a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: November 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bronze Dog

SUMMARY: Tika's Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA).
Some nice friends brought it back for me from Scottsdale; this represents 150 lifetime Masters and Tournament Qs. This sucka's heavy! Not sure how I'm going to hang it on the wall.

I think Tika is now at 224 lifetime Qs; the Silver LAA requires 250.

Dang injured foot--USDAA trial in less than 2 weeks with a chance to earn more.

Guess I can't take her to the vet to be x-rayed tomorrow, since I'll be at the Trkman seminar. Tuesday, then.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Seminars N Stuff

SUMMARY: Sylvia Trkman this week, and just tired.

How did I get so tired after one mere day of agility? Slept fairly well last night but still needed a 2-hour nap this afternoon. And plenty ready for bed now,and I hardly did anything all day.

Monday, Boost and I are in a Sylvia Trkman Masters Handling seminar for a day, then I'm auditing her tricks class two evenings during the week. I think I know how to teach my dogs all kinds of things already, but I love her creativity in coming up with new tricks for her dogs. So I'm interested in what she has to say.

Guess I'm not going hiking tomorrow with Tika's sore foot. This pretty much sucks. Does this mean no USDAA agility in 2 weeks for Tika? Last chance to redeem our Top Ten positions for the year? (Not that I think that one Q will make any difference, really.)

One day of agility was NOT enough to tire out even Boost. Gah. Little maniacs today. Good thing they're cute and make me laugh.

Mice and Men Got Nothing On Us

SUMMARY: Sometimes things (let us say, just off the top of my head, CPE trials the day after Thanksgiving) don't go the way you planned, hoped, expected, or even imagined.

Here are some photos with circles and arrows on the backs of each one explaining what each one is to be used as evidence against us.

Agility as a weight loss device

I swear that I took barely more than a forkful or two of anything on Thursday. ...Well, of *everything* on Thursday. Friday morning, 4 a.m., scale shows three (!) pounds heavier. Good thing I'm going to agility, where I'm physically active, have two dogs to run, and tend to eat lightly.

First thing in the morning, near the check-in window, there are huge stacks of really tasty-looking chocolate chip cookies. Well, what the heck, if I have just ONE that's not so bad, because I'm at agility and tend to eat lightly.

A while later alongside the course maps that I was picking up sat a really tasty-looking cake--not sure what for, but I don't often have a chance for cake (and frosting, which is what I *really* like), and what the heck, I'm at agility where I'm really active and so what if I have just one piece?

Then, middle of the day, WAG had a big birthday bash for one of their key helpers--he'd be like their estate manager--with an amazing-looking carrot cake with the thickest cream cheese frosting you've just about ever seen. Well, I'm fond of carrot cake and I really like cream cheese frosting, and really, OK, I know what's going on here, but I don't get carrot cake or c.c. frosting often, so I'll just have one piece of that.

In the worker raffle, I usually put most of my tickets into the bags for the free trial entries because I already have more beds, toys, books, bags, and so on than I know what to do with. But I usually look for something that I might kind of like to have that doesn't have too many tickets in it as a possible consolation prize for when I don't win the free entries and I'll put one of my tickets into that bag. So there was this huuuuuge tin of Almond Roca--

On the other hand, my pedometer did indicate that, in one day of an agility trial. I covered enough steps to equate to 12 miles! I'll tell ya, after several years of doing mostly score table at trials, where what's involved is mostly sitting, at this trial I did leash running, scribe running, pole setting--all kinds of things where what's involved is mostly NOT sitting.

Maybe the day was a wash in terms of actual calories inhaled/exhaled.

One day of agility as a way to burn off bored dogs' energy

I get up at 4 in the morning, am out of the house by 4:30, drive 2 hours through occasional drizzles, arrive at the agility place, take the dogs over to the field for a little frisbee warm-up and pottying, and Tika turns sharply on the wet ground, yelps, and comes back to me on three legs.

I have several single-word comments on how I felt about that, most of which aren't printable here. Entry fees for 5 runs, down the tubes. Opportunity to burn off some mental and physical energy, down the tubes. Opportunity to win the Turkey Trot again--well, there's still Boost, but Tika's been my winning dog before and I had high hopes for her. Five chances to earn those precious CPE Qs since we don't do much CPE and Tika has a long way to go to her C-ATE, down the tubes. Damage to dog--don't know, but guessing that'll be more money down the tubes.

I couldn't find anything. Didn't do the hunchy-over thing like she does when it's her shoulders or neck, seemed clearly to be in her foot. Gave her a rimadyl and an hour's rest. Let her out of her crate. She hopped down from the van with no sign of problem. Stretched fine, did figure 8s around my legs fine, played tug-of-war vehemently. Trotted alongside me out to the field with the practice jump. Sent her out around a couple of posts. Everything fine. Sent her over the jump, and she flew over with enthusiasm, turned tightly towards me with bright eyes, yelped, and came up on three feet.

Scratched her from her first run and found the vet who is also an enthusiatic CPEer and is pretty much always there at WAG competing with her dogs. Waited for her to do her run with her dog, and then she looked Tika over. She saw pretty quickly what my inexperienced eyes didn't detect--the knuckle of Tika's left front little toe is swollen. She doesn't think it's broken, unless it's a hairline fracture. No way to tell without an x-ray.

