 contacts--not 2o2o but completely solidly legal--and got a high enough score that she'd have beaten ALL the 30 dogs in the Border Collie height (16" Performance)--but dang high levels of competition at her height, only 11 dogs and 2 of them had higher scores (barely--3 pts and 1 pt). She made the gamble itself look like a cakewalk, so an easy Q and 3rd place.

Tika then had a simply gorgeous Jumpers run, never even ticked a bar. One challenging rear cross (for me) and she started to turn the wrong way but picked it up and went on--and that lost us 1st place by .2 seconds. Ah, well, it was another Q and a 2nd.

Then in Standard, where I really needed the contacts to be perfect for her title, she flew off both the dogwalk and Aframe without even trying to slow down.

In Snooker, I thought I had a perfect thing going after the first five jumps but then apparently Tika entered the weaves from the wrong side and I didn't notice it so got whistled off with a whole 8 points. You'd think that after all these years, I'd notice something like that. I can usually tell a bad weave entry even with peripheral vision and half a brain. Ah, well.

She ran beautifully again in Pairs, which was good because her partner had two refusals--but collectively we were fast enough to earn a Q.

Boost-- Ahhh, what can I say, this is a dog with whom I have to do the straight-ahead and bar-knocking drills constantly, apparently. In Snooker, she had a spectacular start--over a red on the far side of the course, between two jumps straight to me and a perfect right-angle turn into the weave poles. Beautiful. Then--she knocked the next two red jumps, which right there not only kept us from a Super-Q but also from qualifying at all, but we continued into the closing sequence (with combinations, 10 obstacles), which she of course did perfectly. Gah.

In Jumpers, in the first 5 obstacles, two bars down and then turned back to me and ran past a jump sideways for a runout. The rest of the course--clean although still way too much looking back.

In Gamblers, we had a good high-score opening going until our last 2 obstacles--looked back at me as she went through the tire and got caught in it and took a couple of seconds to regain her feet but continued without a backward glance, then leaped off halfway down the dogwalk down ramp to come back to me (behind her). So no points for that, and the buzzer sounded, and she was between me and the gamble entry, so I had to calm her enough to line her up, we didn't have quite the momentum and angle I'd have liked, and she hung out before the 3rd gamble jump doing the "what, this jump? what, this jump?" thing 3 or 4 times before she finally took it and then completed the gamble but over time.

In Standard--oh, the heartbreak, we were SO close to a perfect run, and then once again in a straight line of obstacles, on the middle jump, she turned back to me and backed up past the jump for a runout.

In Pairs, she crashed the second jump on a lead-out pivot, looked back at me several times before taking jumps, and then on the last jump turned back to me just as she got to the jump and ended up crashing the metal upright with the side of her head, the whole thing went flying (jump upright, bars, and wing, not her head, although I was afraid she'd knocked a tooth out--but no, she kept going without a backwards glance). We did squeeze out a Q by about 2 seconds because she had enough speed and her partner executed perfectly. Her only Q of the weekend, and it just wasn't purty.

On the up side, Boost's weave poles seem to be perfect again with no apparent effort on my part, go figure.

After we were done, I took them out to the frisbee field and let them splash their way through it until Boost lay down in the slushy grass, panting. The sun came out at the horizon long enough to backlight a few clouds nicely for us.

Then we spent the night at my cousin's house, where Boost proved that now, apparently, ALL smooth floors are evil except the ones at home and ALL water dishes except hers are evil (I never filled in that story over New Years--will have to come back to that) and my cousin finally managed to get her to drink from a large hand-held plastic pitcher. All other offerings were evil. What a strange dog.

We had a great night's sleep, very comfy, chatted with the cousin a bit more in the morning, and came home. Next trial in 3 weeks I believe.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good News/Bad News

SUMMARY: To start the year running, I've got good news and bad news. And more good news. Etc.

Gratuitous dog photo: Dogs love riding in the car around the neighborhood when they don't have to be in crates.

  • Good news: My house appraised for much more than I thought it might in this market.
  • Bad news: That means my property taxes will keep going up, not down like so many other people's.
  • Good news: That might mean that it's a shoo-in for my refi application to go through. Just waiting to hear when closing should be--I think--

  • Good news: Paid off the last 73 cents on MUTT MVR last week!
  • Bad news: It's wayyyy overdue for its xxx,000 mile check-up.
  • Good news: Passed its smog check again.

  • Good news: Tika has been running around like a lunatic without her bootie and no signs of a sore foot. Ran her two runs (jumpers courses with weaves) and she was fine. Haven't tried contacts again yet.
  • Bad news: She continues to look, every once in a while, like she's sore for a few minutes or more.
  • Good news: It goes away again. But I wish I knew--our next trial is in just under 2 weeks, and she's signed up for a day of agility.

  • Good news: Boost loves doing agility.
  • Bad news: In class last week, after we've done virtually no agility for 3 weeks, she popped out of the weaves EVERY time at the 10th pole as I moved away from her. Instructor said, well, I had to support in in N following ways, and I was maybe rude and said, no, I don't have to, this is why we practice weave distractions down to the bone at home until I can't get her to pop for any reason.
  • Good news: When I finally just picked her up, carried her off the field, and put her away until the next run--then the next time, she did the weaves all the way through.

  • Bad news: Shattered tooth down into the root. Happy New Year! The dental surgeon I had to go to to get it excavated said I didn't *quite* win the prize for the most pieces of tooth to be dug out.
  • Good news: Didn't hurt before, hurt afterward more than I had hoped but less than I had feared, and only for that first evening, and it's been fine ever since.
  • Bad news: I dread finding out how much an implant is going to cost. No dental insurance.

  • Good news: Doctor says, Those things? They're harmless. They're called ruby spots (cherry angiomas).
  • Bad news: Yeah, you'll probably keep getting more. Yeah, they can get bigger.
  • Good news: Can burn them off with liquid nitrogen. [Like warts, I guess.]
  • Bad news: THAT's not a fun procedure. And it can scar. Either way, I'm going to end up looking like a giant polkadot by the time I'm 100.
  • Good news: Remind myself: they're harmless.

Tika sees another dog while on leash:

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    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Gamblin' Boost

    SUMMARY: Q in Team, good and almost great in Gamblers, and... that's it.

    Boost's story this weekend included many chapters of knocked bars, popping out at the end of the weaves, and checking back with me constantly instead of taking jumps. Oh, yeah, and several runouts. Drat. Back to square two on all counts. How many times do I have to fix her weave poles, fer crying out loud? But she was fast and happy and her start line stay and contacts were spot on.

    Saturday's classes consisted entirely of the three-dog DAM Team event. (All 3 dogs do 4 individual events, then combine for a relay, and the combined scores determine whether you earn a Team Q.) Recently, USDAA started allowing your performance in the individual events to count towards Qs for your Lifetime Achievement awards, but you have to be within (are you tired of this formula yet?) 15% of the average scores of the top 3 dogs in your height/class.

    In Team Standard, Boost knocked 2 bars and popped the weaves, which I had to fix. Not fatal in Team; it's off courses in Team that kill you. Both her teammates did better than Boost and also ran without off courses, which is a pretty good grouping for Team.

    In Team Gamblers, Boost had a pretty good opening--would've been better without 2 knocked bars and me forgetting which side of the teeter I wanted to be on to pick up another 5 points, oh, well, and then we were in perfect position for the gamble. We picked up a 20-point gamble (there were 10, 20, and 30 point choices), which was pretty good as not many dogs at all got the 20 or 30 pointers and quite a few didn't even manage the 10. We ended up placing 4th in 22" out 40 dogs, and her teammates were close behind her at 7th and 12th, so after Standard & Gamblers our team was in 4th place out of 25 teams.

    Team Snooker knocked us back a bit, we thought--all three of us scored in the 30-to-40 range (with 4 reds available meaning that in theory 59 points were possible), but a late rush of dogs not wanting to do well in Snooker left us down a bit overall but not by much. (Boost spent the opening doing runouts and "what, THIS obstacle?" dances and in the closing got whistle for running past a jump.)

