a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Littermate Rivalry

SUMMARY: Top Ten, Sigh.
First, let me tell you this. There are eight different height groups in USDAA in which you can compete: Championship 12", 16", 22", and 26", and Performance 8", 12", 16", and 22". In number of competitors, Ch 22" is by far the largest, followed fairly closely by Perf 16" (which is the same height dogs moved down one jump height).

For example, at this weekend's trial, there are roughly--in order from most populated to least:

Ch 22": 50 dogs (Boost's group)
Pf 16": 23
Ch 26": 14
Pf 22": 9 (Tika's group)
Ch 16": 8
Pf 12:" 5
Pf 8": 4
Ch 12": 2 (Well, that's an interesting switch between Pf and Ch at the lowest heights!)

I can only surmise that the proportions are similar throughout the country. So, to say that Tika won a class locally, that's cool. But to say that Boost won a class (which she has done only once, at the last trial), that is awesome.

To say that Tika is in the Top Ten in two out of four possible categories at the moment, and in the Top 25 in 3 out of four, well, that's awesome.

But to say that Boost's littermate Gina is in the Top 25 in 3 out of five categories--in a group that consists of roughly five times more competitors than Tika's group--well, wow, what can I say, except that that is muy super bien awesome! ...and... what the heck have *I* been doing with my dog so that I can't even get dang Qs most of the time? I'm trying not to play What If games. And actually I'm very excited to see that, halfway through the year, Gina is doing so well. Her Human Dad is a great handler and they've worked hard to overcome bar knocking issues and to create an amazing running dogwalk and Aframe.

Ah, well. I'll just have to take my one moment of glory where Tika is sitting, after half the year, at the top in Jumpers:

22" Height Class (from the USDAA Perf Top Ten Jumpers page)

Points Owner Dog Breed
28  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
22  Zurborg, Laurie Gumbo Catahoula Leopard Dog
21  Keller, Linda Stewart Australian Shepherd
20  Danver, Jean Chaps Australian Shepherd
18  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
18  Scott, Gregory Skye Border Collie
18  Ross, Nancy Spotty Border Collie
18  Mckinney, Colleen Dexter All-Breed
17  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
16  Scott, Liz Milo Australian Shepherd
16  Lieberthal, Kelly Reggie Border Collie
15  Hope, Paulena Renee F5 Tornado Border Collie
14  Luckraft, Julie Strider Border Collie
14  Yarchin, Joe Pan Australian Shepherd
13  Plummer, Lauri Jade Border Collie
12  McKnight, Bridget Molly Border Collie
12  Gooding, Kris Summer Labrador Retriever
12  Gregory, James Pilot Golden Retriever
11  Elkins, Laura Keegan Border Collie
11  Heck, Kathleen Runner Golden Retriever
10  Glines, Marjorie Kash Border Collie
10  Clement, Kathy Psyche Border Collie
10  Closson, Margaret Brash Golden Retriever
10  James, Kim Skillett Belgian Malinois
Herman, Jill Oso Australian Shepherd

...AND that she's one of only two nonpurebreds on the list...and we won't mention that we don't even show up at all in the Snooker 25 so far this year.

I know we won't end at #1, so I have to wallow in this while it lasts. Wallow wallow wallow. And, crap, I'm now late for class! C'mon, doggers, let's go!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blogger Action Day: Volunteering

SUMMARY: Read more.
Agility Nerd is posting an ever-growing list of bloggers who've posted related topics today.

Plus of course his own post.

Be sure to let him know if you're posting on this topic on your blog today.

Slaving Away For Fun And Profit

SUMMARY: Working at agility trials.
The Saturday of my first-ever agility trial dawned with pouring rain. The trail was under cover, but the cover had no walls, and we slogged through boot-eating mud to get anywhere. I was cold, wet, exhausted, miserable, and my classmate (Rachel Sanders), who was in charge of workers, had the nerve to assign me to work setting jump poles.

I was deeply resentful. I didn't want to be away from my dog. I was tired, wet, and muddy. I hadn't volunteered. And yet, despite all my internal whining, my internals also knew that *someone* had to set poles and most likely everyone else was tired, wet, and muddy and didn't want to be away from their dogs. So--for one, single, solitary class, I sat in a chair inside the ring and set poles.

