Sunday, December 06, 2009

Best Dog Quotes

SUMMARY: Well put, from Roger Caras.
"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

“If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”

"I am as confounded by dogs as I am indebted to them.”

“Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place in museums; others, we take for walks.”

From Wikipedia:
Roger A. Caras (May 28, 1928-February 18, 2001) was an American wildlife photographer, writer, wildlife preservationist and television personality. Known as the host of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Caras was a veteran of network television programs including “Nightline,” “ABC News Tonight” and 20/20 before devoting himself to work as president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to becoming an author.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, November 07, 2009


SUMMARY: We've been here two full days now--

One more full day to go, then a few hours Sunday morning, then home again, home again, jiggity jog.

I love being at Disneyland! So much to see and do, and even if I come every couple of years (which I've been doing for a long time), it's still a wonderfantabulous experience. I like just walking around and looking and being there.

Plus taking photos. Unfortunately I've discovered that my old laptop's software doesn't recognize my new camera's raw format, so I've got nothing to upload here at the moment.

And we've done so much, it's hard to shrink it to a quick post. We've done several things more than once each: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Astro Blaster. I've done a token Indiana Jones and Matterhorn and don't need to do those again this trip. We've sailed the Rivers of American in both the Mark Twain and the sailing ship Columbia. We've explored the pirate's cave on Tom Sawyer's Island. Had lunch at the Blue Bayou. And so much more!

Tomorrow we'll hit California Adventure until it closes (3 hours earlier than Disneyland, I believe) or until we run out of things we want to do over there (possibly way before closing).

And tomorrow for crying out loud I'll remember my tripod finally (I promise, really I will) and finally get some of those night shots I've been trying to get hand-held and some that I know I can't get hand-held.

And when I get home--hundreds of photos to sort through (already) as usual. AFTER i've worn out the dogs and taken them for a long walk, presumably.

In honor of the fact that I'm not leaving for USDAA Nationals in the next couple of days, I've worn two of my USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility Championships polo shirts. It's all about the clothing, you know!

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why Agility?

SUMMARY: My sport of choice, but why?

Many Muddy Paws passed along this topic from another blogger and made her own post on the subject.

What got you into your sport of choice...why that one, why not another type of dog sport? What else have you tried, but don't care for? What haven't you tried but would like to?

Sometime in my teens, I decided that I wanted to train an Obedience Champion dog someday. When I got my first dog, Amber, I taught her come, sit, heel--but I had no real concept at all of how demanding obedience standards were.
Not that it mattered; when I signed up my mixed-breed dog with an AKC obedience class, they told me essentially that, if I wanted an obedience champion, I should get a purebred dog. I gave up on that idea for many years.

When Remington came along, I took up the competitive obedience thing again; Mixed Breed Dog Club of America and UKC (and others?) provided same titles with same rules for non-AKC dogs. Learned a lot. Took private lessons from an instructor with a lot of successful students. Remington did very well. But I didn't find it exciting, really, or particularly active, although the ideas for training intrigued me. Practice was dull dull dull. And, the more I found out about the rigid SUBJECTIVE performance standards, the less thrilled I became. But I kept with the training with that "obedience champion" goal in mind until I broke my foot in early 1997.

I loved teaching him tricks; taught him everything I could think of, bought books and taught him more; tested out of "acting" level 1 and went into level 2 where we already knew several of the tricks. Tricks are a great crowd pleaser and turned out to be handy when he had to spend a lot of time at the doggie hospital for his cancer. Made him popular there and gave him something to do besides worry.

We took a couple of 6-week sessions in scent tracking. Oh, mannnnn talk about dull practice! Although it's fun to see the dog start to get the idea and follow a track through a field, practice was: Find a seldom-used field (around here? tough). Spend about 10 minutes setting up a track. A couple of minutes following the track. Now, if the field is big enough, spend 10 minutes setting up another track. A minute or two following it. And then you're out of field. And not supposed to use the same field again for a week. Bleah.

When I broke my foot, a friend arranged the loan of a sled-racing training cart with wheels. Remington was less than thrilled and preferred to have someone else do the pulling.

The year before my broken foot, I had started competing in agility. Just 6 trials that year. As my foot healed, I discovered that I wanted to spend time doing agility. Never went back for more obedience lessons, tracking lessons, or "acting" lessons.

I like agility because it involves both of us acting as a team at all times on the course, it's exciting, it's physically active and calorie-burning for both of us, it's mentally challenging for both of us, I can practice in my yard (now that I have enough equipment and almost enough space), judging is largely objective, not subjective, and all of my dogs have seemed more than eager to do it any time, anywhere.

I've watched flyball, dock diving, freestyle (dance), rally-O, disc dog, herding, and lure coursing, and have read up quite a bit on all of these sports.

* Obedience and rally-O work you as a team and you can practice in your yard, but none of the rest (for me and my dogs, anyway).
* Tricks fill several of the items but not the physically active or calorie-burning bit, and "judging" is very subjective if you enter any kind of contest.
* Dock diving and flyball are all about the dog; all the handler does is get the dog excited and then watch him go. (Sorry, fans of these sports, I know there's training involved, but really--the handlers are watchers, not participants.)
* Scent tracking--nothing there for me.
* Lure coursing: Boost will do it sometimes but sometimes not; it terrifies Tika; and it's VERY expensive for what you get IMHO. And no teamwork, no training, nuthin' except fast running for the dog.
* Disc dog: Maybe if I thought I could throw a frisbee worth beans, it would be OK, but physically it's still more about the dog and performance standards are largely subjective.
* Freestyle: Just doesn't appeal to me.
* Herding: Have had Boost on goats/sheep a few times. It is a complete blast watching the instincts guide her. If I had a lot more time and money, I'd probably pursue this just because of that. But--can't do it in my yard, not even in my city--too urban, there's just nowhere available!

The mentally challenging part of agility is important for me; every course is different, so you're designing strategies during the walkthrough even for numbered courses. And the execution is done with your partner moving at 5 yards per second and you have to adjust on the fly as Things Happen.

And one big thing: even after all these years, when I walk up and see an agility course with its brilliantly painted equipment in glowing rainbow colors spread out across the bright green lawn, it gives me the same Disneyland thrill and awe that hit me the first time that i ever saw an agility course, that night at Power Paws when I drove up to see what it was all about.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It Was Like a Fairy Tale Come True

SUMMARY: ...except the magic was the power of space flight and each hero's success was in coming back alive.

When I was born, no manmade object--let alone a human--had ever gone up into space. It wasn't until I was nearly two that the first satellite, Russia's Sputnik, woke the world to the realization that we had crossed a threshold: Before, we were a species locked to the ground, to a single planet, with the universe beyond our thin layer of atmosphere forbidden to us. And then, now, we stepped into a reality in which Infinity and Beyond were suddenly within our reach.

(Telstar was about the size of one of those inflatable exercise balls--34 inches across. Wikipedia photo source.)

My first recollections of our conquest of The Darkness Beyond were twofold: First, standing in the darkened driveway of our apartment complex with my parents and the neighbors, standing, eager, waiting, eyes heavenward, straining to see the tiny speck of light of Telstar on its scheduled pass across the heavens. I was six, and I knew from the excitement around me that something magical had happened.

(Wikipedia photo source.)
And, second, we knew all about the Mercury capsules, tiny tin cans barely big enough for a human, barely popping into space and dropping back to the sea, whence they were plucked by helicopter from the waters and deposited on the deck of a military vessel nearby. These were always suspenseful--would they burn up on reentry? Would they find that tiny speck in the ocean? The first American into space reached that goal for a mere 15 minutes the year I turned 5. Nine months later, the first American ever--and almost the first human ever--orbited Earth...a mere 3 times over a four-hour period. We must have seen these on TV (we had a TV in our house by then), because when my parents gifted me with a tiny plastic Mercury space capsule and bright orange helicopter with a skyhook dangling from a string, I knew all about how they were used. I loved that toy.(Wikimedia image source.)

This was my world as a child: Space travel was a miracle and our first steps into space were tiny, halting, fragile, risky things.

