Saturday, October 24, 2009

Focusing In--

SUMMARY: Camera and weaves.
Lenses arrived yesterday for my new camera! Yay! Started really playing around with things today. Getting a feel for the first nonzoom lens I've ever owned.

Spider has a brand new web that's much neater than the previous one. Yesterday morning she was showing me her underside.

Today, no sign of Ms. Spider at all. Trying to get a dark background to view the complelte web, so it's at an angle here (instead of looking roundish when straight on).

Autumn--cyclamen are blooming!

And the rain lilies.

Have been working on proofing weaves. For about a week, I ran them straight into an area between a tree and a bench to make sure dogs would keep going even if I didn't and even if there was nowhere (obvious) to go after that.

Now I've got them sideways along the far side of the yard, with jumps lined up more or less towards either end, about 18' from tunnel to jump, 18' to jump, 18' to weaves to get a good running speed (and that's about as far as I can get in this yard). This way the dogs approach the weaves at a right angle or even greater than a 90-degree angle at full speed and have to make the turn into the weaves.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. Oddly, Boost who has trouble managing these things in competition (and in class last week), is doing great. Tika, whose weaves have almost always been lovely, has been popping out early or missing her entrances. Not often--but I think more often than Boost.

The training never ends!

Random pollinator on rose, violating rules of macro: hand-held in shadow with a plant swaying in the wind. Wonder why it's not perfectly sharp?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Weave Experiments

SUMMARY: Timing 20" vs 24" and Boost is GREAT!

In class tonight, we timed our dogs going through 20-inch-spaced weaves and 24-inch-spaced weaves. Our trainers have both sets of weaves always set up, so all the dogs have experience using the different spacing. I don't recall that my dogs ever noticed the difference in the spacing; I didn't at first, either, except that I noticed that Boost seemed to be moving faster (because I had to move faster to keep up with her) and figured out why.

Spacing and expectations

Consider that a 12-pole set of 24-inch spacing will be nearly 4 feet longer--about 25% longer--than a 20-inch set! One way to measure the dog's performance is by the time it takes to do the poles; another way is to calculate yards per second to get their actual ground speed.

I had expected Boost to come in closer to 2-second weaves. I had expected Tika to be faster in the 24" spaced poles because it would be easier on her sometimes-sore neck and back. Well--let's say that surprises sometimes happen. Not big surprises, though.

Timing results

Each dog ran each set 4 times.

Variations in times

My clever dogs are amazingly consistent. I used extra revving up before each pass, trying to get more speed. Nope--apparently they're both going as fast as they go. More consistent in the 20" poles--both dogs' runs clustered within .05 of a second.

In the 24" poles, Boost's variation became .08 of a second, but that's not surprising for an additional 4 feet of movement. Tika's spread, however, went to .24, a full quarter of a second variance. As those of you who pay attention to winning times know, a quarter of a second these days can be the difference between, say, 1st and 4th places. Or more, if you're competing at the Regional or National level.

Times overlap between short and long

Boost's fastest time on the wider spacing was faster than her slowest narrow-spaced time, which means she's covering the 4 extra feet in almost the same amount of time, barely marginally slower (about .1 second).

Tika's fastest 24" time was faster than ALL of her narrow-spaced times including the extra 4 feet, which was what I was expecting, but the others were all slightly slower. I have no idea what that means. She did seem to get faster in each set of wide-spaced poles.

General timing observations

In yards per second, Boost sped up from 2.48 yps to 2.89 yps. So, sure, takes about the same amount of time to do the weaves, but is covering the ground much faster. No wonder I noticed that she was speeding up!

Intriguingly, this means that poles that are 4 feet longer than current ones won't have any appreciable effect on total course time (at least, not based on my dogs)--they're 25% longer, but Boost, for example, executed only .0004% slower!

Compare all this [if you want to] with Kathy Keat's comments about excellent weave pole speed and my timing for each dog based on videos in this previous post, where Kathy says that weave speeds of less than 2.5 seconds are excellent. This is presumably using USDAA's 20-21" weave spacing.

Boost's excellent speed

I guess I should be happy that (a) instructor JB predicted ahead of time that Boost could be one of the fastest weavers of all the students--and he was right, and (b) the only dog with faster times than Boost was the fabulous Ace Gyes, and he was apparently less than a tenth of a second faster in his fastest time. I feel pretty good about that.

And that's the end of the obsessive timing stuff--for the moment. Time for bed.

Boost is Great!

Update: Same day, 3 hours later:
DRAT! My summary "boost is great" was NOT about the weave poles--it was that she ran in class like a real agility dog--all evening, every run! Almost no bars down! No runouts or refusals! Blasting straight ahead to next obstacle instead of always waiting for me! We almost did the World Team Championship Jumpers course from a couple years back PERFECTLY if only I hadn't forgotten where I was going 2 obstacles from the end! Woot!

She turns four and a half and suddenly she can do agility?! Hope it holds up through next weekend's SMART USDAA and Labor Day weekend's Southwest Regionals. I am JAZZED!


P.S. Did NO hiking or walking today at all, just class in the evening. I feel wimpier already...

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Monday, August 17, 2009

24" Weave poles

SUMMARY: Should USDAA change weave pole spacing?

I've had 4 dogs in agility. Two (so far) have had a bit of arthritis in their necks and/or backs. Don't know that it's caused by agility--two previous dogs who didn't do agility also had arthritis. But I know that 24-inch spacing on the poles is much easier on dogs' spines than the current USDAA 20-21". One of our own club members did some overhead videotaping--unfortunatly don't think it's online. But there are other videos available if you search.

International competition (FCI) now uses 24" spacing. The Canadian associate of USDAA, AAC, is going to 24" weaves next year. AKC and the Canadian equivalent, CKC, now use 24". CPE is probably in the same arena--the current rules stae "21" to 23" from center to center with no more than a 1" variance"--which means that 24" (if they're no more than that) are OK.

USDAA has recently reviewed the topic and decided not to change, and has said that the issue is closed to any further discussion. I have no idea why. Sure, weave poles aren't cheap and not every club can afford to replace them (or every competitor--I'd want to replace my own, and they're just not cheap). But still, I'm a strong advocate for the wider spacing and for consistency (so dogs aren't going from, say, 20" to 24" from weekend to weekend or ring to ring), but I can deal with a phase-in period of maybe a couple of years.

It also presents a different course-building challenge--if you add 3-4" of spacing between all poles, the weaves are now 3 to 4 feet longer than before! But we can learn to live with that, I'm sure.

Susan Garrett has posted about the topic.

and there is now a 3-question survey on whether USDAA should allow 24" weaves. Please take the survey. Please go and vote for the increased space. Even if your dogs seem happy with the current spacing, please consider other dogs whose lot might be improved by the change.


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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Weave pole fakeout

SUMMARY: Who's doing the weaves well is not whom I expected.

Tika is a pretty good weave pole dog; has been since she started competing. Finds the entry. Stays in all the way through. Recently she's missed some entries and has popped out some.

Boost, of course, if you've been riding along with TMH, has had an ongoing weave pole disaster. Misses entries. Pops out. Not so bad lately (again--hope it stays fixed) but still not as reliable as Tika.

So we've been doing weave entry and pop-out drills. Guess whom I can't get to pop out for nuthin'? Boost! Most I got was when I ran alongside her, turned abruptly in the opposite direction, and threw the toy next to her. She slowed wayyyy down but stayed in the poles to the end! So how come she pops in competition?! And guess who *is* popping out in several cases? Tika! Dang! What's with that?

OK, so who's been making even difficult weave entries from the right over a jump aimed in various directions alongside the poles? Boost again! While Tika shleps into the nearest pole the FIRST time in a drill and then does her usual good work the SECOND time.

Bah. Will never figure out dogs.

Some things I'm doing to try pop-outs:
*Drop toy next to dog
*Throw toy ahead
*Wiggle toy next to dog invitingly
*Run with dog then dart off to side.
*Run with dog then stop suddenly.
* " then drift slowly to side
* " then slowly come to halt
* " then do a pirouette and keep going
* " then turn in opposite direction
* Put dog into weaves then run to far side of yard.
* " then run to far side of a jump, tunnel, etc.
* Stop suddenly and say "Yayyy! Good dog!"
* Anything else I can think of.
* Here are more ideas I posted last year, also read in the comments.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weaves. Terseness.

SUMMARY: wha's'up?

Practicing being concise, succinct, terse. Short blog posts. Yes. Sure.

Practicing weaves. Tika, who doesn't usually pop out in competition, I can get to pop out many times. Boost, who too often pops out in competition, I can't trick into popping no way no how.

Practicing serpentines. I need to practice (after all these years) to be in the right place. Boost needs to practice coming in & going out at sharp angles. I think we're both doing better.

No bar-knocking drills so far in the last week. Need to get back to that; bars are coming down again.

