Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trick Dog Titles

SUMMARY: Why don't I think of these things?

Not only has this clever woman published a book of 101 dog tricks, but she has grouped them into 4 levels of difficulty and has associated Trick Dog titles with them! And for a mere fee, you, too, can register your dog, then (apparently for additional fees) get certificates with your dog's name proving that you've earned the titles.

You have to have witnesses sign a statement that they've read the trick description in the book so that they know how it's supposed to be performed, so you can't just say, yeah, I did it.

Plus now (for a fee) you can earn your trick dog instructor certificate, too!

Why do *I* not think of these things? Because the form for earning your titles is so inviting, and I am SO wanting to earn those titles. I am such a sucker--

Earn Your Trick Dog Title.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sometimes I Think I've Had It With Agility

SUMMARY: A whining, self-pitying BUT post, move along now, nothing to see here, I doubt you'll want to read it.

I know that some weekends are better than others. I know that sometimes I'm better than at other times. And believe me after the heartbreaking news about John Nunes after this weekend, I know that there are so many more things in this world that are more important to me than Qs in agility competitions. And yet--but--

This last weekend was not among the best. Not the worst, by any means, but really, as the weekend wore on--23 runs all together--there was not one in which I wasn't disappointed with myself as a handler or as a trainer.

I could gripe about the very few incorrect things that Tika did and blame them on her, but in fact almost all were handling issues this time, and, really, flying off contacts is a training issue.

I acknowledge that her successes were also as a result of my skills as a trainer and a handler, and I know that we do better than many people, and I know that I should just be happy that she's healthy and happy and having a good time (and, believe me, I am happy on all those counts). But--I'm filled with BUTs.

And Boost is a beautiful happy dog who NEVER turns off to doing agility with all her heart and soul, and who loves me dearly, and I know that I should be happy about that (and, believe me, I am). And the fact that she qualified in Steeplechase despite a flaw or two, I know, I can attribute to my skills at training and handling. But--my BUTs just about overwhelmed me this last weekend.


  • Boost Pairs Relay: First run of the weekend, lovely, actually. For 10 whole obstacles on our half. We qualified (teammate had a brief flaw so we BARELY qualified, but at least it's a Q).
  • Tika Pairs Relay: Flew off the Aframe big time [contact training issue] so I made her Down and wait, and she thereby knocked the following bar when I released her. We BARELY qualified but at least it's a Q.
  • Boost Standard: Hit first pole in weaves so hard that she bounced and didn't bother collecting enough to make the turn into the second pole [weave  training], so faults plus time wasted. Knocked a bar [training and/or handling]. Slow down on table [training].
  • Tika Standard: Very fast and happy but WAY flew off the dogwalk. [contact training]
  • Boost Gamblers: In opening, left both Aframes w/out waiting for a release, so made her lie down both times [contact training], which meant that we were on the far side of the field when the whistle blew, so I basically sent her full-speed across the entire field to the jump-tunnel in the gamble, and she knocked the first bar,  [training and/or handling] so no Q although she did the whole gamble beautifully.
  • Tika Gamblers: Very happy and fast, but when I tried to do back-to-back Aframes, I took my eye off her and she ran *past* the second one instead of back up it, costing us 3 points and 1st place [handling]. So it was a Q and a 2nd and top ten points, but, dang it--
  • Boost Steeplechase: Pretty smooth and fast, actually, although she left the 2nd Aframe without waiting for a release, so I made her Down. [contact training]. Even with that delay, she was fast enough and smooth enough to qualify for round 2--by less than 2 seconds, barely.
  • Tika Steeplechase: Two Aframes. Very happy, pretty fast, I thought she had gotten toenails into both Aframe contacts, but the judge didn't think so. [contact training]. She was only .02 seconds slower than the first-place dog in her 22" class, but because there were too few dogs in 22", they combined us with the 16" border collies, whose times knocked us out of qualifying for round 2 because of the Aframe fault.
  • Boost Snooker: In opening, approaching weaves ahead of me, Boost turned back to me instead of going in [training gahhh!] so I ended up on wrong side of weaves from where I wanted to be, so when we exited I had to pull her past an incorrect obstacle but she ignored me and "Boost! Boost! Boost!" [training and/or handling] and that was it. Whistle off after 3 obstacles.
  • Tika Snooker: We had a great run going, but on the last of 4 reds in the opening, I forgot which way I wanted to turn and in my moment of lostness, put her right over an incorrect obstacle [handling], so whistled off. No Q, no top 10 points.
  • Boost Jumpers: Bars bars bars. [training] The run was actually fairly smooth, but, sigh, again no Q.
  • Tika Jumpers: Ran well after dark with OK but not great lighting. Missed some cues [handling] so very wide turns although generally smooth and comfortable. Lucky for us, other dogs were having more trouble with it than we were (I think it's the lighting) and we ended up with a 1st place. OK, happy about that, but you'd think my timing would be good by now. After 16 years of training and 200+ trials.
  • Sunday--

