Monday, February 15, 2010

Danged Super-Qs!

SUMMARY: New championships for fellow Bay Teamers from this weekend's VAST trial.

(Yes, it seems to be a catch-up day on blog posts. I posted a slightly shorter version of this to my club but wanted to also post it here to remember parts of my weekend.)

What a wild weekend at VAST--at least from the Masters score table's perspective! We fit in a full 5 masters classes in ring 1 on Saturday (and steeplechase ran in ring 2); and 4 masters classes plus Grand Prix on sunday in Ring 1 (and Steeplechase Round 2 in Ring 2).

I woke at 4:30 to dense fog in San Jose and dreaded the 2-hour drive to Turlock, because the Central Valley can be the King of Pea-Soup Fog in the early morning.

Fortunately it was thick enough to slow me to 50 or 55 MPH in only a few places (but not the folks whipping by me at 65-70! Sheesh! No wonder we get 30-car pileups in the fog!), so light-enough fog most of the way that I could see clearly far ahead.

Cold fog enveloped the trial site briefly Saturday and again well into Sunday morning, but it warmed up nicely to shirtsleeve weather for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Having TWO Snooker classes and TWO Gamblers classes gave wonderful opportunities to fill in Qs that prove challenging for many handlers, in particular, Snooker Super-Qs. [Three Super-Qs are required to earn a Championship. To earn one, your score must be in the top 15% of dogs competing in your height. This makes the competition fierce and the super-Qs hard to come by in this highly competitive northern California, even for many excellent dogs.]

Saturday Super-Qs

Saturday's Snooker required that you attempt all 4 reds, which were spread out around the outside of the course. This meant that people chose a variety of paths through the course with many off-course opportunities, and it was virtually impossible to earn the highest possible score (although I think one dog might have done it), so scores were unpredictable. At the score table, we had the usual cluster of people praying for Super-Qs and still in contention hovering nearby and waiting to see how many Super-Qs would be awarded and whether they'd be on.

The pressure sits on the score table to double-and-triple check all the scribe sheets and the accumulator sheets, because there are lots of numbers involved and there's nothing worse than having to tell someone later that we've taken away a super-Q they thought they had earned (which we had to do saturday due to a math error, fortunately not one needed for a title and handled graciously by the handler, thanks Barbara).

The 22" class, as usual, had a huge number of entrants--over 30--so 22" handlers had to wait forEVER for us to finish marking the scores.

Linda Greene, seeing me put an "SQ" on her score, asked about 4 times was I absolutely positively sure about that, and I confirmed that yes, I was, and she said, "Thank goodness I don't have to worry about Super-Qs any more." What she DIDN'T tell me was that it had been the only thing standing between Kiwi and her ADCH! (championship title)

I was delighted to see them take a victory lap with their new ADCH pole shortly thereafter to cheers and applause.

Saturday ran very late, until after dark, at least 6 or 7 p.m.

Sunday Super-Qs

Sunday was similar, except that Snooker was the VERY last class of the weekend, and 22" was the VERY last group to run, and it was well after dark so people ran under artificial field lighting rather than daylight, and the cold began creeping in, and many competitors abandoned ship. We had *so* many scratches that it wasn't clear how many Super-Qs we'd be able to give until we had completed the running order.

Furthermore, this course had only 3 reds right next to the 7-point obstacle, so we knew that you'd have to do the highest-possible 51 points AND be among the fastest to do it to earn a super-Q. All of us remaining to do score table also had to run 2 dogs each, so the score table seemed chaotic at times, but we kept at it, double-and-triple checking as we went. [Special thanks to those who stuck it out to the bitter end to help me at the score table--Sandy Zajkowski, Holly Newman, Karey Krauter--]

It astounded me how many 26" and 22" competitors remained for their runs after 6 p.m. on a Sunday, amazing hardy super-competitive NorCal peoples! Still, between trying to verify scratches and keep track of scribe sheets raining in on us, we made it through to 7:00, when competition ended. We sat there, working, with half a dozen people tearing down the field and half a dozen people and one judge hanging around waiting to see the final scores. I was cold, tired, pressured [but revved high with the excitement of the class], and so I think moving more slowly on confirming scores than I might have earlier in the weekend.

Sure enough, almost every group had multiple 51-point scores, so they weren't all going to get Super-Qs. In the end, several of those took themselves out of the running by touching their dogs before crossing the finish line, so they still Qed but, because they had no valid course time, they ranked below those who earned a time at the finish line.

The very very very last individual mark I made on the accumulator sheet was "SQ" for Dave Bennett and Zack. About 40 people (OK really only 2 or 3) kept asking Are you sure are you sure, he's had one taken away from him before?! And I double-checked with Karey looking over my shoulder and, sure enough, it was a Super-Q for Zack, and holy cow, another ADCH for the weekend! So, with the remaining dozen of us cheering and screaming and applauding as loudly as we could, Dave and Zack took their victory lap around the field, and then we all went home.

