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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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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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gamblin' Boost

SUMMARY: Q in Team, good and almost great in Gamblers, and... that's it.

Boost's story this weekend included many chapters of knocked bars, popping out at the end of the weaves, and checking back with me constantly instead of taking jumps. Oh, yeah, and several runouts. Drat. Back to square two on all counts. How many times do I have to fix her weave poles, fer crying out loud? But she was fast and happy and her start line stay and contacts were spot on.

Saturday's classes consisted entirely of the three-dog DAM Team event. (All 3 dogs do 4 individual events, then combine for a relay, and the combined scores determine whether you earn a Team Q.) Recently, USDAA started allowing your performance in the individual events to count towards Qs for your Lifetime Achievement awards, but you have to be within (are you tired of this formula yet?) 15% of the average scores of the top 3 dogs in your height/class.

In Team Standard, Boost knocked 2 bars and popped the weaves, which I had to fix. Not fatal in Team; it's off courses in Team that kill you. Both her teammates did better than Boost and also ran without off courses, which is a pretty good grouping for Team.

In Team Gamblers, Boost had a pretty good opening--would've been better without 2 knocked bars and me forgetting which side of the teeter I wanted to be on to pick up another 5 points, oh, well, and then we were in perfect position for the gamble. We picked up a 20-point gamble (there were 10, 20, and 30 point choices), which was pretty good as not many dogs at all got the 20 or 30 pointers and quite a few didn't even manage the 10. We ended up placing 4th in 22" out 40 dogs, and her teammates were close behind her at 7th and 12th, so after Standard & Gamblers our team was in 4th place out of 25 teams.

Team Snooker knocked us back a bit, we thought--all three of us scored in the 30-to-40 range (with 4 reds available meaning that in theory 59 points were possible), but a late rush of dogs not wanting to do well in Snooker left us down a bit overall but not by much. (Boost spent the opening doing runouts and "what, THIS obstacle?" dances and in the closing got whistle for running past a jump.)

Team Jumpers we were all a bit worried about; very fast dogs with a couple of really wide-open stretches of just plain running plus tough call-offs. Boost knocked 2 bars and popped out at the end of the weaves (sound familiar?) but we did not off-course. Both our teammates Eed with off courses, so even our crappy run turned out to be the saving run for us.

And in the 3-dog relay, Boost knocked only one bar and, just for variation, headed into the weave poles but turned back at the last moment to see what I was up to, earning a refusal, but her teammates ran very nicely and again none of us off-coursed, which is also excellent for Team Relay. We ended up Qing fairly solidly, placing 7th of 25 teams after combining the scores for all 5 classes. Thanks, Lucy and Beadle!

Sunday, in Grand Prix, I apparently moved too soon and pulled Boost past a serpentine jump for a runout, then getting her back over it, she knocked the bar and then another one (2 jumps again). She did do the weaves OK, but the preceding obstacle was the chute and she somersaulted out of that--never seen her do that before--so it wasn't a pretty approach to the weaves.

In Steeplechase, we had two sets of weaves. She knocked--yes--2 bars, did the first set of weaves beautifully, ran past 2 jumps that we had to go back for, and then the last set of weaves she popped out at the end again and I didn't catch it before going on, so we Eliminated there, too.

Master Snooker wasn't awful--we placed 8th of 32 dogs, but it still wasn't a Q (one point short) and that's for two reasons: (1) She knocked a bar on a 7-pointer in the opening, so we didn't get those 7 points, and then she spent half the course checking back in with me instead of just &#*@(% going over the jump in front of her! Wasted SO much time. So by the time we got to #7 in the closing-- a 4-part combo--by the time she knocked a bar in the middle of it (2 bars again), our time's-over buzzer sounded. But so many people crapped out so early in this snooker, as I said, it was still a pretty good run given this particular course.

Master Gamblers. Sighhhhhh. Do you ever see a gambler's opening where the high-point course is so obvious to you that you think it's most everyone's going to do the same thing and the really really fast & good dogs are going to get in even more obstacles than you, and then you watch almost everyone do something different from yours and come in much lower than your plan--which should be 48 if you do it absolutely perfectly, although I really expected 47? Like people were getting in the 32-42 range mostly.

Well. So. It was our kind of course. And we did it perfectly right up to the obstacle before the gamble. That was a jump that would've been our 48th point. I actually expected the whistle (to start the gamble) to blow before we got to it, and I shot her over it and the whistle still hadn't blown, so I changed direction abruptly trying to figure out what other obstacles I could take, blown away that we still had time left over, and she knocked the bar.

And we were racing *away* from the gamble when the whistle finally blew. Turned and headed back, but we approached awkwardly to the first jump, and she did a bunch of "this jump?" kinds of things without actually looking straight at it, so the judge didn't call a refusal, and she sailed over it without knocking it.

The gamble included three jumps and a set of weaves, and the way we'd been going, I didn't expect her to actually do it, or to do it with faults. But she went fromthe jump to the weaves, did the weaves perfectly, did the next jump perfectly, and then danced around in front of me instead of going to the last jump, and when I finally got her turned around, the whistle blew as she was in the air for the last jump. All that wasted time-- just about a second over time. So no Q.

BUT out of 70 Masters dogs, one dog got 48 in the opening and one other got 47 in the opening. So I certainly can't complain about our execution on that part of the course!

The weather provided off and on rain showers all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, but not awful downpours. The weather was cold but not anywhere near freezing.

