a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tika's USDAA Title Chase

SUMMARY: Need Jumpers, Snooker Super-Q for ADCH. And Team for Tournament Bronze.

Our big Bay Team USDAA regional championship is this weekend in Sunnyvale. I'm not on the committee again this year; four rings is just too much for me to want to get my head around. I'll just be the usual busy worker bee.

We have many many runs this weekend. Tika has:
Sat -- 26 -- Masters Pairs (partner: Brenn. We had legs in Novice and Advanced together so hopefully now we'll have one in Masters, too.)
Sat -- 26 -- TEAM Gamblers
Sat -- 26 -- TEAM Jumpers
Sat -- 26 -- TEAM Snooker
Sat -- 26 -- TEAM Standard

Sun -- 26 -- Masters Jumpers
Sun -- 26 -- Masters Snooker
Sun -- 26 -- Grand Prix Rd 1
Sun -- 26 -- Steeplechase Round 1
Sun -- 26 -- TEAM 3-Dog Relay with Skeeter and Brenn ("Three's a Charm")

Mon -- 26 -- Masters Gamblers
Mon -- 26 -- Masters Jumpers
Mon -- 26 -- Masters Standard

If we're good enough, we'll also make it to Steeplechase Round 2 and Grand Prix Round 2.

Here's what's important for us this weekend:

  • Masters Jumpers and Masters Snooker Super-Q: Those would finish our ADCH! Which would make me very happy indeed!
  • Grand Prix Q in Round 2: Would FINALLY earn us a bye into the semifinals at Nationals. This would be a great stress-reliever for me. This is my second priority for the weekend.
  • Team: A Q would complete our Tournament Bronze title. Would be nice to just get it done, because Team is such a bothersome thing to get a Q in (5 runs in one trial in which all 3 of you have to earn decent scores, so it's expensive, too).
  • Steeplechase: A Q and moving to Round 2 is always nice for the possibility of earning some $.
  • If we were to win the GP or the Steeplechase, we'd earn a bye into the finals at the nationals. Odds of us doing this: Slim and none. Tika's a great dog but I don't think she can quite cover the ground as fast as the fastest dogs, plus that evil bar-knocking problem (or the up contact on the dogwalk) AND although maybe in our "local" trials I could hope that many of the top dogs might fault out and we might not, this is a regional championship and there are just way too many of the top dogs competing for them to all crap out. But I'll try anyway.

Boost And I Not Really Ready

SUMMARY: In class today, hooboy lots of missteps.

After last week's class, I was feeling pretty good. But today's class had me waking up and smelling the coffee (and it just wasn't brewed enough). Boost's sister (Bette)'s mom (Mary) had a great analogy: Feels like we've got the verbs and nouns and adjectives, but no punctuation, no connecting words, no grammar. So we can do an A-frame, a teeter, some weaves, a couple of jumps, but putting them all together into a smooth sequence isn't there yet. We just don't do many large sequences in class, and I don't have room for it in my yard.

Boost did a full-height USDAA Aframe just fine; slower than at home, but none-the-less did it, and fairly fast, too. Did teeter good. Did dogwalk good although the first time up she did the is-this-a-teeter slowdown on the up ramp. Did a couple of good sets of weaves, a couple with misses. Knocked some bars. Didn't do so hot on lateral lead-outs or lead-out pivots, came around jumps or else didn't turn afterwards. I seem to have no way to turn my dog smoothly--she's still blasting across any two things in a straight line full speed and either I'm calling her over a bar so she knocks it (despite THINKING that I'm calling her earlier) or she's looking back at me but still blasting straight ahead.

And, dangit, it's not like we don't practice turns here at home. In fact, the problem is that that's ALL we practice, since I have no real space for straight-aheads, and that's one big problem for us.

Also I forget that she's an inexperienced babydog, so when I get ahead of her, say, on the approach to the dogwalk, she's as likely to run by it as to go up it.

She had nice start-line stays and a reasonable down on the table.

Not doing nose touches on the contacts, but that's because (as I think I've mentioned earlier) I've been slacking off on asking for that and focusing on fast and excited at the end. So today nancy emphasized that that nose touch is the thing you want to teach the dog to be driving excitedly for, not the opportunity to get a reward from you, so you can lose that drive if you lose the nose touch. Sure, most dogs lose it over time in competition, but this is too early in their career for them to really get it yet.

For homework, we're all supposed to work on our lateral lead-outs and get hoops to put over the A-frame up to get them to run through it rather than slamming onto it to avoid future doggie wrist damage.

So much to do--and her first competition is THIS WEEKEND!

(Huh--I just looked at what I posted a couple of days before Tika's first trial: tml Sound familiar? I can only hope that the results are as good.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Boost Full-Height A-frame

SUMMARY: Wow! She did it! And fast, too!

I've been saying that Boost's just not that close to doing a full-height USDAA A-frame (6'3" at the apex), although her lower-height A-frames have been getting pretty fast and accurate. Indeed, she slowed down a little in class last week when we were using a Performance-height A-frame (5'6").

But tonight, since I had the full-height A-frame up for Tika, I thought, What the heck. So I backchained her quickly up from the bottom, starting a foot or so from the bottom, then a couple feet, three feet, then from the table top next to it, got her to four or even as much as five feet up, and she just blasted right to the bottom with a 2-on, 2-off. So I sent her out through a tunnel 30 feet away and called her up the A-frame as I ran past it, and up and over she went, into a perfect 2-point landing! Wooooooohooooo babydog!

The Ankle Bone's Connected to the Knee Bone--dangit--

SUMMARY: What a wreck I am

I keep feeling as if I'm basically a healthy person. But I'm realizing more and more that that right knee that suddenly got so bad this spring is a real problem, and that twisted ankle that's just not healing is a real problem, and the shoulders that I messed up back in January are a real problem. I'm dreading loading the car for a weekend, unloading it when I get to the trial, setting things up, tearing things down at the end of the weekend, and loading them back into the car. It all hurts; not overwhelming, but just a steady miserable background drone of pain. We're not even talking about the leftover sciatica from the back injury 6 years ago that just fades in and out all the time.

I think I really need to lose those 8 pounds that dangit have crept back on again, except walking is a little painful and I'm not supposed to be doing as much with the ankle and the knee, and the additional things I used to do a lot of for extra calorie burning, like working in the yard and hauling compost around, are painful because of the shoulders and the back. Crikey.

So last Tuesday I went in to see my doctor. She ordered x-rays of everything except for the bottom of my left foot (which is what I fractured 10 years ago) because she said the xray last October was fine and she thinks it's just metatarsalgia (or something like that--irritated metatarsal area, basically). Yet another part of me to ice regularly.

Haven't heard back on the xrays yet. Left an email message for the doctor this morning. She'll send me to physical therapy--one joint at a time--if nothing's actually broken.