And discovered that it was no big deal at all. Plus, I got to just sit, with no other obligations, and rest, and relax, and dry out, and watch other dogs and people run, which would've been hard to do if I hadn't been in that chair. And that put an end to my resistance to working at a trial.

In recent years, I have settled into being a score table czar. That means being responsible for the score table from set-up to tear-down, ensuring that all the paperwork is correct for every class, training and monitoring workers, resolving issues with scribe sheets or scribes, figuring out why we're short one dog's score in a 100-dog class, checking and double-checking addition and multiplication and placements and super-Qs, answering people's questions, posting scores in a timely manner--and it doesn't matter whether we're doing it on computers or on paper.

I like it because I can get up and go away when I need to.

Back when I started agility (how long ago was that? We had to carve our own obstacles out of stone. And run dire wolves. You think YOUR dog plays a tough game of tug?!), people volunteered because the trial didn't happen unless people volunteered, and there were few enough folks that it was obvious that everyone had to take a turn. I think that we've always had free lunches for workers, but that was it.

Nowadays, workers get tickets for raffle entries, and reductions in entry fees for some jobs. Wimps! (Not that I turn down the raffle entries or the entry fee reductions. If they help me to do more agility, well, anything to feed the addiction.)

Still, I'd work at a trial anyway. Because, yah, it still takes people volunteering to make things work. Plus, it gives me something to do when I'm not running my dog. Because otherwise I'd be working anyway, like-- sitting in the bleachers taking notes about people's runs--

or wandering around taking photos of people--

And, really, I have PLENTY of photos that need sorting already, thanks very much. So it's better for my idle hands to be busy doing something constructive.

If I'm not at the score table, it's often hard for the crew chiefs to assign me to anything, because I always seem to have dogs in different groups. Back when I had a 22" and a 26", they often lumped the 26" dogs with the small dogs (because 22" are such a massive object). With one dog now in Championship and one in Performance, they often walk (and run) in successive groups rather than the same group. And, of course, as boost was working through starters and open, those schedules were completely independent of masters, so my schedule was all over the place.

But that doesn't stop me from TRYING to work, to make the trial go faster, to make things run smoothly, to help the judges have a good experience and want to come back, to enable a great day for my fellow entrants. There's always so much to do--find equipment, pick things up, set up or rearrange shade for the ring workers, help build a course even if it's just to make sure all the jumps have enough bars, set bars if even for half a class (when they're yelling for help, they're often delighted to get someone who can do it for half the time--much better than having no one at all).

(Photo borrowed from Team Small Dog--it's pretty chaotic at the score table, too.)

My biggest challenge in setting bars these days is that I don't do it often any more, so I'll be sitting there watching, and a bar goes down, and the judge has to reset it, and I think, "Tsk, what a shame that the judge has to set her own bars; where are the pole setters anyway?" followed by a sudden realization... oops... but at least I'm trying! In fact, I'll even set bars if I find myself hanging outside the ring waiting for my run (and don't have my dog out yet), I'll run into the ring to help set poles, EVEN IF (gasp!) I don't get raffle tickets or any other reward for doing it! Can you IMAGINE?!

Don't think that setting poles is the only day-of job I've done. I've also timed, scribed, run scribe sheets, run leashes, been gate steward. All of them, many times. Sometimes I make mistakes. It happens. We're not professionals. And you learn a lot from doing any of the jobs:

