Monday, August 6, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to Regionals...

 It happened again.

Can you even BELIEVE it?!?!  Well okay, maybe some would say that it shouldn't come as that big of a surprise.  After all, considering that one of the tires in this particular set already blew on me, it should be considered highly plausible that it could happen again.  That would be why I *was* planning to replace the two remaining old tires eventually -- likely at my next oil change.  I just had an oil change on Thursday before our trip and my tires checked out a-okay, so it's not like I thought I had anything worry about.

We left home at 6:00 a.m.  We had just over three hours to travel on our trip to the Chicago Regionals in Crystal Lake, IL.  There were a million team Jumpers runs in our ring to start the day, so I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of getting there between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m.

Very much unlike the last blown tire scenario where, looking back, I had a LOT of warning that there was something going wrong, this time it just was gone in an instant.  ONCE AGAIN I was incredibly, incredibly lucky.  I was traveling at just under 75 mph when I heard the loud roaring noise coming from my back end accompanied by some shaking (although not nearly as bad as last time when it was on the front).  I was able to quickly and safely pull over to the side of the road.  The time was nearly exactly the same as last time -- 6:48 a.m. -- although this time I wasn't nearly as far from home and was stuck along the freeway near New Lisbon.

Long story short, I called AAA, waited OVER AN HOUR for our tow truck driver to arrive (he was a nice guy, but not comparable to the last one we had), then found out that *nobody* nearby had our size tire in stock.  I have to give the tow driver kudos here because he did call everyone he knew to check before settling on Walmart -- 30 miles down the road in Wisconsin Dells.  Our AAA account only covers the first 5 miles of towing.  The rest was on me at $3.50 per mile.  Yay for a $70 tow bill.

Walmart was cool, though.  They welcomed the dogs inside and even offered water if we needed it (I had my own in the car).  I had them just put two tires on the back to get it over with.  The last thing I needed was to worry that the final crappy tire would blow on our trip.  Their prices weren't unreasonable, but unfortunately they were pretty backed up that day and we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  When Kaiser assumes the position in the above picture, you know we were stuck there a while....  I was very proud when the manager complimented the behavior of my dogs when we checked out!!

All told, our little side adventure put us about FIVE HOURS behind schedule.  I figured all hope was completely lost for us making it to the sports center in time for our runs.  I finally was able to get hold of a friend at the event and he took care of moving us from group A to group B just in case a miracle occurred, but I still had two hours of driving ahead of me and wasn't going to hold my breath.

When I was about 40 minutes out my friend called me back and said he thought I'd probably make it in plenty of time to run in Group B.  The Performance dogs were *just* starting to run in Group A at that time.  No, I wouldn't get to walk the course, but we would be able to run in the other group if we got there in time.

Group A was finishing up as I walked through the door with my crates.  I'd parked as near to the doors as I could and left the dogs in the car with the air running (it was mid-90's again, of course!).  I was able to take the time while they reset bars and put spreads back in for Championship dogs to familiarize myself with the layout of the course one time.  I'd had a chance to look at the course map that USDAA had posted online earlier in the day, so at least I had some idea of where I was going.

The dogs had already had quite the day, so I didn't know what to expect.  Secret was up first and she was ready to go!  Lots of barking and she acted like she really wanted to play.  I'm very happy with her run!  Unfortunately only the last few obstacles made it on film... But oh well.  It was a very good run!

They were having a technical issue with the computer that was delaying results.  They started to write results out by hand and I was disappointed to see that Secret's clean run didn't make it into the Finals.  I decided to stick around to wait for the full results to be posted so that I could see how close she was time-wise to making it.  There was a huge storm going on outside by that point, so we were stuck there anyhow.

When the results were posted, there was just a blank space by Secret's name.  Uhhhh...  We were there!  We ran it!  We should have a time!  I went to the score table and they started digging through piles to try to find her slip.  Switching groups likely was a large part of the issue, but Kaiser's slip was in there....  FINALLY they found it.  They input her information into the computer and did another printout.  I held my breath, still not knowing if she'd been fast enough.

Tenth place!  She squeaked in!  She ended up two or three seconds faster than the qualifying cut-off, so YAY for Secret!  She got her 2nd Tournament Q and got into the PSJ at a Regional event.  I was very proud of her.

Kaiser, oh Kaiser.  Kaiser was having a wonderful warm-up.  I don't usually spend much time at the warm-up jump, but I decided to send him over it a few times to get him going after our long day and to remind him that the jumps were taller here.  He was jumping just lovely and giving me really great lead-outs (which I wanted for this course!).  Then all of the sudden he crashed the bar.  :o(  I knew that was the end of any good jumping performance for him for the weekend.  He just completely shuts down after he crashes a bar.

