Friday, February 12, 2010

Hopes for Titles Addendum

SUMMARY: Lotta lifetime runs
Oh! And Tika is only 21 Qs away from her silver lifetime achievement award (LAA). At our average Q rate, that'll be another 5 or 6 trials, but at our *best* Q rate it could be 2-3. Go, Tika!


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Hopes for Titles

SUMMARY: This weekend could help--
So, this weekend. Here's what could happen:

  • Tika could earn a Standard leg to complete her PD3 (Performance MAD). 
  • That would then leave Tika with only 2 Standards and 3 Jumpers to her APD (performance ADCH).  We have 2 tries at Standard and 2 tries at Jumpers this weekend, so in the best of all possible worlds, we'd come out of the weekend needing only one Standard for her APD. But--then--these *are* Standard and Jumpers. Not our strongest suits.
  • Boost could earn a Jumpers leg to complete her MAD. (Argh. I don't want to even count. We might be up to 40 tries without a single one.) We have 2 tries. I'm going outside RIGHT NOW to do more jumping drills.
  • Boost could earn a Standard leg, making 10,  for her Standard Championship (SACh). Two tries.
  • Boost could earn a Pairs leg, making 15, for her Relay  Bronze (RCh-Bronze).
  • Boost could earn a Snooker Super-Q. Two tries. Yeah. We're hard on the heels of  jumpers on Super-Q attempts without success. That would leave only 2 more SQs...and 5 Jumpers Qs [insert epithet].... to her ADCH.
All together, this weekend, we have 2 each of Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers; one each of Pairs, Steeplechase, and Grand Prix. That should keep us busy!

Weather should be lovely, cool but sunny-ish. See y'all at the score table as usual!

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey, Well, Qs and Titles are Overrated Anyway

SUMMARY: One rainy day of USDAA agility doesn't have a lot of high points. But dogs were happy to be running!

Saturday was supposed to start with a little rain and then clear up. So it started with a little rain and continued with a little rain almost all day. We were under cover for the trial, but it's a metal roof, so when it started raining, especially heavily, you could hardly hear each other to talk. Wonder whether the dogs could hear one's spoken commands.

After all this rain recently, the huge lawn where we usually play some frisbee at the end of the day to burn off any remaining exercise was a bit of a lake. Dogs didn't much care.

If I had taken time to post "what I want from this weekend" before the trial, I'd have said a Jumpers Q to finish Boost's MAD and a Standard Q to finish Tika's Performance MAD-equivalent (PD3 I think). Short answer: Didn't get either.

Both dogs, however, were delighted to be doing agility after weeks of little or none and after a solid week of rain. I could tell from the way they went at it. Very, very happy dogs.

Tika remained in full healthy form, not a sign of pain at all. Halleluia! I did give her a rimadyl Friday night and another Saturday morning Just In Case. She looked great. She started the day with a lovely Gamblers run in which she completed 4 contacts--not 2o2o but completely solidly legal--and got a high enough score that she'd have beaten ALL the 30 dogs in the Border Collie height (16" Performance)--but dang high levels of competition at her height, only 11 dogs and 2 of them had higher scores (barely--3 pts and 1 pt). She made the gamble itself look like a cakewalk, so an easy Q and 3rd place.

Tika then had a simply gorgeous Jumpers run, never even ticked a bar. One challenging rear cross (for me) and she started to turn the wrong way but picked it up and went on--and that lost us 1st place by .2 seconds. Ah, well, it was another Q and a 2nd.

Then in Standard, where I really needed the contacts to be perfect for her title, she flew off both the dogwalk and Aframe without even trying to slow down.

In Snooker, I thought I had a perfect thing going after the first five jumps but then apparently Tika entered the weaves from the wrong side and I didn't notice it so got whistled off with a whole 8 points. You'd think that after all these years, I'd notice something like that. I can usually tell a bad weave entry even with peripheral vision and half a brain. Ah, well.

She ran beautifully again in Pairs, which was good because her partner had two refusals--but collectively we were fast enough to earn a Q.

Boost-- Ahhh, what can I say, this is a dog with whom I have to do the straight-ahead and bar-knocking drills constantly, apparently. In Snooker, she had a spectacular start--over a red on the far side of the course, between two jumps straight to me and a perfect right-angle turn into the weave poles. Beautiful. Then--she knocked the next two red jumps, which right there not only kept us from a Super-Q but also from qualifying at all, but we continued into the closing sequence (with combinations, 10 obstacles), which she of course did perfectly. Gah.

In Jumpers, in the first 5 obstacles, two bars down and then turned back to me and ran past a jump sideways for a runout. The rest of the course--clean although still way too much looking back.

In Gamblers, we had a good high-score opening going until our last 2 obstacles--looked back at me as she went through the tire and got caught in it and took a couple of seconds to regain her feet but continued without a backward glance, then leaped off halfway down the dogwalk down ramp to come back to me (behind her). So no points for that, and the buzzer sounded, and she was between me and the gamble entry, so I had to calm her enough to line her up, we didn't have quite the momentum and angle I'd have liked, and she hung out before the 3rd gamble jump doing the "what, this jump? what, this jump?" thing 3 or 4 times before she finally took it and then completed the gamble but over time.

In Standard--oh, the heartbreak, we were SO close to a perfect run, and then once again in a straight line of obstacles, on the middle jump, she turned back to me and backed up past the jump for a runout.

In Pairs, she crashed the second jump on a lead-out pivot, looked back at me several times before taking jumps, and then on the last jump turned back to me just as she got to the jump and ended up crashing the metal upright with the side of her head, the whole thing went flying (jump upright, bars, and wing, not her head, although I was afraid she'd knocked a tooth out--but no, she kept going without a backwards glance). We did squeeze out a Q by about 2 seconds because she had enough speed and her partner executed perfectly. Her only Q of the weekend, and it just wasn't purty.

On the up side, Boost's weave poles seem to be perfect again with no apparent effort on my part, go figure.

After we were done, I took them out to the frisbee field and let them splash their way through it until Boost lay down in the slushy grass, panting. The sun came out at the horizon long enough to backlight a few clouds nicely for us.

Then we spent the night at my cousin's house, where Boost proved that now, apparently, ALL smooth floors are evil except the ones at home and ALL water dishes except hers are evil (I never filled in that story over New Years--will have to come back to that) and my cousin finally managed to get her to drink from a large hand-held plastic pitcher. All other offerings were evil. What a strange dog.

We had a great night's sleep, very comfy, chatted with the cousin a bit more in the morning, and came home. Next trial in 3 weeks I believe.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ex Pertinacia Victoria (We Can Only Hope)

SUMMARY: (Translation: From persistence comes success.) Well, can't say I'm not persistent.

  • Attempts at USDAA Masters Standard Qs: 41. Earned: 1 (we had been retraining contacts when he succumbed to cancer)
  • Attempts at NADAC Elite Gamblers with no Qs: 23. 
  • After that: Earned 10 of the next 25 to complete his NATCH.
  • Attempts at Gamblers Qs after moving up to Masters: 10 with no Qs.
  • Then earned 4 of the next 8.
  • Attempts for the 5th Q after those 4: 10 with no Qs.
  • After that: Earned the 5th Q to complete his ADCH. Earned another 7 in Performance.
  • Out of first 17 NADAC Elite gamblers attempts: one Q.
  • Eventually: Earned 29 Elite Gamblers Qs before retirement.
  • Attempts at a clean Jumpers run in USDAA Novice before her first Q: 12.
  • Attempts at a clean Masters Jumpers run before her first Q: 13.
  • Out of her first 42 Jumpers runs in NADAC, CPE, and USDAA combined: 3 Qs.
  • Eventually: Just earned her 25th Masters Jumpers Q to complete her ADCH-Silver.
  • Attempts at Masters Jumpers Qs: 34. Earned: 0. And counting.
  • Attempts at Masters Snooker Super-Qs: 32. Earned: 0 super-Qs, 4 plain Qs. And counting.
  • After that: Hope springs eternal--

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend's Coming--

SUMMARY: USDAA trial in Turlock, will be hot.
I'm hoping that "will be hot" applies to our skills as agility competitors in addition to this 90-100-degree heat.