No competition again until Augst 29! Yay! Boo! Yay! Boo! Yay!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Competition This Weekend

SUMMARY: USDAA trial, and it's going to be warm.

I'll be in Turlock this weekend for a USDAA competition. And it's going to be pretty warm; can you believe these temperatures for mid-November?

Tomorrow is supposed to break a 70-year-old temperature record for this date in San Jose by at least a couple of degrees. What ever happened to "the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow" for Thanksgiving? --Oh, yeah, I'm in California.

I've practiced pretty much nothing with the dogs all week, just running them in wild circles mostly through the 3 tunnels in my yard. If we were still doing NADAC, we'd be all set for the Tunnelers class, except that Boost still doesn't get the idea of a rear cross going into a tunnel. I'm practically tripping over her before she goes in to give the idea that I'm crossing to the other side, and she doesn't seem to get it. I'll think of something to try.

I dragged out a set of 6 weave poles yesterday and set them up against the back of the lot so the only way into them is at a 90 degree angle and we played with that a bit. Both dogs need work, but neither were terrible at it.

I've been worried about my mom's health; I think that some medications weren't appropriate for her. Doctors have changed that, among other things, and hopefully she'll be on an upward curve within a few days. I've been so lucky with my parents that they've been reasonably healthy and active, especially for people approaching 80. Mom's birthday is in 2 weeks. It would be nice if she were back to her normal self for the family Thanksgiving gathering.

And I've been looking at retirement-plus-continued-care places with my Dad. At one of them, saw someone walking a dog, and it suddenly became important to me to find out whether they allowed pets of any kind. My parents don't have pets these days. But I do! What if I wanted to retire at a young and perky age and take my dogs with me? The lady giving our tour doesn't do pets, so she wasn't sure whether there were limitations, but said she knew people there who had multiple cats or small dogs. Small dogs! Hah! These would be 12" agility dogs, or maybe 8". Not like REAL dogs. Present company excepted, I'm sure.

Trial Size

This is sort of a trial-size trial. Only about 60 dogs in all of Masters, about 10 in Advanced, about 8 in Starters. Wow. That's like trials when I first started agility, where Remington would be the only dog in his height in Starters.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

In Which Perfection Is Reversed

SUMMARY: Tika does contacts; Boost does weaves.

Tika, the consummate leaper-offer-of-contacts dog, ran her contact drills in class Thursday night as if the thought had never occurred to her. Every contact was very fast and ended in a crisp, eagerly poised 2-on-2-off position. Contacts of beauty! Grace! Poetry! The kind of contacts everyone wants to have (except those who want running contacts) but not everyone gets! The kind that *I* want to have but don't always get!

Boost, whose contacts are breathtakingly lovely, was the one whom I was able to easily entice to leave the contact early (not waiting for the release command). I have seen indications of this in competition lately, so we need to proof them more at home. So I've been doing them in the yard, just making her stick the end and going back to waiting for a nose touch. She's getting faster at offering that again; I'd let it slide because "she didn't seem to need it." Well! That'll learn me.

We do need work on left turns into the weaves again, though--confirmed in class and at home.

But Tika, the perfect weaving dog, was easy to make pop out of the weaves or go into the wrong entrance. And at home, where I've been doing distraction drills, she seems to be popping out MORE rather than less! Argh! But at the same time, she's getting faster on distractions when she DOESn'T pop out--like she's learning to not slow down to think about them.

This dog did not do 12 weaves in competition.
On the other hand, Boost--the dog who can't do more than 10 in competition--went all the way to the end in every danged set of weaves in class, and we were doing weave drills with 2 sets of poles and front and rear crosses and lag-behinds and run-aheads and all that. A joy to watch! World Team Coach had suggested that I always toss a toy for her right at the end, before her head turns to me. That was what Mo Strenfel also suggested in our weave pole seminar a year ago, and I've been doing it religiously ever since. Well, not every time. Sometimes we go on to the next obstacle.

The difference is that I used to throw the toy in a straight line forward of the weaves so that it rolled or bounced ahead, and Mo said that, to fix my popping out problem (yes! it has reappeared often!), that I should make the toy land right on the ground at the end of the last pole to keep her from thinking of running ahead. Now WTC suggests that I use something that rolls or bounces instead of just lying there to get her to learn to complete the weaves while thinking about running ahead.

WTC also said to never let the dog know that they popped out early in competition because then they'll start to think about it more and start looking at you when they get to that point and pop out more. My experience says that, with Boost, if I ignore it, it keeps happening, but if I make her lie down and then put her back in where she popped out, she stops popping out. So am I setting up for long-term failure? Or fixing my problem?

That's what I love about agility, the clear, consistent guidelines for improving obstacle skills given a specific problem.

Anyway, we're mostly working on contacts and weaves at home this week, plus rear crosses on straight tunnels, and I'm trying to pay more attention to my own body language differences for rear crosses versus pulls or straight-aheads. My timing is still so bad. Ah, well, give me another 13 years of practice and I might nail it.

This dog did not pick up its feet when going over the first jump.

Both dogs really need to do bar-knocking drills, too, but not now. Maybe next week.

(Photos borrowed from Pets and Their People Photography; there are a bunch of photos of both my dogs, some of which I'm buying, but these probably I won't and will just borrow low-rez bad copies of for this page.)

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Proofing Weaves Update

SUMMARY: Weave drills in class.

Sometimes I'm prescient. On Tuesday, I said "I need to practice running Boost to and from weaves with 40 feet [but] my yard allows about 5 feet [so] instead I will ... practice sticky weaves..."

Last night in class, we did weave pole drills! I felt so prepared, except that I expected that Boost would screw up her entry every time we blasted at them from 20 or more feet away, which she so very did. We had a little talk or two about how I know she knows how to get those entries and I'm tired of having to be there to babysit them and she'd better cut it out, and she got the next couple, but I'm going to have to remember to babysit weave entries this weekend.

But she did great with all the veering in and out, front crossing early, rear crossing late, working at a distance, crossing the weaves perpendicularly. I was pleased with my girlie; once she was in, she stayed in for the duration.

Of course, I think pretty much all the dogs did for all the drills, and most of them had better entries. Ah, well, one step at a time!

Tika, of course, on the one I did with her, was a perfect weaving beastie even when I gave her a crappy approach.

Now I just need to figure out SOME way to give Boost some more realistic (more competition-like) approaches to the weaves in my yard so she can practice collecting herself and get her furry little butt kicked when she doesn't bother. Next week. Sure.

Boost surrounds herself with metaweavepoles to practice getting into the proper mindset for making her entries.

Tika is fully in the weave pole zen and needs no external stimulants.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Proofing Weaves

SUMMARY: In which our heroines try not to pop out of the weaves in the disastrous back yard.

Here's the thing. I've got this project at work That Would Not Die. Any day now I'll be done with it. I've been thinking that for three months now. So I'm busy. I'm stressed. I'm not in the mood to go work on piddly agility details like actual skills that would help us earn Qs and not throw our money away on entry fees where we'll NQ for the same problems we made at the last trial. I'd rather not think about it and then go NQ at the next trial and then complain about how I can't believe we did the same stupid thing again to everyone who'll listen (which is pretty much no one, because everyone in agility knows about us whiners who will shut up eventually if you don't encourage them and then we can get back to gossiping about dogs).

So I have two USDAA weekends coming up. Boost STILL needs one Standard and one Jumpers for her MAD (Master Agility Dog) title, which is what *I* need to feel like I have an actual masters-level dog and not a puppy who somehow stumbled into masters by some freak accident. And why did we not have those Qs last weekend, for example? Knocked bars. Plus, in other runs, total havoc. AND neither dog has a Steeplechase Q this year, not one, and Tika needs a mere one for her Gold Tournament Master and both need TWO to qualify for Nationals. And Tika, who has a lifetime accumulation of 21 Grand Prix legs, hasn't managed *one* this year, not a single one, and she needs TWO GPs to qualify in that for Nationals.

So I guess I should probably practice SOMETHING. For some reason I don't mind practicing weaves as much as other stuff. For one thing, there are no bars to set every time you mess up. And you don't have to give rewards right at the base of the contact--you throw the reward from wherever you're standing. So, being basically lazy, weave poles are good for me--not as good as tunnels, but actually my dogs are pretty good at tunnels (run through it fast. Hard concept.) so I don't have to practice much, although I do, ALL the TIME when playing fetch (you have to run really fast through a tunnel to get your toy. So someday I will probably pay for this on course when they decide to run really fast through a tunnel instead of doing a contact or a jump).

