Monday, March 29, 2004

Little Black Casey Dog

Casey-the-housemate's-dog is a funny little guy. I've never had a dog who was anything other than fanatical about the existence of food and his/her right to consume it. I've had friends whose dogs were more philosophical about eating and occasionally preferred pondering food's place in the universe to actually ingesting it. But this is the first one in my household.

He ate fine the first 4 months or so after moving in, even though he had always free fed and now he was limited to what he could eat at mealtime with my dogs (otherwise my less philosophical dogs would consume his share while he pondered). But in the last month or so he has taken to downright rejecting his food at mealtime. Sometimes he skips a meal entirely; sometimes he skips a day of eating entirely. He must be getting food from somewhere, though, because he's maintaining his weight. Housemate says that for the most part he's not getting extra treats or supplements. He does have a little tiny digestive system, though, so in theory it wouldn't take much at all to fill it up. But it is odd that all of a sudden his habits have changed.
Casey too weak from hunger to stand up during breakfast

I don't know him well enough to know whether his attitude or energy level have changed, but housemate notices nothing particularly amiss. But at mealtime, when I ask him to sit for his bowl, he skitters off and hides in a corner. I've taken to insisting that he come out and sit whether he wants to eat or not (I think that "come" and "sit" shouldn't depend on whether he wants to eat--I'm such a tyrant that way) and then just praising him, putting the bowl down, releasing him, petting him and playing with him a little and letting him eat or not until my dogs are done, then I pick up his bowl if he's still not interested.

I've gotten him to eat a few times by subterfuge--I pick up some morsels and pretend to munch and slurp happily and noisily upon them. He then wants the ones I'm eating, which I give him, then he continues with what's in his bowl. But this doesn't always work. A couple of times I've gotten him to eat by having him do some things on command and giving him goodies for it, then presenting the meal (like Remington, who always wanted things to fit the pattern--if he hadn't had a good play or work session with me, it was sometimes iffy whether he felt that he deserved the meal). Or maybe Casey just wants a nice appetizer.

A couple or three times I've just slid the bowl right up to his face while he's lying there getting petted, and then he eats lying down (not the way he usually eats). He's probably so weak from hunger that he can barely stand up and the thought of having to stand up and lean his head allllll the way dowwwwwwn to that bowl to pick up each piece of food and chew each individually (which is what he does) is JUST too much to bear. Poooooooor little dog.

Agility (not) wannabe: But, hey, today right before breakfast he ran next to me over a 16" jump and then about 10 feet to go through a curved 20' tunnel! This is major progress; usually he goes under 16" jumps; he often goes around jumps given half a chance, and I've hardly ever gotten him to do a jump-tunnel in sequence (more often have done tunn-jump in sequence if the jump is right in his path as he exits). This is pretty good, considering that I really don't work with him much and I don't use the techniques for ensuring his success and understanding that I'd be using with a dog I was really wanting to train--on leash and guiding him through sequences of obstacles. So I was quite delighted with him today.

Overall Weekend Results for Jake

Jake after a moderate workout in the yard

Moments of brilliance mixed with moments of dismal handler or dog failure.

I'm just about convinced he's losing his hearing. I really can't explain some of the things he does otherwise.

He Qed only 4 of 10 runs. But the dog who took high in trial at his level (with 9 1st places and one 2nd place) was knocked to 2nd place only once, and by guess who. We almost got him a 2nd time--Jake racked up 8 more points in Sunday's gamble opening, which is a *tremendous* difference--but we hosed on the gamble itself more than they did (they got 10 more points there, but in our case it was a matter of being too fast as much as anything--we arrived abou half a second too soon and I called him off the gamble just as the whistle blew and then I couldn't get the momentum up again, whereas they were way out of place and had to rush to get into the gamble so had the momentum but couldn't complete it in time). We competed directly against that dog only 5 of the 10 runs; one of Sunday's runs (the Standard) was a speed course rather than a handling course. We can beat Max on a handling course many times, but not when it's more dependent on speed. Jake is not as fast through the weaves and Max has lovely fast running contacts as well.

I totally hosed the Snooker run--didn't run the course I had planned for no apparent reason except brain failure and ended up in an awkward position where I couldn't get in front of him and he kept going and going, not responding to "Jake come jake come jake come etc etc etc" and took an offcourse.

