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! 


  1. WOOO HOOOO!! I'm so happy for you! That is such awesome news.

    I absolutely sympathize with how you felt after the woman told you though. Last month we ran a GORGEOUS Novice Jumpers course (which is currently my achilles heel or whatever archenemy phrase you can think of; we're 1 for 12, but are in Excellent FAST and 2/3 of the way toward our OA - it's really making me frustrated) but it turns out I walked the whole ending wrong. From the beginning, I had the ending messed up. So when we ran it, of course Layla followed my INCORRECT plan perfectly. I was so ecstatic when she finished because we had a clean, perfect run, and another much needed Q - but nope! My mistake cost us something that I Desperately want, another NAJ leg to get the hell out of there. Like you, I wasn't upset with Layla at all. She'd done everything I asked her to.

    Unfortunately I also didn't know it was an NQ until later. I think that was the worst, the little bit of elation just gets taken away in an instant. I know the end results are opposite, MACH points for you and only Novice Jumpers legs for me, but they're both things that we're working so hard for. I wish mine had the happy ending like yours did, but I'm THRILLED for you! What awesome news!

    And you're so right, you ARE going to get that MACH!!

  2. Amy no matter the goal, the feeling is the same! I'm so sorry you had to go through that, too! There really is no compare.

    You two WILL get that NAJ soon - I just know it. Hang in there. Trust me, it will come. We were well on our way to our MXJ before we even got our OA. Interestingly enough, we have tons of standard legs in CPE. We just struggled with standard in AKC. Anyway, thanks for your support!