a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Preparing for the Nationals

SUMMARY: Mentally, physically, agilitally, are we ready?

Only a month until the USDAA Nationals. Am I ready? Are the dogs? So much to do, so little time. I'm going to try to make up for 12 years...er, ok, 14 (mumble april 1995 mumble mumble)... of rotten training regimens and bad attitudes in a mere 30 days!

So far:
  • I'm sporting a whole new attitude: I AM capable of making it to the finals! I CAN fix the problems I've been having! I WILL have the dogs in prime shape! And me, too!
  • That weight thang: I'm back down to where I was most of last summer and also the year before my knee injury/surgery. I'd like to go another 5 lbs. I can feel such a difference between (mumble) pounds in February and where I am now, in energy level and ability to move.
  • The dogs' weight thang: I'm working on getting the dogs' weights back to where they were for the longest time. Tika is down a pound from 4 weeks ago; 3 to go (so won't be there by nationals); Boost is up half a pound. I attribute it to 8 days of me being out of town and not enough exercise.

  • Boost's refusal/runout issues: We made such progress by making the extra time to go to the big field to practice. Plus focusing on very specific types of actions. Plus I borrowed the Susan Garrett "Success With One Jump" video and am working through it. Just have to make that time!
  • Bar knocking both dogs: More bar-knocking drills. Maybe go back to some Salo exercises.
  • Speed: Well, Boost is still very drivey through a course, if only I can harness that by being equally drivey myself and giving well-timed commands and body languages. I'm really focusing on watching exactly how some of the better handlers move, and when, and how, on courses that I'll be running. With Tika, not sure how to get that complete total drive back. I think maybe if she got those same things from me, it would help.
  • My running: It's not enough to just do lots of walking and hiking. I've been practicing not running like a floppy rag. I've been concentrating on standing up straight and not leading with my butt. I think I need t videotape myself in the yard and review in real-time to see whether I can identify certain behaviors.

So much to do, and then there's that, oh, job thing, too. Plus at least one agility trial between now and then.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Random Things

SUMMARY: Assorted photos and images with no cohesive reason for being in the same post.

Look what I found for lunch at the Denver airport! In the same booth, no less, so there was no way that I could buy one and not buy the other. At least I avoided the fresh-baked waffle cone with ice cream.

Me and my mom and dad. I love them very much. Even if I don't do a good job of showing it all the time. They have always been good parents. Except for some time during the years when I was, oh, 13 to 18, when they were always unreasonable about everything. You know.

It was my niece's fourth birthday party yesterday. Just think, only 9 more years and she'll be 13, too. Ha.

OMG, just what I don't need, another fun tool that allows you to spend endless time tweaking things to make it just the way you want it: Wordle.net. It takes a web site (with some limitations) or any large chunk of text and creates a word cloud image out of it. (More-common words are larger.) Here's the representation of all my August posts (what a strange coincidence that the most common words were things like Tika, Boost, dogs, Steeplechase, agility, and weekend):

And here it is for my last 10 days of posts:

(And you all know that, if you hover your mouse pointer over a picture and get the little pointy finger, you can click to see a bigger version, right?) (Oh, yeah, and this seems to be a good tool for finding some weird spelling and punctuation errors, too. :-) )

Furthermore, since I know that you all want more dog-related photos from Montréal, here's another one. Next to the fireplace is a dog wheel-cage for a spit over a fire; like a hamster in a hamster-wheel, the dog runs, and a series of chains and pulleys turns the spit with the meat as it cooks. Every home should have one.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Diggity DOG!

SUMMARY: Back in Californ-I-A.

Looks like I left Montreal just in time. Rained last night. Looking gloomy for the day.

Ah, the U.S. is lovely from the air!

Cleared up a little bit, about 2 miles from the Denver Airport. How'd they do that?

Home in San Jose, not every day that I can see the Mt. Hamilton Observatory from above instead of wayyyy below.

But on the ground-- it's bloody 97 degrees F out there! Hot! Dang! But dogs are happy to see me. There was much rejoicing. Boost's eyes got really big.

Tika kept appearing from under the tablecloth.

Looks like things didn't go all that well with the dogsitter.

Ha ha! Just kidding! He says everything went fine and he just left the doggie door in place the whole week all night long so who knows whether Boost was going out in the middle of the night. Ha ha! Guess I'll find out tonight when I drag my exhausted bodily parts up to bed and try collapsing!