A Pretty Good Weekend for Tika

SUMMARY: Tika Qed 6 for 8 and earned 2 new titles

By some measures, Tika and I had one of the best USDAA weekends I've ever had with any dog. She earned Qualifying scores in 6 out of 8 qualifying runs, which is average for CPE but exceptional for us in USDAA. In my career, I've competed in about 80 USDAA weekends. Of those 80, here are the times one of my dogs has earned 75% or more qualifying scores in a weekend:
  • Sept 2000, Jake, 6/8

  • Aug 2002, Jake, 4/5 (but that was only 5 runs. Actually this was pretty good considering that we had traveled to L.A. and I ended up so sick from a cold that suddenly got worse AND Remington was so sick (this was before we figured out he had cancer) that I ended up scratching almost all of my runs for the weekend. But it was simultaneously actually pretty bad because the whole reason we were going south for USDAAs was because I wanted that last Gamble for Jake's championship (and that dang Standard for Remington's MAD)--and guess which run of the 5 was the one Jake didn't get.

  • March 2003, Jake, 4/5 (odd for there to be only 5 runs. Maybe I scratched him from some?)

  • May, 2003, Jake, 7/9 (by far my best Masters-level percentage. But that was also about the time that Jake started turning oddly on course from time to time, too, and we eventually figured out he was going deaf, which made it hard for him to respond to me)

  • April 2004, Tika, 7/9 (but this was at the intermediate ("Advanced") level, not masters level, and my dogs have always done much better when the courses were easier. Duh.

  • Aug 2004, Tika, 6/8 (also at Advanced level)

And...that's it! So I should be very happy.

OK, in fact, I am very happy. We had some truly lovely runs, and of our 9 runs for the weekend, there was only one in which we had miscommunications or bobbles on course. All the other "failures" were knocked bars (and not all that many of those, really) or up contacts, with the exception of an obvious problem with Aframe contacts. And that latter is a training issue that I think I can work through. Again.

But my standards are high and my goals are challenging, so there's also a level of discouragement even with the successes. So, run by run:
  • Saturday Gamblers: Downside: In the opening, she flew--FLEW!--off the first Aframe contact, losing us 3 points. So I made her wait while I told her that I was surprised--SURPRISED!--that she could do such a thing. So, to follow up, I held her longer than usual on both the teeter contact the second Aframe contact, which she did hit and stick properly. As a result of all that waiting and holding, we missed finishing our 2nd set of weaves by 2 poles, costing us another 5 points. Upside: Before we ran, only about 10-15% of the 60 dogs before us had gotten the gamble. Here's the gamble:

    I was convinced that we weren't going to get it for one of two reasons: (1) Historically we've had a hard time pushing out to an obstacle when there's a big juicy obstacle between me and her and the place I want her to go. (2) As a result of (1), for the last week we've been working and working on getting her to push out past a juicy obstacle--in a very similar sequence to this gamble but TO THE OTHER END OF THE TUNNEL:

    So I figured she'd either miss it entirely by coming in to me (which many dogs did) or go out to the far end of the tunnel (which quite a few dogs did). The first lovely thing was that she stopped--FAST!-- on the dogwalk contact even with me more than 10 feet away. The bad thing was that she stopped with her front legs swung around towards me. But I stepped in, said "through!"--and she went! And I knew I'd have to call her like crazy to make it over jump #3, so I did, and she baaaarely got back in line for the jump, and made the gamble!

    Downside: Turns out that in our jump height, 29% of the dogs eventually got it, so it wasn't QUITE as big a deal (although only 20% of 123 overall) and with most of the competitive dogs earning opening points that were 5 to 10 points more than ours, those 8 missing points kept us from placing. Upside: But that was our 5th Master Gamblers, finishing our Master Gambler title and finishing THAT requirement towards our ADCH. So I'm pleased with the gamble, pleased to have finished the GM.

  • Steeplechase Round 1: Upside: As reported yesterday, we made it to round 2 and it was a smooth, no-bobble run. Downside: She sure hit that bar loud enough to rattle it, and then there was the Aframe she didn't stick.

  • Saturday Standard: OK, that was a messy run on a hard course.
  • Pairs Relay: The downside is that she didn't even try to stick that dang Aframe again, so between making her wait after that and the long leadout I took as the 2nd dog, we weren't fast enough to place. But the upside is that we had no actual faults and no handling bobbles at all AND she kept her bars up, and since our partner was clean, we finished our Relay Championship, which is very cool.

  • Sunday Standard: Upside: No handling bobbles AND kept her bars up AND no actual faults, so we qualified--and managed to place 6th on another tough course. Downside: Dang nonsticking contacts. We started running and she didn't stick her dogwalk (although she very cleanly got the up contact, yay.) so I held her a moment. Then as we rounded the curve to the Aframe, the timer and everyone started yelling Stop! Stop! (which usually means there's a timer malfunction) so I just raced her up the aframe, which she didn't stick, so I made her lie down and wait while we waited for them to figure out their timing issues. Ha! thought I, A training bonus! So we went back to the beginning, started over, and she didn't stick her dogwalk and she didn't stick her Aframe--so I made her wait after both-- and she didn't stick her teeter, which was really bad because I needed to do a front cross and didn't need her grabbing my feet in the process, so I made her lie down, WALKED across in front of her, and then continued. Although we Qed and were actually 6 seconds under time, we were 11!! seconds behind the dog who placed just ahead of us. There's really no reason we shouldn't be getting course times closer to the fast dogs--except those dang contacts.

  • Snooker: Welllllll the upside is that I managed to wander off and not obssess too much about what the other dogs were doing even though we were only a few dogs from last. And, when we started, she did the very tricky and challenging opening that I picked for us to try to earn the Super-Q. But the downside was that, to Super-Q on this course, you had to do a bunch of the 6-point obstacles, which was a tough sequence of 2 jumps, and if you knocked one of the bars in the opening that basically put you out of super-Q contention. Soooooo we knocked the first bar on our first 6-pointer, and it was all over. Sigh.

  • Grand Prix: The only reason I enter extraneous Grand Prixs is to try to earn a fancy placement ribbon and on the very very faint hope that we could win and earn a bye for the nationals first round. And, incidentally, I'd like just once in her life to earn a GP Q with NO FAULTS! (Every one of her 12 before, except the first, has had a 5-point fault.) So, on this course, I decided to go for broke. Upside:I got her as revved up as I could think to do beforehand and I just pushed pushed pushed, even releasing her from her contacts instantly (which interestingly she was taking the time to hit bottom and look at me--! but she was hitting bottom fast). It was a tough course, too, and it felt so smooth and lovely and she was running and we had no bobbles or wide turns and she kept all her bars up and it was a lot of fun because I was running all out and pushing my handling limits. Downside: That damned dogwalk up contact! Missed it again! Those dang 5-point faults! So we were the 8th fastest dog of the 44 running--but with other people's faults, if she had run clean, she'd have been 3rd! But she wasn't. She still placed 10th, which is for a change barely in the Top-Ten-Pointers, but no ribbon. So I'm disappointed, even though it was a fun run and I was very happy with her, too.