  • Boost Steeplechase Round 2: OMG what a disaster. [training mostly, maybe handling]. Well, we didn't "E", but that's mostly all I can say about it.
  • Tika Jumpers: I rather yelled as she was going over a jump and she knocked the bar.  [handling and probably some training] Otherwise smooth and happy, 2nd fastest time but this course was SO EASY that we were the ONLY 22" dog not to qualify! Argh!
  • Boost Jumpers: Two bars, including the first one, two runout attempts that I barely blocked, wide turns and calloffs--[handling, training, I dunno]
  • Tika Standard: On one 180-turn, I forgot how far out the 2nd jump was and pulled her past it for runout faults. [handling] Two very wide turns that were almost off courses when I didn't remember where I was going soon enough. She still was fast enough that she would've placed 3rd [of 13 dogs] if not for the fault. 
  • Boost Standard: Knocked a bar early. [Training] A major disaster on the table [apparently training--to give you a clue, our course time on this run was 76 seconds, compared to a Standard Course Time [max allowed] of 58 and a winning time of 43]. However, the closing sequence of 9 obstacles after the table flummoxed many handlers including some top ones whose dogs made wide turns or turned the wrong way etc--and Boost and I got through that sequence perfectly. I mean, PERFECTLY. I liked that. But still, would be nice to Q once in a while.
  • Tika Gamblers: I guess I got greedy in the opening after yesterday's mess. I knew that trying for one more Aframe might put us out of time, but I knew that tika was fast enough and good enough that we could still make it so worth trying even though there was a safer path. Except 1: The whistle blew as she jumped from the ground to the Aframe before she even hit it, so wasting about 3 of our 16 seconds. We STILL could have made it except 2: I left her on the Aframe and ran towards the gamble instead of collecting her, so she ran in the opposite direction at first. We STILL could have made it except that when I reversed myself and gathered her up, I proceeded to put her over the wrong lead-in jump to the gamble, so after the first gamble jump she didn't see the tunnel, so turned back to me, and I kept saying "through!" and she turned around, saw it, did the whole thing perfectly--but .98 seconds over time. [ALL handling crap, multiple times in one run]
  • Boost Gamblers: Didn't stick either Aframe in opening so made her down each time [training], so doing 2 dogwalks after that I held her for a long time on each contact, so we were wayyyyy out of position when the whistle blew. Even so, I managed to threadle her around the aframe and to the other side of the course where she did the gamble spot-on perfectly--but .49 seconds over time. Gah!  [Not often in one weekend where your dogs get all 4 gambles but you have only one Q to show for it]
  • Tika Grand Prix: Sent her to a jump and moved away too soon, pulling her off the jump for another runout fault. [handling] So I turned it into a contact training run and made her "down" or held her on all contacts, and even going back for that jump and those long contacts, she was 4th fastest, but no Q of course.
  • Boost Grand Prix: Good lord. Yikes. Got killed when she didn't come in to me on a 180 so ran past a jump despite me trying to stand in her way and to the next obstacle for off course/E. [training]
  • Tika Snooker: A speed course that was going to require 51 points for a Super-Q or even to place. She did everything I asked her to except once again I forgot which way I was going to turn, so spun suddenly to do as wrap as she was going over a jump and she knocked a bar.  [handling] We got all the way through the course with 44 points (that one 7-pointer short of 51). We  completely lucked out on this one--in all other heights, "everyone" was getting 51, but in our height, everyone else crapped out more than we did so only one dog got 51 so we ended up 2nd with a Super-Q and top ten points.
  • Boost Snooker: Didn't come in to me on a 180-turn and didn't respond to "Boost! Boost!  Boost!" [training and handling both] and once again off course after 3 obstacles.


For the weekend, out of 11 runs, Tika got one 1st/Q, two 2nd/Qs, and one Q no placement. Out of 12 runs, Boost got two Qs, no placements, no $ in steeplechase.

It was Boost's 15th Pairs Q, so now she's got her RCh-Bronze.

I have had worse weekends. But--

And so--

I have come away from the weekend realizing deeply that I need to change something, in my attitude or my schedule or my approach towards training or probably all of those interconnected things, or I will spend many more weekends regretting the things I haven't done and the mistakes I've made and the money I've spent to make the same mistakes again and again rather than reaping the rewards that my dogs are capable of and that I *think* I'm capable of (although at times I wonder). I haven't entirely decided what that means, but I have pretty much decided that I'm not going to trial in March at all, scratching 2 of the only 3 CPE trials I was planning on for the year. Beyond that--I dunno.

Maybe monthly private lessons instead of regular weekly classes. Maybe get back to a disciplined list of specific skills to work on each day during each week, like when I was first training each dog--it's so clear then what you need to work on. Like, from class, you'd come home with an assignment to work very certain exercises with, say, 4 weave poles, or two jumps, or a target and a clicker. Small, easily identifiable pieces.

The difference there is that progress seemed to happen so fast, I was always going forward, but now, it's like backing up two steps and trying again, over and over.

Hey, yeah, Boost hasn't popped out of the weaves early in two whole trials now, I'm so happy about that. But now we have to work on table issues again and contacts again and bars always.

I'm tired of not being a better handler, I'm tired of my dogs making mistakes, I'm tired of trying to be circumspect about the fact that I don't train enough or correctly to fix the problems and so I should accept the consequences and not bemoan them. But. But. But.

Funny side note

Rereading this, I note that I'm still saying "whistle blew" to start the gamble--since we started using electronic timers all the time a few years ago, it has been a buzzer and never a whistle, yet I still think of it as "whistle blew," not "buzzer buzzed". Sort of like "dialing" a telephone, I guess.

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Monday, February 15, 2010


SUMMARY: USDAA catches up on title certificates.

Got all of these in the mail Friday. Tika was apparently a busy little Merle Girl back in September!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taj MuttHall Year In Review: 2009

SUMMARY: Statistics and observations for the year.

Trials competed in: 16. My lowest number since 2000 (with a high of 23 in 2003). So made some progress on my vow to do less agility and more of The Rest of Life.
  • CPE: 4 trials, one of which was only 1 day. Tika didn't participate in 2 because she was sore. Boost didn't participate in one because she was sore.
  • USDAA: 12 trials, one of which was only 1 day.