But he was fast and happy all weekend and I didn't see any other physical reason why I should be considering retiring him.

Overall Weekend Results for Tika

Tika after a moderate workout in the yard
Another pretty good weekend at CPE. No missed contacts. No leaving the ring. Very focused. Very fast. Great weave entries. Stayed at the start line. Insisted on lying down at the start a couple of times; once I thought i finally had her in a sit but she lay down again after I had led out to the first jump, and she was so close to it that she pretty much crashed through it.

Out of 10 runs, counting that crashed one, she knocked one bar in each of 7 runs. Not always the first one, not always on a turn. Garrill said that on one fairly straight run I turned my head (and maybe shoulders) to look where I was going next just as she went over a jump and she knocked that one.

But some of the classes were strategy games where the knocked bar was just missed points, and some classes (as in NADAC std) you can get a half Q with a knocked bar, so she Qed 8 out of 10 classes, and took 1st or 2nd in 9 classes out of about 10-15 dogs--including 1st place in her first Standard run at Level 5 (highest you can go).

I'm very happy with her progress and performance and I got a lot of compliments on several of her runs.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Saturday at the Agility Park

Bay Team's CPE trial at Twin Creeks in Sunnyvale was today and continues tomorrow. Niether dog is going to get high in trial--again--but we did mostly kinda OK. Each dog had five runs today.

Tika: Pretty good stay at the start line, although in Colors she insisted on lying down (put her back in a Sit twice and she still lay down when I walked away), and then she was so close to the first jump that she just plain crashed through it. Contacts were lovely, although she's starting to leave them before I say "OK" again. I need to be more stubborn about that tomorrow. Didn't leave the ring or do anything else dumb like that. Need to be careful with her at the end of the run--looks like she's starting to grab at me (not my feet, either, but jumping up at me) with her mouth, which could be a very bad thing. But she's so good when she calms down, which she does pretty quickly--I can even leave the ring without her on a leash (if the leash isn't there at the moment) without worrying about her racing off or blowing me off when I call her back. Mostly she's looking for her treat bag, I think, so that keeps her focused. Had a lovely gamblers' run for 1st and Q, which moves her up to Level 4 in that tomorrow; snooker she knocked the first bar but this time I planned for it and had an alternative--unfortunately then she got ahead of me again & I couldn't push her out past the wrong obstacle at the end of the opening. Standard run she knocked a bar, but that was good for a 1/2 Q which moves her up to Level 5 (!) for tomorrow and beyond. Go figure, though--with crashing the bar in Colors, we're pretty much proving that we can't get even *one* leg at level 2 in that class! So she'll now be in--depending on the class--Level 2, 3, 4, and 5! Not many dogs with that much distribution. Her full house run was very nice, too, although she knocked a bar in the middle so I did an awkward make-up that cost us some points--but she was still one of the highest-scoring and also earned a Q.

Jake was a fairly good boy, excep that *he* knocked the first bar in snooker--and since he virtually never knocks bars, I didn't anticipate it and we were immediately offcourse. Dang! So much for earning all but one of the legs we need for our CATCH this weekend... I don't know why he knocked it, either. His gambler's opening was excellent but I bobbled getting him up the Aframe at the beginning of the gamble, and then he did the whole thing perfectly but over time. Full House was a very nice run for us and he took first and a Q, even against the Awesome Max who pretty much got Qs and 1sts all day (and is quite a bit younger than Jake, too), so I was pleased about that. And he did get the Colors run he needed to fill out the playlist for his CATCH, so at least we got one of them. And his standard run was very nice almost to the end when once again he took off in a beeline without noticing what I was doing and took an offcourse halfway across the field. I just don't know...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Saturday's Infamous Gamble

Here's the Masters gamble from Saturday, which only 4 out of 66 Masters dogs completely successfully. (I did not include all of the obstacles on the course; this is only the lower left portion of the course showing the approach to the gamble, the gamble, and nearby obstacles that affected the gamble or the approach.)

