Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday at Bay Team

SUMMARY: Tika all Qs, Boost all not Qs.
Tika is a good girl. I'm thinking she's slowing way down in the weaves, but I don't have a good objective way of confirming that. (Hmmm, maybe if I actually bothered to ask anyone to videotape our runs, maybe I could compare with some from a few years back. Yeah. In my spare time. Right.)

But a lot of our successes today were more by reason of other people having unexpected issues than simply by our own acumen.

Tika won Standard by virtue of being the only dog of 7 who Qed in that class. Her table down was verrrrrrry delayed.

She won Steeplechase Round 1 by virtue of otherwise fast & reliable dogs doing things like popping out of the weaves, not by our speed alone. Two sets of weaves AGAIN, and really, she did look slowwww to me in both of them.

She was 2nd in Jumpers by virtue of otherwise fast & reliable dogs having runouts and oddball things like that that they don't usually, not by our speed alone.

She was 3rd in Snooker because I got greedy in the opening after we'd already had a couple of bobbles and ran out of time 2/3 of the way through the 3-obstacle #7 in the closing.

But her gamblers win was all acumen ;-). Won by a huge margin yet again.

Boost should've had an awesome gamblers run, too, but that not-taking-obstacles-in-front-of-you problem got in the way.

Likewise in Steeplechase.

Likewise in Jumpers. Plus knocking the 2nd bar.

Standard, I don't even remember, but probably the same.

Snooker, knocked the 2nd red and I then couldn't remember which red I had already done and picked the wrong one.

And there went another day.

Weather was beautiful, friends were fun, like that.

And back for more tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Busy Week, and Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Agility

SUMMARY: Another USDAA this weekend.
Same time, same site. Different club. (I'm members of both and am, yes, working score table again.)

Have I practiced anything with the dogs?

No.

We did have class Thursday night, and there were few enough students there that I ran both dogs. So we got a good workout and both dogs got some practice.

Remember how Tika cheated me out of my $15 (estimated) in steeplechase round 2 last weekend by exiting the end of the weaves and then leaving the ring to go sniff at something interesting? Well, we had an instant replay of that in class. TWICE. This isn't something I've seen in tika for years. I wonder what it means?

Boost knocked some bars, big surprise.

We all had trouble with 270s (270-degree turns).

Instructor noticed somethings that Tika has been doing on the contacts in class since just about forever (standing at the bottom in her perfect 2o/2o, sniffing for treats, ignoring me) and suggested some things to try to stop it. Not sure whether that's good or bad, since she does neither the sniffing nor the stopping nor even the 2o/2o in competition.

Boost's weaves were absolutely lovely in class. We even did a really nice rear cross where I had to hustle to get there. (We have a known issue with rear crosses.)

So--we'll see how we do this weekend. Weather should be nice. Friends should be nice. Dogs seem healthy. Time for early(ish) bed!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend doing whatever you've chosen to do.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Working back to Ups, not Downs, Sunday

SUMMARY: Things looked up in several areas.
When I was able to read my email last thing before bed Saturday night, found that my dad had been safely transported, post-op, to a rehab facility and was already working on walking (with a walker), sitting up, and other positive things. And my mom seemed to be doing OK on her own.

Back at the trial site in the morning, Pairs Relay was up first. Tika had a lovely run with her frequent partner, Brenn, and they placed 2nd out of 11 teams with a clean Q. Oh--and, right, we did the same thing in Pairs the day before. So that actually was good.

Then Boost, whom I took off the pairs course the day before in disgust, had a gorgeous fast clean run, and she and her partner Qed and placed 2nd out of 27 teams. Cold and hot. Down and up.

Gamblers, Boost again popped out of her weaves in the opening and I made her fix them even though it wasted time and didn't give us any points, so now we were among the lowest-point openings and I mishandled the gamble, so no Q, either. Compared to yesterday, where we were hot in the gamble. Hot and cold, up and down.

But Tika nailed the gamble opening and closing, and we took 1st by a wide margin--and, oh, yeah, we did the same thing the day before, too. So that actually was good.

In Standard, both dogs Qed! Boost's run was quite smooth all the way through. I held her on the contacts, so our time wasn't blazing, but the run was very nice. With Tika, she almost went off course into a tunnel when I didn't call enough, and then we ended up taking 2nd instead of 1st by--ack!--.01 of a second! But a Q and 2nd are pretty good. I'll take them.

In Jumpers, oh, my, Boost's run was fantastic. What a lovely, lovely run, showing almost her full potential. She knocked one bar, but her time was very close to the winning dogs, who are top-class national competitors. Oh, if only we could run like this every time!

And Tika's run was smooth and clean, for a Q and a first--oh, yeah, and she did the same thing the day before, too. So that was good.

Boost's grand prix was SO close to being excellent. One refusal at a jump that required a wrap/front-cross, and then off course at the end where I said "go hup!" and she did, when it should've been a "come". But SO smooth.

And remember 2 weeks ago where I exulted about Tika winning Grand Prix and earning a bye for the regionals round 2 for the first time ever with any of my dogs? Well, she did it again this weekend.

So my down view and the things that went wrong had completely clouded my view of how well tika had really done: For the weekend, Qs in 10 out 11 classes, absolutely fantastic in USDAA. Won both Jumpers, both Gamblers, and Grand Prix, second in both Relays and one Standard.

And some of Boost's runs were really lovely SUnday, giving me hope (once again) that maybe we'll get this figured out eventually, and she even Qed twice Sunday (none on Saturday, but her gamblers was very nice). She popped out of the weaves twice but got ALL her entries and didn't skip poles after that, woo hoo! Did ALL her contacts correctly, woo hoo! Left the start line early only once, did both her tables in Standard perfectly. These are all good things that have sometimes given us problems.

