Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chris Zink's Puppy Training Rules of Thumb

Chris Zink is a vet who specializes in canine sports medicine and participates in dog agility with her dogs. To avoid the risk of injuries in young dogs and to avoid the development of problems that will appear later, she recommends the following:
  • Between 6 and 14 months (Boost is now 10): Can use angled contacts but not full-height Aframe. No weave training that requires bending the spine (well--ahem--that would be pretty much most weave training). Jumps no higher than elbow. No endurance training. Strength training including beg, crawl, back up, roll over, wave, tugging in moderation (ha!), running uphill.
  • After 14 months (jeez--that's half a year from now!): Work up to full-height Aframe, start weaves, gradually raise jumps, all to reach maximum height/angle/bending by 18 months (!). Strength training 3 to 4 times a week, including jump chutes (a line of jumps--we've been doing some short ones in short groups for a couple of months), backing up stairs (ack, we started this already a month ago), side-stepping. Endurance training; start with 3 20-minute walks per week in a trot.
  • After 2 years: Serious endurance training such as in a trot for several miles every other day.)

All of which means that I have to be PATIENT and not start my weaves until much much later. I know that that many experienced trainers have simply waited and then taught their dogs weaves in a period of about 2 weeks right before they begin competing, same thing with not going up to full-height jumps until then. In AKC, though, you can legally start competing at 12 months. Lots of people whom I know have felt that this was a bad idea from the start. CPE allows 15 months. In USDAA, not until 18 months, which is my tentative goal.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Weekend's Story

Thursday Evening, Thanksgiving

Well. Another agility weekend approaches. I'm scheduled to be in Elk Grove Friday and Saturday for a CPE trial. I'm tired. I'm full. I've spent more than an hour, as usual, loading the car and assembling and packing everything I'll need. I'm even more tired. I haven't attempted to clean up the kitchen from a little food preparation this morning. It's going to have to wait until Sunday. I need to get up at 4:00 Friday morning to get to Elk Grove by 6:30ish for a decent parking spot, and to set up my canopy and potty the dogs and get settled and all, to be ready for the first walkthrough at 7:30.

We've hardly seen any rain all year so far. The weather through autumn has been warm and dry; idyllic, pastoral, lovely, mild, perfect agility weather. But--now that I'm doing agility locally for the first time in over a month--it's scheduled to rain tomorrow. ("Chance of scattered showers" in Elk Grove.)

Why am I going instead of enjoying my 4-day weekend? Because Tika still needs that Jumpers leg (qualifying score towards titles) to finish her first agility championship, to become a CPE Agility Trial Champion, the C-ATCH. And because Tika in particular needs something to do. And because there's a Turkey Trot fun event Friday evening, which Jake's team won last year and Tika's team almost won except we took an extra obstacle at the last possible moment, costing us both time and faults. I'm aiming to rectify that situation. Although Tika's team from last year won't be there so I'm currently teamless. Will have to arrange something when I get there. Part of Jake's team is available, but we'll have to find a 3rd probably.

Well. To bed. I'm tired.

Friday morning

The alarm goes off. I really don't want to wake up. Jeez, I'm tired. I drag myself vertical, dress warmly, fold up The Booster's crate, follow the wave of dogs out into the back yard with a flashlight so that I will know who has pooped. Nothing worse than walking your dogs around, on leash, at an agility event, not knowing whether you should keep walking because you don't know whether someone needs to poop and you don't want to (a) put them back in their crate for 3 hours when they're on the verge or (b) put them in the ring to run really fast when they're on the verge. So starting now I have to keep track. Of three dogs' potty habits.

Everything's wet, so it has rained, although at the moment there's no descending moisture. Great. Well, at least the Elk Grove arena is covered. Still, one has to potty and exercise the dogs outside.

I load the drinks and special doggy junk food into the cooler, load the cooler into the car, set a caffeinated diet Coke ready to drink, let Boost and Tika into their travel crates and strap Jake into his seatbelt, and head for the central valley. It's drizzling.

I have time to think while I'm driving because switching the windshield wipers from low to high to intermittent to off and back around again isn't all that intellectually stimulating. Sometimes I hate thinking this much. Tika's problem with Jumpers is knocking bars. Oh, sure, once in a blue moon we go off course, but I'd say much less than the average bear. In USDAA, you cannot earn a jumpers leg with any knocked bars, and Tika routinely knocks one. In CPE, until you're at the Championship level, you can get away with knocking one bar and still get the Q (Qualifying score--same as a leg). So Tika routinely knocks TWO. I've been working on jumping techniques a very little bit with her since coming back from the nationals, but not a lot, because I've not felt really well for a good portion of the last week. Argh.

And our next chance to get that last Jumpers leg isn't until early January. I've waited for 3 months since our last chance. This is going to go on forever! Like many people, the feeling about the last leg for the CH is that it's just going to be so good to get it over with, to stop having to wonder when it'll happen, to stop stressing over it every time you run a class where This Could Be It. Even though it's "only" CPE and even though Tika's really still fairly young, I find that I really want to get this leg.

We get all the way to Elk Grove without a flat tire (unlike 2 other trips there earlier this year...) We arrive at Starfleet Arena at the WAG facility just after 6:30. Get a good parking spot. It's not raining at that moment, but it's on the cold side. I get to work setting up my canopy. (Have to move Boost to elsewhere in the car, unstrap and unload Boost's crate, which sits atop the canopy, get the canopy frame out and loosen it up, get out the bag with the canopy top and sides, get it set up and staked in (it's a bit breezy), and just then it starts drizzling. Perfect timing! Can't tell you how often I've had to try to set up in the rain.

Colors

Today, they're running tall to small and top-level down, so Tika, one of a very few 24" dogs, is up right about 8:00. We had a terrible time getting enough Colors legs towards our C-ATCH because you cannot have any bars down in this one. Tika is on. I'm on. We're communicating well. Tika blasts through that course without a single time-wasting bobble, although she doesn't stick after she hits the ground after the Aframe. I let it go, although I probably shouldn't.

She keeps all her bars up.

Tika is the fastest of all of the 87 dogs of various heights and levels who run this course. 1st place and a Q.

Jake is also running in Colors. He's been getting slower over time, and particularly going through curved tunnels and through the weaves. And I always need to get him out of his crate in plenty of time to work out all the aches and stiffness of his arthritis. But there are so many dogs between Tika and Jake that I get involved in several conversations about Turkey Trot teams and strategies and all of a sudden I realize that the dog before Jake is running.

I race out to my canopy; Jake is 100% guaranteed sound asleep; wakes up as I whip open the zipper to his crate and leaps to his feet--and he's ready to go! Jeez! Even in the cold and rain, he trots from his crate, tail wagging, stretches mightily, and starts dancing around for his goodies. He jogs, even runs with me, tail going, as I dash back to the ring. They've moved us to the end of our height, so I have about a minute in which to get him to do some lefts and rights and something like stretches, but no time in which to get him revved up or go over practice jumps.

He's also lately been leaving the start line early. I think it has something to do with being deaf and not being certain about what I want. Or maybe he's just naughty. Anyway, to do this course well, I need to lead out past the first two jumps, push him sharply into a curved tunnel, and make a right turn into a set of weaves--and he's also been missing weave entries the last several months, so I have to be very careful.

He stays at the start line!

I release him and he blasts towards me like the Jake of old, redirects into the tunnel without a hitch or hesitation, zooms through it like he used to, and makes his weave entry! He zooms through a second curved tunnel and I'm having to be on my toes; he hasn't run like this much in a while. A pefect run for a now-14-year-old guy! He's had trouble winning even in CPE for a while because his time has been slow, but he beats all 6 other dogs in his class for a Q and first place. Whatta guy.

This weekend is starting out quite well, actually. I hope it continues.

CPE Placements

One cool thing about CPE (for us)--we're a big team in a small pond, rather than in USDAA where we're a small team in a big pond with lots of big fishies. Even with Jake, when he wasn't quite so old and deaf and slowing, we did very well, but with Tika's speed and drive and our skill as a team, we're definitely at the top of the heap in CPE. We still have some competition that keeps us on our toes, but we're all closer to being equals and there aren't nearly so many as in USDAA.

CPE also makes it easier to take placement ribbons home. There are 7 levels and 6 heights, so that for any one class (e.g., Colors), there are potentially 42 first places available. In fact, for this Colors class, 113 dogs ran and 32 earned first places. That's not a bad proportion. Some groups are always more crowded than others, however. For example, the 16" groups and 20" groups always have quite a few dogs in them (except at Level 1, where it's also likely to be a small group); the "S" level and the 8" height groups are examples where there are likely to be very few dogs. Jake's two classes consisted of 7 and 9 dogs; Tika's six consisted of between 2 and 5 dogs.

In contrast, at a USDAA trial, there are 3 levels, 2 categories, and 4 heights, so there are only 24 potential first places per class.

Wildcard

It's about a 10-obstacle course but there are 3 places where you have a choice of obstacles and you have to do the right ones or you don't Q. And keep your bars up.

Tika doesn't even pretend to hit the ground at the bottom of the Aframe, taking off from somewhere mid-yellow-zone. I stop to tell her briefly that this isn't a good idea, then we take off again.

But she keeps all her bars up. And despite the stop to discuss her contact, she's still 4th fastest of about 90 dogs. Of course, ONE of those four happens to be in her exact height and level, so she takes only a 2nd place with her Q on that run.

