a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Photos Photos Everywhere and Not a Dog In Sight

SUMMARY: Sunday, and also Havasu inside out.

What the heck, we drove to Monterey on Sunday afternoon. It was a very bad day for traffic. We spent about 2 hours in Monterey and about 4 and a half hours on the road. Very bad day for traffic. Dogs stayed home. Seagulls didn't.

It was overcast but glarey down there. Completely foiled my snap-and-shoot camera; not a single shot came out sharp and clear. But that didn't stop me from posting about 15 of them with the usual commentary.

Meanwhile, my dearie sister had an opportunity to receive a Free Abandoned Homeless poster of Havasu Falls, which she gave me to inspire me before my trip last May, but which has been languishing in a forgotten room since then. Sunday, we pulled it out and at first I thought that someone had taken this lovely shot from a cliff that I didn't have access to, no fair! No fair! But THEN--oh my--we realized that the poster photographer had, in fact, visited the Havasu Falls with Alice through the Looking Glass! Poster:

My photo of the falls--hmmm--:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Favorite Dog Lyrics Part 4

SUMMARY: From K-TMH (K-TajMuttHall), only the finest in dog-related music and hijacked lyrics!

Just something that (probably unfortunately) came out of my mouth while we were out for a lovely walk this sunny morning.

The Wonderful Wagger of Dog

We're here to pet the wagger,
The wonderful waggerly dog!
And here he wags, the waggerly Wag
A cheerfully waggerly dog
If ever oh ever a Wag there was
The waggerly dog's a Wag because
Because because because because because
Because of his waggerly tails and paws.
We're here to pet the wagger,
The wonderful waggerly dog.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Hate Computers

SUMMARY: Why can't everything just be perfect AND easy so I can spend time practicing running contacts and going over obstacles that are in front of you?

Tika: "Mom--why are you pulling your hair out?"
Note empty high-tech boxes. With Boost-chewed box corners ("take that you computer things").

I am trying to upgrade my computer and software a little bit. I can't upgrade it a lot because I can't afford it.

I want it to be FAST and EASY so that I can get back outside and work on agility activities in the sun with the furry beasts. But--this is computers--

For many months I've wanted to run Blurb's BookSmart because it sounds perfect for making books of your own photos. And now, ta-da!, it supposedly automatically slurps your blog from Blogger or your photos from SmugMug. This would be tres cool if it also sucks down all the text that I've typed for my smugmug photos! Because there's no way to get all that text into a book except by copying and pasting it from every photo individually. For thousands of photos.

But to run it, I need OSX 10.4.9 at least, plus Java 1.5, which needs OSX 10.4.something at least, and I am still on 10.3.something. Plus 10.4.something plus booksmart suggest that I have at least 6-zillion gigahoots dual processors, and mine are only 400-something megawhootz. Plus I'm out of space on my system disk, so no more room to put system upgrades OR more applications that won't run without the upgrades.

Plus my 15-year-old laser printer died, what's with that?

So here I went:

New laserjet printerTwo and a half hours of unstringing and restringing cables. The old printer setup was a little complicated.Works pretty OK. Much faster than the old one and does double-sided much more easily. Except when it won't. Then it just prints pages of fuzzy gray lines. No way to tell what its mood is until you actually print. So I have lots of one-sided things printed on the backs of sheets covered with fuzzy gray lines.
New humongous external disk driveExternal because I hate opening the computer and working inside. I haven't yet blown up anything when I've done so, but there's always a first time. And those warnings! DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING IN ANY WAY WITH ANY OBJECT OR THE WORLD WILL END ELECTRICALLY sorts, which scare me immensely. Anyway, plugged in Firewire cable and installed driver. Works. Some farkling around to divide it into partitions, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I'll probably regret it later.
Move system software to new driveDownloaded a nifty tool that makes a bootable copy of your existing system drive. Except that it kept dying with some unintelligible error. Their site had online help forums, where others reported similar messages, but apparently the meaning can be divined only by the initiated. Fortunately, one of the initiated responded and all I had to do was to reinstall some things that had been working just fine to the naked amateur eye but apparently the nifty tool didn't like its attitude. The copy finally worked but, not surprisingly, it took a very long time to copy 30 GB. So my old system is now working on my new drive. Because it's external, it's slower than it would be if I were to go out and buy ANOTHER disk drive of megahungus gigawhoo size and install it inside the box after taking out the old one and again using the System Software Copier to copy it all back... the cost and the time and the logistics just give me nausea. So it stays on an external drive for the nonce.
Upgrade processorsRather than buying a whole expensive new computer, my company is just upgrading processors in all our office machines of roughly the same vintage, and they hope to get another 3 years out of them. So I buy a new superhuge dual-processor, at 1/5 the price. But first I have to upgrade the something firmware whoozie driver whatsit software. At least twice, maybe 3 times, because I've got all these versions of the operating system on different disks (including the old System 9).

Oh, and there was the part where it wouldn't reboot under system 9 and I had to go find some sort of CD that it would boot under so I could try again, and it takes FOREVER to boot from a CD. But, OK, everything's happy now.

Then I have to open the computer (ewwww... scary...), remove the old heat sink and old processor, and I'm shaking in my virtual shoes the whole time for fear I'll TOUCH SOMETHING WITH A BURST OF STATIC ELECTRICITY AND FRY EVERYTHING. But aside from losing a screw and taking a while to figure out how to get those clips off (they have detailed descriptions and photos and I'm still slow to get it), then "simply align the single connector" must have taken me 5 minutes at least, and then the box wouldn't relatch...
But it's in! And the system powers up! And it runs! And, wow, the computer really DOES run faster!

Except now, sometimes, when the computer goes to sleep, there's this shrieking rising high-pitched sound like a jet engine revving or a solenoid about to explode (there aren't any solenoids in modern computers...are there?...). But if I hit a key really quickly, the noise stops. Maybe it's one of the fans on the new dual processor. Maybe it's something else that's coincidentally failing. Do I really want to go through taking the new one out and shipping it back and reinstalling the old one? No. So cross fingers and hope it's just a settling-in fluke.
Upgrade to System 10.4(Which of course you can't just download--apple doesn't have it any more since they're now selling 10.5. So I have to go far afield to get a copy.) I put it into a different partition Just In Case, and it takes a couple of hours to go through all the hoops. Well, of course, that means that it doesn't understand ANY of my settings or application preferences from system 10.3.x. I checked with one of my gurus, and she said, "Why'd you do that? Just install it over 10.3." So I did. But updates are funny--many are serial, so after a very long system install, then I check for updates,and it installs those, then I chck for updates again, and there are more, and it installs those, and I check again, etc. etc. until now finally I'm up to system 10.4.11 and now finally the java updates start to install, and those seem to be sequential...6 hours after I started installing 10.4, I'm now fully running on 10.4. There goes another day. It actually seems to be working fine so far (except that every application I run says "you're running this for the first time; OK?").
BookSmart installNOW I can download and run BookSmart--except--their web site is down. It's down for most of the day. Have they gone out of business? I dunno! Can't find anything about it on the web anywhere. Finally I try once more, and the site comes up, and I download BookSmart.Seems to run. So, OK, let's just play with it. First, you can use only preset page layouts. It has lots, but you can't design your own. I've tried laying out 3 pages of photos and already I don't like what I can't get. What if I have 5 photos and want to lay them out as if I have 6 but put text in the 6th box? Can't do it. Gahhhhh.... OK, it's a new product and still in beta. Be patient.

Next I carefully resize the photos for the page layout. But then decide that I want a different layout. So I switch layouts. And it shoots all the photos back to their original sizes and I have to resize them all again. Same thing if I switch the position of two photos--have to resize them both again. This is not quite the easy-to-use thing I was imagining. But let's see whether it at least does what I wanted it to do.
Slurp SmugMug albumsWith just a few button clicks, it brings down all the photos from my chosen gallery. Slick.Well, guess what--it doesn't seem to slurp the text! I look all through their help and online materials, and I can't find anything. Why did I think that it would? I can't find that info on SmugMug, either, so maybe it was just wishful thinking. Since it doesn't do that, I can just use the photos that are right here on my computer. But I want the text! That's frustrating.

