a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ready for the Weekend

SUMMARY: Tidbits.
Thanks to folks who comment on my cry of horror about the slice halfway off Tika's dorsal pad. Tuesday I got up the gumption to see whether I could clip it off without hurting her and it wasn't too hard to do. (Used toenail clippers!) It looked fine then and it hasn't bothered her at all. Yay!

I've set up a few things in the yard this week to work on a very little bit. Did some very tough weave cross-behinds; Tika got them all but Boost took a little work. (Knew that because she spun out of them in Pairs last weekend when I tried one.)

Did just some running full out in circles using jumps and tunnels. A little tiny bit of dogwalk contact work. Some sending out to jumps. Some simple gambles. Now, we'll see.

Left MUTT MVR's side door open, and the zipper bag containing the trial dogfood unzipped. This afternoon when I went out there, discovered the gallon ziplock bag from the dogfood bag empty with a large hole torn in it. Someone got a way large food supplement today. Boost didn't want to take the Guard the House Goodie when I left, but that could've been stuffed belly or just that she didn't want me to go. Found a pile of tossed-up not-digested dogfood in the back yard when I went out. Seems to me that Boost was much slower than normal eating her dinner this evening. But don't know, probably never will know, and everyone should be fine by Saturday morning.

Then it's up at 5:00 a.m., drive through the beautiful sunrise countryside with the shreds of tule fog over the fields and off to Prunedale once again with friends and beasts.

And Today's Quiz--

SUMMARY: Isaac Asimov's Super Quiz: Dogs!
This appears in the San Jose Mercury News (and many other papers) daily. We won't go into the fact that Isaac Asimov has been dead for several years. Apparently he can still write pretty good quizzes. Maybe productivity after death goes with being a science fiction writer: L. Ron Hubbard is still cranking 'em out, too.

Can you get 9 out of 9?

Dog quiz.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

But Wait, There's More--Agility!

SUMMARY: USDAA third weekend in a row.

Bay Team's spring USDAA is this weekend.

Along with the usual suspects (regular classes and GP and Steeplechase), we're resurrecting the California Cup with a new format. For several years, it was a Bay Team NADAC thing: Best combined score of four rounds of Standard in a weekend, in each level, I believe. (Back in the way good old days where there WERE only Standard, Jumps, and Gamblers, so it was 2 Standard each day.)

Now, it's based on the combined scores from last weekend's and this weekend's Grand Prix runs. The top 30% get to run a free final round this weekend for glory. Tika did well in the Grand Prix last weekend (2nd of 9 in her height), so if we can hold it together again this weekend, contacts and all, we could run in that. Boost Eed--but it's still a score, so if we do well this weekend and lot of other crap out, we could still have a chance. Slim, but ya never know.

Other than that--well, weather should be beautiful again. We have been *very* lucky in this sequence. It poured a few days before our 4-day event 2 weeks ago, then was gorgeous all 4 days. It rained the following week (raining out my agility class), then was lovely all last weekend. It rained again this week (raining out my agility class), but the forecast for this weekend is again for perfect agility weather. So glad it hasn't been the other way round!

We've been doing some practicing in the yard. For Boost, most just running around a big loop, just getting her thinking about going forward and doing obstacles. Some entering from the back side of a tunnel. A bit of dogwalking and a bit of weaving and a bit of working at a distance (for gamblers) but that's about it.

So--of course we're completely ready!

Do I Give It Up?

 SUMMARY: Is Boost fixable, and should I even try?
(photo by S. Hitzeman)

Boost seems like all the agility dog raw material that anyone could hope for. She loves the game. Loves working with me. And smart! And a great start-line stay!
(photo by Sarah Hitzeman)

Loves running. Running flat out, can't be beaten.
(photo by Sarah Hitzeman)

Blazingly fast weave poles (during the periods when she's going in correctly and exiting correctly).

(photo by Sarah Hitzeman)

Pretty darned fast contacts, and an often spectacular teeter.
 (photo by Top Flight)
Capable of earning high or nearly high points in, say, Gamblers, out of 40 or 50 or 60 22" dogs including some of the top ones in the country or even the world (when she's not running past obstacles instead of taking them, or doing the "what, THIS tunnel?" dance).

She knocks bars, a lot. Even more than Tika ever did, and I thought Tika was quite the bar knocker. She has runouts and refusals constantly, and now even when she's clean I see hesitation at many obstacles as if she's *thinking* about not taking it or going past it. She hates coming in to me on serpentines. These are all things that Tika never had problems with. (Tika had other challenges, of course, but they were more clearly behavioral than performance, if I can make that distinction.)
(photo by Top Flight)

I have to fill in some background for an interesting conversation I had this weekend.

I have an agility friend who has had mixed luck with her Border Collies. Her first one turned out well; not super-fast, but plenty fast enough to place fairly regularly and to be a pretty reliable Qer. He has had some heat-related issues, but it's manageable. He's now ten, I think, and of course you start thinking about retiring a dog at that point.

Her second dog, about Boost's age, is an amazingly driven, super-fast Border Collie. She screams with excitement when waiting to run or when running. She can cover the ground like she's on jet fuel. Her littermate was a world team dog. But there's something amiss with this dog. When she does jumps, she does the dread stutter step, and knocks bars half the time. They've done every test that anyone can think of and they can't identify anything. But: When you hold up a toy, she focuses intently on--a point a couple feet above and to the side of where the toy is. She clearly sees the world differently than one would expect. An astonishingly driven dog who wants to do agility and can't. (Or probably could if it weren't for getting over jumps.)

So I was (yeah, as usual) moaning about how frustrating it is to do run after run with Boost and she just doesn't seem to get the idea that it's about taking obstacles, not about running. Or maybe she does get it and doesn't like it. I dunno. Or maybe I haven't trained enough, or on the right kinds of exercises. I *know* that I'm not a dedicated trainer. I *know* that there are things I could work on more, and I work on only some. But that strategy worked for Remington (mostly) and Jake and Tika. But my perfect agility dog--well, would she have been a world team dog with a different handler? Or would even a world team handler have thrown up their hands and let her go?
(photo by Sarah Hitzeman)

So my friend said: at some point, one has to face it -- We have our older, reliable, not top-of-the-line but close, dogs who Q and are getting older. We have our expensive, driven, excited dogs who want to do agility and can't. And sometimes that's just the way it is; it's no reflection on us as handlers or trainers, and we just have to accept that and decide how we want to handle the fact that they can't and never will be "successful" agility dogs.
Then, in rapid succession this week, people posted links to these blog posts, which of course now you have to read because they feed right into that topic. (Fortunately, both are shorter than my post already is.)

This blog post by Susan Garrett, and this blog post by Suzanne Clothier.

So. Do I quit agility with Boost and take up herding? Quit agility entirely? Keep paying money to compete and just accept that I'm doing it for fun and it's just a pricey way to have fun? Really throw myself into training and give it, say, 6 months of a very carefully planned out, assisted training regimen and see whether I make progress? Or am I trying to fit a round peg into a square hole? And how will I ever know?

[Feeling: Discouraged, confused, and a bit lost.]
 (photo by Taj MuttHall)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Snooker Day!

SUMMARY: General Snooker strategy for Super-Qs, plus, OK, what exactly IS a Super-Q?
Thanks to Mary and Maralize, whose comments and questions led me to these writings.

Lots of talking here; pick your topics!

What is Snooker, anyway?

Here's a summary:

The field contains 3 or 4 "red" jumps worth 1 point each, and 6 other obstacles worth 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 points. For example:

You have a set period of time, usually around 50 seconds, in which to accrue points by following first an opening sequence consisting of red, number, red, number, red, number, and then the closing sequence of 2 through 7. (Sometimes you can do a 4th red, number in the opening.) You may repeat the numbered obstacles, but you cannot repeat the reds; for example, do the 1st red and #7, then the 2nd red and #7, then the 3rd red and #4. Then 2 through 7.

During your allotted time, you must earn 37 points for a Qualifying score (a "Q").

If you take an incorrect obstacle, you are whistled off; if you fault an obstacle in the closing, you are whistled off.

Placements are determined by your points.

There are a lot of additional rules and gotchas; if you don't know how to play Snooker, and want to read my previous in-depth post about How To Play Agility Snooker, including why it has the same name as a billiards game, feel free.

What exactly is a Super-Q and how many do I need and why?

Whenever USDAA Masters Snooker plays at a trial, the mysterious word "Super-Q" repeats obsessively.

