Sunday, March 31, 2013

AKC National Agility Championship - Masher the 8" Papillon

BACK ROW:  8" Masher & Daneen Fox,
12" Sketcher & Barb Davis, 16" Karma & Cheryl Morris,
FRONT ROW:  20" Sweet & Dudley Fontaine,
24" Roo & Stacey Campbell, 26" Pace & Desiree Snelleman
I didn't go to Nationals, but I followed along as best I could with scoresheets posted on AKC's website and's broadcast of the Final Round.  I naturally followed the 8" dogs and especially the Papillons since I train and run Papillons.  So I thought I'd share what I learned about how the Paps fared, and how I discovered the astounding Masher!

In the final round, all the dogs ran the same identical course. In the 8" class, there were 11 dogs - 7 of them Papillons.  1st place went to Masher, a fiesty little Black & White owned by Daneen Fox, who ran the course almost 5 seconds faster than the 2nd place 8", a Toy Fox Terrier.  That was thrill enough to levitate me out of my seat, but further analysis revealed much, much more.

There were 18 12" dogs competing, and 18 16" dogs.  Neither 1st place winners in either class beat Masher's time.

In the 20" class, with 31 dogs competing, only one beat Masher's time, by only 4 100ths of a second.  And a border collie at that.

In the 24" class, with 11 dogs competing, nobody beat Masher.

In the 26" class, with 6 dogs competing, one border collie beat Masher's time by only .786 seconds.

95 dogs competing in the Final Round, and only 2 beat Masher!!!!!!!!! This is one fast little Papillon.

Here's the chart of 1st place wins, comparing their times:
30.550 -  8" Masher ( Papillon)
31.608 - 12" Skecher (Sheltie)
30.848 - 16" Karma (Border Collie)
30.512 - 20" Sweet (Border Collie)
33.267 - 24" Roo (AMD)
29.754 - 26" Pace (Border Collie)

Despite the dog's sizes, there's a spread of only 3.513 seconds between them.  Incredibly close race.

Here's Masher's Final Round: .

Here's the link to the course map for this round, for those who want to try their hand at it:

I felt compelled to go online to find out more about this amazing Masher, and his handler Daneen.  So far I've found out:
  • Masher has won many, many medals both in the USA and abroad. 
  • He's about 5 years old, and lives in California. 
  • His full name is: MACH4 Livewire Its All Gravy MXB2 MJG2 XF T2B 
  • His average YPS in AKC jumpers in 2012 was 6.12 yards per second.  His average in Standard was 4.85 YPS. 
  • He competes at 12" in some venues, and wins regularly. 
But it wasn't always so.  I found an engagingly different blog, Easy To Spot, written by Daneen's traveling companion and assistant, relating many of Daneen's challenges becoming the handler she is today.  It's a fresh look at the ups and downs -- the spills, the nerves, the injuries, the venues -- the many challenges of agility competition.  It's honest, and gets at the truth. It's a dream of mine to have such a supportive agility friend by my side, and to be one in return.

Probably I'll post more on Masher as I get the time to dig it up, but this is enough for now.  First, Tigger, AKC's top agility dog, now Masher.  Ahhh!  I'm so inspired.  Gotta go hug my little boys.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hand Of Man

On Friday's tour through Hodges Gardens (see previous post), drinking in endless vistas of man made beauty embellishing rough terrain, I was suddenly struck by an unusual sight on the side of the road.  I backed the RV up to take this photo.  For amidst the endless array of boulders, pine trees and pine straw bedding on an otherwise colorless hill, I saw an old gnarled stump sprouting a red camelia.

At first I couldn't figure how a camelia flower could be growing out of a stump. Camelias grow on bushes. I backed up the van for a closer look and realized that some hiker must have picked a camelia from the gardens somewhere on the other side of the hill, and thoughtfully placed it there.  An intentional statement?  Another striking instance of the hand of man embellishing nature, juxtaposing opposites?

I don't know why it struck such a cord with me, as much or more impressive as all the gardens and fountains Hodges created.  So stark.  So simple.  So unexpected and ephemeral, like sand art that is laid down for a day then blown away by the wind. The hand of man spontaneously beautifying nature.  How incredibly artful for some casual visitor to place that single flower there, aware that it would soon be gone. Did they hope someone else would notice, or was it just to please themselves.  Did they take a photo?  I was utterly entranced.

