Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Crow Tastes Nasty

Crow tastes nasty. No, I'm not talking about the flying, feathery, ornery buggers that make a general nuisance of themselves. I'm talking about the kind that comes from being an idiot and having to cop to it. But here I am. Copping to it on my own blog because that's the only way to make a permanent record of my assmanship (This one will be in the 2012 dictionary.)

Okay, so what am I eating crow for? Well, last weekend's agility recap was highly distorted although, to my credit, I didn't realize it until a couple more days went by along with some super smart people spoke up and provided insight as to what caused The Great Fall-Apart. I mentioned not thinking anything I did with my front cross at the end of the a-frame could have queued Vegas to take the jump ahead of the a-frame, behind me. Well. Here comes a big serving of crow. Thank you to Kim for pointing out how similar that move was to my blind crosses on the end of tunnels. Yeah; I didn't see that one. But really, I didn't scoop like I had intended to to ensure she really moved through the contact zone. I didn't turn as quickly as I should have. I made the cross too close to the end of the a-frame. Everything about what happened was my fault! Again, thank you, Kim, for helping me to see what I did wrong. It wasn't huge; it was fairly subtle, but it mattered to Vegas.

It doesn't hurt to remind myself here, too, what Rachel reminds me, Vegas is consistent for me. She doesn't try to go off course. She doesn't act like a nut. She's a fantastic partner. Unfortunately she has a second rate handler. So I need to work on remembering that she is rock solid. She is trained and experienced. And I am the one more likely to bumble things. Whew. I sense lots of crow in my future.

Last but not least, another thing Kim said makes me ponder going G.I. Jane on my hair one of these days soon. Okay, not really, but perhaps a signature hat should be in my future. She's so right! I do brush my hair back from my face often! Ugg! Maybe I need to go back to long hair and put it in a pony when I run. I can't believe I don't give credence to some of these things on my own without a big temper tantrum, pissed off, pity party where I blame my poor girl! Ugg! So stay tuned on the hair front. Next trial is not until Memorial Day weekend so we shall see what I come up with before then.

So moving on from my crow dinner, Vegas, thank God, loves me to death and we're having a good week. Last night was an unexpectedly gorgeous, dry, sunshiney spring evening so before Leo's agility class she and I took off on a bike ride to one of our favorite places. The Willamette River Water Treatment Plant is gorgeous. It's also a great place to ride because it has nice, paved paths running alongside plus grassy areas. That way Vegas can run on a soft, lower-impacting surface while I can ride on a paved surface. It's a win-win. Plus there's rarely too many people there at once so I almost always let her off leash to run free. She loves it. Along the way there is a wide, open, grassy field with slopes that Vegas enjoys, too, and a cute little bridge to cross over. All in all, it's a sweet little spot of heaven right near home.

Risking life and limb, literally, I got a kick out of Vegas on our ride back toward home. For the stretch prior to the bridge is the path I ride on. To the left is a sidewalk-width strip with intermittent shrubbery. On the other side is a wide strip of grass leading up to the sloping hills of grass in the field. Well, Vegas took off between shrubs and raced me down toward the bridge. I decided to bike it back the direction we'd come and she raced me back again. So heading toward home yet again I decided to go for a little video. Gotta love smart phones!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Lousy Agility Weekend

I don't think we have had such a lousy agility weekend since sometime before July 2009. Wow was it awful. I suppose it doesn't help that I started out tired and freezing cold. Interestingly enough, Saturday was actually a bright and sunny, beautiful day. But as with most Spring days in the Pacific Northwest, when we finally get the clear skies to warrant a sunny day, the temperature drops overnight. So I spent a good couple of hours attempting to nap but unable to do more than short snoozes because I was so darn cold. And I was sitting up in a camp chair in our crating space, my head against a concrete wall, and right near a door that brought cold breezes whenever someone came or went. Yeah, not a great start to the day. And on top of all that, I was at the trial site at 6:30 am in order to set up our crating space although we didn't run until late morning. The other icing on the cake was learning first thing that the courses had been extremely difficult the day prior and the Q rate very low. Just fabulous.

Our judges were two I had never run under before. It amazes me when I look back at our AKC record to see how many qualifying runs we have versus the number of judges. Sometimes it seems like we see the same judges regularly but when I look at how often we qualify under the same judges, that rate is much lower. Anyway, my list of "won't run under again" seems to be growing, albeit our issues this weekend really had nothing to do with the course design nor the judges.

