a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: A Sunday Diary

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.


  1. Wow. I'm exhausted and all I did was READ about your activities! Sounded like you had fun, the dogs did pretty darn well...even when they didn't do exactly what you planned.

  2. That is the sort of effect I was going for. :-) A couple of people commented that I seem to have more fun at CPE trials. Well, yeah, sorry CPE fans, but to me they're kind of like endless fun matches, not like true competition.

  3. Your description of Boost's "what what" antics are quite amusing :-) I can totally picture her...

    YAY for Tika's "looks-like-you-trained-it" striding on the a-frame. Walter gets that striding too sometimes; makes up for his "looks-like-I-didn't-train-it" weaves.