As usual, I digress. I was going to digress more about how I need to practice running Boost to and from weaves with 40 feet and a jump between her and the next obstacle and how my yard allows about 5 feet--otherwise I'll run them into a diseased apply tree or over a smooth, slippery concrete patio--so it's not the best practice, but instead I will go right into how I also need to practice sticky weaves--dogs who will stick in the weaves no matter what I do. Since BOTH dogs, yes even TIKA THE WEAVING MARVEL, have popped out of weaves more than once in recent trials.

And here's some of what I do, using my creative genius (also called "borrowing everyone else's ideas") to come up with every distraction I can think of. Cross behind when sending to the weaves. Cross behind and stop suddenly. Cross behind and change my mind. Cross behind just before they get to the last pole. Send at a 90-degree angle from 10 feet away and then rear cross perpendicular to 10 feet on the other side. Run alongside and stop suddenly early. Or middle. Or right before the end. Run ahead and front cross suddenly. Front cross early. Front cross late. Start to front cross and stop. Run alongside and turn and run back where I came from. Run alongside and slooooowwww dowwwwn and SPEED UP and stop suddenly. Run alongside and spin in circles. Run alongside. Stop. Start. Stop. Run alongside and veer suddenly away. Run alongside and suddenly yell something stupid--"begonia!" is my favorite. Or sing. Stop and wave my arms. Run and wave my arms. Drop a toy subtly at my feet while I'm running. Throw the toy while they're still in the weaves. Toss a toy in the air while I'm running. Kick the toy on the ground while they're in the weaves. Stop and play with the toy on the ground. Throw the toy off to the side. Throw the toy right exactly next to them in the weaves (this is an advanced distraction that you really need to work up to; give the poor pups a break!). Run alongside, veering in and out and waving my arms. Send the dog straight into the weaves ahead of me and stand there while they do all 12. Do five back-to-back weaves as fast as I can get them to turn and redo them and try to get them to pop out right at the end of each set (this is especially good practice if you ever have a chance to do a 60-weave-pole challenge). Do all the same things at 20 feet away if I can figure out how in my yard so that it'll apply equally well in a gamble.

You know, these dogs should have no excuse at all for ever popping out of the weaves. Ever. But you also know, I have to keep redoing these sorts of things, because if I stop practicing, then they start popping. Why can't things just stay fixed?

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boring Notes To Self From Weekend

SUMMARY: What we did well on, but mostly what we screwed up. (This is my third post of the day. You'll probably more enjoy my previous posts about Weekend Courses or Haute TRACS is Almost Done.


  • Weaves: Hitting the correct entry and then skipping a pole. Several times. This cost us 14 points in Saturday's Snooker, time in the Steeplechase, I don't know where else as I didn't take good notes at the time. Popping out early. She did this almost 100% on Thursday, I think. I made her go back in and correct them on the theory that slowing her down is punishment enough. That didn't seem to help, so on Friday I made her lie down and THEN made her go back in and fix them. The next set of weaves she did the entry-skipping thing again; made her lie down, then go back in, and she finished them completely and I whooped and ran her quickly out of the ring over a couple of fast obstacles.

    That seems to have fixed it again, as she completed all of her weaves correctly on Saturday, I'm pretty sure, enough that I dared three sets in the gamble and she did great, made entries AND stayed in. Woo.
  • Contacts: Oh, bad dog, left the first two early in team standard and I didn't want to mess around in Team events. So later I made her lie down when she left a contact or two early, and that seems to have fixed it again. You really do have to stay on top of this stuff, don't you!
  • Start line stay: She is so good! Although in that same first team run, she left before I released her, and I let her get away with it because it was team. I feared for my life after that, but in fact she stuck all of her remaining start-line stays all weekend very nicely.
  • Bars and refusals: I just didn't count them well this weekend. There were many, many, many on Thursday but seemed to be better on Friday and even better on Saturday. I wonder, if I had stayed through Sunday, whether we'd have actually had a run or two with no refusals or knocked bars? We just don't practice enough running and jumping, I guess. Not enough room for it in my yard; class is so much more focused on handling.
  • Energy: So far she seems to maintain total drive and enthusiasm, although she was more easily distracted away from her tug toy while going to and from the ring. I hope that's just growing maturity and confidence, not a stress reaction. I'd hate to think that I'm slowing her down in the ring by my incompetent handling or stressing her out about doing well in the ring.


  • Contacts: Barely getting toenails into the Aframe down contacts and flying over most of the dogwalk downs. I don't believe that we were called for any dogwalk ups this weekend. Maybe I'm concentrating on the wrong part of the contact and Rachel's right about that being trivial! I need to just decide how she's supposed to do her contacts and what I'm willing to accept in the ring and go about fixing it again. She never used to have so many flyoffs. I don't think so, anyway.
  • Drive and enthusiasm: I've always had trouble getting her to play with a toy before a run, except the first run of the morning, where she really gets into it--until we get ringside, where she'd rather sniff the ground. Presumably that's mostly the chow-hound's food obsession, but the amount of time I spend dragging her around by the neck trying to do a little jogging to warm up or just to get from one side of the ring to the other is a little bit concerning. Is this a stress reaction more than mere food sniffing?

    She does seem to me to be tiring and flagging sooner and more often. Heat never seemed to matter to her, but this weekend she didn't leap immediately to her feet when I approached her crate saying, "Tika, you want to do some agility?" This is so unlike her. This just adds to the assorted things I have been noting about her getting tired so much faster than Boost, where not long ago she could completely keep up, or about being good for only a couple or three runs in class before her drive visibly drops.

    I mean, really, she's still a fast dog, but not drivey fast like she often used to be. Her Saturday Jumpers speed was 5.25 yards per second, which is good but not great (Boost's 5.96, winning dog 6.41).

    So I have all these questions running through my head: Is she sore? Is she getting old? Does she have something seriously wrong with her like Remington did that mystified me about his performance for so long? Is she out of condition, am I not doing enough with her? Should I be doing less with her? Argh, so hard to figure out.
  • Weaves: I keep relying too much on her being a "good weaving dog" and then don't work the weave entries or exits at ALL and then get errors or pop-outs. But she did make a couple of really beautiful and very difficult weave entries all on her own this weekend. I'm not always certain where I need to give a bit more info and where she's fine on her own. Should probably experiment.
  • Start-line stays: She has been so much better at staying since I started having her lie down at the start, which she wanted to do half the time anyway. She still sometimes gets up early and creeps up on the first obstacle, but I'll take it as long as she doesn't actually start doing the course on her own. It's not so much of a problem with electronic timing, so she's not creeping across the start line, but I have to make sure I give her plenty of room--just in case--for those classes (gamblers, snooker) where a traditional start line is still used.


  • Energy:I really felt droopy Thursday, which was not the hottest day, and all weekend I seemed to have trouble getting my feet to take me where I wanted to go. It might have been lack of sleep on Thursday. It might have been allergy drugs Thursday and Friday so I didn't take them Friday night, but didn't feel any better Saturday. I keep thinking I'm in reasonable condition. I sure wish I was in the right frame of mind to take these extra pounds off again! It's just not happening at the moment. I'm sure that contributes immensely to my perceived inability to move around the course.
  • Handling: I made SO many mistakes this weekend that I SO know better. The kind where the instant you make it you know you've just screwed up, usually even before the dog goes off course/knocks a bar/gets a refusal/etc. Where is my brain? I realize that everyone makes mistakes, but this weekend felt particularly bad for me.
  • Attitude: On the other hand, I felt less stress about any of my runs than I have in a long time. I enjoyed myself on course, I didn't feel like crawling into a corner and bawling when I messed up yet another course, I never felt the kind of self-pressure I feel for, say, the last leg for an ADCH or trying to get a needed Super-Q or such. Even though I wanted Tika's 2 jumpers for her ADCH-Bronze, I wasn't thinking about it at all during my runs, just concentrating on the runs themselves. So the question is--did I make more stupid errors because I *wasn't* stressed and running on adrenaline? My Q rate doesn't seem to be horribly different from other USDAA trials, so I'm not sure really what difference any of this really made.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Weaving Maniacs

SUMMARY: Boost and Tika show off.

I had such fun making that tricks video the other day, here's another one for you: Boost and Tika demonstrate sending out past 12 poles and wrapping into the far entrance. (Only a minute and a half.)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Demo, Bars, Boot Camp Results

SUMMARY: Filling in some updates.

Demo and possible agility site

Saturday's demo was well-received by the horsey set. They burst into delighted laughter and cheers and applause when a dog did the weaves or the teeter. Cheering and applause for every run. A good group to demo for.

On the down side, the arena was a bowl of mush after rain the night before. So now we know that these arenas won't do after rain. And that was only one day of not-too-awful rain, too.

Took us a while to find someone who could tell us where we were supposed to be. After we found someone who could send for the correct someone who was responible for us, we had much discussion and exploration about where the footing was good enough to do agility, so wasted more time. Our trailer ended up in the wrong area of the horsepark, blocked in among horse trailers, trucks, and so on (thinking he'd be staying there for a while) and, once we finally found where we were supposed to be, he took 10 minutes to figure out how to turn around and get to the proper spot. As a result, instead of doing an hour demo, we did about 25 minutes. And about 30 dogs showed up, so we each got exactly one run.