Tika got to come out of her crate to practice tricks instead of doing agility, but probably not nearly as much as I should've done with her. No sign of sore toe, but Saturday mid-morning she came out of her crate hunched over and not wanting to do tug-of-war like she does when her neck gets sore. And I'd been blaming doing agility for aggravating the neck. Apparently not. She remained off the rest of the day, but Sunday was absolutely fine again.

It occurred to me that Remington exhibited the same kind of seemingly-out-of-nowhere hunching over and then the next day fine several times before we discovered that he had that hemangiosarcoma tumor on his heart. It's a little scary, actually, how much it reminded me of that. Now I have to decided whether I want to pay the huge bucks for a screening ultrasound to find out whether there's anything there. I'm particularly sensitive since we've had so many dogs in our club die of hemangiosarcoma in the last year or two.

Hate to end the post on that worried note-- But we are all home safely, dogs are already dozing off (even though they got all that great crate rest at the trial and on the drive home), so I will sign off and head to my own comfy bed now, too.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mice and Men Got Nothing On Us

SUMMARY: Sometimes things (let us say, just off the top of my head, CPE trials the day after Thanksgiving) don't go the way you planned, hoped, expected, or even imagined.

Here are some photos with circles and arrows on the backs of each one explaining what each one is to be used as evidence against us.

Agility as a weight loss device

I swear that I took barely more than a forkful or two of anything on Thursday. ...Well, of *everything* on Thursday. Friday morning, 4 a.m., scale shows three (!) pounds heavier. Good thing I'm going to agility, where I'm physically active, have two dogs to run, and tend to eat lightly.

First thing in the morning, near the check-in window, there are huge stacks of really tasty-looking chocolate chip cookies. Well, what the heck, if I have just ONE that's not so bad, because I'm at agility and tend to eat lightly.

A while later alongside the course maps that I was picking up sat a really tasty-looking cake--not sure what for, but I don't often have a chance for cake (and frosting, which is what I *really* like), and what the heck, I'm at agility where I'm really active and so what if I have just one piece?

Then, middle of the day, WAG had a big birthday bash for one of their key helpers--he'd be like their estate manager--with an amazing-looking carrot cake with the thickest cream cheese frosting you've just about ever seen. Well, I'm fond of carrot cake and I really like cream cheese frosting, and really, OK, I know what's going on here, but I don't get carrot cake or c.c. frosting often, so I'll just have one piece of that.

In the worker raffle, I usually put most of my tickets into the bags for the free trial entries because I already have more beds, toys, books, bags, and so on than I know what to do with. But I usually look for something that I might kind of like to have that doesn't have too many tickets in it as a possible consolation prize for when I don't win the free entries and I'll put one of my tickets into that bag. So there was this huuuuuge tin of Almond Roca--

On the other hand, my pedometer did indicate that, in one day of an agility trial. I covered enough steps to equate to 12 miles! I'll tell ya, after several years of doing mostly score table at trials, where what's involved is mostly sitting, at this trial I did leash running, scribe running, pole setting--all kinds of things where what's involved is mostly NOT sitting.

Maybe the day was a wash in terms of actual calories inhaled/exhaled.

One day of agility as a way to burn off bored dogs' energy

I get up at 4 in the morning, am out of the house by 4:30, drive 2 hours through occasional drizzles, arrive at the agility place, take the dogs over to the field for a little frisbee warm-up and pottying, and Tika turns sharply on the wet ground, yelps, and comes back to me on three legs.

I have several single-word comments on how I felt about that, most of which aren't printable here. Entry fees for 5 runs, down the tubes. Opportunity to burn off some mental and physical energy, down the tubes. Opportunity to win the Turkey Trot again--well, there's still Boost, but Tika's been my winning dog before and I had high hopes for her. Five chances to earn those precious CPE Qs since we don't do much CPE and Tika has a long way to go to her C-ATE, down the tubes. Damage to dog--don't know, but guessing that'll be more money down the tubes.

I couldn't find anything. Didn't do the hunchy-over thing like she does when it's her shoulders or neck, seemed clearly to be in her foot. Gave her a rimadyl and an hour's rest. Let her out of her crate. She hopped down from the van with no sign of problem. Stretched fine, did figure 8s around my legs fine, played tug-of-war vehemently. Trotted alongside me out to the field with the practice jump. Sent her out around a couple of posts. Everything fine. Sent her over the jump, and she flew over with enthusiasm, turned tightly towards me with bright eyes, yelped, and came up on three feet.

Scratched her from her first run and found the vet who is also an enthusiatic CPEer and is pretty much always there at WAG competing with her dogs. Waited for her to do her run with her dog, and then she looked Tika over. She saw pretty quickly what my inexperienced eyes didn't detect--the knuckle of Tika's left front little toe is swollen. She doesn't think it's broken, unless it's a hairline fracture. No way to tell without an x-ray.

I thank her for looking (hopefully profusely enough) and ponder what to do. Tika is on leash, has been over the practice jump, and despite now walking again with a limp, she is acting eager and excited to be near the agility ring at an agility trial and clearly WANTs to run. I ponder what to do.

The next class is Full House, which is like a Gambler's opening with no gamble, so we can do almost anything we want to. There are some tunnels and 6-pole weaves on the course, so I decide I'll try to have her just do a couple of those *gently and easily and slowly* to see what happens. So I line her up next to me in front of a straight tunnel, don't put her into a stay or anything, just release her gently and say, quietly and calmly, "Through!" (we don't say "tunnel", we say "through". There's a lady in our class with grayhounds who says "Be small!" it's very cute. They really do have to hunker down to get through the tunnels).

