a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And Thus Endeth Another Year

SUMMARY: Looking back. And forth.

In 2008, we competed in:
  • 15 USDAA trials, including the world championships
  • 3 CPE trials
  • 2 fun matches

Between the two dogs, I ran 354 runs total:
  • 58 Standard (CPE & USDAA)
  • 39 Gamblers (CPE & USDAA)
  • 40 Snooker (CPE & USDAA)
  • 46 Jumpers (CPE & USDAA)
  • 6 Colors
  • 7 Full House
  • 10 Wildcard
  • 30 Pairs Relay
  • 12 Team Tournaments (5 runs each tournament, not included in previous class counts)
  • 30 Steeplechase (6 of them Round 2s)
  • 26 Grand Prix
  • 2 Strategic Pairs

We earned 113 Qs, resulting in the following titles:
  • Boost - CL3 (Complete Level 3)
  • Boost - CL4-F (Level 4 Fun Games)

  • Boost - Relay Master
  • Tika - Gamblers Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Jumpers Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Agility Dog Champion-bronze
  • Tika - Tournament Master-Gold (missed platinum in the same year by one leg. OK, on to 2009!)
  • Tika - Snooker Champion-Silver
  • Tika - Lifetime Achievement Award-bronze
  • Tika - Relay Champion-Silver

Dogs knocked roughly 150 bars this year--largely contributed by Boost, who often got 3 or 4 per run. So I know what to work on... still... always...

Today, we practiced running through tunnels because it's fun, tires out the dogs, it's something I can do with a runny nose and cough, and I don't have to reset bars. Although I did set up one jump and both dogs left the bar up on every turn and every straight path that I tried between tunnels.

Tonight we're staying home, looking at my Christmas tree lights, maybe having some popcorn (dogs love that part), going to bed early. In just 45 minutes (7 p.m. PST), we'll gain a whole leap second for extra agility practice, so that's a good start to the year. Oops--got it wrong--that was 4:00 PST! Missed the whole event!

On to 2009 and many bars left up! Happy New Year, everyone--

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

6th Photo

SUMMARY: An exercise from the "taggers" gamebook.

There are multiple meanings for "tagging" in the blogosphere (read my earlier post on this topic). Here, we leap into the fray with the type of tagging in which someone does xxx on their blog, then says to you, "I'm tagging you so that you have to do xxx on your blog, then you must tag nnn more people to do the same."

OK, I don't play that game. Unless I want to. And, if I want to, I'll do it even if I'm NOT tagged. But then I let others self-tag as I did if the game appeals to him or her. Here's the game as described in a Many Muddy Paws post:

Check your Photo Archives (or wherever you store your images), select the 6th file folder, open it, post the 6th picture contained there, and give the story behind it.

I thought, wow, I have a weird way of storing my photos, and this is a dog blog, and I don't want to post a blurry photo of my attempt to find a missing sprinkler valve or the like... plus I have nested folders within nested folders within nested folders.

But, when I followed the rules as best I could, here's what I got, and I'm happy to post it:

This is Jim Basic in September of 2001 with Mick, his first agility dog. Mick was the first dog in the US to earn agility championships in two different organizations. In USDAA, he was in the Top Ten in all four categories in multiple years. He was the first to earn the top lifetime award--platinum--and for a very long time had more Masters Qs than any other dog in existence, even after he retired. In fact, he's still #22 on the list, about 4 years after retirement.

In this photo, they're in the Grand Prix National Championship finals in Del Mar (near San Diego). They know that they have to hustle to try to win; they have to scrape together every fraction of a second that they can manage. And they're doing it, they're looking good, but Jim knows that he has to give everything he's got for one more win.

And so Jim makes an extremely daring, aggressive, and risky front cross right before the last jump of the run--and misjudges his turn, resulting in the photo that he probably most regrets of any I ever took:

(Note Scot Bartley in the background, calmly giving Jim a fault for touching the equipment--) With great humor, Jim just rolled over, laughed, held up a piece of the now-broken jump in victory, and said hello to Mick, who thought the whole thing was quite interesting. Jim has always been a good sport on top of being a tough competitor, a talented instructor, and a friend to his dogs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

So Much To Do--You Know the Routine--

SUMMARY: Dogs got a little walk, a little play.

I'm more tired than I should be. My throat is sore a little bit. Neeeeed sleeeep. Am adding a little link in the lower right column to tie into a network of blogs, including access on Facebook. That's it for now--

Good Thing There's Work So I Can Recover From the Holidays

SUMMARY: Busy busy busy.

December 21, I went with a few of my sisters and bros-in-law out to dinner and then to the refurbished California Theater to get into the holiday spirit with a screening of White Christmas.

Sing along now with sisters #2 and 3, "Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters...!" (Watch/listen as performed by "Haynes sisters"...or, bonus, as performed by Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye)

Christmas Eve was fairly relaxing. Wrap a few gifts. Listen to Christmas music. Actually quite a bit to do; dogs neglected except for a short walk. At least they got those big juicy bones to work over.

Christmas Day I dropped in on a long-time friend, we went for a walk and chatted. Then Family most of the rest of the day, then a brief evening with some other friends. Home around 10 p.m. and crash into bed. Dogs were totally neglected.

