Thursday, May 31, 2007

Agility trial report: Kissing the dirt and the return of Mr. Goofball

I spent my Memorial Day weekend at a 3-day USDAA trial on my home turf at PBH. I had lots of great runs with Lucy but with Mr. Gomez ... not so much. Maybe I spoke too soon when I bragged a couple of weeks ago about how fantastic he's running. If I hadn't been laughing I might have been crying.

Things started off well enough on Saturday, when I had only entered Mr. G in PII Standard. He was mostly focused, but he drifted away from me a couple of times. I was able to get his attention back and keep him on course up until the very last jump, which he rushed past (he does that a lot.) I called him right back and got him over it, but we came in .39 over course time. Still, I felt like we were working reasonably well together. First run of the day Sunday morning, however, he looked as if he had never seen an agility course before in his life. It was PI Gamblers (I was hoping to get Q number three) and as soon as I called him over the first jump he blew me off. I got him back and lost him a few more times, so when the gamble buzzer finally sounded I think my attempt to send him out may have been rather half-hearted. Still, he took three of the four gamble jumps, which is better than none at all, I suppose.

Next up was standard, and the only word I can use to describe it is "debacle." I couldn't even get his attention on the start line--he kept staring out of the ring (I think he wanted to score some of the treats people had left on the gate steward's table). Anyway, I struggled to get him doing the first five obstacles, but then we got to the table (which he usually seems to like) and he acted like he had no idea what to do with it. He kept circling it and looking at it, as if he was thinking "What's this, then?" Finally, after about ten seconds he got on it, but he wouldn't lie down. At that point I decided that I'd take the quickest path out of the ring, getting him to do whatever obstacles were on our way. It was sweet relief to have that run end.

Next I apologized in advance to our pairs partner, who assured me she didn't care how badly we screwed up. We then proceeded to have a lovely run ... except for the part where he ran past the last jump. I got him back and over it, which gave us our only Q for the weekend. Still, I felt a little encouraged for our jumpers run, which ended up bringing me a very special honor. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Q. Instead, I was inducted by judge Lisa Jarvis into the "Kiss The Dirt Club" and presented with this lovely key chain:

I suppose I should give some credit for this achievement to Mr. Gomez, who knocked me over in his effort to avoid actually jumping the third jump on course. He could have gone around the other way and left me upright, but instead he chose to cut inside on a path that intersected with mine and he took my legs right out from under me. I jumped right back up and got him to take the jump, after which he worked with me beautifully up until the second-to-last jump, when I botched a front cross and he took and off-course. Still, I was happy to have my dog back, sort of. I was also happy that I hadn't entered him in anything on Monday, because I didn't think I needed another day of that kind of excitement.

Fotunately, I had a great weekend with Lucy--perhaps our best overall trial so far. When I heard that temperatures were supposed to hit 90 degrees all three days I was not really looking forward to this trial. Last year both the PBH Memorial Day and Labor Day trials were broiling hot, and Lucy was practically walking the courses without much motivation. I was prepared to just pull her rather than put us both through that again. But I was very pleasantly surprised--astounded, actually-- at how motivated and even relatively speedy she was despite the heat. Other people noticed as well and complimented me on how well we were doing, including one woman who told me that Lucy seems like a completely different dog than she did this time last year.

That alone felt like a significant accomplishment, but the addition of 8 Qs made me fairly euphoric (albeit exhausted) by Monday afternoon. We earned one Q each in Masters Snooker and Gamblers, two each in Masters Pairs and Jumpers (one of which got us our Masters Jumpers title!), a Grand Prix Q and a Steeplechase Q. The snooker Q was gratifying because it was a result of me keeping my head on course--a rare thing. Lucy missed a weave entry during the opening, which mean we were going to miss out on the six points from that obstacle, so I revised my plan on the fly and took a fourth red I had originally decided not to attempt, followed by a #2 (the closest obstacle). Since we didn't make it through the #7 in the closing, the three more points I picked up in the opening put us at exactly 37. Whew!

Aside from two blown A-frame contacts over the weekend (one in Grand Prix, where it didn't end up costing the Q) our only problems were lack of finesse on my part which is, so to speak, a known bug. I'm getting better--slowly--at actually doing what I know I'm supposed to. I plan a good course, I walk a good course, but during the actual run I turn into a big dork. I told my trainer, Val Olszyk, that I'm going to make a shirt that says on the back, in big letters, "It's not Val's fault!"

My next USDAA trial probably won't be until August, when I plan to enter one in Charlottesville, VA. If I can keep it together for two Standard runs, it's possible Lucy and I can earn our MAD there. I'm going to try not to think too much about that, though ... I think I do better when there's nothing at stake.

1 comment:

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