Monday, September 27, 2010

Portland Agility Club, Day 2, September 2010

Day two of the trial was wet - but not tons cooler. In fact, by midday it was humid. None the less, it was better agility weather for Vegas than the previous day had been. The run order was tall to small for Sunday, but both rings were running FAST first, a class we were not entered into. So, it was still 10:30 or so until our first run. In the meantime we got to watch Lindsay/Heffner and Rachel/Harry Potter run their FAST classes. Both of them completely rocked their courses so that made for a great start to the day.

When Excellent FAST was done they set the course for Standard. We walked the course and analyzed it for trouble spots. All said and done, the course was nice although I disliked the 180-degree turn out of a u-shaped tunnel into the chute for obvious reasons. The most troublesome spot I identified was the entry into the weaves and successful completion based upon them being preceeded by the a-frame. Vegas tends to launch up out of the tunnels and also launches up and off the a-frame, too, which tends to give her more speed. Speed is great - having her head in the clouds is not so much. Knowing that ahead of time, I was prepared to manage it. However, I still have yet to identify what I did. Craig says I hesitated ever so briefly when she entered the weaves which caused her to lose confidence and look up at me. I've watched the video and I don't see it but I wouldn't be surprised if a slight shock caused my step to falter and throw her off. After all, we really needed this leg and she had done what I needed - hit her entry right on. Regardless, we had a refusal and had to start the weaves again. Even at that, she was under time by a couple of seconds and I was impressed with her overall performance. Can't fault her for handler issues.
Her reward of the day was string cheese so she was thrilled. Such a good girl - you can just see how happy she is doing agility. I'm so proud of Vegas for all her accomplishments. She shows me with every run how much love she has and that she would run her heart out for me.

Next up and about an hour or so later was our JWW run. The course was quite tight with boxes of jumps. Nonetheless, it was completely doable. It just didn't allow for any relaxation until the run was complete. Here is how it turned out:
This leads me into a very important topic - stretching your dog. I usually do a variety of stretches with Vegas at the beginning of each trial day. They include stretching each leg, her back, her neck, and flexing her ribcage/core section. I neglected to stretch Vegas' back yesterday - a very big mistake. Notice in her JWW run the missed weave pole. I saw it as we were running the course and thought it very strange and almost had to hold my breath thinking I'd imagined it. Of course when her exit from the poles was in the wrong position, I knew for certain. This is very unlike Vegas. In fact, even when learning weaves she never missed a pole. After talking the run over with Rachel, we checked Vegas over. Her back is out of alignment, so to speak. She has a "hot spot" in the central portion of her back and is very touchy. I cannot explain how bad I felt. This was all my fault. Vegas gives me her all and I let her down. Notice that even after the weave pole mistake she gave me everything she has.

For the next week or so she is going to be on a strict regimen of stretching, massage, ice, and using Body Sore, an herbal supplement to help her. We have a trial next weekend so hopefully she will be back on top and ready to go. I'm going to create a more in-depth posting in the next couple of days regarding stretching and will hopefully be able to include some pictures, too, that depict our usual routine. In the meantime, I strongly suggest that anyone who does any significant activity with their dog learn to stretch them properly. They can't do it themselves and the only way they can tell us afterward is through injury. Injury for negligence is unfair to our dogs.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Portland Agility Club, Day 1, September 2010

Today we attended the Portland Agility Club's September AKC trial at Clark County Fairgrounds. Of course arriving at the crack of dawn and running a giant dog, it meant multiple trips back and forth from the truck hauling things in. Fortunately I had my pumpkin spice latte and was ready to go. Our friend, Rachel, and her Boxer, Harry Potter, were up from the Cottage Grove/Springfield area to run with us at this venue for the first time. It was pretty chilly this morning and I started having my doubts about the weather forecast. The weathermen were calling for low 80s but it was definitely sweatshirt material first thing. Thankfully it wasn't so cold I was worrying about keeping Vegas warm, however.