A Super-Q means that you place in the top 15% of the dogs in your height group. (They round up, fortunately--but when I'm working at the score table, I always look at the Super-Q cheat sheet to be sure I'm giving the right quantity.)

Point ties are resolved by your time. That's why you always race for the finish line when you're done, no matter how many points you have (assuming you've gotten a qualifying score).

Super-Qs apply only to Masters (and P3) Snooker. To earn an ADCH or your APD, 3 of your 5 Snooker Qs must be Super-Qs. Once you've earned the 3 Super-Qs in Masters towards the ADCH, you never again need another Super-Q in championship for anything except glory, no matter how high you go in titles. Ditto with the 3 in P3 towards the APD.

Super-Q caveats

There are two gotchas that can make it slightly more complicated:
  • You have to earn a Q to earn a Super-Q. For example, if there are 20 dogs, there would normally be 3 super-Qs. But if only 2 dogs qualify, well, there's a Super-Q that never is awarded, oh well! (Hence, it's a Super Q--because you already have the Q but now it's an extra-special Q.)
  • If there are fewer than 7 dogs in either of the open heights or fewer than 5 in either of the mini heights, they have to combine the heights (but only open with open and mini with mini).
For example, let's say:
  • There are 20 16" dogs. Normally there would be 3 super-Qs with 20 dogs.
  • The top three 16" dogs (let's say, Luka, Wave, and, oh, Sizzle) get 59, 58, and 51 points.
  • Meanwhile, the top 12" dogs score 52, 50, and 49.
  • There are only four 12" dogs. Therefore they have to combine the 12" with the 16".
  • Now there are 24 dogs, which makes 4 Super-Qs. the Super-Qs will be the top 3 16" dogs, plus the top 12" dog with 52 points (because the top 4 dogs in the combined heights have 59, 58, 52, and 51 pts).

That's probably more than you need to know, but I'm being complete here.

The info on Super-Qs is in the USDAA rule book chapt 6 in the Snooker section's "Qualification" subsection.

Tournament events: Other scoring with percentages

You might be thinking that some other classes are related to Super-Qs--for example, in Steeplechase, you have to be within 25% of the average of the top 3 dogs to Q; something similar for DAM. Those aren't super-Qs; those are just how you earn Qs in those events. Grand Prix  uses percentages only in Round 2 at the regional--top 50% (?) in round 2 get a bye into the semifinals at the nationals. Or that's what the calculation was; they dink around with these things periodically so who knows.

Must I always go for all 7s in the opening?

So--a friend who has earned her three Super-Qs now wants to go for Top Ten points (that's over all dogs over the whole year--a 1st place earns more top ten points than a 2nd place, etc.). So she commented something like: "Now I must ALWAYS go for all 7s in the opening, no matter how many reds there are and no matter what the course is."

I said that that was not the right approach towards earning Top Ten placements (which are more or less synonymous with Super-Qs).

My point is that, if you try for an impossible course or try one that you have slim chance of doing, you're normally worse off than if you go for somewhat lower points but a sure thing. I will always *look* at the all-7 opening, but I don't nearly always pick it, and neither does anyone else.

I *do* always pick a slightly aggressive course to push myself and my dog, because most other people will be doing so, too. And I just like getting placement ribbons, so a mere Q isn't good enough. :-) On a very challenging course, lots of dogs will crap out trying to get more than they're really capable of. (Look at me and Boost--oh, ok, well, don't--)

She further put herself out on a limb by saying that, nowadays, with the crowd we have, someone ALWAYS does all 7s in the opening and gets all the way through the closing, so she has to always try.

I said, NEVER and ALWAYS are two concepts in agility that are likely to be easily disproved. And, being the database geek that I am, I was able to quickly pull up some numbers from our local trials:

(1) In Masters 22"/26", since January '08 (in trials I've competed in of course), I count 50 times we've run snooker, and I count only 17 of those where I'm pretty sure that "all 7s" were done in the opening by the winning dog. It's probably less than that; I'm going by the note of 24 or 32 opening points (which is three or four 7s) but of course a 24 opening can also be gotten by, say, 3/3/7/7.

(2) So--that's to *win*. How about simply to earn *some* Top Ten points? Well, of course, winning gets you the most, but as I keep saying, some is better than none. Back to the database:

Among my dogs, I've earned Top Ten points on at least 34 snooker courses; 22 of those were also super-Qs.

Are they all 7/7/7 plus 2-7? No way. Here are the ones where I specifically noted what I ran.

6/7/7 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
7/7/5 +2-7
7/7/6/6 +2-6 (4 reds req'd)
5/6/7/7 +2-7 (4th red optional)
7/7/7 +2-6
5/4/4/2 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
5/4/3 +2-6 (no Q but a 1st place! still get Top Ten pts!)
1/7/7 +2-7 (1 means we faulted the point obstacle)
7/7/6/6 +2-7
7/7/3 +2-7
7/6/1 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
6/6/7/7 +2-5
7/7/7 +2-7
7/7/6 +2-7
5/5/7/7 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
4/7/7/7 +2-7 (4 req'd)
4/5/2/7 +2-7
5/7/7/7 +2-7 (4 req'd)
6/7/7/6 +2-7
3/5/7/7 +2-6
0/5/7 +2-6 (0 means we knocked a red jump)
1/7/7 +2-7

So only 6 of these 26 runs used all 7s and completed the closing. It is possible that one needed even fewer points than that to get top ten points; my records aren't THAT detailed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Customer Service from Arco

SUMMARY: A divergence from dog agility for a moment.
"Get an arco debit card and connect it to your existing bank account! Save the 45 cent fee every time you buy gas!"

How cool does that sound? I mean, who doesn't love saving money? And I buy gas at Arco almost exclusively because it's cheaper than anywhere and it's nearby. I can't use a credit card, and cash is a pain, and the ATM card has a 45-cent Arco fee, but it's still cheaper per gallon than other places and I don't have to waste more time driving farther afield.

(Wait-- dog agility is the primary reason for being in MUTT MVR and for using gas, so this *is* an agility-related post. Ta-da!)

So: I take their brochure home, go to the web site, fill in a bunch of data, and finally get to the point where it tells me to provide info from my card--but wait, I don't have a card yet! That's what I'm applying for! So I have to print a copy of the page with the instructions so I can pick up where I left off when the card (presumably) arrives in the mail.

Which it does, several days later. It has a sticker on the front: "Visit the web address printed on the back of your card". There is no web address printed on the back of the card. Believe me, I read every tiny mangled fine-print word and there IS no web address there.

But there is a web address on the information sheet that came with the card, so I go there. Next, I have to go to my credit union's online site and log in and look for a one-cent transaction that the Arco card has done to make sure it's connected correctly, and get the transaction code, and write it down. Back to Arco site.

(A) I have to read an agreement to get everything online, which I don't like but I have no choice--I can LATER request to get paper copies if I want, but that's a special process. That's annoying and time-wasting but I'll have to do it at some point because I do not want to get my stuff online. Why can't they just let me choose now? Because they're hoping that most people won't bother.

(B) I fill in my name, the card's 15-digit number, the 13-digit "loyalty code" (or something like that), which isn't text that appears anywhere on the card; they have to explain that it's the numbers below the bar code on the card--do they mean to include the digit that's NOT below the barcode? Dunno, it's a zero, so hopefully it doesn't matter. And my name. And my date of birth. And the last digits of my SSN. And the transaction code from my credit union. I pick a username and a password (have to type it twice) and pick a security question and type the answer (twice) and ANOTHER security question and type the answer (twice), and then it tells me that the username is taken and try again.

(C) At least it doesn't make me retype everything. I try another username and apparently that works. Then I get a box in which to to type a PIN of my choice, surrounded by a bunch of hoohah about Java. Well--can't type into the box. So I have to read all the stuff about Java. It's a little confusing (mind you, I'm a software technical writer who's been on the technical side of computing for mumble decades--and it's a little confusing). I click some link that looks useful, and it takes me to a window that talks about Internet Explorer and Windows. I, of course, am using Firefox on a Mac. I have to browse around a bit to finally find instructions dealing with Mac.

So maybe these instructions are Sun's, not Arco's, but it tells me to open a Terminal window and click the magnifying glass. There is no magnifying glass in the Terminal window. It tells me to type something into the dialog box. There IS no dialog box, fer crying out loud, this is TERMINAL! (Like the Run window on Windows.) So I skip that, because it looks like I can go to the next step, which is to type a change directory command. I type it, and there's no such directory. I recheck the spelling and I type it again and there's still no such directory. So I can't very well follow the rest of their instructions.