We watched every rocket launch on TV--and every one played out on TV for hours, broadcast live. We watched the countdown-- "T minus two hours and counting" said the man in the background--and sometimes you could see activity on the ground or watch the astronaut (with Gemini, two astronauts; with Apollo, finally, three) make his way into the tiny capsule. "T minus 10 seconds...9...8...7..." and I'd feel my heart rise with the rocket as it ponderously rose, ever so slowly, amazingly slowly for the tremendous power and fury of the fires and smoke erupting from its base, finally, magically, into the air, and the cameras watched it, the light of its rocket flickering, flickering, growing ever smaller, until it was out of sight.

A miracle. Every flight had simulations broadcast so that you could see what the rocket stages were doing as they separated, how the capsule maneuvered in space. And then, always at the end, that terrifying, burning, racing plunge into the sea, with no control; they dropped from orbit and fell, a flaming stone, through the atmosphere to the water below.

Forty years ago today--I was thirteen--men walked on the moon. Everyone talked about it. Everyone watched the broadcasts coming back live--Live!--from another planet. Astounding, just...astounding. The solar system now seemed within our reach, it felt like there was nowhere we couldn't go, places we couldn't explore, resources we couldn't find: Now--we could do it all! And yet, for all that we could land on the moon under control, and leave its surface again, back home to Earth and there was still that uncontrolled plummet to the vast, cold sea. (Wikipedia image source.)

I was fully an adult--out of college, married, owned my first home and then my second, before that changed. We watched the launch of the first space shuttle on TV, all of us, waiting to see whether it would even fly. And then, two days later, the suspenseful time as it descended from orbit back through the atmosphere and those dreadful minutes of silence where communication was impossible--

And, by all the Gods, it came through! We might have cheered when we heard the astronaut's voices as radio contact was reestablished. And then we waited with bated breath, begging silently, fists clenched, waiting to see whether it was possible for it to actually land again, under control, on the ground, safely and predictably. Then Lo!, it did! And I cried from the joy of it.

(Wikipedia photo source)

Not long after that, as we who remembered how it had been sat around the TV for yet another blast-off, still as astounding as it had always been, my youngest sister (9 years younger), wandered into the living room, said, "Oh, another rocket launch," and wandered out again. And that was the first I truly realized that the magic of it all was lost to those who hadn't grown up with it, for whom space flight was a matter of fact, shuttles landing under a pilot's control an everyday occurrence.

I hope that, within my lifetime, we will find the magic again and find our way out to our moon, our neighboring planets, and their moons. Because it seems so sad that we should be imprisoned here, on a single planet, our little castle with nowhere to go if it should burn, when we have had the magic in our hands and shown that we could use it. I hope.

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, June 12, 2009

All the News That's Fit To Blog--Plus Clothing

SUMMARY: Boost jumps and dogwalk and weaves, Tika jumps, flying your dogs, Disneyland, Sylvia Trkman, facebook, insurance--whew! Anything else? Oh, yeah, it's all about the clothing!

  • In class last night, Boost hit bars like a new 21-year-old on amphetamines. Argh. I was jumping her at 24", not the 22" that we usually do in class (although often use 24 or 26 at home). Will be doing a private with our instructor this weekend to work on bars.
  • Also: Contacts! Last week in class Boost left her dogwalk contact early once and I punished her severely ("Oh! My! What happened!" (lean over and grab her as if to pick her up, and in a low voice:) "You have to stick those contacts! Don't be leaving early!") and all of a sudden she wouldn't blast to the end into 2on/2off but instead stopped halfway into the yellow. I immediately put her back on 2 or 3 times until she got the 2o/2o and rewarded lavishly. This week, first dogwalk, stopped halfway into the yellow. OMG have I broken her perfect dogwalk at age 4 and a half?! Dang sensitive dogs! We repeated the down-ramp part 2 or 3 times until she got it, then rewarded lavishly.
  • On the other hand, Boost's weaves were perfect all evening! Even the hard ones!
  • Jumped Tika at 24". Have been jumping her at 22" lately, too. She knocked several bars. I have to remember before a USDAA trial where she'll be jumping 26" in a couple of runs to get her back up to 26" probably at least a couple of weeks before the trial with plenty of bar-knocking drills at that height. It's always something!
  • Southwest airlines is now accepting small pets in the cabin on a trial basis.
  • I'm going to Disneyland! Nov 7-8. Staying with my sister & husby at their favorite place, the Candy Cane Inn, which has a convenient shuttle that I almost never use. Which means I won't be doing my club's (Bay Team's) November CPE. Instead I'll do either the Turlock USDAA right before it or the Turlock CPE a couple of weeks later. Nice to have choices! Disneyland, yayyyyy!
  • Sylvia Trkman is coming to the Bay Area to do 4 days of seminars! I can't afford all of them, but signed up for a one-day Masters Handling with Boost and two evenings of tricks as an auditor.
  • I'm going to try to get onto the FaceBook brand-new choose-your-username-URL land grab at 9:01 this evening to get my choice! I think I'll go for Ellen.Finch if I can get it; if not, maybe TajMuttHall. What do you think? (You have until 8:30 PDT today to tell me what you think. ;-)) The thing is, I'm mostly taking as friends only people that I really already know in one way or another--e.g., local agility folks, relatives, people I've communicated with in blogland--not the world at large. So my own name might be more appropriate. We'll see...
  • Still waiting for the final insurance paperwork to arrive for me to sign and send back to finish the settlement on my auto break-in. They said it went into the mail "late last week or early this week." I haven't gotten it yet. Hm. Starting to look into what camera & lens I can really afford on that settlement. And haven't even started looking for a replacement for my Perfect-For-Everything Coat.

A Few Adventures of The Perfect-For-Everything-Coat

Finding the right replacement coat is crucial because--after all--agility [and everything else] is all about the clothing!

Photo junket at Almaden Quicksilver Park Winter 2009Touristing at Cannery Row Dec 2008Hiking at Big Basin Redwoods Park summer seminar at Monterey Bay Aquarium Oct 2008
Flying home from Montreal Sept 2008 (reflected in seat-back TV)

Hiked up Black Mountain Spring 2008
Hunkering down at Grand Canyon May 2008

With Tika, hiking at Truckee March 2008
With Boost at Power Paws Camp 2007 (on back of chair)
With Jake and Top Turkey Team, Nov 2005
Tika's C-ATCH Nov 2005

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, April 18, 2009

She Swoons Because It's All About the Clothing

SUMMARY: Agility is coming and we're not prepared. A Facebook experience, confirming that agility is all about the clothing.

I have been intrigued to see that this single Facebook status message and the single follow-up photo have elicited more comments from more people than any other facebook or blog post to date. You guys all have strange appetites. You Facebook fanatics have undoubtedly seen this as it unfolded. But--in the interest of preserving it for posterity (I have only the best interest of history books in mind)--

It all started with my status note on Thursday (compare and contrast to more typical status messages like "Joe heading for bed after a wonderful evening with friends," "Jane Doe...loves her new iphone," "Bo leaving for [fill in name of agility trial]" -- all of which are interesting but, like, normal):

Ellen Levy Finch stops suddenly, looks at her calendar aghast, and realizes that she'll be competing in agility in 8 days and neither dog has practiced in a month! She swooons.

The response trail looked more or less like this:

MB: Nice dramatic flair! [polite clapping] I can *almost* imagine you swooning.
TMH: On the divan, of course. In the parlour.
MB: I'll send for the smelling salts!
TMH: LOL! Perfect. I mean--fiddle-dee-dee!
MJ: So, with the whole parlour, smelling salts, etc, scene, I guess this means you'll be wearing a bare shoulder afternoon gown, in Spring shades, with long gloves, and a wide brim sun hat with matching ribbon tie. Oh, and being sensible, Doc Martins during competition. I'd *love* to see pics!
TMH: Sure, I'll send photos of such as soon as I have them.
MJ: Send whatever you end up with, I'll have to see what I can do. *digs through pile of old install disks* Where's that Photoshop?

So I had to dig through all my old agility photos to find one of me (lots with just the dogs, but "me" usually shows up as just a fat knee or blurred pointing finger) that I could post in response. Here's what I "found": "Dressed for swooning on the agility field. Prepare the smelling salts!"

