Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 3 - CRAC Agility (The End of AKC's 2011 Invitational Year)

Today we got to arrive a bit later. I'm still not used to actually showing up later in the morning on small to tall days when we're already set up and it still makes me nervous. Nonetheless, we arrived around 9:15 am when things were in full swing. They were just getting started on Excellent Standard small dogs when I took a few minutes to video for a friend's run before finishing unloading our stuff and setting up our shades.

Then we had time to kill. So we hung out, watched some runs, meandered a bit, and hung out some more. Courses were fabulous again. Hope the Pac NW will keep hiring Lavonda Herring often; her courses are great. Plus, yesterday and today we only had one tunnel per course. Perfect for the giant dog.... Again we ran standard first and JWW last. The big dogs in Excellent shut the place down! this afternoon, wrapping up about 4 pm. Whew! What a long weekend. Before I go into today's results, I need to go into true confessions, a cleansing of the soul, if you will.

I'm very, very competitive. I've set goals and I am driven to achieve them. It's not a new thing at all although it's a first time involving dogs (or anyone aside from myself). That said, nobody is harder on me than myself. For instance, three weekends ago in Canby at the outdoor trial, Saturday we ran and Qd in a very tough JWW course. Everyone complimented us on it and all I could think was, "Thanks, but wow was it ugly!" And the important thing to note is, the ugliness was not Vegas at all. She was a rock solid superstar. The ugliness was my handling. I was out of practice and fumbled a lot. So it was an accomplishment for sure to Q, but it was due in no small part to my Vegas. She did all the work and just happened to work with my ineptitude. The problem I've had lately was 50/50. Half the time I recognize when I did something wrong that caused us to go wrong (or not) and half the time I don't. It's the half of the time I don't and my competitiveness (along with a short temper) get in the way. I get cranky immediately and I lack a lot of grace under pressure. On the one hand, I hate it. On the other hand, I can't seem to fix it in the heat of the moment. It's driving me crazy.

Part of it has to do with who I am running. I am running a Great Dane. I am oh so aware of the comparative lack of runs I will get with her (and that we have in general) versus 95% of other breeds. So for every 20 runs they get that go wrong, we get one. Taking friend and fellow 24" competitor, Craig, as an example, his dogs can earn more points in a single run (before the multiplier) than we can in an entire weekend. It sucks. So when we have courses, like this weekend, that I feel very confident in and something happens that makes it go awry, I get upset. Very upset. JWW was like that both Friday and Saturday. We didn't even get to run the whole course! Today I went into the day with the mindset - at least I thought I had - that we would have fun no matter what. That was my goal and yet I really had hope for good results, too.

The most concerning area of this course, to me, was the dog walk to tunnel. Some dogs were coming off the dog walk and taking the #1 jump again. I wanted to get out of Vegas' way and hustle her across the walk as much as possible, but really struggled figuring out the best positioning to tell her what I wanted. I also saw a lot of people stepping across the end of the walk nearly pushing into their dog in order to make their turn into the tunnel as tight as possible and still allow them the distance back to get in place when the dog shot out of the tunnel. That, again, is where I have a slight advantage. Vegas isn't going to launch out of the tunnel at the same speed as an Aussie or a Dobe or nearly anyone else. A lot of people were really concerned about the turn from the chute to the single then triple jump. It was similarly angled as the hard pull yesterday was after the chute and dogs were overshooting all over the place. The problem was, people were front-crossing and getting in the dog's way causing the dog to pull up short and knock bars or run into them. So things were going well. Her weaves were solid. She was moving at a good pace. The yardage was 187 with an SCT of 69 again. We made it over the triple well since I was able to move out beyond the chute to the right side of the #16 jump. I called tired and then I called "over." I had pulled out a bit toward the a-frame. Vegas and I were running parallel to each other. And it happened. The one thing I hadn't considered, anticipated, or planned for beyond what was natural. She went for the table. I called her. It was too late. Off course. No Q. Hope for a double Q over. I was devastated. Three obstacles from the end and she went off course. Ugg. Heartbreak. Upset. And of course, my goal ended right there. I failed to uphold my intended attitude. To my credit, I was flying high. And I was cut so low. That's the worst feeling ever.

