Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Last night of sanity for a while...

If you don't hear from me for a while, it might be because I had to check in to the loony bin.

This stinks. It must be Mother Nature's way of getting back at us for that wonderful, warm & snow-free winter we had last year.

Things have been a mess since the storm on Sunday. Everything packed down and froze just enough that the slightly just-above freezing temperatures weren't able to get everything melted over the last two days. Last night it POURED buckets of rain with a thunderstorm -- in January! We woke up around midnight to a big kaboom. Secret was totally taken by surprise and had a little freak-out. We'd (errr, I'd....) fallen asleep on the couch and she bolted for the bedroom when we heard that. The big crack of thunder was immediately followed by the downpour, so we had to wait a bit for it to let up before the dogs could go out for a final potty break; and then I practically had to shove Secret out the door. She's no fool, she knows it's not supposed to thunder in January.

Tonight the temperatures start to drop and rain is supposed to turn into 3-6" of snow. Then, as if that wasn't awesome enough, we are going to drop into the sub-zeros for a couple of days. Considering my yard is currently a swamp of standing water that will soon be a giant brick of ice covered by snow, that means *no* activity for the dogs for the foreseeable future.  :o(

Last night everything was still ice, so we were stuck indoors. Generally the day after a trial isn't that bad and we can lay pretty low -- but then I remembered that Secret & Luke only had two runs and were plenty full of themselves. We ended up utilizing the basement play room for the first time this year and spent a good 40 minutes down there just tugging and doing short fetches across the room. Everyone was panting and I succeeded in having a quiet night.

Tonight I packed the dogs up as soon as I got home and drove the block or so to a park with a big open area (hey, you try walking a block with dogs who are going bonkers over the Chuck-it and you'd understand why I drove, lol). I'd driven past the park on my way home to confirm that it did, indeed, have a large swath of dry land that we could use for running. Yay!

This is when I learned that Secret's brain falls out of her ears and she apparently does not understand the concept of fetching away from home. She saw the big open area and promptly went, "Wheeee!" She just ran after Luke a few times as he went after his ball, made a few laps for the fun of it and then set about to sniffing everywhere and wandering into neighboring yards (which got her yelled at). I did eventually get her to do several long fetches to get some good sprints in, but I surely would have preferred to run the snot out of her more than I was able to. When it was clear that her brain was completely fried, we packed it in and came home.

So, note to self: Work on your dog's fetching skills away from home....

Meanwhile, we'll be hunkering down and spending our evenings in the basement. Good thing I pumped up the theraball.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Well that was fun

Look! This is what the windshield of my car looked like when we left the trial today! The weather was so super awesome today... It started up mid- to late-morning and Mother Nature couldn't decide what she wanted to do. We experienced freezing rain, sleet and snow over a period of a few hours and it made everything a giant mess. I'm lucky that I live locally, as many of the people attending the trial opted to stay over an extra night to avoid driving in dangerous conditions.

Other that that little inconvenience, we actually had a really good weekend at our NADAC trial!

Secret was just WEIRD yesterday. I think she was abducted by aliens and had her brain swapped out -- with a dog who LIKES EVERYONE. She was in a mood yesterday, that's for sure. She whined & wiggled at nearly everybody she saw. Every dog was her best friend whom needed to be played with. In addition, she was also kind of needy with me and kept jumping up onto me for attention.

Her first run (Regular) was just nuts. She came out of a tunnel, took a sharp turn right and ran behind the tunnel to go visit the bar-setter sitting in the chair! Um, what?! Has she EVER done that? There were at least two other times on course where I thought I was going to lose her to visiting, plus she almost went and said hello again to her new favorite bar-setting friend when she came out of that tunnel again later in the course. Oh my goodness. Thankfully she was more back to normal in the second round of Regular and got a Q.

Chances was a total bust. Right as she started (hoop to a-frame) a ring worker knocked over the gate next to the a-frame, so she had a big-time spook and shut down. I could barely get her to do anything at that point. It didn't help that the course was HARD -- I should have scrapped the distance attempts and just ran with her to make her happy again. Oh well. No NATCH for us this weekend (she needed two Chances Q's).

