Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our First Invitational Experience - Sunday

Sunday we were running a little earlier than Saturday and with a mid-night potty call, I was very tired. But we made it. We headed over to the convention center about 8 am. I had pottied Vegas again before going inside then spent 10-15 minutes getting her settled in her crate along with putting my trusty Vibrams on. While she threw a fit as soon as I started to walk away, she did settle down and I checked on her a couple times before pulling her out again and she was quiet inside her crate. So thank goodness for small favors.

Round 3
Round 3 was another JWW course. Our goal (Val's and mine) was for me to run Vegas then head over to the conformation hall to watch the Danes. We would be cutting it close but hoped to make it and watch some friends. Plus I wanted to meet a Yahoo Group/Facebook friend and her Dane, Elena and Niko. Niko is a stunning and gorgeous Harlequin that has done really well in the show ring, completing both is championship and grand championship plus going to Westminster this year.

So with Vegas crated I was free to watch the 20" dogs running, review my map, and be ready to walk when it was our turn. We were in the first 24" walk through since we were running the 10th dog into the class.

In watching the 20s, most were fine through the weaves and up to #6 or so. The course map is a little different than what we actually ran because of the turf issues I mentioned in Saturday's post and Gail Storm's last minute adjustments to avoid the 24s running the same path. I've tried to show how it was different in a second map below the first. For the 20s though, many handlers were making a front cross after 6 and after 7. Their timing was very close to avoid being in the dog's way but their goal was to avoid the off courses that seemed inherent in sending the dog ahead. Surprisingly the off course jump above #10 never caught any dogs I watched. Apparently with the turn required to 10/11, handlers were queuing it enough that the dogs never saw or tuned into that jump. From there, 11 to 12 was a long stretch. Dogs were turning the wrong direction to start and having to turn back. Not a big deal except wasting time. Few turned correctly and came in, missing #12, and fewer still went wide around #12. Mostly it was just a really long stretch to run on the inside legs and maintain speed. A few dogs were catching #10 after #12 but most stayed the course. A few were making the wrap off #14 well, taking #15, then going off course on #11 because of a wide turn. Again, it was a tight course with a lot of handling required. This one was designed by Nalle Jensen and 24" dogs were to be judged by Blair Kelly.

My plan for this course was to set her up far off the left of the first jump at an angle pointing her toward the pivot point of the turn to the #2 jump. I was going to set her up far enough back and then run like hell to make a front cross to send her to #2 knowing that her collection for and taking of the jump would give me the time. There was enough distance to #4 and after in that open space in the center of the course that no matter which way I walked it, I was most comfortable with a front cross into the weaves. From there, as you can see our adjusted course while perhaps a few yards longer, was actually easier - in my opinion - with a clear and straight-forward serpentine. I planned to work it from the inside, and maintain the same side through #14. I knew the most difficult parts were queuing the "turn on a dime" after 14 and 15. From there I figured we were pretty good.

The good news is, Vegas was happy, acting interested in the warm-up jump, and engaged and playful that morning. I had plenty of time to warm her up, stretch her, play with her, get her revved up, and was feeling good going into the run.
There's the one little spot where I very nearly cost us the run by forgetting my turn positioning and Vegas did exactly what I said. Fortunately she responded well to my correction and we avoided an off course. Yahoo!!! I was so very happy. A clean run. Finally. And she was so happy and handled the entire thing so well just like I'm used to. What a girl!

Our time was 35.977; SCT was 46. And we were clean! One clean run moved us up to 62nd out of the 122 dogs in our height class. I was so pleased with such a wonderful, fun run with her! Interesting, as I look at the cumulative results right now, I notice we're only 5 seconds slower than the very fastest dog in the class. That was cool!! Seriously, she's probably twice the size of the Vizsla. Amazing.
Needless to say I was on cloud 9 at this point. I kept Vegas with me for a while and hung out with Val some more. We watched some runs, walked around, and I have to say, the amazing support of the people there, the other competitors is like none other I've experienced. I couldn't begin to count how many times, how many people came up and congratulated us on our run. They were so remarkably supportive and I am so thankful for that. It was a wonderful feeling to have so much support - particularly so with it being our first time attending the invitational. A big shout out to the NW competitors there, too, who were looking out for me and trying to watch my runs when they could. I so appreciate you!

And the number of people I met who used to have Danes, who used to run Danes in agility, or who are interested in doing so. It was so cool!

