Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So What's Going On on Facebook?

SUMMARY: A status cloud generated from (in theory) all of my status posts since I joined facebook.

This means (in theory) that it picked the most common words (other than "and" and like that) and represented by size the relative frequency. [And apparently it uses only words of more than 3 letters, and probably avoids common words like is, does, and can-- hence appearance of isn't, can't, doesn't but not the positive versions? I don't think I'm that negative--] So what does this tell us? Hmm, it says that I have enough time on my hands to squeeze in a use of And that I do a lot of thinking, pondering and wondering.

You can compare and contrast to my September 29, 2008 clouds (generated by "wordle") for August and also September 2008.

Or here's the wordle for some portion of my recent posts--the tool takes RSS feed info but I don't know how it collects it. It's interesting that "Boost" doesn't seem to show up here at all (you can click on this to see a larger readable version).

 Do you think that, in both cases, it shows a preoccupation with the USDAA nationals?

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

And While Being Not At the Nationals--

SUMMARY: I *was* at the nationals! After a nice dogwalk--er, walk with the dogs.

This afternoon, took the dogs out to a park we sometimes go to where people don't seem to yell at you if you have your dogs off leash if they're under control. Lots of people with their dogs off leash. Huge flat lawn where there can be a soccer game and still lots of room to do frisbee with the dogs and no one will even notice. Trail over a nice steep hill with undomesticated vegetation that the dogs can sniff around plus gopher holes galore. Fun.

So about that "if they're under control" thing. I took a pocketful of smelly Zukes with me to practice calling Tika back to me, rewarding, and releasing. She was good on the flat as long as there was no distraction, but she blew me off repeatedly on the hill, or came reluctantly along a path somewhat akin to what you'd see in Family Circus. And then finally she didn't come back at all, and I ended up pursuing her all the way around the hill and back down and halfway into the park before she turned around and I grabbed her and told her what for.

Then when I needed the "come", when she saw a couple of small dogs running and decided to charge over to investigate, I could see her step falter briefly at my call and then she just decided to ignore me again.

Back to remedial recalls. I've done this with her so often--but not often enough.

Fortunately she's good with other dogs, it's just that she often scares the *owners* because she charges in so fast. These were Yorkies or Skyes or some small terrier like that, and when she got near, one of them charged at HER barking ferociously, and Tika put her ears back, skidded to a halt, and turned to come right back to me.

We got in about 45 minutes of frisbee and hiking, and then 15 minutes later when we got home, they wanted to play in the yard, too.

However, I had other plans: Made a huge bowl of popcorn and sat in my office with the USDAA Steeplechase National [World] Championships final rounds playing in live stream on BOTH of the computers in my office (because the live streaming would freeze periodically while catching up on the download and this way one or the other computer was always showing action because they'd download at different times) set to full-screen display.

And also had facebook up to the USDAA page and my own page, posting comments and reading other people's comments as we went along, so it was almost like being in a crowd of agility people sitting in the bleachers watching the show! The next best thing to being there!

All the excitement once again; super-fast runs, amazing over-the-top handling, no holds barred full-out competition with some of the best dogs in the world (there were several World Team dogs in the assorted finals tonight, along with plenty of past champions of various sorts).

A lot of Bay Teamers just missed being in the Steeplechase finals--by fractions of seconds in a few cases. Dang! But my club still had a great showing. And not merely Bay Teamers but people I know fairly well--

Ashley Deacon and Luka (classmates) won the 16" Steeplechase for I believe the 4th time!

In 22", Nancy Gyes/Ace and Jim Basic/Sweep (our long-time instructors) were 1st and 2nd for the longest time but got barely edged out and ended up 3rd and 5th, pretty fine work for the hundreds of 22" dogs entered! And Diana Wilson and Cassidy (traveled to nationals with them 2 years ago), who won the semifinals(!) made what I believe is their first appearance in the finals as first seed, but they had bobbles in the final round, although you could still see the speed of that team. Silvina Bruera and Maja (classmates) also had bobbles but looked pretty darned good.

And in 26", an all-border-collie-except-one-terv group, Rob Michalski and Wings the Tervuren WON (have been involved in bay team together for a very long time & tika & his other dog are doing DAM teammates in december)! And Channan Fosty with Icon had a lovely smooth run to just get edged out and into 3rd place! TWO bay teamers on the podium!

It was exciting and exhausting. I love watching the finals at nationals; that's always one of my favorite parts of going. This wasn't quite as good as being there, but it was still pretty darned good. Thanks to USDAA for working out the kinks in their live feed.

So now I'm worn out physically and emotionallly and headed for bed. Yeehah agility fans!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Rueing the Day

SUMMARY: OK, I knew it would hit sooner or later. About not being at the Nationals.
A dog whom Tika beats regularly in the Performance Grand Prix made it to the finals at Scottsdale. I don't begrudge them the success--they're very consistent performers and deserve to be there. It's just--well--


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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the Not-At-The-Nationals Ranch--

SUMMARY: Just sitting here-- well, OK, busy--

It is odd to not be at the Nationals when all the usual crowd is there. It is odd to not be there when Tika not only qualified in everything this year, but qualified in everything in BOTH Championship and Performance. Definitely one of her better years. It's just that random sore-can't-run thing that finally turned me off to making that very long, very tiring, very expensive trip.

Got email from a friend last night who's there, saying "We picked up Tika's ADCH-bronze plaque for you!" Whoaaaa! I had forgotten all about that. First time in a long time there's been anything there for me to pick up, and I wasn't there.

This year, of course (just last month), Tika completed her ADCH-Silver so the bronze was wayyyy back in my memory banks. And, of course as we expected, next year the nationals will not be on the west coast for me to pick up anything.

Caroline Winata posted on Facebook last night: "For those of you not at natl's; Ken just announced that the [USDAA Nationals] will be moving to either Louisville or Philly next year [2010]." There ya go, what can ya do? Anyway, takes the pressure off me to make the decision whether to go.

Thank goodness for facebook--semilive updates on what everyone I know is up to out there in Scottsdale.

Meanwhile--lots going on here, mostly not having to do with the dogs, and they are just insane; still haven't recovered from being mostly alone for 5 days. Doesn't help that we've had no class 3 of the last for weeks (Power Paws Camp, then class, then I was at Dland, now Nationals). Dogs are getting into the trash (never happens!), chewing things up (vacuum cleaner is busy!), barking at things (well, it happens, but this is over the top), hanging out under my desk leaning against my legs. BORED Tika. BOREDER Collie!

Trying to decide what agility to do and when to wrap up the year. I have three options--
* CPE trial in Turlock (2 hrs away) next (not this coming) weekend. I didn't send in my entry and missed the closing date. I have a feeling that they'd welcome more entries because all trials seem to be underattended these days. But I'm liking being at home and getting stuff done.
* CPE trial in Elk Grove (2 hrs away) Thanksgiving weekend, 3 days. I did 2 or 3 days of this for several years, winning the Turkey Trot with one or both of my dogs Friday night. Didn't go the year I had knee surgery, then the following year something else odd happened and I had to pull out, and now I'm out of the habit. But a friend thinks that her dog will C-ATE that Saturday (sort of like an ADCH-gold)--they're pretty reliable Qers in CPE so it's a good bet. Do I want to go all the way out there for one day? Maybe. (If it's still open--just a one-ring trial, I think.) Because--
* Next trial after that is USDAA mid-December. That's a long way for the poor insane agility dogs to wait for some actual agility stuff.


Meanwhile--back to photography.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Disneyland Versus The World Championships

SUMMARY: Me to Disneyland. Everyone else to Scottsdale. Musings.

Today's Facebook status:
Ellen Finch wishes the very best of luck to all of her friends who are heading out soon for the Nationals aka world championships in Scottsdale--while *she* bags out this year and goes to Disneyland! Woohoo! Maybe not tons less expensive than Nationals, but not nearly as stressful! Such as I don't have to get up at 5 a.m. to walk and memorize 6 different courses. Enjoy!

It feels so odd not to be going, after all those years of attending. Tika is completely qualified for everything this year, and in fact has done extremely well in all the Performance Tournaments, placing in several Steeplechases and Grand Prixs, and taking gold with her partner Brenn in team at a big SMART trial and then silver even at the Regional championships. She's done so well in Performance uin general, despite not starting Perf until late spring, that she's in range of Top Ten in both Gamblers and Snooker right now. This could be her big year.