My Heart Is Torn Asunder

SUMMARY: Paul Newman has died.

(Photo from dvdtown.com)

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Day in Old Montreal

SUMMARY: Another 8 miles, another 10 hours, and what a cool city!

I slept late this morning (9ish) then, by the time I was done futzing with photos and determining that I was just not going to be able to get ont he Internet, I headed in the general direction of Old Montreal.

I took hundreds of photos today. My little old laptop is too pathetically slow to be able to sort through them tonight--plus I have to pack for my early-morning flight tomorrow. But I did get a dog photo today! Here is Pilot, who warned Old Montrealians of a sneak attack by the Amerindians (what they're referred to here in Montreal). Her statue is here in Place D'Armes with a lot of other notable people.

I hadn't originally thought that I'd stay in Old Montreal the entire day, but there was so much to look at! I took a lovely guided tour that totook about 2 hours, then I had lunch around 4:00, strolled out by the St. Lawrence River, and by then I decided to stick around and see how it all looked lit up for th eevening. Pretty cool--but I'm afraid that a lot of my photos will be too blurry. But here's Rue St. Paul as the sun is going down.

That'll have to be all for tonight! Maybe more tomorrow night if I have energy after the trip back to California, with a stop in Denver, which used to have a waffle-cone baker right there inthe airport--

Thursday in Montreal: The Search For Dogs

SUMMARY: More work, more walking, a few dogs.

Backfill: Friday night; couldn't get on computer last night
Meetings all day again today. As usual, I took a long walk at lunch, out to Parc Fontaine, where I was sure I'd find some nice things--maybe even dogs--to take photos of.

I did find a whole plaza full of quite unusual chairs. Look, there's one now!

As usual, I saw a quite a few dogs on the city streets, but they usually were on their way somewhere and I didn't have a good way of getting their portraits. These dogs held still for me, though, and looked quite happy about it.

At the park, I saw quite a few dogs, but the lighting was bad, or I couldn't get to them quickly enough, or the photos that I did take were just really blah. This one was kind of cute, though.

Hey, look, there's a golden retriever over there, but dagnabbit once again there are annoying trees and boring people in the way!

Sure, it was business all day, but we left early as a local company sponsored a cocktail party. I realized after I'd been there for about half an hour that my energy was not at all up to making conversation with people I barely knew, let alone meeting scads of entirely new people, so I waved goodbye and headed for the hotel. But I chose to walk back along Rue Prince Arthur, where I passed all the sidewalk cafes last Sunday, and couldn't resist stopping for a light dinner right there.

It was a lovely night once again, and I was far from the only one strolling the Rue or partaking of dinner in the open air.

Got back to the hotel--walked up the stairs--and suddenly realized that I was more than a little tired: I was nearing exhaustion. So I crawled into bed and slept very well. Dagnabbit, now I'm finally on Montreal time, and I'm heading back to San Jose tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday In Montréal

SUMMARY: More work and a little more wandering around.

My goals for this week were--in equal priority:
* Do good work for the client
* Have fun
* Don't put on weight.

Secondary goals were:
* Enjoy the food.
* Lose weight.
* Take lots of cool photos.
* Explore as much as possible.
* Meet new people.

I'm not an easily social person, so the latter is hard in some ways, but the group I'm with is so friendly (and we know each other from phone conversations). Plus there are group events where you can socialize.

It's hard to be as active as usual, when I'm in a conference room almost completely from 8 a.m. until after 6 p.m. Fortunately, we have a long enough lunch break that I can eat AND get out and walk a mile or so with my camera. Plus I walk up and down the stairs to my hotel room. On the 10th floor. A couple of years ago that would've seemed ridiculous, but especially now that I'm doing the Wednesday night summer hikes with 500-1000 foot climbs in 2 hours, a mere--what--100 feet? up or down seems trivial.

I do have to take a brief breather on the 5th floor (really the 7th because there's also a lobby level and a mezzanine level) and maybe again on the 8th.

Tonight the whole organization sponsored dinner in Old Montreal, about 1.25 miles from the hotel, and I walked there (alone) and back (with several colleagues).

No photos today of dogs--still seeing them, but hard to get photos without looking like I'm stalking the owners!

The tiny gardens in front of all the row houses are lush with foliage and flowers, even though it's now officially autumn.