So I give up on that and return to the PIN window. There's a link there to have them GIVE me a PIN instead of picking my own, and OK, I figure I can probably change it later if I want to, so I click that, and it gives me a PIN, and then it says "there was a problem with your verification, call this number." Of course it's evening, and they're only open during earlier Eastern Standard Times, so I have to wait until the next morning.

Next morning, I call. Go through about 3 levels on the phone tree, and then speak to a person who says this is the wrong phone number, let me look up the right one for you. He gives me the number and transfers me (at least I don't have to hang up and redial). I have to go through what appears to be the *same* phone tree options, at which point I actually speak to the right person.

Well, sort of.

She says, there's no sign that your verification went through, you'll have to try again. And I said I already spent plenty of time trying to get it to work online, I just want to verify it now. She said that it's impossible; they require you to do it through the web site and she apologizes for that, wishes she could help me do that.

She said that browsers other than Windows Explorer just don't work, so use Explorer. I said that I don't want to have to install software I'm not using just to verify the card. She suggested that I find a friend who has a computer with Explorer on it. I said that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard--what ever happened to calling an 800 number and getting instant verification? She said they've determined that it's more secure because of their special Java online security routines.

She continues being very apologetic--says that she has to listen to people call in all the time who can't do the verification because they don't have Windows or Explorer or can't figure out how to install the required Java or the PIN window doesn't work or whatever. She said it's broken and she thinks they tried to fix it but couldn't. She also recommended a Windows system rather than Mac because it might not work on the Mac even if I get Explorer and the right Java installed. She said, Java is always installed with Windows Explorer, so if you use a system with Explorer on it, you don't have to worry about the Java.

Oh, and she said, just before we hung up, whatever you do, don't let it pick a PIN for you, because that doesn't work and you'll have to start over. What?!?

So I get a Windows system, run Internet Explorer, go back to the web site, and it does not recognize my username and password. So I start over from scratch, retyping EVERYTHING (see (A) and (B)) and get to the PIN box--and it still doesn't work! So I follow the instructions about determining whether the correct version of Java is installed, and, guess what, the instructions don't work. So I figure out that, ah ha, Java is NOT installed at all (not simply the wrong version) on the Windows machine with Explorer, so I have to get to the right page to download and install the right version of Java (and the process for getting there isn't entirely clear), and then I have to restart Explorer.

Which I do, go to the web site, and it STILL doesn't recognize my username and password! So I have to repeat EVERYTHING in (A) and (B) and finally get to the PIN window, and, wow, it works.

So, now, between trying to follow unclear, incorrect, and incomplete instructions, having to repeat typing things I've already typed multiple times, trying to figure out what the right thing is to do, getting to a computer that will allow me to do what I need to do, calling support and going through various phone trees and filing a voice complaint about what a mess this is, downloading and installing software that I was doing fine without on every web site I've visited in the last year or so including many online purchases and online banking, FINALLY NOW I can save 45 cents each time I buy gas at Arco. Which is about 30 times a year.

Given the number of what could have been billable hours but weren't because I've spent getting it all this done (and now typing this note), I figure I'll have to use the card for about 15 years to break even.

I love saving money.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bad Hair Day

SUMMARY: Why I should never go to bed with my hair wet no matter how bone tired I am from a weekend of agility.
This is AFTER brushing and combing:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

*#&@%! and Other Choice Words

SUMMARY: Not now, Tika, no injuries!
This morning, warming the dogs up out in the extra soccer field, I thought I saw Tika limping after chasing Boost down the field. She stopped to sniff at a gopher, and I watched her carefully, and saw nothing else. Wouldn't that just suck, with 3 weekends in row of agility and nothing for 2 more months, and her doing so well, for her to come up injured halfway through the 2nd weekend?

I looked at her feet just in case she'd picked up a burr or a foxtail or something, but nothing.

Before coming home from the trial, running the dogs on the lawn with a friend, I commented that Tika didn't seem to be as fast today in competition as last weekend and maybe the novelty had worn off (no competition for over 2 months, almost no agility classes, then 4 whole days of agility! Wahoo! But now, been there, done that).

This evening, i realized she was lying on her bed, licking at her ankle area. Upon closer examination, I see that she has sliced off a penny-sized flap of the carpal pad on her right front foot. But not cleanly off; it's like a flap.

It's not bleeding, doesn't seem particularly sensitive to the touch, doesn't look dirty or jagged.

I've slathered it with neosporin and put vet wrap around it--which I suspect she's now off in a corner carefully removing--and now I have to decide whether I want to spend a chunk of $ and a couple of hours to have the vet look at it in the next day or two. I don't think I want to try to snip off that flap of skin on my own; I'm afraid it's still "live."

And I don't know whether that means she shouldn't be running next weekend.

This sucks.

Another Day, Another Ribbon

SUMMARY: Tika hangs in there. Boost and Human Mom are iffy.
Tika missed her Gamblers Q today entirely by major, completely avoidable, stupid human error. I mean, more blatant than usual. She had 2nd highest opening points but no good when half the dogs got this very doable gamble.

I don't want to talk about it.

Otherwise, she Qed in her other 4 classes:

3rd of 13 in Jumpers
9 of 13 in Relay (partner had some issues but Tika was clean)
3 of 11 in Standard
2 of 9 in Grand Prix

So her Top Ten points for the year stands at:

Gamblers: 17
Jumpers: 25
Snooker: 21
Standard: 20

Boost's 5 classes today were, shall we say, less than stellar. No Qs. A few nice sequences here and there. Mostly nice contacts and start-line stay.

My new way of preentering the database info seemed to work very well when it came time to do data entry. Me liking this.

I was going to write more, but I find that I'm very tired and there's nothing at the moment that seems more important to say than that. Funny.

Maybe will have food & shower and see how I'm feeling then.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Should I Be Thrilled or Dismayed?

SUMMARY: Saturday at the SMART trial.

NOTE: I might put up some course maps later in the week. Or not. Check back.

Qualifying summary:
Tika Qed 5 of 6
Boost Qed 3 of 6.

Tika's Day

It's hard to get back to "normal" after the preceding exceptional weekend with Tika. Once we start winning and Qing left and right, we should keep on doing so, right? Alas, it is not to be.

Same dogs we were beating last weekend, were beating us today. It was kind of fun to have a couple friends come over and say, "Whatever my results are, I just want to know: Did we beat Tika?" [grin] The answer was often, yes, EVERYone beat Tika.

Gamblers: First run of the day. Again, with Tika's general consistency, I know that we'll eventually get all the basic Qs that we need. What I want is Top Ten Points! Wellllllll Tika didn't hold her start line stay, so she took a 1-point gamble obstacle as she raced by me, which meant that not only could I not do the back-to-back 3-point gamble obstacle that I had planned on doing, but we also had to sort of threadle clumsily among all the gamble obstacles to get to where we were going, wasting a ton of time, which meant that at the end of the opening when the whistle blew, she was *on* hte 7-point teeter but did not GET the 7 points. So we got 12 points fewer than my plan.

In fact, we barely got enough opening points! (Instead of having enough for 2nd place.) BUT she did get the gamble. BUT 5 out of the 12 dogs in her height group beat her, so no placement, no Top Ten. BUT that was her 10th Performance Gamble, completing her AGD (like Gamblers Champion) title, which is always a nice thing to do.

Mixed feelings.

Steeplechase Round 1: Very fast and happy, although a couple of wide turns. She is still running so nicely! We place second out of 8 dogs, just half a second behind the winner, so we're 2nd seed for Round 2. I'm fairly pleased with that, AND with the Gamble Q last run, that completes 250 Masters/P3/Tournament Qs for her Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Silver title! A big milestone that we enjoy mostly quietly.

Jumpers: She FLIES around that course! But I go in too deep before a serpentine and then I'm crowding her over the serp jump and she knocks the bar, so no Q. 2nd fastest time of 13 dogs, but no Q so the speed isn't worth anything except just gratification.

