Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PVP Silver Team

SUMMARY: Photos from Labor Day USDAA Regional

Just got these lovely photos from a friend. This is Tika and her Performance DAM Team (AKA Performance Versatility Pairs) partner, Brenn, with their silver medals after coming out 2nd of 36 teams after 5 rounds at the Regionals. One of the high points of our agility career.

P.S. The shirt I'm wearing is our team shirt from when Tika, Brenn, and Skeeter went to the final round at Nationals in Team a couple of years back. Another high point. And I'm SURE that shirt is why we did so well on this day.

(Thanks, Erika, for the photos.)

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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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Monday, October 26, 2009

Compare and Contrast: Two Videos

SUMMARY: Team Standard Videos from Labor Day Regional
An agility friend just posted videos of us from the Team Standard--Thanks, Mary!

Here's the course map to follow along:

I almost lost Tika while nursing her down the dogwalk so she wouldn't fly off--and she nearly flipped into the tunnel alongside. Can't quite tell in the video what I did to cause that, but she pulled off it OK and kept going, for a clean run. (Tika and her teammate finished with a 2nd place out of 36 Performance teams at this Regional.)

Boost starts out looking OK but about halfway through we start to lose it, with a spin and some hesitation and the bars start coming down. Still, she didn't E (which is crucial in Team). Just her dumb handler started celebrating before clearing the last bar, bringing down one more. AND that teeter exit was pretty iffy, Boost!

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

USDAA Qualifying and Titling Rules

SUMMARY: Some of the arcanity of USDAA scoring.

I'm skipping Starters and Advanced qualifying (Q) requirements (sorry, nonmasters) because they're fairly straight-forward (I'm speaking relatively, of course).

On to Masters/P3 and Tournament, because that's where one accrues the most Qs over your competition lifetime. As a source of entertainment, qualifying requirements and title requirements change periodically, so keeping up with it could be a regular hobby.

OK, there are two somewhat parallel sequences of titles that you achieve with your Qs: The basic titling sequence and the lifetime titling sequence.

The basic titling sequence includes things like your MAD (Master Agility Dog), RCh (Relay Champion), TM (Tournament Master), ADCH (Agility Dog Champion), and so on. You can follow this sequence in either Championship program ("Masters") or Performance program ("P3". You have to start anew with each program; masters Qs don't transfer to P3 and vice versa.

The lifetime sequence is just that: Lifetime Achievement Award bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. This counts ALL Qs of any type that you earn in Masters, P3, or Tournament (performance or championship). For example, it takes 30 (specific) masters Qs to earn your ADCH. If you then move to performance and earn your APD (Performance championship), it takes another 30 legs. You now have 60 legs towards your LAA awards.

To earn your basic titles, you need Qs in the regular classes of Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers, Snooker, and Pairs Relay. For the major titles in this group, you also need Tournament Qs (Steeplechase, Grand Prix, Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team).

For your ADCH or your APD, you need: 5 each of the regular classes plus 5 tournaments, with at least one of each tournament type.

Is that all perfectly clear now?

Here's the annoying thing about the DAM tournament: You have to do a DAM jumpers, DAM gamblers, DAM standard, DAM snooker, and DAM relay to get JUST ONE DAM Q. None of them count towards titles in your basic titling sequence. All that work for ONE Q?!?

Back in The Day, Team Snooker and Jumpers, if I recall correctly, could also be counted as regular Qs for your snooker & jumpers titles, but they did away with that because they operated under different rules than the regular classes.

However, starting last year, USDAA finally saw the light again and allowed the four individual DAM classes to count towards your Lifetime awards. That is, they don't count towards your basic title sequence, but they do count towards your Lifetime Achievement Awards (LAA), which is wonderful.

But the qualifying requirements are different. In regular classes, there's a certain known minimum standard that you must achieve to earn a Q, which means that in theory everyone at a trial could Q in every class, no matter what anyone else does. For the Team individual Qs, however, you must be within a certain range of the best performers in each class.

To do this, you take the top 3 dogs (in your height and program) and average their scores. Anyone within 15% of that average earns one of these bonus Q. Yeah, in theory, everyone could also Q, but that raises the bar high enough--especially at the regionals--that it's more difficult to earn those Qs.

Except that Tika the wonder-performance-dog, who seems to love being at 22", has Qed in every one of her Team events in the two tournaments we've entered. Huzzah.

Hey, is any of that clear? It made sense while I was writing it--


In Masters/P3 Standard, to earn a Q towards basic titles, you must have a clean run and be faster than the Standard Course Time. This Q *also* counts towards your LAAs.

In Championship/Performance DAM team Standard, to earn a bonus Q towards your LAA, your time plus faults must be within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs' time plus faults. These do *not* count towards your basic titles.

Well--so--since I suspect everyone's eyes are now glazed over, let me just say that, between Masters and P3 and all Tournaments, Tika now has 217 Qs towards her LAA awards. 150 was her LAA-bronze. Another 33 to go to her Silver.

And over and out.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

This Weekend--Hopes and Fears

SUMMARY: USDAA Southwest Regional Championship/Qualifier

This weekend my club, The Bay Team, hosts one of the six(?) annual Regional events for USDAA, the oldest and the most interesting and challenging agility venue in the United States.

Until last year, if you took 1st place in Steeplechase or Grand Prix at a regional, you earned a bye into the finals at Nationals. No more; firsts this weekend aren't special. The advantage here is that all qualifiers in Grand Prix or Steeplechase Round 2 earn byes into the semifinals at Nationals.

Of course, first you have to make it to round 2. In Grand Prix, you just have to run clean; in Steeplechase, your time plus faults has to be within 25% of the top 3 dogs' average score. Those Qs count towards titles and send you to the quarterfinals at the nationals (AKA round 1 at the nationals).

However, to get the bye into nationals semis, you have to do well enough in round 2 this weekend in comparison to the other dogs who made it to round 2. In Grand Prix, you have to be in the top 50% (I think, jeez, why isn't that in the premium? That's what it used to be). And in Steeplechase, you have to finish within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs.

Plus there are all the regular classes.

My fear is--based on last night's performance in class--that I'll be forgetting courses again; I must have forgotten half the courses we ran.

My hope is that the dogs will run as well as they did in class last night. Tika ran two courses at 26" without knocking any bars, for example. Boost is running like a champ.

And once again, I try not to focus on titles too much, but for the record:
* Tika Jumpers Q at 26" completes her silver ADCH (that's like a regular championship 5x over).
* Boost Jumpers Q completes her MAD (master agility dog).
* Tika Performance DAM and either GP or Steeplechase earns her performance tournament master title.
* Boost gamble earns her masters gambler title.
* Tika needs 2 Performance Standards and a performance Jumpers for her performance MAD--of course she can't get the jumpers until she's finished that last one at 26".
* Tika Pairs Relay Q earns her performance masters relay title.
* Boost needs the first-round steeplechase Q to be qualified to run Steeplechase at the nationals. If we go. Which we won't. Unless boost wins round 2 this weekend. (It is to laugh! I laugh, ha ha!)

OK, better go back and get ready for four (groan) days of agility. I won't be online at all (unless I decide to come home one of the 3 nights after all) until Monday evening at the earliest.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Shiny Happy Tika

SUMMARY: Day 1: Team Tournament--we won, we won!

Today was all team, all day. The Dog Agility Masters (DAM) tournament consists of four individual events and the 3-dog relay--or, for Performance dogs, 2-dog relay. Boost was in regular, one among 27 teams, and Tika ran in Performance, one among 15 teams.

Our first run of the day, Standard, set the pattern. Tika and Brenn both ran nice, smooth, clean runs. No bars down, no missed contacts, reasonably fast. We didn't win the Standard event, but we were I think 2nd or 3rd combined. ALL THREE DOGS in Boost's team popped out of the weaves early and then took off courses for Elimination. Sheesh! In Team, the penalty for off-course is very high. We landed at the bottom of the 27 teams (with at least a couple of others who E'ed with all 3 dogs), and determinedly held that position all through the day.