There's a Windows utility (which I can run an emulator for on my system) that will slurp the photos WITH the captions EMBEDDED in the photos. Still have to open each one to see the text, but at least I'd have it. But does booksmart take any info out of the embedded photo info? Apparently not, not that I can find. Well, crud!
slurp my blogJust a few button clicks again. I'm surprised that there's no way to specify which part of the blog you want to get, can't even specify certain labels or anything, near as I can tell. It's really going to slurp 1250 entries and hundreds of photos and put them all into one book?? No, of course it isn't, it keeps barfing after loading about 25 entries, saying that the blog is unavailable, try again later. Well, it's not unavailable, dagnabbit, it's right there and I can view everything. I post a help request on their site but have to wait one BUSINESS day. So there goes the weekend and any likelihood of creating a real book.
Blog labelsInstead, let's put more labels on my older blog posts (have been doing it only for a year or so, so 5 years worth of posts have no labels). I did a few topics a couple of weeks ago, using the Search box to find all relevant posts. But now--what?!--the search finds only posts from the last few months! It's not finding ANYTHING older! It's not finding the posts that it found two weeks ago! I spend an hour on their site trying to find relevant info. It claims to be a beta search and it seems to be broken, but there's nothing posted about it anywhere, and searching their massive billions of forum posts doesn't bring up anything useful. Used to be when you reported a bug, the bug went right to their support folks...although I do remember having to search for the right page, like they didn't really want you to find it. Now their "report a bug" goes straight to a public forum with 85,000 posts in it and if you're lucky maybe a Blogger person will come by and answer the question. So I posted the question yesterday and have yet to get a useful answer.
Photoshop elements upgradeMeanwhile, Photoshop Elements 6 has become available, and I bought it at a discount. I use this all the time, so it makes sense to buy it. It installs OK (except that it says "insert CD and follow the instructions on the screen", but there are no instructions, there's just the CD, so I have to find the right folder with the right thing to run...). But man, I think it took as long to install as the whole new operating system! MAN, it took a long time.Then I start it up. And it takes up my whole blinking monitor screen. Welcome to the new software--there's no resize handle in the lower right. There are no min/max buttons in the upper menu bar. I just want a little tiny photoshop window so that I can view other things at the same time. I look everywhere, all the menus, all the icons. I try Help. I try the User Guide. I try their web site. Another hour down the tube and I've done nothing except trying to resize my window.

I finally find a support place on their site where I can post a question, so I do. Now I have to wait for "1 to 2 business days"(?) for a response. It's probably something stupid that I just overlooked. But I hate this, HATE it...I've got over 20 years of experience on a wide variety of window-based applications, and I CANNOT FIGURE IT OUT!

Gah! I just want to scream.

Instead, guess I'll take the dogs for a walk and get my shoulders ripped out some more. It'll take my mind off the fact that I HATE COMPUTERS.

Boost is an Auntie

SUMMARY: More fast puppies.

Boost's nearly twin sister, and really fast agility dog, littermate Gina, had puppies! (Gina, left; Boost, right; look at those ears!)

Their daddy (Yankee) was off at the European Open last week, blazing away on the courses. These should be wonderful agility pups.

Thanks to east-coast blogger Flirt the Squirt and Bodhi, for letting me know. I'm always the last node in the grapevine.

Here's the puppies' blog, with photos.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Time Goes On

SUMMARY: Double sad news outside my dog world.

Best Man (left) and groom, 1981.
Weren't we all so much different then!

Twenty-seven years ago, I got married. That lasted barely into the new millennium, but friendships from those years continued. I've stayed in touch with the mother of our Best Man. I always felt that they were a close and loving family (two siblings? Three?) and they always made me feel part of their family.

We'd drifted apart from the Best Man, who had descended into alcohol and drugs, had spent time more than once in jail on DUI convictions, owed everyone way too much money. Not part of our world. Never knew what demons drove him so far from the paths taken by the rest of his family, from whom he had become estranged.

Two weeks ago, the mother let me know that her husband had died very suddenly. They weren't that old, I don't think. Of course my perspective on what "very old" is has changed considerably through the years... 110 is "very old" now. Maybe in their 70s?

The bigger shock was to get another note today that our Best Man had just been found dead in a motel room, cause unknown. It is such a stereotypically sad and lonely death for someone who had gone in his direction. I wonder whether he knew that his father had just died, and if so, whether that was too much for him?

He was such a funny, energetic guy in the old days. Lots of dreams that never came to fruition, but he was fun to talk to and hang around with.

And image the Mother--what a month. And she's selling the house and has to find a home for the husband's basset/dachshund. Her whole life turned topsy turvy. I can barely imagine.

I am sad about all of them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Credentials

SUMMARY: Ahem. May I present myself?

I've always wanted to have a page that lists my agility credentials. For what purpose, I don't know, which is, I suppose, why I don't yet have such a page. They're pretty wimpy credentials by Agility Guru standards, but what the hey.

This is a rough pass because I just got tired of looking things up. It's not like i'm trying to figure out which USDAA Nationals or Regionals I placed first in. Hah! Because I didn't! Thank goodness for CPE!

  • Competed with 4 dogs, all different breeds, 3 of them rescues
  • Competed in 200 trials covering 4 venues (USDAA, CPE, ASCA, NADAC)

  • xx different championships or multiple championships on three dogs

  • ADCH with two dogs, one of whom repeated the feat in Performance for his APD, another who has (to date) continued to ADCH-bronze

  • Six USDAA bronze class titles with two dogs, a silver, and a gold

  • C-ATCH with two dogs

  • NATCH with two dogs (one went on to O-NATCH and S-NATCH, with 1380 lifetime points, before I dropped out of NADAC)

  • ASCA ATCH with one dog

  • Qualified for NADAC nationals with 2 dogs every year for (I think) 5 years. Didn't go.

  • Attended USDAA Grand Prix nationals with two qualified dogs in 2000, 2001; one made the semifinal round.

  • Attended USDAA World Championships in 2004 (with 2 qualified dogs most events?), 2005 (with 1 qualified dog all events and one veteran dog), 2006 (with 1 qualified dog all events and one write-in candidate), 2007 (one dog qualified all events?)

  • DAM Team nationals finalist 2006

  • USDAA nationals placements in individual events: 11th DAM Snooker 2005, 12th DAM Gamblers 2006, 10th Power and Speed 2006

  • CPE Nationals 2004, Championship Level 16" Reserve high in trial

  • CPE Nationals 2006, Championship Level 24" High in trial Standard, with 8 of 9 qualifying runs, including five firsts and two seconds

  • Addition: July 25: USDAA Top Ten Performance Jumpers, 2004(?)

  • Qualified for Nationals in Grand Prix many times and DAM TEam several times (jeez, guess I have to figure these things out)

Hiking with Other People's Dogs

SUMMARY: A brisk hike through poison oak without my beasites.

Last night's Sierra Club hike took place at the Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve, which allows dogs. I thought about taking my beasts, but my shoulders are currently a mess (chiropractor says no yardwork, no tug of war, yeah like that's going to happen) and they just don't need more aggravation. Plus all that poison oak--not interested in doing another bath.

So I hiked with dogs vicariously.

Holly was definitely the most beautiful of the bunch. I am SO partial to mixed breeds! Maybe it's because each one is unique, but maybe also because they usually look so much more like Just Plain Dogs to me, not an inbred, warped, oddly shaped or proportioned creature. Maybe also why I like herding breeds--they seem to be the least damaged of the dog breeds. Or maybe I'm just biased.

I also happened to look around me while we were waiting to get going, and noticed that hiking feet look a whole lot different from agility feet. Will have to get a similar agility feet photo sometime soon, to compare and contrast...

Complete 13 photos from this hike, including commentary and more dogs, here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zero-Fault Grand Prixs

SUMMARY: You just knew it was going to happen sooner or later.

Well, folks, we're getting word that the 2009 Grand Prix qualifying season will now require clean runs to qualify.

Sigh--I knew that would happen sooner or later. There go all of Tika's future GP qualifiers. (It's like steeplechase--knocked bars have kept her from qualifying SO many times; now it'll be the same in the GP. 19 of her 25 GP Qs have been with 5 faults. And one of Boost's two Qs has been with 5 faults. Basically-- I'm doomed.)

Here's how they've gradually been shortening the leash:

Grand Prix introduced: 1988. I have no info from then through 1996.

1997: 15 or fewer faults to qualify.
1998, 1999: I can't find info. Anyone have this?
2000, 2001, 2002: 10 or fewer
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006: 7 or fewer
2007, 2008: 5 or fewer
2009: 0 or fewer

2012: 0 or fewer faults within 25% of the top three finishers?

2015: The top three finishers with 0 faults?

Maybe I shouldn't even suggest those, even facetiously, in public...it might give the wrong people some bad ideas...

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Sunday Diary

SUMMARY: Notes about my CPE weekend by time of day. Part 2.

6:15 a.m. Assorted noises wake me up. Alarm was set for 6. This little travel alarm goes off when it wants to, not when it's set for. Get dressed, potty the dogs.

6:35ish: On the road. It's a chilly and overcast morning.

7:10ish: At the agility site. Get right at setting up for the score table and such. One task for the weekend is to list everything in our 3 ubercarts so I can make labels so people can (a) find things and (b) put them away properly. I'm on it, between also working at Ring 1 score table. Once again, I'm not running in the first rotation, so I work on the list.