And here's the brouhaha (emphasis on haha) it engendered:

KM: Where's the parasol to shade your delicate lap dogs from the sun?
MB: ROFL! How long did that take you to do?
GD: the agility competitions I have attended, the people are dressed like regular schlubs - polar fleece and/or shorts depending on the time of year...are there different types of competitions with different dress codes?
KM: Victorian agility is big in the Bay Area. If you think Ellen's costume looks good, you should see the dogs!
MB: Those hoop skirts are a b*&^ to run in tho!
AS: Beats wearing an Elizabethan Collar wouldn't you say?
TMH: Yep, we always dress in period costume, a different period for each season. I understand that this summer will be Mongol Horde. We'll have to bring yurts instead of our regular canopies.
TMH: P.S. This is for you, Mike!
TMH: P.P.S. Taken at SP's Workin' Paws!
CS: makes me think of Phil in his pirate costume...or as the Power Flaws girl (?) Kinda miss that guy
TMH: I was trying to find a photo of him to prove the theory that agility is done in costume. Thought I had some, but noooo--
TMH: P.P.P.S. OK, in the REAL reality, it took about 20 minutes in photoshop, I think, including finding a dress photo that's compatible with a photo of me with dog.
GD: Now I'm disappointed. It certainly would add a little flair to the whole thing...imagine some long ribbons in the doggies fur, flapping as they run the course!
SP: Why is a requirement to dress in period costume if you run a dog at Workin' Paws. Otherwise you can't attend. Thank you Ellen for giving me heads up on the Mongol Horde. I will get that ready!
LR: Love how the dress is the proper TMH colour.
MB: Garth, you have that confused with our rhythmic gymnastics courses, where the dogs and handlers must twirl a ribbon while running. Totally different from our period-costume-of-the-season courses....Now where did I store that yurt and fur g-string from last season's Mongol festivities?
MJ: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You know, TMH, maybe we'd attend more events if they WERE costumed! (The audience could vote on best costume, keep themselves amused while judges were doing judgy things.)
TMH: How about if the *audience* comes in costume? Hmm. OK, free admission to all spectators who come in costume from now on!
SY: Yes, very nice dress. I hope you can run in that.
AS: Occasionally, agility people have been known to show up in hippie attire.... and then there was that guy who used to run in a kilt... What ever happened to him?
TMH: He moved back east.
AS: Like Eastern Scotland?
TMH: LOL. Not that far.
TC: And, that wasn't was everyday attire.
Remember the trial (WVDS) when Bill N. and Terry S. dressed in top hat and tails and ran their dog in pairs?
TMH: Wasn't there! Sounds lovely.
TMH: Yeah, EB has several kilts.
EC: So how are the photoshop lessons going?
TMH: [some noncommittal reply]
MJ: Several kilts make sense if:
(1) you've got a pile of money - they're $500+;
(2) you need the "dress" tartan for evening, in-town occasions;
(3) you need a "hunting" version for country, day wear, or a trip to the pub;
(4) you need your old one as a loaner for all your friends who don't have one and might, I repeat *might,* be persuaded to try ... Read Moreone, if it were free, arm twisting were employed by their significant whatevers, and everyone in earshot promised to surrender their cameras. (Pics will be taken, of course, and posted immediately!)
Dave: Woah...I have the exact same agility outfit. Good thing we didn't wear them at the same time...THAT would have been embarrassing.
TMH: Dave, The *first* thing that popped into my head when I saw that dress was, "Whoa, that is like so TOTALLY Dave's style!" but I just crossed my fingers and hoped that you hadn't already found it.
TMH: Mike, Of course we're talking modern-man kilts: all-black, all-tan, nice washable materials for mucking around with dogs or attending dinner parties. I know I have a photo around here somewhere...grumble grumble... OK, I'll look for it more some other time.

So that's how it stands as of 11:00 this morning. I am now desperately in search of:
* Photo of EB in his agility or evening kilt (I do have the latter--must be in my archives somewhere).
* Photo of Phil in any of his--uh--unusual agility outfits (I've seen photos but don't remember whether they're mine--more searching necessary).
* Photo of Bill N & Terry S in tops & tails doing agility.
* Like that.

Remember: Agility is all about the clothing. Really.

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm So Busy Memeing I Can Hardly Think Straight or Ten Or More Things I Learned From My Dog

SUMMARY: Another Facebook tagging fantasy: "Ten things I learned from my dog(s)."

  1. To get everyone's immediate attention, roll in something disgusting.
  2. Squirrels are the devil.
  3. If your ancestry is questionable, claim to be purebred and let them prove otherwise via expensive DNA testing or asking your mom--who'll never give away your secrets and doesn't speak English anyway.
  4. Life is like hunting gophers: Dig and dig and dig and dig until you realize you're not going to reach that goal, then go do something else and let other people clean up the mess.
  5. Roofrats are the devil.
  6. The boss doesn't like to lie in a bed covered with dog hair. Shed everywhere, and the whole thing is yours.
  7. If it fits in your mouth, it's edible.
  8. The mailman is the devil.
  9. Bathing is overrated. (See also #1.)
  10. Photographers love it when you show them your butt.
  11. "No!" means "yes!"
  12. Even though your keen sense of smell reveals what bully sticks are made from, it doesn't really matter because they still taste darned good.
  13. Don't mess with Jim Basic's lawn.
  14. The devil hates it when you bark like a rabid wombat and throw yourself against the plate-glass picture window, so do it as often as possible to drive him away. Everyone will thank you for it in a loud and excited voice.

Labels: , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What It's All About

SUMMARY: Blogging, of course.

(Visit Pearls Before Swine web site.)

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Nothing

SUMMARY: Snooker: It's not about the points, it's about the clothing.

The Zero-Point Club: Step right up, join the club! Got a dog that knocks bars? Got a dog that particularly likes to knock the first bar and is so fast that you can't call her off the next obstacle? Well, friends, have I got a deal for you: You, too, can become a member of the Zero-Point Snooker club.

To inspire and delight you, here are our bona fide, certified credentials for membership in this popular club:

But we're really special upper-crust club members: DogPlay gave us this lovely t-shirt because Tika is the only dog we know who manged TWO zero-point Snookers ON THE SAME DAY. So there's something to strive for, you young'uns. (And, lookee see, the dog on the t-shirt has knocked the first red and is already in the first pole of the weaves, so zero points! W00t!)

This doesn't mean that you're bound for eternal zeroness! In his agility career, Jake ran 96 Snookers (combined CPE and USDAA) and earned his Snooker Championship Bronze in both Masters and Performance 3. Tika has run 136 Snookers (CPE and USDAA) and has her Snooker Championship Silver. So Boost is obviously well on her way to following in their footsteps!

Visit for a wealth of useful information about everything dog. No commercials. As a sideline, DogPlay also runs an online shop; you can order a Zero-Point Club t-shirt like mine and many other agility-related shirts at the Dogplay agility shop. (Disclosure: Dogplay is a Bay Teamer and a friend, but I'm not getting paid for this and she didn't ask me to do it. I recommend for dog info to many people, in particular those getting their first dog or wondering how or where to get a dog.)

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Box Work

SUMMARY: In which I take advice to heart.

Dog agility is all about teamwork and communication. (In prior posts I might have suggested that it's all about the clothing, or the food, but in reality it's all about teamwork and communication. Today, anyway.)

Several people have suggested lately that what I really need is just basic box work with my dogs. I'm always big on taking good advice, and although box work can be a little tedious, still, I figured I ought to put in a little time on it. And I figured I'd videotape it and share it with you.

You can see that Boost needs more work on this than Tika does.

You agility folks--I couldn't resist. You nonagility folks--well--

Addendum 5 p.m.: After you've watched the video, see my Comment (4th one) for a genuine useful training observation.

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bummed About the Weekend

SUMMARY: Results weren't what I'd hoped for. Not feeling good about agility at the moment.

I like running my dogs in agility. It is always a thrill to get past difficult places on the course, to try to keep up with them as they run confidently and with blazing speed across a sequence of obstacles, to observe where they have improved over time. I like being on course with them. I like my agility friends, and I did laugh this weekend--in fact, I realized late Saturday after the competition was over, as I sat quietly with my dogs and watched the sun go down, that mostly what I heard in scattered areas around the arena and camping areas was laughter, and it was almost constant from various quarters. Made me realize how much so many of us depend on our agility experiences for fun and how lucky I am to be around these people.