Second run, Gamblers, had some interesting nonstandard rules. Tika did well except that I mishandled her going into the weaves in the opening and I went back and redid them, meaning that we didn't quite finish our last 5-point obstacle before the whistle, so ended in 5th[?] instead of 2nd individually; Brenn did better than that, and combining our scores after the first 2 classes landed us at the top of the 15 teams, and we determinedly held that position all through the day.

I've always liked how Tika and Brenn complement each other. Brenn did better than Tika in Standard and Gamblers; Tika did better than Brenn in Snooker and Jumpers, in fact taking 2nd place (of 10 in her height group) in the Jumpers class with a very nice, fast, smooth run.

Boost also had an amazingly smooth and fast Jumpers run, although she had 2 bars down. No refusals, no runouts, not even significant hesitations. It was a joy to run her there.

I messed up Boost's very short Snooker run; she did her part in keeping the bars up (yay!) but I didn't handle her well; I also am mostly to blame for messing up the gamble run because I changed my course at the last minute which turned out to be a mistake.

When we got to the relay, Tika and Brenn had only about a 25-point lead over the 2nd place team. Relay *really* counts heavily against your team if you off-course--150 points. So if either one of us were to go off course, we'd plummet through the rankings like a boulder dropped from a cliff. We could *conceivably* earn enough 5-point faults between us--knocked bars, popped contacts, like that--to drop below the 2nd place team, but it seemed unlikely. And, indeed, Brenn ran clean and Tika's only fault was ticking the broad jump with a toenail as she went by; it's metal and boy could you hear it!

We celebrated enthusiastically--neither of us have ever been on a team that even placed in a team event, and this time we won gold medals. Yeeha! (Dang, medal is turned sideways in my snapshot:)

[A friend took photos of all of us; will get them eventually.]

It's funny to see how DAM team works: You don't have to win everything (or even anything), but if you do WELL and do so CONSISTENTLY, you beat out everyone who had issues of any kind with any of their team. So--neither of us won any individual class; our combined scores didn't win any of the classes (although I think we were 2nd & 3rd in a couple), and we came in pretty low in the relay based on our speeds plus Tika's 5 faults--but we had enough of a lead that, since we held it together, no one could really expect to catch us at that point.

Meanwhile, Boost's 1st teammate ran very nice Snooker, Gamblers, and Jumpers rounds; the 2nd teammate was having a lot of problems and ended up scratching from the rest of the day over concern that the dog might be ill or injured.

So we went into the finals--in last place--with one "E" automatically against us because we were missing one dog. We both ran fairly nicely, though--we might have pulled out of last place, but I didn't get a good look at the scores.

Sooo the day went well, I am a happy TMH Human Mom, weather was just about perfect, dogs are healthy, friends are fun to hang around with--OK, I'm up for another 2 days of this!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday Good, Sunday Not So Hot--Literally and Figuratively

SUMMARY: Got a couple of Qs but there's work to do.

Saturday in Santa Rosa was cold but not awfully so. Both dogs ran well: 7 runs each in one day! They loved it, probably because they could go all out in the cold weather and not risk overheating. You know how canine athletes worry about that stuff, especially when they're not drinking Gatorade. It was a long day, though, not done until almost 9 PM. At least the club had planned for that & advertised dinner along with Strategic Pairs. But I felt pretty good at the end of the day with our successes and luck.

Sunday chilled us to the bone. 28F at 7:30 in the morning. Glad I took my ginormous purple down coat, which you can't miss noticing from half a mile away. And wore thermal underwear. Then around 4:00, just as I was ready to start hauling stuff out to my car, it poured. Dogs were still happy to run in the cold for another 4 runs each, but things didn't go quite so well and I had to work myself out of feeling disappointed.

To give you an idea of the chill--I always take an ice-filled cooler packed with my fave diet soft drinks because I can't stand warm diet soft drinks. This time, I skipped the cooler entirely and just left the cans loose in my car. They were plenty ice-cold, thank you very much!
The "Lytle Cow Palace," scene of our glories and disgraces and some really cold Alaskan weather come to visit.

Saturday Tika Team

Five of the runs were for Team. Tika ran clean and fairly fast in Jumpers and Standard, although (as I had expected) even with the new Qing system for Team individual events, she missed Qs by 1.7 seconds in Standard and 0.2 in Jumpers--although had I worked even one of my sloppy turns better, we'd have gotten that bonus Jumpers Q. She had a nice Gamblers opening and we were exactly where we needed to be to try for maximum points in the gamble--but knocked the 3rd bar, so had very high opening points but only so-so closing; no bonus Q there, either.

Tried for four reds in the Snooker, knocked the first bar, but recovered easily to accrue 49 points. Only about a dozen dogs of the 87 competing in all heights managed to do four reds and get through to the end, so she did have enough for a bonus Q here.

Her team did pretty good. After the first two rounds--Standard and Gamblers--where both teammates did even better than Tika--we were in 2nd place overall of 29 teams. One teammate Eed in the Jumpers round, so we lost our prime position, but the rest of our Jumpers and Snookers were pretty good, and we all ran well in the relay in which at least half the teams Eed. So we ended up 5th overall despite that Jumpers E, and with 18 teams Qing, we were well up there.

Can I fantasize for a moment? Without the Jumpers E, we'd have been plenty above the first place team's score. But, oh well, I'm very happy with how Tika ran and delighted with my teammates.

Pretty good, and very happy about that; that finished her 10th Team Q. So, to get our Tournament Platinum, we needed only EITHER the Steeplechase OR the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Saturday Boost Team

We were all younger, less polished dogs on this team. After the first two runs--Standard (where one teammate Eed and the other two of us bobbled and faulted our way through it) and Gamblers (where Boost wouldn't go OUT for a bonus and I dinked around trying to insist that she do it, so got really low points--and our teammates had lower points than that)--I think we were in 3rd to last place. Not promising for Qing.

In Jumpers, another teammate Eed, Boost accrued a ton of faults, and one teammate ran very well. In Snooker, Boost knocked a bar in the opening so missed some points and popped out of the weaves on a rear cross in the closing so lost a bunch more points; One teammate did very well and the other better than Boost.

But we had a wonderful relay run; placed 7th of the 29 teams, and so even with two Es earlier, we all held it together individually enough here and there, and fully half the teams wiped out of the relay, including some of the top ones, leaving us enough room to just squeeze into Qing territory by a mere 2.17 points out of our total of 914.84 (1st place at 1229.79 for comparison), placing 18th overall. So one more bar anywhere, or one more popped contact, or one more missed weave pole that someone had to go back for, out of our 15 combined runs, and we'd not have qualified. Whewwwwwww!

It was quite a surprise and delight to get that Q after what had seemed like a dismal showing. Sometimes I curse the high point value of the relay, but it saved us this time.

The rest of Saturday

Tika earned another Q in Masters Jumpers. Boost and I Eed early in that--serpentine that she wouldn't come in on (which I was lamenting about on Thursday, remember that?) and by the time I got her over the jump, I forgot where I was going and--while I stood there thinking--she backjumped. So still no MAD for the baby dog.

Strategic Pairs filled out the day. 19 teams stuck around for the fun.

Tika's Strategic Pairs partner, Chaps the wonder-Aussie, who just got back from spectacular successes at the Aussie nationals.

Tika and her partner ran clean, but Tika had some bobbles in our first segment when she got ahead of me and I couldn't direct her, and then we had a communication failure among human teammates so there were several seconds where we both were standing doing nothing. We still managed to come in 6th of 19, which was nice--only 6 seconds slower than the 1st place team... who was...

Boost and her partner! Ta-da! We had no faults, we communicated well, we didn't waste any time. Boost was not the dog I'd have ever guessed I'd win a wild game like Strategic Pairs with--but actually the judge(s) designed a course that was very straightforward for switching between two dogs, so it was just short, simple sequences.

So, at the end of the day, I felt pretty good about my agility weekend.

Boost and her Strategic Pairs partner, Taiko, who just got back from winning at the ASCA nationals.

Here is what Boost won for me in Strategic Pairs. I had no idea it would be something cool like this! Thanks, Bay Team SP prize czar!

Here is what Boost won also for me in Strategic Pairs. I don't imbibe, so my renter/dogsitter benefitted from this part.


