a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: A Fine Weekend

Monday, August 11, 2003

A Fine Weekend

Saturday we mostly hung around; I tried to do some work, showed the house to a couple of possible renters, did chores, went out for dinner, stuff like that. While playing with the dogs in the yard, I tried sending Tika into the weaves from a right angle (a very hard entry) while I was sitting down in the shade (never tried that before--usually I'm moving or at least aiming her in the direction I want her to go)--and she kept getting those weave entries! Blows me away. Just a couple of weeks ago she couldn't get the hard ones worth beans. We've been practicing, but something must have clicked suddenly in her furry little head about actually *working* to get the correct entry instead of simply taking whatever pole is convenient. Whatta gal.

Sunday we drove out to Elk Grove for just one day of a 2-day trial. Getting up at 4 a.m. is not, in fact, my idea of fun, but the traffic was much better then (1 hr 50 minutes) than coming home (2 hr 40 mins), where my foot and ankle were starting to cramp from the stop/go/slow-speed commute. Must admit that's the worst that coming back from Elk Grove has been in quite a while, though.

Jake's Performance: He was not fast this weekend. Maybe my perspective is a little skewed from running Tika, but he just wasn't the zippy dog that he's capable of being. Yeah, it was pretty warm. Yeah, he's going on 12. But I did my best to rev him up with rousing tug-of-wars right beforehand, and hosed him down before and after, that sort of thing. We also just weren't clicking--again--off courses, pulling out of weave poles (twice!), slow/wide turns despite my best deliberate efforts to be crisp and in the right position. Still, he did earn qualifying scores in 3 out of 5 of his runs, which I suppose I shouldn't complain about.

One of our northern CA competitiors, Max and Jessica O., earned their CPE championship last weekend, making them the first CATCH in CA. It would've been nice for Jake to be there--he does Q a lot, usually--but we haven't been entering all of the trials that Max and Jessica have been, by far!, so we still have a ways to go. But we're probably among the top 3 or 4 contenders, still. (Although the others are also attending more CPEs than we are, so it'll be a while for us.)

Tika's Performance: Yow! Whatta girl! (I say again.) Finally things were clicking again. She stayed at the start line all 5 runs. She got all her contacts beautifully [and I'm trying to remember how many we did--a lot--15?]--left early 2x, but not very early, and she hesitated immediately when she realized it, instead of taking off. She got Qualifying scores in all 5 AND took 1st in all 5.

We, unlike me & Jake, seemed to be communicating well. We had what I think was probably a flawless Jumpers run. Completed the whole course in 17-something seconds, which was 4 seconds faster than all other Level 1 and 2 dogs of any height (probably about 50-60 dogs; I didn't count).

[Picture: The sort of jumpers course on which Tika excels--6.66 yards per second!]

Our Gamblers was also pretty fine. The judge created an extremely nontraditional course, in which there were 3 possible gambles on the course, with bonuses possible on 2 of them. Tika did all 3 (although one didn't count because she knocked a bar, but it was a challenging one where the dog had to go straight away from you into the middle of 3 tunnels!--and I was extremely proud of her for doing it correctly), and she got the bonus on one of the 2. She was with me every step of the way, intensely focused, nice tight turns, probably did more obstacles than any other dog.

[Picture: first gamble: over jump and through middle tunnel. 15 points if you stayed behind line behind jump; 10 pts if you were behind side lines]

She ended up with 71 points--the knocked-bar gamble would have added 13, which would have made her the highest-scoring dog of all heights *all* levels, even 4, 5, and championship levels! As it was, only 3 dogs had higher scores--

Including Jake, with 74 because he got all the gambles and bonuses, although he did several fewer obstacles because my brain quit working (last run of a hot day, you know, or some excuse) and I bobbled a couple of things, called him off ones he should've taken, retook obstacles we had already gotten points for, and quit early when we could've gotten more points. But he was a very good boy for that one.

Tika's Full House was flawless--the 2nd time. One doesn't usually get 2 tries at a course. We started out OK, but then she ran past an obstacle and then the whistle blew when I wasn't expecting it and had to do some weird handling, whereupon she grabbed at my feet. Turns out that the whistle blew because there was a problem with the timer, so we got to start over. And it was perfectly executed as I had planned it! She was so beautiful on course, carrying out over even r 2 or 3 obstacles ahead of me, getting her contacts and waiting, and going straight to the table at the end. And no foot grabbing. She was only about the 3rd highest score of all dogs all heights all levels because I went for (a) a flowing course rather than a more twisty, turning-back-on-your-path one to pick up some extra points, and (b) I had her wait a good solid period of time on each of the 4 obstacles she took. I'm very proud of *that* run, too.

Our two Standard courses were less than stellar, but still fast and qualifying, and not nearly as garbled as some have been in the past. In the first one, she took the wrong end of a tunnel but that was all handler error, and she redirected very nicely without having to grab my feet to teach me a lesson. In the second one, in 2 places she ran past obstacles, but they were difficult handling situations and again not her fault--a more-experienced dog might have gotten them--but on the other hand on both courses there were some *very* difficult turning and calling-off challenges that wiped out a lot of dogs, *including* more experienced ones, that she handled perfectly.

One highlight for me (one takes pleasures where one finds them) was a 2-jump lead-out aimed directly at a dogwalk, where the dog had to make a sharp left turn to the 3rd jump. I led out, stood at the far side of the 3rd jump facing that way, leaned back and held out my off-hand (this is all correct handling, really), and gave her the ok. She blasted across the first jump and as I started my move, I could see her smoothly and without a blip or hesitation change her direction to take the 2nd jump so that she could hit the turn and the 3rd jump hardly slowing at all. It was a moment of sheer beauty, especially since we'd been failing lead-out pivots very similar to that in class just last Wed. night.

And the nice thing about the running-past ones--I managed to get her turned, redirected, run around a couple of other obstacles without going off course, and into the correct place--without her once grabbing my feet! Those are exactly the places where she'd be most likely to do it.

So maybe the last 2 weekends where I just picked her up and walked off with her, explaining quietly into her ear why that was a bad idea, finally sank in.

What a pleasure running her this weekend!

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