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.
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)