Monday, March 09, 2009

Ribbons and Choices

SUMMARY: Tika does well but is sore; Boost runs a lot; TMH can't make up its mind.


These March winter mornings in Turlock started with frost on the grass but the sun rising bright and clear. By early afternoon, people had stripped off their coats and some had started hosing down their dogs to keep them cool. But when the sun set--Brr!

With Boost's agility career on hiatus while I figure out whether she has a physical problem, all my hopes for the weekend rested on Tika. If Tika can keep her bars up, she usually excels in CPE events. This is good, because I'd like to eventually earn enough Qs for her C-ATE (250 about), and she has a long way to go. We do few CPE trials any more, so every run counts because Tika is 8 and comes up sore more and more often.

We had 10 runs this weekend, and I promised myself that I would take Boost out after every one of Tika's runs and do something physically and mentally stimulating with her in lieu of a run.

First thing in the morning, we always play a bit of frisbee to loosen up the dogs and burn off the edge so that they'll relax in their crates. We did so Saturday. Then, on our way off the field, a friend with border collies that Boost loves to chase headed out to the playing field, so we went back out and ran a bunch more.

I try to keep the frisbee low so that the dogs aren't leaping and torquing their backs, but a couple of times I missed and I cringed seeing Tika's leaps.

Tika Sore? About 2 hours later, when I took Tika out of her crate for her first run, she emerged hunchy and stiff. Well, crap! I've driven all this way, paid my entry fees for the weekend (which are now nonrefundable), have only one dog to run, and this is one of the few CPEs for us this year. Plus when I've scratched Tika in the past, she often then goes blasting around the field full speed after squirrels, so how sore can she be? She is a known drama queen when it comes to injuries, too, so I have to take that into account.

I massage her, stretch her a bit, try to get her spine and shoulders mobile the way I was shown. (I'm not very good at this.) First run is Colors, only 11 obstacles, so what the heck. She runs fairly well, keeps all her bars up, but I can see that she's catching herself roughly when landing after each jump. But she's bright-eyed and eager and fast. Ends up 3rd fastest of all 58 dogs, all heights/levels, on the same course.

She's the ONLY dog in her level and height--24"--so she's guaranteed first place every time unless she eliminates, and there's not much chance of that. But I'll take the ribbons only if we've earned them.

She gets a doggie aspirin, more rubbing, and then I take Boost out for some running and training.

Boost Play and Training. I manage to keep my promise to Boost 8 out of the 10 runs for the weekend. I start and end every session just as if we were going into competition, using the right leash, the right toy, the right warm-up, then the right back-to-the-crate routine with treats and all. While she's out, we practice a variety of things:
* Sit-stay and down-stay, including with lots of excitement and toy throws. Even did a little out-of-sight stays, which we've never worked on before. Only 5 seconds, but she held it.
* Down from a distance while she's moving. Took her a couple of tries to realize what was going on, but then she got it and did very well. None of my other dogs have been able to do that without a lot of work, and even then reluctantly. But Boost has a super-fast down and seems comfortable doing it.
* Lateral lead-outs. Goal was to ensure that she was looking at the jump, not me, before I released her. We've done these before, but obviously not enough. It took her a very long time the first couple of times before she stopped staring at me and looked in the general direction of the jump inadvertently, at which point I released her and threw the toy. What a quick study she is!--By the end of the weekend, she was back to doing it pretty reliably.
* Sends to a jump from various directions (just a jump frame with a bar on the ground).
* Lateral "out" commands (around garbage cans) while we're moving together.
* Sitting up on her rear legs.
* Rolling over.
* "Close"--command for running next to me instead of ahead, until I say "go".
* Various running and moving ground exercises.

She seemed to enjoy it and didn't look disappointed or confused when I put her back in her crate, since I was following the same competition routine. (Unlike Jake who was quite disturbed and sulky about doing the agility that he expected.)

Plus she got to Run With The Border Collies for about half an hour at the end of the weekend while I packed my car.