Standard: After not being able to get Standard Qs forever, this is her 3rd Standard Q in a row. It's a pretty good run but we managed to place only 3rd. For 3 Top Ten points and a ribbon. Better than none. 2.5 seconds off 1st place, and that's OK, probalby wide turns again, which are a real problem for us again with her running so fast, I'm just not getting the info to her soon enough. BUT That's her 5th Standard Q, which is all she needed for her APD (Performance CHAMPIONSHIP)!!!! Yayyyyy! We get a victory lap and a huge ribbon. And I kept thinking: Haven't I done this before? Not that I'm saying that it's become dull to earn a championship, but the Nth one doesn't seem nearly as exciting any more. Especially when for the first time ever I can actually focus on Top Ten points and have a chance of doing something there!

Snooker: I stand in the Snooker ring during walkthrough, despairing of finding a course that I like. Don't know why the brain just froze up; I consider myself to be pretty good at coming up with gamblers and snooker courses, but I'm flummoxed. So I beg Ashley for his course, which he gladly shares with me, which we execute to perfection (well except for that scary moment in the closing where I forgot the course for a moment) and we win by a wide margin, 1st out of 15 dogs, so 7 Top Ten points. Yeeeha, love it!

Pairs Relay: Tika and partner are fast and clean, so another Q, and we place--2nd. Just can't get those firsts in today!

Steeplechase Round 2: Surprised me that we're doing both rounds in one day. But that's OK. It is one amazingly fast and simple course with two Aframes. And I get casual about the first Aframe and she leaves a bit early, and sure enough I see the judge's hand go up. SOOOOO this time everyone else did NOT have faults, and we end in 4th place (just enough for a pretty white 4th place ribbon but no cash to take home). Curses. Even so, we were .8 of a second slower than the fastest dog, so the best we could've done was 2nd anyway. Sheesh.

Boost's Day

Both dogs are very happy to be doing agility again.

This is the second trial at which I've noticed Boost with a bloody nose before going into the ring. First one was also at this site last year. Is there something at this site that aggravates it? I'm thinking that she plays shake-it so hard with her tug of war toy and/or leash that she messes up her nose, or when she yanks it out of my hand maybe she hits her nose on the ground. It's just one run, and the rest she's fine.

Gamblers: In the opening, runs past a 3-point tunnel and we also run out of obstacles, which means I didn't plan this one very well, so we're sort of running around in an open area looking for simple one-point jumps to take before the whistle blows. In the gamble, ends up in wrong end of the tunnel. So a not-great opening and no Q.

Steeplechase Round 1: Not superfast but actually reasonably smooth (with just brief hesitations here and there) and, wow, we're 7th of 38 dogs and Qed to go to round 2!

Jumpers: Sighhhhhhhh... And it's SUCH a doable Jumpers course, too. Bleah bleah bleah.

Standard: Two bars down, some bad turns; not terrible but not wonderful, either.

Snooker: I do a slightly different opening than Tika's because some of those wild and crazy handlers got more points in their opening than Tika's lovely run. But I misjudge and she ends up bouncing around in front of me as we go between obstacles to get to where we need to be, wasting time. Then she knocks the 4th (required) red, which knocks us out of Super-Q competition, so we have to threadle halfway across the field, wasting more time, so we're out of time after doing the 6 in the closing. Well, at least it's a Q this time but still no Super-Q.

Pairs Relay: Our partner runs beautifully. We took the half with the tough weave entrance and I thought she got it but no, went in at #2 so 5 faults and have to swing back around and restart. Then she misreads a rear cross and turns the wrong way, wasting several more seconds. Fortunately combined we're fast enough that we eke out a Q despite Boost's 5 faults and wasted time.

Steeplechase Round 2: The worlds EASIEST steeplechase course, just a couple of big circles, and she CAN'T. TAKE. JUMPS. THAT. ARE. IN. FRONT. OF. HER. I mean, she literally comes to a stop in front of one jump when she's so busy looking at me that she gets RIGHT UP TO IT and then of course is too close to go over it. Plus 2 bars, or maybe 3. I need to stop putting it off and go back in for some more private lessons. This is just insane.

Title Summary

Tika's AGD (Gamblers Champion), APD (championship), and LAA-Silver. Pretty good for one day!

Boost could earn her Standard Champion (10 Qs) tomorrow if she Qs in Standard, but otherwise, that's it--between last weekend and this weekend, Tika sucked up all the titles that she was close to, and now we need to work our way through a bunch more Qs in all the classes before we're in titling range again.

Top Ten

Hmm, thought Tika was further along than we are. As I said, last year it took about 30 points to actually be in the Top Ten. As of today, Tika has:

Gamblers: 17
Jumpers: 22
Snooker: 21
Standard: 17

There's still tomorrow and next weekend, then a lull for a couple of months, two trials in July, and 3 or 4 more weekends around Labor Day timeframe. And probably one in November and one in December. We could do it if we all remain healthy and sane. Which isn't always a given. And, remember, I was wanting to cut back on trials more and more. But--but--this top ten thing is addictive now! Ack, help me, Mr. Wizard!

Database geek

Hey, how cool is *this*? I preentered the info I knew ahead of time for this weekend into the database and then printed a form from the database in which to fill out my results. For the last decade (or more), I've been printing a table that's *all* blank and filling it out. (Which was very convenient, but I'm likin' this new strategy even better.)

If you want a copy of my Word document form to fill out for a trial (not the database one), I'd be glad to send it to you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Truth About Boost's Jumpers Q

SUMMARY: Just for the record.

First, the rules:

To move from Starters to Advanced, you need 3 standards and one each of jumpers, gamblers, pairs, and snooker.

To move from Advanced to masters, you need 3 standards and one each of jumpers, gamblers, pairs, and snooker.

To earn your MAD (at the masters level), you need 3 standards and one each of jumpers, gamblers, pairs, and snooker.

In USDAA, Jumpers runs must be clean to earn a Q. (In Starters and Advanced, runouts and refusals aren't faulted, but knocked bars and off courses are.)

DAM Team Jumpers now can be Qing (didn't used to be) although they only count towards lifetime totals, not towards regular titles. The catch is that, even if you're clean, you earn a Q only if you're within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs, so it's even harder to earn a Q there.


Boost ran 4 Starters Jumpers, Qed in 1.
Boost ran 12 Advanced Jumpers, Qed in 1.
Boost has now run 42 Masters Jumpers, Qed in 1.
Boost has run 5 Qable DAM Jumpers, Qed in none. BUT! She was clean in the one this weekend, just not quite fast enough (3 seconds over the avg).

In short: 63 USDAA Qable jumpers, 3 Qs.

But actually that's two clean Jumpers runs in one weekend. Maybe there's actually hope!

Right, then. It Must Be Time For--MORE Agility!

SUMMARY: Another USDAA trial this weekend.
Four days of USDAA not enough for you last weekend? Well, how about two more days this weekend? And another two next weekend?

Both weekends in Prunedale. This weekend's trial is SMART's; the next weekend is Bay Team's.

I'm back at the Score Table both trials.

These are less than an hour from home, so (a) I can sleep in til 5 instead of 4 AM (yeah--) and (b) I can come home saturday night to sleep, and sleep in til !!6!! on Sunday morning. Such luxury.

OK, I'm not going to go on about all the titles we *could* get this weekend or the top ten points that I *want* to get this weekend. Of course I'm thinking about it, but gosh I think I did better last weekend not thinking too hard about it. So let's try that strategy again. Although there will be a whole bunch more 22" Performance dogs these weekends, so *if* we place well, our Top Ten points will be even higher.

But I'm not thinking about that.

Good thing I didn't unpack the car.

No class this week due to rain. I've practice just a little tiny bit of a few things in the yard. Not nearly enough of anything. Ah, well, there's always--um--some other time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 5 After Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: Monday looking back.

Runs run: 23.
Miles walked (per pedometer): 33.5.
Courses built as co-chief course builder: I dunno, somewhere less than 20.
Pounds lost: 3.

Video cameras dead in the water: 1. (Can you believe it, I finally remembered to ask people to videotape us, and it worked for one--ONE--run in a 4-day weekend, and then crapped out completely. Auuuuuughhhh! Now I can't even play the tapes I already have, or even the one run from this last weekend. To decide: Repair this and make an effort to translate all the tapes into another medium? Pay costco to translate all the tapes to another medium and buy one of those cute little pocket-sized video cameras? I'm thinkin' the latter will be about the same price as the former and take me a whole lot less time.)

Knees bothering me: 0. Iced the problematic one once when it was a little achey, but otherwise wonderful!

Hips bothering me: 0. Not a peep out of that supposed pulled muscle all weekend!

