a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Thoughts and Results

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thoughts and Results

Fog Allowance

All I can say is that it's a good thing that I got up 20-30 minutes early to allow for heavy fog. I just didn't realize that it would be in my head instead of covering the road. When I woke and took the dogs out to the yard, a light drizzle slightly dampened my shoulders and hair, and a vague hint of fog gently spread distant lights. We got on the road in good time, right after 4:00, varying windshield wiper speed from intermittent to low.

Passing downtown San Jose in a barely existing fog gave the tops of the taller buildings—all 13 stories or so—an unfinished quality, the lights on their roofs and higher windows dissipating into the air, making it hard to determine whether the buildings really ended. Almost dreamlike, but I was plenty wide awake, as I usually am on the drive out to a trial.

Because the roads were wet, I concentrated particularly on my driving, on the few other vehicles out and about before 5:00 on a Saturday morning, and on the road conditions. I thought about stuff;I usually do; but nothing in particular. At some point, I glanced at the clock, feeling as if I had been on the road rather a long time. Sure enough, it was 4:50. The complete drive is just under 2 hours, and I hadn't yet made the turn from 680 onto 580 east, which is about 40 minutes from home. In fact—where the blankety blanket was I? The road sign for the next exit had an unfamiliar name. The barely visible silhouettes of small mountains hemmed me in on either side. This was definitely NOT my normal route. I had to wait another couple of signs to discover that I had driven all the way to Alamo, a good deal north of the 580 turnoff.

Where had my mind been? How could I have missed an entire 8-lane freeway? I don't know, but I turned back and timed it: It was a 30-mile round-trip detour, taking all of the time I had allotted for fog in the central valley. Fortunately for our heroes, there was no fog in the central valley, we arrived plenty early at the site, and picked a lovely spot inside right near the score table, so I never even set up my canopy for the weekend.

Thank goodness for the fog allowance.

Jake is Retiring...or Is He?

It's that same old question again. It was fairly cool this weekend; not below freezing, but on Sunday cold enough for a few hours that I actually resorted to wearing gloves and occasionally even pulling the hood of my coat up over my head. (Gasp.) Not quite as cold on Saturday. But there were many conversations about the benefits of long underwear and the various materials in which it comes and were currently being worn.

Jake had only one run Saturday, fairly early, a Jumpers run. He seemed quite perkey and bouncy when he came out of his crate, but in fact barely broke into a run. We also had one bobble where I assumed he was heading into the correct tunnel, so yelled cheerfully and turned and ran, pulling him away from it after all. Managed to get him turned around and back in, but even with CPE's generous time allowances, he was over time by a quarter of a second. Fortunately, CPE drops fractional seconds for determining Qualification. What happened, though, is that any faster dogs in his group had faults, so he actually managed a first-place finish. Still, I was thinking that this was starting to show signs of being a Retiring Dog.

On Sunday, he was entered in two classes, Snooker and another Jumpers. He surprised me with his speed and enthusiasm in the ring. He still wasn't old-time-Jakey fast, but pretty darned fast; I was not able to rest on my laurels for those runs. Once again I assumed he was going into a tunnel that he wasn't quite committed to and I pulled him off, but again we made good (after a few fur-raising almost-wrong-end efforts). These were signs of being a Not Retired Yet, You Can't Make Me, Dog. And just as happy as an agility clam before, during, and after.

Ironically, on his very fast runs, the other dogs didn't crap out, so he didn't manage another first place. But he qualified in all 3 of his runs, for a first, second, and third place among 5 dogs in his height and level. Pretty darned good, I'd say.

Tika's Excellent Weekend

Here's the thing. Tika has never had a "perfect" weekend--that is, Qs in every class. Even in CPE, where you can have certain faults and still Q, we always managed to have *two* faults in at least one class, or even (gasp) go offcourse, or miss a gamble, or something. However, now that Tika has earned her C-ATCH, she cannot have any faults and still Q.