  • Gate steward isn't for everyone--you have to be willing to yell, you have to keep an eye on the dog currently in the ring and be bold enough to tell the next person to get into the ring, and you have to do at least a marginal job of keeping track of the next 3 to 5 dogs. On the plus side--and this was big for me--you get to know more dog and people names--and actually associate them with faces--than from any other way possible.
  • Scribe isn't for everyone, although jumpers and standard are pretty simple and almost anyone can do them easily--watch the judge and write the R, S, or E on the scribe sheet based on the judge's hand signal. Even though you're watching the judge, you still see enough of what the dogs are doing to learn a lot about what makes a refusal or runout or standard course fault. Snooker and Gamblers are a bit more difficult because you have to hear the numbers that the judge calls and not leave any out. But still, mostly, that's not too hard.
  • Timing has become really really simple with electronic timing. Not to say that things can't go wrong or that you won't miss something, but basically it's: make sure the clock starts, make sure the clock stops.
  • Run leashes, reset the chute: Trivial but hard to do for a long time if you've got problem knees or back. Which I do. But i can still do those for a while without ill effect.
And, yes, I've also done almost all the Committee jobs, too. I figure if everyone does a couple of committee jobs ever in their life, we'll have it all covered. I've been:
  • trial chair or cochair (3? 4? 5? times)--Depends on the trial and your available committee, but it can be fairly easy or it can be difficult. Big up sides: You get to pick the classes that you want to offer, and if you've done your job well before the trial, you have to do almost nothing AT the trial.
  • Co-secretary (3? 4? dunno times)--In fact, I rather liked this, but my schedule didn't always fit well with the large number of hours required in the couple of weeks right before a trial.
  • worker scheduler (couple of times)--We've had one or two people take this on and always do it for several years, so I haven't tried it recently. Plus now we usually try to get full-timers to fill the key ring positions (scribe, timer, gate) and take the other people by whiteboard signup.
  • crew chief (several times--not my favorite because I think of it as a "people" job and I'd rather work with inanimate objects)
  • chief course builder (kind of fun, but I feel weird doing it with a bad back because I can't actually lift anything heavier than a jump). You definitely have to know some things about how and where to put equipment--like which part of the table should face the dog's incoming path, and what kind of triples are legal--but you can ask any good chief course builder to teach you that stuff while you're helping to set courses and learn it pretty quickly.
But, mostly, trial chair willing and if I speak up soon enough, you'll find me at the score table. Down side: I get to chat with other people at the score table a little, but not with anyone else at the trial. Definitely limits my social activities. But still, rain or shine, heat or cold, wind or calm, light or dark in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer...doesn't matter what job, but working: there I am.

(Photo credits, I think in order--Rich Deppe, Barbara Snarr, Barbara Jones, Amy Hanridge (with my other camera), Barbara Snarr, Laura Hartwick, unknown (my camera), Jean Danver.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blogger Action Day Is Coming June 28

SUMMARY: If you blog, note June 28.
From an email from Agility Nerd:
I've been contacting dog agility bloggers in an effort to organize a "Blog Action Day" where we all post to our blogs on the same subject. There have been a lot of of email list discussions about volunteering at dog agility trials in the last few weeks and I thought this might be a good subject on which we can open up a discussion with our readers. I'm certain we all have different, and possibly conflicting, views on the subject that will make for good reading!

After discussion with some other bloggers we chose Tuesday June 28th as the day we'll post an article discussing the subject.

Some ideas you might consider for your blog post:
- why/when/how you choose to volunteer
- when/why you choose not to volunteer
- the impact of volunteers
- how can clubs make it easy/fun/rewarding for people to volunteer
- how not to alienate those who don't want to volunteer
- jobs you like to do
- what has dis/encouraged you to volunteer

I hope you will join us on June 28th! When you post your article please send me a link so I can put it on my blog. Monica at Clean Run will also host a list of all the articles - I'll forward your link to her for you.

I scoured the internet for dog agility blogs and tried to find their owner's email addresses. If you aren't a dog agility blogger I'm sorry for bothering you!

Please forward this email to every dog agility blogger and occasional agility blogger you know, I'd like to get everyone involved!

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Best Regards,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Well, That's A Fine Howdy Do

SUMMARY: Blogger finds a way to try to suck money out of me.
Blogger. It was free. They charged briefly, then refunded everyone's money. It was free and was going to stay free because Google bought them and they could afford to do that.

Then a few months back, they forced everyone to do blogging on their site. Before, you could use their tools but publish on your own site. So, for example, all my blog photos before that date are on the same service that all the rest of finchester.org is located on. All the photos after that are now forced to upload to Google's photo site, Picasa. OK, well, that didn't make me super happy, but what the heck, if that's what they wanted to do, that's fine.