We went back to our tent. Vegas crated, Leo out. Leo back in the crate when he was wandering too much. I tried to take a nap. I mulled and stewed, shed a few tears, and stewed some more. Then I napped. And still I wondered if I should scratch her from JWW and go home. I even posted that I was going to on Facebook. And I mulled some more and decided that isn't who I am. I'm not a quitter. I don't give up without a fight. And JWW was once her game. It not being her game this weekend didn't mean we didn't have it in us. So we stayed. I chilled for a while, watched some of the other dogs run, tried to stay cool in our tent but it didn't work out, started to pack some of our stuff, and ended up hanging out inside the barn to stay cool (It was easily 15 degrees cooler inside.). I left Vegas and Leo in the truck with the A/C running when it was time to walk the course, with the windows down part way, of course, so I could get in should they lock the doors.

One tunnel, lots of turns, well measured (158 yards), good time (45 seconds). Twisty though. Lots of potential off courses and pitfalls. Same weave entrance as we had in standard. I started Vegas off well back from the first jump. We were actually backtoward the 29 yard mark in relation to the angle from #1. I wanted to give me as much of an advantage getting in position to queue her for the first sequence as possible. Fortunately the #9 was out so far it wasn't a potential off course. The first thing that happened was that I was so far ahead of her it was difficult to get in the right position. I ended up well ahead of #3 and "pushing" her to #4 and yet avoiding her running into me at the same time. Five to seven was much better but again I was ahead of her at 8 and pushing her over 9. Her weave entry was good, but a slow start. I really worked at her to get her moving quickly through the poles. She shot into the tunnel with decent speed and I was able to move out beyond the end to the lower/right side of the #13. Yes, she landed angled toward the inner part of the course but not as bad as some dogs had and we avoided anything resembling a clash of space to the triple. From there it was a matter of pushing ahead to make the loop back toward the finish complete with a rear cross at 18. I was still moving a bit more quickly than she was but she did well and pushed ahead to the final jump gaining some ground. We did it. I was so, so, SO very glad we stayed. It made the entire weekend worthwhile. It ended not only the weekend but the bad feelings and the 2011 AKC Invitational qualification period on a high note. I'm proud of my girl. So very proud and humbled and honored for her to belong to my heart. I still have much to work on in the way of patience, sportsmanship, competitiveness, and letting mistakes happen and not getting mad, but despite our Standard run, today was a good day. Because it taught me again that I have the best agility dog there is. That dog is KKZ's Apache Vegas Rose who earned a total of 212 MACH points and 8 QQs since July 1, 2010 and finished the invitational year as the #2 Great Dane in AKC. While we won't be going to the invitationals (They are in Florida.) this year, we earned the right. She earned the right. And that's enough for me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

CRAC AKC Agility - June 24-26

Yesterday kicked off a three-day agility weekend held at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, OR. We had never trialed here before and not knowing the setup arrived super early Friday although we were showing small to tall with Fast running first. The weather was supposed to be beautiful, moving into warm (upper 70s?), and quite frankly, finally like summer. We met our friend, Rachel, and decided to set up our tents outside instead of crating inside the building, particularly because we were going to be able to tent/crate right by the ring.
After getting unloaded and all set up, picking up maps and stickers, we took the dogs for a romp in an enclosed field. Here are a couple of pictures.

After the four dogs romped a bit, my dogs and I wandered around the fairgrounds. Of course I took a few more pictures.

First up was Standard followed by Jumpers, all days. Friday we ran Standard just before noon and JWW around 2:30. Today was a bit earlier with Standard about 10:15. The courses have been fantastic!
The good news here despite the two tunnels was that they would both be done by #4 plus were relatively short tunnels. I planned on working from the inside (bottom of the map) until sending her into the #4 tunnel. The weave entry was great, just had to control speed after the launch over the double. The most difficult part of the course, for me, was 7-8. In retrospect, Vegas probably would have easily chosen the a-frame since she likes it, but I was worried about the angle from the weaves and what she might choose. I decided a front-cross would work best after the weaves and a rear cross when she was on the a-frame. From there we were good until 14-16 then my concern is she would want the a-frame again when she needed to take the chute. After 17 I planned on (hoped for?) a front cross to the teeter then the turn to #19 would be smoother.
Whoohoo! She handled every stride fabulously, with speed, precision, and enthusiasm. Yardage was 187; SCT was 69. Our time was 54.04. We earned 14 MACH points and MX2 leg #2.
After a snooze and some kicking back time, JWW was up.
I had some concerns initially about getting the right end of the tunnel here. A lot of handlers were having problems running it, and when the 24-26s walked, quite a few led out on the left so they pushed the dog into the tunnel while standing in the center of the curve. With no lead out and knowing if I "stall out" Vegas would get a refusal, I was in a conundrum. I decided to set her up at an angle over the first jump so she could only see the correct end of the tunnel. I figured while she was in the tunnel I would get in position on the other side of #3. The next "hitch" could be the second tunnel but few dogs had issue with it thus far with #9 being angled toward the correct side. Unfortunately we didn't really get a chance. It was an ugly run and I finally pulled her off course. First, I under-estimated my dog. She runs faster now than she has before and I keep forgetting that. In this instance, she was through the tunnel and homed in on the #1 jump again before I turned around. Too late we had an off course which then resulted in a "fail to complete" as I never did get her over #3 the correct direction. That was where my fault and her fault parted ways. If I hadn't deleted the video in frustration you would see she clearly looked at the correct entrance to the #10 tunnel and then chose to go into the center of the curve. Game over and unhappy mom. Just a calamity. I, fortunately, "get over it" quickly, but I am still disappointed. Great courses that I am confident in don't come every day. And every day that passes with my girl is another day older and another day less to run. I know, doom and gloom. But, with a Dane, you just have to be cognizant of that. So no Q, no QQ for the day, but 14 MACH points. There is a ray of sunshine for Friday.