For the weekend, Tika completed her Performance Gamblers Silver (25 Qs)--took her 4.5 years to get her Champion Gamblers Silver, and only 2 years to do it all over again in Performance.

She's now only 9 Qs away from her Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Gold--which would be 350 lifetime Masters, P3, and Tournament Qs. Very achievable this year, then, maybe even within the next couple of trials. That would be super.

And I got home, tried my computer disk utility again, and it got a lot farther than it had before, without saying that the disk was unrepairable. I'm running it yet again, and we'll see--I'm starting to hope that in fact I will recover my whole disk.

One can only hope. Ups and downs, downs and ups.

No Ups, Downs through Saturday

SUMMARY: A rough week, and a bipolar USDAA agility weekend--first, Saturday and leading in to it.
Last Sunday night and Monday, something I ate (most likely) had much disagreement with my system. (When you "call in sick" when working at home, you know it's pretty uncomfortable.) I did spend time at the computer, working and the usual, off and on. So I knew, from her facebook posts, that my sister had had a rough encounter with a hedge trimmer and had been in the emergency room that day.

When I was finally able to fall asleep midafternoon, the same sister called to say that apparently in the emergency room she'd just missed my dad being brought in, from falling and breaking his hip.

The rest of the week involved considerable amount of research on the subject, updating people and being updated, and mostly worrying about my dad's hip and my mom being without my dad around.

Wednesday, my friend with cancer talked with her doctor and agreed it's time for her to start working with hospice. Hospice, from what I've heard, is a godsend of services, support, and advice for end-of-life planning and management, but it's that last phrase that makes it sad. You always hope for a miracle, especially from a real fighter.

Thursday, my disk drive with all my photos seemed to have died, and of course my last full backup had been the previous thursday. Probably not lots of stuff missing, but all the hours of photo editing that I had done in the past week would be gone. (It's soooo stupid--I try to just hit the backup button every day, but then I get into the mindset of "oh, I haven't finished going through all the photos from the last 4 days--I'll wait to do the backup until I've sorted, labele,d & processed all of them. Doh.) Wouldn't have lost the originals--I never erase them from my cameras until I have at least 2 copies of them on different disks. Still, that's a lot of hours of processing.

I can't tell you how many times I restarted & restarted my system and tried various things obsessively. A sys admin friend stayed here saturday evening and looked at it a bit and it was looking pretty sad. The only hopeful thing was that there seemed to be a couple of steps forward, a step back, like that.

So maybe my mindset had already gone into "life sucks" mode for the USDAA trial this weekend. Saturday, it felt like nothing went right:

  • Tika's Standard, lovely, except that while she was waiting on the table, I moved out of position for the next jump and she backjumped it. Why, how? Dunno, I did it right with boost before that.
  • Except in boost's standard, she had an assortment of bars knocked, refusals, and off courses other than that.
  • Tika's snooker, well, a Q, but I couldn't get to a front cross in time and pushed her off the #6 in the closing, so we didn't even place.
  • Boost's Snooker, a really nice, smooth opening, but she knocked bar #4 in the closing. So again no super-Q--but even had we gotten all through it, my flowing course wouldn't have been enough for a super-Q.
  • Tika Qed in steeplechase round 1 although she hit the broad jump for a fault. In round 2, everything was perfect and fast EXCEPT that she abruptly left the right to go sniff at something in the lawn for about 10 seconds. We were SOOO far out of the money on a very tika-like course.
  • Boost's gamble, great opening, as in 4th highest of all masters dogs, AND did the gamble, but knocked the last bar. Might have been my fault, maybe I was slowing down. 
  • Boost's Jumpers, bars and refusals.
  • As we got towards the end of the day, I noted to a couple of people that at least, after 5 classes, boost's start line had been rock solid and all of her weaves had been perfect. So, in pairs, she didn't stick her startline, resulting in a refusal, then she popped out of her weaves, so I was out of position to get a front x that I really needed, and she went right off course.
I was pretty discouraged by Saturday evening. Didn't even collect the ribbons that I had earned, didn't gather most of my results.  Once again, not having that much fun most of the day, thinking about all the other things I could've been doing other than agility.

I always enjoy the people I spend time with at trials, though.

And I was glad to be able to let an agility friend stay in the guest room here overnight so she didn't have to drive anohter hour home or spend the $ for a motel room, and that was a pleasant way to spend the evening, sharing a pizza, even though we were both pretty beat. The down side was coming home and seeing that the disk repair util that had been running for the last day said that my disk was unrepairable and my friend was a bit puzzled by its behavior, too.

And that was Saturday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sneaking Out Early to Santa Teresa on a Foggy Weekday Morning

SUMMARY: [Almost] Wordless Wednesday of Calfornia natives.

Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia

Chia (mint family), Salvia columbariae

White thistle, Cirsium hookerianum

Brodiaea elegans

Most Beautiful Jewelflower, Streptanthus albidus peramoenus

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wild Flowers and Calm Dogs

SUMMARY: Where the wild flower-things are.
Yesterday morning, I took only my little point-and-shoot camera and my dogs, expecting to do a brisk solo hike and to not see many wildflowers. Instead--tons of wildflowers and almost no hiking because I stopped constantly to take photos. And such a beautiful day! Dogs were a little bored but hike was uphill so they got a little workout.

I discovered that there are still lots of things that I don't know about the camera--that is, that I don't remember from one read-through of the user guide. How to set the exposure time in manual mode. How to pick a fixed focus spot instead of letting it pick its own. How to see what aperture and time it's picking before I take the shot.

Meanwhile--if you like puppies and poppies--the couple dozen photos that turned out ok are here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bye Little Hummers!

SUMMARY: This morning, they posed nervously for one last photo, and when I got home tonight, they'd flown the nest.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Haute TRACS course maps of interest

SUMMARY: summarytext
NOTE: You can download *all* the course maps here.

Rather than going back and putting these into the posts from thurs/fri/sat, I'm copying the relevant comments from those posts here, with additional info.

