a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Not The Best Weekend But Not The Worst, Either

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Not The Best Weekend But Not The Worst, Either

SUMMARY: 3-Day USDAA Summary. Key words: Tika slow, Boost...well...was Boost.
Temps were warm Saturday and Monday but I doubt into the 80s (not >27F), Sunday probably edged into the 80s--there were a couple of hours where I wished that I had taken my shorts with me, but nooo, Ms. Weather Smarty said she didn't NEED no stinkin' sorts for no PRUNEDALE trial and maybe she was a little wrong. Still, by 5:00, we were too cold sitting in the shade for a meeting and moved out into the sun.

Tika Overall

All of that to say that I can't believe that the heat was what made Tika so slow on so many of her runs, but I'm not sure what else it could be. So many factors to consider. Is she a little sore? (Although obviously not so much that she can't run full-speed for the frisbee in the morning and afternoon.) Is she slowing way down because I'm pretty wimpy and can't keep up with her? (Although there were two or 3 runs where I was ahead of her where I didn't expect to be and egging her on.) Is she just bored with agility? (How do you identify ennui in a dog? And anyway, why after 9 years would she suddenly be so been-there-done-that?)

A month ago, there was one run that I remember for sure where she was slow, walking the dogwalk instead of running it. But this weekend, most runs were noticeably not Tika-fast.

I'm not sayin' she's pokey, but she's just not all there. And that really kept us out of placements and Qing identifiably in several runs. Not all of them by any means--I did dumb handler moves in 2 out of the 3 Snooker courses, for example, and mispositioned a front cross in one Standard run before the weaves, pushing her off the correct entry.

In DAM Team, for another example, she has typically Qed in most of the four individual classes. [Note: To Q in a Team individual event, you have to be within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs.] Before this weekend, Tika had Qed in 24 of 28 Performance Team individual classes.

This weekend--not a single Q in the Team events. It didn't help that there weren't legally enough 22" dogs to Q on their own [USDAA requires at least 7 22" dogs to do that averaging to calculate Qs], so they had to combine us with the much larger and generally faster 16" dogs--so even when Tika placed 3rd (of 6) in two of the events, the average of the fastest 22" and couple fastest 16" combined with Tika's slowness left us Qless (although not clueless, at least. I think).

And in Sunday's gamble, I had what I thought was a winning course by a mile, but that was one where she was painfully slow, didn't make it through the last set of weaves in the opening (which would've won), and another obstacle after that, ending up still Qing but not even placing.

But I am very thankful indeed that Tika did not manifest soreness and I didn't have to scratch her from anything (I was concerned that I'd have to after a couple of the runs on Sunday).

Tika Details

But she remained the amazingly accommodating, experienced dog, handling rough spots with aplomb, doing her weaves (and even her contacts!) independently, and so on.

Out of 16 possible Qs this weekend, she earned 9, including one Snooker SuperQ, Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and the DAM tournament.

Placements (and therefore Top Ten points) were extremely sparse. We competed against about 7-9 dogs Saturday, 5-7 Sunday, and only 5 others in Monday's Team (no top ten points involved in Team, though).

She won Saturday's gamble; she and partner Heath (yay, heath!) won Sunday's Pairs, and she her teammate Maddie (yay, Maddie!) won the DAM relay (first time I've ever won the relay--highest place team relay with any of my dogs was 4th (with Tika in another Performance DAM), so that was cool--but we got nothing for it, not even a ribbon!), but that was it on first places.

Took 2nd in Sunday's Jumpers but 4(!) seconds behind the winning dog; 2nd in Sunday's Snooker for a SuperQ (not lots of points but other dogs crapped out); and 2nd in Steeplechase Round 1.

3rd in Saturday's Jumpers; 3rd in Grand Prix; 3rd in Team Standard and Gamblers but those were distant 3rds.

Knocked more bars than she has been, I think: Bar in Saturday's snooker when I tried a really aggressive serpentine but I was in the wrong place, the first bar in Saturday's Standard, and a bar in Steeplechase Round 2, dropping us to 4th from 2nd fastest.

We Eliminated in Sunday's Standard and I don't know why--I came off the course thinking that we had only a weave entry bobble. Never heard a whistle, and of course that's one class where I didn't go check my scribe sheet right after the run, so nothing to be done about it at the end of the day.