But I can't stand it when I screw up, and I have a hard time dealing with times when "it matters" and my dogs have problems. It's particularly awful in the Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team event, because you have to hold it together for 5 entire classes, for the possiblity of one single Q, and so do both of your teammates. Perhaps oddly, I am fine with whatever my teammates do, whether it's great (which I'm very happy about), or badly (which is too bad but in fact both emotionally and intellectually I am not bothered by that; guess I have more understanding for other people's challenges than my own).

Here's what we competed in for Qs this weekend:
* Snooker
* Standard
* Jumpers
* Pairs Relay
* Steeplechase
* Grand Prix
* DAM Team (5 classes on Sunday)

Here's what Boost really needed:
* Steeplechase to be eligible for Nationals
* DAM to be eligible for Nationals
* Jumpers towards her MAD title
* Standard towards her MAD title

Here's what Boost Qed in:
* Snooker
* Grand Prix

Here's what Tika needed to add points towards her Lifetime Achievement Awards:
* Snooker
* Standard
* Jumpers
* Pairs Relay
* Grand Prix

Here's what Tika Qed in:
* Steeplechase

So I was more than a little frustrated at my inability to get even one of the Qs that I "needed." And wayyyy too much of it was just plain my fault, and things that I should have known better, too! In fact, I'd say I was truly extremely frustrated and, finally, by midafternoon, ready to just crawl into the back of my van for a good cry. With it all set up for sleeping, it would have been a comfy place to feel sorry for myself, but by then I had already packed almost everything up and there was noplace to sit and feel sorry for myself.

So, instead, I went back to the score table and just whined to all my score table buddies for at least half an hour until we were all sick of listening to me. It's not like I was the only one making mistakes or not getting Qs that I wanted. But it's all about me, you know?

It didn't help that the weekend generally started badly. Nothing terrible, but sometimes things just add up, you know? Like, I almost headed out for 3 days of agility without my suitcase or any clothes. I was THAT close. And then with that and other things, I left an hour later than I had wanted to, so I ended up sitting in stop and go traffic for about 20 minutes on the way out, which sometimes I handle with equanimity but this time it gnawed on me, in part because I was annoyed at leaving late and so messed myself up, in part because of gas prices, in part because I was afraid it would keep up so long that I'd miss my first class of the evening that I had paid for and that's why I was going through all this anyway.

On the other hand (trying to be positive), it beat getting up at 4 in the morning. In some ways. Like, I can show you how odd it is, after driving for 30 or 40 miles of highway that looks somewhat like this:

To suddenly come upon this by the side of the road:

There were positive signs:

Boost did all of her weave poles perfectly all weekend. EXCEPT. In Steeplechase Round 1, where she hit the entry and skipped a pole. So I brought her around and restarted; while I tried to move away laterally, she popped out halfway through the poles. Then she was between me and the beginning, bouncing bouncing bouncing, so I told her to Down, and every time I took a step, she'd bounce right back in front of me. So it took a while to get her to stay down to calm her brain and so I could get around her to try the poles again. Then she popped out at #10 of 12 poles, and again I had to calm her and put her back into those last two poles.

The really frustrating thing was that every other bloody thing about that steeplechase run was picture perfect, including the second set of weave poles. And fast. No refusals or hesitations over jumps. Lovely Aframe. But we were way over time.

She had a beautiful Team Standard run, felt like a superfast masters dog, even got through the first really hard part that cost a lot of handlers an offcourse. But then she ran past a jump at a sharp angle and was immediately offcourse into the next obstacle. And that's dumb because I *know* that she still doesn't take those jumps automatically and that I really have to work them and we even TALKED about working every jump before the run.

Tika got quite revved up for Steeplechase Round 2 and had a very good time (for her), but knocked TWO bars AND hit the broad jump when I signalled a turn too early, and I anticipated that in the walkthrough, too, and yet still managed to screw it up.

So it's like every plus had a negative attached to it for me. And other things that didn't help were, while unloading the car and setting up on Friday I whacked the top of my head on my car hard enough to make me want to sit down, I whacked my forehead on my cart handle hard enough to have a standing bump that was still visible Saturday, ripped open the knuckle on one finger, causing it to bleed profusely, and whacked the side of my bad knee with the corner of a box enough that I thought for a few minutes I had just made it impossible for me to run. I felt that all weekend. The person camped next to me must have been greatly entertained by the number of "Ow!"s and expletives coming from my vehicle.

And then there were the just plain crappies. Boost earning 25 faults in Pairs Relay. Boost knocking 4 bars in Jumpers before going offcourse on a very technical course when I finally just lost my head and couldn't manage that speed and chaos any more. Tika having a lovely Team Gamblers run but then I blew it and gave away all my gamble points, for two reasons:

* First, for some reason while out there I discounted the fact that we weren't in exactly the right position when the horn blew (and usually I'm very good about taking that into account in my closing)--it wasn't until several minutes after the run that I remembered that fact.

* And the other part was that Boost had had so much time left at the end of her gamble, which I abandoned more points partway through because I was being cautious, that I thought for sure I had plenty of time with Tika. But it turns out that I had evaluated Boost's time based on the Performance time, not the Championship time, because the stupid score table person had written the Performance times on the accumulator sheet and not the Championship. And you know who that stupid score table person was. Right. Me. So I really beat myself up about that. Tika would have been near the top of the scores, but instead was almost dead last.

Tika blew pretty much all of her dogwalk down contacts this weekend, big-time. Usually she's close, and in the past we haven't missed many Qs or points because of dogwalk down contacts, but now she has apparently decided to just not bother.

It just kept going like that. The only run that went really well was Tika's Round 1 Steeplechase. She's never going to be a 1st-place winner, but she was solidly within Qing time even if you counted only the fastest dog's score, and her run was smooth.

We had some other minor victories: Boost's Team Gamblers was perfectly executed right up to the end, where I couldn't get her into a tunnel for enough extra points that might have earned us a first, but it was still a very good score. In fact, Boost's team placed 6th in Team Gamblers, and 7th in Team Relay, although those didn't help us with all of our other problems, placing a miserable 18th of 19th overall.

Tika's team placed 4th in Team Jumpers, but Tika knocked 2 bars on her run. And we placed 7th of 19th overall, for a Team Q that I didn't need particularly but I'm glad to have, I guess.

I just tried to spend as much time with these lovely critters as I could, and laugh at their antics, and snuggle them when they'd let me.

But in truth, coming home Sunday night, I realized that overall, most of the weekend I was unhappy, and the DAM Team stress didn't help that at all. And it was a bad comparison to the last week out on a road trip, having a wonderful time even in the face of adversity.

Titles and ribbons and qualifying for nationals ruin everything. Now I'm rethinking (again) when I want to try team again in July, or at the regionals in September, or even bother with Nationals. Bleah.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's All About the Titles (2007)

SUMMARY: 2007 agility titles earned.

On any given day, I might tell you that agility is all about the clothing, all about winning winning winning, or all about having fun with your dog. But those are days on which I am not thinking clearly. Obviously, agility is all about how many titles you can earn. Because there are a lot of them. And because you get lovely certificates, suitable for framing, and sometimes even cool plaques to hang on your wall that are easier to dust than ribbons and that don't require that you hunt down a frame in which to put them.