OK, anyway, those of you with driven, enthusiastic dogs just KNOW what happens--Tika blasts full throttle through the tunnel, and because I'm trying to be calm and sedate, I'm way behind her. So when she blasts out of the tunnel, she careens into a sharp U-turn to see what I'm up to (eyes wide open and bright and ears up and looking SO happy to be out there)--and suddenly halts and comes out of the turn limping.

I try once more a couple of hours later, in Snooker, with the judge's dispensation-- just one straight tunnel, which she does fine, and one gently curved tunnel--which she comes out of limping. And still bouncing back and forth (mostly on 3 feet) trying to get me to tell her which obstacle to take next.

So that's enough stupid attempts to satisfy both of our desires for her to do some agility. She's scratched for the rest of the day, including (sob!) the Turkey Trot.

The up side to this was that it completely vindicated my decision not to go to Nationals two weeks ago because Tika keeps coming up sore at random times. I was deadly disappointed today, but imagine how awful it would've been for this to happen in Arizona.

Tika as the Mondo Q-Earner in CPE and Boost as the also-ran

I hate going to trials and coming home with few or no Qs or placements. ESPECIALLY CPE, where Tika has quite the record of not only massive Qs and first places, but often THE highest score/fastest time of all dogs at the trial. It's an ego boost for me, who is obviously pathetic in her need for ego boosts like this, but there ya go. After Tika's injury, I was fully prepared to come home with next to nothing.

First run of the day was Wildcard (I am not explaining games today), in which a dropped bar is fatal. I pick a pretty darned simple course--it's essentially an M-shaped path, how hard can it be? We will have to successfully negotiate one rear cross, which isn't Boost's strong point.

Boost runs past one jump on the second leg of the M and I barely call her off the tunnel after it (but in fact she does call off and I get her brought around without backjumping), and she turns entirely the wrong way on the rear cross ( but I get her turned around and on course again with no faults), and, wow, we're CPE-clean and have a Q! But lots of wasted time.

The thing you have to know about "clean" in CPE is that there are never faults for refusals or runouts. AND, although not clean, at level 4 and 5 in CPE (which is where Boost competes now), on many courses you can still Q even if you have certain kinds of faults.

But now Boost has one CPE-clean run and a Q for the day. Not to my surprise, we don't win--but, jeez, with all that wasted time, we're still 2nd place.

Next up is Full House. I love full house with my dogs. Just get as many obstacles as possible (with a very minimal number of rules) for points. And this one was particularly juicy--I could do a course with basically two very smooth loops and one rear cross and pick up almost every possible point on the field--
6 out of 6 5-pointers
7 out of 8 3-pointers
5 out of 14 1-pointers (maybe more depending on how smoothly things went).

So--she breaks her start-line stay, so I immediately put her into a down-stay and walk calmly around her and then release her when I'm ready. Probably means we'll loose the final 5-pointer because of the wasted time. On the first loop, she ran PAST the tire (drop 3 points). Then she missed the weave entry (drop maybe 5 seconds to get her lined up and back in, so probably that means drop the other 5-pointer off the end. After that, she flew, but sure enough the whistle blew as she flew towards our last 2 obstacles, both of them 5-pointers. Ah, well, crappy run but a Q.

And, to my surprise, a win in our group (Level 5, which is almost the top leve). Not the highest points of the day by far if you compare to all other dogs, but I'll take a Q and a 1st anyway.

And, guess what! That's the last Level 5 Q she needs in that class, so now she's eligible for her first Level C ("championship") entry (just in that class) at our next trial. Yowza!

Next is Snooker. It's a very tight little course (really--laid out on a 70x70 field which is literally half the area of a typical USDAA course) and really fast long-jumping dogs--and especially the ones who aren't always the best performers--could have a tough time. I decided, what the heck, we IN THEORY have the skills required to do a three-7 opening and get through to the end. It requires that she hold her sit while I lead out, then pull her between a jump and a tunnel to the first 7-pointer--and of course that she keep all her bars up.

Anyway, once again she turned the wrong way on a rear cross, and it was almost a disaster, but we held it together and completed the course in well under the allowed time.

Turns out--ta-da!--she was the ONLY dog out of all dogs entered at the trial who earned the full 51 points! What a good girl. Pleased with that, indeed.

Next up was Jumpers. Man, some weird sequences in that one AND it would require a ton of running on my part to be in the right place at the right time. And then there's the bar-knocking issue. OK, so she ran past one jump--I pulled hard to keep her off a tunnel trap and she responded too readily--so wasting time turning her around and getting her back over it, and then there was the tough push/turn out of the tunnel that I just handled wrong, so we wasted SO much time on course, but in fact never went off course and no bars came down. So: Another CPE-clean run, another Q, and this time merely 4th place. (Slower dogs definitely had advantages on this course.)

And, finally, Standard, our only regular class of the day with contacts. Thank goodness, all of her contacts were spot-on perfect, and she handled a tough tunnel-dogwalk discrimination with aplomb, AND kept her bars up. So, OK, she ran past yet ANOTHER jump and it took a lot of effort to get her back to it, because I had been trying to send so was a long way away, and she turned the wrong way on a rear cross (sensing a trend here?), and fer cryin' out loud was headed straight at the weave pole entry but turned back to me to see what I was doing, wasting yet MORE time, but it was CPE-clean, so a Q. And apparently it was a tough-enough course that she managed her third 1st-place of the day.

So, for the day, five out of five Qs, three 1sts, a 2nd, and a 4th. Way better than I had expected.