Other titles

ALSO earning an ADCH this weekend, Lauri Plummer and the delightful pointy-eared Lark ;-), who's one of those dogs about whom you think, "What, they don't ALREADY have their ADCH?" I missed that entire escapade, so I can't fill in the story.

And two others, Katrina/Maddie and Jeanne/Brandy Mae [OK, which is the dog and which is the handler in each team?!] completed their Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Silver and ADCH-Gold this weekend.

I Was SO Busy That--

Dang, I never got to sign *anyone's* ADCH bars! I hope they reappear at the next trial--

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Behind the Bay Team USDAA Southwest Regionals

SUMMARY: What classes we offer, why, and how

Just a note: I took no photos over the whole weekend, not one. Hard to believe. Never tried to hand off my camcorder to anyone to video any of our runs, either. Fortunately another Bay Teamer took some shots. Unfortunately, this is me and Tika leaving the Steeplechase ring after she came out of the tunnel limping, and me rubbing her down a bit afterward. Ah, well, it's photos anyway. Thanks, Sandra!

Bay Team's regionals seem to go very smoothly. In fact, so do most of our trials. Some of it comes from lots of experienced people jumping in to help. Some of it comes from having one miracle of a club member who makes everything happen from mostly behind the scenes. Some of it comes from our lock-step rotation groups.

The rotation groups work very much like they do at the USDAA Nationals, although I can no longer recall whether we did them first or the nationals did them first. For a small trial where all the classes can fit into one ring, or even two, it's not necessarily needed. But we've found that, with 3 rings or more at ANY trial, rotation groups make a huge improvement in how trials run. First, it reduces conflicts to almost nothing. Second, it makes it easier for people to work because they know exactly how the classes will change.

Here's what we do: Divide all the masters and tournament dogs into an appropriate number of rotation groups--3 for smaller trials, 4 for bigger trials and regionals. Assign everyone who's in the same family or on the same team to the same rotation group. Try to keep everyone who's in a small height class in the same group to reduce jump-height changes.

You might imagine that this is no small task. Our supreme show secretary has a program that pulls out all the chains of these relationships. It becomes an issue only when, say everyone at the trial is somehow related to everyone else at the trail--sort of a 100 degrees of separation thing. Then some manual tweaking has to occur. I can't imagine doing all of this manually, but I suppose it could be done.

We put one class into each of 3 or 4 rings, then rotate the groups through the rings. For example, on Saturday, the four DAM individual classes were in four different rings. First round, group A ran Team Gamblers in ring 1, group B ran Team Jumpers in ring 2, etc. We wait for ALL rings to finish the first rotation--this is key--then give a 5-minute break for whatever needs to be done to get the rings and workers ready for the next group. Groups rotate clockwise to the next ring, and everyone again starts at the same time; now Group A is in Ring 2 doing Team Jumpers, and so on.

Repeat until everyone has run all the classes.

To facilitate this, we have a microphone goddess who waits for all the rings' chief ring stewards to confirm that all of their workers & judges are ready to go.

It works best when there is one more group than there are rings--so, for example, on Sunday and Monday, we had 3 masters/tournament rings going, with the same 4 rotation groups, so one group was always off and in THEORY would be available to fill out our volunteer ring help positions. Usually this works well.

The other big part is that--just like at the nationals--everyone has to walk all the courses first thing in the morning. We do those in rotation, too--everyone gets something like 8 minutes to walk each course.

This works very well. USDAAers now seem to accept this, although there was some resistance when we first did it. CPEers--including judges--often have a hard time with this. They do not WANT to wait for the other groups to finish. And some competitors complain... "If this ring had run straight through, then *I* could have gone home 3 hours earlier." Yeah, right, means you're not sticking around to help in the other rings to help everyone else get home earlier. And you've got only one dog who's entered in only 3 classes--we should optimize our schedule for *you* rather than for the more typical competitor who's in all the classes and has a 40% chance of running 2 or more dogs?

But we are firm, and it works. Most people like it because they can relax. They know that they're not going to miss a walkthrough because everyone walks through at the same time.

When everyone has rotated through all the rings, then we rebuild for our second round of the day (if there is one), walk them, and run in the same way.

On Friday, we had one class: Pairs Relay. Fewer people entered that evening. We simply split the 22/26" championship masters dogs into one ring and the rest of hte masters/p3 dogs into a second ring.

On Saturday, the four DAM individual events ran first, then Grand Prix round 1 and Team Relay ran in the afternoon.

On Sunday, Masters Standard and Gamblers ran in 2 rings and Steeplechase Round 1 in the third; in the afternoon, we ran the Grand Prix Round 2. Original plan was to split it into 2 rings by rotation groups, but we had so few qualifiers that it all just ran in the same ring.