Things fell apart a bit on Sunday. Not a lot. Just enough to take the edge off the general satisfaction for the weekend. It went like this:

Tika ran very nicely, fast, eager. In Steeplechase, almost 4 seconds under qualifying time, which is pretty good for her. But ticked the bloody broad jump. Just barely. I barely heard it and wasn't even sure whether I had heard it. We couldn't miss a Q by whacking a bar or flying off the Aframe or mishandling; no, we incurred 5 faults with a tiny tap of a toenail, putting us just out of Qualifying.

In Grand Prix, she ran fast and smoothly; we got through the whole course with no problems at all, nice tight turns, bars up, got the Aframe contact. The next to the last obstacle was the dogwalk, and she even got a foot solidly in the yellow zone going up, which has been one of our Grand Prix bugaboos. And then, 15 feet away from the last jump (which she kept up), she flew right off the end of the dogwalk, not even pretending to slow down for it. Crapola. Just one little flaw at the end of a lovely run.

So no Tournament Platinum.

Tika had a lovely Gamblers' opening, except that I lost her at one point, wasting time, and decided not to adjust for it; as a result, was way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. And she did the dang gamble, too, very professionally. But over time, so no Q.

And, in our opportunity to maybe pick up a placement, in Masters Pairs, I stepped into her path at the wrong stupid moment when I should've been stepping out, and pushed her into an off-course tunnel.

So not a Q all day.

Dogs get cozy crates with furry mats to curl up in during the freeze.

Boost ran very nicely all day, with no refusal or runout problems. She was such a good girl; very proud of her. But still... as I've commented before, there's only so long I can get by on "making progress" without "earning Qs".

I did the exact same stupid trick with Boost in Gamblers; she went into the weave poles in the wrong side so we had to restart, but again I decided that, since she's faster than Tika, I could go the extra distance and not adjust for it. Well--we ended up with more opening points than the first place dog, AND she also did the gamble perfectly, but only after (repeat after me) we were way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. Foolish handler trick again.

In Steeplechase, Boost had a lovely run, but had a bar down. Thought we might have qualified anyway, but nooo--there were 10 faults on our scribe sheet, not 5, and I have no clue what the other 5 were for. Another good reason to have your runs videotaped. But will that teach me? Nope, never does.

In Grand Prix, doh, I just skipped a jump. And this was a course I had already just run with Tika. Go figure. So--off-course.

In Pairs, however, she partnered with her SisterDog Bette, and both dogs decided to show the world what a wonderful litter they came from. We both had beautiful, clean runs, and placed 4th of 41 teams. So that was it, my sole Q for the day between both dogs. Disappointing, especially when several were so close.

This is how I end up averaging only 50% with Tika--one weekend with 9 of 10 Qs, the next weekend 2 of 8 or so.

Never did get the final word on what this was about--

And In Other News

Mom is home from the hospital, feeling good, injecting self with drugs (I knew there was a reason we needed to keep her from hanging out with those decadent hospital personnel), trying to get back to where she was muscularly before she had to lie in a bed for 4 days again. Yay, Mom! And I heard that Dad even got a good night's sleep a couple of nights ago, finally, after all that all-night hospital brou ha ha. Good on ya, dad!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

USDAA Rules Change to Qualify in Team Individual Events

SUMMARY: Now your individual events in DAM tournaments can count as Qualifying scores (Qs) towards your LAAs. Maybe.

Effective Sept 19, dogs can earn Qs in the individual events in the DAM tournament.

This will be calculated similarly to Steeplechase: Average the top 3 scores in each jump height, and dogs within 15% (Steeplechase is 25%) will earn a Q.

It's nice to get additional Qs towards the LAA. But. Take Tika, who always is within Steeplechase time at 25%, but just barely. She'd never be in steeplechase time at 15%. So she'll probably never Q in Team std or jumpers at 15% of the top 3 dogs.

I did a quick look at our Team Standard from Labor Day. Forty-eight 26" dogs ran. The top 3 did Standard in 29.39, 30.52, and 31.98 seconds. This averages to 30.63. Add 15% of that, and the qualifying score is 35.22. I see only 9 that would've Qed: Dan, Reya, Icon, Rusty, Jester, Apache, Cirque, Aiko, and London. All very fast border collies, I believe, except Apache (Terv--34.68) and Rusty (Aussie--32.71, actually pretty good). That's under 19% Qs.

Tika was clean but 2 seconds over. I didn't note anything in particular that we did wrong on course. Still, hmmm, we're often comparable to Apache's and Rusty's time, so maybe on a good day...

Once again, rewarding the very top dogs and blocking out those who aren't at the top of the sport. USDAA is less and less a venue for Just People with Just Dogs.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nationals Musings

SUMMARY: Meant to say some of this Sunday and forgot.

Early working version of Boost's photo for t-shirt:

  • I can barely believe that, a week from today, we'll be on the road to Scottsdale. Where'd all my practice time go? Why aren't my dogs perfect yet?
  • Tika didn't show any signs of soreness yesterday (Monday) at all. I have been giving her rimadyl. I haven't been restricting her running.
  • Found out over the weekend that one of Boost's teammates came up lame last week. Argh. But the report as of yesterday is that she's looking good and is planning on competing next week.
  • Haven't heard anything more from USDAA about whether for sure we've been assigned a draw 3rd for Tika's team. Other people tell me that they just leave you hanging until you get there. Presumably that's to keep people like my partner from saying "I'm entered only in team and there's no point in going if we don't have a 3rd" and bailing out. I can only hope that the earlier response, "If you teammate withdraws her entry. I will place one of the dogs I have entered as a draw on your team," really means that we really will have a 3rd, since our teammate withdrew her entry later that day. But it would have been nice for them to send a confirmation to us that they've acknowledged our teammate's withdrawal and that they do have a draw for us (it's been over 2 weeks since she withdrew and 5 days since my last email query). I realize that this is a huge show and they've got a lot to do. Still, we're the ones paying the bills--
  • Now that it's almost here, I'm getting excited about it again. I do like going. I am working on being upbeat and optimistic about our chances for everything. I have great teammates (at least, the ones I have left).
  • Our last practices before Scottsdale: Any day at home in the yard, where I can refresh contacts, work on rear crosses and serpentines, practice some snooker moves. Thursday night in class; I'm planning on leaving Tika at home, which I never do, I don't know how she's going to react to that. Unfortunately I'll miss Power Paws' annual pre-Nationals practice this weekend while I'm off at my photography seminar. And then Monday, at home in the yard again. I just don't have time this week to take a couple of extra hours up at Power Paws. Although...jeez...Boost sure needs that work with wider-open spaces. Crud. Crud.
  • One of my teams has a shirt designed & printed. The other team...well, I've been busy, one person has scratched, and we haven't even talked about it. I wonder if it's too late for some kind of rush job. But... what?

T-shirt for Kevin with Jill, Lisa with Carson, and Ellen with Boost, hereafter known as Handling Distortion (thanks, Kevin, for a great job and Spinal Tap for inspiration!):

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Team Troubles for Nationals

SUMMARY: Losing a team member hurts.

One of my teammates for Nationals, for Tika's team, has found out that her father, who is quite ill, will most likely be in the hospital by the time Scottsdale rolls around, so she can no longer commit to going. I don't envy her situation at all, having someone close to her be so ill.

But that does leave us other two in a bind. Remember, this was the team of people who weren't going to go and all talked each other into going at the last minute. Closing date for entries is long past, so we can't talk someone else into going in her place. No one else in the huge Bay Team apparently entered as a draw. So we don't have a 3rd.

If we don't have a 3rd, then that means each of our dogs would be doing only 2 or maybe 3 runs for the whole week without the additional 4-5 for team. And that would really suck. It would suck enough, in fact, that our other teammate says that if we can't confirm a 3rd before we go, he'll cancel out, too, because it's way too expensive for just one dog and only 2 runs, both of them the extra-don't-really-count-for-fun runs.

I've just sent email to the USDAA trial secretary asking what's the process for finding an entered 3rd.

Life often hands one some interesting challenges, eh?

Meanwhile, Boost's team ("Handling Distortion") already has a t-shirt design, thanks to teammate Jill's human dad. And it'll be purple, too. Good color choice.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Good News and Bad News

SUMMARY: DAM Team changes; Boost changes.