Most of the houses in this area have their main entrance one floor up, with a variety of interesting stairways.

I love hostas! Had some in the garden at my previous house and I miss them.

Every once in a while this week there's a tree who has burst its way into autumn ahead of its compatriots.

Bon soir, mes amis!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Busy Day

SUMMARY: Mostly business today.

Spent the day in a meeting again, but this is a good kind of meeting (yes, there really is such a thing). Still, it was a long day with lots of ideas jammed between my ears.

Right after we adjourned, we went out for dinner at the jazz bar named Upstairs--written upsidedown--which means that it was downstairs (really). And just like that, my day was done and already it's past my bed time.

I did get out for a quick walk at lunch, just me and Mr. Camera. Saw more dogs but got no portraits. The old buildings around here are so different from the so-called old buildings in California, but equally as interesting as any of the row houses in San Francisco.

There is art everywhere. This statue crouches below a skyscraper not far from my hotel. It makes me look up nervously every time I walk by.

Here's one of those "are we in the U.S. or are we in Canada?" scenes. The Frenchman in our group says that, in France, the stop signs stay "Stop", not "Arrete." And France is supposed to be fanatic about the purity of its language!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Famous Last Words

SUMMARY: Stop me if you've heard this one before:

"I don't need to charge my camera's battery before heading out for a day in Montréal; I'm pretty sure I charged it recently."

Welllll OK, I got in a nice 6.5-mile (10.5 km) walk and took 170 photos--but the battery gave up when I was about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the hotel with Important Landmarks still unviewed. Oh, well, I'd gone walkabout for about 5 hours by then, so I took it as a hint to rehotelify* myself and get to work sorting and labeling the day's photos.

*I'm a professional writer. Don't try words like this unsupervised at home.

Made it to the top of Mont Royal--trivial compared to the usual Wednesday Night hikes, but oh! what a view! And what a perfect day.

Montréal est une ville des chiens!

Montréal is a city of dogs! They were everywhere, strolling with their people. Today's weather couldn't have been more perfect for perambulation, and perambulate they all did. I saw canines from Great Danes to Yorkshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers to Afghan Hounds, and everything in between, plus mixed breeds galore. Small dogs far outnumbered larger dogs--it is, after all, a city. I saw no herding breeds (so different from our agility weekends where they're 90% herding breeds!) except one overweight Australian Shepherd near the end of my trek.

I can't decide whether this beautiful nine-month-old Lab/Shepherd mix ("Liha"?) looks more like Johann the Dog or like Pacco de Mongrel.

I tried taking photos of most of them, but they were a hard lot to get right.

I particularly enjoyed this one:

I tried to take a photo of this little gal (Lilu? Apparently I wasn't pronouncing it well) at her level, but she wasn't into paparazzi. So her person scooped her up for a family shot, and then we got to talking. He's Claude G., a reviewer of classical music for the French-language paper here, and he had apparently just been perusing his latest column--reviewing three Chopin recordings--for typos or egregious copyediting sins.

Dogs everywhere on the café/bistro mecca, Rue Prince Arthur.

He invited me to sit for a bit, which I did, and we chatted. Well--he chatted more than I did. He knew almost everyone walking by and introduced them. He talked about the musical arts in Montréal--I've seldom felt less adequate about my opera and classical music knowledge, especially for someone who once had aspirations to be a music major! He had to inform me about a recently performed opera that took place during the California Gold Rush at the "base of the Cloudy Mountains," written in Italian by an American. 'O sole Sutter's Fort--dude? Sounds interesting, though.

I had to work hard to convince him that San José is not part of San Francisco, nor its suburb, nor is it a smaller town nearby. I began to sense the frustration of the city's chamber of commerce--we're 20% larger by population and--despite wikipedia's numbers--with our suburb communities making up Silicon Valley, larger in land area, as well. (I'm curious what's included in those numbers. No time to research, though.) Climate's very different. Business focus is very different. Lifestyle's fairly different. I guess we'd better get MORE SPORTS TEAMS, huh city council?? (No no I'm kidding...)

In case you want to know how to say "keep your dog on a leash and pick up his sh**" en francais.

I have beaucoup plus de photos, which I'm trying to upload to my photo site. Will post a link when (between my slow laptop, the shared network at the hotel, and who knows what) they're posted and labeled. Thought it would be this evening, but--quel désastre! (En englias: What a disaster! Catching on yet?) Maybe it's just as well that the battery died when it did.