We have the WEIRDEST things in our stashes of supplies. An American flag! An inflator for basketballs! Huh.

9:00: Walk Jackpot for both dogs. It's nontraditional again; again can take the gamble at any time, and it has an easier 20-pointer and a somewhat harder 25, and bonus combos. With 50 seconds to accrue points--yow! That's nearly forever!

I watched a couple of experts run in the first rotation, so took my own ideas on a high-point run and took some elements from both of their runs. All we have to do is keep our bars up (starting with a sharp turn over a jump to short weaves for bonus 7 points). Plus Boost has to take *#&%* obstacles in front of her.

10:00 Boost starts her run by knocking the bar to the 7-pointer and missing her weave entry--twice--and then does the "what, THIS tunnel?" thing a couple of times, so now I'm behind and she does some random jump instead of what I intended, wasting time spinning and correcting. Then, when I whip her around for a fast and easy entry to the gamble tunnel, we're back to a dead stop and "what? what? do you mean me to do something? what do you want, what?" Somehow accidentally she ends up in the correct end of the tunnel and, wow, she does the 25-point gamble.

Then we start our really high-point-accumulation but BUZZZZ, what? Is that our timer already? So we head out of the ring. That'll be a Q but no spectacular score. (Result: For Boost, 56 points, a Q and a 5th place... so can move up to Level 5 in Jackpot for the next trial. )

Tika handles like a dream. It is nearly flawless. She does three A-frames and they look as if I've trained running contacts, solidly striding through the yellow. If she had a little more ground speed and a couple of tighter turns, we could have pulled out 3 more points, which is what I had hoped to do with Boost's speed. Ah, well, still a really lovely run and I think we might have gotten high-in-trial score.

(Result: Tika has 77 points and a first place in her class... one other dog (our once-and-future teammate Brenn the Border Collie) also has 77. One talented handler with great dogs--Backwards Hat--says, "How the heck did you get 77 points?!" I take it as a compliment. He'll get top dog back later in the day, though. But that clever Cory the super-fast Sheltie managed 78! So Tika is merely 2nd highest of all 125 dogs who ran the course. I'll take it!)

10:15 Walk Boost's Standard course. It's going to require a lot of running, plus she HAS to stick both her dogwalk and Aframe contacts, because on this course if she doesn't, either she'll be off course or I'll have to go through grand maneuvers to get her back into position.

11:00 Boost holds her start line nicely while I lead out way past the first obstacle, a 20-foot tunnel, and then I release her and BAM she's way out ahead of me and knocks the first jump she comes to, which is a sharp turn to the dogwalk. She hits her dogwalk contact nicely but pops off to come running back to greet me. I try to get her to DOWN so I can get past her, but we've done this before: every time I take a step, she pops up again, and so we're getting closer and closer to the next obstacle, a jump, and she's doing the bounce around in front of me thing and finally takes the jump kind of sideways. Whew.

She does a beautiful teeter, a perfect set of weaves! Yow! and then in a sequence of jumps, she's turning back to me and "what? what?"ing again and I'm SURE That i'm running as fast as I can and pointing and telling her to go hup, dagnabbit. We get to the Aframe, with a left into a tunnel, and instead she doesn't stick it and turns right to come back and see me, and then there's a tremendous amount of bouncing around trying to get her into correct position and finally she accidentally goes into the tunnel. Then we just finish by knocking a bar and doing the "what? what? what?" on the last jump. Cripeys!

(Result: No Q! Ack!)

11:15: Walk Snooker for both dogs. The 7-pointer is 3 jumps, and I always worry about knocking bars, but there's just BARELY enough time for this course that I can't justify to myself not attempting three 7s with Tika. I'm not sure I'll be able to make it in 45 seconds. But for Boost, I pick a different course that's just a very smooth loop around the course--with a #6 tunnel, #3 tunnel, and #4 short weaves because I just want some success!

12:00ish Boost's run is a mess. Starts off nicely, but plays "what what?" on the 2nd red. Plays "what what?" with the 3rd red and knocks it, so we bouncey "what what" our way across to the 4th red, which somehow she gets over without knocking, then she messed up her weave pole entrance 3 times before finally getting it, and then, wow, we actually get all the way through the closing! (Result: A Q and a second place of 6 dogs!)

Tika again runs like a charm. She's so good on a twisty course with wraps over all kinds of jumps! And the bars stay up, and we've got 51 points--and a whole 7 seconds of time left! Boy, did I overestimate that one. Glad I tried it. (Result: Of 79 dogs who ran that course, 5 of us managed a high of 51 points, but Tika is the fastest.)

1:00ish: Tika now has 7 Qs out of 7 runs. Could we possibly manage a Perfect Weekend? This afternoon is Full House--with my hopes for a high-in-trial score just because I want to be as creative as I can and run as well as I can--but it is an absolute 100% gimmee for both dogs. But there's also Wildcard and Jumpers. And there's a reason Tika doesn't have as many Qs in these classes--dang knocked bars! So we'll see...

5 minutes for lunch, between working the score table and inventorying the ubercarts and moving things around to be better distributed AND using a PVC cutter to cut down all the odd-length jump bars that have been driving most of us nuts for years. Take that, Jim Basic! So I'm kinda busy. The sun has only recently come out and it's still quite cool in the shade. Great agility weather. We're lucky!

1:30ish: Walk Wildcard for both dogs. Well, OK, the judge is going to make me WORK for my Qs in this one. It starts with a straight jump-jump-tunnel-jump but there's a trap tunnel slightly to the left of the first tunnel. So I have to do a long lead-out so that I can be already running past that 3rd jump as the dogs are coming out of the tunnel, or almost guaranteed they're going to go into that offcourse tunnel. And there are also some other very challenging turns and maneuvers.

2:00ish Boost holds her start line very well, and on release takes all the jumps and the tunnel rather than coming around them to me (which she still sometimes does), and I'm just a stride away from that third jump yelling "Boost come hup" or something, but I might just have raised my arm to point at the jump and she veers full blast into that off-course tunnel. Sigh.

Then we play "what? what? don't know how to enter weave poles" with BOTH sets of weaves on the course. I JUST WANT A DAMNED SMOOTH COURSE THAT I CAN SUCCEED WITH THIS DOG ON! (Result: No Q.)

Tika--well--she knocks the first bar. Game over. Game, set, match. End of perfect weekend. The rest she does like a pro. Not for the first time, I contemplate whether I should move her back to Level 5. See, at Level 5 in CPE, you're allowed a knocked bar and you can still Q. I have that option. If we were at level 5, we'd have had a couple of other Perfect Weekends under our belt. I think that quite a few people who earn Perfect Weekends do it with faulted Qs. But I just have trouble with that idea--it wouldn't FEEL like a Perfect Weekend to me. In USDAA, you can't be going around having faults and still hope to Q. So we stay at Championship level in CPE.

(Result: No Q, but her time is the fastest of all 58 dogs who run the same course. But I'll take that, too.)

2:10ish: Walk Full House. I already have 90% of a plan from my original read of the course map and watching a very fast and talented friend do her course, but of course I want to try to find a clever variant that will allow me more points. However, I add only one jump; just can't think of a good flowing way to add more points and still be near the table when the whistle blows. But the good thing is--this is almost entirely a straight line or very smooth curves with no calloffs or anything--HEAR THAT BOOST?! TAKE THE D*#*@&*( OBSTACLES IN FRONT OF YOU!

3:00ish Boost runs. There are very few rules in this game, but you DO have to successfully complete 3 jumps to earn a Q. I have planned 4 into my course to be safe. And... she knocks the first bar. Then she does "what what waht" and knocks the 2nd bar! So now I veer out of my smooth path to try to get another jump in, and she's bouncing around and somehow takes the jump kind of sideways without knocking it. Then, like, wow, the rest of the course we're actually very smooth except that she almost takes me out at the knees, and she does two sets of nice weaves, but we don't get the last points I wanted because we're out of time.

Here's the other rule--after the whistle, you have 5 seconds to get to the table or they start subtracting points. We run towards the table--and Boost starts doing the "what what?" game right until we get there,and she bounces backwards past it, and I just stop, walk her back 10 feet, get her lined up, and then run at it again. This time she does it nicely. I can do this because my dogs are so fast and earn so many points that I can afford to lose a few points.

(Result: That table redo almost cost us a Q! We ended up with EXACTLY the number of points that we needed. Sigh.)

Tika--well, she runs like a charm, and she does 2 A-frames with that "looks like I trained it" stride through the yellow, and then I run out of obstacles and the whistle hasn't blown! So we kind of figure 8 awkwardly around a 1-point jump for a couple more points, then the whistle blows and we hit the table.

Turns out that the timer was set wrong, so we did have more time than we were supposed to have. I should've known--I'm almost never that far off in my strategy game plans.