Have I been practicing ANYthing useful? No. Vowed I'd do bar-knocking drills with both dogs. But have I? No. Ran Tika at 24" and 26" in class this week and she looked great. No dang excuse for not getting that last Championship Jumpers Q when we have TWO chances!

And Boost is running very nicely, too, but the bars are starting to come down again. Must. Do. Drills. We just want that one Jumpers leg needed for our MAD! Sheesh! She's got twelve--count 'em, TWELVE Masters Standard legs! How come she can't get one *@&% Grand Prix? Or one Jumpers?

She's got four--yes, four--Masters Gamblers legs. How come not. a. single. Super-Q?!

OK, here's the status:
Tika in Performance 3:
  • Standard: 1 (!) Can't get Standard legs, either, apparently, but CAN get a zillion Steeplechase & Grand Prix legs! Go figure.
  • Gamblers: 4. One more for p3 gamb title.
  • Snooker: 3 superQs and 1 regular Q. One more Q any kind for p3 Snooker title.
  • Pairs: 5. So has that p3 title.
  • Jumpers: Can't get any Qs until we finish that dang 25th Ch Q!
  • Grand Prix (pf): 5 (2009 season)
  • Steeplechase(pf): 4 (2009 season)
  • Team (pf): 2 (2009 season) so she has her p3 Tournament Master title.
Boost in Championship:
  • Standard: 8. Needs 2 for her Standard Champion title.
  • Gamblers: 4. Needs 1 for her Master Gamblers. 
  • SNooker: 4 regular Qs. Only! Sheesh! This has got to be the easiest class in the world to get plain boring Qs in, and we cant' even do that. Need 3 SuperQs for her master snooker title.
  • Pairs: 12! OK, folks, see, time plus faults scoring AND only half a course. We can do this!
  • Jumpers: NONE NO EFFING JUMPERS QS. Ahem. Sorry for the yelling.
  • Grand Prix: 3 (none in 2009).
  • Steeplechase: 3 (one in 2009).
  • Team: 2 (one in 2009). So she needs 2 of any tournament for her Tournament Master title.
What's happening this weekend:
  • We're now in the New Year for 2010 Nationals Qualifying in the 3 Tournaments. This weekend, both merle girls have a chance at Grand Prix and Steeplechase. 
  • Two Jumpers
  • Two Standard
  • Pairs
  • Two Gamblers
  • Snooker
Supposed to be a smallish trial and supposed to finish early (3:00 or earlier) both days. I'll believe it when I see it.

Oh, and then there's the Lifetime Achievement Awards status, thanks for asking! The Silver lifetime award is 250 Qs. Tika is at 217. I'm thinkin' we'll make Silver easily within the next year.  But gold at 350? Hm. Not sure on that one. That's a lotta legs.

OK, gotta finish packing and doing those bar-knocking drills.

As if.

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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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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Titles, tongues, trekking, tunes, with photos

SUMMARY: Still practicing terseness with assorted updates.


This arrived today. Woot! 50 Tournament legs at Championship level, highest possible tournament title. Never thought we'd never get there. But now already have 8 at Performance level after 10 tries.


Exercise the beasts in warm weather and see what hangs out.

How does such a small face contain such a gigantic tongue?

In case you always wondered: The inside of a panting dog.

Tika has a natural paw-tuck when lying down. Usually when I try a photo, she leaps up to check me out.


Left the Merle Girls at home and took myself for another 6-7 mile Sierra club hike with ~500 feet elevation gain at Rancho San Antonio. The hills were richly colored with this brilliant red foliage. Yeah, well, poison oak.

We don't often see horses on these trails, but this one passed us twice, trotting past the ubiquitous brilliant red foliage.

Air was a bit hazy/smoggy, but still had a nice view of the blimp hangar and wind tunnels at Moffett Field and of the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Looking down towards a section of trail on the dry hillside, probably the one on which we came up. And the requisite rich red foliage in the foreground.


Bad enough I make up bad lyrics when I'm awake. Last night dreamed I was in agility class and we were discussing the bad traffic coming home from the trial. (This is the only relationship that this topic has to dogs. It's a stretch but it's what I've got.) I said I had no trouble. Friend said it was awful just trying to get onto the freeway, how did you get around the on-ramp? I burst into song (to the tune of I'm Getting Married In The Morning):
We're stuck in traffic on the on ramp.
We're stuck in traffic going slow!
Pull out the stops! But let's watch for cops!
'Cause we're passing traffic going slow.
She looked at me blankly. I said, "Haven't you ever seen Mary Poppins?" which woke me up immediately, because of course it wasn't Mary Poppins, it was My Fair Lady. And it stunned me that the lyrics actually worked in real life, too, not just Dreamworld.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Exercise and preparation

SUMMARY: How the dogs and I are preparing for our long agility weekend.

Updated July 6 2009: Added course map for yard layout.

Seems to me that Tika tires out faster than she used to. OK, sure, she's 8 and a half now, but it also occurs to me that, since I'm now combining 2 dogs into one class and mostly focusing on Boost, she hardly ever gets a lot of long agility sequences to do. In the yard, we tend to focus on maybe 3 or 4 or 5 obstacles for some particular thing we're focusing on.

I've been getting better again about getting out for a mile-or-more brisk walk with the dogs nearly every day, but that's not the same as running.

It was just wayyy too hot over the weekend to want to do anything--here's my indoor/outdoor temps midafternoon on Saturday; I missed the 105 and 106 showings Sat and Sun!-- but on Monday I set up a sort of course in my little crowded yard that allows us to do 16 or more obstacles over & over to get into shape. Discovered some interesting handling & performance issues with both dogs, so we got to do some actual practice on stuff as well as doing 16-obst courses several times each day.

Here's what one layout looks like, showing the challenges of laying out a big course in my yard. Notice how very tight the spacing is on the path between some of the obstacles. The "tr" circles are tree trunks.

I'll probably do once around today with each dog, plus bar-knocking drills, because we're coming up on a 3-day USDAA trial starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Fortunately the heat has dropped way back, and so last night I got my Wednesday hike in with the Sierra Club for my own physical conditioning (it's still not running, jogging, or wind sprints, but it gets my heart & lungs & legs working for sure).
Hike started at about 2300' above sea level (long drive up from the valley), dropped to below 2000', and peaked at 2572, so we got some good ups and downs.

As is typical on hot summer days, it's hazy looking out across the coastal range.

And as the sun sets, we had this intriguing view of the top of Mount Diablo, 100 miles away, floating disembodied above the (cough cough) haze that hides all the mountains between us and it, with just a bit of gleam of the san francisco bay upper center (you'll want to click to see the larger image on this one for sure).
Parts of the trail that were fire roads, and well-traveled by vehicles and bikes, were incredibly dusty, with that superfine dust with texture finer than talcum powder, so no matter how gently you set down your foot, a puff of dust rose. And we were hiking in a large group. Stayed well back from the people ahead!