Herewith1 are my dogs' titles earned during 2007 (I don't seem to have all my cert's yet--dang--)


2USDAA Starters (novice level):
SSA (Starters Standard Agility: 3 Standard)
AD (Agility Dog: completed novice level, at least 3 Standard, 1 Jumpers, 1 Gamblers, 1 Snooker, 1 Pairs Relay)
USDAA Advanced (intermediate level):
AG (Advanced Gamblers: intermediate level, 3 Gamblers)
AS (Advanced Snooker: 3 Snookers)
AAD (Advanced Agility Dog: completed intermediate level, at least 3 Standard, 1 Jumpers, 1 Gamblers, 1 Snooker, 1 Pairs Relay)
CL3-S (CPE Level 3 (intermediate) Strategy: 2 Snooker and 2 Gambler/Jackpots (under the old rules))
CL3-R (Level 3 Regular: 4 Standards (old rules))
CL3-F (Level 3 Fun: 2 FullHouse and 2 Jumpers (old rules))


USDAA ADCH (Agility Dog Champion: 5 each Masters Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers, Snooker (including 3 Super-Qs--top 15%), and Pairs Relay)
USDAA Snooker:
SM (Snooker Master: 5 Masters (top level) Snookers (including 3 Super-Qs--top 15%))
SCH (Snooker Champion: SM + 5 more Snooker)
SCH-bronze (SCH + 5 more Snooker)
USDAA Standard:
SACH (Standard Agility Champion: 10 Masters Standard)
SACH-bronze (15 Masters Standard)
USDAA misc:
GCH (Gamblers Champion: 10 Masters Gamblers)
RCH-bronze (15 Masters Pairs Relay)
JCH (10 Masters Jumpers)
USDAA TM-silver (Tournament Master silver: At least 25 Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and DAM Team, with at least 5 of each.
GS-O (Gamblers Open (intermediate level) title--3 Gamblers)
RS-E (Standard Elite (top level)--3 Standards)
JS-N (Jumpers Novice (novice level)--3 Jumpers)

1 Yes, another useful everyday word in the Here clan, which has many aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom are in the legal profession, and which also includes hereabouts, hereafter, hereaway, herein, hereinabove, hereinafter, hereinbefore, hereinbelow, hereto, heretofore, hereunder, hereunto, and hereupon. Now go read a dictionary and stop bothering me with these questions.
2 Today was Fun with PhotoShop day, not Fun with Photography Day. The light level was too low, I didn't use a tripod or a flash, so pictures are crappy. Yes, all the USDAA certs are exactly the same pale ivory color, not assorted khakis and blues. But cropping out backgrounds is so much fun, and doesn't it look so much cooler! I mean, were you going to read the certs anyway? (If so, click on an image to enlarge it.)

Labels: , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tie Dye Rules

SUMMARY: Team shirts are almost done.

In an unfortunate twist, Carlene's & my third teammate, Mike, hurt his back pretty thoroughly a couple of weeks ago and won't be able to run his dog at Scottsdale. Fortunately, his wife is also a fine agility competitor and contacted USDAA to be sure that it's OK for her run Trane. That means that she's going to have to wear one of Mike's team shirts on our Special Day--that is, whichever day we decide to wear our shirts together, since the odds that we'll make it to the Relay finals again are so long as to be circumglobal.

Last weekend, I got to see our mostly completed team shirts. Tika, the Aussie-probably, is teaming with two Border Collies. All of us have our issues, shall we say, so we're Borderin' on K-Aus (say it out loud).

This will be the fourth year that my team's shirt is tie-dye by Wendywear (local work for agility folks). Our shirt pairs the black-and-white of border collies with a little tie-dye chaos. Here's my concept sketch; I can assure you that the actual shirts will be niftier. I'm excited. (Remember, it's all about the clothing.)

You can see the artwork, or finished results, for a lot of clever Bay Teamers' team outfits on this new page.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, July 02, 2007


SUMMARY: Sifting through our Q-chasing counts.

Of course agility isn't about the titles. Or the ribbons. It's about having a good time with your dogs.

OK, but I like getting titles. And ribbons. So it's the middle of the summer and I haven't practiced anything seriously with Tika in weeks, with no imminent trials propelling me, and very little serious with Boost except weaves weaves weaves.

But we have a fun match coming up this Sunday, so I need to start thinking what I want to focus on. But my mind's not there yet; it's drifting off into Title Land.

We have a CPE trial in 3 weeks, a week off, and another CPE trial. Tika is SO far from her C-ATE that, at the rate of maybe 4 CPEs a year (which is what I've backed off to), she'll be twenty-two before we get there. So we go mostly for our opportunity to collect those blue ribbons that are so evasive in USDAA--but I think we get them there because I'm really relaxing and enjoying myself.

Boost needs 2 wildcards... oops, new rules now...*3* wildcards and 2 colors to complete her Level 3 title, and she's barely started level 4. She might or might not ever get to her C-ATCH. That'd be another 72 legs beyond the Level 3. If we pick up 10 out of 10 per weekend with 4 weekends a year... OK, you see where I'm going with this. Pretty much nowhere. But I generally approve of CPE as an alternative venue to the insanity of USDAA and so I want to at least periodicall continue to support it.

And speaking of the insanity of USDAA: After the CPEs, it's 2 weekends off and then in rapid succession six USDAAs (including one regional) in the 9 weeks from then til the Nationals in Scottsdale the first week of November.

However, only the first three of those are still in this year's Nationals qualifying calendar--the last three are for next year. So Boost will have 2 or maybe 3 chances to earn exactly--crud--two Grand Prix Qs and two Steeplechase Qs, and 1 chance to earn one Team Q, if she wants to run at Nationals this year. In other words, our showing this year has been pretty sorry!

Actually we have to Q at the first GP or we're sunk because, to enter the Regional GP, you have to already have one GP Q. So if we dont' get the first one, we can't get the 2nd one, and so then the 3rd one wouldn't matter. Sigh. Did you follow that? I think I did--

Boost also needs one Standard and one Pairs to move up to Masters in everything. Or she could move up to Masters in:
- Gamblers with 1 Q
- Standard with 1 Q
- Snooker with 1 Q
- Jumpers with 2 Qs

So she's getting sooo close, my little puppy!

Tika still needs a 2nd Steeplechase Q. We've got to keep those bars up, and her mom needs to stop making stupid handling errors that she knew better about 10 years ago. Or at least 3 or 4 years ago. And I'd REALLY like, for a change, to at least get a bye into the semifinals in the Grand Prix! I'm so tired of those 5-fault runs.

As for her titles, she needs 4 for Bronze Standard, 3 for Bronze Gamblers, 4 for Bronze Jumpers. That'll make us all-Bronze (except Silver in Tournament). But still a long way from Bronze Lifetime Achievement: That's 150 legs total in Masters, P3, and Grand Prix, and she's currently at 85. Then it's a long haul--10 more legs in each of the 5 classes--to get to Silver in each, and a whopping 250 Qs total for LAA Silver. Maybe we'll do it before she retires. Our Q percentage has been hovering around 50%, but that's still not a lot, really; let's say 14 USDAA trials a year, 8 runs a weekend, 50% Q rate--it'll be another 2 years just to get to LAA Bronze. But--

Lord, won't you buy me an LAA Gold?
My friends all have platinum, or so I've been told.
Worked hard on my contacts, we've got them down cold,
So Lord, won't you buy me an LAA Gold?

I think it's bedtime.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rear Crosses A-B-C

SUMMARY: Wendy Pape's ABC method of rear crosses

Both Wendy Pape and Mary Ellen Barry got a a chance to teach us more about how to handle rear crosses, and it's all about the direction of your hips. (In fact, LOTS of stuff this weekend was about the direction of your hips, and I'm sure there are plenty of punchlines for that if one cared to use them.)

I've known for a long time that your goal as a handler is to try to make your own most efficient path through a course. So, for example, in the following diagram, your line should be essentially a straight line down the center of the jumps, not veering left or right to push or pull the dog. But how best to indicate the dog's direction?

The basic steps are these:
  1. Face your hips towards the far side of the desired obstacle (point "A") until the dog decides to take the obstacle. ("Deciding" being that the dog is looking at it and starting to head that way.)
  2. Then direct your hips to the side of the obstacle closest to you (point "B")--on jumps, that would be the upright that the dog would wrap around--until the dog commits to the obstacle. ("Commit" being the point at which there is nothing you can do to prevent the dog from taking the obstacle--varies by dog and by obstacle type.)
  3. Then direct your hips at the far side of the next obstacle (point "C"). If you're doing a double rear cross as in this example, the "C" of the first cross becomes the "A" of the next cross.

During this time, you never stop moving forward, AND you probably don't use your arms; the signal for a rear cross should be that you are crossing behind the dog (and the direction of your hips.)

The other thing to note is that you should never turn your hips beyond A, because that starts to get into the range of the dog following you past the jump, not taking the jump.

This made a lot of sense and seemed to work very well, but needs some practice to keep it smooth. I apparently tend to jerk myself from one direction to the next, and although it needs to be quick, it also needs to be a smooth transition as you keep running forward. Something for *me* to practice.

Added info (April 26, 3:30 p.m. PDT): I remembered the discussion as being about pointing your hips. Now, having discussed it with a couple of other camp attendees, they have it variously as "point your shoulders" and "imagine a laser beam coming straight out of your navel--point that." So now you know.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's All About the Shirt

SUMMARY: At Nationals, clothing makes the agility handler!