I determined to return the next day, find the camelia bush, and retrace the steps of this ephemeral artist.

Spire, with a 360 view
of all the gardens below.
Saturday John, Christina and I toured the gardens.  We climbed to the spire, spotted the camelia gardens in the valley below and made our way there where I found the very bush this flower came from, amidst a hundred other bushes of different varieties.  There were thousands of blooms on towering bushes and spent flowers on the ground in such profusion they didn't look special at all by comparison to the one in the stump.

We crossed over the hill and searched for the stump.  John found it.  As I suspected, the flower was no longer there.  The canvas was mine!  I decided then and there to go back and rescue a few more blooms, try and make an art statement of my own. I carefully chose two different flowers from 2 different bushes, on the ground but in fairly good condition.

Mine were pink and two very different shapes.

I made Christina and Shadow pose with me for one shot showing the background road and lake. I think she and John thought I was being quite silly, but they indulged me without complaint.  I wish I had picked up a 3rd flower from a white camellia bush, and put 3. 

I had forgotten, flower arranging is always done in odd numbers.

Turned out, the single red camellia carried the most potent message.

This was one of the most memorable parts of my trip, tapping into my artistic side, and I will never know if anyone else stopped to ponder that there were flowers in that stump?  Take a picture of my arrangement?  Next day when we passed by on our way out, only 1 flower remained.  It looked great!  Has anyone else, on other weekends, ever placed flowers there?  How many arrangements has that old stump displayed?
Upwards and onward,

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hodges Gardens Star Party

field and barn
Observation Field of the BRAS Star Party at Hodges Gardens, tent campers spread out across the field.

My husband and I belong to the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society. John is as involved in this group as I am in our dog club, attending lectures, helping host stargazing evenings at CC’s Coffee House, Best Buy, etc., earning amateur astronomer certificates, and contributing articles to the BRAS newsletter. I attend just a few events, and especially enjoy the out of town retreats to dark sky places where I can bring my dogs. It’s one reason we got the RV.

Last weekend (Thurs – Sun, March 14-17), we were off to the Hodges Gardens in mid-west Louisiana near Leesville, not far from the Texas border.  3.5 hour drive through some pretty hill country. Gorgeous weather all the way, and well worth the drive to see this place. On the drive we talked and I discovered that John's pursuit of astronomy is similar to mine in training dogs -- personal development, feeling "fired up", and wonderment at this incredible adventure called life.

Hodges 4700 acres was private until it was donated to the State of LA in 2007.  The Hodges put in lakes, formal gardens, a grass air strip, equestrian center, hiking trails, gift shop, cabins, canoeing, and an RV camp.  The park also boasts a huge field with no light pollution (photo above), perfect for the annual star party BRAS hosts. 66 amateur astronomers showed up, many families rented cabins, others pitched tents right there in the field, a few like us had RV’s.

red barn (800x600)
The Red Barn, and grassy area where we trained our dogs.
In distance, the huge field with tent campers and canopies.
It was our first star party. Thursday afternoon we drove straight to the observation field, set up John's equipment and our dogs' x-pen under our 10' canopy, and I found the perfect level shady place to park my RV beside an old red barn, with a flat grassy lawn for dog training beside it.   I was very happy.  But after dark the dogs were not happy in the field, barking at everything, so I brought them back to the RV.  As no lights were allowed, I draped the windows, lit one candle, and listened to podcasts in the dark on my iPhone til midnight. At some point the BRAS director came over and informed me we were not allowed to park there overnight, nor run our generator, nor even drive vehicles within 1/4 mile of the field after 6 p.m. (light pollution).  I could not stay in my spot.   This made no sense to me as other people had vehicles parked in that field beside their tents for 4 days.

So at midnight curfew we drove the RV 1/4 mile back to the parking lot where a few other RV's were and went to sleep, miffed.  I learned there were no electric or water hookups anywhere.  I was more miffed!. Next morning, I located a shady spot amidst pine trees to park the rest of the weekend, and marked it with orange cones so when I drove off to tour nobody else would get my spot.  The only way I could level the unit was to sink the back wheels into a low spot.  Our new location was too long a distance to walk the dogs back and forth to the Observation Field in the pitch dark.

