Sunday, January 22, 2012

FIrst USDAA Trial of 2012

Strummer and I had some big fun at the trial last weekend.  This was our first chance to start picking up Q's for Nationals and it was my first time ever running in the Championship division of Grand Prix since my other dogs were lifetime Performance dogs.  What a kick in the pants that was and Strummer had a beautiful run and a Q.  So many people in the stands cheering us and everybody else on, I'm not used to that though to be honest I didn't even notice the crowd until we were done.  Except for when he pulled off a really nice dogwalk, I did notice the crowd then though I promise that's not why we have a running dogwalk.  The Grand Prix course was fun and when I walked it I was confident we could do it, all the challenges were within our skill set and the dogwalk set-up was a good one for Strummer.

I watched a bunch of runs before mine and when I didn't see a single person with a fast dog do the same thing I had planned I started to wonder a little.  But I didn't like the options most people were doing for us so I stuck to my plan and it worked great.  Most people treated 3-4-5 like a serp with their dog on their right and did a rear cross on the flat between 4 and 5 but I ran to the take-off side of 4 and put in a front cross between 3 and 4.  This allowed me to be far enough ahead to get a front cross in between 7 and 8 while most people with fast dogs were stuck with their dog on their left at the A-frame.  Some people then had problems between 8 and 9 with some dogs even going into the #3 tunnel.  I had a bobble after the teeter when Strum ran his teeter causing me to bring him around to get a messy front cross in between 15 and 16 but I didn't trust a rear at that point since he was running a little crazy after the teeter and I wanted to get him back in control a bit.  This cost us time and dropped us down to 4th place but I didn't care, I was so happy for the nice run and the Q for Nat's. and anyway 4th place is not so bad in the big competitive 22" class.  I'm not a big placement person anyway.  The trial was huge for our area, lots of people who don't normally do USDAA were there to qualify for Nat's. and the hosting club had to switch from one ring to two.

After my run I did see one other person with a fast dog pull off that front cross between 3 and 4 and a couple of people with small dogs did it too.  I didn't watch every run so there may have been others.

Strummer Grand Prix

Steeplechase was the other Q I was hoping for and again the course looked fun and do-able for us.  The only part I was concerned about was 3 to 4 because earlier in the day Strum had missed a similar kind of weave entry but I called his name before he took off for 3 to collect him then easily picked him up and got him in the weaves no problem.  After that I figured it was just a matter of working all the jumps and keeping the turns efficient.  I did a rear cross between 9 and 10 as did most people but a few threw in a Ketscher turn at 10.  Strum had a tight enough turn with the rear but it worked nicely for some of the dogs that did it.  Then between 13 and 14 I'm not sure what went on in Strum's brain but he leaped off the A-frame, missing his contact and going over the #7 off course jump.  I hadn't even considered that when I walked it and not many dogs, if any, made that error.  Somebody who saw my run said I had cued him properly and I thought I had as well so I don't know.  That's the fun of competing with dogs, in the end they have a mind of their own.  Strum doesn't usually shoot off like that though, it was weird.  I called his name while he was descending the A-frame to warn him of the turn and maybe this stressed him a little, causing him to leap the contact and run away as a stress response.  Or who knows.  Other than that though it was such a lovely run and he was clean for the rest once I got him back.  Ah well, at least it's only January and we still have a few more chances to Q.

The rest of the trial was in the Starters ring and I was not so thrilled to be back in Starters but it turned out to be o.k.  The Starters class was full of really good dogs who are normally in Masters in AKC, was funny to see such a big, competitive class for Starters though maybe the true beginners didn't think so.  I was in the stands waiting for the class I was supposed to work to start and asked to see someone's Starters Snooker course map and next thing I knew a crowd had gathered around and I was holding a beginner Snooker clinic.  I have this inexplicable and disturbing love of explaining Snooker to people so I didn't mind. I guess it's the engineer in me.

Strum got his first ever Standard Q in USDAA as well as a Pairs Q which is my least favorite class so I was happy to be done with that.  Unfortunately he missed his dogwalk contact in his other Standard run, dropped his only bar of the weekend in an otherwise lovely Jumpers run, got called for his teeter in Gamblers and holy cats I don't know what happened to my brain in Snooker.  Deer in headlights syndrome and poor Strummy was trying so hard to figure out what I wanted.  A snowball effect of confusion finally led to the wrong side of the #4 tunnel in the closing.