Saturday we ran Standard late morning or mid-day and JWW wasn't until 4-something or 5.
So, in analyzing this course, I knew there were some more difficult sequences. The first three weren't too bad, somewhat of a hard pull to the teeter but not problematic. The setup from 4 to 5 wasn't as straight-forward as it appears here. The tunnel was angled just a bit so it could be a problem to take the correct entrance. Vegas did so no worries there although I walked it with the plan to run it giving the off-side arm as she took the panel, #4. She hit the dog walk with some good speed which was nice and a solid contact. The next concerning stretch was 8-10 because the table was such a pull to the side faced with a jump. The challenge was to pull back on #9 without doing so dramatically enough to cause potential dropped bars as she tried to adjust to where I was moving. Again, she handled that fine. The map and the position I had been standing watching some others run this course gave me cause for concern with jump #11 but it turned out to be a decent angle from the table so no worries. But, I know when I walked it I didn't think too much about the #12 tunnel approach other than whether to go in front or behind. When we ran it I felt like I had no push to tell Vegas to get in. It was too short a distance from where I was at sending her over the jump. She did well anyway, but I felt like it could have been cause for a refusal had she not understood my direction based upon my lack of motion. Honestly, all said and done the course was going swimmingly through the a-frame. The part of the course I walked the most - as did most of the other handlers - was the frame to the weaves. And in watching others run the course before us, that sequence bit too many people in the butt. I had figured I would front cross at the a-frame with a sweep to turn Vegas. That way I would be on the inside for the final sequence whereas if I were to be on the outside I might push her over an off course after the weaves. Just watch the didn't work and no matter how many times I watch that small section, I don't see that anything I did said, "Take that jump."
Knowing the run was blown, why continue? So wait we did until our JWW run. Here's that course:
A tight course with some definite pitfall potential, but not horrible, right? So the plan was to handle the first 6 obstacles from the inside (left looking at the map). I set her up with a nice long stretch to the first jump, her butt basically against the fencing. Then I figured on a blind or front cross as she committed to #6 so I would be in position for the #7-9 section. I watched Craig's ideas as to how to handle the tunnel exit through #11 and can I just say, the ground sure got tracked up in that section as everyone scratched their heads, paced, and reconfigured over and over what they would do. There was absolutely nothing about this section that flowed. You had to pully our dog out farther than was normal to get around to the correct side of the jump. And the jump was precisely facing the wrong end of the tunnel. Not even slightly slanted; it was directed right at the wrong end of the tunnel. Doh! I debated on moving in toward the tunnel and pulling her over the jump to the correct end of the tunnel and walked the alternative, too, of being out ahead of the tunnel and leading her over it with her on the right, me on the left. Then I figured I would have to see what happened on the actual course. As you'll see from the video, almost all went well. However, what cost us the run is clearly my fault. I seemed to stall out sending her into the tunnel - which has happened from time to time depending on what my positioning and ability to move is - and she questioned whether she was supposed to go into the tunnel. Damn refusal; oh well. Vegas ran well anyway and her weaves were nice, too, so I chalked this one up to my fault. Fortunately I recognized that before anyone pointed it out or commented to me and I was not upset at all despite our going 0/2 Saturday.
By the time I got home it was around 5:20 pm. I ended up having to bag the sardine order I'd gotten in while at the trial since the boxes would not fit in the freezer. Once that was done I scrambled to get out the door, already late to our drill team practice. We had decided not to meet with the dogs that time and, instead, focus on what our goals and plans were as well as discussing final choreography options. After that, I was teaching agility class so it made for an entirely crazy long day. But a fun ending due to my sweet Leo and his awesomeness during our practice following class.

Sunday we were running tall to small and Excellent classes were first up in both rings. Yay! 24-26 JWW was running in one ring and Standard ran after Fast in the other, with 20" dogs then 24-26. My estimate put us out of there by noon. Here's our JWW course:
The theme of the weekend was consistently including two tunnels. At least it was a max of two....  So again we have the off-side of the tunnels presenting themselves as potential off courses. But, the most difficult part of this course appeared to be figuring out 6 to the weaves. Options I came up with included: 1) Waiting for her to come out of the tunnel and working from her left over 6 to 7 and rear-crossing at the weaves; 2) Front crossing at #6 so I was in the right position for the weaves; and 3) The same as #1 but staying on the off side of the weaves and crossing afterward to move into the next sequence. I went with #3 but didn't get to see it through to fruition.
Vegas quit on me. We were almost there. She was moving well. I had no indication she was going to pop her weaves. She just did so suddenly that I was in shock. It wasn't until later that morning even after my friend, Rachel, commented on the weaves going into the wall probably being the issue that I could grudgingly admit maybe that was it. Although I still think it's crap. You train to handle the obstacle no matter it's setup. She's done it before. So I'm not 100% convinced. But it's an option.

At this point I was damn peeved. 0/3. And seriously, she had taken the weave entrance. We'd done the difficult part. She's rocked her weaves so well all year that I didn't consider popping an option any longer. I've begun to count on her doing her part so I can re-learn how to do mine based upon her change in confidence, thus speed. So popping her weaves, yea, I was pissed. Oh for three and Easter weekend, not at home with my kids, cold, tired, and no days to sleep in. It all combined into making me one cranky biatch after that "run." I actually was going to pull her. Based upon the fact that I wanted the standard leg and our MX - finally - so badly and could have been happy with that but she kept disappointing me, I should have gone with instinct. I should have scratched and gone home because at least I would have wondered "if" we could have pulled off a coup for the weekend, something of value.
Okay, another difficult course. I have never maxed out the eight-minute walk but I sure did this time. Craig stopped and chatted with me about some handling ideas for two areas. First, he recommended I run up the right side for 1-3, which I had figured on doing. Then I definitely had a hard call to the table to avoid an off course on the a-frame. He also suggested moving in just a bit on Vegas after the triple so she would take the panel at more of an angle. Okay, no problem. So from there we talked about making sure I sent her into the correct end of the tunnel by keeping my eye on her and positioning myself in the right angle from the table. From there the plan was to move out in front of jump #6 and not quite do a front cross but rather, pull her across the face of the jumps in that 180 and, still facing her, wrap around the #7 jump in a continued flowing motion to send her into the tunnel. Okay; all well and good. From there, as long as I could beat her out of the tunnel I planned on being to her right and just smoothly taking the jump and angling around the bend to the weaves. I called the weaves in plenty of time and our positioning was good.
Unfortunately Vegas quit on me again. And our weekend truly went to hell. I couldn't even look at her. Hell, I could barely make it out of the ring without bursting into tears - which I promptly did outside after kenneling my dog. At that point I honestly didn't even want to take her home with me. My partner quit on me. She just gave up. She apparently didn't want to work with me any more. I don't know. Physically she was - is - fine. Yes, this was a second weekend of trials in a row, but she'd done four without batting an eye just recently. It's not like I didn't take her out and do other things in life. We work on obedience stuff at home. We go on walks. We romp in the woods and just play and visit with people. She's completely spoiled and nothing had changed. But she quit on me for no apparent reason and it wasn't until late that evening that I could even look at her and hug her again. Oh she knew it in her own way but she was smart and kept her distance, mostly, until then. We had gone home and snoozed off and on throughout the rest of the day and around 8 Sunday night she got snuggly and I caved. More tears ensued and I forgave her. I'm sure she forgave me if she was ever upset. And that's the crux of owning a dog. Do they ever get mad at you? Sometimes I wish they would since I know I've deserved it before - although I'm not sure I did in this case. Ignoring her and not being able to look at her for half a day is not a crime. I just had to cope in my own way and that was to have a pity party and shut down.