Thus, John did the stargazing while I spent Friday night in the RV, again, and entertained myself in the dark, again, listening to Podcasts until my iPhone battery went dead.  Then I was really miffed. John was having fun, but this weekend was not at all what I had pictured.

One of the 2 earthen dams
with a road on top.
Day times were splendid, though!  Friday Karen, her kids, John and I took a driving tour together through the park, in the RV, stopping along the way for me to take photos.  We pooled our food and enjoyed several meals in Karen’s cabin, and played a new board game - Gemlock. Saturday John, Christina and I went back and walked through the gardens.  Beautiful!

We could drive up to the field any time during the day, park in shade beside the red barn. I set up my agility equipment in what turned out to be the only level grassy area in the whole park. Christina, a teenager who trains a border collie, had come along with her mother and brother, Karen & Jacob, both active in BRAS, when she learned I was bringing my dogs and equipment. Both Friday and Saturday, we trained during the day while the astronomer geeks did their thing. I brought enough portable equipment to set up jump chutes, threadles, serpentines, weaves, and chute for Maxie, Lucky, and Shadow. Christina helped me work Pepper on short sequences. Lucky especially enjoyed chasing her Chuck-It ball through the tall dead grass in the field, Pepper racing alongside. We drew some interest from others who took a break from star talk and came to watch us train. Alas, I didn’t get pics of any of that.

About Hodges Gardens:
While the park is mostly hilly pine country and rough, with hiking and horse trails scattered about, the formal gardens are cultivated and elegant.  Similar to Bellengrath Gardens near Moblie, AL, but hillier, and without a plantation to tour. 

Built near an old quarry, with plenty of slate and granite around, the Hodges had built numerous architectural stone structures, plus 2 dams creating a beautiful lake and designed gardens with meandering paths, and a series of waterfalls cascading through camelia, azelea, rose and other gardens.  An amphitheater, and numerous lookout points on hilltops – gorgeous!

cabin (800x600)
Karen's cabin by the lake.

There are 12 cabins for rent clustered here and there around the lake (alas, no dogs allowed within), a lodge for retreats, canoes and kayaks for rent, horesback riding trails, and boat ramps.  Lots of outdoor suff to do.

One sad point about Hodges, there were no designated RV spots, no hookups, and no level ground. The sites that used to be there were torn out by the state for "not meeting code", there is no level ground, the roads have many potholes, and it seems our state budget does not have enough cash to fix things, which is why their official website doesn't do the place justice. (The Friends Of Hodges website has a great page on the history of the place, lots of before and after B & W pics, well worth the read.) Many people there were badmouthing LA Gov. Bobby Jindal for siphoning off the money.

Our campsite, just off the parking lot.  That's me with
Willow, Maxie, Pepper, Lucky

Our campsite was in piney woods on the edge of a large grass airstrip some astronomers used at night to view the Pan-Starr comet at nightfall.  I just missed seeing it myself before it disappeared below the horizon. This spot doesn't do for a star party because there are lights in the parking lot and cars with headlights coming and going, destroying night vision.

Friday night John walked the 1/4 mile to the field, and walked home at about midnight.  We learned next day that about 3 a.m. a single huge gust of wind blew down our canopy, despite it being staked down, so we took it down Saturday.  It wasn’t damaged, but some others out there were destroyed.  Some people tent camping had their tents come down on their heads, one a pregnant lady. A few telescopes blew over and were damaged, one that cost $9,000 and has to be shipped back to Japan for warranty repairs. Ouch!

Saturday night was open to the public, with a hayride shuttle, so I left the dogs locked in the RV and joined John at the field.  About 200 people showed up, lots of Asian tourists chattering away who had never looked through a telescope before.  It was a blast.  John was in his element, with people lined up to see Jupiter’s moons through his telescope.  Other scopes were trained on various sky objects, with long lines to see them and BRAS members used their lazer lights to point out the object in the sky, explaining what it was.  The weather was cool, the breeze was brisk but manageable, lazer lights criss crossing each other in the night sky made it all the more exciting. 

Light Pollution:
I caught the hayride back to the RV about 10 p.m, perched on wobbly hay bales with about 20 other folks, mesmerized by the moonlight casting eerie shadows across the road through the tall pines.  One doesn’t much notice light pollution in town, but it’s absence is important.  The Milky Way was clearly visible, as were many millions of stars. They fill your soul with wonderment.