The day after Christmas found me driving to Monterey with other selected sisters and related children. Took dogs for a really quick half-mile walk before I left, which really barely gets us started.

Beaches at Monterey have a lot of "no dogs" signs. Maybe these weren't really dogs. Or maybe this wasn't one of those beaches. Viszla discovers kelp.

I took no dogs of my own to bound gleefully along the beach, but fortunately I thought to bring along young offspring of random sisters to fill the void.

Sister #4 successfully conquers kelp.

Dragons are my other thing. Besides dogs. And photography. And writing. And some other stuff I like to do but don't have the time for. This one isn't really missing his tail; I'm missing some determination to finish merging multiple photos...

Sister #2 and bro-in-law who instigate many of these trips gaze longingly out to sea. No one knows why.

Nieces and nephews--can hardly tell who, because mostly all I ever see are the backs of their heads dashing away from me so fast that their color shifts towards red--stop for a moment to gaze longingly out to sea. No one knows why.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, danger lurks in every corner; assorted nieces and nephews are nearly devoured by a giant clam.

A special exhibit of otters from around the world nearly devours my inadequate frolicing-creatures-in-the-dark-interior-through-thick-spattered-glass-surrounded-by-crowds-of-people camera skills. One of them, sensing my fear, pauses for a millisecond in triumph and I finally get it on film.

I hate younger generations whose camera phones take photos that are as good as or better than my digital SLR. But ha! take THAT you young whippersnappers, I get two photos of jellies for the price of one!

In the evening, we rush home and then out for a Boxing Day banquet at another assorted sister's house. Home by 10, crash in bed exhausted. Dogs are completely neglected.

Two days after Christmas, leap out of bed early and head for the hills for a strenuous 8-mile, 2500-foot-cumulative elevation gain (and drop back down) hike. It's a perfect day for it, but my up-hilling equipments have gotten out of shape over the last couple of months of not doing any hill hiking. I can barely drag myself across the parking lot for a late afternoon movie viewing with a friend.

I crawl into bed at 8:30--dogs completely neglected again and started to really show it--and sleep for 12 hours. Except for the nightmare where Tika runs across the freeway out on the coast and is hit by a car. I cry for a bit and then fall again into an exhausted sleep. I am SOOOO not going to see Marley and Me.

Next day, my body is wiped out and rebels in many ways, but I make it out to the theater for yet another movie (all those studios releasing all those good movies the same week. Dash it all! How to keep up?!). I, the popcorn maniac, cannot at this point in my rebellious bodydom, stomach popcorn. I crawl home afterwards (hard to do in a minivan, I'll tell ya), collapse into bed for a long long nap. Dogs are going nuts. I can't believe I don't even turn on my computer for 24 hours.

Then spend 6 hours sorting and editing hundreds of photos. I'm STILL not quite done with the last week's worth, and I didn't even take any photos on the hike or the Boxing Day banquet or many other activities. Someday I'll get back to my October Monterey trip, my September Montreal trip, and my November Scottsdale trip photos. In the meantime, dogs are very very neglected and are not letting me forget it.

Meanwhile, I've finally met someone special!

OK, I think I can almost walk again today and have no movies, parties, trips, or photography sessions scheduled. Must work. Must take dogs for walk. Might even think about practicing some--uh--what's that sport called that I used to do with my dogs before THE HOLIDAYS kicked in?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Whole Family

SUMMARY: Except 4-year-old Kate, who wanted to wander around looking at stuff instead.

Marley and Not Me

SUMMARY: Why I won't watch this dog movie.

It's Christmas, and I'm not really feeling melancholy, but this post turned out that way. Fair warning.

So many wonderful-looking films are coming out today, and quite a few wonderful ones have come out earlier in the year. I love going to the theater to see movies. It's the ambiance, the total immersion in nothing but the film in the darkness of the movie house. It's getting out of my house. It's not having to share my popcorn with the dogs.

I saw Milk--even though I knew the ending--because it reviewed well, it was local history that I lived through, and the topic is so relevant here and now in California waiting and hoping that the state Supreme Court will toss Proposition 8.

I will go see Gran Torino, even though I know it's violent, because Clint Eastwood both acts and directs, he's tremendously talented at both, his violence is always to a purpose, and his films are gripping and leave me thinking.

I will go see Doubt, although it's intense and deals with difficult subjects, because the cast is superb and because it deals with difficult subjects in an apparently interesting way.

I will probably go see Valkyrie, even though the initial ratings aren't good, and even though it's got some violence, because how Hitler got so many people to do so many bad things has always intrigued me, and it would be nice to get a glimpse into the lives or minds of some who didn't let the wool be pulled over their eyes.

I saw Bolt because I love well-done animated family films.

I saw Bolt a second time because it was a well-done animated family film that perfectly captured the personalities of dogs and--duh--I love dogs. Even though the scenes where he's separated from his human were very difficult for me. (Maybe *I'm* the one in my canine family with separation anxiety.)

I did not see Eight Below, even though I had a husky for 16 years and I love dogs and adventure films-- because I had a husky for 16 years and I love dogs. I cannot bear to see dogs in danger; I cannot bear to imagine how confused and disturbed dogs are when humans treat them in ways that dogs can't possibly understand.