Thursday Steeplechase Round 1

"...I somehow pulled [Tika] past a jump--maybe I was signalling a serpentine when I didn't need one?--and had to go back for it..." That would be jump #17. Pulled her between that and the #15/#6 jumps. There must've been more space there than appears on the map.

"Boost had a bar down and looked nice except for the blankety weave entry--she went right into the first pole and then turned all the way around to her left to come back to me." That would be #18 weaves.

Otherwise it ran quite smoothly for both dogs. 

Thursday Team Relay

"The fifth and final event, Relay, didn't look terribly gnarly--I swear I've seen worse--but it definitely wasn't a Boost kind of course; we bumbled our way through it with assorted bars and refusals, but, as I said, did not E. In fact, all three of us got through it without Eing, and that turned out to be our shining moment. A friend and I compared notes and counted with disbelief as 5 out of the top 6 teams Ed in the relay, and I stopped counting after that. "

"In the relay, [Tika and Maddie] had scary almost-offcourse moments where we were screaming our dogs' names, but we survived the relay intact." Tika headed for the offcourse tire after the #9 tunnel but called off it; Maddie headed for the offcourse #2 between the black 9 and 10 but called off it.


Team Jumpers

"...in Jumpers [Tika] cut behind me on a push-through and backjumped for an E."  I front-crossed the weaves and kept her on my left over #7, #8, and #9 (serping #9), and as she came over #9, I pushed forward with my left arm and leg between 9 and 10. That's when she cut behind me and took #10 backwards.

"Boost 'Did not E in Jumpers.' (Bar and two refusals.)...As a team, we did manage to be 5th overall in Jumpers out of 27 teams (quite a few Es, apparently)." Looking at final score sheets, about 30% of the 80+ dogs went off course. Can't tell you where.

Team Gamblers

"In the Gamble, [Boost] had decent opening points but in the closing futzed with the weave entry, then I didn't call enough and she came onto the teeter from the side, negating our gamble points." "During the DAM team Time Gamble, Tika took an obstacle that I hadn't wanted her to take, and in a bit of a panicked effort to save the day, I ... ended up bouncing off the judge...and fell straight forward..."

In the closing, my plan for Boost was weaves (going north), teeter, tunnel, and either jump on the finish line. She did the weaves on my right, and when I headed for the teeter, she headed for the Aframe. I called her off the Aframe, but that's where she came onto the side of the teeter above the contact zone.

My closing plan for Tika was just teeter-tunnel-jump. At the whistle, she was in the tunnel in the upper left corner. I thought I was calling her hard to get to the teeter, but she had locked onto the jump-Aframe. I could still save the gamble bonus by going directly from the Aframe to the tunnel, it took me a moment to  realize that--I started towards the aframe, changed my mind and came back towards the tunnel, and somewhere in there I ran into the judge and fell, Tika came in to investigate, I got to my feet, put Tika into the tunnel, and made it over the final jump in time. Whew!

Our opening sequence (which was a pretty common strategy or part of a strategy) was chute-dogwalk-tunnel-jump-Aframe-Aframe-jump-weave-weave-and then some other stuff (different for the 2 dogs).


Friday Snooker

"Tika: A 0-point run. (Knocked the first bar and my second obstacle was only a single full stride after that--no way I was calling her off it.)" That would be from the #1 in the lower right to the 7a jump.

"Boost: Knocked a bar on a 7-pointer in the opening, taking us out of SuperQ contention, then gave me a 'what this jump" refusal on #5 in the closing, so not even a Qualifier." Admittedly, that 5a jump was tough to get to.

Our opening plan was: lower right red, 7a, 7b, 7c, lower left red, 5a, 5b, upper red, 7c, 7b, 7a (all in a logical flowing path, not as numbered). Quite a few folks did the same.


Friday Grand Prix

"Tika and I came off that course with me yelling "Best Grand Prix Course IN THE UNIVERSE!" (thanks Pat Corl) " I thought it ran beautifully. Not everyone agreed.

Even Boost was very smooth through it--after she ran past the tire on my opening lead-out pivot for an immediate off-course.


Saturday Gamble

"The Gamble was almost a gimmee. I haven't looked at the Q percentage, but I'd guess 80%. And both dogs got it and Qed. I thought I had a decent opening, but muffed it completely with Tika (what an array of errors, and most handler-created), so once again we didn't even place, and I held Boost on all 5 contacts that we did to ensure that she's getting rewarded for sticking them, rather than trying to blast through and get more points. " Turns out the Q percentage was more like 60%.

Wow, just looking at it now, I see that half of it is almost identical to what we did in the team gamble: Boost's plan was again chute-jump-dogwalk-tunnel-tunnel (practicing the gamble)-aframe-aframe-jump-teeter-teeter. We bobbled at the jump before the teeter.

Tika's plan (to avoid the dogwalk) was jump (next to the chute--which she knocked), tire, back to the same jump (which she avoided), chute (which she started to go to, came back towards me, then finally went in, jump (after the tire--it wasn't at that steep of an angle, but even with my front cross, she ran past it after some confusion), jump next to the dogwalk, tunnel, tunnel (practicing the gamble), aframe, aframe... and then my plan was jump teeter jump weaves, but instead from the aframe she went to the tunnel again, so no points for that & wasted time.

Anyway, both dogs got the gamble easily with me on the sideline saying "Boost boost boost, again, tunnel!" (or Tika) which is my cue for back to back tunnels. Both had very fast gamble times.


Saturday Standard


"The Standard I really liked the flow of for my dogs--thanks again, Pat Corl. Others thought it was gnarly (in a complicated way), but it was SUCH a doable Boost course, and both dogs ran it beautifully. Unfortunately, Tika didn't bother with the dogwalk down contact, and Boost knocked a bar, so no Qs. (To show you how gnarly it was, Tika still placed 3rd of 9 dogs without Qing.)"