We trashed our plans for a full course and came up with something on the fly that was interesting but that fit into the only usable, reasonably firm footing (among gooshy areas), about 60 feet long by 15 feet wide. We didn't use the A-frame, dogwalk, or chute.

Both my dogs went into the weaves at full speed and then pulled out and dashed in front of me to tell me in an excited way that they didn't understand the footing. I made them try again and both did fine the 2nd time.

I had said that I'd come if there weren't enough dogs, and the organizer said that they always need more dogs. Huh. To me, 6-8 dogs, maybe 10, is a good demo group. So I drove 45 minutes, spent an hour futzing around, waiting, and setting up, got in one run with each dog, packed up for the next half hour, then drove home 45 minutes. I'd have never taken the dogs for one run. Oh, well. And they insisted that we finish up at 6:30 as planned, although there was nothing after that. Probably issues with closing the park at sunset or the equivalent.

Boost weaves

But I did make them leave the weaves and one tunnel set up just long enough for me to put Boost through the weaves twice more, and sure enough, the 2nd time she popped out early as per last weekend. So I grabbed her under the chest, raised her front feet off the ground (she was coated with horse-arena sand so I didn't want to pick her up), told her that she shouldn't do that, and redid the weaves, which she then did correctly.

OK, so if that fixes THAT problem again, then the trip was worth it. But the dogs were both rarin' to go when I got home instead of having any steam worked off, having been in crates for the better part of 3 hours.

Boot Camp

I filled out an evaluation for the first week of Boot Camp, giving it 10 out of 10 on pretty much everything. Drill instructor is good, workout is good and pushes my comfort level, we keep moving in a variety of things, so just when you think you can't take another ab exercise, we move into something else. And the final few minutes, lying under the open sky and doing cool-down stretches, feels like heaven.

On the down side, all my weak parts are taking notice. Bursitis in my shoulders, which hasn't bothered me in a year, flared up Friday. I wasn't aware of doing anything in Friday's session that aggravated it, but both Friday night and Saturday night I had trouble sleeping from the pain in the left shoulder. Today I discovered that it's apparently the push-ups that did it--as soon as I tried one, it hurt immediately. That's disappointing, as upper-body strength was one of my reasons for wanting Boot Camp. Plus pushups are one of the two measures they use for your progress during camp. He had me do other types of exercises while the others pushed up.

I guess I need to do more work at home with resistance bands at a lower intensity. Sigh. That's what they had me do for physical therapy when I first hurt the shoulders--using crutches improperly about 10 years ago. Of course I stop doing the exercises when the pain finally goes away. Duh. But it's just BORRRRINNNNG--

Knee tells me that it doesn't want to jog first thing in the session, but after I'm well warmed up, it doesn't bother me much and I can jog fairly well; it's still the knee and not the cardio that's keeping me from pushing myself on the running.

I don't feel nearly as tired today as I did last Friday. In fact, after my usual nap, I was thinking about walking with the dogs, but it has started raining again and I'm a wimp. Hmm, wait, maybe it has let up.

Knocking bars

We did get in a couple of good agility practice sessions today, once after Boot Camp and again midafternoon. Boost knocked bars like crazy again. Last week we got in a couple of bar-knocking drill sessions... have done quite a few lately and The Booster didn't seem to be getting it; then at the last session, again, something seemed to click, and I couldn't get her to knock a bar fer nuthin'. But, today, we were back to the beginning. It's always something.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Boost's Weaves are SOOOO Fixed

SUMMARY: I am a happy trainer.

I'd been questioning myself for the last year, after I thought I had taught Boost stellar weave poles from the get-go, but she failed over and over and over. I mean, Tika's were almost stellar from the get-go; had to just practice really fast weave entries over and over because she kept crashing into the second pole. So I knew how to train them, right?

With Boost, after she started out with just beautiful weaves, I worked entries from all angles and distances and speeds. At the end of one day, she'd seem to get the hard ones, and the next day, nuthin'. Even the easy ones were falling apart. I couldn't figure out how I was failing as a trainer. Apparently it just hadn't been 'splained sufficiently to her that she had to work at entering on that side, and that she had to work to finish the poles.

Now that I've found ways to explain these things to her (pick her up and murmur in her ear on the entry; make her stop and come back and do the last d*@# pole to stop the popping out), she's fabulous.

Once again, in class last night, her weaves were, dare I say it, totally awesome. We even had one drill with a tough left-hand entry--the side that had been giving us grief--and of all the dogs there last night, Boost was the only one who got it on the first try, and she nailed it at full speed.

I am one happy momma.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Master Dogs

SUMMARY: Sometimes you feel like a Master, sometimes you don't.

Master Gamblers Tika no Q. Did hard part of gamble but turned wrong way.
Boost No Q. Didn't stick start line, didn't stick her Aframes. Good: did DW in gamble.
Steeplechase Tika No Q. Bar and ran over broadjump. 28.86 with fastest at 26.94. SCT of 35.20, but our 10 faults gave us 38.86. Zut alors!
Boost No Q. Didn't stick start line and made her come back and sit. Followed by a flawless run but over time.
Saturday Standard Tika (Masters) Q and 2nd of 20
Boost (Advanced) Q and 3rd of 9. AAD!
Saturday Jumpers Tika (Masters) No Q. Smooth but one bar. 27.46 with winner at 26.67.
Boost (Advanced) E? Couple of bars plus bad handling for offcourse.
Pairs Relay Tika (Masters) No Q. Tika clean, partner offcourse
Boost (Advanced) Q and 1st place
Masters Snooker Tika Q and 8th of 21; popped one Aframe in opening which = superQ points
Boost Ha! 6 points! Tied for 37th of 39
Sunday Jumpers Tika (Masters) E; knocked 2 bars so tried risky layering = offcourse
Boost (Advanced) E; 20.55 seconds compared to winners (very fast) 22.00; beautiful but sent her into the wrong end of the tunnel twice, plus bar
Sunday Standard Tika (Masters) No Q; Knocked 1st bar, popped dogwalk AND aframe
Boost (Advanced) No Q; bar, refusal, handling mistake for offcource
Grand Prix Tika Q and 2nd of 21; only 3 clean, only 4 Qed; 13 Eed.
Boost Q and 11th of 46; only 15 Qed; 24 Eed.

Tika's Contacts

Well, the saga of "Tika has running contacts" continues. Flew off an A-frame in Gamblers and barely stuck the 2nd one and didn't try to fix 'em. Should have. Somehow she hit A-frame and Dogwalk in Saturday's Standard, a challenging course that only 5 of 20 dogs Qed on. But she didn't even pretend to hit bottom. Still, she placed 2nd! Only the second time she has placed higher than 3rd in 70 Masters Standard attempts. In Snooker, we did four A-frames and she popped one of them in the opening, which would have given us Super-Q points. In Sunday's Standard she flew off BOTH the dogwalk and the A-frame--and I made her come back and lie down each time.

So, after that, in the Grand Prix, she actually got feet into the contacts both times (but by slowling way down, and even so, not a hint of a two-on/two-off pretense) and not only Qed on a course where only 3 of 21 of the 26" dogs ran clean, but also placed 2nd! That's the first time she has placed higher than 6th out of her 38 Grand Prix attempts. And only her fourth clean Grand Prix ever.

She didn't get called on her dogwalk up contact all weekend; that's two weekends in a row. So we go from the up zone to the down zone, I guess. Sigh. REALLY need to retrain contacts over the winter and STICK WITH IT, DANGIT!

Tika Over All

So those two second-place finishes were to be proud of, and I'm pleased with them. But getting only 3 Qs out of 9 is low for us. Bars, contacts, and a couple of Stupid Handler Tricks. Back to bar-knocking drills, too-- I think she knocked 6 this weekend, 2 (?) being the first jump of a run, and one triple on a send/front-cross/pull in an otherwise beeeeyutiful Jumpers run.

And what about that Broad Jump in Steeplechase?! RAN across it! Never seen her do that before, and I don't think it was much of an angle, either. That's twice that a broad jump has taken us out in Steeplechase. Guess I gotta haul mine out from under the deck.

Boost's Weaves

Woohoo! Perfect weaves! Every time! Like she's been doing 'em for years! What a difference from Labor Day weekend. We did 5 sets of weaves, from all angles and directions, and she nailed every entry and stayed in even when I moved way away to get into position for the next obstacle. I am SOOOOOOO happy about that, as that has been our killer in plenty of runs in the last year where we were otherwise clean. Still, watching one video, I timed them at about 2.7 seconds, which is half a second slower than we've timed them in the yard and class. They looked pretty fast, but I guess there's still a little confidence issue in competition. Oh, well, that'll come!

