- Crating: Last year, we crated at the top of the hill, up a long flight of stairs, in the paved parking area, in a huge temporary building that magnified every sound. It was hard for people to relax, let alone the dogs, and between the walk and the noise, most people had begged, borrowed, or stolen other places to put their dogs by the end of the weekend, even leaving them in the cars with the doors and windows open and shade cloth hung around.
This year, crating was down on the field in circus-type tents on the lawn, which was much more convenient, cooler, and not so echoey. You could rent a 4'x7' space for $45 or bring your own canopy and set up outside for free. Most people went for the rental spaces; much easier to drive to AZ and just worry about setting up the crates, not hauling the canopy and extra shade fabric and all that. Still, 4x7 isn't really large. I shared the 2 spots we rented with my traveling companion (Jackie) and my Run-TMZ teammates. With 8 dogs, three of the crates ended up stacked on top of other crates. It worked OK but you don't always want to be lifting your dog into crates. Pretty much everyone had to expand out into the wide aisles to be able to set up a chair, too.
- Six rings, not four. There have been four rings in all the Nationals I've been aware of, from 2000 through 2004; this year they went to 6. Ring 1, the main ring with bleachers and lights and announcer's booth and media tent and everything, was set up this year a long way away from the other rings, on the far side of all the vendor tents. Not exactly sure why they did it that way. It was a long haul from Ring 1 all the way out to the crating area. In the space beyond ring 1 were the areas for lure coursing and flyball.
- This year, the other dog events are more integrated into the whole shebang. Some of that comes with having 6 rings and spreading them out. Used to be 4 rings in a square. This time, the Dock Dogs pool was between the vendors, Ring 2, and the crating area, so you had to walk past it constantly. The Rally-O course was close to that. You could look down on the lure coursing course from the Ring 1 bleachers. Only the flyball was further out, probably to avoid having excited dogs from different sports too close to each other.
At registration, which was thankfully fast and simple, we got a red logo backpack sort of bag, a red logo umbrella (we weren't sure whether they were afraid it was going to rain or it was going to be so hot that you needed sun protection), a t-shirt, and the annual pin proving that you participated in the event. All "free." Did I mention how much I paid in entry fees?
The weather is sunny and hot. I never wear shorts until it gets up around 100, which it won't do, but it's got to be close to 90. Jackie didn't bring shorts; she's going to buy some at one of the vendor booths. People are teasing me about suggesting that they bring very warm clothes for bone-chilling evenings like we had last year.
We walked the Time Gamble course between 10 and noon, each group getting 10 minutes to walk it during that hour. Not as many dogs entered this as the rest of the weekend, as it's only a fun game and is the only thing on Wednesday, but a very large portion of them did.
This was different from regular Gamblers. In this one, it's the time you're gambling on. It's a standard, fairly simple numbered course of about 12 obstacles. You walk the course, decide how long it's going to take you to do the course, and register that number (plus any additional seconds to cover penalties that you expect to get). The guess that's closest to the dog's actual time plus faults wins.
I walked Tika's course 3x and came up with 28 seconds each time. I hemmed and hawed over whether to add 3 points for probably either knocking a bar or missing the up on the dogwalk, then decided not to. And then I subtracted a second because I usually ever so slightly overestimate my times, so I guessed 27. Jake I estimated would take about 34 seconds and would definitely miss the down on the dogwalk, so I guessed 37.
The brief 10-minute opening ceremonies were then held from 1:15 to 2:15 (well, it wasn't the best-run event at all times...), then we eventually got to run our course around 4 pm. Somewhere between when we ran it and then, they posted a maximum course time of 35 seconds, which means that they whistle you off if you're on course longer than that and then you get no time. That's a little annoying, knowing that even if Jake runs well, I can't possibly successfully score.
Anyway, Jake had no interest in getting warmed up. I couldn't get him to even pretend to be interested in a toy out in the field beforehand. He wouldn't even jog with me when i tried jogging to get him moving. I'm thinking he was pretty stiff and achey from all that time in the car and the crate. He indeed popped his dogwalk contact, but was also pretty slow, and then when we got to the A-frame, he ran past it. I took him way back, gave him another run at it, and again he ran past it, which should tell me something, I guess. At that point, the over-time whistle blew, so actually we might have made it if he hadn't refused the A-frame.
Tika ran the course in...28.01. So much for subtracting a second. HOWEVER, she didn't stick her teeter and burst ahead of me towards the wrong obstacle and I had to call her off it, so I'm sure that we wasted a second there, so 27 should've been correct--except that indeed she got called on her up dogwalk contact, which I didn't see the judge call (although it looked iffy to me), so I acutally held her for a second or so on each contact to make up the time), so our final score was 41, leaving us 4 seconds off our guess. Dogs who were winning or placing were all pretty much within .2 seconds of their guesses.
Wednesday night was the awards banquet. Great food. Lots of vegetables, which was good. I had two huge helpings of the very tasty dessert, apple crisp (apple pandowdy? apple something with a sweet/crusty topping) with vanilla ice cream. I'm hoping that eating most things in moderation combined with lots and lots of walking and excitement and stress will prevent me from gaining weight this trip.