Saturday's masters gamble

Refresher on what a gamble is

A gambler's run has two parts:
  • In the opening, the handler invents a course around the field of obstacles, earning points for successfully completing obstacles. Each obstacle can be taken only twice for points. Jumps are worth one point; tunnels, tires, and 6-pole weaves have the same point value, which is higher than jumps; contact obstacles and 12-pole weaves have the same point value, which is higher than tunnels. Occasionally one obstacle is designated as having more points than any of the other obstacles, usually because it is a challenging obstacle in a challenging location. You need to collect a certain number of points to earn a qualifying score, so you necessarily do a simple or easy course (and usually the obstacle layout makes it challenging to design a course that flows well for the dog).
  • In the closing, the dog must complete a numbered sequence of 4 to 6 obstacles--called "the gamble"--without the handler crossing the gamble line (dashed line on diagram).

The two tricks to this are the distance handling in the gamble and the time limits. You have a certain number of seconds to complete the opening (between 25 and 40, judge's choice), at which point a whistle blows. From that point, you have another limited number of seconds (usually 13-16) in which to complete the gamble. This means that you have to plan an opening course that puts you in a good position to begin the gamble when the first whistle blows.

You can be penalized if the judge thinks you are lingering near the start of the gamble--this occurs when you have already used up your two-times-for-points execution of obstacles near the gamble and continue to take the obstacles, or if you and your dog just run around or pause near the gamble. So course planning and timing are critical.

Why this gamble was hard

Especially for gambles like this, where the dog must go straight out away from you, you must have an approach to the gamble that gives the dog enough momentum to carry out over the obstacles. Because dogs rely so much on your body language, if you or the dog are moving slowly or if you stop abruptly at the gamble line, the dog is likely to pull up and turn back towards you.

Several things contributed to the difficulty.
  • The dog's tendency is to turn toward the handler. So, to send a dog straight out over 2 jumps and then have him turn right, your strongest approach would be with you on the dog's right. The gamble line's angle on the right of the jumps, however, means that your approach on the right side is effectively cut off quite a ways before the first jump.
  • If you could get the dog beyond either of the two jumps on the lower left and then get yourself to the right side of those jumps, you might have a good approach going over either one of those jumps straight toward the gamble. But there's no good way to get the dog out there, and no easy way to get yourself to the far side.
  • About the only other choice is to send the dog out *over* the jump closest to the tunnel, crossing behind him to get to the other side, then wrapping the dog tightly around the lower right side of that jump and running him at the gamble--but you have very limited room to move forward and you could easily lose momentum. You could try the same wrap around the other jump, which would give you more distance in which to build momentum, but the jump closer to the tunnel would be in your path, causing you to veer into the dog's path, aligning the dog to go straight over #1 to #3.
  • There were not a lot of obstacles to make it easy to have an opening that ended near the gamble and allowed you to do two or 3 obstacles easily if you arrived early and still get yourself and your dog lined up appropriately when the whistle blew.
  • The gamble starts with a double jump, which is more imposing than a single.
  • Assuming that you get the dog over the 2nd jump, the angle of that jump compared to the first means that his stride is more likely to carry him to the left, even if you were on his right
  • Assuming that he moves to the right after #2, a dog's tendency is to continue in as much of a straight line as possible--so a dog that carries out over #2 ironically might have the momentum to approach the weaves, which is the first obstacle in the dog's line of sight.
  • A dog who is slowing down approaching #2 and makes a right turn around it will miss the teeter entrance, which is quite a way out from that jump.
  • Assuming that your dog gets onto the teeter, he has now slowed down to complete the teeter successfully. Again, the dog's tendency is to veer towards you, so if you're near the left side of that tunnel, you have to push the dog out past two very visible and tempting tunnel openings to #4.
  • Therefore you have an advantage if you can run past the tunnel and get up closer to #4 before the dog leaves the teeter. However, if you are very close to #1 while the dog is approaching #2, and if you turn around and start running around the tunnel before the dog has committed to #2, the dog will catch that motion in his wonderful peripheral vision and pull away from #2.
  • You really have to move to get past that tunnel *after* the dog has committed to #2 and looks like he's going to make the turn onto the teeter and before he leaves the teeter.

So--lots of dogs never had the momentum to get over #2. Several turned left after it. Several blasted through so fast that their momentum took them out to the weaves. Several pulled away from #2 when the handlers moved too soon. Several didn't make the wide turn to the teeter. Several got onto the teeter but ended up in the tunnel. And several did the gamble correctly but because their approach was timed badly were over time.

Best strategy?