  • Steeplechase round 2: The excitement of simply being able to ever even hope for qualifying to round 2 is starting to wear off, because now this is our 5th time. So now I'm in it to finish in the money, and hopefully more than just $1.95 for 7th place. There are 14 dogs. We were 5th fastest in Round 1, but remember I held that Aframe. BUT--now there are TWO aframes and I have to push the release to hope of being near the top, and the course is so fast and flowing that I tell her before we go into the ring, "OK, Tika, this course is all about keeping your bars up. Not handling, not even contacts, it's about bars." Upside: So once again I rev her up like crazy (this exhausts me--I'm not a revving up kind of person really). And she's rarin' to go even more than usual. She holds her startline stay (actually did all weekend I believe) until I released her, kept up her first 2 bars which was promising, and we were off and flying. Once again I pushed my handling limits and I pushed her and man she hit those Aframe down contacts fast and perfectly and I released her immediately as I flew by her (and even got a woof out of her, which I get only in the most thrilling moments of Tika's agility life), and then we made the tough entrance into the serpentine, and all I had to do was a 5-jump loop and we'd be done. Downside: And a bar comes down. And I'm pretty sure it's me again, because I was looking ahead and feeling relief and it was too early for that. Sure enough, it was all about her bars, because more than half of the dogs ran clean on this course. So we finished 8th overall, with the money going down only to 7th. Upside: Man, it was fun! And smooth! And her turns were tight and beautiful and her contacts were lovely and I wish all our runs could be like this! (Except that, as witnessed by the rest of the weekend, if I keep pushing the release on the contacts, eventually she starts flying off and we lose faults for that.) And in fact she was the 4th fastest dog of all 14, which is an achievement in this crowd!
  • So by the time Jumpers rolled around at the end of the day, I'm getting discouraged. Can't place NICELY in standard, can't get a clean run in Grand Prix, can't keep my bars up in snooker and steeplechase where it really counts. How can I possibly hope to keep my bars up for that Jumpers course, when we've knocked so many bars in so many Jumpers courses before?

  • Jumpers: So I don't rev her up. I just want to run calmly and smoothly, not take my eyes off her, not call her or change direction suddenly as she's over a jump, manage my timing all the way along, not get cocky before the end of the course. And she runs. And everything clicks. She's not superfast, but she is joyfully smooth. I watched so many dogs before us struggle to make the turns that she makes easily, or run wide out to make a sharp turn, where she hugs the corners. And we're at the end, and all the bars stayed up. Upside: We got a Jumpers leg! And it was a pretty one, too, no bobbles of any kind! And we're in 2nd place after about 8 dogs (with only 21 to go...) In fact, after 20 of the dogs have run, I'm delighted to discover that we're still in 4th place and we've even beat Tala (Boost's superfast mom) by a quarter of a second, although I didn't see their run so I don't know whether they had bobbles). In fact, we're only a second behind first-place Luz, one of the top dogs in the country, and I'm very happy with that. But there's one more dog to run, and she won't run for another hour. That's Spirit. Downside: Spirit runs a gorgeous run that I can tell without even seeing the times has probably taken over 1st place. In fact, she beat Tika's time by just over 5--FIVE!-- seconds, bringing me rapidly down to earth. Upside: Still, we placed 5th for a ribbon AND a couple more of those elusive and therefore useless (for us) Top-Ten Points. And it was smooth all the way through.

So, overall for the weekend, I'm happy and had some great runs that I'm still reliving. I also have more goals, more things to work on, more improvements to make. Sigh. And next weekend, Boost debuts.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Contributing to Dog Agility

SUMMARY: My contributions, small and medium


For some reason I got to thinking about how the sport of agility has changed in the 10--almost 11--years I've been competing. Certainly in major ways, like the addition of several more sanctioning organizations (CPE, DOCNA, Teacup agility...) and the addition of dozens of new classes and titles.

But it has also changed on a simple logistic level, locally and statewide and even worldwide. And I've helped in some small ways.

Awards for Championships

When I started competing, my club (The Bay Team) offered patches--which we bought from a supplier--for each title earned at one of our club's trials. If you were a member, you could get a patch even if you earned the title at some other club's trial. The patches for Championships were a little fancier than the others, but they were all the same size and shape. You could buy the same patches on your own, so it was a nice benefit to get them for free. But that's all you got for earning a championship, other than the right to run a victory lap with your dog to wild applause and the joy, relief, and excitement of earning such a special title.

As time went on, the patches became less available. We considered giving pins instead, but they were even more expensive and seemed to be not as popular.

One weekend after I'd been competing for about 4 years, I was attending a seminar near an ongoing AKC agility trial. A friend (Gail) who competed in AKC agility came wandering by at the end of the day to say hi to her friends. She was carrying a bar from a jump and it had signatures on it. I asked about it. Turns out that She and Flint had just earned their first AKC agility championship and the AKC club had given them a bar from their final jump and their friends were signing it. Apparently a carryover from AKC obedience championships. I thought it was a wonderful idea and promoted it as vigorously as I could at Bay Team trials by having markers in hand and personally running out to hand people a bar from their last jump when they earned their championships. I also plugged it more discreetly (I hope) at other club's trials when dogs earned their CH's--and since Remington and Jake both earned theirs in the following few months, I inquired politely of those clubs whether they awarded bars for CHs. I don't believe that any of the all-breed agility clubs (USDAA and NADAC at that time) awarded jump bars until I started promoting it.

Finally I didn't have to promote it any more because people liked it and it self-perpetuated.

It probably would have made the jump from that one AKC agility club to the rest of the agility world eventually without me, but I am the one who started its existence in northern california USDAA and NADAC clubs.

Gate sheets on easels

When I started competing, the gate steward simply had a hand-held copy of the small-print catalog and a pen. They'd wander around in the general vicinity of the ring, calling the names of dogs who were up next. As a result, people who wanted to check in often couldn't find the gate steward to do so (hence various kludges to make them more recognizable, like wearing bright orange vests or such), or if they could find the gate steward, there were always 5 or 10 people trying to look over their shoulder to see how far down the running order we had gotten and how soon they were up. It was unweildy to say the least, but that's how everyone did it.

I attended several obedience matches and trials in those first couple of years, and your ring order was handled in various other similar manners. Then I went to a much larger match with a San Francisco club, and they had large boards next to each ring with a couple of dozen hooks on which they could hang numbers that matched your armband numbers. That way you could easily see when you were up (as I believe they just removed the numbers of those who had gone and moved the other numbers up).

A light went on in my head that something like this had to be the solution to the gate steward problem. Agility didn't really run by armband number in California, it ran by dog name, so we'd need to have tags with the dogs' names. And we easily could have 100 dogs in a class, so we'd have to have 100 tags and some way to manage them. I thought of several possibilities, including buying business-card-sized magnets and attaching the dog's and handler's names to those and just reusing them over and over on a large metallic board. I don't remember what all the clever possibilities were that I came up with, but I kept running them by Karey Krauter to discuss the shortcomings that they all had and how we might alter the idea to make it work.