Last night when I was putting together the videos, I still couldn't figure out what happened. I still don't know and am still frustrated. Part of me wants to retire her and focus on Leo in agility. That's, of course, not logical as she still loves the sport. But if she loves all but weaves, I can't love it with her cause weaves are in every venue. We have a break between now and Memorial Day. I think I'm going to not think about agility with her at all until at least May 1. Then I'll reanalyze where we're going and hopefully get my hands on 2x2 weave training and begin that with her. And depending on how that goes will determine the future outcome. In the meantime, I love my girl. She's my heart dog, loyal to a fault, and I am constantly amazed at her love for life, for her family, and for me. I'm going to try to treasure non-agility moments and come to grips with my own competitive hangups to see if I can continue with Vegas in the sport I love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CAT CPE Trial, April 2011

Oh my gosh what a positively exhausting weekend. Here is what we were entered in:


  • Standard - Level 5
  • Colors - Level 4
  • Snooker - Level 5
  • Jackpot Level 4
  • Jumpers Level 5
  • Standard Level 5
  • Wildcard Level 5 (should have been 4....)
  • Snooker Level 5
  • Jackpot Level 4
  • Full House Level 5
I was chief scorekeeper for the first time at this trial, too, which contributes to my exhaustion and brevity about the trial. I will say this though: the trial was awesome. We got a lot of positive feedback and thanks from people about how smoothly things ran. They had a great time and were very gracious. That means a ton! 

Our actual class run order ended up being Colors, Jumpers, Standard, Snooker, and Jackpot on Saturday; and Snooker, Jackpot, Standard, Wildcard, Full House on Sunday. The courses were a lot of fun, had challenges, but were completely fair. Here are the main issues we had this weekend. 1) Random anomalies occurred and we didn't Q as much as we usually do. 2) We got called on something that is entirely possible we actually did do, but bothers me because someone told me the judge was making a call of his own accord for many dogs. The issue with that had to do with the yellow surface/contact and the rules stating a dog must pass through it or incur a major fault. He was calling major faults for coming off the side of the dog walk even when dogs were in the yellow if they had a running contact. That's not the rules and it seems a bit self-righteous to arbitrarily think you can make that kind of decision and ruin someone's run. Anyway! Stepping off my soap box. The other two judges were great and I got to work with some super awesome people! 

In the end, we qualified in six of our 10 classes. We added a few more level five legs and chipped a bit more away on the last few level four requirements. 

I don't have several of the maps for Saturday as there weren't any printed from one judge. The Colors course was really nice and we almost wouldn't have had it as I had walked a combination of the courses and caught it just as we went into the ring. Vegas' run was fast and beautiful. We had a knocked bar coming out of a tunnel, though, that cost us the run. 
Saturday's jumpers course earned us our second level five leg. The SCT was 39 (146 yards). Vegas ran it in 31.03. I was, obviously, annoyed with so many tunnels, but the course itself was fine otherwise. There was a good balance of challenge with flow. She got first place as well in this run. 

The Standard course yesterday was a little tough. I recall it having a a-frame to tunnel sequence followed by weaves. It meant getting the dog into the tunnel then getting around the a-frame to the opposite side to guide the dog into the weaves. Vegas ran everything beautifully and I was so happy with her then saw the score. We were marked for a major fault. Yep, coming off the side of the dog walk even though it was at the bottom and, from what I was told and remembered, touching the yellow. Oh well. 

Snooker was next.
I found a fairly flowing course right away. See below.
Vegas ran well and we were able to get through seven before time. We finished in third place with 46 points in 36 seconds for our first level five Snooker leg.

Jackpot, our nemesis, was last for the day. The course looked completely doable and the judge was being uber nice about the rules and whatnot. Vegas ran wonderfully and even had enough time to do more than I had planned because of speed. The jackpot was traditional so we had to wait for the send. Of course that's when things go awry sometimes. I ran full speed for the send bonus with Vegas and while she got her weave entry she didn't keep going and I had to waste a second or three to correct. The rest was just as drivey and beautiful as she usually runs but the final buzzer went off just before we took the final jump in the send bonus so we NQd.

We didn't get home until just after 8pm Saturday and were completely tired. Of course I didn't get enough sleep - rarely do - but today was a better day! Those random anomalies didn't occur and I was more together about things.

Snooker was first and, again, I found a nice course to run. The jumps up the right side of the map were more in line than they appear. The most difficult part of my plan was the handling and angle/approach into the 5b jump after my second red. See our path in the second map below.
We made it, though. And walking off the course I counted the points and thought we had exactly enough. Unfortunately I forgot one rule. When you knock a bar your point accumulation ends there in the two through seven sequence. Vegas knocked the bar in 5b on her way through the second time. Oh well.

