Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brandon Trial - Sat Sun

Maxie, 4 runs, 3 Q's (XJ 2nd place, XS 1st place, XJ 2nd place), 1 QQ, 42 MACH Points
Lucky, 4 runs, 1 Q (XS 2nd place)
Videos are posted (see links right column).

Maxie, Lucky, Willow and I attended my 5th trial for 2011, in Brandon, MS this past Easter weekend. The mood was festive and several ladies wore Easter garb between their runs and told stories of previous Easter trials and how they've decorated their bonnets over the years.

Pulling out of BR around noon Friday, I heard a thunk under the left front wheel about half a mile down the road and the car began pulling hard to the right. I turned around and went home, called Sherwood Car Care and they said bring it in. I offloaded the dogs, went, they put her on the rack and said "don't drive her out of town". So I went home and unpacked my Grand Marquis with its clean windshields and ashtray, dusted floormats, filled tires, and full gastank into John's Grand Marquis, with its dirty windshields, un-checked tires, littered floor, and half a tank of gas, and made it to Brandon 2.5 hours later than I expected. I refused to interpret this as a bad omen. I had a second chariot, after all, and had built in a 4 hour cushion for unseen circumstances.  I do that these days because I can't take rushing any more, and because at my age there should be "no surprise to surprises".  It all worked out.

Lucky's crate left, Willow and Maxie's right,
With cooler, duffle bag, a tray for my table, and chairs arranged
on my 5x7' brown carpet, that's our little weekend home, tightly
squeezed in amidst a sea of others.
I set up my crate space on Friday, then went to the hotel to offload, then Nedra and I went to an early dinner at a fried Catfish shack a few blocks away. $8  Delicious! Mark Ostrich joined us so we learned more about his training and dog club activities in New Orleans. It made me appreciate our club having a field of its own, regular classes, a core of willing instructors, and 24/7 field privileges for qualified students.

Fewer of our club members (Nedra, Kay, Loralie, Tracey, Sandy and me) showed up at the trial due to it being Easter weekend, not the usual gang that hangs together.  With various personalities missing the dynamic was different, which I found interesting. 

Also, the trial was smaller, the days ended by 3 p.m., so everyone was willing to hang around for the last runs of our Open and Novice dogs (Lucky, Trea and Toozie). Since Toozie was the last dog to run on Sunday, Kay kept telling me I didn't have to stay, she understood we wanted to get on the road, etc.  Which gave me the opportunity to explain to her I really truly don't want to miss any of our "doggie debuts".  I find them thrilling, even more so when I contemplate comparing them to videos of these teams 3 years from now.  As in "from this tiny acorn a giant oak grew". Or, "from this wild unrully unfocused dog a highly coordinated champion emerged."  And equally, "from this gangly, eratic, confused student a competent, graceful, sure-footed handler metamorphosized!"  It doesn't happen overnight.  Newbies need to know that.  I need to keep reminding myself, so I don't get discouraged.
Gas prices, $3.65/gallon, make these agility trials more expensive! It took $55 to fill up my tank and I heard many people talking about laying off of trialing for awhile.

Trial Site Summary: (see Trial Site Summaries link, right column)

Our Runs:
The runs all weekend were Small to Tall, so Maxie was the 4th dog to run each morning. I had to be there by 7:15 a.m. to settle in, which was not a problem -- for the first time I felt totally alert. I was able to memorize the courses quickly, without maps, and didn't feel nervous on my turn. Maybe I've finally got the "early morning" issue resolved: Lights out by 10:30. Take half a sleeping pill. Get up at 5:30, plenty of time to do my morning rituals without rushing.

Maxie: When I'm sure of where I'm going on course, Maxie follows pretty well.  There were no great challenges.  He made good time, as evidenced by his 42 MACH points, i.e. 42 seconds under SCTs (Standard Course Times), an average of 10 seconds under SCT per run.