And I will not see Marley and Me. Because it's about having a dog in your life, and falling in love with it, and watching it die. I've done that too many times in real life, and now, as part of a larger dog-owning community, I've done it vicariously far too many times, and thank you very much, I have no compulsion at all to relive any of that "for fun."

Love your dogs every day; you never know when there's a tomorrow that they suddenly won't be in despite how good they look today. (Bay Team dogs suddenly gone in 2008: Homer, 2 years old today, gone tomorrow. Tack, 6 today, gone tomorrow. Cammi, 5 today, gone in 3 weeks. Honey, 9 today, gone in 4 weeks. Whoopi, 5 today, gone tomorrow.)

Love your family and friends, too--such a gift when you have them. And such a boon to have when the dogs in your life depart. Hug everyone you love today or as soon as you get a chance.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Well, It's Christmas All Over Again

SUMMARY: Santa Claus is coming to town. Tonight. I hope I've been good.

I haven't done much decorating this year, just no time. But my tree's lights are twinkling quietly in the background, and oddly I don't miss the Darth Vader ornament--which I hang every year but this time didn't get around to--saying "[inhale]You are not a Jedi yet, young Skywalker[inhale]" every time I turn on the lights. I realize that its absence detracts from the whole Christmas spirit thing that I try to evoke, and yet--huh--nope, don't miss it.

Never did perch the annual dragon atop the tree's highest branch.

But it sure smells wonderful in here every time I step through the door from outside and smell that conifer! And I love the twinkling lights; have always been my favorite part of the tree, along with a wide variety of unusual ornaments. This year, none of my old faves made it--no time--no grinch, no cookie monster, no Thing One and Thing Two flying their kite, no pink panther climbing down the chimney, no Batman descending the rope hanging from his batarang entangled in a tree branch. None of the whole entire box of mostly purple (with some blue) ornaments of all shapes and sizes and themes. Nor the other 3--or is it 4?--boxes of ornaments. So much for spending all that time thinning out the tree so I could hang the collection!

This year, the only ornaments are just half a dozen new ones I bought during the year that I hadn't packed away yet: A sparkly purple spiny thing, a sparkly blue not spiny thing, a blown-glass Leica camera, three silver ornaments with my initials (E L F -- seemed apt), a blue and purple velvety beribboned thing. A bunch of candy canes, which aren't lasting very long I must say.

Didn't get around to setting up the creche--mostly hand-painted by yours truly years ago although goodness knows why, I'm pretty agnostic and think that the God's Only Son story is a nice myth--OK, yeah, I think it's an interesting myth with a nice message (peace on earth, good will towards men, can't ask for much better than that)--which means that the dragon bearing the gift of a sparkling orb never made its appearance behind the manger. But that's OK, I eventually got tired of the detail work and so Mr. and Mrs. Christ and their little Christ child and half of the wise men are gorgeous, but the shepherds and camels are a little spotty, and the sheep and cattle--ha! Let's just say that I'm sure there were plenty of albino livestock in bethlehem that year.

Christmas is a little different around here.

Have done the little bit of shopping I was planning on doing, and everything is wrapped. Am not planning on baking.

After the diverse family entities trickle gradually to my parents' house tomorrow afternoon, my whole extended family looks like will be together for the first time in maybe years. I hope I can get a few photos before they all start trickling away again to their various corners of the valley or the country.

I'm thinking that I'll give the dogs their really big juicy bones for gnawing as soon as I'm done here, try to keep them on the sheets I'll spread out and off the carpet. Ha! As if!

Christmas music is playing quietly in the background. Life is good.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Keeping Warm Last Weekend

SUMMARY: Photos from a friend from the Dec 13-14 USDAA trial.

When Mom's cold, the kids have to wear sweaters. Boost has become accustomed to the concept.

I worked score table most of the weekend. Can you tell it was cold just by looking at us?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Autumn, Winter, Spring, and a Nice Brisk Walk

SUMMARY: California's an odd place, season-wise, but we still love hiking the Guadalupe River Trail.

In how many place in the world can you have: A tree brilliant with autumn color, a snow-covered mountain in near-freezing temps, and daffodil stalks rising from the chilly soil? Fall, winter, spring, all together.

Dogs and I want for a 4-mile stroll along the Guadalupe River Trail this morning. Temps not over 50F, and a chilly nip in the air, but the sun and the birds were out.

For all of today's photos, go here; below, just a few choice doggy ones.

Along the trail, the dogs are eager to check out all the smells and yet want to keep moving; all these stops to snap photos are quite an infringement on their activity.

I'm including this one because I hardly ever get a shot of just how curly Boost's tail really is. Dang Border Collie tail is usually in its droopy working position.

Tika just loves being in the water. I hadn't realized it until we were at the beach this summer. Doesn't matter that it's below 50 and cold; she became mondo frisky after sneaking into the lake.

But her thick absorbent husky-like fur will take hours to dry. Does she care?

Amazing that one can point and say, "What's that over there?" and the dogs will look.

This tree's red berries stood out brilliantly among the more muted surroundings. No idea what the tree is. Even the dogs stop to admire it.