Finally, after a tremendous amount of pestering from me that we HAD to find a better way to do it and that large posted lists of SOME sort were the solution, Karey said that maybe she could just print out a copy of the running order list in a really large font and we could post them on easels. So I dug out my old easel and from somewhere we found another easel (I'm pretty sure this is before we took the huge step of trying a 3-ring trial) and karey printed the big sheets for the next trial and the rest is history. Very soon thereafter the club bought a bunch of its own easels, and now everyone in the agility universe prints copies of the running order lists in large fonts and posts them ringside. To my (limited) knowledge, no one had ever done anything like that in agility before Karey and I came up with it.

Worker Appreciation Gift

I didn't come up with the Bay Team's idea for having a raffle for workers, but I did come up with the name WAG, which the much-evolved worker raffle is still called at Bay Team trials.

Agility web presence

I didn't create the first online web presence for the Bay Team; Candy Gaiser had at least membership forms and generic entry forms up on a server somewhere pretty early. And Melissa DeMille had a one-page Bay Team web page as a subpage of her own web site. But I took it and ran with it.

I convinced the club to fork out the money for our own domain name; we probably weren't the first agilty club in the world to have its own domain name, but we're the first that I'm aware of. I believe that lots of the other clubs realized it was possible by seeing bayteam.org come into existence.

I created pages and pages of all kinds of info in (what was then--1997?) almost state-of-the-art condition. Many clubs followed our lead, and I still see pages or sections of web sites in many other west coast clubs' web sites that follow the model I created on the Bay Team site.

It wasn't all one way; I "stole" ideas liberally when other clubs came up with ideas for pages or info that I thought were nifty. But I've always felt that our site was, at least early on, a leader in agility sites and was one of the first very few agility club sites on dogpatch.org to earn a gold star for usefulness, of which I was rather proud.

Premium formats

I wasn't keen on the very amateurish layout of most agility premiums when I arrived on the scene. I volunteered to take those over, too, and experimented for a while with different layouts for each trial both to be fun and to make each trial's premium easily identifiable. But that was a LOT of work and eventually I just came out with what I felt was a fairly nice, relatively attractive, more-easily scanned layout. West coasters will recognize this layout (image coming later) that many clubs still use, although much modified and mucked with so I don't like it as much.

Then, when we started doing CPE, I decided it was time for a whole different and more updated look, so came up with this layout (image later), which west coasters might also recognize as being used by a few other clubs who provide CPE.

Oh yeah, CPE!

(Added Monday morning 8/28) Then there's the fact that Bay Team now does CPE trials instead of NADAC trials. That wasn't my original intention. I wanted it to be an alternative to our NADAC trials, because I was just too fed up with NADAC and I wanted more local trials that *I* wanted to go to. I attended CPE trials out at Starfleet Agility and thought it was pretty nifty, so I started promoting it as something that other people should give a try when Starfleet started having more CPE trials. At the time, I think they were the only club in California offering CPE.

When Bay Team moved its tradional November NADAC to July, I suggested that we keep the November weekend and turn it into a CPE trial. Took a bit of convincing and promoting and research, and I volunteered to be the chair to get things going, not only for a new venue, but also a new site and a largely entirely new show committee. We actually drew quite a crowd--but it was also one of the worst mudfests I've ever attended and we had to end it one run early because they said we were tearing up their field too much. But apparently people had a great time because they wanted more.

Well, turns out that CPE announced that the next CPE National Championships would be in northern California, so I suggested that we replace JUST ONCE, JUST FOR THIS YEAR, our Spring NADAC with a spring CPE to allow more Bay Area folks to qualify for the Nationals. Once again, we drew a pretty big crowd. That year, our NADAC July trial was our last one for the club, largely because they would require a completely different set of heavy contact equipment for us to continue to offer our trials, and CPE didn't. There were plenty of other reasons for dropping NADAC--I wasn't the only one frustrated to downright angry with them--but that was the last straw, and somehow we ended up doing 2 CPE trials a year instead of 2 NADACs. I wasn't the one pushing for that, really, in case anyone wants to whup someone upside the head for that. Some of our members weren't thrilled about losing NADAC, but most people were delighted for the alternative venue, and I was certainly the one who brought CPE to the Bay Team.

Bay Teamer of the Year and State of the Club Address

(Added Monday morning 8/28) I was Bay Team President for one 2-year term, and if I did nothing else, I formalized the occasional casual gifts or awards that the club gave people for outstanding service, turning it into Bay Teamer of the Year (plus a few assorted special awards), and I made a concerted effort to have a year-end (not too long speech) lauding people's achievements and talking about the club's state. I pushed it with the following presidents, and so far they're continuing that tradition. I don't know how much most people know about either of these things or even care, but I'm hoping that they'll matter in the long run and at least to the individuals who are certainly worthy of recognition.

Is that it?

Maybe, maybe not. Lots of experiments that didn't catch on for one reason or another. Others maybe have. Will have to continue to think about it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday At The Races

SUMMARY: A good day. Not perfect, but good.

Notes from today:
  • Tika did 5 Aframes today. She stuck one correctly, flew off one entirely, and the others were legal but she's not waiting for me at all.

  • Tika had a nice, smooth, fast steeplechase run but I heard a bar clank behind me as we went. And there were something like 50 dogs at our height entered. Since only dogs within 125% of the top 3 dogs qualify, and with all this hot talent present, I figured we had just blown our chance to Q. So, when we got to the Aframe and she didn't even pretend to hit bottom or stick it, I stopped and waited for her to come to a stop and look at me and I made some rude comment to her about her Aframe and then we went on and finished.

    Well--turns out that we did NOT knock a bar, so we not only qualified, we were in 5th place out of the 14 dogs who made it to round 2 for tomorrow. We were 4 seconds off 1st place, but some of that is the waiting at the Aframe. (Of course, we also *gained* time by her not bothering to hit bottom and wait...) But I'm pleased about that.

  • Tika's gamble opening was bad on contacts. She flew off the Aframe, costing us 3 points; she didn't stick her teeter so I made her wait before going on; she did stick her second Aframe and I held it a long time to be sure she got the idea; then as a result of the long holds on the contacts she was 2 poles away from finishing a 5-point weave, which cost us another 5 points. So she had only 21 opening (needed only 15 to Q) where most of the competitive dogs were in the 26-29-point range.

    The tricky bit, however, was that only (I believe) 4 out of all the Performance dogs got the gamble itself; none of the 16" dogs got it; only 2 of the 12" dogs got it. We were the 8th 26" dog up and the first ones to get the gamble in our height class, so I was pretty excited. But, dang, then a total of 9 of the 34 dogs in our height class ended up getting the gamble, so we ended up in 7th place because of our low opening points. Once again, no placement ribbon. But that finishes our Gambler Master title and I'm very pleased about that and about the difficulty of the gamble.

  • Our Standard run was a mess. It was a very hard standard course; I don't think that 25% of the dogs Qed. But once again she didnt' stick her Aframe; didn't stick the teeter when I crossed in front; knocked 2 bars (although one was on a rough sequence that I think I didn't handle well).