Saturday was supposed to be a bit warmer. I think the breeze actually kept it a bit cooler for the most part. Thankfully! And the arena we're running in gets great air flow and has been significantly cooler than outside which is perfect for agility. Thank God! You just never know this time of year and we certainly have no place to run in A/C.

After getting our stuff unloaded today, maps, etc, we went to the same field to play sans Rachel and her dogs, and our friend, Erin, wandered by. I invited her and her Siberian Huskies in to play and Vegas had a fun romp with Boomer.
Another lovely course! Plus, only ONE tunnel. Yahoo! So the plan was to set her up at an angle on the first jump so she couldn't hone in on the tire. I was hoping to rear cross on the a-frame and then I really struggled with the tunnel, finally deciding if push came to shove I'd run around the back of the tunnel to avoid stalling her at the entrance. One issue, too, was how wide dogs were running after taking the panel jump. More than one naturally looped toward the weaves hitting them at pole 2 or 3. No bueno! Of course I didn't want to pull her off the panel too soon and cause a dropped bar either. Very carefully managed.... After the table I had hoped, too, to rear cross at the teeter. From there the most difficult part was pulling her back from the chute. Even the tiny dogs wanted to "shoot" right out from the chute and had to severely angle backward to the #18 jump. The video shows how things really went... Final assessment? I need to figure out how to handle her super fast and then adapt on the course if I have 'Super Fast Vegas' or regular 'Fast' Vegas.
Another successful Standard run (by the skin of our teeth on those weaves!). Twelve MACH points and MX2 leg #3. Yahoo, whoohoo, good job, V!

We had some more hang out time, rested a bit in our tent, then Vegas and I ran scribe sheets for the 12, 8, 4 inch class during Standard. Then it was time to walk then run JWW. Again, another beautiful course. The first 8 obstacles were quite similar to Standard so I figured we could handle it.
I knew I could work the weaves better this time and also had the advantage of the dog walk not being there as a distraction. I really didn't have a lot of concern about the course.  However, Vegas had different plans. We got to #5 and then she just zoned on me. The dog walk was stacked along the back wall and at the end of it, our friend and local dog photographer, Nina, was stationed with her camera at the ready. Not sure what the deal was but Vegas homed in on her or "something" and missed her entry. Of course I was pisssed. She went away on me after a beautiful start. It wasn't just a mistake. It wasn't even something logical that distracted her. She just "quit" on me. Ugg! So we fixed the weaves with me being a little harsh in calling her back. Her weaves were beautiful. Then, well, she just dove into the wrong end of the tunnel without qualm for what I said. Again, same as Friday, "game over." End of our day and no QQ.

All afternoon I've tried not to be annoyed about it but I still kind of am. Two days. Why? Why did she act that way on both courses? How can we be SO in sync on Standard both days and so out of sync on JWW? It makes no sense, especially since JWW is usually her "game." Oh well. Tomorrow (one hour and twenty-two minutes from now) is another day. Here's hoping!