Good question. Probably to get you and your dog somehow behind that jump closest to the tunnel, then bring the dog on your left side over that jump and run stright towards #1. But you have to be behind the dog before then, because if you're even with him or ahead of him and stop suddenly at the gamble line, your dog won't carry out. For example, I walked the course with an approach with Jake going over the leftmost jump towards the lower left corner, then me running like heck between those two jumps to get far beyond the jump near the tunnel, essentially doing a front cross across Jake's path and switching him to my left side to go over that jump and into the gamble. Instead, when the whistle blew, I sent him out over the correct jump, but then crossed *between* #1 and the jump near the tunnel, so that when Jake came towards me over that jump on my left side, I was already almost at the gamble line and had to stop abruptly, so that he pulled away from jump #2 and came back.

Ideally, you wouldn't have to run all the way in to #1, but would be able to send the dog in front of you over the lead-in jump then #1 and #2, with you slowing down and veering and turning slightly right near the left end of the tunnel to push the dog out to the teeter; then as the dog commits to the teeter, you wouldn't have far to run to get up behind the tunnel and push the dog over #4.

Jake Not Slow

I just watched a couple of videos of Jake's runs from this last weekend. He doesn't look slow, he looks like he's a racin' canine! But I'm moving slower with him than I am with Tika.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Out-of-town Agility--Where Do I Rest My Weary Head?

Going out of town for agility is rough. I try not to leave the middle latitudes of California. Even with that, I could do probably 25 or more trials a year (assuming that I could get into all of them before they filled), and that's even with us not doing AKC agility, which would add even more possibilities.

The Drive Sucks

If the site is closer than about one and a half hours, I drive. At 90 minutes for a trial where check-in starts at 6:30 and I have to get there in time to set up my stuff and walk and potty the dogs, that means I need to set the alarm for about 4 a.m. This is not a pleasant thing.

Even if it's 2 hours, I often drive out on Saturday morning rather than taking the day off Friday. Why does leaving on Friday entail taking the day off, you ask? Have you ever tried to get out of Silicon Valley on a Friday afternoon, especially if the weather is nice, anywhere between noon and 8 p.m.? Expect the drive to take as much as twice as long, with you sitting in ungodly miserable traffic trundling its way out along the mere 2 routes that take us over the hills to the rest of CA (over 680 to 580 or to 80; down 101 to 152 and over).

If I leave after 8 p.m., traffic isn't so bad (usually, unless there's been an accident), but I'll be driving in the dark the whole way so there's nothing to look at and I get eyestrain, and I for sure won't be in bed after pottying the dogs and settling in until well after 11 p.m.--and that's assuming that I stay in a hotel. If I'm planning on camping out, there's just no really good way to set up the tent in the dark (I have done it but I don't usually like the resulting location; half the time I drop something important in the dark and can't find it; gripe gripe gripe), and anyway that'll add at least another 45 minutes to my bed time.

Hotels are nice but--

Hotels are nice and there are usually some within 20-30 minutes, sometimes even across the street, that allow dogs. For hotels I have to pack a suitcase but not all the rest of my camping gear, which is nice. Can take a nice, hot, clean, private, leisurely shower Saturday night (if I'm not too exhausted to stand up that long), which is also nice. Most charge a pet fee of $5-10 each night for each dog, on top of the room charge, tax, tip, dealer prep, license, and so on. Figure $75 a night for an *inexpensive* hotel. That adds up really fast on a limited budget.

Camping is nice but--

Camping out is usually no more than $10 to $15 a night, but there are often no showers (or sometimes just ones I don't want to use), no picnic tables, lights, or other facilities.

Camping out is generally my preference when I stay overnight, not only because of the cost, but because I can set the alarm for 5 minutes before I have to be up and out of the tent with the dogs--no loading up the car or checking out or driving to the agility site. If I arrive on Saturday morning, then sometime before it gets dark Saturday night, I have to find time to lay out the ground cloth, set up and stake down the tent and then the rain fly, haul in the air mattress and inflate it, haul in the sheets and blankets (or sleeping bag) and pillow and get them set up, haul in the dog beds (and, if cold, extra dog blankets and sweaters), haul in my suitcase-- All of this in between trying to keep track of my dogs' runs and helping with the rings (expected of everyone). Or wait until the end of the day when I'm pretty much exhausted and *then* do all that.

