a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Details of the Weekend

Monday, November 15, 2010

Details of the Weekend

SUMMARY: All those runs, some awards and plaques, USDAA surprise, and the sky.

Some advice for beginning writers is: Never start your story (or article) with the weather. (Been done to death, apparently.) However: This weekend's weather was perfect for agility. On Saturday, in the low 40s overnight (4.4C), warming up to where I took off my fleece for about half an hour in the early afternoon. Sunday was somewhat warmer; had my fleece off most of the time for early afternoon. Dogs like that kind of weather, for sure. And it sure beats doing anything in the rain and mud! We truly lucked out for this mid-November trial.


The usual rise-at-4-a.m. bit. Dogs cooperated in the back yard by doing all their business immediately, and we hit the road, in the dark. The new glasses meant that there wasn't as much haloing effect of the oncoming headlights--yay!

The drive was uneventful, except for the last quarter mile around sunrise, when I had to make a u-turn to check out this stunning new building, out there in rural Turlock. Wasn't there last time I came through!

The competition generally didn't go well for me, and I realized sometime in the early afternoon that I was NOT enjoying myself. Chiding myself for not having practiced enough, for doing dumb things on course, the usual. I simple do not have much fun when neither dog is Qing, no matter whether 95% of their runs are beautiful and it's just one error that kills us. I was almost ready to pack up and go home, except, dangitall, I'd paid for 2 days, the weather was lovely, the dogs have been going nuts lately at home, [fill in other reasons for staying].

As I commented last night, I felt as though I bought Boost's Jumper's Q with the price of Tika's run fails. It wasn't a complete disaster, really, but it felt like it. Out of 6 runs, Tika Qed in only 2, Pairs (yawn) and Steeplechase, but even the Steeplechase had a bar down.

And Boost got only the Jumpers Q out of 6 runs. But I was, indeed, happy about that Q!


Holly B brought back Tika's Silver Lifetime Achievement (LAA) plaque from Louisville, and that was a wonderful surprise.

Partway through the day, Leslie B dropped by with another surprise: To let me know that I'm now on the USDAA judges list. Surprise! No phone call, no confirmation that I actually wanted to be there, no information of any kind. I guess they assume that, if you're nuts enough to take the test at the end of the workshop, you must really want to be a judge. I'm honored, for sure, but conflicted. I'll have to post about that later.

And the day ended with a nice-enough sunset and a decent meal at Applebys. (Tilapia wasn't the best fish I'd ever had but most of the dish was good, and healthy, too.)


Steeplechase Round 2 started half an hour earlier than the other classes, so we were up and at'em again. Alarms didn't go off at 6 as planned (both Ellens in the room set them), but my dogs insisted at 6:10 that it was time to wake up, go figure how they knew. Must've heard us talking about it before bed--thank goodness there was a digital clock, as they're not good at reading analog hands.

Outside, the sun wasn't quite up but that golden light and the little tendrils of field fog were lovely. (MUTT MVR and THE CORGmobile at the hotel.)

On the way to the site, the golden glow on the temple's onion domes required another stop.

Tika had a better day, winning Steeplechase, Gamblers, and Snooker, and 2nd place in Jumpers by only .1 second. Also Qed in Grand Prix. So 4 out of 5 Qs in Q-able classes plus a small check for the Steeplechase win.

There were over 500 runs each day for the Masters ring. That meant that we finished under the lights both nights. But Sunday's spectacular sunset (completely outbeautifying Saturday's) made up for it, for anyone who bothered to turn around and look at it instead of at the agility ring. (Do click on it for a larger version.)

We finished around 5:30, I believe, then it was packing up, letting the dogs do a ton of frisbee although not nearly as much as they had wanted, and leaving the site about 6:30. The 2-hour drive home was completely uneventful, thank goodness.