Similar on Monday: Masters Snooker, Standard, and Jumpers first in rotation, then Steeplechase Round 2 in one ring.

Worked like a charm.

We had one other ring for starters and advanced classes that did NOT go in rotation with the masters/tournament classes. If you had dogs in starters or advanced, you could indeed have conflicts, and we made it clear that that ring had precedence because there were so many fewer dogs. But if you weren't in St or Adv, you never had conflicts all weekend, never!

Very nice, much more relaxing than, say, a couple of my experiences before rotation groups: At USDAA Nationals in 2000 or 2001, where I had nothing for 5 hours, then ran my two dogs in 4 different rings virtually simultaneously (so lots of working out conflicts and trying to be there), then had nothing again for 2 hours. And again at one of our first four-ring trials, where I had a starters dog and masters dog and once again ended up in 4 rings almost simultaneously, with Masters Snooker where I couldn't move my position much and starters where the class was so small, etc. I exclaimed as I ran from ring to ring, "Four rings, no waiting!"

Our superuber secretary has also developed a database application through many years of experience that helps schedule all the classes, prints the reports, and so on, and for a few years now has also done all the calculations for Team and Steeplechase. Very helpful.

So: Regionals. How do we decide what events to offer? Have to offer the three Tournament events: Team (which is 5 classes), Steeplechase (2 rounds), and Grand Prix (2 rounds). We also want to offer enough of the regular classes to make it worth people's time to come. But not so many as to make the days brain-numbingly long. We've learned the hard way to not try to cram in too many classes.

And that's about it!

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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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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Last Weekend, This Week, This Weekend

SUMMARY: Surviving in agility

Last weekend's summary:

1 Q for Boost out of 9 runs (Pairs. Yeah, well, I got a million of 'em. Need some other kinds of Qs, please, thank you very much).

3 Qs for Tika out of 9 runs (Pairs; Gamblers, in which she placed 2nd of 15; Snooker, in which she placed 2nd of 14 for a Super-Q). Also got 3rd of 17 in the other Gamblers--high opening points but only 2 dogs got the gamble.

Human Mom forgot course or blatantly mishandled, resulting in non-Qs:
3 on Saturday of 10 runs:
* Boost's Standard, overran a rear cross for a refusal, our only fault!
* Tika's Steeplechase, got ahead in wrong place and pulled her offcourse--not our only fault, but our only offcourse fault
* Boost's Steeplechase, forgot where I was going & sent her off course. Boost was clean in what I asked her to do.

3 on Sunday of 8 runs:
* Tika's standard: Forgot to do key front cross, so course looked wrong, so pulled her off obstacle for a refusal. Our only fault.
* Boost's Grand Prix: Tried for a tough serpentine and wasn't even close, causing a chain of disasters on that & ensuing 2 jumps; the rest of the course was clean.
* Boost's Jumpers: Tried to front cross in wrong place, therefore sending boost past a jump that she then backjumped.

I have seldom been so frustrated with myself. I'm not always perfect, but this was one disaster after another.

And then there were the Tika issues--the Tika's Evil Twin issues--
* Tika's Pairs: Missed dogwalk up (ok, sometimes happens) and FLEW off dogwalk down. Luckily we still qualified.
* Tika's Saturday Standard: Knocked 2 bars, FLEW off the dogwalk, FLEW off the Aframe, putting her way ahead of me so she turned back to me instead of taking the next obstacle, earning a refusal.
* Tika's Steeplechase Rd. 1: Hit the broad jump, knocked a bar, flew off the Aframe.
* Tika's Grand Prix: I was on her correct side coming down the dogwalk, working hard to get her to hit the contact, which she did, but barely slowed down and zoomed into the wrong side of the next tunnel although I YELLED "Tika! TIKA! TIKA!!" because I know that "COME!" doesn't work for her. Now, apparently, "Tika!" doesn't, either.
* Tika's Jumpers--only class at 26"--the only Q she STILL needs for her ADCH-Silver--. Got her out early. Used a handful of food plus toy to do bar-knocking drills on a 26" jump. All kinds of angles & directions & crosses & everything. She was great. Then in the run, she knocked the 2nd jump. The rest of course was perfect.

I could hardly believe it; she has been running so beautifully at 22" with hardly a fault. How could my weekend come to this?

I am abashed to admit that I finally could hold it back no more and sat in MUTT MVR for about 10 minutes--twice--and sobbed. It's been a long time since I gave in to that impulse, but in fact it got to where I couldn't NOT cry, and I didn't want to be taking it out on my dogs or on other people. It was so hard to be cheerful with my dogs when I felt like such a failure as a handler and a trainer. And I KNOW that I just came off of two or three really great weekends, and Boost actually ran very well this weekend, and I REALIZE that my dogs are happy, healthy, love doing agility, love being with me, and are still relatively young.