Runs: 270
  • Tika: 139, 76 of them Qs
  • Boost: 131, 30 Qs
  • CPE: 42, 32 Qs
  • USDAA: 228, 74 Qs

Tika titles earned:
  • GCH-Silver (Gamblers Champion silver, 25 Qs in championship)
  • TM-Platinum (Tournament master platinum, 50 Qs with at least 10 in each tournament class)
  • SACH-Silver (Standard champion silver, 25 Qs)
  • PR3 - Performance3 Relay (equals RM in championship, 5 Qs)
  • ATD - Accomplished Tournament Dog (equals TM in championship, 10 Qs with at least 2 in each of the 3 tournament classes)
  • PK3 - Perf 3 Snooker (equals SM)
  • JCH-Silver (Jumpers Champion silver, 25 Qs)
  • ADCH-Silver (equals 5 ADChs -- 25 Qs in each of 5 regular classes plus tournaments)
  • PG3 -  Perf 3 Gamblers (equals GM)
Boost titles earned:
  • CPE CL4-S (strategy games, level 4)
  • RCH (relay champion--10 Qs)
  • GM (gamblers master--5 Qs)
  • SAM (standard agility master--5 Qs)
  • TM (Tournament master--10 Qs with at least 2 in each of the 3 tournament classes)

  • Tika earned all those P3 titles only between March and September, moving gradually into Perf as she completed silver in each Championship classs.
  • After only 6 months in Performance, Tika is just one Standard Q away from her PD3 (MAD equivalent) and actually needs only 3 standards and 4 Jumpers for her APD (ADCH equivalent).
  • Tika qualified for Nationals in all three tournaments (Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Team)--in BOTH championship and Performance!
  • Of Tika's 6 performance Snooker Qs so far, 5 have been Super-Qs.
  • Boost qualified in Steeplechase 3 times this year--which is 3x more than she had qualified in her entire preceding agility career. ( I mean, before 2009, she had only ever qualified once.)
  • Boost might hold the record for the most consecutive Masters Jumpers runs with no Q (36). But we keep coming very close--might get some someday!

Buster Cubes cracked open: 1 (as of this morning. Congratulations, butthead Boost.)

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boost Title Surprises!

SUMMARY: Boost has two new titles! Sort of--

Unusually for me, I am way behind in updating my run-tracking database. I just went back through my notes from this fall and discovered that Boost earned her Gamblers Master title back at the end of October! (That's 5 Masters Gambles.)

And that she earned enough tournament Qs this fall, including this weekend's DAM Team Q, to complete her Tournament Master title! (That's 10 tournament Qs, with at least two in each of the three.)

So she has:

Standard Master (5 Qs) plus 4 extra (one more for Standard Champion)
Relay Champion (10 Qs) plus 3 extra (two more for RCh-Bronze)
Gamblers Master (5 Qs)
Tournament Master (10 tournament Qs)
Snooker: 4 regular Qs and NO Super-Qs (needs 3 for the Master title)

Anyway, pleasant surprise to add those titles. And now really to bed.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bronze Dog

SUMMARY: Tika's Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA).
Some nice friends brought it back for me from Scottsdale; this represents 150 lifetime Masters and Tournament Qs. This sucka's heavy! Not sure how I'm going to hang it on the wall.

I think Tika is now at 224 lifetime Qs; the Silver LAA requires 250.

Dang injured foot--USDAA trial in less than 2 weeks with a chance to earn more.

Guess I can't take her to the vet to be x-rayed tomorrow, since I'll be at the Trkman seminar. Tuesday, then.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meanwhile--back to photography.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

About Tika

SUMMARY: May I brag? And list some statistics, too?
Just occurred to me: Hmmm, OK, Tika has been in Performance only since the end of April, but she's done very well in Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Snooker, and I wonder where she shows up in the Top Ten listings? So I go to the USDAA page and look:

Heh, cool. I know we won't hold this (especially after this past weekend's Snooker disaster, and especially because I'm not planning on doing that many more trials this year, and also because who's likely to beat us at most trials? Hobbes and Brenn), but it's always fun to see our name in lights: Top Ten Performance 22" Snooker as of roughly the end of August.

Although, oh, interesting:
  • According to my records, in the last 3 trials we've earned another 13 points that aren't on there (but then, so has probably everyone else).
  • Out of Tika's 8 P3 Snooker runs, four have been Super-Qs (jeez, wish we could'a done that in Championship!).
  • Because I mucked up something in my database, I just realized that Tika earned her P3 Snooker title LAST trial! Woot all over again!

Not bad, for only a partial year. Not bad, for a dog who took 36 tries to get her first 3 Super-Qs in Championship.

How about Tournament Top Ten? Pfah, nothing listed on the web site that I see. But she has Qed in 6 out of 7 Performance Grand Prixs to date, and 5 out of 7 Steeplechase. Not bad, for a dog who Qed in only 11 out of the 42 Championship-level Steeplechases she entered--almost all the non-Qs with 5, and sometimes 10, faults. Now we're clean. Go figure. We like 22".

So how is my challenging, attention-deficit, fun-loving and now-getting-reliable Tika girl doing in comparison to other dogs? According to this USDAA page:
  • Only 192 dogs have ever earned the Silver ADCH.
  • Only 247 dogs have ever earned their Tournament Master Platinum.
  • If/when Tika finishes her LAA-Silver (only, hrm, 28 Qs to go), that's be one of only -- uh-- don't know because that's not listed on that page or anywhere that I'm finding. Gol dang.
Compare that to 9,946 dogs who have ever earned their Agility Dog (Novice) title, and who knows how many more who've competed some and never gotten even that far.

I think we're doing pretty OK.

Tika's Round 2 Steeplechase run from Sunday. Fairly smooth, not super-fast. It's 7:30 in the morning and we're starting behind the jump right in the center of the video, and I lead out towards the left.
My only real handling faux pas is that I was going to go for a front cross before the blue tunnel but wimped out--which was stupid, because I ended up coming to a complete stop and waiting for her, so I had plenty of time to get there and probably would've eked another second or so of speed out of things. Not sure it would've mattered--1st place dog was 4 seconds faster.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aaaaaaand We're Home

SUMMARY: An OK weekend. Some things to write home about and others to just hope they're better next time.
OK, for all you short-attention-span theater types, here's what happened in a nutshell (almond probably):