(Result: W00t! 49 points, which was more than the friend with a similar course. Brenn the Border Collie has the same points. But--wow--Backwards Hat comes up with TWO more points than Tika! So I said, "how the heck did you get 2 more points?" and he told me, and sure enough, we could've done that, too, but I had rejected it because it left us out in the middle of nowhere. But, with a fast dog like them and like my dogs, I could easily have run from there to the table within 5 seconds. But that's OK, Tika is 2nd highest of 125 dogs on the same course. So that's danged good. I'm pleased with the run.)

3:15ish: Boost is done for the weekend. Actually managed 3 Qs today, for a total of 4 of 10. Not great, but we've done worse. Tika still has jumpers. I've finished the inventory, I've finished the PVC cutting, I'm only half working the score table because my excellent co-worker is just handling it.

3:30ish: I walk Tika's Jumpers course. There is one really awkward spot that I can't find a smooth way to handle. I walk it as a serpentine--on both sides. I walk it with a front cross before. I walk it with a landing side rear cross and a take-off side rear. I really don't think that I can do any of them comfortably. I want to do the serpentine but I don't think I have the speed and will fall back on a front cross before it if I'm behind.

4:00ish: I do a long lead-out to give myself room to try for that serp. Not only do I not make the serp, but I can't get to the front cross and have to sort of stop in her way, and she kind of woofs as she comes around (which means "this was unexpected but exciting") and bam, the bar goes down.

So no Q here, either, but I'm glad we blew it earlier in the day--it would've sucked to get to the last run of hte weekend with 9 Qs and then blow the 10th!

(Result: No Q, but her time is very good--3rd fastest of all 66 dogs who ran the same course. I don't know whether we'd have picked up and extra 1.4 seconds to beat those dogs if I hadn't blown that obstacle, but it's certainly possible. Still--I'm so happy with how she's running! Viva la CPE!)

4:10ish: My dogs are done. But there's one more round to score table, more things to double-check in the inventory, club things that can start being disassembled ready for loading into the trailers, results I have to write down, ribbons I have to pick up, and so on. And so the day winds slowly down. I stay with the usual last hold-outs to get everything packed away, and give the dogs some good long frisbee on the now-empty field, and chat a bit with the gang.

7:00 p.m.: I'm on the road. At least 90 minutes to go. I'll be so glad to be home and in bed. And of course there's a lot of heavy traffic heading down the freeway back towards the cities at the end of the weekend.

8:50ish: Home.

A Saturday Diary

SUMMARY: Notes about my CPE weekend by time of day. Part 1.


2:30 p.m. Go to web site and print: final running orders for the weekend, catalog front page, general info letter, workers schedule, all for my own use, and highlight my dogs' runs. Print 3 copies each of premium, complete running-order catalog, general info letter, workers schedule for CPE binders. Get three CPE binders for score table from garage, remove stuff from last trial, add new materials. Put my paperwork along with premium and entry confirmations into my trial folder. Load all into car.
4:00 p.m. Packing for the weekend: Clear out last week's accumulation of stuff from the van. Back van into driveway so I can maneuver canopy frame into it. Load bag with canopy cover and sun cloth. Load folding chair & table; bag with clips, bungies, water buckets, sheet for Boost's crate; dog mats for crates; crates; video camera; regular camera. Pull back into garage.
5:00 p.m. Fill 2 jugs of water; measure out dogfood; load into van. Pack suitcase and load.
5:30 pm I think I'm done packing. Oop, not quite. Get cooler out and into car. Load weekend's worth of drinks into fridge to cool off; load breakfast bars and fruit into bag in car. Make sure I have enough dog treats.
6:00 pm Really done now? Oh--there's a music party this weekend at a friend's. Dig out old flute and music and try playing it. It's been mannnnnnnnnny years. Yuck. But pack that, too, anyway.
6:30 Done?
8:30 I was going to go to bed by now, but it's driving me nuts that I haven't finished sorting and labeling and uploading and describing my last day of my Havasu Falls/Grand Canyon trip. It's been 2 months! Just git'er done!
11:30 p.m. Done. I'm really tired now. Take Boost out for final potty.


4:30 a.m. Omigod jeez holy.... what's that noise? Where am I? What's going on? ...Crap, it's the radio alarm. Time to get up. I do this because I like it. I do this because I like it. Repeat.
4:45 I'm dressed; potty dogs. Yay, they both cooperated & do everything, so I'll be able to relax for a while after I get to Petaluma. Load dogs into car, drinks into cooler.
4:55 a.m. Out of the driveway and to Safeway for bananas and ice.
5:05 a.m. Crap, they have no ice! Now I have to drive 2 miles in the opposite direction to the 7/11. Fortunately they have ice.
5:20 a.m. Hit the freeway. 20 minutes later than I wanted.
6:45 a.m. In Petaluma at the trial site. Because I'm Score Table Czar and because the Chair is nice, they saved me a crating spot right next to the rings and a parking spot right next to that. Unload and setup are a breeze, less than half an hour. Frisbee dogs a bit. Set up score table materials and ring timers and random other stuff that needs doing. The beginning of a typical weekend where I have hardly a minute to just sit and relax.
7:30ish General briefing, then first walkthroughs. I'm not in the first rotation, so it's just completing Wildcard scribe sheets. Fortunately I have a very reliable assigned parter for the table.
9:00 Walk through Tika's Jumpers course. Yikes, lots of very sharp turns and calloffs and a couple of tricky front crosses that I'd like to get in but not sure I can.
9:30 Tika Jumpers. She ticked a bar but didn't knock it. I miss one front cross and so she wastes a little time veering away from the best path, but not bad; she's such a good girl! (Result: Q, 1st place of 3 dogs, 7th fastest of 54 dogs all heights of 4/5/C levels who ran the same course. Not bad.)
9:40 Walk Colors for Tika and Boost. Have to choose one of two intertwined courses. For best possible runs, will require me to move laterally away from dogs in a 6-pole weave, and then later run like crazy to push them out.
10:15 Boost did great--made her weave entrance, stuck through it, no refusals on jumps, both dogs kept their bars up; didn't quite make the push out with Boost but just wasted a little time. Tika barely got a toenail into the Aframe, I guess, because the judge didn't call it, so she flew through that course, while Boost at least briefly correctly waited in her 2o2o position. (Result: Qs for both, Tika 12.90 seconds, Boost 13.26 over 63 yards, for the 3rd and 4th fastest times of all 92 3/4/5/C dogs all heights (fastest 12.73). Both took 1st in their class. I'm feeling good about Boost after one run! Maybe we'll click this weekend.)
10:30Walk Wildcard for both dogs. A little challenging, with 2 sets of weaves and two 20' tunnels lined up parallel to each other and only about 20' total across. This will be tricky.
11:00 Well, tricky, yeah! On first front cross, Boost went BEHIND me (bad dog!) and into a tunnel that I didn't want to do. In wildcard, this would have been salvageable if I could think that fast on my feet, but I don't do that well in wildcard, so I don't adjust the course for it, and anywaythe whole thing now has me too far behind her, and so I'm not in position for another turn and she takes a real off course, plus knocks a bar. No Q for her. With Tika, I adjust my handling based on results with Boost, and we barely get through it, but it looks smoother than it felt. Worrisome--she ticked a bar again, and again it didn't go down, but if she's ticking 'em, they're going to start falling eventually. Too bad, as in CPE she's sometimes had barless weekends. (Results: Tika Qed AND was fastest of all 84 3/4/5/C dogs on the same course, 19.76 seconds over 96 yards. SUCH a good girl! Yards Per Second seems very slow, for a very fast course with no contacts, but there were sharp turns and two sets of weaves, while slows things down.)
12:00 Trial seems to be running smoothly. Was foggy and quite cold this morning but now that sun's out, it's warming up, but not broiling as we'd feared. Boost starts to panic every time I take her out without a toy to focus on. This site was used for a circus, I guess, a week ago, and someone said they had lions and tigers and bears, oh my. She sniffs the ground obsessively, tail plastered to her stomach, occasionally jerking her head upright, standing almost frozen, scanning the horizon for incoming giant predators. Tika just wanders around sniffing, thinking, "huh! Interesting!" Very hard to get Boost to focus and pee when needed.

This also means I'll have to keep her completely focused on me in before going into the ring or she'll go into a panic in the ring and we won't be able to run.