So, for the weekend: 9 of 16 Qs, three 1sts, three 2nds, four 3rds, three 4ths, and four with no placements.

Boost Summary

Still having blatant issues with refusals, runouts, and bars. The big story, though, was missed weave entries! Not sure how many we missed--but they seemed to be mostly better by MOnday, so I hope that was just a brief relapse.

For a while on Saturday, I thought that the work I'd been doing was making a difference, as we had some nice sequences and not TOO much in the way of runouts or refusals (but, yes, bars). The highlight of Saturday was her Gambler's opening score, which was highest of all 112 Masters and Performance dogs competing, but on a pretty simple jump/weaves/jump gamble, she stalled out before the weaves and came back to me.

But Sunday and Monday, the refusals and runouts were majorly in force--we Eed on refusals in Team Standard, for example.

Sunday's highlight was--uh--one Q in Pairs Relay, although it wasn't much of a highlight--boost missed her weave entry--5-point fault plus the loss of time going back to fix it--and her teammate knocked a bar, but collectively fast enough that, even with that much penalty, we Qed with .19 seconds to spare.

Monday's highlight was placing 4th of 32 dogs in Team Gamble, although our score was paltry compared to the few who tried *and succeeded* the high-point bonus, which we had plenty of time for but I picked something that I was more confident that I could handle, and I guess I was right about that. And she actually earned a Q in that run!

Oh, and we Qed in Team--but mostly not through our own efforts. More later.

Boost details

Saturday: Eed in Steeplechase and Jumpers. In Snooker, two refusal/runout messes in the opening and then I left out an obstacle in the closing. Standard: One bar and a little confusion here and there. Grand Prix, absolutely gorgeous right up to the next to the last obstacle, where I was behind her, so instead of (yes, sigh) going over the jump right in front of her, she turned around to look at me, and when she turned around again, she went past the jump. Gamblers I already mentioned above.

Sunday: Eed in Jumpers and Standard, refusals in snooker opening followed by missing hte weave entry, gamblers, lots of bobbles and a gamble that (sigh, yes) she'd have completed the last obstacle if she'd kept going instead of turning back to me, Relay I mentioned above.

Monday: Team standard and gamblers mentioned above, snooker the opening was smooth but knocked the #2 bar in the closing, Jumpers not bad but a bar down, and nice in the closing 3-dog relay.

Tika Team

There were not very many teams this weekend (at least by our local standards). Ten performance teams, only 16 or 17 championship teams.

Tika--whom I register as a Craussie (Aussie cross, ha ha?)--and her teammate Maddie entered as "Don't Get Mad, Get Craussie." Neither of us had spectacular runs in any of the four individual classes, but they were good, solid, respectable runs. Often that will win you the whole event if you don't E in relay, because other teams will crap out somewhere. So I was kind of surprised to see that we were only in 5th out of 10 teams going into the relay.

But on closer examination: While the first and second place teams had 710 and 596 points respectively, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place teams had 577.70, 577.62, and 577.39 points! Amazing--pretty rare to see points this close after combining the first 8 scores. So the 3rd-place medal was up for grabs, assuming that none of the teams Eed in the relay. All we needed was to beat the other two teams by at least .32 of a second, and we'd take 3rd.

And, Lo, as I noted above, we won won won the relay. I don't think either dog was super-fast, but we had absolutely no bobbles or faults between us and pretty good, tight turns, and other teams also had faults.

So, ta-da, we brought home bronze medals, 3rd of 10!

Team Scoring notes:

If you understand Team scoring (or don't care), you can skip this. But it is important to know this for understanding Boost's team's situation. For a team to Q, their total points over 5 events (4 individual plus relay) must be within 25% of the average of the top 3 teams. So, not only must your team do OK, but the top three teams must not do SO much better that they knock out a lot of the lower-scoring teams.