Boost's Handling

Boost also seems to be almost over the runout or refusal problems that we've worked on over and over. Only one really bad jump refusal muckup on a badly done rear cross where I meant to do a front cross, and only one runout where I left her in the weaves and ran ahead but didn't give her any clues where to go after the weaves. She handled really smoothly in almost everything else, except Saturday's Standard--where we had a couple of jump refusals (not counted in Advanced) and held it together for a Q, which is all we needed to MOVE UP TO MASTERS in everything! Scary and also a relief to be in the same level as Tika.

Her Grand Prix run--again, a tough one where only 15 of 46 22" dogs Qed--was beautifully smooth. She knocked a bar on a very deeply angled serpentine, but at least she's doing the serps, which a couple of months ago we were still struggling with. She's now really starting to work to take the jumps instead of going around them or stopping.

Her Steeplechase was a thing of beauty. I could not have asked for a more gorgeous Steeplechase run. The run itself was flawless. But...

Boost's start line and contacts

So, my comfort through all those botched weaves and refusals and runouts was that my baby dog has rock-solid start line stays and 2 on/2 off contacts. Naturally, now that the other things seem fixed, BOOM! everything else breaks!

In the first run of the weekend (Masters Gamblers), while I was leading out, a little gray blur shot over the first jump and past me. I called her back and said "oh my goodness!" or something like that and told her to sit, whereupon the judge told me to continue immediately or leave the course. Of course, that would be training in the ring. I decided that that very brief sit was sufficient, didn't attempt to finish my leadout, and ended up behind her all the way through the opening, so we had lots of wasted time and space--PLUS she hit her A-frame bottom but did NOT wait for the release! So on the second A-frame, I really held her. So our opening pointage was low.

In the second run of the weekend, the Steeplechase, I again put her into a sit and confidently led out--and a little gray blur shot over the first jump and past me. I managed to scream her name a foot before she actually hit the A-frame, called her back to me, made her line up next to me, and put her into a sit again. This judge didn't give me any verbal warning, so I completed my lead-out, released her, and continued in that absolutely gorgeous flawless run. But, as a result, we were almost 4 seconds over time.

Still, that and the Grand Prix give me hope for our future in Masters. Plus--we had no more problems with the start line for the rest of our 7 runs, so if that fixed the problem permanently, it was well worth giving up the Steeplechase for.

But she was fighting her sticky contacts all weekend. In that smooth Grand Prix, she came off her dogwalk before I released her, so I made her come back and lie down. That was a 4.5 second delay; the rest was lovely including a teeter that she SLID down the last foot! And stuck it! Beautiful! Her time of 36.34, with that extra 4.5 seconds, was .15 slower than Tika (who was NOT holding her contacts) and 2.03 slower than the winning 22" dog. So she's moving!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Crazy Driven WEAVING Border Collies

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves are SO much better! Plus she loves watching those Border Collies!

Boost's weaves in class last night were fannnnnnntastic! She missed only a couple of entries when turning to the left, but this time they were barely missed--went in early (wrong side) instead of just running past them on the far side. And she didn't pop out EVEN ONCE, even when I was bearing away from her, running ahead to make a turn, lagging behind for a pull. What an awesome weaving dog!

These are the weaves that I thought I had a year ago. Perhaps they'll stay fixed, if the good lord's willin' and the tide don't rise.

Our midday Wednesday "puppy class" is on indefinite hiatus, since attrition had us down to only four members (one injury and three off to other classes). That's OK; an evening class is better for my schedule, anyway.

For the last 3 weeks, and probably for the long haul, Boost is now in a class with all Border Collies. You could not have a happier dog. And it was fun for me, too. These are all Masters dogs (well--OK, Boost is one Standard leg from being a Masters dog, too; and frankly the people in our "puppy class" were working at the masters level even if they weren't competing much yet), and includes two current and former World Cup team members. (Silvina Bruera and Maja, representing Argentina for the 4th (?) year in row, and our instructor, many-time competitor and current world team coach, Nancy Gyes with her dog Ace aka Mace.) (And that's compared to a mere one world-team-type dog in Tika's Wednesday night class. ;-) (Luka.))

The point more being that, in this class, Boost, who seems to me like the world's fastest, most driven, most spectacular Border Collie, is nothing special. In this class, there are nothing BUT super driven, super fast, spectaclar BCs. Every time I blew something, I felt like such a doofus. But then--everyone was blowing stuff. And these two same world-cup-type people both had experience handling Boost's mom when she was young, whom Boost so greatly resembles, and had challenges with her. Which makes me feel less like a doofus...when I take time to remember that.

We ran a lot of short, fast drills last night along with the usual longer courses. So we ran a lot. My knee felt great (unlike the night before with Tika, where it grieved me), my body felt great, Boost ran fabulously, and I was near exhaustion by the end of the class. But that high-endurance Border Collie thing sure showed up. Not only did Boost do all the drills at top intensity, but sometimes parts of them several times while I figured out my handling. Between runs, she stood up and lunged eagerly at the end of her leash, quiet except for the loud gleaming of her bright, wide eyes, all the time that thos other really exciting dogs were running. For almost 2 hours. When we got home, she leaped on a toy and begged me to play.

"I'm a Border Collie, mom; GIVE ME STUFF TO DO!"

This weekend will be the test of the weaves--and everything else. It seems like, in just a very few short weeks, she's stopped refusing jumps, she's figured out serpentines and turns and taking jumps at an angle, weave poles... AND still maintains really lovely contacts and start lines. I feel like I'm living on the edge-- Maybe she did need more time to mature. Maybe I did, too. :-)

Today's bonus: A machine-translated version of an older Argentinian article about Silvina and her dogs Trompita, Aira the doberman (note translation of name, too),and Maja the BC (name also translated). I love machine translations. Almost as good as some of those badly translated instructions on commercial products.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Boost's Weaving Poles--Fixed?

SUMMARY: Sometimes the simplest solutions...

I've picked her up only a few times when she's missed that left-turn entry into the weaves. You should see her working to get in there now! It became clear that she had to work on it after the first couple of times, when she'd blast full speed to just beyond the first pole, then visibly stop for the fractioniest bit of a second and DIVE into the entry, but she's getting smoother all the time.

Now I'm wondering whether it's just that she's stronger with a lead to one side, which makes it easier to turn sharply in one direction, and she just never figured out (or was never forced to figure out) how to change lead to make the sharp turn in the other direction. It's a thing of beauty! We'll see how well it translates when we get to class this Thursday--and in the trial this coming weekend. But it's lookin' good--

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Fixing Boost's Weaves

SUMMARY: Getting the left-hand entrance.

It dawned on me at the ASCA trial a few weeks back that Boost was getting all of the weaves she entered with a turn to the right but not those that she entered turning left. Training since then has focused on that.

I continued to use my little wire fencing pieces to mark the entrance in most cases, or, if I didn't have those, any other object in the vicinity. As long as something was there, she usually (but not always) made that entry. Sometimes, however, she ran right through the wire fence and seemed to give it no second thought.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that, when doing "left" and "right" when sitting, she turned her head to the right but her whole body to the left. Made me start thinking that perhaps there's something structural or somewhat out of kilter. Yesterday I almost called the vet/chiro up in Lafayette--but I just hate the thought of the 90-minute drive, so I thought I'd wait until after class.

Before class, I set her up with the fence in position and tried several runs with her turning left. She got almost all of them. But, when class started, she just blasted through or around the wire time after time. Instructor N pointed out that she's more hyped up in class than beforehand. Said maybe it could be something physical, but if she can make the turn with the wire there, even though it's not much of a barrier, there's no real good reason why she can't make the turn without it there.

The three things we discussed:
  • If she doesn't make the entry, just stop, give the "uh-oh, too bad, bummer" talk and just walk her off and let her sit out while the next dog runs. We tried that several times, and on the 5th try, I believe, she made the entry (but now she's seen that same entry all those times). The next try, she didn't.
  • Put up a "maze"--basically bits of x-pen or more substantial gates than my little fencing--in places where she's NOT supposed to run, so that if she's blasting through full speed after making the wrong entry, she'll suddenly arrive at a place where she can't get through/over/around. N. said that this has worked for several dogs except one, who figured out that you could skip *two* poles at the beginning and still have it work. So we tried it several times with Boost, and she made a couple of correct entries, and then also skipped two poles. N. did mention that eventually they might figure out to look for the gates up and adjust accordingly. I hate clever dogs.
  • Just picking her up and telling her not to do that. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. After a zillion different strategies for trying to get Tika to quit grabbing my feet in the middle of a course, this is something that I came up with on my own, and that's the trick that finally gave me back the ability to run a full course with her. So today in the yard, I tried a couple of fast, drivey weave entries with the "uh-oh, bummer" strategy, and she missed 3 in a row. Then I picked her up, carried her around for about 10 seconds, saying that I was disappointed in her and she needs to get those weave entries. Set her down on the ground at the beginning of the weaves, and she did them. Then we did more fast drivey entries and she got them all. Hoo-ah. We'll see whether that sticks until tomorrow.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

USDAA Weekend Brief Results

SUMMARY: Not what I had hoped for, but there are signs of hope.

