Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mice and Men Got Nothing On Us

SUMMARY: Sometimes things (let us say, just off the top of my head, CPE trials the day after Thanksgiving) don't go the way you planned, hoped, expected, or even imagined.

Here are some photos with circles and arrows on the backs of each one explaining what each one is to be used as evidence against us.

Agility as a weight loss device

I swear that I took barely more than a forkful or two of anything on Thursday. ...Well, of *everything* on Thursday. Friday morning, 4 a.m., scale shows three (!) pounds heavier. Good thing I'm going to agility, where I'm physically active, have two dogs to run, and tend to eat lightly.

First thing in the morning, near the check-in window, there are huge stacks of really tasty-looking chocolate chip cookies. Well, what the heck, if I have just ONE that's not so bad, because I'm at agility and tend to eat lightly.

A while later alongside the course maps that I was picking up sat a really tasty-looking cake--not sure what for, but I don't often have a chance for cake (and frosting, which is what I *really* like), and what the heck, I'm at agility where I'm really active and so what if I have just one piece?

Then, middle of the day, WAG had a big birthday bash for one of their key helpers--he'd be like their estate manager--with an amazing-looking carrot cake with the thickest cream cheese frosting you've just about ever seen. Well, I'm fond of carrot cake and I really like cream cheese frosting, and really, OK, I know what's going on here, but I don't get carrot cake or c.c. frosting often, so I'll just have one piece of that.

In the worker raffle, I usually put most of my tickets into the bags for the free trial entries because I already have more beds, toys, books, bags, and so on than I know what to do with. But I usually look for something that I might kind of like to have that doesn't have too many tickets in it as a possible consolation prize for when I don't win the free entries and I'll put one of my tickets into that bag. So there was this huuuuuge tin of Almond Roca--

On the other hand, my pedometer did indicate that, in one day of an agility trial. I covered enough steps to equate to 12 miles! I'll tell ya, after several years of doing mostly score table at trials, where what's involved is mostly sitting, at this trial I did leash running, scribe running, pole setting--all kinds of things where what's involved is mostly NOT sitting.

Maybe the day was a wash in terms of actual calories inhaled/exhaled.

One day of agility as a way to burn off bored dogs' energy

I get up at 4 in the morning, am out of the house by 4:30, drive 2 hours through occasional drizzles, arrive at the agility place, take the dogs over to the field for a little frisbee warm-up and pottying, and Tika turns sharply on the wet ground, yelps, and comes back to me on three legs.

I have several single-word comments on how I felt about that, most of which aren't printable here. Entry fees for 5 runs, down the tubes. Opportunity to burn off some mental and physical energy, down the tubes. Opportunity to win the Turkey Trot again--well, there's still Boost, but Tika's been my winning dog before and I had high hopes for her. Five chances to earn those precious CPE Qs since we don't do much CPE and Tika has a long way to go to her C-ATE, down the tubes. Damage to dog--don't know, but guessing that'll be more money down the tubes.

I couldn't find anything. Didn't do the hunchy-over thing like she does when it's her shoulders or neck, seemed clearly to be in her foot. Gave her a rimadyl and an hour's rest. Let her out of her crate. She hopped down from the van with no sign of problem. Stretched fine, did figure 8s around my legs fine, played tug-of-war vehemently. Trotted alongside me out to the field with the practice jump. Sent her out around a couple of posts. Everything fine. Sent her over the jump, and she flew over with enthusiasm, turned tightly towards me with bright eyes, yelped, and came up on three feet.

Scratched her from her first run and found the vet who is also an enthusiatic CPEer and is pretty much always there at WAG competing with her dogs. Waited for her to do her run with her dog, and then she looked Tika over. She saw pretty quickly what my inexperienced eyes didn't detect--the knuckle of Tika's left front little toe is swollen. She doesn't think it's broken, unless it's a hairline fracture. No way to tell without an x-ray.

I thank her for looking (hopefully profusely enough) and ponder what to do. Tika is on leash, has been over the practice jump, and despite now walking again with a limp, she is acting eager and excited to be near the agility ring at an agility trial and clearly WANTs to run. I ponder what to do.

The next class is Full House, which is like a Gambler's opening with no gamble, so we can do almost anything we want to. There are some tunnels and 6-pole weaves on the course, so I decide I'll try to have her just do a couple of those *gently and easily and slowly* to see what happens. So I line her up next to me in front of a straight tunnel, don't put her into a stay or anything, just release her gently and say, quietly and calmly, "Through!" (we don't say "tunnel", we say "through". There's a lady in our class with grayhounds who says "Be small!" it's very cute. They really do have to hunker down to get through the tunnels).

OK, anyway, those of you with driven, enthusiastic dogs just KNOW what happens--Tika blasts full throttle through the tunnel, and because I'm trying to be calm and sedate, I'm way behind her. So when she blasts out of the tunnel, she careens into a sharp U-turn to see what I'm up to (eyes wide open and bright and ears up and looking SO happy to be out there)--and suddenly halts and comes out of the turn limping.

I try once more a couple of hours later, in Snooker, with the judge's dispensation-- just one straight tunnel, which she does fine, and one gently curved tunnel--which she comes out of limping. And still bouncing back and forth (mostly on 3 feet) trying to get me to tell her which obstacle to take next.

So that's enough stupid attempts to satisfy both of our desires for her to do some agility. She's scratched for the rest of the day, including (sob!) the Turkey Trot.

The up side to this was that it completely vindicated my decision not to go to Nationals two weeks ago because Tika keeps coming up sore at random times. I was deadly disappointed today, but imagine how awful it would've been for this to happen in Arizona.

Tika as the Mondo Q-Earner in CPE and Boost as the also-ran

I hate going to trials and coming home with few or no Qs or placements. ESPECIALLY CPE, where Tika has quite the record of not only massive Qs and first places, but often THE highest score/fastest time of all dogs at the trial. It's an ego boost for me, who is obviously pathetic in her need for ego boosts like this, but there ya go. After Tika's injury, I was fully prepared to come home with next to nothing.

First run of the day was Wildcard (I am not explaining games today), in which a dropped bar is fatal. I pick a pretty darned simple course--it's essentially an M-shaped path, how hard can it be? We will have to successfully negotiate one rear cross, which isn't Boost's strong point.

Boost runs past one jump on the second leg of the M and I barely call her off the tunnel after it (but in fact she does call off and I get her brought around without backjumping), and she turns entirely the wrong way on the rear cross ( but I get her turned around and on course again with no faults), and, wow, we're CPE-clean and have a Q! But lots of wasted time.

The thing you have to know about "clean" in CPE is that there are never faults for refusals or runouts. AND, although not clean, at level 4 and 5 in CPE (which is where Boost competes now), on many courses you can still Q even if you have certain kinds of faults.

But now Boost has one CPE-clean run and a Q for the day. Not to my surprise, we don't win--but, jeez, with all that wasted time, we're still 2nd place.

Next up is Full House. I love full house with my dogs. Just get as many obstacles as possible (with a very minimal number of rules) for points. And this one was particularly juicy--I could do a course with basically two very smooth loops and one rear cross and pick up almost every possible point on the field--
6 out of 6 5-pointers
7 out of 8 3-pointers
5 out of 14 1-pointers (maybe more depending on how smoothly things went).

So--she breaks her start-line stay, so I immediately put her into a down-stay and walk calmly around her and then release her when I'm ready. Probably means we'll loose the final 5-pointer because of the wasted time. On the first loop, she ran PAST the tire (drop 3 points). Then she missed the weave entry (drop maybe 5 seconds to get her lined up and back in, so probably that means drop the other 5-pointer off the end. After that, she flew, but sure enough the whistle blew as she flew towards our last 2 obstacles, both of them 5-pointers. Ah, well, crappy run but a Q.

And, to my surprise, a win in our group (Level 5, which is almost the top leve). Not the highest points of the day by far if you compare to all other dogs, but I'll take a Q and a 1st anyway.

And, guess what! That's the last Level 5 Q she needs in that class, so now she's eligible for her first Level C ("championship") entry (just in that class) at our next trial. Yowza!

