a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: The End of A Wednesday Night Era

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The End of A Wednesday Night Era

SUMMARY: I've resigned from the Wednesday night 8:15 class.

And my heart is breaking. I love that class. But, for various reasons related to finances, I have to cut back to one class, and, at the moment, I need Boost's particular class more.

More info: Feb 8, 11:15 a.m. Omigosh! How could I have left THAT out! Or THAT? Or THAT? (See below)


I've been in Wed. night 8:15 class for a very long time--don't ask me how long; it might give away how ancient I really am. I might have taken some time off while on disability with my back in early 2001, so Current Era might have started then, but it's also possible that I was in the class, then out, then back in again, for years before that.

Be that as it may, for a long time I had Jake in that class, with other old-timers who'd been doing agility since the dark ages: Gail and Flint the Corgi, Debbie and Reno the Corgi, Ellen and Cali the Corgi, Arlene and Scully the Little Black Dog (aka Verwende Princess). Hmm, lots of small dogs, where Jake jumped 22". And Gwen with Spike the Border Newf. We had all known each other a very long time, and we were friends. We had our own Wednesday-night email list (still do, in fact; still share our doggie and agility triumphs and sorrows with this same old list), we got together outside of class and outside of agility.

But, in two short and painful months or so in 2005, some of the old dogs were retired from class--Spike and Scully--and two dogs became ill and died very suddenly--Cali and Reno--and Flint moved to a different time that worked better for his handler, and all of a sudden Jake and I were the only ones in the class. I was a bit sad about that. We all got along well, and I just knew that anyone added to the class would be newcomers and not long-time bosom buddies with all those years of shared history. How could it ever possibly be as good?

A newer class

Over the next year or so, the class built up again. They added Ken with Apache the Terv--I didn't know them except as friendly competitors who often beat Tika's times in our novice classes (damn their eyes!). Along with Ken came Bobbie and her Golden, Jenny. Basically complete strangers.

Two AKC Sheltie ladies--Cathy with Trooper and Tracey with Flash--joined, and I wondered what I could possibly have in common with them. Our old classmate, Gail, who sometimes teaches novice classes, sent her promising new student, Ashley with Luka the Pyrenean Shepherd, to get a class with Jim, and he joined us and stayed.

And shortly after that, I retired Jake from class because I had Tika and Boost in classes as well, and three classes was too much for me. That's when Tika moved into Wednesday night 8:15. Later, Jennifer with Kye the Aussie, who reminded me a lot of Tika physically but whom I otherwise knew nothing about, joined. So, altogether, a whole bunch of strangers, most of whom didn't know each other from Adam Ant, thrown together randomly.

There was one late addition, in the middle of 2007, someone I had known for quite a while (and had had class with at other times): Lisa with her young Border Collie, Carson.

Results and Sayonara

I never would have dreamed how much I have come to love that class. We have laughed so hard, so often, at so many things. We've instigated running gags by the handful, without which any relationship is merely a shallow shadow of what it could be. There's the desperate race to pick up the most cones between runs--we elevated it to an art! or was it yet another sick competition?--and the invention of the Bars Sluts!

We have challenged each other to outdo the Cool Factor handling maneuvers--Ashley is absolutely fearless and became the King of the Serpentines, and Jenn and Ken run fast 26" dogs whose times are competitive with Tika's (and Lisa with Carson, too, but she's managed to avoid talking trash with us on a regular basis), and so we're always pushing each other to do better and better. Ken and Jenn and I in particular seem willing to try anything challenging if there's a chance that one of the others might try it and succeed, making them Cool and us Not.

Then there's Tracy and Flash, inexorably working their way towards MACH-37 and learning new moves in the meantime, even though they claim they don't really need them. And, of course, the influence of Instructor J, who drives us to run as fast as we can so the sound of the wind in our ears drowns out his puns, but also always points out the Cool Factor moves that we might not have thought of, or the challenging moves that "you probably can't get there," or "the Monday Night class had no trouble with this," or "everyone else had trouble with this," to which the response is always, "But this is the Wednesday Night 8:15 class!" and "Piece of cake!"

