Sunday, January 31, 2010

UKI Birthday Fun Match

SUMMARY: A good time was had by all.
Compared to a regular agility weekend, it was SO much nicer to (a) not have to pack nearly as much, (b) sleep until 6:30 rather than 4:00 a.m., (c) drive half an hour rather than 2 hours, (d) watch the sun rise and the full moon sink (wanted photos but didn't want to stop. Regretting that decision.), (d) be done with 4 runs by noon.

I'm not the best person to comment on the styles of courses; course design doesn't interest me at all; I just like the challenge of how I'm going to get myself and my dogs through in the most efficient way possible, and it doesn't really matter what the specific challenges are. I must say that nothing I saw today looked out of the range of possibility for a USDAA trial (in terms of odd turns or weird positions or that ilk). But all the courses were run on a very small rings; they might have been 70x70 (rather than 100+ square), but I'm thinking they were maybe even smaller than that.

Java Agility has a permanent fenced location set up in one corner of the Swiss Park ("available for rental! Banquet hall!") in Newark. I have no idea what the Swiss part is all about, but the building was pretty cool.

Fun matches are useless for us to work on anything that dogs do only in competition; despite my best efforts, they know it's not real--e.g., Tika did every one of her contacts perfectly. In fact, Tika just kind of glided through the courses, OK, this is fun but not REALLY serious.

Standard agility ("agility") was your basic numbered course with all obstacles but no table. Jumpers is jumpers-with-weaves, different from USDAA but same as for AKC and international. Gamblers has an interesting variation; someone said it's sort of a combination of AKC FAST and USDAA gamblers; I'm not familiar with FAST so dunno. The gamble always has an option of going over the line to do it but for fewer points, which is nice.

Their Speed Stakes is just a Jumpers course like USDAA (no weaves) but set up for speed like a Steeplechase would be. We finished with that and both dogs loved it; Tika even got excited enough once she caught on to what kind of course it was that she zoomed in and grabbed my feet at the end, which is normally an only-at-trials behavior.

Boost knocked bars but her contacts and weaves were lovely. I was trying to concentrate more on having her keep moving out ahead of me and taking obstacles rather than checking in before every one. We had some success with that, but still a ways to go.

Tika waits her turn. (This is my 4/52 in my 52 Weeks For Dogs photo group.)

On the way home, the lighting was so interesting (sunny but muted by faint cloudiness) that I stopped and took photos. These are the mountains east of Newark rising above the NUMMI plant (New united motors), a joint venture between GM and Toyota for the last quarter century that employs 5500 people--until GM announced that they're pulling out, and Toyota isn't going to keep it running by themselves, so in 2 months it's shut-down and outawork.
It's amazing what you can see while standing at a freeway overpass in the business/industrial part of town on a spur-of-the-moment stop to take photos of the mountains.
Marsh grasses surrounding a reflective pond.

Purple flowers (duh!).

Bird of Paradise

These guys cracked me up. It was clear they were talking about the neighbors.

But when they took off, pure grace.

Seagulls may be the rats o'the sea, but they sure do look nice against a bright blue sky.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Agility Activity

SUMMARY: Class, fun match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Road Trip Report

SUMMARY: Fun match, beach, fun match. Lots of driving

Everything took longer than I had roughly planned, so I skipped the hiking at Mt. Madonna entirely, but I had a good time everywhere I went, so that didn't matter at all.

I was going to take photos of EVERYTHING today, but I just kept getting involved in what I was doing and forgot, or by the end of the day I was too tired to stop by the side of the road to take photos of, for example, the "Alpacas, Papillons, Shih Tzus" sign.

The fun match showcased Heart Dog Agility's site. ("Heart Dog" because her dog Annie is her heart dog: The best dog she'll ever have and the one with which she has a very special connection. I misreported this as having a heart marking but she actually has a "Q" marking (how quickly I forget), which is obviously why they've done so well in agility.) I did one Standard and one Jumpers run with each dog. Neither was fooled into thinking it was a real competition: Tika did lovely contacts and Boost maintained a perfectly solid down on the table. But Boost did get some jumping practice, so that was good.