Next is Snooker. It's a very tight little course (really--laid out on a 70x70 field which is literally half the area of a typical USDAA course) and really fast long-jumping dogs--and especially the ones who aren't always the best performers--could have a tough time. I decided, what the heck, we IN THEORY have the skills required to do a three-7 opening and get through to the end. It requires that she hold her sit while I lead out, then pull her between a jump and a tunnel to the first 7-pointer--and of course that she keep all her bars up.

Anyway, once again she turned the wrong way on a rear cross, and it was almost a disaster, but we held it together and completed the course in well under the allowed time.

Turns out--ta-da!--she was the ONLY dog out of all dogs entered at the trial who earned the full 51 points! What a good girl. Pleased with that, indeed.

Next up was Jumpers. Man, some weird sequences in that one AND it would require a ton of running on my part to be in the right place at the right time. And then there's the bar-knocking issue. OK, so she ran past one jump--I pulled hard to keep her off a tunnel trap and she responded too readily--so wasting time turning her around and getting her back over it, and then there was the tough push/turn out of the tunnel that I just handled wrong, so we wasted SO much time on course, but in fact never went off course and no bars came down. So: Another CPE-clean run, another Q, and this time merely 4th place. (Slower dogs definitely had advantages on this course.)

And, finally, Standard, our only regular class of the day with contacts. Thank goodness, all of her contacts were spot-on perfect, and she handled a tough tunnel-dogwalk discrimination with aplomb, AND kept her bars up. So, OK, she ran past yet ANOTHER jump and it took a lot of effort to get her back to it, because I had been trying to send so was a long way away, and she turned the wrong way on a rear cross (sensing a trend here?), and fer cryin' out loud was headed straight at the weave pole entry but turned back to me to see what I was doing, wasting yet MORE time, but it was CPE-clean, so a Q. And apparently it was a tough-enough course that she managed her third 1st-place of the day.

So, for the day, five out of five Qs, three 1sts, a 2nd, and a 4th. Way better than I had expected.

Boost knocking bars everywhere

In CPE, she's jumping 20" instead of 22", and that seems to make a big difference. She didn't drop a SINGLE bar all day, out of 6 runs!

Turkey Trot

I so wanted to win! It's just a fun game, it has no meaning whatsoever, but since my dogs have won 4 times so far, I just really wanted to keep on winning. Plus you get these really cool embroidered Top Turkey awards and a goodie bag.


The game this year was 21. Your team had two minutes, and dogs took turns trying to earn 21 points EXACTLY. There was this simple little 4-obstacle gamble that of course our experience masters-level USDAA dogs should have no troulbe getting, which gave us 21 points automatically, rather than trying to accrue 21 points on the rest of the course.

There was an alternative good route of 7 obstacles (including 2 aframes) that was pretty fast for 21 points if you thought you could do that exact course without popping the aframe or knocking a bar. (And of course many other choices on the course.) But we figured we could just do that 4-obstacle gamble over and over one after the other and rack up multiple 21-pointers. Piece of cake, right?

We were all so fast that we each got 2 shots at it and not one of us did it correctly even once (4 times into wrong side of tunnel, one teeter flyoff, and boost who couldn't even do the dang weave pole entry one of her times), which meant that we then had to take an additional 3 obstacles each time to make our 21 points. And then of course two of those runs the dog didn't quite do what we wanted, so it was more than 21 points.

Anyway, we ended up with four 21 pointers. Several teams had 4 or 5 and one had 6.

Then your team drew numbers out of a pot, one for each 21 you earned, and the sum of those numbers you drew determined the winner. (That's the element of luck. The skill is in getting enough 21s to earn the right to draw more numbers.)

Boost's team ended up in 2nd place out of 8 big dog teams, dang. So close. But oh well. Disappointing but not nearly as disappointing as not being able to run Tika in it. (And I don't want to act too disappointed because I LOVE the fun of the turkey trot and the different games each year and don't ever want Susan to stop doing it.)

However, the only other person I know who had 4 Turkey Trot wins going into Friday, a Bay Team friend (and was Jake's teammate on at least one of his wins, as was one of his teammates) DID win in the small dog division, so now he has 5 wins. Pretty cool indeed.

So--awake at 4:00 a.m., crawl into my own warm bed about 10:45 p.m., lights out!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend and Top Turkeys

SUMMARY: A little agility, a lot of food, and who knows what else.
Thursday is the big family day. Big. Lots of food. Too much food, and all of it amazingly tasty. Dogs have to stay home with the Renter while I go off and indulge. It's about an hour and a half out of town. Maybe less.

Friday is our one day of agility for this month. It's about 2 hours out of town. Guess I'm going to be doing a bit of driving this weekend.

Friday is CPE. We're not doing much CPE these days in our attempts to save time and money and sanity. Too bad; Tika does very well in CPE, usually. I had thought we might eventually earn her C-ATE, which is similar to ADCH-Gold in USDAA. Lots and lots of Qs. Her Q rate is typically very high in CPE, but it's just--lots and LOTS of Qs. But it's a nice fun way to spend an agility day, and maybe Boost can Q in something, too.

Plus we love Full House. It's similar to a gamblers opening and the goal is just to get as many points as you can (with certain obstacles that you have to take during your point earning) with same rule about each obstacle max of twice for points. Tika and Boost love that kind of game. Faults don't matter, just lower your points.

So we'll go and play and maybe that'll sate the dogs for a little while, since no class this week.

And even more, the Friday evening after thanksgiving is the Turkey Trot. We love the turkey trot! My goal, if nothing else, is to win the turkey trot. And maybe even place 1-2. It's a 3-dog team event, and every year the competition is different. First year it was a basic 3-dog relay. The next year it was a 3-dog strategic pairs-type trio. Then there was the one where you had to do certain sequences to earn the right to pick a letter from a bucket and try to spell turkey. And so on. I've done it three times.

And now I have a reputation to uphold!

The first year, Jake's team won in the 16" group. Tika's team was 2nd fastest in the 20" but Tika took an extra jump at the wrong time so we ended up 4th (of 12 teams).

The second year, Jake's team won in the 16" group and Tika's team won in the 20" group.

The third year, Tika's team won the 20" group and Boost's team came in 2nd right behind them. (I wanted to enter her in the 16" group because she's eligible, but the teammates I found were 20"ers.)

So this is our 4th time to try to win the Top Turkey award. Again, both Tika and Boost are in the 20" group, so they can't both win--but 1st and 2nd would be pretty cool.

WAG tries to design the competition so that it's a mix of luck and handling skill and strategy appropriate for the game and so it's not just speed. That's a nice thing to do. But we still want to be Top Turkeys again!

And then--two more whole days off! Yowza! So many things I can make progress on. Looking forward to it. Maybe a hike or two.

And the weather looks like it'll be clear (but on the cool to cold side--not quite freezing overnight but close) all the way through.

In case I don't post again this week: Happy Turkey Day, everyone! I'm thankful for my wonderful dogs, for plenty of food and friends and family, and for having a blog in which to post my dog diary.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

CPE Trial Saturday Surprises

SUMMARY: Day 1 of Bay Team Palo Alto CPE trial.

  • Boost earned more Qs than Tika! (Admittedly she's in a lower level where you can Q with minor faults--but still--that's never happened before.) (Tika Qed 3 of 4--there goes our Perfect Weekend award; Boost Qed 4 of 4.)
  • I do CPE in part because I love getting lots and lots of blue ribbons because I almost never get them in USDAA. But we had some--er--Issues--and our crates were collecting a lot of these today:
  • It was 90F on Thursday. Today we huddled in our coats and blankets at the score table and for the Bay Team meeting at the end of the day.
  • The wind off the Bay was biting and surprisingly intense.
  • This was apparently the Day of the Tunnels Under the Aframes: In Snooker the #7 combo, in Jackpot (Gamblers) in the opening (I love doing these! A quick 16 points A-tunnel-A-tunnel):
    and DOUBLES in Standard!
  • The park in which the trial is taking place has a variety of intriguing sculptural thingies.
  • Pink! (This is Terry.)
    Compare to Green! with Vicke at our March trial---oh, wow, I was going to link bakc to that photo, but I see that I have a whole directory of photos on my computer from that trial labeled "USE IN BLOG" but I never posted them! Doh! Another surprise! So here's the photo:)
  • Both dogs got this gamble (coming towards us: Jump-jump-jump-right side of tunnel; the gamble line is out where the person is walking).
  • Jersey got very excited every time I put the camera to my face. No idea why.
  • Wonderful rich colors and textures. I love looking at these leashes.
OK. Am wiped. Out. Off to bed and do it all again tomorrow.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

CPE Weekend By The Clock: The Movie

SUMMARY: You've read the blog, you've seen the trial, NOW in theaters near you: CPE Weekend By The Clock!