Friday, June 24, 2011

SUPER Fast DAPAC CPE Agility Weekend Recap

I'm a week late for a recap of last weekend's CPE trial in Eugene, OR. So to expedite things in order to move on to this weekend's trial, here goes.
We ran tall to small Saturday and small to tall Sunday. The run order of classes was:

  • Full House
  • Standard
  • Wildcard
  • Colors
  • Snooker
  • Jackpot
  • Standard
  • Snooker
  • Jumpers
We really, really needed colors and jackpot legs.
We ran in Level 5 and needed 25 points. Our game time was 35 seconds. Vegas earned 26 points in 26.84 seconds for a first place finish and a qualifying run. 
This course, too, was level 5. We had 62 seconds, 160 yards. She ran it in 50.94 for another first place finish and a qualifying run, our fourth level 5 standard leg. 
As is usual on the games courses, my plan is always to find the "least tunnel" route. In this case that meant 3B, 4A, and 11B. We had some awkward moments, particularly getting onto the dog walk. But we did it. 92 yards, 36 seconds allowed, and a first place, qualifying run done in 32.30. 
I should point out here, too, the videos are a little "bumpy," but very precious. Some friends' daughter was kind enough to video for us (and I videoed for her). She's 10. Thanks, Kara!
Again, the name of the game? Find the route with the fewest tunnels. Often there isn't a choice. They all have the same number of tunnels. Fortunately for Vegas, so far so good. I chose the "square" course. Another Q, another blue, 16.47 seconds (SCT = 33). Yahoo!
What a fantastic Snooker course! For once it was smooth flowing to do the high point color obstacles plus it ran like a jumpers course! Yay for big dog favored runs! We did 6, 7, 6 finishing with 50 points (Only 32 are required.) in 42.86 seconds (SCT was 45). Another Yahoo!

Sunday started with our current nemesis - Jackpot. Oh how we need to Q here!
Level 4, 44 points required, 53 seconds to do it in. Do you think I was even going to try the center Jackpot option? Hell no! I was going for E.Z. 
She kicked this course's "butt!" 55 points in 42.18 seconds for another blue, another Q. 
No Q. No blue. We had a single off course, the only fault you cannot have in Level 5. Bummer. 
Another great snooker course where I had options to avoid the tunnel. Since I still always have to worry about her a-frame down contact it was the perfect opportunity to work that contact and get the higher number of points, too. We used the first red on the left then the one in the center back, then the one in the center middle. A-frame times three for 51 points, 49.01 seconds, a blue and a Q. I can't believe I used to hate this game!

Our last run of the weekend was Jumpers. Most people were complaining about the course. I thought it was a bit more AKC style than is typical in CPE so I was fine with it. 
127 yards, 34 seconds. We ran it in 32.76 for another blue and another Q. 
So we finished the weekend with 8 out of 9 runs qualifying with first place finishes. So proud of my lovely girl. She's so awesome. And reliable. Shoot, we dealt with drizzle and rain with potential slick surfaces Saturday and getting too warm on Sunday (You'll notice the panting in many of her runs...). That leaves us with something like 24 legs to finish our C-ATCH. I cannot wait! for that. 
 Publish Post

Photos courtesy of FlashPaws Photography

Monday, June 13, 2011

CRAC AKC Agility June 12

The Fleet - Portland's Rose Festival
Today I was tired. I didn't want to get up. I even went back to bed after feeding the dogs and contemplated scratching today. Except I paid good money to go and I had all my stuff at the fairgrounds. Crap. After stopping and grabbing some coffee and breakfast then fueling the truck, we made it through Portland and Vancouver to the Clark County Fairgrounds about five minutes to 9. Being the second day we didn't have to haul a bunch of stuff in which was nice. They were running small to tall today so I knew we had plenty of time. After checking in with everyone, assessing where we were at in the schedule of classes and run order, I decided to take the dogs out for a little jaunt. We've walked a few places near the arena, but not too far. Today we ventured up the hill into the field areas surrounding the entrance to the Clark County Amphitheater. Bordering the fields are some natural area barriers so we couldn't venture off the beaten track. We made due and the dogs had a good time until it started warming up. Romping and sunshine do not mix well.

I intentionally brought my camera along in hopes of spending some time playing with the settings and getting the dogs out. Plus, Leo participates in 52 Weeks for Dogs and I still needed this week's shot.

Every time we've trialed at this location we've heard the remote airplanes flying but never gone over and checked this out. Turns out they have a big fly-in over where we were walking. They had quite the set up with a huge row of pop-ups and quite a few people and vehicles. Dozens of planes were flying. I tried to capture a few as they buzzed over our heads.

After we romped a bit we went and rested in this weekend's version of Camp Vegas. 