Back at the RV Saturday night, alone in the woods again, I thought, to heck with this no electricity situation, fired up my generator, and spent two luxurious hours with lights and a microwave to heat my coffee -- for as long as it took to charge up my phone and computer!  The generator police didn't come get me.  John walked back around 3 a.m., exhausted.

4 days without electricity, and what inconvenienced me most was no way to charge my cell phone or computer.  I found a single plug in the shower building but couldn't see myself sitting in there 2 hours guarding my equipment!  We charged our phones every time we visited Karen's cabin. I also missed my microwave to heat coffee. I learned Sunday while packing up to leave that I could have run the generator the whole weekend. It was only at the Observation Field after 6 p.m. we weren’t allowed to use it! 

Moral #1 of this tale – ask the right questions, to the right people, and don't take your first answer as the only one.
Moral #2 - RV'ers don't need hookups or a generator if you bring your own water, you don't need A/C, have LP gas for stove and fridge, and you can find a plug to charge your phone and computer batteries.
Moral #3 - Light pollution in cities robs us of much of the magic of night.  We should really do something about that.

L to R:  Maxie, Willow, Pepper watch on as
Mommy hops out to take pictures.
Moral #4 - Dogs don't give a damn about flower gardens, lovely scenery or stargazing.  They only look at you.

Moral #5 - Hodges Gardens is a testament how the Hand Of Man can improve upon God's raw design. (see PS below).

Came home and upon reflection, realized that despite all the inconvenience, I had a wonderful time.

More photos of Hodges Gardens here.

Upwards and onward!

P.S.  Lacking electricity, sitting in darkness, parking in undeveloped woods on rough terrain, makes one think differently.  I celebrated the hand of man several times on this trip. More on this in my next post.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pepper's Conformation Qualities

Pepper, March 2013, 17 months old
At the recent Monroe trial I met up with some Papillon folks who show in Conformation.  Dawn graciously offered to assess Pepper's conformation qualities.  I trotted him back and forth, she watched with a professional eye, and made an informal assessment. 

I got home and stacked him, which he does beautifully from just the few weeks conformation training we had way back, then I took a bunch of photos.  He was so patient! This one is my favorites.  Here's what Dawn saw:
  • A bit long in the body
  • A bit tall at 11 3/8", though not a fault unless over 12"
  • Ears set a bit low
  • Nose a bit long
  • Stop a bit shallow
  • Great back leg placement, straight and strong
  • Good front leg alignment, turned out just a bit
  • Good bone structure
  • Nice long legs, dainty yet strong
  • Beautiful markings
  • Nice coat and full ear feathers
  • Correct weight for his size, 8#
Some judges are looking for the longer body and longer nose, Dawn said, and don't mind the higher height.  She says I could try to show him.  I doubt I will, but it's nice to know and I'll probably keep him intact awhile longer. 

He grows more and more handsome in my eyes as he gets older (now 17 months).  And what I like most, he is getting more hooked on me and more receptive to training.  With Maxie being my biggest heart throb for so long and so attuned to me, I am having to make a conscious effort to gush as much affection on Pepper as I have always done to Maxie.  It is making a difference, I think, in how Pepper interacts with me.
In case you're wondering, that's a frosted glass table he's standing on, with azeleas both over and under the table.  I thought that was kinda cool.  Here's a few more shots I like:


Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Maxie's Bronze Titles

Maxie indulging Mommy in yet another photo session,
this one to commemorate his BRONZE AGILITY TITLES.
Q = Qualifying Score (no mistakes)
Bronze Title = 25 Q's in either Standard or Jumpers
QQ = two Q's in one day, both Standard and Jumpers courses
MACH (Master Agility CHampion) = 20 QQ's

Maxie's Bronze Lifetime Achievement AKC titles in Standard (MXB) and Jumpers (MJB) both came in this past week and are a very welcome acknowledgement along our way towards MACH.  Interestingly, he got his 25th Q in both Standard and Jumpers in New Iberia this past February 15 and 16, just one day apart. That tells me he is equally skilled in both venues.

These awards are so new to AKC, it never crossed my mind until the certificates came in to pick up ribbons for those titles. I won't be able to get them from the hosting club until next year's trial.  Lacking the rosettes, I decided to take a commemorative picture today, of him amongst our beautiful azeleas, and I couldn't resist sharing one or two of him with our other Paps as well.