It's now a mere 8 months later, and--well, lookie here--I'm out of space on my free picasa account and have to pay them if I want more! I really don't want to pay them. I'm already paying for a photo site (http://elf1.smugmug.com) and for my own hosted web site (http://www.finchester.org) and I really really don't want to pay for more space when I'm already paying for plenty of space somewhere else.

But that just means that I'm going to have to load my photos somewhere else and then manually insert the code for each one of them that I want to use in my blog.

That sucks. It takes a lot of time. Maybe that's why they think I'll pay them.


So I have two blogs lined up and partly written that involve photos. But--well--dunno what I'm going to do now. Guess refer everyone to my photo site.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Bits O Things

SUMMARY: International Jumps redux, updated Steph's post, hiking/wildflowers, AND geocaching.
Rather than make a whole new post on Jim B's cool new international-flavored agility jumps, I simply updated my previous post with more photos.

I knew I'd forget something important in Steph's post--I added a photo of hers and marked it.

This morning (Sunday) I took the dogs for a hike and found half a dozen geocaches and more wildflowers than I had expected. Maybe the late rains and cooler temps are keeping them around longer? The photos, with commentary, are on my photo site here.

I decided to put the geocaching photos into a separate album.

At the beginning of the hike, we switchbacked up the hillside pretty quickly. Here, the Merle Girls show how far below MUTT MVR has been left behind.

Near the end of the hike, Human Mom was still stopping to take wildflower photos but was getting tired of geocaching, so left some for another day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trip From 2008 Now in Google Maps

SUMMARY: An experiment.
This took wayyyy longer than I thought it would, but you can now see my Havasu Falls/Grand Canyon trip in an interactive Google map; I've added place markers, and by clicking on the place markers, you can go to my online photo albums for that segment of the trip.

See it here.

(If you were reading my blog 2 years ago, you already had the chance to see all this stuff. Nothing new except putting it in google maps.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goodbye Steph

SUMMARY: September 1954 - June 2011
June 12, 7:30 p.m., added more (flagged below).

Last Tuesday, my friend Stephanie lost her battle with cancer, and it's been hard to think what to say.

I've known her since the late 1970s through mutual college friends here. She moved up to Reno and worked as a dealer and then as a pit boss in a casino, and then was actively recruited to move back to New Jersey when the Atlantic City casinos opened, which she did for a while, too. Came back to San Jose, got married, moved to Maryland (where I visited her once), got divorced, moved to Berkeley to finish her computer science degree as a 30-something returning student. Worked at Apple and a couple of other high-tech companies. I just learned that the founders of Cisco attended her wedding, back before there was a Cisco.

She never recovered enough from her last rounds of chemo, and the cancer's steady advance, to take the road trip that she really wanted. But she did get a chance to spend money on herself, things she'd been wanting to do for years but, being sensible, had put it all away into retirement funds. She had the whole interior of the house cleaned and painted. Replaced the old leaky, sticking, cracked windows with beautiful, new, smoothly-operating, double-paned windows. She got to enjoy them for a few short months, and that was very important to her.

She always avoided having her photo taken, so although we did lots of things together, I have almost no photos of her. The one time we actually sat together, up at Henry Coe, and had a passer-by take a photo of us together, dang, my camera malfunctioned and I never got that photo (and didn't double-check until I got home).

Mostly I have photos of her covered up to protect herself from the sun (some of the treatments she got made her more sensitive to sunburn), often with her camera--we went off together to take bird photos, flower photos, nature photos, mountain photos, anything.

It's too bad there aren't more photos of her--she was a handsome woman. She did pick one of my photos of her to use as her official Facebook photo for quite a long time:

Added following paragraph and photo: June 12, 7:30 p.m.
She liked taking photos, though; her digital SLR was a pretty new thing for her that she researched carefully and was given as a gift by her family. She got some great shots of birds in particular. Here's one she particularly liked (and I do, too), of avocets up at the baylands--I didn't get my camera up in time and missed the cool pas de deux that she captured.