Standard

Standard numbered course. Tika is being quite wired. Maybe it's the off-and-on rain and cool weather. Maybe she likes seeing me look like a drowned rat. Maybe she's just glad to be doing agility after hours in the crate. She blasts off from the start line, does the first few obstacles, hits the teeter totter like Mario Andretti, slams it to the ground, and immediately takes off over the next jump, leaving me standing there waiting for her to WAIT AT THE BOTTOM FOR HER RELEASE. OK, this is too much. I just stand there until she trots and dances back to me to tell me Come ON, mom, don't just STAND there! This is FUN! and I tell her that that was no way to do a contact, that she'd better pay better attention to her touch, all the while casually strolling past the next jump so she doesn't take it again, with her dancing around in front of me, now calming a little, though, as she realizes she's being scolded.

Finally I line her up for the next obstacle, the dogwalk, and she propels herself across nearing the speed of sound, hits the bottom full speed--and waits for her release! We continue around the course, she does the Aframe rapidly, hits the bottom--and waits for her release!

AND she keeps all her bars up.

Even with that long pause, she takes 1st and a Q in her group, although we're certainly not at the top of the speed list for this one.

Turkey Trot

It's finally, oh, I dunno, 6 pm. I'm a bit tired but looking forward to the turkey trot. At least it stopped raining. We've had most of the day to look over the course map, which looks something like this:


This is strategic triplets. You'll notice that, although the course is numbered, the sequence is broken up all over the ring--first three start in lower right and go up; next three start in upper left and go right, etc. The idea is that the three dogs position themselves to perform the various sequences in order. So, for example, the first dog is ready at #1; the second dog is ready at #4; the third dog is ready at #7. As soon as the first dog completes #3, the second dog does 4-5-6. As soon as that dog successfully completes #6, the third dog does 7-8-9. Meanwhile, dog #1 and #2 have been getting into position to do #10 and #11-12-13. And so on.

You can divide up the course any way you want among the dogs. The only requirement is that at SOME point all the numbered obstacles must be taken in the order from 1 to 22. It doesn't matter if you do other obstacles in-between. For example, the dog doing 4-5-6 could then zip through the tunnel #17 to get into position for #11-12-13 while the other dogs are completing 7-8-9 and then 10. Clear as mud?

Jake's team. (Somehow I never managed to gather my other team and get a picture.)

I used colors to show how Jake's team divided the course among the three dogs; green, blue, and red represent 3 different dogs.

Here's the big trick. If a dog has a fault--knocked bar, missed contact, and so on (it's not possible by definition to have an offcourse since it doesn't matter if other obstacles are taken in-between), one of your teammates must redo the obstacle correctly. Repeat until obstacle taken correctly. So, for example, if Tika were to knock a bar, I'd have to be resetting the bar (and controlling my dog reasonably well) while yelling for help and one of my teammates would have to race over and take the jump without faulting it.

Or, if Tika were to pop the dogwalk contact, one of my teammates would have to redo the dogwalk and get the contact correctly--if they missed, I or my 3rd teammate would have to try, etc. (which happened to one team--took 4 tries to get a dogwalk down contact).

The smaller trick is that the handler who does #1 must be carrying the baton (a rubber chicken) and the handler who does #22 must be carrying the baton, so a switch has to be made somewhere in all that chaos on course.

So. Tika's team broke it up slightly differently, although pretty similar, and assigned dogs to different combinations, so she did 4-5-6, 11-12, and 16-17-18. There are 3 bars in that collection. I warned my teammates that Tika's biggest issue is knocking bars, so to be on their toes. Plus the dogs get *very* excited with all the hubbub, plus running and stopping, other dogs on the course, going past obstacles, doing weird things--

Tika did the 4-5-6 without knocking a bar. She was really fast. Our teammates are doing fine but I'm not calling out "switch" (our particular keyword) when I'm done because I'm first calling Tika so she doesn't end up on the far side of the universe. My teammates are doing fine. We're about to do 11-12 when our offduty teammate's dog blasts into the opposite end of tunnel #12 and I have to wait for them to get out of the way. We do that bit and line up for 16-17-18. Tika is wired beyond belief. We get the signal. She takes off--and leaves up her final bar! And then--

--I have NEVER seen Tika completely clear air going over the top of an Aframe before. I was afraid that she was going to land clear out on the ground, but in fact she lands about halfway down, hits her contact, and sticks it. My teammates finish, and we leave the course in great delight.

Jake's parts were more subdued, and he was more subdued--I think in part because he's mostly deaf and we didn't have as many dogs crossing our paths--and despite having to do 4 tunnels and a 12-pole weave (he did the blue dog part), he once again did them very quickly for him, and our teammates--reliable, experienced dogs all--did fine.

Our winning turkey baskets.
The top top turkey turkey and her two turkey dogs.



There were a few other teams who also had no faults for which they had to switch, but some of them wasted time doing longer sequences with the same dog, requiring wrapping around jumps, covering more yardage, and so on. One team that I thought was going to beat us ended up making the only "off course" flaw that could get them--the last dog did #21 and #22, stopping the clock, before the previous dog had completed #19 and 20. So you really had to know what the dog before you was doing.

We had to wait a bit for the results to be announced. There were three 8/12" teams, 7 16" teams (Jake's group) and 10 20/24" teams (Tika's group). We knew we had done well, but as they announced 3rd and 2nd places in each and it wasn't us, I knew that we had won.

I was the only handler on two winning teams. And I don't think that any of this year's winners were last year's winners except Jake. So--we got 2 turkey baskets stuffed with people and doggie goodies, and each winner had to wear their "Top Turkey" button for the rest of the weekend. I had to wear two.

We didn't get out of there until about 7:30; I found my hotel finally, grabbed some food, took some stuff up to the hotel room, pottied the dogs, blah blah. Didn't get to bed til around 10, late for an agility night. The last dog walking takes place in air that's far colder than it had been that morning. Seems like we're in for a chill.

But all in all quite a successful and happy day.

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning came really early. Woke with a tickle in my throat and a cough about 4:15 and, by the time it had cleared, I couldn't get back to sleep. (This seldom happens on agility weekends--I'm always so tired that I have no trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or returning to sleep when I do wake up.) I had intended to get up at 6:00 but finally gave up about 5:40. Showered. Dressed. Took the dogs out to potty.

It is COLD COLD COLD. Brrr. With a bit of a wind, too. Dogs all cooperate and do their business together, making my life so much easier. I pack up everything and the dogs and myself and I'm back over at Starfleet Arena by 6:30ish.

It's STILL cold cold cold as the sun comes up. Glad I put on my long (not thermal) underwear pants in the morning. I do have my long down coat with me, but it's so awkward to move around in and I don't want to get it dirty in the covered dirt arena, which gets EVERYthing dusty no matter how careful you are. I'll reserve it for moments of true cold desperation. Turns out that I never do switch to it, although there are times when, if I couldn't perch in front of someone's large propane heater, I'd have probably needed it.

Our first run isn't until noon. Things are NOT running efficiently and I'm not sure why people aren't pushing to make it happen. At this rate I'll be lucky to get my jumpers run done by dinnertime--today they're running small to tall and novice up, so Tika is running last in each class. Which means that our Jumpers run will be about the 3rd to the last of the entire day.

Who's going to want to stick around that long in this weather? The sun is out, but it's not helping much. I buy a big cup of hot chocolate from Hungry Dog Catering, who's grilling and cooking onsite, and it's the most wonderful thing I've had in ages. Warms my hands and my belly.

I help out at the trial--always do--doing one job or another. Get my worker raffle tickets, put them into various cool stuff in the raffle. Most of the things that interest me are in Sunday's drawing and I won't be here, so I ask my friends to check for me. My friend Arlene, who works at Bed Bath & Beyond, brings me my own box of peppermint bark because she knows I love it and they carry it only around the holidays (and apparently run out quickly). This makes my day seem much brighter. But still cold.

Standard

Our standard run for today has some tricky bits to it, but I'm feeling relaxed and confident. After all, this is NOT for a title or a C-ATCH; it's just one more leg among the hundreds I'll need to get for our eventual C-ATE. Yeah, like that's ever going to happen. So it's basically for fun. In two places on the course, I manage to fail to push Tika out to her next obstacle, so she runs past one jump that we have to spin around to take, and almost runs past a tunnel entrance, but we catch it in time.

And she keeps her bars up.

I'm afraid to say anything about all those bars that are staying up. Not that I'm superstitious--but I don't want to jinx it anyway.

Despite the bobbles, Tika is still the fastest of the eleven 24" dogs doing this course and among the five fastest of the 100 or so others. For a first place and a Q.

Snooker

Things start to fall apart here. It's 4 in the afternoon and we've still got all of levels 1/2, 3, and 4/5/C of the Jumpers classes still to course build, wait for walk throughs (with the 4/5/C split into 2 groups). I'm really tired now, with the stress of waiting for that jumpers run, having been up since 4 that morning, not getting enough sleep the night before, being COLD COLD COLD all day. People are starting to give up and head home, although not as many as there would have been on a Sunday; most people are staying through tomorrow, although I still have a 2-hour drive home.

I haven't had dinner. I don't have dinner with me. Hungry Dog Catering has gone home. First, I forget that Jake is a 12" dog now, not a 16" dog, so I haven't been able to walk the course for him. Since this is CPE, I could probably have just told them that I forgot and they'd have let me walk and run with the bigger dogs, but I just didn't want to confuse things or hold them up, so I construct a course that I think will be easy for us to get through so that he can simply run an entire course, since it's his only run of the day.