The bad news is that Brenn decided to scratch from team. I'm almost surprised at how disappointed I was. Originally the team was Brenn and Skeeter's team and they took Tika on board, so I always kind of thought of it as their team. And Brenn's a great dog (oh, and I like her handler/mom, too) and it's just sad that we can't run with her. The good news is that she's probably OK and hasn't scratched from everything yet.

The other good news is that there seem to be at least a couple of options for replacement 3rds, so unless something goes awry again between now and Saturday, we're good to compete.

On the training side: Boost did great in class tonight! Hardly any bars knocked, no runouts or refusals--man, we even had one jumpers pretty-much complete course run where, if we were competing, we'd have Qed, and done so without any "saves" like our Standard Q last weekend. Just a danged lovely run. Do you know how long it has been since I've had a run like that with her? And she just kept it up! So all this concerted effort over the last 5 days has paid off. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it holds for the weekend.

The bad news on that front is--nothing! She did great! Even on her weave poles during some tough weave pole drills.

Whoo! I'm ready!

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Another One of Those Team Days

SUMMARY: Neither dog's team qualified.

Boost can't do weaves again. Out of 7 sets of weaves done today, she popped out one weave early 6 of those times. Argghhh! We came home and did a bunch of weaves with distractions again and I managed to get her to pop out early a couple of times and then fix it. So we'll see for tomorrow.

In fact, reliable Tika popped out early on one set, too, in the closing of the Time Gamble, which means that her very respectable opening points turned into a merely mediocre run. She seems to be doing that more often--will have to go back and check my stats.

Boost had so many refusals, runouts, and knocked bars today that I couldn't even remember most of them when I'd come out of the ring. I wanted one good run with her! But nooo. She had an Elimination with an offcourse in Relay (I could've handled it better, but she should've just gone into that dang tunnel), an Elimination with an offcourse in Jumpers (ran past the 3rd jump and into the next obstacle), an elimination on refusals in Standard, the lowest points of any dog in the Gamble (because I kept trying the *#*&% weaves), and not very good points in Snooker, what with knocked bars and popping out of weaves. A just sucky day. One of our partners did very well, our other partner was having a day something like Boost's. But in fact we didn't finish last! Maybe 4th from last of 29 teams.

Tika had a beautiful Jumpers run and placed third of 24(?) 26" dogs on a course where a high percentage Eliminated. It was our only really nice run of the day with either dog. Her standard run was OK but with a refusal and a bar on a course where a high percentage eliminated, so I wasn't entirely dissatisfied. Her Snooker run was decent but she flew off the dogwalk contact so missed 7 points; again, I was pleased to get all the way through the course, but here we are in Flyingoffcontactland again. Her Relay run was OK but I forgot where I was going twice (in 11 obstacles--go figure) and so we had a couple of refusals on stupid handler tricks.

Altogether an unsatisfying day and I was unhappy with myself and with Boost.

I try to remind myself that any day doing agility with my dogs is a good day, and to consider the alternatives. But it's so hard. And I hate feeling like I've wasted my $50 each again. It's so frustrating when, by the third run of the day, your team has bombed so thoroughly that you know that you can't possibly qualify, but you just need to tough it out. I try to then pretend that it's just fun practice, but really it feels like I'm just piling failure on failure, where at least with individual classes, each one is a fresh chance to Q and redeem yourself.

Ah, well, tomorrow's another day. And I do like being around my agility friends, and I try not to share my self-pity too much. I will try very hard tomorrow to just not do that. We'll see--

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bummer and Coolness

SUMMARY: I have a team--that Friday my dog will not be judged by the color of her coat but by her superb agility moves--I have a team--

Just like that--I shouldn't have said anything--a friend's dog has come up lame and so another agility bud (the Gadget Guy) and someone I teamed with Boost earlier this year need a third and so it looks like Tika has a team after all. But it sucks that Kye is lame again. Unknown what his issue is. There seem to be so many dogs with this on-again, off-again lameness thing. I didn't want a spot at the expense of Kye! So sad.

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Really Really Bored Dogs and Agility Schedule

SUMMARY: Pesterful dogs and agility coming right up.

The Bay Team is hosting a 3-day USDAA trial locally in Sunnyvale this weekend with regular classes and all the tournaments, and I didn't sign Tika up for team because I kick myself so hard when I mess up, plus she's Qed twice in team already this year. And who needs to spend the extra $50.

But I've been working away from home a lot the last few weeks, and we've had no trials, and of course only Boost's agility classes (in which Tika gets just a couple of runs) and I'm just not getting out and walking them every day and she's going stir crazy and driving me nuts--following me everywhere, leaning on me, hugging up close to me, staring at me, and she looks SO MISERABLY CRUSHED when I stop playing in the yard and go inside--so now I regret not entering her after all. That means that Boost has 5 runs on Friday and Tika has none.

Oh, well, maybe someone will have to pull their dog at the last minute and we can sneak in. Otherwise I'll just have to make a point of spending time playing with her when I'm not running Boost and remember not to just dash back to the score table--which, as usual, I've signed up as Chief Czar for. And which can suck up all my time shwooooooooofff just like that. And try very hard not to kick myself repeatedly if I make a mistake, which can ruin my weekend in Team.

It feels as if it has been ages since I've done any agility. And, in terms of my "traditional" agility life, it has been! Five weeks since our last trail! Then it'll be two weeks to our next one, then another 4 weeks after that. THEN it gets nuts: 6 USDAA 2-day trials in 9 weeks (oh, one of those is really a 3 1/2 day Regional at Labor Day), which should make the dogs happy, but I'm not sure I really want to--or can afford to--do that much.

Then it's probably nothing until January (since I'm skipping Nationals), unless I go to Elk Grove on Thanksgiving weekend for my usual fun CPE trial. Maybe just a day this time instead of 2 days. And Bay Team is hosting yet ANOTHER damn Team tournament in December, which I skipped last year and I just can't see getting excited about at that time of year, out of town.

The dogs will REALLY go nuts with months of no agility!

And what do I really want to achieve this weekend? Team Q for Boost! (Why, if I'm not going to Nationals?? Well, eventually it'll be useful for her ADCH. I hope.) Steeplechase Q for Boost! Ditto for Tika! Because I want to win it all and bring home big checks! (Oh-oh, there goes the idea of doing agility BECAUSE IT'S FUN! fffffoooooop, right out the door like that!)

And of course SOME day it would be nice for Boost to get a Standard Q and a Jumpers Q and actually earn her MAD.

But I am also feeling, like Days of Speed and others have posted in recent months, feeling still amazingly Been There Done That at the moment. It'll be fun while I'm there. Mostly probably. And it's always nice seeing my friends

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Steeplechase and Team Courses

SUMMARY: Several courses were interesting in their challenges this weekend. Here are some.

Steeplechase, both rounds

Round 1 of the Steeplechase on Saturday I enjoyed because it had a pleasing sort of symmetry to it and it also ran fast and smooth.

Round 2 on Sunday was more challenging. In particular, the broad jump tucked up into the corner of the ring gave a lot of people problems, in part because they were starting their motion for the turn early, pulling their dogs too soon, and in part because it was aimed straight into the corner, where dogs don't usually like to go (although there was no solid wall there). Many dogs hit the spreads in the broad jump, and a few went between the side poles.

Round 2 seemed to invite knocked bars, and people also dealt with the 16-17-18 sequence in various ways, and some had trouble with it (going from Aframe to #10).

The entry to the weaves also proved to be a time-waster for a number of people whose dogs missed it, and it was handled in several ways: Running from the start with the dog on your right and pulling, starting with the dog on your right and doing a front cross between 3 and 4, leading out to the right side of #3 and treating #3 as a serpentine (which I did with both of my dogs and had no trouble at all with the weave entry).

Team Standard

This course provided a tremendous number of off-course opportunities and less dire handling challenges, and I believe that nearly half the dogs eliminated on this one.

The 1-2-3-4 sequence gave some people problems; there were offcourses after 3 both to the Aframe and into the tunnel. Most people had no trouble with the 4-5-6, although Tika (on my right) almost went into the RIGHT end of #6, which I hadn't anticipated, but somehow she stopped before putting a foot in the tunnel, leaped OVER the dogwalk (gulp!) and ducked into the correct end of #6, earning only a runout for 2 faults. I think I saw a couple of other dogs hit the end of the dogwalk instead of going into the #6.