BUT--She's also had to be scratched from several runs or even full days this year when her neck comes up sore. Like that heartbreaking Steeplechase finals at the Regionals where she ran half of it beautifully and then yelped and came out of the tunnel limping, and that was it for the rest of the day.

I couldn't stand the disappointment of getting to Scottsdale (all that time and money and hope) and have to scratch her from her runs. I really couldn't stand it if we got lucky and made it to the finals and that happened. Not that I think it's super likely--which is another reason for why I'm not really missing the nationals this year. We're good, but we're not great. Sometimes we get lucky. But that's an expensive hope to pursue.

And Boost just still isn't ready. She Qed in Team by the skin of her teeth thanks mostly to her two teammates (I think we were just a couple of points out of 1200 or so above the cut-off), and that was her ONLY team Q this year out of all our tries.

She hasn't Qed in Grand Prix since May of 2008.

She did somehow Q twice in Steeplechase this tournament year. Twice. Out of 12 tries. Sure, those 2 qualified her to run at Nationals, but the one time of those two when we actually ran in Round 2, she ran past a jump for elimination.

I will really miss watching all the final rounds. There is nothing like being there in the stands, on the edge of your seat, watching the clock as the finest competitors in the country (and even in the world) try to peel another hundredth of a second off the clock to take the prize. The runs are blazingly fast and the handling is on at the extreme edge of human capacity at times--watching some of these handlers get to position and make a front cross (in which their body turns 180 to 270 degrees or more at a full run) with impeccable timing is something that videos just can't do justice to.

I'll miss not being there to take tons of candid photos of all of my agility friends, as I have at the previous seven Nationals I've attended. But on the other hand then I won't be looking at hundreds of photos to sort and label. (Never did finish the last couple of years' worth, for example.)

But in the larger scheme of things, I'm generally glad I'm not going. The stress is off, the push is off, the managing of two high-energy dogs for a week out of town is off.

And I'm going to have a blast at Disneyland without them. And, OK, I'm sure I'll still have a squillion photos to sort and label when I get home anyway.

So I'm off to Disneyland tomorrow through Sunday, and many many of my agility friends will be dribbling out of town between now and Monday to make their way to Arizona for next week's competition. Most likely the last time it'll be on the west coast for a very long time.

Ah, well, Boost, if only you'd become the Super Agility Dog a bit faster!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Competitive Dog Sports -- Another Pass-Around Thang

SUMMARY: About me & my dog sports.
Found on Facebook. I'm posting here because I've answered many of these questions before and I'm just going to link to 'em. If you want to do this note on facebook and tag your dog-sport pals, copy & paste these instructions as well as the rest of the content:
Copy and paste the content below, then erase the other person's answers and put in your own. Tag as many Dog Nuts as you can think of, including the person who sent it to you as "first tag." Don't be shy to make your answers long, if need be.

NOTE: This will be a very long read if you also read the links in which I answer some questions at length. Don't you have something better to do with your time?

List the dog sports in which you compete. If you have a particular favorite please tell us, and tell us why!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank or BLAME for getting you into competitive dog activities?
My obedience instructor started taking agility classes and recommended it to me. For my active, eager dog. Who is also clearly to blame.

Please tell the story of how you got started in dog sports. Where/when (year please, don't be shy!)/why/etc.
Remember, you asked. (First competition: January 1996.)

What is your FAVORITE thing about dog sports, and what is your LEAST FAVORITE?
One answer, from June 2009, on "why agility?"
What I hate about agility? Disappointing myself, sometimes; the expense; the amount of time it takes away from everything else in my life.

What breeds or mixes thereof do you/have you owned? Please list their name, their breed (or mix thereof) and then their BEST quality as a sport dog and their WORST quality as a sport dog.
Whoa, can you believe I've never done a post on this? (At least not that I'm finding.) This would make a good future blog post. Summary:
  • Remington, Squirrelhund (Lab/Shepherd probably). Almost never dropped a bar. Loved to learn. Could be pretty fast. Extremely sensitive to my moods and shut down a lot.
  • Jake, Semidachshund (sheltie mix probably, maybe beagle?). Took forever to learn anything new. But once he got it, very reliable.
  • Tika, Craussie (Aussie cross, maybe Husky?). Pretty darned fast, loves doing agility, easily distracted, fights the "rules" every step of the way. 
  • Boost, Border Collie. Extremely fast and driven. Loves to learn. Very focused. Wants to do agility. Light on the concepts of keeping bars up and doing weaves from beginning to end.

How many dog beds do you currently own and what did you pay for the most expensive one?
  • Double-thick bathmats once were primary dog beds. (3 or 4, bought on clearance for about $15 each in the early '90s. Tucked away now or used at trials when sleeping in the van.)
  • Official dog mats, thick pile fleece with blue border. (3, one in kitchen, one in crate in bedroom, one for trials. About $15 each at pet stores through the years.)
  • Raised PVC bed frames with rip-stop "hammock". (3, one in office, two in kitchen. Bought one at giant February AKC dog show at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. Two bought at USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale. $55 each in 2001. )
  • Big thick dog bed cushion with zippered cover. (2, both in office, one on a PVC bed frame--which the dogs take turns using--one from Costco about $20, one won in agility trial raffle.)
  • Down-filled bed with stuff bag. (1, stored in closet, won in raffle.)
  • Giant fleece/fabric sturdy throw used as dog bed in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Smaller fleece rectangle with raised sides in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Spiffy actual nice plush dog bed, bought for Jake with a Christmas gift certificate to PetSmart (so it was either free or $79.99, depending on your viewpoint, which could make it the most expensive). (Jake died only a month later, but he loved it while he had it. Tucked in the corner of my office, Boost uses it all the time. Tika sometimes uses it.)
(Short post in which this photo originally appeared.)

What is the most you ever paid for a large bag of dog food? Probably $55. Same thing sells at a discount at nearby Pet Club for $35.

What is the most you have ever paid for a dog toy, and what was it?
No clue. Probably in the $20 range from time to time.

List the vehicles you have bought specifically for traveling to and from dog competitions.
MUTT MVR! Read my 2005 post about it in the Quintessential agility car.

What is the furthest you have ever traveled in order to attend a dog event?
Scottsdale, Arizona (USDAA Nationals 2004,05,06,07,08).
Second furthest: Either San Diego, CA (USDAA Nationals, 2000 and 2001), or Eureka, CA (2002, chasing the last gambler's let for Remington's NATCH).

How many dog-related pieces of clothing do you currently own?
As of March 2007.

How many dog toys do you own? Don't forget to include the ones in the car and in various closets and at your in-laws' house.
As of November 2008. (Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger version of it to make out more details.)

(Read the original post that goes with the photo.)

How many dog-related books do you own?

Remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. (Read the post that goes with the photo.) Here's the list of the books as of 2006. (Read the short post that goes with the list.)

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? If so what were the circumstances?
Accidentally when Jake and Remington got into a fight between me, the couch, and the coffee table.

Has your dog ever peed/pooped/barfed someplace that they really shouldn't have? If so, tell us what happened!
Are you kidding? I own dogs! Duh!

Has your dog ever stolen a major item of human food? Tell us!
Not that I recall.

When competing in dog sports, did you ever admire someone else's dog from afar so much that you will always remember that dog? If so, please tell us all about it.
So many dogs! Several Border Collies stood out, including one who would eventually become Boost's mom. Several mixed-breed dogs! I love their distinctive looks and how well they do even against Border Collies.

Of all your friend's dogs, which dog would you like to take home and keep if you had the chance? You can list three, just to be fair...or just one if you're ruthless!
I've had such a wide variety of my own, I now know that there is no perfect dog. Any one will have its issues and its successes. I don't covet others's dogs.

What has been your most embarrassing moment thus far while competing in dog sports?
Probably a tie between:
  • Me and Jake running a beautiful first half of a Pairs Relay course, to have our partner cry, "Where's the baton?!" as I came racing in, empty handed. (That's an automatic disqualification.)
  • Running into the teeter totter. Read about it here.

What has been your most shining moment thus far while competing in dog sports?