I worked the first couple of Fast classes to pass the time as we were running small to tall today. Being in Excellent for both Standard and JWW, it was unfortunate that Standard was running first in one ring and JWW was running last in the other. It meant we had to be there for most of the day and didn't even get our first run in until almost 1pm. By then I had to warm Vegas up and be concerned about overheating her. One thing I love at this venue during warm weather is the horse wash area. There's a hose and plenty of cool water to wet Vegas down to lower her temperature and keep her comfortable. All told today, I ended up wetting her down twice between her Standard and JWW run which were about 90 minutes apart.

The courses and judges were really nice today. Unfortunately the surface was not. The arena gets used for a ton of events from horses to dogs to motorcycles. Apparently the venue had recently had a motorcycle event hosted there and when PAC members arrived Thursday to begin preparing for the trial they discovered the surface packed solid and cracked as if it were concrete. Obviously not good. They contacted the fairgrounds and work began to correct the problem. They worked until after midnight and helped to correct the problem. Too bad they didn't have more time though because the surface we had to run on today caused a lot of people to slip and fall or nearly do so. It was very rocky, pebbly with large, rounded chunks of dirt across the top surface. As Rachel and I walked our courses and watched others run, we became very grateful for our agility shoes because it would give us a lot better traction and grip to avoid falling.

Our first course at nearly 1 o'clock was Standard. The judge was Don Farange, a judge I had never met before but whom I had the opportunity to chat with briefly while attempting to get Leo's first temporary measurement done this morning. The biggest challenge for this course other than the footing/surface of the ring today was a couple of jump discriminations. Otherwise the course flowed, ran smooth, and presented no ugly spots that were hard on Vegas' body. The biggest issue I saw in watching others was the weave entry. Even with Vegas' large stride, I would have had to hustle to get a front cross in and send her into the weaves at an angle I was comfortable with. It was a big gamble but I walked it from both sides. I also walked it the way I ultimately ran it and also tried a front cross after the weaves to put me on the right side into the subsequent jumps. See for yourself how it turned out....

Our JWW course was also nice. It almost seemed to easy to be true. The lines were nice and straight. There weren't sharp turns, and there were only 19 obstacles. Oh, and the weave entry was straight on. Like many things, looks can be deceiving. The hitch in our giddyup, as they say, was the simplicity of the triple jump next to the tunnel. Although the triple fell into a nice flow following two single jumps, the second of those jumps was angled just enough for the dog to see the tunnel entrance. Some people tried handling from the outside of those three jumps. I knew that it would completely throw me off down the way to do so plus it just made sense for me to be on the inside based upon Vegas' pace and our way of working. For all my awareness about that jump, however, I neglected to tell Vegas what I wanted clearly enough early enough. Therefore we slightly crowded each other as we approached the triple and ended up with a single knocked bar on the triple - an automatic NQ. As Rachel said, "She was home in on that tunnel and you were late telling her to go to the triple." Yep, I sure was. Bummer. No MACH points today.

Considering the sudden heat of today and the fact that what happened in JWW was my fault, it was a good day. Fifty percent is a higher average than AKC would like for Qs plus our results equated to a second leg toward our AX title and that was important. We're hoping for a double Q tomorrow so that we walk away with more MACH points and a finished AX title. The benefit there, of course, will be that when we run, we have a chance in both runs each day to qualify and earn MACH points.

Speaking of MACH points, the AKC has been slow (very!) getting trial data entered and updated. I've been waiting for our Labor Day trial for what seems forever and the crux of it being that the last day updated was 9/4 for the past three or four days. Well, they finally got through 9/5 and show Vegas having 14 MACH points. She actually has 21 right now but they'll show that when they finish that weekend and get through 9/6. But, here is what I saw that is kind of cool although I know we won't be going to the invitational next year since it's being held in the East Coast region.
Alrighty, so that's day 1 and we have tomorrow to go. On top of being cooler tomorrow, our friends, Lindsay and Heffner, will be there tomorrow, too, so we get to have double the fun - and Danes - running.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catch-Up Time

Things have been a bit hectic lately. Since school started I have felt like a ping pong ball most evenings. I come home from work to take one kid to football, pick another up from another school, take him home, sometimes run errands, go get the other one, come home to make dinner, and am up way too late getting other things done - and wishing I had way more energy and hours in the day. But, I'm trying to make a dedicated effort to consistently get the training done with the dogs I need to. For Vegas that means working on cardio as well as regular stretching and mental exercises.

