Monday, February 26, 2007

Fabulous dog, mediocre handler!

I competed in my first agility trial (USDAA) in more than two months over the weekend. I didn't have high expectations because I'd been on vacation for two of the previous three weeks and had only worked with my dogs once in thaty time. So I tried to consider the trial more of a practice run than anything else. In addition, I was one of the core volunteers running the trial, so my mind was occupied with a lot of other things between runs, leaving me little time to think about the courses I was running.

In general, most runs went pretty well with both dogs, but I ended up getting more qualifying runs with Mr. Gomez than I did with Lucy even though Lucy is a much more solid agility dog. The problem is with me as a handler: Mr. Gomez is in Performance 1, i.e. the baby courses, while Lucy is in Advanced and Masters. The Masters courses in USDAA can be devilishly tricky, and my handling skills aren't yet completely up to their challenges. As my trainer put it, Lucy ran lots of beautiful, qualifyiing runs that were all sabotaged by something I did. Usually it was something small, like a step in the wrong direction or a premature turn of the shoulder, which is all it takes on a tight course. But in one case--Grand Prix--it was a big boneheaded error: I intentionally pulled her off a jump she was actually supposed to take because I had a brain meltdown and forgot the proper course. In my defense, I was running in a heavy drizzle and I was stuggling to keep my bearings, but a good handler memorizes the course, makes a plan and a backup plan and then remembers it all no matter what. I'm almost there, but not quite. In the end, Lucy got just one Q: Advanced Gamblers. That's our third so we'll be moving up to Masters in that class. I don't know if I am looking forward to it!

Gomey got five Qs out of seven events entered. He's getting better and and better at staying on task, but more importantly, I'm getting really good at the beginner courses. I know that doesn't sound like a big accomplishment, but when I started competing in agility with Lucy I could make a complete mess of even the simplest courses. Anyway, the most notable of Gomey's Qs were the two we earned in P1 Jumpers and one in P1 Snooker, because that means he's gotten a total of three each. So we'll be moving up to P2 in those events next trial.

I have the feeling Gomey will get to Masters Snooker very quickly (maybe before Lucy?) because he is amazingly easy to pull off of an off-course and when he gets confuses, he sticks to me like glue. Both of those traits are very useful on a Snooker course, where one often has to devise a convoluted and confusing route in an attempt to rack up points. Gomey will fuss at me loudly when he's confused (my interpretation of his barks: "Woman! This makes no sense! I have no idea what you are doing!"), but he pays close attention. Lucy, on the other hand, is very quick to decide she knows the right obstacle better than I do, which means we've been whistled off many a snooker course ...

Our next trial will be a NADAC trial in three weeks.