Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lake Charles Agility Trial

RV Campground at Burton Arena,
view at sunrise over a swamp.
Maxie, 6 runs, 2 Q's, 2 Titles AX AXJ

Maxie got his Excellent Standard (AX) and Excellent Jumpers (AXJ) Titles on Thanksgiving weekend! I am so proud, even though we made it by the skin of our teeth.  Out of 2 runs per day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), he got 4 NQ's and 2 Q's.  He only needed 1 Q in Standard and 1Q in Jumpers to get his titles, and he got them both on Sunday!  Was that perhaps because on Sunday morning, at daybreak, in my desparation, I wished upon this star?

I've spent the last 2 days after the trial (Monday and Tuesday) unpacking, resting my weary bones and posting the videos of the trial, analyzing, taking notes, etc.  (Anyone who dares accuse me of obsessing over details, hasn't met any of our members who follow football -- every player, every play, every coach's every decision from years gone by!  Listening to the games between every run, groaning over the scores.)

What a way to spend a Thanksgiving weekend!  In 64 years I don't believe I've ever missed a family/neighborhood Thanksgiving and since an adult, having it at my house or at least baking the turkey, corn bread dressing, Spinach Madeleine, and baking a dozen or so pecan pies to distribute to friends, then feasting on frozen left-overs for months afterward.  But this year, I needed to complete my 2010 goal of putting two Excellent titles on Maxie, and Lake Charles is the nearest trial (2.5 hours away) thru the end of the year.  If not then and there, I'd have had to go to Pensacola over New Years (4.5 hours away), which would be even worse.

L to R:  John, Jonathan, Lucky, Willow, Maxie.
We hunkered down cozily in the camper while the winds
howled outside and the freezing rain pelted down.
The boys kept entertained with their smart phones.
It wasn't so bad, though.  John took 2 days vacation so he came with me all 4 days, Jonathan joined us for a 4 day camping adventure, Audrey drove over on Friday, Nathan and Allison drove over on Saturday, so I got to see my family anyway.  My neighbor Thom had brought me a delicious fried turkey on Monday, so I cut up and froze the meat in 1 lb containers, half light and half dark, with gravy poured over.  I gave one tub to Audrey and brought 1 for us to eat Thursday night.  Besides which, the neighborhood kids are growing up and going their separate ways.  The old era is coming to a close.

I served up some instant garlic mashed potatoes, Audrey's oyster dressing, some canned green bean medley, and Little Debbie Chocolate Cakes!  It was close enough to a Thanksgiving feast to suit us  We ate off of paper plates and there were very few dishes to wash before rushing off to the movies (another Thanksgiving tradition) to see Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows. It was dark, but truly awesome.  We left the dogs locked in the car (a huge crate), rather than risk leaving them in the camper where Lucky could claw her way out within minutes if she wanted to.

Of course, the trip started out with a car problem.  As we pulled out the driveway the hitch hit the ground.  Curious!  It kept hitting the ground over every major bump.  Crap!  Of course it was Thanksgiving Day and nobody was open so we pulled into a closed gas station and tried using the air machine to over-inflate the back tires.  Instead of adding air, it sucked more out.  Double crap!  We had to unhitch the camper, go home and use our own air compressor, filling the back tires from 32#'s to 38#s.  This lifted the car up a few inches. We went back for the camper, and made it to Lake Charles and back safely.  Of course, now I realize the rear shocks on my car are shot and need to be replaced.  When did that happen?  Whatever. Will take care of that later this week.

Trial Site Summary:  click here.
Hosting Club: Calcasieu Kennel Club
Location: Burton Arena at McNeese State University

This arena is very nice, but open on 3 sides and not air conditioned. It was bitterly cold and winds of 25 mph whipped thru there all day Friday and part of Saturday.  Gloves and ear muffs, and 4 layers of clothes, were all essential for keeping warm. The bleachers are wonderful, aluminum, closed in back, steps are regular, have railings and are not too steep. The walkway in front of bleacher is wide, so setting up the tripod was no problem for people passing behind.  The seats were cold, though, so a bleacher seat or blanket to sit upon is recommended. 

