Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dogs and Cancer

SUMMARY: Another sad day.

One agility friend has a Bernese Mountain Dog named Kintla, who is just barely 8 years old. Kintla is a lovely, agile, fast dog for a breed that looks so large and solid. They've done very well together in agility, earning both the USDAA championship (ADCH) and the AKC championship (MACH), which are beyond the reach of many, many dogs. But Katie told me last year that she knew that Kintla was living on borrowed time, because cancer is rife in this breed, that both her parents died young (6 years old, I think), and that the average life expectancy of the breed is only 8 years or so anyway.

I found out a week ago that Kintla's fate has caught up to her and she does, indeed, have cancer--very aggressive, and in her bloodstream, and metastasized to at least one vital organ. Today I found out that Kintla will be put to sleep tomorrow, while she's still bright-eyed and beautiful. She was more than happy to relieve us of our extra dog treats and cheese. But she apparently has trouble even walking and keeping food down, so her quality of life has deteriorated rapidly.

It's always heartbreaking to lose a dog, especially a special one like this one. And it brings back painful memories for all of us who've lost a dog to cancer. Boost's sister's mom and I were alternately fawning over Kintla and crying for our cancer-taken Remington (9 years old) and Morey (a Golden who died at 7).

Goodbye, Kintla.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Photo from Sunday

Just added a nice photo of Tika running Steeplechase Round 2 to yesterday's postings, taken by an agility friend.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Team Saturday and Sunday

SUMMARY: An emotional rollercoast. I really REALLY want this Q, and it takes SO much effort and money to get one, and opportunities are SO limited--

Team was a real emotional rollercoaster.

Scoring is interesting:
*For Jumpers, Standard, and Relay, each dog starts with a certain number of points--100 points per dog in Jumpers, 130 in Standard, 150 in Relay. You subtract points for how much time you use and how many faults you have. If you E (offcourse), you lose all your points.
*For Snooker and Gamblers, they multiply your earned points by some factor to make the top dogs roughly equivalent to 100-150 points.
*Your standing is determining by adding all your team's points. At least the top 50% of the teams (plus however many are within 75% of the 3 top teams) qualify for the nationals.
*Example: You all run very fast and clean in Standard, each taking about 35 seconds. That's a total of 285 for Standard--390 (130 each starting points) minus 105 (35 seconds each).
*Another example: The gamblers factor is 1.5, one of your dogs earns 62 points (so that's 93 with the factor), one of your dogs misses the gamble but still earns 40 points in the opening (so that's 60) and one of your dogs is really slow, gets only 20 points in the opening, and misses the gamble, that's 30 points, for a total of 183 for your team.

So it's all about NOT Eing in Standard, Jumpers, and Relay, and about NOT crapping out entirely in Gamblers and Snooker (where it's possible to earn a 0-point run--have done it!).

Our team (Brenn, Tika, Skeeter) was sort of desperate. We've already tried twice to Q--Skeeter did it with another team, so they're good for nationals, but Brenn and I haven't had the best of luck, and this is just about our last chance to try. (One more try in September but that's the last minute and otherwise I think there's one or two chances in southern Cal, but who wants to drive that far?) And then Skeeter started throwing up Friday night. Argh.

But Skeeter was looking better and eating on Saturday morning, so she didn't have to be scratched from the trial. Still, she's not a fast dog--although reliable, which is nice--and it was HOT HOT HOT so who knows how she'd run.


An experiment--surround the crates with the X-pen and let the dogs decide whether to lie on the cool grass or in their crates. They seemed very confused by the whole thing and ended up resting in their crates most of the weekend, coming out into the open area only when I was there.

Jumpers

Jumpers was the first Team event on Saturday, and we all held our breaths as each of us ran our dogs--Skeeter was really slow but clean (41.69 seconds). Tika was really fast (29.92 seconds), knocked a bar (5 faults), but stayed on course. And Brenn was fast and clean (31.07 seconds). Wahoo! Plenty of other dogs had faults or in fact had offcourses, and we were excited to see that we were in 5th place overall, of 29 teams. Since at least 15 would qualify, that gave us a very good starting position.

Gamblers


Next up was Gamblers. The gamble looked tricky at first, but then it appeared that if you could line your dog up straight at the gamble, they'd go in a straight line across 2 jumps and into a tunnel and the rest was a gimmee. Plus you could either stay outside the line and get a 20-point gamble or just run the dog in and get 10 points for the gamble. I decided that I knew exactly how to line Tika up and would try for staying outside the line, and if she hesitated, I'd run in and push her into the tunnel.

So first Brenn ran. They couldn't get any of their contacts in the opening, so earned only 28 opening points, but lined up in the same line I was planning for Tika and did the 20-point gamble perfectly, for a total of 48 points. Then Skeeter ran--not fast, again, but Mary picked a nice smooth flowing course for her that earned 28 opening points but did only the 10-point gamble, for a total of 38--(huh, interesting, they scored them as having 48 points? They must've given credit for a 20-point gamble, or else I wrote it down wrong...)

Anyway, Tika's opening was flawless and although the whistle blew as we were exiting our last tunnel so we didn't get 3 points for that, we had 37 opening points and were perfectly lined up for the gamble and she didn't hesitate at all, ran fast as light across the first two jumps and then veered slightly right, completely avoiding the tunnel and over the wrong jump, and I never had a chance to get in and try to push her into the tunnel, so we got NO points for the gamble and I was really upset with myself for--well, I don't know what for, because I'm not entirely sure what I could've done differently. About 20 things are possible, but without my videocamera (waiting for the repair shop to call & tell me it's ready), I'll never know.

However, turns out there were a lot of really fast dogs with between 35 and 40 opening points who *also* didn't get the gamble, so it didn't hurt us as badly as it might have.

Interestingly, our team's scores were good enough to place us 12th in the Gamblers class--still respectable, and it merely dropped us one place, to 6th overall when combined with Jumpers! Ah, the joys of cumulative scores.

Standard

The Team Standard class was worth 130 points each. So it was all about NOT ELIMINATING! Which does put pressure on you in some ways, but also it means that (a)it's OK to be slow, (b) it's OK to knock bars (5 points each), (c) it's OK to earn refusals (2 points each), (c) it's OK to pop contacts (5 points each)--not that you'd TRY to do it, but you can relax even if you do it because it's not going to kill you like an offcourse and losing 130 points right off.

Once again, we watched each other with bated breath. Brenn, as usual, was fast, but also as in the gamble missed a down contact, for a total score of 42.78; Tika was 2 seconds faster than Brenn and CLEAN! Yay! No bars! for a score of 35.74, and Skeeter was SLOW SLOW SLOW and it was REALLY HOT for a clean run but a time of 47.40. Still--that's a whole lot better than the 130 that you'd lose if you were offcourse.

And, indeed, tons of people were going off course on that course. Wahoo! We ended up the day in 3rd place of 29 teams--a healthy, healthy place to be, but we couldn't afford to get cocky: we were only about 100 points above the 15th-place team, so we could easily plummet to within non-Qing range with just one of us hosing our remaining 6 total runs, and we'd be history with 2 hosed runs.

Sunset over the agility field
The canopy-tent. A comfy place to spend the night

Saturday Evening

A nice potluck and conversation. Watched the sun set (late! 8:30ish this time of year) and chatted cheerfully with friends. In 3rd place in team AND qualified for Round 2 of Steeplechase. I was feelin' pretty good--but headachy AGAIN with all the heat for the day. Wondering whether I had brought enough drinks.

Both nights, I simply surrounded my canopy with shade fabric, borrowed a friend's xpen and, combined with mine, surrounded the inside aread to keep the dogs in, laid out my sleeping gear inside with the dogs, and slept there. I think it was much cooler, much more comfortable, and much less work than sleeping in the van would've been.

Snooker on Sunday


None of us did great in Snooker but none of us totally bombed. Tika knocked a red bar in the opening and got away from me after #6 in the closing, so we ended up with only 34 points out of a most-likely-maximum of 51, which *should've* been doable. Skeeter started out just walking but then broke into a reasonably fast trot; did a much lower-pointn opening but, nice consistent team that they are, got all the way through the closing for 35 points. And Brenn did the same course as ours, got through the opening, but knocked a bar on #4 in the closing, which ended her run, so they had only 25 points. Still--there were a notable number of dogs with 10 or fewer points, so once again, it wasn't stellar (we were 17th overall in Snooker out of 29 teams) but we're consistently NOT BAD enough that it dropped us from 3rd to 5th overall after the 4 individual events.

Nothing left but the Relay. Only 10 obstacles each, but 150 points lost for a single offcourse. And there was one spot on the course--a difficult turn in the opening sequence to then avoid a challenging tunnel-Aframe discrimination test. Yikes. But I was pretty sure Tika could handle it, and then although I had to be careful in a couple of places on the course, ONCE AGAIN I thought we could handle it easily.

Although we knew that at least 15 teams would Q, there was less than 150 points between us and the 15th-place team, so we knew that if we had just one E in the relay (at a cost of 150 pts) and everyone else ran clean, we'd be history.

Tika ran 3rd. Brenn had a scary moment on the Aframe-tunnel thing, but then did it fine--had a bobble on something that cost a 2-ponit refusal and was scary for another moment-- and then finished the course nicely. Then skeeter was clean but not fast, and then Tika and I got through the aframe without blinking and then--4 obstacles from the end--not sure what I did but she went offcourse. ArghhhhhhhH!!!!!!! We were the 3rd team to run, and the ones before us hadn't gone off course, and the next couple after us didn't go off course, and I was ready to crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself for the next 3 months, because I just didn't hear that many people Eing as time went by--although they were running in the far field and I was tearing down our setup so it would've been hard to hear the judge's short, light whistle toots.

One partner asked me, "one E couldn't drop us more than 10 places, could it?" and I said that it all depended on who else Eed. If every other team ran clean, yes it certainly could drop us more than 10 places. All we could do was wait, but I was convinced there was no way we were going to Q, once again leaving us hanging until the next opportunity for Team. That's the bad thing about qualifying based on percentages--you're HOPING for other people to fail, which I don't like at all. I'd much rather enjoy seeing some really nice runs. And I was SO angry with myself.

Then Gwen, whose x-pen I had borrowed overnight, came by looking dejected, too, because although her dog Savannah & partner Annie had run brilliantly all weekend, their third partner had Eed in *everything*, including the relay, so they knew there was no way they'd Q with *three* Es (I presume jmpers, std, and relay, not sure about snooker or gamblers, although I think they said she didn't get the gamble, either).

Then they posted the results.

Turns out that all except 8 of 29 teams Eed at least one of their team members, including a lot of the top teams. And with the percentage caluclation, actually 18 teams Qed. Much to my surprise and great relief, our stupid off course dropped our team to only 11th, so we were easily in--and savannah and annie's team managed to still place 18th and Q for the Nationals! WHich goes to show you how REALLY brilliantly savannah and annie ran.