Steph was a good and generous friend. She could sometimes be a little overwhelming, but she really did seem to place other people's needs higher than her own. She spent a lot of time in the last couple of years doing really excellent genealogical research for people to whom she wasn't even directly related by bloodlines, and working hard to make sure that it would be easy for her family to take care of her and her estate.

Her love for, and knowledge of, birds and flowers and all things natural were amazing. She could cite common name and scientific name. She could identify many birds by their song. (She had similar encyclopedic knowledge of just about anything that she ever paid any attention to at all, and she wasn't shy about sharing it.) She could strike up a conversation with anyone and wasn't afraid to do so (here with a volunteer trail worker on one of our wildflower hikes at Edgewood Park).

When she decided to fight the cancer by being as healthy as she could be, she arranged regular weekly walks with two or three different people--I was Friday Walkies. She liked dogs, too; because of her illness, she hadn't gotten another after her last one died. But she was always willing to hang onto my doggies while I and my camera got up close and personal with various plants.

She also approached her cancer with as much humor as she could muster. She had quite a variety of shirts like these.

Sparky—her midsized "doglet"—and my Remington joined our respective households at about the same time. Sparky manifested cancer of the anal gland at a too-young age, and Steph went to amazing lengths (washing the backside sometimes several times a day with special treatments and so on) to try to make Sparky's life as pain-free and fun as long as possible, a couple of years at least. She had a Sparky cancer diary while I had Remington's, and both dogs moved on out of this life at about the same time.

Her last posted photo of Sparky she titled "Heavenly dog." I do hope they're back together now.

Steph's web sites:
  • Sparky's Cancer Page
  • Steph's web site with brief bio, links to photos and notes
  • Free-Range Turtle, her blog mostly about gardening and nature, lots of photos
  • Kicking Butt, Taking Names, the blog she started with the cancer diagnosis but covers her life in general, too--trips, genealogy, hikes, whatever, although the last few months it's just been her health status. (In the teeny tiny font list of tags on the left, scroll to the end and click on "View My Tags Page", then click, say, genealogy to get posts mostly about that.)
  • Her Facebook page

I Have A Database And I'm Not Afraid To Use It

SUMMARY: Just going over some USDAA numbers for my own entertainment, Tika amazes me, and I finally do something about Boost.
Tika has Qed in 18 of the last 21 gamblers. This amazes me. So yes, you, too, can go from sitting in a corner crying because you've only gotten, like, one gamble out of the last 30 with 2 dogs (11 years ago--this also amazes me) to actually getting gambles.

Boost has gotten only 4 of the last 21 gamblers.

Tika has Qed 16 of the last 21 jumpers. This amazes me. So you, too, could go--same dog--from 21 novice/starters jumpers with no Qs before you get the one that you need to move to advanced--get that one advanced immediately--then take 13 tries in masters to get your one jumpers Q for your MAD... to Top Ten Performance Jumpers. (6 years later.)

I'm still waiting for that miracle transformation for Boost in Jumpers. The count now is 67 masters attempts with 2 Qs to show for it.

Tika's qualifying rate for the last year is 66%. Out of her last 100 runs, her Q rate is 72%--and over the last 4 trials, 81%. In USDAA! This just amazes me, period. I can't believe this will continue like this, but it's nice while it lasts.

Boost--well--Sigh. But she sure is cute.

I did get a private lesson this week and I'm jazzed about the specific things that I now can work on. And we adjusted what we did in class Thursday night, too, to avoid things that invoke our problem spots, and we did pretty good (that means not running exactly the same course as everyone else, tweaking one or two places).

Next trial isn't until the first weekend in July, so we have a chance to make progress if I keep up my motivation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What About All Those Other Great Dogs and Handlers?

SUMMARY: Does 2nd Place Make Them A Loser? I think not.
I often think back to the Buffalo Bills football team in the early 1990s: They made it to the Super Bowl four years in a row. They also never won the Super Bowl during that time. But they were beaten by 3 different teams, which means that, during that time, no other team was good enough to make it to the super bowl more than once or twice. So who was the better team among those four teams?

Still, it is the winner's name who's recorded.