Since we're about to disappear for a weekend of USDAA agility, we figure that it's about time for us to post our notes from our March 21-22 CPE trial, huh? Am I right?

The lights in the theater dim, and you sit back, ready to experience an entire CPE weekend IN REAL TIME, minute by minute.

Oddly enough, Team Small Dog did a minute-by-minute diary of this same trial. But only Taj MuttHall actually wrote this stuff down AS IT HAPPENED and did not INVENT times like that certain TSD did after the fact. Very weird that we both decided to do this for the same weekend. But while I was furiously scribbling notes in every spare moment, she was taking pictures. So hers is more narratively illustrated.


Prologue: Friday, and the camera FADES IN on:

3:00 pm: MUTT MVR is completely packed, with a full tank of gas, ready to go. I have forgotten nothing! Have all the stuff I need for sleeping in MUTT MVR tomorrow night and everything. I can be in bed by 8 tonight for a change!

8:30 pm: Giving Tika a deep massage pretrial, as she was so sore at that last CPE 2 wks ago. Boost wants one, too.
9:00 pm: Um... OK, missed 8. But what's an hour of sleep anyway?
9:30 pm: Am I still awake? Dang.

Scene 1: Saturday

2:15 am: Restless Boost wakes me up, What does she need? Another massage? She mucks around for a while, then goes back to sleep. But--now I'm wide awake.
2:45 am: Still awake. Do some Sudoku, which usually nods me right off.
3:00 am: Try more Sudoku.
3:15 am: Still awake. Turn out lights anyway.
3:30 am: Still awake.
3:45: Still awake.
3:50: Anticipating the weekend. Only 4 runs a day--and Boost isn't running--so we have a darned good shot at a Perfect Weekend (8 Qs out of 8) for Tika, since she can do 9 of 10 pretty regularly.
3:58: Alarm will go off in 2 minutes. Should I continue trying to fall asleep?
3:59: Up and at'm.

4:20: Dressed, dogs cooperated in pottying, leap into MUTTMVR, and head for Santa Rosa, 2 hours away.
5:00: Wet stuff on windshield. Am I encountering the foretold "chance of rain"?
5:25: Crossing the Richmond/San Rafael bridge spanning the San Francisco Bay. Finally bought a FasTrak transponder last year, so don't have to stop and fish for toll money.
5:26: Long, high, narrow bridge. Me no like.


6:20: Arrive at Fairgrounds. In the dark. Danged early-arriving daylight savings time! Gimme my morning daylight!
6:22: Place is empty of people, replete with crating set-ups. It's like coming home again! I belong here!
7:30: Setting up the adjunct score tables and other set-up randomness.


7:50: Interesting course but really pretty easy for a fast, experienced dog like Tika (and even a slow, experienced handler like me). Piece-a-cake fer sure! A good way to start our quest for the Perfect Weekend!
7:55: But--well--huh, it sure has a lot of places where I could do front crosses. And you KNOW that 2 front crosses = 1 serpentine. And serps can really speed things up if you can pull them off. And since Tika's jumping 20" this weekend instead of 24", we're directly competing against a bunch of others.
8:00: OK, I've decided on one challenging serp, but we can do it--Tika just needs to blast out of a straight tunnel and over the jump in front of her while I fade right.

8:05: On course, and Tika is FLYING! No sign of soreness! Loves the 20"!
8:05:15: We're 3/4 of the way through, Tika hits the straight tunnel, I look right and fade for the serp--don't they say never take your eyes off your dog? OK, hrm, so what's one off-course anyway? Who needs a stinkin' Perfect Weekend ribbon anyway?

8:30: So odd to have only one dog competing. Take Boost out to the big field to practice stays and recalls and other less-frantic running, per Physical Therapist's suggestions. I toss the toy where she can't see it and release her. I yell directions like "Left! Left! LEFT!!!" and she's just running around randomly. Huh, weren't you under the impression that this dog understands right & left commands? Another dream of agility utopia shattered.

9:30 We love snooker. We love getting all 51 points in CPE because it's usually so doable. We love doing it faster than anyone else. And there is so much time allowed on such a short course that I have no excuses for not doing three sevens in the opening. I just have to move quickly ahead of her while she's in the first set of weaves to get around the backside of the tunnel before she does an offcourse INTO the tunnel. Piece of cake; she's got great weaves.

9:40: Tika fast and very happy, keeps the first red bar up, and blasts into the weaves. I'm watching her go, delighting that she's looking so OH CRAP CRAP CRAP I'M SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING AHEAD OF HER TO PREVENT AN OFFCOURSE INTO... The... tunnel...
OK, Qualifying ribbons are overrated anyway, besides, I already have a ton of them from other trials. Right? Right?

9:50: Boost out to the field again. I have vowed that, every time Tika runs, I'll then take Boost out for interaction and exercise. So far so good. But--I am right, no response to "left" or "right" in the field with the toy out of sight. BUT-- she does when she's standing still! She does when she's running to CHASE the toy (e.g., she's running away from me, I yell left, she veers left, and THEN I throw the toy. Apparently this context--not running, not knowing where the toy is is a context in which left and right do not exist in any normal sense of the words. Perhaps in this context they mean "keep looking!"

11:30: What I'm doing between runs all weekend is working the auxiliary score table. That's finishing the scribe sheets and ascertaining Qs so that the computer can calculate placements.

SUBLIMINAL SHOT: Vicke's matching green fingernails and shirt. THat'll wake you right up.

1:00: Lunch is teriyaki chicken wrap from the lunch vendor at the Home Show down the other end of the fairgrounds. Love home shows. But our show chair said that browsing the home show and forgetting to come to the ring is NOT an acceptable excuse for missing your assigned running order, so I'd better Just Say No.

1:30: It's nontraditional: There's a gamble in the middle that can be taken in various ways for either 15, 20, or 25 points. You can do two for credit. Plus there's a whole boatload of tunnels together in that area--a fast tunneling dog could rack up a squillion points after doing 2 of the gambles just doing tunnels! OK, I have a really nice flowing plan with the 20+15 (the 25er is wayyy too much yardage). With the tunnels, we should end up with about 76 points. Woot! Love that kind of course. All I have to do is execute my part of the teamwork according to the plan I laid out.

1:50: Well. OK. There is always SOME flaw in my plan, and apparently today I am it. NEXT time I will remember to do my threadle Qs so she doesn't waste time doing an entire Aframe for no points and... well, heck, to just run the *#@% course I actually planned! Brain no workee. BUT Tika runs beautifully, is keeping up all her bars, and we end up with 67 points instead of 76. Out of maybe 100 dogs, only 6 end up with higher scores despite my best efforts to be lower. But TWO are in our exact group. So we end up with 3rd. With a Q. I shouldn't complain. Really. I shouldn't.

2:30: Wish I could've tried that one with Boost. All those tunnels! And my plan DID have a nice flow to it, which is what she needs with me. Woohoo!

2:50: Out with Boost to the lawn. Can't BELIEVE she doesn't respond to left/right on the flat! Odd odd odd.

SUBLIMINAL SHOT: Liza MANAGING THE RUNNING ORDER. Actually quite cold all day.

3:00 Starts drizzling. Glasses spotting up. Coat speckled. Boost oblivious. Fortunately the rings and crating are under cover in the arena.

3:05: Rain blowing in waves past the arena. I want to sleep in MUTT MVR with THIS going on? A friend invites me to sleep at her place, about 45-60 minutes away, but I am blithely unconcerned and thank her anyway, plus that's a long way to drive.