I had already decided to blow off GP--I have a billion GP Qs and I'd been fighting a headache off repeatedly since Friday night (poor head doesn't handle heat well--I try hats, no hats, drink cold fluids, put cold wet cloths on my neck, anything, but bleahhhh--in fact I feel pretty crappy right now but I'm stalling going to bed so I don't end up waking up at 4 in the morning). AND I was going to have to wait for ALL the other teams to finish, and 26" ran LAST in GP.


Our haul for the weekend: Boring Snooker Q with 4th place, Team qualifying patch, check from Steeplechase for 3rd place.
Turns out, even as I pushed the packing up, what with getting lunch and celebrating with Carlene & Mary & everything, as I was leaving the driveway, they were running the 1st 26" dog, so I could've walked the course & run it & it probably would've delayed me less than an hour, but I was so glad to be on the road and so glad to be home and SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad to have finally Qed in team! So:

- That's our last need for 2006 nationals (already had steeplechase & 2 Grand Prix)
- That was our Tournament Master title--at last! Woooo hoooo!
- Dare I say it--now we need only one more team Q and that'll be our Tournament Bronze! Bay Team Labor Day, here we come...

Steeplechase Saturday and Sunday

SUMMARY: An interesting combination of courses and dogs.

Steeplechase is a modified Standard course: It's numbered, but there's no teeter, no dogwalk, and no table, and one or two sets of weaves and two or one Aframe. Tika's pretty fast and very accurate on the weaves, so I like having two sets of weaves. She doesn't always stick at the bottom of the Aframe and wait for me to release her, so it's a challenge to work, but she almost never flies off it for faults, so it's still OK to have two Aframes.

Round 1


Usually Round 1 on the first day is a challenging, technical course that seems designed to weed out dogs. Usually if you have a clean run in Round 1, you're guaranteed to make it to Round 2; knocking a bar (or other fault) might allow you to advance, but only if you're very fast, because it's scored on time plus faults (one bar or missed contact = 5 faults = 5 seconds). And it has two sets of weaves and only one Aframe, so I'm satisfied.

But this course walked more like a Round 2 course, fairly fast and open without a lot of chances to really blow it. Once again, my strategy was to just be as calm and collected as possible, to try to avoid knocking bars (our big bugaboo). We got to watch all 50 22" dogs run and then about half a dozen of the 26" dogs, our direct competitors, before we were up. It was hot. Hot. Hot. Thermometer showed 109 most of the day starting shortly after noon; not sure whether it ever got up to 110 again.

Tika has been wanting to run all weekend. I don't get it. If I had her thick coat, I'd be flat out on the grass, tongue lolling out, the sweat glands in the pads on my feet exposed to the air, not moving. Instead, she sits up and stares at me and whines eagerly at intervals spaced exactly to drive me nuts. I have to keep walking away from our canopy, hoping she'll relax and not exhaust herself being anticipatory.

It's actually our third run of the day (tell you about Team later), and so she's not as fast and driven as earlier, which is OK and helpful for avoiding knocked bars. She's never a slow dog, but she's certainly not driving through this course. Once again, it feels smooth and comfortable; I let her drift wide on a couple of turns over jumps just to ensure that we don't knock any bars, which might cost us a second or two but I hope that'll be good enough.

Qualifying for Round 2


To earn a Qualifying score (and hence go to Round 2), there's now a formula. It used to be that you had to be in the top 25% of dogs competing at your height. Well--there were 25 26" dogs, so it would have been either 6 or 7 dogs going on to Round 2 under the old rules, depending on whether they rounded up--I think they did, but I'm not sure. So--turns out that Tika placed only 7th in Round 1 even with a smooth, clean run, which is unusual for Steeplechases, but that means that we either squeaked in under the old rules or just missed by 1 dog (which we've done a lot of times, I can assure you--that's worse than missing by really blowing it).

The running order for 26" dogs in Round 2.

Still, there are the New Rules: You average the scores of the top 3 dogs, and any dogs within 125% of their score (time plus faults) goes on to Round 2. This could mean that there are many fewer dogs or many more dogs than under the old rules, just depending on how fast the top 3 dogs are and how fast and clean the other dogs are in comparison. Today, 125% of the top 3 dogs is 42.47. Tika's time was 36.86--which is 3 and a half seconds slower than the first-place Border Collie, Kidd, a bad showing for Steeplechase--but in fact she could've gotten in even with a 5-point fault with that time, and overall twelve 26" dogs end up Qualifying for Round 2.

On Sunday, we'll run in reverse order of placement in Round 1. This is nice, because the later you run, the better you can see how much you have to push yourself to try to place in the money (about the top 8 spots will get a check).

Evaluating Round 2


On Sunday, Round 2 is first thing in the morning, so those roughly 25% of us who made it are walking the course. (It's nice not to have a really crowded walkthrough so you can actually SEE the course and not bump into people.) We've got 2 Aframes instead of 2 weaves, but I figure I'll just try to get in the "OK" release command the nanosecond that her front paws touch the ground with her rear paws in the yellow zone, so we won't waste much time there. It's going to be iffy as to whether she'll even stop, though, because I've been releasing her pretty early anyway all weekend and she's getting lighter and lighter on her stop, and if she doesn't stop at all, she'll get ahead of me and that's when we risk off courses or other odd errors.

But, oddly enough, this course looks more like a Round 1 course--it's VERY technical with NOwhere for the dogs to open up and really fly. In some ways that's good for us because, on a straight out course against some of the world-class dogs competing here today (e.g., Luz, Tala), we'd likely lose; but in another way, that's bad, because it gives us more opportunities to knock bars. But I think we can manage it. Sure, there are off-course opportunities, but nothing that speaks to me with a capital Danger.

Running round 2


Tika running Steeplechase Round 2. Photo by Erika Maurer--thanks, Erika!
We watch the first few dogs in our group run, and a couple run clean, and there are some dropped bars and such but I don't see a lot of errors. That means that we'll have to run clean to try to place in the money. She stays at the startline long enough for me to get into position (dang, she's been waiting for a release all weekend and now it's going to pot again). The first Aframe is the 6th obstacle in--and not only does she NOT STOP, but fer crying out loud, she FLIES OFF IT above the yellow zone, not even making an attempt to hit the bottom, and that's a 5-point fault (same as a knocked bar) and there goes our chances of being in the money at all! Crap crap crap. But it sort of takes the pressure off me to be perfect, and oddly enough it does NOT cause us to go offcourse and I manage to get her back in line very quickly, and she flies through the rest of the course--flawlessly. Crap crap crap, I can't remember the last time we had a missed-contact fault! Crap crap crap.

So I wander away cursing and fuming (although trying to be pleased about keeping all our bars up) and don't come back until the results are posted--gosh darn, it turns out that all except 6 of the 12 dogs had offcourses for Elimination, and Tika has placed *third*! With 5 faults! I also don't know when the last time was that that happened.

Here's the other really weird thing. Under the old rules, let's assume that they rounded down so only 6 dogs would've qualified--then neither Tika, nor Tala, nor Stan, nor Buddy would've qualified for Round 2. However, the only 6 dogs who did NOT go offcourse were:
1st: Blew, time of 29.47 seconds plus 5 faults (bar?)
2nd: Stan, time of 34.62 seconds, very slow for a Steeplechase Round 2
3rd: Tika, time of 30.54 seconds, plus 5 faults (aframe)
4th: Buddy, time of 37.27, really slow
5th: Coty, 33.27 plus 5 faults (bar?)
6th: Tala, 28.49 plus 10 faults (you NEVER place in the money with 2 errors in steeplechase!)

Amazing. So most of the very fast dogs had offcourses. Anyway--we take home a check for $22, which almost exactly covers our cost of *entering* the steeplechase. (grin)

Friday USDAA in Turlock

SUMMARY: Really truly hot. Jumpers (need the Q badly) and Snooker (need a Super-Q badly).

There are only 3 things I wanted from this weekend: A Jumpers Q (qualifying score), a Snooker SuperQ, and a Team qualifier for the nationals. Entered Grand Prix but don't really care about it this time. Entered Steeplechase and it's always nice if I can qualify for Round 2 and then place high enough for some cash, but the odds of that are slim (have done it only 1 of 4 so far this year) and I don't really care about the Q for that one, either, this time. And that's all they offered this weekend--Jumpers, Snooker, GP, Steeplechase, and the 5 classes for Team.

Most trials don't have runs on Fridays, just Sat & Sun. For some reason, they decided to do a Jumpers and a Snooker on Friday evening with walkthroughs starting at 5:30. I wasn't going to take the half day off work--can't really afford it--but because Tika really needs only 4 more Qs for her ADCH--which I really want--including two Jumpers and one Snooker SuperQ--I decided to do it. Figured there wouldn't be that many people there and my odds for being in the top 15% for the SuperQ would be better.

It was (as I mentioned earlier) very hot in San Jose and expected to be even hotter in Turlock. I left the house about 1:00, loaded up my cooler with 2 bags of ice, and hit the road. Found only a slight traffic slowdown on 580 through Livermore and then heading up the Altamont Pass, but still decided to bear south on 580 at the split with 205 and take the 132 route across to Modesto. It was a good choice, I think; not heavy traffic and moving briskly--who knows what it would've been like at 2:30 on a Friday going through Tracy. I had my air conditioning on full blast, but after we cleared the Altamont, I could feel heat radiating into the car through the windows. How hot is it out there?

Got to Nunes Athletic Field (NAF) in Turlock somewhere before 4:00, parked, opened the car door--and it felt like stepping into a blast furnace. (Not that I have a lot of experience stepping into blast furnaces--) So I left the dogs closed tightly in the car (something you're not supposed to do on even a warm day, but I figured that the well-air-conditioned car would be much cooler than opening it up for probably at least 15 minutes, and it turns out I was right). Arlene had dropped by on Thursday to pick up my canopy. This is because she was going to be at NAF only for friday evening's competition, and she had taken the week off, so she arrived early on friday, set up the canopy and her stuff, and beat feet for an air-conditioned hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. This meant that she wouldn't have to dismantle a canopy late at night, and I wouldn't have to set one up, so it worked out good and we just shared for Friday evening. So I just had to find the canopy--easy enough to do--and get our stuff set up therein--also easy enough to do, although it felt exhausting in that heat, hauling the stuff from the car (still leaving the dogs there) and assembling the crates and such.

Misters felt very nice but just about turned to steam hitting your skin.
At 5:30 p.m. in Turlock. In the shade. On the agility field.

Sweaty agility bodies everywhere.
It didn't bode well for temperatures that they had misters set up all over the site. Felt very good for the instant that you walked through them, but the moisture boiled away within seconds of walking away.

But--so much for a small entry. They also had expected only a few people to sign up. But noooo. There were about 100 dogs signed up to run Friday evening, starting at 5:30, and only one judge. At least there were 2 rings, so people could be walking the course in one ring while the other was running. We were starting to estimate that we wouldn't be done until 10 at the earliest.