Maxie and Pepper doing their "cross your paws" trick.
Maxie acquired his Master's titles (10 Q's) in both Standard and Jumpers almost 18 months ago (my, how time files) and we've been inching up the laddar towards MACH since then, with only 12 QQ's under our belt so far and a long ways to go to Championship.  I'm finding out, it can be long way from a Masters title (10 Q's), to MACH (20 QQ's).  He's had a reasonable 50% Q rate, but rarely 2 clean runs in one day, and doing only about 10 trials a year, it could take a good while longer.

I have reason to hope we can quicken the pace now, as his NQ's (non-qualifying scores) are almost always due to one single fault per run.   I see no scientific or psychological reason why there should be one fault every 19 or 20 obstacles?  In fact, it's absurd for Maxie and me not to Q almost every time!  Yes, yes, that's right, we shall simply quit making errors!!

Master Bronze (25 Q's) in either Standard or Jumpers is, of course, more achievable than MACH.  For slower dogs like Lucky Lucy, who rarely Q's in the fast paced Jumpers courses due to exceeding course time, Bronze and Silver Standard titles may be the only advanced titles she ever earns.  For her to MACH could take years (unless I can speed her up).  So I must say that even though they don't carry the same prestige as MACH, I appreciate the interim Bronze titles.  They give teams some acknowledgement for their hard work, and goals to strive for that can keep us reaching for the gold ring.

L to R:  Willow, Maxie, Pepper
Willow wants no part of those crossed paws.
Upwards and onward,

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cataract Surgery - Part 3

It's been almost a year since my Cataract Surgery on my left eye (March 15, 2012), and the botched job is finally getting so much worse I need to do something.  Studying my videos from the recent Monroe trial, I was horrified to see my handling getting worse.  I know it's because my depth perception is off, as though I'm blathering drunk or seriously hung over all the time.  I have a hard time distinguishing obstacle distances and all the horizontal bars blend together.  I can't rely on vision to judge the distances.  Sometimes the jumps are farther away than they seem, sometimes closer.  I run in halting fashion like I'm confused, surprised, nearly lost.  No wonder my dogs are slowing down despite them becoming better agility dogs.

Worse handling has resolved me to at last do something about my eyesight.  I haven't wanted to think about it, much less deal with it.  But now I see I must.  I can't go thru life seeing things in a blur, not taking stairs unless I have a rail to hold onto, much less run my dogs with confidence.

Taking action on this fills me with fear.  I have no confidence in doctors.  They deal with your most vital parts, but don't know you from Adam.  They make their money and toss you out to fend for yourself.  The highly respected specialist who did my cataract surgery made me feel like a slab of cow meat.  A few months after the surgery I attempted to write a followup post, but I couldn't finish it.  I've finally posted it today, unedited, unpolished, a stream of conscious rambling account of my surgery and aftermath, entitled Cataract Surgery - Part 2.  The upshot of which is . . . . when I told that doctor something wasn't right, his reaction was "I've done over 30,000 of these operations and I've done my job right.  The tests show you have 20/20 vision in that eye.  I don't know what else you expect me to do." 

I don't either.  But you're the specialist.  Do something.  Show interest in my case.  Find out why my left eye is still swollen, it feels like a pin pricking the inside corner when I look left, like a blast of cold air hitting the surface when I look right, and my eye cries all the time. Plus, I'm still looking through a fog, and little brown squigglies float through the eye. My new eye sees things one size, the old eye sees them smaller. Very disorienting. I can't go back to that same pompous jackass, but I can't go on like this.  So now I have to figure out my next move.  What will it be?  Guess I'll confer with a few different specialists and see what they suggest.  I'll keep you posted.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blog Event #6 - "Internationalization"

Agility bloggers are submitting their opinions on March 6th about the "internationalization" of dog agility, all articles linked to here, which means the effect of the European influence on our sport.  Clearly agility is taught and practiced differently in different countries.

NOTE:  I originally put comments in this post more suited to an upcoming Blog Event about improving our sport, so I removed them and will repost later.  My apologies for being too broad on the subject of Internationalization, which apparently refers only to handling and course design . . . . . not anomalies in classes, jump height, judging, trial situations and growing the sport.