[But from the perspective of Thursday--after sitting at my computer for 3 days and getting virtually no physical activity except mowing the lawn, NOW my hip and knee are quite painful. They were fine Monday and Tuesday. I'm thinkin' it's not activity that's hurting them, no matter what the doctor says.]

Blisters: 3. THAT made it hard to get around. Why don't I notice that my feet hurt until too late?


Tika: 15 Qs out of 21 Q-able runs. Tika's weekend awards:

Boost: 5 Qs out of 21 Q-able runs.

Boost's weekend awards--well, YES it IS better than nothing, thanks for asking!:

Titles earned

Well, we knew about:
- Tika PD3
- Boost MAD

But I hadn't checked out the numbers before the weekend on how close we were to other stuff. So Monday I learned that Tika:

  • finished her ARD (accomplished relay dog--10 pairs relay Qs)
  • finished her AKD (accomplished snooker dog--10 Snooker Qs with at least 3 Super-Qs (she has 8 SQs))
  • finished her PJ3 (performance 3 jumpers -- 5 jumpers Qs)
  • finished her performance tournament master bronze (15 Qs, at least 3 in each tournament)
  • is now one Gamblers Q short of her PGD (gamblers 10 Qs).
  • is now one Standard Q short of her APD (performance ADCH)! I'm a little bummed that we didn't get it, but onthe other hand it would've been really dumb to have gotten it and not realized until I got home and missed out on the awards!
  • is now two Qs of ANY kind short of her LAA Silver! (Lifetime Achievement Award, 250 masters/p3 Qs)! There were times I thought I'd never get here, but, look, here we are! Now on to Gold with 350...

We have two weekends of agility coming up now, with 4 shots at getting that last Standard Q, and I think 20 shots at getting those last 2 Lifetime Qs. I think we can do it!

Goals met

  1. Boost Jumper Q for MAD: Done!
  2. Tika win all three Gamblers and all three Snooker (with the entry size, that would've totalled 15 Top Ten points for each of the two). Achieved: Gamblers, 3rd for 1, 1st for 5, 2nd for 3.  Snooker: 1st for 5, 3rd for 1, 1st for 5. PLUS earned 10 in Jumpers and 11 in Standard. Pretty good, really.
  3. Tika's 3rd Standard for performance MAD: Done!
  4. Tika and Brenn win Team: Done!
  5. Boost earn Super-Qs in Snooker. Yeah, well, can't have everything.
  6. Boost have some nice smooth runs without knocking bars or runouts or refusals: Well, sort of. I don't know that there's really been an improvement. It still feels like that Jumpers Q was a fluke.
  7. Tika win Steeplechase. Done!
  8. BONUS 1: Boost is looking like a real gamblin' dog, at least in the opening! She had:- 3rd place of 42 dogs in Team gamble
    - 2nd highest opening pts of 46 dogs in Thursday's gamble
    - 5th highest opening pts of 51 dogs in Saturday's gamble
    - very good opening points in Sunday's gamble AND got the gamble for a change, placing 6th.
  9. BONUS 2: Boot's team Qed in DAM Team!
  11. BONUS 3: Tika's amazing saturday/sunday performance: 10 Qs out of 10, 7 1sts, two 2nds, and two 3rds (one class wasn't Qing) out of usually 8-9 dogs.

Result details

(In case you want to peruse them--top 10 points are in parens next to our placements.)

(top 10)
1st plc
min pts
our faults
Boost Fri Grand Prix n 27th of 56 43.45 32.87 52sec 10
Boost Sat Steeplechase n 36th of 61 34.83 28.28 35sec 5
Boost Thu Mas Gamblers n 14th of 46 28+0 30+20 op+cl pts
Boost Sat Mas Gamblers n 16th of 51 41+ 42+25 op+cl pts .53
Boost Sun Mas Gamblers Q 6th of 48 (3) 32+30 38+30 op+cl pts
Boost Fri Mas Jumpers Q 10th of 49 26.54 23.11 39sec
Boost Sat Mas Jumpers n 48th of 48

sec E
Boost Sun Mas Jumpers n 44th of 44

sec E
Boost Thu Mas Relay n 42nd of 42

sec E
Boost Sun Mas Relay Q 17th of 27 39.10 37.84 50sec 10
Boost Fri Mas Snooker n 31st of 45 24+9 32+27 37pts 6.74
Boost Sat Mas Snooker n 42nd of 47 19+ 24+27 37pts 9.43
Boost Sun Mas Snooker n 27th of 40 22+ 23+27 37pts
Boost Thu Mas Standard n 40th of 40

sec E
Boost Fri Mas Standard n 20th of 42 56.70 46.49 62sec 15
Boost Sat Mas Standard n 45th of 45

sec E
Boost Sun Mas Standard n 19th of 42 54.42 38.26 56sec 10
Boost Fri DAM Gamblers Q 3rd of 42 31+20 34+20 op+cl pts
Boost Thu DAM Jumpers n 16th of 46 31.33 23.82 28sec 3.33
Boost Fri DAM Relay Q 11th of 29 56.01 55.07 sec 20
Boost Thu DAM Snooker n 31st of 46 27+9 30+27 37pts
Boost Thu DAM Standard n 46th of 46

sec E
Tika Fri PfD Gamblers Q 2nd of 5 33+16 35+20 op+cl pts
Tika Fri Per Grand Prix n 7th of 7

sec E
Tika Thu PfD Jumpers n 5th of 5 34.46 26.11 29.49sec 16.97
Tika Fri PfD Relay Q 8th of 13 41.65 40.28 sec 5
Tika Thu PfD Snooker Q 1st of 5 27+27 27+27 37pts
Tika Thu PfD Standard n 3rd of 5 48.28 40.3 46sec 9.28
Tika Sat Per Steeplechase Q 1st of 10 32.75 32.75 42sec
Tika Sun Per Steeplechase - 1st of 4 (3) 32.58 32.58 sec 5
Tika Thu P3 Gamblers n 3rd of 6 (1) 22+0 23+20 op+cl pts
Tika Sat P3 Gamblers Q 1st of 8 (5) 39+25 39+25 op+cl pts
Tika Sun P3 Gamblers Q 2nd of 8 (3) 32+30 32+30 op+cl pts
Tika Fri P3 Jumpers n 9th of 9

sec E
Tika Sat P3 Jumpers Q 1st of 9 (5) 25.68 25.68 36sec
Tika Sun P3 Jumpers Q 1st of 8 (5) 25.68 25.68 40sec
Tika Thu P3 Relay Q 5th of 13 45.16 40.15 65sec 10
Tika Sun P3 Relay Q 3rd of 11 35.75 33.65 53sec
Tika Fri P3 Snooker S 1st of 7 (5) 29+27 29+27 37pts 5.22
Tika Sat P3 Snooker Q 3rd of 9 (1) 20+27 23+27 37pts
Tika Sun P3 Snooker S 1st of 8 (5) 21+27 21+27 37pts 1.2
Tika Thu P3 Standard n 4th of 7 50.99 46.98 61sec 5
Tika Fri P3 Standard n 2nd of 9 (3) 46.89 50.96 64sec 5
Tika Sat P3 Standard Q 1st of 9 (5) 45.60 45.6 59sec
Tika Sun P3 Standard Q 2nd of 7 (3) 49.94 46.53 59sec

Day 4 at Haute TRACS


I'm sleeping great! I'm feeling great! If it weren't for the dang blisters, on BOTH feet now--doh!

Tika is looking great! Boost is eager to go! Although by the end of the day, when she comes out of her crate, she's clearly getting tired. Wouldn't tell it on course, though, what a fast little girlie!

Morning and evening, every day, we get in some frisbee fetch (although with Tika it's more like frisbee chase/pounce and with Boost it's auto-frisbee-return after Tika's done with it).

The weather continues to be outstanding. After rain early in the week, and rain predicted for early the following week, we are so lucky to have four days in the middle that are perfectly luscious. No mud, no awful winds (and this site is known for its awful winds--one of the few places where winged jumps have to be staked regularly, but not this time).

So, Tika had a perfect day yesterday! The odds are slim that we can repeat it. We almost never have perfect days in USDAA, let alone two in one weekend. But we'll try!