Jumpers


We indeed started walking the Masters Jumpers course at 5:30. It was 110 F. Agility bodies were sweating everywhere. It was a technical course but nothing that I didn't feel we could handle easily--and actually looked like it would require almost no running on my part, which was good in this heat. I want that Q so badly, I decided the heck with trying to earn a placement, I just want to take it smooth and easy like I did last weekend at the CPE trial, be careful of my body language and my commands, let it flow (--like--wow--man--). Tika the Wonderdog seems oblivious to the heat. This is the joy and the danger of driven working dogs. They don't always know when to stop or take it easy. But her eyes were bright and she was delighted to be taken out of the crate to run.

And, in fact, I felt in control and competent on that course. Nice and smooth and everything clicked between us, no miscommunications, smooth turns from both me and her, nothing rushed--and she knocked a dang bar anyway, so no Q. So, unlike last weekend, I do not know exactly why the bar came down. I am a little frustrated, but not as much as I might have been, because I really liked the way our teamwork felt on that run. She placed 7th out of 14 dogs in her height despite the bar--and was also the 7th fastest, so even if everyone had run clean, she wouldn't have placed, but that's OK, I like that kind of rhythm in a run.

Snooker

Meanwhile, we had all walked Masters Snooker in the other ring, so we were ready to go shortly after the Masters Jumpers ring finished. Those poor Advanced and Novice dogs, still waiting to run--it was starting to look more like it would be 10:30 before we finished.

It was an interesting Snooker course. One that required technical handling, that also provided several nice flowing paths for earning Qs, but one on which a fast dog with smooth handling could potentially rack up a lot of points without it being a gimmee (hate it when ALL it requires is speed), as there were 4 reds on this course so you could choose to do all 4 during the opening instead of the standard 3. And I found a flowing course to do either 6-7-7 in the opening or 6-6-7-7 in the opening. I thought that the latter would provide a challenge for us to then do 2 all the way through 7 in the closing, so had almost decided to stick with the simpler course. But then Luka Deacon, a little 16" dog (Pyrenean Shepherd) who's in our Wed. night class, did 5-6-7-7 in the opening and got all the way through the closing, and that was that. We weren't competing against her directly, but my Wednesday Night hormones kicked in, as we're always trying to one-up each other in that class. So I HAD to try the 6-6-7-7 opening, although the 6s were threadles and we don't always have the smoothest threadles AND she tends to knock bars, so it was risky.




There were only 14 dogs running in 26", so there'd be only 3 super-Qs. Gulp. But a high score would probably get us in the top 3. So what the heck.

AND I did rev her up for this one because I knew we'd need top speed to get all the way through. We were the 4th dog up in the 26" class, so I wouldn't get a chance to watch many other people to see what they were actually doing. And the 22" class didn't run until after us, so I couldn't even get a rough idea of what the big fast dogs were capable of doing. I knew that the first dog, who is slow, wouldn't be competition for us, but because I was revving Tika up, I didn't watch the 2nd dog. The dog right before us crapped out early. Then we were up.

She stayed at the start line, which was very important for this run. Then we were off and running. Our first threadle was a little rough but we did it; the second was smooth as silk, then the 1-7-1-7 sequence was turns over jumps--and she didn't knock them!--and weaves--and as usual she made perfect entries and blasted through them. We had to bypass three obstacles to get from the 7 to the 2 in the closing sequence, which is sometimes a challenge for us, and I had seen dogs go off course in all kinds of places in the closing sequence, so I was watching her carefully and calling her in as relaxed a way as I could manage, just pretending we were in Wednesday night class, and we got through the 5 in the closing.

Then it was a push straight ahead from the #5 tunnel to the #6 threadle again...and dagnabbit somehow she decided she was too far ahead of me and turned back to tell me about it, and I kept running and pushing and she'd start to turn and then come back at me and start to turn and come back at me and then I was right next to the jump and finally she pushed over it at the most bizarre angle--but it was too late, the turning-back-to-mes were too much for the judge and she called (fairly) a refusal on the jump, and we were done. Crap. Tika started barking and jumping at me again, and so we headed for the finish line slowly with me trying to avoid her and keep her off my feet. With our final time, however, it turns out that we had PLENTY of time to have finished the 6 and 7 if we hadn't blown it. Sigh. Still, it was a decent score with all those high points in the opening and maybe it would hold up.

Then we all sat and watched the next ten 26" dogs, and all except 2 crapped out way before earning as many points as we did--so we should get the 3rd superQ, right?

Remember that I didn't get a chance to watch the 2nd dog run? OK, guess what, there's a reason for mentioning that--ends up when results came up that they beat us by one point to get that 3rd Super-Q. Crap again! We have SO many plain old boring Snooker Qs now.

Then I volunteered to help the rest of the evening to try to keep things moving along, but the last dog didn't finish running until around 11. Then, with pottying the dogs and all that, I wasn't in bed until after 11:30, completely exhausted.

Not to mention having already drunk almost as much that late afternoon and evening as I usually do in a full day. AND I switched to my shorts AGAIN!

Well--there's always the Team for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

USDAA This Weekend

SUMMARY: It will be frigging hot for our next attempt at Nationals team qualification.

Well, it's back out to the central valley. At this very moment in Turlock, accuweather says it's 104. Gasp. And it's supposed to continue like this through the weekend.

It's an unusual weekend. They've got Jumpers and Snooker on Friday evening. And we still need 2 Jumpers and a Snooker super-Q towards our ADCH, so this is good. If we manage a super-Q this weekend, that would be our Snooker Master title AND our Snooker Champion title. On the up side, there are only 17 dogs competing in Tika's class this weekend. On the down side, that means that there will be only 3 Super-Qs for that class. That's OK, surely we can beat: Nancy Gyes and Panic, Leslie Bickel and Cate-E AND Ana, Lisa Kretner and I.C., Rob and Hobbes, Mike and Trane, Bill and Kobe, Carlene and Brenn, Olga and Luz...argh. I should never have looked at the list.

Then the rest of the weekend is just tournament classes, so we'll be doing Steeplechase and Grand Prix again, and the five classes of the Team event, which two of the three of us desperately want to Qualify in to get us to Nationals. One of our teammates ran with a different team last time and is already qualified, so hopefully that'll help *her* relax, out of the 3 of us.

If we get that Q, then Tika is fully qualified for the nationals AND that completes our Tournament Master title. So let's hope--

There are 29 teams entered, so at least 15 of them will qualify. What are all these really good people doing still competing in Tournament classes? Aren't they all qualified already?! Tell them to go away!

Hotter and Contacts

SUMMARY: It's hot and we had class anyway. And Booster did contacts!

It's been like this since 2:30 at least.

It is really really hot today. Don't know whether we're breaking records, but my patio thermometer says about 103 in the shade. Accuweather says it's only 98 in San Jose, but that might be taken at the airport, which is quite a bit closer to the Bay.

Boost and I had class at noon-thirty today. It was hot there, too. Before class, I had Boost do a couple of contact backchains (put her on the downramp about three feet up, then send her to the end to do her nose touch, then release her to get her toy). Each time, she grabbed her toy, ran to the shade, and lay down. Oh, she was willing to play, but not while standing out in the sun. And that wasn't even hard work!

We did several jumping drills and we did much better this week despite having not practiced--and I think that's due entirely to the fact that Boost slowed way down in the heat. I've never seen her run so slowly. OK, she was still a very fast dog, but not in overdrive like usual.

Then the rest of our teammates did actual sequences with dogwalks and Aframes in them! As Nancy said, "you guys are doing real agility now!" But, since Boost had never been over a complete dogwalk or Aframe, we finally did that with Nancy spotting the other side. We were ready for it, since I've managed to backchain her all the way at the top of the down ramp on the dogwalk, but I had never put her over the whole thing.

She was a little hesitant about the dogwalk the first couple of times, but got faster quickly (actually nancy suggested I not push it, and actually stop her partway down the downramp, get her revved up like usual to do the nose touch at the end). AND she pretty much was trotting down to do the nose touch just beautifully.

She bailed on the first Aframe we tried, at 5'6", so we lowered it to maybe 5 feet (maybe even lower, not sure), and then she was fine. So now we can actually work on these as complete obstacles from time to time, although really I need to just keep backchaining further and further along the dogwalk, and probably I ought to get the Aframe set up in my yard again. Sigh. Such a big mother.

There's only one person (at least who was there at the end of class) who's doing full-height teeters in a sequence now, so we're not all that far behind other people. And probably are doing better than the lady whose dog attacks teeters! She's been trying to desensitize him to the noise they make, and one of her tricks this week was to tape it and play it in the house, and he apparently attacked the tape and tried to chew it up. So, back to the drawing board. At least we don't have that problem.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hair Fixed for Another Six Months

SUMMARY: Now you see me, now you--see me?

10 a.m. No perm for 6 months.3 p.m. Freshly permed.

Dang, sorry I couldn't get the exposure right. Dang cheap digital camera. It wanted to either flash or do a long exposure time unflashed, and if I moved into the direct sun, I was completely washed out. So live with it.

Tika's C-ATE Count Update

SUMMARY: Five more Qs, Only 170 to go.

I'm redoing Tika's CPE title count table a wee bit from previous incarnations.


Legs (Qs) needed for C-ATE
Previously
earned
Last
Weekend
Additional
for Min. Class Req's. (Part I)
Additional for
Extraordinaire
titles (Part II)  
Add'l Random Est.
(Part III)
Standard1316104
Colors7013103
Wildcard9011103
Snooker1019103
Jackpot8111103
Full House9110104
Jumpers3116 103
(In other words, we need about 233 legs total for our C-ATE.

Earned: 64    Remaining:169)

The CATE requires 3000 points (where each leg is worth from 15-25 points), provided by the minimum per class as listed above plus an additional 2000 points (an average of another 100 legs) in any combination of classes.

Those Dangerous Charcoal Bags

SUMMARY: Boost alerts once again, saving us from imminent danger.

Sunday evening, my housemate barbequed steaks for dinner. He finished off a bag of charcoal and left the empty bag sitting on a chair on the patio. The dogs were around for the pouring and lighting of the charcoal, the BBQing of the steaks, the cooking, the dinner, and so on.

About two and a half hours later--yes, as darkness started to fall--remember, everything gets spooky when it starts to get dark--Boost started giving her Alert bark out back. I got up to investigate, and there she stood on one side of the patio, hackles up, staring across the patio, giving her staccato Bark! alerts. I walked in the direction of her gaze and realized I was approaching the empty charcoal bag. Yes, indeed, as I got closer to it, she knocked out the barking and began the Super Cautious Approach (ready to run in an instant if it should attack) and finally made it over to the bag, sniffed at it a few times, startled slightly when I moved it a little, and finally visibly relaxed and went off to the flower garden to see whether she could find Mr. Frog to be frightened of for a while.

She's almost 17 months; I had hoped she'd be over it by this time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tika Aggression

SUMMARY: Tika going after other dogs--puppy love?