Chatted with people there; the agility community has so many great people. It was hard to pick up and leave because I kept chit-chatting. But finally I pulled myself away.

Dropped off a book at my Havasu Canyon hiking partner's house, and she showed me her gorgeous wood floors that she laid herself, and doh! I forgot to take pictures. And we chatted a bit.

Dashed into kinda downtown Ben Lomond to take a couple of photos. Not sure that they're really Wikipedia-worth, though.

Headed on out to Aptos and the beach, where the dogs got to explore my friend's house while she concocted tasty turkey sandwiches to take with us. We walked about a mile and a half down the beach at Rio Del Mar, ate lunch, played a little frisbee.

Neither of my dogs have ever been to the ocean before. Tika loved the water--absolutely loved it. Raced in and out of the surf; kept trying to get Boost to come with her.

Boost would have nothing to do with it--absolutely nothing. It was wet, it moved, it made a lot of noise, and it probably smelled funny, too. She almost braved a little of the water of a receding wave to get the frisbee (which Tika kept catching, then running out into the surf and dropping) but really she was much happier on the completely dry sand.

I foolishly wore jeans (it's been a long time since I've been to the beach, too) and got very wet and sandy. But it was a beautiful day to be at the beach--no fog, plenty of sun--and Tika had such a great time.

Then I drove over the hills to Hollister to get our weave poles videotaped--barely got there in time for the overhead taping (I missed the front/side/back filming) and stuck around to run them each once in a standard course. But by then it was so hot and I was so tired that I could barely lift my feet, and called it a day.

Go visit my photos from this trip.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Busy Dog Day Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MapQuest's estimates:

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

Am I insane?

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Busy Weekend

SUMMARY: Good thing I had a weekend off from dog agility so I could relax and catch up around the house. Not.

But I had fun.

Saturday Morning: Hiking

Got up to the alarm at 7 a.m. (This is a free weekend, right? No alarm? Argh. Remember: I'm doing this because I WANT to.) Left the house at 8:00 with Friend #1 for an hour's drive up into the hills to Henry Coe State Park, where we hiked leisurely for about 3 hours and took photos. Home about 1:30.
A trail sign partway along our route; more trails visible just beyond. "Flat Frog" trail? Not a pretty image...
Cool fungus, with the "pitcher" on the left maybe 8 inches tall, at the base of a tree. No clue what it is yet.

Saturday Afternoon: Kooza

Brief hello to dogs, quick shower, change clothes, and dashed off to meet Friend #2 (from agility) and her spouse for Cirque de Soleil's Kooza at 4:00. An amazing show of humor, skill, daredeviltry, and contortion (my favorites: the juggler and the contortionists). Afterwards, dinner at Elephant Bar, which I'd never heard of, but had good meals at reasonable prices and an interesting ambiance.

For a temporary structure, the Cirque tents are HUGE! And their stripes stand out in the urban landscape. Friend and her spouse turn back to see what's keeping me.
Elephant Bar: There's a life-sized African elephant emerging from the wall above the diners, and various pachydermous artifacts everywhere.

Sunday Morning: Practice

Home by maybe 9:30, and it's right to bed because I have to get up Sunday morning at 7:00 to the alarm (this IS a weekend off, right?) to bake brownies for the SMART agility club practice/meeting/potluck. Friend #3 meets up with me at 9:00 a.m. with her two dogs, and the six of us drive an hour down to Hollister for a couple of hours of practice, a lovely potluck, and a reasonably short meeting, then more practice, then home.
Workin' Paws is in the back yard of these people's home. They've got TWO competition-sized fields! (Wouldn't that be grand? Twenty feet from your back door?) Here's field 1 with Friend #3 in the background. Look at the wide-open spaces!
Here's field 2 complete with Team Small Dog leaving the practice field. What a lovely mountainous view to wake up to every day!
Here I am, posing. The slightly-less-posed shot was blurry. Technology! Pah!
This guy came in 2nd in a poker tournament and decided to spend his winnings on something that would help him to remember his victory and make him very happy: Meet Tex[as Hold'em]. Now there's a man with his priorities straight!

