Monday, October 24, 2011

Kiln Agility Trial - Swamp Dog Agility Club

Maxie:  6 runs, 2Q's, 2 1st places, MX TITLE, 38 MACH Points - Videos posted
Lucky Lucy: 6 runs, 2Q's, 1 1st place, AXJ TITLE, 1 MACH Point (our first) - Videos posted
Judge:  Scott W. Stock

Diorama made by some Swamp Dog members,
an agility course with a Halloween theme. 
It was widely admired and created a festive atmosphere.
All of our 2011 goals have now been met, excepting the 6th QQ for Maxie and 400 MACH points by November 1st.  It's been a long row to hoe, with a much poorer Q'ing rate this year (about 33%) compared to last year's 66%.  Some of that is running 2 dogs at different heights, and on different courses while bringing Lucky up through Novice.  Obviously, the split focus didn't help my performance.  With both Maxie and Lucky in Excellent this weekend, I had no trouble memorizing 2 courses per day, and didn't have any personal off courses.  Maxie's MACH points after this weekend tally 305, but we would have 363 if AKC hadn't changed the rules in June, no longer giving double points for 1st place. Only 37 points off my goal (on the original system).  Close, very close.

We would have had that 6th QQ this past Sunday had I not pushed Maxie off the second to last jump.  But even if I hadn't, he ran out the gate and got eliminated.  Now we must go to Lake Charles trial over Thanksgiving, or give up the goal.

Maxie runs like the wind.
Maxie's speed was incredible all weekend (always among the top 3 in time even when eliminated), and mine was improved some as well.  The mini-running drills I've been putting myself through seem to be paying off, though the progress would be hard for anyone else to notice. Here's a thumbnail of a photo I'm purchasing, and a video of Maxie's MX TITLE RUN, where he was 1st place, 23 seconds under course time, and 9 seconds faster than the 2nd place dog.  I was so afraid he'd take the tunnel instead of the dog walk and the A-frame instead of curving to the jump, I was calling him harder than usual.  Next year I hope to replace my yelling with more confidence in our teamwork.

Lucky leading with the
wrong foot.
Lucky's speed was improved as well -- she NEVER ONCE exceeded course time!  And on her title run, she was 9 seconds UNDER course time, and was listed as 'HIGH IN CLASS", whatever that is.  Also, she never missed her weaves, though she walked them 4 out of 6 times.

Looking at the Michael Loftis professional photos, he caught a strange thing.  It looks like Lucky sometimes steps thru the weaves with her outside foot leading in, which I've never noticed before, and which would certainly slow her down.  I'll research that further real soon by studying her photos and re-watching her videos in slow-mo, and in any case will retrain the weaves this winter by opening the channel a bit.  (See next post on Weave Pole Performance).

KT Tape on my calf.
The KT Sports Tape I wore on my calf worked miracles.  I had no muscle problems whatever.  I got home and took the tape off (it lasted 4 days with no problem), and today the calf has twinges again!  I am totally baffled how this stuff works as there is no stretching when applying and it isn't medicated, but all the top athletes wear it over sprains and torn ligaments, so it must be doing something!  I also sat on one of my new instant ice packs for about 30 minutes on Saturday to soothe my aching sciatic nerve.  It stayed very cold for 30 minutes, and the sciatic never bothered me again.

It was a 3 day trial, with a match on Thursday.  I brought my pop-up, so we were on-site for 4 days.  40's at night but we were cozy inside.  I decided to run Lucky once in the match, the last dog on Thursday evening, around 6:45 p.m.  A great decision, it turned out.  It was quiet in the arena.  We had the place almost to ourselves.  We ran around helter-skelter with her tug toy in my hand, I threw it several times after she did fast weaves or contact equipment, and she ran her heart out and had an obvious blast.  They let us play longer than 2 minutes.  We both loved the spontaneity, not following course numbers.  Then during the trial, before and after each run, I bribed her with steamed shrimp, which I discovered motivates her more than the usual hot dogs and string cheese.  She is a shrimp fiend.  I show her I'm putting one in my mouth just before we enter the ring.  She thinks it's there during the run but of course I've swallowed it (no treats allowed in the ring).  I have another one stored just outside the ring and immediately after the run I fetch her tug toy, tug a bit, then toss her the other shrimp which I've slipped into my mouth.  The same for Maxie, minus the tugging.  I think I've got them both fooled for now.  They both ran faster than ever before.

This was a really good crate space, near everything.
It was breezy and chilly in the mornings,
so I covered my crates with the blue sheet
seen here.
Swamp Dog trials are always fun.  They are run efficiently, the club members seem to really like each other and work well together, the atmosphere is festive, everyone is friendly, competitors are personally invited to help and thanked profusely, they call you by name and praise your dog, the food is plentiful and delicious, and the placement and titling rosettes are nice.  They let me wait until all my runs were done for the day, then I helped with the novice and open classes and tearing down the rings after the last dog has run.  My red wagon came in handy moving those heavy sandbags.  I love my ringside crate space, close to everything.