Something that Tika has been doing since shortly after the puppy arrived--if the puppy starts playing with other dogs, or other dogs pay attention to her somehow, Tika starts sounding off. I've taken that to mean, "that's MY puppy, stay away from her!" I have corrected her firmly (I believe) whenever she does it, as I don't want to encourage that. Usually it's when Tika's in her crate or on leash.

Usually, when we're out playing frisbee, Tika pays little or no attention to other dogs. But, Saturday evening, we were all playing frisbee, and some friends walked by with their dogs, and we were fine, but then they stopped nearby to chat, and Boost went over to do the submissive-play thing at their dogs, and Tika launched herself ferociously at one of their dogs. She didn't make physical contact, but her hackles were up and she was making quite a ferocious and dangerous-sounding racket. I pulled her off, but it seemed so uncharacteristic of her. (Ignoring the on-leash, around-the-neighborhood sturm und drang that she provides when seeing another dog.)

Then--and this is really weird--Sunday morning, as I was setting her up on the start line, which for this course was on the side of the ring just about as close as you could get to where we were set up, there was a bit of a ruckus over near our set-up. I don't know exactly what it was. Someone with a rat terrier-type dog was strolling between the ring and our setup. Our setup was about 40 feet back from the side of the ring, so there was way more than normal the amount of space (often it's only 15 feet). The dogs camped exactly next to us (Corgis) did put up a racket whenever another dog came near them, but this dog wasn't that near. And Boost does make a fuss when other dogs do agility--and possibly when Tika does it. So she and/or the Corgis might have been the ones sounding off.

At any rate, it really caught Tika's attention as we walked to the line. I had to hold onto her, and worked hard to get her to sit, and she kept spinning herself away from me towards the sideline. As soon as I took off her leash, pow, she shot out of the ring and straight at the rat terrier, who was about half the size of her head, donig the same thing as the night before, hackles up, not quite making contact, and making a helluva aggressive racket. The other person scooped up their dog, and I chased her down and grabbed her, and then she came quite cheefully back into the ring.

We were very lucky that the judge didn't E us, either for leaving the ring or for looking aggressively at another dog, and then we had a very lovely run. I think it was jumpers.

This is a little bit of a concern. OK, it should be a big bit of a concern. Not sure where to go with this.

Sunday in Madera

SUMMARY: Another hot, short, day, with silly handler faults again

Once again, we were running by shortly after 7 in the morning and our last run of the day shortly after noon.

When I took the dogs out for our morning perambulation, Boost and Tika as usual got a bunch of frisbeeing in, and then, as we were quitting, Jake stopped his random wanderings to come over and tell me that he really wanted to play frisbee, too. He does this so seldom that I just had to indulge him until he was getting a bit tired. Probably foolish on my part, since he's more out of condition these days since he doesn't play that often, and since it's going to be such a hot day.

Jackpot (Gamblers)

This was a "nonconventional gamble." Sometimes these are enjoyable; sometimes they're too complicated to be fun. A conventional gamble means that you have about a 40-second opening for accruing points, then a whistle blows, then you have about 15 seconds to perform a specified sequence of obstacles at a distance from your dog. Nonconventional is anything else. This variant had three nonconventional parts to it: first, there were two gambles on the course, and you could do them both for points. Second, you could choose to do each gamble either forward or backward (e.g., 3-2-1 instead of 1-2-3). Third, you could do the gambles at any time during your period on course, so you simply had a total amount of time, with only a 5-second-warning whistle to tell you that you were about to run out of time and had better get to the table to stop the clock.

I picked a nice course with Tika that included both gambles plus a bunch of extra points and aiming to get at the table right when the whistle blew rather than risking being at the far side of the course and not being able to get there and failing to Q for being over time. As a result, we hit the table at about 38 seconds, the whistle blew at 40, and our time was officially over at 45. This means that I *could* have done that extra 3-point tunnel that I decided to leave off to be safe. But the thing was, she did everything perfectly, no bobbles, and fast, and kept up all her bars, so it was a lovely smooth course and we got way more points than all 29 dogs entered in the trial. Yes--you read it right--only 29 dogs (at least, in Jackpot), ALL levels, ALL heights! I can't imagine that the club made any money on this trial.

I picked a modified Tika course for Jake--entirely left off the 2nd gamble, which required doing a 12-pole weave twice at a distance, because he's never been superfast in the weaves in competition, and these days he's just not fast in them at all and tends to slow down and stop and pull out when they're in a gamble. Which meant that we *had* to get the other gamble--a tire, an Aframe, and a push out to a jump, which I thought would be no problem. Then we'd zoom around the outside of the course, zoom back again through the gamble backwards for simple obstacle points, and then we'd have *exactly* the points that we needed for a Q and hopefully be back at the table long before the whistle blew.

So--he started running, and he wasn't superfast heading into the Aframe. As usual, he blew off the Aframe very high on the downward side, but the judge gave it to us, however, despite my attempt to give him a huge "out" push before he flew off, he came in towards me rather than going out over the jump. I managed to spin him and turn him and spin him and turn him again and FINALLY he went over the jump and so we had completed the gamble but now I really had to push it to get him all the way back around for the rest of our minimal points in time. He did the next 9 obstacles fine, although his speed was clearly affected by the frisbee and/or the heat, so we'd really have to beat feet to finish on time, but as we approached the Aframe from the other direction (after going over the "out" jump in the opposite direction), I *assumed* that he'd just come with me and come up the Aframe, but noooooo he ran past it on the opposite side! I tried to turn him to go back up it, but we were too close, and so he ran past it again, so then I had to run him wayyy past it, then turn him around to make another attempt at it, and this time he went up it, but then the whistle blew for our 5-second warning, AND he flew off it *without* making the contact, so there was no way that we were going to make minimum points and be under time (we needed the Aframe and the tire), so I rushed him to the table. Fortunately he's good at going to the table--we were there at 44.56 seconds--but withouth our minimum total points, no Q! Crud.

A weird concept, Jake not getting enough total points for a gamble Q. Used to be like Tika--plan a zillion points and be able to do them all. OK, OK, I know, he's 14 and a half, what do I expect.

Standard

Jake not entered again. Because Tika had been determinedly NOT sticking her contacts all weekend, I decided that this run I didn't care about blue ribbons or even, heaven help me, a Q, and was simply going to work on having good contacts. So, when she hit the bottom of the dogwalk and then popped off without waiting, I made her down immediately and held her there for a couple of seconds, then continued. She hit the teeter down perfectly and WAITED while I told her good, and moved a couple of steps, and then released her. She hit the Aframe down perfectly and WAITED while I stepped off to one side and praised her, and then released her, and we finished the course beautifully. It wasn't a superfast time--but then, there were only about 35 dogs in the whole trial! (OK, 4 dogs at our height and level, and she got a 1st place anyway.) I was pleased with myself and with her.

Wildcard

It was a slightly challenging course, but I made her hold her dogwalk contact again, and she did it beautifully, and as we were going into the closing jumps, I waited until she was DIRECTLy over the next to the last jump and then gave a big push with my arm and "Out!" command, which was totally stupid (something you know from very early in training, just don't give the dog huge commands while they're right on top of the jump!) and, duh, she did a big huge Out just as commanded, but knocked the bar in the process, so no Q, but a very nice time.

Jumpers

This was another collection of Stupid Handler Tricks. For Tika, I once again tried a tricky layering maneuver (sending her out over 2 jumps while keeping another jump between us), and it didn't work--she came in around her jump instead of going over it. So I had to screech her to a halt to bring her back--which she did, half a stride shy of going into an offcourse tunnel--and I managed to threadle her between jumps without backjumping them, and then she completed the course perfectly, keeping all her bars up, and still having the fastest time for another 1st place of 3 dogs.

Jake ran, but although looking enthused beforehand and even playing with his goodie pouch toy a bit, it was clear within three jumps that not only was he going to be rather slow, but he actually ticked two of the first three bars, even at 12 inches. So he must've been tired. It was also noon and in the sun and probably in the high 90s. For him, in the same place on course, I knew enough not to try layering, but then I ASSUMED that he'd go into the tunnel after that jump and split stage left to make a cross, and when I turned I discovered that Jake had come right along with me. So I had to stop him and spin him around, which really slows him down these days also, I think because he just doesn't completely understand any more, and I did get him back into the tunnel, but at the end of the course I had to CALL him to get him to make a sharp right turn, which also slows him way down while he figures out what's going on, and although we finished without any course faults, he was a full four seconds over course time.

Another unusual thing for Jake--he almost never had time faults in the old days unless we made *lots* of mistakes. Oh, well, he's such a good old dog.

Homeward Bound

So Tika was only five of 8 for the weekend, and Jake only one of four, really low for him, but I actually had a very good time at this low-key trial and, if I had to have a cruddy performance, it was much better doing it here rather than the other weekend at the Nationals.

Despite working in every gap all morning to tear down all my stuff and pack it away, when I wasn't being the Chief Course Builder to try to make it happen quickly for everyone, I still didn't leave the site until 1:30. Thought I'd be home by 3:30, but I needed a pit stop at Casa de Fruta (usually I can make a 2-hour trip with no problem; just one of those things) and while I was there I decided to get some candied pineapple like my grandparents always used to bring us when they stopped there. But instead I found natural dried pineapple ("Ingredients: Pineapple and sunshine") so I took that instead, but had to wait in line. My recollection from stopping there in recent years was that it looked like a largely abandoned, forgotten roadside outpost, but not this afternoon. It was a happening place. Parking lot was overflowing, people crowded all the aisles of the "fruit stand" and the restaurant looked full. Maybe it's the difference between a beautiful early Sunday afternoon and a dark winter evening, who knows.

Then, since my exit for home takes me right past Pet Club and I had used up the last of my rollover-type sausage for this trial, I stopped there to pick up three more four-pound rolls. So not home until 4:30, but that's still pretty good.

Saturday in Madera

SUMMARY: A hot, relaxed CPE day

As usual, I had both cameras with me and took absolutely no photos. So I'll just include some external links to relevant sites.

This morning, we managed to get on the road right about 4 in the morning, which was according to our published plan. Travel was smooth; in fact, we saw very few cars on Pacheco Pass Road (152) from Gilroy until after the 156 intersection. As we drove over the pass, a deep blue predawn glow outlined the shapes of the two-dimensional black mountains, and reflected eerily from the surface of the San Luis Reservoir, making it look like a sheet of backlit glass embedded in a freeform black frame.

The sun didn't break orange over the mountains until we were heading due east on 152, well past Los Banos, but, conveniently, it rose behind the column holding the left side of my windshield, so I had no trouble with it blinding me as I drove. I arrived at the Madera Fairgrounds (photo here; the agility area is the square-shaped lawn center right. Normally there are no cars in the parking lot at the bottom of the photo when we're there) shortly after 6 and just about had my choice of spots to set up.

This looked like a teeny trial as I drove in: Only one ring (pretty rare) and canopies only a single layer thick along the tree-lined side of the field. I threw up my canopy and one crate for Jake, as I was able to simply back onto the field and leave the Merle Girls in their crates in the car for the day.