Tika Still Sore--Or Not?
Tika came out of her crate with the same hunchy look for almost every run, although she always perked up completely when i presented treats. Did lots more massaging and stretching than I usually do with her. She loves the attention.

I couldn't decide whether to scratch her from the rest of the weekend. I really didn't want to, for my own sake, which is not how you're supposed to make decisions for your dog. On the other hand, she was always excited about running, enough so that we were having troubles with our start-line stays, and she always did the over-the-top grab-mom's-feet thing at the end of every run. And this is a known issue, not some mysterious malady.

Tika not looking at all wonky:


So I ran her all weekend, although she was landing heavily and grunting after her jumps and turning wide the whole time (except for one run), not her usual effortless flowing jumping and tight turns.

That Dang Snooker. The only run of the weekend where she didn't come out of the crate looking sore--and didn't keep her bars up--was the last run on Saturday, Snooker. The sun had already disappeared and it was much cooler. Maybe she liked the coolth.

Snooker in CPE is different from USDAA Snooker, in that you MUST successfully complete three reds to be able to earn a qualifying score (if you then go on and earn enough points in the closing). There is a fourth red on the course, but you can (must) take it ONLY if you knock one of the other reds. I explained this to a few people during the briefing.

Tika was the last dog to run of the class and of the day, so we ran a couple of hours after the briefing. I put her in a down stay and started my long lead-out to get into position. Next thing I know, there she is right next to me, bright eyed and bushy nubbered.

I set her up about 12 feet off the first jump to give her the right strides to get over the jump without knocking it. What she does when she decides she's going to self start is to stand up, slowly creep forward until she's right up before the jump, then takes off without enough space.

I looked back and, sure enough, the bar was down. I had hoped for a 51-point (perfect) run, but that was out of the question. And then my 12 years of USDAA experience kicked in: If I did just the two additional reds and the closing, I'd still have enough points to qualify. So that's what we did, and we did it quickly and smoothly. And we got to the end, and the judge comes over and says, "Did you realize that you could have taken the fourth red and still earned a qualifying score?" Oh--well--crud. I can't even remember my own advice for two hours! So we got no points for the closing at all and no Q.

You Know What Happens When You Assume. Our only other non-Q for the weekend was the preceding Standard run, which Tika did nicely all the way to the 2nd to last obstacle, which was a dogwalk-tunnel discrimination. I yelled "Climb!" and raced ahead, assuming that she'd do it because her arc from the previous obstacle led there--but Nooooo! Silly mom, tunnel much easier when mom's ahead. Body language takes precedence over voice commands.

Tika--Yes--Still Sore, But Happy.
In Snooker first thing Sunday morning, we had short weaves in the opening for for 7 points. Every time, Tika--my superb weaving dog--either went into the weaves on the wrong side because it was closer or went into the correct place and came right back out again. Wasted a tremendous amount of time in the opening, so we missed our perfect 51 points by less than one second! Argh! It was a qualifying score, but still, I didn't understand.

Until, before the next run, I had her do figure-8s around my legs, and the first time, she yelped and stopped! OK, sore side-to-side, too. So we added additional manipulations and stretchings and bendings, and she was decent after that, although still slower in the weaves than usual. And I didn't try pushing her speed during our runs, which I usually would do, to get her more excited and driving.

Qing and Firsts.
In all, Tika earned 8 of 10 Qs. It's always better for me (I feel better about my first places) if there are other 24"-jumping dogs in my height and level. But the two catahoulas weren't there, the BCs Annie and Django who sometimes jump 24" weren't there, and BC Brenn has moved down to 20".


As a result, to make me feel that we've earned our first places, I compare our scores and times to every other dog, all heights/all levels, who have done the same course. This time, Tika was never the top dog, but out of 50-60 dogs, she was still between the 3nd and 10th fastest or highest-scoring dog, so I felt that the 1st were earned.