So, over the last couple of weeks we've done some bike rides, long walks with some jogging thrown in, and are continuing to do so. Plus, when the weather or time prohibits me getting the dogs out for real physical exercise, we're continuing to do nose work. I have to say that is going very well for Vegas. She's really keen on it and I can practically see her mind work. Just the other night she was able to locate several stashes of cheese all over the downstairs of our house including balanced on the light-switch, on the windowsill, and tucked at the base of the stair railing/banister.

Last weekend (9/18-19) was a trial that I was working that I did not enter Vegas. I did bring her Sunday, but Saturday she and Leo were home alone for a number of hours. Bringing her Sunday meant she got very muddy and was mostly bored, but it was a good lesson in patience and of course she got loved all over. One thing that was super cool, though, was that we got to try out a new jump we hadn't seen before. It was a brick wall jump used in the jumpers course. The judge was really cool with letting us go out and play before we picked up equipment in the second ring for the day as well as letting all competitors and non-entered dogs try the wall jump since we had likely never seen one before. It looked something like this (all brick though - no wings):
Of course Vegas didn't bat an eye. LOL. She takes most things in stride and was just excited to get to participate. Silly girl.

The next two weekends we have AKC agility trials and I'm excited for a couple of reasons. 1) They're local - within about an hour, one north and one south. 2) Lots of our friends are going to be there! Lindsay is entered with Heffner; Rachel is entered with Harry Potter; Linda is entered with Zena; Julie is entered with Kado; and Craig will be there with his Dobermans, Risty, Tristan, and the wild child, Kibi. 3) We have three legs left to earn our MXJ and two legs left for our AX. I would love to think Vegas could get at least one of those titles over the next two weekends.

Of course I should be able to have some video and post trial recap including course maps and analysis. I'm definitely going to need the agility stuff over the next couple weeks as a positive and distraction. Work is a bit nuts with some huge projects in the work plus I am having some employee problems that I have to deal with that I can't go into right now. So, the dogs are my outlet in between bouncing around like a ping pong ball for kids and football. But I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

AKC Regulation Changes - Big Dog Friendly

As time goes on I learn more about how things work in the AKC and other dog organizations. In July this year the AKC board met and made some sigificant rule changes that affected agility dogs. For giant dogs, this was a grand day. As I mentioned in my last post, the rule changes started to go into effect September 1. Here is a summary of the big changes that I was excited about:

1) A maximum of two tunnels may be used per course.
Tunnels are roughly 24" in diameter. As an example, Vegas is 32.5" at the withers. Getting into and going through a tunnel is a significant act of fitness for giant breed dogs. While AKC does not pose the rigors that other venues may with a limited number of runs per weekend (2-3 possible entries versus up to 5 a day in CPE), tunnels are still hard on the body. In talking with an AKC representative a while back, I did inquire into larger tunnels. She told me that the AKC had inquired; however, the cost of custom made larger tunnels was too prohibitive for clubs. Therefore, this rule change came about as a compromise.
Photo Compliments of Nina's Photograpy
2) Only the down contact is judged for the a-frame and dog walk.
For the most part this was not an issue for us - surprisingly. However, I know some dogs had to adjust their stride to the point of a change in gait or change in lead to make sure they touched the contact on the way up. Most competitors were pleased that up contacts are no longer required. Personally I believe the down contact is harder on a giant breed dog's body, and even some of the smaller but fast breeds. After all, with momentum behind them coming to a stop at that angle, there is potential for strain on the body. The down contact rule, of course, was put into place to prevent dogs from bailing off too soon and risking other injury such as broken bones.
3) There is no longer a down or sit criteria for the pause table.
This was one of the most exciting rule changes to me. The table is 36" square. The body of a giant dog (E.g. Vegas) is at least that long and then you add in a reasonably comfortable bend of the leg and it truly becomes a production to lay down on the pause table. My understanding of the pause table is that it serves to ensure control within the run. I am okay with that. But this change not only resulted in less frustration for us this weekend, it saved us an average of 5-10 seconds that it would take for me to get Vegas to sit or down. As an example, our standard run on Saturday was 11 seconds under course time. We've been under course time previously but never more than a couple two or three seconds. Eleven was an amazing number and I am so relieved for this change. Of course handlers can continue to request a specific position from the dog on the table, but it is no longer required. I had thought about requesting a sit but then Vegas has to take that extra second to get up. For now, we'll stick with a stand and that five-second countdown begins the "second" all four feet are on the table.
4) A 180 degree turn from the exit of a tunnel to the ascent of the a-frame is not allowed.
This is a really big deal, one I hadn't given a lot of thought until our last CPE trial and some of our recent practices where this situation was occuring regularly. It is extremely hard on any dog's body to take the a-frame from a stand still. Some simply can't do it and risk strains to their joints, tendons, and muscles as they try to leverl themselves up using only upper body strength. I am glad the AKC regonizes this and has disallowed this course sequence from this point forward.
5) 2.9 yards per second plus 5 seconds for the pause table (standard course) and 3.55 yards per second (jumpers course).
There's pretty much nothing to say about this one but "YAHOO!" Okay, so yes it means the super fast dogs that compete in our height category (Dobermans) still get the same advantage. However, it also means we have the potential to qualify more often and earn more MACH points on qualifying runs. According to an instructor of ours, this can result in a 2 to 5 second advantage depending upon the course. I know for a fact we saw a difference already. As I noted above, we finished our qualifying Excellent A standard run in 11 seconds under course time. We also earned 5 and 7 points for two separate JWW runs under the new rules whereas previously we had "maxed out" at 4. The YPS minimums were adjusted for Novice and Open level teams as well.

All in all, our first weekend under the new rules was a positive one. I am planning on writing a letter to the CPE organization in regard to their rules in hopes of getting them to look at some of these changes and consider some modification for the safety and well-being of giant breed competitors. In the meantime, I'm even more pleased to be competing in AKC agility as I feel they really are taking into consideration all competitors and the safety concerns and physical constraints herein. Thank you, AKC!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Evergreen Golden Retriever Club AKC Agility Trial, Labor Day Weekend

This Labor Day Argus Ranch and the Evergreen Golden Retriever Club hosted a four-day AKC agility trial. We were entered Saturday through Monday. Based upon typical traffic heading north during rush hour with a holiday thrown in, I opted not to drive up Friday night. My youngest son was going with me, too, since his brother would be at the Dave Matthews Band concert at the Gorge Amphitheater with his aunt. So when I got off work Friday we packed the truck, had dinner, and got the rest of things packed and ready. That included some super fun Great Dane t-shirts that Zach and I wore but that also kept me up a bit later than I wanted to be. The alarm went off at 2am on Saturday morning and up and at em' we were, hitting the road at the incredibly insane hour of 3 am. After a quick coffee stop about 30 minutes south of Tacoma, we arrived at Argus Ranch at 6:30 am Saturday.

We were entered in Open Fast, Excellent A Standard, and Excellent B JWW for both Saturday and Sunday. This was a two ring trial and our judges were Lavonda Herring and Edith Allyn. The order we ran in ended up being Fast around 8:30 am then JWW around 12:30 followed by Standard at 4:30 or so. That made for an extremely long day and a tired dog.