OK, so this weekend: Team on Friday. Tika's first Performance team, and we're teaming with our ofttimes partner Brenn (from our one appearance in the finals at Scottsdale). How can these dogs be old enough to be in Performance? Gah. Brenn has arthritis in her feet, Tika in her neck. Me in my knees. Pfooey.

Saturday and Sunday is everything else plus Steeplechase and Grand Prix. You know that I'm getting my expectations set high for Tika in those in Performance--her first two times out, she won 1st round steeplechase (and 2nd round, too, the one time we stayed for it) and came in 2nd in grand prix. I'm going to try not to expect too much, but it's hard to avoid.

Mind you, there's a difference between expectations and goals. My goal is to win. But if I *expect* to do well and don't, I have trouble letting that go.

Tika still needs a Standard and 3 Jumpers at 26" for her ADCH-Silver. We've been practicing the last 2 weeks at 24" and 26", so hopefully she can keep her bars up, although mixed with the 22" classes all day friday and some the other days--dunno. We'll see.

Boost still needs one--just one, dangit!--Jumpers leg for her MAD... funny to see that she also just needs one pairs leg for her Relay Bronze! Of course, that's the only course where knocked bars and refusals don't wipe you out. I won't even go into looking for the ADCH--Snooker Super-Qs and Jumpers legs evade us at every turn.

But the weather should be nice, the friends should be nice, and we'll just see what happens.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

From High to Low and In Between

SUMMARY: We won! We lost! We learned! We exhausted ourselves!

Tika won Steeplechase! Whooooey! We have never won Steeplechase. We've almost never even placed in Steeplechase. That's first of 8 dogs who made it to round 2 in Performance 22". Tika ran smoothly and got a solid foot into both Aframe down contacts. So--1st in Performance Steeplechase and 2nd in Performance Grand Prix in the same weekend! Excellent. (And her time would've been good enough for 3rd place at Championship 26".)

She also Qed in Masters Jumpers at 26" this morning, meaning we're down to 3 Jumpers and 1 Standard for our Silver ADCH (could not keep her bars up in EITHER standard today, dash it all) and placed 3rd of 15 dogs, to boot.

She had a nice opening score in gamblers, but I put her into the wrong end of my launching tunnel right before the first whistle blew, so we had to redo the tunnel to get the proper line to the gamble, and DID the gamble, but 1.02 seconds over time. That was still worth a 2nd place out of 10 dogs, because only one Performance 22" dog got that gamble.

Disappointing way to end the day--our two Standards at 26" looked pretty good except that she knocked one or two of the first bars in each run. I DID put her over the 26" practice jump several times before each run, but we had the same issue yesterday--knocking first or 2nd bar at 26". At least we got it over early in the run--beats getting all the way through and then knocking the last bar.

But she did, really, do reasonably well this weekend.

Boost followed up yesterday's credible runs and two Qs with a disastrous Jumpers--4 or 5 bars down, half a dozen or more "this jump?" refusals or runouts, ran past at least 2 jumps... Huh. In Gamblers, I followed through on my determination to get her contacts back to the reliable state they used to be in. I planned three contacts--two A-frames and a teeter. She came right off the end of the first Aframe, so I put her immediately into a down and made her wait a bit. We did the 2nd Aframe and she came right off, so I thanked the judge, picked Boost up (she hates that--so does Tika and that's how I finally mostly cured Tika's feet-grabbing issues), walked off the course, put her into her crate, and walked away.

So--in her next course, Standard, she stuck every one of her contacts.

In the following Standard course, she stuck every one of her contacts.

But we continued with the insane bouncing around in front of me and not going over jumps in front of her and making me want to tear out my hair and maybe hers, too. The second one was considerably better than the first one, but still not as nice as some of yesterday's runs.

Oh, well. At least we got to end on a reasonably high note for her--also she had issues with only the one weave pole yesterday all weekend--hit her entries fast, blazed through, completed them even as I went past her or veered away. So--for now anyway--her weaves seem pretty solid.

Boost's look-very-similar sister Bette won Round 1 of Steeplechase at 26"; I didn't notice how she did in Round 2 (and I was on score table! doh!). Boost's look-alike sister Gina was almost 2 seconds faster than any other dog in the entire Steeplechase finals--but had to knock 4 bars to do it. In my experience, the knocked bars slow the dogs down, not speed them up. So, as always, there is pressure (from inside my brain) to catch up to the littermates.

AND there's been no bleeding on Boost's nose today, so I'm hopeful it was just a contusion of some sort.

Meanwhile, our leetle tiny playmate Sparkle the Pinchippet finished her ADCH this weekend. The ribbon was bigger than Sparkle. I'd love to get a ribbon someday that's proportionally as large on Tika! Would that be cool or what?

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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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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Well, Here's What's What

SUMMARY: Really, I love my dogs, I do. All them blue merles.

So... Boost has earned exactly one Q in the last three USDAA trials. OK, she had a really stupendous Standard run today (except for one knocked bar on a tough front cross, and the dogwalk that she left wayyy before I told her to, so she had to lie down for a bit to think about it) that I completely enjoyed running.

But--otherwise-- Well, I had to scratch her from the two CPE trials because of her sore muscles. So, so far in 2009, she has earned exactly--EXACTLY--one ribbon. ON the up side, I don't need to clear much wall space for her ribbons...

But one Q out of 3 USDAA trails? Pfah!

Tika ran nicely but is back to knocking bars... one in Steeplechase (so she ended in 6th place and the pocket-change checks ended at 5th place), one in Jumpers, both runs otherwise very nice and smooth even at 26".

Both dogs missed their weave entry in the Grand Prix; I know it was my fault because (a) Tika almost never misses her weave entries and (b) both dogs missed it in exactly the same way. Sigh.

And other bobbles and flubs and mess-ups. Boost hardly stuck any contacts all weekend, despite me making her "down" after every one she left early. But I did use her last contact run of the day--a botched Grand Prix run--to take the 3rd contact of the run, which she did beautifully, as a big success, made a big cheering fuss and ran out of the ring directly to her toy instead of finishing the course. Maybe that'll make an impression...

Plus the usual looking-at-mom-instead-of-what-obstacle-to-do-next sorts of things, running past jumps, like that. How on earth have we ever managed to earn 18 masters legs?! Seems like that was a different life-- or universe--

Still, Tika did Q 4 out of 9 runs, not too far off her 50% USDAA average, so I guess it's good enough. And neither dog looked sore all weekend, so I'm VERY happy for that.

The main bright parts of today were:
* Standard, in which both dogs ran very well and Tika Qed, which means she now needs only 2 standard (and 4 jumpers) for her silver ADCH.
* Hanging with assorted friends at the score table and other random places.
* Winning a night at Quail Lodge in Carmel. (I put almost all of my raffle tickets into free trial entries, and tossed one into the VERY popular lodge drawing for "what-the-heck" reasons... Odd how it turned out... I figured that, if on the very slim odds that I won, I'd use it to sleep over in June, when SMART is holding their first USDAA trial there on their property, but a couple of people told me that I shouldn't waste a night in a 4-star hotel on an agility night, but come back when I can really enjoy it for a day. Hmm. )
* Big bonus: Also won this very soft and snuggly and completely useless blue merle aussie dollie! How cute is this?! (Another one-ticket what-the-heck effort.) It's so hard to find blue merle anythings. I think I'll name him MooMoo. (Flash back to my 3-year-old self...)

