a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Why So Early?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why So Early?

Why *do* I get up at 4 a.m. for agility trials? First, that's just an approximation; it depends on how far away the trial site is. I seldom venture more than about 2 hours from home any more because there's more than enough within that driving distance.

Second, it's the start time of the trials. Check-in usually starts around 7:00, and although most clubs make it possible now for you to send in your registration card with your entry so you don't have to check in in person, you still want to be there early enough to get copies of the course maps if they're provided. Although many more copies are usually made than there are competitors in the various levels, they all still seem to disappear rapidly. And the first course walk-through usually starts around 7:30.

But lastly, it takes me about an hour on site to get set up and ready to go in the morning. I don't know how I've managed to come to this. I mean, really, an hour?

OK, let's see:
  • Upon arrival, one wanders around the site with a mat under one's arm, looking for an appropriate place to set up. You want to be where you can see some of the action from your set-up; you ideally want to be close to the entrances to the ring(s) in which you'll be competing; you want to be near friends maybe (not that any of you will ever spend any time in your crating area). You don't want to be in a puddle or right next to the portapotties or, if you have a dog who's easily stirred to barkness by the close presence of other dogs, too near a major traffic pattern. You chat with a few people as you pass each other in your quests for an honest spot. You find the spot; you lay out your mat.
  • Now it's hauling all the crap from the car. I have one friend with a corgi who has one small plastic crate in which she can fit her small water bottle (for the dog), small drink cooler, leash, and treats or toys. She carries that in one hand and sometimes a chair in the other, although she's another person who's never at her crating area so she hardly needs one. Me--I have 3 largeish dogs and a regular Barnum and Bailey type arrangement with a big top, bleachers, clown car, the works. It takes me usually 3 trips with a fully loaded dolly.
  • So: Unfold the dolly. Pile up and strap on: The canopy frame. The canopy top, stakes, sides, and sunshades. Bag of clips for the sides and sunshade. Hammer for the stakes. Three mats because not one of them is big enough to cover the entire ground beneath my canopy. Three folding crates. Three crate mats to collect dirt and give the dogs something soft to lie on. Three water buckets . Two gallon bottles of water so I don't have to look for faucets all weekend. A folding chair. A folding table on which to put my breakfast and lunch and drinks. My breakfast (fruit & a breakfast bar usually). A cooler with my drinks and ice for the weekend and a couple of bags of chopped-up dog goodies. A dog-gear bag with some minor first-aid stuff for me and dogs, frisbees, slip leads for competition, whistle and earplugs if I'm the timer, extra special toys for the dogs, sunscreen, timer for timing snooker and gambler courses (and spare batteries), extra poop bags, blah blah. A small bag with the "competition goodies"--the toy we play with before & after going into the ring, a bait bag with a belt clip, a target for practicing nose touches, a clicker. My competition shoes. Spare socks. Sunglasses. Jacket (or 2 for layers if it's cold). Hat. Rags for feet if it's likely to be damp or muddy. Large beach towels usually for covering my chair to protect it or backup mats for crates for emergencies. Sheet for Boost's crate because otherwise she goes nuts thowing herself at the sides when dogs are actively running in the area. Bag with my dogs' history of competition, rule books, info about this trial. Tiny clips for displaying any ribbons we might earn. Bag for safely storing those ribbons on the way home. Pens, highlighters, nametags with photos for dogs' crates. Video camera (which I constantly forget to ask someone to use for filming our runs). Small digital cheapie camera. Sometimes my regular camera bag with lenses if I think I'll have time to experiment with action photography, but not too often.
  • Remove canopy frame from its bag. Add the cover. Unfold the whole thing (takes longer with 1 person than with 2). Raise the legs to the proper height. Stake all 4 legs in place.
  • Spread out the 3 mats to cover the ground beneath the canopy. If it's already sunny and warm, clip up the first shade fabric to the side of the morning sun. If rainy and windy, clip up solid side or 2 or 3.
  • Unfold and assemble the crates. Put the crate mats in the crates. Pour water into the buckets and clip inside the crates. Drape the sheet over Boost's crate and clip in place. Clip nametags with photos to the crates.
  • Unfold the chair. Drape towel over chair. Unfold and assemble the table.
  • Make sure the competition leash and toy and timer and shoes are out and ready to go.
  • Get the dogs out of the car. If it's been a long drive, make sure they've got plenty of time to potty. A bit of frisbee with all of them if they'll play--Tika to warm her up and loosen her muscles, Boost to burn of some energy, Jake to give some exercise and attention. Used to be able to do Jake and Tika at the same time, but now the 3 all have different needs and I do them one at a time if I possibly can, only a couple or few minutes each.
  • Potty me. Pick up course maps. Break out breakfast and drink and take a bite and a sip.
  • Did I get everything done? Sheesh, hope so.

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