Sunday evening:Party

Then an hour's drive home, play with all the dogs in yard a bit (Hey! I'm already getting pretty tired! How come they want to play again? Dang herding dog endurance!), quick shower and change and head over to my parent's house for a family birthday celebration.
Parents went to town decorating for the birthday party. We even got personalized Welcome letters.
Eight of us have birthdays within a 2-month period, so they baked two cakes and put our initials on them. (I'm "ELF".)
Plus we got Mardi Gras beads. In my fave colors.
AND I got a cool new baseball cap from my sister that combines Disney with dogs (why do people think I like dogs?). I love how Pluto looks as if he's got a really clever, sneaky trick up his sleeve. Reminds me of a truth about dog agility--youth and enthusiasm will always be beaten by age and treachery. Or something like that.

Sunday Late Evening: Photos and Blog

Then...sighhhhhh...two hours transferring photos to the computer, doing a quick search and edit for a few that I can use on my blog (deal with the rest later. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows.) then upload them for the blog and type in some notes...

Sorry, K.A., it'll be yet another day at least for the rest of Rachel's seminar!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Fun Match Oddities

SUMMARY: Dogs are smarter than we think they are; they know the difference.

In a comment in response to yesterday's blog, Elayne said...
I always think fun matches are kind of a weird atmosphere, in a way almost more challenging than a real trial. Things are typically more loosely organized and people don't seem to watch their dogs as closely plus all the nervous energy of both the green dogs and the green and/or experienced handlers nervous about their green dogs. I sometimes get weird behavior from the dogs that I normally wouldn't get at a trial too.

How interesting that she notes this, because this is my 3rd or 4th fun match ever, and this is the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. Although I think of fun matches as being primarily a venue of novice handlers with novice dogs, in fact yesterday there were several experienced, top-flight handlers with their experienced dogs. I don't know why all were there; one was working on perennial contact problems; one has a dog in rehabilitation. That sort of thing. I ran Tika only because I was there with Boost anyway.

From the sidelines, I watched in amazement as some of these perennial USDAA masters ribbon-winners missed gambles, popped contacts, knocked bars, skipped tunnels, missed weave entries--yes, certainly, things that occasionally happen, but not all at once and not typically to these dogs. Tika's behavior fell into that same lot. Later, one of those other handlers commented, "I can't believe that [Fido] did that; she's never done that! And she also did this other thing, and that's so rare for her!" Curiouser and curiouser.

My response was that I think the dogs know it's different. We already know that they can sense things that we're only barely aware of--so they know it's not a competition; they know it's not a class; they know it's not the back yard. So what kind of thing IS this? I saw it all morning among dogs and handlers with whom I was familiar.

Neither I nor this friend have attended many fun matches. Don't know about the others. So perhaps if we did enough of them, we and our dogs would learn how to behave in such an environment. Which might or might not be such a good thing, if you're trying to use a fun match to simulate the environment of a trial.


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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fun Match Gotchas

SUMMARY: I work on things that I didn't completely anticipate working on.

The two fun match rings this morning were set up for Gamblers and Snooker (I didn't stay for the afternoon Standard and Jumpers). I got two runs with each dog in each ring, for a total of 8 runs. That was enough for me and my knee.

Boost spent most of all four of her runs popping out of weave pole #10. Over and over. I said "oops" and restarted the first time or so in each ring, but that wasn't getting me anywhere, as she'd just pop out again at the end. In class not long ago we discussed never putting the dog back in where she popped out, and there was a good reason for that, I'm sure, which I can't at the moment recall. But my theory is that, if she's going to consistently pop out in the same place, starting over doesn't help, whereas making her stop and come back and actually do those last 2 poles will make her brain engage. And as soon as she did the last pole, she got to get her mouth on her toy for a moment, but not a big playtime until she actually did the whole set of 4. So we got maybe 4 or 5 or even 6 big celebrations about weave poles today and almost no practice on anything else.