Thought this was funny...caught mid-yawn

Watering station
Standard was again our first run of the day although not until after noon. JWW was last around 3 pm. The temperature probably didn't go beyond about 72 degrees or so but with the clear skies, metal roofed building, and lack of air flow it seemed warmer and the builder certainly was warmer than outside. Vegas was wearing her cool coat after I soaked her with the hose. She was none too thrilled out that happening nor was she thrilled about wearing the coat, but it certainly helped to cool her body. And when I took it off, it had the extra added benefit of her getting amped up and silly.

With the exception of long, curved tunnels, the course was really nice! I planned to run up the left side of the 2-4 sequence and then send Vegas into the tunnel. As you'll be able to see, in the video there wasn't much sending. She took herself there very happily! I walked the weaves to the table and beyond from both the right side and the off side. It seemed to make more sense to stay on the off side so that's what I did. From there I had originally planned to bring Vegas over the #9 jump in a wrap back toward the table to take #10. My thought was that by pulling her in on the wrap it gave her a straighter shot to the next obstacle. Unfortunately it also looks directly at the #2/17 jump. Bad idea. I watched a handler send their dog in a "flip" toward the wall and that seemed like a much better line for 10-12 than did my original assessment. The 20" class was having some difficulty with dogs taking the triple as an off course when the obstacle in line to take was the a-frame. From there I had planned on turning using the "flip" move at the panel to turn to the teeter. She swung a little wide but nothing super out of the ordinary for a giant. I was pleased with her speed through the chute - she's been notoriously slow lately - and the next section was to avoid the tunnel suck. I wasn't giving it any opportunity to grab her. Interestingly, what happened caught me completely off guard and nobody really had any explanations for it other than, "Well, it happened to a couple of dogs." Fortunately it didn't cost us a Q; it just cost me precious moments of my life as I panicked over a back jump. She swung toward the tunnel after #17 instead of toward the #18 jump. Strange. But all was well. She finished in 59.09. SCT was 71 seconds. The yardage was 195, I believe. We finished #14 out of 22. That a lone was worth crowing over since we used to be the last of the qualifiers.

Jumpers wasn't as far off as I thought it would be. They were handling things pretty efficiently and the entry was a bit smaller for Sunday.
This course was a tad bit trickier than the JWW course of Saturday and certainly not as big dog friendly. Of course sometimes in the past non-big dog friendly courses helped us out since we may move more slowly but that helps to avoid off courses. With no lead out I had to play my entrance well and make sure I was in place but not rush things causing Vegas to rush to catch up and subsequently knock bars. To complete crosses I definitely needed to be in place for sure or handle from the side/rear. In this case I planned a front cross after #3 and then to push to #4, pull to #5, and flip to #6. All went well but certainly could have been a little smoother. I then worked from the inside until #9 where I front-crossed. I wanted to be in position when Vegas went over the #9 jump to call her to the left side of the tunnel. I ended up calling her too late - after she had homed in on the right side - and almost blew it. Fortunately the judge was being quite forgiving with refusals (Similar moves had happened on many of the runs...) and she kept her momentum moving toward the correct end so that she didn't actually cross the plane. Saved and into the left end of the tunnel.

My biggest fear in this course was the weaves. Into the wall is not her favorite way to weave and I feared I would lose her at pole 10 or so. She did it! At that point I just worked it from behind and beside her as a push and pull kind of like a serpentine on the final jumps with a flip out to #19. We finished in 43 seconds plus change. SCT was 40. She wasn't moving her fastest but she wasn't moving slow. Not sure what's up with that but quite a few people had the same thought. It's pretty unusual to have high numbers of clean runs that run out of time. Turns out the judge re-wheeled the course and it added a single second. So 41 SCT put us over by two seconds and change. *sigh* So no double-Q for Sunday. Darnit. Oh well; she ran the course well, was happy, and performed things I didn't expect her to. We can't win em' all.

We loaded up most of our stuff then while waiting for scores, times, etc. Then it was off to visit our friends at Oregon Pet Supply to stock up on bully sticks (They have 6" sticks for just $2!) before heading home. We were tired and I wanted nothing but to chill on my couch. Of course we got stuck in a bridge lift again...

Then instead of stopping for regular vanilla ice cream for Vegas' post-trial treat I decided to pick up the dog kind from a local pet store I had never visited. It's called Nature's Pet Market and we got peanut butter and honey flavored Sweet Spots Frozen Treat for Dogs. At first she wasn't so sure about it (whereas Leo grabbed his spoonful and ran) but quickly got the idea that it was good stuff. After a raw bone and a nap then dinner, she slept well and is back to her normal self today. Thank goodness for quick recovery times and happy pups.
Countdown to MACH: 8 QQs/192 Points