  • Tika earned her 25th Championship Jumpers Q to complete her Silver-ADCH. Woooohoooo! Thrilled thrilled thrilled! (And a relief to get it done.) Now to do it all over again in Performance--
  • Tika Qed in Pf Steeplechase and Grand Prix yet again and had a lovely 3rd place Steeplechase finish to bring home a whopping $6.30. Better than a poke in the eye with a Snooker flag.
  • Tika Qed with a 2nd in today's Pf Gamblers, missed 1st by 1 point, would've ALSO been good for 2nd in Ch 22" and Ch 26"! AND that also finished her Performance Gambler's title. Yowza!
  • Tika and partner Qed and took 2nd in Pf Pairs.
  • Boost had an amazing Snooker run. Amazing. Like the Border Collie I've always wanted. (Too bad her clumsy mom negated the run with her elbow--more later.)
  • It was hot. Like, 99F hot (and I'm not sayin' what the F stands for). (37.2C) Observe the hot and sweaty:

  • USDAA has given in and now calls Performance Grand Prix "Performance Grand Prix" instead of "Performance National Standard" (try pronouncing "PNS" or "PeNaS" or whatever out loud). Now if only they'll do the same for Performance Steeplechase.
  • Boost had zero Qs on the weekend. Ze. Ro.
So--how hot was it? It was so hot that today was only 1 degree lower than the record-setting temperature for this date.
It was so hot that the dogs' fabric crates, under a canopy, were hot to the touch in midafternoon.
It was so hot that, instead of leaving the dogs in their crates as usual, I surrounded the fronts of the crates with the xpen and left the crates open to give them more air and access to the grass to lie on. (In this photo, moved xpen to one side to start packing up.)

It was so hot that even us delicate flowers of femininity poured profuse perspiration. OK, now try peeling off those sopping tight jeans so you can put on shorts. Yeh uh-hm.
It was so hot that, in the last run of the day, most of the Performance dogs didn't want to go down on the table. Even Tika. I'm thinking it wasn't that the table was hot; it was that they knew that if they lay down, they'd have to eventually get around to standing up again!
It was so hot that last night I left the van's doors & windows open 6-8" (any more & certain border collies might have gone exploring) and I *still* fried most of the night. (They claimed it was in the 50s overnight. Didn't feel like it.)
It was so hot that people were applying cold asparagus poultices to their necks to cool down.
However, I might be lying about at least one of those things. Well--maybe exactly one.

How did the awesome Performance Tika end up Qing in only 5 of 10 classes, yikes? It was a weekend of mostly so-closes:
  • Saturday Standard: Flew off the dogwalk big time. Rest of run lovely. Time would've been good enough for a 2nd place, despite heat.
  • Saturday Gamblers: missed her weave entry in the opening and I went back to pick it up again, which means that when the whistle blew we were starting UP the Aframe instead of leaving the Aframe, which meant that Tika did the gamble perfectly but was over by .17 seconds. Arrrrgh!
  • Sunday Jumpers: I led out about 6 steps and turned to discover that Tika had left her down stay and was standing about 6 inches from the first (26") jump. Think she can get over that without knocking it? Not a chance.
  • Sunday Snooker: FLEW off Aframe in opening, which meant I had to do a front cross where I needed to do a pull, which meant that she turned the wrong way after the next red, both of which meant that she was jumping up & barking at me profusely for  not being clearer in my instructions instead of RUNNING FULL OUT which is what we needed to do, which meant that in the #7 closing (tunnel//jump/tunnel) she was only at the jump when the whistle blew. Argh. 
  • Sunday Standard: For the first time in a VERY long time indeed, when I sent her out to a jump, she ran towards it, peeled away to bounce back and me, and then turned and took it. Refusal.  Jeez. Of course this time she stuck her start line and got all her contacts and kept her bars up.
How did Boost have a zero Q weekend?
  • Several runs with meltdowns, and not because of the heat (I don't think), but runouts, refusals, bars going down, missing weave entries--I WANT MY *NEW* BOOST BACK!
  • Sunday's Jumpers--OH so close! Pretty nice but one bar down in the middle.
  • Pairs: One refusal, but with Partner's 10 faults, we were .69 (!) seconds over time. So we were fast but not fast enough with the time-wasting bobbles. Sheesh! 
  • After assorted mess-ups, Eed entirely in Standard, Grand Prix, Jumpers, and another Standard.
  • Second-LOWEST points of 20 dogs in Saturday's gamblers.
  • And then there was Snooker.

OK, so here's the Snooker thang. It was worse than a speed course; it was a super-speed course. To do all three sevens and get thru to the end in 48 seconds required running around 3 sides of the field three times! It was just a bloody awful lot of yardage. I tried to think of a smoother, easier course for Boost, but there WAS no smoother, easier course.

But to get the full 51 points, you'd have to be VERY fast and, furthermore, you'd have to be PERFECT, not a bobble or wasted yardage anywhere. And, of course (and especially this weekend), Boost and I do not HAVE runs that have no bobbles or wasted yardage.

But I just couldn't come up with a better course. We were the next to the last dog of *all* dogs to run, so I had already seen that, out of 70 dogs who had already run it, only 3 who had attempted all three 7s had made it to the end, and (a) they had run their buns off, and (b) they were top-flight competitors with super-fast dogs, and (c) two of them had made it with only a fraction of a second to spare, and the third with maybe a second.

I came up with a plan where we'd do two 7s and a 5, which was also pretty smooth and we'd be more likely to get all the way through if we had any bobbles.

So. We lined up, I led out halfway across the field leaving her facing the first #1 red, and I released her, and we were off.

Well, jeez, she was PERFECT! Sure, there was the stupid thing where, on our way to the 2nd red, I hit the #2 jump's wing with my elbow on the way past and knocked the bar off. But after the 3rd red and Boost was flying and doing great, I decided to try for all 3 sevens. And she was AWESOME, just AWESOME! Did everything right! We did not complete the last 7--she was IN the last tunnel but had probably a stride to go to get out--but I was, needless to say, absolutely hyper-jazzed. THIS is the Border Collie I want! WoooooooohhoooooooO!

