a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Friday USDAA in Turlock

Monday, June 26, 2006

Friday USDAA in Turlock

SUMMARY: Really truly hot. Jumpers (need the Q badly) and Snooker (need a Super-Q badly).

There are only 3 things I wanted from this weekend: A Jumpers Q (qualifying score), a Snooker SuperQ, and a Team qualifier for the nationals. Entered Grand Prix but don't really care about it this time. Entered Steeplechase and it's always nice if I can qualify for Round 2 and then place high enough for some cash, but the odds of that are slim (have done it only 1 of 4 so far this year) and I don't really care about the Q for that one, either, this time. And that's all they offered this weekend--Jumpers, Snooker, GP, Steeplechase, and the 5 classes for Team.

Most trials don't have runs on Fridays, just Sat & Sun. For some reason, they decided to do a Jumpers and a Snooker on Friday evening with walkthroughs starting at 5:30. I wasn't going to take the half day off work--can't really afford it--but because Tika really needs only 4 more Qs for her ADCH--which I really want--including two Jumpers and one Snooker SuperQ--I decided to do it. Figured there wouldn't be that many people there and my odds for being in the top 15% for the SuperQ would be better.

It was (as I mentioned earlier) very hot in San Jose and expected to be even hotter in Turlock. I left the house about 1:00, loaded up my cooler with 2 bags of ice, and hit the road. Found only a slight traffic slowdown on 580 through Livermore and then heading up the Altamont Pass, but still decided to bear south on 580 at the split with 205 and take the 132 route across to Modesto. It was a good choice, I think; not heavy traffic and moving briskly--who knows what it would've been like at 2:30 on a Friday going through Tracy. I had my air conditioning on full blast, but after we cleared the Altamont, I could feel heat radiating into the car through the windows. How hot is it out there?

Got to Nunes Athletic Field (NAF) in Turlock somewhere before 4:00, parked, opened the car door--and it felt like stepping into a blast furnace. (Not that I have a lot of experience stepping into blast furnaces--) So I left the dogs closed tightly in the car (something you're not supposed to do on even a warm day, but I figured that the well-air-conditioned car would be much cooler than opening it up for probably at least 15 minutes, and it turns out I was right). Arlene had dropped by on Thursday to pick up my canopy. This is because she was going to be at NAF only for friday evening's competition, and she had taken the week off, so she arrived early on friday, set up the canopy and her stuff, and beat feet for an air-conditioned hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. This meant that she wouldn't have to dismantle a canopy late at night, and I wouldn't have to set one up, so it worked out good and we just shared for Friday evening. So I just had to find the canopy--easy enough to do--and get our stuff set up therein--also easy enough to do, although it felt exhausting in that heat, hauling the stuff from the car (still leaving the dogs there) and assembling the crates and such.

Misters felt very nice but just about turned to steam hitting your skin.
At 5:30 p.m. in Turlock. In the shade. On the agility field.

Sweaty agility bodies everywhere.
It didn't bode well for temperatures that they had misters set up all over the site. Felt very good for the instant that you walked through them, but the moisture boiled away within seconds of walking away.

But--so much for a small entry. They also had expected only a few people to sign up. But noooo. There were about 100 dogs signed up to run Friday evening, starting at 5:30, and only one judge. At least there were 2 rings, so people could be walking the course in one ring while the other was running. We were starting to estimate that we wouldn't be done until 10 at the earliest.


We indeed started walking the Masters Jumpers course at 5:30. It was 110 F. Agility bodies were sweating everywhere. It was a technical course but nothing that I didn't feel we could handle easily--and actually looked like it would require almost no running on my part, which was good in this heat. I want that Q so badly, I decided the heck with trying to earn a placement, I just want to take it smooth and easy like I did last weekend at the CPE trial, be careful of my body language and my commands, let it flow (--like--wow--man--). Tika the Wonderdog seems oblivious to the heat. This is the joy and the danger of driven working dogs. They don't always know when to stop or take it easy. But her eyes were bright and she was delighted to be taken out of the crate to run.