Oh, so very many! Jake's MAD (the first I ever earned). Remington's NATCH (my first dog's championship, FINALLY). Winning Full House with zillions of points over and over in CPE trials with Tika and Boost. Boost doing the weave poles correctly! Winning a ribbon at USDAA Nationals with Tika in an individual event. Making Team finals at the USDAA Nationals with Tika. Finally getting Jake's 5th Gamblers Q for his ADCH. Finally qualifying for Grand Prix semifinals with Tika with a smooth and beautiful and aggressive run. Having a Perfect Weekend with Tika. Earning a trophy at CPE Nationals with Tika--one Q away from a perfect 3-day Nationals with 1sts or 2nds in everything (and I mean of everyone competing, not just her class). Remington getting excited about agility again and running like when he first started. Jake jumping into my arms at the end of a run. I dunno--I could go on and on. 220 trials over 14 years--lots going on in there!

What are your goals for the future with your dogs?

Not sure any more. Once upon a time it was to win More First Places and Make It To the Nationals Finals. But now, I dunno, I'm thinking "retire and do a lot of hiking."

If the Dog Fairy could grant you one wish (sky is the limit), what would it be?

I love my dog family the way it is now. Love the dogs, love how they get along together, love how they've come along in their training. Don't want to have to start over again. Keep them around and healthy and active for many many years.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

6th Photo

SUMMARY: An exercise from the "taggers" gamebook.

There are multiple meanings for "tagging" in the blogosphere (read my earlier post on this topic). Here, we leap into the fray with the type of tagging in which someone does xxx on their blog, then says to you, "I'm tagging you so that you have to do xxx on your blog, then you must tag nnn more people to do the same."

OK, I don't play that game. Unless I want to. And, if I want to, I'll do it even if I'm NOT tagged. But then I let others self-tag as I did if the game appeals to him or her. Here's the game as described in a Many Muddy Paws post:

Check your Photo Archives (or wherever you store your images), select the 6th file folder, open it, post the 6th picture contained there, and give the story behind it.

I thought, wow, I have a weird way of storing my photos, and this is a dog blog, and I don't want to post a blurry photo of my attempt to find a missing sprinkler valve or the like... plus I have nested folders within nested folders within nested folders.

But, when I followed the rules as best I could, here's what I got, and I'm happy to post it:

This is Jim Basic in September of 2001 with Mick, his first agility dog. Mick was the first dog in the US to earn agility championships in two different organizations. In USDAA, he was in the Top Ten in all four categories in multiple years. He was the first to earn the top lifetime award--platinum--and for a very long time had more Masters Qs than any other dog in existence, even after he retired. In fact, he's still #22 on the list, about 4 years after retirement.

In this photo, they're in the Grand Prix National Championship finals in Del Mar (near San Diego). They know that they have to hustle to try to win; they have to scrape together every fraction of a second that they can manage. And they're doing it, they're looking good, but Jim knows that he has to give everything he's got for one more win.

And so Jim makes an extremely daring, aggressive, and risky front cross right before the last jump of the run--and misjudges his turn, resulting in the photo that he probably most regrets of any I ever took:

(Note Scot Bartley in the background, calmly giving Jim a fault for touching the equipment--) With great humor, Jim just rolled over, laughed, held up a piece of the now-broken jump in victory, and said hello to Mick, who thought the whole thing was quite interesting. Jim has always been a good sport on top of being a tough competitor, a talented instructor, and a friend to his dogs.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Moving the Cynosports Games

SUMMARY: Should the USDAA Nationals be held in different locations?

For those who feel that the Cynosports World Games ("USDAA Nationals") should be made available to other people in other parts of the country, there's now an online petition that you can sign. (Thanks Johann The Dog for the pointer.)

I said:
As one who never wants to fly my dogs anywhere, it seems a shame that people in other parts of the country don't have the same opportunity that I have had for 5 years to drive to the World Cynosports games. If I'd had to fly, I'd have never gone, never earned a ribbon in any event, never made it to the team finals, never gotten my semifinalist polo shirt. Other people want these opportunities, too.

The other real reason is that I'm tired of getting tempted into going and using up a week or more of vacation and of the expense. If it's out of the drivable area, I won't be tempted!


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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Random Thoughts from Scottsdale Trip

SUMMARY: All kinds of experiences, thoughts, and rumors.

  • Videos: I got absolutely no videos of any of my dogs' runs. Forgot to take the camera out of the car, or forgot to take it ringside, or forgot to ask someone to videotape... I blame it on my head being stuffed to the gills with fluid which flowed constantly out of my nose and eyes. One friend videotaped at least a couple of our runs on her camera, so maybe I'll get something eventually.
  • More on the tire blow-out: The back side of my right front tire blew out. I don't know why. Dogg thinks we hit something, because something made a really loud odd flapping then ricocheting noise under the car, which I think might have been the first piece of the tire coming apart, but which could also possibly have been whatever caused it to come apart. We pulled over at the very convenient next exit to examine the tires, found nothing, and 2 miles down the freeway the tire really blew out. It was not at all difficult to handle the car and get over to the side. Normally I'd have changed it myself, but we were too close to traffic for me to be comfortable without a large truck between it and me. It took less than half an hour for the Tire Guy to show up, and not long at all to replace the tire. Just a small nuisance, really; we were very lucky there. Here are the very odd things about this experience:
  • Coincidence? Karma? For about the previous 15 minutes, we had been talking about flat tire experiences.
  • While we were waiting, I noticed that the tie-downs for the four-foot-long table on my car-top carrier had come loose, and if we had driven much longer, it would have probably flown off onto the highway behind us, causing maybe a major disaster.
  • We passed some friends on the freeway just before this, who kind of waved and we waved back but eventually we separated. They told us later that they were trying to tell us that our table was coming loose, but we didn't get that message. They apparently also had a blowout an hour or so later.
  • Where I spent an hour Wednesday morning:
  • Sudden losses: At the PNS finals, they had an official moment of silence in memory of Wishy the Writer's husband's dog Mesa, who had earned a bye into that final round. So hard to lose a dog; particularly hard when it's sudden and unexpected; even more so on your way to the national championships where you have a good chance of winning. Hug your dogs. Appreciate them.
  • Walking: For Thursday through Sunday, my pedometer measured 40.25 miles. And it was attached to me the whole time. So presumably it measured what I walked. That's a huge site!
  • Crating error: When I got to Westworld, I discovered that, instead of packing Tika's and Boost's crates, I had packed Boost's and Jake's. (I remember thinking how well they seemed to fit into the car--but I was packing things differently because there were two of us and I wasn't taking a lot of things that I usually take.) Thank goodness for agility friends who pack extra stuff; one of my dogs would've been very cramped otherwise.
  • Long legs: If you calculated the average height of the Steeplechase finalist humans, would it be wayyy above the average height of Americans? Above the average height of agility competitors at Scottsdale? Above the average agility competitor in general? Think Ashley Deacon, Stacy Peardot-Goudy, Terry Smorch, Sandy Rogers, Robert Yi, Channon Fosty, and so many others--
  • Crating with friends and walking and talking: We reserved 25 crating spaces in a row for Bay Teamers. I think that was only about two-thirds of the club members who actually attended; the others presumably crated out of their RVs. It was very nice to leave one's dogs and belongings surrounded by familiar people; as Dogg noted, even if everyone wasn't there all the time, usually there was someone there most of the time. Also, four of us shared the same channel on our walkie talkies so we could keep in touch about what we were doing, who needed what, and when we'd be meeting up again. It was fun.
  • My USDAA news posts: I wrote up course analyses for three of the courses for posting on the USDAA news site, which USDAA's Brenna Fender jam packed with stories, results, and course maps. Now that was a full-time job! My articles:
  • European Standard
  • Team Snooker
  • Team Gamblers
  • Tired? Sick? Recovering? Man, I was way wiped out yesterday! Mostly unloaded the car, tried to catch up with all my email and photos but failed to get through half of each before crawling into bed and sleeping for about 10 hours. I've been up for 2 hours now and am mostly through my email and newspapers and snail mail, still trying to load all the photos onto the computer, and I'm drooping and about ready to go back to bed to sleep as long as my body wants.
  • Future nationals: Oh, what fun are rumors if you don't spread them and cause some angst? Ken said at Wednesday night's dinner that they're evaluating other sites and would love to hold it elsewhere if they can find an appropriate location. Later in the weekend, I spoke to someone who said they had spoken to someone who said they had spoken to Ken who said that the event would be at Westworld for the next 3 years. This seems silly to me, since there's a huge contingent of competitors who are being left out, but on the other hand(s), (a) someone from Westworld (?) got the microphone during one of the final rounds and said something about looking forward to having this event there in the future (could be just wishful thinking?) and (b) the finals were filled with people from around the country, so the top competitiors seem to get there no matter what. But it sure would be nice for some of them to have shorter trips and not have to fly their dogs, and for me not to be tempted into spending more than a week of vacation every year on the Cynosports event.
  • The Smoothies, as before, were wonderful tasty fruity treats in the heat. You could get peach (mix), mango (mix), strawberry (mix), or banana (fresh), and they were all wonderful, especially if you mixed two flavors. Mmm! Even my dogs loved the tastes they got.
  • I took another 800ish photos. Still haven't finished Montreal's photos! I'm thinking that a lot of this weekend's will be junk, though, as I shot a lot of photos of people and dogs while they were moving around.
  • RV onsite: Having the trailer onsite was very handy for Dogg and her dog, who got plenty of air conditioned rest between runs. With two dogs in different rings, I didn't have time to go alllll the way out to the far lot between runs. But it was very nice to have it so close when getting up early for walkthroughs and at the end of the day if we wanted a change of clothes or anything else. Nice to have a refrigerator onsite. Funky small shower, and you're really living in close proximity to someone else so that getting up in the night to visit the Little Agility Handler's Room is a notable disturbance, but I'd be willing to do it again. Just really missed the onsite web connection. Home away from home:
  • Who's your daddy?