SUMMARY: Being alone is not the same as being lonely.

I'm staying at a hotel (in french: hotel) within the Hilton domain. Sure, the linens are luxurious and the setting is more than comfortable (in french: confortable...see how hard this is?). But what I really have enjoyed in my first 12 hours here is being alone and relaxing in my own room.

I am very fond of my dogs, and they are quite integrated into my life. However, these aren't dogs who go off to some other part of the house to sleep at night. Or who open half an eyelid but then return to snoozing when I get up and start moving around. No, these dogs sleep on my bed, and in my face if I let them. And who leap to their feet, eyes bright, tails a-quiver, whenever I make the slighted twitch that looks like I'll be moving around.

I am never ALONE in my house.

I travel so seldom without the dogs--maybe twice a year or so--but I always share a hotel room with someone. This is so nice!

But today I give up my aloneness to step back out into the world-- I have ambitions to explore miles and miles of Montréal to make up for a day of mostly sitting. (I'd have walked up and down the airport instead of sitting and waiting, if I could have, but I unexpectedly had to check my rolling suitcase, and my computer and camera/purse bag were so heavy that there was no way I could stroll comfortably for any length of time. Ah, well.)

See y'all this evening.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Montréal

SUMMARY: Je suis arrivé! (Arrivée? Arriver? Crud... I am here!)

The dogs were sure that we were going to do agility, else why would I wake to an alarm at a ludicrously dark hour of the morning? Even though I gave them their Guard The House Goodies(tm) and told them to "Guard the house, be good!", they really thought they were going out the door with me. Poor babies.

The whole trip was generally uneventful. Renter dropped me off at San Jose airport; I flew to Chicago O'Hare, caught my connecting flight to Montréal, got to the hotel... And here I am. With my brand new garishly purple luggage.

Flew to Chicago next to a cute, sweet little white dog in a sherpa bag named Mary Lou. (OK, all you other grammarians out there, go to town.) But no photos because I saw her head only once, briefly. She was a very good, quiet, settled girl for her first airline flight ever.

Ack! My desk light just went out! Now I'm typing in the dark! (I always think I'm a touch typist until this happens...)

Here's my crowded airplane from San Jose to Chicago.

I actually had space between my knees and the seat in front of me, and if I arranged my computer carefully, I could stretch my legs out under that self-same seat. Catnapped briefly.

All the luxuries of home! On your very own tray table! Plus the latest on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton!

On the first flight, I didn't have a window seat. On the second flight, it was a teeny jet and my camera was negligently in the overhead compartment while we were flying over the Chicago skyline, so all I could get was this sort of Great Lake shoreline on the opposite site. Just picture standing there looking out to the west towards Chicago--which you can't see because that's one bloody huge lake.

I am surrounded by French French French. Dredging up 4 years of classes from 3 decades ago--I avidly read every sign between the airport and hotel, trying to get my brain around the vocabulary again. Lots of basic stuff I can still read--"toujours frais" (always fresh) on a restaurant; but then "hamburgers hot dogs poitrines" or maybe I misremember the word--soemthing that sounded familiar but I couldn't place at all. Like that.

Our French heritage (remember 1066 and the Normans and all that?) has ensured that there's a tremendous amount of vocabulary that's essentially the same-- "banque nationale", for example, or that well-known old Norman "hamburger"--so I'm not as far out of my depth as I would be with Spanish or German, say.

But an octagonal red sign, outlined in white, that says ARRETE, just LOOKS wrong!

Fortunately everyone speaks English, and far far better than I speak French.

But here's the other tricky part: They've turned the compass sideways here! Everything labeled nord/sud (north south) is really west/east, and est/ouest is really north/south. That's because the St. Lawrence, which mostly flows east to west, right next to Montréal makes a little jog and flows north. Even the maps are printed with North to the right side because it makes everything in the city start to make sense. Just don't think too hard about where the sun is rising and setting, because it will only confuse you.

I'm not completely unfamiliar with this--in Silicon Valley, 101 North goes due west, as does I-280 North. So people are always telling other people to take Lawrence Expressway east or west--because it's perpendicular to those freeways--but it in fact runs due north/south. *I* know which ways things flow, but then I tend to orient myself around maps, not around freeway signs.

