Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top Dog CPE Trial Recap, March 12-13, 2011

Last weekend the dogs and I headed up to Elma, WA el caravan style with our friend Jen and a crew of dogs. Wow, a crew of dogs. We started the evening off by having a late dinner at Chevy's to ward off the traffic we would otherwise just be sitting in. We've never competed in a trial hosted by the Top Dogs before, but it seemed like a great opportunity when we could share expenses. Jen and I had fun. The trial was held at the Gray's Harbor Fairgrounds. Although it was a one ring trial, the club had rented the entire arena so crating was in the second ring. Surprisingly it was even heated inside which was nice. We got our crating areas all set up shortly around 7:30 Saturday and the club was good about promptly getting things started. Our judge was someone we had never run under before, Terry Scofield, from Michigan. Can I just say right now, his courses were great? The balance of challenge, strategy, and fun was just right. Plus, he nests his courses extremely well which means that course building is done in a breeze. I learned he runs Newfoundlands which was really cool, too.

Alright, so with five runs a day, here is how our courses laid out:

Small > Tall
Full House Level 4, Jackpot Level 3, Standard Level 4, Snooker Level 4, Colors Level 4

Tall > Small
Jackpot Level 4, Wildcard Level 4, Standard Level 5, Snooker Level 4, Jumpers, Level 4

First up was Full House on Saturday. My only goals were enough points under time with minimal tunnels. The run of jumps straight up the center was a perfect starting point for Miss V. We've been off agility for five weeks so having a setup like that let her warm up with a nice long run. Oh, I should mention, too, this judge used the whole ring space! There was a lot of room between obstacles letting Vegas really run. He didn't crunch his courses into 2/3 - 3/4 of the ring like we see from time to time. It was awesome! So we took the run of five jumps up through the center and arcing toward the back right. Into the tunnel, across the double, and from there I don't recall our path. We had an allotted 35 seconds. Our time was 31.68 with 30 points. We finished first place in the 24" class finishing our Level 4 Full House requirements.

Jackpot has been a game we've struggled with for a while. We seem to run out of time to get the points we need. This was a traditional Jackpot course that didn't allow us to move on to the send bonus until the buzzer sounded. Usually we struggle with those even more. Although I didn't like the tunnels for this one, it was early in the weekend and Vegas handled it just fine. Were we to complete this course successfully we would complete our Level 3 title. We needed 20 points in the opening and to complete the Jackpot for an additional 20 points. Because of the tunnels in the closing we were allotted a bit more time. SCT was 50 seconds and we were done in 41.27. My plan was to take Vegas up the center again like our Full House run. The footing was a little loose and with such a stretch between jumps Vegas wasn't reading me as well to go ahead. We almost had a collision right near jump three as she turned back toward me. It caused us to miss out on the first jump in the two-part combo. We kept moving and arced back to the a-frame. I sent her over the jump following the a-frame, wrapped her around, and took her back over the a-frame. From there we hit the five-point combo, the double, and then wrapped around and took the weaves. I sent her through the second set of weaves and ended up going over the jump at the end and moving into the Jackpot send. She handled it with flying colors and I knew we'd Q'd. Another blue ribbon with 44 points. Go Vegas! Finally that Level 3 title! The Top Dogs had completed title ribbons, too. They were similar to the green qualifying ones but with two more ribbons hanging down plus they were imprinted in gold with Qualifying Title Completed.

Success on this Standard course meant we got to move up to Level 5 on Sunday. Our SCT was 53. The first handling decision I had to think through was where to be for the weave entrance. Did I try to make a front cross at #6 or did I rear cross into the weaves for #8? I did the latter; it just made more sense for Vegas. She took them without hardly batting an eye - pretty typical for six poles, but nothing to take for granted. I was a little late and also ahead of her and just plain out of position to rear cross at #11 - at least where I wanted - so I believe I just came around #11 on the left side and rear-crossed into the #12. I have to say, I was very proud of Vegas for sticking her a-frame contacts, too, this last weekend. I intentionally chose them where I could to work them and she's really responding. We've always had a running contact but sometimes her stride gets off or she leaps and sometimes that's all it takes for "game over." Our running time was 47.75. We qualified and finished second place. Whoohoo - two titles complete!

Next up was Snooker Level 4. I watched a good portion of the shorter dogs run and they had a really good plan taking the red on the far right into the tunnel #6, over the red, through #5, taking the red just out of it and then taking the tire twice to finish the opening and start the closing. However, tunnels are rarely something I choose when there are alternatives for Vegas. While I wanted to try to get all 7s if I could, it was also a little more doable to avoid the tunnels and have a hope for enough points. See below for my chosen path.