  • But then in Pairs Relay, Tika and her partner both ran clean, so we Qed, earning our Relay Champion title. We weren't collectively fast enough to place, but we were in fact 10 seconds under course time, so I'm not dissatisfied with the results.

  • Two of Boost's siblings competed in USDAA for the first time this weekend, Derby and Gina (from L.A.). Both are reportedly doing very well. They both also apparently are doing full-height Aframes, which Boost still isn't.

  • I came home this evening, set my Aframe to at least 6'4", and had Tika do several Aframes with correct contacts, some backchaining from partway up and several all the way across. We'll see whether that fixes anything tomorrow.

  • So, tomorrow, it's Jumpers, Standard, Snooker (hoping for that Super-Q), Grand Prix, and Round 2 of Steeplechase. I'm tired already, and all I did most of the day was work the score table!
  • Friday, August 25, 2006

    USDAA This Weekend and Tika's Title Chase

    SUMMARY: Tika needs assorted legs for assorted titles.

    Backfill: Saturday, Aug 26 (blogger was having trouble the other day when I tried to post).
    It's off to Prunedale this weekend for USDAA.

    Upcoming titles on Tika's list:
    * Gambler Master: Needs 1 gamble; this completes the gambler requirements for her ADCH, which I'd really like to finish off.
    * Snooker Master: Needs 1 Super-Q; this completes the snooker requirements for her ADCH, ditto.
    *Jumper Master: Needs 2 Jumpers.
    *ADCH: Needs the GM, SM, and JM.
    * Snooker Champion: That same 1 Super-Q would also complete this title.
    * Relay Champion: 1 Pairs Relay leg. (Have already completed ADCH requirements.)
    * Tournament Bronze: 1 Team leg.

    This weekend they're offering:
    *2 standard
    *pairs relay
    *grand prix

    I don't know exactly why I keep entering grand prix and steeplechase. They're expensive and we've already qualified for this year's nationals in both. BUT of course the steeplechase offers the chance of making it to the 2nd round on Sunday and then MAYBE placing high enough to win a few dollars. And I just WANT to finally ever get another GP placement ribbon!

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Dogs dogs dogs, what can ya do?

    SUMMARY: summarytext

    Jake is so weird about playing. He's put on a couple of pounds in the last couple of months, so I really need to get him moving. He's usually (but not always) eager to chase a squeaky in the living room, but it's dangerous in particular for my assorted breakables if the toy gives a bad bounce, so I'd rather have him out in the yard. Besides, he gets good full runs better in the yard, where in the living room they're more like a couple of leaps and a pounce.

    This afternoon I leashed the other 2 dogs and tried to get Jake to chase his toy. He was having none of it. I called him back repeatedly as he kept trying to escape into the house (at a full run, mind you, so it's not like he wasn't comfortable running). Wouldn't chase it. Wouldn't get it. I pulled his tail, pulled back on his collar, spun him around, blew in his ear and face--which usualy gets an excited chirp out of him, but he just folded his already-back ears even further back and ignored me. I tried putting him through a tunnel to make it look like a job, and he just stopped halfway into the tunnel to look out at me. I took him out to the side yard where sometimes he'll play, but he'd have none of that, either. I kicked the toy around, held him back, threw it in the air, bounced it off his feet, anything I could think of. Finally made him lie down in the side yard and walked away. When he came trotting aroudn the side of the house, I said "ah-ah!" and took him back and made him lie down and walked away for another minute. When I finally came back & released him, it took him only about 30 seconds more of exhortations to decide to play.

    And then--it wasn't reluctantly--all of a sudden his tail went up and started wagging, ears went up, he pounced on the toy and brought it back. So I threw it for him maybe 20 times, if that (a very light play session historically) and most of those throws only 20-30 feet across the lawn. And then he didn't want to stop.

    When he starts running and panting now, he makes these somewhat bothersome horking noises in his throat, as if he's exhaling around a flap of skin or something (maybe related to his increased likelihood of snoring, and louder). I don't want to push him into exercising if it's going to give him a heart attack, but he has no problem running across the yard to check out a squirrel (admittedly, not repeatedly) or, as I said, play indefinitely in the living room.

    What a dork.

    Boost did great in class today. Did very nice pretty darned fast full-Performance-height aframes over and over. Did full-height teeters pretty fast, still faster than Tika most of the time, I think, but definitely slowed if I was behind her. So I have to work more at getting her to drive to the end on her own. Did several sets of weave poles perfectly (which we've been having a lot of trouble with for several weeks)--but then I discovered that they are new 24-inch-gap poles, and mine are I think 20", which is in the USDAA range, but apparently AKC is allowing the full 24". This makes a big difference. So I put her through a few sets of the regular 21"ers up there at the end, and she skipped poles the first couple of times but then did good.

    Tika -- well, got her to focus on me and play with me in the yard today rather than constantly looking for squirrels. I think it has to do with me mostly ignoring her yesterday and today while trying to get some work done. I'm trying to work on her "out" with intervening obstacles, and we're having trouble. I aim her in a sit-stay at the far side of a U-shaped tunnel, then I run at the near end and tell her "out" and she's fine. But if I put a jump between her path and me, she always comes in to it, even if I try to gradually sneak her sit-stay just past the jump so she continues to take the same line to the tunnel... but she doesn't. Argh.

    Only 4 legs for her ADCH: 2 jumpers, a gamble, and a snooker super-Q. We could conceivably earn three of them this weekend (2 standard, one gamble, one jumpers offered). Then Bay Team Regional Championships next weekend has 2 jumpers and another gamble--they're doing 3 standards but I entered only one because she's also in Team and Steeplechase and Grand Prix and I'm also entering Boost in 4 classes. So that's plenty for me for the weekend.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Just Busy, Nothing Exciting

    Enjoying my weekend off from dog agility, which is cool, because with dog agility usually I have to haul several cartloads of gear from my car alllll the way around to my set-up location, whereas when I'm on vacation... heyyyyyyy, waiiiiiiit a minute....

    SUMMARY: Just busy, nothing exciting

    I've just been trying to keep up with Work work. Went out of town for 3 days without the dogs, too. No training classes last week because Power Paws was hosting seminars.

    Boost's 5-foot Aframe is getting danged fast. Have a week and a half to get it up to Performance height, which I think is 5'6", if I want to try some in competition. Her nearly-full-height teeter is pretty fast but I'm not sure I like how she's doing it--instead of propelling straight down the middle of the ramp, her front feet go off to the edges almost as if she's climbing the second half of the ramp as it starts to descend. I'll have to watch some of the really fast dogs doing teeters this weekend at the SMART USDAA trial to see whether any of them have adopted this interesting technique. I might want to back off on this height, too, to get her back to running straight through on the TOP of the plank.

    Haven't been doing tons with Tika. It's amazing how competent she seems in comparison to Boost. All of a sudden the small things that make Tika and me mess up seem *really* small versus working on getting Boost to full height contacts or to do 12 weave poles in a row.