OK, too tired to want to scan course maps. To bed...

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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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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Preparing for CPE Agility This Weekend

SUMMARY: the rain...with no practice... riding along with my train of thoughts this drizzly morning...

Since I haven't been going to class and haven't been working on agility with Boost, that means (by various contorted TMH logic) that we also haven't been doing agility with Tika. So it has now been at least 2 weeks since I've done ANYTHING with agility equipment.

And now there's a competition coming this weekend. And the yard is sopping wet and muddy, and it's raining, and looks to keep that way most of the week. Maybe I should get out there and do it anyway; good practice for Tika to run in the rain in case we have to do so this weekend. Maybe just a few bar-knocking drills and contact drills. Maybe some weave entries. Maybe some gambles. I dunno. I'm almost entirely unmotivated.

Tika is gradually working on her C-ATE in CPE. That's roughly equivalent to the ADCH-Silver: around 250 Qs at the top level of competition. That's a lot of Qs when you're doing only 3-4 CPE trials a year, with a maximum of 8-10 possible each weekend--with a trend lately towards 8 rather than 10--and you know that we won't get all the Qs every time.

I was more interested in Boost trying to get a few more CPE titles and work on her C-ATCH, since that's more within range (Tika needs about 130 Qs still but Boost needs only 45), but the next 2 weekends are 2 of our 4 or 5 CPEs for all of 2009, and she's not competing. Sigh.

Now that Tika's 8, I'm wondering whether we'll ever get the C-ATE; if she gets 7 of 8 Qs (pushing it) per trial at 5 trials (pushing it) a year, that's another 4 years, and I'm thinking it's unlikely she'll be competing that long (although in CPE she will be legal to jump at 16" and even 12" if I really wanted to be extreme--oh but I have to check whether moving her to Specialist or whatever resets the count on the C-ATE? Gads, I hope not!).

And I'm not sure that I want to give up USDAA trials for CPE trials.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Thanks For the Cake -- Maybe Next Time Some Qs?

SUMMARY: USDAA weekend summary.

We're back from our USDAA weekend at VAST in Turlock, where I had to scrape ice off the score tables Saturday morning before we could use them. The VAST location is always nice to play agility at despite the chill (warmed up later), but let's say that this was not one of our high-Qing weekends.

Out of 10 classes, Boost Qed in exactly zero. Sadly, this is not the first time that she's had a no-Qer, but really they're not THAT frequent (2 last year out of 18, for example). Still, I'm glad I have Tika to encourage my continued participation: She at least managed 3 of 10.

She did not get either the Grand Prix or the Steeplechase--the first was just a hard course that wiped out many dogs (we had a runout and a bar but no off course); the latter she knocked the bar on the triple just two jumps from the end, arghhh! So now we have to wait until April for another chance for that one last leg for the Tournament Platinum.

However, in a surprise push to finish her Silver Gamblers Championship--that's 25 masters gamblers Qs--she got the one last weekend, repeated it this weekend in what turned out to be almost exactly the same gamble, plus one more to boot, for 3 out of 3 and that's 25. Woo hoo! I hadn't expected that so quickly--

And she had a very respectable Snooker on Saturday, although missing a super-Q--again, that amazingly top-flight 26" class! For those 26ers, consider for example today's gamble: only 5 of 18 of the 26" dogs got the gamble, for 28%--but only 7 of **38** 22" dogs got it, for a mere 18%.

Tika did place 4th with all 3 of those Qs, versus 19, 14, and 18 dogs, Top Ten point for each. But at least I can say that we earned *some*, so that I can feel validated as a human being (now you know what it takes).

Boost had some credible runs--for example, her Gamblers opening on Saturday was truly lovely, earning more than the dog who eventually won the class, but we didn't quite connect on the gamble: She did half of the hard part, which stymied quite a few dogs, but we didn't get the 2nd hard part.

In the really bad news category, Boost's weaves seem to be broken again at both ends and Tika has gone back to knocking bars as much or more than Boost. Always something to work on, as They say, but I wish that sometimes They would say once you've fixed something, it stays fixed.

In the really good fun news category, the VASTards showed up with a birthday cake for me so that everyone could share it, and when I went out for dinner with some friends (to escape the cold for a little while), they bought me dinner (agility people are the best! I wish I could remember to be as nice to other people as they are to me!), AND to top it off, Boost's littermate Bette finished her ADCH on our shared birthday. And how cool is *that*?

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Boost's Bars

SUMMARY: The bar-knocking expert does it again. We look forward to the weekend--

Two weeks ago in class, I reported that our instructor (Jim B) said "Wow" when Boost careered around a jumpers course knocking half a dozen bars or more. This week we repeated the exercise with our other instructor (Nancy G); when I got to the end of the course--which, incidentally, Boost did without any runouts or refusals--knowing that we had left a trail of at least 6 bars down (one loses count eventually), I glanced over at Nancy and she had sort of a stunned look on her face.

So the new plan--at least in training--is to take her off the course when she knocks or ticks a bar. I'm not sure that I'm ready to do that in competition this weekend, since we've just started that. For my dog, this actually means picking her up and murmuring in her ear that that's too bad, because merely walking her off the course doesn't seem to sink in as a negative reinforcer (bounce bounce bounce "mom this is exciting!").

It's USDAA this weekend. Not a modicum of rain in the forecast, and supposed to be highs around 65 F (18 C) but lows around freezing, and I'm planning on sleeping in my van to stay on site. Taking lots of down.

Recap: Boost needs one Jumpers for her MAD (one opportunity), one Standard for her StCh (two opp's), two Gamblers for her GCh (two opp's), three superQs pleeze pleeze pleeze (two opp's).

Tika needs two gamblers for her GCh-silver (2 opp's) and either the grand prix or the steeplechase to finish her Tournament Master Platinum, as high an award as one can get in the Tournament classes.

And everyone needs to keep her bars up!

See you Monday--

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Clarifying DAM Team Bonus Qs

SUMMARY: Just a little more on how well Tika did but still didn't earn those new Qs.

I explained in this post that you can now not only earn just the one Q in DAM Team based on all 5 runs of all 3 dogs, but also in the individual events if your score is within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs. I expressed doubt that even Tika would earn many Qs that way; I expected that it would shut out most dogs just like Steeplechase does and SuperQs do.

Yesterday I noted that she got only one (Snooker) of the four possible bonus Qs this weekend. But I also want to point out that, for example, she was 8th of 24 dogs in Team Jumpers and didn't Q, and 7th of 24 in Team Gamblers and didn't Q. Only 5 of 24 Qed in Team Standard; Tika had a clean run that I thought was particularly fast, but apparently the open course and cold weather had all the dogs running particularly fast, as she was still 8 seconds behind the winning dog.

Oh, well, I'm glad to get one additional Q towards our Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA), but it just means that all of my faster, more talented, and/or better trained friends who already stack up awards that I try hard (but don't always succeed in) not to compare myself to will stack them up even faster. Run, little handler, run!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Can We Go Platinum?

SUMMARY: USDAA trial this weekend.

This is it, wrapping up the 2008 agility year this weekend at a USDAA trial in Santa Rosa, under a covered arena. That won't necessarily make it warm, as it's open on two sides and they're predicting snow down to 3000 feet this weekend (we'll be at about 3.4 feet, so it'll just be cold and rainy probably).