Tika's details

  • Pairs: Our scheduled partner (human) broke her foot last week, so we scrounged an accommodating dog, Willie, who ran beautifully. Tika's teeter was iffy (I was sure we'd be called on a flyoff, rare for her, but we were OK), and I was late on a front cross and she saved my butt with no small effort, really torquing around to get over a jump at an impossible angle without knocking the bar. We came in 3rd--a fraction of a second behind Willie's other team, so I'm sure she was sandbagging on our run to save her placement.  [not]
  • Standard: A killer course for all levels and classes--there were NO Qs out of Tika's group of 8, and we managed a 3rd place (and even 1 Top Ten point) with major flyoffs on both the Aframe and dogwalk AND a knocked bar. At least we didn't E, which many, many dogs did.
  • Gamblers: As usual, we had a lovely opening and earned 2nd highest points in our group of 8, were right where we wanted to be at the whistle, Tika made the difficult turn to the Aframe--but then ran past it, and I'm not at all sure why. Lots of folks didn't get this, but two in our group did (although not Brenn, who was the one with more points), so we ended in 4th. This and Snooker were the classes where I really wanted to add a few more Top Ten points for security, so disappointing.
  • Snooker: Tika executed the four-red opening with no problem, but knocked #3 in the closing. See, the gamble & this are the sorts of things that made me feel I'd sold Tika's Qs to pay for Boost's Jumpers Q.
  • Steeplechase: Tika lit up for this run. It had two Aframes, and she executed the most amazing running Aframes I think I've ever seen her do: Two perfect strides down, one of them solidly in the middle of the yellow, and then go. (Versus usual slight hesitation then taking off just above the yellow zone.) She knocked a bar and she pulled away from a difficult entry to the weaves for wasted time, so I figured that, in our crowd of dogs, that would be fatal for a Q. But we were well under the cutoff as our time was less than a second slower than the fastest. Sadly don't have this on video, as my camera battery turned out to be completely drained.
  • Jumpers: This is Tika's specialty class, apparently (based on our Top Ten points), and this one was fast and perfectly executed up to the 3rd to the last jump, where I assumed she'd follow me on a slight curve but didn't, so I had to call her off an offcourse, which put her past the correct jump for a 5-point fault, and I got her back over that, but that put her on the wrong line to the tunnel and I had to call her off the wrong entrance. We got through without Eing and STILL had the 2nd-fastest time of all 10 dogs even after that brouhaha, but of course the faults prevented a Q.
  • Steeplechase: There are excellent dogs in Performance 22". When I bobbled a front cross and forgot to do a rear cross on the weaves and did it by zooming back around, really slowing Tika down, I thought we'd blown it. But the timer malfunctioned, so we ran again, and I didn't make those mistakes. Maybe our luck was turning up, as we ended up winning. (Although we were only 2nd fastest--Kidd had us by .35 seconds but a 5-fault penalty left us in 1st.) So another huge check... well... almost $17.
  • Jumpers: We had a nice run, but Apollo the boxer beat us by .13.
  • Snooker:  I had a pretty good course and we excuted it fairly well, except where I couldn't get in the front cross I had planned on that pesky #7--twice--and Tika managed another supercanine move to accommodate my incompetence. 52 points, when most folks were going for 51, got us the win an Super-Q and a nice safe 5 Top Ten points. Thank goodness no one else went for the 52, because instead of using electronic timing for the last jump, they had a finish line that was 20 feet beyond the last jump, which I forgot about and Tika grabbed my feet and so we had a NT, which would've lost to any timed run with the same points. Got lucky on that one.
  • Standard: A lovely run all the way through until nearly the end, when she turned the wrong way after a jump, and I had been moving away for a front cross at the next obstacle so wasn't there to save her from backjumping when she realized where I was. Got all her contacts this time, too, dang it. Hate wasting good contacts on an off-course run!
  • Grand Prix: Built on the same course as the Standard, so parts were very similar, including where we backjumped--which I got right the second time through, AND got the contacts, but it was a challenging course that I didn't feel that I handled well. We Qed but took only 4th, continuing our unbroken streak of never winning a Grand Prix.  (5 (!) seconds behind the winner, Kidd, 2 seconds behind Brenn, and less than a second behind Apollo. Tough crowd. But I'll tell ya, if Kidd is now in Performance, we're going to be having a tougher time than ever picking up wins in anything.)
  • Gamblers: Last class of the weekend, last chance for us to put a few security Top Ten points on our chart, and the gamble *looked* like it would be tough. (Gah--I was going to scan some course maps and include them, but this is taking longer than I'd expected to write up, so not now.) I picked an aggressive opening, figuring that if everyone crapped out on the gamble, I could maybe get a placement on those points. In fact, she ran it perfectly and I wimped out on trying an additional 2 jumps, which meant that I actually ran out of obstacles and was about to bobble her around when the buzzer sounded. It took a bit to get her turned around, and then some froofra on the tough turn at the beginning of the gamble, but she finally figured out what I meant and did the whole thing like a champ. I was afraid we were over time, but nahhh--plenty of time left. So we had plenty of points and the gamble for a win (although the Sunday Night It's Too Late To Stay crowd whittled it down to 6). Whew!

Boost Saturday

  • Pairs: Boost ran past a tunnel for a refusal (doesn't she LOVE tunnels? what's with that?) and partner had 2 more faults, which pushed us past the Qing level despite both being really fast.
  • Standard: She didn't stick her start line and went flying by me--I was so startled that I started running instead  of pulling her off immediately, but was wayyyyy out of position and off course before #5, at which point we left.
  • Gamblers: A decent opening, although she knocked the first bar. In good position for the gamble I thought, but she ran past the first two jumps instead of taking them.
  • Snooker: I could NOT come up with a course that I liked. I walked several combinations, settled on one that didn't suck as badly as the others, and then watched other people's runs. Savanna had a really nice, flowing, high-point course that combined parts of everything I had tried, and so I changed my plan and ran her course without ever having walked it. The result was that I did the wrong thing for my 4th red in the opening and suddenly found myself in the wrong place. I was puzzled, but there was no whistle, so kept going, although that wrong place meant that we weren't going to get the high points needed for a SuperQ. Boost was perfect! Fast, no refusals, no runouts, no bars down, and we got all the way through. It was while I was walking off the course that I realized that I had taken the same red twice, and while I stood there slightly stunned talking to people who congratulated us on a nice run, I said, "I took the same red twice," and THEY looked stunned, and I turned around to say something to the judge and she was already coming towards me. As she said later, when people do things with such confidence, you start second-guessing yourself. So not even a Q, but a really beautiful Booster run. Sighhhhhhh.
  • Jumpers: Still too much checking in with me, but we both seemed to do everything right and Qed! (!!! for more excitement)  Didn't place in the ribbons or top ten range, but 8th of 28 dogs isn't bad at all. And only 2.4 seconds behind the winner, so I'm pretty happy with that.
  • Steeplechase:  Knocked the 2nd bar (Tika knocked the 1st--what's up with that, you guys? Simple straight lead-out!), entered the weaves at the 2nd pole (same entry Tika pulled away from). And I think some bobbles. With the 5-point fault, no Q, but we were still only 4 seconds over the cutoff.