3:10: Only Standard is left. Maybe another hour until we can walk and run, and we're up early in the running order, so I could actually maybe leave before 5 if I wanted to go somewhere else for the night. Pondered driving back to Richmond for my cousin's husband's celebratory BBQ for his sparkling new U.S. citizenship--but--in the rain? Over an hour's drive? Over that bridge twice more? Uhhhh... no.

3:15: Rain pounding on the metal roof.

3:17: COOLNESS--Spike the Border Newf drops by for a visit! Good old Spike, retired now and visibly aged, was a puppy from a Border Collie/Newfoundland breeding for studying genetic behaviors at Cal Berkeley. His agility littermate, Bruno, died a year or so ago, but Spike is here for a really good scritching. His black shaggy coat glistens from the rain; his Newfie genes don't care a whit for that pounding wetness from the sky.

4:30: What a crowd-- 83 level 3/4/5/C dogs at once! OK, the course seems pretty straight-forward. Only one iffy place--coming down the Aframe, we have to make a right turn, but there's a jump straight ahead. If Tika blasts of the Frame without bothering to stop, there's a good chance for an off-course there. But forewarned is forearmed, right? And I've got plenty of forearms (at least 2), so I'm good. Right? Am I right?


4:45: START with simple lateral lead-out pivot.
Tika DOESN'T CATCH the pivot for some reason (maybe likes 20" jumps TOO much?)
and almost TAKES offcourse,
TURN to get to the right place.
MISSES a rear cross and
TURNS the wrong way, wasting more time.
she's BLASTING for the off-course jump and
SHOULD BE SCREAMING is TEEEEEEKA! because "come" usually means "go faster!" But a miracle occurs,
she throws up dust SKIDDING into a turn right in front of the jump and then
HEADING my way. More wasted time, but then we finish CLEAN! No bars down! Whatta girl!
CHEER at finish line while

5:15: The score tables are fully manned. My dogs have run. I have nothing to do except wait. What a weird thing for me.


6:03: Finally! Done for the day! We finally managed a 1st in Standard, too, despite the wasted time, due to two things: It's apparently a very hard course, as only about 55% Qualify at all (and the lower levels can Q with faults, too), which is low for CPE. And the one dog in our group who was faster than we were had two contact faults. So there ya go.

6:15 Feed the dogs. Putting away all the score table and light-weight ring stuff for the night. I won TWO free entries in the raffle! OK, day is looking up.

6:30: Pizza arrives at the arena for the couple dozen of us who stick around. It's quite cold, but mostly stopped raining.

There's some discussion about not doing CPE any more. We always get full trials, but--we can't get someone to take over the ribbon czar position. We can't get anyone to help build the courses after the last run of the day. Same half a dozen people out of a club of 250 tired of doing the same demanding jobs. Of course, a majority of the club members don't do CPE. We'll see how this goes... we have 2 more CPEs scheduled for this year alone.

8:00: Pizza is done, conversation is done, dogs have exercised a bunch. It's cold. It's wet. I'm exhausted. I give in and call my friend and ask whether the invitation still stands. It does. We head out.

9:50pm: In a lovely conversation with a friend while THE EVIL FLOOR experience occurs. Will write about that separately later.

10pm-6am A lovely night's sleep in a warm bed.

Scene 3: SUNDAY
7:15 back at the site. Set up aux score tables again, exercise dogs, etc.

9:00 Odd angles on the contacts. Tough dogwalk/tunnel discrimination. We really blew one of those last weekend.

9:35: Warming up for run. Tika is SO excited! Loves her new milker toy! Hasn't played this much with a toy at a trial in a long time.

9:40: Woohooo! We're running! We're fast! We don't even look at the offcourse on the discrimination! She keeps her bars up AND gets her feet solidly into the contact yellow zones! Life is good! Turns out that we're the 3rd fastest of all 77 dogs who ran that course, but neither of those 2 are in our exact group, so we're 1st again.

Life IS gooood.

9:50 I have a lovely high-point plan but I have to hope that she's not knocking bars, because we need 3 successful jumps and my conquering-the-world plan has only 3 jumps in it.

11:25. Well, ya KNOWWWWW I am tired of the brain rearranging the course that was safely in my mind BEFORE I went into the ring. Missed a flip and once again Tika wasted time doing an entire Aframe for no points. And I go off into the wrong direction once. SOOOOOO it's a Q but barely above average points, so another 3rd place. Stil, running well, doing weaves with no sign of soreness, turning beautifully. Happy dog. Happy handler.

11:40: The turkey panini (grilled sandwich) tastes reeeeeeeal gooood.


1:00 They're just about ready to walk the afternoon classes. Standard went way too long. Don't think we're finishing early today, and Tika is almost the last dog in the day's running order.

1:30: This is one of those COlors courses where I don't really see the point--one option is simple and flowing and the other side isn't, and there's no difference in which obstacles they do. This should be easy-peasy...AND fast, since is't just basically a big loop with no contacts. IF Tika lets me lead out, and she's been antsy, lifting her hairy tummy off the ground while in a down-stay at the start line. Brat.

2:10:00 Tika stays! We go!

2:10:13.31: Woooooooo hooooooooitissofasticantbelieveitsalreadyover! another Q and should be a fast time.

2:30 Indeed, 2nd fastest of all 77 dogs who ran the course at 13.31 seconds, and that faster one NOT in our group and really only .03 (!!!) seconds faster, so a 1st place. I always DID like the color blue.

3:00 This is another one where, if I keep my head and do my crosses right, we should have a blazingly fast time. Really no handling challenges for us at all. It's a tough entry to the weaves, but NOT FOR MY TIKA WEAVIN' DOG!

4:30 Remember about getting those crosses in? Forget briefly where I'm going and Tika veers in the wrong direction, and although I catch her in time to avoid an off-course, you know that's going to hurt us on time on a course like this with no contacts anywhere.

5:00 Sure nuff, we're only the 3rd fastest of all 72 dogs who did the same course, but this time we're a full half second slower. Positively CRAWLING! But again a first place and a Q, and I'll take it. We're done! 6 out of 8, four 1sts. Really I should NOT complain, and I don't.

7:00 The arena is packed up, my stuff is packed up, dogs have had all the running they want out in the field, and it's time to GOOOOO HOOOOOOOME!


9:15 At home! Yay. In the garage. Open Tika's crate... and she stands up stiffly, exits the crate gingerly and yelps. Oh crap crap crap crap crap!


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Monday, March 09, 2009

Ribbons and Choices

SUMMARY: Tika does well but is sore; Boost runs a lot; TMH can't make up its mind.

These March winter mornings in Turlock started with frost on the grass but the sun rising bright and clear. By early afternoon, people had stripped off their coats and some had started hosing down their dogs to keep them cool. But when the sun set--Brr!

With Boost's agility career on hiatus while I figure out whether she has a physical problem, all my hopes for the weekend rested on Tika. If Tika can keep her bars up, she usually excels in CPE events. This is good, because I'd like to eventually earn enough Qs for her C-ATE (250 about), and she has a long way to go. We do few CPE trials any more, so every run counts because Tika is 8 and comes up sore more and more often.

We had 10 runs this weekend, and I promised myself that I would take Boost out after every one of Tika's runs and do something physically and mentally stimulating with her in lieu of a run.

First thing in the morning, we always play a bit of frisbee to loosen up the dogs and burn off the edge so that they'll relax in their crates. We did so Saturday. Then, on our way off the field, a friend with border collies that Boost loves to chase headed out to the playing field, so we went back out and ran a bunch more.

I try to keep the frisbee low so that the dogs aren't leaping and torquing their backs, but a couple of times I missed and I cringed seeing Tika's leaps.

Tika Sore? About 2 hours later, when I took Tika out of her crate for her first run, she emerged hunchy and stiff. Well, crap! I've driven all this way, paid my entry fees for the weekend (which are now nonrefundable), have only one dog to run, and this is one of the few CPEs for us this year. Plus when I've scratched Tika in the past, she often then goes blasting around the field full speed after squirrels, so how sore can she be? She is a known drama queen when it comes to injuries, too, so I have to take that into account.

