I think I'm finally starting to understand golf. Not the game itself, but the frustration people feel while playing it and the incomprehensible desire to continue to expose themselves to that frustration weekend after weekend. For those that haven't guessed, I had an agility trial this weekend, my first trial since April and I hadn't done all that much training outside of my yard in the weeks beforehand so both the dogs and I were a little out of practice. The trial was sanctioned by USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) and both dogs are in the middle level of competition, called 'Advanced'. USDAA offers lots of different classes including regular standard agility courses with all the equipment and various 'games' which have different rules and use different pieces of equipment (eg, 'Jumpers' uses only jumps and tunnels). I entered only 2 classes each day since I wasn't sure how I would do with the running. I choses classes that were close to each other, early in the day so I could leave after a few hours but the trial ended up having a much larger entry than anticipated so they expanded to 2 rings and changed the running order and of course my events on both days ended up being split up by 5-6 hours which made for a lot of sitting around. Keep in mind that each event lasts less than a minute which just adds to the insanity. What sort of idiot sits around for 6 hours for the chance to run around a ring with a dog for 40 seconds? I suppose the same sort of idiot that gets up at 5:15 on a Saturday morning and drives an hour to run around in a park with her dogs when said dogs would be far happier chasing tennis balls in the park 10 minutes away from home. And I always thought golf sounded stupid.
Saturday started off cold, windy and rainy which was great for the dogs but crappy for the humans. I brought fleecy mittens and a headband as well as all my warm waterproof gear. The grass was wet but not soaked or muddy so I decided both dogs and I would be o.k. I had a regular old standard run in the morning and both dogs were a bit stressed. Cody popped out of the weave poles too soon and leapt of the A-frame without touching the contact zone at the bottom which are 2 things he does when he's stressed out. He also got pissed off at getting wet in the chute and stopped to shake himself dry after coming out. Lola missed the weave poles altogether and I had to send her back through them. She also bailed on the A-frame and the dog walk and ran for the off course A-frame at a later part of the course, stopping on top to admire the view and giving the judge a spectators a good chuckle but I was not amused as she's done this before. When she's stressed out she heads for the A-frame as soon as it comes into view. I figured this was not too surprising since it's been so long since both dogs have trialed and they both seemed distracted at practice this week. To be fair, their runs looked pretty good through the technical parts and I managed to get 3 front crosses in per run. This was hard on me physically though since it requires a quick, sharp turn and I was gimping pretty good after Lola's run. I decided to try to ease up on the front crosses for the rest of the weekend.
Five hours later I was recovered and we ran in the Grand Prix which is a qualifying class for nationals. Cody needed just one more qualifying leg and he could go, though I had no plans too, it's just fun to think you could. I could tell he wasn't too happy at the start line and 3 obstacles in he went off course then went off course again 2 obstacles later and we were whistled off the course. Lola managed to complete the whole course without getting whistled off but was sure there were some Border Collie eating trolls at the bottom of the A-frame and leapt off to avoid them again (and she had an off course). I wasn't exactly thrilled with the day's events but they could have been worse and I hoped Sunday would go a little better. At least I managed the physical challenges well enough.
Sunday we started off with Gamblers which tests the dog's ability to work at a distance from the handler. You also get to pick your own course, trying to earn as many points as possible then you send the dog over the 'gamble' which is a series of obstacles set at a distance behind a line that you can't cross. I picked a nice straightforward course for both dogs, aiming for fast and flowing rather than lots of points. One thing we have been working on a lot is distance, especially on the teeter since I have one in my yard. I'd also been working on sending the dogs ahead to a jump while I stand still and it was a huge stroke of luck that the gamble involved a teeter and sending ahead to a jump. Both dogs did beautifully except for Lola bailing her dog walk contact AGAIN and they each got the gamble easily. Cody ended up with second place, Lola got third and both got qualifying scores which means they count towards their titles. This finished up Cody's advanced Gamblers title so next trial we have to enter masters which is the highest level. The thought is a bit intimidating but I'm thrilled he finally made it into masters, even if it's only one event. Lola still needs one more Q to move up.
We then waited around for 6-6 1/2 hours for our standard run and I think we were all pretty fried by that point. The course was fun and challenging but Cody was fed up and popped out of the weave poles again. Usually I don't make him go back because it just stresses him out and shuts him down for the rest of the run but for some inexplicable reason I decided to have him redo them and it just frazzled him further. By the time we were 3/4 of the way around the course we'd had so many off courses and faults that the judge whistled us off. This hasn't happened to me since Cody's second trial many years ago. I figured it had to go better with Lola but it didn't really. We made it a few jumps further than Cody but still got whistled off and I had decided to leave the course anyway just before the judge blew her whistle. At some point Lola decided she'd had enough and took off for the A-frame again, stopping for another view at the top and causing the judge and loads of people to laugh once more. I was pretty aggravated to say the least. I don't often get upset when my dogs mess up (and it's usually my fault anyway), especially Cody because I had to work very hard just to get him to stay in the ring at competitions and I didn't let the dogs know but it was beyond frustrating to wait around for so long and have them be so stressed that they couldn't even get through the course. I don't mind little mistakes here and there but I hate it when the dogs don't seem to be having fun. And the best part is, I get to do it all over again next weekend. Somebody quick find me a nice thick brick wall I can bash my head against.
'Oh mercy me
God bless catastrophe'