But there's that little issue about the knocked #2. Judge had to think about it (or she'd have whistled us off earlier--glad she didn't!), but essentially the rule is that the *handler* took the obstacle out of play, so Boost didn't have to actually jump it in the closing (bar was down), which negated all obstacles #2 and after. So we got none of our closing points.

I wasn't too surprised; I didn't know the rule, but I knew when I hit it that I was probably going to pay in one way or another. So our only class where Boost was not only excellent enough to get Q points but in fact Super-Q points, I screwed up by being clumsy. Sigh. But I am still buzzed from that run! What! A! Bordercollie!

What feels good after packing up on a very very hot day? Clean hands and clean, dry shirt and socks!

What feels good after a long, hot weekend of 21 runs? Air-conditioned MUTT MVR, ready to head home!

Dogs are ready to go.

What is a really really good idea after a long, very hot, very perspiring day before a 2-hour drive home with all the ice in your soda cooler melted? Stop at the Quick Mart and get a 44-oz. cup packed to the top with ice for $1.19 and then pour your soda over it!

What's a really really good idea to keep you focused and alert on the road after a long and tiring weekend? Funny tapes!

Okily dokily, good neighbor, I think I probably have lots more I want to say about lots of things, but I'm thinkin' that lots of lying in bed and sleeping would be an exxxxxxellennnnnt plan right about now.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

USDAA Qualifying and Titling Rules

SUMMARY: Some of the arcanity of USDAA scoring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that all perfectly clear now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

And over and out.

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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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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Very Good Indeed

SUMMARY: It wasn't a perfect weekend, but it was pretty darned close.

Boost had so many nice smooth runs this weekend; almost like I'm running a different dog. For example, in her Standard round today, we were *there* until I gave a threadle cue when all I wanted was to pull her over a jump, and dagnabbit she threadled! So then, already faulted, I decided to try a risky front cross later in the course and pushed her past another jump. But she was so good!

Her contacts have been lovely all weekend, and the problems with weaves that were partially manifesting Fri & Sat vanished today.

She and her littermate sister Beck teamed for the Relay and had lovely runs, both of them, Boost just blazing fast. I thought we might place, but for whatever reason we were several seconds out of 1st place. Still, it was our 10th Q in Relay, giving Boost her Relay Champion title. Woohoo! (And her only Q for the weekend.)

Jumpers was lovely and fast and exciting, just one bar down I think.

Her opening gamblers points today were 8th highest out of 84 championship dogs (and I think that most or all of those have running contacts, where I'm still holding boost on her 2 on/2 off)--plan executed to perfection--but knocked the 3rd bar in a difficult gamble (only 6 of 43 22" dogs Qed!).

Tika ran the same gamblers opening course, which managed to be *the* highest opening score of all 27 Performance dogs--but I moved too quickly in the gamble and pulled her off the 2nd obstacle. Ah, well.

In Steeplechase Round 2, Tika ran the course in the fastest time of all Performance dogs... er... except that she didn't stick her start line, so when I led out and turned around to face her, discovered that she was blasting towards me full speed just a few feet away. Ergo I couldn't signal the turn over the broad jump correctly, so she whacked it going over, for a 5-second penalty. Even so, she placed 3rd among the 22" performance dogs of the 7 who ran, to bring home a small check. Less than the entry fee for Steeplechase, but, hey, I'll take it anyway. It was such a pretty run! And she got feet solidly into both her A-frames. I wanted total speed out of her, so had warmed her up lots, massaged her, really hit all her hot buttons to get her excited--and apparently got her so riled up that she just couldn't wait on the start line for my permission to go! Of all the times to decide to break her stay--

Tika also Qed in Championship (26") Jumpers, leaving only 2 more to go for that Silver, after which she'll be entirely in Performance. She didn't look comfortable jumping 26", though--landing heavily, it seemed to me, although she was less than 4 seconds off the winning dog, which isn't bad at all in this crowd. It might have been because it's the 3rd day of competition, she'd already run 11 runs for the weekend, it was getting pretty warm, and she's 8 and a half.

I actually scratched her from 26" Standard earlier in the day. Since she finished her 25th Standard yesterday, this one really wouldn't count for anything, and she just didn't look enthused when I took her out of her crate, and she hit the 26" practice jump bar 2 out of 4 tries while warming up, and I wanted to save her for Jumpers and Steeplechase. Seemed to work--her usual perkiness at being out of the crate resurfaced for the rest of the runs.

She and her partner took 2nd in Perf Pairs Relay out of 11 teams--missing first by .05 (five one hundredths) of a second! That's, like, a blink of her eye or one slightly faster step on my 2nd-dog lead-out. But I'm not unhappy with that lovely run, either.

I am exceptionally pleased with our weekend, for both dogs, and you all probably know that more often than not I come home saying "there were good things and bad," but this time I feel wonderful. Tika Qed in everything this weekend except the 2 gambles (so 11 for 13--great for USDAA), and Boost's runs felt consistently like Masters-level runs and not like Remedial Agility Candidacy. Go you merle girls!

I had all kinds of things I wanted to write about, but I'm tired and showered and fed and I think just about done with being awake for today.
(Photos by Erika from the May Turlock trial. Thanks, Erika!)

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Like the Way Things Are Going

SUMMARY: Lots of good, not much bad, at this weekend's USDAA trial so far.

No agility photos today, but I pulled over during my drive to Prunedale to capture the early glowing, pink light on the fog peering over the coastal range. Subtle but all the more beautiful because of it.

In DAM Team, new rules allow Qs for the individual classes; they don't count toward regular titles but do count towards your Lifetime Award totals. The trick is that you have to be within about 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs in your class, rather than meeting a minimum standard to which you must adhere. Makes those Qs a bit harder to get.

But I double-checked Tika's numbers from yesterday, and she Qed in all 4 individual classes plus the Team overall, so 5 for 5 yesterday. What a good dog. She is surely liking being in Performance at 22"!