Then on the 2nd day I need to find time to reverse all that, or, again, wait until the end of the day and then once again I'd be one of the last people to leave while I tear down all my stuff. Usually I can find time during the day in 5-minute intervals to slowly dismantle things and get them back into the car. That is, if the tenting area is close to the rings--at some sites, you can't camp near the rings, so the tent is a couple- or 5-minute walk away, which means that tearing it down in 5-minute intervals doesn't work.

I tell ya, having an event within an hour of home is a delight.

Rich, generous friends with their own portable habitation facilities

Many, many agility people eventually break down and buy vans, campers, trailers, or RVs so that they don't have to put up with having to drive offsite every night to a hotel or set up camp. Of course, if you think staying in a *hotel* is expensive, wait til you price these puppies.

There are some cute little pop-up trailer tents, designed for motorcycles to pull, that fit an air mattress on a double bed and have room for you to stash stuff like a tiny folding table, a small chair, long extension cords and lights, a portable potty chair. So you don't have to load/unload all that stuff in your minivan every trip. (Except the content of the potty chair.) And those are light enough that you can move them around yourself--no big hauling vehicles, no backing in to the trailer hitch or futzing to get it lined up before unhitching. Those guys are a mere multiple thousands of dollars, rather than multiple tens or hundreds of thousands.

The bigger ones it seems sometimes take more setup and tear down than tent camping. Maneuver 'em into place. Level them. Connect electrical and water and sewer (if you're lucky enough to have a site with sewer connections, which isn't usually the case where we're doing agility). Unfold your seat or table into a bed (depending on how big your unit is). Wash your dishes, clean the shower, sweep the floor, take the linen laundry into the house when you get home-- plus you're not supposed to drive over 55. Ha! I've seen them drive--

However, if you have a friend who has a trailer with a spare bed who doesn't mind sharing--well, then, there ya go.

The nice woman from whom I adopted Tika has her own trailer and enjoys having someone to share it with. She also has 4 dogs, and she and they get the queen-sized bed. I and my 2 dogs (was 3 for a while) get the somewhat-smaller-than-full-sized bed (I think--when I'm stretched full out, my head and toes are pretty much touching the walls). The feet of the beds are about 2 feet apart. But it's indoors, I can go potty in the middle of the night without having to get dressed & find a flashlight, it's pretty comfy actually.

Throw in a high-energy dog

Tika lived with this crew for 3 months before I got her, and had plenty of chances to sleep in that big comfy mass of warm-bloodedness. She also developed a heavy-duty relationship with Travis, the main Aussie man of the household (think 4 legs, not Dundee hat). She goes nuts when she sees him.

Sooooooooo we arrive at 11 p.m. on Friday night. I'm exhausted. Tessa, the numero uno canine in the trailer's regular family, lands on Tika and tells her what for. (Tessa is Jake's size. Tika submits plaintively and then we separate them and keep them away from each other.) Gina helps me make up the bed and we all retire for the night. Tika wants to go visit Travis. Travis wants Tika to come visit him. Tessa growls every time Tika lifts her head. Tika lifts her head every time Travis lifts his head, which is every time he thinks aobut Tika, which is about every 30 seconds. Tika stands up and thinks about jumping over to the other bed. Travis encourages her. Tessa growls. I grab Tika's rear leg and with great difficulty convince her to lie down.

Normally she's very good about settling in to bed, even in hotels. When she wants something, though, or isn't ready to settle, she lies with some part of her *on* me or crushes right up against me. Which means that every time she lifts her head (which is always abruptly, because Tika does nothing slowly or mellowly), I feel her whole body twitch. Which is every time Travis lifts his head, which is about every 30 seconds... I move her away from me. She stands up and wants to go visit Travis, who encourages her. Tessa growls, so Tika won't jump, but she moves around trying to figure out whether there's a spot she can jump from that doesn't put her on the same bed with Tessa but does put her on the same bed with Travis. I feel her moving around. I grab her hind leg.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

As the evening wears on, Tika actually settles in for periods of about 3 or 4 minutes, just enough for my woozy mind to slip towards slumber. Then she stands up, or turns around and lies back down with some part of her *on* me or crushed against me. Or tries to go to the other bed. Eventually settles in again. Just long enough for me to start to drift towards slumber. Then she stands up...