Coolaroo bed, just Lucky's size
Swamp Dog's raffle had awesome items. To my surprise, I won 2 prizes-- a large Coolaroo raised dog bed stretched on metal legs selling on Amazon for $30, and a bleacher seat, both exactly the kind I've been wanting to get.  I bought 14 tickets for $10, mostly just to support the club, so winning $50 worth of loot was a totally unexpected bonus.  I rarely win anything in the raffles, and as my crate space was right next to the raffle table, I watched many people plunk down $20 and $40 -- a lot more than I did.

The bleacher seat has no brand name showing, but it's the identical one I bought at Wal-Mart last year for $18, then went back for another one for John and they were out.  It's wide, light, has great cushioning and support, arm rests, clips firmly to the bleacher, lots of storage pockets both front and back, and stores really flat.  It's the best one I've ever sat in.

Pumpkin Carving with Swamp Dog RV'ers.  I did a witch flying
over a jump, held up by 2 ghosts.
The Swamp Dog RV'ers outdid themselves with a Halloween pumpkin carving party on Friday night, and a birthday cake and outdoor gumbo dinner for the judge on Saturday night.

Judge Scott Stock was very engaging, and regaled us with stories of football, his travels, and other trials.  He said we had "the slowest dogs and the worst Q'ing rate he's ever seen, but we were more fun to be with."  He said up north he can attend 35 trials a year without ever driving more than an hour from home.  He said those Yankees take their agility seriously and get agitated quickly with anything they don't like.  His courses were interesting, challenging but not impossible, he judged fairly and cheerfully, and he watched each and every dog intently.  During the breaks he pumped disco music into the arena.  Everyone was dancing around to Thriller and such. That was a first for us, but he says he's not the only judge who does this.  During Sunday's Excellent briefing he told how last year at a Halloween trial he came "costumed" as AKC Judge Scott Chamberlain -- white pants and jacket, white shoes, blue tie!  We had the impecably dressed Judge Chamberlain at a Kiln trial earlier this year so we knew what he was talking about! Everyone roared with laughter.

I'm still streamlining my camper set up and take down routines, eliminating, adding or changing items for efficiency and comfort.  Every movement counts. I'm getting better at it.  Still, it takes me two hours to set up, and I was by far the last one to leave even though I started packing up in the early morning and more between runs.  Sharon Mc stayed in the park until I pulled out, which I really appreciated.

The excitement is hard to explain, since a run
lasts less than a minute
John took this i-photo of Lucky and me at a trial, rare
since I'm almost never in a photo.
After all that comradery, excitement and hard work, coming home was a let-down.  Two hours behind the wheel and I was stiff as a board and really tired.  There were no bands playing, no champagne, no dinner prepared, no cake to celebrate our titles.  The house was dark, nobody came to greet me at the door, and the porch light wasn't even on.  When my husband finally heard the dogs barking and roused from his TV chair, his first comment was about a new TV series he's watching.  This totally burst my bubble and led to a less than stellar evening.  After helping me unpack and set up the new doggie bed, John resumed his TV viewing while I disappeared into a hot bath with a stiff drink, gave Willow a shampoo and blow dry, ate my boiled crabs, and slunk off to sleep in the guest room.  Amazingly, I slept like a baby, and had sweet dreams.

Now I've got to figure out how to photograph Maxie with all his ribbons thru MX and MXJ titles, and Lucky with her AX and AXJ's.  I've got a box full of them for each dog, all in a jumble, which need sorting out and displaying somehow.

And I've got to decide whether to sign up for more trials this year, or just concentrate on training "back to basics" skills 'til January.  If all that counts now are QQ's for Maxie to reach MACH status next year, and Lucky has to run faster to attain Masters titles next year, we'll have to improve our speed and accuracy considerably.  On the other hand, with 15 more QQ's to acquire Maxie's MACH status by the end of 2012 (is that a realistic goal?????????), maybe I'd better get started as soon as possible.  We only got 5 QQ's this year!  But most of the misses were near misses (only one teensy weensy mistake), so we almost QQ'd several times.

Today I tallied all our runs to date on that Competition Records Sheet I designed earlier this year in Excel, and here's the summary:

Maxie: 82 runs in 17.5 months, 15 trials, 40 Q's, 35 placements (23 1st, 5 2nd, 4 3rd, 3 4th), MXJ Title, MX Title, 5 QQ, 305 MACH Points
Lucky: 46 runs in 7.5 months, 8 trials, 22 Q's, 17 placements (9 1st, 6 2nd, 2 3rd), AX Title, AXJ Title, 1 MACH point
Michele:  128 runs, 62 Q's (not quite 50%, but this is misleading because there were about 66% Q's in Novice, Open, and Excellent A for Maxie).  Our Excellent B performance has been about 33%.

Our dog club is revising its Constitution and By-laws, in particular the membership requirements (I was on the Constitutional Revision Committee earlier this year).  Tonight it's being put before the membership for discussion, so I've been reviewing the document.  Not as fun as running dogs, but we must make progress, and updated governing documents are an important part of our 48 year old club's ability to grow and thrive.

Upwards and onward!

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