Here's what Tika needs for her Tournament Champion Platinum, which is the highest tournament title one can achieve, and which consists of 50 qualifying scores among Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team, with at least 10 in each:
* 1 DAM
* 1 of anything else

What's offered this weekend:
* 2 of anything else (e.g., Grand Prix AND Steeplechase)

Tika is teamed (as Black and Blue) with two young fast Border Collies with top-of-the-line handlers. This means that we could excel beyond our wildest dreams or every one of us could crash and burn spectacularly. That's the gamble of Team. You have to rely on three whole dog/handler partnerships holding it together for 5 whole classes.

In Grand Prix, as of the 2008 season, you have to run clean. Tika always makes time by a mile (can you measure temporal values using distance analogies?) but only 9 of her 29 Qs were faultless. On the up side, 6 of those have been in the last year. So it could happen.

In Steeplechase, Tika is always under time if we don't flub any handling things (e.g., going past a jump or the weave entry and having to go back for it), but just barely under time. In Steeplechase, in theory, you can qualify with faults because it's time plus faults scoring. But because she's usually barely under time, we usually don't Q with faults.

All of which means: She's got to hit her contacts! And she's got to keep her bars up!

So this week I've been practicing (a little) fast, accurate 2on/2off contacts, and (a little more) bar-knocking drills. We can do it! We can!

Also this weekend: Jumpers, Pairs, and Gamblers. Boost could really use that Jumpers leg to finish her MAD. We've been practicing bar-knocking drills with her, too. We successfully knocked the same jump 10x in a row trying to to a tight front cross on it, and I thought I was making it simpler after 2 or 3 failures to try to get a success. I guess I know a weakness.

Also this weekend: Strategic pairs. This is just-for-fun chaos. Could be interesting. Maybe I'll post an old SP course later this week.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Boost Claims To Be A Master-Level Dog

SUMMARY: In which Ellen is surprised by where we are.

I moan often about the fact that I can't get around a course decently with Boost, that we have all kinds of refusal and runout issues, that bar knocking is a big problem, that our weaves are off-again on-again, and that she's starting to lose her perfect contacts.

It came as a surprise to me when I pulled my head up out of the part of the database that summarizes issues we need to work on and looked at how many Masters-level Qs she actually has, to discover that she has 16 Masters and 5 Tournament legs. It's not a lot for an almost-4-year-old dog by some measures, but it's sure a lot more than I THINK of us as having! I feel better now--

4 Standard
6 Relay
3 Gamblers
3 Snooker
3 Grand Prix
1 Steeplechase
1 DAM Team

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Move Tika to Performance?

SUMMARY: Do I need to move Tika to the lower jump height division? What are my criteria?

I've had the gut feeling that Tika has been slowing down on her courses. She'll be 8 in February, but really I don't think of 8 as being that old, and we've gained a comfortable working relationship that works fairly well in USDAA and very well in CPE (which we're not doing much of at the moment). Plus she still jumps nicely most of the time at 26".

(Fun note: In CPE, I jump her at the highest height, 24", to avoid messing up her 26" USDAA Jumping. But she's legal for 20" in CPE. Which means that I could eventually move her down to 16" in their Specialist category--like Performance in USDAA--or even to 12" in their Enthusiast category! Can you picture Tika running a course at 12"?!)

Then there's the issue of her coming up sore periodically. This weekend she did 6 runs Saturday and was fine, then Jumpers Sunday morning and was fine, then came out of her crate before Snooker saying "I'm sore, I'm hunched over, I don't want to play tug of war, I can't do anything." Fortunately there were about 8 dogs ahead of us, so I got her moving, got her stretching, massaged her neck and spine and shoulders, used treats to encourage her to stretch her neck and back in various ways (boy, she really perked up at the treats), and by the time we went into the ring, she looked perky and comfortable. Ran fine. Ran fine in Standard, too. Ran fine for frisbee later. Looks fine today. Maybe just a cramp? But I was inches away from scratching her because she looked so unhappy.

So there's that to consider.

To help decide how much she's slowed down, I took my useful database of info I've collected on my dogs' runs through the years, threw out Novice and Advanced classes, threw out classes where we had refusals or runouts (because they'd skew the picture of her true speed), chose only Grand Prix, Jumpers, and Standard as useful classes, and ended up with data from early 2004 through this weekend. For each of the 3 classes I plotted the following in Excel charts: Her yards per second (YPS), how far off the SCT (standard course time) her time was, and how far off the first-place dog's time she was.

I couldn't clearly tell from the plot of her YPS whether she's slowing, so I did a sort of a running average, and it showed a few interesting things.

1) Her YPS in Standard abruptly shot up starting in April 2007. (--about .2 YPS--which for her would be about 2.5 seconds faster on a Standard course.) What happened in April 2007? The Aframe height changed from 6'3" to 5'10". (Caveat: At some point last year I decided that it was OK for Tika to have running contacts because she was doing it anyway and we needed the extra speed. I can't find my blog post on that, but I was still trying to get the 2o2o behavior at that time.)

I can't quite tell whether it affected everyone equally; it looks like she picked up some time compared to the first-place dogs, but not a lot.

2) Her Standard YPS has indeed been drifting slowly downward since, from 3.9 then to 3.7 now, over a year and a half. So we've lost those couple of seconds again.

3) Her Jumpers YPS rose steadily from 2004 to 2006 as we learned how to work together, peaked at almost 6 YPS in early 2006, slid steadily to just over 5.5 YPS in mid-2007, and has very slightly drifted to below 5.5 YPS since. (In other words, she hasn't slowed much on Jumpers courses in the last year and a half.)

4) Oddly, her Grand Prix YPS average seems to have climbed slightly over time--but we don't have nearly as many good data points on that.

So I'm not sure what it tells me. She's still way below SCT and is by no measures a slow dog. But the numbers from this weekend tell me that we're still fighting a battle to ever earn placement ribbons: Note that in every class, she did very well as the Q rate seemed low--but in almost every case, she was the slowest of the dogs to Q or to get the highest points.

I don't know what moving her to Performance would do in that area; Performance is not an escape from experienced, top-quality competitors. Several dogs who've beaten her consistently in the past in Championship are now in Performance.

The other thing is--she's now getting so close to her ADCH-Silver that it would be nice to finish at least that, and if this weekend's any indication, she's very capable of doing it without hurting herself. To do that, she needs 25 legs in each of the 5 regular classes, and has:
* Standard: 22
* Relay: 26
* Gamblers: 22
* Snooker: 30
* Jumpers: 20

It's always those danged Jumpers, isn't it!

So I'm sticking with a wait and see strategy on her regular classes.

I can also decide on the tournament classes. All she needs for her Platinum Tournament Championship is one DAM Team Q and one additional Q of any kind (DAM, Steeplechase, Grand Prix). There are no higher awards in the Tournament area. So I could move her to Performance's lower jump height there if I wanted to. The question is just whether--if there's another Nationals out west--I'd want to qualify her in Championship or in Performance, and whether I'd really want to go anyway, with the fact (same as this year) that she just can't compete with the top dogs.

It's only Gamblers where we can really shine on opening poins, as usual.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Sore Points: 270s and Tika's Neck

SUMMARY: This week's training and Tika's sore, again.

This week in the yard I've been concentrating on 270-degree turns with various angles of approach and departure. Both dogs need more practice at it. Just not something I've concentrated on in a long time.

Wednesday evening, Tika came up sore. Yelping when doing her usual excited-about-food leaping, so didn't even want to leap for that. No practice yesterday during the day and I tried massaging her arms and neck and back. She loves that! So relaxed, eyes half shut. She'd make a good princess.