Boost knocking bars everywhere

In CPE, she's jumping 20" instead of 22", and that seems to make a big difference. She didn't drop a SINGLE bar all day, out of 6 runs!

Turkey Trot

I so wanted to win! It's just a fun game, it has no meaning whatsoever, but since my dogs have won 4 times so far, I just really wanted to keep on winning. Plus you get these really cool embroidered Top Turkey awards and a goodie bag.


The game this year was 21. Your team had two minutes, and dogs took turns trying to earn 21 points EXACTLY. There was this simple little 4-obstacle gamble that of course our experience masters-level USDAA dogs should have no troulbe getting, which gave us 21 points automatically, rather than trying to accrue 21 points on the rest of the course.

There was an alternative good route of 7 obstacles (including 2 aframes) that was pretty fast for 21 points if you thought you could do that exact course without popping the aframe or knocking a bar. (And of course many other choices on the course.) But we figured we could just do that 4-obstacle gamble over and over one after the other and rack up multiple 21-pointers. Piece of cake, right?

We were all so fast that we each got 2 shots at it and not one of us did it correctly even once (4 times into wrong side of tunnel, one teeter flyoff, and boost who couldn't even do the dang weave pole entry one of her times), which meant that we then had to take an additional 3 obstacles each time to make our 21 points. And then of course two of those runs the dog didn't quite do what we wanted, so it was more than 21 points.

Anyway, we ended up with four 21 pointers. Several teams had 4 or 5 and one had 6.

Then your team drew numbers out of a pot, one for each 21 you earned, and the sum of those numbers you drew determined the winner. (That's the element of luck. The skill is in getting enough 21s to earn the right to draw more numbers.)

Boost's team ended up in 2nd place out of 8 big dog teams, dang. So close. But oh well. Disappointing but not nearly as disappointing as not being able to run Tika in it. (And I don't want to act too disappointed because I LOVE the fun of the turkey trot and the different games each year and don't ever want Susan to stop doing it.)

However, the only other person I know who had 4 Turkey Trot wins going into Friday, a Bay Team friend (and was Jake's teammate on at least one of his wins, as was one of his teammates) DID win in the small dog division, so now he has 5 wins. Pretty cool indeed.

So--awake at 4:00 a.m., crawl into my own warm bed about 10:45 p.m., lights out!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

USDAA in Turlock

SUMMARY: An oddball weekend.

The weather was just about perfect for agility: Sunny but not hot, just warm enough that by midafternoon for a brief while I didn't need my fleece in the shade of the score table. No rain, just a tiny breeze to keep the air moving. Plenty cool for the dogs. Couldn't ask for better weather.

Which of course is unusual for agility trials--usually they're very hot or they're rainy or they're windy or you're huddled around one of those portable propane heaters trying to defrost the icicles from your nose.

Here's one weird thing: Boost. Got more Qs. Than Tika. Can you believe it? My little baby dog is almost hitting her stride--at 4 years and 9 months! Can you believe it? My older experienced Qing machine dog managed only 3 Qs out of 10 runs.

Here's another weird thing: Gamblers. Tika is a wonderful gamblers dog. So often we manage to get high opening points, and often pick up gambles that other dogs find challenging. And that's in Championship as well as performance. This weekend, Tika didn't come close in TWO gamblers. This is a dog who has been  so consistent at gamblers this year that--OMG--just looked at the USDAA site and as of mid-September she is *IN* the top ten! Yowza! I had thought we might have crept in at the bottom. Unfortunately, at the last trial, we popped the dogwalk in the opening so ended up in a position to collect only 3 top ten points, then in the 2nd gamble completely hosed it, and this weekend we completely hosed TWO gambles for NO top ten points. Tsk. What an opportunity wasted to finally get a Top Ten pin! But how much fun to be there right now. Really, if I had known we were up in there, I might have actually *practiced* some gambling recently.

And Boost, my baby dog who still has trouble sometimes sending out from me, ALMOST got the gamble Saturday--in the air over the last jump when the buzzer sounded. 0.3 seconds over time! (But particularly nice as this course had a dismal Q rate. Only 2 out of 30 22" dogs got the gamble--I didn't see anyone else get it and be over time, so Boost makes it 3 who got it.) AND she DID get the gamble Sunday! Managed 6th place out of 28 dogs.

Here's another weird thing: Tika, my Performance Tournament Qing machine didn't qualify in either the Grand Prix or the Steeplechase. Well--Steeplechase was my fault, I ran the wrong course. Grand Prix was her fault--flew off the dogwalk from a mile up without even pretending to get to the bottom.

Boost, however, DID Q in the Steeplechase with a clean and smooth but oddly slow run.

And here's another weird thing: In all of my thousands of agility runs, I've not yet had a dog who eliminated in the ring. Boost's Steeplechase came SO close--we went over the last jump, headed for the exit, and about 2 feet from the gate at the far side of the field she squatted. This from a dog who sometimes won't go for hours because life is too interesting to waste time pottying. I blame it on the antibiotics she's on. Explained why she was slow--about to explode!

And here's another weird thing: Tika either crapped out completely or completely aced it. We don't usually get such a sharp division. Crap out: E in 1st Standard, not even opening pts in Gamblers, E in steeplecahse, E in 2nd Jumpers, nearly low points in 2nd Gamblers, E in pairs (although actually Tika was clean; her partner had the E.