That apology said, I'll reveal that competing on the international or even the national plane is not my game -- yet.   But challenging and improving myself as much as possible and exploring the limits of what dogs and handlers can do, is my game.  So I'm interested.  I have no way to compare systems except to listen to the voices of others thru articles, blogs and podcasts, and watch videos of the FCI worlds and other YouTube videos.

My observations are thus:

The Internet:  With the advent of the internet, (YouTube, Facebook, search engines, key words, cloud storage, free blog space and podcasts where individuals can share what they know for free, and without the necessity for "position" or "credentials"), and with a universal language most people can speak (lets thank the English for something) the world is opening up to allow humans to display their inately generous spirit.  We all want to share what we know, and learn what others know.  We are no longer trapped by our locale.  We are less provincial.  Education has exploded as we watch a wider world explore and interpret their experiences. It's a Yahoo time to be alive, and this flows into our sport!  Let's keep it Yahoo.

Things I've learned recently:

Running Contacts are elegant, beautiful, and efficient.  Watching dogs creep down the boards or stick the bottom of the A-frame and Dog Walk, or worse, back up and stretch a back leg backwards to touch the board, looks stupid.  So I've quit training 2O2O, though I still don't know how to train Running Contacts.  I'm looking for an online teacher because nobody locally teaches it yet, and I hope Running Contacts becoming the standard way we train those obstacles.  Whoever came up with it, it's a great advance.

The Moves: All the various crosses, (front, rear, blind, blended, reverse flow, ketchker, etc.) and the other moves (reverse flow pivot, backy uppy, etc) are very cool, fun to practice, important to know. Bring them on. Add new ones. Just don't include them in the novice level courses. And don't forget the newbies.  One of the problems I've seen with "experts" is they get bored with teaching the simpler moves and rules.

Distance Handling vs. Close Handling - Europeans seem to favor close handling and fast running, whereas in the US we have been in love with distance handling.  I have spent hours teaching my dogs to "go out" so as not to be chided for "babysitting" my dogs.  I love DH because as an older, less atheletic person I need my dogs to work away. And it's thrilling to watch when done correctly, especially by handlers with infirmities who can't move well.   I love to review a course map and draw a line of what I call the "handler's corridor", the minimum space a handler might traverse to efficiently direct his dog over all the obstacles.  But DH can also be an excuse not to learn to move your carcass! I love that we are beginning to realize we need to train handlers to move and developing exercise strategies for our human atheletes!  It's not just about the dogs' agility and atheleticism.  It's awe inspiring to see young people getting into the sport who can run fast.

Commentators:  For our sport to grow, we will need commentators building interest and educating viewers like every football game has.   I believe the challenges introduced by European-style courses and handling maneuvers builds far more excitement into the sport for spectators.  They are far more amazing to watch.

Well, now I'm going to hang back and listen to what everyone else has to say.  I expect to have my eyes opened wide.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monroe Agility Trial March 1, 2, 3 2013

Maxie: 4 runs 3 Q's 1 QQ, 3 2nd places, 30 MACH points, 4 videos
Lucky Lucy: 4 runs, 2 Q's, 2 3rd places, 6 MACH points, 4 videos

Left BR Thursday at 1:30 planning to arrive West Monroe before dark.  Oops, before I got on I-10 I noticed my gas peddle was flopping around.  I whipped into Firestone, they did a “curb side” check and sure enough, the pin holding the pedal onto the shaft had broken.  They rigged up a nut and bolt to get me going.  That put me 1/2 hour later on the road.  Didn’t bother me.  Uneventful trip, beautiful drive, little traffic.

RV park at the IKE Convention Center.  I'm on the left.
First time RV’ing at the IKE Center, a vast asphalt parking lot with no shade, no beauty, little grass to potty the dogs, and a 4 minute hike to the arena from my spot up close to the back.  Arrived, picked a spot way back by the grassy area, backed in, leveled the RV, then discovered the electric was 50V, which I didn’t have an adapter for.  S#%T!  By the time I went looking for a 30V it was pitch dark and no night lighting whatsoever.  Running around with my flash light, I found most of the boxes were locked down.  I finally found a 30V connection open close to the arena, then leveled the RV in the dark in 35 degree weather.  So much for picking my favorite spot!  And with all my strength I could not open the water valve, so I did without city water all weekend. Somehow, none of that stressed me out either.
Only 2 channels came in on my dinky little AIR antennae, but I got to watch Jay Leno for a change.  He’s gotten funnier over the years.  I opened up my couch and used it as a bed for the first time.  It’s so comfortable, I fell asleep watching TV and woke up there in the morning!  But I noticed the RV walls got cold. Heater worked great after I directed all the vents towards the center of the rooms – they were all facing the floor.  Heater ran almost continuously with temps ranging from 28-55 all weekend (4 days), and used up about 3/4 of my LP tank.   Also learned I don’t need to bother with connecting up the water line.  1/2 tank is plenty for all my flushing needs, and I bring 4 gallons of drinking water for coffee, cooking and dogs.