    Jake is such a challenge to get to run and play that often I just don't make the effort. It's enough effort getting Tika to concentrate on me. Is it my imagination, or is she getting worse about dashing off after almost every move in the back yard to just CHECK to see whether there are squirrels? I've never let her get away with this that I know of. Why does it keep happening? Consequences aren't severe enough, I guess. I tried just chasing her down and tying her up for a while and playing with Boost every time she did it, but after a few days of doing only that and getting only one sequence in at a time with her, it was frustrating me more than it was curing her.

    My ankle isn't much better. It's about the same. Stays the same. Jerked it badly again this weekend, once again walking across a lawn, but this time there was a major pothole hidden in the grass that other people also had trouble with. Hurts like heck for several minutes, subsides rapidly over the next 15 or 20 and then it's just back to its usual (lately) slightly puffy, sore only in certain situations, self. I've finally made an appointment with the doctor for tomorrow.

    Also taking Jake to see his doctor tomorrow, again about the eyes. That foggy layer is spreading and I should've taken him back after 3 weeks when it was clear (foggy?) that it wasn't going away. I'm not only bad about me, but bad about my dogs unless it's obviously dire.

    And now, back to work.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Couldn't Leave It Alone

    SUMMARY: Weaves and Aframe at Home

    When I came home, my thought was to leave the Aframe and weaves alone for a couple of days to let any residual trauma subside.

    But then, after a nap and some work at the computer, I just went out into the yard and thought, huh, let's see; after all, we've been doing fine in the yard. But I should be cautious. So I pulled the 12 weave poles together (we've been doing sets of 6 and occasionally 2 sets of 6 just dang beautifully for weeks) and sure enough she started skipping. So I took it down to 8 and got a couple of skips; put up a barricade where she skipped, she slowed down a bunch but got it and we celebrated like maniacs, then the next time she did all 8 much faster and we celebrated again and called it a day on the weaves. So apparently one really fast set of 6, or 2 sets of 6 close to each other, is NOT the same as the first 6 poles in one set of 12. (But in class it was always the 2nd or 3rd pole; here it was 6 or 7 or 8, which is less surprising from having divided poles. I dunno. But we'll build back up to 12 as we did when she first started doing independent weaves.)

    I also gave in to temptation, put the Aframe back down as low as it'll go (about 5 feet) and did a wee tiny bit of backchaining starting a foot above the bottom and working about halfway up and she was fine. Quit that for today, too.

    So much to do.

    Omigod Have I Broken My Babydog?

    SUMMARY: A challenging class session.

    Today in class:
    * Boost couldn't do a single set of weave poles correctly. Always skipped the second pole and, if I blocked that, skipped the 3rd. Plus skipped others also. She's doing great at home! Not one dang correct set of poles! I kept trying, slowing her down, straight on approach, start with hand in collar--skip skip skip. I just wanted her to succeed so I could reward her but it wasn't happening! She wasn't happy.

    * I thought the Aframe was about the same height as we've been working in the yard, but it's apparently enough higher (or different) that she's freaked out by it. Stopping at the top and then kind of working her way down. Or just running past it entirely and not going up. Not a happy girl there, either.

    * Teeter--it's lower than we've been working, and she ran and slammed the end and kept going but then stopped and looked confused. Took several tries to get her to stop on the end. What's with that? I rewarded and played like crazy.

    Ack ack ack! I thought we were doing so welllllllllllll. But what was bad was that she started to shut down and wouldn't even play with her toy. She never shuts down! She always plays with me! So obviously I was creating way too much stress and failing far too often. I was trying to do things inbetween to go fast and play and reward, but it seemed like everything we tried we mucked up. Poor baby girlie! I have some serious relationship and agility fun mending to do here.

    Some Courses From Last Weekend

    SUMMARY: Jackpot (Gamblers) that got adjusted and interesting Standard maneuver.

    The Standard course on Sunday had a maneuver in it that I had never seen before and it was a tough one to decide how to handle. The dog comes out of a tunnel under the dogwalk near you, then you have to push them beyond the end of the dogwalk and turn them somehow away from you to get up the dogwalk. We see the opposite tunnel approach to the dogwalk commonly, but I've never seen this, I don't think. See the 11-12 sequence:

    Lots of people took the dog straight out, turned the dog towards them (so the dog makes a right turn instead of a left turn) and then pushed them up the dogwalk. I was the only one that I'm aware of who decided to handle it from the opposite side so that we could do the maneuver we've practiced many dozens of times, and then I just ran along the right side of the dogwalk and crossed in front at the far end. I haven't asked others whether they've ever seen this, and I thought it was particularly nasty because the 11 tunnel didn't stick out to or beyond the plane of the dogwalk, so you couldn't just flip them coming out, you had to actually halt their forward running and turn them in midpath.

    The Jackpot is the one where the judge stopped after a dozen dogs and realigned the #1 jump and the #2 weaves. I'm not exactly certain how she tweaked them. I'll have to find someone who was there and can tell me. I'm also not sure whether more dogs got it after she tweaked it, and whether that was because it was tweaked or because they got to run it a second time and not make whatever mistakes they made the first time.

    Tika and I approached from the weave poles because there was something about the flow of the jumps on the course that made any approach via jumps likely to pull the dog off towards you after the #1 jump; it's not so obvious on the map as I redrew it here (copying the official course map), but in real life that's what I saw. And most people were taking jumps to lead into the #2 weaves and I think they were all pulling in to the right. So there.

    We ran it tall to small (Tika was first) and I see that, of the 26 level 4 & 5 dogs who ran it, only Brandy (16") Qed. Of the 17 Level C dogs who ran it, 7 got it--one 24" (Tika), three 20" (Justine's Jag and Rusty, Susan's Fritz), one 16" (Lynne's Cory who was whupping everyone's butts all weekend), and two 12" (Susan's Nitro and Donna's Chance). These are all experienced handlers with experienced dogs who also do well in USDAA, so I have a feeling that the realignment made no difference.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Correction to June 2 Post About CPE Nationals Q Ribbons

    SUMMARY: Some's reading this stuff? And finding errors?

    My post for Friday, June 2, said about the CPE Nationals:
    You can pick up your Q ribbon immediately--an innovation this year that apparently Haute Dawgs had to convince Linda Eickholdt was a good idea. In years past, you had to wait until the end of the day, and then they'd find you on a list and check you off, so with a Q rate of (usally at CPE trials) better than 50%, there'd have been over 500 ribbons to hand out at the end of the day.

    Linda sent me email saying that this was incorrect; that CPE just gives the clubs an idea of how it's been done in the past and it's up to the club to decide how to do it. Since that was not what I heard, I spoke to the appropriate people this last weekend, and sure enough, something got lost in the rumor mill somewhere and I've been told that there was never a problem from CPE about how to do the Q ribbons. So I've corrected that post and am noting it here, too.

    Considering that I only ever started this thing as my own personal diary of Life With Agility Dogs, since all my previous attempts failed for one reason or another, it always surprises me to find out what a range of people come across this from time to time. So--all of you, whoever you are, I hope you're enjoying yourselves!

    Boost's Contacts

    SUMMARY: This gal is going to be good!