I massage her, stretch her a bit, try to get her spine and shoulders mobile the way I was shown. (I'm not very good at this.) First run is Colors, only 11 obstacles, so what the heck. She runs fairly well, keeps all her bars up, but I can see that she's catching herself roughly when landing after each jump. But she's bright-eyed and eager and fast. Ends up 3rd fastest of all 58 dogs, all heights/levels, on the same course.

She's the ONLY dog in her level and height--24"--so she's guaranteed first place every time unless she eliminates, and there's not much chance of that. But I'll take the ribbons only if we've earned them.

She gets a doggie aspirin, more rubbing, and then I take Boost out for some running and training.

Boost Play and Training. I manage to keep my promise to Boost 8 out of the 10 runs for the weekend. I start and end every session just as if we were going into competition, using the right leash, the right toy, the right warm-up, then the right back-to-the-crate routine with treats and all. While she's out, we practice a variety of things:
* Sit-stay and down-stay, including with lots of excitement and toy throws. Even did a little out-of-sight stays, which we've never worked on before. Only 5 seconds, but she held it.
* Down from a distance while she's moving. Took her a couple of tries to realize what was going on, but then she got it and did very well. None of my other dogs have been able to do that without a lot of work, and even then reluctantly. But Boost has a super-fast down and seems comfortable doing it.
* Lateral lead-outs. Goal was to ensure that she was looking at the jump, not me, before I released her. We've done these before, but obviously not enough. It took her a very long time the first couple of times before she stopped staring at me and looked in the general direction of the jump inadvertently, at which point I released her and threw the toy. What a quick study she is!--By the end of the weekend, she was back to doing it pretty reliably.
* Sends to a jump from various directions (just a jump frame with a bar on the ground).
* Lateral "out" commands (around garbage cans) while we're moving together.
* Sitting up on her rear legs.
* Rolling over.
* "Close"--command for running next to me instead of ahead, until I say "go".
* Various running and moving ground exercises.

She seemed to enjoy it and didn't look disappointed or confused when I put her back in her crate, since I was following the same competition routine. (Unlike Jake who was quite disturbed and sulky about doing the agility that he expected.)

Plus she got to Run With The Border Collies for about half an hour at the end of the weekend while I packed my car.

Tika Still Sore--Or Not?
Tika came out of her crate with the same hunchy look for almost every run, although she always perked up completely when i presented treats. Did lots more massaging and stretching than I usually do with her. She loves the attention.

I couldn't decide whether to scratch her from the rest of the weekend. I really didn't want to, for my own sake, which is not how you're supposed to make decisions for your dog. On the other hand, she was always excited about running, enough so that we were having troubles with our start-line stays, and she always did the over-the-top grab-mom's-feet thing at the end of every run. And this is a known issue, not some mysterious malady.

Tika not looking at all wonky:

So I ran her all weekend, although she was landing heavily and grunting after her jumps and turning wide the whole time (except for one run), not her usual effortless flowing jumping and tight turns.

That Dang Snooker. The only run of the weekend where she didn't come out of the crate looking sore--and didn't keep her bars up--was the last run on Saturday, Snooker. The sun had already disappeared and it was much cooler. Maybe she liked the coolth.

Snooker in CPE is different from USDAA Snooker, in that you MUST successfully complete three reds to be able to earn a qualifying score (if you then go on and earn enough points in the closing). There is a fourth red on the course, but you can (must) take it ONLY if you knock one of the other reds. I explained this to a few people during the briefing.

Tika was the last dog to run of the class and of the day, so we ran a couple of hours after the briefing. I put her in a down stay and started my long lead-out to get into position. Next thing I know, there she is right next to me, bright eyed and bushy nubbered.

I set her up about 12 feet off the first jump to give her the right strides to get over the jump without knocking it. What she does when she decides she's going to self start is to stand up, slowly creep forward until she's right up before the jump, then takes off without enough space.

I looked back and, sure enough, the bar was down. I had hoped for a 51-point (perfect) run, but that was out of the question. And then my 12 years of USDAA experience kicked in: If I did just the two additional reds and the closing, I'd still have enough points to qualify. So that's what we did, and we did it quickly and smoothly. And we got to the end, and the judge comes over and says, "Did you realize that you could have taken the fourth red and still earned a qualifying score?" Oh--well--crud. I can't even remember my own advice for two hours! So we got no points for the closing at all and no Q.

You Know What Happens When You Assume. Our only other non-Q for the weekend was the preceding Standard run, which Tika did nicely all the way to the 2nd to last obstacle, which was a dogwalk-tunnel discrimination. I yelled "Climb!" and raced ahead, assuming that she'd do it because her arc from the previous obstacle led there--but Nooooo! Silly mom, tunnel much easier when mom's ahead. Body language takes precedence over voice commands.

Tika--Yes--Still Sore, But Happy.
In Snooker first thing Sunday morning, we had short weaves in the opening for for 7 points. Every time, Tika--my superb weaving dog--either went into the weaves on the wrong side because it was closer or went into the correct place and came right back out again. Wasted a tremendous amount of time in the opening, so we missed our perfect 51 points by less than one second! Argh! It was a qualifying score, but still, I didn't understand.

Until, before the next run, I had her do figure-8s around my legs, and the first time, she yelped and stopped! OK, sore side-to-side, too. So we added additional manipulations and stretchings and bendings, and she was decent after that, although still slower in the weaves than usual. And I didn't try pushing her speed during our runs, which I usually would do, to get her more excited and driving.

Qing and Firsts.
In all, Tika earned 8 of 10 Qs. It's always better for me (I feel better about my first places) if there are other 24"-jumping dogs in my height and level. But the two catahoulas weren't there, the BCs Annie and Django who sometimes jump 24" weren't there, and BC Brenn has moved down to 20".

As a result, to make me feel that we've earned our first places, I compare our scores and times to every other dog, all heights/all levels, who have done the same course. This time, Tika was never the top dog, but out of 50-60 dogs, she was still between the 3nd and 10th fastest or highest-scoring dog, so I felt that the 1st were earned.

Note that, in USDAA, if we weren't feeling well and were making mistakes on the course, we'd be wayyyy down in the rankings somewhere, but here in CPE, Tika is still near the top.

The only two dogs who beat us consistently all weekend were a fast little sheltie who has running A-frames and--in point accumulation classes--5 more seconds than we do, and a Border Collie in the 20" group.

The Horns of Height Dilemmas. Now, Tika is eligible to run 20" in CPE. I do 24" because she has to jump 26" in USDAA. So I could move her down to 20" for future trials to see whether that's better. Here's my personal dilemma: Because the 20" BC made no mistakes this weekend, and is also at Level C, if Tika had been running at 20", 7 or 8 of those 8 pretty blues would have been pretty reds. As much as I like competition, I must admit that a guarantee of not getting 1st is rough.

When Tika is 100%, we can almost never beat those other dogs on speed, so in timed courses, we usually win only if they make mistakes. In points courses, we can win when we create a cleverer, more efficient way of collecting points than the others, which is possible sometimes but not always.

Here's the second dilemma: in USDAA, I could move Tika to Performance and jump her at 22" instead of 26". But: I've already signed her up for the next two DAM Team events with 3-dog teams, with Tika at 26". And they'd be fun teams. We already have our team names (not always easy) and one even has a logo already. And I'd like to run with them. But if I go to performance, I'd have to find different teams. And closing is only a week away for one of them, which would leave that team stuck without a 3rd. But I want to do these teams!

So I'll probably stay at 26" at least for those. Maybe move her to Performance in some other things. And stay higher in Steeplechase and Grand Prix until she earns her 50th tournament leg.

I hate this. Dogs shouldn't get older and sorer.

But I Had Fun. In all, though, it was a good weekend. So I wasn't even particularly annoyed when I left the grounds around 7:30(!) Sunday evening. Especially because Boost got to romp with a ton of other Border Collies the whole time I packed.

Here's Bump, Dig, Boost's half-sister Quas ("Kass"), and Boost--who always just watches and outruns the other BCs:

Never thought I'd be able to tell one black & white BC from another, but over time, I've gotten to know some reasonably well. Here are housemates Bump, Dig, and Styx (with Cattle Dog Skeeter in the back), then blue merles Boost, sister Bette, and Quas.