I get him out of his crate, and once again he's very happy and bouncy. We could do very well on this course. I line him up and he again stays at his start line. We do red, color, red, color, red...and he doesn't turn the same way I'm turning (this has been an ongoing problem, worse and worse the less he hears) even though I tried very hard to signal strongly with my body. I dash around the jump to try to catch his attention, but meanwhile he's dashing around to the other side of the jump to figure out where I went, and then he sees me--and backjumps the dang jump. So we're done. At least I can run him across the course and through a tunnel and jump to get to the table to stop the clock, but I'm disappointed in myself both for missing the walkthrough (I think I'd have done something different if I'd actually been able to walk through the sequence) and in my handling.

Then Tika is up. I plan a course where I have to lead out ALLLLL the way across the course and call her to me over a jump and onto the #7 obstacle. Everyone does this in USDAA. In CPE, it apparently impresses people (anyway, those who don't do USDAA). I sat her at the start line and started walking out. She lifted her butt and shuffled her front feet and I said "sit" again, and she sat and waited very nicely while I walked all the way out there, lined up, turned, and finally released her. We had a couple of bobbles where I wasn't clear and she turned to bark at me rather than do the next obstacle, but for the most part it goes well, she's VERY fast and does most of her turns and send-outs very nicely, and we're on target to get 49 points (out of 51 possible)--and the end-of-time whistle blows before we can complete #6 and 7 (for 13 points) in the closing. Now, we did waste some time in the bobbles, but this was a VERY quick course and Tika is a VERY quick dog and I'm a bit baffled as to how we could be out of time.

A friend later tells me that I set Tika up so close to the start line that, when she half stood and moved her feet, her nose crossed the start line and started the clock. So I probably lost 15 seconds or more of a 45-second course with my lead-out before she started running. I thought I had lined her up a ways before the orange cone near us, but apparently the line to the other orange cone wasn't where I thought it was. Because normally I set her up with lots of room exactly because she does often stand and step or scootch a bit.

So it's still a Q. It's only a 4th place instead of a solid first. But--

She kept all her bars up! It's getting spooky. Is she just having a good bar weekend or is she saving them all for Jumpers?

I'm getting nervous. Hungry. More tired, let's say exhausted. It is really cold, although I'm sure it's not freezing. I waste some time by dismantling my canopy before it gets dark, and apparently just in time, because the wind accelerates and pulls up and destroys 3 other canopies in my vicinity within a half hour of when I finished my packing. The dogs are now in their crates in the car. They've been pottied. I remember that I didn't eat my banana that morning, so I have that to tie me over. (Tied me over? Tide me over?)

Jumpers


I watch other people run the jumpers course. It's a tougher one, lots of loop-de-dos and a couple of tricky places where you either have to be blindingly fast yourself to make a tricky front cross, or be fast in a different direction to push your dog out of a line of jumps to a tunnel--never easy, but even harder with a fast, long-strided dog. It looks more like a small-dog course than a big-dog course, but I haven't walked it yet. Still, even small dogs are having trouble with it.

Finally the 16, 20, and 24" dogs walk the course. It requires 4 or 5 quick front crosses from me, which is a lot, but I think we can do it. I think I can even be in position to easily make the push out to the tunnel. But then I watch all the 16 and 20" dogs do the course, and some of them are experienced, expert handlers, and THEY have trouble with the course. There's nothing else for me to do, really, but watch, though. It's dark. It's cold. Nowhere else to go, nothing else to do.

Finally we get to the 24" dogs. It's after 7 pm. I can assure you that, if I didn't want this run so badly, I'd have been on the road probably 2 hours ago. Which means that i can't even pretend that this is a normal run any more; it's special enough that I have to stay for it.

People are leaving as they finish their runs. No wonder. It's cold and getting colder by the minute, and it's late, and they all want food and sleep. But that means that, IF I succeed, I'll have only a few friends still there to celebrate and to sign my pole. I comfort myself by telling myself that I can leave it there for Sunday and have Arlene bring it to me during the next week or 2, because I'll be seeing her at least twice. Then I try not to get my hopes up, because we could so easily knock 2 bars on this course.

We Finally Run

We're finally on the line. Tika is wired. She is more than wired. She is in rocket launching mode again. I don't know that I need this on this course, where we need to be smooth and sleek and in control. She'll be fast, that's for sure. I take a really deep breath and walk out. The start-line stay is important on this one, or we'll be offcourse into the wrong side of a tunnel on obstacle #3.

She stays. I release her, and she flies across the first two jumps and into the correct tunnel end and I do my first cross while she's in the tunnel. The first danger is past--often the bars that she knocks are the first or second as she begins with excitement. We make a long haul up one side of the course and I get my second front cross in--and a bar goes down! Jeez Louise! That's it, that's our limit, and we still have three quarters of the course to do. The arena is silent. We zoom back in the direction we came and I start working my way away from her towards my push as she starts around a curve.

This is what I hate about having people know that this is a key run for us. I know they're all watching. I know they're all holding their breaths. I know that if I blow it, I have to deal with my disappointment as well as with everyone else having wanted to say congrats and not being able to. I don't like it. The only reason TO do it is that, if you succeed, people cheer wildly and then you get to do a run around the ring wit your ribbon and your bar, which they'll have had waiting hidden in the background, and your dog running madly around the obstacles, not knowing exactly what the deal is but having fun. So I guess for the most part it's better that people know.

I try not to think about it. I try to just get into the flow of the course. I almost forget to do my next front cross, but I get it in while she's in the tunnel after all. We loop around several jumps--and I almost forget to do my last front cross, too (can tell from that that I'm nervous because my brain is shutting down), but skeedaddle into place just in the nick of time without distracting Tika.

And then we're in the homestretch, down a slightly curving line of three jumps and through the tire--and we're done. Now--it's possible that we could've knocked 2 bars. It wouldn't have been the first time that she ticked one lightly that dislodged and went down quietly into the dirt instead of rattling against the uprights as it fell. I didn't hear her tick any, but then I don't always.

It's possible that, in my state of mind, I forgot some of the course and in fact did not complete it successfully. It went by so fast that it's certainly possible. I'm gathering Tika up and praising her wildly (because she was a great dog on this course whether or not we got that Q and that C-ATCH) but waiting a heartbeat, or two--and several people start cheering and screaming, and then I know. And I jump up in the air with my arms over my head and I start cheering and Tika is jumping up and down and I'm telling her what a great dog she is. Someone runs out and hands me my bar and my ribbon--I'm ashamed to say that I have no idea who it is, I'm just making sure that I don't drop them when they hand them to me and that Tika doesn't go running in some other direction, and then we make a wild run around the ring, me running faster than I feel like I have in years, Tika blasting around the outer perimeter with joy and abandon.

It's just a dang CPE championship, for crying out loud, not even the USDAA ADCH, which we've still got a long way to go for. But I'm relieved and grinning and happy.

And tired and hungry.

Me, Tika, our bar and ribbon, and the nice judge who designed and judged our championship run.
I accept my assorted congratulations as everyone dashes to clear out for the night. I feed my dogs dinner, potty them one last time, collect the info about my jumpers run--she is by far the fastest of 111 dogs who've run that course, and it doesn't surprise me, because *she* had absolutely no hesitations, blips, or bobbles, and was really hitting her stride--but because of the knocked bar we place only 4th in our group.

The Long Journey Home

Then I finally hit the road. It's 8 pm. I am now officially working to stay fully alert, AND my stomach is telling me that it's very very hungry, AND my car is almost out of gas. I have to make a detour to the nearest gas station, and there aren't any fast foods nearby, so I have to stop again half an hour down the road to buy a taco (at the drive-up window, and then eating as I'm going).

I'm feeling droopy. Prairie Home Companion, which can entertain me if my timing is right, is long over. I'm not sure whether I'm going to make it only to Tracy or actually over the hills to Livermore, but I know I'm going to have to stop for a nap.

This weekend's haul. Only Jake's Snooker run didn't earn a Q or placement or win.
Something interesting-sounding comes on just before Tracy, so I make a break for the Altamont Pass, but it turns out to be not that interesting and now I'm having to work hard to have the pretense of remaining alert. Over in Livermore, I pull over at the first exit with which I'm familiar and know that there's a safe parking lot in which I can stop for an hour. I do so. I recline my seat back a few inches--that's all it'll go with all the stuff loaded behind it--and pull my down jacket over me. No pillow. Boost is restless at first--this is weird--but then settles. I must have dropped to sleep within about 3 minutes, even sitting mostly upright with almost nothing supporting my head.

Wake up a little after 10:30, an hour later, dash in to the restroom at the JITB, and head home. In bed by midnight.

I'd say generally a pretty darned fine weekend, and we're all still alive and healthy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One of those Days--

OK, this had nothing to do with dogs. Except that I've been feeling a little tired and unenthused about dealing with Real Life now that I'm back in it, including playing with or training dogs.

Met with my newish financial advisors to find out why their previous employer claims that they were terminated and have legal action against them. They're upset about that and say that it's the other way around. I got a plausible story, though, but none-the-less this wasn't something that I wanted to be in the middle of. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home to pick up a few things that I need. Didn't want to spend too much money but it's about time to replace that CO2 detector that went south last month, the power strip in the garage in which at least one outlet doesn't work, and etc. Happened to notice that the 2006 Thomas Bros map books are out, and my sad disintegrating ancient copies need replacing. So I popped 2 of the books into my stack. The total came up and I just about fell over backwards. Of course the books had no prices on them--no one would buy them if they did, I'm sure. That's about $65 worth of map books. I had to think about it on the way out to the car and I've decided that they're going to have to go back. So that means another trip.