There was one bad incident of the weekend when Strum noticed a fast BC that he knows in the other ring while Strum was on the table for his Standard run.  There was no space at all between the rings, just some snow fencing which I was sure would be fine for him but the dogwalk happened to be right up against the snow fencing and fast dogs on the contacts particularly get him overexcited.  To his credit he stayed in his down on the table while he watched the other dog screaming around the ring, got off and did the weave poles then the course looped back to face the other ring and as he ran over the A-frame he had a perfect view of the other dog racing across the dogwalk right in front of him.  He hit his A-frame contact then ran over to the ring gating to stare at the other dog.  He didn't bark or rush the gating, just stood there and stared.  I called him back and he came eventually, it seemed to take forever but he came back and finished the course, still about 11 seconds under course time for a Q and 3rd place.  I found the other person after her run and asked if Strum had screwed up her run.  Thankfully neither she nor her dog had even noticed him.  But I was not happy, not happy at all.  I was talking to the judge later that day and he said I'd handled the situation well and he was impressed Strum hadn't left the table but still.  I've been working on this issue with my training partner and he's been getting so much better but clearly there's a lot of work left to be done.  Not sure if Nat's. will even have fencing for the rings.  I know they didn't in Scottsdale.  If I'm not confident that he can control himself by Sept. then there will be no Nat's. for him.  But we have plenty of time to work on this so that's a big thing on our list.

I also had some drama of my own when Strummer suddenly lifted his right back leg while I was walking him around the grassy area behind the arena on Sunday before his first run.  At first it looked like he'd stepped on a sticker but I couldn't see anything in his paw.  He seemed fine right away but that leg has always had a hitch in it and I'm worried at some point he'll have an ACL tear or something.  I asked someone to watch his run and she said he looked fine.  Then I took him out of the car again later and again he lifted his rear leg then started limping on his front leg as well.  There were no stickers in his feet but I ran my hand over the dirt by the car and immediately felt tiny stickers in the dirt.  I'm used to the dogs getting big goat heads stuck in their paws and these stickers were so small and thin, not the sort of thing that sticks in paws but Strum's so sensitive about his feet that apparently just touching them was enough to make him limp.  At least I hope that's all it is.  Limping right after getting up is always a big red flag so I was still worried about him though he ran just fine the rest of the day and when I stopped walking him through the dirt with the stickers he was fine.  Still I've been keeping my eye on him, especially when he gets up after lying for a bit.  I hate that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think the dogs are sick or injured.  So far this week I haven't noticed a single funny step so I'm feeling good about the sticker theory.

Overall a fun trial despite the 2 rings and inherent conflicts and short tempers.  I was done by 4:00 on Saturday and 1:40 on Sunday and it felt so good to be done so early.   The trial site was less than 20 minutes from my house too which is always nice.  During the week I was hoping we'd be done early on Sunday so I could get a bike ride in since the weather was so nice but, yeah, that didn't happen.  In short I was tired and nursing some middle aged Crazy Dog Lady aches and pains and didn't feel like it.  Instead I attacked the ice flow on my driveway which was probably worse for me than going for a bike ride but at least now there's almost a clear path from house to street.  Poor Cody slipped on the driveway ice a few days ago so I've been doing my best to try to clear a path for him.

Trial Stats

Championship Grand Prix Q, 4th place

Starters Standard Q, 3rd place

Starters Pairs Q, don't know place

Dogwalks:  2/4 (50%) 

A-frames:  8/9 (89%)

Weave entries:  4/6 (67%)  Popped out of poles in Gamblers, completed all other poles.

Knocked bars:  1 in Jumpers

Teeters:  3/4 (75%)

Table: 2/2 (100%)  And he stayed on while watching a dog in the other ring, both tables were fast
                               into a down, one was right after the dogwalk


  1. Nice hustle to get there for the front X in the Grand Prix. It's definitely got to feel good to get one of those Qs out of the way!

    I did watch your run when Strumm went over and stared at the dog in the other ring - thought that was pretty amusing from my perspective but not so much from yours!

  2. No, I was absolutely NOT amused. One of the number one things we will be working on.

  3. Hi Elayne,
    We met at the trial, I'm the other crazy who does agility and triathlon.
    Here's my blog:
    There's a very similar video to yours on my last post, except I didn't Q.
    Congrats on your run, it was great!

  4. How cool that you have a blog as well, I'll add it to my sidebar. If I can remember how.

    You had a nice run as well, I do remember you were one of the few that got that front cross in.

  5. I like the idea of the front cross but I'd have worried about my dog continuing straight while I was getting into position and taking the offcourse jump, which strummer was looking at. But ideally, yeah, I'd love to be able to get there for that and you did a nice job. And what a nice dogwalk in that run! Congrats on your weekend's work.