    Team Jumpers we were all a bit worried about; very fast dogs with a couple of really wide-open stretches of just plain running plus tough call-offs. Boost knocked 2 bars and popped out at the end of the weaves (sound familiar?) but we did not off-course. Both our teammates Eed with off courses, so even our crappy run turned out to be the saving run for us.

    And in the 3-dog relay, Boost knocked only one bar and, just for variation, headed into the weave poles but turned back at the last moment to see what I was up to, earning a refusal, but her teammates ran very nicely and again none of us off-coursed, which is also excellent for Team Relay. We ended up Qing fairly solidly, placing 7th of 25 teams after combining the scores for all 5 classes. Thanks, Lucy and Beadle!

    Sunday, in Grand Prix, I apparently moved too soon and pulled Boost past a serpentine jump for a runout, then getting her back over it, she knocked the bar and then another one (2 jumps again). She did do the weaves OK, but the preceding obstacle was the chute and she somersaulted out of that--never seen her do that before--so it wasn't a pretty approach to the weaves.

    In Steeplechase, we had two sets of weaves. She knocked--yes--2 bars, did the first set of weaves beautifully, ran past 2 jumps that we had to go back for, and then the last set of weaves she popped out at the end again and I didn't catch it before going on, so we Eliminated there, too.

    Master Snooker wasn't awful--we placed 8th of 32 dogs, but it still wasn't a Q (one point short) and that's for two reasons: (1) She knocked a bar on a 7-pointer in the opening, so we didn't get those 7 points, and then she spent half the course checking back in with me instead of just &#*@(% going over the jump in front of her! Wasted SO much time. So by the time we got to #7 in the closing-- a 4-part combo--by the time she knocked a bar in the middle of it (2 bars again), our time's-over buzzer sounded. But so many people crapped out so early in this snooker, as I said, it was still a pretty good run given this particular course.

    Master Gamblers. Sighhhhhh. Do you ever see a gambler's opening where the high-point course is so obvious to you that you think it's most everyone's going to do the same thing and the really really fast & good dogs are going to get in even more obstacles than you, and then you watch almost everyone do something different from yours and come in much lower than your plan--which should be 48 if you do it absolutely perfectly, although I really expected 47? Like people were getting in the 32-42 range mostly.

    Well. So. It was our kind of course. And we did it perfectly right up to the obstacle before the gamble. That was a jump that would've been our 48th point. I actually expected the whistle (to start the gamble) to blow before we got to it, and I shot her over it and the whistle still hadn't blown, so I changed direction abruptly trying to figure out what other obstacles I could take, blown away that we still had time left over, and she knocked the bar.

    And we were racing *away* from the gamble when the whistle finally blew. Turned and headed back, but we approached awkwardly to the first jump, and she did a bunch of "this jump?" kinds of things without actually looking straight at it, so the judge didn't call a refusal, and she sailed over it without knocking it.

    The gamble included three jumps and a set of weaves, and the way we'd been going, I didn't expect her to actually do it, or to do it with faults. But she went fromthe jump to the weaves, did the weaves perfectly, did the next jump perfectly, and then danced around in front of me instead of going to the last jump, and when I finally got her turned around, the whistle blew as she was in the air for the last jump. All that wasted time-- just about a second over time. So no Q.

    BUT out of 70 Masters dogs, one dog got 48 in the opening and one other got 47 in the opening. So I certainly can't complain about our execution on that part of the course!

    The weather provided off and on rain showers all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, but not awful downpours. The weather was cold but not anywhere near freezing.

    Tika got to come out of her crate to practice tricks instead of doing agility, but probably not nearly as much as I should've done with her. No sign of sore toe, but Saturday mid-morning she came out of her crate hunched over and not wanting to do tug-of-war like she does when her neck gets sore. And I'd been blaming doing agility for aggravating the neck. Apparently not. She remained off the rest of the day, but Sunday was absolutely fine again.

    It occurred to me that Remington exhibited the same kind of seemingly-out-of-nowhere hunching over and then the next day fine several times before we discovered that he had that hemangiosarcoma tumor on his heart. It's a little scary, actually, how much it reminded me of that. Now I have to decided whether I want to pay the huge bucks for a screening ultrasound to find out whether there's anything there. I'm particularly sensitive since we've had so many dogs in our club die of hemangiosarcoma in the last year or two.

    Hate to end the post on that worried note-- But we are all home safely, dogs are already dozing off (even though they got all that great crate rest at the trial and on the drive home), so I will sign off and head to my own comfy bed now, too.

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    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Friday Morning Thoughts

    SUMMARY: Top Ten, bored dogs, nifty dog stuff in nondog catalog, agility class and schedule and training and weaves, dog noses.

    Top Tens
    • Why does USDAA have Top Ten Tournament for Championship dogs but not for Performance? I notice this because maybe Tika would have had a chance to be there this year. Maybe.)
    Bored dogs
    • I've been finding out what my dogs are like when we're not doing agility. Why? No class Oct 22 (Power Paws Camp preempted it). Class Oct 27. No class Nov 5 (Disneyland). No class Nov 12 (USDAA Nationals.) Class this week. No class next week (Thanksgiving). 
    • We did have agility competition Oct 31-Nov 1. And will have one day Nov 27, then two days Dec 12-13.  Feels like long times between when we're short on classes.
    • Doesn't help that  I've been trying to do an early 6:00 Thursday class; leaving home at 5:00 is still in my normal work day, plus traffic means it's a 45-50 minutes drive instead of 20-30, all of which means I have been getting in 15-30 minutes late, therefore missing class time. Am going to have to switch back to Wednesday 8:15 which means no more Sierra Club hikes until some other later class opens on another day.
    • Meanwhile pesky bored dogs. Walking a couple of miles a day isn't a good substitute for classes & competition, apparently.
    Improvements Catalog supplies the well-heeled dog (so to speak)
    • Beautiful folding wooden gates if you don't want to use cheap-looking standard gates to keep your dogs out of certain rooms.
    • Back when I had a Siberian Husky--for 16 years--every year I meant to get around to making a light-up Santa and sleigh display pulled by huskies. Good intentions, not enough time to figure it out. Now I could just buy one! And it's gorgeous, too.
    • Or how about just a light-up doggie holding a gift?
    • Check out their pet listings; a "Paw Plunger" for cleaning dirty paws; an embossed "Potty Rock", beautiful wooden crates, plus several actual useful items.
    • Wish I had implemented click-through payments for this site so that if you went to these locations I'd get 10 cents for it! Ah, well, another opportunity missed. Get in line behind making a husky santa sleigh.
    Don't you wish you had a nose like a dog?
    • Boost always knows when one of Tika's  treats has rolled under the closet door at some time earlier in the day.
    • When I sent Boost out to get the paper yesterday morning, she stepped outside and then went into ferocious danger action--hackles up, bouncing on stiff legs while making some serious barking, looking at my porch, my tree, my eaves, my fence--and Tika followed suit, barking up an angry storm.  I saw nothing. It was an hour before I could get Boost out the door without the same reaction. What did I miss?
    Agility training
    • My yard is just not big enough for all types of agility practice, for dogs who can cover 18 feet in a single full-speed bounce jump, 60 feet is nothing--not enough space to GET to that kind of striding.
    • Both dogs have been making some nice, tough weave entries in the yard. And in class last night. And then--missing some in the yard. Gah. It never ends.

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    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Focusing In--

    SUMMARY: Camera and weaves.
    Lenses arrived yesterday for my new camera! Yay! Started really playing around with things today. Getting a feel for the first nonzoom lens I've ever owned.

    Spider has a brand new web that's much neater than the previous one. Yesterday morning she was showing me her underside.

    Today, no sign of Ms. Spider at all. Trying to get a dark background to view the complelte web, so it's at an angle here (instead of looking roundish when straight on).

    Autumn--cyclamen are blooming!

    And the rain lilies.

    Have been working on proofing weaves. For about a week, I ran them straight into an area between a tree and a bench to make sure dogs would keep going even if I didn't and even if there was nowhere (obvious) to go after that.

