Friday, April 25, 2008

Britain's Got Talent=way better than American Idol!

What bugs me a little is that they go on and on about how talented the dog is but neglect to notice what a great trainer the girl is. It takes a lot of time and patience to train all of these things, even with a border collie! has a good intro article about getting started in canine freestyle, as well as a page of links for more info.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pinky flashback

Originally uploaded by Mr. Gomez
I just wanted to post this picture of Pinky, taken the day she first showed up at my house last October. She was about six weeks old. The boy holding her is Carlos, who had gotten her from a guy giving away puppies. He brought her to us when his parents said he couldn't keep her. (Also pictured are Carlos' friend Lupe on the left, and my neighbor Melissa with her daughter Nina.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pinky is a big girl now

From that photo it looks like Pinky is a lot bigger than Lucy, but really it's not that much (perspective, y'know--Pinky's in the foreground). But she is indeed a teensy bit taller. Which means she's officially in the danger zone--it's very possible that she could get over 16". She's eight months old, and it's clear she's going to be medium-sized, so I'm hoping she'll stop growing any day now. I was trying to measure her this weekend, but she's really spooked by the wicket and it's hard to get her to stand up under it. So I'm not positive of her true height at this point. I just keep saying "Don't grow big, Pinky, don't grow big!"

At any rate, people love to try to guess what her mix could be. A lot of people insist that she has some smooth-coat border collie in her. Could be ... if so it's not so dominant in her behavior. I think that her personality is a lot more terrier. What do you think she is? Here are three photos I took the other day, trying to capture her at various angles (click the photos to see them larger):

I think she's probably a three-or four-way mix and there's not really any way to know for sure ... except maybe a DNA test. But in a way it's sort of good not knowing--I really have no preconceived notions about how she is supposed to behave. Still, it would be fun to have something to say other than "no idea" when people ask "what is she?" If you make up a breed, a lot of people will say "Oh really?" and just accept that you're serious. I met a guy who would say his dog was a "Wizenheimer" whenever people asked, and he said only a few people ever got it. Maybe I'll say Pinky's a Smooth-Coated Andean Shepherd, a breed developed by indigenous people on the western slopes of the Andes to herd guinea pigs.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meh, it could have been better ...

My USDAA agility weekend was not so hot. On Friday our DAM team didn't Q, although we didn't completely suck. Lucy and I did passably well in most classes (we E'd in Standard), but our very young teammate dogs had a few oopses. I expected them both to E a few times, and I had been hoping I could run Lucy strong enough to make up for it. But I just didn't have a great day because I was feeling a bit weak and fatigued. When my day is not great, Lucy's isn't either. Her mistakes are really my mistakes. I went home Friday thinking that maybe I should just sleep late on Saturday and then take the dogs to a park.

Instead, I got up and went back out for more agility. I still wasn't feeling great, and consequently we had bad runs.

Sunday morning, I again considered skipping the trial, but then I realized that I actually felt pretty darn good. So I decided I would just leave the trial the moment I felt at all tired or stupid. We didn't Q in everything (just Jumpers and Snooker), but we had five really decent runs. I guess I do have a brag of sorts, although it seems too amazing to be true: little Lucy posted a jumpers time of 22.36 (on a 141 yard course). What's really flabbergasting is that I looked at all of the Masters dogs' times, and no one posted anything faster. Now Lucy's run was pretty darn fast and her turns were tight (and I saw a lot of wide turning and a few slips in the dewy grass by the bigger dogs), but I really have a hard time believing she was THAT fast! Her previous fastest Jumpers time (on a 140 yard course) was 27.60. So either Lucy was on fire Sunday morning and beat the feathers off a bunch of border collies, or the electronic timer made a mistake. I hope it was the former!

Friday, April 11, 2008

NADAC mudgility

I started this post on Monday, but I've been so busy I didn't finish until Friday ... maybe by next Friday I will have written about this weekend's USDAA trial. I'll announce in advance that we got a DAM team Q to finish our Tournament Master title in the hopes that positive thinking will pay off ...