It was already warm by the time we got started, even though the first walkthrough was over by 7:00. We were entirely done with Full House, all levels, at 7:45. Tika and Jake were done running everything by 12:15, although there was one more class left to run, which finished before 1, and then we built the course for tomorrow morning and everyone left (everyone not staying onsite as I am--brought my computer this time, anticipating a small trial, but of course have no Internet connection).

It's danged hot; I reverted to wearing shorts again midmorning (two trials in a row! Must be a record!) and sweated like crazy. In fact, I had intended to be very productive this afternoon, having my computer with me and a huge mostly unoccupied fairgrounds in which to play with the dogs, but it was too darned hot to do anything, even sleep. Bleah. Mostly hung out. Groomed the dogs a bit. Stuff like that. But I get ahead of myself.

Full House

Full House is that game where Tika and I like to try to get all the obstacles for points at least twice. On this particular layout, there was no way we could--it used the full 90 x 100-foot field and had all three contacts in it as well as a good, widespread assortment of tunnels and jumps.

Tika didn't stick her first Aframe, nor her second, so I made her lie down and think about it a bit, and then we didn't have time to do her final 5-point obstacle, the teeter. And because I started her on the teeter, I made her hold it, which cost us a point for being over time. She placed first--but the trial is so small (140 runs for the entire day! That covers all 4 classes, all 6 levels, all heights) that almost everyone's guaranteed a first *sometime* during the weekend. (You figure that there are about 50 dogs entered, and each class has 6 levels (if you don't count Specialist, but there are actually some specialist-level dogs, too) and 5 heights, making at least 30 possible 1sts for each class. Sure, there are multiple dogs in some height/level combos, but not always the same ones.

Jake did OK enough for a Q and a 1st (see note above about everyone getting at least one first...).

Standard

It wasn't a trivial course, and Tika and I handled it beautifully, except she didn't stick her Aframe, so I made her lie down. Her teeter was OK, but then she stopped partway down on the dogwalk, which was the next to the last obstacle. And I kept saying "touch!" and she'd take another step down, and then another, but verrrry slowly. And then finally she took off and I don't remember whether I had given her the OK but I think so, and because I hestiate, she turns back to me as she goes over the last jump--and knocks the bar. Drat! So although she ran fast, with the contact futzing, it was a slowish time, and no Q with the bar, and it was definitely my fault.

Jake didn't enter.

Colors

Well, a sad story--another challenging course that we handled beautifully except somehow I must have called her as I did a double-front-cross and calling her into the tire, because she caught it and pulled it completely over. It made her almost stop, but didn't land on her, and she was looking around for something to do, so I figured it was better to finish the last 2 obstacles than to have her bite my feet, so that's what we did, but another non-Q for knocking over the tire.

Jake didn't enter this, either.

Snooker


Picked only a mildly aggressive course and decided I could do the same course with both dogs. Jake didn't stay at the start line as long as I wanted, but he did stay long enough for me to lead out far enough towards the right side of the tunnel on the far side of the field. I was looking over my right shoulder and running and pointing with my right hand, and he cut behind me and took the left end of the tunnel. Which was puzzling but legal, just made his path longer, and he was moving quickly, so then I had to haul butt to get him out to the next jump, and I was calling and looking over my right shoulder, and he cut behind me and I had to call him off something and then futz around to get him over the jump, then back into the tunnel and then all I had to do was run him straight across the field through a huge gap between obstacles to our last red jump, watched him come out of the tunnel over my right shoulder, had my right hand out and pointing alongside me, and he was hauling in my direction and then abruptly veered behind me and took the Aframe for an offcourse. Sheesh! I almost never do blilnd crosses with my dogs, so I don't know what he thought I was asking of him. Oh, well.

Tika did her course very nicely, two 6s and a 7 in the opening, which I thought was reasonably challenging, but plenty of people did two or three 7s, so plenty of people beat our score, although it was a Q.

Net for the Day

Three Qs of 6 runs, two firsts and a third for the Qs, and probably placements for the nonQs because so few dogs, but I didn't pick up those ribbons.

We slept in the van again, with the two front windows open about 6 inches (didn't dare do more for fear of having a dog fly out during the night, the two rear fly windows opened their 3 inches, the rear door held down with a bungie and just barely propped open with a 4x4, and the side door next to me completely open with only a metallic sunscreen clipped over it. It cooled down nicely and was actually a very nice evening; it's not always that I can lie on my bed and watch the last colors of the sunset fade into the deep blue of twilight. Despite the roaring engines of whatever races were going on at the Fairground track, as usual I was too tired after a day of agility for it to keep me awake.

Friday, June 16, 2006

HOT!

SUMMARY: Hot!

The temperature at 3 p.m.

Of course, the weather has been just beautiful for the last week, but now, Friday before an agility trial in the Central Valley again, the temperature is at least 10 degrees hotter than it has been daily. Argh! It's currently reading 94 in my back yard in the shade over the partially-shaded patio. Accuweather says that it is currently:
Temp: 87° F     RealFeel®: 92° F (their estimation, given wind, humidity, etc., how hot it feels.

AND they predict in Madera 100 for saturday (RealFeel 103!) and 97 for sunday! Wahhhh!

This Weekend More For Tika and Jake

SUMMARY: Another CPE Weekend. Don't Get Cocky.

It's CPE in Madera this weekend. Last I heard, there were hardly any entries, so it should be a really fast trial and I should (?) be able to get some actual billable work done Saturday afternoon if I remember to take it with me.

I just have to keep the same mindset that I had at the Nationals--it doesn't matter, we're not going to win anything, just remain calm and have fun, fer crying out loud.

Jake's entered in a couple of runs a day again. He hasn't been wanting to play at all lately, but I've discovered that there are 2 factors, at least one of which comes into play each time, sometimes both:

*If we go for a walk fairly early in the day, and then come back and go out into the yard, he considers that to be play time and will actually look for me to get his toy out.

*If I can restrain the other dogs and then convince *him* that they're restrained, I can talk him into playing. For example, if I take him into the living/dining area and block out the other dogs, he'll always chase his squeaky forever, just like the old days. But it's just not a lot of room for him to really get moving.

I think he's just tired of having them sometimes crash into him--it's gotta hurt with his arthritis, I'm guessing. But I don't know why later in the day he thinks it's just not valid play time. Old guys. Huh.

Boost Progress Report N-plus-1

SUMMARY: Contacts coming along. Knocking bars.

I've actually been spending time (not a lot, but noticeably more than before) working with Boost on nose touches on contacts. She'd doing really good on the dogwalk. I can now put her at the top of the down ramp and release her and she rushes to the bottom to do a nose touch to the target. For some reason she does it beautifully going down the right-hand ramp (in my yard) but tends to spin all 4 feet off going down the left-hand ramp, so I've had to put up a barrier on the far side of that end of the ramp, and then she's fine.

I don't have my A-frame set up, so we haven't been practicing that.

My adjustable teeter is so hard to adjust (I thought I'd broken my finger the last time I did it and missed my getting-fastener-in-correctly roll), so I've just been doing half-teeters, with the back end propped up so the other end is only a few inches off the ground, then placing her at the pivot point and letting her run down there. She's slower than on the dogwalk. Because she startled a little bit in class 2 or 3 weeks ago when the teeter slammed a bit, I've just been playing with her next to the teeter and making it bang louder and louder and praising and playing and/or treating when she just ignores it, and she seemes to be doing very well with that.

In class this week, we did entirely jumping in a double-box setup. She's making a lot of really wide turns, and Nancy says it's both my timing on turns (thought I'd gotten it down with my other fast dog) and her inexperience. So I need to set up some double boxes, but I don't have room in my yard unless I finally tear out that lilac shrub, but of course there are also nice flowers planted all around it, mostly spring bulbs, so I'd want to dig them out, too, and figure out where else to put them, and then that part of the yard will look REALLY naked... so it's more work than simply removing the shrub (and its roots...).

But also she's knocking bars a lot. I've had a single box set up in my yard quite often (BTW--a jump box is just four jumps arranged in a square, maybe 8 to 10 feet across, because you can practice all kinds of turns and seqences in and around the box), but it's apparently not enough. So I also need to do more and more of the simple do-a-jump-and-keep-the-bar-up-for-a-reward lessons, which I have been doing with her because she started knocking bars pretty early, but I guess I just need to do tons more of.

So much to do, so little time! And energy!

For next week I'm supposed to either teach her to run to a large target (phone book) and put both front feet on it, or run to do a nose touch to an elevated nose target--I think I'll do the latter. If I remember, I'll take my nose target with me this weekend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Walking Outside the Neighborhood

SUMMARY: Urban Perambulation

We walked the sidewalk around the mall clockwise, from the Target parking garage at the corner of Blossom Hill and Sta. Teresa, along Blossom Hill, up Winfield, across Thornwood, and down Santa Teresa.

Yesterday I had a quick shopping stop to make on Blossom Hill, so we walked a little ways along the west side of the Guadalupe River, to the natively landscaped area behind the San Jose Water building. They've got nice signs up about many of the native plants, which I don't recall seeing in past years. Several things are still in bloom. Ought to go back with camera. I let the dogs off leash briefly along a long, straight gravel road so that I could see any distractions easily, but I didn't want to stick around too long because of the profusion of dry foxtails littering the ground.

Today I had to stop at Target at Oakridge Mall (excuse me: "Westfield Shoppingtown Oakridge Mall"). So I decided to take the dogs for a stroll around the shopping center when I was done. The whole shopping center is surrounded by a low berm, and there is sidewalk outside the berm all the way around. The berm is nicely landscaped. On the most-traveled sides, Blossom Hill and Santa Teresa, it's mostly shrubs and perennial flowers, very pretty to walk alongside even with traffic whizzing by on our left. On the less-traveled sides, the berms are mostly grass. The dogs liked the grass. When we came to our first stretch of grass, within five feet they had all stopped to pee or poo. Guess they don't like the redwood bark among the shrubberies. Of course I carry plastic bags at all times for the solid waste, but nothing I can do about the peeing. On the other hand, commercial lawns tend to be so overwatered that it's unlikely that it'll leave a spot in the grass, unlike on some private lawns, which I try to avoid.

One of my theories for doing this kind of walking is that it exposes the Booster to all kinds of noises, smells, and sights, hopefully giving her more experience to draw upon when deciding whether to be spooky. Today, she halted and did the really cautious wary thing towards the base of a utility pole. Sure enough, there was a sort of large cup-shaped fixture at the base of the pole, containing a very large dead baby bird. A block later, she did the same halt/crouch/stretch-the-nose thing at another utility pole, and sure enough, behind it there was another very large, very dead baby bird. I don't know whether birds are building nests on the tops of the poles and the babies are electrocuting themselves (didn't look feathered enough to have been wanting to leave the nest, though) or what's going on. The other two dogs didn't care at all.

The only other thing that Boost seemed slightly unsure about was a large bicycle rack, but she wasn't overly cautious, just slightly hesitant but then relaxed quickly as we approached and walked by.