OK, it's all very well and good to talk about fixing up-contacts on dogwalks, about driving driving driving through practice snooker courses, attending Nationals practices and reviewing courses from previous years, but, really, let's admit it, Nationals is all about having the right matching outfit with the rest of your 3-dog team (assuming that you're so lucky as to have qualified in team).

My official palette. Photo colors are not the best reproductions. (Click on image for larger version.)
Tika and Skeeter have moms who are fair-skinned and fair-haired, but Brenn's handler is fair-skinned but dark-haired, and soooooo what do we do about colors? (I have not, however, edged in close enough to perform a detailed exam to determine what the basic underlying skin color is--for example, mine is vaguely yellowish compared to some people's much pinker tone). So what looks good on one might not look good on another. How to choose?

We decided early on that we wanted WendyWear for our shirts. Wendy Bruce is our local tie-dye guru. Her shirts are quite popular. We put in our order early, and decided on polos rather than t-shirts (150 t-shirts for me is quite enough, thanks, and I'll be getting another one for simply attending nationals anyway). My colors are basically "summer" colors; Carlene's (Brenn's mom) are basically winters. Of course--there are various types of winters-- and, as I suggested above, a lot goes into determining someone's palette.

I had my colors picked out individually for me by a professional in a long session in a brightly-lit room, but there are plenty of places where you can see the basic color sets for various "seasons" of coloring; for example:

So we had some polite but "um, I dunno about that" sort of color discussions, then turned it over to Wendy to make the ultimate choice, with the main principle being "subtle but not too subtle". (It's always nice to abrogate responsibility.)

Last year's team (Run-TMZ); shirts also by Wendy. And so were my previous year's team shirts. Coincidence? I think not!

Now Wendy says that the coloring is done but they're subtle enough that they probably ought to have a team name or logo or similar on them. (Commonly done on team shirts--photos of your dogs, team name, dogs names, clever mottos, and so on--but sometimes the shirts just match nicely, as in my team from last year.) But what to put? Our team name is Three's A Charm. We've sent a note back to Wendy saying, "OK, do something."

Isn't it nice to have a fashion designer one can trust for those really important social affairs, in case Joan Rivers shows up?

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, October 06, 2006

Casey and Char

SUMMARY: The ex-housemates visit

Casey and Char

My previous housemates, Casey and Char (whose name I never mentioned in the blog because, after all, it's about dogs, not people) came up from L.A. with her boyfriend to visit two weekends ago. Remember Casey? The Little Black Dog I wanted to do agility with until they hurriedly left town in the middle of the night one night? (OK, I made up that last part.) Casey pretty much ignored all my dogs--although he lived with Tika and Jake for 15 months and used to love playing with Tika, this time he had a quest: find every twig and shrub in the yard and mark them, because somehow in the year and a half during his absence they had ceased to carry his signature scent any more. The human contingent of us went out for a lovely breakfast while he carried out his mission. I must say that, when I went to the Guard-The-House-Goodie cabinet for the perquisite treats for my dogs before leaving, Casey expectantly lined right up with the rest of them like he'd never been gone.

Char sent me this self-portrait afterwards, and reports that Casey now also turns Left (reliably) and Right (not so reliably) on command, something they picked up from living in an agility household for so long. Such a clever little guy. He'd-a been a lovely agility beast. Such a clever dog-mom. She'd-a been a lovely agility handler.


Complete list of labels

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Pretty Good Weekend for Tika

SUMMARY: Tika Qed 6 for 8 and earned 2 new titles

By some measures, Tika and I had one of the best USDAA weekends I've ever had with any dog. She earned Qualifying scores in 6 out of 8 qualifying runs, which is average for CPE but exceptional for us in USDAA. In my career, I've competed in about 80 USDAA weekends. Of those 80, here are the times one of my dogs has earned 75% or more qualifying scores in a weekend:
  • Sept 2000, Jake, 6/8

  • Aug 2002, Jake, 4/5 (but that was only 5 runs. Actually this was pretty good considering that we had traveled to L.A. and I ended up so sick from a cold that suddenly got worse AND Remington was so sick (this was before we figured out he had cancer) that I ended up scratching almost all of my runs for the weekend. But it was simultaneously actually pretty bad because the whole reason we were going south for USDAAs was because I wanted that last Gamble for Jake's championship (and that dang Standard for Remington's MAD)--and guess which run of the 5 was the one Jake didn't get.

  • March 2003, Jake, 4/5 (odd for there to be only 5 runs. Maybe I scratched him from some?)

  • May, 2003, Jake, 7/9 (by far my best Masters-level percentage. But that was also about the time that Jake started turning oddly on course from time to time, too, and we eventually figured out he was going deaf, which made it hard for him to respond to me)

  • April 2004, Tika, 7/9 (but this was at the intermediate ("Advanced") level, not masters level, and my dogs have always done much better when the courses were easier. Duh.

  • Aug 2004, Tika, 6/8 (also at Advanced level)

And...that's it! So I should be very happy.

OK, in fact, I am very happy. We had some truly lovely runs, and of our 9 runs for the weekend, there was only one in which we had miscommunications or bobbles on course. All the other "failures" were knocked bars (and not all that many of those, really) or up contacts, with the exception of an obvious problem with Aframe contacts. And that latter is a training issue that I think I can work through. Again.

But my standards are high and my goals are challenging, so there's also a level of discouragement even with the successes. So, run by run:
  • Saturday Gamblers: Downside: In the opening, she flew--FLEW!--off the first Aframe contact, losing us 3 points. So I made her wait while I told her that I was surprised--SURPRISED!--that she could do such a thing. So, to follow up, I held her longer than usual on both the teeter contact the second Aframe contact, which she did hit and stick properly. As a result of all that waiting and holding, we missed finishing our 2nd set of weaves by 2 poles, costing us another 5 points. Upside: Before we ran, only about 10-15% of the 60 dogs before us had gotten the gamble. Here's the gamble:

    I was convinced that we weren't going to get it for one of two reasons: (1) Historically we've had a hard time pushing out to an obstacle when there's a big juicy obstacle between me and her and the place I want her to go. (2) As a result of (1), for the last week we've been working and working on getting her to push out past a juicy obstacle--in a very similar sequence to this gamble but TO THE OTHER END OF THE TUNNEL:

    So I figured she'd either miss it entirely by coming in to me (which many dogs did) or go out to the far end of the tunnel (which quite a few dogs did). The first lovely thing was that she stopped--FAST!-- on the dogwalk contact even with me more than 10 feet away. The bad thing was that she stopped with her front legs swung around towards me. But I stepped in, said "through!"--and she went! And I knew I'd have to call her like crazy to make it over jump #3, so I did, and she baaaarely got back in line for the jump, and made the gamble!

    Downside: Turns out that in our jump height, 29% of the dogs eventually got it, so it wasn't QUITE as big a deal (although only 20% of 123 overall) and with most of the competitive dogs earning opening points that were 5 to 10 points more than ours, those 8 missing points kept us from placing. Upside: But that was our 5th Master Gamblers, finishing our Master Gambler title and finishing THAT requirement towards our ADCH. So I'm pleased with the gamble, pleased to have finished the GM.

  • Steeplechase Round 1: Upside: As reported yesterday, we made it to round 2 and it was a smooth, no-bobble run. Downside: She sure hit that bar loud enough to rattle it, and then there was the Aframe she didn't stick.

  • Saturday Standard: OK, that was a messy run on a hard course.
  • Pairs Relay: The downside is that she didn't even try to stick that dang Aframe again, so between making her wait after that and the long leadout I took as the 2nd dog, we weren't fast enough to place. But the upside is that we had no actual faults and no handling bobbles at all AND she kept her bars up, and since our partner was clean, we finished our Relay Championship, which is very cool.