12:30 Walk through Snooker for both. This is one of those annoying courses where #7 has 3 parts, #5 has two parts, one of the reds is also part of #7... gah! I pick a course that seems to walk fairly smoothly anyway, but I have to remember to run it exactly as I walked it or I risk confusing my #7 and that red. Also I'm going to lead out a long way, call the dog over the first red, and then run across the field to a set of weaves to start with. My plan is a 6 and two 7s in the opening.
1:15 Very quick disaster with Boost. The run across the field to the weaves results in her running backwards in front of me, saying what what what do you want what???? and thereby running past the weaves, then sees them and enters wrong, so I have to pull her around and try again, and now I'm in the wrong position and I go for that red/7 combo and I'm running it and all of a sudden it feels wrong and sure enough I took it in the wrong order and we're whistled off. Crud! Tika, however, handles beautifully until we get to #5 in the closing, where that predicted falling bar finally happens. (Result: Tika barely Qed, took only 2nd place of 3 dogs in her class.)
1:40 Walk Standard for Boost. Full 12-pole weaves that I'd like to move away laterally on again to stay ahead of her when I get to the Aframe. A tricky push out to the teeter--twice! Some places where it would be helpful to be able to send her to a jump. Some challenges.
2:30Boost's Standard run. Argh. Didn't write enough notes--I think she popped out of the weave and i had to go back for them, so then I was behind her at the Aframe, and she did NOT wait for the release and went ahead into an offcourse obstacle, and then there was that send/front cross thing, and she does NOT like coming back in to me on a u-turn or serp like that, for a lot of time wasted. The teeter push works ok. (One of the top competitors (also in USDAA) complimented Boost's teeters, the way she slides to the end, and I had to confess that I didn't really teach that drive, she just came with it.) On the final set of jumps to the end, she's looking back at me and jumping around instead of going over d*** jumps that are in front of her, and knocks one of the bars. (Result: no Q again.)
2:40 Walk Jackpot (gamblers) for both dogs. This is nontraditional in that you can take the gamble at any time during your run, you don't have to wait for the buzzer. AND there are two choices on the gamble, a 25-pointer and a 20-pointer. I think that if I take a running start at the 25-pointer, which requires that the dog go straight out over 2 jumps, then turn left and come back to you through a tunnel, then both dogs can do it easily. If they miss, then I can just swing around and do the other one, which is a very simply tunnel away from you and then into a tunnel back to you. The rest of my plan is a very smooth, very high point run that both dogs should be able to do easily.
3:30 I attempt the first gamble with Boost--get her revved up, take a couple of steps, then yell GO! and run her straight at the gamble jumps. I stop at the gamble line, but she's ahead of me... and she just stops and looks around and starts sniffing. JeeeeeePERS dagnabbit! So I bring her back to me and start the second gamble, and she goes out through the first tunnel,then looks at the second tunnel and comes back to me AROUND it, and then I have to run around the outside of the gamble area, trying to push her back to the far tunnel entry, and she's bouncing around and finally sees the wrong end of the tunnel. So we get no gamble, therefore no Q, AND we've wasted a whole ton of time. Then she's doing the look at me/refusal thing on jumps and we barely manage a few points before our time is up. Dagnabbit take obstacles in front of you DAGNABBIT!

Tika, however, does everything flawlessly... oh, except I guess I'm not clear enough in one place and she gets away from me and takes an unplanned jump, but we recover and still get everything done that I had planned. But all her bars stay up and she does TWO aframes with at least one full paw in the yellow zone--not ideal, but we get credit. (Result: Boost no Q, Tika 69 points and highest of all 125 dogs at the trial...with one dog at 67, then way down to one 62, one 61, and one 60 after that.)

4:00 So, for the day, Tika Qed 5 for 5 with 4 1sts and a 2nd, on a roll and heading for maybe a Perfect Weekend. One Q for Boost and a lot of disasters. There's one more class to work score table for.

The thing about having the highest score or the fastest time is both that I want to do the best that can be done for my own sense of achievement, and also that I'm always practicing for USDAA, where we need every edge we can get. Can I come up with more creative strategy than others in the point games? Can I come up with a more efficient path or more aggressive handling than others in any of the games? We so seldom place there, that I need to keep pushing myself and polishing and tweaking.

5:45 Day is done, courses are built for tomorrow, they sent out for pizza and about 25 of us sit together and eat and chat and the two biggest agility maniacs in The Bay Team are trying to figure out how we can squeeze in one more CPE and one more USDAA trial. Isn't 7 trials a year ENOUGH already??

6:30 To Cold Stone Creamery for dessert with a friend. OK, Peppermint Patties in raspberry sorbet does NOT work well.

7:15 Heading for that music party in American Canyon.

7:50 Arrive. They've got speakers and a guy on drums and 3 folks on guitars and there's much (not very good but spirited) singing going on and I say hi and have a tiny bit of pulled pork and join in a little, waiting for a peach crisp that never makes it out of the oven. The flute stays in the car.

9:00 Head to WendyWear headquarters, just 5 minutes away, where we'll be spending the night. Have the usual pleasant and interesting chat, then potty dogs and...

10:15 In bed. Lights out.

Sunday later and maybe course maps.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Last of the Grand Canyon Photos

SUMMARY: At last, I'm done with Day 7!

It just took forever to decide with of the California Condor photos to include and which of the snowy Grand Canyon photos to include. I'm done now. Take a look if you want. Includes bonus taxidermy in case Team Small Dog is looking.

Who Are You and Why Are You Paying All That Money?

SUMMARY: Who we are and how much money we're paying. (Duh!)

I can thank my Dad again (nonagility parents who've been pretty faithfully slogging through my blog) for today's topic; he responded to my Statistics post:

Okay - Interesting.
* Are there statistics on the handlers?
* How many have serious problems with their lower limbs, from the hips down?
* What are their ages?
* How much would they have to spend, just on entry fees (forget travel and motels, restaurants, etc.) just to get all of the required wins to be a lifetime champion?
* How does the organization get all of those handlers to fork over that much money?

It sounds as though you really, Really, REALLY enjoy the whole thing. Keep it up.

I do enjoy it, or I guess I wouldn't keep at it even on the discouraging days.

Our club has no stats like that on the handlers. We need the dogs' ages because they can't enter until they reach a certain minimum age, but there are no restrictions on handlers' ages. We've seen some VERY young handlers move dogs around the course better than I can. Brats.

Clean Run (the agility magazine) did a demographics survey in 2003 and published a summary of the results in their January 2004 issue: "90%...are female and between 31 and 60 years of age. 40% are between 41 and 50. 80% chance that you live by yourself or with only one other person. 48% chance that you have been competing for more than 4 years. 36% attend 12 or more trials a year." [Wait--their phrasing is unclear... last one might be 52%.]

I've often wondered about the lower limbs thing; if you just sit and watch some of the classes at a USDAA trial, particularly at the Masters level, you'll see an amazing number of knee supports. There are also--somewhere out there in the world--an estimated 50-80 people doing agility from a wheelchair or similar device. Seems like half the people I talk to have had knee surgery of some kind. But is that from agility or is that because of the age demographic or maybe just because the people who do agility have always tended to be very active in sports and maybe it's a lifetime of pounding on the knees? Interesting question.

How much would one have to spend...? Yeah, like I really want to know that answer. When that topic comes up, our universal response is "don't go there." I think we'd all just about turn inside out if we added up everything we've spent doing agility. I have a fairly good idea of how much I spend in a year, because I have a household budget in my computer, but I try not to add up all the pieces (e.g., gas costs go into my "vehicle" budget, stuff like that). Entry fees are a big chunk of it, but I don't know that it's more than 50%. There's all the equipment and/or the lessons or field rentals and traveling to class every week (or twice a week...or three times a week...) and extra seminars and training treats and, well, like that.

I've periodically threatened to add up everything I've spent on agility, but then my heart quavers and I go back to burying my head in the chute (hey, does that work as an analog to "sand"? Maybe?).

It's a lot.

It's not a low-income sport.

We fork over the money because we like doing it. We gripe about it when the sanctioning organization raises its fees, or insists on higher fees for no apparent reason. (For example, why does our club have to charge $20 to enter the Grand Prix when it's exactly the same as a Standard course which we charge only $12 to enter? Because USDAA says so, that's why. Bay Team tried to lower it once--because really, we make quite a bit of money on our regional, at least-- and they said, Uh-uh, you have to charge the higher rate.) There are occasional mostly joking comments about "Ken [the president/owner] has kids to send to college," but in the case of Tournament fees, I don't get it, because USDAA doesn't profit from the excess fees, the club does. I dunno how much Ken really makes in a year from this. I've never seen what kind of house he lives in or what kind of car he drives or where his kids go to college. It's not a public corporation, so the books aren't open.

So how do they convince us to pay it? Well, some people pay to enter bridge tournaments every Tuesday night. Some people pay to go to movies every weekend (wait--I do that, too!). Some people pay to learn how to jump with their horse and compete (like my sister and nieces). Some people pay to play golf. I dunno, it's just something that I do that costs money. Bummer on that score.