Steeplechase Round 2

We start the day early today with Round 2 of Steeplechase. Because we won Round 1, we're top seed in our height, so run last--and our height is last, too, so I have to wait through all the other dogs to see whether we can win it. I'm nervous for the first time this weekend. WHY?!? Really, it matters to nothing whatsoever except glory and the chance for a little pocket change.   It is helped by the fact that two of my worthy agility friends have scratched their runs, for who knows why.  (Tough competition around here! If you look at the 22" names here and then look at the USDAA Top Ten candidate lists, you'll find probably ALL of those names there. Sheesh. Keeps us honest, though. Never can slack off!)

Having learned from years of experience, I decline to watch the other 22" dogs and go dink around with Tika for a few minutes while they run.  BOTH round 1 yesterday and round 2 today have two Aframes. Of mixed minds on that: In the old days, used to love having two weaves because so many fast dogs would hose their weaves and Tika always got them. But Tika has 3-second weaves and the fastest dogs now are in the 2-second range (like Boost) AND have good weaves. So we can be faster on two Aframes because --ahem--she doesn't actually HAVE Aframe contacts any more ("modified running contacts"), but if she DOES get them, they're pretty fast because she's not waiting.

So we step out to the line, I lead out just beyond the first jump (I'm going to pull her to the Aframe and then race to get ahead of her on the down contact), release her--and she knocks the first dang bar! So I know that we're now out of it, so I push it to the max to try to maybe get a placement on time, but in this crowd it's tough to make up a 5-point fault with 5 whole seconds faster speed. And it's a glorious run, I must say, on a fun, fast course!

A little while later, I take a peek at the score table--and we've won! Wow, turns out *everyone* had faults on the course. What are the odds? So I gladly take my whole $21 (pays for Steeplechase entry this time).


I think I have a pretty darned good plan for the opening--again--and the gamble is SO doable for both dogs! I will be embarrassed if we don't get this one! I mean, we live and die by doing turn-aways ("left" or "right") from a contact to a tunnel! Well, sure, we haven't practiced any ina while, but we have done SO many of them, I am 100% confident that both dogs will do it perfectly.

Also, we have an advantage in the opening. Many people are avoiding the 7-point Aframe to avoid the risk of going into the tunnel after the aframe and voiding their gamble, but we also do back-to-back Aframes ALL. THE. TIME. I see no risk for us at all.

So my plan is: jump-teeter-jump-jump-aframe-aframe-weaves [and another weaves for Boost]-jump-jump-tunnel (left side), circle and do left side of tunnel again if whistle hasn't blown.

So, Tika: MAN she is hot! Spot on perfect! The whistle blows as we're swinging around to do that last tunnel again, and she blasts through the gamble like on remote control. What a girl! I'd like to see anyone beat THAT!

Well--hrm--someone DID beat us, on time, not points, 1.5 seconds faster. So, for example, if we had been exiting the tunnel when the whistle blew, that's the only way we'd have made up that 1.5 seconds. Ah, well, 2nd is still good!

Boost. Heh. In the opening, on the 2nd Aframe, she PULLS PAST IT instead of taking it! Who'd have thought?! Thank the agility gods she did NOT go into the tunnel; I swung her around and made another approach and she took it, but that meant no second set of weave poles for us, meaning 5 fewer points.

In the closing, perfect over the jump to the Aframe, holds the Aframe and looks at me, and I say "LEFT thru!" and--she goes FORWARD! And she's bouncing around, looking at me, looking for a tunnel, left, right, back, forth, and FINALLY sees the tunnel and goes in. Then she's over the last jump without knocking it and we're under time! Yesss! I don't think that she actually ever approached the tunnel for a refusal (which would've negated the gamble), but I'm not positive until I look at the score table and see that we have, indeed, Qed!

It's apparently not a give-away but not completely trivial, either; 17 of 48 dogs got the Q in Boost's height and only 2 of 8 in Tika's height.


Can Boost get another Jumpers Q? Can Tika continue to keep her bars up and hold her start line stay?

The answers are: NO (but very close--crashed one bar and I forgot the course, sigh, but up to that point just lovely), YES, YES, and another 1st and Q for Tika.

A friend called it the easiest jumpers course in the universe, and it really was--smooth and uncomplicated (no good excuse for me leaving out jump #15) -- and I'd have expected Boost to maybe Q it, but ah well.


Tika: I'll admit that it's a stretch for me to try to figure out a pattern for myself on Standard courses to be there to ensure that Tika gets the down contacts on the dogwalk and the aframe. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task. I miss being able to just trust her and head off for my next turn or send her ahead of me. The dogwalk, especially--she can cover 36 feet much faster than I can. But, yep, if I don't fix the problem, I have to accommodate it.

The joy on this course is that (a) I can get a lead-out on the dogwalk to beat her to the end, and (b) even if I'm not there and she soars off, the next obvious obstacle is not in fact an off course. The HARD part on this course is the jumps box in the upper right! There are about 10 ways to handle that sequence, none of them easy. I plan on a ton of front crosses because I'm not sure that I do rear crosses all that well even in the best of times, and this one has no leeway for mistakes because it's so tight.

Plan is front cross 13-14, push the dog out to get the 15 and front cross 15-16, follow the dog through, pull, and front cross 16 to 17.

Well, so, Tika runs it and there is NO way I'm getting the first front cross in, she's so fast off the teeter, and once that's done, I can't catch up on the others and end up doing weird rear crosses all the way through. (I did walk it with various combos of fronts & rears, just to be sure.) Felt like I was living on the edge; tika turned the wrong way after 16 but I was able to get her back on track, and wow! we finished clean.

A friend came by to say wow, I handled that box so smoothly and effortlessly, I made it look like a piece of cake! (Sometimes the accidents turn out to be good ones, I guess.)

So--a Q and a 2nd place from time lost on a couple of wide/wrong turns. But I'll take it!

Boost. Well. I *assumed* that she would take the #3 jump after the dogwalk because it was RIGHT IN FRONT of her, but noo, ran past it. I thought that was our only fault and the rest of it looked really good! I was surprised to find 10 faults on the score sheet, not 5. Dunno what it was. But it was generally a nice run. And only 7 of 42 dogs in her height Qed on that course, so it was a toughie.


One more chance for Tika to earn a zillion (well--5--) top ten points by winning!

This is a clever and evil little course. Only 3 reds, and #7 is just jumps, which you'd think would be fast and everyone would be trying for three sevens in the opening. Problem is that it's a lot of yardage and not easy to get to the reds from the #7. I timed it out a few different ways and decided that there was no way on this green earth that I could do 3 7s and the closing in 47 seconds (49 for Tika).

BUT! I was pretty sure I could do 7-6-6 with boost (love those fast weaves, and her weaves have generally been excellent lately), and 7-5-6 with Tika.

Plan: #1 on the right side, across the 7, push out past #5 and send the dog to the #1 on the left side; for Tika, have her on my left side over #5, keep her on my right as I go between the 4 & 2 & send her to the middle #1, then pull her on my right side as I stick close to #4 and enter the weaves on the right side. Then send her to the #2 tunnel from the back side--piece of cake to do--and the closing is then trivial. Says here.

So--Tika is lovely thru 1-7-1-6-1, and then it looks like she's going for a tunnel and much jumping around and barking ensues, but I manage to get her to the correct end of the weaves without mishap and, voila, the rest is as predicted trivial, although I'm doing it pushing her hard hard hard because of that wasted time, and sure enough the buzzer goes off after we've completed the #7 but are still on our way to the finish line. This is fine! Now it's just a question of whether others will try for 7-6-6 instead of our 7-5-6 and beat us on points.

I know that Brenn tried it, but too many time-wasted bobbles and didn't get all the way through, and Hobbes, too, I believe, but they had a problem somewhere. So we won with 48 points, next nearest at 45!

Boost was absolutely spot on in the opening, I was so proud! But when I sent her from the back side to #2, she started to go in, side stepped to look back at me, then went in--for a refusal and negating the rest of the run. And it was dumb because I could *easily* have run with her to the #2 and handled it from the other side. Just another case of where she's just not doing the obstacles with confidence, or something! Anyway, it was a beautiful start and we had a ton of time left so could've easily finished the closing.

It's funny looking at the results--only 4 dogs out of 100 all heights/masters & performance got 50 points on that course, then Tika with 48, one 47, one 46, a couple 45s, but most 42 and fewer! One of the more challenging snooker courses I've seen in a while, and it looks SO simple.

Pairs Relay

Really, this was going to be a short post. But it is, after all, MY diary so I write what *I* want to and you just have to ignore it if you want to. Neener neener.