"...[for Boost]  an UNbelievably good table-down where I backed up about 30 feet away from her during the count and she never lifted even a single elbow."  Basically I moved out to the end of the dogwalk closest to #14, so when I released my dogs from the table, I gave the tunnel command and just slipped past the end of the dogwalk to front cross between #13 and #14. Piece of cake!

Also, I rear crossed the teeter  and immediately moved into a front cross between 17 and 18 while the dog finished the teeter.


Steeplechase Round 1 Saturday

"I did a lead-out pivot after a broad jump to a tunnel, which [Boost] handled very nicely, but then I needed to do an immediate second front cross after that between the tunnel and the weaves, and my legs didn't work, and my heel caught on the grass or my other foot or I don't know, and down I went..."

"Poor [Tika] crashed into me TWICE when I couldn't get the front crosses in that I needed. I felt so bad for her. I just couldn't physically do it, I was so tired. She amazed me after the first crash [same place I fell with Boost], because it pushed her past the right side of the weave entry, and she basically made a u-turn in about 18 inches of space and still made the entry!"

If you stood at the start line and looked across the first three obstacles, you were staring straight through the *side* of the broad jump, so almost everyone did a lead-out to the left side of the broad jump, stepped forward to be sure the dog went through the correct poles, front crossed into the tunnel, and front crossed again to the weaves. That process worked better for some people than for others.

"[Boost] came to a complete stop at a jump on a rear cross..." That would be before #12. " and as I had expected, ran past the last jump"... "she did two BEAUTIFUL sets of weaves, including one where I basically sent her ahead of me [#15 weaves] and peeled off to try to prevent the last-jump problem (she was still faster than I could be)"

Interestingly, lots of dogs either missed #9 completely or pulled away from it and had to go back for it.

Aaaaaand I think that's enough!

Steeplechase Winners Get to Buy Dinner For Their Sisters

SUMMARY: Hamburgers for everyone!

Nom nom nom!

Tika says grace before the feast. Boost can't believe I'm actually making them wait.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Assorted Weekend Wrap-Ups from Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: Top Ten, Move Yer Bloomin' Legs, bouncing off judges, tika not sore--

Top Ten points: Although Tika was moving well, we really didn't accrue much in the way of Top Ten points. By the end of Haute TRACS last year, we were well up into the Top Ten ranks in all four classes. This year, we're not going to be even close. So maybe I'll relax about that. Dunno, just not placing nearly as often. Can't pinpoint any particular reason.

Must say I was thrilled that Tika didn't come up sore at all after all those runs through that 3-day weekend, and that's my long-term concern for her.

I, however, was a different matter. On Thursday, I had trouble most of the day getting my legs to move at all--felt like 50-lb weights were tied to my ankles, for no obvious reason. I've experienced this before, though, and I'm concluding that sleep deprivation followed by a 2-hour drive is the reason, because it's almost always on the first morning of a trial. I'm going to have to rethink my current strategy of rising at 4 a.m. to start my away weekends. It's so odd to not feel tired particularly but to not have my legs functioning well.

Friday I was about normally tired but functional.

I already talked about how I deteriorated through Saturday. Man, I fall out of shape so quickly when I'm not doing a lot of regular walking and hiking!

That fall on Saturday was not my only fall for the weekend. During the DAM team Time Gamble, Tika took an obstacle that I hadn't wanted her to take, and in a bit of a panicked effort to save the day, I ran a pretty erratic spur-of-the-moment path and ended up bouncing off the judge, who had finally decided ("finally" after a split second or two of erraticness on my part, said she decided to just hold still and not try to figure out where I was going). As I tried to continue around her, my toe caught in something and I fell straight forward, slightly hitting my knees but taking the brunt on the base of my hands, which felt a little rug-burned on the dry soil. And I don't get up the ground all that quickly any more, either.

The good news is that, despite that, Tika and I saved our run and got our bonus points. Down side was more bruises. I don't think I fall all that often, maybe once or twice a year, so twice in one weekend was pretty radical.

Now that it's Monday evening, I'm thinking that there's no lasting damage from either fall, Tika's still in good shape, and Boost is BORED BORED BORED, so everything seems back to normal.

Saturday at Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: 5 *more* runs for each dog, 4 Qs for Tika, and 2 for Boost.

What does Haute TRACS mean?

Haute Dawgs Agility Group is one dog club; TRACS (Two Rivers Agility Club of Sacramento) is another. They used to have April agility trials on separate, adjacent weekends. Back in 2005, they said, this is silly, we're in the same area (often at the same site) two weekends in a row, why don't we save ourselves a trip home and a teardown/set-up and just combine them? So they've been doing a 4-day event (one club does thurs/fri, the other does sat/sun) ever since.

But it's too much to manage, really, for many reasons, and this will be the last year. Then they're going back to separate weekends. Which is fine by me--four days of agility is wayyyy too much.

Saturday morning


The Gamble was almost a gimmee. I haven't looked at the Q percentage, but I'd guess 80%. And both dogs got it and Qed. I thought I had a decent opening, but muffed it completely with Tika (what an array of errors, and most handler-created), so once again we didn't even place, and I held Boost on all 5 contacts that we did to ensure that she's getting rewarded for sticking them, rather than trying to blast through and get more points.

The Standard I really liked the flow of for my dogs--thanks again, Pat Corl. Others thought it was gnarly (in a complicated way), but it was SUCH a doable Boost course, and both dogs ran it beautifully. Unfortunately, Tika didn't bother with the dogwalk down contact, and Boost knocked a bar, so no Qs. (To show you how gnarly it was, Tika still placed 3rd of 9 dogs without Qing.)

Saturday afternoon

Boost's Jumpers course was another mess--20 faults (I think 2 bars and 2 refusals), although somehow we avoided an off-course Elimination.

