a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Thursday and Friday at the Nationals

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday and Friday at the Nationals

SUMMARY: Some good, some bad, you know, a typical agility event.


Tika Team Snooker: knocked bars that lost us 4 points and 7 points in the opening but made it all the way through to the end, for 43 points, putting us in 43rd place out of maybe 150 (need to check) 26" dogs. Not a lot of dogs were making it all the way through to the end on this course, either getting whistled off early for course mistakes or not being able to do it all within the 43 seconds allowed. If we hadn't knocked the bars (you know how this "if only" game goes), our 54 points would've been good for 3rd place. Of course--I'm sure that all the other low-scoring dogs have their own litanies of "if only I had called harder..." "If only I had planned what to do if they knocked a red bar..." "If only I had pushed instead of pulling..." "If only I hadn't had that fourth beer last night..." "If only my dog was as good as Tika, I'm a much better handler than that Finch woman..." (I'm sure that that last thought was foremost in most handlers' minds.)

Both of our teammates also made it all the way through to the end; Skeeter the superreliable but slowish Cattledog did lower-point obstacles in the opening but didn't knock any bars, so she probably got the most points among us; Brenn also knocked the #4 and the #6 in the opening, so she and Tika had similar scores. That puts us all well into the top half of teams competing. Yay, Three's A Charm! Three more Team events to go, though. "Don't get cocky."

Boost Team Snooker: I pulled her off the 4 point and 7 point in the opening, although I managed to spin her around and get them, but it wasted a lot of time, so we wouldn't have made it all the way through to the end anyway. But she made her weave pole entry and did them all nicely without skipping any(!) (practice DOES pay off!) and we did get through #5 in the closing, blowing it at #6 which was a serpentine, which we still have trouble with, so it didn't surprise me. Lots of dogs didn't do nearly as well. We ended up with 37 points for about 130th place out of nearly 300 (need to check) dogs in her jump height.

Not bad for the babydog's third trial, and at the National championships, too boot, where most of the dogs had to qualify to even get the right to compete! (Although I suspect that there are quite a few nonqualified third dogs on teams; Boost's sibling Gina is also running as the unqualified dog with 2 qualified teammates; they had a little trouble with their Snooker run and got only about 10 points, I believe. Among other siblings, Bette's here but not competing; not sure how Beck and Derby are doing, but I believe they're both competing here this weekend, too. I have no idea what Kayna (Caena?) is up to; maybe they do only AKC.)

One of our qualified teammates (Kathie Leggett and Griffin) knocked the first red bar and couldn't recover, so got 0 points, and the other (Greg Louganis and Gryff) didn't get all the info they needed, which was provided AFTER the walkthroughs so I think a lot of handlers didn't get it, so got whistled off early in the opening. So I'm especially pleased.

Note to handler self: It's interesting that the jumps I pulled Boost off of are exactly the same jumps that Tika knocked when she ran. Tells me that I'm doing some weird handling thing on those wrap jumps. I think I've got them all on video so I can watch carefully and see whether I can figure it out.

Tika Steeplechase. I don't know how many times I said, "Well, if she can keep her bars up, I'll be happy," since she's knocked a bar in both the previous years' semifinals rounds. I hoped secretly that I'd also be fast enough to make the finals, although last year's time was too slow by quite a few dogs, worse than theyear before. BUUUUUUUT... SOOOOO.... be careful what you wish for: She kept all her bars up, but (a)I had a brain hiccup in the middle and for some reason decided that the Aframe we were headed for wasn't the right obstacle, so called her off it and stood there for a full 6 seconds with her bouncing around asking for something to do before I realized I was correct to start with and went on, and then we were offcourse on the next to the last obstacle. Sigh. But she did NOT bite at my feet on course during those 6 seconds of silence, which pleases me greatly. And she ran VERY nicely. Just the dang handler.

The offcourse was a known handler issue, I believe. My instructors have been after me for years to keep my hands from "flicking" to try to get the dog to do an obstacle, and I walked that straight path over and over, concentrating on keeping my hands glued to my sides. She sort of hesitated when we ran, then turned and went over an offcourse jump instead of running straight with me. Video review: There's a little flick where my arm just comes up, I'm trying to send her straight ahead to the tunnel, but she reads it as a get-out, and out she gets. Dang handler!

So, anyway, am I getting better or worse? Bars stayed up but, for the first time, we were off course.

My knee was fine for competing. Wore my new knee brace, and I ran full out in all the classes, not even thinking about taking it easy, and I held up much better than I thought I would. I iced it at every opportunity, probably 5 or 6 times today at least (jeez, I hate spending the time sitting here doing nothing for 20 minutes so many times a day--but I had dreaded being miserable with an agonizing knee, and I'm doing very well, so it's worth the sacrifice and I am in fact delighted about how well it's doing) and rode the bike whenever I didn't have the dogs with me. By the time we went out for pizza in the evening, sitting at the table for an hour really stiffened it up and it was a bit sore, but frankly I think it was more sore this past weekend at home after a week of rest. This bicycle has been a godsend; I'm so glad I was able to borrow it.


Knee feels great first thing in the morning! I can walk comfortably at my normal brisk pace without favoring it. Wahoo! Good thing, because I have 5 walkthroughs and 5 runs today. On the other hand, just to prove that my body isn't going to let me get away with anything, I fought a headache all day yesterday, and have already taken 2 of the 3 migraine (Maxalt) tablets I brought with me, and we've just barely started the week. Obviously large doses of ibuprofen is doing nothing for the head.