But I'm still here, having survived since my first view of agility, up at Power Paws in early Spring 1995, when I went up one evening to see what it was all about, and took in the bright lights, and the beautiful, brightly colored equipment in a rainbow of patterns across the lush green grass, and dogs doing the most amazing things--and off-leash, too! and running full out, too! and everyone having a good time, too!-- that I doubted I could ever get my dog to do but, oh!, wanted so badly to try!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Charity Vote

SUMMARY: From Wishy the Writer, an online vote.

Wishy says:

I heard about a charity in Iowa that matches agility dogs with disabled kids and they are up for a huge grant if they receive the most online votes this week. Thought I'd pass the info on. I have no connection with this charity. Just thought it sounded good. Read more here. Pass it on...

(FYI, you need to supply your email address to vote. I read the site's privacy policy and the contest rules, and it's not clear whether the email address used to confirm that you're placing only one vote is used ONLY for that and not for "Terlato or authorized Terlato partners and resellers". I've sent email asking for clarification; will edit this post if I get a response. Also note that the online vote counts for only 15% of the final decision; 85% is decided by a panel of judges. -Taj MuttHall)

Update July 23; email from Terlato Wines in response to my query: We are truly glad you alerted us to this matter, as we too agree consumers should be able to proactively opt-out of any solicitations. The full name and e-mail must be entered only to ensure people are not voting twice in one day, and the system was actually not set up to store these entries in any database. As a result, we did not offer an opt-out, and we are revising the Web site to clarify.

We are also reviewing our Privacy Policy to determine appropriate changes based on your concerns.

Thank you,

Megan Ward
Assistant Marketing Manager
Terlato Wines International

Trial Statistics Because I Can

SUMMARY: I love it when trial secretaries extract interesting info from the trial database!

So I'll share the info for this weekend's Bay Team CPE trial with you again, because I know you care. (And, for the more studious of you, you can compare and contrast with my stats from our USDAA trial 2 weeks ago.)

Total dogs entered: 204 (but usually there's a small set each day that enters only one day, so Saturday has 179 dogs, sunday has 173).

Classes: We offer 6 classes a day of the 7 defined by CPE, although CPE restricts dogs to 5 runs a day. That way, we can more easily distribute the classes among 3 judges in 3 rings, plus people can choose what they really want to enter. This time, we're offering 2 Standard, 2 Snooker, 2 Jackpot (Gamblers), 2 Jumpers, 2 Wildcard, and one each Colors and Full House.

Experience Levels: The trial sec didn't pull out the number of dogs by level, but just f'rinstance, in Saturday's Standard (which tends to be the largest class):
* Level 1: 23 (complete beginner)
* Level 2: 26
* Level 3: 29
* Level 4: 18 (Boost's level)
* Level 5: 22
* Level C: 20 ((championship), Tika's level)

Number of runs: 1482 for the weekend. That's only about 240 per judge per day, a moderate level.

Weather: It's supposed to get up into the mid-80s. Yuck. But it could be worse. And dang all that smoke; wonder whether it's clearer 2 hours north of here?

Most common breeds:
* All American (39)
* Australian Shepherd (34)
* Border Collie (26)
* Sheltie (21)
* Golden Retriever (12)
* Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) (7) (Bonus #6 on list of top 5)
The other 65 are scattered among 37 other breeds.

Ages: There's one 14-year-old dog entered, two 13, two 12-yr-olds, then the count rises as they get younger to peak at 41 4-yr-olds, with about 25 each at 2, 3, 5, and 6 years. (Dogs can't compete until they're a year and a half.)

Names: The most common dog's name is Sadie, with 3. 16 names are duplicated once, including Izzy and Ceilidh, for interesting ones that you might not guess would be duplicates. Place-type names: Two each of Sydney, Dakota, and Alaska.

Dogs per handler: 117 people are running only one dog, 35 are running 2, three are running 3, and two totally insane folks are running 4 each.

Our competition: The number of dogs in direct competition (same level and same jump height) to Boost looks like about 8; in direct competition to Tika, about -- um -- 1 or 2. (But both can vary by day and by class.) But note--that I actually consider, being a competitive sort of personage, ALL 204 DOGS to be in direct competition to my dogs. If Tika can't beat everyone at the trial in at least one class, I'll be gloomy.

Predictions: Tika will take a lot of first places.

What I'd like to do: Earn a perfect weekend--10 Qs (qualifying scores) each--for both dogs. Chances--for Tika, decent: She's done it once before and missed by one several times.

What I need: Since it looks like I'm mostly dropping out of CPE--not enough time or money to do both CPE and USDAA--I'm not focusing much on CPE titles. However, Boost needs:
* 1 Jackpot (Gamblers) to move up to Level 5 Jackpot (2 chances!)
* 2 Snooker to move to L5 (2 chances!)
* 4 Standard to move to L5 (2 chances)
* 3 Wildcard to move to L5 (1 chance)
* 4 Colors to move to L5 (1 chance--and she has to keep her bars up to get it)

Tika needs a megatruckload'o'Qs in everything to earn her CATE, and we might never get there with only a couple of trials a year. She's only halfway there. Oh, well. Most legs she can earn in any class, but she must first finish earning:
* 5 more Colors (danged bars)
* 3 more Wildcard
* 1 more Jackpot
* 7 more Jumpers (2 chances)

In total, she must earn (approx) 250 Qs; so far, she has 126. It'll be a lonnnng time getting there with only a trial or two a year. Can you say "14-year-old dog"?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Practice Makes--What?

SUMMARY: Lack of classes, lack of practice, but Tika's fine.

As of this week, we've had no class for 3 of the last 4 weeks. Yikes. And that's after I cut down to one class a week, so I'm sort of sharing Boost's class time with Tika, so it's not superly sufficient anyway.

And just not motivated to work on jumping drills in the yard. Bor. Ing. Would be more interesting if I had enough space for the dogs to open up and actually practice something, but now I can set up two jumps 20' apart--and then we're out of room. Makes it hard to trick them into thinking we're doing something else.

So we have a CPE trial in Petaluma this weekend, and who knows what's going to happen.

Tika's anal gland, meanwhile, looks just fabulous, to my inexpert eye. She's had oral antibiotics for 10 days, plus twice-daily cleanouts of the gland with antibacterial ointment and hot compresses and massages. She wasn't thrilled with the process, but we came to a working agreement. Went much better than any kind of work at the vet's would have gone, I think.

Gave her painkillers for about the first 3 days, rimadyl as an antiinflammatory for about the next 5 or 6, and she is just absolutely frisky and happy the last few days. So she should run fine this weekend (says here), if she can keep her bars up. It helps that, in CPE, she jumps 24" instead of 26"

And I entered Boost at 20" instead of 24" this time (she's actually eligible for 16", but since she has to do 22" in USDAA, I prefer to stay in that range), which might or might not help with her bar knocking.

And we'll just concentrate on making sure we do weaves correctly, and contacts correctly, and I hope have just a grand old time.

If only this smoke would go away. It's been weeks, now. California's just burning up. I guess I'd rather deal with mere smoke than with a fire creeping up on my house. Oddly, my allergies and asthma seem to be far more subdued than usual, although my throat's a wee bit scratchier. Anyway, it's mostly just ugly stuff.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No Dogs, But Houses, Flowers, and Ships

SUMMARY: What I did today in Alameda and Oakland.

Photos from today with some narrative.

Update: July 13, 10 a.m.: That trip was courtesy of Wikipedia in an interesting way. Back when I was spending infinite hours editing wikipedia, I signed up on one of the pages that said I'd be willing to take photos of things in California. Back in March, someone (who is not in California and so didn't know location relativity) left a request for me to take a picture of the Alameda Spite House for the spite house article.

Well, gee, I'd never heard of such a thing, and the article intrigued me, so of course I had to set up a trip to go up there, and Jack London Square was just around the corner, and when we got to the spite house, we discovered on driving through the neighborhood that it was filled with wonderful homes, so we wandered a bit, and the neighbors saw us oohing and aahing and taking photos and we must have talked with half a dozen people as we went. And the weather was just about perfect (if it weren't for all the smokey haze in the air). We had lunch on the spur of the moment driving past a place called Demitra's in Alameda that looked good; I had a gyro and my friend had an avacado/turkey sandwich and they were both delicious. I knew that there were historic boats at JLS but didn't know details until I got there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Nothing

SUMMARY: Snooker: It's not about the points, it's about the clothing. Specifically, the t-shirt.

The Zero-Point Club: Step right up, join the club! Got a dog that knocks bars? Got a dog that particularly likes to knock the first bar and is so fast that you can't call her off the next obstacle? Well, friends, have I got a deal for you: You, too, can become a member of the Zero-Point Snooker club. To inspire and delight you, here are our bona fide, certified credentials for membership in this popular club:
But we're really special upper-crust club members: DogPlay gave us this lovely t-shirt because Tika is the only dog we know who managed TWO zero-point Snookers ON THE SAME DAY. So there's something to strive for, you young'uns. (And, lookee see, the dog on the t-shirt has knocked the first red and is already in the first pole of the weaves, so zero points! W00t!) 