Aced it: In the 1st Jumpers, Tika had a beautiful blazing course and missed coming in first out of 10 dogs by .01 seconds, dagnabbit! Beat by our traitorous pairs partner! In Snooker, whupped the competition with a first-place (of 12 dogs) 55 point super-Q--nearest was 51 points--in a run that would've been also good enough for a super-Q in Championship. And in the 2nd Standard, soundly took 1st of 11, beating everyone else's times (even those with faults).

So: Boost Qed in Relay, 5th of 21 pairs (missed her weave entry or we'd have placed higher). Qed in the 1st Standard, placing 9 of 28--dang hydraulic elbows on the table lost us a huge lot of time again, or we'd have placed higher. Qed in Steeplechase. Qed in Gamblers, 6th of 28 dogs.

Mostly for my own info: Tika ignored my "COME! COME! COOOOOME!" twice to take off-course obstacles. Blind-crossed me once into an offcourse, a puzzling move that I really can't explain. I forgot the course once. She flew off the Aframe twice, dogwalk maybe 3 times, much worse than average.

But I don't think she knocked a bar all weekend! Good girl on that one.

Nine out of Boost's 11 runs looked very much like master dog runs. 2nd round steeplechase she was the 3rd fastest dog but knocked a bar. Very pleased with the run. 2nd Jumpers was OH so close--took an off course tunnel that many dogs had taken (OK, Tika took it, too, but for a different reason)--but otherwise did the course perfectly! No bars! Sooooo close--

But her 1st Jumpers run looked like the old-style disaster: ran past the 2nd jump on a lead-out pivot, knocked 3 bars, had at least one refusal-type mess-- . And Snooker, she knocked the bar in the opening on #7, then sucked into a tunnel at a bad moment, for a 9-point run.

But the rest were lovely! And her bar knocking was way down. Very happy about that, too.

Hmm, Tika getting yet another Snooker Super-Q makes me check the USDAA web site again for Snooker Top Tens. If you remember, as of late August, I reported that we had just barely squeaked our way into the top 25 vying for a top ten position. So it's just a thrill to see that, counting scores through mid-September, we've edged upward:

I still don't think this 17th place will  hold, either.  Since the date of that update, we earned only 1 Top Ten point at our last trial. 7 more for today's run (and we beat Hobbes). But we're doing only one more USDAA trial this year, in December, and I doubt that most of these dogs are doing that few competitions. Guess I picked the wrong year to back way off on my agility trials, or Tika might really have had a chance at a Top Ten in Snooker. That's OK. It's still fun to have earned 5 SuperQs  out of 9 runs in Performance to date.

From this weekend: No photos. As usual, worked my buns off at the score table, didn't have much time for anything else. For once, we had enough score tablers that I could've taken a couple of breaks, but I feel obligated to be there as much as possible since they give me one free entry for doing the job.

And now I'm tired. Bedtime.


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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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Monday, September 07, 2009

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The--Not Best of Times

SUMMARY: southwest regionals personal results

A summary because I'm very tired and need to go sleep. (OK, I lied, this is turning into more than a summary.)

Tika the down side

Tika ran beautifully this weekend--ALMOST perfectly. Out of 14 runs, she Qed in 10. Two of those four were completely and totally my fault; she ran perfectly what I asked her to do. OK, I can deal with that. The final two were sad and then almost heartbreaking.

That danged last 26" Jumpers leg, the one that Tika needs for her silver ADCH--knocked the first bar again! Jeez, she ran so smoothly the rest of the way!

Then, last run of the weekend: Steeplechase Round 2. At the Regionals! We've done great! I think we can beat almost all of the dogs in the class if all goes well. I'm revved and excited; I think it's our kind of course. Two Aframes, which Tika can gain time on with her "modified running contact" if she gets a foot into the yellow zone, and the course is laid out such that I can be right there to add emphasis. I've got her revved and excited, too. I lead out only a couple of steps and then release her for added excitement rather than a longer ideal lead-out. I sprint for the first front cross and make it, and we're on our way! We make it through the first 13 obstacles of a 19-obstacle course, including a gorgeous legal running A-frame. She is HAULING and I am feeling good!

#14 is a tunnel. Tika blasts in--then yelps in pain and hobbles out on three legs. Oh, poor Tika! Oh, sad me! The judge looks inside the tunnel to see whether he can see anything--nothing. No idea what happened. Did she slip and fall? Stub a toe? I jollied her up a bit, since she can be a drama queen at the slightest little thing, and she looked perky, but then when I tried to get her running again, she wouldn't. Took her off the course, rubbed her a bit, then tried walking her around. Definitely, definitely limping.

Took her back to her crate, more massage. She relaxed and enjoyed it, but stood up and limped again. Left her in the crate for half an hour, came back to get her out again, and she came out hunched over--like the sore neck/back/whatever it is that she gets--and favoring the same foot. Gave her some rimadyl. An hour later, she still wasn't comfortable coming out of the crate and wanted to lie down.

But 2 hours later, after I'd packed everythign up to go, she felt fine and wanted to run run run and was disgusted with me for holding her back. I'm sure it was the rimadyl kicking in. Will have to see how she feels tomorrow.

I guess I'm glad that she held up so well for three and a half days of agility. I'm always watching for any sign of soreness with her now, and there was never anything. She was in full form right before that run.

And there's yet another reason not to go to Nationals: Tika actually has a good chance of doing well in all the Performance events. BUT. It would REALLY suck to get down there and then have her come up sore again, unable to run.

Tika the up side

Tika ran clean in Pf Pairs Relay; her partner's not the fastest but they Qed, completing Tika's performance relay title.

