a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: THURSDAY: Snooker and Steeplechase

Thursday, November 10, 2005

THURSDAY: Snooker and Steeplechase

Backfill: Thurs, Nov. 17
photos later

Today began our challenging walk-through and run schedule. My first 10-minute walkthrough, for Steeplechase semifinals, started at 7 a.m., with the sun just rising on what might be a cloudy day or might be warm. Then I twiddled my thumbs, more or less, until my next 10-minute walkthrough, for Team Snooker, at 8:24.

THEN came the hard part--remembering the courses and the feel of being out there until my Snooker run at 1:00 and my Steeplechase run at 3:00. That meant that I had a walkthrough and run of Snooker between the steeplechase walkthru and run--as well as lots of other activities to kill the intervening time.

There are many good vendors here. Way too many. There's a vendor with those PVC-frame doggie beds that I've been wanting another one of. Clean Run is here with their supply of agility shoes, and my old ones are very close to being officially worn out. Lots of cool toys; several vendors have the extra-long purple Riot Tug that I want another one of. And Bully Sticks. And... Oh, man, guess I'm going shopping even though I don't need to spend the money. I'll definitely need new shoes within a few short months, though, and better to pay now and save not only shipping but also there's an introductory discount for some styles. Sighhh--

Not only that, there's a food vendor selling cotton candy and another selling kettle corn. All day, every day! What's a girl to do?

The Snooker course is interesting. I like courses that aren't simply speed courses, where handling and strategy play a part, too. At first glimpse, this looks like a speed course because the #7 obstacle is a tunnel-jump-tunnel combination , which are fast obstacles. But, when you start adding up yardage to get from the reds to the 7, and through the 7, and back again, and then the twisty-turny 2-thru-7 closing sequence, and consider the very tight time allowed, it becomes clear (at least to me) that people are not going to be making 3 sevens. I time it several ways for Tika trying to do merely 2 sevens and conclude that, even as fast as she is, she's not going to be able to do it. Even one seven is doubtful, although there's one way of handling the sequence that is SOOOOOOO tempting that I'm still considering it up to the last minute. But, in the end, I stick with my plan of two fives (6-pole weaves) and a four (a 3-jump sequence).

After watching dog after dog fail to make it through the opening or run out of time way before finishing the closing, I'm more convinced than ever that I've chosen the right course. I drive her as much as I can; I'm wired and she's almost wired. She misses her first weave pole entry, which isn't a penalty but wastes time on a very tight course. I drive her even harder and the rest of the course is flawless--and the whistle blows a fraction of a second after we complete the #7 in the closing.

Turns out that we're one of only a very few dogs who complete the course in the alloted time and with our selected opening, and Tika places 11th among about 160 26" dogs--and I'm absolutely delighted about that. That's the highest she's ever placed at a Nationals event. It's not quite a ribbon (only to 8th), but anyway I'm pretty happy.

My Run-TMZ partners don't bomb out completely--one of my agility friends reported that her entire team managed to earn 3 points between them in this particular snooker course--each earning something like 18 points, and pleasingly, at the end of the day, we start the team competition in 74th place out of 205 teams. Only the top 36 will go to the final round. We aren't really expecting to be there, but...really...if we can hang in there without any Es in any of the remaining events, we could get awfully close. That's a good way to start the Team tournament.

The Steeplechase is a slight disappointment. Tika's run is fast and smooth--which in fact I'm pleased with--but not completely driven. I know that she has a higher gear. I mean, she's one fast dog anyway, but usually I don't go looking for that higher gear, and so I don't really know how to find it when I want it. Turns out it doesn't matter, as we knock a bar just like we did last year, but this time our speed alone is 3 seconds slower than the time it took to qualify for the finals; if I remember correctly, we were more like a second under last year and I had hoped we could at least be in that range, with or without faults. Oh, well, something else to work on-- besides not knocking bars, I mean.

Jake is entered in nothing today. All the dogs are bored. Jake is so stiff every time I take him out of the crate, but he does eventually play frisbee with me, after a LOT of coaxing and teasing and insisting and commanding.

In the evening, I stroll the quarter mile from my hotel to the "American Grill" (Jill's?) down the street to join a few friends and acquaintances for dinner while Jackie is out with a local friend from high school days. The meal is good, not too expensive, and is served among good friends and good humor. One of their dessert choices is apple crisp, and I order it (2 nights in a row!) and it's cooked fresh in an individual pan and is quite tasty.

Then, to bed. (Leaving out all the dozens of times I took the dogs out one or 2 at a time to potty or play or both. Taking all 3 results in Boost and Tika yanking constantly on the leashes and me getting into a foul mood really quickly. Tika can walk decently on leash, although she has to work at it, and she does best if I have my bait bag with me. And Boost can walk decently on leash in between major distractions (of which there are still many for a puppyish dog), but does best when she's the only one and I have my bait bag with me (do I detect a pattern?).)

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