    Ooooh, the Booster is getting so good on contacts! Ever since a couple of weeks ago, when everything seemed to click for her, she's been getting faster and faster. She seems to be very reliably hurrying to the end of all three contacts and waiting with two-on, two-off. She's doing a little bit of a nose dip, but I'm not enforcing a full nose touch to a target. It feels as if it's not needed, she's so thorough at it at the moment, so I hope I'm not making an incorrect assumption that many better handlers & trainers than I am have already thought through.

    Last week I raised my adjustable-height teeter up to 4 notches (so the upper end is about two feet above the ground) from only 2 notches, and it slowed her down but speed gradually picked up and then she was doing her teeters faster than I can get Tika to do them most of the time, even revved up and on the lowered teeter. Yesterday I bumped it up to 5 notches, so the top end is over waist high. Put her over it carefully a couple of times and you could see that she realized her timing was off, and then BOOM! just like that she was running to the end and slamming it just like before. I'll leave it at that height for a couple of days for her to feel comfortable there, then bump it again. I'm actually not sure how many notches there are (they're hidden when the teeter is at lower heights), but the top end will end up about midsternum height (says the woman who ran into one once so she knows), so we must be getting close.

    On the A-frame, she's still not blasting to the bottom, but she's more and more confident going over it, and I think I've got it at about 5'6". Just another 8 inches to go to full USDAA height (which is really high, really).

    Her dogwalk just gets faster and faster and I've been trying to send her over it as well as running with her or running past her, and it looks so good!

    I'm hoping this isn't the calm before the storm when all heck breaks loose.

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Nice Weekend, Decent Results

    SUMMARY: Weather: 2 for 2, Tika 7 for 9, Jake 1 for 2, Ankle--well--

    Couldn't have asked for better weather in the Central Valley in August! Temperatures were moderate almost all day and night. Needed a light fleece at 6 in the morning, and could've switched to shorts in the early afternoon but didn't feel that it was necessary. Completely unexpected, but it was below average for the time of year.


    Jake was in the mood for running, which surprised and delighted me, and did OK in Full House although we wasted a lot of space & time & effort when he went off in random directions, but he was fairly fast and happy. We completely screwed up our snooker Sunday when I did a front cross and he blind-crossed behind me, so I lost track of him for a moment, so he took a wrong obstacle and we were whistled off-- which is how we've blown our last 2 or 3 snookers in a row. I don't know where he gets that from. And it was too bad because he was really moving again and eager to run and that was on only the 2nd obstacle! Argh.

    But of course this means it CAN'T be his last trial--I don' want that to be his last run in competition ever! Especially since he still seemed so happy about being there. I even got him to play some running fetch and tug-of-war with his tug-n-treat after the run, which felt like a major success after his growing reluctance lately. He pooped out pretty quickly compared to his usual Energizer Rabbit endurance, but that's not surprising since he doesn't do it much. I just have to be more persistent in getting him going, I guess.


    Tika Qed 7 of 9--slightly above average for us at CPE trials--but most were not among our best runs. Missed the first Standard of the weekend on a challenging turn that she took but then backjumped. Missed Wildcard when she knocked a bar. Some of the Qs definitely would not have been Qs if they'd been USDAA events. Managed only one run where Tika was the #1 among 4/5/C (roughy 50-60 dogs)--I usually hope for more than that at a CPE trial [she says greedily]. She wasn't sticking her contacts, so I spent a lot of time standing still waiting for her to come back and settle. Had a few bobbles here and there that would've been refusals elsewhere but aren't in CPE. Had a totally messy Jackpot opening but got a gamble that so few other people were getting that the judge rearranged the gamble and let all the dogs so far rerun it. Still, it was either a 25-point gamble or 20-pt gamble and I proved once again that I don't know how to get Tika to go OUT even when it's a straight line from where she is and I'm moving in that direction, because she came in to me for only the 20 pts.


    That was the last run of the weekend. I'd have loved to rerun it anyway when the judge reran people, to try to get some of the 13 to 16 points that we hosed (yikes! that many!--came on the side of the teeter, my fault, for 0 instead of 5; muffed a weave entry, undoubtedly also my fault, so missed 3 pts; those 5 extra pts in the gamble; and a 3-point tunnel I didn't take because we spent time fumblefingering the weaves) but walking back to my canopy after the run, I hit some spot on the ground wrong and really really retorqued my ankle. So I watched other people rerun while I elevated my iced ankle.

    I might just go in to see the doc this week and have an *official* "rest it for 3 weeks" kind of lecture, but at least get over the worry that maybe I've cracked something. I still don't think so, but it was still painful Sunday evening. Sigh.

    Weekend Take-home

    Didn't win anything in the worker raffle; oh, well. The truth is I'm antsy if I'm not doing something during the day, and it was essentially a one-ring trial so I had plenty of available time. But, since agility is not a paying sport, it's a pay-to sport, it's nice to get some of it back on occasion.

    None of our usual more familiar friends were there this weekend, including all of the C-level 24" dogs against whom Tika competes (Annie Alles, Cody Hasey, Cate-E and Ana Bickel, Spike Tatsuno), so we were the only 24" level-C competitor, so we took 1sts no matter what we did! I took the ribbons only for our Qualifying firsts, though. Jake took 3rd in Full House among I think 6 dogs, so he can still do it at the ripe old age of 14 3/4.

    But I did get to take home a nice oil painting (read about it).

    On the Road

    Slept in the back of my van again. With the doors and windows partly opened. Reasonably comfortable, even if it does take almost half an hour to get it ready for sleeping and about as much to put it back again afterwards. Woke mainly after getting bitten by a mosquito on one hand and the whole thing itched like crazy for a while before it finally subsided enough for sleeping.

    Saturday finished reasonably early, I think around 4:00. Sunday was even earlier. Our last run was about 1:30, but what with the usual Everything plus time out for dealing with my ankle, didn't get onthe road until 3:30. By the time I was driving through Tracy, I was yawning like the Grand Canyon and kept it up across the Altimont Pass. Decided that I should pull over for a nap despite it being the middle of the afternoon. Of course once I started thinking about it, I perked up and stopped yawning, and by the time I exited at my usual favorite Livermore Ave. exit, I was wide awake. Found shade to park in, and the weather was good enough that we wouldn't all die of the heat. After 5 minutes I decided I was completely wide awake and would never fall asleep, but decided to force myself to just rest with my eyes closed for another 10 minutes before heading home. 45 minutes later, I woke up. So I guess it's good that I stopped.

    Even so, very tired, went to bed pretty early.

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    CPE Agility This Weekend and Musings About My Dogs

    SUMMARY: Just Accruing Legs for Tika; maybe Jake's last trial

    We'll be off to Elk Grove again this weekend for a CPE trial. An opportunity for Tika to earn as many as 9 of the 169 or so legs (Qs) she still needs for her C-ATE (review current count). [breaks into song]It's a long way to earn that CATEie, it's a long way to go...[clears throat]

    This might be Jake's last trial ever. Really this time. We won't be doing CPE again until Thanksgiving--unless I decide to squeeze in one day for practice with the Booster dog--and I just can't keep him moving and exercising in the yard. Getting him to play is exhausting. I blame it on the other dogs. And after his painful failure to do a low Aframe last week, I just wonder...