We had a little while but then Jackpot was up and Standard came on its heels. Jackpot - AKA, our nemesis. Nice course though!
First off, this was a non-traditional Jackpot which alone makes it better. Next, we had three choices for what Jackpot we wanted to take. Vegas was still landing far and long and moving fast and excited, so I had my hands full, but we did it. Our path is above. We ended up making it under time by 7.49 seconds with 49 points and a first place ribbon. Yahoo! This was our second level 4 Jackpot leg. Seven more total and we're done! We stood around and chatted a bit afterward with some people and I had just put Vegas away when one of the other score keepers asked me if I was running Vegas in Standard. Away I went to get Vegas!
This was a fun course, fast for Standard. I started out handling from the left since we needed to get to the teeter and I didn't want to pull her to the #8 jump instead. She shot into the tunnel like a dog far smaller and I hung close enough to tell her to "climb" as she was making the bend in the tunnel. I supported her a-frame descent to make sure we nailed the contact and found myself calling her hard off the #1 jump as she cleared the tire and her gaze zeroed in on it. From there it was a race to the end of the sequence of 7 through 10 so I could guide her toward 11 and the weaves. I'm pleased to say she keeps reaffirming my realization that she's solid in her weaves and we have no on side or off side preference now. I was also glad to see a full set of 12 weaves in both standard courses this weekend since we have AKC next weekend. From there things went well. She hits the dog walk so hard now that I have looked back at her regularly in recent runs to make sure she maintains her footing. I'm not used to her plowing up it so much. Guess she's just a Dane on a mission. :) My handling was a little off and slow with the final sequence of jumps and I know I verbally called her off wrong courses at least once, but she did it and did it well. SCT was 65 seconds (178 yards). She ran it in 47.72 and got a red ribbon. Yay Vegas!

We had a little break where we went back to the score table. My silly girl decided Zibbit's bed was a good place for her to try to lay down even though she had her own bed.
Our last two runs of the day were Wildcard and Full House. The Wildcard course had two back-to-back tunnels but I was able to choose wildcards that did not involve tunnels. Our wildcards were tire, dog walk, and weaves.
Vegas rocked the course ending in 27.49 seconds (SCT was 35) and qualifying in first place. I had somehow missed it on my confirmation or entered her wrong, but this was recorded as a level 5 Wilcard run but should have been our last level 4. They were the same course, being run as 4/5/C, so I hope it doesn't get taken away from us.

Last but not least was Full House. I barely got to walk this course but fortunately it's not a huge deal since you basically just need to run around and take obstacles and then get to the table shortly after the buzzer goes. The time is generous, the points are minimal, and the course was decent. We had exactly 25 points in 37.73 seconds and a first place.
And that was that for our CPE weekend. Six out of 10 runs were qualifers. We didn't finish any titles this time but have just three (or four, depending on what they do with our Wildcard run) legs left to completely finish level 4. We also have eight legs toward the 40 necessary for our C-ATCH. Yikes. That sounds like it's a ways off. :( I really had hoped to try to finish it by the end of 2011 so Vegas could retire from the tunnel-heavy CPE.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Drive-By

Wow, is the weekend already over? Whew! Saturday started out early - and late. Vegas woke me at 6:30 for breakfast but as soon as the doggy duty was done I went back to bed (and the dogs followed shortly) until about 10:30. From there it was to get up and get moving, albeit slowly. I made a decision to go out and mow the lawn at noon. At 2 I was finally done. In the meantime, the dogs played in the yard with me, followed me around, played a little fetch, and chewed on a calf leg. All in all, pretty good but wow does mowing my lawn suck.

Once the lawn was done I got some laundry going then headed for the shower. The dogs and I then headed for the park. We love the woods at the park and had a glorious time meandering around, walking in the woods, playing in the fields, and enjoying spring in Oregon. When Oregon is in bloom and the rain spigot is off, wow is it a great place to be. It was just the perfect refresher. Here are a few pictures I took, although I haven't edited anything yet.
I just love these wild lilies that grow in the forest. I always have. So pretty and they're all over this time of year.
A fungus among us! I couldn't resist.
Vegas grazing. What is it with dogs eating grass...?
Vegas' - agility au natural. 
I couldn't resist this one even though Vegas is literally leaping out of the shot. Man do I love those wonky ears!
Egads! Precious blue sky!
Tracking birdies....and other critters. :) 

After we got home from the park, we had a little over an hour then Vegas and I headed off to drill team practice. I missed the last one so was a little out of sorts for this one. I can't wait until we nail down the choreography so I can stop feeling so discombobulated! I do so much better with structure and organization. Plus I had a headache going into it and was getting pretty tired at that point. But we made it through and I think we'll get it soon. We had some fun ideas, certainly. 

After drill practice, poor Vegas had to go hang out in the truck since I was teaching foundation class. This was week one of the spring session and I think it's going to go well. I have a great group it seems that was doing really well in what we covered. There's an Aussie, a Border Collie mix, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a chocolate Lab, a Swedish Valhund, and a Labradoodle. 