He crashed the first bar on his PSJ run.  There was a lot of stuttering and wonky jumping throughout the run.  Then he skirted around the side of the first a-frame and came back to me through the tunnel, earning himself a whistle from the judge.  As he came over the a-frame the judge made me laugh by saying, "But he sure is cute!"  Yes, that he is.

 That night the dogs totally crashed at the hotel.  We stayed at a La Quinta a good half hour away from the trial site.  It was a nice place, though, and worth the drive.  No food anywhere nearby, unfortunately, so we waited almost an hour for a pizza to be delivered....  I didn't feel like going anywhere else after our very, very long day.

Sunday started with a P2 Gamblers run for Secret.  She had a magnificent opening.  We went for back-to-back a-frames in the opening (the 5 point obstacle) and even did TWO teeters before the whistle sounded.  The joker was to send out to a tunnel under the a-frame and I set her up at a very bad angle.  Secret stood there and barked at me while I tried to redirect her out to the tunnel.  Just before the buzzer went off she offered me the chute instead.  Oh well.

Because of how the judging assignments worked out, P2 Standard was up next (instead of running P1 Gamblers as you traditionally would).  During the course walk I just could not come up with a solid plan for how I was going to handle the sequence from the table through the tire to the tunnel.  This bit me in the butt during our run, as Secret read my hesitancy and refused the tire.  This put me in a bad position and she ended up going in the wrong end of the tunnel.  After that she got to the top of the dog walk ramp and then turned around and jumped off!  What the heck?!  The run was already a NQ and we weren't going to see any more dog walks that day, so I decided to just finish the run without fixing the dog walk.  I have no idea what that was about and didn't want to stress her out before her PSJ Finals run.  I think all of my shouting, "Out! Tunnel!" during Gamblers is part of what caused her stressing during Standard anyhow.

Kaiser's P1 Gamblers run was next.  We had a judge in training for all of the P1 classes and I think Kaiser just ended up waiting way too long before his runs.  He was the first or second dog on the line so we had to be there, but because of all of the training/mentoring stuff going on between the judges it just took forever.  Kaiser doesn't wait well.  I don't think the judge called our points correctly and I don't think she gave him credit for the a-frame, but by my count we still would have only had 14 of the 15 required points in the opening (we were credited with 6 points).  We would have been better off without Kaiser's spectacular flyoff on the teeter, which I then took the time to correct so that he would stick it in Standard.  The buzzer went off while he was on the teeter.  He did the joker easily, finally managing to not knock a bar in the gamble.  Figures.

Secret was up next in her PSJ run.  I tried to get her as jazzed up as I could.  Following that Standard run, I just didn't know what to expect.  It was about as motivating as I could hope for -- The only tunnel on course was just a straight cannon shot.  It was long (she has this thing against 20' tunnels...), but I hoped that since she could see the end it wouldn't shut her down.  The weave entry was a little demotivating, requiring pretty strong management to avoid an off course.  Secret ran the course clean and aside from weaving pretty slowly I was quite happy with her run!

And then the depression sunk in.  When one runs a slow(er) dog, going to a Regional USDAA event is not the place to compare your dog to others.  The dog that won the P22" class was a full ten seconds faster than Secret.  Several dogs placed ahead of us with a fault or bobble.  Secret ended up in 7th place of 10 dogs thanks to two E's and one dog who's bar put their total time past ours.

I admit, I was bummed.  I was not going for a Regional Bye here -- Let's be serious.  I have no plans to go to Cynosport.  I thought it would be fun to take home a little bit of cash, though, and my hopes were high with a clean run that had decent speed -- for Secret.  I believe she was like three or four seconds over the cut-off for payouts.  It was just depressing.  It didn't help when my friend kept telling me she has to run faster.  Uhh....  Have I not spent HER ENTIRE LIFE attempting to achieve that goal?  She has come SO FAR in the last year.  Like I said, I was *very happy* with that run when we came off the course.  It was just deflating to see her time so far out of the rest of the pack.

But whatever.  It is what it is.

Kaiser's P1 Standard run was a disaster.  He just needs one more Q to finish his title and my hopes were high on this pretty simple course.  It was downhill from the start.  The a-frame was the second obstacle on the course and he ran around it.  I got him back and he did it, only to run around the next jump and take it from behind.  He did do the teeter next, followed by a jump to a tunnel.  I didn't support his weaves at all and he entered at the third pole, which I didn't bother to correct.  I think he by-passed the next jump to the table, where I was hoping we could regroup.  Then he ran past the tire to the tunnel and then ran right past the dog walk.  I figured we'd had enough by that point and I picked him up and carried him out of the ring.