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Home From Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Uneventful trip.

Other than the coke spilled on the car floor, the trip was thankfully uneventful. Lots of good conversation, quiet dogs, a visit to Casa de Fruta for some mint-swirl fudge.

There was an odd moment of disorientation last night as we were entering the L.A. area and moisture spattered on our windshield. It took me a few seconds of wondering where the water was coming from before it occurred to me: Oh, yeah, sometimes water falls from the sky! It has been SOOOO long since we've had rain, and after a week in sunny 90-ish dry heat in Scottsdale, it was the furthest thing from my mind.

Now I'm back in San Jose, it's cool, windy, and rainy. Dogs have too much energy, I have 500 emails, 5 phone calls, hundreds of photos, a heap of dirty laundry, FOUR more shirts (! -- and I keep saying I don't need any more t-shirts or polo shirts, thanks! although the new polo is special), and lots of memories to sift through. We'll see how much I get done before collapsing in bed.

...oh, yeah, and I have to fill out my absentee ballot that I ordered so I can get it done ahead of time and not worry about having to get to the poll on election day. Huh. How's that work again?

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday at Scottsdale

SUMMARY: A busy day and I didn't actually do anything.

My first day at the World Cynosports Whoosits was uneventful but somehow extremely busy, although I didn't enter today's sole class.

Woke early, walked the dogs, edited some photos while eating breakfast.

The RV Guy told us about a Discount Tire place just the other side of the freeway from Westworld--how convenient is that?--so I took the van over and got a new tire while finishing editing my photos (this is a sloowwww ancient computer). Then I sat in the Starbucks parking lot for an hour, uploading the photos, providing captions, and adding this morning's Taj MuttHall entry.

Stopped at the grocery store for ice. Back to the RV, walked the dogs again, then drove over to the crating area to unload our gear and get set up. Walked all four rings in which the course was set up to get a feel for it so that I could write about it for USDAA. Followed Dogg and Porsche (doesn't that sound like a Wall Street firm name?) to their ring around 2:00 to videotape their run, then watched other competitors of various heights ffor about an hour, taking notes and talking to people about their impressions of the course.

Tracked down our favorite doggie chiropractor because Tika was acting stiff and sore all day, besides never wanting to jump up into her crate the whole trip down yesterday. After working over all of Tika's joints, Ziji said that basically Tika was "a train wreck." Tika has always been much improved with Ziji's ministrations, and I've also now got her back on the rimadyl.

I might scratch her from Steeplechase Quarterfinals tomorrow, since we're so unlikely to move on in that anyway, but I'd really like to run team and also, preferably, Grand Prix. We'll see how she looks in the morning.

I finally finished lunch around 4:00. Now it's 5:30 and time to head over for the welcome/awards dinner. Where did the day go? And I took hardly any photos, too! I have an article halfway written for the USDAA site about Wednesday's class, but the person to whom I have to give it isn't arriving until tomorrow sometime, so I have time to finish it.

Meanwhile, once again at Westworld I kept an eye out for a flaming Yul Brenner, but so far we seem to be safe.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Trip To Scottsdale 2008

SUMMARY: Mostly hunky dory. With a blip or two.

Dogg, my traveling companion this year, arranged for an RV rental at Westworld. I told Dogg that if we left my house by 8 a.m., we should be in Scottsdale by 10 p.m. no problem. So she arranged to meet RV Guy at Westworld at 11, when he would turn over a fully functional and ready-to-go RV. We actually hit the freeway at 7:40, so we were good!

All three dogs (my two and token Corgi Porsche) behaved themselves very well the entire trip, even though that meant that they ended up in their crates for most of 16 hours with only a few short walks interspersed.

For the most part, the trip went very smoothly. We had a little bit of an issue right at the city limits of Blythe, which involved car-part modifications like this:

But all together, we were in Scottsdale at 9:30, had a late dinner, did some grocery shopping, verified that I could make an Internet connection at the Starbucks by the grocery store (because I have an AT&T account anyway), and discovered that RV Guy had the trailer there but not set up. We responded politely to his questions (like "Do you need the water hooked up tonight?" Correct answer: "Yes please." Internal answer: "Are you nuts? Why do you think we're paying all this $ for an RV instead of sleeping in a tent?") and were finally in bed and asleep sometime after midnight.

More photos and narrative here.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woo Hoo! We're Here and We're Connected!

SUMMARY: IN Scottsdale with Wifi.

OK, we're here, we're across the street from westworld, I've found the starbucks with internet connection and, even though they're closed for the night, I can still get onto the web, so I think I'm good for the week! Now we have to go find the guy with our RV...

'Night. See you tomorrow.


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Off to Nationals to Create More Unsorted Photos!

SUMMARY: Have skimmed through some photos from the weekend, but mostly it's been getting ready to go to Scottsdale.

Well, I have not by any means finished going through all my Monterey photos. You can pretend that the birds in these photos are dogs if you need a dog-photo fix.

Because the area was socked in with fog, we spent our "sunset shoot" looking for cool images like these, which were just lying around on the beach waiting for our cameras to suck them up.

In case you were wondering, this is sort of what you see a lot of when you go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a group of 50 photographers:

And here I am in another experiment with self-portraiture.

Meanwhile, traveling companions Debbie and Porsche (the dog, not the vehicle) dropped by most of their stuff today, and it's now all neatly stowed in my van waiting for the very last last-minute additions bright and early. We expect to be on the road by 8:00 and in Scottsdale by 10 p.m.

I seriously doubt I'll get a post in tomorrow, but hopefully Wednesday, unless my computer fails to recognize its power cord again--

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Really Prepping for Nationals

SUMMARY: Trying to clean up the small list of things that it's good to review.

This week's training focus has been on things that I can work on in the yard, that review issues that we've had problems with lately, and just a broad spectrum of things that we might encounter at Scottsdale.

Because Tika was sore last week/weekend, I don't want to do much with her to jar her neck, but since she's enthusiastically running and playing tug with no signs of pain this week, I'm doing some training but being selective about it.

Last night I took only Boost to class. For the second week in a row, we've been doing only Jumpers work (by popular demand... how'd we get a class with no contact worries but lots of jumping issues?! Didn't the world used to be the other way around? Like Tika, for example...) And, wow, where did I get a dog who can DO JUMPERS COURSES?! We did not have a single refusal all evening, and the only runout was one where others had trouble, too. She's still knocking a lot of bars, but, man, she was flying! And even doing rear crosses! And serps! And wayyy lateral lead-outs! And everything! What fun!