I thank her for looking (hopefully profusely enough) and ponder what to do. Tika is on leash, has been over the practice jump, and despite now walking again with a limp, she is acting eager and excited to be near the agility ring at an agility trial and clearly WANTs to run. I ponder what to do.

The next class is Full House, which is like a Gambler's opening with no gamble, so we can do almost anything we want to. There are some tunnels and 6-pole weaves on the course, so I decide I'll try to have her just do a couple of those *gently and easily and slowly* to see what happens. So I line her up next to me in front of a straight tunnel, don't put her into a stay or anything, just release her gently and say, quietly and calmly, "Through!" (we don't say "tunnel", we say "through". There's a lady in our class with grayhounds who says "Be small!" it's very cute. They really do have to hunker down to get through the tunnels).

OK, anyway, those of you with driven, enthusiastic dogs just KNOW what happens--Tika blasts full throttle through the tunnel, and because I'm trying to be calm and sedate, I'm way behind her. So when she blasts out of the tunnel, she careens into a sharp U-turn to see what I'm up to (eyes wide open and bright and ears up and looking SO happy to be out there)--and suddenly halts and comes out of the turn limping.

I try once more a couple of hours later, in Snooker, with the judge's dispensation-- just one straight tunnel, which she does fine, and one gently curved tunnel--which she comes out of limping. And still bouncing back and forth (mostly on 3 feet) trying to get me to tell her which obstacle to take next.

So that's enough stupid attempts to satisfy both of our desires for her to do some agility. She's scratched for the rest of the day, including (sob!) the Turkey Trot.

The up side to this was that it completely vindicated my decision not to go to Nationals two weeks ago because Tika keeps coming up sore at random times. I was deadly disappointed today, but imagine how awful it would've been for this to happen in Arizona.

Tika as the Mondo Q-Earner in CPE and Boost as the also-ran

I hate going to trials and coming home with few or no Qs or placements. ESPECIALLY CPE, where Tika has quite the record of not only massive Qs and first places, but often THE highest score/fastest time of all dogs at the trial. It's an ego boost for me, who is obviously pathetic in her need for ego boosts like this, but there ya go. After Tika's injury, I was fully prepared to come home with next to nothing.

First run of the day was Wildcard (I am not explaining games today), in which a dropped bar is fatal. I pick a pretty darned simple course--it's essentially an M-shaped path, how hard can it be? We will have to successfully negotiate one rear cross, which isn't Boost's strong point.

Boost runs past one jump on the second leg of the M and I barely call her off the tunnel after it (but in fact she does call off and I get her brought around without backjumping), and she turns entirely the wrong way on the rear cross ( but I get her turned around and on course again with no faults), and, wow, we're CPE-clean and have a Q! But lots of wasted time.

The thing you have to know about "clean" in CPE is that there are never faults for refusals or runouts. AND, although not clean, at level 4 and 5 in CPE (which is where Boost competes now), on many courses you can still Q even if you have certain kinds of faults.

But now Boost has one CPE-clean run and a Q for the day. Not to my surprise, we don't win--but, jeez, with all that wasted time, we're still 2nd place.

Next up is Full House. I love full house with my dogs. Just get as many obstacles as possible (with a very minimal number of rules) for points. And this one was particularly juicy--I could do a course with basically two very smooth loops and one rear cross and pick up almost every possible point on the field--
6 out of 6 5-pointers
7 out of 8 3-pointers
5 out of 14 1-pointers (maybe more depending on how smoothly things went).

So--she breaks her start-line stay, so I immediately put her into a down-stay and walk calmly around her and then release her when I'm ready. Probably means we'll loose the final 5-pointer because of the wasted time. On the first loop, she ran PAST the tire (drop 3 points). Then she missed the weave entry (drop maybe 5 seconds to get her lined up and back in, so probably that means drop the other 5-pointer off the end. After that, she flew, but sure enough the whistle blew as she flew towards our last 2 obstacles, both of them 5-pointers. Ah, well, crappy run but a Q.

And, to my surprise, a win in our group (Level 5, which is almost the top leve). Not the highest points of the day by far if you compare to all other dogs, but I'll take a Q and a 1st anyway.

And, guess what! That's the last Level 5 Q she needs in that class, so now she's eligible for her first Level C ("championship") entry (just in that class) at our next trial. Yowza!

Next is Snooker. It's a very tight little course (really--laid out on a 70x70 field which is literally half the area of a typical USDAA course) and really fast long-jumping dogs--and especially the ones who aren't always the best performers--could have a tough time. I decided, what the heck, we IN THEORY have the skills required to do a three-7 opening and get through to the end. It requires that she hold her sit while I lead out, then pull her between a jump and a tunnel to the first 7-pointer--and of course that she keep all her bars up.

Anyway, once again she turned the wrong way on a rear cross, and it was almost a disaster, but we held it together and completed the course in well under the allowed time.

Turns out--ta-da!--she was the ONLY dog out of all dogs entered at the trial who earned the full 51 points! What a good girl. Pleased with that, indeed.

Next up was Jumpers. Man, some weird sequences in that one AND it would require a ton of running on my part to be in the right place at the right time. And then there's the bar-knocking issue. OK, so she ran past one jump--I pulled hard to keep her off a tunnel trap and she responded too readily--so wasting time turning her around and getting her back over it, and then there was the tough push/turn out of the tunnel that I just handled wrong, so we wasted SO much time on course, but in fact never went off course and no bars came down. So: Another CPE-clean run, another Q, and this time merely 4th place. (Slower dogs definitely had advantages on this course.)