It's like watching the USDAA nationals final (or regionals, or whatever) year after year. Year after year you may see the same dogs and handlers in the finals, but maybe they don't always take 1st place, so when USDAA lists the results of prior years, only the 1st place teams show up, and never the other handlers and dogs. But who's the better handler/dog--one who shows up year after year in the finals (and who knows, maybe takes second place multiple times, which I know has happened), or one who wins by, jeez, it also happens, a hundredth of a second, or appears, wins, and is never seen again (hmm, not sure whether THAT really ever happens, because...)

...I don't believe there's a web site where you can see a list of names of all USDAA finalists and the years in which they were there in the finals. If anyone knows of such a place, let me know! Or if you have your own lists of finalists somewhere, maybe I can start assembling such a page. (Yeah, I think of it NOW, after not keeping lists of all the finalists for the last 16 years when I've been paying attention!)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Other Stuff That Grows In My Yard

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday

Sad Ending for Rescue Belle

SUMMARY: To close the loop.
I guess I'm glad that the beautiful dog I almost fostered didn't end up here on May 23 or 24. Here's the final word, posted on June 2:

I'm sorry to say that Belle lost her fight this afternoon :( The last blood test showed that she was in complete organ failure. I'm eternally grateful to and comforted by her foster home who showed her more love and respect than she had ever known before. They loved her so much that they've paid for her to be cremated so they can keep her close by them in the only real home she ever knew.

We don't know for sure [whether the abscess on her face was the problem or a symptom of another problem] because the vet didn't get a chance to do any more tests. He was concerned about cancer and leptospirosis, but we will never know now. Whatever it was it took her very quickly because her organs shut down in a matter of 36 hours. The abscess was definitely a big part of it, her whole body had become infected from it and she wouldn't eat because of the pain in her mouth. She was totally emaciated and had giardia on top of that. She just didn't stand a chance of fighting anything off, and I also think when the emergency vets over the holiday weekend treated her, her liver just couldn't cope with the influx of drugs.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Spreading the Wealth

SUMMARY: Interesting placement results from last weekend and pondering the value of blue.
Last weekend, Tika took 1st in 6 of 13 classes. I already pointed out that there weren't many dogs in our height class this weekend, so the results could be very different on any other weekend.

Let's see--I don't know everyone's story very well, but they're all great dogs:
  • Killy the Border Collie (only in Team; has had many of the same issues as Boost (but has a better handler who has gotten better results), wasn't even going to enter this team event to take a break, but the handler's wife's partner dropped out at the last minute, so they filled in)
  • Kash the BC
  • Brenn the BC (a little younger than Tika but has had joint arthritis starting at a young age)
  • Chip the BC (who has been around for quite a long time but was only in a couple of our classes)
  • Carson the BC (also only in Team; who is only 6 but has had physical problems, too, so no more jumping 26")
  • Darby the Lab
  • Fritz the Giant Schnauzer (who seemed to really like running in the rain but was also only in a couple of classes)
  • And Tika the Craussie
Out of the other 7 classes, Tika placed 2nd four times. And who took 1st? Brenn in P3 Gamblers, Kash in Team Gamblers, Killy in Team Snooker, and Carson in Team Jumpers. Then, to make their point, Carson, Brenn, and Killy ALL placed higher than Tika in Team Standard.

What I find about myself is that--yes, I love getting blue ribbons--but not so much if it's a gimmee. OK, for example, in CPE I love going in part because my dogs can do very well because they're faster than many (not all) of the CPE dogs and I have a lot more handling experience than many (not all) of the CPE handlers. But then I also feel odd if I've done a couple of CPE trials and swept most of the blue ribbons. Because, conversely, I also know what it's like to not ever get blue ribbons, and am not so fond of competing when we just aren't ever going to get them. I've had 4 agility dogs now, and until Tika moved to Performance 2 years ago, in USDAA we almost never got those pretty blues, so, yes, I know what that's like.

So, in fact, I prefer competing with dogs with whom we have an even chance, with whom the scores are close.

Monday, June 06, 2011

2010 Top Ten Final Really

SUMMARY: Proof arrived.
Just arrived a week or so ago: Voila! Tika's certificates for last year's Top Ten and-- wait--only ONE pin? For FOUR top tens? Jeeeeezzzzzz-- (It does have the year on it at least.)