    Now I've got them sideways along the far side of the yard, with jumps lined up more or less towards either end, about 18' from tunnel to jump, 18' to jump, 18' to weaves to get a good running speed (and that's about as far as I can get in this yard). This way the dogs approach the weaves at a right angle or even greater than a 90-degree angle at full speed and have to make the turn into the weaves.

    It has been an interesting couple of weeks. Oddly, Boost who has trouble managing these things in competition (and in class last week), is doing great. Tika, whose weaves have almost always been lovely, has been popping out early or missing her entrances. Not often--but I think more often than Boost.

    The training never ends!

    Random pollinator on rose, violating rules of macro: hand-held in shadow with a plant swaying in the wind. Wonder why it's not perfectly sharp?

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    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Weave Experiments

    SUMMARY: Timing 20" vs 24" and Boost is GREAT!

    In class tonight, we timed our dogs going through 20-inch-spaced weaves and 24-inch-spaced weaves. Our trainers have both sets of weaves always set up, so all the dogs have experience using the different spacing. I don't recall that my dogs ever noticed the difference in the spacing; I didn't at first, either, except that I noticed that Boost seemed to be moving faster (because I had to move faster to keep up with her) and figured out why.

    Spacing and expectations

    Consider that a 12-pole set of 24-inch spacing will be nearly 4 feet longer--about 25% longer--than a 20-inch set! One way to measure the dog's performance is by the time it takes to do the poles; another way is to calculate yards per second to get their actual ground speed.

    I had expected Boost to come in closer to 2-second weaves. I had expected Tika to be faster in the 24" spaced poles because it would be easier on her sometimes-sore neck and back. Well--let's say that surprises sometimes happen. Not big surprises, though.

    Timing results

    Each dog ran each set 4 times.

    Variations in times

    My clever dogs are amazingly consistent. I used extra revving up before each pass, trying to get more speed. Nope--apparently they're both going as fast as they go. More consistent in the 20" poles--both dogs' runs clustered within .05 of a second.

    In the 24" poles, Boost's variation became .08 of a second, but that's not surprising for an additional 4 feet of movement. Tika's spread, however, went to .24, a full quarter of a second variance. As those of you who pay attention to winning times know, a quarter of a second these days can be the difference between, say, 1st and 4th places. Or more, if you're competing at the Regional or National level.

    Times overlap between short and long

    Boost's fastest time on the wider spacing was faster than her slowest narrow-spaced time, which means she's covering the 4 extra feet in almost the same amount of time, barely marginally slower (about .1 second).

    Tika's fastest 24" time was faster than ALL of her narrow-spaced times including the extra 4 feet, which was what I was expecting, but the others were all slightly slower. I have no idea what that means. She did seem to get faster in each set of wide-spaced poles.

    General timing observations

    In yards per second, Boost sped up from 2.48 yps to 2.89 yps. So, sure, takes about the same amount of time to do the weaves, but is covering the ground much faster. No wonder I noticed that she was speeding up!

    Intriguingly, this means that poles that are 4 feet longer than current ones won't have any appreciable effect on total course time (at least, not based on my dogs)--they're 25% longer, but Boost, for example, executed only .0004% slower!

    Compare all this [if you want to] with Kathy Keat's comments about excellent weave pole speed and my timing for each dog based on videos in this previous post, where Kathy says that weave speeds of less than 2.5 seconds are excellent. This is presumably using USDAA's 20-21" weave spacing.

    Boost's excellent speed

    I guess I should be happy that (a) instructor JB predicted ahead of time that Boost could be one of the fastest weavers of all the students--and he was right, and (b) the only dog with faster times than Boost was the fabulous Ace Gyes, and he was apparently less than a tenth of a second faster in his fastest time. I feel pretty good about that.

    And that's the end of the obsessive timing stuff--for the moment. Time for bed.

    Boost is Great!

    Update: Same day, 3 hours later:
    DRAT! My summary "boost is great" was NOT about the weave poles--it was that she ran in class like a real agility dog--all evening, every run! Almost no bars down! No runouts or refusals! Blasting straight ahead to next obstacle instead of always waiting for me! We almost did the World Team Championship Jumpers course from a couple years back PERFECTLY if only I hadn't forgotten where I was going 2 obstacles from the end! Woot!

    She turns four and a half and suddenly she can do agility?! Hope it holds up through next weekend's SMART USDAA and Labor Day weekend's Southwest Regionals. I am JAZZED!


    P.S. Did NO hiking or walking today at all, just class in the evening. I feel wimpier already...

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Weaves. Terseness.

    SUMMARY: wha's'up?

    Practicing being concise, succinct, terse. Short blog posts. Yes. Sure.

    Practicing weaves. Tika, who doesn't usually pop out in competition, I can get to pop out many times. Boost, who too often pops out in competition, I can't trick into popping no way no how.

    Practicing serpentines. I need to practice (after all these years) to be in the right place. Boost needs to practice coming in & going out at sharp angles. I think we're both doing better.

    No bar-knocking drills so far in the last week. Need to get back to that; bars are coming down again.

    No competition again until Augst 29! Yay! Boo! Yay! Boo! Yay!

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    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Remembering Weaving Poles, Flowers, Birds, and What Else Anyway?

    SUMMARY: A little yardwork, a little practice, new neighbors.

    Yesterday I didn't go for a hike, didn't go for a walk, didn't even really practice any agility. I did split, plant, and/or repot some hostas, mondo grass, western bleeding heart, redwood sorrel, impatiens, begonias, lobelia...and some other stuff that I've already forgotten.

    Also trimmed dead or rangy bits from some lettuce, pothos, ferns, more mondo grass, irises, mint, and those large white daisy things that come back every year. Plus some other stuff that I've already forgotten.

    In between, Boost lay next to The Toy, off on the lawn in the shade somewhere, and waited for me to offer to throw it. So I did, sometimes. And sometimes we played the Find The Weavepole Game. Don't recall where I learned it. Basically, you play with the dog like crazy, get her all het up, then take the toy away and say "Weave!" and let the dog find the weave entry.

    You start out easy, in a location close to an easy entry with the dog alongside you and you're both facing it. The you move to various distances and various angles away from it, with the dog maybe facing you when you take the toy away.

    The idea is that my job is to identify the obstacle. The dog's job is to find the correct obstacle and correct entry and do it. Boost does OK if it's not too hard. I should do more of that; used to do quite a bit of it but it's just one of lots and lots of clever agility training stuff that over time I've already forgotten.

    I'm just tired of Tika having pretty dagnabbed good weave entries--and always has--and Boost just dagnabbed doesn't, and she's well over 4 now, what's her excuse? Plus I'm tired of having raggety looking plants lounging around like reprobate rejects from the plant factory. Plus tired of empty or half-empty pots. It's almost summer, fer crying out loud!

    Plus I had to avoid the TWO birds who now think that nesting in my potted plants, which I water regularly, are ideal places to raise a family. The mourning dove conveniently took the apartment that I filled with soil but left unplanted specifically for mourning dove nesting; how clever is that bird? How clever am I?

    But until I watered the last litter of finch teenagers (see here and here), I didn't realize that finches had moved in down the hall from the dove. Apparently the complaints about the overzealous shower caused mom to move one pot down the hall this time to raise the next litter. Both pots contain plants. Hope they can go a while without water.

    What was I talking about? I'm afraid I've already forgotten.

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    Sunday, May 03, 2009

    From High to Low and In Between

    SUMMARY: We won! We lost! We learned! We exhausted ourselves!

    Tika won Steeplechase! Whooooey! We have never won Steeplechase. We've almost never even placed in Steeplechase. That's first of 8 dogs who made it to round 2 in Performance 22". Tika ran smoothly and got a solid foot into both Aframe down contacts. So--1st in Performance Steeplechase and 2nd in Performance Grand Prix in the same weekend! Excellent. (And her time would've been good enough for 3rd place at Championship 26".)

    She also Qed in Masters Jumpers at 26" this morning, meaning we're down to 3 Jumpers and 1 Standard for our Silver ADCH (could not keep her bars up in EITHER standard today, dash it all) and placed 3rd of 15 dogs, to boot.