Points are gathered like this:
  • Standard: Each dog has 130 points. An E loses all 130 points. Otherwise, dog's time and faults are subtracted.
  • Jumpers: Each dog has 120 points. An E loses all 120; otherwise, time and faults subtracted.
  • Gamblers and Snooker: The judge assigns a factor for the points, usually something like 1.2. Multiply your points earned by that factor.
  • Team Relay: The team starts with 300 points (2-dog performance) or 450 points (3-dog championship). If a dog Es, subtract 150 points. Then at the end subtract the team's relay time and other faults.
In short, it's very bad to E in Standard and very very bad to E in relay. As you can tell from, for example, the close scores noted above in Tika's case going into the relay--less than a third of a second separating three teams--losing 150 points in the relay is a Really Big Deal.

Boost Team

Boost, Jersey the Border Collie mix, and Ariel the Aussie, ran as Boo-Jer-Ari...or simply Boojerari. Cool name, huh? Fun to say.

First run of the day, Boost and one teammate both E in Team Standard. Wow. That just about does us in for any hopes of Qing at all.

Team Gamblers: Boost has a pretty good score--87 points, for a 4th place in her height group. But there are probably half a dozen or more dogs with well over 100 points, and Boost's teammates score lower than that (although not terrible at all).

After the first two rounds, we are in 2nd to last place of 17 teams. Seems unlikely that we'll be able to Q.

In Jumpers, Boost has a nice run with only a bar down, and teammates I think get through without Eing. Snooker--boost knocks the #2 bar so basically we miss more than half the points that the top dogs are getting. The teammates get further than we do, and one is a pretty high score I believe.

Still, after four rounds, we've moved up only to 4th from last. Our score is 632; the highest three scores are 945, 936, 846, and so Qing range would be about 690. The 4th and 5th place teams are at 838 and 791. A quick estimate says that, IF at least 2 out of the top 3 and at least one more of the top 5 Es, we'd probably manage a Q--

that is, if the best teams are unlucky enough to E *and* we are lucky and skilled enough to NOT E. The course didn't look that hard initially, so we weren't holding out high hopes for that to happen. But then, when other teams started Eing, we weren't holding out high hopes that we'd be able to succeed where others had failed. Still, I was pretty sure I could get boost through our section...

We ran before most of the top teams, and although two of us had LOUD SCREAMING moments to keep our dogs on course, we actually made it all the way through with no faults and no Es!

Then--just like the last Team event for Boost, when we were down near the bottom but 5 out of the top 6 Ed in relay, enabling our Q--same thing happened here. We watched as our friends, classmates, agility buddies in four of the top five teams Eed.

Doesn't it feel odd to be feeling happier and happier the more your friends screw up? That's the thing I *don't* like about Snooker Super-Qs, Steeplechase, and Team: You're rooting for your friends to do badly, even if you don't really WANT to root for them to, still, your own star rises as theirs drops.

Result was that we Qed handily--and, oh by the way, took 4th in the relay. (And all but 3 teams Qed, and I think one of those was because they lost a teammate due to injury.)

So the weekend ended on a high note for both dogs.

What I Forgot

(1) Sun lotion on Monday. It was a shorter day with smaller groups of people and I was a crew chief so I had hardly a moment to do anything--ate lunch a bite at the time on the run, for example--had a hard time finding workers because of the limited pool, so spent a lot more time than usual in the sun.

Forearm tops, lower face, and neck where the polo shirt opened are burned worse than I've had in many, many years. No blistering, thank goodness. But, ouch.

(2) To take pictures. Of anything. Ever. All weekend. Too busy, and then, well, who had the energy?


  1. I havent seen anyone use "ennui" in a post in a long time. Hope you had some fun though :) Carla

  2. My dogs use french all the time. Half the time I can't understand what they're trying to say. "Wouf" or "ouah" or "oeuf" (maybe they want eggs) or "ennui", sometimes hard to tell.

    I did have fun, yes.

  3. Always good to keep up on your French, never know when those dogs will try to talk behind your back.

  4. Ouch, sunscreen is a bad thing to forget. I usually remember the first application but I'm often bad about remembering to re-apply. So many distractions at an agility trial.

  5. LOL about the eggs!!!

    Might there be something physical going on with Tika even though she's not favouring (sorry, "favoring" in American ;-) ) anything in particular? Or maybe she's just not as heat tolerant as she used to be? Either way, hope she's back to her normal self next time.

  6. @Mutts, surely either of those are possibilities as well. I should probably arrange a nice chiro visit. Dang agility expenses keep going up like that--