Secret ran great in Jumpers. She surprised me with her speed right off the start line and she kept it up nicely throughout the course. Poor Secret had a major face-plant on a spot of the course that didn't even require a big turn. I'm not thrilled with how the turf is holding up at Family Dog Center. It is getting slicker and slicker and it seems like dogs are crashing left & right. Secret held it together, though, and still had a very nice time (two seconds slower than Kaiser, who was the fastest of all Elite dogs!).

I don't have any video from today, but today went well, too! I think I made a good decision to keep Secret out of Regular today. She wasn't feeling it in Jumpers this morning. She had a very nice run, but it was definitely lacking the zip of yesterday's run, especially for the first run of the day. Was she sore from her wipeout yesterday? Could be. Or it could be because she and Kaiser ran like crazy loons for about two hours last night after we got home...

Chances today was much more doable and Secret nailed it without a problem -- nice and smooth. That means just one more Q for her first NATCH!

Luke was only 1/4 yesterday, but nothing was really a train-wreck. He took the tunnel under the dog walk in the first round of Regular and I twitched in Chances to pull him off the tunnel just before he was going to enter it. Jumpers was my fault, as usual. Too much push, not enough notice of upcoming turns.

Today was great, though! He had a smoking fast & clean Jumpers run -- fastest of my crew and one of the top times of the day. The Chances course today was one of those that Luke can do in his sleep, although it did have the dog walk/tunnel discrimination and apparently those are optional for him these days.  ;o)

Luke would have preferred to have gotten to play in Regular today, but he seemed to be okay with sitting it out this time. I'm sure it helps that it's at the end of the weekend. I'm going to feel bad for him in Cannon Falls at the USDAA trial when his two runs on Sunday are the last classes of the day -- that will probably be a little harder for him!

Kaiser had a FANTASTIC weekend! Especially considering that he hasn't done a stitch of agility since our last NADAC trial in December. I am thrilled with how consistent he was throughout the weekend. He stayed fast and happy, was listening to all of my turning cues and he didn't get called on a single contact all weekend! I need to trust his dog walk more, too, and trust him to run to the end and stop. He did a GREAT job with that and we greatly reduced time wasted from stopping too high and creeping down. There were several times when he went sailing across the dog walk and I thought for sure he'd fly off, but he skittered to a stop and looked at me -- generally just above the line, but that's better than stopping at the top while I hover! Good boy, Kaiser.

Kaiser got ALL FOUR of his Standard runs this weekend! That makes him my only dog who is 100% qualified for Champs, since he actually has his games Q's, too (Secret & Luke have plenty of Regular, Chances & Jumpers, but zero Tunnelers, Touch-n-Go or Weavers since I don't enter them in those). If he keeps running the way he has been lately, that little fart may do really well at Champs this year (hence why I really, really want to go). He still has the speed that he had in 2011, but he's gained a lot more experience and consistency since then. If we can avoid the "Klee Kai moments" that we experienced in 2011, I'm sure he could make the finals.

Kaiser went 3/4 yesterday and 5/6 today -- No Q's in Chances either day, unfortunately. Today he should have had it, but I thought he was going to come back out of a tunnel on me and moved in such a way that he apparently thought I was rear-crossing. He turned the wrong way, then came back to me through the tunnel. The rest of the course was smooth sailing for him -- and with a dog walk, of course!

In addition to the normal classes, Kaiser also got an Elite Hoopers Q (strategy) and a Touch-n-Go Q for his Outstanding Elite title. He's getting closer to his V-NATCH. Guess we need to keep entering the games classes to get that finished off...

Everyone is sacked out now after our fun-filled weekend. We have the next two weekends off before our fun in Cannon Falls.

Secret may get to have a play date at that trial. Yesterday a woman brought her 14 week old (male) border collie puppy by the dog center in an attempt to find suitable playmates for him. Apparently her dogs aren't very nice to him and he hasn't had much exposure to other dogs. We didn't have many puppies at the trial this weekend, but I told her that Secret tends to love puppies -- and border collie puppies especially.

We took the two of them outside and Secret really was wonderful with him. She was play bowing and scooting away from him to try to get him to play, but little Tweed was pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing. He got better, though, and his owner felt it was a very good experience for him. It sounds like they may be at Cannon Falls and she asked if Secret could come "play" with Tweed again. Puppies make her happy, so why not?