Tika ran clean and very well in Team Standard, for a 4th out of 20 dogs.

Had an excellent opening and OK closing in Team Gamblers, for a sort of average 12th of 20.

Got the highest possible points in Team Snooker, placing 4th of 20 only on time vs other dogs who got the same points.

Ran a gorgeous clean Team Jumpers run, placing 3rd of 20.

And popped her dogwalk in the Performance Team Relay, but between Tika and her excellent partner Brenn, after the cumulative 5 rounds, they place second! for a silver medal! among 36 teams at the Regionals. Human Mom is proud and pleased.

Tika's Performance Grand Prix Round 1--I couldn't have been happier; she placed 1st of 19 dogs! And only 3 dogs Qed! It was a tough course.

On Sunday, Tika's Perf Gamblers run was excellent, missing 1st place by only a point, so placing 2nd of 21 for a Q.

Her Performance Steeplechase Round 1 was gorgeous. Not a high placer; one dog had a stunningly perfect run and beat Tika by 3.5 seconds. The times of the 2nd through 7th place dogs ranged between about 39.75 and 40.5 seconds! Yes, in good competition, the times are so bloodly tight that a tenth of a second costs you. But it was plenty good enough for a Q to go on to Round 2.

She did well in Grand Prix round 2, although I didn't signal a threadle well enough, and she veered wayyy away from the correct path, barely missing an off course, and wasting probably 2-4 seconds (hard to tell); still, she placed 4th of the 10 dogs in that round, off 1st place by about 6 seconds. WHich is really an eternity. But I'll take it.

And on Monday, although we didn't quite get all the points we tried for in Pf Snooker, neither did almost anyone else, and our points were high enough for 3rd place out of 32 dogs and another Super-Q. Yesss!

Other than the Jumpers and the Round 2 Steeplechase, the only things she didn't Q in were the two Standard runs--which are proving to be as elusive lately as Jumpers Qs--and they were both so pathetically my fault:
* We were clean almost to the end, then I noticed in periphery that the jump she was about to take didn't have a number on it, and I second-guessed myself on the correct course and pulled her off it. Turns out, of course, it was correct--the cone had just been knocked away from the jump. So an otherwise perfect course marred by a 5-point refusal.
* I left Tika in the weaves and went out for a jump off to the side to manage a tighter turn, trusting her usually awesome weaves to finish the last couple on her own. Apparently took my eyes off her and moved too firmly, because I didn't know that she had popped the last weave until the judge blew the whistle. Other than that, the run was perfect. Sighhhh--

So, summary for Tika: What a wonderful agility girl she was this weekend! Very happy with her. Very sad that she was sore, because usually she loves to play the game.

Boost's weekend

The baby dog (who is now over 4 and a half) is doing SO much better! Continues the last 3 weeks of sudden "I get this game now!" behavior.

Friday night, Pairs Relay, she teamed with her mom. It was very cute--reported that the two of them waiting on the start line to go were like bookends, not only physically resembling each other but with exactly the same eager, ready-to-go pose. Boost knocked one bar near the end of her half, for a 5-second penalty, but between the two of them, they had the 4th fastest time of ALL SIXTY! teams and still placed 6th even with the faults. An awesome way to start the weekend.

Boost's Team runs weren't steller, but OK. Worst one was Snooker: She hit the first red and I froze, ready to push her off the next obstacle if the bar fell. The bar didn't fall, it kind of bounced. So I turned and put her over the next jump--and as she was taking off, the *#&@( bar FELL! So we were whistled off, for 0 points.

(One partner also Eed in Jumpers, and with all of our assorted missteps and issues, we were sure that we weren't going to qualify. What another heartbreaker to discover that, after all was said and done, our total 948 points missed qualifying by 6 points! Oh crap! Just four successfull obstacles in that Snooker run would've qualified us. Or just about anything else that any of us missed on, anywhere in our 5 runs. That's almost worse than missing by a mile.

On Sunday, Boost's Jumpers run was SO ALMOST wonderful; she kept up all her bars but earned a refusal when she ran past a serpentine again. That would be the OLD Boost, but keeping the bars up and not having other refusals or runouts is the NEW Boost.

Her Steeplechase Round 1 was kind of a mess. Oh, well.

Her Gamblers opening was nice although she startled me by missing her weave entry big time, and I had to stop and put my hands on my hips for a moment, so we didn't get as many points as planned, although it would've been good for a placement with the gamble. BUT--She actually did the hard part of the gamble but then was too busy looking at me to take the next jump right in front of her. Sighhh---we'll keep working on that.

But she delighted me by doing fairly nicely on her Standard round--only a few gotchas, like coming up off her elbows on the table, delaying the table count by a few seconds, and a couple of other bobbles that I don't remember--but none of them fatal! So we Qed and even placed as high as 14th out of 94 dogs. Human Mom pretty happy with that Border Collie!

On Monday, we blew Snooker early because I tried to do a wrap and she turned the wrong way then backjumped. But she did keep her bars up.

Then she redeemed herself with a completely flawless Standard run. She went down on the table immediately and stayed down. She stuck all of her contacts AND didn't veer around at the end, so I didn't have to either make her down or try somehow to get around her, so she had to hold them for only a fraction of a second before I released her. Kept her bars up. NO runouts, NO refusals, NO turns in the wrong direction, NO turning and waiting for me to catch up to her. Placing 6th of 79 dogs! Yowza! VERY happy Human Mom! Very talented looking Border Collie!

