a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: The End of a Four--no, Three-Day Weekend

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The End of a Four--no, Three-Day Weekend

SUMMARY: Some items accomplished, some not.
I have so much to say that it's hard to know where to start. But I want to be concise, too. Been thinking about it for 24 hours now, and my list gets longer, not shorter. I guess I just need to plunge in and blather on. It's just going to be long. Skim and read as the mood strikes you, or just look at the happy photos.

We had some successes and some--well, failures--of one sort or another.

Weather and Camping Out

The weather wasn't bad at all; mostly pretty good agility weather, actually. Every day started with frost on the grass but warmed fairly quickly. Thursday afternoon warmed up enough that, if you were running a dog and in the sun, you wanted to take off your fleece, but the chilly wind made you put it back on quickly as soon as you stopped moving or went into the shade. After we were done for the day, the beautiful puffy white clouds turned into dark ominous clouds and, despite the no-rain forecast, we had maybe half an hour of off-and-on light showers, which made for this:

I was pretty wiped and a little queasy after the usual 4-a.m. rousing and drive out, 6 runs with each dog, and so on. Went out to dinner with friends, which was fun and tasty, but by the time the meal was over, I was drooping so badly that I decided I couldn't face 45 minutes of setting up MUTT MVR for sleeping, so investigated the Best Western where a bunch of others were staying.

They had only some rooms available by 9:30 p.m.: Suites starting at $125 a night and smoking rooms at $85. Plus taxes and $15 pet fee. Since I wanted only to sleep, shower, and leave, the suite seemed stupid. I waffled over the smoking room, though--I've had some pretty bad nights in smoky rooms. The more I waffled, the more she lowered the price, till I paid $70/night plus taxes and the pet fee. So $100 I hadn't budgeted for, but better than the original quote.

The room wasn't too horrible--I've spent  nights in nonsmoking rooms that I thought were as bad. It was spacious, had a comfortable king-sized bed, and all the faucets and lights worked.

Felt much better Friday morning. Still frost in the morning, but warmed up more than Thursday. I set up MUTT MVR and slept VERY soundly Friday night after a spontaneous potluck with generous friends, to which I had nothing to contribute since I'd planned on going out to eat.

Saturday started with frost again, but warmed up even more to shirtsleeve weather by midday. By dinnertime, though, when we had pizza brought in for our Bay Team quarterly meeting at 6:00, the chill crept in again. So--hold that point in the calendar--


Tika seemed pretty happy and healthy most of the time. She did her "hug" stretch before almost every run, where she puts her front feet up on my chest and stretches everything out. If she's hurtin', she won't do that. The last couple of runs on Saturday, she didn't do it right away or fully at first, and I thought, hmmm... but then she did it fully.

We definitely connected better than under the arena at Santa Rosa, but still had enough miscues and oddities that made me more and more aware that I can't expect her to do what she's always done.  I can point to most of them as a hearing and/or vision issue (I'm still not positive one way or the other about the latter). It's frustrating to assume that she'll just do the things she's always done and then she doesn't.

Like Saturday's gamble, which I thought was a complete gimmee for her, and she sent out beautifully but then on the turn to the Aframe, while I yelled "climb! climb!", she just kept coming towards me, not very fast, looking at me uncertainly. It made me sad, and then she didn't grab my shoes afterwards, either, so she wasn't feeling her cheery best. That's just one example.

Sure, we were never perfect in USDAA, but had held a pretty constant 65% Q average for a few years, and that average is just dropping. She Qed 4 out of 6 on Thursday, 3 out of 6 on Friday, and 2 out of 6 on Saturday, so we weren't getting any better with experience. So--hold that point in the calendar--

Tika Performance Team

What also made me sad was that she had four very nice runs in the DAM individual events. I was pleased with all of them, and yet she earned a Q in only one. Part of the problem was that there were only 6 dogs in her height class, so we combined with the 16" dogs. Between Chaps in our height and Epic and Heath in 16" (and a couple of other really awesome younger performance 16" dogs as well), between them usually having not only among the highest scores in Performance but in Championship, too, Tika's very good scores didn't Q. (Individual Qs are based on being within 15% of the average of the top 3.) What was really frustrating was that her scores *would* have been Qing in any of the Championship classes!

So I could pass it off as bad luck that there were only 6 in our class rather than 7 or that all the best Performance dogs happened to be there that weekend, but still, she's not usually had problems Qing in Team individual events before. And, in 5 of the last 11 team events, we have had to combine Tika's height with the 16", so there's every expectation that this experience could happen again.

Chaps had his usual consistently high scores, so as a team we were doing really well.