I want a puppy....

Monday, January 21, 2013

Snow is gone, but BRRRR

Winter can't make up its mind this year. We had a couple days of high 30's/40's that melted away all of the snow and gave us lots of fun mud to deal with, but then sub-zero temps set in and we are freezing our butts off. The good news is that we also had a ton of wind when it was warmer, so thankfully most of the lakes dried up in the yard. We have one clear running path so the dogs can still play -- at least when it's not as cold as it is today. I'm off work for MLK day, but unfortunately we are stuck inside the house because it's too cold to do anything fun outdoors.

Thankfully I got off my butt and bundled everyone up to go walking yesterday. It was nice & sunny, which helped to take a bit of bite out of the windchill. It was about 14 degrees with a windchill around zero. The dogs certainly didn't mind it at all, not even Kaiser (who can't wear his coat when he is wearing his harness).

We went hiking on the bike trail between Sparta & Rockland. This big open field called our name about a mile or so down the trail. It looked more entertaining than sticking to the trail, so we went and walked the perimeter. May as well take advantage of the mud being frozen! We stayed out for almost a full hour and the dogs were so appreciative of their time out. It was a pretty quiet evening here, which was a nice change from the bouncing off the walls we were experiencing during the mud-fest.

One bonus to having more weekends available is that I can volunteer for transports again! This is something I've always tried to do whenever I can because, after all, Secret was brought up from Kentucky via transport. I feel like it's a good way to pay it back and help out, especially now that I'm not in a good position to foster anymore.  :o(

This handsome fellow is named, "Blue," and was transported to Midwest Australian Shepherd Rescue - MN on Saturday. He's younger, probably two or less, and was a very good boy. I made a day of it and went shopping in Wisconsin Dells with my mother before picking him up and driving him to La Crosse. My mom wasn't a fan of his blue eyes, but I find them very striking! I'm sure Blue won't be in rescue too long -- with his looks & personality I'm sure he'll get snapped up quickly.

Our nice long walk yesterday kept the dogs quiet for quite a while today, but by late this afternoon Secret was getting antsy. I bundled everyone up to go outside to pick up poop and see how everyone tolerated it and it didn't take long for everyone to pretty much say, "this sucks." Well, except Luke; he was all for playing, but in these temps (today it's 0 with wind chills at -15) it's not really even safe to run. Secret just sat there and looked at me, so we all came back in the house.

Kaiser is such a weenie about the cold considering he's a "Northern Breed." One of his favorite spots these days is to lay on the heat register while I'm on the computer. Silly dog. His coat is thicker than ever this year, too. You can just see how plush it is around his neck. He's like a mink!

I finally did trial entries this weekend. Our NADAC entries for FDC next weekend are done and our USDAA entries for the MAC trial in Cannon Falls will go in the mail tomorrow. Because they are both running a full weekend of USDAA in two weeks and because they are both so far ahead in Regular, I decided to cut out those runs on Sunday for Luke & Secret next weekend. That means they'll have four runs on Saturday and just two runs on Sunday. I hemmed and hawed about it (it's "only" $40), but ultimately I decided to save the money, especially since I did get a hotel room in Cannon Falls. Not only that, but Secret never really shines in those last two Regular classes on Sunday anyhow, so why not just do Jumpers & Chances and let her chill the rest of the day?

Kaiser is using the free day I won in the worker raffle and gets to run all 6 classes that day. I figure he deserves it since he doesn't get to play at the USDAA trials anymore. He will probably come along to Cannon Falls, though -- mostly because I apparently have issues and have a harder time leaving him behind than, say, when I ask my parents to watch Luke.

Since I was already spending so much money this weekend, I also went ahead and reserved my room down in Springfield for Champs this year. I really enjoyed staying at the Red Roof Inn last time and wanted to make sure we would be able to stay there again. I scored a King room with fridge & microwave again and put in a request for the first floor, all for like $275 for the entire five days. Not bad. Now I just have to not be totally broke when the time comes to enter.

Public Service Announcement of the day: Apparently you are supposed to clean the beater bar of your vacuum cleaner every once in a while? Definitely more than never, I would guess.