I don't think it's coincidence that Tika's Top Ten points went from 16 in 2005 to 76 in 2007. The mix of people in this class has been very good for me.

And we've become friends in an odd cliquish sort of way. There's always a Wednesday Night 8:15 party Saturday night at out-of-town trials (to which, incidentally, anyone dropping by is invited with wide-open arms; there's always too much food and plenty to drink). We skipped class and went out for Xmas dinner together this year. To my knowledge, that's never been done by any other Power Paws class, ever. And of course our nearly world-famous ABCs of food nights all last year made every night a celebration. Ken and Bobbie and Tracey in particular always had the most spectacular array of foods and were Party Meisters on all occasions, although Jennifer and Ashley were no slouches on upping the food-quality competition level. (My waistline doesn't thank them, but it was bonding and it was delicious and it was fun.)

But the fact remains that agility is a luxury for me and I have to pare back. And Boost and I need the kind of work that we're getting in the other class just a bit more than I need the kind of challenge that I'm getting in this class. They're both very important. But I have to choose. I waited until last night to say anything at all, because I really didn't want to go. I'd have burst into tears last night if I'd had to talk about it any more.

The funny/odd thing is that PP convinced Jennifer and Kye to move to Boost's Thursday class for various reasons, but in particular because another student needed Wed night 8:15 for his schedule, and there wasn't room for another student. But now I'm leaving, too, so there'll be an opening in Wed. night 8:15.

I'll tell ya, I'm so glad that Jennifer and Kye will still be in my class.

But, overall, I feel as if I have left a relationship, it's that kind of pain. Pretty sad, huh? I need another life--

Jennifer baked a Kye cake for the occasion of her last night in class. He even had a little Aussie nubber tail with a white tip. And he tasted very good, too.


  1. Sounds like you had a great, cohesive group...how cool is that?! I have no doubt you'll forge some new bonds with some more crazy dog people! :)

    Off topic a bit...I didn't realize you were a tech writer! (I am too!) The training group at my company is in the process of deciding which word processing tool to use and they asked for our advice...Frame vs. Word. They came across a document comparing the two and your name is on it! Talk about deja vu! I had to come to your blog to see if it really was you! :)

    Good article, btw!

  2. You're right Karen, about Ellen forging new bonds. I can attest to the fact that all the rest of in the 8:15 class were “normal people” until we were thrown in with Ellen.

    We all had lives outside of agility until SHE forced us to be overly competetitive – even threatening to bring electronic timers into the class so she could document just how much she whipped our butts. And as for the feeding frenzy that 8:15 became, that was Ellen’s doing as well. She would stand there and lift her nose at the treats we would bring as if to say “is that all you have to offer?” Naturally we responded to the not-so-subtle motiviation she offered in order to obtain just a slight bit of positive reinforcement from her. Ellen is extremely gifted at clicker training whether it is applied to her dogs or her classmates ! Heck, what else would motivate a busy mother of two (twins even) to take an entire day and build a cake from scratch in the shape of her dog. I just don’t know how we are to survive 8:15 anymore. We will have lost our drive to excel. No more racing to pick up cones between runs. No more smacking Ellen in the nose trying to snatch one from her hand.

    On the other hand maybe we should save some sympathy for any new student who will be hurled into the mix and expected to perform to Ellen’s level. Talk about performance anxiety! -ken

  3. 1) Word vs. Frame: Yup, that was me, but the comparison is very, very old. Unfortunately, it's still true that Word sucks. My company still builds in something like 40% extra in bids for larger documents that use Word instead of Frame. I can't tell you how many hours I spent on a document just last week trying to work around Word's bugs and bad implementation.

    2) "Anonymous" comment: Oh, I forgot to mention that one of Ken's endearing traits is how much he loves to make things up.


  4. You know I think that even though now none of us are in the Wed 8:15pm class, we'll always think of ourselves that way.

    Glad we all stay in touch.

    EllenC and Corgi Cali (bridge 4/2005)
    and current Corgis Yoshi and Trek

  5. Yeah, now I have TWO sets of friends from that same timeslot. I love how that works, even if it was for sad reasons.