a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Tika's Weekend

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tika's Weekend

SUMMARY: No championship. Knocking bars. Mom's brain AND nose messed up.

photos coming soon I hope

It wasn't a glorious weekend for Ellen or Tika. On Saturday, Tika knocked TWO bars in each of her Jumpers, Standard, and Steeplechase courses; knocked 1 bar in Pairs Relay which fortunately didn't prevent us from Qing (our only one for the day), 1 bar in the Gamblers opening (which merely cost us a point), and the first bar in Snooker, so within 1 second of starting that put to rest any thought of that being our Super-Q for our Championship.

Tika was getting paws in the yellow zones on contacts but not stopping, so we were spending a lot of time with her in a Down after the contacts trying to get her to think about it.

Meanwhile, I got Tika started perfectly in the gamble and then my brain froze and for some reason I couldn't get any words or gestures out, and Tika drifted slowly to a stop and came back to see what I was up to. I was flummoxed. I've gotten by on 4 hours of sleep before--who knows. And then in Jumpers we somehow managed an offcourse through some idiotic move on my part.

I thought I was well-rested for Sunday, sleeping in my van onsite again, but it was another odd day for us. Tika knocked the first bar in Standard and missed the up on the dogwalk, and then near the end I yelled "left" when I meant "hup! left" and she obligingly turned left right past the jump she should have taken and we just went ahead and took the off course to finish on a blast, since she was perfect on that command.

Then, after we'd been waiting to go into the ring for Gamblers, through a series of life experiences that culminated in this one moment, Tika smacked my nose with the top of her skull, which hurt tremendously, caused a nose bleed, and despite me sitting there vowing that I was going to run NOW so that I didn't have to then put Tika away again and wait for 50 22" dogs to run before our next chance, GO AHEAD and strap the icebag to my nose and I'll run like that!--somehow I never managed to actually stand up in time, and with the eyes tearing up from the pain, I'm sure it would've been hard to see anyway.

When we were finally up, once again she knocked the first bar, again merely costing us a point, and the rest of our opening was spot on for a change, and we veered around and picked up the gamble ALMOST flawlessly--she almost went TOO far out towards an offcourse, but I got her back and she was lovely. So our 2nd Q of the weekend.

Once again I had entered the Grand Prix in the hopes of maybe getting our (now) 3rd completely clean Q instead of those 13 other 5-fault Qs AND earning the elusive placement ribbon. Tika again was on and happy, and for a change in the GP she neither knocked bars NOR missed the up on the dogwalk--and then, just before the end, I forgot where I wanted to be, hesitated, saw Tika coming towards me, and dashed to the wrong place, pulling her past a jump for a 5-point runoutfault, crap crap crap another 5-point Q and no placement! What a dingbat. Can't blame it on the nose, cuz we ran the Gamble fine.

Then came our second chance for the Snooker Super-Q, and this time we were up as the VERY first 26" dog, and the 22" were after us, so I had no opportunity to see ANY of the regular large dogs do it. I had walked the opening with three 7s and didn't like any of the paths through the obstacles, so had picked a 6-7-7 that I liked much better. BUT the performance (mostly older) dogs and small dogs who ran before us among them managed to get several 7-7-7 openings, so I knew there was no excuse for us not to try it.

Tika ticked the first red bar but it stayed up, and we were off and running--although blasting out of a tunnel, I didn't want to call her too hard and risk pulling her off the next weave poles, so I didn't call her, and she blasted off to the left, wasting half a second to a second at least to get her back. She ticked the 2nd red bar but it stayed up, and we did our second 7-point combo. Then, to do the 3rd set, we had to go between a tunnel and weaves, shoot out over a red jump, then thread back through a VERY narrow space between the Aframe and the tunnel, and she tried for the Aframe and I called her in and she tried for the tunnel and I called her in and WHEW we were through and man, she blasted through the closing 7-2-3-4-5-6-7 with no flaws at all. We blasted past the finish line at 50.51 seconds, which means we just barely finished our #7 within the 49 seconds allowed. Not real promising, even though we earned the maximum 51 points.

Then we sat back and watched to see whether 4 of the 24 other dogs would beat us, and I was pretty sure they would, because of our two time-wasting bobbles and anyway in a flat-out race through a course, some of those dogs are guaranteed to beat Tika most of the time. The other problem is that, when you're the first dog and you set the pace, everyone else is naturally going to follow your lead if they think they have the slightest chance, rather than doing their optional 5-7-7 or 6-7-7 or whatever, so we just about guaranteed that we were forcing people to compete with us.

Sure enough, only a couple of dogs after us, Rachel and her younger dog Fable ran a simply stunning flawless course (basically same as ours--almost all the 7-7-7s were--) with no detectable bobbles anywhere--and beat us by 8 (!) seconds. So then I knew there was plenty of room in which the other dogs could beat us, and that we were doomed.

Interestingly, someone I don't know stopped me just before that to confirm that I had done three 7s, and said, "So it *is* possible!" Well, yes--I knew it was possible, just difficult.

It turns out that 6 dogs managed the 51-point run. Only four Super-Qs (15% of those entered). And we were 6th--missing 4th place by 1.12 seconds, easily accounted for with both of our bobbles--maybe even with just one of them. So I can't say we did our absolute best and it's hopeless for us to ever get there. It's just frustrating to be so close AGAIN... Out of the other 9 times we've Qed without Super-Qing:
*Once I had a super-Q wrapped up if we just ran the course I planned. Then for some stupid reason I threw in a change oncourse that took more time, and we missed finishing by the hair of a whistle (on the teeter up as the whistle blew). Just stupid and I didn't know why I did it even then, except from stress.
*Missed by 2 places 2 other times
*Missed by 1 place once
*Missed by 3 places twice
So I know that it'll happen EVENTUALLY; I just want it to be NOW.

And it's the championship leg, now, and this happened to me before and it's happened to lots of people. Like our Nationals Teammate, Charlene and Brenn, need one more Jumpers leg. OK, that means they've already earned 4 successfully. But they've been trying for months and can't finish that 5th leg. And I'm sure a lot of it is just the heightened stress of that last leg.

Then, at the end of the day, my knee is killing me and very stiff and I'm trying to pack and don't even want to walk around doing that, we still had Jumpers. It was a twisty turny course that lots of people were knocking bars and messing up on. But Tika and I seem to do well on that kind of course. I almost scratched her. I almost asked someone else to run her. But experience tells me that the adrenaline will kick in and I won't even feel the knee. Sure enough, I was fine as we started the course, and she was fast, and making tight neat little turns, very efficient, and she kept ALL of her bars up and -- duh-- just before the end, I forgot what the next obstacle was and told her to "left" one turn too soon and she made a gorgeous turn away from me at full speed, and too late I saw the cone saying "5", not "13", and it was tooo toooo late to avoid an offcourse. Crap crap crap. Right at that moment, my knee started hurting again, and I hobble-ran the last loop to the finish.

I was glad to be home. Next day, doctor looked at my nose and said yeah it's probably cracked but if it's not affecting your breathing and isn't out of alignment, it probably needs no attention (and not much to do anyway). So I'm waiting a few days to see what's up--something's definitely loose in there and it feels weird for it to be moving, but I'm guessing it's merely partially disconnected cartilage.

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