Monday, January 30, 2006

Tika's Day

We continued our usual vein of one-dagblanged-fault-per-run runs in most cases, although Tika ran fast and paid attention and was a very good girl all weekend in the ring. Even stayed put at the start line, although she did lie down before one run instead of remaining sitting. (I keep thinking I'm going to start just putting her in a down, but then change my mind.)

In Gamblers, I thought I had a pretty good opening, but we had some wide turns, knocked a bar, missed a tunnel entrance and farkled around to get away from there, wasted time doing half a set of weave poles before the whistle blew, so we ended up with I think 28 points in the opening instead of what I thought might have been 39 if we'd been smoother (but still, we needed only 18 minimum, so that was fine). And she did the first 3 obstacles in the gamble itself beautifully. It was onto a teeter parallel to the line, then forward and to the right over a jump about 10 feet away, and back to the right over a tunnel about 15-20 feet away (parallel to the teeter but heading in opposite direction). Watched a lot of people get refusals from the teeter to the jump, but she did it completely smoothly and full speed and dove right into the tunnel.

But we lost it on the last obstacle; out of the tunnel the dog had to veer towards the left and take a jump going away from you, but there was a trap jump straight ahead and I didn't even make a dent in her forward trajectory. Sigh. Not a lot of people got that gamble.

Also, she was stopping at the bottom of the Aframe all the way on the ground rather than two feet on and two off.

Then on to Standard (with the pre-weave-pole bobble I mentioned earlier, but for which we weren't penalized), which was otherwise fast and nice (not mentioning the stop-OFF-the-Aframe again), but we got called for that pesky up contact on the dogwalk again. Crud.

Next came Jumpers, and true to form, she was fast (3rd fastest of all dogs her height, which in USDAA is danged good) and we really had no handling bobbles at all that I remember but she knocked that one bar that she seems obliged to knock in every jumpers run.

Then came Snooker. So Snooker is hard for us in USDAA because Tika is my dog who should easily be getting Super-Qs (top 15% of dogs competing) but I get so stressed about it if I sit and watch that I then blow it when I go into the ring. Once again, for the umpteenth time in a row (I was going to look this up), we were dead last in the 26" jump height, which normally would be an advantage because you COULD watch and see what the minimum was that you needed to do to get the Super-Q. But since I psych myself out, I puttered around trying to do other stuff.

And this was an interesting course, because it was tight with plenty of wraps required to be able to do three 7s in the opening, and the closing was short but had a challenging box of jumps and weaves to get through to completion. Because of all the changes of direction, I wasn't sure that we could easily make time, even assuming that we didn't make any handling mistakes, so I had also walked a 7-7-5 opening just in case. But then of course I wanted to know whether anyone else was making the 7-7-7 opening.

It turns out that people were. Not a lot, but just enough to make it impossible to go for the 7-7-5 and still hope for a Super-Q. Indeed, there were twenty 26" dogs, so there'd be exactly 3 Super-Qs, and by the time we ran, exactly 3 26" dogs had made it through the course with 7-7-7 in the opening. I tried to be calm about it, because in fact Tika usually handles well on a tight course (I have more trouble on a wide-open course where she really gets hauling). I made sure she was plenty far back from the start line so that, if she did skootch, she wouldn't be over the line sucking up the clock time.

The I led out, took a breath, and released her. And she was on and ready to go! I had planned some definitely advanced wraps and threadles and crosses for what I thought was the optimal line for her to get the correct set of obstacles and not knock any bars. She didn't let me down, although the Panic Monster was creeping in on me: About three times during the opening, I started to make a turn and the brain froze about where I was supposed to be going and Tika started to veer in the wrong direction, but I caught myself each time and she responded flawlessly and then we were through the 7-7-7 opening and into the closing.

Because she'd been leaving the Aframe early, and the #4 was an Aframe, I worked the down contact and made her hold it--without really thinking about it, and then started cursing myself because, to beat the other dogs with three 7s, I had to have a better time, and so then I forgot to try to get in the front cross that I needed to make it through that tight box at #6 and almost lost her twice, but managed to steer her through, and then we were out the last weave pole of #7 and the whistle hadn't blown yet and the relief and joy flooded through. We do great Snookers in CPE all the time, where we don't *need* SuperQs (they don't have them there), so I know that we're capable of it, but I just haven't been managing them well in USDAA.

I wasn't sure how we were going to do with our time, considering that the other 3 who had made all 7s were danged good handlers with fast dogs, and we had all those almost-steering-errors and that hold on the Aframe, so I was twitchy for a while, but--oh joy--we not only got the Super-Q, we came in 2nd! In USDAA Masters! This was a fairly small trial, really, but there were still quite a few top-flight dogs competing (as usual), so I'm delighted.

In Pairs Relay, we knocked a bar on a serpentine--I think I started pushing and saying Out for the next jump before she was over that one--but with our partner's clean run and both dogs fast, and with Pairs always scored time-plus-faults, we were able to Q, although not place.

A decent enough day with a couple of ribbons to take home anyway.

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