I blame it on 4 hours of sleep Friday night, 5 Saturday night. Various reasons for sleeplessness, a good portion of which was the heat. And I'm sticking to that story. Like I was sticking to the sheets.

So this week I'm just not feeling motivated to practice. (OK, I wasn't feeling motivated last week, either.) I did rearrange things to practice some gambling yesterday based on Saturday's gamble that almost no one got (despite this being the 3rd time in about a year that we've seen almost this exact gamble). And of course dogs did everything perfectly almost every time, even as I made it harder. Bah.

I should be doing a billion rear crosses with Boost. I should be doing a zillion contacts with Tika--although she's always perfect here and in class and seldom in competition, it would be good to get a lot of reminders into her head.

I should at least be doing SOMETHING agility-like with the dogs all week.

BECAUSE this weekend is the Southwest Regional! Three and a half days of agility! In which Boost will not be competing for the gorgeous Grand Prix winners cups because we couldn't get a single bloody grand prix leg all year!

Starting Friday night with Pairs, then all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, down in Prunedale again. We're praying it won't be anywhere near as hot as it was last Saturday!

Here's what I've said about Nationals: If Boost wins local GPs and/or Steeplechases, or wins or places at the regionals, I might reconsider going to Nationals. She's been running so much better these last 3 weeks, it seemed like it might be a possibility. But between us, so far no luck. At least she's earned ONE measly mumble mumble Steeplechase Q so far, so can compete in THAT this weekend.

Tika is on a Performance DAM team with our old nationals partner Brenn. They could do well--they have before (won earlier this year; also finals at Nationals a few years back). They could crap out--they have before, and Brenn is coming off of several weeks of rest for an experimental bone marrow transplant (I think) to try to help her recurring arthritis pain. Our team name: "Here We Go Again."

Boost is in a DAM team with new partners Sheila--not super fast but pretty darned reliable black & white Border Collie--and Cayenne--pretty danged fast but (her Human Mom claims) not so reliable--a red and white Aussie. We'll be "Cayenne Boosts a Sheila."

Attendance is down--10% fewer dogs than last year, which had 10% fewer dogs than the year before. Economy? Agility fatigue? Less reason to attend since 1st place no longer earns a bye into the finals at nationals? Dunno.

In 2007: ?529 dogs, 340 humans, 4670 runs, 75 championship DAM teams, 41 PVP DAM teams.

In 2008: 487 dogs, 313 humans, 3939 runs, 64 teams, 26 pvps

This year: 430 dogs, 298 humans, 3598 runs, 59 Teams, 37 PVPs

Not that I'm complaining; should make the weekend not quite so long and exhausting, but still--we're losing a bit of that feeling of the Nationals Warm-Up Event for all the people & dogs who show up who might also be at Scottsdale.

I'll be on score table, as usual. I'll be sleeping over in MUTT MVR instead of driving the hour home every evening.

I'll be trying to recapture the I'm Doing This For Fun feeling. Because, really, why else do it? I have enough stress in my life without VOLUNTEERING for more stress.

See you all there.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

USDAA Standard-Extravaganza Trial Day 1

SUMMARY: We have a good day.

Today rated well on Taj MuttHall's agility event rating scale.

Weather was mostly cool, not cold, mostly overcast but not rainy (unlike predictions). Lovely day for agility.

Boost had some lovely, fairly smooth runs with only a few small issues. Feeling like I'm running a masters dog today! She missed Qing in Standard #1 by one teeny runout that I caught quickly and pushed her back over the jump. She missed Qing in Steeplechase by dropping the next to the last bar. Missed Qing in Grand Prix by skipping the 2nd weave pole (On an entry where a lot of dogs ran past the poles completely, so she was trying). Actually got a Q in Standard #2 and another one in Pairs. Very nice after 3 complete trials with only one Q among them. And that finishes her Master Standard title! Yowza.

Tika is running so nicely lately. And she apparently likes 22" Performance: Today she won Steeplechase Round 1 (out of 13 dogs) and came in 2nd in Grand Prix (out of 12 dogs). Also 2nd in Performance Snooker out of 15 for a Super-Q in her second time in Perf Snooker.

(It's amazing how many performance dogs there are these days at the Masters level. Compare that to 20 championship 26" dogs. And 20 16" performance compared to 47 22" championship. So very many more than when Jake was doing it, back when Performance was new!)

Tika's first run of the day was at 22", then we went back to 26" for Standard to try to get the last 2 Qs we need to fill out our 25 for silver--and she knocked the first bar. Exactly the same thing that happened last week after our first run was at 22" followed by Standard at 26". I do put her over the practice jump before going into the ring!