Meanwhile, this is about as decorated as the front of my house will get this year; Happy Holidays. Peace on earth.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Bored Dog

SUMMARY: It's eleven at night, we should either be playing or going to bed.

I hear a ferocious growling...silence...growling...silence...from the corner by the dog beds, which is out of sight behind my desk. I go to investigate.

Boost sure knows how to get me out of my chair.

Lurking in the dark (revealed by the camera's flash)...waiting to pounce, I guess...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


SUMMARY: How I can tell that I haven't given the dogs what they need yet for the day.

Because this is what I see when I look over from my desk through the sliding door into the back yard.

And this is what I see when I look up from my desk through the railing into the kitchen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dang Jumpers Legs

SUMMARY: Comparing Boost's and Tika's Jumpers histories

I seem to have a bit of a challenge with my two current dogs and Jumpers legs. Tika has finally started getting them about as consistently as we get anything, but it wasn't always like that.

Tika took 20 months to earn her one required Starters Jumpers Q--earned TWO of them the same weekend--4 months later earned her one required Advanced Q, and I thought the curse was broken. But no; it was 13 months before she earned her first Masters Jumpers Q. So, from her first trial to that first masters Jumpers Q, 37 months.

Boost earned her one required Starters Jumpers Q at her second trial, took only 8 months to earn her one required Advanced Q, and then her first Masters Jumpers Q? Ha! 19 months later, still don't have one. But, over all, that's only been 27 months since her first trial.

So Tika missed 12 Masters Jumpers Qs before finally getting one, but Boost has missed 23 and counting. Someday we'll get one...I'm pretty sure...

Clarifying DAM Team Bonus Qs

SUMMARY: Just a little more on how well Tika did but still didn't earn those new Qs.

I explained in this post that you can now not only earn just the one Q in DAM Team based on all 5 runs of all 3 dogs, but also in the individual events if your score is within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs. I expressed doubt that even Tika would earn many Qs that way; I expected that it would shut out most dogs just like Steeplechase does and SuperQs do.

Yesterday I noted that she got only one (Snooker) of the four possible bonus Qs this weekend. But I also want to point out that, for example, she was 8th of 24 dogs in Team Jumpers and didn't Q, and 7th of 24 in Team Gamblers and didn't Q. Only 5 of 24 Qed in Team Standard; Tika had a clean run that I thought was particularly fast, but apparently the open course and cold weather had all the dogs running particularly fast, as she was still 8 seconds behind the winning dog.

Oh, well, I'm glad to get one additional Q towards our Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA), but it just means that all of my faster, more talented, and/or better trained friends who already stack up awards that I try hard (but don't always succeed in) not to compare myself to will stack them up even faster. Run, little handler, run!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday Good, Sunday Not So Hot--Literally and Figuratively

SUMMARY: Got a couple of Qs but there's work to do.

Saturday in Santa Rosa was cold but not awfully so. Both dogs ran well: 7 runs each in one day! They loved it, probably because they could go all out in the cold weather and not risk overheating. You know how canine athletes worry about that stuff, especially when they're not drinking Gatorade. It was a long day, though, not done until almost 9 PM. At least the club had planned for that & advertised dinner along with Strategic Pairs. But I felt pretty good at the end of the day with our successes and luck.

Sunday chilled us to the bone. 28F at 7:30 in the morning. Glad I took my ginormous purple down coat, which you can't miss noticing from half a mile away. And wore thermal underwear. Then around 4:00, just as I was ready to start hauling stuff out to my car, it poured. Dogs were still happy to run in the cold for another 4 runs each, but things didn't go quite so well and I had to work myself out of feeling disappointed.

To give you an idea of the chill--I always take an ice-filled cooler packed with my fave diet soft drinks because I can't stand warm diet soft drinks. This time, I skipped the cooler entirely and just left the cans loose in my car. They were plenty ice-cold, thank you very much!
The "Lytle Cow Palace," scene of our glories and disgraces and some really cold Alaskan weather come to visit.

Saturday Tika Team

Five of the runs were for Team. Tika ran clean and fairly fast in Jumpers and Standard, although (as I had expected) even with the new Qing system for Team individual events, she missed Qs by 1.7 seconds in Standard and 0.2 in Jumpers--although had I worked even one of my sloppy turns better, we'd have gotten that bonus Jumpers Q. She had a nice Gamblers opening and we were exactly where we needed to be to try for maximum points in the gamble--but knocked the 3rd bar, so had very high opening points but only so-so closing; no bonus Q there, either.

Tried for four reds in the Snooker, knocked the first bar, but recovered easily to accrue 49 points. Only about a dozen dogs of the 87 competing in all heights managed to do four reds and get through to the end, so she did have enough for a bonus Q here.

Her team did pretty good. After the first two rounds--Standard and Gamblers--where both teammates did even better than Tika--we were in 2nd place overall of 29 teams. One teammate Eed in the Jumpers round, so we lost our prime position, but the rest of our Jumpers and Snookers were pretty good, and we all ran well in the relay in which at least half the teams Eed. So we ended up 5th overall despite that Jumpers E, and with 18 teams Qing, we were well up there.