Today she Qed 4 for 5 very nicely--she's keeping those bars up at 22" and I like it, too!--
  • Standard: Still at 26", she finally kept all the bars up to earn her 25th Masters Standard leg, earning her Standard Silver title, and now I will move her down to 22" performance in this class. (Now only 3 26" jumpers legs stand between us and ADCH-Silver.)
  • Performance Steeplechase: A lovely run indeed and easily qualifying, although we came in only 5th this time (out of 15?) But here's the interesting thing: With times between about 34 and 36 seconds, the top 5 dogs covered a range of only about 2 seconds. Furthermore, the 4th place dog squeaked past Tika by a teeny two one-hundredths (.02) of a second! And even more furthermore, the 3rd place dog beat 4th by .02 as well. Very close! Had I taken one faster step somewhere, had Tika not blinked at the wrong moment somewhere, we could've been in 3rd instead of 5th. But at any rate, it's a Q and we're in the money round for tomorrow.
  • Performance Grand Prix: Another smooth, clean run for Q, 4th place, and a fancy ribbon.
  • Snooker at 22": One of only 3 dogs her height (and I think one of only about 14 or 15 of around 90 in all Masters and P3) who earned the maximum 51 points, and she did it faster than the others, so a 1st place and a Super-Q, her first in P3!

Boost has no Qs to show for today, but we had some really, really nice runs. Very little of the "what jump? this one? this one? this one?" sort of thing, and not many knocked bars. Some issues with weaves, but really I am pleased with her contacts--ALL perfect so far!-- and thrilled with the smooth, flowing, fast performances that we achieved and came EVER SO CLOSE to success with:
  • Steeplechase--a very nice run with only one tiny weave pole bobble--but unfortunately I didn't call her quickly enough on a turn and she cut THROUGH the broad jump for an Elimination, but I didn't go back and try to fix it because our run was sensational and I didn't want to break the stride.
  • Snooker: With a plan that many people found difficult, we actually executed it perfectly and had gotten to the easy ending when she BARELY-- like a little breeze from one toenail--knocked a bar 3 obstacles from the end. But it was just lovely, she was so good on a weird course!
  • Standard--I thought we were actually going to Q and it looked so nice up til I think a runout on a danged serpentine maneuver; she so hates coming in on those fast Serps! And then weave issues. (I'll have to check my notes on weave issues from today.) But otherwise nice.
  • Gamblers: A beautiful opening, executed completely to spec, only a couple of points less in the opening than the winning dog, but we still need work on sending out to gambles ... sigh ...
  • Grand Prix: Hmm, didn't bring home my notes. We definitely had issues with weaves in this one, but I seem to remember that most of it was nice.
It has been *so long* since I've been able to say that I felt that one of Boost's runs was really nice, and today all of them felt so much nicer than what we've unfortunately more often experienced.

AND we won a free entry through the worker's raffle.

And I am very tired. I might not even check facebook before heading for bed...

Oh, yeah, right.

Tomorrow: Steeplechase Round 2 for Tika, Jumpers (hope for another 26" Q for tika), standard, and Pairs Relay.

If boost can come up with a Q in Pairs, that'll be her 10th for her Relay Champion title.

And that's all I'll say about that, because if I even bother to mention that Boost STILL needs just one Jumpers Q for her MAD, I'm sure I'll set my own expectations too high again. I mean, really--28 attempts in 21 months and not a single Q to show for it? And I thought it was bad when Tika took 13 attempts before she got her first Masters Jumpers leg to complete her MAD! It's just nuts.

Hope everyone's having as much fun this weekend as I am, doing whatever it is that you're doing. Happy Independence day, U. S. of A., my favorite country!

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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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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Platinum Dog!

SUMMARY: Tika gets a big title! And Boost doesn't!

Tika did it! At the SMART trial Day One today, she earned a Q in Steeplechase Round 1, so she's in the money run for tomorrow AND--ta-daaaa!--that finishes her Tournament Masters Platinum. Like...w00t! Totally!

What is a Tournament Masters Platinum?
  • Tournaments consist of:
    • Grand Prix of Dog Agility
    • Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team Championship
    • Dog Agility Steeplechase
    These are the events that you enter during the year if you want to go to nationals. If you qualify. Enough times. With high enough scores.
  • What is Tournament Master? 10 Tournament Qs with at least 2 of each.
  • What is TM-Platinum? 50 Tournament Qs with at least 10 of each. Platinum is the highest award that you can get in USDAA. (Until some time in the future, people start getting double platinums or like that, then they'll invent some other titles, like TM-AA (agility addict) or TM-I-didn't-want-to-set-aside-any-money-for-retirement-anyway.)

Steeplechase is tough because you have to be in the top 25% of the competitors to earn a Q, and it's based on time plus faults. So you have to be very fast, or merely fast but accurate, or VERY VERY fast indeed and maybe you'll get away with one mistake. Tika usually knocks a bar, and we're not in the VERY VERY fast indeed category. But today she didn't! Ticked the first bar, giving me a momentary heart attack, but it stayed up!

I am thrilled. She got a whole mess of bits of chicken quesadilla afterwards.

Now I can decide to move her down to all-Performance in the tournaments if I want to (so that she'll jump 22" instead of 26"). Which likely means that this will be the last Platinum she'll ever get (yes, you can also earn platinum in each of the 4 regular classes plus the platinum-ADCH). Because the count starts over from 0 when you move into Performance. And it has taken us 6 years to get here.

So I'm enjoying it while I can.

[Dang, left my course maps at the trial site. Will try to scan them in tomorrow & post here.]

Tika also Qed in Performance Pairs Relay, her first-ever Performance Q, so the count is now up to... 1. And in Performance Snooker, her second-ever Performance Q. So--2! (Had enough points for a super-Q but 2 other dogs were faster.)

She knocked 2 bars jumping 26" in Standard. And the gamble was very hard: Only about 1 in 7 dogs got it. Which is low even for USDAA masters.