  • Boost: Assorted exercises to get her to focus on obstacles ahead of her instead of on me.
  • Boost: Lots of jumping long rows of jumps (well... what I can fit in my yard). Thanks to a friendly reminder from an online friend, I dug out my Susan Salo notes from wayyyy back--which is how I worked with Boost when we first started-- and set up some sequences. It's very interesting to see how rough she really is over these things, but how very quickly she figures it out and starts bounce-jumping everything without knocking the bars. But every little change I make is almost like starting over. For example, on one sequence (about 6', 8', 10', 11', and 12' apart with various low heights on the bars), after she had run it smoothly 4 times, I went through and bumped the distance about 2 inches between everything--and she was back to double-striding and knocking bars the first couple of times. But she very quickly got back to bounce-jumping cleanly. Clearly I haven't done enough of this kind of work with her. Silly me. But based on class last night, I think that this plus the focus exercises are making a big difference. Keeping my fingers crossed!
  • Boost: Tires. I hauled the tire out from behind the shed, because at 2 of the last 3 trials she ran under a tire. Incorporating it into sequences, running ahead of her and behind her, approaching from different angles, turning afterwards, and so on.
  • Boost: Broad jump. Because we haven't done many of them (although there was one in class last night on a slight angle) and I know they're going to show up in a tough place again at Nationals.
  • Boost: Table. Still working on the staying down and not doing the hydraulic elbow-lift thing. Although I think the best solution is still to work on it right before we go into the ring.
  • Tika: Because her contacts have become so iffy, I'm just trying to do a ton of dogwalks and Aframes every day. More on the dogwalk, since it's not so hard on the neck and shoulders. I figure that if she has 100 good contacts in her memory when we get to Scottsdale, that she'll think more about doing them right while we're there.
  • Tika: Low-stress jumping, and not much of it. Using a couple of Susan Salo-type drills, with the bars mostly at 8" and 12" with some 16". Just so she stays in the groove and gets in a relaxed jumping mindset.
  • Tika: Snooker and Gamblers kind of moves, with tunnels, very low jumps, and occasional 6-pole weaves.
  • Boost: Start-line stays. Because she broke hers a couple of times last weekend. I used to try to be sure to reward staying at least 25-35% of the time, but I've slacked off because she's been so good. Never give up, never give up!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scottsdale Actual Walking and Running Schedules

SUMMARY: Imagine yourself at Scottsdale.

Now you, too, can wallow in the pleasure of reading the actual walking and running schedules, savor figuring out when you actually need to be where, and vicariously luxuriate in walking five or six courses between 7:30 and 9:00 and then running them all at some random time as late as 4:30 later that day. Don't you feel energized? Enlivened?

And here's the site layout. We're crating in the upper right near the end of the big blue rectangle; Ring #5 at the lower left (labeled #6 on the map; why they decided to call them "Main Ring" and "Ring 1" through "Ring 5" is a puzzlement) is about a quarter mile (.4 km) from there. For perspective, each of the rings is at least 100 feet (30.5 m) wide.

We'll get our exercise, for sure. Some people take bikes, scooters, Segways, or other modes of local transport. I'm looking forward to the walking to keep me active and in shape.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Cynosports Info Available

SUMMARY: Woo hoo, running orders and teammates and everything are available here!

They sent a final confirmation with a real, live, confirmed replacement 3rd for Tika's team. Someone had posted a comment in response to my earlier blog about losing our 3rd to say that they thought Darlene Woz and her dog might be entered as draws, but although I know who she is and have talked to her briefly at trials, I wasn't sure that she'd know me and I didn't have contact info anyway, so I let it go. But guess whom USDAA matched us with! Yup. It's cool to know that it's someone I'll recognize and whom I like, as much as I've seen of her (as a judge). Now if I can only get in touch with her before 11:00 tomorrow morning, I could still order her a matching tie-dye shirt if she wants one.

So if anyone knows how to contact her, let her know I'm looking...

I'd forgotten, with a year's break, how insane my walking and running schedules will be at Scottsdale with dogs of 2 different heights. Looks like this (Corrected 10/23 7:15a.m.):

10:00 set-up open
1:30-3:30 check in
5:30-9:00ish awards dinner
7:30-7:40 Ring 5 Walk Jumpers (Boost)
8:00-8:10 Ring 2 Walk Jumpers (Tika)
8:30-8:40 Ring 3 Walk Snooker (Boost)
9:00-9:10 Main Ring Walk Steeplechase Quarters (Tika)
9:15-9:25 Ring 1 Walk Snooker (Tika)
9:30-10:25 Ring 5 Run Jumpers (Boost)
11:35-12:40 Ring 2 Run Jumpers (Tika)
1:40-2:30 Ring 3 Run Snooker (Boost)
3:00-3:50 Main Ring Run Steeplechase Quarters (Tika)
4:00- Ring 1 Run Snooker (Tika)
7:30-7:40 Ring 5 Walk Steeplechase Semis (TBD Tika)
7:45-7:55 Ring 3 Walk Standard (Tika)
8:00-8:10 Ring 2 Walk GP Quarters (Boost)
9:15-9:25 Ring 4 Walk Standard (Boost)
9:30-10:15 Ring 5 Run Steeplechase Semis (TBD Tika)
10:20-11:15 Ring 3 Run Standard (Tika)
11:30-12:30 Ring 2 Run GP Quarters (Boost)
4:20- Ring 4 Run Standard (Boost)
6:30 Main Ring PNS Finals (watch)
7:30-7:40 Ring 4 Walk Gamblers (Boost)
8:00-8:10 Ring 5 Walk GP Semis (TBD Boost)
9:00-9:10 Ring 2 Walk GP Semis (Tika)
9:15-9:25 Ring 3 Walk Gamblers (Tika)
9:30-10:19 Ring 4 Run Gamblers (Boost)
12:45-1:18 Ring 5 Run GP Semis (TBD Boost)
1:30-2:55 Ring 2 Run GP Semis (Tika)
2:58- Ring 3 Run Gamblers (Tika)
6:30 Main Ring Steeplechase & PSJ finals (watch)
7:00-7:10 Ring 2 Walk Europ. Jumpers (Boost)
7:15-7:25 Ring 2 Walk Europ. Jumpers (Tika)
8:00-9:05 Ring 2 Run Eur. Jmpers (Boost & Tika)
UNLESS in team finals, then
8:00-8:10 Ring 5 Walk Europ. jumpers
8:00- Ring 5 Run Europ. jumpers
10:00-10:30 Main Ring Walk Team finals (TBD)
10:45 Main Ring PVP/Relay Finals (TBD/watch)
2:00 Main Ring Veterans Showcase, Grand Prix finals

I also said I'd love to do some reporting for USDAA--along with my reporting for Taj MuttHall and The Bay Team AND shooting tons of photos. I'm going to need a week to relax from my week in Scottsdale! But I am SO looking forward to it now.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nationals Online

SUMMARY: Where you can find info next week.

USDAA has just announced that they're hoping to be streaming live video from Scottsdale. More info here. This should be very cool for folks who can't be there!

I'm taking my computer and hope to be posting here daily or nearly so.

And I'll also try to post updates on Bay Teamers at Scottsdale at

We'll see how the computer and the wifi and everything works!

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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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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Preparing for the Nationals

SUMMARY: Mentally, physically, agilitally, are we ready?

Only a month until the USDAA Nationals. Am I ready? Are the dogs? So much to do, so little time. I'm going to try to make up for 12, ok, 14 (mumble april 1995 mumble mumble)... of rotten training regimens and bad attitudes in a mere 30 days!

So far:
  • I'm sporting a whole new attitude: I AM capable of making it to the finals! I CAN fix the problems I've been having! I WILL have the dogs in prime shape! And me, too!
  • That weight thang: I'm back down to where I was most of last summer and also the year before my knee injury/surgery. I'd like to go another 5 lbs. I can feel such a difference between (mumble) pounds in February and where I am now, in energy level and ability to move.
  • The dogs' weight thang: I'm working on getting the dogs' weights back to where they were for the longest time. Tika is down a pound from 4 weeks ago; 3 to go (so won't be there by nationals); Boost is up half a pound. I attribute it to 8 days of me being out of town and not enough exercise.