Today we went to the park again, catching the last hour and a half of both daylight and dry weather. It was nice and the dogs enjoyed themselves again. The solitude and beauty of the forest is so good for the soul. When we got home both doggies got a pedicure and have been snoozing on the bed since. And wow, the weekend is already over. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

A laid back week

We haven't done a lot this week. Between work and rain and work and more rain, plus classes and meetings - and life - Vegas has gotten a bit of the proverbial short stick. Twice this week we did work with our brand new balance disc thanks to Bobbie with Pawsitive Performance. Vegas has no fear of the ball whatsoever, although sometimes that might be easier to combat than her insanity when it comes to food. I swear that dog loses her brain when presented with a treat. Each evening we worked with the ball I also worked her with a phone book. She places her front feet on the phone book which is on the floor and we work on moving in circles, alternating directions. This is an exercise we learned several years ago from Bobbie and I am making a dedicated effort to do more often. Surprisingly, it's still difficult for Vegas. Again, part of the problem is her brain loss when faced with a treat. I use the treat to gain her focus to move in the circle and yet, it's also the object of our distraction, too. I think if we keep doing it a couple of times a week she'll get her footwork down. She's so unaware of her hind end when it's on the ground!

There are probably a ton of things we can use the balance disk for. Of course that would require me educating myself. That's something I am, admittedly, poor about. When I find down time I don't want to use my brain so read fiction. I've had the Get on the Ball 2 DVD set for a year and a half now and still haven't watched them.

Here's a video I found online, though, that gives a quick overview of some of the exercises we can practice, including Leo's use of the ball. One thing I realize right away is that we have it overfilled and will need to remedy that before working again.
The other exercise we did this week was to work on crawling. It's amazing how difficult crawling is for Vegas. With such long legs, trying to keep them tucked under her while moving across the ground requires a ton of effort. It's so natural for her rump to lift off the ground but I have to give her kudos, she tries really hard and is getting better at keeping it on the ground. My hand is paying the price though, for her impatience. When she gets tired of crawling, she reaches her front paws out and tries to hold my treat hand down. I'm sporting a few pretty, red scratches from this week's work.

Tonight we went for a lovely walk around the park. The weather was amazing. You'd think it was 80, clear, and nary a breeze for the way us Oregonians came out in force to enjoy it. Yesterday and today were the first real days of spring this year and I couldn't stay in tonight despite not feeling 100%. My youngest son came along and we really enjoyed our hour long meandering walk around our local park. Vegas enjoyed some much needed off leash romping and silliness and was very cooperative to work with me on some distance sit-stays. And that's about that for now. We have drill team practice tomorrow evening followed by the first week of foundation agility I'm teaching for the spring session. The rest of the weekend is up in the air but will definitely include enjoying whatever sun we luck out with.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CRAC AKC Trial Sunday Report

Sunday of the trial was kind of a tough day. It didn't start out that way. In fact, there were some things that made the day pretty fun. But then there were the emotional moments. But I'll get to that.

We were running small to tall so I arrived about 9 am. After getting our stuff dropped off the dogs and I took care of a few things we needed to, picked up maps, and ended up mostly away from our crating space until an hour or so before Vegas' first run. We ran Standard then JWW again. 
Sensing a trend here....another tunnel start. I walked this course two ways. 1) From the right side for #2-4 with a "flip" to #6 and the a-frame. 2) Moving out in front of the tire and calling Vegas through from the tunnel, then moving up the inside. I ended up on the outside using the flip maneuver. I had pretty much figured that would be the way to go when I gauged the distance from the tunnel to the other side of the tire. It never hurts to have options, though. The next challenge that presented itself was the a-frame sequence. Front cross after the a-frame or try to pull to the #7 jump and push/flip over to #8? I ended up with a sweep and front cross motion and barely stayed out of her way to giver her straight access to the jump. Fortunately she turns well on 180s these days. She's handling the table so well in AKC these days. Usually in CPE the table is low. Perhaps she correlates the difference in the two and knows what behavior is expected. I'm also pretty good making sure I tell her to "stay" in the same breath as I indicate "table," too. Either way, it's nice she's solid on the table. The next challenge was to control her landing from #12 so she could easily stride into the weaves, making her entry and setting her pace, without causing a refusal either. Of course there's also the concern of discouraging her by not trusting her to take them, too. As it was, she nailed the weaves so hard I heard and saw her shoulder slightly catch a pole and I wondered if it would pop her out. She compensated and continued her pace through the poles.

When walking the course I was fortunate enough to have Craig near me at the same time I was trying to determine how to handle the double, #17, and entrance to the dog walk. My first thought was to handle from the right side of the teeter, pull toward the double, and flip left back to the dog walk. However, the distance to the dog walk and the angle made it more likely she would pull inward and gain a refusal by coming in too close. Of course there was no other obstacle there to distract her, but pulling in was a definite possibility. Craig suggested front crossing after the teeter to swing her toward the double using my right arm thus putting me in the right position to pull her through the turn to the dog walk. He also said if I was unable to make a front cross after the teeter that I could rear cross after the double based upon the distance from obstacle to landing for my big girl. I was grateful for his analysis. I hoped to make the front cross and was able. The rest was a cake walk, er, uh, dog walk. :)

