a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hopes Are Up

SUMMARY: A good evening in class.

I love going up in the hills to class at this time of year.

A few pointers from the instructor.

Sunset over the south Bay Area. South end of san Francisco Bay
is the light area near the horizon on the right.

The only bar that Boost knocked all evening came while I  struggled to get my handling correct for a tight backside/wrap and she pretty much crashed the jump and jump wing; not her fault. She ran fast, worked away from and ahead of me, had lovely contacts. And I mostly got to where I needed to go, but boyyyy do I need to start doing some sprints at home (have I said this before?). It felt great.

EXCEPT for the dang left turn into the weaves. Yes, her long-time bugaboo has returned in force. I finally took her off to the back field for a bit of remedial weave entries and she was starting to get it again. Otherwise, her weaves were their usual amazing speed and she stayed in them even when I moved a long way away laterally. And entrances while bearing *right* were awesome.

Tika got one practice run at 16". She's just not confident about her moves when she can't hear me, but she looked happy to be doing it, and that was the point.

Waiting our turns.

Funny things-- I hooked the Merle Girls' leashes to a pole and went to walk the first course. A minute or two later, a classmate came hurrying by with Boost pulling on her leash... Oh, no, wait, that was Boost's sister, Tcam. So funny, they pull in exactly the same way and their stance and markings are so similar.

So, halfway through the class, I finished an exercise and put Boost in a Down facing me with her back to the end of the exercise. Tcam's mom had already run Tcam, then went back a few dogs later and ran her other dog. When she finished that run, she started towards me, stopped, pointed to Boost (whose back was towards her), and said, "Is that mine or yours?" She thought she had left Tcam in that exact spot, and from behind, they are REALLY hard to tell apart! Yes, Tcam had wandered off a dozen feet or so. So clear that they are sisters! I think Boost is inspired after Tcam's amazing showing at the World championships and at the AKC nationals finals recently.

All in all, a pleasant evening, cool but not cold, good friends, the usual discussions about agility shoes (should one care more about the treads or about the fact that you can get a style that's blue and purple? Tough call), and beautiful views.

Same view, 90 minutes later

Thursday, March 21, 2013

tap--tap--Is This Thing On?

SUMMARY: I dunno, guess I've been busy with stuff other than agility lately.

Feels somewhat as if I'm working towards easing out of dog agility. I don't have much lately to say that's related to dog agility, and the whole purpose of this blog was to capture my training work, my competition experiences, my failures and successes and dogs dogs dogs. So somehow it feels odd to just ramble on about unrelated things or post photos of random topics.

Random topics around downtown San Jose

And, in case those weren't random enough--

I couldn't actually bear to wait two months between trials, so at the last minute, I entered both dogs in *one* day of a CPE trial out in Turlock. I had two goals:
  • Practice just RUNNING with Boost, not stopping, not going back for stuff that we missed or trying to Q.
  • Run Tika in a couple of classes at 16" and see how she looks and whether she likes it.
Mixed success on the first count--once, I forgot my goal and as usual stopped when she ran by a jump; on a couple of occasions, she ended up in front of me facing me, so it's hard to keep running full-speed in that case. She actually had a lovely Full House run, high scoring, but she knocked the wrong bar in my plan and I forgot to go back and take a critical obstacle, so tons of points but no Q.

For Full House with Tika, I just picked a course that didn't have tight turns, weaves, or the dogwalk in it, didn't bother counting points, just wanted to run and have a good time. Turns out that we accidentally had just enough points to Q, which was our collective only Q of the entire day-- 1 out of 7 runs. That has got to be my lowest-Qing CPE trial Ev-Er but since that wasn't my goal, I didn't mind so much.

Tika indeed ran nicely--obvious still that she doesn't hear me clearly or trust to get ahead of me where she can't see what I'm doing (turns back to check), but her eyes were bright and she was fast and she grabbed my feet at the end, which is a sure sign of Tika pleasure.

So I've started running her in class a couple of runs a night at 16" after 3 months of no runs.

And I've entered her in one class at day in Veterans 16" at the next USDAA trial.

So funny to have my big girl who used to jump 26" jumping only 16",  but I think it's much better for her than the 20-22" she's been jumping for the last 3 1/2 years, and she has looked like she wanted to participate when I've run Boost, so now she can. She sure looked comfortable and natural doing it.