What I hoped for on friday and what I actually got:
  • Tika:
    • Hoped for: Steeplechase Q. Got: No Steeplechase Q. (Knocked 2 bars.)
    • Hoped for: Grand Prix win. Got: 5-fault Q. (This extends our lifetime GP Qs to two clean Qs and 17 5-point Qs. Arrrrghhh!)
    • Hoped for: Wins or at least placements in everything else. Got: Q/5th place in Saturday Standard (for 1 whole top-10 point); 2nd place and Super-Q in Snooker Sunday (for 7 top-ten points); I'm quite pleased with the latter. (And 4 non-Qs and 2 other nonplacing Qs.)
  • Boost:
    • Hoped for: Grand Prix Q or Steeplechase Q or preferably both. Got: Neither.
    • Hoped for: Pairs Q and Standard Q. Got: Neither.
    • Hoped for: Good weave poles. Got: Mixed bag. She missed almost all--but not all--of her weave entrances, but, once in, popped out only 3 times, and I made it a point to do weaves in gambles & snookers for lots of opportunities. So--not as bad as some prior trials. But *weaves alone* kept us from a Steeplechase Q, and *weaves alone* kept us from a Standard Q on Saturday. Sigh.
    • Hoped for: Move up to Masters before Bay Team next weekend. Got: Enough Gamblers and Snookers Qs that we can--and will--move up to Masters in those.

Now I am exhausted and heading to bed.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

ASCA Weekend

SUMMARY: Fun with friends, disaster on course.

Friends and dogs

When I was doing both USDAA and NADAC, I never truly realized how separated the user groups were; I just saw some people sometimes and sometimes I didn't see them. It wasn't until Saturday morning, when I spent the whole time chatting with people I hadn't seen in probably 3 years, that i realized how many people I no longer saw after I stopped doing NADAC/ASCA trials, and then ASCA split off on their own with the old NADAC rules.

Still, there were a lot of people whom I see regularly, and others who apparently know who I am but I hadn't met them yet.

It was a full trial, but only one ring with 5 classes, so only about 70 dogs entered, and a good-enough portion (like me) with 2 dogs, so not that many people. What a sense of comradarie among the ASCA folks! Everyone knows everyone; everyone recognizes everyone else's dogs, too, even though they're mostly all Aussies. And many of the dogs are related, too. I must say, though, that even for me, all the different Aussies are much easier to tell apart than all those black-and-white Border Collies.

Contrary to most USDAA trials--but no surprise--most of the dogs were Aussies, with only a bare sprinkling of Border Collies and a few other random dogs--a lady with bull terriers, a miniature poodle, a couple of small mixed breeds, but otherwise no small dogs and I can't remember that there were any other breeds.

Tika's ups and downs

And contrary to our previous CPE weekend, all of my runs felt like disasters. Tika qualified only 5 out of 10, and in USDAA terms, only 2 would have been Qs. Still, those 2 were very nice--both first places in Standard. Of which I'm particularly proud: Here, she was competing directly against 12 other dogs, and (sorry, unlike most of CPE), there were some very fast, experienced dogs AND handlers competing. The times for some of the runs each time thrilled me.

Tika was a good girl and did everything I told her to--the problem was that my instructions were too often NOT WHAT I MEANT AT ALL. For example, in one jumpers run where I did a rear cross to the right, for some reason I *also* said "right", so she turned MORE right than just for the rear cross, thereby bypassing the next jump and taking one off to the right. Duh.

Gambling an odd way...

But you know what my biggest thrill was? This is kind of dumb, but the gamble on Sunday was quite challenging; only 6 of 30 dogs got it. We didn't get it. (There's a long story there, involving a mis-set timer and having to run the whole opening short story is that I'd have gotten it the *first* time if the timer had been working, and I'm stickin' to that story even though I have no rational way to justify it. :-) ) Anyway, after we failed the gamble, someone who always does very well wandered by and said in a matter-of-fact way, "Well, if Tika didn't get it, I don't see how the rest of us can hope to." That was my thrill! How far we've come, apparently, from way back in the dark ages with Remington and Jake, me hiding in a corner and sobbing my heart out because I'd missed my 30th gamble in a row or something like that and thought I'd never get an Elite or Masters gamble ever in my life.

So there's hope for everyone. :-)

Boost's weekend

Boost was very fast, nice start-line stay, mostly nice contacts although I used the opportunity (thinking of this as a Fun Match/Training Opportunity) to proof her contacts, and she actually moved 3 different times (out of 10 runs that's not bad) so I was able to do something about that.

She knocked bars galore, and I was trying very hard not to call over them. I did remember to set her up 10 feet from the first jump every time, and she in fact never knocked the first bar. We also still have issues with not taking jumps that are in front of her.

I've determined that she has trouble entering weaves when she has to bear left. We tried a couple of those multiple times before getting them. She had no problems with fairly straight or entering when she was bearing right. And that's supposed to be the harder one for dogs to learn! On the left turn, she tends to run past them.

And I found out that, at full speed in full excitement, apparently she won't do a tunnel entry that she's crossing the face of. I sent her back and forth across one tunnel face 6(!) times before she finally went in. And it wasn't a dark tunnel or in the shade. Sooooo more things to work on.

With all of that training in the ring, the bobbles, the knocked bars, and so on, we managed only 2 Qs, but they were again first places out of a good-sized class. So, when we get it together... someday...

ASCA Courses

Saturday's courses for the most part I didn't notice as being a lot more open and flowing than USDAA or CPE; maybe a little (except for novice jumpers, which was wayyyyy open all weekend). Sunday's the standards and elite jumpers were much more open. It was fun. It was particularly fun with Tika, because she's one of the few dogs would could be sent full speed straight ahead and make a 90-degree turn into the weaves and make it. Wooo-hoo! Someday I'll be there with Boost. I hope.


Here are some photos of the site. A friend was taking photos of the dogs all weekend, so hopefully she'll have time to look at them and post them somewhere that i can grab a couple.

Driving towards the trial site, 6:00 a.m. The beginnings of sunrise. Long stretch of road through the countryside. No one else in sight, so I could slow down to take a photo.
The trial site: Back yard of Workin' Paws in hollister. Their house is to the right of the garage. All the homes in the neighborhood seem to have 5+ acres. Their neighbors are very nice to be willing to allow events next door.

The site is cozy enough that I could crate right out of my car. Had all the doors and windows open plus sunshade everywhere on Saturday to deflect the rays. It was still cooler in the back of the van than most places at the trial site, except maybe directly under the one small shade tree. Saturday I had to change into shorts by 11ish (me, the no-shorts lady); on Sunday, the overcast didn't clear until noon, and the rest of the day remained almost chilly when in the shade, although quite toasty in the direct sun around 2:00. Heard on the radio that yesteday was the coolest (bay area) August day in about a dozen years.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Boost's CPE Weekend

SUMMARY: Spookiness, pesky jumps, and weaves.

Last weekend, Boost Qed 4 of 5 on Saturday and things were lookin' good.

On Sunday, she Qed in only 2 and spooked on 3 of her runs, and I don't really know what triggered the spooked episodes, although they were just like the previous 2 weeks in class, where she had done the same thing. I noticed that the wind had come up each time. But whether it's only that--goodness knows, she's been around wind--or a combination of that and general insecurity, or of needing to go potty, I don't know. And I throw in the nonwind choices because: This weekend, it seemed that each spooked episode was right after a hard calloff or a big mistake. And, although I try not to be negative, when she blasts past a set of weaves and I bring her back to try again, I know that she knows that that was incorrect.

AND, being an insane working dog, she doesn't want to take the time to empty her bowels while we're out in the field; she wants to PLAY! and even if I withhold play, she has the patience to sniff around only a few seconds and then ASK to play again. Or go check out what someone else is doing. The world is FULL of things that are far more fascinating than pooping! After the third spooked run, she finally did #2 immediately, and it was obvious that she had been holding it for a VERY long time.

So--wind with unusual smells, plus stress on course, plus needing to poop? I dunno. She'd just go into her danger/alert barking, semipanicked ears back, tail down. She didn't even know what she was barking AT. Tried the judge, tried the people next to the ring, tried something off in the distance that I couldn't figure out what.

I have visions of Hobbes the Wonder Baby, 2 years old and in the lead in the GP finals (2001?), going into a tunnel 2 jumps from the end of the course and never coming out.