Can I fantasize for a moment? Without the Jumpers E, we'd have been plenty above the first place team's score. But, oh well, I'm very happy with how Tika ran and delighted with my teammates.

Pretty good, and very happy about that; that finished her 10th Team Q. So, to get our Tournament Platinum, we needed only EITHER the Steeplechase OR the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Saturday Boost Team

We were all younger, less polished dogs on this team. After the first two runs--Standard (where one teammate Eed and the other two of us bobbled and faulted our way through it) and Gamblers (where Boost wouldn't go OUT for a bonus and I dinked around trying to insist that she do it, so got really low points--and our teammates had lower points than that)--I think we were in 3rd to last place. Not promising for Qing.

In Jumpers, another teammate Eed, Boost accrued a ton of faults, and one teammate ran very well. In Snooker, Boost knocked a bar in the opening so missed some points and popped out of the weaves on a rear cross in the closing so lost a bunch more points; One teammate did very well and the other better than Boost.

But we had a wonderful relay run; placed 7th of the 29 teams, and so even with two Es earlier, we all held it together individually enough here and there, and fully half the teams wiped out of the relay, including some of the top ones, leaving us enough room to just squeeze into Qing territory by a mere 2.17 points out of our total of 914.84 (1st place at 1229.79 for comparison), placing 18th overall. So one more bar anywhere, or one more popped contact, or one more missed weave pole that someone had to go back for, out of our 15 combined runs, and we'd not have qualified. Whewwwwwww!

It was quite a surprise and delight to get that Q after what had seemed like a dismal showing. Sometimes I curse the high point value of the relay, but it saved us this time.

The rest of Saturday

Tika earned another Q in Masters Jumpers. Boost and I Eed early in that--serpentine that she wouldn't come in on (which I was lamenting about on Thursday, remember that?) and by the time I got her over the jump, I forgot where I was going and--while I stood there thinking--she backjumped. So still no MAD for the baby dog.

Strategic Pairs filled out the day. 19 teams stuck around for the fun.

Tika's Strategic Pairs partner, Chaps the wonder-Aussie, who just got back from spectacular successes at the Aussie nationals.

Tika and her partner ran clean, but Tika had some bobbles in our first segment when she got ahead of me and I couldn't direct her, and then we had a communication failure among human teammates so there were several seconds where we both were standing doing nothing. We still managed to come in 6th of 19, which was nice--only 6 seconds slower than the 1st place team... who was...

Boost and her partner! Ta-da! We had no faults, we communicated well, we didn't waste any time. Boost was not the dog I'd have ever guessed I'd win a wild game like Strategic Pairs with--but actually the judge(s) designed a course that was very straightforward for switching between two dogs, so it was just short, simple sequences.

So, at the end of the day, I felt pretty good about my agility weekend.

Boost and her Strategic Pairs partner, Taiko, who just got back from winning at the ASCA nationals.

Here is what Boost won for me in Strategic Pairs. I had no idea it would be something cool like this! Thanks, Bay Team SP prize czar!

Here is what Boost won also for me in Strategic Pairs. I don't imbibe, so my renter/dogsitter benefitted from this part.


Things fell apart a bit on Sunday. Not a lot. Just enough to take the edge off the general satisfaction for the weekend. It went like this:

Tika ran very nicely, fast, eager. In Steeplechase, almost 4 seconds under qualifying time, which is pretty good for her. But ticked the bloody broad jump. Just barely. I barely heard it and wasn't even sure whether I had heard it. We couldn't miss a Q by whacking a bar or flying off the Aframe or mishandling; no, we incurred 5 faults with a tiny tap of a toenail, putting us just out of Qualifying.

In Grand Prix, she ran fast and smoothly; we got through the whole course with no problems at all, nice tight turns, bars up, got the Aframe contact. The next to the last obstacle was the dogwalk, and she even got a foot solidly in the yellow zone going up, which has been one of our Grand Prix bugaboos. And then, 15 feet away from the last jump (which she kept up), she flew right off the end of the dogwalk, not even pretending to slow down for it. Crapola. Just one little flaw at the end of a lovely run.

So no Tournament Platinum.

Tika had a lovely Gamblers' opening, except that I lost her at one point, wasting time, and decided not to adjust for it; as a result, was way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. And she did the dang gamble, too, very professionally. But over time, so no Q.

And, in our opportunity to maybe pick up a placement, in Masters Pairs, I stepped into her path at the wrong stupid moment when I should've been stepping out, and pushed her into an off-course tunnel.

So not a Q all day.

Dogs get cozy crates with furry mats to curl up in during the freeze.

Boost ran very nicely all day, with no refusal or runout problems. She was such a good girl; very proud of her. But still... as I've commented before, there's only so long I can get by on "making progress" without "earning Qs".

I did the exact same stupid trick with Boost in Gamblers; she went into the weave poles in the wrong side so we had to restart, but again I decided that, since she's faster than Tika, I could go the extra distance and not adjust for it. Well--we ended up with more opening points than the first place dog, AND she also did the gamble perfectly, but only after (repeat after me) we were way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. Foolish handler trick again.

In Steeplechase, Boost had a lovely run, but had a bar down. Thought we might have qualified anyway, but nooo--there were 10 faults on our scribe sheet, not 5, and I have no clue what the other 5 were for. Another good reason to have your runs videotaped. But will that teach me? Nope, never does.