It seemed like a lot of dogs milling and dashing around! (Easier to count when they're in a snapshot.) So sometimes we hardly noticed when other random dogs joined the crowd.

Skeeter is largely blind due to glaucoma; has only one eye left. But her Human Mom can get her to leap and play by shrieking and doing monstery things with her arms. It's very cute. While Boost sits, poised, waiting intently for a border collie to start running.

Tika kept rushing back to the van and looking hopeful. That's because they usually get dinner right before we go home. And we know who's the chow hound.

And I wasn't even annoyed when, while heading to the freeway, the car felt funny handling, and I wondered whether I had a tire problem, and then the tire-pressure light came on. I pulled into the Jack-in-the-Box, and sure enough, one tire's pressure was 5 lbs lower than the others, and it had this little ding.

Safe to drive? Dunno. Don't want to have blow-out on the way home; that WOULD annoy me. So I called AAA to have them look at the tire. Took less than half an hour to get there, but it gave me plenty of time to enjoy my healthy french fries...

to watch the moon come up over JITB...

to take endless sunset photos...

Here's a scenic one of the sunset reflected in my minivan's window. Glamorous, huh?

Then AAA arrived. He said: Dunno, but he'd replace the tire to be safe rather than sorry. He had the right tools to do it in about 3 minutes. Amazing.

Got home VERY late and slept VERY well for many, many hours.

Had These Photos And What To Do With Them? But lastly--just for you, gratuitous barking grassy Bump photos:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

A Sunday Diary

SUMMARY: Notes about my CPE weekend by time of day. Part 2.

6:15 a.m. Assorted noises wake me up. Alarm was set for 6. This little travel alarm goes off when it wants to, not when it's set for. Get dressed, potty the dogs.

6:35ish: On the road. It's a chilly and overcast morning.

7:10ish: At the agility site. Get right at setting up for the score table and such. One task for the weekend is to list everything in our 3 ubercarts so I can make labels so people can (a) find things and (b) put them away properly. I'm on it, between also working at Ring 1 score table. Once again, I'm not running in the first rotation, so I work on the list.

We have the WEIRDEST things in our stashes of supplies. An American flag! An inflator for basketballs! Huh.

9:00: Walk Jackpot for both dogs. It's nontraditional again; again can take the gamble at any time, and it has an easier 20-pointer and a somewhat harder 25, and bonus combos. With 50 seconds to accrue points--yow! That's nearly forever!

I watched a couple of experts run in the first rotation, so took my own ideas on a high-point run and took some elements from both of their runs. All we have to do is keep our bars up (starting with a sharp turn over a jump to short weaves for bonus 7 points). Plus Boost has to take *#&%* obstacles in front of her.

10:00 Boost starts her run by knocking the bar to the 7-pointer and missing her weave entry--twice--and then does the "what, THIS tunnel?" thing a couple of times, so now I'm behind and she does some random jump instead of what I intended, wasting time spinning and correcting. Then, when I whip her around for a fast and easy entry to the gamble tunnel, we're back to a dead stop and "what? what? do you mean me to do something? what do you want, what?" Somehow accidentally she ends up in the correct end of the tunnel and, wow, she does the 25-point gamble.

Then we start our really high-point-accumulation but BUZZZZ, what? Is that our timer already? So we head out of the ring. That'll be a Q but no spectacular score. (Result: For Boost, 56 points, a Q and a 5th place... so can move up to Level 5 in Jackpot for the next trial. )

Tika handles like a dream. It is nearly flawless. She does three A-frames and they look as if I've trained running contacts, solidly striding through the yellow. If she had a little more ground speed and a couple of tighter turns, we could have pulled out 3 more points, which is what I had hoped to do with Boost's speed. Ah, well, still a really lovely run and I think we might have gotten high-in-trial score.

(Result: Tika has 77 points and a first place in her class... one other dog (our once-and-future teammate Brenn the Border Collie) also has 77. One talented handler with great dogs--Backwards Hat--says, "How the heck did you get 77 points?!" I take it as a compliment. He'll get top dog back later in the day, though. But that clever Cory the super-fast Sheltie managed 78! So Tika is merely 2nd highest of all 125 dogs who ran the course. I'll take it!)

10:15 Walk Boost's Standard course. It's going to require a lot of running, plus she HAS to stick both her dogwalk and Aframe contacts, because on this course if she doesn't, either she'll be off course or I'll have to go through grand maneuvers to get her back into position.

11:00 Boost holds her start line nicely while I lead out way past the first obstacle, a 20-foot tunnel, and then I release her and BAM she's way out ahead of me and knocks the first jump she comes to, which is a sharp turn to the dogwalk. She hits her dogwalk contact nicely but pops off to come running back to greet me. I try to get her to DOWN so I can get past her, but we've done this before: every time I take a step, she pops up again, and so we're getting closer and closer to the next obstacle, a jump, and she's doing the bounce around in front of me thing and finally takes the jump kind of sideways. Whew.

She does a beautiful teeter, a perfect set of weaves! Yow! and then in a sequence of jumps, she's turning back to me and "what? what?"ing again and I'm SURE That i'm running as fast as I can and pointing and telling her to go hup, dagnabbit. We get to the Aframe, with a left into a tunnel, and instead she doesn't stick it and turns right to come back and see me, and then there's a tremendous amount of bouncing around trying to get her into correct position and finally she accidentally goes into the tunnel. Then we just finish by knocking a bar and doing the "what? what? what?" on the last jump. Cripeys!

(Result: No Q! Ack!)

11:15: Walk Snooker for both dogs. The 7-pointer is 3 jumps, and I always worry about knocking bars, but there's just BARELY enough time for this course that I can't justify to myself not attempting three 7s with Tika. I'm not sure I'll be able to make it in 45 seconds. But for Boost, I pick a different course that's just a very smooth loop around the course--with a #6 tunnel, #3 tunnel, and #4 short weaves because I just want some success!

12:00ish Boost's run is a mess. Starts off nicely, but plays "what what?" on the 2nd red. Plays "what what?" with the 3rd red and knocks it, so we bouncey "what what" our way across to the 4th red, which somehow she gets over without knocking, then she messed up her weave pole entrance 3 times before finally getting it, and then, wow, we actually get all the way through the closing! (Result: A Q and a second place of 6 dogs!)

Tika again runs like a charm. She's so good on a twisty course with wraps over all kinds of jumps! And the bars stay up, and we've got 51 points--and a whole 7 seconds of time left! Boy, did I overestimate that one. Glad I tried it. (Result: Of 79 dogs who ran that course, 5 of us managed a high of 51 points, but Tika is the fastest.)

1:00ish: Tika now has 7 Qs out of 7 runs. Could we possibly manage a Perfect Weekend? This afternoon is Full House--with my hopes for a high-in-trial score just because I want to be as creative as I can and run as well as I can--but it is an absolute 100% gimmee for both dogs. But there's also Wildcard and Jumpers. And there's a reason Tika doesn't have as many Qs in these classes--dang knocked bars! So we'll see...

5 minutes for lunch, between working the score table and inventorying the ubercarts and moving things around to be better distributed AND using a PVC cutter to cut down all the odd-length jump bars that have been driving most of us nuts for years. Take that, Jim Basic! So I'm kinda busy. The sun has only recently come out and it's still quite cool in the shade. Great agility weather. We're lucky!

1:30ish: Walk Wildcard for both dogs. Well, OK, the judge is going to make me WORK for my Qs in this one. It starts with a straight jump-jump-tunnel-jump but there's a trap tunnel slightly to the left of the first tunnel. So I have to do a long lead-out so that I can be already running past that 3rd jump as the dogs are coming out of the tunnel, or almost guaranteed they're going to go into that offcourse tunnel. And there are also some other very challenging turns and maneuvers.

2:00ish Boost holds her start line very well, and on release takes all the jumps and the tunnel rather than coming around them to me (which she still sometimes does), and I'm just a stride away from that third jump yelling "Boost come hup" or something, but I might just have raised my arm to point at the jump and she veers full blast into that off-course tunnel. Sigh.

