a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Out-of-town Agility--Where Do I Rest My Weary Head?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Out-of-town Agility--Where Do I Rest My Weary Head?

Going out of town for agility is rough. I try not to leave the middle latitudes of California. Even with that, I could do probably 25 or more trials a year (assuming that I could get into all of them before they filled), and that's even with us not doing AKC agility, which would add even more possibilities.

The Drive Sucks

If the site is closer than about one and a half hours, I drive. At 90 minutes for a trial where check-in starts at 6:30 and I have to get there in time to set up my stuff and walk and potty the dogs, that means I need to set the alarm for about 4 a.m. This is not a pleasant thing.

Even if it's 2 hours, I often drive out on Saturday morning rather than taking the day off Friday. Why does leaving on Friday entail taking the day off, you ask? Have you ever tried to get out of Silicon Valley on a Friday afternoon, especially if the weather is nice, anywhere between noon and 8 p.m.? Expect the drive to take as much as twice as long, with you sitting in ungodly miserable traffic trundling its way out along the mere 2 routes that take us over the hills to the rest of CA (over 680 to 580 or to 80; down 101 to 152 and over).

If I leave after 8 p.m., traffic isn't so bad (usually, unless there's been an accident), but I'll be driving in the dark the whole way so there's nothing to look at and I get eyestrain, and I for sure won't be in bed after pottying the dogs and settling in until well after 11 p.m.--and that's assuming that I stay in a hotel. If I'm planning on camping out, there's just no really good way to set up the tent in the dark (I have done it but I don't usually like the resulting location; half the time I drop something important in the dark and can't find it; gripe gripe gripe), and anyway that'll add at least another 45 minutes to my bed time.

Hotels are nice but--

Hotels are nice and there are usually some within 20-30 minutes, sometimes even across the street, that allow dogs. For hotels I have to pack a suitcase but not all the rest of my camping gear, which is nice. Can take a nice, hot, clean, private, leisurely shower Saturday night (if I'm not too exhausted to stand up that long), which is also nice. Most charge a pet fee of $5-10 each night for each dog, on top of the room charge, tax, tip, dealer prep, license, and so on. Figure $75 a night for an *inexpensive* hotel. That adds up really fast on a limited budget.

Camping is nice but--

Camping out is usually no more than $10 to $15 a night, but there are often no showers (or sometimes just ones I don't want to use), no picnic tables, lights, or other facilities.

Camping out is generally my preference when I stay overnight, not only because of the cost, but because I can set the alarm for 5 minutes before I have to be up and out of the tent with the dogs--no loading up the car or checking out or driving to the agility site. If I arrive on Saturday morning, then sometime before it gets dark Saturday night, I have to find time to lay out the ground cloth, set up and stake down the tent and then the rain fly, haul in the air mattress and inflate it, haul in the sheets and blankets (or sleeping bag) and pillow and get them set up, haul in the dog beds (and, if cold, extra dog blankets and sweaters), haul in my suitcase-- All of this in between trying to keep track of my dogs' runs and helping with the rings (expected of everyone). Or wait until the end of the day when I'm pretty much exhausted and *then* do all that.

Then on the 2nd day I need to find time to reverse all that, or, again, wait until the end of the day and then once again I'd be one of the last people to leave while I tear down all my stuff. Usually I can find time during the day in 5-minute intervals to slowly dismantle things and get them back into the car. That is, if the tenting area is close to the rings--at some sites, you can't camp near the rings, so the tent is a couple- or 5-minute walk away, which means that tearing it down in 5-minute intervals doesn't work.

I tell ya, having an event within an hour of home is a delight.

Rich, generous friends with their own portable habitation facilities

Many, many agility people eventually break down and buy vans, campers, trailers, or RVs so that they don't have to put up with having to drive offsite every night to a hotel or set up camp. Of course, if you think staying in a *hotel* is expensive, wait til you price these puppies.

There are some cute little pop-up trailer tents, designed for motorcycles to pull, that fit an air mattress on a double bed and have room for you to stash stuff like a tiny folding table, a small chair, long extension cords and lights, a portable potty chair. So you don't have to load/unload all that stuff in your minivan every trip. (Except the content of the potty chair.) And those are light enough that you can move them around yourself--no big hauling vehicles, no backing in to the trailer hitch or futzing to get it lined up before unhitching. Those guys are a mere multiple thousands of dollars, rather than multiple tens or hundreds of thousands.