In case you're wondering--it's about a mile and a half around the outside. More walking than I had planned, but it's good exercise for all of us.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

That Expensive Camcorder Repair

SUMMARY: I thought I was kidding about "video repair: $150"!

I like my Sony digital camcorder. I bought it because it could also use and play the older types of tapes, which I had several of from when I borrowed my Dear Sister's older videocamera (I don't know HOW those dog hairs got into the camera case, really I don't). I hardly ever use most of its features, but there are some nifty ones that come in handy once in a while.

Mostly the features I use are: record. Zoom. Play back.

Last weekend at the nationals it started blinking with an error code and wouldn't record nuthin'. I am still in despair about having an outstanding National Championship weekend and having none of it on video. (Couldn't really afford to pay the onsite videographers for all my runs.) So, since I have the camera, I really ought to get it repaired so I do not place myself in despair once again.

I went to Sony's web site. After about 12 different screens in which I had to fill stuff in, it told me first that my model doesn't exist and secondly that there is noplace in the U.S. that repairs my model but they'll gladly schedule a repair for me. So I skipped out on the web site and called their service number. After wading through several layers of automated phone questions (the automated voice even introduced himself: "Max". I don't think that made him any better a machine being), I spoke with someone who took me through removing the battery and replacing it, pressing the reset button, and asked me the same questions that Max had asked me. (But how did they have my current name and address? I don't think I lived in this house when I bought the camera--)

They said that they'll be glad to repair it for me. All I have to do is package it up in a sturdy box, take it to the post office and mail it to Laredo, TX, and prepay $211 to Sony. They claim to have only two authorized repair centers in the whole of the U.S. Jeez. They couldn't claim how soon I might get it back. So I told the lady I thought that was ridiculous and I'd try to find a local repair place.

The camera is a mere 5 years old, but it's way out of warranty. So Circuit City, where I bought it, says that there's no chance in camera hell that they'd have any replacement parts for it. They recommended Ritz Camera. I don't know how many odd automated phone things I went through at the various places--losing track already--but at least they all worked when I pressed "0" by connecting me to a real human. Some systems either say "invalid response, press star for more useless menu choices that don't apply to your situation" or simply hang up on me.

Ritz doesn't do repairs onsite, they send it out, and it'll take 4 to 6 weeks or longer, and the minimum repair fee is $199 for Sony camcorders. I said thanks and went to the phone book.

There are hardly any camera repair shops listed. I wonder whether they're all simply advertising online, or in some other version of the yellow pages, or whether no one repairs their $1000 cameras any more? Argh. So I called the first one on the list, Able cameras. They charge a $30 nonrefundable minimum fee, and ask for preauthorization of up to $160 (and if it's going to be more, they'll call you). But they should have it back in 7 to 10 days per phone conversation (guy at the counter said maybe 5). The second place on the list, Kamera Korner, has the same address as Able although a different phone number. However, they are in fact the same shop. Huh.

So I drove my camera over to their shop and dropped it off and had a nice conversation about dogs with the man who logged the camera in.

I'm hoping I won't be paying $160 or more for camera repair. Makes my teeth twinge just thinking about it.

It occurred to me after I was out on the freeway that I should've looked in my Bay Area Checkbook magazine because I'm pretty sure they've reviewed camera repairshops before, but I didn't want to turn around and go back and I'd already spent 45 minutes on the computer and phone and just didn't want to do any more. So there.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Out for a Stroll

The online direction-finding maps (mapquest, yahoo maps, etc.) don't show the Guadalupe River--heck, who needs that info when trying to find your way around by car? But it does show the series of percolation ponds and lakes along the river. I traced our path in gray, which all goes through parkland although it's right alongside "civiliation" most of the way.
Decided to go for a longer walk this morning. I asked the beasts whether they wanted to go to The Long Trail and they got very excited and headed for the garage, so what could I do? I loaded them up and drove out. I stopped in a SportMart to pick up a new pedometer, finally. I hate to keep on buying new ones, but they don't seem to last me more than a year. Maybe I just wear them out. Replacing the battery doesn't help; they just stop keeping accurate count of the number of steps (and hence the mileage). But I do like knowing how far I'm going, so I bit the bullet and got yet another one, as it's been several months since the last one died and I'm soooo lonely for a pedometer! I so enjoy knowing how much ground I've covered.

I set a goal of 3 miles for this morning, and we headed off to the nearby Guadalupe River trail segment again, simply because it's so close to home. I debated taking my camera this time, but it's always a challenge with 3 dogs on leashes, so I left it in the car.

It's another truly lovely spring-like morning; probably only about 70, with a light breeze, but sunny. Warm enough to work up a sweat in the direct sun with mild exercise, and most of that route is in the sun along a paved (asphalt) path, and we kept a pretty good pace.

I was surprised how much wildlife we saw along the way, considering that we didn't get started until after 10:00. Shortly after we started, we encountered a large turtley tortoisey critter--maybe red-eared turtle?--plodding perpendicular to the walkway, heading away from the fence separating us from condos on the left and out towards the scrub growth surrounding the river. I have no idea where he came from or where he thought he had been, but he had clearly decided that this open stretch of dry land with the occasional bicycle and dog was not his bailiwick. He gave me and my dogs the eye as we stopped to watch, showing us the large red blotch along the side of his head, and then picked up his pace a bit. The dogs watched with erect ears and bright eyes as he moved away, and then, just as he got to the thicker grass where he started to rustle the vegetation, Boost started alert barking like she does when she hears rustles at home. And she could still see the dang thing! But alert barking almost always sets off the other dogs and then they all started barking (although it's not clear that Jake & Tika knew what they were barking about) and it all went to heck until I dragged them away.

(I saw an amazing demo of how dogs react to other dogs' barks by John Rogerson, a noted trainer from England who can perfectly mimic different kinds of barks. He said, "Have you ever heard this? The bored dog alone in the yard saying 'pay attention to me! I'm bored!' Notice that none of your dogs will pay any attention to it." And then he barked, and we all recognized it immediately--amazing what you know that you don't know you know--and sure enough, those of us with dogs lying by our sides noticed that our dogs ignored the whole thing. Then he demonstrated the "Alert! Danger!" bark, and almost every dog in the place raised its head and joined in the barking. Intriguing.)

Anyway, I digress from wildlife. Lots of birds along the waterway. A couple of Canada Geese splashed down into a dammed pond partway along the route as we walked by. The dam, right near San Jose Water headquarters, has a salmon ladder for the rare salmon from this area, but I've never been able to see fish on it. Two California quail watched us approach and then darted into the tall grasses, where they froze and kept their little quail crests and black eyes pointed at us as we passed. A small blue heron of some sort poked his startled head out from behind some rocks as I approached Lake Almaden to let the dogs wade, and flew off low over the water so I didn't get an excellent look. I can't find an exact match in my bird book, although the Black-Crowned Night Heron is the closest that I see. It looked bluish gray to me, with a longish, thick black bill and a thick neck and head, but when it flew it stretched out more heron-like.

There was a guy with binoculars and what looked like a small telescope on a tripod as we headed out towards Lake Almaden, but he was gone when we came back or I'd have asked him what the bird was, as I was pretty sure he was bird-gazing.

Lots of nondescript but fast speckled brown lizards, which intrigued the dogs. And, over by the main picnic area, tons of Canada geese, ducks of several varieties including mallards, some all-white ones (probably released domestic ducks), and those little black birds with white on the face that you see swimming and diving everywhere but I don't remember what they are--a coot? a grebe? a tern? Dang, I think I'm so observant but then none of the pictures match what I *think* I see. (Mom & Steph later confirm probably coots.) Lots of bright white herons and/or egrets all along the river; couldn't see most of them clearly enough to tell, but a smaller one with black legs and bill perching on a railing next to the dam fluffed his feathers as we strolled by and demonstrated a profusion of fine, luxurious, fly-away feathers, all of which makes me think it was a snowy egret. I'm sure that if I'd had my mom or my friend Steph along, they'd have been able to identify them all without a book and all of the little tiny guys flitting among the shrubberies, too. Oh, well, I bet I can identify a whole lot more dog breeds on sight than they can. ;-) (Like that's a useful skill.)

It was a good walk.

And Boost is SO much better about not being spooked by things. The first couple of times I tried to walk with her a little way along this trail, the noises and echoes under the freeway underpass panicked her, and bicycles whizzing by made her jump. Simply being out on a walk in a strange area increased her fear with every step. This time she was just like a normal dog, walked very nicely on leash (Tika of course doesn't) for the first two and a half miles and then said, "Enough of this! Give me that leash and let's play some tug of war!" so we did that for about a quarter of a mile and then she felt better and we continued more normally.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Boost and Her Siblings

SUMMARY: Boost's training continues casually; but when night falls, the spooks take over. And...what about AKC? (From an email to a friend)

Q: How's the Border Collie? My little fella's great but going to be a candidate for neutering if he doesn't get his act together....

A: My puppy girlie is great! She's a lot of fun and is going to be a very fast agility girl; I'm not being very ambitious about training her, but most of her siblings are in similar places in training (except for her southern California sibling, trained by a pro (sigh) for her owner who looked like she could win the Grand Prix at six months, from what I've heard). Anyway, none are competing yet--they're barely old enough, anyway, so that's fine.

Except at night she turns into The World's Alert System. It's funny--the sun goes down, and all of a sudden every noise is a potential danger and worth barking at. And it's not casual barking--hackles up, wary pose, eyes turn into flashing red lights, the whole works. Even the other dogs trotting casually over to check out whatever she's alerting on doesn't convince her it's safe. If I go over to the flower bed or shrub and poke at it with a broom, she'll streeetchhh her nose wayyyy out to sniff at it, since Mom is apparently bold enough to go near, but even that doesn't always fix it. As soon as I leave, she's at it again the next time there's a sound or a rustle. Last night it was a toad. The night before it was a cat. I suspect often it's roof rats, which the other dogs either chase and bark at challengingly or simply ignore, but she sees them as a Great Threat that she's not going to get within a distance where they can attack and rip her throat out, thank you very much.

I have no interest in the whole genetics and breeding thing, so Boost was spayed at 6 months. ... I registered her with AKC because I could, but in retrospect maybe I shouldn't have, just on principle, and registered her with the working border collie association, because I don't plan on ever competing in AKC, but then ya never know.

I've been training Boost to go into a Down the instant she hits the table, which is what's required in USDAA. It occurred to me in class last week, when we were practicing tables, that in fact AKC allows the judge to specify whether the dog does a Sit or a Down on the table, so I should be training her to wait for a command when she gets on the table, just in case I or someone ever wants to run her in AKC. Pfagh! (It keeps running through my head that, if she does really well in USDAA, maybe her breeder(s) might want to run her in AKC. She sure does love Tammy and Greg. But I dunno.)

Getting Those 5000 CPE Points

SUMMARY: Will it take forever? (From an email to a friend.)

Q: Friend writes: I am not sure what cruel Nazi came up with the need to accumulate 3,000 points. I picture a dog in a walker struggling to get the last ten points before it succumbs to old age.