Boost Sunday

  • Jumpers:  One bar, one push off a jump on a rear cross (I'm trying SO hard to get my timing right. If only she'd just GO OVER JUMPS), and a bobble, but parts of the course flowed nicely. Sometimes it feels like she's starting to get it.  But of course it's felt like that off and on for several years now.
  • Snooker: Bobbles bobbles everywhere, knocked a bar on the #5 in the opening which automatically took us out of SuperQ range, and then didn't go into a tunnel that I thought was right in front of her in the closing (I THOUGHT SHE LIKED TUNNELS!) and we were done.
  • Standard: Wow! A Q! Good table down/stay, good contacts (which I held her on briefly), nice weaves, pushing to jumps, rear crosses, the whole works. But this is where I feel that she's slowing down a lot to figure out what to do, and that's what I've been fearing. However, we lucked out--this course ate up dogs left and right, and we ended up in 5th of 29, and only 4.5 seconds behind the eventual winner (although that wasn't the fastest time recorded). Only one little bobble in the same place where Tika backjumped, which probably cost us a second or two. But again, happy with the run.
  • Grand Prix: Melt down. Finally just left.
  • Gamblers: Last class of the weekend. I was 90% certain that she wouldn't get the gamble, and I wanted to have some fun, so I picked a really aggressive course. Much more aggressive than Tika's, because Boost *is* faster and has great speed in the weaves (which I avoided with Tika--on a 25-second opening, her weaves are just not that fast and I can get more points doing tunnels and other contacts, even though the weaves were the one high-point obstacle). So here's what I planned for 25 seconds: jump/teeter/chute/weaves/weaves/aframe/tunnel /aframe/tunnel /jump/teeter.  The buzzer sounded as she hit that last teeter so we didn't get those points, but everything else was spot on and SO much fun to run! We were in good position for the gamble, and as expected she was completely baffled by what i asked her to do, so no Q. But out of all 90ish dogs who did the course, only she and the Amazing Heath got 28 opening points; a small handful got 25, so I'd say we did pretty good. And we both had fun, so it was a nice way to end the weekend. 


This morning, the knee is still swollen, although it's above the kneecap and not around it. It almost feels and acts as if I did something to a muscle or tendon there instead of in the knee itself. Guess I'll be taking it easy for a couple of days. (Says here. Yeh.)

And in conclusion

If you actually read all that, thanks for listening. This really goes back to my original plan for the blog, which was to document, for myself, my progress and achievements. And *that* is why I sometimes go on and on.


      1. Hey, congrats on the Judge List thingy. You did well!

      2. Sounds like a successful weekend to me. Except for the knee, hope that feels better soon. Ouch.

        If you don't go to Nationals or have someone pick up your plaque do they mail it to you?

      3. Celeste: Thanks.

        Elayne: Yes, they do, but my gut feeling was that I'd get it much faster this way.

      4. Well, big congrats on Boost's Jumpers Q - WOO HOO! No wait, that deserves more recognition: !!!!!!!

        And on making the judge's list, very cool, although yes it would have maybe been thoughtful for them to have let you know.

        Tika's plaque is gorgeous, wow.

        Hope that knee gets better soon. I remember when I first came across your blog, the knee was a main subject of discussion -- I guess it's been about four years, then? Here's hoping it cooperates and fades back to being normal and healthy.

        And in conclusion, you're welcome!

      5. Does it count for anything that I read the whole pictorial first part and the part about your knee?

        Congrats on the Judgeship and on Tika's plaque and on Boostie's Jumpers Q (at last).

        And knock that knee-crap off! Remember: cold for the first 24 then hot and cold alternating after that. Take it easy.

      6. @Mutts: :-)

        @Steph: I actually expected that people would do what you did, read that first part and skip the details. Icing is well in progress. I'm not going to be walking anywhere today, for sure.

      7. Just wanted to say that I LOVE the 2nd Sunday photo..misty..beautiful! I read most of it but got consumed by the details..just wanted to find out if you had fun...knee and all?

      8. Thanks. Fun? Sunday pretty much yes. Saturday was touch and go when things seemed to be going wrong with every run. But I always like being around agility people and watching other dogs run. Those are fun times.