The bigger ones it seems sometimes take more setup and tear down than tent camping. Maneuver 'em into place. Level them. Connect electrical and water and sewer (if you're lucky enough to have a site with sewer connections, which isn't usually the case where we're doing agility). Unfold your seat or table into a bed (depending on how big your unit is). Wash your dishes, clean the shower, sweep the floor, take the linen laundry into the house when you get home-- plus you're not supposed to drive over 55. Ha! I've seen them drive--

However, if you have a friend who has a trailer with a spare bed who doesn't mind sharing--well, then, there ya go.

The nice woman from whom I adopted Tika has her own trailer and enjoys having someone to share it with. She also has 4 dogs, and she and they get the queen-sized bed. I and my 2 dogs (was 3 for a while) get the somewhat-smaller-than-full-sized bed (I think--when I'm stretched full out, my head and toes are pretty much touching the walls). The feet of the beds are about 2 feet apart. But it's indoors, I can go potty in the middle of the night without having to get dressed & find a flashlight, it's pretty comfy actually.

Throw in a high-energy dog

Tika lived with this crew for 3 months before I got her, and had plenty of chances to sleep in that big comfy mass of warm-bloodedness. She also developed a heavy-duty relationship with Travis, the main Aussie man of the household (think 4 legs, not Dundee hat). She goes nuts when she sees him.

Sooooooooo we arrive at 11 p.m. on Friday night. I'm exhausted. Tessa, the numero uno canine in the trailer's regular family, lands on Tika and tells her what for. (Tessa is Jake's size. Tika submits plaintively and then we separate them and keep them away from each other.) Gina helps me make up the bed and we all retire for the night. Tika wants to go visit Travis. Travis wants Tika to come visit him. Tessa growls every time Tika lifts her head. Tika lifts her head every time Travis lifts his head, which is every time he thinks aobut Tika, which is about every 30 seconds. Tika stands up and thinks about jumping over to the other bed. Travis encourages her. Tessa growls. I grab Tika's rear leg and with great difficulty convince her to lie down.

Normally she's very good about settling in to bed, even in hotels. When she wants something, though, or isn't ready to settle, she lies with some part of her *on* me or crushes right up against me. Which means that every time she lifts her head (which is always abruptly, because Tika does nothing slowly or mellowly), I feel her whole body twitch. Which is every time Travis lifts his head, which is about every 30 seconds... I move her away from me. She stands up and wants to go visit Travis, who encourages her. Tessa growls, so Tika won't jump, but she moves around trying to figure out whether there's a spot she can jump from that doesn't put her on the same bed with Tessa but does put her on the same bed with Travis. I feel her moving around. I grab her hind leg.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

As the evening wears on, Tika actually settles in for periods of about 3 or 4 minutes, just enough for my woozy mind to slip towards slumber. Then she stands up, or turns around and lies back down with some part of her *on* me or crushed against me. Or tries to go to the other bed. Eventually settles in again. Just long enough for me to start to drift towards slumber. Then she stands up...

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

At some point, I think about 3 in the morning, I decided that perhaps Tika really did need to go potty before bed despite insisting that she didn't. So I get up, get dressed, get a flashlight, take the dogs out and walk them around. Both pee but nothing else. Back to bed. I'm exhausted and nearly in tears from frustration. Reminding myself--"Don't cry, you'll feel even worse. Remember, 'sleeplessness is the insomniac's friend because it builds sleep drive'." (From my insomnia counseling group.) Finally I do actually sleep, and then there's a huge to-do involving snarling and shrieking--Jake is hanging half off the bed and has one of the smaller dogs (on the floor) under attack. I suspect that the dog attempted to walk past the bed to get a drink, and since Jake was insisting on sleeping with his face hanging over the edge of the bed, he probably got bumped, and never being a pleasant man when awoken abruptly, he went off the deep end. Of the bed, too.

I separated the mess. Gina sat up and asked what was going on. I mumbled something about stupid dogs and we all lay down and went back to sleep. (In the morning, Gina said she didn't remember anything about any of that. Difference between people who have trouble sleeping and those who don't, I guess.) So I'm asleep, Tika curled up with her back towards my knees, Jake curled up with his back towards my face. Somewhere not long after that, Jake (in his sleep) rolls over onto his side and I wake up abruptly with a big hairy back sticking fur up my nose. I sit up abruptly. Tika jumps up and thinks about jumping onto the other bed. I attempt to move jake gently away from me, but he is mightly pissed off about that and jumps over onto the dining room seating, where he ends up spending the rest of the night.

Then we all settle in and get a really good, solid, 2 and a half, maybe even 3 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off.

So I look and felt my best all day Saturday. Neither dog got any qualifying runs all day. I wonder if there's a connection--? Nah--

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