And, finally, Standard, our only regular class of the day with contacts. Thank goodness, all of her contacts were spot-on perfect, and she handled a tough tunnel-dogwalk discrimination with aplomb, AND kept her bars up. So, OK, she ran past yet ANOTHER jump and it took a lot of effort to get her back to it, because I had been trying to send so was a long way away, and she turned the wrong way on a rear cross (sensing a trend here?), and fer cryin' out loud was headed straight at the weave pole entry but turned back to me to see what I was doing, wasting yet MORE time, but it was CPE-clean, so a Q. And apparently it was a tough-enough course that she managed her third 1st-place of the day.

So, for the day, five out of five Qs, three 1sts, a 2nd, and a 4th. Way better than I had expected.

Boost knocking bars everywhere

In CPE, she's jumping 20" instead of 22", and that seems to make a big difference. She didn't drop a SINGLE bar all day, out of 6 runs!

Turkey Trot

I so wanted to win! It's just a fun game, it has no meaning whatsoever, but since my dogs have won 4 times so far, I just really wanted to keep on winning. Plus you get these really cool embroidered Top Turkey awards and a goodie bag.

The game this year was 21. Your team had two minutes, and dogs took turns trying to earn 21 points EXACTLY. There was this simple little 4-obstacle gamble that of course our experience masters-level USDAA dogs should have no troulbe getting, which gave us 21 points automatically, rather than trying to accrue 21 points on the rest of the course.

There was an alternative good route of 7 obstacles (including 2 aframes) that was pretty fast for 21 points if you thought you could do that exact course without popping the aframe or knocking a bar. (And of course many other choices on the course.) But we figured we could just do that 4-obstacle gamble over and over one after the other and rack up multiple 21-pointers. Piece of cake, right?

We were all so fast that we each got 2 shots at it and not one of us did it correctly even once (4 times into wrong side of tunnel, one teeter flyoff, and boost who couldn't even do the dang weave pole entry one of her times), which meant that we then had to take an additional 3 obstacles each time to make our 21 points. And then of course two of those runs the dog didn't quite do what we wanted, so it was more than 21 points.

Anyway, we ended up with four 21 pointers. Several teams had 4 or 5 and one had 6.

Then your team drew numbers out of a pot, one for each 21 you earned, and the sum of those numbers you drew determined the winner. (That's the element of luck. The skill is in getting enough 21s to earn the right to draw more numbers.)

Boost's team ended up in 2nd place out of 8 big dog teams, dang. So close. But oh well. Disappointing but not nearly as disappointing as not being able to run Tika in it. (And I don't want to act too disappointed because I LOVE the fun of the turkey trot and the different games each year and don't ever want Susan to stop doing it.)

However, the only other person I know who had 4 Turkey Trot wins going into Friday, a Bay Team friend (and was Jake's teammate on at least one of his wins, as was one of his teammates) DID win in the small dog division, so now he has 5 wins. Pretty cool indeed.

So--awake at 4:00 a.m., crawl into my own warm bed about 10:45 p.m., lights out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big Eating Equals Big Shopping

SUMMARY: Why maybe it's not such a good idea to go shopping at 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving.
I tell the Merle Girls that I am merely going to the grocery store and that it will be a boring, boring trip, but they tell me that I am a boring, boring Human Mom and I had best take them for a Ride or pay the consequences. So we drive together to the grocery store down the street. The dogs offer to guard the car for me while I shop, so that's how we arrange things.

I am a good ecocitizen and am remembering to take my reusable bags into the store with me. For once.

Here is the huge area in which normally an eager shopper can find a squillion shopping carts, all the way from here all the way down to the other door down there. But today?

We must start our hunting and gathering by hunting and gathering our own shopping cart from the completely full parking facility. There's one, trying to hide behind that tree! (Shopping carts aren't very smart.)

I am another good ecocitizen because I have returned my plastic bags to be recycled. So did a bunch of other good ecocitizens.

The San Jose shoppers mindful of the American obesity epidemic, have completely cleaned out the kiosk on which boxes of freshly baked cookies are usually stacked several deep. That is perhaps so that they are saving themselves from stuffing themselves on unhealthy items like pumpkin pie and apple pie, which actually contain some actual vegetables and fruits. Better to just have cookies.

However, the Christmas cookie stock is replete if you'd like to skip ahead one holiday.

Of course you're familiar with the Eggo Waffle shortage crisis? Have you started hoarding yours yet?

I was expecting to get some nice photos of completely empty shelves as the hungry underfed American shopping mob descended like locusts upon the store. But no, the clever grocers seemed to have everything well in hand. All the veggie bins were filled to overflowing. (Hmm, cookies gone, veggies in plenty. Obesity epidemic. Coincidence?)  Oddly enough--except the brussels sprouts. I hadn't heard that brussels sprouts were a hot thing for Thanksgiving. Go figure.

Even the turkeys and hams and roasts facility contained plenty of aforementioned meat items so that no starving San Jose American would have to go hungry even if shopping at the last minute.

The big ugly part of shopping for groceries at this particular time and day is: The checkout lines. Every lane was open. Every line extended past the front walking area and up into the grocery aisles.  Crowds to the left of me--

shoppers to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with food. (Um, I think that's how the lyrics go--)

The Merle Girls were pleased when I returned with several reusable ecofriendly bags filled with nourishing vegetables and other mostly edible matter for them to sniff thoroughly to check for possible explosives, illegal substances, or weapons of mass destruction.