Tika's Jumpers didn't feel fast to me, and I wondered whether she was slowing down (I certainly was) but it was smooth--and to my surprise, 7 out of 11 dogs in her group Eliminated. We ended in 1st with a Q. So some nice Top Ten points there.

Snooker

It was a twisty turny course with tons of pull-throughs and run-pasts required, front crosses or rear crosses every direction, multiple-part obstacles, and overlapping numbers (so part of 6 was also part of 5, part of 6 was also part of 7, and so on. I think most people spent most of the walk-through just trying to figure out the closing course, let alone figure out an opening strategy.

The course focused on complex handling rather than speed. Oh, sure--you had to be *very* fast to get all three sevens in the opening, and only a very few dogs managed it with only a second or so to spare. I think most people simply conceded the 51-point high possible score and went for some opening combo other than three sevens. I picked two sevens and a four because it flowed nicely. I was sure it wasn't going to be a super-Q plan with a 4 instead of a 5 or 6, but it proved to be a very good super-Q plan--

--except with Boost it was another dang Super-Q heartbreaker. In general, it was a Boost course because it required paying close attention to the handler, which she does to a fault. Mostly it helped us on this one, although she did the "this jump"? dance on TWO reds in the opening and also in the opening blew past the weave entry--no excuse for it, it was a very easy entry--and we had to go back for it. She did every complex handling thing I asked her to do AND kept her bars up, but we missed completing the course by about 2 seconds--so avoiding any ONE of those three bobbles would've given us a super-Q. Even with 43 22" dogs entered, dogs were Super-Qing with 44 points, and we ended with 41 instead of 48. Crap!

Tika nailed it, but by now my legs, hip, and knee were all giving me great grief. Muscles were weak and not responding well, I was tripping over my own feet, knee was giving way under me on some steps. I was late on several crosses, wasting time. Still, we completed it with only a couple of seconds to spare. We were two seconds slower than another dog with our same points, so we were a Super-Q and 2nd place.

But I was wiped out. With the next Steeplechase still to run.

Steeplechase and an experiment with alternative handlers

We had a break while the course was built, but one hip (NOT the one that has been paining me for months) and a blister had me limping during the walkthrough and the muscle fatigue was obvious. I could barely conceive of running a dog at all, let alone two dogs on what was a really wide-open course with aggressive front crosses required.

I briefly pondered scratching both dogs, but I had to stay anyway for (a) the Bay Team meeting and (b) a potlock dinner with friends, and besides, durnit, I paid $20 each to enter that class!

I asked our sometimes-pairs-partner, Killy's Human Dad, whether he'd run Boost (since Killy has had many of the same "this jump?" issues), with the observation that I had no idea whether she'd run with someone else. He took her off to try to play with her and get her to work with him, but she wanted her Human Mommie, dang babydog. I could see her in a sit-stay at the practice jump on the far side of the steeplechase field, and when he finally convinced her to move, she moved straight across the course towards me. Fortunately, no other dog was running at the time.

Maybe she'd have been better if I'd gone with them. Don't know. MUST have my dogs learn to work with other people. Anyway, we gave up on that idea.

So.

Boost ran first. I did a lead-out pivot after a broad jump to a tunnel, which she handled very nicely, but then I needed to do an immediate second front cross after that between the tunnel and the weaves, and my legs didn't work, and my heel caught on the grass or my other foot or I don't know, and down I went onto my hip (the one that was already making me limp). I got slowly to my feet, discovered that I wasn't fatally damaged, and picked up the run where I left off. I missed a front cross that I really needed, she came to a complete stop at a jump on a rear cross (Jeez, wouldn't you think it would be easier to just TAKE it when you're moving full speed?), and as I had expected, ran past the last jump. Swung her around in two attempts to take it and finally did--

So we had no *recorded* errors, but a run time of twice the winning dog's time.

I must say, though, that she did two BEAUTIFUL sets of weaves, including one where I basically sent her ahead of me and peeled off to try to prevent the last-jump problem (she was still faster than I could be), and she stuck her Aframe on a rear cross where she couldn't see where I was going. AND kept her bars up AND stuck her start line.

Tika's run was not smooth. Poor dog crashed into me TWICE when I couldn't get the front crosses in that I needed. I felt so bad for her. I just couldn't physically do it, I was so tired. She amazed me after the first crash, because it pushed her past the right side of the weave entry, and she basically made a u-turn in about 18 inches of space and still made the entry! Such a good girl! We completed the course successfully only a few seconds behind the winning dog for a Q, so we could've competed the following day in Round 2 for money.

But, yeah, I was beat, no way I was sticking around. Besides, MUTT MVR was already packed up. Maybe with a rest overnight I could've run OK at 7:30 in the morning, and she usually does well in Round 2, BUT.

I was very glad to be home in my own bed.

Summary

Tika: 13 Qs towards her LAA-Gold out of 17 chances, two firsts, four 2nds, four 3rds. Qs in DAM and 3 individual DAM classes, Grand Prix, two Steeplechase, two gamblers, pairs relay, one Standard, one Jumpers, Super-Q in Snooker. (So didn't Q in Snooker, Standard, Jumpers, DAM snooker.)

Boost: 3 Qs (including DAM) out of 17. Mostly solid contacts, mostly solid start-line stays, never popped out of her weaves. And an UNbelievably good table-down where I backed up about 30 feet away from her during the count and she never lifted even a single elbow. W00t! Qs in DAM, gamblers, snooker.

Me: I have not been doing miles of hiking and walking that I had done the previous couple of years. Really paid for it this weekend in on-my-feet endurance. Plus I worked as Crew Chief instead of Score Table, so was on my feet virtually all day Thursday & Friday, except for very quick breaks. Must. Get. Moving. Again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday at Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: 6 additional runs per dog, no Qs for Boost, 4 for Tika plus PDCH-Bronze--and how about that Grand Prix!