But she ran around the yard after the toy and random evil squirrels full-speed just fine and played tug-of-war, so it's getting out of the horizontal movement that's hurting. However, last night in class, wouldn't play tug of war at all. Went over a 16" practice jump just fine, and 22", but when I tried to just run her on a course at 22" (4" lower than usual), she went over the first jump and then hunched up and stopped. Crap.

So last night it was a rimadyl and today we'll just try more massage and stretching and a little bit of distance work with tunnels and maybe very low jumps, to keep her warmed up. I don't need this right before a competition weekend! Crap again.

Also for Boost have been practicing just running full-speed down a straight line of jumps. Which, in my yard, is 3 jumps about 15 feet apart, which is nothing--I can keep up with her easily, so I have to deliberately hang back and not run that fast. Which is very different from what we encounter in competition.

And that showed very well last night in class, when there were 4 jumps going all the way across the field and I was about four thousand feet behind her by the second jump and then she's veering right and left and starting to want to spin while she's ahead of me.

So in a few minutes once again we're going up to Power Paws to use their field for an hour to practice long series of jumps in a row, working with various things to have her focus on going rather than waiting.

She did have some very nice runs last night, although rear crosses are also still a bugaboo. Got more advice on working on that from World Team Coach, so there's more for today.

This weekend's pretty light for a weekend of USDAA agility. But, still, if Tika's healthy, she could earn her Silver Pairs Relay title (that's 25 Qs); Boost could earn her Standard Masters title (that's 5 Qs), and if we could get that dang jumpers leg, her MAD (requires 3 Standard legs and one of everything else).

So here I go...

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Friday, September 12, 2008

What The Weekend Could Bring

SUMMARY: Titles and successes looming.

We're off to Turlock this weekend for our last USDAA trial for a month. (Oh, there are others going on, but I'm not going.)

Boost's flow around a course was SO lovely last night in class! I've suspected for a while that if I would just make the time and $ to go up to Power Paws and rent the field for an hour a couple of times a week (and also work on some specific smaller focus things), that we could get through this refusal/runout crud. And so far it seems to be having positive effects. One more field rental session in about an hour this morning, then tomorrow a.m. we're off to the VAST trial.

What COULD happen this weekend in terms of specific milestones:
  • Boost's Pairs Relay Master title (one chance).
  • Boost's MAD (needs that one Jumpers leg--one chance).
  • Boost qualify in Steeplechase and then be able to compete in that at Nationals (one chance).
  • Boost's Standard Master title (needs two--two chances).
  • Tika earn three Qs of any kind and finish her Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Bronze. (10 chances.)

Of course, there are other things that could happen, too--Boost could continue to do weave poles well. Boost could actually have some smooth runs even if we have small bobbles or knocked bars. Tika could get all her contacts (I've worked on that a little but not a lot lately). Tika could keep her bars up (I've done a few bar-knocking drills this week; often just a little makes a difference). I could have a great time with great friends. W00t!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is It Nationals or Is It Not?

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

Why I might go, part 1

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

Why I might go, part 2

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

Regionals where

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

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

Regionals Friday

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

Tika's DAM Team

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

Title chase

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

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Shouldn't Complain Too Much

SUMMARY: Tika vs Boost as younger dogs.

It's two years after Boost's first trial; she's competed in 33 trials (24 of them USDAA) and has 9 masters legs, 3 Grand Prix Qs, and 1 Steeplechase Q.

Two years after Tika's first trial, she had competed in 44 trials (20 of them USDAA) and had only just completed her AAD, so was in Masters only in Standard, with zero Qs out of 5 attempts, 4 Grand Prix Qs, and 1 Steeplechase Q.

(After Tika's 24th USDAA trial, she had 4 Masters Qs including one Super-Q, 6 GP Qs, and still only 1 Steeplechase.)

Sooooo it'll come eventually. I hope.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Coming Right Up: Agility Weekends! Plus Puppies!

SUMMARY: Four USDAA trials in the next 5 weeks.

Starting this weekend, then next weekend, then a break, then two more weekends. Whew! Busy!

I might go to only three of the four, which include Boost's last 3 chances to earn her last Steeplechase Qualifier for Nationals, and her one last chance to earn her DAM Qualifier.

I am starting to waffle about Nationals. I do have fun when I go. It's just--well--all this. OK, I'm thinking about it again with a little prodding from friends. Arrrghhhh, tough choices! Why can't everything in life be easy?

Boost is still knocking bars, still refusing jumps that I think are obvious. Instructor has lots of good suggestions on things to work on, and I do some of them, but sometimes I just can't get it right even when I think I am! Takes someone else to watch me and tell me again where I'm going astray.

So--what we could accomplish in these next few weeks:
  • Boost qualify in Steeplechase for Nationals
  • Boost qualify in DAM for Nationals
  • Boost earn her MAD (just one Standard--out of at least 4 chances! And one Jumpers--out of at least 3 chances! Just that's all!) (Just because she's missed 13 out of 13 jumpers so far, and 12 out of the last 12 did we ever get 2 standards out of her first 4 in masters?! Seems like someone else's life in some other universe.)
  • Boost earn her Relay Master (two Qs out of 3 chances)
  • Tika earn her Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award--10 Qs of ANY kind out of at least 27 chances

But, all that aside, here's a bonus puppy picture: Boost's mom with her new litter of full siblings. (Not my photo.) More agility blue merles, coming right up!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Really Really Bored Dogs and Agility Schedule

SUMMARY: Pesterful dogs and agility coming right up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 02, 2008

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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Saturday, April 26, 2008

When You Wish Upon A Star

SUMMARY: Tika has a good day. Boost? Well-- Oh, and dogs' names, too.

Sometimes fantasies DO become realities. Tika earned that Grand Prix that I wanted for her, with a 5th place out of about 22 in her height. She earned that Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver (25 masters snooker legs), and did it in style in 4th place with a Super-Q. AND she ran clean in Steeplechase, being one of only five 26" dogs out of 21 to go on to round 2, ending a one-year dry spell (same trial last year) AND completing her Tournament Master Gold! Whoo! She got extra treats! Plus if we can avoid Eing tomorrow we're guaranteed to be in the money! A whole 3% of the purse for 5th place again!

She didn't get ANYTHING that I DIDn't ask for--completely crashed through the first bar in Standard, don't know why, although the rest of the run was nice, and had an excellent Gambler's opening but I got ahead of her when the first whistle blew and so had to come to a complete stop to send her, so she pulled off the gamble obstacle.

Boost's day can be summed up in two words, one consisting of a variety of emphatic puncutation marks: #%$&*@ weaves! She either mucked the entry, or popped out early, or sometimes both, or in the Steeplechase 6 or 7 times from a down-stay BEFORE the weave poles all in one run! And I waited around for 90 minutes or more for that run!

What am I to do? (That's a rhetorical question--I'm working on it--but meanwhile what passes for my wits are nearing a terminus...)

But the weather was nice, I was among friends, pal Apache and his dad finished their ADCH, Boost actually had a couple of runs that were very smooth with no refusals on jumps and made me feel like I was running a masters dog instead of a babydog, and she DID get the gamble although over time because we were out in the middle of the course HAVING ANOTHER DISCUSSION ABOUT POPPING OUT OF THE #%$&*@ WEAVES! ARRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh...