In Grand Prix, doh, I just skipped a jump. And this was a course I had already just run with Tika. Go figure. So--off-course.

In Pairs, however, she partnered with her SisterDog Bette, and both dogs decided to show the world what a wonderful litter they came from. We both had beautiful, clean runs, and placed 4th of 41 teams. So that was it, my sole Q for the day between both dogs. Disappointing, especially when several were so close.

This is how I end up averaging only 50% with Tika--one weekend with 9 of 10 Qs, the next weekend 2 of 8 or so.

Never did get the final word on what this was about--

And In Other News

Mom is home from the hospital, feeling good, injecting self with drugs (I knew there was a reason we needed to keep her from hanging out with those decadent hospital personnel), trying to get back to where she was muscularly before she had to lie in a bed for 4 days again. Yay, Mom! And I heard that Dad even got a good night's sleep a couple of nights ago, finally, after all that all-night hospital brou ha ha. Good on ya, dad!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jules Verne Invented the Internet in 1891

SUMMARY: Check it out in my other blog, Word Whirled.

Working On Keeping Spirits Up

SUMMARY: Because those spirits sometimes sink more than one would like.


Spent the day Thursday with mom in the hospital. She looks and sounds fine, but there are critical medical issues occurring. We were hoping that she might be home today, but I've not heard anything today at all. Thank goodness for another sister who spent Wednesday and probably most of today there.

Boost and bars and serpentines

Last night in class, we had a bunch of serpentine exercises. Boost got through most of the ones that I did with her, but that last one, grr. During the evening, I'm guessing that she knocked 2 or 3 bars per run, and these are sequences of no more than 14 obstacles. Not promising for getting that jumpers qualifier this weekend.

And the last serpentine was one at a very shallow angle, so the dog is taking the jumps almost parallel to her body. These are of the type that Boost always wants to run by. Well, for fun, we were timing this particular sequence because there were two ways to handle the ending--not even involving these two jumps.

Well, Boost first went past the 2nd jump a couple of times. Then she went into her alternative mode for Me No Jump, Me Run kinds of jumps: Run almost past it, then swoop in with a couple of little steps and hop over it facing almost in the opposite direction. Was driving me nuts. I tried being further behind her, further ahead of her, yelling my lungs off, telling her to Hup Hup Hup!, with assorted advice from instructor and classmates. Every. Bloody. Time. You'd think that after all those repetitions she'd figure out where we were going and adjust her path. But no.

I took a break, let some other dogs run, tried again. Same thing. Finally I said screw it, she's just going to do it the way she wants to do it and I'm going to try to finish the run to get the time on the last part. Well, I tried so hard to get to where I wanted to be and get her over the jump also, that I crashed backwards through the side of a heavy wood-winged jump with the built-in metal ground bar, and somehow my hand ended up beneath me.

Nothing broken, near as I could tell (jump or bodily parts), but the thumb hurt enough that all I wanted to do was to get home and ice it. Put the dogs in the car, downed some NSAIDs, and headed home. Turns out that ice on my thumb was more painful than the injury. Don't know why it helps so much on a sore knee but not the thumb--not enough flesh to absorb the cold?

Waking up today, I'm also thoroughly bruised on my opposite arm, although I don't even exactly remember hitting anything with that arm.

I hope things go better tomorrow in Santa Rosa...


...Oh, the snow level's now supposed to be down around 1,000 feet "in snow country"; Santa Rosa isn't, really, but it's at about 350 feet. Could we have a White Agilitymas? That would be cool. I mean...really really really cool... like, guess I should pack my long down coat.


Spent two hours today trying to solve the issue of why I could send email up until 9:25 this morning but not after that. An hour and a quarter with AT&T (service provider), 5 different people, and they said it's not their problem and I finally believed them and hung up. Except that they basically run their service through yahoo (I'm not entirely clear on the concept), and it's apparently yahoo's AT&T servers that are giving me the problem, and their online help covers a lot of ground but not the ground in which my problem is growing roots. (OK, give me a break, I'm coming up with metaphors in a rush here.) Problem is not solved. Have to copy and paste everything I want to send into a rudimentary web email facility to get it to go out. Well, at least I can *get* email. Or... I was, before I started fixing things. Hmm, nothing has arrived in several hours. AM I getting email still?

I hate computers.


I'm a Christmaholic. Usually can't get enough of it. I have tens of thousands of lights in boxes in my garage that are not going up this year. I have a couple dozen boxes of Christmas ornaments and gewgaws and decor in my attic, only some of which will make an appearance this year. I have an entire 60-disk CD case that is filled to overflowing (as in, maybe should get another one) with Christmas music. Love it love it love it. Have more Christmas CDs than all other kinds of music put together. I will listen to all of them, sometimes multiple times. Deck us all with dogs and dog hair, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-laaaaa-laaaaaaaah!

I turned it on about half an hour into my journey through AT&T's support system to try to remind me to keep the holiday spirit. Not sure it helped. Made it harder to understand what they were saying, sometimes, which was maybe not a bad thing.