Boost--well--she's physically looking good. Knocked some bars but nothing excessive. People watching say that she's moving beautifully. Had a couple of really nice runs that unfortunately ended early because of the knocked bars, but we also had way more than our share of runouts, refusals, and "you-mean-THIS-jump-THIS-one?" dances. Back to square 2. But she is FAST and fun to run when communication occurs with some semblance of success.

And the weather was great. And the chicken quesadillas at lunch were spectacular. And all my friends said how they missed me and hadn't seen me in FOREVER! (I missed one trial only! One! Really!) And I wore my latest new best-dressed-agility-handler jacket:

Could life be any better?

Tomorrow... Jumpers. Everyone has to keep their bars up. Tika, you hear me? You've been jumping 26" for years, you can do it again! Plus oh yeah standard and round 2 of the steeplechase in which Tika could actually come home with, oh, let's fantasize, maybe $6! And Grand Prix.

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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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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And Thus Endeth Another Year

SUMMARY: Looking back. And forth.

In 2008, we competed in:
  • 15 USDAA trials, including the world championships
  • 3 CPE trials
  • 2 fun matches

Between the two dogs, I ran 354 runs total:
  • 58 Standard (CPE & USDAA)
  • 39 Gamblers (CPE & USDAA)
  • 40 Snooker (CPE & USDAA)
  • 46 Jumpers (CPE & USDAA)
  • 6 Colors
  • 7 Full House
  • 10 Wildcard
  • 30 Pairs Relay
  • 12 Team Tournaments (5 runs each tournament, not included in previous class counts)
  • 30 Steeplechase (6 of them Round 2s)
  • 26 Grand Prix
  • 2 Strategic Pairs

We earned 113 Qs, resulting in the following titles:
  • Boost - CL3 (Complete Level 3)
  • Boost - CL4-F (Level 4 Fun Games)

  • Boost - Relay Master
  • Tika - Gamblers Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Jumpers Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Agility Dog Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Tournament Master-Gold (missed platinum in the same year by one leg. OK, on to 2009!)
  • Tika - Snooker Champion-Silver
  • Tika - Lifetime Achievement Award-bronze
  • Tika - Relay Champion-Silver

Dogs knocked roughly 150 bars this year--largely contributed by Boost, who often got 3 or 4 per run. So I know what to work on... still... always...

Today, we practiced running through tunnels because it's fun, tires out the dogs, it's something I can do with a runny nose and cough, and I don't have to reset bars. Although I did set up one jump and both dogs left the bar up on every turn and every straight path that I tried between tunnels.

Tonight we're staying home, looking at my Christmas tree lights, maybe having some popcorn (dogs love that part), going to bed early. In just 45 minutes (7 p.m. PST), we'll gain a whole leap second for extra agility practice, so that's a good start to the year. Oops--got it wrong--that was 4:00 PST! Missed the whole event!

On to 2009 and many bars left up! Happy New Year, everyone--

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well Things Are Interesting

SUMMARY: Another Tika title, some soreness, some progress, some nationals musings

(top 10)
1st plc
min pts
our faults note
SatBoostGrand Prixn
secEa mess
SatBoostMas Gamblersn17th of 3233+047+2518+25pts
Nice opening
SatBoostMas RelayQ5th of 2155.1953.3276sec10bar
SatBoostMas Relay-61.5453.2276sec20a mess
SatBoostMas Standardn21st of 2956.3839.7753sec18.38probs
SunBoostMas Jumpersn
secENice! Bar, serp
SunBoostMas Snookern9+24+2737pts
Too hard
SunBoostMas Standardn16th of 2645.2939.7854sec10Nice! Bar, up DW
SatTikaGrand Prixn6th of 1244.5033.6949sec10Aframe
SatTikaMas GamblersQ3rd of 12 (3)26+2533+2518+25pts
SatTikaMas RelayQ7th of 2160.9053.2276sec10handling
SatTikaMas StandardQ4th of 1044.7039.0253sec
SunTikaMas Snookern24+224+2737pts
SunTikaMas Standardn

The weekend started with a promising-looking sunrise.

It's so weird to have a Lowe's and its parking lot looming over the field--that's on top of where this site used to have room for a 3rd and 4th ring. Not no more.

Tika seemed mostly OK Saturday. She ran nicely and Qed in 3 of 4 classes, missing only the Grand Prix where I tried a tricky maneuver that failed, pulling her past the Aframe for a refusal and then because I was behind her after I got her onto it, she flew right off the other side. She also placed in those 3 classes, and finished her Relay Champion Silver title (25th Q).

On Sunday, she ran happily outside the ring but acted gingerly when jumping. In her first run, Standard, about 2/3 of the way through, she yelped landing from a jump, but we were so close to the end and she kept going without slowing down--but then I was watching her and starting to try to take it easy on the course, and I pulled her past an obstacle just about 6 jumps from the end, so we just ran quickly off course.

Before her Snooker run, she looked reluctant to get going, but I did a bunch of warmups and stretching, and then she took the practice jump with no obvious sign of problems. But, once we were out on the course, she started landing heavily after jumps and saying "oomph" or the equivalent--not a yelp, but obviously not comfy, but still she kept going, although slowing down--once again, I started watching her more than the course and once again pulled her past an obstacle, so we just ran quickly out of the ring again.

So I scratched her from Jumpers. I'm sure she'll be fine before nationals with R&R&R (rest, relaxation, rimadyl).

This was my view most of the weekend.

Boost managed to Q again in Pairs Relay, where it's OK to knock a bar. We ran it twice, once as an accommodating dog, and the 2nd time (different half of course) was a mess--didn't stick start line, so got a refusal as I was dealing with that, a bar, two more refusals or runouts, Bleah.

Her Saturday standard was a bit of a mess: ran under the tire again (did so 2 trials ago, different tire, different site), ran past a very easy jump, ran across the front of another jump, and a couple of other weird bobbly things, plus not sticking her contacts very well.