Anyway--having lots of fun for having been here only a little while and being tired tired tired.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Leaving My Dogs Behind--Je Vais Aller au Montréal

SUMMARY: Business and pleasure. And no agility.

I will be leaving you all for a week. Might be able to log in and post some random things, but not sure yet. I'm flying cross-continent to attend a meeting/conference, which I'm looking forward to--meeting some people I've met only by phone, and being in the middle of discussions on plans for features for the next product release. And I'm hoping to get a little sightseeing done at either end of the week. Il faut pratiquer mon francais--- jeepers, is that even close to right? It's been so long--

Je manquerai mes chiens! (Right form of "miss"? Argh!) And, simultaneously, I'll be glad to have a vacation from them and their training and their exercising and their feeding and their fur everywhere.

And we'll hope that Boost's middle-of-the-night problems, whatever they were or are, will not reappear to plague my renter, who is taking care of the beasties for me. (My vet made it sound as if some kind of noncalcium bladder stone was a more likely problem than an infection, but we're sticking with the antibiotics and keeping our fingers crossed.)

And we'll rely on the fact that all those Québécoises speak English without a twitch and I can practice my francais only if I really want to.

Talk Like a Pirate, Ya Scurvy Dogs

SUMMARY: Just practicing for tomorrow. Long Rem Silver's ghost reminds you to be prepared.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How To Play Agility Snooker

SUMMARY: The rules of Snooker in dog agility.

Sometime back in Taj MuttHall's early life, I made a post about Snooker rules. But can't find it. And I've seen some questions on this topic, so let's address them here.

Isn't Snooker a billiards game?

Well, sure, if you want to do it in a smoky pool hall instead of out on the beautiful grass in the fresh air. However, understanding the original Snooker rules will make it VASTLY easier to understand agility Snooker rules. From Wikipedia's article on Snooker (pay attention, now):
It is played using a cue and snooker balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls worth one point each, and six balls of different colours -- yellow (2), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7). A player wins ... by scoring more points than the opponent(s), using the cue ball to pot the red and coloured balls in a predefined order.

At the start of a frame, the balls are positioned [in a specific layout] and the players ... hit a shot ... their aim being to pot one of the red balls and score one point. If they pot at least one red, then it remains in the pocket and they are allowed another shot - this time the aim being to pot one of the colours. If successful, then they gain the value of the colour potted.

[The coloured ball] is returned to its correct position on the table.

[Next, the player] must try to pot another red[, then one of the colours, and so on]. This process continues until they fail to pot the desired ball, at which point their opponent comes to the table to play the next shot. The game continues in this manner until all the reds are potted and only the 6 colours are left on the table; at that point the aim is to pot the colours in the [numbered] order. When a colour is potted in this phase of a frame, it remains off the table. When the final ball is potted, the frame is over and the player with the most points wins.

So what does this agility Snooker look like?

The course consists of three or more red jumps worth one point each, six other obstacles flagged with different-colored numbers -- yellow (2), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7), and a cue ball--er, I mean, dog.

See where I'm going with this?

(USDAA Masters, Feb 2007)

Waiiiiit a minute, I see a "5a" and "5b"; what's that all about?

OK, it would be pretty boring with really only 6 obstacles and three red jumps. Ya paid yer entry fee, you'd like to do a little more than that, eh? It's very common for a "numbered obstacle" to consist of two or sometimes three physical obstacles. So, to get 5 points, you must do the 5a AND the 5b.

What are the rules of agility Snooker?

You must take a red and complete it successfully (think of a knocked bar as missing getting the red into the side pocket; in that case, you can or must (rules vary) try a different red if you've not already used them all).

Then you attempt any 2-7 numbered obstacle. If you blow it (e.g., knock the bar or pop the contact), that was your chance to get the numbered ball into the side pocket and you muffed it.

Now you must do a DIFFERENT red (remember the first red ball went into the side pocket and stayed there; you can't use the same one again), then attempt ANY 2-7 numbered obstacle (whether you got it into the side pocket last time or not, it is returned to the table for you to use again).

Repeat a 3rd time. Depending on the rules, repeat a 4th time.

Now you've used all the red balls on the table; now you must sink the 2 through 7 balls, in order. If you hit one and miss (e.g., pop a contact), or if you sink one out of order (e.g., go from obstacle 2 to 5), that's it, your turn is over, you get whistled off the course.