And speaking of ellipses--We discussed dogs whose names contain punctuation. Today there was "Rowdy!" and another California agility dog is "Tally Ho!". I said what about a dog named "." (pronounced "Dot")? Do you think that every secretary would call when you sent in your entry to say that you didn't give the dog's name? What would the gate steward call when they saw "." on the running order list? Or would they think it was a typo? And, hey, how about a dog named "ellipses" that was spelled like this: "..."?? Wouldn't it just be a blast chiding USDAA and CPE and all those other organizations for not spelling your dog's name right?

Then we got around to a dog who, after he wins the National Championships or maybe has his photo on the cover of Clean Run or otherwise now becomes famous, changes his name from a run-of-the-mill traditional dog name to a sort of a bone symbol on a stick something like this and now he's known as "The dog formerly known as Prince"? Wouldn't that be cool? Wouldn't you want to be trial secretary dealing with TDFNP's owner who wanted the symbol correctly on the page? (Thanks to my fellow scoretableist for the Prince idea. You can hit her if you want--it's not my fault!)

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One Dog, Two Dog, No Dog, Three Dog

SUMMARY: Title chase this weekend, plus: What's the right number of dogs?

If all works well, this post will post itself while I am off having the time of my life making perfect weave entrances at the SMART USDAA trial in Prunedale. And working the score table. And maybe participating in:
  • Boost getting a Jumpers and a Standard leg to finish her MAD.
  • Tika getting a Steeplechase Q to finish her Tournament Master Gold.
  • Boost getting a Steeplechase Q, too, which will put them both halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big S.
  • Tika getting a Grand Prix Q, too, which will put her halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big GP.
  • Tika getting a Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver.

No, I don't really have anything I want to accomplish this weekend; why do you ask?

So, in case none of my dogs achieve anything this weekend and I need to replace them with something more qualifiable, let's talk about What's The Right Number of Dogs?

An agility friend is seriously in the midst of probably most likely adopting a third dog, first time she's done that (two was a leap, I believe), so wanted my opinion, me being an absolute wealth of useless, ambiguous opinions, and I agreeably rambled on about it. Here's my updated response, with photos.

One dog, December 1978 through August 1981

Amber joined me as a puppy. We were happy together. I took her many places with me. It's easy to travel with one dog. It's easy to play with one dog. One dog fits well into small spaces. It's easy to do training with one dog. And when all the Mystic Mints disappear from the box or there is poop on the carpet you know whom to talk to about it. And Amber was generally a Good Dog who generally came when called and stuff like that. Plus she'd hold a biscuit on her nose.

Two dogs, August 1981-July 1992

So I got married and figured that two people needed two dogs. Well, the new dog was very sweet but did NOT come when called and did NOT play and did NOT have any interest in doing training and could not hold a biscuit on her nose even if stapled it there (editor's note: Stapling is just a metaphor, no actual staples were used). At least Sheba and Amber got along--once in a while they'd chase each other around the yard, and they'd take turns eating from the same bowl even though we conveniently provided them with two independent bowls with actual food in both.

Sheba was not much fun to travel with and she always had to be on leash, always, or she would end up in Sheboygan. So we didn't go places with the dogs much. But at home one or the other was usually doing something entertaining, or being cute, so when one was slacking off and just hanging out, the other would gamely amuse us somehow. But if the carpet was torn to shreds, we couldn't ever be certain who was responsible, although we had a 99% probability guess on that one, SHEEEba!

One dog July 1992-May 1994

When Amber died, it just about broke my heart. This is one disadvantage of having dogs. They die. They break your heart. If you have one dog, they don't do it as often as if you have two or more dogs. The number of dogs dying seems to be proportional to the number of dogs in the family. I realized now that dogs die and furthermore, Amber died, and I would never be able to have another dog like her again and so why bother. Plus there was always dog hair everywhere and dust and dirt from the dogs everywhere and I was just tired of it, and Sheba was 11 anyway so if we just waited for her to die, which would undoubtedly be soon, then I could have a clean house again and no carpet ripped up and no spots on the lawn all the time and no worrying about dogsitters when we went places without the dogs, which was often.

Two dogs, May 1994-January 2002

When Sheba had rambled on to 13 and showed no signs of slowing down for or even being within a hundred miles of the exit from the highway of life (more metaphors, are you impressed?), it suddenly struck me that my own life would be very, very, very empty indeed if there were no dog in it, plus since Sheba did NOT play and did NOT hold a biscuit on her nose, she often bored me to tears, and wanted a dog who would be more doglike in those particular ways rather than just shedding everywhere and occasionally escaping and trying to thumb a ride to Sheboygan. And within a month, Remington came home.

Sheba was not happy about it. It was no longer easy to snuggle with both dogs, because one would be pissy about it. They did not share food bowls. Remington was generally a Good Dog but if we left him at home and took Sheba for a slow elderly walk, he shrieked, and if we left Sheba at home and took Rem for a brisk youngster walk, she'd be gone when we got back.

But, oddly enough, Sheba took one look at the young whippersnapper doing tricks for treats, and she wanted to, too! So the dog I had failed to teach even to sit when she was 3 learned, at 14, to sit and lie down on command, to shake, and to hold a biscuit on her nose! I loved it! And for the first time I really appreciated how dogs can affect each other in ways that are good for me. So maybe having more than one dog was a Good Thing.

Then I discovered dog agility. Rem went many places with me and learned many things. But Sheba was too old for that sort of stuff and her health was starting to fail. Meanwhile, "All my FRIENDS have two agility dogs, can I please please please, really, I'll take care of them!" The spouse wasn't smitten with the idea of three dogs (two dogs, two people, remember?), but meanwhile Jake became available and I really really wanted him to come home with me.

When Sheba died at 17, Jake was in our yard within a week. And we started doing agility.

So I discovered--duh--it's blatantly twice as expensive to have two dogs when you're competing in agility. It's not just twice the food and twice the basic vet bills and so on--it's twice the weekly lessons (money and time), twice the training in the yard (time), twice the entry fees (money), twice the work at a trial (pottying, warming up, cooling down, planning different handling strategies or courses because they run differently and have different strengths and weaknesses).

On the other hand, if one was injured, the other was still running. If one was having zero-qualifying weekends, the other was doing SOMETHING right so I wouldn't sink into a self-pitying pit of rancid despair (not quite worked into a blatant metaphor but close enough). So there were definitely advantages.

And, for two Basically Good Dogs, walking two dogs wasn't too hard, snuggling two dogs wasn't too hard, training two dogs wasn't too hard because one would wait when told.

But these two dogs despised each other. Fights were too common. It was extremely unpleasant. Plus they were boy dogs, so instead of making dead patches on my lawn, they peed all over the sides of things. And, once one did it, the other had to, too.

Three dogs, January 2002-March 2003

Both dogs were getting older. Jake had arthritis in his back. I figured that neither of them had more than a couple of good agility years left. I wanted to bring a third dog on board so that I wouldn't be left without an agility dog. After a divorce (really only very little to do with the dogs), and the purchase of a new Agility House, Tika came home with me.

Jake was grumpy about it, but Tika knew how to keep out of his way. It was a lot of fun having a new dog to teach from scratch to avoid making all the training mistakes I had made with the first two. I really enjoyed getting started with her, although, boy, training classes for THREE dogs was quite a wallet-unloader.

I used to go for nice peaceful mile-long walks every day with Jake and Remington, but Tika was a tremendous handful. I did it anyway because the other two dogs were manageable, but it became a bit stressful trying to walk her, too.

