a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Not Going To Nationals

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Going To Nationals

SUMMARY: The big decision has been made. Probably.

So, last night in class, two funny (ha ha!) things happened related to my last couple of posts:
  • The instructor claimed that we were sending the dogs around a 270-degree turn when it was, in fact, about 220 degrees. The misterminology is endemic, I tell you!
  • Two days ago I said, "I am very good at remembering courses that go in a straight line and go "jump jump tunnel jump jump tunnel," and of course that never happens in dog agility, but guess what our first exercise was in class last night? Yes! Tunnel jump jump tunnel jump jump tunnel, in pretty much a straight line! Who'd have ever guessed it? Of course we had to do some creative and useful agility-training sorts of things like rear crosses.

Later, however, Boost demonstrated that:
  • At full speed after a couple of straight-on obstacles to the weaves at an angle, she skips pole #2. [Insert assorted curse words.] We had that entry several times in class, and I tried it several times each of those times. The only things that got her to do it successfully were (a)put her in a sit-stay about 5 feet from the entry so she's not going really fast (yeah, like that's practical at an agility trial), or (b) put some kind of stupid barrier (e.g., a cone, a jump bar on the ground...stupid things that aren't really barriers except visually) on the ground next to the 3rd pole to "force" her into the correct 2nd pole. (Yeah, REALLY practical at a trial.)
  • If I move laterally away from her in the weave poles, she skips the last weave.
  • If she goes wide on the first jump of a serpentine, she will not--will NOT--come back in to me to make the second jump, just keeps running full speed in the direction she was going, looking at me over her shoulder to say, "come on, you're not really going to make me slow down to do that stupid jump, are you?" World Team Coach, after trying to help me in class, tells me that I have to go home and practice that move (gave me specific instructions) "a thousand times."

Tika, meanwhile, did only 3 runs last night, and they were perfect. Spot on. No bars down. No wrong turns. Very fast and completely perfect 2 on/2 off contacts, just like we trained them. Which doesn't explain why, at trials, she's flying through the air with the greatest of ease from halfway down the contact ramps. And it was completely fun to run her, at speed, with just lovely handling. And it goes to pieces at trials.

So I have been mumbling for a while about whether I should go to the USDAA Nationals this year. I have been every year that it has been anywhere near California. Last year was the first year that Tika hadn't qualified in everything (missed Steeplechase), but this year she's qualified for all three main events with room to spare.

However. She just doesn't have the speed and we don't have the consistency to have any real chance of doing anything other than simply being there in the preliminary rounds. We've never even made it into the Grand Prix semifinals, and EVERYONE (using whiney voice) makes it into the semifinals sooner or later. We just got lucky the one year that we squeezed into the DAM team final round. And the way I've been playing this year, no one will want me on their team anyway. I've just had good teammates to cover for my mistakes.

Boost has qualified only in the Grand Prix. But not in any noteworthy manner--no placements at all. She has never. In her entire life. Qualified in DAM. She has only one Steeplechase Q (needs 2 to go to Nationals). And talk about inconsistent. Goes from one round where our "only" flaw is a knocked bar, to a round with 4 knocked bars, 2 refusals, and a bunch of spins and miscues.

So why would I want to go to Nationals again? I am no longer feeling confident, like I did in the past, that Tika has a chance of doing "well" by some definition. I have no reason at all to believe that Boost will do well. I've gone, done everything, seen everything. The vendors weren't as many or as interesting last year as they were in earlier years, but anyway I wouldn't feel that I had extra money to spend. And it's a long trip that uses a lot of vacation and/or unpaid time off.

So I'm not going. At least, as of right now. Maybe Boost will go to the next trial and win the Steeplechase. Maybe at the Regionals Tika will shun tradition and earn a bye into the semifinals in the Grand Prix, and jeez, wouldn't it be a shame to waste that opportunity. But, for now, staying home seems like SUCH a much better plan.

So, that's my working plan and the universe will have to convince me otherwise.


  1. I'm in the same boat, probably not going to Nationals. It's so much time & money and I feel like we've been there, done that, time to try something new. We might go to DOCNA Champs. or maybe have a normal vacation. Unless of course Cody wins the 2nd round of the Grand Prix at Regionals and we get a bye into the finals then maybe we'd go, but chyeah, right, I'm pretty sure we don't have to worry about that.

  2. "chyeah, right"--I don't think I've ever seen that in writing before, but I could hear it perfectly when I read it! Made me laugh. I know what you mean.


  3. I wonder what impact gas prices will have on the Nationals this year. It's always too expensive and time consuming for me to think about going to compete but one I have considered just flying out to spectate. Not this year!

  4. The thought crossed my mind briefly tat it would be fun to go just as a spectator and not competitor. But, yeah, it costs almost as much to do that as it does with dogs.