Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hattiesburg Agility Trial - STCA

Maxie 6 runs, 2 Q's, 1 3rd place, 39 MACH points, 6 videos.
Lucky Lucy:  6 runs, 0 Q's, 5 videos

Maxie and me at the start line,
on the red, red dirt of Hattiesburg.
This was a new trial on AKC's calendar, hosted by the AKC afilliated Staffordshire Terrier Club of America on the red red dirt of Hattiesburg.  Dog Gone Fun was hired to run the trial, and they took my BARK bucks in payment, but as no nearby STCA club members could be found to form a Trial Committee, 5 flew in from far parts.  2 from California, 1 from Missouri, and a few others I didn't meet.  They lent a very different flavor to the trial --  loud, friendly, competitive, opinionated, and quite bold handlers of their terriers and pit bulls, who all ran superbly!  They crated near me at ground level in the back hall, so I was privy to some of their almost continuous talk.  No shyness there, and they liked Lucky Lucy.  Their comments were that we southerners are way too uptight, our handling in most cases not very sophisticated.  Their motto:  Fun, Fast, and Fair.  In one kitchen conclave, they said their judges were lots more laid back and entertaining, they handled much more boldly, they focused more on speed and less on Q'ing, and they favored upping the difficulty of AKC courses to prepare competitors for national and international competition.

I objected to that last, explaining that only a handful aspire to compete at the higher levels, that most of us do agility for the health benefits, mental challenge, and structured activities with our dogs.  Several ladies agreed. I suggested the place to make things more complicated is once a dog MACH's, but don't take the recreational aspect of the sport away from the vast majority.  They listened and weren't the least huffy at hearing opinions contrary to their own.

They related that almost all trials out west are held outdoors, as the weather is not so humid and the summer heat much easier to tolerate, everyone brings canopies against heat and rain, and there are tons of matches and trials to attend almost every weekend.  They hinted that outdoors, dogs tend to be more excited about the sport.  Is that why Lucky does so well at our field, so poorly in the arenas?  I hadn't thought of it, but we NEVER practice indoors!


Maxie's 1st run was splendid, a solid Standard Q with 20 MACH points.  A few wide turns cost us placement. That felt great!   His second run was clean but he broke his start line stay (not a fault but very rare) and ran 2 seconds over course time.  Why so slow?  3 runs were very close to Q's, 1 run he veered right and did a tunnel suck while I was going left.  Another run he knocked a bar.  Then one run we did the "Walk Of Shame" off the course, where he smelled something mid-course and wouldn't stop circling and sniffing, and would not let me pick him up.  We got whistled off, of course.  I finally commanded a "Sit", and he sat.  Several other dogs sniffed and NQ'd in the same general area.  I marched straight to his crate and denied him a treat, and ignored him for awhile (a first for us), but I don't think he related this punishment to his behavior.  The best part of all this, for me, is I didn't feel the least bit embarrassed!  Last year I'd have been mortified.

Lucky had 3 clean runs, alas all over course time, and the other 3 she had one mistake each - one weave pop-out, another caused by my bout of vertigo at a planned front cross so I just stood there as the room spun around and she took the jump straight ahead, another a badly placed rear cross.  This last run was her only one with seconds to spare.  She mostly walked the courses.

"BEHIND" command.  One of the STCA gals, running a fast 20" terrier, did an amazing maneuver that caught everybody's attention on Saturday and some of the small dog handlers, walking the course afterwards, crowded around the jumps to discuss it and wonder if we would dare try it.  I was sorely tempted, but with a QQ on the line and no prior practice, I chickened out.  I include the map below. 

It's a "ketchker", some said, but one which I found easier to comprehend than most. More elegant than making a 260 turn, and much faster, the STCA lady showed me how she taught that maneuver at home as a "behind" command.  I'm setting it up in my yard this week, from both left and right directions.

At the vendors, I finally fitted Pepper with a sturdy red harness, and a matching black leash.  Immediately upon attaching this leash to either his collar or harness, he began calmly walking by my side on a loose leash.  Not one bit of pulling, the whole rest of the weekend.  Go figure!  Is he growing up or is it that he finally feels properly pampered?

It was a pleasant RV vacation.  All went perfect.   Nothing forgotten.  No injuries.  No mishaps. Weather overcast and not too hot, nothing like last year's tornado/hail storm.  There was space between the isolated rain showers to pack without getting wet.  A few visitors - Ken, Karen and Christina.  Avoiding the 4th of July parties, I enjoyed my yard and listened to an audio book, The Promised Land, for hours with my new Bluetooth speaker -- my version of celebrating the 4th, because the book is about a Russian Jewish family who emigrated to America in the 1890's and compared their new-found freedoms with the oppressive social, political, poverty and religious conditions in their native village.  We do have it good! While listening hands free, I made a few more improvements in my packing.  cut down significantly on road rattles by placing damp sponges behind the dog crate doors and stove grate.  I learned that Maxie and Pepper love to lie in the red wagon on the porch and chew their twizzle sticks in isolation from Lucky.  We were all completely relaxed.  I worked on training them not to bark so much at passersby, popping a damp wash cloth against the fence and saying Aah, which startled them!  After a few times, they settled down very well.

Going to Hattiesburg and back, generator running, takes 3/4ths tank of gas, i.e., 45 gallons, i.e. $148.  Yikes!  Including running fees for 2 dogs (entered only in MS and MJ) and RV spot for 3 nights, this trial cost me +/- $450.  Sounds high, but imagine those who have several dogs entered, run them in 4 events daily, stay in hotels, eat out, come from much further away, and whose SUV's don't get much better mileage than my RV!


Maxie to surpass 750 MACH points, accomplished.
Maxie one QQ, not met.
Maxie, run his weaves.  Did this 3 out of 6 times.
None of my goals for Lucky were met.  No Q's.  No fast weaves.  Only 1 run under course time.  But I can say a few good things.  She didn't pause on top of the A-frame, didn't miss any of her contacts, and didn't seem overly stressed.

So my goals remain the same:  QQ's, running weaves, faster times, and better handling.  Do what I can to lengthen Maxie's stride, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  And now, getting to the bottom of this vertigo and having the courage to deal with my worsening vision.

I delayed this post a long time waiting to finish my video composites, but I still haven't done them.  Not much of a thrill watching a long string of NQ's!  Besides, doing Librivox recordings and my garden have kept me plenty busy, plus an upcoming post on the produce we've enjoyed.

Upwards and onward!