I stopped at Subway to get some lunch. Ordered my usual Deli-Style Roast Beef. Took it home with me. Sat down for a nice relaxing meal--and the roll was as hard as a rock. Yuck. I couldn't even eat it. Ate the filling but not the roll.

Tried replacing the power strip and the new one doesn't work AT ALL. At least now I've got 2 reasons to go back to Home Depot. Not like I really want to spend the time.

Housemate cooked pizza this evening and invited me to have some. Crust burned pretty solidly. So we scraped the toppings off and ate them. That was tasty but not quite complete, if you know what I mean.

My credit union has switched to a new method of signing in that's more secure. Took me 10 minutes to get through all the mumbo jumbo when all I wanted to do was to transfer some funds. Then it ceased to let me sign in any more. STill haven't managed to transfer the funds.

I guess the day could've been worse. Just lots of little annoying things all day. And I'm REALLY tired, and once again I've done almost no work-work today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Working on Daily Notes...

I'm in the process of posting notes from the trip for each day. Done so far:

Tuesday.
Wednesday (posted Wed, nov 16, 3 pm).
Thursday (posted Thurs, Nov 17, 8:30 pm).
Friday (posted Thurs, 9:30 pm).
More briefly about Thursday, mostly about Boost's siblings (posted Tues, nov 22, 5:30 pm).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Home From the Nationals

We're home! Arrived at 6:30 this morning after driving all night, Jackie switching off with me every 1-3 hours. We tossed everything of mine from her car into a heap in the garage--it's one huge heap--and then I cleaned up the assorted messes left by my housemate (perhaps he thought I wasn't getting back until tomorrow?), then I slept for about 3 hours, then I had lunch and skimmed the various newspapers to see what happened in the rest of the insignificant world for the past week, then I downloaded some results and course maps from the nationals--

And here I am.

I have many photos (mostly not of us) and perhaps lots of commentary. A brief summary: Tika did better than last year in general, completing all courses except one of the 8 in which we competed. Jake did worse than last year, getting eliminated in all 3 of his runs. Tika and I, however, maintained our nearly perfect record of having at least one flaw in each run. None-the-less, she ran well in everything and truly beautifully in a couple of runs.

Time Gamble: Missed the up contact on the dogwalk and left the teeter early, heading for the wrong obstacle, so had a bobble that wasted probably a second or so. But my time estimate for her run would've been right on if she hadn't had the bobble, I believe.

Team Snooker: Missed the first weave-pole entry in the opening, which didn't count against us except for time, which probably dropped us in the placements slightly. But otherwise she got all the way through the snooker course, which very few teams managed on this particular course. In terms of placements, this was our highlight, placing 11th out of the top dogs in the country & the world in the 26" height class. (Ribbons given only to 8th in 26"--to 12th in 22", but there were more dogs entered in 22". Oh, well.) This was an excellent contribution to our Team effort; my partners got fewer points (18 and 19? something like that, compared to our 44) but still more than many people got. Run-TMZ ended the day in 74th place out of about 200 teams.

Steeplechase semifinals. Knocked a bar. Our run was smooth but not super-Tika; we were about 3 seconds off the pace, I think, which actually put us a long way away from making the final round even if we hadn't knocked the dang bar.

Team Standard: From a personal performance perspective, this was the highlight of our weekend. Tika was wired before the run--why, I don't know--and that little switch that puts her into world-class speed and drive flipped on and it was like a glorious dream running that course--except that she was so fast that I decided I couldn't get to a front cross that I really needed to keep her on course, tried just pulling instead, and got an offcourse. But the memory of that run overall is still a thrill. Even though my E dropped our Team to about 121st.

Power and Speed: Made it through the contacts-plus-weaves opening without any faults (last year we ran out of time for bobbles) but knocked a bar in the closing. At least we stayed on course and were reasonably fast--I think I counted that, in time alone, we were about 30th fastest; with the bar, we were about 50th.

Team Gamblers: Did well enough, I'm guessing middle of the pack. Knocked a bar, which cost us only one point. But, as is so typical, despite telling myself that I was going to run the final course that I chose during the walkthru, I changed my mind halfway through the course and I'm guessing that it cost us probably 3 to 6 points that I might have otherwise gotten. Still wouldn't have put us among the way top finishers, so that's not too bad, and I did get more points than my other teammates, so that's OK.

Team Jumpers: Did nicely, pretty fast as usual, knocked a bar. One teammate went clean on this run (I think) and another Eed. Our Team ended the weekend in 128th place overall. At least it's not last, but too bad we didn't crack the top 50%. Only the top 36 teams continued to the finals.

Grand Prix quarterfinals. Missed the up contact on the dogwalk. If we had run clean, our time was good enough to go to the semifinals, but it wasnt good enough with the fault. The top 50% of the dogs went on. If I counted correctly, we missed by 9 dogs (out of a couple hundred?) this year, compared to 2 dogs last year for last year's knocked bar. Sigh.

OK, I think I might go get more sleep.

Friday, November 11, 2005

FRIDAY: GP, Standard, Power and Speed

Backfill: Thurs, Nov 17
photos later

This is my busiest agility day with 5 runs in 4 rings. We've been grabbing the free continental breakfast at the hotel and heading for the show site. I'm usually pretty good about getting going in the morning, but my estimates are off when I have 3 dogs to worry about pottying successfully, let alone taking them up & down 4 flights of stairs for each trip. So we've been a little rushed each time.

Jackie dropped me off in the parking lot a mere 3 minutes or so before my first scheduled walkthrough, in Ring 1 at 7:14. I cross the last two rows of the parking lot, duck under the fence (they didn't think thru the competitor access very well), trot down the gravelly slope, across the dry wash, up the slope on the other side. Past the first giant crating tent and out the gate past ring 4. Cut out and around rings 2 and 3 because you can't just go past them. Past the Dock Dog pool. I'm jogging as much as I can, but I'm not up to jogging the whole way. Past the end of ring 2, past all the vendors in the vendor area. Past the food vendors and the USDAA Hospitality tent. I arrive ringside just as they're announcing the switch to my group's walkthrough--according to my watch, even with jogging, it took me 5 minutes to get from the parking lot into the ring. Sheesh.

That's my Grand Prix Quarterfinals walkthrough. The course really doesn't look bad to me at all; I think we can handle it easily without an offcourse. I'm hoping that this year we run clean; a mere knocked bar kept us out of the semis last year, but our time was good enough to make it without the fault. Many of my friends placed high enough in the Bay Team Regional Qualifier in September to earn a Bye to the semifinal or final round. We, of course, managed to go offcourse in that particular GP qualifier, although we had good runs in most of the NONregional GP qualifiers last year. I'd really really like to make it to the semifinals, at least.

There are a few reasons why. (1)I just want to prove that we can do it! (2) You don't get a cool polo shirt until you make it to the semis. (3) The Veterans Grand Prix used to allow any old dog who had qualified for the nationals in previous years to run; this year they upped the requirement to only veterans who've made it to the semifinals. Fortunately, Jake managed to do that once (just barely). When Tika gets older, I'd like her to be eligible, also, assuming that they continue to run the Veterans Grand Prix.

At 7:56, my Power and Speed walkthrough commences. I've got Jake and Tika entered in this. You must first complete all the contacts plus weaves, in any order, within a specific amount of time, to be allowed to continue to the jumping/timed portion of the course. The Good Lord only knows what I was thinking when I entered Jake, since he pops his dogwalk contact 98% of the time. And it's risky for Tika, since she often misses her dogwalk up. But I come up with a course strategy that I think will handle both--making a sharp turn from the teeter directly to the dogwalk, so that Tika doesn't have enough speed to jump over the up contact, and so that Jake is aimed out towards the side of the ring with no other obstcles in front of him to give him reason to want to jump off early. Maybe it'll slow him down.

At 8:24, I get my 10-minute walkthrough for Team Standard. It looks like a slightly challenging course but wide open in several places, which is Tika's kind of course. If I can hang onto her through the couple of challenges, we'll probably do well. This is one place where I appreciate having a dog who can be relied on to stop on contacts--there's a jump about 12 feet straight in front of the dogwalk, but you have to turn the dog 180 away from you into a tunnel instead of taking that jump. Will be hard for dogs with running contacts.

Despite the excruciatingly detailed walkthrough schedule, there's no walkthrough scheduled for Veterans Grand Prix. Last night, someone told me that they had asked and were told that the walkthrough was in the afternoon before the runs (starting at 3:00). However--surprise--about halfway through my 10-minute Standard walkthru, they announce that Veterans should be walking the GP course *now* during this 10-minute slot. It distracts me a bit... I want to make the walkthrough and debate cutting out of the Standard walkthrough early, until my mind clears and I realize that no one will know if I just wait until the next group and then walk with them.

So that's what I do, starting at 8:38. Veteran Grand Prix is supposed to be the same course as Tika's Grand Prix, but in a different ring. Now, all courses all weekend are split between 2 rings. That means that someone attempts to set up exactly the same course in 2 places. Whenever this has been done, I have never ever seen 2 courses that have exactly the same challenges. Moving a jump by a foot or changing its angle by 5 degrees or the tunnel entry moving a few inches can mean the difference between life and death. And the same holds true here.