Tika: Paired with Brenn again. Brenn led off and ran clean and nicely; Tika rocketed through that course so fast I hardly even realized I'd been out on the field! And without popping her contact or knocking a bar! Our combined time was good for 3rd place out of 11 teams, and of course a Q.

Boost: Paired with a nice, young, fast Border Collie, who led off and did a super job, not a wrong step the whole way, and very fast! Boost was very fast, too, except knocked a bar and then ran PAST A JUMP RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER again, for an additional 5 faults and wasted time. So can two fast border collies Q with 10 faults (=10 seconds) AND another 5 or so seconds of wasted time?

Apparently they can, because they could! --Er, with a total time plus faults of 49.10 and a standard course time of 50. So "just barely" would be the operating phrase here. (Fun note--another team actually managed to place lower than us and Q, with 49.66 time! REALLY squeaked in!)

End of the day and the weekend

Tika another 100% Q day, with a bonus Steeplechase 1st place on our 6th run! She just amazed me all weekend.

Boost actually got 2 Qs today; glad it's today, as it makes me feel a little better about her weekend in time to go home.

I say goodbye to our set-up (note certain Merle Girls peering from behind the left side of the crates), pack up in daylight and head home. I love spring!

I've been wanting to do this for a while but haven't had the time or it was under darkness, but this time was fading late afternoon sun and a perfect time to visit the Vista Point overlooking the Ghost Ships-- the west coast Mothball Fleet.

At one time, I believe there were a few hundred ships of various sizes and shapes, but the last time that any of them were used was in the Viet Nam war era, and even then, not many of them. Now, they are all essentially rusting hulks of hazardous waste (many tons of leaded paint already flaked into the bay waters, petroleum products, etc.) and the word has come down that most will finally be scrapped as quickly as money allows. The process is already underway. Sometime in the next few years, the mothball fleets that have been a fixture in three American locations for all of my life and most of my parents' will be no more.

The view would've been better from up the side of a steep hill, but my blisters were so painful that the thought of taking any extra steps was beyond me at this point.

If you're unfamiliar with them, these are primarily world war II-era ships, held in reserve for times of need. They've been used to support military efforts on occasion; to support the Berlin airlift; and to store some of the nation's emergency supplies of grain. Now, they're fascinating to look at but are so old, obsolete, and decayed, that they're not of much use to anyone any more. Until recently, they'd been painted above the waterline for many years so that they don't look like rusting-out hulks, but they are, in fact, rusting out hulks.

They're all lined up in neat little groups just off the north shore of Suisun  ("suh-soon") Bay (between San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River Delta) like patient  students in their designated lines waiting to come in off the playground after recess. Time to come in from the cold and the wet, their era now long gone. (Click the photo for a somewhat larger version; click here for a really large version--you might have to click your magnifying cursor once it's displayed to get it to its full size.)

Two hundred years from now, I'm sure we'll all think, jeez, all those historic boats that could've been saved! Ah, well, can't keep everything.

A Few of Her Favorite Agility Things

SUMMARY: K-TMH brings you the best of our friends' hijacked lyrics!

Best agility lyrics: My Favorite Agility Things! (You provide the music and the Julie Andrews voice.) Thanks, Holly!

(You can visit some of K-TMH's past forays into lyric adaptations by clicking the music or lyrics tags below, or go here (my favorite is There Is Nothing Like A-Frame).

Day 3 at Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: Saturday

Another day of beautiful weather, another great night's sleep, two happy eager dogs--yowza all over again!

Tika: 5 Qs out of 5 runs! Four 1sts and a 3rd.

Boost: Well. Hm. Can't possibly hope for actual Qs two days in a row, now, can we. Sigh.

New Stuff

Boost's wonderful Turlock friends presented her with a new toy all her own for finally completing her MAD. She definitely liked the looks of Mr. Flying Fox.

Back around when I first started competing, I bought this black with colored accents slip lead and used it for going to the ring every run. Sometime after Jake joined me, I bought a solid purple one that was a bit longer but essentially the same thing, on the grounds that I now had two dogs so needed two leashes. Well, of course, I almost never needed to have them both at ringside at the same time, so almost never used the purple lead.

Around the time I started competing with Boost, the little leather slip thing that holds the slip loop tight against the neck broke off the black lead, so I started using the purple one instead. Well, sometime in Januaray or February this year, it vanished. So I went back to the black one. Well, for some reason the loop UNloops itself through the little metal ring fairly easily, but it's a bear and a half to get it to loop back through. So, with it falling apart and all, I decided it's time for a new leash.

Tika pulls so much so often that I thought maybe I'd try a martingale this time around instead of a slip lead.

No one had the round rope style ones at this show, but I kinda liked the blue leopard print ones (they had bright purple, too, but I preferred this). So I'm still hanging onto the old black one for emergency backup, but we started using the new one on Saturday. Boost and I play tug on the lead ALL the time, and she doesn't seem so sure about this one. Maybe because it's such soft, thin fabric compared to all the other leashes we own.

I've been keeping an eye out for new lattice-style balls, which are *my* favorite for playing toss and tug in the yard, and a vendor here had a couple of them. Another vendor had some cool smart-dog toys for them to figure out how to get treats out of them, and the Merle Girls have gotten so efficient at emptying their Buster Cubes that I thought I'd try some new ones.

There went my new-dog-stuff budget for the entire year.

Tika knew EXACTLY what the big round ball with holes in it was for; I could barely keep her out of the picture, she wanted to push it around to see whether food would fall out.


Oh--note--tika is in PERFORMANCE level in everything--I noted that I didn't say that in the previous days' posts. I just know, so I assume everyone else does, too.

So, Steeplechase first thing in the morning.

Tika: Runs like the wind! Gets TWO Aframe contacts (although I hustle butt to be there to meet her on the way down) and, wow, we win round 1 without a backward glance! First of 10 dogs!

Boost: Very fast, knocked one bar, might STILL have qualified except that her human mom did a stupid thing--thought that the last jump was actually the next-to-the last jump, so didn't work it closely while trying to line up for what she thought was the final jump but wasn't, and Boost ran around the REAL last jump for wasted time. Crap! But it was RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER and she should've taken it! Crap.


Tika: Well, OK, our THIRD shot this weekend at that elusive 3rd Standard for her Perf MAD (PD3)--and, oh my, she is running beautifully, gets all her contacts--has a couple of very wide turns which means I'm getting info too her much to late about where we're going next--but she sails through it and Qs!!! TITLE! Woo hoo! And furthermore wins again! 1st of 9 dogs.

Boost: Popped out of the weaves, ran past a couple of jumps, once disastrously into an off course. JUST TAKE JUMPS IN FRONT OF YOU for crying out loud.


Tika: My notes say "Completely to plan!" (How often does THAT happen?) Does the gamble like we do it every day. Not only does she have high opening points, but she is the ONLY 22" dog out of 8 to Q on that course. Another 1st.

Boost: A lovely opening, only 1 point shy of highest opening points among 51 22" dogs, and then complete meltdown for the gamble, I can't even get her over the first jump! Usually that's not our problem in gamblers. Aughhh! Still, it's a hard enough gamble that lots of dogs miss it, so having high opening points puts us in 16th out of 51 dogs. No ribbons or anything, but better than a poke in the eye with a ring post.


Tika: I can't believe this dog! She OWNS the day! Another flawless run, another 1st place! I'm grinning ear to ear by now.

Boost: Well, despite my attempts to convince myself that we are now on a Jumpers Qing Streak, our streak ends at 1. Off course again.


Doing three 7s in the opening required some tricky threading between obstacles. It'll be challenging to do it the first time, but I think manageable, and then very doable IMHO for the 2nd and 3rd times.

Tika: Well, hrm, what did I say about challenging the first time? I get her past a jump and a tunnel opening but the 3rd tunnel opening is too much for her and in she goes. So 2 points instead of 7. The rest is flawless but by taking the risk and not making it, we placed lower than others who didn't take the risk. We were aiming for 51 points, got 47, and lost to two dogs who got 50.  So a 3rd place, not a Super-Q, but at least it's still one teeny Top Ten point. Bummer to end that way, but it's really hard to argue with a USDAA day with 100% Qs and first places in four of them plus FINALLY her PD3 title!

 Boost: The opposite of Tika: Gets past the rough spot easily, but then meltdown trying to do weave poles resulting in several re-dos, and I forget to do a crucial rear cross for a huge time-wasting bobble, and we  run out of time on obstacle 4 in the closing, so again not even a regular Q.