In fairly short order we did start to head over to conformation for the Danes but they'd gotten done in a half hour? Crazy fast so instead we stopped for a cup of coffee out in the food court area. Afterward I kenneled Vegas again so she could rest. Another decision I made about the second day was to rest her more. The walking around and socializing might have overstimulated her and made her tired. So rest it was in the crate. Fortunately after her initial temper tantrum kicking up the crate pad she settled down good. Sunday I also brought with a blanket from the hotel to cover the crate with to give her some semblance of privacy or a "cave."

Round 4
Round 4 was a hybrid course. I didn't know what that was until I re-read the information pamphlet the AKC provided. A hybrid course contains only two contact obstacles. Otherwise it's mostly a jumpers course. I was exceedingly glad the course did not contain the dog walk. Despite our "issues" with the a-frame contact, the dog walk is our slow obstacle so I was obviously concerned, particularly when I saw the course time. It seemed low for a course with contacts but then again, we didn't have the table either so....

The surface was holding up better here so no need to modify anything to accommodate the 24" class. A good part of that may have been that the smaller dogs were running here so the impact wasn't as great. This course was designed by Blair Kelly and we were judged again by Nalle Jensen. I really liked this course. I was the 100th dog in 24" so had quite a while to watch. In fact, I watched the entire class up until my marker dog. Most handlers were front crossing after #2. Just like in an earlier run, I was hesitant to do so because Vegas likes the a-frame and my doing so my cause her to go over it. I felt initially, after walking the course, and after watching others run the best course of action for me was to remain on the right and pull her over #3 and rear cross the teeter. From there I knew I had to be sure to push out far enough to make the weave entry, but I didn't over-worry about it since she's been so solid on her weaves. The only real problem for this course was the 13 to 14. The dogs were getting ahead of their handlers at 12 to 13 and then not knowing where to go. A 180 after a fast running stretch like that was proving difficult to maneuver. People were also prone to move in on the dogs to queue the 180 turn but, in doing so before the dog took off for 13, caused their dog to slide over and take 14. Or, the handler was just too far behind and the dog turned to the left after 13. Then there were back jumps over 13, wrong courses over 14 (the wrong direction), off courses taking 14 first. It was kind of a mess and I'm really glad I watched it. There were probably fewer teams than I could count on one hand that smoothly handled that which gave me a lot to think about and be prepared for in running it. When I looked at the map, walked the course, and watched the course run, I was thrilled beyond belief for a fast finish. I loved the long line from the 180 to the last jump. I knew Vegas could make up a lot of time there plus would have a lot of fun. I more I watched the more excited I got to run her again!
I loved watching this run again. We lost a second or so on the a-frame as we worked out our agreement for Vegas to touch the yellow. But that's okay. She ran well and it's so good to hear the support of the audience when I watch the video. You can see from the video, too, we learned from what we watched on that 180 and she handled it flawlessly. On another note, it doesn't matter how many of our videos I watch, it amazes me what our times can be because she doesn't look like she's moving fast because she runs in collection due to the short spaces between obstacles and her size. But she really is moving and rocking those courses for a dog that measures 32.5" and weighs in at 125 pounds.

What a way to end our trip. Two clear rounds on the same day. She did such a beautiful job on both our runs Sunday; I was so pleased with her I could hardly see straight. And thank Dog for Val and Keri, she had a great reward waiting for after her second run. She got to have breakfast and dinner in one - real raw food. She was thrilled and once she was cooled down I let her have it back at our crating area.
As things stood when I checked results a bit later, Vegas had finished up in 47th place in the 24" class. She had two clean runs and a cumulative score of 380/400. I couldn't have been more pleased with her. We came a long way to show what Danes can do. She gave me her heart and soul like always and ran joyously, consistently, and smoothly. She worked the crowds, loved on people, and made dozens of new friends.

We went and picked up our awards before finals. That was a joyous moment.
Two - count 'em - TWO clean round ribbons. So proud of my girl!
Okay, so there's a story to the ribbons and I'm going to refrain from saying more than this: Take note of the lowest most text on the ribbons. Then please recall the location we attended the invitational. One guess and it begins with O and ends in rlando.

And equally as exciting.... Our Top Great Dane medal! And oh my wow is that thing heavy! Seriously must weigh more than Juicy which means, poor Chihuahua! LOL.

As an extra bonus after finals and when we went back to our room Sunday night, Val had saved Vegas part of her ahi tuna steak which she swallowed in a single gulp.

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