She didn't get all of her weave entries, either, but I was trying challenging ones, and she got some. Did some contacts and the first Aframe she left as I was saying "Good!" instead of waiting for "Break!" so we redid that, and the next couple were good. Start-line stay remains solid.

Tika--omigoodness--wouldn't stay at the start line the first time, just kept standing up and wandering around sniffing, or actually stood and started forward. We spent more than half of our first run time working on that. Then she flew off the Aframe repeatedly. Legal Aframes (feet in the yellow), but she's SUPPOSED to stop 2-on-2-off, so we did a bunch of Aframes. And there went our first run. On the second run we had to repeat the Aframe only once, then she got them nicely, and I went on to the dogwalk, and she slowwwwed waaayyyyyy dowwwwwnnnn. Sigh. I haven't found the balance between getting her so excited that she'll drive to the end, and yet pays enough attention to the rules that she'll *wait* at the end. Seems to be slow & wait, or fast and not wait. (I'm not the only one in the universe with that problem, I know.)

Then I tried doing some runouts in Snooker--running over a large aread of land, past several obstacles, which often discombobulates her and this is where she often starts turning in front of me to bark or grab my feet. First pass, she went right out of the ring into the rough field outside and wasted a good portion of our run time sniffing some gorse or something; second pass she went out into the next ring and took a couple of obstacles there; third pass she kept turning in front of me and grabbing my feet. For that one, I took her back where we had come from and tried again, but now she knows where we're going and is fine with it, so the problem seems to be not knowing where we're going and I'm not good at conveying "stick with me, pal, trust me, we'll get someplace interesting fast."

I really do need to go up to Power Paws and rent the field on weekends to work on stuff like this. Really. I do. Any day now.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Out of Condition

SUMMARY: Many muscles sore from fun match.

Dang, why do I never think of taking photos until after I'm home?

The fun match was at Workin' Paws in Hollister. This is Susan Paulson's back yard, but not a back yard like you find in most of Silicon Valley. All of the houses in the neighborhood are on their own giant lots--I'm guessing at least 2 acres each, maybe more like 3 to 5. Many people have horses. Workin' Paws has a duck coop (what do you call a building in which you keep ducks? Chicken coop, dove cote, turkey trot--or something--), a huge fenced area for pottying and running dogs that's larger than my back yard, a pretty-close-to-full-sized agility ring in grass, and another ring under construction, plus their house and personal yard. And I have no idea whether the neigbhoring pastures with sheep and llamas were theirs or other neighbors'. Pretty cool. But a long commute from most jobs up here (just under an hour from my place in south san jose, so estimate at least one and a quarter hours--in good traffic (ha!)--to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara).

I ran Jake in 3 Jumpers runs and he seemed pretty happy to be there. I believe that I did 4 Jumpers runs each with Tika and Boost, and two or three Standard runs each. But they weren't straight through--they were most like practices, and we were allowed up to 90 seconds each in the ring, so I redid sections that I felt would be productive.

So I did quite a bit of running with my knee brace on, and my right knee got to feeling pretty tired by noon. Today, all the muscles in all of my legs (at least 2 of them) are bone-tired. This is bad. This means that I'm really very much out of condition. That's really not a lot of being on my feet for me normally, but apparently it is a lot for me NOW. I realize that I haven't been going for my daily mile walks for quite a while now, and I'm doing less and less with the dogs overall, but boy, I'm going to have to be careful after the surgery to remember that I'm not going from peak condition to surgery to peak condition.

Boost and Tika both didn't want to carry on to the end in the Jumpers courses with 4 or 5 straight jumps in a row. Bother! Something I worked on with both of them a lot and just assumed that they'd do. So we worked on that a bit. Worked with Boost on going over jumps and not going around them when she's trying to catch up to me. Worked with Tika on the start line stay. And worked. And worked. She got up and ran only once, but boy, she skootched and skootched and SKOOTCHED and skootched--

I've toyed with the idea of putting her in a down, since that's what she seems to want to do as an alternative to taking off early. Seemed to keep her in place better, but in fact she went into full relaxed position with one front leg tucked under, which isn't what I want, either.

So much to do--

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