    And the playing thing is challenging. He used to go almost forever. As recently as a couple of months ago, even. But now, I can get him to run so seldom that he can't keep it up for very long. As always, I'm second-guessing whether he can't keep it up because he won't play much, or he won't play much because he can't keep it up. Once I get him going, he's happy to play for a while, but he just won't start. It's both frustrating and heartbreaking, because I just for the life of me can't figure out how much is physical and how much is mental.

    Boost is doing better all the time at jumpers-style courses (jumps and tunnels), but we definitely have a communication issue still on wide-open courses, AND she tends to knock bars when we really get moving. NOOOOOOOO not another dog who knocks barrrrrs!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I could probably have entered her for this weekend in Jumpers, had I known 3 weeks ago that I thought she might be ready for it, but now it's too late. Oh, well. I'll just be patient and wait for the Bay Team Labor Day Trial.

    In puppy class this week, our instructor suggested that all of us are now definitely ready to handle novice Jumpers classes and could certainly enter Gamblers and Snooker and choose our courses--and that's exactly what I did with Boost's entry. Plus Steeplechase. Except that I gave in to wiser thoughts and moved her to "Leap-N-Chase", which is the Performance version of Steeplechase. It's NOT qualifying for the nationals, I can still jump her at her 22", and the Aframe is not full height, and since we're nowhere near ready to do a full-height Aframe yet, this is probably a good thing.

    Plus she starts skipping weave poles as she gets tired. She's still danged fast, she just doesn't make the extra effort to get all the poles. So it's time to set up a jet-propelled weaving chute in my yard: Two curved tunnels with a set of 6 poles in between, and just blast her back and forth repeatedly with the poles at different angles and click and reward more and more randomly as she makes the turn to the third pole correctly. Sooooo much to do. So little time.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    ankle, alternate handler, boost contacts, first trial, last trial

    SUMMARY: Lots to catch up on

    might have a photo here later

    No dogs

    Had a good time this last weekend without the dogs. Hiked Saturday morning with a friend at the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve and Saturday evening made the very long drive with friends up to Mt. Hamilton for Lick Observatory's summer program. Went out for a nice breakfast Sunday morning with another friend. I love my dogs, but it's nice sometimes to pretend to be a normal human.


    I wrapped my ankle firmly on Saturday for the hike. There was one steep upward grade and I felt it a bit in my ankle so thought I wouldn't be able to manage the hike, but most of it was level or a gentle grade and I was very comfortable. I had said "let's just do a mile or so," but it ended up being 5 miles according to my pedometer after I kept saying "let's do a little more." On one straight, level area, I stepped on something badly and torqued the ankle again, but it was OK to walk on within seconds and any lingering pain had vanished within minutes. Looked good when I got home, too, although I did ice it and elevate it a bunch more that afternoon.

    Feeling confident Sunday, I did some agility practice with the dogs in the yard that involved me moving, and I felt fine. So I did more yesterday and even more today. Looking good. That little puffiness is still there, but not so much, and I am keeping it wrapped most of the time, so I'm also doing exercises when it's unwrapped to be sure I'm not losing flexibility or strength.

    SOOOOO I assume I'll do full class this week with both tika and Boost and will compete in the CPE trial this weekend in Elk Grove.

    Alternative Handler for Tika

    Last week in class, because I didn't want to run and put stress on my ankle, and because I think it would be good for Tika to know how to run with other people in case the need arises (like--a twisted ankle--), I solicited volunteers and got an eager offer from Jennifer, who runs Kye, who's an Aussie much like Tika in conformation and handling. She's not super experienced, but she has great body language; I wish I were as smooth and clear with my movements as she is. I hope she didn't regret the offer; she ran Tika most of the evening except for a few sections of courses that I could manage because they were loopy and also involved contacts, meaning that I could run them somewhat like gambles at a distance and catch up on the contacts.

    Tika was very slow to begin with, probably a bit stressed and confused, but was very interested in Jenn's food. Tried to get Tika to play with Jenn, but she was iffy on that--no surprise, as it's taken a lot of work to get her to do it with me in agility situations. But Tika got more confident and faster as the evening wore on, so there's hope.

    In Boost's class, I was going to ask Mary (who has Boost's sister, Bette) to run Boost once or twice, but instead I broke the courses down into really small pieces that I could handle without running and did those, and they were still pretty challenging pieces! But Boost looked great!

    Boost Contacts

    We didn't do contacts in class, but about a week and a half ago, Boost suddenly seemed to grasp the concept of running to the bottom of the contact, 2-on, 2-off, and at least dipping her head. Wahoo! Today, the A-frame is at about 5 feet, 8 inches; the teeter is about 2/3 height, and she's doing fast teeters, fast dogwalks (note I didn't say VERY fast on either), and somewhat cautious A-frames. It's looking nice! I'll probably take grief for not enforcing really excellent nose touches--I do take the targets out with me and make her do them some, but it's hard work, and the contacts are looking so nice otherwise.

    She's not quite grasped the "climb" command yet--if moving fast and not in a straight line, she's bound to come in past it or shoot out beyond it to another obstacle, but we're getting there, a few more successes each day.

    Boost's First Trial

    OK, gang, it looks good for Boost to be in the Bay Team's Labor Day trial! I'm feelin' good! I've got four and a half weeks to go, and we've made so much progress recently that I think we can make a go of it. I filled out her entry form today. Just one class per day was all I intended: Jumpers, Snooker, Gamblers, where I can pick and choose what to do and keep it simple. But then--argh--I just want to TRY the Steeplechase! Her weaves are looking really nice, and if we can do Jumpers and an A-frame, we can certainly give the Steeplechase a go! What the heck--it's only entry fees. At least, I hope that's all it is. I shouldn't do it because I'm already thinking "hey, maybe she *could* qualify for the Nationals this year!" but that's bad, she's too green, even if we somehow lucked out (seems VERY unlikely in the Regional crowd that'll be competing)... Oh, I dunno, what WOULD be the down side? Stressing her out by working too hard at it myself, I guess.

    Jake's last trial

    Well, this weekend could be it for Jake. I have to work harder and harder to get him to play with me. I still think that a lot of it is that he doesn't want the other dogs around, and if I work at getting them out of the way and then work at insisting on him playing, then eventually he perks up and starts playing, tail wagging, but his stamina is getting really low, I'm thinking mostly because I'm successful only once or twice a week, and then only briefly. Which comes first--doesnt' play because no stamina, or no stamina because doesn't play? Yesterday I put him over a low (5-foot) A-frame for the first time in a while, and he wasn't going very fast, and his hind legs got away from him and he slipped sideways over the edge and that had to have hurt. He wouldn't try it again.

    I'm not planning on any more CPE this year until maybe Thanksgiving, so it's possible that this weekend really could be his last trial ever. I'll have to see how he reacts to having a chance to run this weekend.