I'd made the decision a few months back not to worry about Fast too much. I don't really plan on entering it too often and wasn't sure why I did in this case. However, I don't throw in the towel as a rule going in. I just don't put a lot of stock or worry into succeeding. I map a plan and use the course to warm up, practice problem areas, strategize, and just go from there. That said, the course Saturday looked doable and was one of the nicest Fast courses I've seen lately.
So, one thing I learned that I seemed to not have known is that you cannot use any non-single jump obstacles more than once for points. Originally I had planned on taking the single jumps up the middle and using the a-frame to the tunnel and then back over the a-frame. In order to get 55 points though, that wouldn't work with the time I'm alloted since the second time over the a-frame wouldn't count for points. So a change of plans meant doing the teeter to the tunnel to the a-frame then back over the single then to the double into the send bonus. All went fine until the send. Vegas took the jump fine but hesitated at the tunnel resulting in a refusal and a faulted send. So, no go there but as stated previously, it wasn't about qualifying but about getting out and warming up and working together.

As I mentioned it was a while before we ran again. Vegas spent some time in her kennel to rest and some time out with me. When she was in her kennel, Zach and I were usually working in one of the rings. She's not always fond of this and sometimes pitches quite the fit, but Saturday she did fairly well fortunately.

When JWW came around, we were definitely ready to go. I don't think I ever summed up the changes AKC made to the rules for agility that started to take effect on September 1, but this was our first chance to see how those changes affected us and hopefully gave us a better chance at success toward earning MACH points. Here is the map of the course:
The course looked fun and definitely doable. I've learned how to manage weave entrances following a tunnel by making sure I visually keep Vegas' head from tunnel exit to weave entrance and she has really caught on. The course itself wasn't the issue this time around. Instead for some reason Vegas popped out of the weaves at pole 10. I've learned that one way to avoid that is to step in at that point or reach a hand out front to get her attention. However, in analyzing the course during the walk through, I wasn't sure whether to do that or not because immediately following the weaves was a tunnel entrance that could become a problem were I to do that. In the end I chose not to push and she popped her weaves and it cost us the Q. But, I will say I was proud of my girl for following through with the second time through the weaves. I didn't let it go. And then the buzz words of the day were "12 for the price of 22." LOL

Last up for the day was our Standard course. Going into this trial we still didn't have any Excellent A Standard legs and while I didn't consciously set a goal regarding that for the weekend, by the time we finished this run I started thinking toward a goal. Perhaps that's all I need to stop making silly mistakes that cost us runs. 

In walking the course I was struggling a bit with how to deal with 4-6. I wasn't sure what side to be on, whether to try to get in a front cross before 4, or whether to "flip" Vegas from 5-6. Fortunately when I went out there, I just did what came most naturally and it worked beautifully. Vegas was a good girl and took the curve from 4 to 5 naturally and that allowed me to rear cross her with a flip to 6 and call her forward to the table. I don't think she gave the #3 jump a glance. I wish I could get in her head and know what she was thinking when she got on the table and didn't have to sit or down. That's one of the new AKC rule changes and it certainly was a time saver. Another area that could have caused issue was the teeter/a-frame discrimination but as you can see in the video, she breezed by the a-frame like it wasn't there so another potential problem averted. Everything else went smoothly and I didn't have any real concerns walking the course. Most people were concerned with walking and had issue with running through the final sequence of dog walk to tire - and naturally so - but that was of no concern to me. :) I don't have the usual problems of a dog racing ahead of me on the dog walk - at least not yet. I knew I could get to the end of the dog walk, wait for Vegas, and do a front cross to point her to the tire and over the final jump. That was exactly how it played out. Vegas was running really fast on this course too. Standard is certainly never going to allow her the speed of a jumpers course but when I was running the numbers today, I learned she'd run this course in 3.18 YPS, coming in 11 seconds under SCT. I really wish this had been an Excellent B run as that would have been a heckuva lot of MACH points. Alas, I'll take it though as it meant we finally got our first Excellent A Standard leg. Hooray!