    She had a nice opening score in gamblers, but I put her into the wrong end of my launching tunnel right before the first whistle blew, so we had to redo the tunnel to get the proper line to the gamble, and DID the gamble, but 1.02 seconds over time. That was still worth a 2nd place out of 10 dogs, because only one Performance 22" dog got that gamble.

    Disappointing way to end the day--our two Standards at 26" looked pretty good except that she knocked one or two of the first bars in each run. I DID put her over the 26" practice jump several times before each run, but we had the same issue yesterday--knocking first or 2nd bar at 26". At least we got it over early in the run--beats getting all the way through and then knocking the last bar.

    But she did, really, do reasonably well this weekend.

    Boost followed up yesterday's credible runs and two Qs with a disastrous Jumpers--4 or 5 bars down, half a dozen or more "this jump?" refusals or runouts, ran past at least 2 jumps... Huh. In Gamblers, I followed through on my determination to get her contacts back to the reliable state they used to be in. I planned three contacts--two A-frames and a teeter. She came right off the end of the first Aframe, so I put her immediately into a down and made her wait a bit. We did the 2nd Aframe and she came right off, so I thanked the judge, picked Boost up (she hates that--so does Tika and that's how I finally mostly cured Tika's feet-grabbing issues), walked off the course, put her into her crate, and walked away.

    So--in her next course, Standard, she stuck every one of her contacts.

    In the following Standard course, she stuck every one of her contacts.

    But we continued with the insane bouncing around in front of me and not going over jumps in front of her and making me want to tear out my hair and maybe hers, too. The second one was considerably better than the first one, but still not as nice as some of yesterday's runs.

    Oh, well. At least we got to end on a reasonably high note for her--also she had issues with only the one weave pole yesterday all weekend--hit her entries fast, blazed through, completed them even as I went past her or veered away. So--for now anyway--her weaves seem pretty solid.

    Boost's look-very-similar sister Bette won Round 1 of Steeplechase at 26"; I didn't notice how she did in Round 2 (and I was on score table! doh!). Boost's look-alike sister Gina was almost 2 seconds faster than any other dog in the entire Steeplechase finals--but had to knock 4 bars to do it. In my experience, the knocked bars slow the dogs down, not speed them up. So, as always, there is pressure (from inside my brain) to catch up to the littermates.

    AND there's been no bleeding on Boost's nose today, so I'm hopeful it was just a contusion of some sort.

    Meanwhile, our leetle tiny playmate Sparkle the Pinchippet finished her ADCH this weekend. The ribbon was bigger than Sparkle. I'd love to get a ribbon someday that's proportionally as large on Tika! Would that be cool or what?

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    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Random Things in February

    SUMMARY: new glasses, daylight, weave poles, deck training, rain vs. mud...

    My last 2 pairs of glasses have become so badly scratched that I could barely see through them. I don't know how this happens. I'm very careful to follow the instructions--don't rub them when they're dry (always wet them first), try to blow any loose dust away first, dry them only with cotton or microfiber fabric. I wear them all day so they're not being set down anywhere, and I always set them down lenses up at night. How do they get scratched?

    I got my brand-new pair last week and I've been bound and determined that this pair will NOT be scratched. I have been super-careful not to touch the lenses at all. I've cleaned them once with glasses-cleaning fluid and the supplied microfiber fabric, and once with water and hand soap and a cotton hand towel. And both lenses have 3 scratched on them. This is so frustrating. At this rate, they're not going to last 6 months even.

    Daylight: Badda-bing, just like that, today it's light enough when the renter comes home for him to go out back and throw the ball for the dogs and tire them out some more. Hallelujah! Wasn't it just last week that it was too dark at 5:30? Love it when we've passed the winter solstice, that slow climb back to daylight.

    Boost's weave poles: Today I've tried everything I can think of to get boost to pop out of the weaves early or to skip a pole on the entry, both of which she did repeatedly this weekend. Succeeded in the latter with only one ploy, and then she got it. Couldn't repeat the former at all. I hate smart-ass dogs.

    Deck training: The back of my house has a raised deck with a staircase and a railing. Very early on, I taught Boost to "go up on the deck" and wait there while the other dogs and I worked on doing agility. It wasn't too hard--she was small enough to squeeze through the railing, and when she'd do so, I'd pick her up and make her squeeze back through it, which she really hated. Now she'll dash back and forth watching us, but she doesn't come down.

    Tika's a different matter. Have always clipped her to a leash on a hook, where she proceeds to bark her head off. Sometimes I can tell her to just go away or go lie down, which apparently means go patrol the yard for squirrels and other terrorists, but often that ends with her appearing suddenly as Boost is blasting out of a tunnel and meeting Boost head-on (deliberately).

    So I've been working on "go up on the deck" with her; figure that if she's 8 and can earn 25 masters gamblers Qs, she can learn to do that on command, too. She can't fit through the railing so I can't make the punishment for leaving seem quite as severe or appropriate. If I close the door to the stairs, she barks. We seem to be making some progress with treats for good behavior (the food-motivated dog). I feel like it's still a broken behavior, but last week the renter saw it in action and said, "Wow, I'm really impressed with Tika's 'go up on the deck'. I've never seen that before and she was so well behaved!" So apparently I'm making more progress than I had realized.

    A good reminder to pay attention to one's successes and to not focus on the failures. I'm tryin'!

    Rain vs. mud: We really desperately need rain. We're looking almost for sure at rationing this year if we don't get a lot more in the next couple of months (it doesn't usually rain much, if any, between March/April and late September/October). But my yard is just now dry enough from the last rain a week and a half ago that my dogs no longer automatically come in from the yard with muddy feet that I have to clean. I like them having clean(ish) feet. I don't want my yard to be muddy again.

    Rain is supposed to reappear Wednesday or Thursday. Agh. Mud. Bleah.

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    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Well Things Are Interesting

    SUMMARY: Another Tika title, some soreness, some progress, some nationals musings

    (top 10)
    1st plc
    min pts
    our faults note
    SatBoostGrand Prixn
    secEa mess
    SatBoostMas Gamblersn17th of 3233+047+2518+25pts
    Nice opening
    SatBoostMas RelayQ5th of 2155.1953.3276sec10bar
    SatBoostMas Relay-61.5453.2276sec20a mess
    SatBoostMas Standardn21st of 2956.3839.7753sec18.38probs
    SunBoostMas Jumpersn
    secENice! Bar, serp
    SunBoostMas Snookern9+24+2737pts
    Too hard
    SunBoostMas Standardn16th of 2645.2939.7854sec10Nice! Bar, up DW
    SatTikaGrand Prixn6th of 1244.5033.6949sec10Aframe
    SatTikaMas GamblersQ3rd of 12 (3)26+2533+2518+25pts
    SatTikaMas RelayQ7th of 2160.9053.2276sec10handling
    SatTikaMas StandardQ4th of 1044.7039.0253sec
    SunTikaMas Snookern24+224+2737pts
    SunTikaMas Standardn

    The weekend started with a promising-looking sunrise.

    It's so weird to have a Lowe's and its parking lot looming over the field--that's on top of where this site used to have room for a 3rd and 4th ring. Not no more.

    Tika seemed mostly OK Saturday. She ran nicely and Qed in 3 of 4 classes, missing only the Grand Prix where I tried a tricky maneuver that failed, pulling her past the Aframe for a refusal and then because I was behind her after I got her onto it, she flew right off the other side. She also placed in those 3 classes, and finished her Relay Champion Silver title (25th Q).

    On Sunday, she ran happily outside the ring but acted gingerly when jumping. In her first run, Standard, about 2/3 of the way through, she yelped landing from a jump, but we were so close to the end and she kept going without slowing down--but then I was watching her and starting to try to take it easy on the course, and I pulled her past an obstacle just about 6 jumps from the end, so we just ran quickly off course.