So, this weekend, of 8 runs, she had 6 almost flawless runs for Qs, 5 firsts and a second. And the other two--one bar down each, which at Level 5 (which she just moved out of) would have also been Qs! Dang. Is it fair that the better you get, the harder the challenge?
...Oh, wait, yeah I guess it is.

ANYWAY, in her bar-down jumpers course, I overcalled her and pulled her off a jump, then had to get her to spin around to take it and that made it an awkward turn to the next jump, which she knocked. Even so, she was the 2nd-fastest dog of 53 dogs running that same course, and many other dogs who didn't Q did so because they went offcourse on this moderately challenging, twisty course. Incidentally, Jake, who was running danged fast for old Jake, did this same course 5 seconds slower than Tika, and he had NO bobbles where I had to go back and retake a missed obstacle.

In her bar-down standard course, she had a tremendously fast and flowing run on a course that everyone else seemed to be moaning about it being too difficult. It had interesting challenges, but nothing that I didn't feel confident about handling, and indeed she handled like a dream through the hard parts. But she slowed wayyy down on the dogwalk down contact, stopped, stepped, stopped, stepped (dagnabbit it we never had this problem), then as soon as she hit the ground with her front feet, she took off instead of waiting for a release, and I stopped moving, but she was already taking off for the following jump and when she responded to me, she knocked the bar. Cruddybubbles. But it was *such* a nice run otherwise. Only 14 of 59 dogs Qed on this course, but in looking at the scores, quite a few were for offcourses, which we DIDN'T do. Sigh.

The only Q non-first was Snooker. Man, she ran fine. ...In fact, she ran fast and smooth all weekend. She was a joy to be out there with. We completed the maximum possible number of obstacles in 34.90 seconds, which would have been 51 points and a first, BUT she knocked the very last bar, I suspect because I relaxed because we were through it and stopped to call her to the clock-stopping table instead of working the last jump. The closest time to hers of other dogs who got through all the obstacles was 37.4 seconds.

Yes, I like comparing Tika's speed. It's such a pleasure to have a fast dog, even if she's barely up at National caliber. Remington was almost never in the super-fast category; Jake was pretty fast but could never compete against the fast border collies, really. So I wallow in her rapidity, especially in CPE:
  • In Wildcard, she was 5th fastest of 52 dogs (turned into me after the Aframe instead of going straigt, probably wasting 1-2 seconds; she was 18.38, others were at 18.31, 18.30, 18.15, and ...16.89!
  • In Jumpers Saturday, she was 19.05 (Jake on the same course, for 1st place at his height but barely running, was 29.36); fastest time of 46 dogs.
  • Colors, 13.92 seconds; this is a tough one to compare because there are different course options. In this case, there were only 2 options--go right-to-left and take the teeter, or go left-to-right and take the Aframe. We took the teeter because I think she's faster at that than at the Aframe, but we can't really compete against fast dogs with running contacts--namely, 12.67 and 12.34 seconds beat us of 45 dogs.
  • Standard Saturday: This was the bar-down one. Even after that slow dogwalk and coming back towards me after the knocked bar, she was the fastest of 59 dogs on the same course.
  • Standard Round 1 Sunday, a really lovely run but I held her on her contacts slightly and she did the slow-dogwalk-down thing again. Five dogs of 64 beat her time, and it pissed me off because she was running so nicely. Especially after watching Brenn, a border collie belonging to an agility friend, beat us by .7 of a second with a bobble, I just wanted to beat Brenn's time for once. So--
  • Standard round 2 Sunday, I really pumped her up and yelled & hollared on the contacts & she did them all pretty fast, including the dogwalk, and I released her the instant her front feet hit the ground, and we blasted through that course like no one's business with only one wide turn. We got lots of compliments on our run afterwards. And this time only two dogs beat our time--one with running contacts, who beat us by .6 seconds, and dagnabbit Brenn, who had the same wide turn we did, beat us by .22 seconds.

More later...really...probably tomorrow.

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