a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Why Agility Is So Much Work

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Why Agility Is So Much Work

I moved my dogwalk today.

About Moving Equipment In General

Many people move their agility equipment all the time. For example, I move my jumps and weave poles around as much as possible in my little hanks of grass and mulch. I occasionally move my tunnels, but mostly I leave them wrapped around trees in the yard's corners and looped around the patio, which makes the yard seem bigger because I can send the dogs over jumps or weaves in the middle of the yard and blast them full speed through the tunnels and on to more obstacles, making the yard seem bigger and getting more speed from the beasts.

Plus the tunnels are heavy. Plus if I move them where there's grass, I have to move them again right away or the grass dies. A whole lot more of it than dies when I leave my weaves or jumps in place for more than a couple of days, which I do too often.

Away Way Back In the Ages Dark

I got myself a dogwalk and an Aframe at Power Paws Camp, hm, I believe it was 2 years ago last May. Sort of a housewarming present to myself. Back when I thought I had unlimited money. I scouted around the yard and determined that there was exactly one place where I could set up the dogwalk. It took me a couple of hours to figure out how to assemble it, to assemble it, and then to get the tension right so that it would all hold together.

I should explain--it's not that I didn't know where the tension needed to be--there was a perfectly obvious loop, clip, and wire. The problem was in how to get the tension tense enough to be able to slip the clip over the loop. Somehow I managed it--don't remember how (that was way way back in the ages dark, you know) but I do remember that it took me a very long time and I worked up a big piece of oozing sweat.

After that--well, even if I had had someplace else to move the dogwalk to, that sucker's heavy, even broken into 3 pieces. And it doesn't have wheels.

Why the Time Has Come

You're supposed to move equipment around often so that the dogs (and you) can work different approaches & strategies & learn that equipment can be located anywhere at any time, not always 5 feet out from the shrubbery along the back fence. So I decided it was time to move my dogwalk around (2.5 years is "often" for this equipment, IMHO). The dogwalk is almost 36 feet long. You'd like to be able to give the dogs a running start straight at it. In its previous position:
  • One end had a fairly clear straight-on approach--except that the ramp ended in a depression, so really the dogs were forced to leap onto the ramp, in Tika's case always missing the contact zone. Since she's had so many problems with faults for missing the up dogwalk contact, I stopped doing that a few months back.
  • The other end had a fairly straight on approach--if I took the dog back between the back shrubbery and the apple tree and the pond, in a little narrow gravelly area that's wide enough for the width of a dog. But that kind of precludes running straight on from any other obstacles.
So, for months, we've been practicing speed dogwalks from one end to the other, and wraps onto the dogwalk, but nothing straight on.

Plus I'm getting a little tired of it taking up so much space (5' out from the rear shrub & fence; I couldn't move it any closer to the shrubbery because there's a big old mongo apple tree in the way). (It takes me a while to get tired of things that would require work to change.)
The best seats in the house. Squirrels, beware!

The Move Begins

Soooooooo--I remeasured the yard. I discovered that there is, in fact, exactly one and only one other location in the yard where it would be available for straight-on runs for both ends, take up a bit less space closer to the back fence, be off more of my lawn and more into the mulch area, therefore taking up less visual presence in the part of my yard where people are ever likely to go.

It took me over an hour to move the son-of-a-catwalk. (Which is another reason I don't move it all that often.) First, the ramps have to come off. They merely have a tab (A) that fits into a slot (B) on the main walk--but the suckers weigh about 60 pounds each and they have to be at the perfect angle to slip in and out of that slot. If the downside ends are higher or lower than that perfect angle, no-comie-outie. And my yard is just not level back there. So I had to do some clever maneuvers involving several muscles (I dosed up on Aleve at my back's request later on), bricks, shovels, and convenient profanities just to slip tabs A out of slots B.

Then I had to move the main part with the legs and supporting pipes. (Decided it would be easier to do that than to attempt to disassemble the legs & reassemble.) After trial and error I found that, if I managed to get the bottom of the frame into the air at waist-level, then the legs on the other end would more or less slide across the grass rather than dig in and hold. Getting it to waist level, however, required considerably more muscles and a good sense of balance, because one has to lift about 100 pounds (guessing) straight up from ground level without doing anything stupid with your back or knees, and the shape of the framework made that ding-dangily difficult. But I did it. More than once, in fact.

Aye, There's The Rub(s)

Then I had to get it into the designated position. To do that, however, I needed to unhook the tension-wire clip from the loop. It took much huffiment & puffiment to get enough slack to wrestle the clip off. At which point the supporting pipes fell out, which I had forgotten about. At least that lightened the whole shebang by probably another 50 pounds. (It is possible that my aching back and shoulders were not allowing an accurate estimate of the weights involved.) THEN getting it into position required some more muscles that I don't usually recognize as regular participants in my anatomy, plus luck, plus sweat, plus balancing a 200-pound dogwalk on one of its feet while running back and forth from front to back to inch it gradually between two big solid wood limbs without dropping it on anyone or anything fragile. (Interesting, related, story about conservation of dog-toy matter tomorrow.)

THEN came the tension thing. I replaced the supporting pipes, then tried and tried and tried to push one set of legs hard enough towards the other set of legs to be able to slip the wire-clip back over the loop. I got the gap from 3" down to 2" down to 1"--and gave up and called my sister, who conveniently moved in down the block so that she could provide assistance with agility equipment and conveniently has a fiance with a strong back and an agreeable personality. I begged him to stop by for *one minute*--which he did, came up with a clever way of getting the slack I needed for clip slipping (required one person for tension and one person for clipping even so). As his minute was up, he took his cleverness and went home again.

Then I had to get tabs A back into slots B. By this time, well into my second hour, I'm sure, I was getting the hang of lifting one 300-lb. item with one shoulder while balancing the end of another 100-lb. item on the end of the one on my shoulder and nudging carefully with random parts of my anatomy to get it to *fall* into the proper position--ensuring that in the meantime assorted dog assistants hadn't wandered into the work area without their hardhats.

But Wait--There's More!

Then I had a bunch of vegetation trimming to do. Then there were all of the flower planters that I had judiciously arranged this spring into areas that were complementary to the dogwalk, didn't kill too much of the lawn, were out of the dogs' ways as they slalomed among the breaks in the back shrubbery, and yet still received water from the lawn sprinklers. Now, with the new dogwalk position, none of those positions worked, so I had to rejudiciously rearrange them all, including replacing one sprinkler head (and probably need to do another) for better coverage.

Golf isn't the only sport with hazards.

I took Tika over the dogwalk, slowly, in both directions (not simultaneously), to see whether she'd freak out at its new location or whether it would collapse and kill her. Fortunately neither occurred. The second time, Jake followed on her heels, not wanting to miss the unique experience.

I still haven't figured out what to do with the crocodile. At the moment he remains sunbathing directly in the newly created head-on path from the tunnel to one end of the dogwalk. And, in case you haven't moved a croc lately, they're bloody heavy, too.

So--I moved my dogwalk today. I can hardly wait until I recover enough that I can acutally use it in a practice session.

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