I don't think I've ever run a course whooping and hollering so much. I was nervous going into this run like I haven't been in a long time. I'd felt that way all day but was still anxious to run and excited to. After Saturday's rough day, my confidence was a bit shaken. I felt like I wasn't up to par running Vegas any longer. Her speed was exceeding my handling experience. I was afraid of letting her down. So my heart was beating, my stomach was in knots, but I didn't let her know it. I played with her before our run. I revved her up, lightly pushing at her, "tagging" her, getting her to jump, and verbally getting her going by telling her it was almost her turn. It's like she knows when we are close to the ring and when it's close to her turn. She looks at the gate. She tries to get through the gate and will nudge it or poke it open with her nose. She was excited to go in and with a tunnel start, it's a lot easier to give her her traditional kiss on the head and send her on her way. She was running like lightening. She was swift, low to the ground. She was stretching her legs out and grinning all the way. Rachel said afterward how incredibly happy she looked out there. I'm so happy for that! I can only attribute it to pure joy in the sport plus the confidence of knowing what she's doing now and trusting me, too. I remember the finish line. I remember letting out a huge whoop of relief and excitement. I remember turning to check the time - 53.19. I grabbed her slip lead, put it on, and got out of the ring, giving her kudos all the way. We retrieved her after-run treat, and I kept telling her how good she was, how proud of her I was. A few spectators commented on our run. And then we headed up above the arena to the crating area. We stopped and chatted briefly with our friend, Nancy, the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club president, and just as we were going to continue on our way, another friend made a comment that caused my high of the weekend to plummet. She said something along the lines of, "too bad the judge called the missed contact on the a-frame." What I said or whether I said anything is now a blur. All I know is that I was on cloud nine and then I was ready to fall apart. I was devastated. We had run so well together. I didn't know how that could be. I was in front of the a-frame when Vegas came down. I didn't know how it was possible for her to have missed her contact. I didn't even have a response. I couldn't even make it back to our crate. I went outside with Vegas and had a pity-party for one. I wasn't upset at Vegas. Not at all. She ran her damnedest. There was nothing to be upset at her about. She was amazing. We were amazing. For all intents and purposes, I was simply devastated for what was. My heart was broken at another run down the drain. Those points that we would have to make up in another run. It's so hard. Running a giant breed, running against all odds. I am ever aware of what each run means. I know we can't be perfect. I know she's my first dog in agility. I know how many people don't get a MACH and I realize how few Danes have the title, their handlers the prestige. But I have a Dane that is capable. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind she is capable. She has the drive. Vegas has the agility. She has the speed. She has everything it takes, and without sounding self-congratulatory, she has a handler who can do what needs to be done. I still have a lot to learn as a handler, but I have the advanced skills already to work what she and I need to do for almost any course we will encounter in the level we're competing. My heart was broken at the loss of 11 points that could result in the need for multiple runs to make that up. I don't want Vegas run into the ground. I want to run her, run us, hard while she's young and fit to enjoy it. And then we can take the pressure off and just "play" agility. It made me sad. And at the same time, I know it's my goal, not hers.

So I had a pity party for one until I ran into my friends Andrea, Shana, and Lindsay. And as soon as I heard Lindsay's awesome news, things were looking up. I was disheartened, but I was done crying over it.

After the girls dispersed and headed for home, I went back inside. I chatted with Rachel and learned Vegas had missed her contact, something I was certain was wrong. She assured me she didn't feel it was intentional. She said Vegas' front feet hit just above the contact and when her rear feet followed her natural stride carried her just off the frame. She, too, had seen the judge's hands go up and also saw my reaction during the run. She knew I had no idea and figured she would have to break it to me. Lucky for her, she didn't have to. I was grateful she had seen and, again, was not at all upset at Vegas. At that point it was disappointing to me that judges cannot make calls based upon true safety concerns. Obviously a giant stride from a giant dog that does not result in an unsafe leap from the contact is far different than the dog that jumps from the peak of the frame.

Anyway, it was what it was and my heart and mood remained low. In fact, when it came time to walk JWW, I said out loud at one point I should just go home. I wasn't in the mood. My head couldn't get in the game. Rachel pointed out Vegas didn't do anything wrong and I should let her play.
I'm not even going to go into analyzing this course. No matter what my plan was, we didn't get to run it through. We only made it through the weaves and I decided to let the run go and leave the course. I attempted a start line stay but since we don't really have one and I didn't press the matter firmly enough, I almost had to play catch up. I tried a front cross in front of #3 and cut Vegas short causing her to knock all the bars. At that point, knowing it was over, I had sent her into the weaves almost simultaneously. She plowed through the poles and we headed for the exit - she took the final jump and we were done.

It was disappointing but I knew it was all my fault. No use in jumping extra jumps, extra pressure on her joints, etc. Instead, we went and saw the chiropractor before packing up to leave for the weekend. No real reason other than maintenance health. She is convenient when at the dog shows and the price is a lot more right. She felt a little tight spot just above the lumbar area but nothing bad particularly having run all weekend. Then we packed up and headed for home, another weekend under our belt. We had gone 2 for 6 for the weekend. I was disappointed in the lack of forward progress, but thrilled with Vegas' performance.

Fast forward to Monday night. I was on my computer starting to write this entry when an email came in. There are only two clubs in our area that email qualification letters to handlers after the show. I hadn't remembered this club doing so and was surprised to get her email. Low and behold, I opened the letter and did a double take. We had three qualifying scores. I read it again. I checked and rechecked what runs were showing as qualifying. Sunday's standard run was marked as a Q. Holy cow! 11 points, our 9th MX leg, and wow - that run that both made my day and ruined my day came through after all! I am not sure what happened. Perhaps the scribe didn't see the judge raise his hands for a fault. Perhaps the judge changed his mind. Perhaps there was a data entry error. I don't know. All I know is we got it and I'll take it! Yahoo!!!