Note that, in USDAA, if we weren't feeling well and were making mistakes on the course, we'd be wayyyy down in the rankings somewhere, but here in CPE, Tika is still near the top.

The only two dogs who beat us consistently all weekend were a fast little sheltie who has running A-frames and--in point accumulation classes--5 more seconds than we do, and a Border Collie in the 20" group.

The Horns of Height Dilemmas. Now, Tika is eligible to run 20" in CPE. I do 24" because she has to jump 26" in USDAA. So I could move her down to 20" for future trials to see whether that's better. Here's my personal dilemma: Because the 20" BC made no mistakes this weekend, and is also at Level C, if Tika had been running at 20", 7 or 8 of those 8 pretty blues would have been pretty reds. As much as I like competition, I must admit that a guarantee of not getting 1st is rough.

When Tika is 100%, we can almost never beat those other dogs on speed, so in timed courses, we usually win only if they make mistakes. In points courses, we can win when we create a cleverer, more efficient way of collecting points than the others, which is possible sometimes but not always.

Here's the second dilemma: in USDAA, I could move Tika to Performance and jump her at 22" instead of 26". But: I've already signed her up for the next two DAM Team events with 3-dog teams, with Tika at 26". And they'd be fun teams. We already have our team names (not always easy) and one even has a logo already. And I'd like to run with them. But if I go to performance, I'd have to find different teams. And closing is only a week away for one of them, which would leave that team stuck without a 3rd. But I want to do these teams!

So I'll probably stay at 26" at least for those. Maybe move her to Performance in some other things. And stay higher in Steeplechase and Grand Prix until she earns her 50th tournament leg.

I hate this. Dogs shouldn't get older and sorer.

But I Had Fun. In all, though, it was a good weekend. So I wasn't even particularly annoyed when I left the grounds around 7:30(!) Sunday evening. Especially because Boost got to romp with a ton of other Border Collies the whole time I packed.

Here's Bump, Dig, Boost's half-sister Quas ("Kass"), and Boost--who always just watches and outruns the other BCs:


Never thought I'd be able to tell one black & white BC from another, but over time, I've gotten to know some reasonably well. Here are housemates Bump, Dig, and Styx (with Cattle Dog Skeeter in the back), then blue merles Boost, sister Bette, and Quas.


It seemed like a lot of dogs milling and dashing around! (Easier to count when they're in a snapshot.) So sometimes we hardly noticed when other random dogs joined the crowd.


Skeeter is largely blind due to glaucoma; has only one eye left. But her Human Mom can get her to leap and play by shrieking and doing monstery things with her arms. It's very cute. While Boost sits, poised, waiting intently for a border collie to start running.


Tika kept rushing back to the van and looking hopeful. That's because they usually get dinner right before we go home. And we know who's the chow hound.




And I wasn't even annoyed when, while heading to the freeway, the car felt funny handling, and I wondered whether I had a tire problem, and then the tire-pressure light came on. I pulled into the Jack-in-the-Box, and sure enough, one tire's pressure was 5 lbs lower than the others, and it had this little ding.


Safe to drive? Dunno. Don't want to have blow-out on the way home; that WOULD annoy me. So I called AAA to have them look at the tire. Took less than half an hour to get there, but it gave me plenty of time to enjoy my healthy french fries...


to watch the moon come up over JITB...


to take endless sunset photos...


Here's a scenic one of the sunset reflected in my minivan's window. Glamorous, huh?



Then AAA arrived. He said: Dunno, but he'd replace the tire to be safe rather than sorry. He had the right tools to do it in about 3 minutes. Amazing.

Got home VERY late and slept VERY well for many, many hours.

Had These Photos And What To Do With Them? But lastly--just for you, gratuitous barking grassy Bump photos:

2 comments:

  1. Wow! What a weekend! Hope Tika feels better! And Boost too! But you all had fun, so that's the best part.

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  2. Wow, big weekend! So many decisions - I sure hope everybody feels better - and you stay well!!! Love the pics. You know they still get injured even when they're young :) Dang it!

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