  • Sunday Standard: Upside: No handling bobbles AND kept her bars up AND no actual faults, so we qualified--and managed to place 6th on another tough course. Downside: Dang nonsticking contacts. We started running and she didn't stick her dogwalk (although she very cleanly got the up contact, yay.) so I held her a moment. Then as we rounded the curve to the Aframe, the timer and everyone started yelling Stop! Stop! (which usually means there's a timer malfunction) so I just raced her up the aframe, which she didn't stick, so I made her lie down and wait while we waited for them to figure out their timing issues. Ha! thought I, A training bonus! So we went back to the beginning, started over, and she didn't stick her dogwalk and she didn't stick her Aframe--so I made her wait after both-- and she didn't stick her teeter, which was really bad because I needed to do a front cross and didn't need her grabbing my feet in the process, so I made her lie down, WALKED across in front of her, and then continued. Although we Qed and were actually 6 seconds under time, we were 11!! seconds behind the dog who placed just ahead of us. There's really no reason we shouldn't be getting course times closer to the fast dogs--except those dang contacts.

  • Snooker: Welllllll the upside is that I managed to wander off and not obssess too much about what the other dogs were doing even though we were only a few dogs from last. And, when we started, she did the very tricky and challenging opening that I picked for us to try to earn the Super-Q. But the downside was that, to Super-Q on this course, you had to do a bunch of the 6-point obstacles, which was a tough sequence of 2 jumps, and if you knocked one of the bars in the opening that basically put you out of super-Q contention. Soooooo we knocked the first bar on our first 6-pointer, and it was all over. Sigh.

  • Grand Prix: The only reason I enter extraneous Grand Prixs is to try to earn a fancy placement ribbon and on the very very faint hope that we could win and earn a bye for the nationals first round. And, incidentally, I'd like just once in her life to earn a GP Q with NO FAULTS! (Every one of her 12 before, except the first, has had a 5-point fault.) So, on this course, I decided to go for broke. Upside:I got her as revved up as I could think to do beforehand and I just pushed pushed pushed, even releasing her from her contacts instantly (which interestingly she was taking the time to hit bottom and look at me--! but she was hitting bottom fast). It was a tough course, too, and it felt so smooth and lovely and she was running and we had no bobbles or wide turns and she kept all her bars up and it was a lot of fun because I was running all out and pushing my handling limits. Downside: That damned dogwalk up contact! Missed it again! Those dang 5-point faults! So we were the 8th fastest dog of the 44 running--but with other people's faults, if she had run clean, she'd have been 3rd! But she wasn't. She still placed 10th, which is for a change barely in the Top-Ten-Pointers, but no ribbon. So I'm disappointed, even though it was a fun run and I was very happy with her, too.

  • Steeplechase round 2: The excitement of simply being able to ever even hope for qualifying to round 2 is starting to wear off, because now this is our 5th time. So now I'm in it to finish in the money, and hopefully more than just $1.95 for 7th place. There are 14 dogs. We were 5th fastest in Round 1, but remember I held that Aframe. BUT--now there are TWO aframes and I have to push the release to hope of being near the top, and the course is so fast and flowing that I tell her before we go into the ring, "OK, Tika, this course is all about keeping your bars up. Not handling, not even contacts, it's about bars." Upside: So once again I rev her up like crazy (this exhausts me--I'm not a revving up kind of person really). And she's rarin' to go even more than usual. She holds her startline stay (actually did all weekend I believe) until I released her, kept up her first 2 bars which was promising, and we were off and flying. Once again I pushed my handling limits and I pushed her and man she hit those Aframe down contacts fast and perfectly and I released her immediately as I flew by her (and even got a woof out of her, which I get only in the most thrilling moments of Tika's agility life), and then we made the tough entrance into the serpentine, and all I had to do was a 5-jump loop and we'd be done. Downside: And a bar comes down. And I'm pretty sure it's me again, because I was looking ahead and feeling relief and it was too early for that. Sure enough, it was all about her bars, because more than half of the dogs ran clean on this course. So we finished 8th overall, with the money going down only to 7th. Upside: Man, it was fun! And smooth! And her turns were tight and beautiful and her contacts were lovely and I wish all our runs could be like this! (Except that, as witnessed by the rest of the weekend, if I keep pushing the release on the contacts, eventually she starts flying off and we lose faults for that.) And in fact she was the 4th fastest dog of all 14, which is an achievement in this crowd!
  • So by the time Jumpers rolled around at the end of the day, I'm getting discouraged. Can't place NICELY in standard, can't get a clean run in Grand Prix, can't keep my bars up in snooker and steeplechase where it really counts. How can I possibly hope to keep my bars up for that Jumpers course, when we've knocked so many bars in so many Jumpers courses before?

  • Jumpers: So I don't rev her up. I just want to run calmly and smoothly, not take my eyes off her, not call her or change direction suddenly as she's over a jump, manage my timing all the way along, not get cocky before the end of the course. And she runs. And everything clicks. She's not superfast, but she is joyfully smooth. I watched so many dogs before us struggle to make the turns that she makes easily, or run wide out to make a sharp turn, where she hugs the corners. And we're at the end, and all the bars stayed up. Upside: We got a Jumpers leg! And it was a pretty one, too, no bobbles of any kind! And we're in 2nd place after about 8 dogs (with only 21 to go...) In fact, after 20 of the dogs have run, I'm delighted to discover that we're still in 4th place and we've even beat Tala (Boost's superfast mom) by a quarter of a second, although I didn't see their run so I don't know whether they had bobbles). In fact, we're only a second behind first-place Luz, one of the top dogs in the country, and I'm very happy with that. But there's one more dog to run, and she won't run for another hour. That's Spirit. Downside: Spirit runs a gorgeous run that I can tell without even seeing the times has probably taken over 1st place. In fact, she beat Tika's time by just over 5--FIVE!-- seconds, bringing me rapidly down to earth. Upside: Still, we placed 5th for a ribbon AND a couple more of those elusive and therefore useless (for us) Top-Ten Points. And it was smooth all the way through.

So, overall for the weekend, I'm happy and had some great runs that I'm still reliving. I also have more goals, more things to work on, more improvements to make. Sigh. And next weekend, Boost debuts.


Complete list of labels

Monday, June 26, 2006

Team Saturday and Sunday

SUMMARY: An emotional rollercoast. I really REALLY want this Q, and it takes SO much effort and money to get one, and opportunities are SO limited--

Team was a real emotional rollercoaster.

Scoring is interesting:
*For Jumpers, Standard, and Relay, each dog starts with a certain number of points--100 points per dog in Jumpers, 130 in Standard, 150 in Relay. You subtract points for how much time you use and how many faults you have. If you E (offcourse), you lose all your points.
*For Snooker and Gamblers, they multiply your earned points by some factor to make the top dogs roughly equivalent to 100-150 points.
*Your standing is determining by adding all your team's points. At least the top 50% of the teams (plus however many are within 75% of the 3 top teams) qualify for the nationals.
*Example: You all run very fast and clean in Standard, each taking about 35 seconds. That's a total of 285 for Standard--390 (130 each starting points) minus 105 (35 seconds each).
*Another example: The gamblers factor is 1.5, one of your dogs earns 62 points (so that's 93 with the factor), one of your dogs misses the gamble but still earns 40 points in the opening (so that's 60) and one of your dogs is really slow, gets only 20 points in the opening, and misses the gamble, that's 30 points, for a total of 183 for your team.

So it's all about NOT Eing in Standard, Jumpers, and Relay, and about NOT crapping out entirely in Gamblers and Snooker (where it's possible to earn a 0-point run--have done it!).

Our team (Brenn, Tika, Skeeter) was sort of desperate. We've already tried twice to Q--Skeeter did it with another team, so they're good for nationals, but Brenn and I haven't had the best of luck, and this is just about our last chance to try. (One more try in September but that's the last minute and otherwise I think there's one or two chances in southern Cal, but who wants to drive that far?) And then Skeeter started throwing up Friday night. Argh.

But Skeeter was looking better and eating on Saturday morning, so she didn't have to be scratched from the trial. Still, she's not a fast dog--although reliable, which is nice--and it was HOT HOT HOT so who knows how she'd run.

An experiment--surround the crates with the X-pen and let the dogs decide whether to lie on the cool grass or in their crates. They seemed very confused by the whole thing and ended up resting in their crates most of the weekend, coming out into the open area only when I was there.


Jumpers was the first Team event on Saturday, and we all held our breaths as each of us ran our dogs--Skeeter was really slow but clean (41.69 seconds). Tika was really fast (29.92 seconds), knocked a bar (5 faults), but stayed on course. And Brenn was fast and clean (31.07 seconds). Wahoo! Plenty of other dogs had faults or in fact had offcourses, and we were excited to see that we were in 5th place overall, of 29 teams. Since at least 15 would qualify, that gave us a very good starting position.