This doesn't mean that you're bound for eternal zeroness! In his agility career, Jake ran 96 Snookers (combined CPE and USDAA) and earned his Snooker Championship Bronze in both Masters and Performance 3. Tika has run 136 Snookers (CPE and USDAA) and has her Snooker Championship Silver. So Boost is obviously well on her way to following in their footsteps! 

Visit dogplay.com for a wealth of useful information about everything dog. No commercials. As a sideline, DogPlay also runs an online shop; you can order a Zero-Point Club t-shirt like mine and many other agility-related shirts at the Dogplay agility shop. (Disclosure: Dogplay is a Bay Teamer and a friend, but I'm not getting paid for this and she didn't ask me to do it. I recommend dogplay.com for dog info to many people, in particular those getting their first dog or wondering how or where to get a dog.)

It Sucks or It Soars

SUMMARY: Why some classes I like better than others for some dogs.

Just thought I'd share with you Remington's least favorite class (and a model for my perseverance) and Tika's most favorite class (one that I can really relax at).

Note the Q or n (not Q) history for each.

The single Q for Remington was under time by less than a second. The single non-Q for Tika was a required obstacle that didn't get written down on the scribe sheet, and although I had it on video, the judge said he couldn't use the video as evidence. Oh, well! We got a few more Qs after that anyway.

Remington's Least Favorite Class

PlaceDog qty
USDAAStandard8/18/2001City of IndustryMastersn5
USDAAStandard8/19/2001City of IndustryMastersnE
USDAAStandard8/24/2002City of IndustryMastersnE
USDAAStandard8/25/2002City of IndustryMastersnE

Tika's Most Favorite Class

CPEFull House2/9/2003Elk Grove1LevQ4516
CPEFull House6/8/2003Elk Grove2Levn302
CPEFull House8/10/2003Elk Grove2LevQ3912
CPEFull House11/8/2003Livermore2LevQ4212
CPEFull House1/11/2004Elk Grove3LevQ41-3313
CPEFull House3/27/2004Sunnyvale3LevQ4216
CPEFull House5/8/2004Elk Grove4LevQ4913
CPEFull House6/6/2004Turlock4LevQ4611
CPEFull House6/11/2004Elk Grove5LevQ37-136
CPEFull House10/23/2004Turlock5LevQ41-114
CPEFull House3/12/2005Turlock5LevQ49-233
CPEFull House3/27/2005Sunnyvale5LevQ41-224
CPEFull House5/7/2005Elk GroveCLevQ3512
CPEFull House5/8/2005Elk GroveCLevQ4411
CPEFull House5/21/2005Elk GroveCLevQ3412
CPEFull House7/3/2005Elk GroveCLevQ4812
CPEFull House7/4/2005Elk GroveCLevQ5011
CPEFull House7/23/2005SunnyvaleCLevQ4214
CPEFull House3/11/2006TurlockCLevQ4611
CPEFull House3/25/2006SunnyvaleCLevQ4612
CPEFull House6/2/2006Elk GroveCLevQ3859
CPEFull House6/17/2006MaderaCLevQ35-1113
CPEFull House8/5/2006Elk GroveCLevQ41-111
CPEFull House2/24/2007Elk GroveCLevQ4913
CPEFull House3/10/2007TurlockCLevQ5013
CPEFull House3/24/2007SunnyvaleCLevQ4111
CPEFull House7/21/2007PetalumaCLevQ49-1111
CPEFull House11/23/2007Elk GroveCLevQ5012
CPEFull House11/24/2007Elk GroveCLevQ5313
CPEFull House3/8/2008TurlockCLevQ3511
CPEFull House3/22/2008Twin CreeksCLevQ4623
CPEFull House3/23/2008Twin CreeksCLevQ4614

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Complete List of Labels

SUMMARY: Now you can see my complete list of Blogger labels.

Blogger doesn't support displaying a complete list of all the labels that I've used on all my posts unless I publish my blog under their URL (blogspot.com etc.), and since I use tajmutthall.org (subset of finchester.org), I'm screwed. So I'm going to do it manually.

I'll try to update it at least once a month or if I do some major labeling work.

Just click the "Complete list of labels" link below the list of labels! Let me know how this works for you. And if anyone has any better ideas, I'd love to know about that, too.

Tika Progresses

SUMMARY: Doing better.

Sometime between the emergency vet Sunday evening and the regular vet this morning, the abscessed anal gland ruptured all by itself so is draining some. The vet told Tika that she did a good job but it didn't prevent her from screaming and thrashing when he tried to really get in and check it out. Last time this happened, they tried sedating her and it took three people to hold her still enough so the vet could try to clean it out a little and it worked only partly and later they completely anesthetized her. She's one strong, panicked dog at the vet's.

It would help if she had a tail that you could grab and lift, but you're also fighting this little tiny nubber tail that you have to grab right against her buttocks (do dogs have buttocks?), right where it's already sore, and try to pry it up. Gads.

So I said, let me try the home treatment. I have to try to get antibiotic ointment into it twice a day for a week. This might be like tilting at windmills. Very strong, very panicked, very drama queen windmills that shriek and thrash if you just look at them wrong.

Also the yelping around her head, the vet thinks it's her neck again and I'm not convinced again because she keeps holding her head to one side and kind of shaking it, but her ears look good and it's really hard to get in her mouth (remember the shrieking thrashing windmills) to look but nothing appeared out of whack, so who knows what it really is.

But she's playing fetch just fine, and tugging of war, so we're getting there.

Now I'm off to the chiro for a pinched something in my right arm. Aren't we the healthy bunch?

Tika Status and Chasing That Steeple

SUMMARY: How Tika's feeling and Why we didn't qualify.

After 24 hours of drugs (Monday evening), Tika's feeling better enough to play plenty of fetch, but jumping hurts (e.g., bouncy tug-of-war, jumping for joy at dinnertime). Still licking. But eating fine. Definitely subdued from the painkiller between bouts of playing. Have an appointment with my regular vet Tuesday morning at 8:30 to decide what to do next. In theory, this post will magically post itself while I'm gone.

Meanwhile--more from this weekend. It's interesting to dissect what I can specifically work on with each dog, after rewatching the videos of their Round 1 Steeplechase. Boost: the slightest lateral lead-out. Getting her to look ahead for obstacles instead of back at me, which is in some part what seems to cause missed obstacles. (But I already knew both those things.)

For Tika, she was 4.5 seconds under time but had a knocked bar, preventing her from Qing. But as I watch, I see all kinds of places where she's turning a little wider or a little slower, or both, than she needs to, and taking an extra step or two before jumps, and I'm thinking while watching and listening to myself, that it's because she's not getting the info that she needs from me in a timely fashion. Probably the same thing with Boost, just exhibiting it differently. There was plenty of room for Tika to run a couple of seconds faster on that course.

And me: I look like I'm running to protect my knees, kind of sliding along on the flats of my feet. Among other things. I've been trying to practice staying on my toes and pumping my arms forward and back, not side to side, but it doesn't seem to stick during a run. And I'm just not getting to where I need to be! Plus there are those extra 15 pounds from this last winter...

Anyway, if you're interested, you can watch for things like that (although I realize it's hard with this small video image).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Boost Jumpers Disaster


Two bars down plus an entire jump, missed obstacles everywhere, refusals and runouts. You names it, we gots it! Plus I feel like I'm running like a wild thing out there, but in the video I look like I'm just lumbering around the course. My knee was bothering me a bit, and you can see me favoring it slightly, although I wasn't even thinking about it at the time. (Oh, and yesterday I said that the judge asked us to leave the course, but in reviewing the video, I think she was just starting to tell the workers which jumps to take off the field, since we were the last to run and obviously didn't need her complete attention any more.)

Where We Did What We Did

SUMMARY: Some of the weekend's course maps

NOTE: You can view the images in another window for a larger view.

Saturday Masters

  • Masters Jumpers: Tika's off course (where I forgot the course) is shown. Otherwise it ran smoothly (except for Boost!). There weren't many Es on this course.
  • Masters Snooker: This is the funny one where only 2 of 49 22" dogs earned 59 points but 8 out of 27 26" dogs did. It was soooo obviously a speed course from the get-go, not a strategy course.
  • Masters Standard: I noted that about half the dogs Eed on this course, but I don't particularly remember why this was so hard. I saw some dogs take the wrong end of #8, maybe a couple did 9-10-2, or take the tunnel instead of #15, but I was so busy with the score table that I really didn't get a chance to watch much.
  • Masters Pairs: 11 of 32 big-dog teams eliminated on this course, 9 were over time (usually with faults but sometimes just wasted time trying to get through it) and only 12 teams Qed. The first half was pretty straight-forward, although a lot of dogs wasted seconds blasting far beyond the 3-4-5 sequence before coming back to 6. The second half presented the greatest challenges with the sequence from 3 to 6 and 7 to 9. I saw very, very few handling options that worked smoothly on either one, especially for the faster dogs. It didn't help that the wind was coming from the upper right corner, keeping the chute wide open most of the time, giving most dogs a beautiful view of the off-course jump immediately after it.