I never claimed to be a good cleaner or even somewhat knowledgeable about these things. My Dyson has been getting worse and worse in recent months -- I often have to go over something like 10 times before it gets sucked up. I just figured the thing is getting old (it's probably 7-8 years old now) and wasn't sucking as well.

A few days ago I noted a post on Facebook where a friend commented about cleaning all the hair out of the brush on the Dyson she just got for Christmas. I thought to myself, "Hmm, you are supposed to do that?"  (shaking my head in embarrassment...)  So today when I got the vacuum out to suck the dog hair off my bed I turned it over and gagged at what I saw.

Um, yeah. I guess you are supposed to do that regularly. I went on YouTube and found a handy little instructional video on how to do it and then got to work at hacking away the 2" layer of nastiness wrapped around my beater bar. There were carpet threads from the apartment wrapped around that sucker.

Imagine how that baby is going to suck now!  :o)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Remedial Tire Training

After having several run-outs at the tire at our trial this weekend, it became glaringly obvious that Secret would benefit from a little "Tire 101" work.

And no, that photo is not current. It's dark and snowy outside, which doesn't make for good picture-taking --- but what is a blog post without pictures? So you get one from September.

Being that it IS all snowy and blah outside, we can't really do much agility training at the moment. But we CAN pry the tire frame out of the snow and bring the wee tire (vs. the super stretched out 24" tire) out for a bit of fun in the snow.

I'm almost positive that the issue Secret has with the tire involves her brushing against it when she jumps. Be it top, side, what have you, she's just sensitive about that. What could be better than working through that issue than jumping through an 18" tire?

Sends and going with her were fine, but Secret showed a definite weakness on her recall, going around the tire on three separate occasions. She wasn't acting like she had any ISSUES with the tire, just that she didn't see any reason for going through it if she didn't have to.

Weather permitting (tomorrow is supposed to rain, followed by snow this weekend, so we may end up with just a whole lot of ICE), we'll keep touching on this in the weeks to come. I expect to have to fill the teeter bank now and then -- coming back to the tire was something I didn't anticipate. But oh well, we'll take it in stride!

This morning I had a brain fart and left the gate open to the big yard when I left for work. It was probably subconscious due to me wearing heeled boots and not wanting to fall on my butt on the slope of ice by the gate... It wasn't until I was on the drive home and wondering how I was going to open the gate in my boots that it occurred to me that I had never SHUT the gate this morning.

Oh my.

I've never left the gate open. Frankly, Secret is destructive enough in the small potty area; I'd be scared to give her full run of the yard every day. I can just count the craters she would dig and see all of the mud she would track into the house... So of course all of these visions were going through my head as I pulled into the garage. What damage would I find?

There was none. Good dogs! But I still don't think we'll make this a habit...

Today I made a hotel reservation in Cannon Falls for our USDAA trial next month. I've decided to do both days and ultimately driving two hours back and forth each day is a little much. I've done 90 minutes to Zumbro Falls, but those trials are small and don't start until 9 a.m. each day. I think this will work out much better, although we are going to be stuck sharing a Queen bed and I'm NOT looking forward to that.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Being awesome is exhausting

Yesterday was a LONG day. We got up at 4:00 a.m. to make the drive up to On the Run in Ham Lake, MN. I actually pushed back my alarm time a bit because I decided I didn't really care if I made it in time for the first walk-through. Luke's Veteran Gamblers run was our first run of the day and there were 60+ dogs to run before him. Considering it's Gamblers and I didn't have a whole lot riding on his USDAA debut, I figured we could wing it if we had to.

We had an uneventful drive up, though, and the trip was shorter than I recalled it being last spring on our first visit to OTR. It ended up being just under 3 hours and we arrived about twenty minutes before 8:00 a.m.

I hauled my crates in on the first trip, hoping to actually find a spot after everyone had already set up on team day the day prior. Yeah.... No such luck. I was hoping to be able to find a spot to set up Secret's crate and the playpen, but I couldn't even find spots to set them up in separate areas of the room! Come on people, can we please be a little more thoughtful about our crate set-up?