The club split team into 2 days, which makes me nuts, especially when it's such an important Q (our Platinum Tournament), so I had to sleep on the stress of hoping that we'd finally get that last Team Q needed for that title, after December's disaster, and the next team not until July.

After the first class on Thursday, Chaps and Tika were in 3rd place out of 18 teams. After next class, we moved into 1st place and stayed there after the 3rd and 4th classes, too--but, going into the relay on Friday afternoon, we were a mere 5 points (or 5 seconds) out of about 700 beyond both the 2nd and 3rd place teams--so close out of all those points! We couldn't slack off at all if we wanted to hold our 1st place.

But to me, at that moment, THE most important thing was not Eing so that we would Q. At that point, we probably would've still Qed if either of us had Eed in the relay, but not certain about that--it's a huge penalty in the relay.

One of the two teams had a refusal on the weaves and had to redo, so that moved took them out of contention for the top two spots. Chaps had a clean first half. I wanted to lead out rather than run off the line with Tika to avoid any possible off course or faults, so I walked calmly and quietly to position before releasing Tika. She had a really nice run, but that calm leadout cost us--with our final total score of 896.61 points for the 5 runs, we were 1.5 points (seconds) exactly *behind* the other team. So--

2nd place out of 18 Performance team, which I'm quite pleased about, considering how good & fast the other teams were.

And, most importantly, Tika's Performance platinum tournament! Thank goodness that's out of the way! More fun than that--that was also Chap's Performance gold tournament title! What a combo!

And a relief that last December's disaster was just a fluke due to Tika's hearing in the Santa Rosa arena.

No more team? Less agility?

Still, I'm thinking that if she can't Q in the individual events, there's no reason for me to be running her in team any more. Except that I promised our old partner Brenn to do July team for old time's sake, since Brenn's arthritis seems to have eased a bit.

We had our moments--she placed 2nd in Round 1 Steeplechase even though it had 2 sets of weaves and she looked so slow!, and placed 2nd in the final round also, which ALSO had 2 sets of weaves, but she misread a rear cross (or I was too far behind--I'd been worried about that spot before we ran) and we missed 1st place by 0.5 seconds. But that's because one of the very fast younger dogs scratched, another popped out of the weaves, and Chaps scratched, so just by not Eing we'd have been guaranteed at least 3rd.

She Qed easily in both regular Jumpers rounds, although only placing 4th of 7 and 2nd of 5.

And she won Thursday's Standard and Friday's Gamblers.

But our failures when we didn't Q seemed much larger and much more different than what we'd failed on in the past. Much puzzlement on my part on how to manage this deafened dog and much puzzlement on her part as to why I'm not telling her what she needs to know.

So I'm thinking that we're closer than I thought to not doing much agility.


On the up side:
  • Weaves: We did 20 sets in 18 runs, including Friday's gamble, two in Thursday's Snooker, two sets in Steeplechase, several situations where I wanted to move far away laterally, several challenging entrances, and so on, and she nailed almost every entry and stayed in almost all. Exceptions: Coming out of a chute to a right turn to the weaves, I called her hard and overcalled her; tried a challenging serp in Team Relay and she cut behind me; and then, jeez, the easiest ones: back to back weaves in a gamblers *opening*, where I did NOT cut away and was right with her, she popped out twice in a row(!) but then got them both the next 2 tries. Those great, fast, accurate weaves made me very happy.
  • She did all her contacts beautifully! No coming off the side, no leaving early! Yowza!
  • Table in standard: Thursday's and Friday's were fast downs and she stayed down; Saturday's was a fast down, one elbow came up briefly but went back down when I reminded her. That's excellent, also.
  • Serpentines: I dared two or three since we've been practicing them, and she actually came in! Must keep working on it, though, as they weren't completely smooth.
  • Team: Wow, she did not E or crap out on any one of her five team events, which has got to be a first for her! She even earned a Q in the gamblers, and she hardly ever Qs in team events. Furthermore, none of her teammates (Jersey and Rift) Eed or crapped out in anything, either, and much to our delight and amazement, we finished 4th of 20 teams! That's the highest I've ever placed in Championship team (although Tika has placed in the top 3 several times in Performance team). Yowza.
Not so good:
  • Bars. It wasn't a bar-knocking frenzy, but they came down at a fairly regular rate. I might count later, but I'd guess at least 10 bars out of 18 runs.
  • Refusals and runouts. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Lots.
What we really needed:
  • Jumpers: Thursday--knocked the 2nd bar, came in past a jump after a tunnel (I might have called too hard but she just skimmed the edge of it so it would've almost been easier to take it); didn't go forward to a jump that I really needed her to, so Eed on refusals. Friday (team jumpers), two refusals that were mostly my fault--I checked out on a front cross and tried a rear which is her nemesis and she just stopped, then another when I briefly forgot the course. (But she kept up all her bars.) Saturday: I think one bar down, one refusal that I fixed, and another on a rear cross where she just kept looking at me until she was right in front of the jump and stopped. I made her just jump it and then walked off.
  • Snooker: Thursday (team): not too bad, got through 7-7-7-3 in the opening and through 5 in the closing but I missed a front cross again and when I tried to rear she ran past the next jump. Friday: Ran past the first red when I tried a lead-out pivot, so bobbling to get back to it. Couldn't have asked for a smoother course on which to do three 7s except that she chose *this* time to go completely straight instead of curving slightly to follow me (and for a change I was way ahead of her, so no excuse!) and went off course right away. Saturday: A twisty ugly course that the smoothest thing I could find with hopes of a superQ involved 10 front crosses. She ran past a couple of jumps anyway that I had to go back and get--mangled our way through the opening four reds and obstacles, but when we had to go around one jump she started paying more attention to me than to the obstacles and we futzed out on several stupid attempts at the next two jumps.