    Before her Snooker run, she looked reluctant to get going, but I did a bunch of warmups and stretching, and then she took the practice jump with no obvious sign of problems. But, once we were out on the course, she started landing heavily after jumps and saying "oomph" or the equivalent--not a yelp, but obviously not comfy, but still she kept going, although slowing down--once again, I started watching her more than the course and once again pulled her past an obstacle, so we just ran quickly out of the ring again.

    So I scratched her from Jumpers. I'm sure she'll be fine before nationals with R&R&R (rest, relaxation, rimadyl).

    This was my view most of the weekend.

    Boost managed to Q again in Pairs Relay, where it's OK to knock a bar. We ran it twice, once as an accommodating dog, and the 2nd time (different half of course) was a mess--didn't stick start line, so got a refusal as I was dealing with that, a bar, two more refusals or runouts, Bleah.

    Her Saturday standard was a bit of a mess: ran under the tire again (did so 2 trials ago, different tire, different site), ran past a very easy jump, ran across the front of another jump, and a couple of other weird bobbly things, plus not sticking her contacts very well.

    In Gamblers, I found a really lovely flowing high-point opening that I thought she did perfectly, but instead of having 45 opening points (which would've been 2nd highest of all dogs all heights), she was missing a 7 and a 5-pointer, with no inidication why, and the judge didn't remember. Ratz. It's just for the glory, because we missed the gamble on a stupid handler thing, but still...

    Grand Prix didn't look so good, either; didn't stick her contacts and so got out of place for following obstacles for at least one refusal and a lot of wasted time, missed weave entry (although a lot of dogs missed that entry), some other disorganized stuff and I ended up just running her off and not doing all the last jumps.

    Sunday looked up a bit. Both her Standard and Jumpers were smooth and fast. I worked the contacts for a long time in Standard, so her time was slow, and she had a bar down, but otherwise it was beautiful--except she got called for the dogwalk up contact. And jumpers she had a bar and then ran parallel past a tough serpentine that I didn't work well, but wow it felt and looked good otherwise.

    We tried a complex Snooker course to try for a Super-Q, but it was way beyond our skill level and not a pretty thing to watch.

    On the very positive side, she went down and stayed down on her table in both Standards, with just a wee tiny bit of down-stay work outside the ring Saturday and none sunday because I forgot, so that's a nice change of pace. And I'm starting to feel very confident about her weaves; I know that I still have to watch the entry and not get ahead of her, but I don't have to babysit or worry for the most part any more.

    Here's Roulette, a full sister from a repeat breeding of Boost's mother and father. Look familiar? Even has a two-tone right eye.

    And here's Dash, of Dash and Ash, who periodically appeared and did all the obligatory very-cute-puppy things. He's so TINY!

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    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Lessons From The Weekend

    SUMMARY: Thoughts on achievements and challenges.

    • Photography: MM, who is a semipro photographer (as in makes money at it but I dont think makes most of her income from it), commented about how she didn't feel like bringing her camera this weekend because she didn't think she'd have time to shoot anything and she didn't want to make the effort to get it ready and bring in, and then was inundated with requests for photos and there was no photog here at all, all weekend, said that the lesson is: Just always bring your camera. My version is: If you have your camera around your neck, you will use it. If it is sitting next to your dogs' crates and you're working score table and running 2 dogs all weekend and the days are long, you won't. Can you believe I was at a trial all weekend and this is the only photo I took?

      Because these rustic rural greater-than-life-sized carved wood statues are new to this site, and they stood out like sore carved-wood thumbs against the underside of the modern all-metal bleachers where they store large steel barrels for trash. You couldn't not notice these guys welcoming you as you walked through the gate to go to the restroom
    • Boost weaves: Twice this weekend, I was ahead of Boost at the weave entry and she entered correctly but so hard that she bounced off the 2nd pole and skipped one. Something to work on. We had some other weave issues this weekend of the random sort, but I still count hr weaves as successful when she's not popping out at the end, which she never did.
    • Boost staying in crate: I came back to my crates after working the score table for a full round and discovered that I had never zipped Boost's crate, and she was still inside. What a good girl! Training does pay! (Although I can't picture that working for Tika...)
    • Boost bars: Grumble. Both gambles executed perfectly except for knocked bars. That's not supposed to be the hard part! Must work more.
    • Boost elbows off table: On Saturday, she never did get her elbows down on the table. (But we had already Eed, so it didn't matter.) Sunday, we worked on excited down-stays on the ground before going into the ring, and her table down was perfect. Same result as last weekend. Training does pay! Need to remember to do this before every Standard round!
    • Boost smooth runs: I see some progress. Our Standard run Sunday was so close--no runouts or refusals or knocked bars--but she left the table early when I led wayyy out and ended with an off-course. But I was still happy with it. Jumpers Sunday was also close, with just a bar and an issue on the lead-out pivot (which isn't the same thing as when we're running). So practice does pay. Just need to keep at it.
    • Boost practice with lots of space: Things that I need to work on up at Power Paws or somewhere where there's lots of space: Lead-out pivots more more more. Just sending her ahead of me over long lines of jumps. She's still turning back to me and then eventually waiting, resulting in refusals or runouts. Can work on a little bit of jump-focus rather than me-focus here at home, but still I'll bet that just running in a huge U of jumps around the entire field would be a good thing to do many times.
    • My brain: Forgot Tika's course twice this weekend. Didn't feel stressed, they weren't particularly important or stand-out runs. It's very odd. I wonder if there's a trend? Something to ponder. It's also funny, because one of them I had just run correctly with Boost. That alone cost me two Qs this weekend.
    • Tika's contacts: She does them so fast & such good 2 on/2off in training. I've let them completely go to heck in competition. Do I want to try to fix them? Aframes I can force her to get a foot or two in if I get in front of her as she's coming down, so if I can plan the course so that I'm front crossing or running past, she's fast and hits it. Maybe it's good because it forces me to keep moving ahead of her. But it's bad when I can't, as in Saturday's Steeplechase, with 2 Aframes, where she was way ahead of me both times and wasn't even close to getting a toe in. Maybe I just need to run faster! But contacts alone cost us 2 Qs this weekend.
    • Tika's bars: Knocked a bar in Snooker opening, so we definitely wouldn't have Super-Qed. Knocked a bar in both Saturday's and Sunday's Jumpers. Bars alone cost us two Qs this weekend.
    • Trust all your senses; even measuring tools lie: Quite a few dogs didn't make time on Saturday's Master Standard course. When dogs who moved pretty smoothly through the course on Sunday were also over time by 5 or 10 seconds or more, there was considerable debate about whether the calculations were correct. The judge, after listening to several complaints, did finally say that the yardage for the course seemed odd for what she had laid out. So someone walked the measuring wheel along a 50-foot measuring tape and came up with 41 feet. That poor scoretable. Fortunately it was only Saturday's and Sunday's Masters Standards that they had to review for over-time dogs; nothing else in that ring to that point had required the measuring wheel.
    • I'm happy with two dogs: All kinds of people have new puppies! Blue merle Border Collies! Blue merle Pyrenean Shepherd! They are VERY cute and quite beautiful. And, no, I don't find that I have any urge at all right now to add a puppy to my clan.

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    Sunday, September 14, 2008


    SUMMARY: Lots of good stuff this weekend. But handler needs more training.

    Biggest news

    Started Saturday by Qing in Standard with both dogs, on a course where a full third of the dogs Eed and another third had faults. Tika placed 4th of 14, and Boost's run was beautiful! No refusals, runouts, hesitations, or knocked bars! Just the irritating elbows-up-on-the-table issue, causing a really long table count, and also it becoming apparent that I have broken Boost's previously rock-solid contacts (hit bottom and wait for a release...she's self-releasing now) by releasing too aggressively too often. Always something to work on! (Tomorrow I'll post a video.)

    Then Tika Qed the next two classes, also, very neatly completing her LAA-Bronze. WooHOO! I am mighitily pleased. She is running so very well.

    And Boost did all of her weaves perfectly again.

