Saturday, April 15, 2006

Home After 3 Days of Agility

Filling in from the beginning:

Monday night

I go out for Chinese food with my sister and brother-in-law before viewing a Ronald Colman double-feature at the Stanford Theater (good theater. Must visit more often. Prisoner of Zenda and Talk of the Town, good films, recommend>). Here's my fortune-cookie fortune:


This worries me, with an extra long, national-qualifier-packed weekend coming up and rain, rain everywhere.

Wednesday

It's been raining for years. March had the most rainy days in Bay Area history. April had 11 rainy days as of the 13th and was looking to be on track as the rainiest April in history. The host team for the upcoming 4-day trail had been sending out periodic updates to the effect of "entire site under water; bring agility arks" and "Our special guest judge, Noah..." (Actually more like "half the roadways through the site are closed due to water; the fields are lakes and we're trying to figure out where we're going to set up our courses; all the areas in which we usually park motorhomes and campers and under water; be prepared to be flexible.")

I was dreading doing agility in three days of rain and mud and muck. Weather reports changed daily. I'm planning on sleeping in the minivan again, and I'm picturing trying to get it set up in the rain, trying to maintain clean, dry bedding for myself and a pleasant atmosphere with 3 sopping wet, muddy dogs in the car with me and no good way to provide ventilation if it's raining. I pack for cold and rain and wind. Twelve layers of thermal underwear, forty pairs of dry socks, that sort of thing. I exhaust myself by spending the day dreading having a miserable weekend.

The Body Is Falling Apart

Plus I'm tired anyway from my physical ailments. How have these grown on me so rapidly? My knee is bad and seeming to get worse; it started sometime after I got the Booster-Pup and I realize that she crashes into it way too often when we're playing tug-o-war or the like. I'm sure that falling on it in January didn't help, but it was a bit crappy before and continued to be crappy afterwards. The last three or four weeks it has seemed to deterioriate. I've been trying to rearrange my life so that I don't have to use my knee, but I spend SO much time kneeling to do stuff with the dogs or in the yard or in the house, or dropping to one knee for this, that, or the other, it's a real challenge to avoid it. It throbs often. It stiffens when I'm sitting at my desk.

No, I haven't taken it to the doctor.

My shoulders have not recovered from all that mulch-hauling back in January. The right one is particularly bad. I try to limit my tug-o-war and toy throwing in the yard, but that's how I interact with my dogs and get them excited and reward them, so it's hard to stop completely. It has been interrupting my sleep fairly regularly--every time I turn over, it hurts and rouses me from my slumber.

Drugs don't seem to make much difference. I try to remember to do some appropriate gentle exercises, but I'm not good at remembering.

The Upcoming Haute Tracs Trial

Haute Dawgs and TRACS teamed up last year for a 4-day extravaganza of agility including all three national-qualifying tournament events (Dog Agility Masters Team, Steeplechase, and Grand Prix) plus a bunch of other regular classes. It proved so popular that they're doing it again this year. They are expecting hundreds of dogs from San Diego to Canada and I believe even farther afield. There will be many top competitors and handlers. Our competition will be stiff, but it'll be a lot of the same ones that we'll see at the Nationals in November, so it's good to see where we fit.

What I really need:
  • DAM qualifier: the last tournament qualifier that I'm missing for this year AND it'll finish my Tournament Master title. I have a good team. We could do it this time. (Only about the top 50% of the teams can qualify at one trial.)
  • Jumpers: Any. We have had so few clean jumpers runs in our 3+ years of competitions that it seems we may never get any ever again. Dang bars. We still need 3 or 4 (my database is falling behind) for our Jumpers Master title (needed for our ADCH). Offered this weekend: Two.
  • Snooker Super-Q: We need to be in the top 15% just one more time, ever, in our entire agility career, to finish our Snooker Master title (needed for our ADCH). And Tika is capable of being such a great Snooker dog. Remember--8th overall at the Nationals last november! Offered this weekend: One. (well--two--but I didn't sign up for all 4 days, just 3.)
  • Standard: Just two more of these are required for our ADCH--we already have five. This weekend: THREE!
  • Gamblers: Three more towards our ADCH. Offered this weekend: One.


What else is offered this weekend:
  • Steeplechase qualifiers: We've already qualified for this year, but I would SO love to finish in the placements again! Have done it only once so far. Her time is usually right up there but we pretty much always manage to knock a bar.
  • Grand Prix qualifier: Also already qualified for this year. AND I've already got about 11 of these babies, way more than any other kind of Q. Why did I pay the dang $30 entry fee? I don't know really. It's just more practice, I guess, aand the Qs do eventually add up to our (eventual) bronze and silver etc. awards--if we ever manage to get past our ADCH!
  • Pairs relay: We've finished our requirements for the ADCH in this and a couple more beyond that. Just more Qs for future awards.

Thursday morning. Puddles everywhere. Some people actually find places in the lawn that do not have standing water and manage to set up their canopies. Most people are trying to work out of their cars, an awkward proposition in most cases.


Thursday Morning

I get up with the dogs at 4 a.m. to pack and get on the road. Everyone poops quickly; this makes it so much easier and less stressful when I get to the site. It's not raining. But while I'm popping sodas (soda pops--get it?--) into the cooler in the kitchen, the rain starts. Crap. We head out and the rain continues, lightly, all the way up through Fremont, then pretty much stops as we cut through the Hamilton Range (?) into the Livermore valley and stays dry all the way out to Dixon.

The roadways at the fairgrounds are all open again, but the fields where we'd usually park are still too wet and muddy for vehicles, and the rings have been rearranged tremendously. Instead of four in a close row across the middle of the fairgrounds with us all set up tightly around it, two rings are now way out in the grandstand field, meaning that we have to cut through the surrounding fence and walk all around the grandstand to get to the far ring. I will be doing far more walking this weekend than I'm used to, and my knee already hurts.

The main path across the main agility field--about 9:30 Thursday morning, after the first several bales of hay have been trodden into the muck. Eventually they have a flatbed truck loaded with hay and woodchips ("sawdust") hauled in. It will set back the club possibly the entire potential profit from this huge trial.


There are pools of water everywhere, including in many places on the course. After the first walkthrough in the Standard ring--none of the hundreds of dogs or handlers have yet even RUN--the fields are muddy trails that suck at one's shoes. Instead of starting the rings at 8:00, they're delayed until 9:30 while valiant volunteers bring back bales and bales of fine woodchips (sort of like hamster bedding) for the fields and straw for the walkways. It's going to be a lonnnnng day.



The Standard field after the first walkthrough is complete. Now run 200 dogs and their handlers through the same paths. Then reset the course for the next class and repeat.
Standing on course at the end of walkthrough. Contemplating the course or the muck?

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