A: It feels so true! And remember--that's 3000 points in the required combination of classes plus an additional 2000 in any choice of classes, for a total of 5000. Yow.

On the other hand--in 2006, there have been or will be 17 CPE competitions within 2 hours of my home. Each weekend typically provides 8 or 10 runs per dog. So--if I went to all the CPE trials and if Tika earned Qs in all runs, that would be about 3000 points in one year.

Even at Tika's 2006 overall average Q rate for CPE trials (huh--just calculated it--70%! I didn't think it was that good! and that's requiring clean runs, too), that would be 2000 points in a year.

It's just that (1) I prefer USDAA trials over CPE trials given the choice, and (2) I just can't afford the time or entry fees for every trial all year. (Now, given that Tika's Q rate in USDAA is a dismal 26%, and I can hardly place for the life of me, why on earth do I prefer it? Maybe it's *because* it gives me more of a challenge--at least now that Tika's keeping bars up in CPE most of the time, I need to work on the difference that those 2" in USDAA makes. Maybe I should start practicing at 28"?? But I digress.) I've actually done 9 CPEs in the last year, but Tika wasn't competing at the top level yet in everything until November.

In fact, her first C-Level legs (4 of them) were in May 2005, so she has earned all 1800 points in just over a year, and she wasn't competing in all classes at the C level. Only--gulp--3200 hundred to go--but at this rate that'll be only 2 more years.

So we actually have a chance before we both start doddering. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that we both remain healthy and happy.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tika's Title Countdown Update

SUMMARY: A lonnng way to go to our CATE.

With this last weekend's 8 Qs, I updated my database and finally finished the report I had started so that it counts my Qs for me--and discovered that I had missed 3 on my manual count. Always a pleasant surprise to find more legs. Tika's CPE Title Count needed towards her CATE now stands thusly:

Class extraordinaire  C-ATE
Standard177+
Colors2313+
Wildcard2111+
Snooker2010+
Jackpot2212+
Full House2111+
Jumpers2717+ (do you detect a problem with knocked bars here?)
Total points still needed3700 (about 185 legs)

The CATE requires 3000 points (where each leg is worth from 15-25 points), provided by the minimum per class as listed above plus an additional 2000 points (an average of another 100 legs) in any combination of classes.

I might get in 4 more CPE trials this year. Two at least, coming soon in June and July, but not sure about the August and Thanksgiving trials. In other words: It's going to be a lonnnng time filling in those legs.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Not A Perfect Weekend But Dang Close

SUMMARY: We had a very good time and did very well at the CPE National Championships this weekend. More later.

(Tuesday 2:15 pm) OK, I filled in some stuff for Thursday. More later.

(Tuesday 10pm) OK, I went on & on about Friday. More later.

(Wed. pm sometime) Saturday's done.

(Thursday 3:20 pm) Sunday's posted, too

I still have editing & cleanup to do, but Blogger's been down most of yesterday and today and I haven't been able to do much at all, so I might wait another day or two to clean up.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday at the Nationals

SUMMARY: Another lovely agility day. Hot. Fun. More ribbons and awards.

Backfill: June 8
Elliott! The French Bulldog. He's about the size of Tika's head but he and Boost are only a week apart in age and they love wrestling together. Better than World Wrestling Federation! Would see it again and again!

The day started early, before 5:00, once again. The last time! We mostly packed stuff in the cars last night, saving only a change of clothes for this morning to make our escape more efficient. Boost is dying of boredom after most of 3 days in a crate with only occasional excursions and is begging someone, anyone, to play with her. Elliott would like to but with Jake and Babar in the room (old grouches), it's a little hard to let them loose, especially when we're trying to pack up and get going.

But we make it out the door in plenty of time. All three dogs are kind enough to poop quickly before we leave the hotel area, so I won't have to worry about that when I get to WAG. We load 'em up, head 'em out--Rawhide!--Oh, wait, I'm having flashbacks to a TV show I never even watched.
My doggers hanging out in their crates.

Today I'm up in the first rotation in Snooker, the fourth rotation in Standard, and the fifth rotation in Colors. As usual, we pick up our "armband numbers" (Ah, how ancient terminology survives! Dial a phone. Steam shovels. Armband numbers for sticky labels that most folks wear on the fronts of their shirts.) and our course maps and wander off, muttering obsessive things to each other about courses that we haven't even walked yet.

About course maps


Now--I sometimes like to take a glance at course maps ahead of time to get a rough idea of what I'm in for. However, I don't usually plan my courses or handling strategies until I've actually been on the course with the equipment set up. This has nothing to do with either delayed gratification or with attempting to forestall excessive obsession (some obsession is OK--I think). It has to do with the fact that a single obstacle moved to the left or right by a foot or two or angled differently by 10 degrees can completely change the flavor of a course. And, since there are usually about 15 obstacles out on the course, that's 15 things that could be tweaked a hair this way or that way that could make the layout run very differently.

We've discovered that over and over, whenever trials attempt to set up the same course in different rings to save time. For example, last year at the USDAA Nationals, the "same" courses were always set up in 2 rings, and I often ran Jake in one ring and Tika in the other, and I had to walk them both very carefully and in almost all cases develop different handling strategies for each, again, not because my dogs run that much differently (actually they're very similar, Jake just slower), but because it's nearly impossible to get the exact same layout no matter how hard you try.

Furthermore, judges always have the prerogative to tweak the course so that it is in fact different from what's on the course map. Maybe there's a huge pit in the middle of the field and they have to readjust the obstacles so that people aren't breaking their legs running through it. Or they don't like the way the flow looks in real life (sometimes seeing it on paper just isn't the same). I have even seen, on rare occasions, the judge insert or remove an obstacle. And the available equipment might not match what the judge called for, so there's a substitution. And so on.

None-the-less, we obsess.

Snooker


Recap of rules: You must take a red and any numbered obstacle, a different red and any numbered obstacle, and a third red and any numbered obstacle, followed by 2 thru 7. Almost any deviation from this sequence results in you being whistled off the course. And you must do it within the Standard Course Time. (The only main exception is that, if you knock one of the red bars, you must do a different red, one that you haven't already done, before attempting a numbered obstacle. This course can really make you think on the fly, as I've often discovered with my bar-knocking dog.)

This is a challenging Snooker course, in part because the numbered obstacles are all so close to each other that it could make it easy for a dog to erroneously take two numbered obstacles in the opening, and in part because there's no really smooth flow that one can pick for the opening sequence of 6 obstacles. Almost everyone has a slightly different opening strategy, which IMHO is the mark of a good Snooker course design. (When the flow is really obvious, everyone takes the same path and then it's just a matter of which dog can execut it faster. This way, it truly shows its flavor as a game of strategy and handling.)

What I decide to do with both dogs is to set them up on the far left side of the field, lead out, and call them over the first red into the right side of the #3 tunnel.

Then, as the exit the left side of the tunnel, I'll pull them around me over the red jump that's slightly behind the tunnel and then head out to the weave poles. There's actually a table obstacle out beyond the end of the poles that I left off the diagram, but it's not live, so all it is for the dogs is a distraction and time waster if they head there instead of the weaves. Now, that weave pole entry is a hard one because the dog will be coming at the top end, which means they're approaching at more than a 90-degree angle, so they have to hit the entry and wrap to their right about 100 degrees and make it into the next pole. So I'll have to try to push them out a little, keep them away from the table, and then maybe wrap them in around my left side a little to make that entry.
Looking out past the edge of the agility property. Very rural. But the suburbs creep closer--and closer--

Then I'll pick them up as they come out, zoom around the outside of the #5 tunnel to the far red, threadle the dog between the red and jump 4B to get to the right side of #6, then it's pretty much a straight line (if I stay ahead of the dog, running full out and calling) to the #2 tire and into the closing sequence. It's not a given that we won't have an offcourse, but it minimizes their options for obstacles they'll be looking at.

Once again, Jake is up first. I don't lead out too far for fear that he'll take off before I'm ready, release him and run towards the #3 right end. He comes right with me and we're off and running. On the approach to the weaves, he looks at that table, looks at it, but maybe that's OK because when I finally convince him to look at me, he's far enough above the weave entry that when he turns he has almost a straight line into the weaves (which is good because he doesn't have super weave entries all the time). We go out around #5 and over the red, and as I try to threadle him through, he looks at #4B and LOOKS at it as he's running, and finally veers in to me and to the #6 and then to the tire and the closing sequence is actually a cinch, although I'm cheering him along as we go, and in fact the whistle blows just as we exit the #7 weaves, so we were very close on our time. Wahoo! Not bad for an old guy, again!

Then I watch a lot of dogs completely mess up. Lots and lots of offcourses. Meanwhile, I'm second-guessing what I want to do with Tika. I could get 3 more points if, instead of going to the #3 on the opening, I just went a few feet further into the #6 and then pulled her around BEHIND 6 and 3 back to that other jump on the left side--BUT. Then I'd be doing a 180-wrap on that jump, which is riskier for knocking a bar, AND I'd have to get her out of the 6 the right way and not detour into the #7 AND... Well, OK, I talk myself into sticking with my plan. Since so many people are wiping out, it seems unlikely that anyone's going to get three 7s in the opening, and we'll have a good chance of placing just by getting all the way through.

Tika also waits at the start line. When I release her, she blasts off. Sometimes she's not as fast as others, but this morning she's revved. When I call her over the 2nd red and head for the weaves, she is so far ahead of me that there's no hope in heck to push her out and wrap her around me for the entry, so all I can do is yell "Weave! weave!" and trust in her excellent weave entries, which we've worked hard to develop. My heart's in my throat, though, because moving as fast as she is to make a turn that sharp into the second pole will be very difficult--and then she nails it! It is totally awesome (I resort to cliches because I don't know what else to say). I am SO proud of her!

And then, when I try to run her out around #6 and she doesn't see what obstacle to do next, she tries to eat my feet. I manage to stay standing. She completely ignores my attempts to give her the "Behind" command, so I spin around 360 degrees, and she follows me, and as soon as she's off my feet I take off running again towards that 3rd red, and she comes right with me, makes the jump, threadles beautifully, into the #6, over to the 2, and as before the closing just flows very nicely AND she doesn't knock any of her bars. Wahoooo one more time.

I am SO jazzed about that weave entry! What a girl! So what if she tried to eat my feet? Worry about that another day.

At least they both Qed again, and, at the end of the day, it is revealed that Tika again took 1st and even Jake took 3rd in his class. Another example of how a smooth and only slightly aggressive course can beat out really aggressive handlers who all wipe out trying to do what they want to do.

