Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A great dog-centric flyball weekend

Lucy and I had an interesting and fun road-trip weekend. We headed out Thursday afternoon to Woodstock, GA, along with my friend Barb and her dogs Twyst and Stetson (a border collie and a Jack Russell terrier, respectively) and stayed the night at the home of Laura Moretz. Laura is a talented dog trainer, disc dog handler and flyball enthusiast, and Friday morning it was like Barb and I were at "Laura's Dog Camp." She gave Barb a frisbee-throwing lesson and showed her some exercises to advance Twyst's disc-dog training. For me, she demonstrated ways to teach Lucy a few things, including getting her to stand on the soles of my feet. It's the kind of trick that requires two people in the initial stages, one to be the platform and the other to lure and reward the dog. Getting Lucy up there was no problem because she's always game to try new things, but keeping my feet stable and level so she she didn't mind staying there was the hard part. It requires muscles I don't always use.

Saturday and Sunday we had a great time at the Athens Dawg Derby flyball tournament. The local paper had a writeup on the tournament, so there were lots of spectators on Sunday. The article, along with a little video, is available at OnlineAthens. It's a reasonably accurate article, except that they call the box a "backstop," which is actually what we call the barrier behind the box.

As I mentioned before, Lucy ran in the veteran's division with the Fur Fun club. I had a blast, not just because the Fur Fun crew is indeed very fun, but because our team was competitive in the division and the racing was quite close. We were doing very well Saturday and thought we were on tract to get first or second place, but a few blown heats put us down to third. Since the format was two one-day tournaments, we were able to make a slight change to the roster for Sunday, and heading into the last race we had a shot at first place--if we won all four heats. The first two went well, but in the third one of the dogs had a bit of a ball-bobble at the box (she didn't catch the ball and had to fumble on the ground to get it) which put us too far behind to catch up. That put us in second place. The exact same thing happened in the fourth heat, and to be honest, I don't know if that put us into third or not ... I have so many second- and third-place ribbons from years of racing that I lose interest in the results when there's no possibility of getting first. So the final result was that Lucy ran well and I had a great time, which is really all that matters.

I really like competing in the Veteran's Division with Lucy. She was staring to slow down a little over her regular jump height (11"), but is running about as fast as her younger days over 7". There are also fewer heats per day (never more than 16), so I don't feel like I'm pushing her too hard. Plus, since the vet dogs tend to be very experienced, the danger of crossers (dogs who run into the opposing team's lane) is reduced. (I think crossing is the biggest risk to dogs in flyball competition. Here's a little article that addresses the subject and how to "proof" a dog in preparation for competition.) Aside from slowing down a little, vet dogs are often very consistent; most of our team's errors over the weekend were in passing, which is all the human's fault. So there's still plenty of room to rack up more points and titles, if that's what people are concerned with (I stopped worrying about that after Lucy got her Onyx award).

I was talking to another competitor who has a little mix dog about the same size and age as Lucy, and she said she would really like to get the remaining 3,000 points her dog needs for the FGDCh-30 title, but she is afraid her dog just can't race as hard as she did when she was younger. I asked if she had ever tried the vet's division, and she said she hadn't because she didn't think one got many points in vet's. I disabused her of that notion--in vet's you're allowed to run with dogs from other clubs, so it's possible to put together a "dream team" for whatever purpose--whether it's winning first place, racking up points or just racing with a really fun group of people. I think I convinced her.


steve said...

Very cool. I'm glad Lucy is going strong and still loving it. I was unaware about the veterans division too. That sounds interesting. I guess UFLI has shaken up the NAFA rules a little with the mix-n-match teams.

Thanks for the pointer on the Ready To Race article that is a keeper.


Lisa B. said...

You're welcome! It's too bad we're so far apart or we could could tegether on a vet's team sometime.

Also, pick-up teams in the non-vet's divisions will be coming soon to NAFA. Part of the reason could be UFLI's influence, but it also could be because the NAFA teams are actually supporting these changes. I used to be against pick-up teams, but now that I realize it won't necesarily erode the club base I'm all for it.