For example, the weave pole entry in Tika's ring is much harder; you have to push out to it, while here it's in flow with the preceding jumps. However, in Tika's ring, the dog looks from the starting line over 2 jumps and can just see the corner of the A-Frame that's #3; in Jake's ring, the tunnel that's under the A-frame sticks out completely visibly into the dog's view over the first 2 jumps. In Tika's ring, it's not visible to the dog at all. So I'm going to have to lead out farther with Jake to make sure I'm in position to yank him up the A-Frame, especially since he refused it twice on Thursday.

The weather is unclear. There's supposed to be a chance of rain. It starts out sunny, gets very cloudy, gets sunny, gets cloudy. In fact, it never rains at all, but it is quite a bit cooler than Wednesday.

OK, then, unlike yesterday, I get into the GP ring with Tika right away at 9:00. I'm calm. She runs smoothly and professionally. She keeps all her bars up. On the last third of the course--starting with the dogwalk--she misses the up contact. Everything else is lovely. Dag blaggedy blag. I won't know for sure until the end of the day, but in fact this year she misses the 50% cutoff to the semis by 8 dogs because of the fault. Her time alone would've placed her securely among the 41 dogs going on, at about 25th place.

Then we get a brief respite and Jake runs Power and Speed around 10:00. He does the teeter nicely, runs across the dogwalk--I decide on the strategy of slowing down, coming to a complete stop behind him, saying nothing. He slows wayyyy down, hesitates--and flies right off the down contact. Bam, our run is over. I run him off the course rapidly over a few jumps so that I can get to the finish-line side and so that he can actually run a little teeny bit, and he's very fast and happy.

Tika runs a while later, and she handles the opening sequence marvelously. Then, halfway through the closing, I for some unexplained reason make a front cross that I hadn't intended to make, meaning that 2 obstacles later I end up behind her trying to push her over a jump, which she struggles mightily to make despite my clumsy effort, but knocks the bar in the process. It also slowed her down several steps, at least. She ends in about 51st place among 120 dogs, but if you ignore all faults, she's the 30th fastest dog. (But only 1.5 seconds behind the fastest dog, to show how tight close some of these times can be!)

Then I get a bit of a break for lunch and shopping and socializing...and pottying and exercising dogs, as usual. My Run-TMZ teammates both run the Standard course without Eing (which is the key in Team events), although they have faults. The pressure's on.

Jake is up first in Veteran's Grand Prix, with the group starting around 3:00. And--as I start to lead out, he takes off running, gets ahead of me, and zooms right into that too-visible tunnel, offcourse immediately. I ask the judge whether we can keep going (having noticed that pretty much all dogs who E have been immediately leaving the course, but not having read or heard any such rule), and the judge graciously says yes. It is, after all, Veterans, and this might be the only class for some of them. Now, to make it worse, JAKE RUNS FAST, and HE DOES FAST WEAVES (which he hardly ever does in competition any more), AND.... HE MAKES HIS D***M DOGWALK DOWN CONTACT! That's because this course also has a 180-degree turn from the dogwalk into a tunnel, and I bust my little california buns to get way ahead of him, so that as he's coming down the ramp I'm in front of him and I tell him to TURN with a big body & arm gesture before he's even in the yellow zone. So he takes a couple of steps to think about it, which puts him into the yellow contact zone, and then he flips perfectly into the tunnel and finishes the course in style. Curse that cute evil little doggie!

Although in fact I'm very pleased with the run, considering that this is probably his last USDAA run ever, since I don't think I want to jump him at 16" any more.

Finally Tika is up in Team Standard, our group starting around 4:00. Well--she's wired. Totally. I can tell before we go into the ring that that magic switch is flipped. And, on this course, where I really really don't want an E for an offcourse, I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. We do some calming exercises before stepping into the ring.

She actually stays at the start line. I do my leadout. I release her over the first two jumps, which stay up--and she is off and running in true World Champion style. She does everything super fast. She and I seem to be in perfect synch, making our turns tight and hitting every obstacle in the perfect location. She gets her up contact on the dogwalk. She makes the perfect, fast turn into the tunnel at the end of the dogwalk. We're heading for the home stretch--a chute followed by a sharp turn into a U of jumps. I need to make a front cross to make that sharp turn, but despite getting ahead of her before the chute, I decide that I can't make the cross with her speed, and I hang back--and she goes off course coming out of the chute. I quickly pick her up and finish the U of jumps, all of which she keeps up, still blasting away.

I am floating on adrenaline and joy with the pleasure of the run at the same time that I'm teetering on the brink of despair for that dang offcourse. I'm like that most of the day, but by evening the despair has worn away and the memory of that nearly perfect run is the overwhelming feeling. I'm happier about that run, I think, than about our high-placing Snoooker run. I need to run the video and try getting a time for the course if we hadn't done the offcourse to see whether she still might have placed (although I did hold her briefly on the contacts in all cases).

So that was our competition day. A mixed bag but not a disaster. As for Run-TMZ, my E in Standard was a big contributor to us dropping to 121st out of 205 teams. We'll try to make it up tomorrow in Gamblers and Jumpers.

In the evening, it's the Steeplechase finals and we stay and watch. Man, those dogs are fast. I reported on them in the Bay Team Blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

THURSDAY: Snooker and Steeplechase

Backfill: Thurs, Nov. 17
photos later

Today began our challenging walk-through and run schedule. My first 10-minute walkthrough, for Steeplechase semifinals, started at 7 a.m., with the sun just rising on what might be a cloudy day or might be warm. Then I twiddled my thumbs, more or less, until my next 10-minute walkthrough, for Team Snooker, at 8:24.

THEN came the hard part--remembering the courses and the feel of being out there until my Snooker run at 1:00 and my Steeplechase run at 3:00. That meant that I had a walkthrough and run of Snooker between the steeplechase walkthru and run--as well as lots of other activities to kill the intervening time.

There are many good vendors here. Way too many. There's a vendor with those PVC-frame doggie beds that I've been wanting another one of. Clean Run is here with their supply of agility shoes, and my old ones are very close to being officially worn out. Lots of cool toys; several vendors have the extra-long purple Riot Tug that I want another one of. And Bully Sticks. And... Oh, man, guess I'm going shopping even though I don't need to spend the money. I'll definitely need new shoes within a few short months, though, and better to pay now and save not only shipping but also there's an introductory discount for some styles. Sighhh--

Not only that, there's a food vendor selling cotton candy and another selling kettle corn. All day, every day! What's a girl to do?

The Snooker course is interesting. I like courses that aren't simply speed courses, where handling and strategy play a part, too. At first glimpse, this looks like a speed course because the #7 obstacle is a tunnel-jump-tunnel combination , which are fast obstacles. But, when you start adding up yardage to get from the reds to the 7, and through the 7, and back again, and then the twisty-turny 2-thru-7 closing sequence, and consider the very tight time allowed, it becomes clear (at least to me) that people are not going to be making 3 sevens. I time it several ways for Tika trying to do merely 2 sevens and conclude that, even as fast as she is, she's not going to be able to do it. Even one seven is doubtful, although there's one way of handling the sequence that is SOOOOOOO tempting that I'm still considering it up to the last minute. But, in the end, I stick with my plan of two fives (6-pole weaves) and a four (a 3-jump sequence).

After watching dog after dog fail to make it through the opening or run out of time way before finishing the closing, I'm more convinced than ever that I've chosen the right course. I drive her as much as I can; I'm wired and she's almost wired. She misses her first weave pole entry, which isn't a penalty but wastes time on a very tight course. I drive her even harder and the rest of the course is flawless--and the whistle blows a fraction of a second after we complete the #7 in the closing.

Turns out that we're one of only a very few dogs who complete the course in the alloted time and with our selected opening, and Tika places 11th among about 160 26" dogs--and I'm absolutely delighted about that. That's the highest she's ever placed at a Nationals event. It's not quite a ribbon (only to 8th), but anyway I'm pretty happy.

My Run-TMZ partners don't bomb out completely--one of my agility friends reported that her entire team managed to earn 3 points between them in this particular snooker course--each earning something like 18 points, and pleasingly, at the end of the day, we start the team competition in 74th place out of 205 teams. Only the top 36 will go to the final round. We aren't really expecting to be there, but...really...if we can hang in there without any Es in any of the remaining events, we could get awfully close. That's a good way to start the Team tournament.

The Steeplechase is a slight disappointment. Tika's run is fast and smooth--which in fact I'm pleased with--but not completely driven. I know that she has a higher gear. I mean, she's one fast dog anyway, but usually I don't go looking for that higher gear, and so I don't really know how to find it when I want it. Turns out it doesn't matter, as we knock a bar just like we did last year, but this time our speed alone is 3 seconds slower than the time it took to qualify for the finals; if I remember correctly, we were more like a second under last year and I had hoped we could at least be in that range, with or without faults. Oh, well, something else to work on-- besides not knocking bars, I mean.

Jake is entered in nothing today. All the dogs are bored. Jake is so stiff every time I take him out of the crate, but he does eventually play frisbee with me, after a LOT of coaxing and teasing and insisting and commanding.

In the evening, I stroll the quarter mile from my hotel to the "American Grill" (Jill's?) down the street to join a few friends and acquaintances for dinner while Jackie is out with a local friend from high school days. The meal is good, not too expensive, and is served among good friends and good humor. One of their dessert choices is apple crisp, and I order it (2 nights in a row!) and it's cooked fresh in an individual pan and is quite tasty.