Our crate area, showing my beautiful new rug.
L to R: Jonathan, Audrey, Maxie, Lucky, John, Willow
Crate area: on concrete, but rug is still needed as fine red dirt from arena gets tracked everywhere.  Having my new black rubber WELCOME mats in front of each crate helped knock the dirt of my doggies' feet before crateup, and kept them relatively clean
My favorite crate area:  Near rest rooms and concessions, the wind doesn't blow there.  My second choice would be the other far corner behind the bleachers. There were steps to get ringside, but not too many.
Camper facilities:  No freezer available at concessions, but one in a nearby building.  No showers.  No trash cans in RV area.  Our hookup number was N-6.  N-1 is closest to the arena.  The sites are level concrete, with grassy area behind for pottying dogs.  Of course, being the second unit to arrive we put up our awning to claim more space for ourselves.  Then we went to the movies and came back a few hours later to find our awning had blown over the roof and the poles were all bent up.  But it didn't rip the fabric off the camper, so we came out pretty okay considering. Poles are easily replacable.
Insects:  No mosquitoes, but the flies were terrible.  Within minutes our camper was full of them.  They didn't bite but buzzed around the food.  Nathan brought me some fly strips, which caught a bunch of them. Jonathan amused himself catching/swatting/killing flies.
Weather:  Being near the gulf and alongside a swamp, the weather was raw.  I told another RV'er as we passed her on Friday evening: "You never know what you're going to encounter at a trial." She replied:  "No, it's always the same in Lake Charles in November -- cold, windy, and wet." We heard coyotes howling late in the evenings, coming from the swamp.  That was a neat touch, along with bright stars and magnificent sunrises.
Hosting Club: The Calcasieu club members are very friendly.  They seem to work well as a group and have lots of fun.  Chip Grafe, another Papillon owner and experienced handler whom I befriended at our Baton Rouge trial last April, was their course setter.  John and I helped him set up courses each morning.  We learned quite a few tricks.

Lessons Learned:
From Chip, when setting up the course, after placing all the obstacles, you can fine-tune the angles by holding up the properly oriented course map right over the bar and adjusting the obstacle to the proper angle.
From the judge: NEVER walk out onto the course with your dog, even before the trial begins, even if NOTHING has been set up out there.  I did this upon arrival on Friday, to see if Maxie would even walk over the huge tire tracks with the 1 inch deep holes everywhere.  The judge appeared out of nowhere and told me anyone entering a course area with their dog before their official turn can be eliminated from the whole trial!  I didn't know that.  Fortunately, she let me go, then later came back and said I couldn't loop my dog's leash over the gate and go help out.  Dogs must be crated, or held on leash by a human. I didn't know that applied when the arena was almost empty.  I guess she cut me some slack due to my inexperience, but now that I'm Excellent B, I'm told I'm supposed to know everything. HA!

Titling Ribbons:  the Calcasieu Kennel Club is the first trial I've been to that didn't provide Titling Ribbons.  I was mightily disappointed and complained to one of the workers.  After all that work and all that travelling to finally get Maxie's Excellent titles, and no rosettes to show for them, no photo with our ribbons. When I got home I looked up the rules, and sure enough the AKC doesn't require a club to provide titling ribbons. I think they should be required, and I am newly proud of the LCCOC for offering the beautiful red ones I got for Maxie's Novice titles. I was told by the Trial Secretary to pick up these ribbons the next trial I attend.

Things to bring or buy: Ear muffs, thin but warm gloves, bleacher pads.  Because of low light pollution, the late night sky was bright with many stars.  It could be good to bring the telescope if the weather is right.
Nearby attractions:  In Iowa, about 6 mi east of Lake Charles, is a truck stop with the best, biggest boudin balls ever, at .89 cents apiece.  We bought a dozen of them on the way home and by the next day they were gone.
Proofing against horses:  There were horses in the stalls surrounding the rings, and horse poop piled up around the rings.  Many dogs, including Maxie and Charlie, were pulled off course multiple times by sniffing poop or looking up to see the horses moving around, swishing their tails, shaking their heads, etc.
New Friends:  I was crated near Patricia Horton (with Sadie) and Sherry Neumann (with Spangles), who both have Papillons competing at Excellent B level, 8".  Pat and Sadie have competed at AKC Nationals. They are from Houston and invited me to their club's trial at Reliant next spring, with it's carpeted rings.  We talked quite a bit about our paps, training history, etc.  Both outgoing, savy competitors, who travelled to the trial together.  I look forward to seeing them again, swapping more stories, etc.  They were both very complimentary of Maxie, which of course made me happy.  They gave me their emails for a link to the videos.
When The Judge Gets In The Way:  next post, with video snippets and comments.

L to R:  Jonathan, Maxie, Willow, Michele
We rest up after the trial.
The big rigs just unplug and drive off,
but we still have an hour or 2 of packing up to do. 
We are the very last to leave, including the ring crew!
This is making me think about convenience and parting with my darling little pop-up.
 Now that I've met my 2010 goal, I won't do any more trialing until at least February 2011.  I'm going to concentrate on Christmas, New Years, a visit to my parents in southern Florida for their 90th and 95th birthdays, looking at my training DVD's, improving my competitive edge, and practice, practice, practice.  We are going to have some low pressure fun.

Upwards and onward!

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