OK, but about those weaves and serpentines:

  • Sat Full House (Q, 1st, and highest score of all 142 dogs competing! (Tika 2nd highest)) 2 sets of 6 not quite straight on, perfectly. But ran past a jump at a slight distance off the line from Aframe to tunnel.

  • Sat Colors (Q and 1st of 12 dogs; 2nd fastest of 75 level 3/4/5/C): don't remember whether there were weaves; no probs with jumps.

  • Sat Jumpers (Q but no place), no weaves, but ran past two jumps on a plain vanilla serpentine and then did several refusals at a straight-on jump with a sharp turn afterwards.

  • Sat Snooker (no Q), didn't try weaves in opening and I forgot what I was doing for an early offcourse.

  • Sat Jackpot (Q, 1st, and 6th highest of all 146 dogs (Tika 7th)): Don't remember whether there were weaves. Ran past a jump slightly off the line from tire to tunnel.

  • Sun Jackpot (no Q or place): Went into a tunnel and popped back out as I beat feet in a nother direction. HOW can she blast into a tunnel at 100 mph and do a U-turn like that??? Weaves in the gamble, but she came in to me instead of seeing them. When I finally got her to settle at my side instead of dancing around, she SENT 15 feet straight out to the weaves, made a perfect entrance, and completed them nicely (but over time).

  • Sun Jumpers (no Q): Didn't run past anything, but knocked one bar early, then after a hard calloff she spooked before the next-to-the-last jump and was looking over her shoulder when she jumped it and knocked it.

  • Sun Snooker (Q, 1st): weaves were #6 and we approached them only in the closing, she ran past them completely and then spooked; I did finally get her back and through them, but that meant that we were out of time before doing #7. We did Q, though.

  • Sun Colors (No Q): A very sharp angle into the weaves (about the same as sending her to the Jackpot weaves from 15 feet back), and she ran full speed through the first pole, out the other side, and went into spooked mode. I actually had to touch her, finally, to get her attention.

  • Sun Wildcard (Q, 3rd): Weaves last obstacle; she entered perfectly, did a couple, then popped out. But at least no spooked dog.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weave Poles and Writing

SUMMARY: Boost good in class today, except dang weaves; my fiction-writing past intrudes

Today in class I felt as if Boost and I were really in synch, going around the courses. Not quite as much as Tika and I did on the same ones last night--Tika is running so nicely!--but better than at many other times. But today, ta-da, Boost was popping out at #10 in the weave again. Argh! We shall see what happens this weekend.

Last night in class, Ashley was avoiding putting Luka over the dogwalk because he's retraining for a running contact (which they already have on the Aframe). This made me feel SO lazy about STILL not having dealt with Tika's dogwalk-up problem that I went out and bought some pool noodles (to use as spacers), and this afternoon I set up my video camera to film her doing about a dozen dogwalks to see whether I can see a pattern. (Don't know where to try forcing her stride if I don't know what she's already doing.) Unfortunately, my battery died before I could look at more than just a couple. So...maybe next week.

For some reason, my writing past has been popping up in the last couple of weeks. I'm trying to ignore it. Too much to do. But I couldn't resist this indulgence.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Boost's Weaves

SUMMARY: Much better than at Sunday's Fun Match

It's amazing. We did a ton of weaves in class today, and Boost never popped out early. Not even once. So either I have a problem that's going to show up only in trial situations, or I've already fixed it with 2 or 3 successes finally at the fun match and 3 days of working with 12 poles at home in a not-very-intense way.

Dogs. Huh.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fun Match Gotchas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Little Doggie Thoughts

SUMMARY: Ellen's mind wanders.

Nope, these are not thoughts about little doggies (of which I have none), or thoughts from little doggies (sometimes questionable whether there are any of those, either); they are my little thoughts related to doggies. Since I'm not competing, I have to think about *something*.
  • Dogs are useless as mousers in my houser. Was woken yesterday morning by a mouse gnawing under my nightstand, fercryingoutloud. Didn't wake the ALERT GUARD DOGS up, though. In fact, as I tried to position Tika to where she'd be able to see the mouse when I moved the nightstand--and surely she could SMELL the blamed thing, right?--she was more interested in whether she was about to get a treat for doing whatever it was that I was asking her to do. When she finally caught a whiff and looked interested, I moved the nightstand, and the little bugger streaked out the OTHER side and under the bed. While Tika vigorously investigated the now-vacated nightstand, I shoved Boost under the bed--surely she could SMELL the blamed thing, right?--but she made a u-turn UNDER the bed and came back out to help Tika check out the nightstand. Good thing they're good at agility, is all I can say.
  • Boost's weaves are getting very nice. Hope they stay that way. Interestingly, she's doing consistently better at the soft entry to the weaves (she says, bandying about this phrase that I just learned from another blogger, meaning coming at it from the right where they don't have a clear pole to wrap around). Coming at it from the left, she's more likely to skip a pole or two. In fact, that's where she'd skip 7 or 8 earlier this year when her poles had deteriorated so much. But usually I can fix it now by putting any slight sort of diverter to remind her to tuck in, and then she's good for a while.
  • No class for Boost last week due to the evacuation for Canby; no class for Tika this week because of the 4th and no class for Boost because it was too danged hot Thursday at noon. Hey, what's a little 100-degree weather where a fanatic, driven dog is concerned? Good thing we've got a fun match tomorrow. And a VERY good thing that the weather seems to have gotten its head together: It's 11:30 a.m. and it has barely reached 70. Nice after a week of scorching.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Booster

SUMMARY: Weaves, Jumping, and Weight.

I've been concentrating--CONCENTRATING, I tell you!--on weave entries and staying in the weaves. She's been doing great for the last week and a half at home. That one session in class on the 10th (where the instructor made the whole set of weaves vanish except for 3 poles and then she finally figured out that they had vanished and then on the next try made the entry) seems to have taken her back to Weaving Brain Land, and she's doing some fabulous work. Then--we had NO weaving opportunities in class this week!

However--we proved in class that we can't do rear crosses worth beans, we can't do serpentines worth beans, we can't do pinwheels worth beans--although I blame the last on the fact that the 1-2 of the pinwheel put her facing right into the weaves, and since we've been practicing those so much...

So I'm supposed to be setting up jumping sequences here at home. But that pretty much means moving everything out of the way, and that's a real chore, so I haven't. But tomorrow, I promise.

Meanwhile, The Booster got her annual checkup this week. The vet, all of his own accord, suggested that she could take 2-4 pounds off. The vet! You KNOW she's too heavy when the vet suggests it. (Although he did comment that her rear legs are packed with awesome muscles (or words to that effect).) I think there are enough of us doing agility now to have trained him into what we think an agility dog in peak form needs to feel like. In the old days, I think she'd have been so slim compared so most of the pet dogs he usually sees that he might never have said a thing.

Remember I had asked a couple of people to check her a couple of months ago because I felt that she had an extra layer of flesh where there shouldn't be any, and they agreed? I've cut her meal portions back a couple of times--more each time--since then. It doesn't seem to be making any difference. Dang. With Tika, if I cut back a quarter cup, I see the difference very quickly. I'm pondering what else to do...

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday at the Races

SUMMARY: Boost can't do weaves--argh! But Qs and places in Snooker. Tika has nice run in Snooker and Qs in Steeplechase finally.

Today felt like an odd day, like I *was* clicking with Boost and NOT clicking with Tika.

Boost's day

Boost's first run was snooker, a nice flowing course that none-the-less required some crosses and turns, and we did it perfectly, no bobbles or confusions, and nice tight turns. It felt really good. Weaves were last, and she entered incorrectly at the 2nd pole (not a problem in advanced), and when I brought her back and lined her up, she did them perfectly for a Q and a 2nd place.

After that--bleah.

Her Grand Prix run was nice except for a knocked bar until we got to the weaves, and just couldn't get them--I think we tried three times and I think she did get them on the third try, then after that was a mess. Steeplechase was similar--lovely up to the first set of weaves, missed (a difficult) entry, couldn't get her started correctly, finally did but popped out at #10 and I just went on. At the second set of weaves, I tried twice to get her in and failed and got whistled off for too many Rs and Es. Except for the weaves, she flowed nicely around the course, and kept her bars up.

Standard--mostly very nice but she left the ring when she smelled her mother and/or her breeders--their canopy was right across from the Aframe, and the people weren't there but the dogs were, and she just completely ignored me trying to call her back for I don't know HOW long. Eventually came back but then had to make 3 tries at the weaves. Gamblers opening--started with weaves since that had worked before, but needed 3 tries to get a complete set, and then the gamble was too hard for our experience.

Still, except for the weaves, she felt much better on course than she has before, and I think a lot of that is from the 4 days of work at Camp.