Tomorrow--Salad or the Bush!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend and Top Turkeys

SUMMARY: A little agility, a lot of food, and who knows what else.
Thursday is the big family day. Big. Lots of food. Too much food, and all of it amazingly tasty. Dogs have to stay home with the Renter while I go off and indulge. It's about an hour and a half out of town. Maybe less.

Friday is our one day of agility for this month. It's about 2 hours out of town. Guess I'm going to be doing a bit of driving this weekend.

Friday is CPE. We're not doing much CPE these days in our attempts to save time and money and sanity. Too bad; Tika does very well in CPE, usually. I had thought we might eventually earn her C-ATE, which is similar to ADCH-Gold in USDAA. Lots and lots of Qs. Her Q rate is typically very high in CPE, but it's just--lots and LOTS of Qs. But it's a nice fun way to spend an agility day, and maybe Boost can Q in something, too.

Plus we love Full House. It's similar to a gamblers opening and the goal is just to get as many points as you can (with certain obstacles that you have to take during your point earning) with same rule about each obstacle max of twice for points. Tika and Boost love that kind of game. Faults don't matter, just lower your points.

So we'll go and play and maybe that'll sate the dogs for a little while, since no class this week.

And even more, the Friday evening after thanksgiving is the Turkey Trot. We love the turkey trot! My goal, if nothing else, is to win the turkey trot. And maybe even place 1-2. It's a 3-dog team event, and every year the competition is different. First year it was a basic 3-dog relay. The next year it was a 3-dog strategic pairs-type trio. Then there was the one where you had to do certain sequences to earn the right to pick a letter from a bucket and try to spell turkey. And so on. I've done it three times.

And now I have a reputation to uphold!

The first year, Jake's team won in the 16" group. Tika's team was 2nd fastest in the 20" but Tika took an extra jump at the wrong time so we ended up 4th (of 12 teams).

The second year, Jake's team won in the 16" group and Tika's team won in the 20" group.

The third year, Tika's team won the 20" group and Boost's team came in 2nd right behind them. (I wanted to enter her in the 16" group because she's eligible, but the teammates I found were 20"ers.)

So this is our 4th time to try to win the Top Turkey award. Again, both Tika and Boost are in the 20" group, so they can't both win--but 1st and 2nd would be pretty cool.

WAG tries to design the competition so that it's a mix of luck and handling skill and strategy appropriate for the game and so it's not just speed. That's a nice thing to do. But we still want to be Top Turkeys again!

And then--two more whole days off! Yowza! So many things I can make progress on. Looking forward to it. Maybe a hike or two.

And the weather looks like it'll be clear (but on the cool to cold side--not quite freezing overnight but close) all the way through.

In case I don't post again this week: Happy Turkey Day, everyone! I'm thankful for my wonderful dogs, for plenty of food and friends and family, and for having a blog in which to post my dog diary.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Morning Thoughts

SUMMARY: Top Ten, bored dogs, nifty dog stuff in nondog catalog, agility class and schedule and training and weaves, dog noses.

Top Tens
  • Why does USDAA have Top Ten Tournament for Championship dogs but not for Performance? I notice this because maybe Tika would have had a chance to be there this year. Maybe.)
Bored dogs
  • I've been finding out what my dogs are like when we're not doing agility. Why? No class Oct 22 (Power Paws Camp preempted it). Class Oct 27. No class Nov 5 (Disneyland). No class Nov 12 (USDAA Nationals.) Class this week. No class next week (Thanksgiving). 
  • We did have agility competition Oct 31-Nov 1. And will have one day Nov 27, then two days Dec 12-13.  Feels like long times between when we're short on classes.
  • Doesn't help that  I've been trying to do an early 6:00 Thursday class; leaving home at 5:00 is still in my normal work day, plus traffic means it's a 45-50 minutes drive instead of 20-30, all of which means I have been getting in 15-30 minutes late, therefore missing class time. Am going to have to switch back to Wednesday 8:15 which means no more Sierra Club hikes until some other later class opens on another day.
  • Meanwhile pesky bored dogs. Walking a couple of miles a day isn't a good substitute for classes & competition, apparently.
Improvements Catalog supplies the well-heeled dog (so to speak)
  • Beautiful folding wooden gates if you don't want to use cheap-looking standard gates to keep your dogs out of certain rooms.
  • Back when I had a Siberian Husky--for 16 years--every year I meant to get around to making a light-up Santa and sleigh display pulled by huskies. Good intentions, not enough time to figure it out. Now I could just buy one! And it's gorgeous, too.
  • Or how about just a light-up doggie holding a gift?
  • Check out their pet listings; a "Paw Plunger" for cleaning dirty paws; an embossed "Potty Rock", beautiful wooden crates, plus several actual useful items.
  • Wish I had implemented click-through payments for this site so that if you went to these locations I'd get 10 cents for it! Ah, well, another opportunity missed. Get in line behind making a husky santa sleigh.
Don't you wish you had a nose like a dog?
  • Boost always knows when one of Tika's  treats has rolled under the closet door at some time earlier in the day.
  • When I sent Boost out to get the paper yesterday morning, she stepped outside and then went into ferocious danger action--hackles up, bouncing on stiff legs while making some serious barking, looking at my porch, my tree, my eaves, my fence--and Tika followed suit, barking up an angry storm.  I saw nothing. It was an hour before I could get Boost out the door without the same reaction. What did I miss?
Agility training
  • My yard is just not big enough for all types of agility practice, for dogs who can cover 18 feet in a single full-speed bounce jump, 60 feet is nothing--not enough space to GET to that kind of striding.
  • Both dogs have been making some nice, tough weave entries in the yard. And in class last night. And then--missing some in the yard. Gah. It never ends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So What's Going On on Facebook?

