a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Saturday at the Nationals

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday at the Nationals

SUMMARY: Tika shines in Gamblers; our team does better than expected.

It's 2:00 and we've had the most amazing day. Tika ran very early in the Team Gamblers individual event, the last of the 4 individual events for Team. She was spot on, and I made no bad moves for a change. I released her early on the teeter twice--she wasn't driving to the end, and her feet were solidly in the yellow, and I wanted to go for a top score (my only chance to shine here would be the individual team events, now that we're out of the Steeplechase and Grand Prix, and we've known from the beginning that our humble team is here simply to have fun because the 3 of us are not top-10% type teams. Those teams are ones that have dogs like Tala and Spy and Panic and Luka and Kidd and Bump and...well, you know... THOSE dogs.

So, when I then did two Aframes with her, she released herself early halfway down the yellow, which was good for our time but bad for doing contacts, but I figured it didn't matter, since the odds of us making it to the final 20 for the final round was about 0%. Even though we held 24th place at the end of the evening Friday, today's Gamblers is a place for fast dogs to shine, because they can simply rack up the points by flying across contacts and that's not something that any of our dogs do.

Tika is at her best when it's a handling challenge, so her tight turns outweigh the speed but wide turns of so many fast Border Collies, and this was a handling challenge. Plus the gamble was a time gamble with challenging weave entries, and she is so good at weave entries and I felt that I had a good grasp on how long it would take us to do maximum points in the gamble. The trick was that, if you were over time on the gamble, you lost all your gamble points.

We had 25 seconds in the opening and 13 seconds in the gamble, and I was right on the edge of where I wanted to be when the gamble whistle blew, so I knew that we couldn't make the tiniest bobble in that gamble or I'd never get 5 obstacles in. As I said, Tika was spot on, very tight turns, got her weaves and all 5 obstacles--it turns out, in 37.8-something seconds, so we barely made it, but we DID make it, and she went up on the leader board at 9:30 in the morning (runs starting at 9, I believe) at 3rd place with 39 points, and the highest scores at that point for 36-inch dogs at only 44. I knew it wouldn't last, probably not even remain in the top 8 to finally get a placement ribbon at USDAA Nationals, but it was so much fun to see us there! When they eventually replaced the leader board with the overall team leader scores, we were still hanging in there at 5th with more than half the dogs to run, so I'm sure we're bumped out by now. Won't know til the end of the day.

Brenn, one of our partners, had a safe run of 29 points, probably higher than average, and Skeeter and Mary were so excited about their run that they missed a teeter (for 3 points) in the opening, but she recovered very quickly and went on to earn 23 points, which is good enough, and so consistently timed and executed! Talk about a handler who knows what her dog needs and gets her around the course flawlessley almost every time. She's the cornerstone of our team, with the other two of us less reliable in our performance.

And then--Three's a Charm came up 9th on the leader board! Holy cow. Never in my wildest dreams would I even have expected us to be there, even for a moment. In some ways, this is absolutely thrilling and I'm pleased to be there even for a little while, but in some ways it's so much worse, because that means we'll probably be in the 20th-30th range at the end, JUST missing out on being in the finals, and I hate JUST missing much more than I hate just completely blowing it. That's when you really start thinking "If I hadn't knocked one--JUST ONE--of those 3 bars that she's knocked, we'd be in the finals!" Argh.

As of 2:00, with 2/3 of the dogs run, we were in 12th place. By statistics, that means that we should make it in, but it's my experience that people watch and learn as an event goes on, so I think that more and more dogs will do better and better as they evaluate what works and what doesn't work for other people, so I still think we'll drop out to about 23rd place. PLEASE don't let it be 21st! Arrrrrrrrghhhhh!

OK, now I get to go put my dogs on sheep and see what happens! Film at 11.

Evening It's now 11:15 p.m. A very long day. Turns out that 30 teams are in the final relay, of 208 or so, and we ended up at 26th after the 4 rounds of competition, so we're in! I was so sure that we wouldn't make it that I didn't even bother adding the walkthrough time for relay to my daily schedule, so had to look it up this afternoon. Very exciting--who'd have ever thought our little team would be there?

When the relay is done, the top 10 teams (cumulative over all 5 events) get Team polo shirts, but now THAT's somewhere that I know we won't end up.

I still don't know where Tika placed in Gamblers. That'll have to wait til morning. It would be SO nice to finally earn a ribbon here, even if it's 8th place. Still haven't counted how many 26" dogs there are, but I'm pretty sure it's over 150.

Meanwhile, I've lost my watch. I had it on right before Boost's gamble run this afternoon, where I was looking at it to see how much time we had spent waiting for the inopportune discussion among judge & crew & a competitor about whether the timer was working correctly or not, then 4 dogs later I ran Boost and, when I exited the ring, I didn't have my watch. So somewhere right outside the ring or during the run, it came off, but it hasn't shown up yet anywhere I looked. I'll go around again tomorrow, maybe post signs. I really like this watch, and it wasn't inexpensive, and it was a gift from Jim, so I'd really like to have it back.

My knee is a bit stiff and sore; didn't have but one chance to ice it during the day today, but it's still much better than I had dared to hope. I think I'll be fine for Tika's last Power & Speed and Relay runs tomorrow (nothing for Boost).

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