  • Boost's refusal/runout issues: We made such progress by making the extra time to go to the big field to practice. Plus focusing on very specific types of actions. Plus I borrowed the Susan Garrett "Success With One Jump" video and am working through it. Just have to make that time!
  • Bar knocking both dogs: More bar-knocking drills. Maybe go back to some Salo exercises.
  • Speed: Well, Boost is still very drivey through a course, if only I can harness that by being equally drivey myself and giving well-timed commands and body languages. I'm really focusing on watching exactly how some of the better handlers move, and when, and how, on courses that I'll be running. With Tika, not sure how to get that complete total drive back. I think maybe if she got those same things from me, it would help.
  • My running: It's not enough to just do lots of walking and hiking. I've been practicing not running like a floppy rag. I've been concentrating on standing up straight and not leading with my butt. I think I need t videotape myself in the yard and review in real-time to see whether I can identify certain behaviors.

So much to do, and then there's that, oh, job thing, too. Plus at least one agility trial between now and then.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why I Am Going to Nationals

SUMMARY: Why I am going to USDAA Nationals (excuse me, Cynosports World Games) . (Is there an echo in here?)


Tika's highest showing in a Grand Prix round, ever, at local or regional or nationals, was 2nd out of 22 dogs, last September, when 13 of the dogs Eed and another 5 had faults. That's at a small local trial. This won't happen out of 80 or so dogs in the Nationals Semifinals. And you know how often Tika runs clean in GP? Like, once a year.

After that, it drops to a couple of 5ths, then plummets wayy down. And she's usually 6-10 seconds behind the first place dog.

Highest placement with 40 or more dogs competing: 10th, two years ago. (Being 7 and a half is definitely a handicap in this sport.)

They take only a dozen or fewer in the finals. We have two chances of making the finals: Slim and None.

And Boost? Ha. Ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA! But I'm working on our flaws diligently, for a change.

Is it for the RIBBONS?

Here are Tika's top-25 finishes at the USDAA Nationals so far in the entire known Universe:

  • Nov 2004: 15th of 59 dogs in the Time Gamble.
  • Nov 2006: 11th of 144 dogs in Team Snooker. OK, I'm proud of that. But no ribbons.
  • Nov 2006: 12th of 130 dogs in Team Gamblers. Proud of that. But no ribbon.
  • Nov 2006: 10th of 130 dogs in Power and Speed. Proud of that, AND we got a ribbon.
  • Nov 2006: 22nd of 208 DAM Teams. Top 30 were in the Finals. I'm very proud of that. But no ribbon and no shirt. (How come all the other events get shirts if you're in the finals AND ribbons just for making it there, even if you Eliminate? Crap. No shirts probably because all the teams wear their matching outfits in the finals, which is cool, too, but we have to pay for our own shirts instead of USDAA paying for finalist shirts. Trickeeee.)
  • Nov 2007: Nuthin'. In Gamblers, had a nice run but tied in points for only 27th out of 148. Everything else was a comedy of small errors (although I wasn't laughing much). Tika didn't qualify in Steeplechase, and Boost didn't qualify in ANYTHING.

Plus, this year, they're giving ribbons only to the top 9 in each Team class in Tika's jump height (26"), and top 6 for the "European" classes.

So what I'm saying is, I'm not going for the ribbons.


Boost has qualified only once in her whole life in Steeplechase (that's one Q out of 16 attempts, ladies and gentlemen). So unless a miracle occurs this weekend and she earns her 2nd Steeplechase Q, she won't even be competing in that.

She did scrape together three out of 10 attempts at Grand Prix Qs this year, placing 7 of 47, 9 of 40, and 11 of 46. So she will compete in the quarterfinals, and if we can hold it together, she COULD make it to the semifinals (top 50% go on). But our record isn't so hot.

And she has Qed in Team only once in her whole life, and that included no really noteworthy individual class placements.

So what I'm saying is, Boost is not the sleeper champion.


Well, there is that.


Yes! (OK, I think the blue shirts in this photo are what they've been giving out. See, I don't even know! I just know that I want one!)

Is it because I have a great traveling companion and lots of good friends and teammates?

You betcha!


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is It Nationals or Is It Not?

SUMMARY: Maybe the Regionals will decide for me. Or maybe I'll decide whatever I want to decide.

Why I might go, part 1

My working theory is this: If either of my dogs earn a bye into even the Grand Prix semifinals at the Regionals this weekend, then I'll go just to finally get the danged polo shirt, which I haven't gotten one of since 2001. Or if Boost qualifies in DAM, so she has something to do all week at Scottsdale. Or even Steeplechase, then at least she could do Grand Prix and Steeplechase and then go hang out in the shade while Tika and I try to place 12th in Team Gamblers again. If we decide that we're going to bother with our Aframe contacts again. But I digress.

Why I might go, part 2

On the other hand, I have a friend who wants me to go and travel with her. I'd love to do it. Maybe that'll be my real deciding factor. If I had unlimited time and money, I do enjoy being there and watching all the finals in person and taking pictures and all that, and I know I'd have someone with whom I already know I'd have fun to spend many many hours in the car and hotel and meals and so on with. Because in the year when my foot was broken, she drove me and my dogs to many trials and in fact ran my dogs for me sometimes (because oddly it's hard to run dogs with a broken foot). Remington thought she was wonderful.

Regionals where

So. Regionals this weekend. It's not 20 minutes from my house this year; instead, 50 minutes (at 5 a.m. but maybe 90 minutes sunday afternoon when the flea market at the Big Red Barn is letting out and traffic backs up on 101 most of the way to Baja California).

But the weather tends to be cooler because it's at the coast. Which is good, because today it is very hot here in south San Jose.

Regionals Friday

I signed up for pairs relay, which is the only class Friday evening. Now I wish I hadn't, because that means a lonnnng drive Friday afternoon when everyone else is leaving town for the holiday weekend, then work score table so even if I'm done running my dogs I have to stay, then an hour drive home, crash into bed and get right back up the next morning and go back down. Somehow it seems better to make that drive if I actually stay there for 10 hours and then have my evening to myself when I get home. To fall asleep with my face in my soup, like that.

Tika's DAM Team

Tika's longtime DAM teammate, Brenn, came up limping last weekend and scratched from last Sunday. We have our shirts with Savanna for Borderin' on K-Aus, and this might be the last time we can run together, because Brenn is now in performance in everything except this DAM. We're waiting to hear today what the vet says. Brenn seems fine, not limping even by Tuesday, but of course no one wants her to run if it's a bad idea. It's probably just an arthritis flare-up, which she's been dealing with since she was 3, and it might go into remission for months again. But it does throw Tika's whole likelihood of running in or Qing in team into question. She doesn't need it for this year's nationals. But just 2 more team Qs is 10, enough for eventual Platinum (assuming that we can ever get there with anything else!) and I can stop doing them if I want to.

Title chase

So here's what's on the plate for this weekend:
  • Boost could qualify in Steeplechase for Nationals
  • Boost could qualify in DAM for Nationals
  • Boost could earn her MAD (just one Jumpers! Just that's all! Just because she's missed 14 out of 14 jumpers so far--but somehow we did get a Standard leg last weekend, so who knows!)
  • Boost earn 1 of two legs left for her Relay Master.
  • Tika earn her Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award--9 Qs of ANY kind, and we have 9 opportunities this weekend! That would be a 100% Q rate! That is what we'd need after last weekend to bring our average back up to 50%!
  • You know when I'm starting to talk with my tongue in my cheek! Because of all the !s !

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Going To Nationals

SUMMARY: The big decision has been made. Probably.

So, last night in class, two funny (ha ha!) things happened related to my last couple of posts:
  • The instructor claimed that we were sending the dogs around a 270-degree turn when it was, in fact, about 220 degrees. The misterminology is endemic, I tell you!
  • Two days ago I said, "I am very good at remembering courses that go in a straight line and go "jump jump tunnel jump jump tunnel," and of course that never happens in dog agility, but guess what our first exercise was in class last night? Yes! Tunnel jump jump tunnel jump jump tunnel, in pretty much a straight line! Who'd have ever guessed it? Of course we had to do some creative and useful agility-training sorts of things like rear crosses.