Our crate space -- daytime home for 3 days.

It was too cold to set up my outdoor yard, and since the arena was far away I set up my crate space indoors. It’s easy as pie to set up if all you do is drive up, level up and plug in. Yahoo!  (But first, be sure you can plug in.)

Now, on to the trial: I only got in for Friday and Sunday, so Saturday I just hung out and tinkered. Dogs ran tall to small all weekend, making Lucky the 6th dog on the line in each class, and Maxie was second to last! Only one ring, which went smoothly and Tanya Lee, Trial Sec, says it goes just as fast as with 2 rings if the judges nest the courses properly.

Maxie:  1 QQ, at least 20 MACH points, and running weaves/got my QQ plus another Q and 30 MACH points, but no running weaves which helped cause his 4th clean run to be 3 seconds over time.
Lucky Lucy:  1 jumpers Q, 1 standard Q, at least 5 MACH points, and running weaves/got both Q's and 6 MACH points, but no running weaves.
Pepper:  better leash behavior, off leash sit/stays in arena at practice bar, attentiveness to me, ease with other people and trial environment/got all except better leash behavior.

Theresa & Breeze
Theresa and Breeze, a tiny sheltie
FRIDAY:  Maxie QQ’d with 2 2nd places, placing that high only because Breeze, who usually beats Maxie by 10 seconds or so and working on his 4th MACH, got pulled.  The little 8” sheltie took off from the start line walking– by the 3rd obstacle Theresa picked him up and pulled him out for the weekend – they’re supposed to compete in Nationals in 2 weeks.  She reported he had given a yelp at the practice jump just before his turn.  Musta pulled something. How heartbreaking is that?  Lucky Q’d in Standard by 5 seconds despite walking her weaves, but scratched in Jumpers by walking her weaves plus a refusal in a threadle and taking the table twice. Someone just had to comment that she doesn’t have a good “work ethic”.  I guess that means she lacks drive?  Another chimed in saying I’ve slowed both Lucky and Maxie down by demanding perfection, over-practicing, and not making it fun.  That’s all such bulls#%t, I hardly practice and don't demand perfection, but I wish they’d apply their “make it fun” standards to encouraging me.  I’m going to follow Joe’s advice (who had overheard their comments) –  “Don’t listen to anybody.”

Found out that some clubs comp the runs of their Trial Secretary, Chief Course Builder and Gate Steward, confirming what a few of us have been thinking/talking about recently -- It’s too darn much work to expect key positions of a trial to be filled by volunteers for free, especially when trials are netting thousands of dollars.  We are outgrowing our "hobby" status.  AKC trials have CUSTOMERS who expect competent SERVICE for the thousands of dollars they spend each year.

Tanya Lee studies her club's new tire.
Saw a breakaway tire for the first time, and several of us studied how it worked, with electromagnets holding the bottom sections together. The tire did break apart for several dogs, but Judge Mary Mullens didn't fault that because nobody was sure how to set the tension.  It's clear, several dogs do nick the tire.

Here's a video that explains AKC's new requirement and shows how the breakaway tire works.

Here’s a link to a collection of YouTube videos showing Scary Tyre Accidents, which I’m sure contributed to AKC’s new rule.

Mary Mullens was the most pleasant judge I've encountered so far. She was gracious, supportive, clear, concise, kept things running smoothly, her courses flowed, she nested the courses well.

