Sunday, February 24, 2008

MAD dog Lucy!!

I had a great agility weekend at a USDAA trial on my home turf at PBH. The best part: we finally got that Standard Q we needed for Lucy's Masters Agility Dog title. W00t! The run wasn't perfect--there was a hair-raising dogwalk down contact and an almost-refusal involved, but we got the job done.

Other highlights:
  • Another Snooker Super Q! This makes three, which is the magic number, so I don't ever need to stress about Super Q's ever again (unless I decide to bother pursuing titles when I move Lucy into Performance). It also got us our Snooker Master title. Everyone tells me that once they stopped worrying about Super Qs they started getting them left and right. As with our first SQ, we got this one by a few hundredths of a second, so my advice remains that when the buzzer sounds, run like hell for the finish line to stop that clock!

  • A Steeplechase Q and second-place finish. That won us $11.09. I think I'll spend it on bully sticks.

  • A Grand Prix Q. We're getting pretty good at that one. Since it's basically just a Standard course with no table, I'm mystified at how we can do so well in Grand Prix and so badly in Standard. I'm sure it's a mental problem on my part.

  • A Gamblers Q. Next to Standard this is probably the hardest class for us. I usually mess up the opening so much that I end up flopping and flailing at the gamble line and Lucy is thoroughly confused. Not this time. I don't know what my trick was--maybe I did well because it was the last run of the weekend and I was too exhausted to stress out about it.

  • A Pairs Q. I don't get terribly excited about these, and in fact if money is tight or I don't feel like entering every event at a trial this is the first one I ditch. But we still needed 2 Qs in Pairs toward our ADCh, so this knocked one off.

But the best part of the weekend was that Lucy seemed happy to be running with me the whole time and I didn't do anything to stress her out (or seriously confuse her). There was one "lowlight" of the weekend, and that was when I got a refusal on the first jump of a Jumpers run. It was due to a really stupid oversight on my part--I didn't pay close enough attention to how I was setting her up on the start line, which made her assume that the second jump was really where I wanted to go. The really sad part is that the rest of the run was fabulous. Oh well, live and learn.

Now the countdown toward the ADCh begins in earnest: we need two Standard Qs, two Gamblers and one one Pairs. And we still need a DAM team Q for the Tournament Master title. I have a team lined up--a couple who have two good little mini poodles agreed to run with me in April (and they each need one more DAM for the TM as well). We'll have two 16" dogs and one 12". I think we should call the team "Small Dogs Rule, Big Dogs Drool."

Monday, February 18, 2008

The dogs and their car

all dogged up
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants
I've had both dogs in the new Honda Fit a few times, and I'm quite happy with the space. I've decided to put the crates toward the rear, which leaves me plenty of space forward of them for trial gear. I could even fit in another crate if I wanted and still have a little room to spare--not that I'm planning the acquisition of another dog, but it's still good to know.

There are cargo tie-down rings that I will use to anchor the crates with bungees in the future. In the photo above they're not anchored--I was just taking the dogs to a nearby park, but I realized after I set out that if I had to slam on the brakes both crates would slide forward with no gear in the way to stop them.

I could probably free up some more space by putting both dogs in one crate--they would both fit in Lucy's wire crate, or I could use the bigger one that I used for Gomey. Lucy has shared a crate with a friend's dog before, but in general I think she prefers solitude. Perhaps when Pinky gets older and more settled it will work, but right now I think she would pester Lucy too much. I'm still considering other options for space arrangement, like using a removable platform for the crates or getting some 3-door crates and moving them forward.

So far, I'm loving the new dogmobile!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Dogmobile!

The car that died on Saturday night is really dead--it needs a new engine. If it were otherwise sound I'd probably go ahead and put the money into it, but it's not otherwise sound: the suspension is shot, the transmission is dodgy and it's starting to have one little problem after another. So I've replaced it with a brand-new Honda Fit. It's a small car, but I have small dogs, and it's got an amazing amount of room inside when the seats are folded down. I'm hoping this means years of worry-free dog travel ahead!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Agility mission accomplished!

My agility weekend was a success, in that I achieved my goal of keeping Lucy happy and having fun no matter what. We also ended up with a few Qs, although not that one lousy Masters Standard Q that would have given us the MAD title. I know a few people who have been chasing that one for years, so I'm not going to feel too badly because I've only been trying for a few months.

Before I go into the (potentially boring) wrap up of the weekend, I want to mention something else that happened which made me really thankful to agility (and dogsports in general) for introducing me to some of the most wonderful, helpful and supportive friends I've ever had. On my way home from the trial Saturday night, my car died in Wake Forest, NC, 22 miles from home. Fortunately it was in a parking lot (I had stopped to pick up food as my cupboards were bare) and not along the side of the road. I have AAA, so I wasn't worried about the tow, but I really wanted to get the dogs out of the car. A friend once broke down with her dogs in the car, and the only option available to her was to leave the dogs in the car as it rode on the flatbed, but I knew this would be scary and stressful for them. Who could I call? My soon-to-be-ex husband would have helped me, but he was out of town, and the first people I thought of were agility friends. Sure enough, one of them (who hadn't been trialing all day) came right out, loaded dogs, crates and me into her car and drove us all to my house. Then another agility friend said she had plenty of room in her minivan to take us all to the trial with her the next day. I probably could have found a non-agility person willing and able to help me if I'd made enough calls, but I knew my agility friends would be there for me, and they were.

