a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Sunday's Nontraditional Jackpot and Friendly Competition

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday's Nontraditional Jackpot and Friendly Competition

SUMMARY: It's more fun when placements are for fun, so you can challenge each other. Sunday's Jackpot COULD have been that kind of run--

Friendly Competition in CPE and Motivation

One of several reasons why I enjoy CPE is that placements are irrelevant--unlike in USDAA, where they count for Top Ten points, so--although people are usually still willing to discuss their handling and strategies with their friends--those placements are important to many people.

Sometimes in CPE we actually go out of our way to ensure that our friendly, fast-dog friends have the same best course so that we can compare speed and execution rather than it being a test of our planning skills.

Not all my favorite CPE competitors were there Sunday, but we still always end up in height/level classes with dogs who can potentially beat us. Which is odd, because at the simplest veneer in CPE, there are 36 height/level classes: six levels and six heights in each level. It's not surprising that out of 125 dogs entered, only four dogs earned the highest-possible 51 points in Sunday's Snooker (as I told my housemate: "And two of them are in the kitchen with you.") But it's just strange odds that two of them (Tika and Brenn) are in exactly the same height/level class, and the other two (Boost and sister Bette) are in their own same height/level class. So we can't all take 1st places--one of us will beat the other.

OK, it's fun anyway, we tend to split the glory, and we still like to challenge each other. I find it motivational to handle cleaner and find smoother courses and to train my dog to better understand her job so that we can push our limits even further. Which will (in theory) help me to do better in USDAA, too, where we are almost never in the top tier. It's much more motivational to me in CPE to try to be at a point where I can earn 1st rather than 2nds, whereas in USDAA it's less motivational for me to try to move up to, say, 8th instead of 9th.

Tika's Sore Snooker

However, that 51-point Snooker barely happened for Tika. It was our second class of the day, after her lovely 1st-place Standard. She came out of her crate hunched over, wouldn't play with her toy. OK, fans, she did this once last summer right before a Steeplechase, and I ended up scratching her from the rest of that weekend; the on-site vet looked at her an hour later that time and confirmed soreness in lower back on one side. And then after packing up that day, when I opened her crate to let her hobble for a last potty, she flew out of the crate and blasted across the field full speed after gophers. I was so annoyed. It must've been a cramp or gas pains or something, and I wasn't going to let her do that to me again this time.

So I walked her around a bit. I massaged her a bit. I let her potty. I asked the gate steward to move us to the end of the order (which gave us 3 more dogs). I had her do some flat-work tricks and moves for treats. She was slow, but gradually warming up. At first, she wouldn't stretch out for me, but gradually, she stretched more and more, so I put her over a low jump. She want past it twice, then took it enthusiastically, then started bouncing and looking for her toy as usual.

I went ahead and put her in her sit-stay for Snooker. She wasn't wanting to wait, which is a good sign of enthusiasm. Boost had already done her 51-point run and I wanted to finally get both of them on a successful identical course so I could get some real idea of their relative speed. I suspect that Boost will be faster than Tika, but I can't yet prove it (there's so much more than flat-straight ground speed).

But when I released Tika, she hopped rather than blasted over the first jump, ran to but then barely more than trotted through the first tunnel, and I waited to see what she'd do in the first set of weaves, which she did cautiously (for Tika--still probably faster than, say, Remington or Jake ever did them). I was ready to pull her right then, but she had other ideas because she suddenly turned on the jet fuel coming out of the last pole and we had a beautiful, smooth, lovely snooker run--2 seconds slower than Boost, not surprising given the slow start. Not a fair comparison.

We went through the same routine for the third run of the day, Colors (basically half a standard course--we did no contacts). On coming out of the crate: Ooooh, mom, I'm sore... After the goodies came out: oh, no I'm not!

So on to the Jackpot story.

The Killer Jackpot Plan

Do you ever have a Jackpot (Gamblers) course where you suddenly realize that you have the killer plan and no one else is walking the same course? That happens to us more often in CPE than in USDAA, mostly because of the level of experience in CPE.

Sunday's nontraditional Jackpot was such an animal. I found a flow that I felt that both Boost and Tika could do easily. With a quick mental estimate, I that it was worth 80+ points. Here's the course layout for you to ponder:

We had 50 seconds in which to accrue points. That's an eternity for a fast dog! I walked my course three or four times with a couple of variations, and came up with one variant of 42 seconds and one of about 49--a little risky, but maybe...

I looked around for my favorite competitors so that I could say, hey, wait, I've got a wonderful course!--but Bette's mom was already gone, and although Brenn's mom was still there, the judge picked that moment to tell us to clear the course. So I couldn't share it with anyone.

Here's my plan. As labeled (when i finally counted it last night), it's 89 points. My option was, after the 20/21 jump sequence, to serpentine onto the teeter for another 5 points before going out to the 23/24 tunnel. But I was probably going to bag the teeter, because if you didn't get to the table before your 50 seconds were up, you wouldn't Q even if you had twice as many points as everyone else. So 89 points was just fine.