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

At some point, I think about 3 in the morning, I decided that perhaps Tika really did need to go potty before bed despite insisting that she didn't. So I get up, get dressed, get a flashlight, take the dogs out and walk them around. Both pee but nothing else. Back to bed. I'm exhausted and nearly in tears from frustration. Reminding myself--"Don't cry, you'll feel even worse. Remember, 'sleeplessness is the insomniac's friend because it builds sleep drive'." (From my insomnia counseling group.) Finally I do actually sleep, and then there's a huge to-do involving snarling and shrieking--Jake is hanging half off the bed and has one of the smaller dogs (on the floor) under attack. I suspect that the dog attempted to walk past the bed to get a drink, and since Jake was insisting on sleeping with his face hanging over the edge of the bed, he probably got bumped, and never being a pleasant man when awoken abruptly, he went off the deep end. Of the bed, too.

I separated the mess. Gina sat up and asked what was going on. I mumbled something about stupid dogs and we all lay down and went back to sleep. (In the morning, Gina said she didn't remember anything about any of that. Difference between people who have trouble sleeping and those who don't, I guess.) So I'm asleep, Tika curled up with her back towards my knees, Jake curled up with his back towards my face. Somewhere not long after that, Jake (in his sleep) rolls over onto his side and I wake up abruptly with a big hairy back sticking fur up my nose. I sit up abruptly. Tika jumps up and thinks about jumping onto the other bed. I attempt to move jake gently away from me, but he is mightly pissed off about that and jumps over onto the dining room seating, where he ends up spending the rest of the night.

Then we all settle in and get a really good, solid, 2 and a half, maybe even 3 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off.

So I look and felt my best all day Saturday. Neither dog got any qualifying runs all day. I wonder if there's a connection--? Nah--

Monday, March 22, 2004

Jake seems soooo slowwwwww

I've been thinking that Jake is really slowing down. Some runs he's just flying--and lately that seems to mean offcourses, so I don't get accurate course times to determine how many yards per second he's going. Sometimes he seems really slow--and often (like this weekend) this means that he pulls away from obstacles so that we have to go back and redo them, which *also* means that I don't get an accurate course time.

I've been tracking how fast my dogs ran their courses from the very beginning, but I didn't start writing down how many yards the courses were until just over 3 years ago, so I don't have data from Jake's first couple of years of agility. About 3 years ago was also about when we confirmed for sure that he had arthritis in his lower spine when he was in so much pain one week that I had to take him in to the vet for xrays.

However, in those three years, Jake's Jumpers courses have ranged pretty steadily between 4.5 and 5.5 yards per second, with a high of just over 6 yards per second. I'm looking at the jumpers times because there are no contact obstacles, tables, or weave poles to slow them down--it's just jumps and sometimes tunnels, all of which are fast obstacles.

That's pretty fast, you know--that's 13 to 17 feet per second! That's movin'! Nice to have 4 legs designed for running--

Anyway, I just ran Tika's specs, also. She's pretty steadily in the 5.5 to 6.5 range with a high just over 7 yards per second. Hmm, no wonder Jake seems slow--that's an additional 3 feet *per second* that she's covering compared to Jake. Of course I *know* she's fast on course and I have to really bust my buns to try to be in position when she's taking a series of jumps and tunnels. So maybe I'm just getting faster, too?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Lovely Lovely Tika Agility Girl

Hard to believe it's the same dog as last summer, or maybe even last fall.

This was two trials in a row with lovely contacts, lovely start-line stays while I led out, sometimes quite a ways, no leaving the course (well, once, briefly, 2 weeks ago), no biting my feet. This weekend she didn't get faulted on *any* of her dogwalk up contacts, which had been an ongoing problem (probably will continue to be, i'm guessing--I don't think we've really solved it, just gotten lucky). And she knocked only 1 bar all weekend.

Here's another go-figure moment: In the last 2 agility weekends, we've done 4 jumpers courses. In two of them, we were perfectly on course and had the fastest course times, but she knocked a bar in each. On the other 2 she's had offcourses but didn't knock a single bar.