And so the trial sinks slowly into the sunset--

My knee help up just fine; weather was lovely; rotation groups worked great in keeping the trial moving well without conflicts. The only other bleahhh thing was Boost having diarrhea Friday night, keeping me up a good part of the night, then ending up soiling her crate partway through the day, poor puppy. But she never acted ill; it cleared up just fine, and I slept fantastically Saturday and Sunday night.

Speaking of which--goodnight!

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Last Weekend, This Week, This Weekend

SUMMARY: Surviving in agility

Last weekend's summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you all there.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grumble grumble sighhhh

SUMMARY: not the best weekend

Well, what I can say is that the dogs love doing agility, and they love doing it with me, and they're happy, and they're healthy, and the weather was great.

I'm trying very hard to remind myself of all that to try to yank myself out of feeling miserable about how our runs went. So--good night.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two New Dogs, Two Old Dogs

SUMMARY: And by that I mean--I have two brand new dogs, AND I have two dogs who are doing the same old things.

USDAA trial report: Five classes today.

Tika. Well.

I've been reporting how gloriously well she's been doing in Performance at 22". Including consistently placing 1st/2nd in Performance Steeplechase (and Grand Prix). And getting lots of Qs. And not knocking bars. And hitting her contacts one way or another.

Pairs Relay: She missed her up AND down on the dogwalk--didn't even TRY to hit the down. Fortunately she was fast enough and partner clean enought that we still qualified.

Standard: Knocked the first two bars. FLEW off the dogwalk. Didn't even try for the Aframe contact, so although she got a toe in, she launched beyond me and the resulting confusion earned a refusal at the next jump. How often does Tika get 20 faults in a single run any more? I mean, really!?!

Steeplechase: Ticked the broad jump very thoroughly, knocked the next bar, two obstacles later launched off the A-frame so thoroughly that she did NOT get a toenail in. 15 faults! And then--it was so bloody hot today--she was slower than I expected, I got ahead of her on an intended push and so had to step aside in front of her, pulling her off course. I mean, really!?! (But her time was spectacular even given the slowness and the additional offcourse. Dang.)

So this is my NEW tika--worse than she was back in Championship 26", where her Q rate had held steady at about 50% with only minor faults (like one in a class) keeping us from Qing?

And then the old Tika returned for a while.

Gamblers: Out of 17 Performance dogs, she placed third--an excellent opening, in which she got 2 Aframes just fine, kept her bars up, got lots of points, and then just missed a gamble that stymied almost everyone. Only 2 dogs in her class Qed, and I believe they both had fewer opening points than she did.

Snooker: One of those 3-red 7-point-weave speed courses where everyone does exactly the same thing and there were so many people competing that a goodly number were getting the maximum 51 points. So, to guarantee being in Super-Q range, we'd have to go for the 51, although it was a real stretch for us on time and, with the heat, Tika had been slower than normal. However, by the time we ran, it had started to cool, with a bit of a breeze, and she ran absolutely like a champ, completing the 51 points with a second or two to spare. Turns out only 2 of the 15 or so dogs in her height got 51--she was a bit slower, so 2nd place. But that's my old reliable Snooker dog returning!

OK, so Boost.

I've been reporting how, in class the last 2 weeks, she has suddenly turned into a dog who can do agility! Bars stay up, no refusals or runouts, doing weaves like a true pro, and so on.

Pairs Relay: Absolutely gorgeous! Her partner knocked 2 bars, but between them, they were plenty fast enough to Q and even place in the middle of the Qing pack! Only issue was that she hit bottom on the Aframe and immediately popped off.

Standard: Oh, this one was so close it hurt! She had a just gorgeous run, did everything right, except then I overran her on an intended rear cross, and I could've SWORN she was committed to the jump when I started moving, and she stopped, and I literally almost tripped over her and she spun to see what I was doing--anyway, that was a refusal, and the only thing wrong (except that, ahem, she hit bottom on the Aframe and immediately popped off. I made her Down--her front end went down but her rear never did).

Gamblers: The New Improved Boost was still in attendance. Did GREAT in the opening, just everything I asked her to, and was SO close on the gamble--a couple of friends said that I didn't keep the pressure up, and if I had, they thought she'd have gotten it. Such a good girl. Did 2 Aframes--the first one she stuck the 2o2o, the second one she hit bottom and came off immediately, in front of where I was trying to run, so we had some discombobulation to get back on plan. So, OK, I can handle having a nonsticky Aframe issue given everything else we've worked through

And then.

Snooker. She missed her first weave entrance. Knocked the third red bar, putting me out of position for the closing. She went over the #2 in the closing sort of sideways looking at me, hit the bar but didn't knock it, and then we had a complete refusal-what-this-jump insanity at #3 and then she crashed it. Just like the old Boost.

Then, in Steeplechase, the new Boost returned briefly--long enough for me to completely forget where I was going, send her off course twice--but she did everything I asked her to perfectly, kept her bars up, etc.

Sooo... all is not lost.

Too bad neither dog Qed in Steeplechase. Boost's sisters Bette and Gina and her mom Tala all placed well and will be in the money run tomorrow. I don't remember whether sister Beck and brother Derby made it, though. Fun sometimes to have the whole family around and see how they do. Gina is doing SO well. Won Gamblers by a bunch. Won Standard by a bunch. Was I think 4th in Steeplechase. A good day for them. Finally--they had a lot of consistency problems earlier on. Maybe both sisters are "getting it" at four and a half?