Anyway, our first run on Saturday was Jumpers, and it went like a dream. It was the kind of run I imagine when I'm trying to put myself in the winning mindset. It made me feel like I was capable of competing with the best of the best (don't worry, I won't get too cocky--there were other runs that reminded me of how much work I need to do). I did everything correctly, so of course Lucy followed suit. Plus she was fast--I love Jumpers first thing in the morning. Snooker was OK--we did a great opening but I made a misstep in the closing that sent Lucy off course. Saturday's Gamblers run was my worst of the weekend--I was slightly off in just about everything I did, and I could tell I was just confusing Lucy too much. She slowed down a lot and stayed completely in handler focus, so by the time we got to the gamble I just couldn't send her out far enough.

Then came Standard, and I got snagged by something I didn't see coming: we were in a sand ring, and all the previous dogs had made little troughs around the weaves on their way through. When Lucy hit them, the uneven ground made it hard for her little legs to maintain her pacing and rhythm, so she popped out halfway through. Otherwise the run was sooo nice (except that she didn't lie down quickly enough on the table). But I didn't let that ruin my day, so when Grand Prix came around not only did we manage to Q, but we finished in first place and earned our first-ever "bye" voucher (for those not familiar with USDAA, a bye allows a team to advance directly into the finals at regionals). That alone was worth the entire weekend's entry fees! The last run of the day was Steeplechase, and I was worried about getting Lucy going fast enough when she was probably a little tired. But that turned out to be the wrong problem--it was the weave troughs again! The judge recognized the problem and immediately after our run had the ring crew bring out a rake and smooth the sand, but too late for us. From now on when I run in that ring, I'm going to ask that the sand around the weaves be raked before our run. Because if it hadn't been for that problem costing us so much time I'm positive we would have Q'd.

Sunday morning started with Jumpers again, and again we had an amazing (and really fast!) run. I need to start getting people to video us again, because I'd really love to see that run again any time I need a confidence boost. That Q means we now only need one more Jumpers Q to get our Jumpers Champion title (which I bet we get before we get the MAD). Next up was Snooker, and again we had a good opening but I blew it in the closing. I think I need to pay closer attention to the closing sequence when I'm walking--I spend so much time worrying about making it through the opening that I don't properly see the closing pitfalls. Gamblers was lovely until the gamble, when I sort of flailed about too much and a crucial moment and completely confused Lucy. Then came Standard, and Lucy was running a bit slow--I'm sure she was tired--and then would not lie down on the table. The command I use is "splat," and I said it four times before finally saying "Please splat!" That did the trick. Lucy wants me to be polite ;-) At any rate, we were 10 seconds over time.

I guess I'll try again in two weeks ...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kicking off a new agility year

I've not been a diligent dog-blogger lately, as life events have intervened. I won't go into detail (I have another blog for that sort of thing), but I'll just mention that my husband and I have separated and I'm insanely busy trying to prepare our house to sell (and looking for another house that I can afford solo). As far as my dog life is concerned, the biggest change is that my husband has custody of Mr. Gomez. I have visitation rights and I'm still allowed to do agility with him but the logistics of getting him for weekly classes just isn't working out right now. So I'm back down to one current agility dog.

I've also been too busy and stressed to do more than attend my weekly classes with Lucy, so I feel like we're a little out of practice. Nonetheless I decided to enter the first local USDAA trial of the year this weekend simply because I refuse to give up my favorite activity even though I don't really have time for it. I have one goal: have fun and don't stress out my dog. I know it's easier said than done, but I really, really don't want to focus on the Qs. I want to laugh off my mistakes, forgive myself for them and then forget them. And I want to be happy with Lucy just for running the course with me, whether it's the correct course or not.

I'm also looking forward to getting Pinky out an about at another trial. By the time she's ready to compete I want her to think of the trial environment as just another fun place we go so that she's completely relaxed. I also want to work some attention around people and other dogs. When she was a lot younger she was a bit timid with people and a little frightened by other puppies, so I socialized the heck out of her. Now I'm having the opposite problem--she's exuberantly outgoing! I love that she loves everyone she meets, human or canine, but I need her main focus to be me. So a trial environment is a great opportunity to work on that.

Oh, and in the "How big is Pinky going to get" department, I am pleased to report that she's still little and her growth has started to level off a bit. She'll be six months old next week, and she's still an inch shorter than Lucy and under 20 lbs. (18.7 to be exact). So I may yet get my wish of stying in the 16" height class. Here's her growth chart to date: