a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Sunday in Madera

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday in Madera

SUMMARY: Another hot, short, day, with silly handler faults again

Once again, we were running by shortly after 7 in the morning and our last run of the day shortly after noon.

When I took the dogs out for our morning perambulation, Boost and Tika as usual got a bunch of frisbeeing in, and then, as we were quitting, Jake stopped his random wanderings to come over and tell me that he really wanted to play frisbee, too. He does this so seldom that I just had to indulge him until he was getting a bit tired. Probably foolish on my part, since he's more out of condition these days since he doesn't play that often, and since it's going to be such a hot day.

Jackpot (Gamblers)

This was a "nonconventional gamble." Sometimes these are enjoyable; sometimes they're too complicated to be fun. A conventional gamble means that you have about a 40-second opening for accruing points, then a whistle blows, then you have about 15 seconds to perform a specified sequence of obstacles at a distance from your dog. Nonconventional is anything else. This variant had three nonconventional parts to it: first, there were two gambles on the course, and you could do them both for points. Second, you could choose to do each gamble either forward or backward (e.g., 3-2-1 instead of 1-2-3). Third, you could do the gambles at any time during your period on course, so you simply had a total amount of time, with only a 5-second-warning whistle to tell you that you were about to run out of time and had better get to the table to stop the clock.

I picked a nice course with Tika that included both gambles plus a bunch of extra points and aiming to get at the table right when the whistle blew rather than risking being at the far side of the course and not being able to get there and failing to Q for being over time. As a result, we hit the table at about 38 seconds, the whistle blew at 40, and our time was officially over at 45. This means that I *could* have done that extra 3-point tunnel that I decided to leave off to be safe. But the thing was, she did everything perfectly, no bobbles, and fast, and kept up all her bars, so it was a lovely smooth course and we got way more points than all 29 dogs entered in the trial. Yes--you read it right--only 29 dogs (at least, in Jackpot), ALL levels, ALL heights! I can't imagine that the club made any money on this trial.

I picked a modified Tika course for Jake--entirely left off the 2nd gamble, which required doing a 12-pole weave twice at a distance, because he's never been superfast in the weaves in competition, and these days he's just not fast in them at all and tends to slow down and stop and pull out when they're in a gamble. Which meant that we *had* to get the other gamble--a tire, an Aframe, and a push out to a jump, which I thought would be no problem. Then we'd zoom around the outside of the course, zoom back again through the gamble backwards for simple obstacle points, and then we'd have *exactly* the points that we needed for a Q and hopefully be back at the table long before the whistle blew.

So--he started running, and he wasn't superfast heading into the Aframe. As usual, he blew off the Aframe very high on the downward side, but the judge gave it to us, however, despite my attempt to give him a huge "out" push before he flew off, he came in towards me rather than going out over the jump. I managed to spin him and turn him and spin him and turn him again and FINALLY he went over the jump and so we had completed the gamble but now I really had to push it to get him all the way back around for the rest of our minimal points in time. He did the next 9 obstacles fine, although his speed was clearly affected by the frisbee and/or the heat, so we'd really have to beat feet to finish on time, but as we approached the Aframe from the other direction (after going over the "out" jump in the opposite direction), I *assumed* that he'd just come with me and come up the Aframe, but noooooo he ran past it on the opposite side! I tried to turn him to go back up it, but we were too close, and so he ran past it again, so then I had to run him wayyy past it, then turn him around to make another attempt at it, and this time he went up it, but then the whistle blew for our 5-second warning, AND he flew off it *without* making the contact, so there was no way that we were going to make minimum points and be under time (we needed the Aframe and the tire), so I rushed him to the table. Fortunately he's good at going to the table--we were there at 44.56 seconds--but withouth our minimum total points, no Q! Crud.

A weird concept, Jake not getting enough total points for a gamble Q. Used to be like Tika--plan a zillion points and be able to do them all. OK, OK, I know, he's 14 and a half, what do I expect.


Jake not entered again. Because Tika had been determinedly NOT sticking her contacts all weekend, I decided that this run I didn't care about blue ribbons or even, heaven help me, a Q, and was simply going to work on having good contacts. So, when she hit the bottom of the dogwalk and then popped off without waiting, I made her down immediately and held her there for a couple of seconds, then continued. She hit the teeter down perfectly and WAITED while I told her good, and moved a couple of steps, and then released her. She hit the Aframe down perfectly and WAITED while I stepped off to one side and praised her, and then released her, and we finished the course beautifully. It wasn't a superfast time--but then, there were only about 35 dogs in the whole trial! (OK, 4 dogs at our height and level, and she got a 1st place anyway.) I was pleased with myself and with her.


It was a slightly challenging course, but I made her hold her dogwalk contact again, and she did it beautifully, and as we were going into the closing jumps, I waited until she was DIRECTLy over the next to the last jump and then gave a big push with my arm and "Out!" command, which was totally stupid (something you know from very early in training, just don't give the dog huge commands while they're right on top of the jump!) and, duh, she did a big huge Out just as commanded, but knocked the bar in the process, so no Q, but a very nice time.


This was another collection of Stupid Handler Tricks. For Tika, I once again tried a tricky layering maneuver (sending her out over 2 jumps while keeping another jump between us), and it didn't work--she came in around her jump instead of going over it. So I had to screech her to a halt to bring her back--which she did, half a stride shy of going into an offcourse tunnel--and I managed to threadle her between jumps without backjumping them, and then she completed the course perfectly, keeping all her bars up, and still having the fastest time for another 1st place of 3 dogs.

Jake ran, but although looking enthused beforehand and even playing with his goodie pouch toy a bit, it was clear within three jumps that not only was he going to be rather slow, but he actually ticked two of the first three bars, even at 12 inches. So he must've been tired. It was also noon and in the sun and probably in the high 90s. For him, in the same place on course, I knew enough not to try layering, but then I ASSUMED that he'd go into the tunnel after that jump and split stage left to make a cross, and when I turned I discovered that Jake had come right along with me. So I had to stop him and spin him around, which really slows him down these days also, I think because he just doesn't completely understand any more, and I did get him back into the tunnel, but at the end of the course I had to CALL him to get him to make a sharp right turn, which also slows him way down while he figures out what's going on, and although we finished without any course faults, he was a full four seconds over course time.

Another unusual thing for Jake--he almost never had time faults in the old days unless we made *lots* of mistakes. Oh, well, he's such a good old dog.

Homeward Bound

So Tika was only five of 8 for the weekend, and Jake only one of four, really low for him, but I actually had a very good time at this low-key trial and, if I had to have a cruddy performance, it was much better doing it here rather than the other weekend at the Nationals.

Despite working in every gap all morning to tear down all my stuff and pack it away, when I wasn't being the Chief Course Builder to try to make it happen quickly for everyone, I still didn't leave the site until 1:30. Thought I'd be home by 3:30, but I needed a pit stop at Casa de Fruta (usually I can make a 2-hour trip with no problem; just one of those things) and while I was there I decided to get some candied pineapple like my grandparents always used to bring us when they stopped there. But instead I found natural dried pineapple ("Ingredients: Pineapple and sunshine") so I took that instead, but had to wait in line. My recollection from stopping there in recent years was that it looked like a largely abandoned, forgotten roadside outpost, but not this afternoon. It was a happening place. Parking lot was overflowing, people crowded all the aisles of the "fruit stand" and the restaurant looked full. Maybe it's the difference between a beautiful early Sunday afternoon and a dark winter evening, who knows.

Then, since my exit for home takes me right past Pet Club and I had used up the last of my rollover-type sausage for this trial, I stopped there to pick up three more four-pound rolls. So not home until 4:30, but that's still pretty good.

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