Then, to bed. (Leaving out all the dozens of times I took the dogs out one or 2 at a time to potty or play or both. Taking all 3 results in Boost and Tika yanking constantly on the leashes and me getting into a foul mood really quickly. Tika can walk decently on leash, although she has to work at it, and she does best if I have my bait bag with me. And Boost can walk decently on leash in between major distractions (of which there are still many for a puppyish dog), but does best when she's the only one and I have my bait bag with me (do I detect a pattern?).)

Meeting Boost's Siblings

Backfill: Tues, Nov 22, 5:15pm
maybe photos later
On Thursday at the Nationals, I finally met the last of Boost's siblings, the one who went down south. Her name is Gina and she's the third of the blue merle girls. She's the one being trained by Olga Chaiko, one of the top handlers and trainers around, instead of primarily by her owner. But her owner, Tim, seems like a really nice guy. We talked quite a bit while I played on my knees with Gina, who has some similarities in markings to Boost but who isn't quite as similar as Bette is. Tim is currently running a Boxer in agility; says he's the #1 AKC agility boxer at the moment. They're just starting to get into USDAA, having just finished their ACK MACH (that's the agility championship in AKC). Tim's wife wasn't there, or at least I didn't meet her, but Tim's apparently the guy who runs the dogs.

When I finished playing with the puppy and we were wrapping up our conversation, I became aware that I was kneeling ON something. Turned out to be my glasses. With their expensive scratch-resistant high-impact lenses. Turns out that scratch-resistant doesn't include being ground into blacktop with one's knee. See, I was wearing my sunglasses and had just dropped one earpiece of my regular glasses into the neck of my shirt, which I do a lot around town but not usually when doing things with the dogs, because they'll fall out. Well, they fell out. Fortunately the scratches are above and to the right of my main vision; I just now have a tiny blur in my upper right peripheral vision that makes me want to clean my lenses. Sigh.

I don't know why I'm not taking photos of all of Puppy's siblings when I encounter them. Would be cool to have and display. Maybe I'll remember later... although not sure when I'll see Gina again, since I'm not planning on going south for a while and it didn't sound like he'd be coming north for a while. So the six puppies are:
  • Boost, my blue merle girl
  • Bette, my agility friend Mary's blue merle girl the only one with upright ears.
  • Gina, the southern blue merle girl.
  • Beck (or Becka?) my agility friend Robert's black and white girl; Robert's been out with various illnesses, operations, and injuries and I can't remember what the latest is, but it appears that his wife, Linda, will be training not only her own slightly older BC but Becka as well, all at the same time as running their two older German Shepherds.
  • Derby, the only boy, very tall and also black & white, kept by Tammy out of the litter.
  • The third black & white one. Um, don't remember her name, and although I've sort of met the new owners, I don't know them or remember their names, either. They're in this area, have been in our occasional Saturday puppy classes, and just adopted the girlie a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

WEDNESDAY: Site changes, Time Gamble, Dinner

Backfill: Wed, Nov 16, 3 p.m.
Pictures later
The site is laid out much differently from last year. Key changes:
  • Crating: Last year, we crated at the top of the hill, up a long flight of stairs, in the paved parking area, in a huge temporary building that magnified every sound. It was hard for people to relax, let alone the dogs, and between the walk and the noise, most people had begged, borrowed, or stolen other places to put their dogs by the end of the weekend, even leaving them in the cars with the doors and windows open and shade cloth hung around.

    This year, crating was down on the field in circus-type tents on the lawn, which was much more convenient, cooler, and not so echoey. You could rent a 4'x7' space for $45 or bring your own canopy and set up outside for free. Most people went for the rental spaces; much easier to drive to AZ and just worry about setting up the crates, not hauling the canopy and extra shade fabric and all that. Still, 4x7 isn't really large. I shared the 2 spots we rented with my traveling companion (Jackie) and my Run-TMZ teammates. With 8 dogs, three of the crates ended up stacked on top of other crates. It worked OK but you don't always want to be lifting your dog into crates. Pretty much everyone had to expand out into the wide aisles to be able to set up a chair, too.
  • Six rings, not four. There have been four rings in all the Nationals I've been aware of, from 2000 through 2004; this year they went to 6. Ring 1, the main ring with bleachers and lights and announcer's booth and media tent and everything, was set up this year a long way away from the other rings, on the far side of all the vendor tents. Not exactly sure why they did it that way. It was a long haul from Ring 1 all the way out to the crating area. In the space beyond ring 1 were the areas for lure coursing and flyball.
  • This year, the other dog events are more integrated into the whole shebang. Some of that comes with having 6 rings and spreading them out. Used to be 4 rings in a square. This time, the Dock Dogs pool was between the vendors, Ring 2, and the crating area, so you had to walk past it constantly. The Rally-O course was close to that. You could look down on the lure coursing course from the Ring 1 bleachers. Only the flyball was further out, probably to avoid having excited dogs from different sports too close to each other.


At registration, which was thankfully fast and simple, we got a red logo backpack sort of bag, a red logo umbrella (we weren't sure whether they were afraid it was going to rain or it was going to be so hot that you needed sun protection), a t-shirt, and the annual pin proving that you participated in the event. All "free." Did I mention how much I paid in entry fees?

The weather is sunny and hot. I never wear shorts until it gets up around 100, which it won't do, but it's got to be close to 90. Jackie didn't bring shorts; she's going to buy some at one of the vendor booths. People are teasing me about suggesting that they bring very warm clothes for bone-chilling evenings like we had last year.

We walked the Time Gamble course between 10 and noon, each group getting 10 minutes to walk it during that hour. Not as many dogs entered this as the rest of the weekend, as it's only a fun game and is the only thing on Wednesday, but a very large portion of them did.

This was different from regular Gamblers. In this one, it's the time you're gambling on. It's a standard, fairly simple numbered course of about 12 obstacles. You walk the course, decide how long it's going to take you to do the course, and register that number (plus any additional seconds to cover penalties that you expect to get). The guess that's closest to the dog's actual time plus faults wins.

I walked Tika's course 3x and came up with 28 seconds each time. I hemmed and hawed over whether to add 3 points for probably either knocking a bar or missing the up on the dogwalk, then decided not to. And then I subtracted a second because I usually ever so slightly overestimate my times, so I guessed 27. Jake I estimated would take about 34 seconds and would definitely miss the down on the dogwalk, so I guessed 37.

The brief 10-minute opening ceremonies were then held from 1:15 to 2:15 (well, it wasn't the best-run event at all times...), then we eventually got to run our course around 4 pm. Somewhere between when we ran it and then, they posted a maximum course time of 35 seconds, which means that they whistle you off if you're on course longer than that and then you get no time. That's a little annoying, knowing that even if Jake runs well, I can't possibly successfully score.

Anyway, Jake had no interest in getting warmed up. I couldn't get him to even pretend to be interested in a toy out in the field beforehand. He wouldn't even jog with me when i tried jogging to get him moving. I'm thinking he was pretty stiff and achey from all that time in the car and the crate. He indeed popped his dogwalk contact, but was also pretty slow, and then when we got to the A-frame, he ran past it. I took him way back, gave him another run at it, and again he ran past it, which should tell me something, I guess. At that point, the over-time whistle blew, so actually we might have made it if he hadn't refused the A-frame.

Tika ran the course in...28.01. So much for subtracting a second. HOWEVER, she didn't stick her teeter and burst ahead of me towards the wrong obstacle and I had to call her off it, so I'm sure that we wasted a second there, so 27 should've been correct--except that indeed she got called on her up dogwalk contact, which I didn't see the judge call (although it looked iffy to me), so I acutally held her for a second or so on each contact to make up the time), so our final score was 41, leaving us 4 seconds off our guess. Dogs who were winning or placing were all pretty much within .2 seconds of their guesses.

Wednesday night was the awards banquet. Great food. Lots of vegetables, which was good. I had two huge helpings of the very tasty dessert, apple crisp (apple pandowdy? apple something with a sweet/crusty topping) with vanilla ice cream. I'm hoping that eating most things in moderation combined with lots and lots of walking and excitement and stress will prevent me from gaining weight this trip.

Reporting on my trip

Sorry, might not be able to post both here and to my agility club's blog. So you can read some stuff about our trip here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TUESDAY: 720 Miles and Here We Are

Backfill: Nov 15
SOME PHOTOS COMING

We arrived at the hotel at 9:30 this evening. What a relief to be standing still--well, to be standing at all!--and to be able to let the dogs loose in the room rather than in their crates.

The room is actually a 2-room suite, so Jackie and Elliot have the back bedroom and I and my dogs get the front room with the queen sleeper sofa. We have an x-pen set up as a gate between the rooms, primarily to separate Elliot and Jake. If it were only Tika and Boost, we could probably leave it open. Although... Elliot and Boost have played enthusiastically together, mostly wrestling cheerfully. Boost has tired Elliot out, so it's good to be able to keep her away from him for a while to let him rest.

Time Plus Distance: We left my house at 8:08 this morning. After a quick stop for ice for the cooler, we hit the road. We took 85 south to 101, cut across 152 and Pacheco Pass to I-5 and down to the Grapevine (read a little history of Grapevine Valley/Grapevine Pass/Lebec). In north L.A., we bipped onto 210 to take us to I-10 in the late afternoon, which then took us all the way to Phoenix.

The dogs all behaved very well, which means sleeping in their crates the whole trip except for rest stops, when they were able to get out briefly on leash. Boost started whining around 8 in the evening and we made an extra pit stop for her, but I think it was mostly boredom. Other than that, we stopped about every 2 hours. It's amazing that zipping into a roadside rest area, walking the dogs in a circle for a couple of minutes one or 2 at a time, pottying ourselves, and zipping back onto the freeway, can quickly consume 20 to 30 minutes.