SUMMARY: A status cloud generated from (in theory) all of my status posts since I joined facebook.

This means (in theory) that it picked the most common words (other than "and" and like that) and represented by size the relative frequency. [And apparently it uses only words of more than 3 letters, and probably avoids common words like is, does, and can-- hence appearance of isn't, can't, doesn't but not the positive versions? I don't think I'm that negative--] So what does this tell us? Hmm, it says that I have enough time on my hands to squeeze in a use of http://statuscloud.icodeforlove.com/. And that I do a lot of thinking, pondering and wondering.

You can compare and contrast to my September 29, 2008 clouds (generated by "wordle") for August and also September 2008.

Or here's the wordle for some portion of my recent posts--the tool takes RSS feed info but I don't know how it collects it. It's interesting that "Boost" doesn't seem to show up here at all (you can click on this to see a larger readable version).

 Do you think that, in both cases, it shows a preoccupation with the USDAA nationals?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And While Being Not At the Nationals--

SUMMARY: I *was* at the nationals! After a nice dogwalk--er, walk with the dogs.

This afternoon, took the dogs out to a park we sometimes go to where people don't seem to yell at you if you have your dogs off leash if they're under control. Lots of people with their dogs off leash. Huge flat lawn where there can be a soccer game and still lots of room to do frisbee with the dogs and no one will even notice. Trail over a nice steep hill with undomesticated vegetation that the dogs can sniff around plus gopher holes galore. Fun.

So about that "if they're under control" thing. I took a pocketful of smelly Zukes with me to practice calling Tika back to me, rewarding, and releasing. She was good on the flat as long as there was no distraction, but she blew me off repeatedly on the hill, or came reluctantly along a path somewhat akin to what you'd see in Family Circus. And then finally she didn't come back at all, and I ended up pursuing her all the way around the hill and back down and halfway into the park before she turned around and I grabbed her and told her what for.

Then when I needed the "come", when she saw a couple of small dogs running and decided to charge over to investigate, I could see her step falter briefly at my call and then she just decided to ignore me again.

Back to remedial recalls. I've done this with her so often--but not often enough.

Fortunately she's good with other dogs, it's just that she often scares the *owners* because she charges in so fast. These were Yorkies or Skyes or some small terrier like that, and when she got near, one of them charged at HER barking ferociously, and Tika put her ears back, skidded to a halt, and turned to come right back to me.

We got in about 45 minutes of frisbee and hiking, and then 15 minutes later when we got home, they wanted to play in the yard, too.

However, I had other plans: Made a huge bowl of popcorn and sat in my office with the USDAA Steeplechase National [World] Championships final rounds playing in live stream on BOTH of the computers in my office (because the live streaming would freeze periodically while catching up on the download and this way one or the other computer was always showing action because they'd download at different times) set to full-screen display.

And also had facebook up to the USDAA page and my own page, posting comments and reading other people's comments as we went along, so it was almost like being in a crowd of agility people sitting in the bleachers watching the show! The next best thing to being there!

All the excitement once again; super-fast runs, amazing over-the-top handling, no holds barred full-out competition with some of the best dogs in the world (there were several World Team dogs in the assorted finals tonight, along with plenty of past champions of various sorts).

A lot of Bay Teamers just missed being in the Steeplechase finals--by fractions of seconds in a few cases. Dang! But my club still had a great showing. And not merely Bay Teamers but people I know fairly well--

Ashley Deacon and Luka (classmates) won the 16" Steeplechase for I believe the 4th time!

In 22", Nancy Gyes/Ace and Jim Basic/Sweep (our long-time instructors) were 1st and 2nd for the longest time but got barely edged out and ended up 3rd and 5th, pretty fine work for the hundreds of 22" dogs entered! And Diana Wilson and Cassidy (traveled to nationals with them 2 years ago), who won the semifinals(!) made what I believe is their first appearance in the finals as first seed, but they had bobbles in the final round, although you could still see the speed of that team. Silvina Bruera and Maja (classmates) also had bobbles but looked pretty darned good.

And in 26", an all-border-collie-except-one-terv group, Rob Michalski and Wings the Tervuren WON (have been involved in bay team together for a very long time & tika & his other dog are doing DAM teammates in december)! And Channan Fosty with Icon had a lovely smooth run to just get edged out and into 3rd place! TWO bay teamers on the podium!

It was exciting and exhausting. I love watching the finals at nationals; that's always one of my favorite parts of going. This wasn't quite as good as being there, but it was still pretty darned good. Thanks to USDAA for working out the kinks in their live feed.

So now I'm worn out physically and emotionallly and headed for bed. Yeehah agility fans!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rueing the Day

SUMMARY: OK, I knew it would hit sooner or later. About not being at the Nationals.
A dog whom Tika beats locally in the Performance Grand Prix made it to the finals at Scottsdale. I don't begrudge them the success--they're very consistent performers and deserve to be there. It's just--well--


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the Not-At-The-Nationals Ranch--

SUMMARY: Just sitting here-- well, OK, busy--

It is odd to not be at the Nationals when all the usual crowd is there. It is odd to not be there when Tika not only qualified in everything this year, but qualified in everything in BOTH Championship and Performance. Definitely one of her better years. It's just that random sore-can't-run thing that finally turned me off to making that very long, very tiring, very expensive trip.