So, we ended the day with just the one qualifying run. However, it was still a success because other than popping the weaves, Vegas ran hard, she ran true, and she did what I asked. Plus, we were still all smiling by the end of such an exhausting day. That alone was a miracle. Off to the hotel we went to rest up for the evening and hopefully get a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately rest was not to be had - at least not for me. I woke up around 2 or 3 am and was up and down the rest of the night sick to my stomach. I felt lousy when I got up and it took me longer than I like to get moving and get ready. I struggled with the decision to have anything to eat and finally went ahead and had oatmeal and a banana figuring that was a fairly safe bet. Fortunately the nausea and tummy trouble wore off and we were on our way. Lucky for me, too, I got the first cup of coffee of the day from Argus' Giddyup Express snack shack and it was free! I was definitely needing coffee by then.

Same as Saturday, we had Fast first. This time however, we ended up running Standard next followed by JWW and were done and out of there before 2pm. I love tall to small days. :)

Fast was a bit tougher on Sunday. The send was a tunnel into weaves at 10 feet. I got Vegas all revved up to go into the ring and boy was she full of it. Obviously she had slept Saturday night. Perhaps I revved her a bit too much. She skipped the double I tried to send her over and it took me at least three tries to get her over it. I'm not sure even now why I got so stuck on sending her over it although I know how I had plotted the course we needed everything I had planned to qualify assuming we had enough time. But, getting stuck on that double cost us a ton of time and cost us the game. Oh well - Vegas was sure smiling.
Our next run was Standard. The course was nice again although the judge pointed out that old habits are hard to break and it had an extra tunnel in it. However, even AKC approved the course a month ago so the course stayed as was. As you'll see in the video, I'm now convinced Vegas can count (Haha - just kidding.) and decided that the third tunnel was too much and she shouldn't have to do it since it shouldn't have been there. In actuality, I'm not sure why she refused. In retrospect it doesn't matter much. I know from the scoring we also got a major fault and I'm quite certain that was from a missed contact on the a-frame. She did plenty of things well though so I can't complain. I'm especially proud of how well she's turned around her weaves and how nice she looks doing them. Lots of people complimented on her speed this weekend, too.

(Ignore the announcement at the beginning. My son is so cute and does such a great job most of the time but occasionally the wrong course is announced.)

Last but not least for the day was JWW. Here is the course:

The first obstacle and series on this course was nice. I was glad to get the tunnel out of the way right off the bat and it allowed me to be on the other side of the #2 jump to call Vegas through and be in position for the next sequence. In watching other competitors ahead of us, particularly those who have competed at the world team level (E.g. Daisy Peel, Barb Davis, etc), I noticed they were moving out on the right side of the 2, 3, and 4 jumps. Of course they are running insanely fast slinky dogs (AKA Border Collies) or Shelties, but it was interesting to watch - and not a move for me. I stuck to the outside (left) because the flip maneuver works well for me and getting out of Vegas' path does not so much. I was able to rear cross at 4/5 and flip Vegas out to 6 running with her down the next straight-away. From there until 13 we were good but I knew I needed to gain her head after the #14 jump so that she came up the middle instead of taking the outside. An area a lot of people had issue with was making sure their dog didn't assume they were to go into the weaves again as we headed into the final section. Vegas did great.

The total yardage for this course was 157; the SCT 44. Vegas ran it in 38.10 seconds for a YPS of 4.12. We earned 5 MACH points on this run! Whoohoo! Super exciting way to end this day, too. I was very proud of my girl.

Final day, running small to tall, one judge, two rings, no Fast. I was just thinking, "Should be interesting." I had two kids to get ready for school the next day after a 3.5 hour drive home barring traffic snafus. How long would the day be?

We arrived later than normal - around 8:15 am. After getting Vegas situated in her kennel, Zach and I signed up to work two classes each for the day, both as bar setters. Our Standard run was the first we ran of the day and JWW was last. We managed to get packed up and on the road about 2pm. I felt a little guilty about leaving knowing there were 3 or 4 classes left. Normally I would be happy to stay and work but with kids going to school and a long drive ahead, I just couldn't.

