Sunday, October 30, 2005

Nationals are A-Comin'

In fewer than 10 days I'll be leaving for the USDAA Nationals. Scary thought. I'm not ready! We haven't fixed Tika's bar knocking! We haven't fixed her up contacts on the dogwalk! We haven't fixed her slow down contacts! Arghhhhhhh!

I finally got the dogwalk set up in the yard again, for the first time since mid-July. It really does occupy a lot of space visually, not to mention physically. And there's still only one place in the yard where I can set it up where it's reasonably out of the way and also has a good run of about 25 feet (in the best case) to one end, anyway. Wish there were a way to vary its location and to be able to have a good run at both ends. But to do that, I'd have to get busy and rip out the old pond and waterfall, the 3rd shed, the patio, rebuild the patio, redo the sprinkler system...

Ehhhh, we're only talking time and money here. Which we know I have tons of.

Anyway--I'll be driving to Scottsdale with the same friend who drove with me last year. It's always nice to find a compatible traveling companion. This year she'll be bringing along her puppy, Elliot, a French Bulldog. About the same age as The Booster.

It looks like it could be an exhausting week because it's so long. Add a 12-hour drive at the beginning and at the end of the 5 days in Scottsdale. First competition class is on Wednesday afternoon. It's not one of the three national championship events, just a for-fun thing. Now I'm regretting having signed up for it, because we need to be there to register Wednesday morning between 10 and noon, then walk the course sometime over the next hour, then run it late afternoon. Meanwhile, all the clever people who realized that it would be a long, exhausting week didn't sign up for the Wednesday class and can tootle in at their whim most anytime Wednesday afternoon to register, then take the rest of the day to relax, set up their crating area, go to the hotel and get settled in, and so on, before the awards dinner Wednesday evening.

Top Ten Award? I'm excited because I believe that Jake will be getting a top-10 award for the year ending August 2004 (?maybe a little later). For Top Ten, you earn points based on your placement and on how many dogs you were competing against. So if you're the only dog in your height class, a first place is worth nothing, even if you actually performed as well as or better than dogs in other height classes who placed first. But it's worth a ton of points if there were 50 other dogs in your height class.

I'm also a little aprehensive because maybe I misinterpreted the whole report and we won't be getting a Top Ten award. I doubt that I'll ever manage a top 10 again. Not only do you have to do very well, but you also have to compete a lot. Jake benefitted from being one of the first experienced Champion USDAA dogs to move into the new Performance program from the regular program. Most dogs at the time were older dogs (as was Jake) but without as much experienc, dogs who couldn't make time on regular courses, dogs who couldn't jump as high as regular dogs. So we were able to place, even take first, quite regularly in our Performance classes.

I'm not even sure that all trials all over the country were required to offer Performance classes at first. In any event, it wasn't heavily participated in and it felt somewhat like a demotion, like you were conceding that you needed to compete against second-class dogs. In truth, there were a few other dogs like Jake, excellent dogs who were getting older but still performed at the top level although they might have trouble getting over the full-height jumps. So there were enough dogs for our placements to count, but not enough top-level dogs to keep us from often placing first, second, third...

Even so, there were few enough dogs competing in Performance in our area that Jake was up near the top in only one of four categories. For example, he actually performed much better in his Snooker classes on an absolute scale than he did in his Jumpers classes, but not as many Performance dogs entered the Snooker classes, so his placements didn't count as much.

Now, however, it's different. People are more used to having the Performance class around. More top-level dogs are still eager to compete and able to do so, but usually it's an issue (as for Jake) where jumping 6" lower allows them to still run and jump full speed without aggravating initial signs of arthritis. So Jake has slowed down some--not all the time, although sometimes he's noticably slower--but now there are very many much faster dogs competing against him, and we're lucky to place at all. And because they're top-level handlers who spend a lot of time competing, they're going to a lot more trials than I'll ever be able to manage.

So even if Tika starts getting consistently better and placing more often, we're just not going to be going to enough trials to get her into the Top Ten ever, I don't think. So this would be a real treat for me. If it is indeed a real treat.

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