The spot that had the largest clot of people standing and discussing during the walkthrough was the approach to the dogwalk. Most people saw that taking your dog to the right of jump #7 made the approach to the dogwalk extremely difficult, which also made the tunnel to its right extremely inviting (and many dogs ended up there), so most people opted to turn the dog left around #7. That left the question of how to (a) avoid the #20 as an offcourse--which not everyone avoided--and (b) how to get them up the dogwalk instead of into the tunnel, where an unmanaged turn would take the dog. Many people did a front cross between 6 and 7, which wasn't impossible to get to but many people just barely got into place in time and some missed, resulting in various other problems. Some put in an additional front cross between 7 and the dogwalk and then rear crossed the dogwalk, putting them way behind for the push to #9.

I opted for the front cross before 7, did a hard RFP after 7 to be sure the dog came in right next to the upright, then pulled way back to give them a lot of room to the dogwalk and gave the "climb!" command. Both dogs executed perfectly.

The next problem area was 9-10-11-12. Some dogs missed #10, some missed #11, some hit the Aframe or the tunnel on their way through. With Tika, I front crossed between 9 and 10, sent her to 10, and basically serp'ed 11, rear crossing 12. With Boost, I was concerned that she wouldn't catch the 11 if I were on that far side and that she'd then get confused and skip the tire. So I also put in a front cross between 10 and 11, which I had no trouble getting to (and several others also did), but didn't work #11 well and she just skimmed right past it full speed and into the tire. (I drew an incorrect line on the course map above; she did take 10 and went straight to 12.)

16 to 17 gave a few people problems, although most anticipated that you had to call your dog a bit coming out of the tunnel to get to 17.

Team Snooker

This was an interesting one to watch, and we all got to do so, because the trial ran only one ring at a time. This was a rare, cleverly designed course where the plan wasn't obvious (although many people did variants on the same thing) and, furthermore, where the course was challenging enough all the way through that people's scores ranged fairly smoothly all the way from 0 to the highest of around 54. The crowd cheered for almost every success within the course, or whenever anyone made it through the opening, or certainly for the few who made it all the way through the closing (some ran out of time, too).

Most people started with the red in the lower right followed by the Aframe, although occasionally they opted for the weaves, to the red in the lower left. A few people went from the lower right all the way to the #4 tunnel. I don't remember seeing anyone starting on any other red, or going counterclockwise around the course.

Next was either the #4 tunnel or going around the back of #4 and picking up 6b and 6a.

The path varied among 5s and 6s depending on the dog and whether the handler was doing 3 or 4 reds, usually involving doing either the 5s or the 6s and then running outside past the 5a or 6a to the other red. For example, you could do: red-aframe-red-around the 4 to 6b, 6a, turn left to the upper left red, do 6b 6a again, go around to the upper right red, and do 5a-5b-2.

Most people ended the opening on the 5a (from either side) to 5b and into the #2 tunnel.

My planned path was 1-7-1-4-1 (upper left), around the outside of 6a, to 5a/5b/2 with Boost, and to 5a/5b/red (upper right)/5a/5b with Tika.

Tika, however, went 1-7-4, although I thought I had plenty of time and room to call her away from the tunnel by pulling, rather than by front crossing after the Aframe. Apparently I was wrong. She did hesitate and look at me, and then I moved, thinking I had her, and she was gone. She was far from the only one who bit that.

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Bummed About the Weekend

SUMMARY: Results weren't what I'd hoped for. Not feeling good about agility at the moment.

I like running my dogs in agility. It is always a thrill to get past difficult places on the course, to try to keep up with them as they run confidently and with blazing speed across a sequence of obstacles, to observe where they have improved over time. I like being on course with them. I like my agility friends, and I did laugh this weekend--in fact, I realized late Saturday after the competition was over, as I sat quietly with my dogs and watched the sun go down, that mostly what I heard in scattered areas around the arena and camping areas was laughter, and it was almost constant from various quarters. Made me realize how much so many of us depend on our agility experiences for fun and how lucky I am to be around these people.

But I can't stand it when I screw up, and I have a hard time dealing with times when "it matters" and my dogs have problems. It's particularly awful in the Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team event, because you have to hold it together for 5 entire classes, for the possiblity of one single Q, and so do both of your teammates. Perhaps oddly, I am fine with whatever my teammates do, whether it's great (which I'm very happy about), or badly (which is too bad but in fact both emotionally and intellectually I am not bothered by that; guess I have more understanding for other people's challenges than my own).

Here's what we competed in for Qs this weekend:
* Snooker
* Standard
* Jumpers
* Pairs Relay
* Steeplechase
* Grand Prix
* DAM Team (5 classes on Sunday)

Here's what Boost really needed:
* Steeplechase to be eligible for Nationals
* DAM to be eligible for Nationals
* Jumpers towards her MAD title
* Standard towards her MAD title

Here's what Boost Qed in:
* Snooker
* Grand Prix

Here's what Tika needed to add points towards her Lifetime Achievement Awards:
* Snooker
* Standard
* Jumpers
* Pairs Relay
* Grand Prix

Here's what Tika Qed in:
* Steeplechase

So I was more than a little frustrated at my inability to get even one of the Qs that I "needed." And wayyyy too much of it was just plain my fault, and things that I should have known better, too! In fact, I'd say I was truly extremely frustrated and, finally, by midafternoon, ready to just crawl into the back of my van for a good cry. With it all set up for sleeping, it would have been a comfy place to feel sorry for myself, but by then I had already packed almost everything up and there was noplace to sit and feel sorry for myself.

So, instead, I went back to the score table and just whined to all my score table buddies for at least half an hour until we were all sick of listening to me. It's not like I was the only one making mistakes or not getting Qs that I wanted. But it's all about me, you know?

It didn't help that the weekend generally started badly. Nothing terrible, but sometimes things just add up, you know? Like, I almost headed out for 3 days of agility without my suitcase or any clothes. I was THAT close. And then with that and other things, I left an hour later than I had wanted to, so I ended up sitting in stop and go traffic for about 20 minutes on the way out, which sometimes I handle with equanimity but this time it gnawed on me, in part because I was annoyed at leaving late and so messed myself up, in part because of gas prices, in part because I was afraid it would keep up so long that I'd miss my first class of the evening that I had paid for and that's why I was going through all this anyway.

On the other hand (trying to be positive), it beat getting up at 4 in the morning. In some ways. Like, I can show you how odd it is, after driving for 30 or 40 miles of highway that looks somewhat like this:

To suddenly come upon this by the side of the road:

There were positive signs:

Boost did all of her weave poles perfectly all weekend. EXCEPT. In Steeplechase Round 1, where she hit the entry and skipped a pole. So I brought her around and restarted; while I tried to move away laterally, she popped out halfway through the poles. Then she was between me and the beginning, bouncing bouncing bouncing, so I told her to Down, and every time I took a step, she'd bounce right back in front of me. So it took a while to get her to stay down to calm her brain and so I could get around her to try the poles again. Then she popped out at #10 of 12 poles, and again I had to calm her and put her back into those last two poles.

The really frustrating thing was that every other bloody thing about that steeplechase run was picture perfect, including the second set of weave poles. And fast. No refusals or hesitations over jumps. Lovely Aframe. But we were way over time.

She had a beautiful Team Standard run, felt like a superfast masters dog, even got through the first really hard part that cost a lot of handlers an offcourse. But then she ran past a jump at a sharp angle and was immediately offcourse into the next obstacle. And that's dumb because I *know* that she still doesn't take those jumps automatically and that I really have to work them and we even TALKED about working every jump before the run.

Tika got quite revved up for Steeplechase Round 2 and had a very good time (for her), but knocked TWO bars AND hit the broad jump when I signalled a turn too early, and I anticipated that in the walkthrough, too, and yet still managed to screw it up.