However, she did Q in her second Standard run--so only one more to go for that 25 count. ... Yes, this is the Standard Extravaganza weekend: FOUR masters Standard classes!

So, all in all it was just a darned good day.

I should've started with the two down sides, but I'll finish with them instead.

First, Boost's darned contacts. They WERE so solid! And I broke them! Practicing a lot this week at home did not (as I really figured) fix them. Early in the day I made her Down and wait after every contact that she left before being released, and it wasn't fixing things. SO, in Pairs, we were lucky enough to have an Accommodating partner, which means that they wouldn't earn a Q no matter what, so I stated out loud up front before going into the ring that, if Boost left her Aframe early, I would take her out of the ring.

And she stuck it perfectly.

In the following standard, I also said out loud that if she didn't stick her contacts, I would take her out of the ring. She stuck her first two contacts beautifully. Then I decided that we were doing so well so far, I'd just keep going--and she hopped off the 3rd one early again, needing another Down.

The funny thing is that I *believe* that I am running them in exactly the same way. I am trying very hard to run them in exactly the same way! But apparently not--apparently when I run with intent to make her mind her Ps and Qs and not do a cheapie "Down" fix, I'm doing something different enough to make her stick them. We'll see how long that lasts--

The other ucky thing is that, after all 3 of Boost's last 3 runs of the day, she came out with a bloody nose. I don't know why. I'm not aware of her having run into anything recently (although she's so intense that I just don't notice some things--and I'm not hte only one who has played with her out in the yard). And she's not sneezing, so it doesn't seem likely that she inhaled something.

I checked in with a vet on site. She said that if it's from runnning into something, it should be better tomorrow, but if it's not better, then I should probably go see our regular vet, because every other reason she listed for nosebleeds is bad, very bad.

So. We'll hope for the best, keep our eyes open, check her vital signs and gums and such regularly, and see what the morrow brings.

'Night, everyone.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

This Weekend

SUMMARY: USDAA trial, here we come

Both dogs (and I) did pretty good last night in our first class since Feb 12, about what might be expected. Instructor says Boost's bar knocking is now "like a normal dog"! and we just need to do a private session on two on anti-bar-knocking drills. Tika looked fine at 26". SMART USDAA, here we come!

I've got Tika entered in performance (jumping 22") in several classes. But still in Steeplechase and Grand Prix at 26" because we still need one tournament for our tournament platinum. And still in Standard and Jumpers at 26" because we still need 3 Standards and 4 Jumpers for our ADCH-Silver. Would just like to do that before she's all performance and we have to start the ADCH count all over again.

I don't even want to look at what Boost needs to get even her MAD; at least 2 of her siblings already have their ADCHs and I'm trying not to feel sibling rivalry (after all, they aren't MY siblings). I'm just going to try and go and enjoy her and relax and try to have her relax a bit going over jumps.


I'll tell ya--maybe I don't talk much in class or socialize much, but it was wonderful to be back among friends in the evening.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Some USDAA Weekend Classes

SUMMARY: Maps, videos, and brief discussions from this last weekend.

Saturday Masters Standard

The opening of this course was interesting, because I was the only one I saw who ran with the dog on my right. It worked very nicely for both of my dogs, but I have a good "Right Through" (which goes against the Darrett system but is OH so handy in cases like this). Saw lots of dogs knock the #6 jump or get a refusal, as that was a pretty challenging rear cross to get in. 15 of 47 big dogs Qed on this course.

NOTE: As always, the course map doesn't exactly reflect reality: you could actually set the dog into a stay before jump #1 so that she could see the Aframe from that position. Made a difference (to me, anyway) in whether you worried about the dog going off-course into the tunnel--which we saw some of, even with handlers on the opposite site.

Another frequent problem was 12 to 13. Several people who handled it with a single front cross before 13 got an off-course onto the back side of 17. I saw some successful serpentines of 12 and also the front-cross equivalent--both before and after 12. I did a rear cross, as did others, thinking I'd get a tighter turn to the table. Worked OK for Tika but Boost still went wide, although we survived. The other main off-course problem was 15 to 19.

Saturday Masters Gamblers

Posting this mostly because I have videos, in which you can see:
  • while I think that I am directing the dogs clearly and distinctly--my body is flapping around all over the place
  • Tika miss a send-out to a weave entry--and she's supposed to be my GOOD dog-- (and that was twice in one weekend with the same sort of send in gamblers); something to work on
  • Boost go under the tire repeatedly
  • that the reason that I couldn't get Boost out over the jump after the teeter was because she didn't stick her contact and wait for a release, self-released to come towards me.

Steeplechase Round 1

Another case where the course map isn't a perfect reflection of reality. The line over 3-4-18 was a bit more obvious to the dogs than shown here. That's very important to note, because that was the most common off-course.