In Gamblers, I found a really lovely flowing high-point opening that I thought she did perfectly, but instead of having 45 opening points (which would've been 2nd highest of all dogs all heights), she was missing a 7 and a 5-pointer, with no inidication why, and the judge didn't remember. Ratz. It's just for the glory, because we missed the gamble on a stupid handler thing, but still...

Grand Prix didn't look so good, either; didn't stick her contacts and so got out of place for following obstacles for at least one refusal and a lot of wasted time, missed weave entry (although a lot of dogs missed that entry), some other disorganized stuff and I ended up just running her off and not doing all the last jumps.

Sunday looked up a bit. Both her Standard and Jumpers were smooth and fast. I worked the contacts for a long time in Standard, so her time was slow, and she had a bar down, but otherwise it was beautiful--except she got called for the dogwalk up contact. And jumpers she had a bar and then ran parallel past a tough serpentine that I didn't work well, but wow it felt and looked good otherwise.

We tried a complex Snooker course to try for a Super-Q, but it was way beyond our skill level and not a pretty thing to watch.

On the very positive side, she went down and stayed down on her table in both Standards, with just a wee tiny bit of down-stay work outside the ring Saturday and none sunday because I forgot, so that's a nice change of pace. And I'm starting to feel very confident about her weaves; I know that I still have to watch the entry and not get ahead of her, but I don't have to babysit or worry for the most part any more.

Here's Roulette, a full sister from a repeat breeding of Boost's mother and father. Look familiar? Even has a two-tone right eye.

And here's Dash, of Dash and Ash, who periodically appeared and did all the obligatory very-cute-puppy things. He's so TINY!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too Much Wind

SUMMARY: The wind blew blew blew all weekend. That must explain the dropped bars.

The Dixon site is known for its winds. They have had a trial or two over time where they had to strap the jump bars to the jumps to keep them from blowing off repeatedly, and relying on the judge for whether they SHOULD have fallen. Not quite that bad this time, but most of the jumps had to be staked, we used huge rocks to hold down everything on the score table (dang, why didn't I think to take a picture of that? It's the wind drying out my brain...), and my skin and respiratory system are so dessicated that they'd make the long-term inhabitants of the Valley of the Kings look thoroughly moisturized.

Qs, though, were in short supply.

Boost finally got her only Q of the weekend out of 10 tries, in the last run of the weekend, pairs relay. She knocked a bar (which is OK as long as your time plus faults stays below the required number), but she and her teammate had the second-fastest time of all 26 masters open pairs. That's very promising. And she did have a bit of a hesitation before one jump--not enough for a refusal but fractions of seconds matter--and I did hold her a bit on the Aframe because she's been leaving early. So the speed really is very promising when she actually runs instead of looking back at me to see what I'm doing and thence going around jumps or earning refusals.

And that finished her Relay title, which is her first Masters-level title. Happy!

Tika earned Qs in Gamblers both days, 5th place out of 17 both times (dang, just out of placement-ribbon range!), and also in pairs, and--funny thing for a dog who has earned most of her 25 Grand Prix Qs with 5 faults--she was one of only two 26" dogs who ran clean in the Grand Prix today, taking 2nd, which I think is the best we've ever done. So I guess it *is* possible that everyone else in the known universe could crap out at Nationals and we'd be left standing.

Except that the rest of her runs had issues, so the opposite seems more likely.

(Boost also did the gambles beautifully both days, but knocked a bar in each. Dang bars!)

Maybe more tomorrow. Mostly I had fun, mostly the dogs ran well, and very mostly indeed I'm glad to be home and out of that wind!

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Sunday, September 14, 2008


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

Biggest news

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

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

And Boost did all of her weaves perfectly again.

Tika's Weekend

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

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

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

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

Boost's weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Credentials

SUMMARY: Ahem. May I present myself?

I've always wanted to have a page that lists my agility credentials. For what purpose, I don't know, which is, I suppose, why I don't yet have such a page. They're pretty wimpy credentials by Agility Guru standards, but what the hey.

This is a rough pass because I just got tired of looking things up. It's not like i'm trying to figure out which USDAA Nationals or Regionals I placed first in. Hah! Because I didn't! Thank goodness for CPE!

  • Competed with 4 dogs, all different breeds, 3 of them rescues
  • Competed in 200 trials covering 4 venues (USDAA, CPE, ASCA, NADAC)

  • xx different championships or multiple championships on three dogs

  • ADCH with two dogs, one of whom repeated the feat in Performance for his APD, another who has (to date) continued to ADCH-bronze

  • Six USDAA bronze class titles with two dogs, a silver, and a gold

  • C-ATCH with two dogs

  • NATCH with two dogs (one went on to O-NATCH and S-NATCH, with 1380 lifetime points, before I dropped out of NADAC)

  • ASCA ATCH with one dog

  • Qualified for NADAC nationals with 2 dogs every year for (I think) 5 years. Didn't go.

  • Attended USDAA Grand Prix nationals with two qualified dogs in 2000, 2001; one made the semifinal round.

  • Attended USDAA World Championships in 2004 (with 2 qualified dogs most events?), 2005 (with 1 qualified dog all events and one veteran dog), 2006 (with 1 qualified dog all events and one write-in candidate), 2007 (one dog qualified all events?)

  • DAM Team nationals finalist 2006

  • USDAA nationals placements in individual events: 11th DAM Snooker 2005, 12th DAM Gamblers 2006, 10th Power and Speed 2006

  • CPE Nationals 2004, Championship Level 16" Reserve high in trial

  • CPE Nationals 2006, Championship Level 24" High in trial Standard, with 8 of 9 qualifying runs, including five firsts and two seconds

  • Addition: July 25: USDAA Top Ten Performance Jumpers, 2004(?)

  • Qualified for Nationals in Grand Prix many times and DAM TEam several times (jeez, guess I have to figure these things out)

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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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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Haute TRACS Is Almost Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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