End of day

And that's the end of day 4. Both dogs get to run around like crazy again in the evening, chasing the frisbee or Border Collies as the case may be, both before and after the Bay Team meeting, which was amazingly short (only an hour) and startlingly noncontroversial through careful management. Yeah, new Bay Team Prez!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 2 at Haute TRACS


Tika: 3 Qs (including one super-Q) of 6 runs, 2nd in Team Gamblers, 2nd in team standard, 1st in Snooker, winner of Performance DAM team.

Boost: 3 Qs of 6 runs, 3rd in Team Gamblers.

I was SO tired Thursday night and I slept SO well! (I seldom have trouble sleeping at trials, I'm so tired, and this was particularly true this time.) The back of my van was plenty comfy with just my down comforter wrapped around me (lying on chaise lounge pads). I feel considerably perkier in the morning than I did the whole previous day. Amazing what actual sleep will do for one.

The day started off with a hint that great things were on the way: Way back before Easter, I posted on Facebook that I couldn't find my absolute favorite Easter candy and could anyone find some for me. Well, G.J., whom I've barely met before and I don't know that we've ever talked much at all, handed me a bag that she'd been saving for me! I fell to my knees and genuflected several times. Yum yum YUM! What better way to start the day?

Grand Prix

The day started with Grand Prix, and it didn't start well.

Tika Grand Prix: Tika continued to run with amazing speed and energy. She ran Performance GP beautifully, but I tried for an aggressive front cross and was late late late, pushing her right to an off-course jump. Crapola.

Boost Grand Prix: knocked one bar pretty quickly, which meant no Q for us, either. So we turned the run into a contact practice, holding and praising on each contact. She knocked another bar but mostly the run was smooth and master-dog-looking. Still--2 bars. Sigh.

Team Gamble

This was a typical team gamble: Accrue points as usual during the opening, but then a special gamble in which you can accrue as many points as you can according to the rules, but if you don't cross the finish line before the gamble time is up, you can't keep the gamble points. In this case, you could do the obstacle(s) up close for regular points or from behind the line for double points. This was basically back-to-back tunnels.

I figured that I could do 5 tunnels in 14 seconds (depending on which end we started and how close we were at the beginning) for 15 points plus one point for the finish jump--or I could try it from a distance, because 3 tunnels and the finish jump doubled would be 20 points. Anything more would be a bonus.

Tika Perf Team Gamble: Excellent in the opening, but I let her drift as we approached the gamble, so when the whistle blew, she was far afield, and then mayhem ensued. Instead of getting 3 or more tunnels, I got 2 tunnels and 2 jumps, but it was doubled, so not as bad as it could have been. We ended with 49 points in 2nd place, but the winning dog got 55, way ahead of us. Still--for team, not a bad score at all. And partner Brenn--well, guess who that dang winning dog with 55 points was? So we cleaned up on that event.

Boost Team Gamble: Ran past a dang tunnel in the opening, forfeiting 3 points, but did a bit better in the closing with 3 tunnels and a jump, ending with 51 points, good enough for 3rd place among the 42 22" dogs. Very cool! (1st place had 54, less than the performance 1st place in tika's group! Don't let anyone tell you that Performance is an easy place to beat the competition!)

Beadle had trouble with this one, so points were low, but Chaps had a great run with 13 gamble points that should've been  doubled to 26, probably the highest in the show. But did we learn our lesson about checking the sheets early? No! Sure enough, the double wasn't marked, so we lost even more points.

So mine were good runs but with visible flaws.


Tika Jumpers: I missed my run, so they had to reset all the bars to our height for one dog. I needed to lead out 3 jumps for my best approach. I took about 3 steps and she whipped right by me and immediately off course. So I took her off (sorry, pole setters) and put her back into her crate without me running a step. Gah.

Boost Jumpers: And here's the first of Boost's 3 chances to pick up that Jumpers Q for her MAD after 40 NQs in a row. Gah. It's not an easy course, I think about half the dogs Eed. So you might have been as surprised as I was to get to the point in the course where there are just 4 jumps left in an arc to the finish line and we are CLEAN and I'm trying not to get my hopes up, and trying not to let my brain freeze and do something stupid, and trying to relax and just work every jump, and, WOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEE she's over the last jump and it's a Q and her MAD! I am very very very happy as in yelling and jumping and crying and hugging and Boost clearly thinks I've gone off the deep end.

It wasn't a great run--there were several places where she looked back at me or hesitated before taking a jump as if trying to decide whether to turn back to me or go around it, but she did it. 3 and a half seconds slower than the winning dog, and really with her speed capability that's very slow, but it was CLEAN!!!! Yow!

I told everyone in sight. Some of my dearie friends picked up on it and made an announcement about the 40 NQs and now MAD. I kept getting congratulations all weekend. For one dumb Jumpers Q and a mere MAD!

Team Relay

  The relay course was a tough one. Boost's team was pretty much writing it off ahead of time (well, at least for Boost and Beadle, those manic super-powered Border Collies on a tight and challenging course). Eing in Team Relay costs you humongous numbers of points and one dog on a team Eing can drop a first place team out of the qualifying list, depending on how everything else goes.

We checked the #2 and #3 team scores (behind Brenn & Tika after the 1st 3 rounds), saw that #2 had combined scores quite a bit less than ours, and one dog from #3 was injured and was out of the competition. So all we had to do was to not E in the team relay and we'd keep our winning position.

Tika Relay: There was that one pesky tunnel out in the far corner. Tika ALMOST went into it, giving me a heart attack, but called off it (meant my timing was bad). Brenn came so close to going into the tunnel that the judge jammed the whistle into his mouth, but she also called off. Woo-hoo, and we won!

Boost Relay: Well, I'll tell ya, it wasn't pretty, but the underdog team came through. We had a lot of faults among us--can't tell you how many because I never was able to find the accumulator sheet for this run. But apparently lots of teams crapped out, and it proved to be the great equalizer: I think that all but 5 or 6 teams ended up Qing, including The BBC! Yay for us! Would've been interesting to know how high we'd have placed if not for the scoring errors.

And so, that was it, I was ecstatic and ready to just wrap it up and go home! Won the DAM tournament with Tika, Qed unexpectedly with Boost in same, and BOOOOOOST'S MAAAADDDDDD! But of course who wants to quit when things are going so well?


Tika Standard: So here comes Tika's 2nd attempt to earn that 3rd Q for her Performance MAD. Wouldn't it be cool if she were to get it the same day that Boost got hers? But nooo--Popped the dogwalk AND the aframe and my calls were all late, so got lots of wide turns. Apparently it was a tough course, though, because we still placed 2nd! For top 10 points! Go figure. But no Q.

Boost Standard: Three bars, two big bobbles, so mostly practiced contacts again. Still, funny, placed 20th of 43 dogs with 15 faults! Yeah, tough course.


Last class of the day. Four reds optional, but in timing it out, I realized that four reds would be required for Super-Qing (or placing). There was no way I could do all four 7s in the opening on this course, but I thought that I had a reasonable chance with 4/7/7/7 for Tika and 6/7/7/7 for Boost.

Boost Snooker: Aaaaaand she knocked the first red. So then, instead of doing a fast blast through #6, we had to threadle our way across the field carefully (wasting time) to get to the next red. She did the red+7 perfectly, then I caught my toe in a hunk of grass and crashed. I pulled myself up as quickly as possible after determining that I hadn't broken either knee, but that wasn't really all that quick. Boost then successfully and beautifully completed the rest of the opening and 2 thru 4 in the closing before we ran out of time. Curses. Not even a regular Q, let alone super.

Tika Snooker: To make up for it, Tika was absolutely spot on perfect in her run, winning her height and actually having the 2nd highest of *all* performance dogs all heights, beaten only by one 16" Border Collie. Yowza, I like that!

End of day

As co-chief course builder, we were supposed to set the Steeplechase ring for the following morning, but the judge forgot her course map back at the hotel. Then got lost going back to the hotel and disappeared for an hour or so. We finally split, but it gave us a chance to sit and chat and joke a bit.

Then Agility Angel Mary S, who had a 2+-hour drive home ahead of her, waited with me for the judge, then took me to the Safeway so that I could pick up a big sugary cake to share the following morning. Thank you, Mary, you really rounded out my wonderful day nicely!

And then, of course, dinner  with KK and the laugh-a-minute Turlock crew once again, celebrating our successes.