Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's All About Whom You Know

SUMMARY: Watching the USDAA Nationals live.
I gave in and subscribed to the live feed for $20. Cheapest way to watch the national championship finals, for sure! I wasn't going to, but I've been hanging on every facebook post of people who are there and the usdaa facebook page, and I've dreamed about it the last 2 nights. I've seen the final rounds every year since 2000 except the 2 years they were in Texas; I'd really miss seeing them.

Especially since people I know will be competing.

I've found that agility really is more interesting when there are people I know involved. And I don't mean just people that I know who they are. I mean, Marcus Topps and Joe Lavalley and so many other familiar names are perennial top competitors, but I've never actually spoken to them.

And Jen Pinder, Susan Garrett, Karen Holik, and so many additional other names are people I've taken seminars from or been in Power Paws Camp sessions with, but I don't actually *know* them, you know? Like, as in, would they remember *me*?

No, it's all the folks I see weekend after weekend, year after year, who make it all particularly interesting for me. These aren't even "close personal friends," as celebrity hosts are fond of saying; just people I know and talk to and interact with and, yes, even like, because they're wonderful folk.

There's Otterpop and Laura Hartwick, who attended their first nationals ever this year. I knew and watched Otterpop long before I knew anything about Laura or Team Small Dog (one of the most entertaining agility blog reads around)--I mean, who couldn't love a feisty little black mixed-breed named Otterpop? Since then, I've had a lot of email and in-person conversations with Laura, and keep up to date on TSD. They qualified for semis in both Grand Prix and Steeplechase, and had clean runs in both, but (frowny face here) not quite fast enough to make the cuts for the finals.

There's the amazing border collie Cassidy and Diana Wilson, whom I got to know a bit better the year we traveled to scottsdale together and shared a hotel room, back when the amazing border collie Cassidy and Boost were still puppies not even a year old. Cassidy, when she runs clean, blows away the times of everyone else in the universe. Sadly, they had an offcourse this afternoon in Grand Prix semis, so won't be in the finals this year. Don't know what happened in Steeplechase.

And belgian tervuren Wings and Rob Michalski, who won Steeplechase last year with a fabulous run. I've known Rob since he was running an Aussie, long before Hobbes the Border Collie and Wings the Terv. He was one of the founding members of The Bay Team, and I've talked with him about so many things (casually) through the years, from Bay Team business to photography to just anything on the sidelines. Sigh, just found out that they Eed in Grand Prix semis, but they will be running in Steeplechase finals tonight.

And B.C. Heath and Terry LeClair in performance. Heath is another one of those most-fast dogs that you've never heard of, and Terry is one of the most amazing handlers particularly considering the size of the body that he moves around the ring--he *always* gets to where he needs to be, putting me to shame. We chitchat at almost every trial, seems like. We've been DAM team partners. They had tiny bobbles on their courses this year, just enough to drop them about a second below qualifying times, so we won't see them in the finals, either, but I loved watching their progress.

Of course there's B.C. Icon and Channan Fosty, whom I first talked to several years back when she was running her Beauceron, because it was (yeah) an unusual breed to begin with, let alone in agility. I've stalked her (and every other bay teamer) at trials and nationals for ages, taking candid photos, and see her almost every weekend.

The supersonic Papillon Tantrum and J.D. Dunn, another Bay Teamer, is also a vet and she's helped me from time to time over the last few years with issues with my dogs at trials, like the first couple of times that Tika came up sore and I didn't know what was going on. She was there and watching this past summer when Tika took off and swallowed a sandwich and its plastic wrap from someone's canopy, and reassured me about Tika's health.

Not to mention Luka and Ashley Deacon. Besides Luke being another unusual breed (Pyrenean Shepherd), which always attracts me, we were in class together for a 2 or 3 years from when he was still basically a beginner and I was watching them from the sidelines in their advanced runs. I was one of maybe a dozen people at the entire Scottsdale site who knew who he was when he and Luka first appeared from nowhere in the Steeplechase finals and won. I doubt that I was as excited as he was, but it was pretty darned exciting.

B.C. Kir and Katie Tolve I've known casually for several years. Katie was in class with me before she had her B.C.; she was running a Bernese Mountain Dog who was amazingly fast for what you expected from the breed, and Katie did a fantastic job with training and handling. And she's done the same with Kir; I think this is the 2nd time they've made it to the USDAA finals, which speaks volumes.

And one more: Dave Grubel, who is not only judging, but is judging the premier event tomorrow evening, the Grand Prix finals! I've never known him well--he's kind of reserved (yeah, true, or at least when I'm around)--but we've been pairs relay partners off and on, hmm, in looking at my notes, maybe more than any other partner (that's a surprise to me). Lately his B.C. Killy and my Boost have been teaming up repeatedly, with a Q rate that's not too bad. They're both really fast, which is good and usually makes up for one or the other of them also usually having a fault on course.

There aren't a lot of Bay Teamers out there this year; not surprisingly, since it's such a long, involved trip. Have I left anyone out?

OK, they're now announcing Elicia Calhoun with her annual presentation for canine cancer prevention, which kicks off the evenings Steeplechase (performance and championship) finals, so here I go, to watch, and cheer on my friends and everyone else.

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