As it stands right now, Vegas has seven QQs and 162 MACH points. We are going to get this thing! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

CRAC AKC Trial Saturday Report

First things first. Today I got coffee! lol

We arrived at the fairgrounds about 7:30 am. Today the place was in full swing with an all breed show, rally, obedience, and agility. Luckily we didn't have to park too far out, although being dry this morning it wouldn't have been a big deal. Grabbed our stuff and heading toward the building, the first thing we encountered was a pair of sheriff's posse mounted patrol. Vegas glances at the horses with little to no interest. Silly Leo starts barking - enough to make one of the horses shy a bit. Goofy boy - doesn't he know 1,500 pounds of horse is way more than he can take? We went in, got our sticker and maps, and settled down for a bit at our crating space. I scanned the maps, enjoyed my coffee, and worked with Vegas in her crate. Things took long enough that Vegas and I ran over to the conformation building at just the time our friends, Sandra and her Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Marble, were in the ring for their very first time. We watched the rest of their time and then cruised the rest of the building, stopping to chat shortly before heading back to agility. They were just building standard so I got Vegas situated and went over to walk. The course was really nice - again! Our judges are awesome this weekend. They seem to be nailing on the head the perfect balance of challenge and flow. Here is our standard course:
The tunnel starts are really growing on me. Luckily I have that extra second or two running a giant breed to get into place, too. So, the best way to describe what happened in this run is to explain what my plan was. I planned to rev Vegas up about 15 feet out of the tunnel and send her in then move across between the jump and chute. From there I had hoped to handle on the inside until the teeter, making a front cross after the teeter into the next sequence (8-9). I walked multiple scenarios for the a-frame, from front crossing at the triple before the a-frame to front crossing afterward. People were having issues with the #14 jump of the a-frame and, the lower heights had issues occasionally with an off course to #6 after the a-frame. I don't feel confident enough yet to rear cross the weaves. Getting in a cross and managing the weaves from the off side meant I would be in place to run up the inside, pulling Vegas with me and avoiding the off course pitfall of the dog walk. From there things would be fairly smooth.

What I didn't count on was Ricky Bobby the Great Dane. Okay, truth be told, I should have. She's been running amazing fast lately. And I've been revving her up before our runs so she should be getting in there and getting down to business. So I failed her. How? I wasn't in the right place at the right time. I'm quite sure I'm capable of getting there, fortunately. I just need to remember I have a faster dog now and plan my course better. All in all it didn't go badly at all. In fact our course time was the same as yesterday's although the SCT was lower at 62. I wasn't able to get a cross in after the teeter so I gave her the turn command, AKA flip. That worked well. She charged over the a-frame so fast though, I attempted a blind cross to send her into the weaves and lost her. I had to call her back and send her into the weaves. The result was a refusal and a couple of seconds in lost time. All my fault but she ran it out like a dream. I was just as happy as with a Q.

The way things were running, JWW would be last in the other ring. It was a couple of hours before we got to run again, unfortunately. I did get the dogs' legs stretched a bit then crated comfortably. I ended up working the Excellent Standard ring for the 20s, 16s, 12s, 8s, and 4s. Whew! It worked out perfectly that I then took the dogs out for a quick potty break, ordered some lunch, walked the course, and was able to take Vegas out again, run her around, visit with our friends, Andrea and Mike, for a minute, warm her up, stretch her, play with her, and still had time. Yes - things were running a bit slow in that ring! It was another nice course though! The only bad thing, in my opinion, was two tunnels, one of which was squared off at the back of the curve. The length into the tunnel and the first curve was so short I knew it wouldn't even accommodate Vegas before she was already having to bend her body.
Again, a tunnel start. From there we had a full circle in 2-6 that was interesting followed by a long straight line. The nice thing about this long line was that you could, as a handler, really move out as soon as your dog committed to #5 or was taking it and most tend to race to catch up. Knowing I can count on Vegas to take the obstacles in her path, this worked well and gave us almost too much momentum. I was afraid of her missing her weave entrance for just a moment but she nailed them like she has been this year. The hitch in our giddy-up came with that dastardly tunnel, #13. I'm not sure if I didn't pull out enough or maybe I should have given her a good ol' RFP, but she took the wrong side. Knowing it was a lost run, I didn't see the sense in sending her in the correct end so we moved on, pushing just as hard as we would if it was a qualifying run. I'm looking forward to seeing what her time was. I'm sure we lost a second or so since I know I yelled "no" when she committed to the wrong end of the tunnel. Call it excited utterance. It just came out but my continued motion forward hopefully made sure Vegas knew I wasn't upset.

All in all, a good day. How can I not be happy with a lightning fast Dane? We used to place last or next to last out of the 24" class. Now we're often 3-5 places from the last of those qualifying. It's pretty exciting and I look forward to tomorrow!

Friday, April 1, 2011

CRAC AKC Trial Friday Report

I feel like I say this often but I guess that's because I do and I can't seem to help it since I'm not a morning person. Today started way too early! Earlier than usual, in fact, because the trial location we were headed to is tight on crating space and when you have a giant dog, you need space. The alarm went off at 4:30 - yes, that's am - and I got up a few minutes of 5. Fed the dogs, showered, finished packing a few things up, and we were on the road at 5:41. I decided to forgo coffee knowing they'd had good coffee at the fairgrounds previously. Big. Mistake. Let's just say I didn't end up with coffee today and I'm not making that mistake twice in a row. Cest la vie; I survived. We arrived and the gates were not unlocked yet. There were about four of us with large dogs with the same idea. Fortunately we didn't have to wait but 10 minutes or so and we were in. Rachel and I were lucky and got one of the last spaces large enough to accommodate two Boxer-sized crates, a Great Dane crate, and a Pomeranian crate. Whew!

This trial was hosted by the Columbia River Agility Club and can I just say that I love them? More on that later, but I do love them for a variety of reasons. They just put on great trials. They have great raffles and they have nice people running the show. Plus I like the venue, despite the crating issues, since it's an hour or so from my house and a straight shot down the freeway. The location is great for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is there's a large park, pond, and open spaces just across the street to take the dogs to romp and burn off some energy.