(This was supposed to be in the last post, but blogger upload kept saying "Upload problems? We're doing maintenance, but things should be back to normal soon," so I gave up waiting after a couple of hours.)

USDAA 2011 Top Ten

SUMMARY: Tika's standings after 5 months of 2011
I've updated Tika's Top Ten link (above, here at tajmutthall.org) for the first time this year. Took the current USDAA Top Twenty-Five info (which is through roughly May 15), added a note to the side on more points that we earned this last weekend.

We're currently #2 in Gamblers with almost enough points to not have to get any more this year and still be in Top Ten, #1 in Jumpers with almost undoubtedly enough points to not have to get any more this year and still be in Top Ten, way down at #12 in Standard, and this year for pete's sake after ending 2010 at #4 in Snooker, we can't get a super-Q to save our lives and don't even show up in the Top 25!

I vowed that I'm not doing any of this specifically for Top Ten, and I'm not. I didn't really expect to be able to do this two years in a row. But Tika has been such a consistent dog this year, I'm glad to brag this little bit.

About Top Tens

The Top Ten awards are a poor approximation of determining which dogs are the most successful competitors. To be in the Top Ten, you have to do a lot of trials and you have to do trials where there are more dogs competing than at other places in the country. I'm lucky on both counts.

The flaw in the Top Ten points awarding is like this: If Tika is one of 6 dogs on a course and wins, we earn 5 points. (See my USDAA Rules link, above, for Top Ten point rules.) If the judge were to set up the same course somewhere else in the country, and then:
  • A dog wins it with exactly the same results that Tika got (same time, same points, whatever), but there are only three dogs competing, they get only 1 point. 
  • There are 6 dogs competing, one of them does exactly what I do, but two dogs do better so they're in 3rd, they get only 1 point. 
  • There are 6 dogs competing, all of them have really crappy runs and maybe don't even earn a qualifying score, the 1st place dog still earns 5 points, same as us.

So it's not really a good side-by-side comparison of dogs across the country, but it's fairly simple to calculate. Since in fact the exact same course almost never appears anywhere else in the country, ever, there's no actual way to compare dogs, so it's a best approximation by comparing how you do with other dogs on the same day, the same course, the same running conditions, the same judge.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

USDAA Weekend Quickie

SUMMARY: Tika successful, Boost not--but yes--but no--
Rain rain rain, all day Saturday. Bleah. Sun came out Sunday afternoon but the weekend ended in a downpour, too.

Tika amazed me once again by Qing in all 12 Q-able classes this weekend. In USDAA! She's such a good girl, fixing things that I screwed up (but I think got lucky on one dogwalk contact call). The odds in my agility career of Qing that often in anything, let alone that many USDAA classes, are nigh impossible. Won Jumpers, Standard, Snooker, Grand Prix, and Steeplechase round 1 on Saturday; won Steeplechase round 2 ($8 winnings! woo hoo), Grand Prix, and Team Jumpers on Sunday. Admittedly, the 22" Performance crowd was very small this weekend--only 4 to 6 dogs entered per class--but I'll take the placements!

The DAM Team Q completed her Performance Tournament Gold (at least 35 tournament Qs, with at least 7 in each of the three tournaments). In just under 2 years!

Boost picked up a Pairs Q (which completed her Relay Silver--25 Qs), a Standard Q--in which she managed to place 5th of 28 dogs (not a super fast time, but others had faults)--and had me in tears at the score table in frustration with her, myself, and her agility career after our first team class of the day Sunday, Team Standard...what is frigging wrong with Just. Taking. Jumps. In front of you!?! And then finished the last individual Team class this afternoon, Team Jumpers, by OMG running a flawless run and WINNING! Out of 24 dogs her height (22" class), three were as much as half a second faster but had bars down. This is the way it should be!--and had me in tears at the score table in joy at finally FINALLY having a really nice run with no bobbles, hesitations, or screw-ups of any kind on either of our parts.

And that, kids, is it before I go crawl into bed.