My knee was holding up OK, but feeling worse gradually. I iced it only once--seemed like there was never time when it was convenient to spend 15 minutes doing it. My own speed and agility in the ring is DEFINITELY helped by making sure that I can jog and sprint before I get the dog out to compete, but it was taking more and more steps of each for me to loosen up as the weekend went on. And I still get winded when there's a lot of running.

 By the time I walked the last regular class on Saturday--Jumpers--my legs were so tired that I walked it only a couple of times and then peeled off so I'd have enough energy left to actually run it. Walking the Steeplechase finals (for Tika) after that, I really didn't even want to be walking, I was that tired.  Now hold that point in time...

Friday evening, vet Cindi massaged Tika and Boost--she's worked on them before, so knows them a bit--because I was still concerned about the limps I'd seen the last couple of weeks from Boost, and although tika seemed OK, she's just older and arthritic.  Another $130 that I hadn't budgeted for, didn't know she was going to be there but was glad to be able to use her servies.

Sure enough, she identified Boost's right hip socket as being sore. NOthing that she'd recommend not running Boost, but enough to keep an eye on and maybe do less of everything that we usually do for a while to rest it. And Tika's left side was pretty tight and resisting; her toes were quite stiff but loosened up with the massage (and she showed me how to work on them).

Then by midday Saturday I was detecting a very slight limp on some occasions with Boost, so it was coming and going almost imperceptibly. For that last Jumpers run, Tika started out very slowly on the first four obstacles,  and I thought she was done, but she picked up. I warmed her up a lot more for her final Steeplechase and she looked ok, but oh, she's SOOOO stiff in the weaves these days!

And we arrive at Saturday evening

Everything just added up to this point in time, late afternoon Saturday--overly tired physically, a little discouraged, wondering whether my dogs had reached their saturation point, regretting having entered Sunday also.

Sure, there was another Jumpers and another Snooker, which was the whole reason I entered Sunday, but our performances had been so crapped in all three tries at each so far, there was no reason to think that Sunday would suddenly be THE jumpers and THE snooker we'd been waiting for.

So, late that afternoon, I decided that we were done. It was a great relief once I made the decision, and it gave me the energy to spend 90 minutes packing everything up after the Bay Team meeting, although I wasn't glad to finish packing and then driving the 2 hours home after dark.

Startled my renter, coming in just before 11 p.m.--can't remember when the last time was that I came home early from a trial, but I think it's been years and years. Pottied the dogs and went straight to bed. Didn't regret at all not being there today. Oh, well--except that one other friend who's been trying forever to get a Super-Q got it today. So, well, MAYBE that WOULD have been THE Snooker... But probably not.

Being at home and in my own bed is a nice feeling, and the stress, thrills, spills, and chills of competition are a nice thing to get a break from. Remind me if I ever try to sign up for 4 days of agility again that I've been down this path several times and should know better.

1 comment:

  1. Hey wow, lots of successes there with Boost on the weaves, contacts, AND serpentines!

    Good for you for deciding to leave on Saturday. I know what you mean -- hard to make that kind of decision, but once it's made, it feels great.

    Weaves must be the hardest obstacle... even watching young, fit dogs in slow motion it seems incredible that they're able to twist and bend that way at all. Walter says the weaves should be banned completely and forever!

    Congrats again on Tika's title. She and Chaps sure make a cute team.