Tika entered her first trial with one run the same weekend that Remington first showed obvious-enough signs that something was wrong with him, so I never did have complete entry fees for three full dogs at a single trial, but my two "elderly dogs" up to that point (Rem 9, Jake 11) were still competing just fine so it could have gotten quite pricey--and REALLY busy--at trials.

But now I could take one dog for a walk at a time and not feel guilty because there'd be two dogs at home together. This didn't stop them from complaining about it, but I always felt much better that they were together. This way, I could work on Tika's leash-training by herself, could walk an ill Remington by himself, could walk Good Dog Jake for just a nice relaxing peaceful walk by ourselves. There were advantages to three dogs.

Plus, the things that Jake and Remington both did well at (not running out the front door, for example), Tika seemed to notice and learn from. (She was not so good at it later after Rem died, so actually having TWO other experienced dogs in the house was a very good thing for a rambunctious youngster.)

But three dogs on the bed was a real mess, especially with the two boys being picky about their personal space. I tried to train Tika to sleep in a crate off the bed, but my training failed--on me. So I had to manipulate myself all the time to sleep around 3 dogs on a king sized bed who didn't want to be within 3 feet of each other.

Two dogs, March 2003-2004ish

So, after Remington died, I discovered again how much I liked having two dogs. One on either end of the bed. One on either side of me for snuggling. One per hand when out walking. Two at a competition was plenty.

Three dogs, 2004ish-2005ish

And then I got a renter housemate who had a dog, too.

This actually worked out well, because I could play with and even dabble in agility with the third dog, but then turn him over to his mom for vet bills and feeding and walking and grooming and all that stuff.

Jake, whom I thought would have retired from agility years ago, kept going and going, but I knew that at his age (13ish), it couldn't last forever, and then I'd be down to only one agility dog again, and that's a terrible thing (what if one is injured? Then I'd have NO agility dogs!). I had thought that I might make little black Casey my 3rd, but then they moved out.

Two dogs briefly in 2005

When Casey left, Tika was already 4, and I figured it was time to bring in a 3rd dog again. It was a hard choice from a living perspective, though, because I REALLY liked having just 2 dogs everywhere except for competing at agility trials. But, still, Boost joined us shortly thereafter.

Three dogs April 2005-Feb 2007

Once again, I delighted in teaching my young new dog all kinds of wonderful new things. A puppy is a challenge, but also a joy in seeing her catch onto ideas.

But three dogs are harder. Harder to line up for photos. Harder to snuggle with--you just cannot do 3 simultaneously. More gear to carry and more space taken up at agility trials. One dog you can tuck in almost anywhere. Even with two dogs, you can get by without your own canopy if you're clever. But with three dogs, you gotta have the whole shebang (not to be confused with Sheboygan).

Harder to sleep with and manage in hotel rooms and vehicles. Two crates fit neatly across the back of the minivan, but not 3.

Two dogs Feb 2007-present

Abruptly, I found myself again with only two dogs. Sure, I missed Jake, but I don't miss having the three dogs. Except when I want to walk one dog at a time, or take one dog somewhere, I don't feel comfortable leaving the other dog home alone, so I am doomed to always have two dogs with me wherever I go. Don't like that part.

General discussion about how many dogs

First, I think that if you have found a dog that seems right to you and you have the time and energy for another dog, you should take him/her home. I've looked at so many dogs and thought "welllll allllmost but not quite," that I value it when I have a take-home response to a dog.

Second, I find two dogs much easier than three. I can walk 2 dogs at a time, pet 2 dogs at a time. Three dogs--depends on the dogs--gets to be a challenge, because now you're using one hand to manage two dogs. Some people just never do that--I've talked to folks who always just walk one dog at a time, whether "out for a walk" or just pottying at a trial. Tika is a tremendous chore to walk with. I managed it with Jake and Remington because they were pretty good on leash, but I find that her bad habits on leash tend to drift over to Boost and the thought of adding a 3rd dog to this mess deters me. So some of that really does depend on the dogs.

However, I also have the question lingering all the time about what happens when my current dogs get older, from an agility perspective. One answer would be to drop out of agility for a while. Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to do that. Sometimes I don't. Assuming that I'm still in an agility frame of mind, in 3 years, Boost will be 6 and Tika will be 10 and I'd want to start thinking about a puppy or young dog that year. I'm guessing that Tika won't be competing when she's 11 or 12. But I've been fooled before (witness Jake at 15). If I *don't* get a 3rd dog, and if these guys live good long healthy lives, let's say Tika dies at 15, boost will be 11 and might not be competing, either. That could be a long dry spell w/out competition.

On the other hand, having only one dog competing would be considerably less expensive. :-)

Somehow I've managed to keep 2 dogs competing most of the time. Tika had just attended her first couple of trials when Remington got sick and died, so I had 3 dogs entered in maybe 2 or 3 trials. Boost had just attended her first couple of trials when Jake suddenly went. At trials where I've had only one dog to run, it has been both relaxing and boring. And one or the other of them usually does *something* well, whereas back when I was one-dog with Remington and he didn't do well (which was often), it really bummed me.

Jake and Remington fought. I hated it. I don't miss that part, but that was the same whether I had just them or added Tika. But I wonder how I'd have felt if, say, I'd already had Rem and Tika and then added Jake. Dunno.

Adding Boost to the Tika/Jake combination was both good and bad. Jake was a grouch but there was something about the way Tika handled his snarfs that made them cautious partners. Tika's the only dog that Jake would play fetch around, and she'd run in and scoop up his toy or ricochet off him half the time and he usually let her get away with it (after a 2 or 3 month adjustment period, at least). And he'd imitate what she did and follow her around, and she'd pay attention to things he did to earn rewards. They were never friends, though. Tika loved Boost. They play with each other regularly. Jake hated Boost and she really felt the brunt of it, being a puppy. I tried to keep them apart but sometimes I just slipped up and he'd be all over her. And I don't know how much of it was because she was a puppy, because she was new, because she didn't know how to deal with him like Tika did, because he was jealous in his own weird way at her taking time from Tika, or because he could.

I am one of those sort of ambiguous dog people. I love having my dogs around. I am so tired of the dirt and the hair and the overhead. I would really miss not having a dog around. I might actually enjoy living without dogs (but it's been so long since I've really done so that I'm not sure about that). The thought of losing them both for some reason sometimes terrifies me. It happens to people, losing two dogs in a short period of time. Three dogs seems less likely that you'd ever suddenly find yourself dogless, sort of an insurance policy of unconditional love or something.

And I don't think that 3 dogs makes it any more complicated in feeding--I just use dry kibble--or keeping the house and yard cleaned. If I'm going to sweep the floor, it doesn't matter how many dogs have shed on it. If I'm wandering around the yard picking up poop twice a day, it doesn't matter how many individual poops there are.

But expenses definitely go up with a 3rd dog. Half again as much food. Half again as many medical bills. If for some reason you need to board them or otherwise cared for (I seldom do, but sometimes), the expenses are per dog. Same if you have them groomed (I seldom do because of the cost, but would if I could afford it). If you have all of them in classes of some kind, it's per dog.

Overall, I prefer being a 2-dog person. And the odds are good that someday I'll find myself with 3 dogs again. But here's the other thing: Several people have told me that 4 dogs are easier than 3, because you can do everything 2 dogs at a time without one dog feeling left out and making a fuss or being resentful. Huh. Dunno. But just in case you find TWO dogs you really like--well--you can give it a try and let me know.

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