Got email from a friend last night who's there, saying "We picked up Tika's ADCH-bronze plaque for you!" Whoaaaa! I had forgotten all about that. First time in a long time there's been anything there for me to pick up, and I wasn't there.

This year, of course (just last month), Tika completed her ADCH-Silver so the bronze was wayyyy back in my memory banks. And, of course as we expected, next year the nationals will not be on the west coast for me to pick up anything.

Caroline Winata posted on Facebook last night: "For those of you not at natl's; Ken just announced that the [USDAA Nationals] will be moving to either Louisville or Philly next year [2010]." There ya go, what can ya do? Anyway, takes the pressure off me to make the decision whether to go.

Thank goodness for facebook--semilive updates on what everyone I know is up to out there in Scottsdale.

Meanwhile--lots going on here, mostly not having to do with the dogs, and they are just insane; still haven't recovered from being mostly alone for 5 days. Doesn't help that we've had no class 3 of the last for weeks (Power Paws Camp, then class, then I was at Dland, now Nationals). Dogs are getting into the trash (never happens!), chewing things up (vacuum cleaner is busy!), barking at things (well, it happens, but this is over the top), hanging out under my desk leaning against my legs. BORED Tika. BOREDER Collie!

Trying to decide what agility to do and when to wrap up the year. I have three options--
* CPE trial in Turlock (2 hrs away) next (not this coming) weekend. I didn't send in my entry and missed the closing date. I have a feeling that they'd welcome more entries because all trials seem to be underattended these days. But I'm liking being at home and getting stuff done.
* CPE trial in Elk Grove (2 hrs away) Thanksgiving weekend, 3 days. I did 2 or 3 days of this for several years, winning the Turkey Trot with one or both of my dogs Friday night. Didn't go the year I had knee surgery, then the following year something else odd happened and I had to pull out, and now I'm out of the habit. But a friend thinks that her dog will C-ATE that Saturday (sort of like an ADCH-gold)--they're pretty reliable Qers in CPE so it's a good bet. Do I want to go all the way out there for one day? Maybe. (If it's still open--just a one-ring trial, I think.) Because--
* Next trial after that is USDAA mid-December. That's a long way for the poor insane agility dogs to wait for some actual agility stuff.


Meanwhile--back to photography.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Disneyland Photo Teaser

SUMMARY: Just a couple. Don't have time for more at the moment.

Friday was blue-and-purple tie dye day.

Me--hamming it up for the camera-- and my sister's Australian friend "Sho" racking up them thar points in Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters ride. Boy, it sure helps one's scores if the ride stalls out while you're right in front of a target.

Here, I'm placing the raven's feather behind Dumbo's ear to make him fly, while Sho prepares to document the event.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


SUMMARY: I love Disneyland. I love being home.
When I walked in the door, the merle girls acted as though they hadn't seen another human being in three years. We got some frantic tug-of-war in, a bunch of tennis ball throwing (all of this indoors, mind you, as it's dark outside), some scritching and affection (not too much for Boost, would rather do the toy thang), and now they have bully sticks to gnaw so I can start transferring and sorting all my hundreds of Disneyland photos.

That'll take a while, and I'm VERY tired.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Body Parts Not Getting With The Program

SUMMARY: Ouch ouch ouch. But at least we're still at Disneyland. For another half a day.

So I've been hiking with the sierra club every week for 4 or 6 miles. Briskly. Well, maybe not every week lately. Every other week. And I try to get out with the dogs for a mile or two walk every day. Well, lately, maybe not every day. Maybe 4 or 5 times a week. Or three. And I have agility class every week. Except not a couple of weeks ago because of Instructor Prior Engagements and not this week because I'm not there. And I put probably somewhere between 8 and 10 miles (nearing 20,000 steps) on my pedometer every agility weekend, and I do 20+ weekends of that a year. Except, well, maybe not lately because I'm trying to cut back. Maybe 15 this year? Maybe one every 4 weeks.

But the point is I cover a lot of ground on my very actual feet on a fairly regular basis. Two years ago I came to Disneyland and I had no trouble at all covering miles of ground from park opening to park closing every day, and I can assure you that I wasn't in nearly as good a shape as I am now. In theory.

But this year? Icing my knee every evening. A couple of times. Blisters on my feet. The latter I blame on bringing the wrong darned shoes. They are my bumming around in general shoes, maybe my walking 1 or 2 miles with the dogs shoes. They are not my covering 10 miles a day shoes.

Maybe that's what's doing in my knee, too.

I finally took my tripod into the park tonight and went off on my own to take all those photos I've been wanting to take, and my knee told me repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that it would really prefer to be lounging around in the hotel room snuggled up to a nice cozy ice pack.

So here I am, 10:30 p.m., park doesn't close until midnight (well--the rides anyway--then it stays open "for you shopping convenience for our profit making convenience" for another hour or so. But I am here with a progressively more chilly knee and a whole slew of unshot photos in my head.

Tomorrow we're heading home midday. Dogs and dogsitter will be glad to see me, I'm sure. There will be much rejoicing. Yaayyyyyyy.