In billiards snooker, there is no time limit. However, in dog agility, you must do everything that you're going to do within a time limit. When the whistle blows, that's it, you're off the course. (Time is typically 50-60 seconds.)

There ya go. Any further questions?

Why are there only three red 1-point jumps on the agility Snooker course?

Fifteen would be too many, really, now, wouldn't it? Because they don't disappear (like in billiards snooker), you AND the judge have to keep track of which ones you've already done. And we and the judge sometimes have trouble keeping track of just 3--picture the judge doing 200 dogs and trying to remember which reds a dog has used if there are 15 red jumps. Ha! Would be good for a laugh or two.

Sometimes in USDAA the judge uses 4 red jumps and either prohibits, allows, or requires you to take all 4. Some judges used to sometimes show up with courses with 6 or more red jumps, but I've heard that USDAA has put the kibosh on that.

In CPE, there are always 4 reds but you may complete only 3 of them.

Back to those multiple-obstacle obstacles--Can more than one of the point-value obstacles consist of multiple physical obstacles?

Sure, why not, the judges like to have fun designing the course.

In fact, the SAME physical obstacle could be worth DIFFERENT point values depending on which direction you take it (maybe one way is harder) or by combining it with different obstacles.

In the following course, to get 7 points, you must do 7a, 7b, and 7c. To get 5 points, you must do 5a and 5b. Note that the jump between the tunnels, if you take it by itself, is worth only 4 points, but if you combine it with the tunnel, it's worth 5 points. Trickyyyyyyyy.

(CPE November 2007)

That seems like it could be confusing.
Well, yeah. You need to carefully plot out your course and memorize it based on your chosen path through the obstacles and not try to wing it.

Here's the one we did last weekend (if you can read the obstacles through my scribbles); it's nothing but jumps and tunnels, and several of the "obstacles" are combinations-- (obscured by scribbles, sorry--3 is the jump after 2, going left; 4a is the same jump going right; 6b is a jump).

(USDAA Masters, September 2008)

Do you have to take an obstacle in a specific direction (e.g., left to right but not right to left?)
Reds are always bidirectional: Take in either direction.

Colored obstacles usually place the number on the side from which you must approach it during the closing (doing 2-7 in order). Usually, colored obstacles are bidirectional in the opening, but not always (judge's choice). Usually, colored obstacles are one-directional in the closing, but not always (judge's choice).

That's why it's important to go to the Snooker briefing!

Can I see more Snooker course maps please?
Sure, here are previous ones I've posted.

CPE Snooker:

March 2008

CPE Nationals 2006

USDAA Snookers:

Masters, June 2006

Team Snooker, April 2008

More questions answered

See the comments on this post.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How Many Trials?

SUMMARY: Just don't ask how much it all cost.

This last weekend was my 200th trial.
  • 106 USDAA
  • 54 NADAC and/or ASCA
  • 40 CPE

Taken another way:
  • 12 with only Remington (when I first started agility)
  • 66 with Remington and Jake
  • 6 with Remington, Jake, and Tika
  • 1 with Remington and Tika (Jake on injured reserve)
  • 69 with Jake and Tika
  • 11 with only Tika (while Jake was retired from USDAA but not CPE)
  • 1 with Jake, Tika, and Boost
  • 34 with Tika and Boost

Taken another way:
  • 6 in 1996
  • 7 in 1997 (broke foot and was out for months)
  • 10 in 1998
  • 11 in 1999
  • 14 in 2000 (back injury, continuing into the next year)
  • 17 in 2001
  • 18 in 2002 (skipped Nov/Dec with Rem's cancer)
  • 23 in 2003 (we all stayed healthy)
  • 21 in 2004 (I started vowing to cut back)
  • 20 in 2005
  • 18 in 2006 (knee injury/surgery kept me out Oct/Nov/Dec)
  • 19 in 2007
  • 13 so far in 2008, with only 2-3 more planned

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some USDAA Weekend Classes

SUMMARY: Maps, videos, and brief discussions from this last weekend.

Saturday Masters Standard

The opening of this course was interesting, because I was the only one I saw who ran with the dog on my right. It worked very nicely for both of my dogs, but I have a good "Right Through" (which goes against the Darrett system but is OH so handy in cases like this). Saw lots of dogs knock the #6 jump or get a refusal, as that was a pretty challenging rear cross to get in. 15 of 47 big dogs Qed on this course.