Boost's run and a moral and strategic dilemma

I ran first with Boost. She dropped the first bar going into the 25-point gamble, but much to my surprise the judge called out "25" as we completed the tunnel. So I continued on my plan, with my brain trying to process what to do even as I was trying to manage my green dog:

OK, do I say right now that we knocked the bar? But then what would I do after distracting myself and/or the judge? Ask for another run? That would be dumb? OK, I'll wait til I'm done and then mention it--but then in that case I should'nt do THREE Aframe-tunnel combos, because the last 2 wouldn't count because I blew the gamble so the first two counted for points not the gamble... But if she gave it to us anyway because it was her mistake and I DIDn't do my course then I'd be struggling towards the end to figure out what to do on course having skipped things I othewise would have done--

Oh, I don't know, let's just do my plan and deal with it afterwards.

But I was definitely flustered, and I did something odd after the first gamble--I think I was just not paying attention--so on Boost's first or second set of weaves she skipped the 4th pole. I walked her calmly back next to me, calmly lined her up at my side, and put her back into the weaves. But then on the 2nd gamble, she went in the left side of the "B" tunnel--legal but not the right line for me--and I managed to pull her past the "C" jump. So I walked her calmly back next to me, calmly lined her up at my side, and put her over the "C" jump to earn that gamble.

Because of all that wasted time, we can't do my whole plan. So I cut out the 18/19 and 23 tunnels and one 5-point combo and we ended up with 75 points. And that's WITH the gamble that the judge gave us erroneously. As soon as Boost hit the table, I said to the judge, "We knocked the first bar on that 25-point gamble," and pointed to it, and even though the bar was still on the ground, she said that, well, she hadn't seen it, and since she had given it to us while running, because of the type of gamble, she felt that she had to give us credit for it. So although there were some things about the judge that I wasn't happy with, that particular case was in our favor. Don't know how the other competitors felt about it--

So with Boost's high points even with those bobbles, I confirmed that my timing was absolutely right on and I should have no problem at all with Tika getting through my plan (assuming that she didn't knock any of the bars in the gambles or the 5-point combo). I was really looking forward to it, in fact.

But this time, when I opened her crate, she wouldn't even stand up (the dog who is usually pounding at the door to get out). She whined just a fraction of a second when she finally stood. She wouldn't turn or twist at first; same tiny whine when she did. She started to loosen up a little with some goodies and flat-work again, but her back wasn't curving at all--she was keeping it straight and using her feet to turn herself. And she whined again at some misstep, and I scratched her from the Jackpot and one other remaining round for the day.

In conclusion

So Brenn ended up with 83 points using her own course plan--which, I might point out, was 8 points higher than any of the other 82 dogs competing on that course. Which REALLY drives me nuts that I never got a chance to do my full 89-point plan. And simultaneously I feel weird about being annoyed about not running it when my dog is obviously sore. And simultaneously I'm worried about my dog. And simultaneously I'm not wanting to spend a lot of time on diagnosis & vets & chiropractors and such because she's only 6 and because I *did* let her play a lot more and a lot harder the previous evening and that morning than usual. And of course maybe we'd have knocked a bar or maybe even 2 and not beaten Brenn's points anyway. But isn't it mean of me to be downplaying Brenn's excellent accomplishment with a run I never even did?? And I feel a little in limbo about Tika. But she's fine this morning.

And why am I incapable of making a SHORT post?


  1. Congrats on a fun weekend. You seem so good at making the best of your trialing opportunities. I wish I could do better at that.

    I am glad Tika is okay. So if you think it is gastrointestinal, try Pepcid. Works great for Ray who eats everything and anything and often seems to have a bit of a belly ache.

    If you think she is sore, the best thing is what you did before your snooker run. Get her to warm up and stretch. Then any cramps or stitches are likely to come out.

    While she is fine today, any heat in the joints or along the spine?

    Great plan for the gamblers course. Very smooth.


  2. I'm not convinced that it's gastrointestinal. My hindbrain is saying "that's how it started with Remington--undefined discomfort that went away quickly--and it took forever to find out it was cancer". But I do have the one vet's opinion that it was in the lower back on one side and probably muscular but w/out xrays or more definitive reactions from the dog, not willing to make a definitive statement.

    On the other hand--she *had* had slightly softish stools the past 2 days, and had quite a long time In The Position on Saturday with nothing coming out, then dragging her backside a few times, which I never see her do (and anal glands seemed ok to my inexpert exam). So maybe it was intestinal...

    People talk about feeling heat in their dogs' sore areas; I've never been able to tell the difference. Particularly in Tika--she feels hot to me all the time all over. Maybe that's why she's so sensitive (shrieking) about vet's putting cold ear-exam thingie in her ears. :-)