Once again the standard course was nice. I messed us up. I didn't anticipate a problem area and it caught me off guard. My reaction was slow enough that my next queue to Vegas caused the judge to call a refusal on the a-frame. Out there on the course it seemed like she didn't want to take it for me but it was really all about the command being slow and her positioning with regard to the obstacle. Lessons, learning moments, and training opportunities!! Other than that the course was fine. She ran well, she ran strong, and she ran clean. The course yardage was 181 and she ran it in 62.68 (SCT was 67) putting her at 2.89 YPS.

Our last run of the weekend was another shot at MACH points. I'd be fibbing if I said that doesn't cross my mind with every run. But here's where it gets interesting. Zach and I had been outside with the dogs letting them sniff around in one of the yards. We got caught up in chatting with this lady who runs Scottish Terriers and then when I wanted to get moving, I had to tell Zach a half dozen times to leash up Leo. All of a sudden I worried about my walk through and took off. Sure enough they were walking and by the time I got Vegas in her kennel, hopped the wall into the arena, I only got to walk about 5 obstacles before the ring had to be cleared. CRUD! Boy oh boy was I stressed. The last thing I ever needed was to miss my walk through.

We ended up watching most of the class up until our turn. I went out and warmed Vegas up and was playing with her, goofing around, and mostly just trying to calm nerves and just be ready when it was our turn. Finally it was...

Unfortunately I don't have any video of this run as my son wasn't prepared for when it was our turn. Earlier in the day after Standard we had debriefed with Craig. Basically he told me I gave up when one thing went wrong and didn't push for the speed I should. At that time as much as I wanted to succeed in this run, I decided I would push and push Vegas for speed. Going into this run at this point, I certainly still had that in mind. I took off on the outside for the first sequence, 1 - 4. After flipping Vegas out to the #5 jump, I sent her up over 6, 7, and 8, crossing behind and 8 while she headed for the #9 jump. I was still on her left up the back stretch. As Craig said, he was a little worried when I came from behind on #12 but I pushed through to get Vegas into position for the weaves, decelerated just enough to get her moving through them then pushed for her to speed up. I ran her hard through this course encouraging her and just moving along without hesitation. It paid off! I'm not sure what the course yardage was but the SCT was 44 and she ran it in 36.40. We got 7 MACH points!!!! My baby girl did so good this weekend. We went from having 9 MACH points to 21. We had a great time, got to see great friends run, got to see our friend Judy and her Papillon, Oreo, get their MACH, and play our favorite game all at the same time. What a weekend - I can't wait for another. Next trial is the last weekend of the month, just two days, but hopefully we'll have as much fun as this one.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Weekend that Almost Wasn't

This weekend we're supposed to go to Argus Ranch again for our first AKC agility trial since the end of June and final qualification period for the invitational. But the world started to fall apart last week...

Perhaps not the world, but certainly my world. I drive a somewhat older truck, an '02 Chevrolet Silverado. It's getting up there in miles a bit so things have started to go wrong. Last week a screaching sound started. The sound was constant whenever I was in forward motion, on or off the gas. When I braked it seemed to go away. Needless to say it was obnoxious and also a bit embarassing. Nothing like having your arrival precede you by an ear-splitting sound. I kept hoping it would go away but like most mechanical things, it did not. I talked to people about it; I fretted over it; I lamented about it on Facebook. And mostly I stewed, stalled, and avoided the issue. By now you're probably wondering why I didn't just call my mechanic and deal with it to cut down on the stress. So here's the back story. I got married at 18 to a mechanic and spent my formative years doing no more than putting gas in my car and, even that was at the same station every time so I got comfortable. Until my mid-20s I had never been to an oil-change place letalone mechanic's garage for service - at least not without him. While it was important to my dad for me, as a female, to learn to drive a manual transmission, he either didn't push for (or I resisted) learning to change a tire and perform my own oil change.