And sometime, maybe this century, I'll get to post some photos. And we're already planning our next trip. January 2012. I promise I'll walk 5 miles every day for two months before that. Plus bring the right shoes.


SUMMARY: We've been here two full days now--

One more full day to go, then a few hours Sunday morning, then home again, home again, jiggity jog.

I love being at Disneyland! So much to see and do, and even if I come every couple of years (which I've been doing for a long time), it's still a wonderfantabulous experience. I like just walking around and looking and being there.

Plus taking photos. Unfortunately I've discovered that my old laptop's software doesn't recognize my new camera's raw format, so I've got nothing to upload here at the moment.

And we've done so much, it's hard to shrink it to a quick post. We've done several things more than once each: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Astro Blaster. I've done a token Indiana Jones and Matterhorn and don't need to do those again this trip. We've sailed the Rivers of American in both the Mark Twain and the sailing ship Columbia. We've explored the pirate's cave on Tom Sawyer's Island. Had lunch at the Blue Bayou. And so much more!

Tomorrow we'll hit California Adventure until it closes (3 hours earlier than Disneyland, I believe) or until we run out of things we want to do over there (possibly way before closing).

And tomorrow for crying out loud I'll remember my tripod finally (I promise, really I will) and finally get some of those night shots I've been trying to get hand-held and some that I know I can't get hand-held.

And when I get home--hundreds of photos to sort through (already) as usual. AFTER i've worn out the dogs and taken them for a long walk, presumably.

In honor of the fact that I'm not leaving for USDAA Nationals in the next couple of days, I've worn two of my USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility Championships polo shirts. It's all about the clothing, you know!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Disneyland Versus The World Championships

SUMMARY: Me to Disneyland. Everyone else to Scottsdale. Musings.

Today's Facebook status:
Ellen Finch wishes the very best of luck to all of her friends who are heading out soon for the Nationals aka world championships in Scottsdale--while *she* bags out this year and goes to Disneyland! Woohoo! Maybe not tons less expensive than Nationals, but not nearly as stressful! Such as I don't have to get up at 5 a.m. to walk and memorize 6 different courses. Enjoy!

It feels so odd not to be going, after all those years of attending. Tika is completely qualified for everything this year, and in fact has done extremely well in all the Performance Tournaments, placing in several Steeplechases and Grand Prixs, and taking gold with her partner Brenn in team at a big SMART trial and then silver even at the Regional championships. She's done so well in Performance uin general, despite not starting Perf until late spring, that she's in range of Top Ten in both Gamblers and Snooker right now. This could be her big year.

BUT--She's also had to be scratched from several runs or even full days this year when her neck comes up sore. Like that heartbreaking Steeplechase finals at the Regionals where she ran half of it beautifully and then yelped and came out of the tunnel limping, and that was it for the rest of the day.

I couldn't stand the disappointment of getting to Scottsdale (all that time and money and hope) and have to scratch her from her runs. I really couldn't stand it if we got lucky and made it to the finals and that happened. Not that I think it's super likely--which is another reason for why I'm not really missing the nationals this year. We're good, but we're not great. Sometimes we get lucky. But that's an expensive hope to pursue.

And Boost just still isn't ready. She Qed in Team by the skin of her teeth thanks mostly to her two teammates (I think we were just a couple of points out of 1200 or so above the cut-off), and that was her ONLY team Q this year out of all our tries.

She hasn't Qed in Grand Prix since May of 2008.

She did somehow Q twice in Steeplechase this tournament year. Twice. Out of 12 tries. Sure, those 2 qualified her to run at Nationals, but the one time of those two when we actually ran in Round 2, she ran past a jump for elimination.

I will really miss watching all the final rounds. There is nothing like being there in the stands, on the edge of your seat, watching the clock as the finest competitors in the country (and even in the world) try to peel another hundredth of a second off the clock to take the prize. The runs are blazingly fast and the handling is on at the extreme edge of human capacity at times--watching some of these handlers get to position and make a front cross (in which their body turns 180 to 270 degrees or more at a full run) with impeccable timing is something that videos just can't do justice to.

I'll miss not being there to take tons of candid photos of all of my agility friends, as I have at the previous seven Nationals I've attended. But on the other hand then I won't be looking at hundreds of photos to sort and label. (Never did finish the last couple of years' worth, for example.)

But in the larger scheme of things, I'm generally glad I'm not going. The stress is off, the push is off, the managing of two high-energy dogs for a week out of town is off.

And I'm going to have a blast at Disneyland without them. And, OK, I'm sure I'll still have a squillion photos to sort and label when I get home anyway.

So I'm off to Disneyland tomorrow through Sunday, and many many of my agility friends will be dribbling out of town between now and Monday to make their way to Arizona for next week's competition. Most likely the last time it'll be on the west coast for a very long time.

Ah, well, Boost, if only you'd become the Super Agility Dog a bit faster!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

USDAA in Turlock

SUMMARY: An oddball weekend.

The weather was just about perfect for agility: Sunny but not hot, just warm enough that by midafternoon for a brief while I didn't need my fleece in the shade of the score table. No rain, just a tiny breeze to keep the air moving. Plenty cool for the dogs. Couldn't ask for better weather.

Which of course is unusual for agility trials--usually they're very hot or they're rainy or they're windy or you're huddled around one of those portable propane heaters trying to defrost the icicles from your nose.

