a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Mixed-Bag CPE Weekend

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mixed-Bag CPE Weekend

It was Taj MudHall this weekend.

It was wet and muddy and cold on Saturday and just cold and somewhat muddy on Sunday, but overall I had a good time. The nice thing for me about CPE at the moment is that I'm competing to play, since the next big title possible for Tika is hundreds of legs away and Jake is playing only for something to do during his retirement. So I take my competition in the form of where I placed compared to all other dogs competing on the same course.

Aaaaaand we didn't do so well this weekend, even though I felt that Tika and Jake were both running quite nicely all weekend. There was a wild variety of factors going into it.

Tika Saturday

Standard: Oh, my, she ran a beautiful and fast course. She stuck one of her 3 contacts, came off the other 2 without waiting for approval but I was pushing it. Stayed at the start line for the release. All that good stuff. I thought we had a perfect run, but found out later when looking at the results that she had knocked the next-to-last bar on a sharp turn that I thought we had nailed. Sigh. So no Qualifying score, although we did place 1st of the 2 dogs in our height class. And Tika had the 2nd fastest time of about 80 dogs who ran the same course, so I was right about it being a really nice run. Only Cody Hasey beat us, by .14 of a second (she said something about how they aren't *supposed* to have running contacts...).

Full House: This is basically like a Gambler's opening--you design your course any way you want, and you can do each obstacle up to twice for points. High scores depend on your dog's speed, your dog's flexibility to be able to pick challenging obstacles or angles or turns, your course choice, and your ability to actually make it happen. I think we had a stellar course design, Tika handled beautifully, and we had the highest score of about a hundred dogs running the same course with 46 points; our favorite competitor Brenn Chandler had 43 and Tahoe Grubel, an outstanding dog with an outstanding handler, came in at 41. I didn't see either run, so I have no idea whether they missed points because of knocked bars or popped contacts or the like. This was the only time all weekend when we managed to beat everyone.

Just another reminder that Tika and I are only playing at being a top team in CPE and there's a whole world of USDAA competitors out there who can smoke us coming and going. Humbling. Sort of.

Colors: I missed my group's walkthrough. But, this being CPE and because I was both working in another ring and competing in a third ring, I was allowed all the walkthrough I needed, by myself--but it's only 10 obstacles and a pretty clear path, so I only needed a couple of minutes. Tika handled like a dream, and I held her on the Aframe down contact since she's been leaving them a bit light all weekend, and then blasted to the finish line. our time was 16.69, but half a dozen dogs (out of about 70 running the same course) beat our time. (With Colors, you don't know whether the dog ran the same half of the course that you did, so it's not necessarily a one-to-one comparison.) One of our regular comparison dogs, Ana the Catahoula, beat us by more than a second; Chance the usual Sheltie and Brandy the JRT beat us barely, and Cory whom I never manage to see run was just behind Ana this time around.

Jumpers: Well, I tried to do a tricky but cool layering thing as Tika was coming out of the tunnel, and as we are fond of saying in our Wednesday night class, how quickly The Cool Factor turns into The Fool Factor, as Tika came in over the jump that I was trying to keep *between* us, for an offcourse, and then after that of course all comparisons are really off. But she was fast and having a good time, and except for that silly handling thing, it was good--

And notice that, once again, she keep up all of her bars in any Jumpers course where *I* screw up.

Snooker: I decided that, although we had time to do three 7s in the opening, the 3rd seven would be really hard and this is, after all, CPE, not USDAA. Hmmm, on this particular course, I might even have decided on two 7s and a 6 in USDAA. We ran On The Edge the whole way, with Tika just a stride away from the wrong obstacle half a dozen times, but she responded well to my panicked calloffs and we blasted through our planned 50-point course in 39 seconds, well below the allowed time. Out of the 100 or so dogs who did the same course, one in fact tried and succeeded at the three-7 opening, for 51 points, and three other dogs got 50, but only one of those beat our time (Jagger Glantz the amazing rehomed Sheltie)--by four seconds! They probably had nice neat little turns instead of Living On The Edge and racking up the extra yardage.

Tika Sunday

Jackpot: Well, I started off the morning with a snide comment about how this particular gamble was one designed to let people Q. I was proven wrong immediately. It was a pretty cool non traditional gamble, actually, after I got a chance to think about it. It was, at its essence, a circle of tunnels in the very middle of the course with a jump in the middle. The jump was number 1 and then you had to do the tunnels in flow around the circle for 2-3-4. My original comment was based on the fact that you could run in with the dog, there was no gamble line.