And, in fact, I felt in control and competent on that course. Nice and smooth and everything clicked between us, no miscommunications, smooth turns from both me and her, nothing rushed--and she knocked a dang bar anyway, so no Q. So, unlike last weekend, I do not know exactly why the bar came down. I am a little frustrated, but not as much as I might have been, because I really liked the way our teamwork felt on that run. She placed 7th out of 14 dogs in her height despite the bar--and was also the 7th fastest, so even if everyone had run clean, she wouldn't have placed, but that's OK, I like that kind of rhythm in a run.


Meanwhile, we had all walked Masters Snooker in the other ring, so we were ready to go shortly after the Masters Jumpers ring finished. Those poor Advanced and Novice dogs, still waiting to run--it was starting to look more like it would be 10:30 before we finished.

It was an interesting Snooker course. One that required technical handling, that also provided several nice flowing paths for earning Qs, but one on which a fast dog with smooth handling could potentially rack up a lot of points without it being a gimmee (hate it when ALL it requires is speed), as there were 4 reds on this course so you could choose to do all 4 during the opening instead of the standard 3. And I found a flowing course to do either 6-7-7 in the opening or 6-6-7-7 in the opening. I thought that the latter would provide a challenge for us to then do 2 all the way through 7 in the closing, so had almost decided to stick with the simpler course. But then Luka Deacon, a little 16" dog (Pyrenean Shepherd) who's in our Wed. night class, did 5-6-7-7 in the opening and got all the way through the closing, and that was that. We weren't competing against her directly, but my Wednesday Night hormones kicked in, as we're always trying to one-up each other in that class. So I HAD to try the 6-6-7-7 opening, although the 6s were threadles and we don't always have the smoothest threadles AND she tends to knock bars, so it was risky.

There were only 14 dogs running in 26", so there'd be only 3 super-Qs. Gulp. But a high score would probably get us in the top 3. So what the heck.

AND I did rev her up for this one because I knew we'd need top speed to get all the way through. We were the 4th dog up in the 26" class, so I wouldn't get a chance to watch many other people to see what they were actually doing. And the 22" class didn't run until after us, so I couldn't even get a rough idea of what the big fast dogs were capable of doing. I knew that the first dog, who is slow, wouldn't be competition for us, but because I was revving Tika up, I didn't watch the 2nd dog. The dog right before us crapped out early. Then we were up.

She stayed at the start line, which was very important for this run. Then we were off and running. Our first threadle was a little rough but we did it; the second was smooth as silk, then the 1-7-1-7 sequence was turns over jumps--and she didn't knock them!--and weaves--and as usual she made perfect entries and blasted through them. We had to bypass three obstacles to get from the 7 to the 2 in the closing sequence, which is sometimes a challenge for us, and I had seen dogs go off course in all kinds of places in the closing sequence, so I was watching her carefully and calling her in as relaxed a way as I could manage, just pretending we were in Wednesday night class, and we got through the 5 in the closing.

Then it was a push straight ahead from the #5 tunnel to the #6 threadle again...and dagnabbit somehow she decided she was too far ahead of me and turned back to tell me about it, and I kept running and pushing and she'd start to turn and then come back at me and start to turn and come back at me and then I was right next to the jump and finally she pushed over it at the most bizarre angle--but it was too late, the turning-back-to-mes were too much for the judge and she called (fairly) a refusal on the jump, and we were done. Crap. Tika started barking and jumping at me again, and so we headed for the finish line slowly with me trying to avoid her and keep her off my feet. With our final time, however, it turns out that we had PLENTY of time to have finished the 6 and 7 if we hadn't blown it. Sigh. Still, it was a decent score with all those high points in the opening and maybe it would hold up.

Then we all sat and watched the next ten 26" dogs, and all except 2 crapped out way before earning as many points as we did--so we should get the 3rd superQ, right?

Remember that I didn't get a chance to watch the 2nd dog run? OK, guess what, there's a reason for mentioning that--ends up when results came up that they beat us by one point to get that 3rd Super-Q. Crap again! We have SO many plain old boring Snooker Qs now.

Then I volunteered to help the rest of the evening to try to keep things moving along, but the last dog didn't finish running until around 11. Then, with pottying the dogs and all that, I wasn't in bed until after 11:30, completely exhausted.

Not to mention having already drunk almost as much that late afternoon and evening as I usually do in a full day. AND I switched to my shorts AGAIN!

Well--there's always the Team for the rest of the weekend.

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