So it's like every plus had a negative attached to it for me. And other things that didn't help were, while unloading the car and setting up on Friday I whacked the top of my head on my car hard enough to make me want to sit down, I whacked my forehead on my cart handle hard enough to have a standing bump that was still visible Saturday, ripped open the knuckle on one finger, causing it to bleed profusely, and whacked the side of my bad knee with the corner of a box enough that I thought for a few minutes I had just made it impossible for me to run. I felt that all weekend. The person camped next to me must have been greatly entertained by the number of "Ow!"s and expletives coming from my vehicle.

And then there were the just plain crappies. Boost earning 25 faults in Pairs Relay. Boost knocking 4 bars in Jumpers before going offcourse on a very technical course when I finally just lost my head and couldn't manage that speed and chaos any more. Tika having a lovely Team Gamblers run but then I blew it and gave away all my gamble points, for two reasons:

* First, for some reason while out there I discounted the fact that we weren't in exactly the right position when the horn blew (and usually I'm very good about taking that into account in my closing)--it wasn't until several minutes after the run that I remembered that fact.

* And the other part was that Boost had had so much time left at the end of her gamble, which I abandoned more points partway through because I was being cautious, that I thought for sure I had plenty of time with Tika. But it turns out that I had evaluated Boost's time based on the Performance time, not the Championship time, because the stupid score table person had written the Performance times on the accumulator sheet and not the Championship. And you know who that stupid score table person was. Right. Me. So I really beat myself up about that. Tika would have been near the top of the scores, but instead was almost dead last.

Tika blew pretty much all of her dogwalk down contacts this weekend, big-time. Usually she's close, and in the past we haven't missed many Qs or points because of dogwalk down contacts, but now she has apparently decided to just not bother.

It just kept going like that. The only run that went really well was Tika's Round 1 Steeplechase. She's never going to be a 1st-place winner, but she was solidly within Qing time even if you counted only the fastest dog's score, and her run was smooth.

We had some other minor victories: Boost's Team Gamblers was perfectly executed right up to the end, where I couldn't get her into a tunnel for enough extra points that might have earned us a first, but it was still a very good score. In fact, Boost's team placed 6th in Team Gamblers, and 7th in Team Relay, although those didn't help us with all of our other problems, placing a miserable 18th of 19th overall.

Tika's team placed 4th in Team Jumpers, but Tika knocked 2 bars on her run. And we placed 7th of 19th overall, for a Team Q that I didn't need particularly but I'm glad to have, I guess.

I just tried to spend as much time with these lovely critters as I could, and laugh at their antics, and snuggle them when they'd let me.

But in truth, coming home Sunday night, I realized that overall, most of the weekend I was unhappy, and the DAM Team stress didn't help that at all. And it was a bad comparison to the last week out on a road trip, having a wonderful time even in the face of adversity.

Titles and ribbons and qualifying for nationals ruin everything. Now I'm rethinking (again) when I want to try team again in July, or at the regionals in September, or even bother with Nationals. Bleah.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Courses

SUMMARY: Some interesting courses from the Haute TRACS event.

Here's a selection of interesting courses from this weekend. Coincidentally, they also are all from different judges (also judging, Tami McClung).

Team Snooker

I like Snookers that give people a lot of reasonable options so that everyone isn't running virtually the same course over and over. That's hard to do. Tammy did a nice job with this one by making 3 and 7 (and 4 of course) one-way-only during opening and closing and 2, 5, and 6 usable from any direction, any which way. Time was 50 secs for large dogs, 55 for 16", and 60 for 12".

The 4, 5, 6, and 7 were most-frequently used in the opening in various combinations. I had a two-part strategy: Find something that flows fairly nicely so I didn't have to be doing call-offs and threadles between obstacles, and secondly, hope that everyone else trying to do more complicated things crap out. Hence, my plan was (as numbered on the map) middle red to #2 to right red to #4 teeter, to left red to #5, to upper red. After that, I veered onto the dogwalk #7 for Boost because she has fast & reliable contacts, and #6 for Tika because her dogwalk up and down are iffy but her weaves are good.

It worked well except that Boost slid off the dogwalk on the way up (I guess I didn't line her up well, although she also slid off the dogwalk in the Standard ring later, and the teeter later, too) so I had to go back and redo it, and then she knocked the bar on #3 in the closing. She actually did a great job of sending out to the red after the teeter and then swinging around and sending ahead of me to the #5 pinwheel--except she knocked one of the bars there. Still, no refusals that I remember.

And I was already feeling stupid and lethargic in Tika's closing and didn't bother lining her up for the #4 teeter, so she came on from the side above the contact, earning a whistle.

Huh, I forgot to note what the higher or typical scores were for this class; sorry. Will fix that when the results are posted online.

Team Gamblers

Team Gamblers is always interesting because it's nontraditional. Funny that a USDAA friend commented to me recently that she wasn't that fond of CPE nontraditional gambles because you always had to figure out new rules, whereas traditional gambles you don't--but everyone accepts and generally likes to play Team Gambles, which are exactly the same concept as CPE nontraditional gambles. (Judge invents something. Period.)

This was a how-greedy-are-you kind of gamble. Big dogs had 30 seconds. The Aframe was worth zero, BUT it doubled any points that you had gotten up to that point. You could do it once, and then continue earning points as usual until the whistle blew. Attempting it and blowing it did nothing except waste time. However, the gotcha was this: If your dog was on the Aframe in any way at all (e.g., even holding a 2-on, 2-off) when the whistle blew, you lost EVERYTHING.

Also, if you did the weaves as a gamble from behind the line, they were worth 7 instead of 5.

Many people did some part of this sequence: tire-teeter-jump(to the left)-tire-teeter-"get to the weaves"-weaves-tunnel-weaves-jump-Aframe, where "get to the weaves" is either the tunnel or the 3 jumps after the teeter. If you completed ALL of it successfully, this sequence earned you 78 points. Most people didn't try for the whole sequence, maybe leaving out the tire at the beginning (which I left out for Tika but did with Boost), or going directly from the first weaves to the jump-Aframe, etc.

Highest score was 89, good lord, I have no idea how they managed it--even doing that sequence and then doing the tunnel under the Aframe twice would've been only 84 points and you'd have to be really really really fast to do that.

Typical scores were in the 60-64 range. Both my dogs popped out of their first set of weaves, dagnabbit, must be something in the water and not something their handler was doing. Tika ended up with 64 points, placing 19th of 43; Boost had 60, placing 28th of 73. (ANd I'm still puzzled because I thought she did 2 points MORE than Tika! Never had time to go back and check the scribe sheet.)

Grand Prix

The Grand Prix had about a 50% Qualifying rate, I believe, but very few of those were clean qualifiers. I think that only about 4 dogs out of 44 in Tika's jump height, for example, had clean runs, although a bunch qualified with 5 faults.

A lot of people had problems of one sort or another in the sequence between the dogwalk and the #15 tunnel. There was much debate about whether to send the dog to #13, and serpentine #14 into the tunnel, but I think it was tighter in reality than it looks on paper. Some people front crossed between 13 and 14 and pulled into 15; some did front crosses in both places.

Tika flew off the dogwalk while I stopped flat-footed in an attempt to get her to make the contact, then when I called her hard, she knocked the bar on #13 but still didn't turn in time to avoid the runout line on #14, so within 2 obstacles we had 15 faults. The rest was nice.

Boost was having weave pole issues a lot the first day, including here.

Another problem area for people was the 10-11-12 sequence. I handled it by running on the far side of the dogwalk, rear crossing the tunnel, and catching up to my dog for a wrap to the dogwalk. They both slowed and looked back at me, but weren't close enough to 11 for a refusal. Tika pushed/wrapped nicely, but Boost looking back at me put her into multiple-refusal-land, and this is the point in the course where I finally left. Ashley's the only one I saw who did it on that same side AND got a front cross in before the #10 tunnel. Most people ran on this side of the dogwalk, with the dog veering off towards the tire before the handler got there, sometimes taking it for an offcourse, or ended up backjumping the #11, either before or after taking it the correct way.

Coming out of the #15 tunnel to #16, an amazing number of dogs headed straight for the chute or the #20 final jump (again indicating that the actual layout was slightly different from the course map). Some dogs went around #17 or #18 or both. The #6 to #7 caused some off courses at #3. The 7-8-9 caused some off courses onto the dogwalk.