NOTE: FYI, All of Boost's classes are in the Championship program; Tika's are in the Performance Program. Both dogs have been jumping 22" for the last 2 years.

Friday morning

... did not go well for Taj MuttHall.

Tika Snooker: A 0-point run. (Knocked the first bar and my second obstacle was only a single full stride after that--no way I was calling her off it.) That's our 9th career 0-point Snooker; her last was three and a half years ago. May there be no more! And it was SUCH a doable Tika-style snooker. Sigh.

Boost Snooker: Knocked a bar on a 7-pointer in the opening, taking us out of SuperQ contention, then gave me a 'what this jump" refusal on #5 in the closing, so not even a Qualifier.

Tika Jumpers: Nice and flowing, felt like we were moving nicely (we were--we had the fastest time, I believe) but she knocked a bar in the middle and not sure why. No Q.

Boost Jumpers: Auuuughhhh! She was doing all the moves I asked, but I pulled her out after she'd knocked 4 bars in the first 9 obstacles (one of which was a tunnel).

Friday afternoon

...picked up a little for Tika:

Boost's Standard:
I must've been getting tired of writing down all the ways we were blowing things after 2 days of it; I have no notes on the course. But I believe she had already had more than one fault when she left the Aframe early and so I pulled her off and put her away.

Tika's Standard: For several years now, I've been putting her into a Down at the start line, because in a sit she either lay down anyway or took off early. In this class, she would NOT "down" at the start line. I didn't want to get called for delayed start, so I left her in a sit and led out. Sure enough, she took off early, bounced off me as I was pivoting, which stalled us out for a moment (and while I briefly pondered taking her off the course), but then we continued, Qed, and even placed 2nd of 7 dogs. That was nice, because it completed the 15 Standard Qs we needed for our Performance Champion Bronze title! W00t! Nice to have that out of the way.

Boost's Gamblers: More lack of notes. Not very good opening points, refusal on the tunnel in the gamble (starts to go in, pops back to look at me, then goes in, ARGH!), then instead of going in a straight line from the tunnel to the jump in front of her, veers out of the tunnel straight towards me, so no gamble, either.

Tika's Gamble: I apparently had a crappy opening plan; we had some bobbles, she popped her dogwalk for 0 points, and although she did the gamble itself spot on and Qed, we didn't even place, which is rare for us when we do get the gamble.

Friday afternoon final two classes

Tika's day picked up even more. Boost? Well. Hm. Back to seriously considering not entering her in trials; it's just a waste of money most of the time without me doing constant maintenance training and upgrade work. So much to work on, all the time.

Boost Pairs Relay: On a lead-out pivot, blasted right past the 2nd jump and into the next obstacle for an off-course. (Hmm, she did this once already this weekend, which course was it?) Otherwise it was lovely, and so was her partner's run. Can't even get a danged Pairs Q (of which she already has 23, which is twice as many as she has anything else).

Tika Pairs Relay: Tika and Maddie teamed again. We did great. But another team did even greater. So we Qed with a 2nd of 9 teams. Not complaining!

Boost Grand Prix: Yet another course with no notes. We Eliminated on that one, too. It was SUCH a Boost-able course, smooth and flowing and I could keep ahead of her all the way through, and what happened? I think I did a lead-out pivot and she ran past the first obstacle, but don't remember for sure.

Tika Grand Prix: Tika and I came off that course with me yelling "Best Grand Prix Course IN THE UNIVERSE!" (thanks Pat Corl) and Tika biting my feet. (Which she does after every course, but no matter.) We ended up winning, the first time EVER in my agility career earning a bye voucher into the regional semifinals. Happy happy happy! (Tika has previously placed 2nd in Grand Prix 6 times.) Finally!

Here she is with our Steeplechase and GP ribbons.

Thursday at Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: Double Team Qs and some tournament success for Tika.
We mostly got lucky on the weather. Despite National Weather Service dire warnings for areas to the immediate east, west, and north of us, we got off pretty easy. Thursday morning started with a chill but only a few clouds in the sky.

During the afternoon, a thunder and lighting storm passed us off to the east but never came close to us. Thursday evening, we had a very few rain showers. Friday morning--frost on the ground, ice on the canopies where Thursday night's rain had accumulated, but then Friday and Saturday's skies remained mostly clear and it warmed up enough for shirtsleeves on Sunday afternoon (between chill blasts of wind). Cool-to-cold but sunny, perfect weather for happy agility dogs.

DAM Team Tournament

Tika and Maddie teamed for the Performance Team tournament (and we didn't come up with a clever team name); Boost teamed with Lexie the Border Collie and a last-minute substitution of Tala, Boost's mother, as our third. We ran as ABLe dogs (ABL initials of the original 3 dogs). --BTW, performance has only 2 dogs per team.

Boost's contributions to ABLe Dogs looked like: "Did not E in Jumpers." (Bar and two refusals.) "Did not E in relay." (Compare to Standard, where her scribe sheet read "S R R S R E" (that's 2 bars, 3 refusals, and an offcourse) and it was actually worse than that.) In the Gamble, she had decent opening points but in the closing futzed with the weave entry, then I didn't call enough and she came onto the teeter from the side, negating our gamble points. In Snooker, knocked one of the reds in the opening and then died on a stupid refusal to #4 in the closing. (She was running straight at it, then turned back to me. Gah!)

Not that everyone was perfect. Two of us Eed in Standard, the other got almost no Snooker points (and none of us got a lot there), two of us got 0 gamble points.

As a team, we did manage to be 5th overall in Jumpers out of 27 teams (quite a few Es, apparently).