Lucky: Can't say the same for Lucky.  On Saturday she was running fast, jumping low, and I was sometimes handling at a distance!  She hopped thru the weaves, too, never popped out.  Even at that, she was from 1 second under SCT to 5 seconds under SCT.  On Sunday she ran some, loped some, and walked some, resulting in running 2 seconds over and 9 seconds over SCT.  This is way too close, even at her best.  She HAS TO RUN FASTER and MAKE TIGHTER TURNS. PERIOD!

Both dogs' weaves were faster with the daily practice I've been putting them through at home, tossing treats ahead as Maxie exits the last pole, throwing a tug toy for Lucky, building drive and muscle memory.  I followed through with my plan not to "dread" the weaves, to just put them in and trust them to take every pole, kept my distance. But this needs improvement and broke down once as Lucky came to a stop at pole 10 and almost lost her Q.  I reached in psychically and pulled her nose through to the finish.  It was by a thread that she Q'd.  By a thread.  The audience sighed relief when she made it through. And Maxie popped out at weave 10 on his first Sunday run, then ran the first 6 and walked the rest on another run. The videos will show me what I was doing wrong.  My dogs can weave fast.

Lucky's jump chute training is paying off already, after just a few reps. She jumped lower and broader and ran faster, though not consistently. Still, I was pummelled rather brutally (just after her Q on Saturday - odd damn time to pummell someone) for not cheering her on, that she looks tired and uninspired in the ring. I raced back to the hotel, even skipped dinner, to check the videos of how uninspired my dog is, and found the observations were exaggerated. Other than still yelling "over" at every jump (i.e., I still don't trust my dogs to automatically take what's next in the sequence), I cheer them on no more or less than most people including my critic (excepting Tracey, the cheerleadingest person at every trial). Good lord, I'm so busy concentrating on finding the next obstacle, picking up my feet, not falling on my face, etc., it's all I can do to say "here", "over", "come on".  Lucky isn't unhappy, she just has that hang-dog look, and running agility for her mamma is NOT her greatest thrill in life.  It's mine!  But then, playing fetch and tugging with her for hours is NOT my greatest thrill in life.  It's hers! So we trade favors.  She runs like a maniac if she isn't hot or tired, and if I have a tug toy in my hand.

Lessons Learned:
  • People's observations aren't necessarily accurate. They don't know all the factors being dealt with.   A woman who seems to run like a clutz might well be a polio victim who was told she could never walk!  Then "look at that clutz" becomes "wow, look at her run."
  • The "butt push".  One lady's dog took the wrong end of the tunnel when she pointed to the correct end with her arm, but bent over in such a way that her butt was pushing to the path of the other end.  Dog ran behind her behind and took the other entrance.  I couldn't believe it when, discussing this with Nedra, she called it "the butt push" and said she had been warned against this at a seminar!
  • I'm tired of "barely got that Q" runs.  I want flawless Q's.
  • Lucky didn't get her Open Jumpers Title. No problem. Next time.
  • Lucky needs to run faster -- keep up the jump chutes and weave pole practice. Get her involved in Lure Coursing.
  • More practice on rear crosses.  Too many push offs and near push offs witnessed and experienced.
  • 3 more XJ Q's for Maxie's MXJ title
  • 5 more XS Q's for Maxie's MX title
  • 3 more 2Q's (at least) for Maxie by October, making a total of 6, qualifying us for an invitation to AKC Nationals, leaving 14 for next year.
  • Sign up for the next trial.  Monroe?  Birmingham?  Definitely not Galveston, which is unairconditioned and will be hot.
  • More practice on front crosses.  I don't do them, but need to.
  • Get the LCCOC crawfish boil organized for Mother's Day weekend.
  • Plan next session of classes for Intermediate Beginners.  Nice group of novice competitors developing there.

With all the videos I'm taking, last week I conceived the idea of putting together an e-book called "What Can Go Wrong In The Ring", with hundreds of snippets.  I ran the idea by a few people, who liked it. All I need is a good video editing program.  Still haven't found it.

Upwards and onward!

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