I just hope that it is 20 degrees cooler tomorrow. I am not a fond of excessive heat, and I am ashamed to admit that I did not do well today. Didn't feel great. Too droopy. Every time I ate something, I felt bleahhh. All heat related, methinks. But at least my knee is still doing well, and my dogs look like they're having fun. So I guess we'll go back tomorrow anyway. It got only to 87 today (sure felt hotter than that), and tomorrow's high is predicted at 72, which is much more Prunedale-like, so I have high hopes for a lovely day.

And I hope that these tail ends of Tropical Storm Ignacio get outa town soon.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yessirree I Have Agility Dogs

SUMMARY: Another fine weekend, all in all.

The drive back down to Carmel started the day nicely with entertainment from Mother Nature. The sunrise took various forms and colors and I captured only some of them.

It's interesting, driving through a sunny morning and yet being able to see that you're about to drive into a fog bank in the next low-lying area.

Then, suddenly, you're in the fog. And fog is seldom more entrancing than when it's wrapping around some of the distinctive Monterey trees.

Several of us volunteered to wear leis to be the "ambassadors" who could answer anyone's questions, whether Starters folks trying to understand Snooker or Members Of The Public with questions. I got one to match my tie-dye.

We started the day with Snooker with a deceptively devious course. I thought that I could easily get Tika through a six and two fives, but this course required precision handling every step of the way and not many of us were up to it; not a lot qualified, and considering that there were 4 reds, only maybe 3 or 4 out of 120 dogs got more than 50 points. We made it through 6 and 5--barely--and then Tika took a bonus red at the wrong time and we were out.

Boost I had figured on 3 sevens; acutally I liked the flow better than Tika's course, but it covered a lot more ground and I didn't believe that Tika had the speed for it, whereas Boost does. We in fact got through the three 7s in the opening very nicely, with just a couple of occurrences of "this jump?" dancing around, which cost us time. But then I managed to NOT handle the #2 in the closing the way I had walked it, got in Boost's way, and she knocked the bar, and we were done. We *might* have had enough time left to finish the closing after our opening bobbles, but it would've been close.

So no Snooker Qs again.

Tika qualified in Performance Grand Prix *again* and *again* took 2nd place, not the lovely 1st that would earn us a bye into round 2 at the regionals in september. Explain me this, that tika can continually win steeplechase against the same dogs that she can't beat in Grand Prix? Argh. I shouldn't be complaining about Qing OR about placing 2nd in GP, but still...

And Tika had a lovely Standard run, getting enough toes into the contact zones to convince the judge that they were legal, although I miscued something and she turned in completely the wrong direction, losing several seconds to get her back on track. Don't know whether the correct execution would have gotten us the win; she Qed and came in 2nd there, too (to the same dog who beat her in Grand Prix) by a big gap of 3 and a half seconds.

Boost's Grand Prix was SO close to being lovely, but an ominous thing happened--instead of doing the "refusal dance" at 2 jumps ("this one? this one? really?"), she did the dread Border Collie full-speed spin! Ack! Not a good sign; don't want her to start spinning--it's a terrible habit for the dog to get into. But it's a sign of not getting the right info fast enough. Still--it really was SO close to being lovely! And we got called for only 1 refusal, so it was SO close to being an actual Q!

Boost's Standard run was scheduled near the very end of the 120-or-so masters dogs, and that class was still getting going while *everything* else, including my score table job, finished and the courses cleared away and packed. I really didn't want to wait for an hour or more for Boost's run and have it be another mess or something that would reinforce those ugly spins.

But... well, I waited. And I'm so glad I did, because Boost ran PERFECTLY! Stayed at the start line, went over jumps in front of her, hit all her contacts, made her weave entry and stayed in to the end--oh, it was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, like a run with a fast dog like her SHOULD be!

I could tell in a couple of places that she slowed slightly, not showing a CONFIDENT drive forward, but still DID go forward, even responded correctly to TWO rear crosses AND a serpentine... I mean, really, it was beautiful, and I have no complaints whatsoever; it's quite a breakthrough for her, and I don't expect her to be as confident and driven through a difficult course (only 8 of 38 dogs in her group Qed) as some other dogs, so for her at this time it was a spot-on, flawless run.

I am still floating.

Furthermore, she was fast enough to place 3rd of those 38 dogs! She's never earned Top Ten points before, ever, and this weekend she did it in TWO classes (Gamblers yesterday and Standard today). Wooty woot!

Now, it's not like she was really super-fast--just fast enough. Her time was 39.96, only about 4 yards per second. The 1st place time was 38.73, which makes her look pretty good--until you realize that dogs like Sweep [Basic] had a time of 36-something (although with a contact called), and Boost's sister Gina had an absolutely drop-dead astounding time of 34-something (although slammed through two jump bars).

So we can just keep doing what we've been doing, I guess, and her confidence will build, and so will her speed, and then I can also start releasing her very quickly on her contacts (if I want to go for placements)--note that Gina has glorious full-out running contacts and Boost stops at the bottom of each one. That alone makes quite a difference.

On the way home, traffic came to almost a complete stop much sooner than it had yesterday evening. Grumble grumble.

Gave me a chance to roll down the window and admire strawberry fields forever.

After taking 20 minutes to go half a mile, I looked at the map and saw an alternate route that took me a few miles out of my way, but at least I drove at the speed limit the whole way. Back on the main highway 101, traffic was at only about half speed through Prunedale and beyond, but finally picked up to near speed limit.

Today, my 1 hr/15 minute morning drive turned into a 2-hour evening drive home. Gahhhh.

But here we are, I'm happy, dogs did quite well again.

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