In short, lots of opportunities to screw up.

There were


The Steeplechase really wiped people out. There were some, like me, who took the Aframe path after the first set of weave poles instead of the correct path. The biggest challenge was the 12-13-14. Lots of dogs had problems with the broad jump itself, and many dogs went into the wrong end of the #14 tunnel. There were some offcourses from 10-11 over the 18 or 3, but not as many as you might think, as those were fairly obvious problems that people were prepared for.

The #5-6-7 also gave problems. I think that the jump was further to the right, in reality, so a lot of dogs were pulling past it on the left as the handler broke off towards the weaves.

Many many many missed weave entries, particularly after the #6, and it's not entirely clear to me why, unless the dog was heading for the tunnel and so came in at an odd angle. Tika had no problem. Boost made the entry but skipped the next pole, but she's been doing that a lot lately so I don't think it had much to do with the course.

Fastest times were in the mid-28-seconds, posted by Cap, Luka, and...uh...I should remember but don't (having worked that score table most of the day--wow what a long class, 5 hours!). Those fast times plus the high fault and offcourse rate kept the number of qualifiers very low, it seems to me.

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Haute TRACS Is Almost Done

SUMMARY: Some success. Some failure. Some high-tech fun. Some nifty colors.

Here's a brief wrap-up, in which we determine whether it's possible for me to actually be brief after 3 days of agility. (It's hot. Hot hot hot almost like summer. 90ish degrees. I am glad to be home, not doing more agility. A friend said it was weird that I would do three days and not all 4. This from someone who thinks that 4 days of agility in a row is a Good Thing. They are all still there, being normal and very hot and tired. I am home and clean and coolish and well-rested and typing in my blog and, apparently, weird. Who wins?)

It was largely a weekend of stupid handler tricks. Note to self: Need new brain. Details later maybe.

I thought I'd maybe get a chance to cruise around and take lots of photos, especially to help Team Small Dog's discussion of what makes cool agility fashion, but nooo, I was busy either being behind on my score table work or running my dogs or being exhausted.

I did, however, take the opportunity to photograph what really stylish agility handlers have: all agility gear in their favorite colors. Which is guess what for me.

Thursday was All Team, All Day, All Rings. Five runs each dog. Combine your scores with your 2 partners' and then if you're within 25% of the average of the top 3 teams--or within the top 50%, whichever is larger (see, USDAA wants to compete with CPE on the complexity of scoring, since they don't want ANYONE to be better than them at anything)--well, then you Qualify For Nationals. Five runs for one Q. Maybe.

OK, I have to be brief. OK. I can do this. Tika qualified. Boost didn't, capped by a memorable Jumpers run with about 4 bars down and half a dozen refusals, although the judge claimed it was only 30 faults.

But wait! All is not lost! I won two, count-them-2, things in the worker's raffle on Thursday! Vanna, would you sniff at what we won?

Thanks, Vanna! Yes, a free entry for another trial plus a big box of Guard-The-House Goodies! And a purple tug toy that I forgot to put into the picture!

Friday I started the day by earning 15 faults with Tika in Masters Standard, 15 faults with Boost in Masters Standard, 15 faults with Tika in Grand Prix, and messing up so badly in Grand Prix with Boost that halfway through I finally asked the judge "which way is out?" and he pointed and we went. Fortunately Tom Kula was laughing inside, not steaming with irritation. At least I hope so because he seems like that kind of guy.

Then Tika got a Jumpers Q, which is kind of a miracle because (A) it's Jumpers and (B) we'd not run well so far, and Boost kept it to a mere 10 faults.

Friday afternoon, Tika ran a nice pairs relay course but her partner had problems with the weaves and knocked a bar, so no Q; Boost's partner had a nice pairs relay course but Boost managed to earn 15 faults (this being my number for the weekend, I guess) in little figure 8 with only about 8 obstacles, so no Q.

And I mishandled both through the Snooker course, resulting in a Q (but not Super) for Tika and none for Boost.

In the evening, I had a lovely potluck with some friends and also briefly engaged in a conversation with two of the judges, Tom Kula and Karen Gloor, about how USDAA really should move the Nationals around to other places in the country, and I'm tired of going (but I HAVE to because it's LOCAL, you know) and the people in Arizona are tired of doing all that work (while at the same time enjoying having it there--I am paraphrasing all of this), and how People Think That USDAA Nationals Should Be About USDAA Not A Hundred Other Agility Sports (which I am fairly confident that most of the U.S. bloggers in my list (to the right) have had something to say about although I cannot now find any of those specific posts--perhaps you'll tell me where yours are and I can link to them here).

Saturday continued with non-Qing Standard for both, but I got a boost with Boost's first-ever Masters Gamblers Q (woohoo!), although Tika was over time on the gamble due to (once again) stupid handler tricks.

Steeplechase was depressing--with Boost, I forgot which loop I was on and did the second loop first, although she was clean to that point (although wasted time on a missed weave entry). And Tika knocked the next-to-the-last bar on a badly done rear cross (I was trying to push a bit more speed there). She'd have qualified (as usual) without that dang bar--but, jeeper creeper, her time was only .05 seconds under! That was almost 8 seconds slower than the fastest dog! Still, I'd have loved to get that Q, no matter how squeaky it was.

In Masters Snooker, I mishandled both dogs dramatically again, resulting in a Barely Q for Tika and a Barely Not Q for Boost. Sighhhhhhh--

But things picked up with our final run of the weekend, Jumpers, where Tika again ran clean and Boost ALMOST ran clean.

With Tika's two Jumpers Qs for the weekend, that finished her ADCH-Bronze (like a triple ADCH). I am all, like, happy happy joy joy and Tika is all, like, where's the food?

And Boost's Jumpersrun--no refusals, no spins, no runouts, and only one knocked bar, --was SUCH a joy to finally run a nice fast smooth run with her! She had a couple of hesitations that might have knocked a couple of seconds off our time, but even so her time was more than 3 seconds faster than Tika and barely 2 seconds under the fastest time, and there were some super dogs running this weekend. I am all, like, wow, bouncing around with delight and Boost is all, like, wow, Mom has energy to play way crazy tug of war after the run, not just before it!

So Tika came home with 5 Qs out of 11 possible and her ADCH-Bronze; Boost with 1 Q out of 11 possible which is one leg closer to her MAD.

And furthermore, I got to take my first ride on a Segway! Which one of my high-tech friends (Apache's dad) was tootling around on all weekend. And which was really VERY cool and I would love to ride some more! And which I asked a complete stranger to take a photo of me on it, and I said, "let's move over here so I have just grass behind me, not cars," and he moved, too, so that the cars were still behind me. I would not make a very good even-more-amateur-photographer-than-me instructor.

In other high-tech news, we demonstrate that even major canopy tears can be repaired--at least temporarily--with stylish matching duct tape, as indicated by my stylish popular agility noncompeting slip-on shoe. I don't even know what they call these. But hundreds of people wear them. Horse people too I think. Maybe even normal people, because Big 5 has sales on them all the time and there are about 270 different brands that are all basically exactly the same, just some fit and some don't.

But wait! There's more, to distract us from sad disintegrating canopy covers! We won AGAIN in Saturday's raffle!

Yes, it's another free entry, plus a Costco Samoyed-in-a-bag! No, just kidding, ha ha, I already have one dog with too much undercoat. Really it's a throw for the dogs themselves to sleep on, and we'll try it on our bed and see whether they like that better than they like curling up and shedding directly on my pillow.

However, despite all the raffle-winning excitement, the dogs are ready for me to get the danged van loaded and head for home. I did not put them in the van. They loaded themselves and gave me impatient looks while I rearranged stylish blue and purple agility gear for informative and educational photography.

And now, as this blog sinks slowly and not so briefly into the west, we leave you with one last gratuitous cute photo from this very moment:

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Friday, February 15, 2008

DAM(n) Teams

SUMMARY: Teams come, teams go...

After the chaos of the other week, trying to line up all my teams, I FINALLY just this morning got confirmation that I have a team for Tika for the April DAM team tournament--because another team lost their 3rd.