Saturday Tournament

  • Grand Prix: Lots of opportunities for problems; I don't think that the Qualifying rate was very high, but I didn't write it down. The 1-2-3 was fairly straight-forward; I saw a couple of off-courses from 3 to 14. The 4-5-6 sequence made the #6 a challenge for many teams, but I don't recall any 6-to-19 offcourses.. Saw a couple of off-courses from 7 to 17. The entry from 9 to 10 was a little challenging for some. 13 through 19 took some running and handling but wasn't stunningly difficult. Some people got a front cross in between 18 and 19, but most opted for a push/rear cross between 19 and 20, which wasn't always smooth.
  • Steeplechase: A very fast course.

Sunday Masters

  • Gamblers: Many dogs opted for our path, numbered on the map; several dogs besides Boost earned 33 in the opening. A very few dogs had 36 in the opening and I'm not sure whether they did the same path and got in another teeter, or whether it was some other, cleverer path that I didn't see.
  • Standard: Dogs looked hard at the #13 after 1-2-3 and had to be called off very hard, if they didn't actually take it. The push out to #14 was interesting; there were several different ways of handling that sequence and out to the finish and I think I saw them all. Don't know what the general results were.
  • Pairs Relay: For the square numbers, the 3 to 4 gave a challenge; most people pulled their dog into 4 to stay on the dog's left but it was a tight balance between pulling too much and not enough, and there were a lot of missed entries there. During the walkthrough, people were worried about the square 9 to 10 but it handled very easily.
  • Jumpers: This was a killer jumpers course. Not many dogs came through it clean. So many calloffs and sharp angles and turns! No straight line until you got to the last two jumps.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Things Become Clearer

SUMMARY: Boost is not ready for prime time. Tika's backside is why she's been pissy and clingy. Probably.

Boost and Tika chasing the Frisbee Friday evening.

Boost weaves

Well, practicing weaves Friday night by finding ways to get Boost to pop out paid off. On Friday, it was 7 sets with 6 popped out early. On Saturday, she reversed it: That morning, I decided to risk Snooker with all weave-pole #7s to see what would happen. She nailed all three attempts perfectly.

Then she nailed them in Standard.

In Grand Prix, she popped out early and I made her lie down and then finish them.

In Pairs Relay, she nailed them. And in Steeplechase Round 1, I *think* (but it's getting hazy) that she did TWO sets nicely. So I believe it was 7 perfect and one early pop-out.

Today backslid a bit in a couple of ways; started missing or skipping entries (or making the first pole and then circling back to see why I was behind her). Popped out once or maybe twice. So, of four attempts, one good one and three with either entry or pop-out problems.

So much work to do!
Boost loves stalking other Border Collies more than she likes playing frisbee. With her ears turned inside out for that tough street-wise look.

Boost otherwise

Boost's runs for the most part looked like barely Novice runs. Or, excuse me, after watching one round of Novice Snooker, I apologize to the Novice dogs: Boost isn't even ready for Novice yet. If there's a chance at a runout or refusal, she takes it, and the rest is fraught with knocked bars. In fact, in today's Jumpers run, we were such a disaster that the judge finally asked us to leave the course. It WAS a difficult course--for example, only 3 of about 28 dogs in 26" earned qualifying scores--but we made it look nigh impossible.

We got lucky on Saturday with Pairs Relay and her half did NOT have runout/refusal setups and she kept her bars up and we Qed with our partner's also clean run.

And today's Gamblers layout allowed me to pick a course also with no runout/refusal setups, just straight lines, calls to me, front crosses, and contacts, and one beautiful set of weaves. She scored 2nd highest opening points and if she hadn't skipped the weave entry TWICE the second time around, we'd have had 4 more points than the highest opening points. But we had a little issue with the gamble itself, so it wasn't a Q. (Too MUCH independent out!)

Tika's Friday and Saturday not bad

Recapping Friday, turns out that she was 6th of 24 dogs in Team Snooker and 3rd of 24 in Team Jumpers, and slightly better than average in the other Team events. So that was OK.

Saturday, she had a really beautiful Snooker run, completing a 4-red strategy with a 6 and three 7s in the opening (based on watching the first half run, where only one dog managed to do four 7s and successfully get through the end) for a total of 58 points--and then in the second half of the group, another 7 managed it, and there were 7 super-Qs, so even one of the "perfect" dogs ended up without a super-Q. (That was in the 26", with 27 dogs--compare to the 22", where I believe only 2 dogs of 49 earned the full 59 points and all the 58-pointers got Super-Qs. Tough competition in the 26"!)

Her Jumpers run was beautiful, too: Fast, excited, tight turns, kept all the bars up, except I forgot the course in just one spot (couldn't they have overlooked that) and put her over a wrong jump before I figured out where we needed to go. Sigh. But I celebrated with her like crazy because we never slowed down and I think she never knew that anythinng was amiss, since it wasn't her fault.

She and her partner ran very nicely in the Team Relay, placing 7th of 32 teams--beating out Boost's team who placed 9th.

And her Steeplechase Round 1 run was really nice and fast again, but with a 5-second penalty for one knocked bar, she was half a second over time and missed qualifying! Argh! Dang bars! Why pick THAT event in which to finally knock a bar?! Why not the one where I went offcourse?! Shoot.

So only 2 Qs for the day out of 5 chances (Standard we also had a bar and a refusal of some sort I think).

Tika's backside

Then, when I dragged home about 9:30 last night after a VERY long day (dogs running til after 7? with 6 classes for the day), she started dragging her behind on the ground and the carpet and having trouble eliminating. So, knowing that she'd had an infected anal gland a couple of years back, I put on my rubber gloves and checked, and sure enough, one side was very swollen and hard. I couldn't get it to do anything useful.

She was restless a good part of the night, lots of licking. (Why didn't I get these indicators of a butt issue EARLIER? In retrospect, now I'm thinking that the clinginess and pissyness towards Boost, the completely insufficient, difficult, and overly soft poops during the day Saturday, and the occasional yelping she's been doing, have been because of this and I wasn't clever enough to figure it out. Or at least why couldn't it waited to become critical until SUNDAY night?)

Tika going all out for the frisbee Friday evening.

This morning, she was delighted to play some frisbee between bouts of trying to poop, but when I got her out again a little later, she wouldn't do anything--no frisbee, no toys of any kind, no jogging, no running. Low-key interest in food, which is still interest in food but unusual for her. I set her at the start line of her first run anyway, thinking that maybe the usual excitement and adrenaline would overcome whatever she was going through, but she barely got to her feet and hunched forward a few steps, so I scratched her from the rest of the day, dammit.

A very nice vet who was also competing took a look at her and confirmed that it was the anal gland and it was pretty ucky and that it needed to go in to a vet's office where someone could do something about it.

I ran Boost in the rest of her runs, which was mostly a wasted effort (although Gamblers was a Booster Rocket fast, fun 25 seconds of super-Border-Collie), and took Tika out occasionally. She was extremely subdued, didn't want to stand up, would put her head right down as soon as she lay down, and so on. I felt so terrible for her! (And for the vet bill $$ that I could see racking up in my near future, but every time I saw her my heart just ached for her obvious misery). Put a damper on the rest of my day, although everyone who knew about it was very nice and offered to help me in whatever way I needed.

After Boost's last run, I abandoned my score table and others took that over for me, too.

Took Tika to the emergency room after we got home, which is $105 just walking through the door. And a long wait while the REAL emergencies were seen to--like the Boston Terrier who spent too much time on this hot, smoky day romping in the sun with the kids and all of a sudden couldn't breathe. Fortunately OK once put in oxygen.

Came away with antibiotics, rimadyl for anti-inflammatory to try to get some of the swelling of the whole area down, tramadol as a painkiller/sedative. Add another $80 to the bill. Plus I'm supposed to be using a cool compress to ease the pain as often as I want, and call my regular vet in the morning, and we'll probably have to anesthetize her again to take care of it (which is what happened last time, because she's so insane at the vets. Regular sedation didn't work).

And adding a couple spoonsful of pumpkin to her meal to help her move her solid waste.

Friday afternoon, Gadget Guy plays with his kite and Tika chases it, barking. And Boost's brother, Derby, catches some air trying to reach it. (Boost couldn't care less about it.)