    Tika's Weekend

    Over all, Tika Qed 4 out of 5 Saturday (Standard, Pairs Relay, Gamblers, and Snooker). The only failure was in Steeplechase, where I tried an aggressive lateral front cross after the A-frame, meaning that I had no leverage on her contact, so she popped the Aframe and then knocked the immediately following jump. As usual, our time was 3 seconds under the cut-off, but with faults, we couldn't Q.

    Sunday was only 2 for 5, but two of them were blatantly my fault. Snooker consisted entirely of a sort of double circle of jumps, almost every obstacle made up of multiple jumps and some jumps serving as multiple obstacles--and approaching the closing I very carefully threadled her past a difficult jump ONE DANG JUMP EARLY (needed to threadle past the NEXT one and TAKE this one), so we were off course. But she did everything I asked her to very smoothly and with no bars down (that was about 15 physical obstacles before I messed up).

    Gamblers was SUCH a doable gamble, but for some reason when I sent her out to the tunnel, I pointed my body at the center of the tunnel instead of directly at the tunnel entrance, so she ran towards the center, veered off to one side, turned back to me, and finally took the correct entrance, but it was called as a refusal so although she did it, she didn't get credit for it. DEEEP sigh.

    The only other non-Q was Standard, where she knocked the first bar (lots of dogs knocked that one, including Boost), so I took the opportunity to make her wait or down on her contacts to hopefully get a little more control back.

    Boost's weekend

    Once again, the Booster started off really nicely after another week of intense practice, but slowly deteriorated through the weekend. Still, we're making progress--we in fact earned *3* Masters Qs this weekend, which is wayyy more than we've ever earned in a weekend before, and several runs or parts of runs went much better than they would have been a month ago.

    She Qed in Saturday's Standard and Snooker (knocked a red in the opening so didn't get full points but got all the way through the closing), and also in Sunday's Gamble, where I corrected the mistake that I made with Tika and she did it beautifully.

    DANG TIRE: Boost did this tire perfectly in Saturday morning's Standard run. In Gamblers, she ran under it 4 times before I got her to go through it, and then I figured the problem was fixed. But no. Ran under it in Sunday's Standard. Ran under it in Grand Prix, and I brought her back and tried again to get her to do it and again she ran under it, so I just walked her off the course. I avoided it in the Gambler's opening because it wasn't going to be used in Snooker or Jumpers. Then, at the end of the day, I took her over, set her up in front of it--and she did it perfectly. Twice. Dang weird border collie.

    My theory is that (a) the orange is hard to see against the green grass, (b) the paint on the tire was very faded so the stripes weren't obvious, (c) the tire was narrow and the frame was wide and they were basically the same color, so the distinction wasn't great, and (d) orange is supposedly very difficult to see against green (the grass). But who knows--then why did she get it first thing saturday morning?

    CONTACTS: I used the rest of her Gamble opening and also her non-Qing Sunday Standard, after she knocked the first bar, to work on HER contacts, too. They're not as broken as Tika's, since she's still hitting the bottom and pausing, but she's sure not waiting for my release. I hope that fixes them again.

    TABLE: Before her standard run on Sunday, I worked on just a down stay while waiting to go into the ring, with lots of excitement and testing, and got her to break or start to come up about 3 times and could say "Oh my goodness!" and put her back into position. Can't do that at home, class, or fun matches, but i didn't think before to work on it just on the ground at the events RIGHT BEFORE going into the ring. Result: Her table down was perfect! Will have to do more of that at events.

    LEAD OUTS: I've been working on remedial lateral leadouts and lead-out pivots and she's doing very well, but in Sunday's Snooker I needed to set her about 20 feet away from the first red and lead out wayyy across the field. Even though I could see her over the top of the red jump, she came around it to get to me when I released her. So now we have to work on weird Snooker lead-outs.

    GAMBLES: Saturday's gamble required running parallel to me from the teeter over the last jump, about 20' lateral from me. It was pretty much a gimmee gamble for people whose dogs did the teeter at a distance, which she had no problem with. But then she came in to me instead of going out. So her SENDS are much better than her lateral "out"s.

    JUMPING ISSUES ASSORTED: We just need to keep working. Progress is happening, and she is SUCH a blast to run now that she's doing her weaves all the time, and when she's looking ahead to do obstacles instead of looking back at me constantly.

    Oh, one of the runs where we fell apart a bit (after another dumb handler move early in the run) was steeplechase, so we definitely won't be running in Steeplechase at Nationals.


    This weekend's Steeplechases were the weirdest I've ever seen. The courses were somewhat challenging, but not really awful--and a couple of dogs were very fast but not that many of them-- but what was weird was that so many 22" and 26" dogs failed to have non-Eliminating (offcourse) runs, that they had to combine the two heights to determine qualification! Only 6 of 13 26" dogs avoided Eing, and only 6 out of 29 22" dogs qualified! That is sooooo weird, at least around here. (We often have to combine 12" and 16", and both performance groups also--all of which we also had to do--but I've never seen so many 26 and 22" dogs crap out.)

    So Round 2 was filled out with dogs who hadn't qualified (Steeplechase rules send a certain minimum number to Rd 2 in each height), but we didn't even have enough non-Eing dogs in some heights to fill out the minimum numbers!

    And then in Round 2, it got even weirder--never seen a steeplechase Rd 2 where most placements were taken by dogs who merely survived--large number of dogs Eed and a good portion of the remaining had faults.

    For those who care about the details, in Performance, only ONE dog in each of 8", 12", and 16" ended up taking home a check (and there were supposed to be 3 each); only the four 22" dogs survived.

    And at the Championship level, the 16" and 26" each had only TWO dogs to survive for the money payout, and only 4 22"s. So the club kept a whole lot of extra award money (per the rules).

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    Friday, September 05, 2008

    Busy Dog Day Ahead

    SUMMARY: Practice, walking, hiking, practice, and lots of driving.

    We're off on an excursion tomorrow!
    (Click map for larger version)

    I promised myself and the dogs that we'd do something fun involving lots of exercise this weekend. My original plan was to find some suckersfriends and go hiking with the dogs off-leash at Sunol Regional Wilderness out near Livermore, about a 30-mile drive. But it turns out that there's a fun match Saturday morning, and I really really want to get in extra practice with Boost, plus--Bonus!--it's at a fellow Bay Teamer's new digs and I really want to go see it; it gets rave reviews from others who've been there. That's 30 miles in the opposite direction from my original plan, in Ben Lomond.

    (Hmm, note to self, no photos of Ben Lomond in Wikipedia. We should be able to fix THAT tomorrow, too.) It's a little town nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains. My hiking friend also lives near there, and I'd love to see her (oh, hmm again, I have a book that she wants to borrow...maybe I'll drop by for half a minute), but it occurred to me that there's a friend who lives on the beach in Aptos (near Santa Cruz) and I have a very long-overdue rain check to go walking on the beach with her, and since I'm planning on driving past there, I'd love to cash in that rain check. (Hmm, note to self, no photos of Aptos village in Wikipedia, either, just a beach. Can fix. Take cameras.)

    I'm going south past Aptos instead of north back home because, at 3:00 in Hollister, a Bay Teamer who is a professional dog person is videotaping dogs doing weaves of various spacing (from above, side, front, and behind), to use in various presentations and possibly to argue for wider weave-pole spacing. And if you do that, you get to play free in the agility fields there. It's supposed to be very hot again tomorrow (record-breaking temps yesterday and today), but I don't mind doing a little practice in the heat, since there's no guarantee on temps for competitions.

    I looked up off-leash areas, and there is nuthin'--absolutely NO THING--anywhere in the region that I can find. But Mt. Madonna County Park is between Aptos and Hollister, has 14 miles of trails, and allows dogs on leash. So after walking in Aptos, we'll pack up, drive east over the hills, and do that for a couple of hours.

    Then on to eastern Hollister, do our weave pole thing and more practice. (Hmm, note to self, only photo of hollister on Wikipedia is the city hall. Guess I have to figure out where the "downtowns" are in all these smaller towns! Should be educational.) And finally home.