One woman did make room for me by removing her "reserved" space for her friend who was only coming on Sunday, but it was only enough space for two crates. Luckily I had planned ahead for this, but it meant that two dogs would be sharing crate space for the day. Kaiser normally sticks pretty close to Luke in the playpen, anyhow, so I didn't think it would be the end of the world. Sorry, Luke.


I did manage to fit a walk-through in before everything started, and I have to admit I was glad to get out there and get a feel for the lay of the land. This IS my first time running a Masters Gamblers course, after all. The courses I'm posting today are all courtesy of judge Greg Fontaine. I was excited to have him as a judge because I've been following his course blog that he started a while back. I like his design ideas and was looking forward to seeing what he would throw at us -- I wasn't disappointed; we had a lot of fun with these courses!

I didn't see a single soul do what I did with Luke in the 60+ dogs that ran before us, but I know my dog and I stuck with my plan. I started at the far right jump and went to the weaves, weaved back and then took the dog walk, making sure to shape his entry to make it "big dog safe."  :o)  Then we turned to take the jump to the a-frame. I let him exit the frame and turned him around me before sending him to the tunnel, as (sadly) none of my dogs have actually practiced the skill of turning or flipping into a tunnel... We turned back into the tunnel again and then went back up and over the a-frame. I was hoping the buzzer would go off right about then, but it didn't so we ended up taking the tire and the jump after it. I believe the buzzer sounded at that point and Luke took the tire again as I got us turned around in the right direction (by the way, he does fit through the 20" tire -- I was concerned!!).

I wanted to handle the gamble from the inside because handling it from the other side would run me right into the wall (the line where the gamble ends on the left was literally the wall in this arena). I was afraid that would kill our impulsion, so I stuck to the inside plan. Luke easily sent to number two and turned nicely back to me. He looked VERY strongly at the off course jump next to me (so many dogs took it) but listened to my "out" cue to take number 3. Thank god he has a good send on him because before he hit 4 I almost ran into the jump at the end of my gamble zone. A good many dogs probably would have stopped from how quickly my motion stopped, but Luke is a good boy and finished the line while I tried to keep from falling on my face over the line. He Q'd in his very first USDAA run! Yay, Luke!! Only about 25% of the Masters/P3 dogs managed to Q on this course, so I was quite proud of him. He ended up with 52 points (32 in the opening).

I knew I didn't want to follow Luke's plan with Secret because I typically avoid the weaves whenever possible -- especially at the very beginning! My preference was still to handle from the middle, though, mostly because it just felt better, but also because there were more obstacles to waste time on -- and since I apparently am fairly inconsistent in guessing how much time stuff takes for us, we ended up needing that.

I started with the jump to the right of the chute and traveled up the middle to the a-frame, then pushed her right and did the two jumps to the teeter. We had no hesitation going onto the teeter, but Secret did have one of her momentary blackouts that seem to be following her teeter performances lately. She does the teeter, she doesn't seem scared, but when she exits it she freezes and wanders a bit.

I got her head back and sent her into the tunnel under the frame. She came out happy and barked at me, so thankfully she got over the teeter issue quickly enough. I sent her back in the tunnel and called her up and over the a-frame when she came out. I fully expected the buzzer to go off right about there, but it didn't so we continued on the same track I took with Luke. Oh my lord, I thought the buzzer would never sound! Secret went all the way down to the jump above the chute on her own and then came back up and I think was through the tire again before the thing actually went off.

I wasn't set up the best I could have been, but thank goodness Secret is such an honest dog and continued on to the next obvious obstacle without much help from me. She jumped back into me nicely and I scooped her around the wing and sent her out to the last jump. Nice job, Secret! She got a Q and first place with 59 points!

Luke's Veteran Standard run was up next. Honestly, when I entered this I had no idea what to expect. Gamblers is one thing because I can design my own course and then he just has to do a small predetermined bit. A Masters Standard course is new territory for both of us, so I pretty much just went in on a wing and a prayer.  ;o)

Well wouldn't you know it, but my big 'ol NADAC dog did a pretty bangin' job on this course. I tried to shape that opening line the best I could and we managed to get through six without dropping a bar (somehow!). Luke did a nice turn from the tunnel up to the frame and I was able to fit in a front cross on his exit so that I would be able to shape the entry to the weaves. I praised him profusely when he nailed his table without thinking of bouncing off.