I mentioned Vegas did well with weaves thus far. We had only seen sets of six poles, but she took them without a blip. What happened here was just one of those snooker things. It happens sometimes. We got out of sync, probably because she was still gung ho for the day and I was out of position. We ended up fighting about the weave poles the first time. The first time I can accept as my fault but the second time was definitely her. I'm not sure if she decided to be a looky-loo or what but it was a fight to get through them which cost us time. Finally through them Vegas made an awesome run from the weaves to the tire and took it at amazing speed at a slight angle and dove into the tunnel. We ran for all we were worth but we'd lost too much time. Game time was 45 seconds. We were at 51.74 by the time we reached the table and had just 28 points, four points shy of a Q.

Our last run of the day was Colors. I love Colors - partially because it's a shorter course so runs quick.
My choice in mapping a course was either two tunnels or three. Of course I chose two which meant the circle course. We had 30 seconds to run it and were finished, clean, in 25.49. Second place and our third Level 4 Colors leg.

We headed back to the hotel to clean up a bit and I was able to feed Vegas which made her enormously happy. Jen, Nina, and I headed to Joseppi's, a local Italian and pizza joint I'd enjoyed on my December trip to Elma. Due to the rain, Vegas' bed, coat, and a blanket were pretty nasty so when we got back to the hotel I started a load of laundry. Unfortunately I was exhausted and had to stay awake waiting on it to be done. It ended up being way too late of a night for a trial and I was sure feeling it Sunday.

Sunday we got another shot at Jackpot, which was cool since we're a little behind on that game. This time it was a non-traditional course. We both didn't have to wait for the buzzer to do the Jackpot but we also got to make up our course Jackpot. Anything completed with the dog inside the lines and the handler on the outside was worth double the point value. Any obstacle could be completed twice for points.
Interestingly enough, we had run a Jackpot like this during league last year. The following is the course I plotted for us.
It worked out fairly well although even with two tries I couldn't get Vegas to take the weaves and stick them. We finished with 48 points in 46.01 seconds, another blue and our first Level 4 leg. Woot!

Next up, Wildcard. We needed two Bs and an A. I had chosen 2b, 4b, and 7a. Unfortunately Vegas had other plans and I didn't fight it when it seemed inevitable. She took 4a which meant we had to nail 7b. It just meant two tunnels when she could have had just one. Oh well. We qualified for another blue and our third Level 4 leg in 21.29 seconds. Way to go, Vegas!

Standard was up next.
I think this is the first time I've seen a Standard course without a dog walk. It meant we saw the a-frame twice - no problem by me! The hardest part about this course was the full 12 weaves. I fought Vegas the whole way. She really wanted to pull out. We made it but I could just feel the strain as we made our way through. I guess that's the detriment to having sets of six poles all weekend to that point. The end was a little tricky too with some obstacle discrimination and a slight push out to the tunnel, albeit not as bad as I'd thought. Our time was 44.47 on a 55 second course. Red.

Our path below.
We were a little slow through the red > 6 > red > 6 loop up top, but we made it and drove into the tunnel. We got as far as #4 and were part way through #5 when time was called. With five seconds to the table, we made tracks finishing in 50.82 with 32 points. Just enough but we did it. We now get to move up to Level 5 Snooker. Yahoo!!!

Last game of the weekend - Jumpers.
This is probably the only course all weekend I was really disappointed in. Jumpers is almost always the last of the weekend, certainly the last of the day, and it's almost always tunnel heavy. This was no exception with four tunnels, all but one fairly lengthy. Poor Vegas. She's such a trooper though and we pulled it off, barely. I slacked on my handling after the last tunnel and we passed by the #12 jump. I brought her back around and we managed to take it correctly without an off course. Our time was 36.91 with 40 seconds allowed overall. We were second and our friends, Lori and Averna, took first. You can see the video her husband was kind enough to take here.
We got loaded up at that point but stuck around to see if the club needed help working the remainder of the class and to get our scores. The higher levels ran the very last class of the day so from there it was time to head home. I had a stop in Castle Rock at my dad's house plus to grab a bite to eat along the way. Vegas got a dry cheeseburger from Burgerville, too, to tide her over until we got home and she could have a full dinner. Unfortunately it was a super late night and led into a crazy week, hence the extremely late blog. Here's how tired Vegas was...

And tomorrow we start the first day of a three-day AKC trial. I am so excited! Vegas is snoozing away on the bed and that's where I'm headed. The truck is loaded and we're ready to get up and get at em' in the morning. Hoping for some clean runs and a lot of fun.

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