Here's one weird thing: Boost. Got more Qs. Than Tika. Can you believe it? My little baby dog is almost hitting her stride--at 4 years and 9 months! Can you believe it? My older experienced Qing machine dog managed only 3 Qs out of 10 runs.

Here's another weird thing: Gamblers. Tika is a wonderful gamblers dog. So often we manage to get high opening points, and often pick up gambles that other dogs find challenging. And that's in Championship as well as performance. This weekend, Tika didn't come close in TWO gamblers. This is a dog who has been  so consistent at gamblers this year that--OMG--just looked at the USDAA site and as of mid-September she is *IN* the top ten! Yowza! I had thought we might have crept in at the bottom. Unfortunately, at the last trial, we popped the dogwalk in the opening so ended up in a position to collect only 3 top ten points, then in the 2nd gamble completely hosed it, and this weekend we completely hosed TWO gambles for NO top ten points. Tsk. What an opportunity wasted to finally get a Top Ten pin! But how much fun to be there right now. Really, if I had known we were up in there, I might have actually *practiced* some gambling recently.

And Boost, my baby dog who still has trouble sometimes sending out from me, ALMOST got the gamble Saturday--in the air over the last jump when the buzzer sounded. 0.3 seconds over time! (But particularly nice as this course had a dismal Q rate. Only 2 out of 30 22" dogs got the gamble--I didn't see anyone else get it and be over time, so Boost makes it 3 who got it.) AND she DID get the gamble Sunday! Managed 6th place out of 28 dogs.

Here's another weird thing: Tika, my Performance Tournament Qing machine didn't qualify in either the Grand Prix or the Steeplechase. Well--Steeplechase was my fault, I ran the wrong course. Grand Prix was her fault--flew off the dogwalk from a mile up without even pretending to get to the bottom.

Boost, however, DID Q in the Steeplechase with a clean and smooth but oddly slow run.

And here's another weird thing: In all of my thousands of agility runs, I've not yet had a dog who eliminated in the ring. Boost's Steeplechase came SO close--we went over the last jump, headed for the exit, and about 2 feet from the gate at the far side of the field she squatted. This from a dog who sometimes won't go for hours because life is too interesting to waste time pottying. I blame it on the antibiotics she's on. Explained why she was slow--about to explode!

And here's another weird thing: Tika either crapped out completely or completely aced it. We don't usually get such a sharp division. Crap out: E in 1st Standard, not even opening pts in Gamblers, E in steeplecahse, E in 2nd Jumpers, nearly low points in 2nd Gamblers, E in pairs (although actually Tika was clean; her partner had the E.

Aced it: In the 1st Jumpers, Tika had a beautiful blazing course and missed coming in first out of 10 dogs by .01 seconds, dagnabbit! Beat by our traitorous pairs partner! In Snooker, whupped the competition with a first-place (of 12 dogs) 55 point super-Q--nearest was 51 points--in a run that would've been also good enough for a super-Q in Championship. And in the 2nd Standard, soundly took 1st of 11, beating everyone else's times (even those with faults).

So: Boost Qed in Relay, 5th of 21 pairs (missed her weave entry or we'd have placed higher). Qed in the 1st Standard, placing 9 of 28--dang hydraulic elbows on the table lost us a huge lot of time again, or we'd have placed higher. Qed in Steeplechase. Qed in Gamblers, 6th of 28 dogs.

Mostly for my own info: Tika ignored my "COME! COME! COOOOOME!" twice to take off-course obstacles. Blind-crossed me once into an offcourse, a puzzling move that I really can't explain. I forgot the course once. She flew off the Aframe twice, dogwalk maybe 3 times, much worse than average.

But I don't think she knocked a bar all weekend! Good girl on that one.

Nine out of Boost's 11 runs looked very much like master dog runs. 2nd round steeplechase she was the 3rd fastest dog but knocked a bar. Very pleased with the run. 2nd Jumpers was OH so close--took an off course tunnel that many dogs had taken (OK, Tika took it, too, but for a different reason)--but otherwise did the course perfectly! No bars! Sooooo close--

But her 1st Jumpers run looked like the old-style disaster: ran past the 2nd jump on a lead-out pivot, knocked 3 bars, had at least one refusal-type mess-- . And Snooker, she knocked the bar in the opening on #7, then sucked into a tunnel at a bad moment, for a 9-point run.

But the rest were lovely! And her bar knocking was way down. Very happy about that, too.

Hmm, Tika getting yet another Snooker Super-Q makes me check the USDAA web site again for Snooker Top Tens. If you remember, as of late August, I reported that we had just barely squeaked our way into the top 25 vying for a top ten position. So it's just a thrill to see that, counting scores through mid-September, we've edged upward:

I still don't think this 17th place will  hold, either.  Since the date of that update, we earned only 1 Top Ten point at our last trial. 7 more for today's run (and we beat Hobbes). But we're doing only one more USDAA trial this year, in December, and I doubt that most of these dogs are doing that few competitions. Guess I picked the wrong year to back way off on my agility trials, or Tika might really have had a chance at a Top Ten in Snooker. That's OK. It's still fun to have earned 5 SuperQs  out of 9 runs in Performance to date.

From this weekend: No photos. As usual, worked my buns off at the score table, didn't have much time for anything else. For once, we had enough score tablers that I could've taken a couple of breaks, but I feel obligated to be there as much as possible since they give me one free entry for doing the job.

And now I'm tired. Bedtime.