People probably split half and half on whether they kept the dog on their left and pulled to #5 and rear crossed #6, or led out towards the tunnel to do a lead-out pivot and run with the dog on the left over #5. And about the same number of dogs went over #18 instead of 5 using both handling methods, so your timing and body language had to be good in both cases. The down side to the pull method was that it left the off-course tunnel wide open, which some dogs took.

The most successful lead-out pivots had the handler standing pretty close to the entrance for the #12 tunnel, so that when they turned and ran towards #5, they were running straight at 5, not having to veer past #4.

#7 to #8 was more of a time waster than anything, with the dog turning back to the handler often. Some people ran around the left side of #7 and the Aframe, but I don't think that worked any better.

Lots of people worried about the 10-11-12 line. There were lots of refusal-type errors at #12 tunnel entrance, usually with the handler over-pushing and blocking the dog's entrance into the tunnel, but I don't recall seeing any actual off-courses over the #4.

Another big choice was whether to front cross between 17 and 18. I tried that with Tika, who flew off the Aframe and went straight for the offcourse #6, which I saved her from, but she hit the #18 at such a bad angle that she knocked the bar.

Master Snooker Sunday

Of interest because of the unusual layout and no contact obstacles. Hope you can read it with all my scribbles.

Most Super-Qs were earned with a 4-5-7-7 plus 2-7, although there were also some 7-7-7-4 and sometimes a 5 instead of a 4 in both sequences.

My numbers on the map are close but not actually the way I handled it. If the top of the map is north and the left is west:
  • West over the first red (southwest corner) to the back (west) side of 4a, to 4b.
  • to the southeast red, run around the outside to the 6a tunnel and the 6b jump.
  • South over the northeast red, turning the dog toward the west, which made a straight line over 7a to the south end of the 7c tunnel, to the 7b jump
  • south over the northwest red, wrap to the east, over 7b into 7c and east over 7a.
  • Threadle past the northeast red to the east side of #2 (which was NOT bidirectional in the closing).
  • Might be hard to read, but the jump that serves as both #3 and #4a is set up to force you to backjump. The 4a was bidirectional in the closing, so that if you felt strongly about it, you could bring your dog around and do sort of a figure 8 over the 4a after doing the 3. But that wasted a lot of time, set the dog up badly for the straight line 4b to 5, and also provided more off-course opps to either side. I saw only a couple of handlers try the figure 8. It actually worked very well to blast the dog straight out over #3, because there were no obstacles out there, and as you and the dog blasted into the open area, then you turned, called the dog, and went back over 4a-4b-5 in a straight line, and because the dog had moved fairly far beyond the #3 jump, it didn't have the look or feel of a backjump.

Masters Jumpers Sunday

It was 6:30 in the evening. I was really tired. Tika sailed comfortably through it, taking 4th place of the 12 remaining dogs (lots of attrition at the end of such a long weekend), and I never really did communicate clearly with The Booster--too bad, because I felt that it was a nice, flowing, speedy course.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008


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

Biggest news

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

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

And Boost did all of her weaves perfectly again.

Tika's Weekend

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

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

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

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

Boost's weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Where We Did What We Did

SUMMARY: Some of the weekend's course maps

NOTE: You can view the images in another window for a larger view.

Saturday Masters

  • Masters Jumpers: Tika's off course (where I forgot the course) is shown. Otherwise it ran smoothly (except for Boost!). There weren't many Es on this course.
  • Masters Snooker: This is the funny one where only 2 of 49 22" dogs earned 59 points but 8 out of 27 26" dogs did. It was soooo obviously a speed course from the get-go, not a strategy course.
  • Masters Standard: I noted that about half the dogs Eed on this course, but I don't particularly remember why this was so hard. I saw some dogs take the wrong end of #8, maybe a couple did 9-10-2, or take the tunnel instead of #15, but I was so busy with the score table that I really didn't get a chance to watch much.
  • Masters Pairs: 11 of 32 big-dog teams eliminated on this course, 9 were over time (usually with faults but sometimes just wasted time trying to get through it) and only 12 teams Qed. The first half was pretty straight-forward, although a lot of dogs wasted seconds blasting far beyond the 3-4-5 sequence before coming back to 6. The second half presented the greatest challenges with the sequence from 3 to 6 and 7 to 9. I saw very, very few handling options that worked smoothly on either one, especially for the faster dogs. It didn't help that the wind was coming from the upper right corner, keeping the chute wide open most of the time, giving most dogs a beautiful view of the off-course jump immediately after it.