Then we play "what? what? don't know how to enter weave poles" with BOTH sets of weaves on the course. I JUST WANT A DAMNED SMOOTH COURSE THAT I CAN SUCCEED WITH THIS DOG ON! (Result: No Q.)

Tika--well--she knocks the first bar. Game over. Game, set, match. End of perfect weekend. The rest she does like a pro. Not for the first time, I contemplate whether I should move her back to Level 5. See, at Level 5 in CPE, you're allowed a knocked bar and you can still Q. I have that option. If we were at level 5, we'd have had a couple of other Perfect Weekends under our belt. I think that quite a few people who earn Perfect Weekends do it with faulted Qs. But I just have trouble with that idea--it wouldn't FEEL like a Perfect Weekend to me. In USDAA, you can't be going around having faults and still hope to Q. So we stay at Championship level in CPE.

(Result: No Q, but her time is the fastest of all 58 dogs who run the same course. But I'll take that, too.)

2:10ish: Walk Full House. I already have 90% of a plan from my original read of the course map and watching a very fast and talented friend do her course, but of course I want to try to find a clever variant that will allow me more points. However, I add only one jump; just can't think of a good flowing way to add more points and still be near the table when the whistle blows. But the good thing is--this is almost entirely a straight line or very smooth curves with no calloffs or anything--HEAR THAT BOOST?! TAKE THE D*#*@&*( OBSTACLES IN FRONT OF YOU!

3:00ish Boost runs. There are very few rules in this game, but you DO have to successfully complete 3 jumps to earn a Q. I have planned 4 into my course to be safe. And... she knocks the first bar. Then she does "what what waht" and knocks the 2nd bar! So now I veer out of my smooth path to try to get another jump in, and she's bouncing around and somehow takes the jump kind of sideways without knocking it. Then, like, wow, the rest of the course we're actually very smooth except that she almost takes me out at the knees, and she does two sets of nice weaves, but we don't get the last points I wanted because we're out of time.

Here's the other rule--after the whistle, you have 5 seconds to get to the table or they start subtracting points. We run towards the table--and Boost starts doing the "what what?" game right until we get there,and she bounces backwards past it, and I just stop, walk her back 10 feet, get her lined up, and then run at it again. This time she does it nicely. I can do this because my dogs are so fast and earn so many points that I can afford to lose a few points.

(Result: That table redo almost cost us a Q! We ended up with EXACTLY the number of points that we needed. Sigh.)

Tika--well, she runs like a charm, and she does 2 A-frames with that "looks like I trained it" stride through the yellow, and then I run out of obstacles and the whistle hasn't blown! So we kind of figure 8 awkwardly around a 1-point jump for a couple more points, then the whistle blows and we hit the table.

Turns out that the timer was set wrong, so we did have more time than we were supposed to have. I should've known--I'm almost never that far off in my strategy game plans.

(Result: W00t! 49 points, which was more than the friend with a similar course. Brenn the Border Collie has the same points. But--wow--Backwards Hat comes up with TWO more points than Tika! So I said, "how the heck did you get 2 more points?" and he told me, and sure enough, we could've done that, too, but I had rejected it because it left us out in the middle of nowhere. But, with a fast dog like them and like my dogs, I could easily have run from there to the table within 5 seconds. But that's OK, Tika is 2nd highest of 125 dogs on the same course. So that's danged good. I'm pleased with the run.)

3:15ish: Boost is done for the weekend. Actually managed 3 Qs today, for a total of 4 of 10. Not great, but we've done worse. Tika still has jumpers. I've finished the inventory, I've finished the PVC cutting, I'm only half working the score table because my excellent co-worker is just handling it.

3:30ish: I walk Tika's Jumpers course. There is one really awkward spot that I can't find a smooth way to handle. I walk it as a serpentine--on both sides. I walk it with a front cross before. I walk it with a landing side rear cross and a take-off side rear. I really don't think that I can do any of them comfortably. I want to do the serpentine but I don't think I have the speed and will fall back on a front cross before it if I'm behind.

4:00ish: I do a long lead-out to give myself room to try for that serp. Not only do I not make the serp, but I can't get to the front cross and have to sort of stop in her way, and she kind of woofs as she comes around (which means "this was unexpected but exciting") and bam, the bar goes down.

So no Q here, either, but I'm glad we blew it earlier in the day--it would've sucked to get to the last run of hte weekend with 9 Qs and then blow the 10th!

(Result: No Q, but her time is very good--3rd fastest of all 66 dogs who ran the same course. I don't know whether we'd have picked up and extra 1.4 seconds to beat those dogs if I hadn't blown that obstacle, but it's certainly possible. Still--I'm so happy with how she's running! Viva la CPE!)

4:10ish: My dogs are done. But there's one more round to score table, more things to double-check in the inventory, club things that can start being disassembled ready for loading into the trailers, results I have to write down, ribbons I have to pick up, and so on. And so the day winds slowly down. I stay with the usual last hold-outs to get everything packed away, and give the dogs some good long frisbee on the now-empty field, and chat a bit with the gang.

7:00 p.m.: I'm on the road. At least 90 minutes to go. I'll be so glad to be home and in bed. And of course there's a lot of heavy traffic heading down the freeway back towards the cities at the end of the weekend.

8:50ish: Home.

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A Saturday Diary

SUMMARY: Notes about my CPE weekend by time of day. Part 1.


2:30 p.m. Go to web site and print: final running orders for the weekend, catalog front page, general info letter, workers schedule, all for my own use, and highlight my dogs' runs. Print 3 copies each of premium, complete running-order catalog, general info letter, workers schedule for CPE binders. Get three CPE binders for score table from garage, remove stuff from last trial, add new materials. Put my paperwork along with premium and entry confirmations into my trial folder. Load all into car.
4:00 p.m. Packing for the weekend: Clear out last week's accumulation of stuff from the van. Back van into driveway so I can maneuver canopy frame into it. Load bag with canopy cover and sun cloth. Load folding chair & table; bag with clips, bungies, water buckets, sheet for Boost's crate; dog mats for crates; crates; video camera; regular camera. Pull back into garage.
5:00 p.m. Fill 2 jugs of water; measure out dogfood; load into van. Pack suitcase and load.
5:30 pm I think I'm done packing. Oop, not quite. Get cooler out and into car. Load weekend's worth of drinks into fridge to cool off; load breakfast bars and fruit into bag in car. Make sure I have enough dog treats.
6:00 pm Really done now? Oh--there's a music party this weekend at a friend's. Dig out old flute and music and try playing it. It's been mannnnnnnnnny years. Yuck. But pack that, too, anyway.
6:30 Done?
8:30 I was going to go to bed by now, but it's driving me nuts that I haven't finished sorting and labeling and uploading and describing my last day of my Havasu Falls/Grand Canyon trip. It's been 2 months! Just git'er done!
11:30 p.m. Done. I'm really tired now. Take Boost out for final potty.