    Of course, with the price of gas, this "free" practice isn't really free, but what the heck, we all love a road trip, and the dogs will get to go to four--count them, FOUR!--different places in one day. Should be a blast. (Hopefully not a blast furnace.)

    MapQuest's estimates:

    Total Estimated Driving Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
    Total Estimated Distance: 136.27 miles

    Am I insane?

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    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Getting In Shape For Fast Dog Agility

    SUMMARY: If hiking gives me energy and stamina, and if that makes me faster, will it make my dogs faster and more accurate?

    Wednesday evening I went hiking as usual with the Semi-insane Sierra Hikers Group. (The Fully Insane group is the one that hikes 12 miles with 3000-foot elevation changes every Saturday. Fortunately on Saturdays I'm slacking off and doing lazy easy-peasy dog agility then with no elevation changes.) We hiked almost the same hike at Rancho San Antonio that we did a few weeks ago, except--get this--BACKWARDS! Well, OK, the path we took was opposite normal, but in reality we walked forwards, 6 miles and 1000 feet elevation change (500 up and 500 down--the hike description says at least 1000 feet gain, but I don't see that on the topo map--and we didn't go down and back up again, either. Hm).

    Anyway, I whipped out my camera to take a couple of photos and it didn't want to. Of course when I got back to the car, it worked fine, but not on the trail. So I have to resort to borrowing Karin's photos.

    First there's everyone hanging out in the parking lot, waiting to get started while everyone signs the waiver form, sort of like everyone hanging around ringside at an agility trial waiting for the judge to tweak the course. Where "sort of" in this case means "all we have in common is hanging around waiting." (Me on the right in brown.)

    Then there's me at the head of the pack (if you can believe it). I am wearing my Dogs Love Camp shirt from Power Paws camp to remind me that I'm doing this to get in shape to win the Regionals and my Grand Canyon fleece sweater to remind me what a hiking stud I am to hike Havasu Canyon with a 20-pound pack (8 miles and 2000 feet elevation change, all up on the way out).

    And finally there was a really lovely pink-glowing sunset.

    But the point of all this is, I'm thinking, that it will increase my energy and my stamina and improve the muscles in my legs, and therefore I'll be faster on the agility field, and if I could run faster and be where my dogs needed to be, would that fix all my problems on the course? Boost wouldn't have to stop and look back to see where I was. Tika would maybe be motivated enough to get a couple of extra zoom points on her runs. I just have to have the energy to do it.

    Then in class last night we did one pretty tricky Jumpers course on which we all had considerable challenges, then we got to run it again for time. The first time I ran it with Boost. I am so tired of her crashing bars! Crash crash crash! It is so frustrating. We had a few other problems, too, and when I'd go back to try a sequence again, crash! would go the bars, sometimes several times in a row, and then I'd have to give up on that sequence. My tension level went way up. I try to stay positive with my dogs. I don't want them stressing out like Remington used to do. But I was having trouble there.

    The second time, I watched the handlers with the fastest dogs (these are, like, people who win regionals and are in the USDAA Nationals finals and world team but maybe for other countries, like that). And their dogs had some little bobbles maybe, but here we got do-overs (of course you know that they do that at nationals and world team finals all the time, do-overs. Right? Sure?) so they could restart the course to get a valid time. Their times were in the low 27 seconds. Hold that thought.

    But what I want so much is their loping ability. They have these nitro-powered dogs and they get the fastest time on the course, but the handlers just kind of take a couple of loping steps like they're just hanging out, waiting, and they're in exactly the right spot at the right time. Someone else said, well, it's those 88-inch-inseam legs that those two handlers have, and I'm sure that helps, but in fact if I had legs that long, I'd still be running like a crazed gazelle, a gazelle who is 50-something with hobbles and bad knees and no running skills, trying to keep up.

    It's timing, is what it is. They know when they can move to get to the next obstacle and aren't standing there flat-footed thinking "wow, my dog actually did that obstacle! Oh, wait, now the next obstacle!"
    Am I loping or am I screaming "go go go!" and pointing because I'm behind? Will Boost's back legs clear that bar? Tune in next week.

    But I'm still thinking that if I have stamina and energy from all that hiking I'm doing, not to mention maybe I can pick up my feet and really move them, that that will allow me to use some calories on course for actual thinking instead of some actual trying to keep from dropping from exhaustion before the end of the run. So, anyway, I'm feeling pretty good. I am hardly panting from my many retries with Boost. Plus I have my emergency backup dog for when I'm frustrated by Boost's bar-knocking.

    Therefore, on my timed run, I run it with my pretty reliable yet fast Tika dog. And I practice loping, because I'm pretty confident about her ability to understand what she needs to do on course. And Tika's pretty excited because she's jealous because I ran Boost once already. And, in fact, I find that I'm actually doing it! I'm not rush-rush-rushing, I'm calmly striding those long, comfortable strides to get where I need to be next, and even though we didn't run this complicated course together the first time like everyone else did, we nail it together. Still, I'm thinking, wow, she just doesn't have that speed (in particular through the weaves), and I think maybe 30 seconds?

    Tika's weaves are fast but not that fast.

    Nope, 31.7 seconds. Four and a half seconds slower. 16%. It is an infinity of time. I am so bummed. Tika's such a good girl, and she seems so fast, but we just can't even come close to those guys. We will never ever ever win a regional, and probably not even a local, Grand Prix or Steeplechase in this area. Never. Plus Tika is 7 and a half now and she's not going to be getting faster, even if I hike 20 miles and 4000 feet elevation change every weekend.

    And my other dog crashes bars.

    On the up side, however, is this: Boost did awesome awesome AWESOME weave poles, tough entries that others had trouble with and everything last night. AWESOME! I want her to remember that when we next have a competition! And then we did fast-contact drills, and Tika was SO wired and she jetted across those contacts into stunningly gorgeous 2on-2offs! AWESOME! I want HER to remember THAT when we next have a competition!
    Tika flying down the dogwalk. Will she fly past the yellow zone or nail that 2on-2-off? Tune in next week.

    So--a mere two weeks from now, one solid USDAA weekend, then after that, the Regionals. And I'd like to have something more to show for it than "Boost finally did weaves in competition again".

    Time to get hiking.

    Tika does A-frames, too.

    (Photos by Erika Maurer, August 2007 and March 2008.)

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    Sunday, August 03, 2008

    In Which Perfection Is Reversed

    SUMMARY: Tika does contacts; Boost does weaves.

    Tika, the consummate leaper-offer-of-contacts dog, ran her contact drills in class Thursday night as if the thought had never occurred to her. Every contact was very fast and ended in a crisp, eagerly poised 2-on-2-off position. Contacts of beauty! Grace! Poetry! The kind of contacts everyone wants to have (except those who want running contacts) but not everyone gets! The kind that *I* want to have but don't always get!

    Boost, whose contacts are breathtakingly lovely, was the one whom I was able to easily entice to leave the contact early (not waiting for the release command). I have seen indications of this in competition lately, so we need to proof them more at home. So I've been doing them in the yard, just making her stick the end and going back to waiting for a nose touch. She's getting faster at offering that again; I'd let it slide because "she didn't seem to need it." Well! That'll learn me.

    We do need work on left turns into the weaves again, though--confirmed in class and at home.

    But Tika, the perfect weaving dog, was easy to make pop out of the weaves or go into the wrong entrance. And at home, where I've been doing distraction drills, she seems to be popping out MORE rather than less! Argh! But at the same time, she's getting faster on distractions when she DOESn'T pop out--like she's learning to not slow down to think about them.

    This dog did not do 12 weaves in competition.
    On the other hand, Boost--the dog who can't do more than 10 in competition--went all the way to the end in every danged set of weaves in class, and we were doing weave drills with 2 sets of poles and front and rear crosses and lag-behinds and run-aheads and all that. A joy to watch! World Team Coach had suggested that I always toss a toy for her right at the end, before her head turns to me. That was what Mo Strenfel also suggested in our weave pole seminar a year ago, and I've been doing it religiously ever since. Well, not every time. Sometimes we go on to the next obstacle.