Saturday Tournament

  • Grand Prix: Lots of opportunities for problems; I don't think that the Qualifying rate was very high, but I didn't write it down. The 1-2-3 was fairly straight-forward; I saw a couple of off-courses from 3 to 14. The 4-5-6 sequence made the #6 a challenge for many teams, but I don't recall any 6-to-19 offcourses.. Saw a couple of off-courses from 7 to 17. The entry from 9 to 10 was a little challenging for some. 13 through 19 took some running and handling but wasn't stunningly difficult. Some people got a front cross in between 18 and 19, but most opted for a push/rear cross between 19 and 20, which wasn't always smooth.
  • Steeplechase: A very fast course.

Sunday Masters

  • Gamblers: Many dogs opted for our path, numbered on the map; several dogs besides Boost earned 33 in the opening. A very few dogs had 36 in the opening and I'm not sure whether they did the same path and got in another teeter, or whether it was some other, cleverer path that I didn't see.
  • Standard: Dogs looked hard at the #13 after 1-2-3 and had to be called off very hard, if they didn't actually take it. The push out to #14 was interesting; there were several different ways of handling that sequence and out to the finish and I think I saw them all. Don't know what the general results were.
  • Pairs Relay: For the square numbers, the 3 to 4 gave a challenge; most people pulled their dog into 4 to stay on the dog's left but it was a tight balance between pulling too much and not enough, and there were a lot of missed entries there. During the walkthrough, people were worried about the square 9 to 10 but it handled very easily.
  • Jumpers: This was a killer jumpers course. Not many dogs came through it clean. So many calloffs and sharp angles and turns! No straight line until you got to the last two jumps.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Things Become Clearer

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

Boost and Tika chasing the Frisbee Friday evening.

Boost weaves

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

Then she nailed them in Standard.

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

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

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

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

Boost otherwise

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

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

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

Tika's Friday and Saturday not bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tika's backside

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

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

Tika going all out for the frisbee Friday evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Smallish USDAA Trial This Weekend

SUMMARY: Some stats for your browsing entertainment.

Our trial this weekend is on the smallish side, for our USDAA trials.

Total dogs and DAM Team: Friday is DAM Team only, and there are only 115 dogs entered, which makes 29 Championship teams and 14 Performance teams (translation: Ch = higher jump heights and tighter times). We'll be running it in only two rings. This means that, on average, probably only about 15 Ch teams and 7 Perf teams will qualify for the Nationals. Boost really needs that Q!

Classes and total dogs: Saturday and Sunday we've got Steeplechase, Grand Prix, 2 Standards, 2 Pair Relays, 2 Jumpers, plus Gamblers and Snooker. An average of 280 dogs per day, and for these two days we add a third ring for the Starters and Advanced (intermediate-level) rounds.

Experience levels: Of the dogs entered, 57% are Masters level dogs, 27% are Starters level, and 16% are Advanced. It's pretty typical for the distribution to be like this, because once a dog get to Masters, she remains at that level for the rest of her agility career, so of course that class would be larger. Starters would be the next largest because any dog starting in agility has to start here, and stays here until they earn enough Qs to move up. Some percentage of dogs never pursue an "agility career." And it also seems that, once a dog/handler team has gotten it together enough to get out of Starters, they (usually) get through Advanced fairly quickly and on into Masters.

Number of runs: Saturday has over 1200 runs! That's 400 per ring, which can be a long day depending on how efficiently things work. On Sunday, fewer than 300 runs per ring and maybe we'll be out of there a little early.

Weather: It's supposed to be unseasonably cool tomorrow, but working its way back up to Hot Hot Hot over the next three or four days, so Sunday could be toasty. At least we should have a breeze.

Breeds: The five most-common breeds this weekend are 115 Border Collies, 35 Shelties, 34 Australian Shepherds, 19 All-Americans, 11 Golden Retrievers. The rest are scattered among 25 other breeds.

Ages: There's one 14-year-old dog entered, one 13, four 12-yr-olds, then the count rises as they get younger to peak at 49 5-yr-olds, 48 4-yr-olds, and 49 3-yr-olds. The older dogs amaze me. Jake was still running in CPE at 15, but not in USDAA--I believe he was 13 when I retired him from that. Remington lived only to 9.

Names: The most common dog's name is Chase, of which there are 4 entered. 22 other names are duplicated once. The most common human's name is Nancy, of which there are 6 entered. My sisters' names are Ann, Linda, Susan (or Sue), and Sharon, all of which except Ann appear in the Top Ten human names for the trial.

Jump heights: 150 dogs jump in the 22" height category (Boost's height), 80 in Tika's 26" jump height, 61 in the 16" jump height, and 28 in the 12" jump height. I keep thinking maybe my next dog will be a 12-incher, but I don't know what kind of dog! But there are a couple of cute ones in this group--from Nike Animal Rescue Foundation, through which both Remington and Jake passed at some point. But my requirement is that my next dog must be 6 years younger than Boost, and she's only 3 1/2, so we've got a ways to go!

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Monday, June 02, 2008

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

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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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mostly Better Than Feared

SUMMARY: USDAA trial went generally well for us, on many counts.