We had a lovely gamblers run on Saturday but she blew past a jump in the gamble itself that I don't think she ever saw--several of the larger faster dogs did the same--and I think IMHO that the jump was much closer to the preceding tunnel than it should've been (only about 13 feet--I got out and measured it at the end--which is closer than the usual minimum of 15, and MUCH closer than it should've been especially for a novice course where the dog's in the tunnel and can't see the next obstacle). AND it was on the opposite side of the dogwalk down ramp, so I think they were probably looking at the ramp. But she did the harder part, send away and pull back, just beautifully.

course map for Saturday's novice gamble


Interestingly, they set up the "same" course in another ring (because we were running out of time and had an extra ring) and the tunnel and jump were aligned differently and had 3 or 4 more feet between them, and Tika ran it as a Standard course and had no problem at all. So I suspect it was laid out badly from how it should have been.

course map for Saturday's advanced standard (detail)


Both of her standard runs were lovely--no bars, no up contact faults, no off courses--but we got a Refusal fault in each of them on contacts! So this is something new... Nothing she did. The first one was a tunnel-under-Aframe-wrap-and-go-up-Aframe trick--which we had done in *exactly* the same situation in the preceding Gamblers course 2x in a row perfectly! Although the course was set up in a different ring, and I know that it was tweaked differently between the 2 rings, so I suspect that the tunnel didn't extend as far the second time, perhaps? For whatever reason, I apparently didn't let her come out far enough before turning her to push her up the Aframe and she missed the up.

tunnel under Aframe map


The second one was a very difficult opening to go up the dogwalk. Lots of dogs missed it. I'm still not sure how I could ever have gotten it. She tried to make the turn but ended up leaping *over* the ramp and then coming back for it and sort of missing it again--

course map for Sunday's advanced standard opening

I did consider running on her left, rather than her right, and flipping her away from me up the ramp, but I was concerned that if she got even a little ahead of me she'd pull to the left for an offcourse on that inconveniently located jump.

But she did do a gorgeous gambler's run on Sunday for 2nd place out of about 14 dogs and a very fine Snooker course for 1st.

She is so much fun to run, and she has so much fun on course, and now that she's much more confident about what her job is and what I'm going to be doing out there, there's so much less stress going onto the course.

Overall, Tika had only 2 Qs out of 8 runs, but she's looking so good out there.

Jake is Full of Agility Surprises

Another--um--interesting agility weekend with Jake.

We did USDAA agility in Madera--probably low 80s (that's farenheit) on Saturday, and me with only about 3 hours of sleep Friday night thanks to Tika not settling down (more later). I was pretty wiped.

Saturday Jake just did not seem to run all that fast. In his Jumpers run, he went charging into the first tunnel (a U-shape) and then... and then... didn't come out. And finally came out, walking, looking dazed. The club down there has a couple of teal tunnels with black insides, and turns out that dogs were crashing and burning, slipping and falling inside those tunnels all weekend. I don't know why some dogs were and others weren't, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened to Jake. When we got back to the same tunnel later in the run, he pulled away from the entrance after I had sent him to it (and lately he's been extremely hard to pull away from something when I *don't* want him to go in), so he had a Refusal fault, costing us a qualifying score.

Next day, also Jumpers course, he had to do 2 of those same tunnel (in a U-shape), and the second time approaching it, he *also* pulled off it after I had sent him in, then ended up going in the other end, for an off course and elimination. I don't know what the deal is--it's not like we haven't seen those teal/black tunnels before. It *does* make it very hard for the dog to see anything in the tunnel, so maybe if they're running straight in, thinking that it doesn't turn, they might be surprised and not adjust their footing correctly.

Saturday's Gamble I think I just panicked when the first whistle blew and didn't give him enough "mo" (forward momentum) to propel him straight out over 2 jumps. But only 4 dogs of all of the masters-level dogs got that gamble, so it was not an easy one anyway.

Saturday's and Sunday's standard (your basic numbered all-obstacle course) courses were off--he didn't even try to stick his contacts, and I'd be stopping, expecting him to stop, so he'd approach the next obstacle and then stop when he realized I wasn't coming, for a refusal again. And on Sunday's course, he just started doing his own course full-speed again with two instances of that odd kind of turning in a direction that seemed to make no sense that he's been doing so much of lately.