Dogs pretty much ignore the music, unless I sing along, which disturbs them greatly. At least, having all girl dogs these days, I don't have to worry about what alternative uses they might conceive of for my lovely Christmas tree, whose twinkling lights I can see above my computer monitor. Yay Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strategic Pairs

SUMMARY: What chaos looks like on a course map.

Of course Strategic Pairs isn't chaotic for a well-tuned, organized team who runs clean. It should be a thing of beauteous communication and stunning agility competence. But--ta-da--not many teams run clean all the way through, hence the chaos.

A course might look like the one shown here. (Ignore the colors; just look at the numbers.) It's designed so that one dog can't run it effectively. On this course, for example, dog A lines up behind the start line for jump #1, while dog B goes out to the far side of the field and lines up for jump #4.

When they're both in position, dog A starts by doing 1-2-3 and then signals somehow (their choice) that they're done, maybe by yelling "Go!". Dog B then does, say, 4-5-6 while dog A is maneuvering to get into position for #7. Dog B signals that they're done, A does 7-8-9, and so on.

This particular course was designed with 3-dog teams in mind, and the colors show how our team opted to do it. (By Susan Rappillus of Western Agility Group for the 2005 Turkey Trot.)

One nice thing is that usually dogs can take out-of-sequence obstacles on their way to get to the next sequence that they intend to do, so it's not too Snookery getting around the course.

Of course, there are myriad options. For example, maybe dog A is lousy at the dogwalk and dog B is lousy at the weaves. So, even though 7-8-9-10 is a little awkward for one dog to do, maybe this team will decide that dog A does that sequence to ensure that the weaves are done correctly the first time.

This "doing it correctly" thing is really important in Strategic Pairs, because IF YOU FAULT AN OBSTACLE, the other dog has to take over and DO THAT OBSTACLE CORRECTLY. Then you can go on from there in any way you want.

So, for example, let's say dog A knocks bar #1. Dog B, who was in the far corner anticipating doing #4, has to run back and take #1 correctly (one or the other of the teammates has to set the bar back up, of course). So maybe dog A yells "Help! #1!" so dog B runs over to do #1-2-3 while dog A runs over to #4 to do the 4-5-6 series.

But remember, dog A has a crappy dogwalk, so they'll probably blow it, so dog B had better be ready to EITHER redo the dogwalk if it's faulted, OR if by some miracle dog A gets the dogwalk, continue on to #7.

You can imagine that emotions run high for both handlers and dogs, and many interesting things have been known to happen on course.

More Info In Response To Questions

Added: Fri, Dec 12, 10 AM PST

In my agility years, I've seen strategic pairs only at Bay Team USDAA trials and this once as a bonus game at this particular CPE trial. It is not an official class in any venue; it's a fun game from back in the days when judges made up fun games so that everyone didn't have to go home after a couple of hours because they ran out of classes and dogs. It's in the same category as Power and Speed or Time Gamble that USDAA had at its Nationals for quite a few years. Just a fun game, some of which stuck in people's minds as wanting to do again but not make into official classes.

Because it's extra, the rules are totally up to the judge (or the club who asked for it, I suppose). Hence, hmm, maybe it's ok if dog B gets loose and follows A on the same obstacles; hmm, maybe there should be a minimum number of obstacles per dog, but would "1" be OK? (Although I've never seen a course where it made sense for either dog to do only 1 obstacle.)

The idea is that the obstacles must, at some point, be taken in order. So if one dog does 1-2-3-9 and the next dog does 4-5-6-12, and the first dog does 2-7-8, that's usually OK because 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 have been taken. But it's up to the rule-maker what's legal.

It does make some people's heads explode. Especially if, for example, BOTH dogs KEEP knocking the same *#&@ bar over and over, or missing the same contact over and over... Tika went nuts when I did this course with her--it's the only time I've seen her fly OVER the top of the Aframe.

But the excitement and not having to worry about a Q is usually worth it. You can learn a lot about yourself and your dog in these 60 seconds!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Experiment from Slide.Com

SUMMARY: Turned my Lexington Reservoir photos into a slide show to see what it looks like.

If you hover your cursor over a photo, it displays a caption. I think this is how it's supposed to work... Hmm, OK, if you click on it, it takes you to a separate page with full-sized views of photos and fairly easy browsing or automatic slideshow. Cute tool if you don't have another photo sharing site, I guess. This is from slide.com. You can pick a bunch of different ways for it to display here; I picked the newspaper version.

Can We Go Platinum?

SUMMARY: USDAA trial this weekend.

This is it, wrapping up the 2008 agility year this weekend at a USDAA trial in Santa Rosa, under a covered arena. That won't necessarily make it warm, as it's open on two sides and they're predicting snow down to 3000 feet this weekend (we'll be at about 3.4 feet, so it'll just be cold and rainy probably).

Here's what Tika needs for her Tournament Champion Platinum, which is the highest tournament title one can achieve, and which consists of 50 qualifying scores among Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team, with at least 10 in each:
* 1 DAM
* 1 of anything else

What's offered this weekend:
* 2 of anything else (e.g., Grand Prix AND Steeplechase)

Tika is teamed (as Black and Blue) with two young fast Border Collies with top-of-the-line handlers. This means that we could excel beyond our wildest dreams or every one of us could crash and burn spectacularly. That's the gamble of Team. You have to rely on three whole dog/handler partnerships holding it together for 5 whole classes.