Here's what I had rattling around in the Things To Worry About Department of my brain before today:
  • Tika has done almost no agility, and NO 26" jumps, in almost 4 weeks. She'd been sore (briefly) back then. Would a sudden rash of 5 classes in one day at 26" wipe her out? Would she be able to do them at all?
  • How come we haven't been able to to get that danged 15th Gamblers leg for our Bronze Gamblers? And will I ever, since I haven't practice distance work with her for 3 months?
  • Would the freeway between here & there still be closed due to flooding for our trip up this morning?
  • Would the ground under the horse arena cover (for our trial) be flooded? Filled with goopy mud?
  • Its been raining and gloomy and REALLY COLD (for rain) with bone-piercing arctic wind all week--this could be a miserable day, even with closing panels on half of the arena, because you still have to load & unload the car and potty the dogs and DRIVE in it.

But I needn't have spent the calories fretting. The freeway was still closed when I got up at 4 this morning, but by the time I picked up my friend with her dogs Scully and Sparkle, it was open. It wasn't raining at all, anywhere along the trip. The temps went all the way up into the mid-60s and there wasn't a breath of wind all day. The arena had one area maybe 10 feet by 3 feet that was floody & muddy, but it didn't really affect us much. The day started with a drop-dead gorgeous sunrise that started out awesome and just got better for the next 10 minutes.


Tika was SO excited to be doing agility, and no sign of soreness. Her first run of the day was gamblers, and MAN, she flew around that course! Even her dogwalk and teeters were super-fast, as we've been working on (before her medical and rain hiatus anyway). She was one of only about 10 of 76 Masters dogs who got the gamble. I thought that she had actually managed to beat everyone else (rare for Tika) by 2 points total, too, but apparently her fast dogwalk was not as accurate a dogwalk as it had looked to me, because we didn't get points for it, dropping us to 3rd of 19 26" dogs. But I know I shouldn't complain--she ran great, looked great, executed everything beautifully, got a hard gamble, and finished that Gamblers Bronze! (Now it's just the danged Jumpers...)

In fact, she Qed 3 of 5 for the weekend, also taking 3rd of 19 in Standard 26". Also had a nice pairs run, but the course was pretty easy and, so, many many many teams Qed and had very fast times. She and partner were 12th of 27 Open teams.

She knocked NO bars! Woooooo! Didn't Q in Jumpers because I tried to do a bit of a send-and-run, and managed to pull her past a jump for a refusal, dagnabbit.

And she backjumped on a wrap in the Snooker opening, but had successfully negotiated 11 jumps in a row up to that point without knocking any, so that was a bit of a victory.


Boost ran very nicely, looking more like a Master dog all the time, although the Q rate is still low. I knew that the gamble would be extremely difficult for her, and she failed exactly where I thought she would, but she DID do a serp leading into it with no effort at all--a big improvement. Her opening was nice but did the "THIS tire? You mean THIS tire? THIS one?" refusal in the opening and I just help my position and waited until she took it, so she didn't get all the way through our last Teeter (still in the air)--otherwise she'd have tied for highest opening points.

In Jumpers, she came past a sharply angled jump (my fault for not remembering what a babydog she is) AND knocked a bar, but otherwise she flew around that course without hesitations or bobbles. Looked good.

In Snooker, another babydog/overly assuming mom error--I thought she was with me while running for the next jump, and suddenly realized that there was no dog going over it--nor anywhere to be seen--and she had gone in a different direction than I thought we were going (took my eyes off her, in other words).

In Standard, oh, it was LOVELY, dang it, except for one "THIS jump? You mean THIS jump? THIS one?" refusal--but two in five runs compared to several per run like we were sometimes doing last year is a big improvement.

And in team--whoo!--she screamed around that course (figuratively, not literally--none of my dogs, thank goodness, have ever voiced while running) and her partner was pretty danged fast, too; they were 4th fastest of all 37 teams but she knocked a bar, so Q but no placement. But even with that 5-point fault added to their time, they were half a second faster than Tika's pair. Now, THAT's a fast team!


I had a good time with my friends, being score table supervisor and keeping busy, taking photos (an assortment shown here), playing a fast, challenging sport with my dogs-- let's hear it for a 2 month vacation from agility and for a 1-day trial. Even my failures as a handler didn't seem so galling today.

As much as it would slow down our Title Chase, maybe I really do need to take more time off from agility. WOuld certainly help my pocketbook, but maybe it would help my enjoyment of the basic experience of agility more, too.

New rescue sheltie, at a year and a half just joining a family dynasty of outstanding agility shelties.
The photographer is caught at her foul work again.
The remnants of a favorite one of these (I've had some that look like this).
On the trial secretary's box, the added tag says, "How special can it be if there's no beer?"

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