We got all set up and then the waiting game was on. Neither of us were entered in Fast today so we did take advantage of both the park and the dry weather. Vegas was raring to go as was Leo. She'd needed the rest this week but definitely felt she had recovered sufficiently enough to get out and play. Plus, she just loves open spaces, exploring, sniffing, and nature. Fun was had by all and Leo even chased a duck! It was really cute, actually, and ended when Harry Potter might have mistaken Leo for a "lure." Fortunately HP realized it was his friend Leo when he got close and no harm was done to the Pomeranian. Here are a few pictures of the crazies.

Beautiful foot bridge and pond in the early morning dew
We weren't out for too long but you can see how enjoyable the time was for my smiling pups. It was just what Vegas needed. I worked with her on her crate quite a bit today. She's making progress and having her on the Shen Calmer really helps. I didn't work at all today and haven't decided if I will the next two days. She needs a lot of work and help on getting over her severe crate anxiety. While we have a long way to go and a lot of consistent work on it forever, I was excited to see her lay like this in her crate comfortably.

Our first run was Standard and came around noon or so today. Here is the course, judged by Jack Cadalso, a judge we had never run under before.
What a fun course! Everything had flow. There was nothing treacherous. The weave entry was nice. I can't say enough good things about this course! The only real concern I had at all is that Vegas would take the tunnel instead of the dog walk. Yes, I try to protect her from tunnels but she can still fall prey to the tunnel suck. It happens to the best of em'! After the dog walk, the speed with which Vegas propelled herself and took the double, I wondered briefly if I was in trouble. I have not seen that kind of speed from her often but was it a wow moment! I felt like I was a bit disjointed, hardly flowing as I am usually able to handle. My mind was just comprehending the speed she was offering and, fortunately, it caught up when I sent her into the second tunnel. Walking the course I knew that tunnel was long. But wow, was it long! I am starting to hear things when I'm on the course with my girl. I guess it's finally trusting each other and just working the course the best way we know how and not over-stressing until I'm a bundle of nerves all the time all the way through. I heard her footfalls as she crawled through that long length of tunnel. Wow - what a sound! From there we took the a-frame and I was really careful to target her "touch" to make sure we didn't blow our contact. She's been great but I'll not relax on that one. It's just too easy with the a-frame to leap beyond. From there things were pretty smooth. I kept my eye on her through the couple of jumps following the chute in case her eye strayed, but it didn't. I ended up with a quick front cross after the teeter and everything was smooth as silk from there on out. The SCT was 68 seconds. Our time was a smoking 54.25! MX leg #8 in the bag plus 13 MACH points! I was so proud of my girl - still am. She ran like a dream and was just so darn happy. This sweet woman came up to me later today and told us she was just clapping and clapping for her. She'd been ring crew during our run and just thought it was so wonderful to see Vegas run. What a compliment!

Things were moving along fairly well in the other ring at this point but we did go outside and wander a bit plus ventured into the conformation building to see what was going on. Not a whole lot, it turned out, so we went back to our crate and worked a lot more on being comfortable in it. Vegas did great!

I'd reviewed our JWW course a little while before. I wasn't worried about it being too difficult other than the tightness of the jumps in the front/center section. It left little room for error with such a giant dog so of course I knew my handling would be crucial. The judge was someone else we'd never run under before and, interestingly enough, will be our judge at the CPE trial we run in in two weeks. Very cool! The guy was fun and had a lot of energy out there.
My goal was to attempt to get a lead out on this course. I decided I would try putting Vegas in a sit, step in front of her, remove her slip lead, then give her a firm stay, and make my move. It worked pretty well! I just need to remember to take the lead I can and not give the release command just so she doesn't release herself. All in due time.... :)

From there I decided to handle on the inside through #5. It was just easier for me. Without a strong leadout, front crossing between 2 and 3 didn't seem practical. Since Vegas has such a reliable "flip," that was my plan from 5 to 6. I then planned on backing off as I led her to #7 and then front crossing to pull her to 8 and 9. It worked out beautifully, completely in sync. From there we moved to the weaves and Vegas nailed em'! Another flip at the end of the weaves to make the right turn to the jump and I ran full out with her doing the same to keep pace. I'm so glad she's smart enough to take the jumps, too, while she's at it! Everything went fine until we were in the last handful of jumps. I almost, almost pulled her off #18 and blew our run. I don't know what I was thinking other than perhaps not thinking. Luckily I realized my error in just enough time and Vegas responded instantly, taking the #18 jump with a hairs-width of room before crossing the plane. She'd been on the inside as I pushed her and when I called, she veered at the last second, taking the jump at a near diagonal going toward the back of the course. She's so awesome though as she managed to do it without knocking a bar plus, we still made time! 37 seconds and change on a 41 second course. Yahoo, Vegas! 3 more MACH points and our 18th MXJ leg.

I mentioned earlier I really like the club that hosted this trial. I mentioned the good reasons earlier, but here is a great reason! :) They are the only club in the area that offers Q pins and QQ pins. I wanted a QQ pin. And guess what?! We got one!
We stuck around a little bit longer to get our scores, get our ribbons, and to go watch a smidgen of the Tibetan Mastiff National going on in the conformation building. After saying hello to our friends, Shana and Wally. we headed home. Vegas, of course, wanted dinner right away. Then she was happy to snuggle in for the night on the couch. And tomorrow is another day!

Hope everyone's weekend is wonderful! Happy April 1!