Next up was Gamblers. The gamble looked tricky at first, but then it appeared that if you could line your dog up straight at the gamble, they'd go in a straight line across 2 jumps and into a tunnel and the rest was a gimmee. Plus you could either stay outside the line and get a 20-point gamble or just run the dog in and get 10 points for the gamble. I decided that I knew exactly how to line Tika up and would try for staying outside the line, and if she hesitated, I'd run in and push her into the tunnel.

So first Brenn ran. They couldn't get any of their contacts in the opening, so earned only 28 opening points, but lined up in the same line I was planning for Tika and did the 20-point gamble perfectly, for a total of 48 points. Then Skeeter ran--not fast, again, but Mary picked a nice smooth flowing course for her that earned 28 opening points but did only the 10-point gamble, for a total of 38--(huh, interesting, they scored them as having 48 points? They must've given credit for a 20-point gamble, or else I wrote it down wrong...)

Anyway, Tika's opening was flawless and although the whistle blew as we were exiting our last tunnel so we didn't get 3 points for that, we had 37 opening points and were perfectly lined up for the gamble and she didn't hesitate at all, ran fast as light across the first two jumps and then veered slightly right, completely avoiding the tunnel and over the wrong jump, and I never had a chance to get in and try to push her into the tunnel, so we got NO points for the gamble and I was really upset with myself for--well, I don't know what for, because I'm not entirely sure what I could've done differently. About 20 things are possible, but without my videocamera (waiting for the repair shop to call & tell me it's ready), I'll never know.

However, turns out there were a lot of really fast dogs with between 35 and 40 opening points who *also* didn't get the gamble, so it didn't hurt us as badly as it might have.

Interestingly, our team's scores were good enough to place us 12th in the Gamblers class--still respectable, and it merely dropped us one place, to 6th overall when combined with Jumpers! Ah, the joys of cumulative scores.


The Team Standard class was worth 130 points each. So it was all about NOT ELIMINATING! Which does put pressure on you in some ways, but also it means that (a)it's OK to be slow, (b) it's OK to knock bars (5 points each), (c) it's OK to earn refusals (2 points each), (c) it's OK to pop contacts (5 points each)--not that you'd TRY to do it, but you can relax even if you do it because it's not going to kill you like an offcourse and losing 130 points right off.

Once again, we watched each other with bated breath. Brenn, as usual, was fast, but also as in the gamble missed a down contact, for a total score of 42.78; Tika was 2 seconds faster than Brenn and CLEAN! Yay! No bars! for a score of 35.74, and Skeeter was SLOW SLOW SLOW and it was REALLY HOT for a clean run but a time of 47.40. Still--that's a whole lot better than the 130 that you'd lose if you were offcourse.

And, indeed, tons of people were going off course on that course. Wahoo! We ended up the day in 3rd place of 29 teams--a healthy, healthy place to be, but we couldn't afford to get cocky: we were only about 100 points above the 15th-place team, so we could easily plummet to within non-Qing range with just one of us hosing our remaining 6 total runs, and we'd be history with 2 hosed runs.

Sunset over the agility field
The canopy-tent. A comfy place to spend the night

Saturday Evening

A nice potluck and conversation. Watched the sun set (late! 8:30ish this time of year) and chatted cheerfully with friends. In 3rd place in team AND qualified for Round 2 of Steeplechase. I was feelin' pretty good--but headachy AGAIN with all the heat for the day. Wondering whether I had brought enough drinks.

Both nights, I simply surrounded my canopy with shade fabric, borrowed a friend's xpen and, combined with mine, surrounded the inside aread to keep the dogs in, laid out my sleeping gear inside with the dogs, and slept there. I think it was much cooler, much more comfortable, and much less work than sleeping in the van would've been.

Snooker on Sunday

None of us did great in Snooker but none of us totally bombed. Tika knocked a red bar in the opening and got away from me after #6 in the closing, so we ended up with only 34 points out of a most-likely-maximum of 51, which *should've* been doable. Skeeter started out just walking but then broke into a reasonably fast trot; did a much lower-pointn opening but, nice consistent team that they are, got all the way through the closing for 35 points. And Brenn did the same course as ours, got through the opening, but knocked a bar on #4 in the closing, which ended her run, so they had only 25 points. Still--there were a notable number of dogs with 10 or fewer points, so once again, it wasn't stellar (we were 17th overall in Snooker out of 29 teams) but we're consistently NOT BAD enough that it dropped us from 3rd to 5th overall after the 4 individual events.

Nothing left but the Relay. Only 10 obstacles each, but 150 points lost for a single offcourse. And there was one spot on the course--a difficult turn in the opening sequence to then avoid a challenging tunnel-Aframe discrimination test. Yikes. But I was pretty sure Tika could handle it, and then although I had to be careful in a couple of places on the course, ONCE AGAIN I thought we could handle it easily.

Although we knew that at least 15 teams would Q, there was less than 150 points between us and the 15th-place team, so we knew that if we had just one E in the relay (at a cost of 150 pts) and everyone else ran clean, we'd be history.

Tika ran 3rd. Brenn had a scary moment on the Aframe-tunnel thing, but then did it fine--had a bobble on something that cost a 2-ponit refusal and was scary for another moment-- and then finished the course nicely. Then skeeter was clean but not fast, and then Tika and I got through the aframe without blinking and then--4 obstacles from the end--not sure what I did but she went offcourse. ArghhhhhhhH!!!!!!! We were the 3rd team to run, and the ones before us hadn't gone off course, and the next couple after us didn't go off course, and I was ready to crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself for the next 3 months, because I just didn't hear that many people Eing as time went by--although they were running in the far field and I was tearing down our setup so it would've been hard to hear the judge's short, light whistle toots.

One partner asked me, "one E couldn't drop us more than 10 places, could it?" and I said that it all depended on who else Eed. If every other team ran clean, yes it certainly could drop us more than 10 places. All we could do was wait, but I was convinced there was no way we were going to Q, once again leaving us hanging until the next opportunity for Team. That's the bad thing about qualifying based on percentages--you're HOPING for other people to fail, which I don't like at all. I'd much rather enjoy seeing some really nice runs. And I was SO angry with myself.

Then Gwen, whose x-pen I had borrowed overnight, came by looking dejected, too, because although her dog Savannah & partner Annie had run brilliantly all weekend, their third partner had Eed in *everything*, including the relay, so they knew there was no way they'd Q with *three* Es (I presume jmpers, std, and relay, not sure about snooker or gamblers, although I think they said she didn't get the gamble, either).

Then they posted the results.

Turns out that all except 8 of 29 teams Eed at least one of their team members, including a lot of the top teams. And with the percentage caluclation, actually 18 teams Qed. Much to my surprise and great relief, our stupid off course dropped our team to only 11th, so we were easily in--and savannah and annie's team managed to still place 18th and Q for the Nationals! WHich goes to show you how REALLY brilliantly savannah and annie ran.

I had already decided to blow off GP--I have a billion GP Qs and I'd been fighting a headache off repeatedly since Friday night (poor head doesn't handle heat well--I try hats, no hats, drink cold fluids, put cold wet cloths on my neck, anything, but bleahhhh--in fact I feel pretty crappy right now but I'm stalling going to bed so I don't end up waking up at 4 in the morning). AND I was going to have to wait for ALL the other teams to finish, and 26" ran LAST in GP.

Our haul for the weekend: Boring Snooker Q with 4th place, Team qualifying patch, check from Steeplechase for 3rd place.
Turns out, even as I pushed the packing up, what with getting lunch and celebrating with Carlene & Mary & everything, as I was leaving the driveway, they were running the 1st 26" dog, so I could've walked the course & run it & it probably would've delayed me less than an hour, but I was so glad to be on the road and so glad to be home and SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad to have finally Qed in team! So:

- That's our last need for 2006 nationals (already had steeplechase & 2 Grand Prix)
- That was our Tournament Master title--at last! Woooo hoooo!
- Dare I say it--now we need only one more team Q and that'll be our Tournament Bronze! Bay Team Labor Day, here we come...


Complete list of labels