And I just now this afternoon got word that one of Boost's teammates has to have surgery, so now I need a third again for that weekend. And we've still got 2 months to go--what might happen between now and then? Or the June DAM? Or the July DAM? Who knew that agility could have so much suspense and drama?

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Team, Team, Who's Got the Team?

SUMMARY: So many DAM events, so little coherence.

Remember back when you had maybe one DAM tournament every year or two somewhere in the general vicinity of a thousand miles? Those were the days.

In this USDAA-qualifying year, we have/have had five--FIVE!--DAM events within 2 hours of my home. I skipped the one in December because I wanted the time off. Leaves me with:
  • Haute TRACS (HT)in April: A major 4-day event, 4 rings, and not even on a holiday weekend. Team has always been Thursday/Friday there, so I can't even wait for the weekend.
  • NAF in June: A smaller trial--2 rings--by a small club but still popular because of the DAM.
  • Bay Team in July (BT July): The maniacs in my club have now announced our 7th--or is it 8th?!--multiple-ring event of the year on a new weekend, but wait, let's make it 3, maybe 4 days, too!
  • Bay Team SW Regional September (BT Regional): The big one. Three days, FIVE rings, can you believe it?

For the last 2 years, Tika has been teaming with Brenn and I like it. We don't have a steady partner yet since our original came up with glaucoma and can't really compete any more. But I abandoned her for Haute TRACS for a silly name--yes, I talked two other handlers into teaming up with us because our dogs' names, combined, sounded like "Tic-tac-toe". It was a total lark, although the dogs are good, too. So Brenn went off and found another team for HT.

Meanwhile, I had confirmed with Brenn that we'd team with our one-time teammate, Savanna (who came up with "Borderin' on K-Aus", which we used with a different dog at Nationals), at NAF and at BT July.

Boost's sister, Bette, had arranged by email for us to team with Trek for Haute TRACS, who we tried to team with last year but then Trek got injured; we had used the team name "Sisters on a Trek" anyway, with a different team, but now we were goood. Well, found out this weekend that some of the email never arrived, so two of us thought we had a team, and one of us thought we didn't, so Trek was scheduled to be with someone else at HT, leaving us short a teammate.

We both went off and asked other people if they'd be interested in teaming with us at HT--the sister-dog Beck and another blue merle, Fleet, but fortunately one didn't commit right away so I was able to back out of that one, so we think we now have a solid team there with Fleet.

But also I asked Bette's mom whether we wanted to team with Trek at NAF and BT July. Oh, she told me, maybe BT July, but Bette is teaming with Brenn (they're very good friends) for NAF. Well, if you recall from above, I thought that Tika was teaming with Brenn for NAF. So it turns out that Brenn's mom was having the same problem I was having with all these events and had promised to team with Tika and Savanna AND with Bette at NAF.

So I said, OK, how about if Savanna and Tika find someone else for NAF, then, and Boost & Bette & Brenn team for NAF, and then Boost/Bette/Trek for BT July and maybe BT regional. That was OK, so I went off and found Trek's mom and confirmed that we could team with her for NAF and for BT July. Trek's mom said, are you sure, so I went back to Bette's mom, who said yes, NAF and BT July, and I confirmed with Trek. (See, we're already confused about which 2 trials, and the conversations had been only an hour or two apart).

Then I went to Savanna's mom to tell her that oops, Brenn was already committed for NAF, but we're still OK for BT July, so we'd have to find a teammate for NAF. She happened to be standing with the handler for my other tic-tac-toe dog, who had teamed with Savanna at the December DAM, where they had qualified and then were splitting up because of these other promises. We agreed that "tac" would join us for NAF.

Then, at 11:30 Saturday night, I woke in a cold sweat, trying to remember who was teamed with whom and when, and had to get paper and pen to write it all down, and discovered that I had double-booked Boost & Bette for NAF and needed to talk to Trek's mom in the morning, which I did, and she was very nice about it.

But then Savanna's mom came by to say that she had thought we were talking about the BT regional, not BT July (and, actually, I had thought so too originally on all counts except that everyone kept saying, "you mean the July BT, not the regional, right? So then I thought I was the only confused one). In fact, she had planned that, if they qualified again at Haute TRACS, then they wouldn't need to do team again for BT July and could take a rest, especially since it would likely be very hot that weekend. But if we'd be willing to take her tentatively for BT July and reevaluate after HT, she's game, and meanwile would we be willing to commit firmly for the BT Regional? We said yes (so, OK, now I have to start thinking about Boost's team for the regional, and also who to approach as a tentative replacement for Savannah if needed for BT July).

So today I sent email to everyone on my "dance card" to confirm the teams. Turns out that the "toe" handler for "tic-tac-toe" thought that our plans were tentative, so while I've been telling everyone for 3 months about our clever team, she's been making plans to rest up her dog and not overdo it on the 4-day HT trial. And the "tac" part thought that it was tentative and never confirmed, so has her own team. I am apparently a total dork for not having confirmed this thoroughly! So, as of today, I don't have a team for Tika for HT--and pretty much everyone has already settled their teams, especially after the trial this last weekend when everyone could schmooze around. Curses!

Do you follow any of this? Neither do I. I am SO stressed trying to keep track of all of this! And, of course, now having committed to teams, if we DO qualify early-on, it would be awful for me to back out of future teams to save time and money and stress. Sighhhh.... at least additional Qs (I can only hope) will be useful for advanced titles.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Team Results--Finally

SUMMARY: Tika's team not quite top 50%.

USDAA finally posted PDF of the complete team results.
Place/ # of teamsOur total after 4 rdsBest total after 4 rds30th after 4 rdsNotes
105/201 670.13 936.51809.83 Would've been nice to crack the top 50%, and I'd thought we might have done so with our gamblers runs, but oh well.
Summary: Considering that our team had one E, two less-than-ideal Snooker runs, and accumulated 40 faults, I'm happy to be near the middle.

Speculation, because I can: If we had all finished our Snookers as planned (not inconceivable--we didn't pick hard courses, but had a knocked bar in the closing in one case and lost one's brain in the other case), and if we'd avoided the E because of the broad jump challenge in jumpers (but still had that first bar down), we'd have probably finished about 34th with 804.19 points. We'd have needed 6 fewer fault points (which translates to 2 fewer actual faults) or 5 more snooker or gamblers points among us to make the finalist 30, and that's really asking a lot all around. I'm still amazed that we got in last year. That was just our year!

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Team the Third Day

SUMMARY: A little better

On Saturday morning, our team standing had gone up to 115 out of 201 after all three classes so far (Jumpers, Snooker, Standard) had been combined.

We did reasonably well in Gamblers. The opening gave fairly easy options for accruing points if you had reliable contacts and good weave entries, and the closing allowed you to collect as many jumps at 3 points each as you could. The trick was that, if you took *any* other obstacle during the closing, or if you didn't cross the finish line before your time was up, you lost all of your closing points.

Tika has a known issue with bar knocking, although she'd been doing well so far this weekend. And she didn't get most of her contacts the day before. Still, I had great confidence in her ability to make a good weave entry even from a greater than 90-degree angle, so I planned a course that had me running across her path as she descended the A-frame to try to force her to get her feet into the contact zone.

That strategy worked well, and she got her back-to-back 7-point weave poles perfectly. I don't think that we could have managed any more opening points; we had 34 and the highest-scoring big dog had 41 in the opening, but that was Tala (Boost's mom), and Tika just cannot cover the ground or the weave poles flat out like Tala can. We also managed 5 jumps in the closing, which was pretty good; a very few dogs got 6 (including Tala) but I saw as many attempting 6 who didn't cross the finish in time and lost those points.

Overall, Tika placed 30th of 145 dogs or so, and teammate Brenn was right there at 32nd. Trane took a fairly conservative course, since his substitute handler wasn't as familiar with him, and also bobbled a tough teeter entry (again a result of unfamiliarity with the dog) so didn't score super-high, but didn't crap out, either.

I wasn't able to see our final standings--too much of a crowd around the single book in which they placed team standings for all 200 championship plus 100 performance teams (total of about 800 people trying to look in the same book)--but I'm hoping that that at least pushed us into the top 50%. Not as nice as being in the top 30 in th finals like last year, but oh well! Better than Tika's teams the first 2 years in Scottsdale!

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