NOTE: As always, the course map doesn't exactly reflect reality: you could actually set the dog into a stay before jump #1 so that she could see the Aframe from that position. Made a difference (to me, anyway) in whether you worried about the dog going off-course into the tunnel--which we saw some of, even with handlers on the opposite site.

Another frequent problem was 12 to 13. Several people who handled it with a single front cross before 13 got an off-course onto the back side of 17. I saw some successful serpentines of 12 and also the front-cross equivalent--both before and after 12. I did a rear cross, as did others, thinking I'd get a tighter turn to the table. Worked OK for Tika but Boost still went wide, although we survived. The other main off-course problem was 15 to 19.

Saturday Masters Gamblers

Posting this mostly because I have videos, in which you can see:
  • while I think that I am directing the dogs clearly and distinctly--my body is flapping around all over the place
  • Tika miss a send-out to a weave entry--and she's supposed to be my GOOD dog-- (and that was twice in one weekend with the same sort of send in gamblers); something to work on
  • Boost go under the tire repeatedly
  • that the reason that I couldn't get Boost out over the jump after the teeter was because she didn't stick her contact and wait for a release, self-released to come towards me.

Steeplechase Round 1

Another case where the course map isn't a perfect reflection of reality. The line over 3-4-18 was a bit more obvious to the dogs than shown here. That's very important to note, because that was the most common off-course.

People probably split half and half on whether they kept the dog on their left and pulled to #5 and rear crossed #6, or led out towards the tunnel to do a lead-out pivot and run with the dog on the left over #5. And about the same number of dogs went over #18 instead of 5 using both handling methods, so your timing and body language had to be good in both cases. The down side to the pull method was that it left the off-course tunnel wide open, which some dogs took.

The most successful lead-out pivots had the handler standing pretty close to the entrance for the #12 tunnel, so that when they turned and ran towards #5, they were running straight at 5, not having to veer past #4.

#7 to #8 was more of a time waster than anything, with the dog turning back to the handler often. Some people ran around the left side of #7 and the Aframe, but I don't think that worked any better.

Lots of people worried about the 10-11-12 line. There were lots of refusal-type errors at #12 tunnel entrance, usually with the handler over-pushing and blocking the dog's entrance into the tunnel, but I don't recall seeing any actual off-courses over the #4.

Another big choice was whether to front cross between 17 and 18. I tried that with Tika, who flew off the Aframe and went straight for the offcourse #6, which I saved her from, but she hit the #18 at such a bad angle that she knocked the bar.

Master Snooker Sunday

Of interest because of the unusual layout and no contact obstacles. Hope you can read it with all my scribbles.

Most Super-Qs were earned with a 4-5-7-7 plus 2-7, although there were also some 7-7-7-4 and sometimes a 5 instead of a 4 in both sequences.

My numbers on the map are close but not actually the way I handled it. If the top of the map is north and the left is west:
  • West over the first red (southwest corner) to the back (west) side of 4a, to 4b.
  • to the southeast red, run around the outside to the 6a tunnel and the 6b jump.
  • South over the northeast red, turning the dog toward the west, which made a straight line over 7a to the south end of the 7c tunnel, to the 7b jump
  • south over the northwest red, wrap to the east, over 7b into 7c and east over 7a.
  • Threadle past the northeast red to the east side of #2 (which was NOT bidirectional in the closing).
  • Might be hard to read, but the jump that serves as both #3 and #4a is set up to force you to backjump. The 4a was bidirectional in the closing, so that if you felt strongly about it, you could bring your dog around and do sort of a figure 8 over the 4a after doing the 3. But that wasted a lot of time, set the dog up badly for the straight line 4b to 5, and also provided more off-course opps to either side. I saw only a couple of handlers try the figure 8. It actually worked very well to blast the dog straight out over #3, because there were no obstacles out there, and as you and the dog blasted into the open area, then you turned, called the dog, and went back over 4a-4b-5 in a straight line, and because the dog had moved fairly far beyond the #3 jump, it didn't have the look or feel of a backjump.

Masters Jumpers Sunday

It was 6:30 in the evening. I was really tired. Tika sailed comfortably through it, taking 4th place of the 12 remaining dogs (lots of attrition at the end of such a long weekend), and I never really did communicate clearly with The Booster--too bad, because I felt that it was a nice, flowing, speedy course.