The weather was nice the whole way, partly cloudy and quite windy on the southern part of I-5 in the central valley. By 5:00, past Palm Springs i believe, it was already too dark to snap photos (I forgot about wanting to take photos until about 4:30, so we really have very little from the trip).

We covered 720 miles in an elapsed time of 13 hours and 21 minutes, but that included 2 hours and 56 minutes of stops (yes, I tracked it all!), so driving time was really only 10 hours and 25 minutes. That's an average of just under 69 miles per hour. It helped that we hit very little traffic through the L.A. area, so seldom had to drop a lot below the speed limit. It also helped that several hours of I-5 and I-10 outside the mountains and urban areas were legally 70 MPH, and I-10 through most of AZ was 75 MPH.

As incidental notes and followups to comments and questions from our trip conversations:
  • Noticing that you enter Tejon Ranch before you even get to the Grapevine and then realizing that the rest stop at the top of the pass is still part of the ranch, we wondered how big that sucker is. 270,000 acres! Tejon Ranch is quite a corporation, whose land assets are used for all kinds of things, from nature preserves to real estate to filming locations.
  • "Whiffenpoof": In case you ever wondered why a song about "poor little lambs who have lost their way" is called "The Whiffenpoof Song" (as in, "what the heck is a Whiffenpoof?"), it is an elite glee club at Harvard.
  • In the category of Words That Have Too Many Letters: "Neighbours".
  • There is a huge windmill farm in San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs. It might dwarf the ones at Altamont Pass. However, when we went through, all the windmills were still and no wind blew. This particular area contains over 4000 windmills, although the trend at all wind farms these days is to replace hundreds of smaller ones with single, larger, more efficient ones, so a more accurate measure might be KWH generated.

Monday, November 07, 2005

We're Packed!

Fit everything beautifully into Jackie's van despite my doubts upon examining the mountain of miscellany awaiting packing. You just have to know where to fit the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and it had not yet become clear. Took us about 2 and a half hours--but with a nice long break in the middle of that time for Mountain Mike's veggie pizza. Mm-mm, good.

So we're ready! We're set! This'll probably be my last post until Wednesday sometime (unless we arrive at the hotel much earlier than I expect on Tuesday).

On the road again...

Face It, Ellen—Dogwalk Up Contact is Just Going to be Hosed

So today Tika started going around the 4x4 (only about 12" long) on the ground and jumping on from the side. So I put a longer one down, so she started really shortening her stride so she could hit the dirt between the 4x4 and the up contact. I finally got it rearranged so that she is again hitting the contact zone, although not as solidly in the middle as she did for about 3 preceding sessions.

Oh well, we'll either get them or we won't.

She's been knocking bars in practice but I've been trying to make it hard for her to keep them up, quietly stopping and going back if she does knock them, and playing extra wildly with her when she does the exercise correctly. I hope the practice pays off...

I have almost everything assembled and packed. It has taken me 2 days. Why so much longer than for a mere 2-day trip? (Usually takes me 2-3 hours, even with all of my shortcuts such as having a grooming kit already assembled, all dog equipment in one place in the garage, storing a bunch of it in the van all the time anyway, and so on.) Seems to be something intimidating about a 7-day, 1500-mile trip.

OK, I'm off to chop up 15,000 pounds of rollover.

Eve of Epic Journey Brain Dump

Paraphernalia

Since we might be taking Jackie's nifty van (or maybe not since she didn't see any tiedowns in the back for me to strap the dog crates to), I've been going through my van, trying to make sure that I've got everything I could possibly want for a 7-day, 1600-mile trip through the desert to a large dog event (our route, more or less). I have so much DOG STUFF. I bought a nifty large gear bag--like a satchel with over a dozen little pockets--a few years back and filled it with all the random stuff that I found useful or potentially useful at trials and stuffed the rest of the space full of toys. Then it got to be so full of stuff, and it was so large, that I eventually got (luckily won in a raffle) a smaller grooming bag and moved the stuff that I frequently used (as opposed to "might need" or rarely used) into the small bag. Oddly enough, the big one was still stuffed to the gills.

So yesterday I emptied both bags to see what I had. Huh. Tons of stuff. A Flexi-lead that I used only a few times, didn't like much, and have since encountered several trainers who dislike it for various reasons. Probably haven't used it in 5, 6 years. Can donate to raffle. Found a Zoom Groom (oops--this one's a PetFingers brand--uh, wait, huh, apparently petfingers is an older brand name for the zoom groom) that was the only thing that really worked at all for getting Remington's fur out. I've been regretting not clipping a lock of Rem's fur before he "crossed the rainbow bridge." Guess what--zoom groom still had Rem fur embedded! So I pulled that out and saved it.

Don't really need to carry around 8 tennis balls with handle-loops attached. Tossed some of the ripped-up ones. Found the dog whistle I bought years ago and have never done anything with. The big bag has become a repository for first-aid-type things. Don't often use, but handy when the call comes. So do I take the big bag, too, just in case? Argh.

Boostie Spooked By Storm

Or by something. Last night she was quite spooked by something, kept barking warningly at the southwest area of the yard. I took her out with the other dogs, we looked at everything, the other two dogs did their usual unconcerned exploration of the area, but nothing convinced the puppy. She wanted to go hide in the garage behind the car. She wouldn't quit all evening. I don't know whether it was the occasional raindrops? (First time it's rained since she was very young, I believe.) Or the changing barometric pressure as the storm comes in? I have no idea.

She was fine overnight; happy to get into her secure crate in the bedroom, I suppose, but started right up again this morning. I walked around the whole area again, talking calmly, touching and patting and rattling things. Still spooked. I finally set her up on the hot tub where she could see everything, put her into a sit next to me using the calming/controlled hold where she leans against me, can't get away, relaxes into me while I stroke her. She watched the world very carefully the whole time but after only a couple of minutes there, she relaxed visibly and now seems to be OK.

Go figure.

Tika's dogwalk

I started training the dogwalk up contact with a 4x4 across the board above the contact zone, trying to get her to put her feet into the contact zone instead of leaping over it. Worked fine at shorter distances, as I started her close to get used to it being there, then worked gradually backwards. But after I got about 12 feet away (path to dogwalk, if straight on, will usually be 15 to 20'), she started leaping over the contact zone AND the 4x4. I moved the 4x4 up a foot. She leaped farther. I moved it up another foot.

It's amazing how far a dog can leap when she wants to. I moved it up another foot.

Yow. Wow. What an amazing leap, more than halfway up the ramp without landing a foot on it! Then, when I gave that up and moved it back down and took her back in closer to get her to shorten her stride again, she wouldn't; apparently after figuring out that she can REALLY leap to clear the 4x4, she has decided to always do that.

So i took it off again and she went back pretty much to usually just missing the up contact.

Only 2 days ago I decided to try it on the ground in front of the ramp. At a foot out and starting about 8 feet to 10 feet away, it worked perfectly, feet in the middle of the contact zone. But if I took her back to about 15 feet, she flew over the 4x5 AND the up contact. If I moved it too far away from the ramp, she put in an extra stride to hit the ground below the ramp and then leap over it. So I have to move the 4x4 in and out depending on how far away from the ramp she's going to start running. But if I judge it correctly, she lands beautifully in the middle of the up contact each time.

The thing to do would be to do that hundreds of times so that she develops "muscle memory" about her approach to the dogwalk. And during that time, gradually fade the barrier--to a 2x4, then maybe a 1x4, then maybe a broomstick-diameter piece, and so on.

But I've had only 2 days until Nationals. I probably shouldn't be mucking with it at all.

We've also been doing jumps and more jumps. I don't want to overdo, but I do want her to be actively thinking about not knocking bars. And now today it's supposed to be raining off and on all day. We might or might not get in any more practice. Such a challenge!

Old Jake

We went up to Power Paws for Nationals Practice on Saturday afternoon. Ran 3 fairly complex full-length courses, but of course got opportunities to to work on the parts with which we had trouble and ask advice from our instructors. I'm grateful to Power Paws for hosting this for their students. There were probably only about 15 to 20 of us, max, who took advantage of it--there were only 4-5 of us during the 2 1/2 hours I was there--but it reminded me of several things that I have to be aware of as a handler.

Jake was not superfast. He can do quite speedy weave poles, but never has been fast at them in competition (faster than Remington, but still not great), and he has now slowed down immensely. I don't know whether they're uncomfortable to do because of his back, or whether he can't hear my voice prompt any more so isn't secure in what he's doing, or can't see me as clearly so is trying to watch me more closely in case I do something else--

He did OK on other stuff. Will NOT stick his contacts when he's in competition mode. I never did have good down contacts for him; he always has had problems making the dogwalk down. In class, he's perfect. But nowhere else. In fact, in tests in the yard this week, he wouldn't stick them at all unless I was right next to him, stopped and pointing. In competition, even that doesn't stop him. Oh, well, I expect he'll fly off them all like he did last year at Nationals.

He's not running all that fast, either, at least not all the time.

