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 video...it 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.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thing I noted when watching Sunday's JWW. She pops EXACTLY at the moment that you move forward to swing around the poles. Maybe she needs some weave work with you driving in front of her (doing crosses and such) at the weaves? I know personally, I'm struggling with HP to remember that there is no way we can proof for everything. For the next several weeks we're going to work on start stays, contacts, box work and rear crosses into the weaves, as those were our weak points this weekend. I think she did a good job for you on Saturday, Sunday was just a fluke. You guys have had some great runs lately, use what she told you this weekend to make her better. :)