Tika's Day

Tika's Standard was smooth and fairly fast except that she didn't stick the Aframe and when I stopped because she didn't, she had already made her approach to the next obstacle and pulled off it for a refusal. Gamblers wasn't a bad opening--she got away from me once during the opening to mess up my strategy (like the other weekend), then a hard weave entry in the gamble I guess I didn't signal at the right time because she entered the weaves at pole #2.

Snooker was nice, but not a Super-Q. Only 3 of a very large class of 22" dogs got 51 points (Tika jumps 26"), so I opted out of a very challenging 51 and went for 50, hoping that not as many 26"ers would get the 51 since our class was half the size, but in fact 3 got it, and one 50 pointer beat us on time, so we were in 5th but there were only 4 Super-Qs. I don't need them, but I'd like to prove that the 3 I got weren't flukes. And maybe get some placement ribbons.

Grand Prix--oh, gosh, I don't even remember what all happened. Some kind of fault early on (maybe a knocked bar?) and then she didn't stick her teeter at a point where I needed her to, so I was on the wrong side for the last 6 obstacles and we were all over the place with spins and stuff. Never did check to see whether we Qed, but I don't need Qs for her now--I want wins! Ribbons! Glory!

In Steeplechase, she didn't stick her Aframe again but this time it saved me because I once AGAIN bobbled one weave entry (how can one handler with a dog with great weaves miss so many lately with her?) and had to bring her back around from an odd angle to get back into the weaves--lots of wasted time, but we managed to Q with less than a second to spare. So if she had stuck her Aframe, we probably wouldn't have made time even with a quick release. But I am VERY glad to have gotten the Q; only one more and that'll complete all of her Nationals Qualifications. Next chance isn't til June.


So tomorrow Tika gets to run in Steeplechase round 2. I'll have to find a way to really drive her through it; today her time was 8 (!) seconds slower than the fastest dog (even subtracting 3-4 seconds for the weave muck-up, that's a lot of time). We're in next to last place of 14 dogs, so we run second. And I think only the top 6 in 26" end up in the money.

Boost just has Standard, Jumpers, and Pairs, I think. It's looking more and more like she's not going to be running in nationals this year. Dang.

Her sister Gina was up from L.A. with some awesome-looking running contacts, and they run pretty smoothly and pretty fast, but all it takes is one screw-up to not Q, and they seemed to get those single screw-ups too often. I hope Ill get to see her run some more tomorrow. They'll be dynamite when they avoid the errors. She had very nice weaves, too.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Weave Pole Challenge

SUMMARY: A fun knock-out challenge sending to weaves.

Last night in class Jim gave us a weave-pole knock-out drill (you get a chance at each level, and if you can't do it, you're knocked out of the drill). In this case, we each got 3 chances at each level.

The drill looked like this:

Start with one jump next to the weaves, 3 or 4 feet out, perpendicular to the weaves (so that the dog's path to the weave entry is a U-turn), and one pole away from the end of the weaves. That's the black jump in the diagram. Then, staying behind the jump, send the dog over the jump to the correct weave entry.

For the next level, move the jump one pole further along the weaves (as shown in red). Then move it two more poles back. Then two more. Then two or three more, until finally you're at the far end of the weaves, sending your dog ahead of you all the way to the original end of the weaves. (Of course you can modify how far back to move the jump each time, but that's roughly what we did.)

We found that standing still and sending the dog from beside you didn't work well; none of them wanted to carry out the full distance. All the dogs did much better if we revved them up about 20 feet back and ran them at the jump to build momentum. After that, if the dogs knew their weave-entry-finding job, they'd work themselves at getting out far enough to make the wrap.

Tika did fine in the early stages. At the third to the last position, though, it took us all 3 tries; the first two tries, she entered with the first pole to her right instead of to her left. At the next to the last position, it took her two tries, and then on the final position, she apparently finally realized what the game was, and did it perfectly on the first attempt. Four of our dogs made it to the final level, although the 12" sheltie didn't successfully complete the last level. The others were Kye (the other long-legged 26" aussie) and Jim Basic's Spy, although we all had points during the drill where we had to try it more than once. Apache the Terv made it to maybe the next-to-last level before dropping out. The other two dogs who were there that night were 16" dogs but they both have trouble with weaves just in regular flow if they're not helped a bit. And Ash and Luka weren't there.

Now--that's the easier weave entry for dogs, because they simply have to find the last pole and wrap around it. If you were going in the opposite direction, that's a harder entry because the dog has to enter between two poles, which is a more challenging distinction to make. So--go ahead, try it, tell me how it works. ;-)

I'm almost certain that Boost can't do this drill at all. She's getting better and better at entrances all the time, but we've done nothing like a U-turn, I don't think.

And I also discovered, when testing Tika in the yard this week on some of Boost's weave drills, that if she's entering at an angle from the right side of the poles and I'm already past the plane of the entry, she misses it. (That was one of our mess-ups in the last Steeplechase.) So there's something for me to go back to with her.

It never ends!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Power Paws Camp Day 1

SUMMARY: A cold day but useful workshops in weaves and serpentines ("Serp City").

This year's T-shirt (just what I need--more t-shirts--): A nice cocoa-brown, with attractive but nonspecific artwork (no mention of Power Paws Camp specifically or of the year).
Boost in her pop-up crate, my purple chair, my black bag for carrying miscellaneous stuff (You never know what you'll need ringside). This is what we'll be transporting from ring to ring every couple of hours.
At noon, it was frigid and windy and threatening rain; three friends from Tika's Wednesday night class (Bobbie, Cathy, Ken) huddle out of the way of Mr. Weather. With my purple chair.
Kathie Leggett, our first workshop instructor, explaining the finer points of weave entries and exits.
Mary Ellen Barry walking along the first serpentine set-up which completely stymied me (as usual).

Mary Ellen demonstrates how the angle of your shoulders (and back) demarks the no-go zone for the dog.
Boost's alternate (and preferred) crate: My chair.

Our first day dawned chilly and windy and threatening rain; 40 degrees F in my back yard before we left home at 7. Fortunately I'm going against traffic for most of my trip, so the drive took less than 40 minutes and I just crated out of my car alongside the ring set-up.

It's very different from camp of previous years, which was a major production with 16 working rings plus several lecture venues and 200 or more campers and all sorts of events going on all the time. This was quite subdued; 8 rings, maybe 10 people per ring, and the check-in area. Lunch space was just a moderate-sized canopy with room for the instructors but the rest of us lunched elsewhere. Kind of funny that I recognized more of the instructors and staff than I did of the participants. Also very different from in the past.

Kathie Leggett taught our first 3-hour session, on weaving. Got some excellent advice on exercises to try. Quite a bit I'd heard before in one form or another, but I particularly like the suggestion about getting your dog to turn and find the weave entries (she credited it to Jen Pinder). Usual training methodology has you working in an arc around the weave entrance, having the dog alongside you, facing the weaves, and send her in. You vary the distance and the angle and the speed with which you're moving and add jumps and so on. But this suggestion was to be playing tug with your dog so that the dog's back (or side or whatever) is to the weaves, then wrestle the toy away as usual and just say "weave!" and let the dog figure out how to turn herself around and still find the weave entrance.

Mary Ellen Barry taught our afternoon 3-hour session on serpentines. I mentioned to her before we got started that she came highly recommended from a blogger--and then I couldn't remember the last name (Amy with Flirt and Bodhi, I said) and she knew the last name immediately. Interesting about all these cross-country, cross-internet relationshiops. :-)

I confessed up front that I've been doing agility for 12 years and I *still* can't do serpentines worth beans. Oh, my dogs learn how to do them as long as I stay out of their way, usually behind them or away from them (as in a gamble), but if I try to do REAL driving serpentines with me ahead of the dog, I bobble it. Which I then proceeded to demonstrate. So dumb, because I can WALK it perfectly every time, with the shoulders turned correctly and everything. But add a dog--pfft!

Anyway, she was very helpful. Again, much of what she said was things that I realized I had forgotten or not practiced as much as I thought I had, and so on, but she had some very specific suggestions for me in particular to work on for myself and for Boost, as well as the general concept that was applied equally to everyone. Another well-spent session. (If I have a chance next week I might try to draw a couple of diagrams and write up text for my own review and post here. TBD whether I'll have time.)

Interestingly, Boost did LOVELY weaves all day today, even on some harder set-ups in the serpentine class, which was NOT concentrating on weaves. Could we have more inconsistency, please? I mean, really--

Fortunately, it never did get around to raining, and it warmed up slightly in the later afternoon. Today we were done at 4:00. Helped set up the ring for tomorrow, frisbeed the dogs a bit, chatted with a couple of friends, and was still home, dinnered, and showered by about 6:00. A nice change.

Next two days are longer; start at 7:45 and go 'til 5:00, with sessions with three different instructors each day. Sunday is only two sessions again.

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