Later, however, Boost demonstrated that:
  • At full speed after a couple of straight-on obstacles to the weaves at an angle, she skips pole #2. [Insert assorted curse words.] We had that entry several times in class, and I tried it several times each of those times. The only things that got her to do it successfully were (a)put her in a sit-stay about 5 feet from the entry so she's not going really fast (yeah, like that's practical at an agility trial), or (b) put some kind of stupid barrier (e.g., a cone, a jump bar on the ground...stupid things that aren't really barriers except visually) on the ground next to the 3rd pole to "force" her into the correct 2nd pole. (Yeah, REALLY practical at a trial.)
  • If I move laterally away from her in the weave poles, she skips the last weave.
  • If she goes wide on the first jump of a serpentine, she will not--will NOT--come back in to me to make the second jump, just keeps running full speed in the direction she was going, looking at me over her shoulder to say, "come on, you're not really going to make me slow down to do that stupid jump, are you?" World Team Coach, after trying to help me in class, tells me that I have to go home and practice that move (gave me specific instructions) "a thousand times."

Tika, meanwhile, did only 3 runs last night, and they were perfect. Spot on. No bars down. No wrong turns. Very fast and completely perfect 2 on/2 off contacts, just like we trained them. Which doesn't explain why, at trials, she's flying through the air with the greatest of ease from halfway down the contact ramps. And it was completely fun to run her, at speed, with just lovely handling. And it goes to pieces at trials.

So I have been mumbling for a while about whether I should go to the USDAA Nationals this year. I have been every year that it has been anywhere near California. Last year was the first year that Tika hadn't qualified in everything (missed Steeplechase), but this year she's qualified for all three main events with room to spare.

However. She just doesn't have the speed and we don't have the consistency to have any real chance of doing anything other than simply being there in the preliminary rounds. We've never even made it into the Grand Prix semifinals, and EVERYONE (using whiney voice) makes it into the semifinals sooner or later. We just got lucky the one year that we squeezed into the DAM team final round. And the way I've been playing this year, no one will want me on their team anyway. I've just had good teammates to cover for my mistakes.

Boost has qualified only in the Grand Prix. But not in any noteworthy manner--no placements at all. She has never. In her entire life. Qualified in DAM. She has only one Steeplechase Q (needs 2 to go to Nationals). And talk about inconsistent. Goes from one round where our "only" flaw is a knocked bar, to a round with 4 knocked bars, 2 refusals, and a bunch of spins and miscues.

So why would I want to go to Nationals again? I am no longer feeling confident, like I did in the past, that Tika has a chance of doing "well" by some definition. I have no reason at all to believe that Boost will do well. I've gone, done everything, seen everything. The vendors weren't as many or as interesting last year as they were in earlier years, but anyway I wouldn't feel that I had extra money to spend. And it's a long trip that uses a lot of vacation and/or unpaid time off.

So I'm not going. At least, as of right now. Maybe Boost will go to the next trial and win the Steeplechase. Maybe at the Regionals Tika will shun tradition and earn a bye into the semifinals in the Grand Prix, and jeez, wouldn't it be a shame to waste that opportunity. But, for now, staying home seems like SUCH a much better plan.

So, that's my working plan and the universe will have to convince me otherwise.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

About That Scottsdale Thing

SUMMARY: Mixed experiences and emotions about Scottsdale--again--

A friend said (about USDAA's announcement about Scottsdale again): "At least there's a high probability that Scottsdale won't be rainy or snowy or just plain frickin' frigid in November."

That touched some sort of chord or pulled some sort of cord and here I went:

So far we've been lucky. The first year was very cold in the evenings. It had rained heavily the week before and, apparently, the fields were effectively flooded as they were trying to set up, but--being desert--it drained/dried up really fast and there were only some pools by the time we all got there, and the fields were fine for competing. That was also 2 weeks later than it has been the last 3 years; dunno whether that makes a big difference really.

The downside to it being in Scottsdale is that I'll want to go again. Boom, there goes another week's vacation and $1000 big ones--oh, more, because probably both dogs will be competing next year. Oh, except that they're making qualification harder & harder every year. Who knows. Maybe, unless both dogs do better locally, I won't bother. Because I'm such an inconsistent handler. Oh, except that last year Tika barely--and I mean really barely-- qualified in the team event, and then ended up in the finals at Scottsdale. So there's that random reward thing going...


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Monday, December 03, 2007

2008 USDAA Nationals Announced

SUMMARY: They'll be in Scottsdale for the 5th year straight.

"The 2008 Cynosport World Games will be held October 29th through
November 2nd at WestWorld in Scottsdale."


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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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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Team Gamble

SUMMARY: Tika's Team Gamblers run, and some others.

Here's the Team Gamblers course from Scottsdale:

Tika's course: We started in the left side of the tunnel, bottom center, then back into the right side. Went between the two jumps to the tire; Tika went out almost to the weaves because I was racing for the right side of the A-frame and didn't work her turn very well, so some wasted time.

She made it into the A-frame and got a paw into the yellow because I planned my path to run in front of her as she came down. I pushed her immediately into the right side of the weaves, and she hit the entry beautifully. Her weaves aren't supersonic--closer to 3 seconds than 2 seconds--but that's plenty good enough with good entries. She turned tightly to repeat the weaves perfectly. From there, I wrapped her slightly around me to the A-frame and beat feet to be in front of her on the descending side; again, she got a paw in and I pushed her straight away from me, over the jump heading for the tunnel (it looked nicer in person).

However, I meant to work a turn after the jump so that she'd move into that box of jumps, but I didn't--she headed straight for the tunnel. More wasted time. I called her off as the whistle blew to start our gamblers period as she came back over the same jump, and I worked in 4 more jumps and out over the finish line, for 49 points.

I can't tell you which jumps I did; my mind went into autopilot. I will tell you that I walked about 30 combinations of jumps during the walkthrough so that I had a variety of wraps, figure 8s, serps, etc. in my comfort range from any starting position.

My teammate did basically the same course, but went back to the tire after the second A-frame. Looks like I'd have had time to do it, too, but after watching a couple of dogs be committed to the tire when the whistle blew (meaning that they hadn't taken it yet but there was no way to pull them off it), thereby losing all their gamble points, I decided not to risk it.

Tala (Boost's mom--I always have to point that out :-) ) was the highest-scoring 26" dog. I watched the run and now I'm not sure exactly what sequence they did, but it was basically ours but in mirror image:

Right side of bottom tunnel, back into left side, over jump to tunnel on the right side, back into the tunnel, jump, jump to A-frame, A-frame, weave, weave, and then 6 jumps in the closing, for 57 points. (They might have looped the Afr/wv/afr/wv).

Watching their run, I realize that that was a better path to avoid the wide turns that I encountered, and we could've used it to get at least 3 more points in the opening, I'm pretty sure (I'd have skipped the 4th tunnel). But I'd not have been able to get in front of her on the A-frame so might have had a flyoff for 0 points. Oh, well, no do-overs!

I have no idea what Luka and Ashley's path was for their trial-high 65 points, but they had 2 more seconds in the opening and 2 more in the closing. A few of the big dogs got 6 jumps in the closing (Tika had 1.5 seconds to spare after 5 jumps), they had plenty of time for their 7 (=21 points), so needed "only" 43 in the opening. They got in 2 weaves, 6 three-pointers, two 5-pointers, and two jumps. I'll have to ask what the path looked like.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Tika's Nationals Results

SUMMARY: Well, last post except for Tika's statistics.