Friday, June 03, 2011


SUMMARY: All tajmutthall photos since--dunno--couple years ago?
I just remembered that, when we had to switch hosting locations of our blogs, we also had to switch where we stored photos. So all my photos since then are in this picasa album:

Taj MuttHall Dog Diary

There are many hundreds, with no organization at all (and apparently no way to organize them) and no tags (and no way to tag them except one at a time, which chyah right I'm going to do any time now).

But there they are.

Six for the Price Of--

SUMMARY: The Careful Shopper's Diary, plus Who Hates Pet Stores?
So, it's not only people-related stuff that can be subject to goofy pricing. At Pet Club, you can buy one individually wrapped Savory Prime 4.5" pressed rawhide bone for 69 cents:
ORRRRRR you can buy the 6-pack for a mere $4.49.  Wouldn't you think it's cheaper to package 6 at a time rather than 6 individually? Guess not. Am I paying extra for the convenience?

To be fair, there are places where it's an extreme in the other direction. For example, I can buy a single 12" Cadet Bully Stick for--$4.99?!? Holy steerpizzle! My dogs sometimes get 2 or 3 or 4 of these a week! EACH. That price would kill me!
Fortunately, you can buy a one-pound bag (usually 9 to 12 sticks) for $19.99. (And I cut the bigger ones in half.)

Boost likes these at home, but she hates pet stores. HATES them. Tail down, ears down, miserable terrified little Border Collie. I keep trying to take her into these places briefly so she can see the wonders of all the food and toys, but she HATES IT MOM LET'S GO RIGHT NOW. On the way out a couple of months ago, she suddenly hunkered down,  went into growling mode while I tried to figure out what she was looking at, then into full-scale alarm barking. I realized she was looking UP.  A cute little flop-eared cartoon dog on a sign, fer pet's sake!

Tika, like all my other dogs before her, loves pet stores and would spend all day there finding little scraps of food and chew toys and bones in open bins that someone left there JUST FOR HER. However, since no pet store is immediately at hand--same bed, 12 hours later--she rests up for the coming weekend.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Turlock, Here We Come

SUMMARY: USDAA Agility Weekend

In a couple of years past, the June Turlock trial has encountered high temperatures well into the 100s F (i.e., over 38 C). Who ever thought we'd be looking at weekend high temperatures 20 degrees below the average for this date? And with rain likely both days, when the average for this date is .01 inches and the historic maximum is .06? I'm hoping that means that the rain will be minimal and not disruptive.

I'd much rather have temps in the 60s than in the 80s (or more), believe me! But it's no fun sleeping in the minivan when it's raining, so I do hope there's not much of it.

The trial starts Friday evening with two classes, but I didn't sign up for those--we have 6 classes Saturday and 6 Sunday -- 7 (!) if we Qualify in the Steeplechase, and that's more than enough for me for a weekend. That's potentially 26 runs in two days. Should tire me out, for sure.

We'll have one each of all five regular classes, plus Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Team (five classes). For Performance Team, Tika and Brenn are partnered once again as Here We Go Again; for Championship Team, Boost is running with Gustavo (of Team Small Dog) the little black mixed breed and AiniA (pronounced eye-ON-uh, don't ask me) the Border Collie, as "It Not Obvious A Saga?" -- heh heh, an anagram of their names (thanks TSD).

Except Gustavo has been diagnosed with an unusual physical problem that translates to oddball behavior due to the buildup of ammonia in his brain, and so they're just starting a whole new life for him with new meds and a new diet, and who knows what he's going to be like on Sunday. In theory, he'll be fine, because he's been mostly fine before and this should just make him better. But we just don't know yet. You can read about it on TSD's blog over the last couple of weeks.

And speaking of ailments: For me, the good, but weird, news is that the pains in my hips have greatly decreased this week. Maybe I just needed to tough out a strenuous hike (last weekend) to work the kinks out. Seems unlikely to have been what helped, but then again, who knows.

We had class this evening; Boost knocked some bars but not a lot, and the last run of the evening was a full 19-obstacle course and we ran completely clean, so there's hope. Tika, of course, was just a good girl all evening.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, whatever you're doing.

(Uzza wuzza all cute wif her widdle feets all gathered together--)