Did someone say agility?
Do you know what it's like to have AC/DC stuck in your head all day? 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' over and over and OVER in your head and no relief in sight from this noxious earworm? It's not pretty folks. But that's what they were playing in the coffee shop at 6:07 a.m. when I stopped in for a mocha because there was no way I was getting through a 2nd day of summer agility without the aid of much caffeine and sugar and chocolate. Extreme crankiness turned to an irrational, disturbing yet peaceful love for all the world as soon as the concoction hit my bloodstream and we were good to go. Middle aged agility lady Ecstasy. Anyway, I couldn't use my MP3 player in the car because the radio reset when the car battery died at the trial site the day before, which was super fun by the way, and it wanted some secret password code to turn back on again and oh how I tried but I could not guess the code so the radio denied me my Gaslight Anthem and I was stuck with AC/DC. As an aside I was on a Perf. Team in USDAA called AC/BC and nobody got it. Blank stares from middle aged lady dog agility world. Maybe that's a good thing? I thought it was a good team name though I wasn't the one who thought it up.
Anyway, Strummer and I had a DOCNA trial this past weekend, 2 full days which is normally more than my sanity and pocketbook can bear, especially in the depths of summer, but for once I had some Stuff I wanted to accomplish, a git 'er done type of deal, which is not normally how I like to approach agility but sometimes that's how it goes. The big thing I wanted to accomplish was to get Strum qualified for Champs in the North American Challenge (like USDAA's Grand Prix) event in the Specialist (or Masters) level. This was the last trial before the cutoff date and they were offering 2 chances so I signed up for both days. I also wanted to get him into Specialist in all his regular classes which meant I needed a Q in Jumpers and 2 in Standard. I also needed a Q in Trigility and Snakes and Ladders but I wasn't so concerned with them.
We started out Saturday morning with such an appalling Traditional Gamblers run that I was ready to quit agility with him right then and there. You know when people are talking about your crazy scary leap over the A-frame 3 hours later that it was bad. Let's not even talk about the disaster of the weave poles which we practiced over and over and OVER. However I managed to convince myself that we had ponied up all this money and gotten up at such an unspeakable hour that maybe we should gut it out for at least another class or 3 and we ended up the day with 4/6 Q's, one each in Standard (1st place), North American Challenge (7th or 8th place, we just eeked out a Q with 10 faults), Snakes and Ladders (2nd place) and Jumpers (1st place). Missed that second coveted Standard Q by one knocked bar on an otherwise beautiful run. Unfortunately I have not a shred of video. I brought my camera but was so shaken up by the first run that I wanted to focus on Strum's warm-up, in particular making sure he was able to do something to run his monkeys out, and didn't want to distract myself with having to explain the camera to somebody. This worked out so well that I didn't bother on Sunday either. Oh well, maybe next week I'll get some at the UKI trial since my videotaping buddy will be there.
Sunday was Trigility and I was paired with someone I've know forever with the fastest little poodle on the planet and a woman I've never met who came up to me and introduced herself on Saturday and told me her story of how she's a Stage 4 cancer survivor and very happy to simply be walking the planet and playing agility with her dogs. She hasn't Q'ed in her past 26 runs and I tell her do not worry, there is no pressure from either of us. At the best of times I never care all that much about these team type events and certainly I think if you've survived Stage 4 cancer you can drop as many bars and miss as many contacts as you like. I tell my poodle friend we should call the team Team Mayhem because her dog is a bit like Strummer in a poodle suit. We understand each others pain (and joy) of how do we handle these crazy fast high dogs.
Turns out they need an accommodating dog for another team and I eagerly volunteer because any ring time we can get is great, especially for free. Strum runs the Standard portion of the course (there are Jumpers and Gamblers courses for the other 2 dogs) and it means we get more chances to practice our weavepoles. It's only a set of 6 but still good practice. There's also a dogwalk with a 180 degrees flip away to a tunnel so we can practice our verbal 'Turn tunnel' cue which I've shock horror actually been working on. Crazy dog nails the whole course perfectly both times, hits his weave entry, beautiful dogwalk with tight turn to the tunnel both times, couldn't ask for more perfect runs. Team Mayhem Q's with a 1st place, the other team not so much but at least we did our part for them.
The Standard runs are both lost to knocked bars and though we had a gorgeous run in the North American Challenge we had one blip which ended up in a rare off course so no Q but so many nice things in that run I was happy anyway. I used the Strategic Time Gamble to train weaves again and it was as disastrous as the other Gamblers run, minus the air show on the A-frame because we didn't exactly make it to the A-frame. We finished all those runs by 1:15 and it was hot, I was tired and I decided Strum had had enough fun for one day so we missed out our Jumpers run. We'd finished up the title on Saturday and I didn't want to hang around in that heat for a couple more hours for 14 seconds of ring time. Got home by 3:00 and still don't regret that decision.
I was a good boy
Overall I was thrilled with how he did except for the weavepoles. The only contact he missed all weekend was 1 dogwalk. We got all the Q's I was hoping for except one and he needs only that 1 Standard Q to be completely in Specialist (Masters). The weavepole issue is driving me a bit crazy, you have no idea how long we've spent and it's not transferring consistently to the ring. My next plan of attack is to work with a partner with a high drive dog. She lives about 5 minutes away and has a big enough yard for some weaves and contacts so we'll switch off running our dogs and hopefully this will allow us to proof for the excitement of a trial (her issue is contacts). I've been working on proofing for my motion out at the field this past month but it's hard to proof for the excitement of a trial when I'm on my own all the time. I know someone else who offered to work with me as well but I've been going out to the field at 8:00 p.m. on the spur of the moment and haven't had a chance to coordinate a practice, mostly because of work.
Two more weekends in a row of 1 day trials then 3 days of a seminar with Daisy Peel then we see if I can get my ass up that crazy hill in the triathlon. Twice. Oh and I signed up for another triathlon for practice on the Friday after the 3 days of the seminar. I'm not exactly sure what sounds more exhausting.
And one final tip, if you can't figure out how to jump start your car just stand around the open car hoods with a frustrated look on your face and 2 other middle aged ladies with puzzled looks on their faces and sooner or later a boy will come and help you.
Final Stats (mostly for my own crappy record keeping)
Intern Standard Q-1st place
Intern Jumpers Q-1st place
North American Challenge Q-7th or 8th place, 10 faults
Snakes and Ladders Q-2nd place
Trigility Q-1st place
Intern Snakes and Ladders
Qualified for Specialist North American Challenge for 2010 DOCNA Champs
10/11 correct dogwalks
8/8 correct A-frames (I'm not counting the one where he flew over the top. Technically it was 'good' but obviously I don't want him doing that but I hadn't sent him to the A-frame, he did it as we were running out of the ring)