ClassPlace/ # of dogsFaultsOur time/ptsBest time/ptsNotes
62/145 5 32.19 24.34 Left start line while I led out, slowed, almost stopped (wasting 2-3 seconds) in front of the 3rd jump; knocked bar when I told her to go. The run looks fast and smooth on video, but even adjusting for the lead-out issue, we're way behind the fastest dogs. How to improve that? I dunno--Tika will be 7 in February. Can we compete with the youngest, fastest dogs? Like Boost?
Summary: Good enough. Only 21 of the 26" dogs ran clean on this course, so with our mere 5 faults and a total point count of 37.19, we're in good position, and a full 59 of the 26"ers Eed, losing 100 points each, so even better for us.
125/145 n/a 21 59 An all-bar course, so Tika might still have knocked a bar somewhere, as her teammate did--but I did the unforgiveable and FORGOT WHERE I WAS GOING, so sent her to the wrong obstacle. Sheesh.
Summary: Bad news. But at least it's not 0, which some dogs managed.
90/145 10 37.87 30.33 Dogwalk and Aframe contacts. We lose speed on contacts because she slows down--and then lose points because she flys off. (At least this year we never got called on our dogwalk UP.)
Summary: Good enough; again, only 26 of the 26" dogs ran clean, and 27 Eed, losing 120 points, so Tika's 47.87 isn't bad.
30/145 n/a 49 59 Aa good run, she kept her bars up & made her 2 contacts. I might have squeezed in 3 more opening points, but it was too risky.
Summary: Very good. I'm pleased with this run, although it's not the 12th we placed last year.
??/201 n/a ? ? Still waiting. I've been in touch with the results person. She's had the PDFs ready to go for several days. For some reason she can't post PDFs, only JPEGs, and for some reason the person who CAN post PDFs isn't. She says that if she has to, she'll post all 27 pages individually as JPEGs, which'll take forever, and won't be easy for us to read. Hey--isn't this 2007? Are tools HARDER to use now? Jeepers. And it's FRIDAY already. Pleeeeeeze post the results!
Summary: Considering that our team had one E, two crappy Snooker runs, and accumulated 40 faults, I'm happy to be near the middle (which is where I think we'll end up). Looking at the 30th place team's (30 went to the finals) times and scores compared to our plans or actuals, even if we had avoided those, I doubt that we'd have made the cut. I'm still amazed that we got in last year. That was just our year!
Steeplechase classic 68/89 10 28.52 24.48 Flew off one of two A-frames and knocked the last bar (my fault). Her speed seemed better compared to the winner, but then, many of the best dogs didn't run this one.

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Assorted Notes from Nationals Final Thoughts

SUMMARY: More assorted notes and thoughts.

"Free" handouts at check-in: T-shirt (nice, with 20th-anniversary info on back). Some sort of wallet or card holder thingie with the USDAA logo--I guess I'll donate that to my club's raffle. A round white plastic thingie with the USDAA logo, not sure what it's supposed to be, maybe a zipper pull? The usual nice keepsake pin. And--that's it.

Some final thoughts and memories:
  • Slim pickings at check-in (see photo):I realize that my entry fees pay for this stuff, but they couldn't find any vendors who wanted to donate or sponsor or even co-sponser check-in goodies? This is the World Championships, fer pete's sake. But maybe I'm spoiled; we don't usually give any check-in goodies at Bay Team trials any more. Hmmm, I wonder what they got in Norway at the other World Championships?
  • Vendors: OK, I'll admit that I mostly avoided the vendors this year to help my budget. But I always shop at Clean Run, and they weren't there. Neither was the vendor of the heavy-duty carts to whom I referred some people. Neither was the guy with the PVC dog beds for which I need replacement mats. In fact--the whole vendor area seemed extremely sparse. Are vendors not selling anything here and they've given up? Or did Westworld kill 'em (like Twin Creeks stupidly mostly did to Bay Team vendors)? Or did USDAA? That's always been one thing worth attending the nationals for--the shopping opportunities you don't get elsewhere. But not so much this year. Pity. One less reason to go.
  • Organization: Seemed to me that things went much more smoothly overall this year than in some past years. There were plenty of course maps, unlike in previous years. I still like the large computer displays with results, but they weren't showing all results (e.g., team standings), and although the binders were good for keeping the results organized, it was hard to stay up to date with 600 people all trying to read one page at a time of 30 pages of results. Overall, communication seemed to be better, things seemed to start on time, and I didn't see any major glitches with anything. A reason TO go.
  • Herding: For the second year, I took Boost for a 10-minute herding instinct test with three cooperative goats. Again, she seemed to do very well. But what do I know? The lady recommended a trainer in Vacaville (if someone in Arizona knows about someone in Vacaville, that speaks well), although I have no interest in driving 2 hours each way and paying a ton of $ to stand around while my dog gets all the fun. Still, my teammate noted that the border collie group with which she's associated is hosting an instinct test with real sheepies PLUS introductory lecture this weekend from the very lady recommended. In Vacaville. So I signed both dogs up; might as well give Tika one more go at it, since she flunked last year. It is scary signing the disclaimer about paying for damaged or destroyed livestock, but I think Tika's too much of a wuss and would be easily deterred if she seemed inclined to grab.
  • That lost purple riot tug After last year, when I lost two purple riot tugs and found only one, I was VERY careful with mine this year. But, lo, it vanished anyway. This year I got lucky; I checked lost and found one last time before leaving, and there it was. Whew! (I've put labels on 'em, but with all the dog activity, they don't stay.)
  • Getting whistled off: I thought that everyone was leaving the course after they Eed because they wanted to. Much to my surprise, when Tika Eed halfway through the Grand Prix quarterfinal and I kept going, the judge insisted that I leave. Someone told me later that, yes, that was in the rules somewhere (buried in 12 pages of fine print in the premium or elsewhere). Can you imagine driving 12 hours, paying $900 overall for your week at Scottsdale, and not being allowed to finish your run? At least we had 6 classes over the 5 days, not just one. And I realize that the days would've been much longer if they weren't whistling people off. But, jeez... it just doesn't seem right. (I finished the course anyway, saying "oh, sorry," or something like that, since I need to keep Tika moving or we'd be standing in the middle of the ring with her mouth attached permanently to my shoes.)
  • Reserved seating in the bleachers: Every year the premium says (I'm going to have to brush up on my fine-print memorization) that you're not supposed to reserve seating in the bleachers. Every year, people do it. So we do, too, because otherwise latecomers find no seats, or none near friends and teammates. The "out" is that it says that if the personal belongings are "unattended for any length of time" they can be cleared. So we counted how many people we had, amassed most of us at the bleachers with seat-saving towels, and arranged a schedule whereby we all took turns sitting in the bleachers attending our seats. Which is more than most people did--there were plenty of unattended belongings. There were things going on in the ring all day, and with more than one of us there, we had people to talk to, so it wasn't bad duty, and this still allowed folks to get meals, attend to their dogs, run their final runs, and so on, without getting shut out of the seating. It's not a perfect system. But I love sitting with all my friends and sharing information about the people who are running (or not). A big reason to go!
  • Attendance at the big events: I said "find no seats," but this year the bleachers never filled for any of the final events. This is the first year that I haven't noticed it being standing-room-only, at least for the Steeplechase and Grand Prix finals. Are people getting jaded? Funny. Maybe it IS time for them to move to a different part of the country so people again appreciate the opportunity to watch.
  • I can't say often enough how much I enjoyed watching all the final events. The full-crowd participation adds a lot, too; everyone is rooting for everyone to do well. I love it. And it provides inspiration for what to work on for next year to enable YOU YOURSELF to appear in the finals, you're SURE of it.
  • OK, I think that's almost all I have to say about this year. See you next year, with BOTH dogs! I'm SURE of it!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nationals Videos

SUMMARY: A couple of our runs.

I can't believe that I forgot my camera for every run all weekend except Jumpers and Steeplechase Classic! How dumb is that, to go all that way and not get videos of your runs.


Here's a 3.5 MB video of Tika and her two teammates doing the Team Jumpers, with Rachel Sanders and Fable thrown in for comparison. This is where Tika took off while I was still leading out, then slowed way down as she caught up with me. I count that that little trick cost us 2-3 seconds on course time (I was wondering how we could've been 8 (!) seconds slower than the fastest dog; just didn't seem right).

I sound critical ("That sucks") of my teammate's offcourse because of the broad jump that so many people missed, but it was supposed to be an empathetic comment (that's how I'd feel if my dog missed something). Sorry, Carlene, really it doesn't bother me! But you can see you easily a dog can cut across the side of that dang broad jump for incorrect execution.

Here's a 1 MB video of Tika's Steeplechase Classic. Harder to see in this compressed version, but she definitely picks up speed and drive after the first Aframe, which is undoubtedly what caused her to leap over the 2nd Aframe contact. Then, before the last bar, I say "good girl," which you can barely tell on the video over the background noises, which is what causes her to drop that last bar. Finally, you can see where I'm trying to keep her from grabbing my feet at the end and get her off course.

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