I was more or less planning to scratch him from his P1 Jumpers run at that point.  He was miserable, I was miserable, why not just cut our losses and go home?  I despise that attitude, though.  It was a short, fairly simple course that I knew he should be able to do in his sleep, though, so I decided to push through.  I spent the entire EXTRAORDINARILY LONG TIME waiting for our run playing with him, sitting on the floor asking him to do tricks.  The goal was to stay connected with him, keep him relaxed and not stressing on everything around him.  Well, apparently it worked.  He went in and had a great run!  There were still a few wonky jumps and stutter stepping, but he was playing with me and having a good time.  I was glad that we stuck it out and were able to end on a good run.  Of course, neither of the Jumpers runs made it on video...

Secret's P2 Jumpers was not super speedy, but she was her usual steady self and didn't put a foot wrong.  She got her 2nd P2 Jumpers Q with a first place (thanks to the other dog getting 25 faults) and was something like 8 or 10 seconds under time.  One more Q and we get to play in Masters/P3!

And that, in a nutshell, was our trip to USDAA Regionals.  We made it home without mishap, although I am now paranoid about driving anywhere and believe that my car will fall apart at any given moment.

Today all of the dogs came with me to my parent's house where I ran the final payroll for Coulee Region Enterprises -- Our family business where I have been employed for over 14 years.  It's all done now.  The good news is that I heard from Kaplan today and there are still opportunities to consider there (although it sounds like they went with someone else for the position I interviewed for) and then this afternoon I got a call from Western Technical College regarding an application I put in for a position at their Sparta campus.  That could be a great opportunity!

Oh yes, my reason for mentioning that we went to my parent's house....  The dogs need to get used to the newest family member!  Meet Wesley the Westie.  :o)  My parents adopted Wes last week.  He was surrendered to the shelter where I work because he was "dominating" the eight week old Yorkie puppy that the family just bought.  Sigh.  He is a FANTASTIC dog and I'm so happy my parents were able to adopt him.  He brings such joy at what could otherwise be considered a fairly depressing time.  He also has so many characteristics of our last Westie, Buddy, which also brings a smile to my face.  It's nice having a Westie in the family again.

My dogs did better with Wes up at my parent's house.  When they visited our yard last Friday it was a little more hairy -- because my dogs are jerks.  Off their home turf today they were much better.  Kaiser really didn't do anything to him at all.  Secret started off all wiggly and whiny towards him, then decided it was her job to keep Wes away from me.  Not cool, but she wasn't terrible about it and took correction well.

Luke is fine with Wes -- and was all weekend while my parents watched him.  But Luke was very naughty today and ran the cows through the fence....


  1. Just a thought...have you considered that Kaiser might have an iliopsoas strain that could be causing his jumping issues?

    Congrats on your Regionals weekend!

    I know that it's tough to not compare your dog to other dogs, but fortunately you know that that isn't fair. Think of all the progress she has made in the last year! Not that I haven't fallen prey to it myself...we are, afterall, human...and USDAA is filled with a very competitive crowd in most places.

    1. Kaiser has lots of stuff going on, unfortunately. He has a luxating patella in his right hind which was what I originally blamed when this started a year ago -- and likely does cause some of his oddities. He is on Adequan and daily oral joint supplements to help him out with that issue.

      The other possibility is that it's an eyesight issue. Linda M. herself pegged him as an ETS dog when she saw his videos that I posted to the Clean Run list.

      The other issue is stress/confidence. I say this because Kaiser jumps very well at home, regardless of the height. This is why I keep coming back to try him in USDAA at 12" -- because he jumps just fine at home. Linda says this is because he runs outdoors in good lighting on familiar footing and equipment. Who knows.

      He runs very well in NADAC at 8". He also has no issue with the slat-free lower a-frame we see in NADAC. Is he refusing the USDAA frame because of the height, the slats, or both? Who knows, but it has been an issue since we started in USDAA. Not constant, but he will usually refuse the first one he sees. He rarely passes the NADAC frame.

      It's frustrating, but he has no issues in NADAC. I may just have to hold him out of USDAA until they revisit the jump height issue -- where I've been told there is a very good chance he'll be able to jump 8" Performance.

  2. I no longer worry about how my dog compares to others. I still look, but mostly out of curiosity. Legend had taught me many things, one of them being to just accept what is and be happy with it. That's not to say we don't keep working on doing better, but mostly I just worry about what is a good time "for her" regardless of how it compares to the class winners. It was hard, I thought she would be very fast, and I'm very competitive. But, agility just doesn't "do it" for her and I've come to terms with that. I still sometimes worry that people think I've "done something" to mess her up, but oh well. There are other dogs that are slower, even other border collies.

    Sounds like an eventful weekend!