Photo by Carlene Chandler

Her stamina is low, but then, so is mine--I'm just not getting out much or doing much. Sometimes I'm really tired. The counter to that is that I've got a contract that I'm really enjoying for work, but with one thing and another, it's taking more of my time and attention.  Have done 6-mile hikes in the hills the last 2 weekends, but with so little keeping in shape, they were quite hard for me. And for Tika, too, I think.

Hiking at Almaden Quicksilver
Hounds Tongue (seems appropriate)

 Foundations of the old pump house for the mines

Hiking at Santa Teresa
A peek at San Jose over the edge of the hill--
there were deer, too, but they didn't stick around for 5 dogs.
 Mount Umunhum with Cold War radar tower in the distance
Photo by Lisa Williams
 Coyote Valley section of San Jose, with Santa Teresa Golf Course below us
 California poppies and California gilia

We've walked over to the park to do frisbee on occasion, but less often than we had been for a little while.
Boost waits for us to catch up.

At the park.

Rambling on.  Not sure that I even have solid goals now in agility. I'd really still like to eventually get Boost's two Snooker Super-Qs for her ADCH, but except for occasional spurts of enthusiasm, I mostly have gotten to where I don't feel that I care that much any more. Mostly in the yard we play *around* the agility equipment, although I keep making Boost do jumps to get the toy instead of running around them all the time.

So--on I go, doing whatever it is that I do, and the dogs are bored a lot. Poor suffering dogs.

Bored-est Collie Boost's artistic output using cardboard and pinecones.

Ahhhh, retirement.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

An Opportunity to Expand One's Horizons

SUMMARY: Dog agility blog event: Internationalization.

Today is one of those occasional days when "dog agility bloggers around the world ... join together ... to write on interesting and helpful topics for dog agility enthusisiasts." Read more about the group.

Today's topic is "Internationalization," and by the end of the day there should be a huge collection of posts on internationalization for you to browse.

Our fearless organizer, Steve S., says "This topic is about whatever it means to *you*." What it means to me: The chance to stretch one's education.

Early in my agility career (a lonnnng time ago), I naively suggested to my agility instructor that agility needed more kinds of obstacles because, after all, once you've learned to do a jump, what else is there to know? Now, of course, I know painfully well that fabulously interesting and challenging courses can be built with our increasingly limited set of obstacles. Some of that comes from the expansion of agility throughout the world--the more people and organizations involved in keeping handlers and dogs challenged, the more things we discover about what's possible.

Recently I've seen more courses like none I've ever seen before, built with nothing more than jumps.

And speaking of jumps-- (do you like that segue?)--

I like international agility because it prompts us to learn more about the rest of the world in general. Thanks to master jump builder Jim Basic, we learn some every week in class as Nancy Gyes and Jim instruct us to "Start at Brazil, take the back side of Germany, rear cross Japan..."  (See some photos of their jumps in the slide show on their web site.) Here are some tidbits to go along with the color:

Flag of ArgentinaArgentina: Bay Teamer and world team member Silvina Bruera came to California from Argentina in South America, which is the 7th-largest country in area and the largest Spanish-speaking country. The name "Argentina" is derived from the Latin argentum ("silver") because the first Spanish conquerors arrived following rumors of the existence of silver mountains (which don't actually exist). Until the mid-20th century, English speakers often called it "the Argentine", which sounds more exotic and adventurous--"I've competed in agility in the Argentine--"
Flag of BrazilBrazil: This is the fifth largest country in the world, occupying most of central and eastern South America, with the world's 7th-largest GDP. It's the only country in the Americas where the primary language is Portuguese. The word "Brazil" comes from brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast and that produces a red dye also known as also known as "Natural Red 24." At the first USDAA Nationals I attended, in southern California, I remember Brazil as being one of the few other countries to send a team, some of whom made it into the final round and were loudly cheered.
Canadian FlagCanada: Canada is the world's 2nd-largest country in total area--but only 4th largest if you don't count the huge expanses of water within its borders. The country's name comes from "kanata", an Iroquoian word meaning "village." (Iroquois are a league of several indigenous matriarchal tribes living in southeastern Canada and northeastern U.S.) Norsemen briefly colonized Newfoundland around 1000 A.D., and that was it for Europeans for another 500 years. Canadian agility organizations (or should that be organisations) and U.S. organizations closely parallel each other, and plenty of high-quality agility competitors and gurus come from Canada, despite all that snow, eh? ohhhh nooo I'm missing a photo of the Canada jump! Will have to remedy that.
France: Per Wikipedia, "the name France comes from the Latin Francia, which means 'country of the Franks'. There are various theories as to the origin of the name of the Franks. One is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. Another proposed etymology is that in an ancient Germanic language, Frank means free as opposed to slave." Nearly 20% of the territory of France lies outside Europe. In France, dog agility is called simply "L'agility" (the agility), as in, "This weekend, I'm doing the agility, merci, ooh-la-la, cherchez la chien."
Germany: There is no law regulation on the exact color shades of the German flag, so there may be differences from one flag to the next. The name "Germania" appears as early as 200 B.C. in Roman texts--possibly meaning simply "related tribes", as in related to, but different from, the Gauls (in France). The standard German language is closely related to English and Dutch. Beethoven and Einstein were German, although it is not known whether they did dog agility.
Japan: The Japanese characters that make up this country's name mean "sun-origin"--hence, "Land of the Rising Sun." Japan is an archipelago of--holy contact zone, Batman!-- 6,852 islands! Hmm, possibly island-hopping led to agility-jumping. Makes sense to me. Japanese teams attending the USDAA Cynosports World Championships are always cheerful, excited, involved, well-coordinated, and successful. Japanese team and their decorations, 2007 at Scottsdale:

Norway: This country's motto is "Alt for Norge," meaning "Everything for Norway." Their anthem is "Yes, we love this country." Isn't that sweet? No battle anthems for them! It's generally believed that the country's name comes from the Old Norse "nor veg", meaning "northern route/way." Norway doesn't allow dogs' tails to be docked and, in fact, won't even allow them to come into the country from outside, which caused ruckus in the international community when they held the world championships and a couple of champions from other countries couldn't compete. The term for agility in Norway is simply "agility," and Wikipedia says this about that: "Ordet agility kommer fra engelsk språk og betyr «evne til å bevege seg hurtig, smidig og lett». Det har sin opprinnelse i det latinske agilis som på norsk finnes i ordet agere, å handle eller å gjøre." So there.uh-oh, missing this one, too.

Spain: There are four official languages in Spain (Castilian, Catalan, Basque, and Galician), three unofficial regional languages (Asturian, Aragonese, and Aranese), and several more dialects of these (Andalucian, Valencian...). Despite all these rich vocabularies, no one really knows where the name Hispania (from which Spain is derived) originates. It might derive from the Greek poetic use of Hesperia, in one sense meaning "land of the setting sun." Looks like Japan and Spain have the whole day surrounded.   Another scholar, per wikipedia, "argues that the root of the term span is the Phoenecian word spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged"." I wonder whether it's the land where dog agility jumps are forged?

Sweden:  15% of Sweden is north of the Arctic Circle; however, thanks to the Gulf Stream, it's much warmer and drier than other countries at the same latitude. "Sweden" comes from an Old English word meaning "land of the Swedes." The Swedish name for the country, "Svierge," means "Kingdom of the Swedes." No one seems to know what "Swedes" were. Sweden has been at peace, avoiding war, for 200 years. Does that include discussions about the worth of various agility handling systems?

United States of America: The country's name comes from "United," meaning "united," and "States," meaning "states." There's a nice round 50 states in the U.S., as the stars on the flag indicate. However, that hasn't always been the case--the 13 stripes represent the initial 13 colonies who founded the U.S.  Some of the interesting states are: California. Which is where I live, and which is a hotbed of dog agility. The first California Grizzly Bear flag appeared in 1846; the species was hunted to extinction in the state in 1922.  Interesting facts about some other states: There are no poisonous snakes in Maine. [OK, really, there are 50 states! And they are all interesting! I have been to about 45 of them, so I can vouch for that! Go see all their flags on Wikipedia!]

Note: Flags referenced to images on Wikimedia Commons. I had some trouble with their automatically generated HTML for images, so some images link directly back to the source and others don't.