But people found many creative ways to not get the gamble. In the first two levels, more than half missed it, and almost all of them in a different way. And the pattern went on as the day went on:
  • One went past the #1 jump and backjumped it.
  • One went into one of the tunnels on the way to the #1 jump (a fairly common problem)
  • One went past the #1 jump and into a tunnel.
  • One tried to take just one tunnel in the opening but couldn't call the dog off the 2nd tunnel, which invalidated the gamble.
  • One thought she had put her dog into the correct end of the tunnel, but he popped out as she ran on, and ended up going in the wrong end of the tunnel.
  • Jake and I weren't as close as I'd have liked to the beginning of the gamble when the whistle blew, and when I sent him over an approach jump, he kept on going and going and going away from me and, by the time I got him back to do the gamble the whole way correctly, we were over time.
  • Tika did the gamble beautifully and under time, but only after knocking the #1 bar.

(She also popped out of her weaves in the opening, which startled me while I was trying to convince myself to stick with my original plan and thinking about what to do next simultaneously. So it was pretty clearly something stupid that I did, since she virtally never pops out of the weaves any more.) Sigh. And because of the missed 5 points for the weaves and 1 point for a dropped bar in the opening as well, we weren't even in the running for top number of opening points among 100 or so dogs on this course. Well--I'm guessing we were probably in the top 10-20% but I didn't check.

Wildcard: A tricky, tight little course that didn't handle at all the way I thought it would. Right off the bat, Tika didn't catch my cue to come to choice A and instead took choice B, which was legal, but she was FLYING and I had to rearrange the rest of my course plan on the FLY to make that not be a non-Q. Well, somehow I managed to pull it off without even slowing Tika down and it was beautiful--and the stopwatch didn't get our time for some reason. We were given a chance to rerun it for time only, so all we had to do was to get through the course in a reasonable fashion--and man, we were offcourse in twelve directions at once. I don't know how I even managed that. So it was still a Q, but we had no way of comparing our times against anyone else.

Colors: Once again, Tika handled beautifully, including a very fast teeter for her (we've been working on making it faster), and we did the course in 14.37 seconds, about a second faster than anyone else (again, about 80 dogs on the same course, I believe)--except Cayenne, whom we hardly ever even SEE in competition and I had forgotten who they were (looking just at the dog's name) until I saw them again later, a really nice fast Aussie who came in at 14.09, wow, I'd have liked to have seen their run, because Tika's was super.

Jumpers: A very nice fast smooth run EXCEPT that as I sent Tika blasting straight into a straight tunnel, I started calling her name loudly to get her to turn sharply as she came out--but apparently she did a U-turn in the tunnel at full speed and blasted out in the other direction. I managed to get her back into the tunnel without an offcourse, and in CPE that's a Q for us, AND she kept all her bars up!--but of course quite a few fast dogs beat our time. Even so, I'm not sure how we'd have done--our usual complement of Really Fast Dogs were between 23 and 24 seconds (Tika came in at 27.37 with the bobble)--and the young upstart, Savanna Tatsuno the baby Border Collie, did it in 21 something! Yow!

Snooker: And, as our playing field sank slowly into the west, we were on another tricky, tight little course in which it was feasible to get three 7s in the opening BUT you had to be quick and your timing had to be impeccable. Wellllllll...our timing wasn't impeccable and Tika ended up going over a 3 instead of one fo the 7-point weaves in the opening, but once again somehow, unusual for me, I was able to think on my feet enough to recover and get her through the rest of the course without an offcourse, which was good enough for a Q, but even in our own height class of 6 level-C dogs, that was good enough only for 5th!


Jake ran fairly fast all weekend, but nowhere near fast enough to be placing worth mentioning. He did VERY nicely in his Jumpers run saturday, but the scribe sheet says that he knocked a bar, which I never saw go down (and he used to never knock bars, so this was unusual). And I picked a fairly simple course for him in Snooker, which he did with aplomb and Qed, but it was only 5th of 6 in his little C-level height group.

He did pretty good in his Jackpot opening Sunday, but (as I described above) was over time for the gamble. And in Sunday's Jumpers run, I assumed that he was going to carry out over a particular jump, but instead he came past it, and in the process of getting him turned around, he took an offcourse for an NQ. So he was again fairly fast for Jake, but to no avail.

So, oddly enough, the Jakester who almost always Qs on almost everything in CPE was only 1 for 4 this weekend, even though I felt that, overall, he ran well. Go figure.

So the dogs seemed to enjoy themselves, and they were both a pleasure to run, so really what more could I ask for? (Except more blue ribbons... and more Qs...will we NEVER get that perfect-weekend award?... maybe less chocolate--boy those choc-covered raisins at the score table were TASTY) )

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