Dawn in pink with her new pap puppy, Theresa in green
with her new pap, me in red with Maxie & Pepper.
Didn’t make it off the waiting list to run Maxie and Lucky, so Saturday was Pepper’s day.  We hung out all over the place. I had several people hold him while I walked away. We stayed in the bleachers awhile, ringside awhile, alone in the crate awhile, did some heel work, and I worked him off leash in the warm up area.  He sniffed a lot but didn't run away. For those who don't know, this is called "proofing the dog", i.e., desensitizing them to the trial environment long before they ever compete.  It's very important because arenas are very noisy, busy and stressful.   Talked with 2 new papillon owners and we had a little party. Theresa helped me measure him and he's definitely going to jump 12" with his 11 3/8" height.  Sorry, boy, you're going to have to run with much larger, faster dogs.  I hope I can learn to keep up with you.

SUNDAY:  Maxie had 2 clean runs and I really thought he had QQ'd a second time with a 1st place as no other dogs in his class qualified.  Much to my dismay, when the results of the last run were posted, he was 3 seconds over course time.  A first for him. In fact, his YPS all weekend were down, in the 2.8 - 3.2 range whereas he's usually in the 3.25 - 3.8 range.  He seemed to run with nose to the ground a lot, and he never once ran his weaves.  This despite running weaves every day at home for the last week and him begging for more turns.  He sits at the end of the weaves or on the see-saw and refuses to budge.   I literally have to fetch him out of the yard to end his turn. Lucky's Q in Jumpers was icing on the day, with her fastest run time all weekend at 3.68 YPS.

RAFFLE:  Great raffle karma this weekend.

Bought my usual $10 worth, got 15 tickets, and put 5 into each of 3 choices.  I knew I'd win the Addidas baseball shoes because mine were the only tickets in the bag.  I tried them on, they fit perfect, and I have been wanting cleats for training in wet grass or muddy conditions, and the leather cover over the tied shoe laces means they can't come undone while I'm running around.  Worth between $30-$60.

My other two choices had lots of other bidders, so I didn't expect to win.  I was surprised, then, to win a WOOF Leash Rack and assorted dog toys in a plastic sterlite tub.  The rack and tub will go in the RV. We chew through toys quickly so those are always welcome.

And while I didn't win the little plush dog bed, I did congratulate the lady who won it and to my amazement she said she didn't want the bed, just the stuff in it.  I offered her $5 for it and she agreed!  Said it paid for her raffle tickets! Willow is sure I brought this incredible bed home just for her, but they all take turns nestling in. It is very very plush and very very soft, unlike the other cotton, terry cloth or velveteen lined beds around my house. Can they really feel the difference?  The bed seems always occupied, even by Lucky who barely fits.  Except for FoohFooh the dingo, who doesn't go for such froo froo.  In 12 years I don't think I've ever seen him go in a dog bed!  He prefers the hard floor.

L to R:  Willow, Pepper, Maxie, Lucky Lucy

And as I write my last paragraph, I look over and see this vision of adorableness -- Pepper and Maxie curled up together.  Whipped my iPhone out and snapped another pic to show you.  Couldn't resist. It reminds me what the lady said who gave me the bed:  "It wouldn't suit my dog" (a mid size dog but not sure what kind), "but is perfect for your Papillons."  She was right! Before this, I would never have gone out and purchased a plush bed or blanket for my Paps, but by gum, they really can tell the difference and prefer plush to plain!!!
Another bonus: While packing up to leave the arena, I sought out the manager, told him about the dark parking lot on Thursday night, the locked electric boxes and no water, and he refunded me Thursday night's reservation fee -- $20. More details on IKE’s RV accommodations available on my Trial Site Summaries page.  Got home about 8 p.m. and John had dinner cooking for me -- spaghetti and meat sauce, french bread and a big green salad.  Plus he helped me potty and feed the dogs, and unload the RV.  I was quite tired by then, and really appreciated the warm welcome home!
Monday morning I noticed the azeleas had popped open all down my driveway. Picked some for my window sill and used them for Maxie's QQ photo. He didn't much like posing amidst those flowers. Lucky would barely pose. I never could get her ears up and she kept looking at me with those huge brown eyes one is always in danger of falling into, as if to say "how much longer must I endure this torture".

Still have my videos to watch and study, so the trial isn't over yet for me.  I look forward to that, but tomorrow is another Agility Bloggers Event so I have to concentrate on that right now.  I also need to catch up on the 2 courses I'm auditing from the Daisy Peel Online Classroom. Not to mention the rest of my life, which is in a state of complete neglect because it is nowhere near as much fun!

Upwards and onward!