4:30 a.m. Omigod jeez holy.... what's that noise? Where am I? What's going on? ...Crap, it's the radio alarm. Time to get up. I do this because I like it. I do this because I like it. Repeat.
4:45 I'm dressed; potty dogs. Yay, they both cooperated & do everything, so I'll be able to relax for a while after I get to Petaluma. Load dogs into car, drinks into cooler.
4:55 a.m. Out of the driveway and to Safeway for bananas and ice.
5:05 a.m. Crap, they have no ice! Now I have to drive 2 miles in the opposite direction to the 7/11. Fortunately they have ice.
5:20 a.m. Hit the freeway. 20 minutes later than I wanted.
6:45 a.m. In Petaluma at the trial site. Because I'm Score Table Czar and because the Chair is nice, they saved me a crating spot right next to the rings and a parking spot right next to that. Unload and setup are a breeze, less than half an hour. Frisbee dogs a bit. Set up score table materials and ring timers and random other stuff that needs doing. The beginning of a typical weekend where I have hardly a minute to just sit and relax.
7:30ish General briefing, then first walkthroughs. I'm not in the first rotation, so it's just completing Wildcard scribe sheets. Fortunately I have a very reliable assigned parter for the table.
9:00 Walk through Tika's Jumpers course. Yikes, lots of very sharp turns and calloffs and a couple of tricky front crosses that I'd like to get in but not sure I can.
9:30 Tika Jumpers. She ticked a bar but didn't knock it. I miss one front cross and so she wastes a little time veering away from the best path, but not bad; she's such a good girl! (Result: Q, 1st place of 3 dogs, 7th fastest of 54 dogs all heights of 4/5/C levels who ran the same course. Not bad.)
9:40 Walk Colors for Tika and Boost. Have to choose one of two intertwined courses. For best possible runs, will require me to move laterally away from dogs in a 6-pole weave, and then later run like crazy to push them out.
10:15 Boost did great--made her weave entrance, stuck through it, no refusals on jumps, both dogs kept their bars up; didn't quite make the push out with Boost but just wasted a little time. Tika barely got a toenail into the Aframe, I guess, because the judge didn't call it, so she flew through that course, while Boost at least briefly correctly waited in her 2o2o position. (Result: Qs for both, Tika 12.90 seconds, Boost 13.26 over 63 yards, for the 3rd and 4th fastest times of all 92 3/4/5/C dogs all heights (fastest 12.73). Both took 1st in their class. I'm feeling good about Boost after one run! Maybe we'll click this weekend.)
10:30Walk Wildcard for both dogs. A little challenging, with 2 sets of weaves and two 20' tunnels lined up parallel to each other and only about 20' total across. This will be tricky.
11:00 Well, tricky, yeah! On first front cross, Boost went BEHIND me (bad dog!) and into a tunnel that I didn't want to do. In wildcard, this would have been salvageable if I could think that fast on my feet, but I don't do that well in wildcard, so I don't adjust the course for it, and anywaythe whole thing now has me too far behind her, and so I'm not in position for another turn and she takes a real off course, plus knocks a bar. No Q for her. With Tika, I adjust my handling based on results with Boost, and we barely get through it, but it looks smoother than it felt. Worrisome--she ticked a bar again, and again it didn't go down, but if she's ticking 'em, they're going to start falling eventually. Too bad, as in CPE she's sometimes had barless weekends. (Results: Tika Qed AND was fastest of all 84 3/4/5/C dogs on the same course, 19.76 seconds over 96 yards. SUCH a good girl! Yards Per Second seems very slow, for a very fast course with no contacts, but there were sharp turns and two sets of weaves, while slows things down.)
12:00 Trial seems to be running smoothly. Was foggy and quite cold this morning but now that sun's out, it's warming up, but not broiling as we'd feared. Boost starts to panic every time I take her out without a toy to focus on. This site was used for a circus, I guess, a week ago, and someone said they had lions and tigers and bears, oh my. She sniffs the ground obsessively, tail plastered to her stomach, occasionally jerking her head upright, standing almost frozen, scanning the horizon for incoming giant predators. Tika just wanders around sniffing, thinking, "huh! Interesting!" Very hard to get Boost to focus and pee when needed.

This also means I'll have to keep her completely focused on me in before going into the ring or she'll go into a panic in the ring and we won't be able to run.

12:30 Walk through Snooker for both. This is one of those annoying courses where #7 has 3 parts, #5 has two parts, one of the reds is also part of #7... gah! I pick a course that seems to walk fairly smoothly anyway, but I have to remember to run it exactly as I walked it or I risk confusing my #7 and that red. Also I'm going to lead out a long way, call the dog over the first red, and then run across the field to a set of weaves to start with. My plan is a 6 and two 7s in the opening.
1:15 Very quick disaster with Boost. The run across the field to the weaves results in her running backwards in front of me, saying what what what do you want what???? and thereby running past the weaves, then sees them and enters wrong, so I have to pull her around and try again, and now I'm in the wrong position and I go for that red/7 combo and I'm running it and all of a sudden it feels wrong and sure enough I took it in the wrong order and we're whistled off. Crud! Tika, however, handles beautifully until we get to #5 in the closing, where that predicted falling bar finally happens. (Result: Tika barely Qed, took only 2nd place of 3 dogs in her class.)
1:40 Walk Standard for Boost. Full 12-pole weaves that I'd like to move away laterally on again to stay ahead of her when I get to the Aframe. A tricky push out to the teeter--twice! Some places where it would be helpful to be able to send her to a jump. Some challenges.
2:30Boost's Standard run. Argh. Didn't write enough notes--I think she popped out of the weave and i had to go back for them, so then I was behind her at the Aframe, and she did NOT wait for the release and went ahead into an offcourse obstacle, and then there was that send/front cross thing, and she does NOT like coming back in to me on a u-turn or serp like that, for a lot of time wasted. The teeter push works ok. (One of the top competitors (also in USDAA) complimented Boost's teeters, the way she slides to the end, and I had to confess that I didn't really teach that drive, she just came with it.) On the final set of jumps to the end, she's looking back at me and jumping around instead of going over d*** jumps that are in front of her, and knocks one of the bars. (Result: no Q again.)
2:40 Walk Jackpot (gamblers) for both dogs. This is nontraditional in that you can take the gamble at any time during your run, you don't have to wait for the buzzer. AND there are two choices on the gamble, a 25-pointer and a 20-pointer. I think that if I take a running start at the 25-pointer, which requires that the dog go straight out over 2 jumps, then turn left and come back to you through a tunnel, then both dogs can do it easily. If they miss, then I can just swing around and do the other one, which is a very simply tunnel away from you and then into a tunnel back to you. The rest of my plan is a very smooth, very high point run that both dogs should be able to do easily.
3:30 I attempt the first gamble with Boost--get her revved up, take a couple of steps, then yell GO! and run her straight at the gamble jumps. I stop at the gamble line, but she's ahead of me... and she just stops and looks around and starts sniffing. JeeeeeePERS dagnabbit! So I bring her back to me and start the second gamble, and she goes out through the first tunnel,then looks at the second tunnel and comes back to me AROUND it, and then I have to run around the outside of the gamble area, trying to push her back to the far tunnel entry, and she's bouncing around and finally sees the wrong end of the tunnel. So we get no gamble, therefore no Q, AND we've wasted a whole ton of time. Then she's doing the look at me/refusal thing on jumps and we barely manage a few points before our time is up. Dagnabbit take obstacles in front of you DAGNABBIT!

Tika, however, does everything flawlessly... oh, except I guess I'm not clear enough in one place and she gets away from me and takes an unplanned jump, but we recover and still get everything done that I had planned. But all her bars stay up and she does TWO aframes with at least one full paw in the yellow zone--not ideal, but we get credit. (Result: Boost no Q, Tika 69 points and highest of all 125 dogs at the trial...with one dog at 67, then way down to one 62, one 61, and one 60 after that.)

4:00 So, for the day, Tika Qed 5 for 5 with 4 1sts and a 2nd, on a roll and heading for maybe a Perfect Weekend. One Q for Boost and a lot of disasters. There's one more class to work score table for.

The thing about having the highest score or the fastest time is both that I want to do the best that can be done for my own sense of achievement, and also that I'm always practicing for USDAA, where we need every edge we can get. Can I come up with more creative strategy than others in the point games? Can I come up with a more efficient path or more aggressive handling than others in any of the games? We so seldom place there, that I need to keep pushing myself and polishing and tweaking.

5:45 Day is done, courses are built for tomorrow, they sent out for pizza and about 25 of us sit together and eat and chat and the two biggest agility maniacs in The Bay Team are trying to figure out how we can squeeze in one more CPE and one more USDAA trial. Isn't 7 trials a year ENOUGH already??

6:30 To Cold Stone Creamery for dessert with a friend. OK, Peppermint Patties in raspberry sorbet does NOT work well.

7:15 Heading for that music party in American Canyon.

7:50 Arrive. They've got speakers and a guy on drums and 3 folks on guitars and there's much (not very good but spirited) singing going on and I say hi and have a tiny bit of pulled pork and join in a little, waiting for a peach crisp that never makes it out of the oven. The flute stays in the car.

9:00 Head to WendyWear headquarters, just 5 minutes away, where we'll be spending the night. Have the usual pleasant and interesting chat, then potty dogs and...

10:15 In bed. Lights out.

Sunday later and maybe course maps.

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