I decided several weeks ago that he's going to stop going to class after Thanksgiving. :-( And no more USDAA competition; I see him working to make even the 16" jumps. Probably still do a little CPE because he can jump 12" as a veteran, or I even have the option of running him at "specialist" and he could jump 8"! It almost seems like cheating--but he seems much happier at trials after he's gotten at least one run in for the day.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Doggie Treats

Dog "sausage" cut into tidbits.
Something I was just thinking about the other day while I had a sharp instrument in my hand. One thing that I didn't really know how to manage before I started agility was dog treats for training. The basic-obedience instructor with whom we had started classes a few months before really got us going on using dog treats, but I went through a variety of experiments with trying to find something that provided lots of treats in small enough portions that the dogs wouldn't gorge themselves in a single training session, could be eaten quickly (rather than standing and chewing contemplatively while handler is waiting impatiently to be able to do the next move) and yet was inexpensive enough for my budget.

It wasn't until I started agility classes and the instructor asked us whether we used Rollover that I was introduced to the concept of doggie sausages. Rollover is just a brand name; there are 2 or 3 manufacturers of similar items, all packaged this same way. I buy the large, 4-pound size, slice it into about 1/4" slices and then dice those slices into roughly 1/4" cubes. The stuff is a bit crumbly, especially when it warms up to room or air temperature, but mostly it holds together.

Some people don't like it because it's too processed, too sweet, too unidentifiable, or whatever your favorite complaint is about commercial dog food. Other people cook up tons of chicken and use pieces of that. Or chop up ham. Or you can buy large containers of freeze-dried liver, which can also be diced into fairly small pieces and isn't quite so messy and probably easier on the digestive tract if dog is having issues, but is definitely more expensive.

There's also a huge variety of natural or otherwise proclaimed healthy treats that you can buy online or from local manufacturers and distributors.

There are a variety of ways of dispensing it. You can keep some in your pocket, which has the advantages that (a) you usually have your pocket with you, and (b) it's not so obvious to the dog that you have treats. With doggie sausages, the disadvantage is that you end up with crumbly dog food scraps in your pockets, and you'd better not leave those pockets lying around where dogs can get at them unsupervised, or you *won't* usually have your pocket with you. Some types of food--their regular kibbles, for example, or chicken or other meats--aren't as crumbly but actually are rather oily, so you don't want to put them in any kind of fabric that will be permanently damaged, and you don't want to put anything else in the pocket with them.

You can also buy a large variety of bait bags (for example, these high-quality ones that also seal nicely for storage) that clip onto your belt or pocket or whatever. Those are nice--keeps the stuff out of your clothing--but is definitely more obvious to the dog and you have to remember to clip it on--and they do occasionally fall off.

There are toys into which you can put food to encourage food-motivated dogs to start playing with you.

All of which are better than the plastic baggies that I used to wrestle with. There--now you're educated about doggie treats.

Squirrels, Rawhides, and Cute Puppies--or not

  • Squirrels: Remington loved to chase squirrels. Tika loves to chase squirrels. Jake has always been interested in them but not obsessive. When I go for a walk with him, he'll speed up a bit until he's putting pressure on the leash, but he won't go wild like Remington did or Tika does. During yesterday's walk, for example, while he was stopped to Do His Business, an S-word ran across the street not too far from him. He watched it, his ears perked up, but he finished the task at hand and continued walking cheerily with me.

    With Remington, I found it to be quite entertaining to associate the word "squirrel" with the animal. It was easy to do. I just used it a lot while he was chasing them. ("Is that a squirrel?" "There's a squirrel!" "It's Mr. Squirrel!" and so on.) So I could always get him to perk up his ears, say for a good photo, by saying "Where's Mr. Squirrel?" or, more familiarly, "Squirrel!" It was a handy trick.

    With Tika, the last thing I want is to get her more excited about something.

    Boost seems to have no interest in squirrels at all, although she watches Tika intently as the older Merle Girl dashes madly after an S-word racing along the top of the fence.

  • The $3 rawhide vs the 60-cent rawhide. And an inbetweenie.
    Rawhide bones:My, what an expensive habit. The tiniest pressed-rawhide chews, which the dogs all seem to prefer to the really cheap rawhides, cost about 60 cents each plus tax at Pet Club. Dogs will go through $2 worth of chews in 5 minutes and then go looking for trouble again. The largest size that I'll get for the dogs runs about $3 at Pet Club, something like $6 at PetCo!

    Tika has sometimes preferred to bury the rawhide, not praise it, then steal one from one of the other dogs. (Et two, Brute dog?) Boost has apparrently also taken this as a general strategy. Sometimes it stays buried for only 10 or 15 minutes, then she can't stand the anticipation any longer and reappears with it to chew it up.

    I don't think I'll get the largest ones for them any more. In theory they last longer. But none of them seem to enjoy chewing them all that much. I gave each of them a large one two days ago. Boost buried hers. Tika just set hers down on the floor and lay near it for a couple of hours before deciding to give it a gnaw. Boost's reappeared eventually but she didn't chew on it. Jake just guarded his.

    The one that Tika chewed on tired her out after a while. Then Jake took it over and chewed for a while. Then Boost took over and chewed for a while. And so on until it was eventually gone, much much later in the day. But as for the other two bones—two days later, and now Jake's still guarding them both. No one else seems to care.

    Jake doesn't often chew rawhides any more unless one of the other dogs has started it, in which case he might chew obsessively for hours. But mostly he just carries them around and growls constantly at Boost whenever she makes the mistake of being in the same room, or, say, turns her head in Jake's general direction so he can growl "stop looking at me!"

  • Cute puppies? OK, who said puppies are cute? Step over here and say that after reaching down to give the pup a nice pet and have your hand hit a big patch of something sticky. And then have to clean the puppy of dog excrement for the second time in three days. Yes, indeed, I think my months of prayers have been answered—Boost has finally stopped eating Tika's poop. Yes, both wedneday and today I had to clean up large flattened pieces of TP from the yard. Gleah.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nationals Notes

  • My DAM team: Tika qualified for the Nationals in the 3-dog-team Dog Agility Masters tournament by being on a team with our old friend Spike the Border Newf and a gentleman from southern California who needed a partner at the last minute after we lost ours (don't remember why). But Spike's not attending Nationals, and I waffled for a long time about what I was going to do about DAM, so the So-Cal guy wisely signed up for his own (I assume more So-Cal) team.

    Instead, I'm teamed with another long-time friend Megan (photo), the aussie rescue who's gotten to be a pretty reliable although not super-fast performer, who just earned her USDAA Championship (Tika's a lonnnng way away from that), and who also qualified with a team with whom she's not running.

    Our 3rd? This year, USDAA is allowing any qualified 2-dog group to include a 3rd dog who did not qualify on his own team. Actually Tika competed in the DAM at nationals last year by the grace of this rule, because her team didn't Q in the one attempt we made, and our friends Eric and Leslie allowed us to be on their team at Nationals. Well, this year, Eric has a newer, younger rescue dog who didn't Q in DAM but who is going to the nationals, so Megan and Tika asked Zac (oops, no photo available? a red and white border collie) to be on our team.

    That's Tika, Megan, Zac—team name Run-TMZ!

  • Team Uniforms:The wonderful woman who made our tie-dye team outfits for the second year in a row (Eric's wife--pays to be on the right team), reported cheerily today:

    "I'll be there in spirit, my tie-dye worn by several of the best dressed teams. My dog will be running with Eric. Your team shirts are awesome - black with lightning bolts of aquamarine, purple and cobalt blue. There won't be anyone (other than your teammates) wearing anything like this!"

  • Nationals isn't Nationals: we all call them the National Championships, because that's what they were for a long time. Also until 2002, the National Ch's for Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and DAM were held at different times of the year in different locations.

    Then USDAA became grandiose.

    We in fact will be attending the 2005 World Cynosport Games! We'll be competing in the USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships, the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase Jumping Championships, the Dog Agility Masters International Three-Dog Team Championship, and the, hmm, I think Veteran Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships (with Jake). In addition to all the agility, there will be disc dog demos, flyball competitions, herding, terrier racing ("go-to-ground" competitions) and much more.

    And lots and lots of cool dog-gear-related vendors.

  • Truly International: There will be championship teams from at least a dozen other countries competing as well, probably with Byes into the Grand Prix semifinals or even finals, to ensure that the results will be truly international (although in previous years US teams have consistently beat out the teams from other countries. Don't know why we can't always do that overseas--but in part of course we've got a lot of US teams competing here, so the odds are good that SOMEONE will do really well).

  • Postings: My hotel has free Internet hookup, so I'll be taking my Mac (which the repair guy has now to try to figure out why it intermittently won't power up) and attempting to post *some* kind of news daily while I'm there. If I'm not collapsed like an exhausted, melted lump of agility slag on my hotel bed.

  • Transport: We might be taking my friend Jackie's van instead of mine. At least this year all the tires on my van should be good so we won't be stopped at midnight in rural AZ/CA changing a tire-- But her van is cool, ALL the doors are power! And not broked like my one pathetic power door. Did I mention that the dealer said it would be $1300 to repair the sucker?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Jake Turns Fourteen

As of November 1, Jake is officially 14 years old. To celebrate, he decided that he was willing to play a never-ending game of fetch yesterday afternoon. Sometimes in recent months he doesn't want to play at all, or has to receive a graven invitation. But yesterday he asked for it and gleefully kept at it, Tika and Boost chasing him or escorting him or preceding him down the field the whole time. He seemed quite happy about the whole experience.

I had just played with him a bit and was setting up the yard to practice jumping with Tika, when the housemate arrived home, and Jake took him the toy. Housemate was pleased to just throw it and throw it; apparently Jake hasn't been willing to play fetch with him for months now, and so he enjoyed finally having a chance. They both tried to make up for lost time. I finally called it off when I noticed Jake's rear legs stumbling a bit, after he had already obviously slowed down. But it was a good long game.