I ran Lucy in a NADAC trial last weekend. I had been grumpy and tired all week, and I had thought on Friday that if the weather was crummy on Saturday I'd just stay home. But of course I couldn't. Even though we've had record rainfall lately and they were calling for terrible, furious storms on Saturday, I got up early and schlepped my gear and dogs out to the trial. It was rainy and hella muddy, but the terrible furious storms never materialized. I had on all my waterproof gear (including contact lenses instead of glasses--glasses don't work so well in the rain) and I managed to have a great time even though the field was a foot-sucking quagmire that was very hard to run in.

I qualified in some stuff and not in others ... I don't really remember what exactly, except one of the Qs was in Chances, which means we'll finally move up to Elite in that. We don't have such a good record in NADAC Chances, and I really didn't think we'd get this one because it involved turning Lucy away from me and then out pretty far onto a tunnel, after which she had to do a dogwalk and a jump while I remained what felt like a few miles away (OK, it was more like 18 feet or so). I figured that even if she made the tunnel, she was going to come off the side of the dogwalk before she hit the contact, because that's what she often does when I'm too far away. So I figured I would just run the course as if I knew my dog would do her part correctly if I did mine. It worked. She looked like one of those dogs who always gets the distance challenge. It was sweet.

And even thought I've dissed Hoopers before, I decided to try the "new" Hoopers, which is sort of like a strategy game. But not really a strategy game because you don't accumulate points for doing some things over others, so there's not a lot of incentive for going going beyond the easiest possible thing you've gotta do to Q. So I guess the strategy is "what's our safest bet here?" Unless you want to try to get a 15-point Q, in which case there's a distance line on one of the tests, but I don't do enough NADAC to understand the advantage of a 15-point Q. Does it get you your NATCH sooner or something? I dunno, and I don't really care. I just wanted to be able to say first-hand whether the "new" Hoopers is fun or lame.

Since NADAC doesn't have any description of the Hoopers rules on their website (probably so they can change the rules a few more times), I'll try to describe it here: There is a series of "tests," which I think (but don't quote me) must include a serpentine, a pinwheel and a crossing pattern (or "x-box," as one person called it), and may include others (one of the courses this weekend had a little threadle test.) Then there is a set of "non-test" hoops in a row along one side of the course. So you do three non-test hoops, and then a test, then three non-tests, then a test. At the novice level you only have to do two tests, at Open three and at Elite ... well I don't know because I actually wasn't paying complete attention during the briefing. If you screw up a test, you get something like three tries to get it right, after which you ... well sorry, I wasn't paying complete attention. I think you go do some non-test hoops or something. Then there is the bonus distance challenge on one of the test, but don't worry about it because you're not going to get it, unless your dog can distinguish between two hoops right next to each other about 8 feet from you and decide that the farther one really is the "out" hoop. Lucy couldn't (I only tried it on one of my runs).

So was it fun or lame? A little of both. I always like any game where you get to plan your own route so that part was fun, especially because they don't design the course to make anything convenient, so you have to invent some flow. But I think it would be a lot more fun if there was an incentive to do the more difficult tests, sort of like there is in USDAA Snooker, where you have to accumulate a certain number of points (and eventually, when you get to Masters, you have to actually beat just about everyone elseto get a Super Q). As it is, there would have been no reason for me to pick the harder tests other than the fact that the easy ones would have bored me. I did earn a special commendation from the judge on Saturday for being the only one to try the two hardest tests.

Also, even though NADAC calls the hoop a "ground speed obstacle," it's really not an obstacle. It's more like a target, something you need to point your dog toward, but except for maybe the miniest of mini dogs there is nothing obstacular (OK, probably not an actual word) about it. There's nothing to fault, except for maybe not going through the hoop or "back-hooping" it. I think it might be more fun to do hoopers with a young dog as a way of practicing some handling without much stress over obstacle performance. With an experienced dog it's not all that exciting.

As I mentioned above, I'll be doing a USDAA trial this weekend. Today is DAM team. My team is sort of a last-minute thing because my original team fell through, and I have no idea what to expect. At any rate, I will endeavor not to let my team come in dead last again. The charm of that wears off rather quickly.