The next sequence is where I had hemmed and hawed during my course walk. What I *wanted* to do was to lead out to the landing side of fourteen and serpentine the sequence, wrapping Luke to the outside of jump 15. The angle from the table to 14, though, was set in such a way that I was concerned about having a run-out past the jump, especially since we pretty much never practice jumping into me. We also never practice wraps, which is why I was hesitant to wrap him to the inside like about 98% of my peers did.

I handled the sequence from the take-off side of 14 and did not time my switch/flip cue well at all. Luke stopped short after 15, turned around and back-jumped it. Oh drat, that was totally my fault. He finished beautifully with an AWESOME teeter (first in competition, mind you!), then a rear cross at 18 and finished on my left. Nice job, big guy. Very nice job.

Secret's P2 Standard course didn't have any spots that made me go OH MY GOD. The teeter was at the end of the course, which made me happy, as I feel she's less likely to refuse it when she's got some flow going.

We did have a hiccup at the tire, as for whatever reason she just decided she wasn't going to do it and ran around it. I stopped her short before she could take jump 5, causing her to bark and sass at me. I sassed right back and her and told her to take the darn tire, but our momentum was gone for the sequence and I ended up rear crossing on the landing side of 5 (ugh) -- I strongly dislike rear crossing on the flat, but it worked. I probably could have fit in a blind cross between 7 and 8, but I held up and sent her in to the tunnel before I crossed behind. I front crossed the bottom of the a-frame to help shape the weaves and she had a lovely entry. I'd say her weave speed was middle of the road; not the fastest, but it's certainly been worse.

Secret drove nicely to the table and plopped right into a down, but then pretty much instantly sprang up and barked at me. lol I got her back down quickly and she stayed there for the remainder of the count. Despite the fact that I totally hovered, Secret entered the teeter, again without hesitation. Just like she had in Gamblers, though, she had another blackout moment where she wandered for a few steps behind me as I front crossed her for the closing sequence. She snapped out of it and finished nicely.

Her time was 55.07 and SCT for this course was 56. Nothing like cutting it close! It does concern me slightly regarding what will happen when we move up to Masters. Obviously we had the time-wasting blooper at the tire, but we didn't waste THAT much time. It looks like our P3 runs will have to be pretty darn flawless. Well that's silly, really, because they have to be flawless to Q. No refusals in Masters/P3! This was Secret's second P2 Standard Q, so she just needs one more before we find out how we stack up against the big dogs.

Since Luke was done for the day, Secret was up next in P2 Snooker (although we had a super long break while everyone else ran Steeplechase and Masters Snooker).

I still struggle with strategy for this game. I tried not to obsess over it too much earlier in the day, but I really sat down and tried to figure out a plan while they ran the Masters class (the set-up was very similar).

None of the "safe" plans really appealed to me, plus I figured that if Secret Q'd in this run we'd be moving up to P3 -- That just seems overwhelming to me, so I thought I'd push myself to come up with something with a higher amount of points to see if we could do it.

I started on the right red and did the 7 sequence, then ran over to grab the lower left red. We went back and did the 7 again and Secret pulled very nicely between the a-frame and jump 6 (the judge was also in that small space.... but this probably actually helped because Secret looked at me, likely asking why he was in our way) to take the red up top. We took 5 on our way to the next red and then took 3 before we wrapped back to start the closing. I had debated taking 2 after the red and then back-jumping to start the close, but that's not behavior I tend to encourage.... I decided that doing a couple of wraps would be a better plan and Secret wrapped them nice and tight!

It was smooth sailing through the next few obstacles. I did a sort of cruddy blended front cross at 6b. Secret seemed all nice and happy until we got to the tire and she again skirted around the side of it. I thought, "oh well, at least we got through 6," as I fully expected the buzzer to go off on us. It didn't, though, and I was able to correct her and get over the last jump without the buzzer going off.

Somehow she was still 5.2 seconds under course time. TOTALLY didn't expect that. Secret's 53 point run was 10 points higher than the 2nd and 3rd place dogs in our class! Maybe we are ready for P3 Snooker after all! We'll find out, I guess....