In Grand Prix, as of the 2008 season, you have to run clean. Tika always makes time by a mile (can you measure temporal values using distance analogies?) but only 9 of her 29 Qs were faultless. On the up side, 6 of those have been in the last year. So it could happen.

In Steeplechase, Tika is always under time if we don't flub any handling things (e.g., going past a jump or the weave entry and having to go back for it), but just barely under time. In Steeplechase, in theory, you can qualify with faults because it's time plus faults scoring. But because she's usually barely under time, we usually don't Q with faults.

All of which means: She's got to hit her contacts! And she's got to keep her bars up!

So this week I've been practicing (a little) fast, accurate 2on/2off contacts, and (a little more) bar-knocking drills. We can do it! We can!

Also this weekend: Jumpers, Pairs, and Gamblers. Boost could really use that Jumpers leg to finish her MAD. We've been practicing bar-knocking drills with her, too. We successfully knocked the same jump 10x in a row trying to to a tight front cross on it, and I thought I was making it simpler after 2 or 3 failures to try to get a success. I guess I know a weakness.

Also this weekend: Strategic pairs. This is just-for-fun chaos. Could be interesting. Maybe I'll post an old SP course later this week.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Boost Almost Does Standard

SUMMARY: Video of one of Boost's better runs.

An agility video service (Agility In Motion) for whom I did a really tiny favor at the November USDAA trial actually videotaped one of Boost's Masters Standard runs and sent it to me. Here's what I wrote about the run in my private notes: "Very nice--nice table, nice cntcts. Turned wrong way after rear X and missed wv entry on a bad pull (meant to front X but chickened out) but going ahead @end and no ref/rnout."

And if you want to watch a fun archival video of theirs of me and Jake doing a Masters Jumpers course in April 2003, go here.

Dogs Take Over the World

SUMMARY: Do I know this driver?

Coming back from the lakebed yesterday morning, this is whom I followed down the freeway. For a while, I was taking photos of all the dog-related license plates in the agility-trial parking lots (here are 7 pages of them). I could've sworn I'd taken a photo of K9 CR8, but if so, it hasn't made it onto the web site yet. And of course i have no idea to whom most of them belong. So who IS this dog person who followed me (by pretending to be ahead of me) yesterday?

Christmas Tree, No Beast

SUMMARY: Some lights are up.

Tried photos with Tika in them, but they all ended up blurry. Oh, well.

Tree with some lights. Progress occurs.

Monday, December 08, 2008

At the Bottom of the Lake

SUMMARY: Exploring the drained Lexington Reservoir and 55-year-submerged structures.

Lexington Reservoir has been drained for repairs for a while, but with the lack of rain enhancing the effects, it's lower than it has been at any time (except for once or twice) in the 57 years since the dam was built, drowning the old towns of Lexington and Alma and the original Highway 17 route.

Tika, Boost, and I went exploring. I took a couple hundred shots, as usual, but here are the key ones for Taj MuttHall. Others might be posted elsewhere someday.

We cut down one side of the reservoir to try to find the old town of Alma. Here, we're about halfway down into what would normally be underwater. The dam is barely visible up behind Tika.

I didn't see anything likely for Alma. The thickly laid adobe mud silt has cracked amazingly as it dries. These crevasses are about a foot deep, with just a bit of water still lurking at the bottom. Who knows what could be hidden beneath it.

But whatever the pipe is that runs along the bottom of the reservoir (and, beyond it, down along the trail to Los Gatos), it made a picturesque spot for us to have our photo snapped by a convenient passerby (and, yes, there were a bunch of people wandering around the bottom of the dry lakebed, even on a cool Monday morning; the article in the Mercury News this weekend probably drew 'em out like it pulled me).

We easily found the road bed of the original Highway 17, most of it silted over; the current 17 runs further up along the side of the valley around the perimeter of the [full] reservoir. All this water you see is misleading; it's just a dribdrab of water in one tiny part of the lakebed just before the dam.

Turns out that the one plant that has grown up extensively all through the empty lake bed in the year it has been drained is this annoying burr plant, which was just exactly the height of the dogs and covered with burrs from ground to 2 feet up, so it could conveniently embed itself in Boost's ears, tails, feet, armpits, and so on. Tika's shorter, denser, straighter fur avoided picking up any at all, but they were still the perfect size to fit in that space among the pads of both of the dogs' feet. I stopped every few minutes to pull the latest accrual out from all of their poor feeties.

There's an obvious exit ramp going down from old Highway 17, across a 1926 bridge and into what used to be the town of Lexington. You can kind of see how deeply the silt fills most of the bridge; it has just eroded away at the ends while the lake has been drained

Found just a few old foundations from Lexington buildings, not much at all. There might have been more but I was running out of time.

We found an assortment of artifacts, none of which I'm sure had any value at all but were of passing interest to us explorer types.

We finally headed back towards the car along a path that might or might not be submerged when the reservoir is at its peak. The dogs were on leash the entire trip, as required by the park.

Most of the time, someone was even holding onto the leashes.