    The difference is that I used to throw the toy in a straight line forward of the weaves so that it rolled or bounced ahead, and Mo said that, to fix my popping out problem (yes! it has reappeared often!), that I should make the toy land right on the ground at the end of the last pole to keep her from thinking of running ahead. Now WTC suggests that I use something that rolls or bounces instead of just lying there to get her to learn to complete the weaves while thinking about running ahead.

    WTC also said to never let the dog know that they popped out early in competition because then they'll start to think about it more and start looking at you when they get to that point and pop out more. My experience says that, with Boost, if I ignore it, it keeps happening, but if I make her lie down and then put her back in where she popped out, she stops popping out. So am I setting up for long-term failure? Or fixing my problem?

    That's what I love about agility, the clear, consistent guidelines for improving obstacle skills given a specific problem.

    Anyway, we're mostly working on contacts and weaves at home this week, plus rear crosses on straight tunnels, and I'm trying to pay more attention to my own body language differences for rear crosses versus pulls or straight-aheads. My timing is still so bad. Ah, well, give me another 13 years of practice and I might nail it.

    This dog did not pick up its feet when going over the first jump.

    Both dogs really need to do bar-knocking drills, too, but not now. Maybe next week.

    (Photos borrowed from Pets and Their People Photography; there are a bunch of photos of both my dogs, some of which I'm buying, but these probably I won't and will just borrow low-rez bad copies of for this page.)

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    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Things Become Clearer

    SUMMARY: Boost is not ready for prime time. Tika's backside is why she's been pissy and clingy. Probably.

    Boost and Tika chasing the Frisbee Friday evening.

    Boost weaves

    Well, practicing weaves Friday night by finding ways to get Boost to pop out paid off. On Friday, it was 7 sets with 6 popped out early. On Saturday, she reversed it: That morning, I decided to risk Snooker with all weave-pole #7s to see what would happen. She nailed all three attempts perfectly.

    Then she nailed them in Standard.

    In Grand Prix, she popped out early and I made her lie down and then finish them.

    In Pairs Relay, she nailed them. And in Steeplechase Round 1, I *think* (but it's getting hazy) that she did TWO sets nicely. So I believe it was 7 perfect and one early pop-out.

    Today backslid a bit in a couple of ways; started missing or skipping entries (or making the first pole and then circling back to see why I was behind her). Popped out once or maybe twice. So, of four attempts, one good one and three with either entry or pop-out problems.

    So much work to do!
    Boost loves stalking other Border Collies more than she likes playing frisbee. With her ears turned inside out for that tough street-wise look.

    Boost otherwise

    Boost's runs for the most part looked like barely Novice runs. Or, excuse me, after watching one round of Novice Snooker, I apologize to the Novice dogs: Boost isn't even ready for Novice yet. If there's a chance at a runout or refusal, she takes it, and the rest is fraught with knocked bars. In fact, in today's Jumpers run, we were such a disaster that the judge finally asked us to leave the course. It WAS a difficult course--for example, only 3 of about 28 dogs in 26" earned qualifying scores--but we made it look nigh impossible.

    We got lucky on Saturday with Pairs Relay and her half did NOT have runout/refusal setups and she kept her bars up and we Qed with our partner's also clean run.

    And today's Gamblers layout allowed me to pick a course also with no runout/refusal setups, just straight lines, calls to me, front crosses, and contacts, and one beautiful set of weaves. She scored 2nd highest opening points and if she hadn't skipped the weave entry TWICE the second time around, we'd have had 4 more points than the highest opening points. But we had a little issue with the gamble itself, so it wasn't a Q. (Too MUCH independent out!)

    Tika's Friday and Saturday not bad

    Recapping Friday, turns out that she was 6th of 24 dogs in Team Snooker and 3rd of 24 in Team Jumpers, and slightly better than average in the other Team events. So that was OK.

    Saturday, she had a really beautiful Snooker run, completing a 4-red strategy with a 6 and three 7s in the opening (based on watching the first half run, where only one dog managed to do four 7s and successfully get through the end) for a total of 58 points--and then in the second half of the group, another 7 managed it, and there were 7 super-Qs, so even one of the "perfect" dogs ended up without a super-Q. (That was in the 26", with 27 dogs--compare to the 22", where I believe only 2 dogs of 49 earned the full 59 points and all the 58-pointers got Super-Qs. Tough competition in the 26"!)

    Her Jumpers run was beautiful, too: Fast, excited, tight turns, kept all the bars up, except I forgot the course in just one spot (couldn't they have overlooked that) and put her over a wrong jump before I figured out where we needed to go. Sigh. But I celebrated with her like crazy because we never slowed down and I think she never knew that anythinng was amiss, since it wasn't her fault.

    She and her partner ran very nicely in the Team Relay, placing 7th of 32 teams--beating out Boost's team who placed 9th.

    And her Steeplechase Round 1 run was really nice and fast again, but with a 5-second penalty for one knocked bar, she was half a second over time and missed qualifying! Argh! Dang bars! Why pick THAT event in which to finally knock a bar?! Why not the one where I went offcourse?! Shoot.

    So only 2 Qs for the day out of 5 chances (Standard we also had a bar and a refusal of some sort I think).

    Tika's backside

    Then, when I dragged home about 9:30 last night after a VERY long day (dogs running til after 7? with 6 classes for the day), she started dragging her behind on the ground and the carpet and having trouble eliminating. So, knowing that she'd had an infected anal gland a couple of years back, I put on my rubber gloves and checked, and sure enough, one side was very swollen and hard. I couldn't get it to do anything useful.

    She was restless a good part of the night, lots of licking. (Why didn't I get these indicators of a butt issue EARLIER? In retrospect, now I'm thinking that the clinginess and pissyness towards Boost, the completely insufficient, difficult, and overly soft poops during the day Saturday, and the occasional yelping she's been doing, have been because of this and I wasn't clever enough to figure it out. Or at least why couldn't it waited to become critical until SUNDAY night?)

    Tika going all out for the frisbee Friday evening.

    This morning, she was delighted to play some frisbee between bouts of trying to poop, but when I got her out again a little later, she wouldn't do anything--no frisbee, no toys of any kind, no jogging, no running. Low-key interest in food, which is still interest in food but unusual for her. I set her at the start line of her first run anyway, thinking that maybe the usual excitement and adrenaline would overcome whatever she was going through, but she barely got to her feet and hunched forward a few steps, so I scratched her from the rest of the day, dammit.

    A very nice vet who was also competing took a look at her and confirmed that it was the anal gland and it was pretty ucky and that it needed to go in to a vet's office where someone could do something about it.

    I ran Boost in the rest of her runs, which was mostly a wasted effort (although Gamblers was a Booster Rocket fast, fun 25 seconds of super-Border-Collie), and took Tika out occasionally. She was extremely subdued, didn't want to stand up, would put her head right down as soon as she lay down, and so on. I felt so terrible for her! (And for the vet bill $$ that I could see racking up in my near future, but every time I saw her my heart just ached for her obvious misery). Put a damper on the rest of my day, although everyone who knew about it was very nice and offered to help me in whatever way I needed.

    After Boost's last run, I abandoned my score table and others took that over for me, too.

    Took Tika to the emergency room after we got home, which is $105 just walking through the door. And a long wait while the REAL emergencies were seen to--like the Boston Terrier who spent too much time on this hot, smoky day romping in the sun with the kids and all of a sudden couldn't breathe. Fortunately OK once put in oxygen.

    Came away with antibiotics, rimadyl for anti-inflammatory to try to get some of the swelling of the whole area down, tramadol as a painkiller/sedative. Add another $80 to the bill. Plus I'm supposed to be using a cool compress to ease the pain as often as I want, and call my regular vet in the morning, and we'll probably have to anesthetize her again to take care of it (which is what happened last time, because she's so insane at the vets. Regular sedation didn't work).

    And adding a couple spoonsful of pumpkin to her meal to help her move her solid waste.

    Friday afternoon, Gadget Guy plays with his kite and Tika chases it, barking. And Boost's brother, Derby, catches some air trying to reach it. (Boost couldn't care less about it.)

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