Then the last 2 runs of Sunday were another Gamble that I watched dog after dog after dog fail to get, and it had an Aframe in the gamble part, too, which he'd been flying off of all weekend--and he stuck with me trhough the opening and I didn't panic and he did the gamble beautifully, which was FINALLY the last leg he needed for his Accomplished Performance Dog title. Might not sound like much, but it's the Performance Dog equivalent of an agility Championship, but USDAA won't call it a Championship. Performance dogs jump 6" lower than regular-track dogs and also get a couple more seconds to complete their courses. It's designed either for veteran dogs or for dogs who for whatever reason can't compete at (or whose handlers don't want them to compete at) the regular levels. I moved Jake to Performance last year when he started showing more subtle signs of arthritis last year and occasionally going around thd 22" jumps.

course map for Saturday's novice gamble


Then, to top it off, we had a lovely Snooker run on a very unusual course. Even though I very badly handled the #5 and #6 obstacles (which were an awkward combination of a tunnel and 4 jumps), he still made it though #6 and partway through #7 in the closing (there are only 7 in the closing), earning him not only enough points for a Super-Q in Performance but, had he been competing with the regular-track dogs, it would've been good enough for a super-Q there, too. So I was very proud of him.

On top of being quite baffled by some of his earlier actions on other courses. Altogether, he had only 2 Qs out of 8 runs, which isn't going to get us into the top 200 any time soon, but it's better than none, and they weren't easy courses to get Qs on, and he *is* 12 1/3 years old, so I shouldn't be complaining.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Helter Skelter Thoughts

Remington: Made it through the weekend. Saturday morning I thought about him a lot. Today I cried quietly as I was walking the dogs around in the big, open, overgrown field and started thinking about the first day that we took Remington home and turned him loose in our big, overgrown field of a back yard.

Sprinkler Dog: On our morning walk a couple of days ago, it was quite a nice sunny day. Walked almost 2 miles. (Tika, as usual, probably walked quite a bit more with all the backing & forthing and having to turn and come back next to me.) As we neared home, we walked past all the new houses, and the little pop-up spray sprinklers were running. Tika ducked deliberately into the spray on each one. This for a dog who hates to be sprayed with a hose on a hot day.

Agility Tika: Tika stayed at the start line *all 8 runs* this weekend--didn't even stand up and have to be reminded to sit on any! And that after we fought it constantly (as usual) in class last week. Rachel came up with a different strategy near the end of class--she had someone sit in a chair next to Tika at the start line (while I led out) and pretend to be the timer, saying "go when ready," and then when Tika stood up, the person walked over and put her back into a sit. I wonder whether that's what did it--she saw people sitting there close to her in chairs like in class? Tika got *all* her contacts all weekend. On one run, she left the Aframe when I stepped in close to her and then stepped away again, so I put her back on it, whereupon she did the same thing--third time, she stuck it until I said OK. But that was the only contact glitch. And she did them all pretty fast! Knocked a lot of bars, though. Did get 2 Open-level gambles, to finish her title. Got 1.5 Standard legs, too. And she is *soooo* wired and excited about doing Jumpers runs! What a kick.

Agility Jake: Jake almost made it through the weekend without doing any of the weird inexplicable turns away from me that he's been doing lately, but in the final run, Jumpers, he managed to do it *twice*. I am just mightily puzzled. He was pretty fast most of the weekend, though--no signs of real slowing down or arthritis. Got 3 Standard legs and nothing else. His Mom mucked up his gamble entrances both times, and he was off course in Jumpers both times (quite unusual for him, actually).

Funniest animal video: I think I actually have a candidate to send in to the TV show. (Which, incidentally, I watched occasionally while on disability because of my back but not more than once or twice since then.) Involves Jake seeing his toy in a mirror. We'll see if I remember to package it up and send it along.

Friday, March 05, 2004

One Year

This is it. This is the one-year anniversary of the NADAC trial weekend when Remington died. It's Friday night. I and the three dogs went to bed early so we could get up early to drive to Elk Grove. By morning, I had only two dogs. I'm teary eyed; a little frightened in a superstitious way that I hate in myself; tied in knots.

It's hard to believe it has been an entire year. So much of it is still so fresh. I can still see Remington so clearly.

I am almost as much at a loss for words to frame my feelings and sense of loss as I was then.

We'll be getting up at 4 tomorrow morning to drive out there.