Tika Team Standard: We didn't E, which is paramount in Team. Last year she had a superfast, tight, exciting run until she was offcourse right before the end. This year, although we stayed on course, I pulled her off two jumps for a refusal and a runout, and she also knocked a bar, so that was 15 faults. Teammate Skeeter ran clean; Brenn I believe had a bar and a refusal (can't remember for sure). And she mostly stuck all her contacts, although she released on the "Gooo...." on the Aframe, which was the third contact in the course.

Teammate Brenn I think had two faults (refusal and bar?) but got through without E-ing. And Skeeter got through it clean! You know, we could end up near the top just by getting all the way through all of our courses! Although I doubt we'll ever make it into the top 20 teams of 208 for the final round. Still--it would be exciting to be above 50%, if we can hold it together.

Tika Team Jumpers: Clean! No bars down! But really wide turns, so I don't think we'll be in the top 8, which is all they have ribbons for for the 26" class (out of 150ish dogs). But that's danged good for that jumpers course, which had some good opportunities for bars down and offcourses, and I saw an awful lot of dogs with turns as wide as ours in the same places. That's usually where we can beat those top-of-the-line border collies, on those turns, but I was letting her drift out to avoid calling her on top of the jump and risk knocking a bar. Always a trade-off. I'm pretty happy with the run, though, no bobbles at all.

Teammate Brenn also got through it without Eing, although she had two bars down. Just before Skeeter ran at about 2:30 this afternoon, the computer scoreboard showed us in 15th place! Of 208 teams! I never in my wildest dreams imagined that we'd be in the top 20 even for a little while. By the time Skeeter ran, we had dropped to 26th as more dogs completed their runs, but Skeeter's clean run popped us back up to 16th for quite a while. When I last checked about 5:30, we were in 24th. Still amazing! And there were more dogs still to run, so since we had all already run, we could only move down, not up, but that is just soooo cool. And tomorrow all that's left is Team Gamblers, and you can't really "E" (eliminate) in that, but you can get a low score that will hurt you almost as much. I don't think that with Tika's & Brenn's propensity for knocking bars, my propensity for brain freeze, Brenn's propensity for missing contacts, and Skeeter's reliable but not super speedy style will prevent us from possibly earning enough points to get back up into the top 20 and stay there; I suspect we'll drop down into the 40s tomorrow at least. But that's still pretty darned good for us.

Boost Team Jumpers She missed her weave pole entry (but so did tons of more experience dogs), but when I lined her up again very quickly, not even a stop-and-get-next-to-me-calmly line up, she entered perfectly, did well through the first half, and suddenly the I-know-what-I'm-doing rockets kicked in and she blasted through the last half. Wow! Practice DOES help! I'm SO pleased about our work on the weaves over the last two weeks.

However, that tricky jump right before a sharp turn into a tunnel that had so many people worried did us in. I planted and called her, trying to do a cross behind, but it was too sharp of an angle for the inexperienced girl and she ran right past the plane of the jump. Then I brought her around to try again and somehow pushed her past it on the backside, then on our 3rd approach she just stopped and veered away in front of it--poor puppy, she was looking at me intently the whole time, trying to understand what I wanted. But that was our limit of three refusals and caused an Elimination, so I just ran her as fast as I could over the last couple of jumps so she'd come out of the ring happy and excited, and she did perk right up and we played enthusiastically afterwards.

My knee is hanging in there (2 p.m.) although it's been feeling the effects of 5 walkthroughs and 4 runs full out already, with no chance between 6 a.m. and noon to ice it. I've iced it twice now, though, and it'll survive. Again, not nearly as bad as it was after the CAT trial 2 weekends ago. I am SO grateful that's it's doing so well. Headache is toying with me. Do I break down and take the last Maxalt now or wait to see whether it goes away (then I don't need the maxalt) with liquid and caffeine.

Boost Team Standard: Missed the weave entry but got them all when I realigned her, then once again there was a jump that I couldn't get her over, adding up to our 3 refusals for another elimination fairly early in the run. OK, so now I know what to work on. I'm pretty sure that I'm starting to turn my shoulders away, assuming that she's committed to doing the jump, but her commitment point is so much closer than Tika's, in part because she's inexperienced, but I think in part because she runs closer to the ground and so has a lower center of gravity longer before she jumps, so can change direction a little more quickly. Dunno.

Herding Instinct Test Tomorrow: I've always wanted to do a herding instinct teston my dogs. Tried to do it with Remington one year but the person I was referred to never answered my messages. Too bad. But they're doing them here at the event, so I've got both Tika and Boost signed up for tomorrow afternoon. I watched one little Aussie go out into the ring and look like she had been herding sheep forever, although this was in fact the first time she had ever been around stock animals. Very cool to watch! And that's what they're looking for. I'm looking forward to this. I'll have to make sure it's videotaped.

Knee, at 6 pm, is still doing pretty good, much better than I had ever expected, and I haven't had to take it easy during my runs at all, although it does get more sensitive to turns and pressure just walking around as the day goes on. Icing like crazy (a good time to type into the computer, I decided).


  1. Ellen,
    Glad to read your knee is holding up. Don't forget to lie down for a 1/2 hour when you take the Maxalt or it doesn't work. :-D
    Sounds like you are doing swell. Wish I was there.


  2. keep the reports coming- we're here at home pulling for you- min-a-min.