Jumpers was the last class of the day and it was getting late. There were 415 runs at the trial on this day and I had predicted that it would get done around 8 p.m. It was about 7:15 when Secret ran Jumpers. I have to give her credit -- she was still on and ready to go, but my mind and body were failing me after getting up at 4 a.m.

A few dogs prior to our run a dog went potty on the start line. This is the only thing I can come up with for Secret's totally weird and distracted behavior before we started. I had her engaged and giving me "high 10's" before we started, but when the "go" sounded she started wandering and I thought for sure she was going to end up in that tunnel. Thankfully I snapped her back out of it and took off for the first jump. She was "game on" at that point and surprised me with how much speed she was giving me on this last run of the day.

I did a blind cross as she took off for jump four and beat her to six to get a nice tight turn to seven. I went with her to eight to shape that turn as well and then raced her through the tunnel sequence. Once she entered 10 I turned to start up the line to beat her for the front cross between 13 and 14. This is where my brain shut off and I completely failed to shape or support the next few jumps. Thank goodness Secret saved my butt and flung herself over them just in time.

I barely remembered my plan in time to get in place for my blended front cross between 17 and 18. I think I saw two other people do this plan, but I decided to stick with it because I figured A) Secret was sick of wraps after that Snooker course and B) the blended cross would help keep up her momentum better than a wrap because I would stay ahead of her. It worked beautifully and I actually heard a few people in the crowd make a remark about it. And THAT would be my problem -- I heard the peanut gallery and then my brain ceased to function. My body couldn't recover fast enough by the time my brain came back to life and somehow I managed to pull Secret to the side of the second to last jump. There was no point in fixing it and her momentum was back up so we just finished the last jump for an off course/E. I was bummed not only that I screwed it up, but that I didn't even get a finishing time for the course, as it was really a lovely run. Oh well, there will be others. I'm just thrilled with how up she was that late in the day!

There was a lot to be thrilled about, really! We didn't have any refusals on contacts, Secret had numerous gorgeous & tight wraps, and HOLY CRAP you should have seen her tugging before runs! Yes, she's still tugging for food, but I was getting some serious sitting-back grunting tugs from her. Happy, happy, joy, joy! She didn't seem stressed at all, and the waiting area at OTR can get pretty cramped with some very high-drive dogs playing all around her. Super awesome.

And I couldn't possibly have been happier with Luke. One of the best things people can say to me after our runs is, "You can tell he just loves being out there and running." Yes, yes he does. I'll be very sad if the day ever comes when you can't see the joy in his face or hear him barking when he runs agility. I wasn't sure how he would handle USDAA, but I feel he didn't think it was half bad, so we'll probably try again. I don't know yet if I'll push him for Jumpers or Snooker, but I don't see why he can't continue to play in Gamblers and Standard. He seemed comfortable jumping 16" again, too, so I'm not concerned about that at this point, either.

Poor Kaiser, he was a trooper. I took him out a couple of times on his own to give him attention, but he was not a happy camper when Luke got to run and he didn't. He settled down once Luke was done for the day, thankfully, and they did well in their cramped little crate. I feel confident in my decision not to jump him indoors at 12" anymore, though. There is just such a drastic difference in his whole demeanor at 8" vs. 12", and I need agility to be fun for him, not stressful.

I was so very thankful for my decision to get a hotel room last night instead of driving home that late. I knew it just wouldn't be safe driving that tired, so I booked a room at the closest La Quinta (yay for reward points!). We got to the hotel around 8:00 p.m. and everyone crashed after dinner. We had a lazy morning, getting up at 7:00 (that's lazy for Kaiser) and then took our time before leaving. We hit the road around 8:45 or so. I had considered stopping at a mall up in that area to check out a store a friend had told me about, but I found out that it didn't open until 11:00 and there was no way I was going to putz around at the hotel that long! The dogs and I all wanted to get home.

Next up is the NADAC trial in La Crosse in a couple of weeks. The USDAA trial in Cannon Falls is our only trial for February, so I'm considering doing both days of that one. If Secret Q's in Standard on Saturday she could move to the "big ring" for everything on Sunday. That's my only hesitancy; running in two rings stinks... Hopefully we could work through the conflicts, though, because I'm really looking forward to working towards that PDCH!  :o)