So by my mid-late 20s, I had more than a little anxiety over the car-related tasks in life. To be fair, I had more than my share of sheisters try to take advantage of my lack of knowledge though ("Ma'am, it looks like your air filter is dirty. We can change that for you. How about your cabin filter...marker light...fuel system flush....?"). As you can tell, I was none too thrilled by the screech following me down the road. A couple of nights ago I texted my brother to ask him if he knew how to check belts and that launched a text-versation over the next little while resulting in his referring me to a shop where he has taken his truck in addition to where vehicles from his workplace are sent. Yesterday I called them and was told I could bring my truck in this morning to be looked at. The person I spoke to said the problem sounded like brakes, gave me a quote, told me they could get it done in a couple of hours today, and I assured him I would stop in today.

At 5:45 this morning the alarm went off. After a short (necessary) snooze session, I was up and moving. Picked up coffee and hit the road, arriving at Bridgetown Automotive at 7:25 am, I was a bit early but glad to find a parking place and hang out for a few minutes. The neon sign said Open but the door was locked. I caught up on my early morning email, enjoyed my coffee, and stepped inside at 7:55 am. Talk about a busy Friday morning. The guy at the front desk was swamped. When he got to me, he told me he had me on the schedule for 1:30 pm. Uggg! I told him that wasn't my understanding and he was able to shuffle things so they could take my truck for a quick test drive then put it up on the racks. A short 30 minutes later I had my answer: brakes and rotors on the front, brakes on the back. The good news is that he indicated the problem is more annoying than it is a safety concern right now. The quote was for $327 and change for the front end and I scheduled the work to be done the first week in October.

So, now that I know we're okay, we have a fresh oil change (last night) and good enough brakes! Yay! When I get off work tonight and head home, we'll be packing up the truck, eating dinner, and hopefully in bed by 8pm. My plan is to get up at 2am, get ready, feed the dogs, and hit the road at 3am. With a 3.5 hour drive ahead of me, that puts us in the region at 6:30 am. If we can get away a bit earlier, I'll probably stop and get my son breakfast at Sheri's or something - unless he's sleeping.

We're entered in Fast, Standard, and JWW Saturday and Sunday with no Fast on Monday. Saturday is a small to tall day which means so will Monday. Hopefully the entry is small for Monday as it's a long drive back and the kids start school on Tuesday. I'll do my best to keep things up-to-date over the weekend. Here's hoping for some clean, fast runs and more MACH points for my girl! This will be the first trial since the new AKC rules took effect (9/1/10) and I'm excited to see what that brings us results-wise. The big ones are an extra two seconds time for 24" jump height dogs and no criteria on the table.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Weekend Recap

Every day this week I thought, "I'll get my blog updated." Well, it's Thursday and I'm just now doing it. Last weekend was eventful then mostly uneventful. Saturday was our Great Danes of Summer event that I had previously spoke about. I had really high hopes for the event. Last year we had a Drew Carney spot on the early morning news that drew attention to the event and our mission; however, this year I did more blanket advertising in addition to the fact that awareness for our club is much higher after four plus years. Our usual attendance is in the range of 60-75 Great Danes. This year we saw around 30 or so. On the positive side of that, we saw a lot of new people, some people that only attend this event, and met lots of puppies. Seeing people in this circumstance (puppies or only annually) is good because we can help to educate as applicable and hopefully represent a resource if and when they have questions.

I have to give huge kudos to my pups for what they put up with Saturday. It's a long day and, as a board member, not as fun as for attendees. We do a lot more fascilitating and supervising and working than visiting and relaxing. And Vegas and Leo were complete troopers. My son was there most of the day and was quite the helper, too, and even kept Leo with him most of the day. Vegas was just glad to be with Mama, was patient, and a wonderful greeter to attendees. We had a couple of pictures taken by photographer, Jim Stulting. They turned out really well!
Here are a few random pictures of the event....
This is Abbey. She attended with Nancy who spoke to us about canine cancer on behalf of the National Canine Cancer Foundation.
This pretty little girl, Shelby, represents exactly what I want in my next Dane - all black, ears done, and cute as can be.
Piper - Sunbathing