Still, after 4 rounds, ABLe Dogs looked pretty dismal. Rules note: Qing in team is based on the average of the top 3 teams over all the rounds; teams within 25% of that average will Q. After 4 rounds, we were wayyyyy behind the top 3 teams (and plenty of others) and a long way out of Qing range:

For us to qualify, the top 3 teams (and maybe more) would have to E in the Relay, and really, what are the odds of that? Scoring note: Relay is the most heavily weighted class. For example, for each dog that Es in Jumpers, the team loses 100 pts; in Standard, 120 points; in Team, 150 points.

The fifth and final event, Relay, didn't look terribly gnarly--I swear I've seen worse--but it definitely wasn't a Boost kind of course; we bumbled our way through it with assorted bars and refusals, but, as I said, did not E.

In fact, all three of us got through it without Eing, and that turned out to be our shining moment. A friend and I compared notes and counted with disbelief as 5 out of the top 6 teams Ed in the relay, and I stopped counting after that. As a result--we Qed! The lesson: Never give up! (FYI, teams with fewer than 300 pts in the Relay had at least one E in the relay.)

Tika's team day went a little better--Tika did well enough in Gamblers, Stndard, and Snooker to earn Qs on those individual courses (it's complicated), but in Jumpers she cut behind me (I swear I never do blind crosses in practice) on a push-through and backjumped for an E. She placed 3rd of 9 in Standard and Gamblers. Placements in these classes don't count towards top 10 and don't even get ribbons, but it's always nicer to place than not, IMHO. Would've been 2nd in Snooker if I hadn't forgotten which side of the tunnel on #6; placed 6th instead. (Yeah, yeah, woulda coulda shoulda.)

Maddie did worse in Gamblers than Tika, which still didn't hurt us as much as that Jumpers E, but otherwise we were pretty evenly matched--in Standard, as a team we were 2nd out of 17 teams and 4th in Snooker.

In the relay, both dogs had scary almost-offcourse moments where we were screaming our dogs' names, but we survived the relay intact, holding our place and finishing 6th overall of 17 with a solid Q. Funny that almost NO performance teams Ed in the relay! (Those would be <100pts.) Those older, more experienced dogs really hold it together, I guess.

Steeplechase

If 5 runs for the day weren't enough, we also had Steeplechase Round 1 and Round 2 for those who qualified in Round 1.

Tika ran a pretty fast course but I somehow pulled her past a jump--maybe I was signalling a serpentine when I didn't need one?--and had to go back for it. I thought we were clean but when I looked the next day, we were listed with 5 faults, so no clue what that was. What's amazing is that, with all of that, her score was still good enough to qualify for Round 2 (BAREly).

Boost had a bar down and looked nice except for the blankety weave entry--she went right into the first pole and then turned all the way around to her left to come back to me. WTF? Then we boobled around a bit before I could get her back in correctly, so between the bar and the wasted time, we didn't even come close to a Q.

Tika's Round 2 was pretty good, as it almost always seems to be (maybe my adrenaline is up more for Round 2? dunno), but she missed 1st place by a very wide 3.4 second margin to an amazing flat-out gorgeous run by Gumbo the Catahoula Leopard Dog. Still, I'll take the $15 winnings, sure!

Now--I'm trying to take Sunday off from agility and apparently not doing a great job. I'm off to scrub some floors and stuff like that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Colors and Life in the Urban Landscape

SUMMARY: Almost Wordless Wednesday
Near or during sunset, even freeways and shopping centers turn golden and glow with amazing lights, both natural and manmade.






All of these were shot in parking lots of various businesses. Which version of the pollarded tree against the sky do you like better?







Tuesday, April 05, 2011

It's Haute TRACS time again

SUMMARY: Big four-day trial this weekend.
This is probably the last year of this gigantic super-duper four-day USDAA trial. It's so much work to put it on, and attendance has waned. Personally, I'm just as glad; three-day trials are hard enough on me, and four is right out. That's why I'm only doing Thursday thru Saturday.

Technically, it's two adjacent two-day trials. This allows the two clubs (Haute Dawgs and TRACS) to do cool stuff like: TWO steeplechases in one weekend! Well, one thursday, one saturday.


In class last Thursday, only 4 people showed up, so I ran both dogs. For a while. Tika was super-Teek for the first two runs, flagged a bit on the 3rd, and was visibly slower on the fourth. Sure, she was initially propelled by a long absence of any kind of agility practice or trials, but I'm starting to wonder whether I've overextended her by signing her up for everything this weekend. She used to be the Energizer Agility Dog--could do runs until way beyond when I ran out of steam.

But she is 10 now. And I'm--well--9 years older than when Tika first came home with me.

Dogs have six runs each on Thursday--seven if we make it to Steeplechase round 2. That's a LOT of runs for me with two dogs, and maybe too many for Tika? Another six runs each on Friday. "Only" five each on Saturday. I sure hope Tika holds up through the weekend-- now I'm flashing back to our 3-day Labor Day trial, where I had to scratch her from everything on the third day. Really don't want to have to do that again.

But I'll do what I must.

My goals for this weekend are pretty much the same as always:
  • Boost needs 3 Snooker Super-Qs and 3 Jumpers for her ADCH. Still. Always. We have two chances for each this weekend.
  • Tika needs one Standard Q for her Performance ADCH Bronze. We have two chances at that, too.
  • Try to remember to have fun and enjoy my dogs and my friends.

On the way home this evening, the pre-sunset skies and then the sunset colors were so lovely that I stopped repeatedly to snap photos. Hope you liked these couple of teasers--might post more tomorrow if I have time, between working and packing and getting to bed really REALLY early for that gawdawful 4 a.m. start to my weekend.

And I hope that you all have wonderful beautiful skies and weekends.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Bird Photography is Really Hard

SUMMARY: Hummingbird family.
I have this awesome opportunity to get some wonderful photos of a hummingbird raising her family. Except--not.

She built her nest on a string of fake ivy on my back deck right above my dogfood bin. See it?

