Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Extreme Agility DOCNA Style

I'm staring down a line of 2 jumps at Strummer sitting there ever so peacefully on the start line. A nice sunny day in the beautiful grassy park playing with my best little buddy, what could be better? I release him off and he explodes off the start line, a roaring freight train heading straight for me. 'Holeee Sheeet' is the first thought my brain has. The second is 'uh, guess I better move. And quick if I'm going to pull off that front cross.' I'm not entirely sure what happens after that. Oh, I have it all planned out, a front cross here, some deceleration there, a lateral send and another front cross, crazy mad acceleration (ie, run like hell) down the straight line of 4 jumps to the finish line and no crazy arms waving up in the air like I'm having a seizure. What happens is a blur of black and white fur flying around the entire course in full extension. On paper it doesn't look so bad-only 5 faults for a dropped bar and well under time despite running probably twice the yardage of the actual course, but I'm sure it was not a pretty picture to watch. Was I really that late with my cues or did Strum's brain leave the building at the end of a long day? Maybe a bit of both. Or likely a lot of the former with a little bit of the latter. No video of that fiasco. I wish I had some so I could see what happened but I'm also sorta glad I don't. Denial is a powerful thing.

I should have left after Gamblers first thing in the morning. Beautiful run, hit all his contacts including a flip away off the dogwalk into a tunnel and ditto for the A-frame (twice!). Almost got the gamble but for the last jump but an otherwise beautiful, fast, focused run. Yes, we are a team.

Not so fast. We then have 2 standard runs, the first of which is mayhem on wheels and the second of which is not too bad except for the small problems of the missed dogwalk AND A-frame and my crapporific handling. Overall he was 3/5 for his dogwalk, 4/5 for his A-frame and one of the those A-frame hits was very close. To be fair there was thunder and lightning going on for those Standard runs, esp. the one where he missed the contacts. In retrospect I'm amazed he ran at all. The lightning was visible but the thunder was in the distance but still, I'm guessing maybe he was a bit more wound up than usual. Or maybe that's a convenient excuse. More denial anyone? And yes I know it's very dangerous to be out in the lightning. It was a small front blowing through, one of those freaky things where the sky is blue, sun is shining and there is a small, isolated storm in the distance. It's a fact of life here in Colorado. I got caught on the edge of a sudden freak thunderstorm last night about a mile from my house. I don't intentionally mess around with lightning but sometimes it happens without warning.

Strummer's Standard Runs

Watching that video I realize that what I thought I was doing is not at all what I actually did in many places. I should have put in a front cross after the teeter in that first run instead of attempting that rear cross 2 jumps later. And what was with the late shoulder pull in the second run? I don't do that any more, that was supposed to be another move entirely. Sigh, poor Strum.

[On an unrelated note I finally figured out how to upload video so that it looks a lot nicer. Unfortunately I have to use YouTube which limits my music choices and the settings were so high it took for freaking ever but the end result looks a lot nicer than what I was getting before.]

Next up is the North American Challenge (NAC) which is similar to USDAA's Grand Prix. In order to qualify for DOCNA Championships you need only one run of the NAC with 12 or fewer faults. It's pretty easy to qualify for DOCNA Champs. but only if your dog's head is full of brains and not crazy rabid flying squirrels. It also helps if the dog's handler is calm and focused and giving timely cues and not flying about in a panic while waving arms in the air in seizure mode. Given that the NAC is a longer, more challenging course than Starters Standard and given how those 2 Standard runs turned out I'm not entertaining delusions of qualifying. But as it turns out the sky is clear of storms, Strum's brain is clear of squirrels and I somehow manage to keep it together for 20 obstacles and two, count 'em TWO, dogwalks with only a wrap jump between. Strum missed the first dogwalk but hit the second one which was another 180 turn away to a tunnel. He also skipped some poles in the weaves and I had to restart him. Twice. Otherwise though it was a fantastic run and a Q with only the 5 faults for the dogwalk, 5.30 yps even with the lost time to the weave restarts. This was the fastest time of all levels/heights and there were a few other fast dogs there. I'm not trying to be braggy here, I'm just saying I've got my hands full. But yay for that run, we are a team again. We even have people tell us what a nice run and what a nice job Strum is doing. Good thing they were probably gone for that Jumpers run and obviously didn't see the Standard runs.

So overall it was a day of extremes. I'm guessing it's going to be like that for us as I get used to handling such a fast dog and he gets used to handling the pressures and distractions of the competition ring. I was frustrated with myself since I felt I wasn't handling as well as I could yet I was trying to be focused and not fall into my bad habits. Did you see those flailing arms in the video? What is my problem? How many times does Joy have to point it out to me? I was hoping to focus on that one little thing for this trial yet somehow I can't help myself. Though I suppose I was otherwise distracted with trying to keep up with Mr. Pants On Fire.

We went out to the practice field this morning and I felt much better about things. Dogwalks were nearly perfect, 1 close miss out of 10-12 reps or so and I'm coming along with fading the gizmo. He wasn't even stopping at it by the last rep or two. Weaves were great too, no popping out. I think he was so overexcited at the trial that he hit the poles with too much speed and couldn't hold his rhythm by the middle of the set.

Our next trial is USDAA this weekend in Laramie, WY. Strum gets his CMJ measurement and hopefully it'll be his last. He has 3 measurements just under 21" so I'm hoping upon hope that the CMJ will also measure him under 21" so he can run in Championship. I think if he doesn't I can try for more CMJ's, not sure how that works and I'm not worrying about it unless it comes to it. I entered him in Performance for this trial though just in case since I don't want him jumping 26". If he ends up ultimately measuring into the 26" class I'm not sure how much USDAA I'll do with him since that means he'll have to be in Performance which also means when he's old there's no vet class for him which is the problem I have with my current dogs. Not sure I want to go through all that again.

I love this trial, it's one of my favorites and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully the crazy rabid squirrels will stay away from Strummer's brain and I can keep my arms out of the sky and maybe not be so late with my cues.


  1. Let me know if you want me to video your runs on my Flip camera. Awesome HD quality and I can email them all to you.
    Here is hoping that Strummer measures into the 22in champ. class as he needs to pair up with Rift in team or pairs sometime :-)

  2. I would love to have my runs taped. I looked into getting one of those HD cameras but my old laptop is too wimpy for them.

    Yes, I hope he does get into Championship. Though at this point I'm not sure you want us on any kind of team :-)

  3. Of course I do want to team with you guys :-) I will definitely film you just remind me OK.

  4. Well, issues aside, Strummer looks great! He's got lots of gusto! I can see how it would be easy to get a little flustered running him. I'm hoping my little Tally will have Strummer-level enthusiasm.

  5. Thanks! And be careful what you with for :-)

  6. Fast dog! Fun! "living on the edge."

    My instructors always tell me that I should videotape all my runs and watch them. I am always 100% positive of what I am doing on course until I watch the videos. Great idea if one can manage it.