Still more loot


I am not scheduled to work at all today! Huzzah! So in theory, now that I'm done with Snooker, I'll have two full rotations in which I'm Free! Free! Free! to, say, go browse the vendor booths. At the very least I want to check for photos of my dogs. They're so expensive these days that I hardly ever buy any any more, which is too bad, because there are often some nice ones. I could afford it back when Bill Newcomb was casually plopping 4x6s in a file box for you to leaf through on Sunday and pay $2 each. But now the photogs all have booths, and they display photos on huge boards, and they even print them customized with logos and things, and usually they all print only 8x10s, for which they charge even more. Almost all make the photos available online after the weekend, but 4x6s still usually cost $8 to $10 each! Yikes! That's a whole run's entry fee for one photo.

Indeed, one photographer has photos of both my dogs, 8x10, with their names and "CPE Nationals" on them and they're not bad photos and I give in to temptation and buy them. (Argh. Not without a stomach twinge at $25 each.)

Nothing else I really need, although I keep thinking about a new fleece with my dogs embroidered on it. One handler had a beautiful one from them with one of her dogs embroidered on each side, and I'd love to do that. Except that none of the Aussie templates really looks anything like Tika, and although the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever looks something like Jake, it's not a really excellent likeness, and so I take their card and walk off into the sunset muttering.
Sunday's raffle winnings.

When I go to watch the Standard course and see how well it runs, I arrive at the beginning of a rotation and they're desperate for help and so I volunteer to set poles. So I get to sit in a chair in the shade for the whole rotation and watch to see what people are doing, PLUS I get raffle tickets. Since I won nothing yesterday, I'd love to try again today.

When the round is over, I put my name on all the tickets and drop them into containers for free entries and for pop-up crates. I end up doing a little bit more work later for a few more tickets, but not nearly as many as the previous two days. Still, when it's all over and they've pulled the names, I'm the proud owner of another brand-new bright red Large pop-up crate. Wahoo! This does seem to be my weekend.

Standard


One more Standard course, and the last of the weekend. Tika has qualified on two so far; if she qualifies in all 3, she could be in line for the 24" Level C high-in-trial Standard award, because I don't think most people are doing very well in Standard.

Don't think about it. Don't EVEN think about it!

It's a much easier course than the previous two days, with almost no easy opportunities for offcourses. (That doesn't mean that people aren't getting them--but I believe that they're not issues for me.) The only exception is that, after the dogwalk, the dog has to turn left to go into a tunnel, but there is in fact a big juicy jump straight ahead of the dogwalk. This shouldn't be a problem for Tika, who doesn't fly off dogwalks, but for Jake, who's liable to keep running even if he is so lucky as to get a paw in the yellow, it would just be too tempting for him.

So I plan a gratuitous front cross to kill 2 birds with one maneuver--attempt to stun him into hitting the yellow zone AND to get his attention off the jump, onto me, and thereby to the tunnel.

For Tika, it'll just be a matter of keeping the bars up, since we're making turns over virtually every bar in this whole course. I just need to relax, think about calmly signaling each one early, and just enjoy being there.

The only other thing to ponder is the weave poles. Quite a few dogs I watched popped out of the weaves early because their handlers were veering away or making a break for the last 2 jumps, which are at an angle from the weaves. If you're right next to the dog at the end of the weaves, now you're stuck behind the first jump, so even if the dog goes over that jump, he could pull in to you nd end up running past the next jump, wasting time. So once again I just need to remain calm, STAY OUT AWAY FROM THE WEAVES THE WHOLE WAY so that I don't have to veer to get to the jumps, and just watch my dogs actually exit the last weave pole before moving, not assume that they're going to get it.

And--OK, I'll make this short--everything works exactly as planned. Not a hoohah anywhere with either dog. Unless one of the dogs did something that I didn't notice (once in a while I don't see a bar drop, or I think they got the contact but didn't), that's two more Qs. I watch lots of dogs Tika's height have troubles, however (yes, there are offcourse opportunities, and contacts to fly off of, and bars to knock). But one of our usual pals, Leslie and her Catahoula Ana, have an absolutely gorgeous fast run that I'm pretty sure will beat Tika's time because they're not stopping on the contacts, although Ana hits them solidly.

Leslie comes off the course and, when I congratulate her, comments that "I know you keep saying that I have lovely running contacts, but they're still not SUPPOSED to be running contacts." Still, it worked nicely for them.

Indeed, my scribe sheets come up shortly with Qs. So Tika has 3 Standard Qs! We could maybe possibly oh so ever potentially earn a high in trial award. And, at the end of the day, Tika has placed second in today's Standard behind only Ana, and Jake once again smokes those 16 other younger dogs, taking 3rd.

It's been a good day and a good weekend no matter what happens in Colors. But Colors courses are reeeeeally short and it would be reeeeally nice to get just 2 more Qs...

Don't EVEN think about it!

Colors


Yes, I have once again reverted to wearing shorts partway through the day. However, I did so frantically while racing from one place to another (don't remember why--must've been walkthroughs in one ring right after a run in the other ring) and I neglect to slather the sun lotion.

The dogs don't care.

Colors has two course options. The first one involves going all the way around the outside of the course over a series of 5 jumps and then making a 90-degree turn into the weaves. That's a lot more jump bars than I care to risk with Tika, and although she made the turn nicely to the weaves earlier, do I really want to push my luck? With the other choice, I have to try to beat Tika out of a straight 15 foot tunnel and push her to the weaves. I think I can do it, if I send her out over the jump before the tunnel and then run like hell.

OK, it's a nice theory. Jake does the flow very prettily. Not superfast, but he doesn't have to be. It'll just be another Q.

Tika is wired, still despite the heat and the 3rd run of the day. Often we have the absolutely fastest Colors course time of any dogs at a trial, because they're usually so short and sweet. Buuuuuuut there's that little trick of beating her to the end of the tunnel.

Ha.

That's one fast dog.

SOOOO she blows past the weave entry looking back at me, and I have to pull her back and reenter, which loses us at least 2 or 3 seconds. In USDAA, that would've been a penalized runout--only our 2nd "if it was USDAA" issue of the weekend (sometimes we have more... like, for example, at USDAA trials), which is pretty darned good for her, and we recover very quickly, so it's not a lot of wasted time.

Tika's Qualifying ribbons for the weekend.

And then we're done, and Tika has her 8th Q of the weekend, and has knocked only one bar the entire weekend. Jeez. Wow.
At the end of the day, when the results go up, Tika is in 2nd place behind the 1st-place dog by a mere .22 seconds, so that missed weave entry cost us another blue ribbon. But I'll take the 2nd! And Jake finished 6th in his group--no ribbon but still well up there among the sixteen 16"-inch dogs.

I am really just about bursting with delight. We did much better than I had hoped, especially after our dismal showing two years ago, and indeed much better than at many regular weekend trials. What a delight.

Awards


Then we have to wait an hour or two while they tabulate everything and calculate the weekend's winners. We get a lot of stuff packed up but not everything. It's too hot to put the dogs in the car yet, so I leave up the canopy and sun screen and leave them in their crates.

Could Tika possibly have a chance at overall high in trial with only 8 runs? Or at least high rescue? As we chitchat with people, it becomes even more clear that that's unlikely. At least 3 other Bay Teamers that I talk to have 8 Qs for the weekend, and one has 9, although with faults on one of those runs, so by extrapolation there must be plenty of others out there.
Tika's placement ribbons for the weekend.

I'm feeling very confident about the Standard high in trial for 24" level C, though; if Tika wasn't the only dog who Qed in all 3 rounds, I don't think there were 2 others, and with two firsts and a second, even if another dog Qed all 3 their total times won't be as good as ours (because I know that Ana didn't Q all 3, and she's the only dog who placed higher than us in Standard all weekend). It would be so cool to get that award! But you never know what I might have missed... somehow...

But I also have half an ear for maybe placing in the top 5 in the Games. How many people will there be in the 24" height who Qed in all the games? I know that the odds are against us: (1) We NQed in the game worth the most Q points, so e.g. if someone Qed in 5 but NQed in Colors, which is worth fewer Q points, they'd beat us, and (2) even if we had the same number of Q points, since award placements are determined by time and we used all our time in the point games to earn lots of points to try to get blue ribbons, it'll work against us even though our Jumpers, Wildcard, and Colors times are pretty good. Still, one can hope.

Even still more loot



Our brand spanking new C-ATCH plaques.

Tika earned her C-ATCH (CPE Championship) last November, and that's such a distant memory that I'm not even thinking about it any more, so it's a complete lovely surprise when the very first award they announce is Tika's C-ATCH, and present us with our two beautiful plaques in front of the whole crowd. There are several other C-ATCH plaques that they've brought with them, and then on to the trial awards.

Several Bay Teamers earn plaques for Standard or Games.

High Standard plaque.

Tika does, indeed, earn the High Standard 24" C-Level plaque, and I'm a very, very happy mom. This is a dog whose average Q rate in CPE C-Level Standard is only 40%--and we got 3 in a row this weekend. What an accomplishment! I'm proud of both of us.

Now, gentle reader, if this were fiction, with all of the foreshadowing and all of the doubting about whether Tika could possibly earn High Rescue or even place in the High Games awards--or maybe if I had a PhD--you know that we would, indeed, have taken home that lovely trophy and a High Games plaque and the world would be a happy place. However, this is not fiction-- so--

Tika does not, indeed, place in the games--I don't think that ANY of the 24" dogs Qed in all 6 games, but all the placers managed to Q in Jackpot and NQ in lesser events, so they beat us out. So close! If only Tika had gone into that tunnel instead of skidding to a halt--we'd have placed first or at least 2nd in the Games! But then, probably lots of people are in that position. The guy who took 2nd in the 24" games ran Colors as his absolutely last run of the weekend, and was so excited about running clean all the way through it that he started saying "yayyyy!" before his dog had cleared the last bar, which changed the dog's focus, which caused him to knock the bar, which caused an NQ--the last bloody bar of the last run of the weekend after 5 previous games Qs! Now, THAT's frustrating.

But that means that at least five 24" dogs had 8 Qs with fewer points on their NQs than us, or we'd still have placed. Oh, well.

There's still High Rescue, maybe-- but noooooooo--

Turns out that only 4 dogs of 375 had Perfect Weekends (9 Qs with no faults--if only Tika hadn't skidded to a halt in front of that tunnel-- repeat ad infinitum--), and two of them earned the High In trial and High Veteran In Trial (Jake wasn't even close with 6 Qs--in fact *3* of the 4 dogs with Perfect Weekends were veteran dogs!).

The High Rescue dog had 180 points, so she must've NQed in Jumpers or Wildcard, which cost only 20 points compared to our 25 for Jackpot. If ONLY Tika hadn't SKIDDED to a HALT in front of... Cripes.
Jake's ribbons for the weekend.

But I'll take my three plaques, 14 Q ribbons, 11 placement ribbons, free entry, new pop-up crate, photos, and all the check-in goodies, finish packing up, drive home, arrive about 8:30, shower (calves--owwww in the hot water! So much for not using sunscreen on those lily white gams) without taking anything out of the car except our awards to show the housemate, and crawl into bed for an immediate lights out.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh---what a great weekend!

And, Arlene, I hardly whined at all! Now to start reading my Nonwhining award from Arlene: The Dog Lover's Guide to Dating.