I wouldn't have, either, except that when the dogs and I were gone one day, the Renter noticed it while he was in the kitchen and pointed it out to me.

The challenges: It's very close to the deck roof, so my SLR & lens don't really fit in there to look down on it. There isn't even a good way to get a side-on view, because there's ivy between me and it, and it's too close to the back wall to get in behind it. The fake ivy isn't that sturdy, really, and I'm afraid of knocking it down if I get too close. I have to climb on a stool or ladder to try to get at it.

I've tried, but none of the photos are ready for prime time. Still, kind of fun trying, and they're not terrible. Here's the best I ever got of mommabird sitting on the nest. Now she doesn't seem to do that any more, even at night.

This is a typical view, even with me standing on a stool. Babies two days ago.

And babies this morning--I gave up on the SLR and am using my new little point-and-shoot--it's so slender that it will slip into the space above the nest, and there's just barely enough distance that it will focus properly--if I try about 8 times (and I can't see what I'm aiming at because the camera is up on the ceiling pointing down). I don't think my old P&S would've gotten this!


You can see why mommabird might not be perching there any more--it's getting a little crowded!

Fortunately they're high enough up, and mommabird is small enough (and fast enough!) that the dogs don't even notice her, or else Tika would challenge her every time she came around.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Name By Any Other Name--

SUMMARY: Cultural changes.
I've lived in the same valley for more than 40 years, but the names that surround my life have changed significantly.

High school, 1974

Here are names from my senior high school yearbook in Cupertino--first name on each of the first 10 pages:
Kera Alexander
Michael Bauer
Bob Bieghler
Kathryn Bowen
Robin Carpenter
Linda Cooper
Kim Curtis
Ralph Delsid
Jeri Eaton
Susan Foster
... you get the idea. I know how to spell and pronounce the names. I often know whether they're male or female (although some European names--like Kim and Robin--can be used for either).

Same school, 2011

Here, I pick 10 names from the current newspaper for that very same high school in Cupertino, in the order in which I found them:
Stephanie Lam
Cally Chung
Rachel Chiou
Nancy Chang
Jenny Wong
Patrick Xie
Emily Vu
Ruri Kobayakawa
Stephen Ho
Arjun Baokar
... well, the first names are mostly still familiar--still can spell and pronounce, still know gender, but the last names are of a whole different ethnic origin.

And now, well...

Working environment

Here are the names of one team I worked with for most of the last year:
Guo Wei
Hui Ding
Wei Guo (go figure, different person)
Zhiyan Fan
Allan Lillich (token non-Beijing resident)

...and here are the names of 10 people I've worked with and around for the last 3 months (all ALSO in Cupertino):
Priti Alwarshatty
Moazam Raja
Amol Kulkarni
Kris Bell
Katherine Long
Srinath Seshanarayanan
Manoj Dhoble
Datta Katadilkar
Preeti Suryaprakash
Avinash Yadav
(and the first names of people in my cubicle and across from me: Rohan, Praveen, Balakrishna, Mohammad, Amar, Mirshad, Venkateswarulu)

The last few years have been educational for me in the name department. Learning how to pronounce and also starting to learn genders that typically go with the names. I still have a long way to go.

Dog names

So I got to thinking--what about dog names?

I found this cool page with Indian dog names. What if I'd named Boost "Neela," meaning "Blue"?

My cousin's dog is Jamela, which is Arabic for "beautiful"; the same site has tons of Arabic dog names.

You can also search the web for, say, Swahili dog names, African dog names, or your favorite.

Click here

I wanted to find !Kung dog names--!Kung is the Bushman language. If you've ever seen The Gods Must Be Crazy, you've heard it: The ! represents a clicking sound and it's one of the few languages that uses that sound regularly. But I search for "!Kung dog names", "San dog names", "!Xhosa dog names"--all clicking languages--but no luck.

We have a couple of dogs around here whose registered names include "!":
Kicks!
Tally Ho!
Do you suppose they're pronounced with clicks? And are they male or female? What ever happened to King and Queenie?

Friday, April 01, 2011

UNbarkingBELIEVABLE

SUMMARY: I'd have never believed USDAA & AKC would do this.
I heard the rumors--maybe you did, too--that USDAA was up to something big.

MADE up my own ideas of what that might be--more titles? Change the Performance title abbreviations to something that--gasp--actually made sense? Announce that the nationals would permanently be in San Jose, California (hmm, not sure whether I'd be happy about that or not). Add herding as a titling event?

UP to now, of course, the only hint we got--and none of us caught it-- was the whole Andy Hartman brouhaha. Oh, right, boo hoo all the AKC members were upset that he got kicked out of AKC after running a really excellent agility ship for them, and then USDAA did the big announcement that he's actually joined a real agility organization.

THIS, it turns out, was a huge smoke screen! There was no falling out! No, USDAA and AKC are merging their agility programs! Can you barking believe it? I'm wondering if someone blew it by letting the news out now, right as the AKC Nationals are starting back east (BTW, good luck, Bay Teamers! and everyone else I know who's there now). Maybe Ken Tatsch wants to make the final awards presentations like he does at USDAA nationals. Who knows!

WHOLE batches of things are going to change in the combined program. AKC competitors, of course, will now have to learn how to do Snooker. (ha, will love to see those Excellent or whatever they call them dogs trying THAT for the first time.) The worst news is that USDAA's championship will now incorporate the "double-Q" concept--except that now, to earn your championship, it will be TRIPLE-Qs: You must Q in a least 3 out of 5 of the basic classes on a single day to earn points towards your CH--so in addition to the usual 5 standard, 5 jumpers, etc, you will now have to have 20 triple Qs! I can't believe my own eyes!

THING is, I've been thinking about giving up agility anyway. Maybe this is the final straw.

FOR more information about this post, you're going to have to hunt a little from top to bottom.

YOU can do whatever you want, but I might just go take up flyball. Or knitting.