Sunday, June 30, 2013

Who is this dog?!

Secret has found her calling, and apparently it is AKC agility. I'm not simply referring to the fact that her Q-rate for AKC is standing at 100% (granted, it's Novice), but she is just a totally different dog at these trials.

Yesterday we all got up at 4 a.m. and traveled to Burnsville, MN for the North Star Herding Group Club AKC trial. I'm pretty sure that Secret has shown at Soccerblast prior to this, but I'm having a hard time remembering when that would have been. Probably not since we were chasing her Champs Qs in 2011? It's a big place and this was a big trial, which could be pretty imposing, but Secret was in a great mood.

It's hard enough finding a crating spot at this place for NADAC trials, so I was not looking forward to trying to find two spots together (Luke stayed home and got to play with Grandma & Grandpa) on Saturday morning after everyone had already set up on Friday. I wasn't sure if I "lucked out" or not when I was able to squeeze my crates into an open spot right next to the entrance to ring 2. Oh sure, one of the busiest spots I could possibly put my reactive dog...

But apparently because AKC trials are Secret's happy place, there was no problem with this arrangement! Granted I covered up every inch of those crates with blankets, but I didn't hear either one of my dogs make a peep the entire day. They both appeared relaxed and calm every time I had to walk by and peered in the top of their crates to check them out.

The other big change in Secret at this trial was that she PLAYED. She honest to goodness PLAYED (see photographic evidence of my arm, which tells me that either I need to trim nails several days in advance of a trial or teach Secret about dremels).

On Thursday evening I set up the latest drill posted by Ann Croft on her Agility Coach Facebook page to give us one last training session before the trial. I know, the challenge level of this course is about as far removed from Novice as possible, but I had the jumps set at 24" for Secret and we had fun. I did not video this training session, but for the record (after several failed attempts) we actually ended the night with a clean run!!!

At any rate, for whatever reason I decided to use the Coon Tail Tug that was sitting on our toy pile in the garage. Secret was going loony for the thing. When we were done playing agility I decided to reward her by letting her chew on her Jolly Ball for a while before we went in the house. She didn't want it! The Jolly Ball has been one of Secret's TOP toys for the longest time, and she was snubbing it because she wanted the coon tail! Hmm.

I decided to throw the CTT in my agility bag to take to the trial on Saturday just to see what would happen. When we went to wait for our first run I took the CTT and the usual bag of treats (chicken and Charlie Bears). The bag of food was sitting right there next to us, but Secret was ignoring it and actively chasing and tugging on the CTT! And NOT for a food reward like I've taught her to do with her leash. There was no food involved at all. I was just like, "Who are you, dog???" She just seemed so happy and so NOT stressed for a change.

Speaking of stressed, we have been having a LOT of storms lately. I've had to dig out Secret's Thundershirt a few times over the last week. She'd been coping well with noise stuff, but I think it was just starting to build up and it got to be too much for her. I think Secret knows the TS makes her feel better because she seems to come and ask for it to be put on now. Once it's on she is more likely to stay out with the rest of us versus hiding in the laundry room, whether that be under my computer desk if I'm there, or hanging out on the couch next to me.

Our trial yesterday was not completely stress-free for Secret, either. We had to endure another height measurement, but thankfully there was an official measuring person there and now she is DONE with that nightmare. Secret would not stand up for the life of her and was slouching so much that her first measurement  probably would have put her into the 20" class. I assured the official that she was at least 23.5" and he said, "Well, if that's what you want we'll just go with that," and we stopped torturing the poor dog. I checked the box on the bottom of the form that said I was only requesting the single measurement for my dog that was over 22" and we should be getting her height card in a few weeks.

Then there was Kaiser. Oh good lord, Kaiser, since when did you stand on the measuring table without slinking or crouching at ALL? That little turd got on the table, puffed himself up and more or less stood in a perfect free stack without me touching him. Kaiser, no! Slouch a little, would you?! Even when the measuring arm swung over him and touched down he DID NOT MOVE. Gosh darn it, Kaiser. I thought we were totally screwed when our official first came up with 14.5", but thank god he was a blessed saint and he "worked" with Kaiser to get that 14" measurement. Huge sigh of relief. Now we only have to do this one more time and jimminy Christmas I hope the darn dog doesn't bloat himself up so much the next time...

Our first run of the day was JWW, on a course designed by David Hirsch. The courses at this trial were about as wide open as you could get, with some of the distances between obstacles pacing out further than we would see at NADAC! Even the Excellent/Masters courses were like this, so it was kind of like being at a NADAC trial, only with real obstacles.  ;o)

Secret was the second dog on the line and I had 13 dogs between my two, so it was nice to not feel pressured and rushed between dogs (like when they both started USDAA together and we had like two dogs between them...). I wanted to be able to start on the left, which meant that both dogs would have to give me at least a slight lead-out. I have been trying to avoid leading out with Secret lately because I feel like she runs better when I restrain her and then run with her, but I did opt to get a little ahead of her on this one. She did okay with it, though, and I kept eye contact and talked to her the whole time (revving her up with "ready?"). I only needed to get about halfway to the second jump to get the turn, so we were fine.

I was further ahead than I thought I'd be (I was running barefoot yesterday due to still not being able to wear shoes and I think I might actually be able to run faster this way!), so I ended up throwing in a blind cross between five and six instead of the landing side of six as I'd planned. This worked well for Secret and I stayed ahead of her for the whole course, making sure to NOT crowd the weave entrance and leaving her to do it on her own. I was probably almost up to the double when she came of the weaves and I just took off and left her to catch up on that fast finish out. It was a lovely run -- Clean with 100 points, 1st place, a Q and her Novice JWW title!

Kaiser... Kaiser was a good boy and gave me the lead-out. I think I released him too soon, though (not trusting he wouldn't break, most likely), which means I got into his space a little too much and broke his rules.  ;o)  He retaliated by not coming in to me on the landing side front cross I was doing after jump 6 and instead went straight after five and took the off course jump. Okay, if I'm fair I might say that I was late and under-rotated for the turn and pushed him over that jump, but still the dog could do me a favor and respond to my verbal call-off once in a while. lol The ending of this course was just Kaiser's style and he flew like a little bullet. Even with the bonus jump, Kaiser had the fastest time in the class with 20.89 (SCT 44...). There was one other dog around that time and then Secret's time, so she did great, too (22.32, SCT 36).

We ran JWW around 9 a.m. and then the dogs sat, sat, and sat some more until we ran this Standard course by Karen Wlodarski around 3:30 p.m. (I think the trial was actually running ahead of schedule, though!).

Once again Secret PLAYED before this run! And once again she was flawless. I was able to do a running start with her on this run and she was a happy girl. I made sure to actually use movement towards the table this time instead of standing there like a zombie like I usually do and she dove onto it and landed in a down (barking at me). Good girl! She nailed the teeter, nailed the weaves, I overhandled the down of the a-frame and she barked at me and then I might have called a little too sharply after the 10 jump to avoid an off course. I stayed on the right and rear crossed her at the panel jump and we finished clean in 38.96 (SCT 67) for another 100-point Q, 1st place and Secret's Novice Standard title! Yay, we get to move up to Open in both classes now!

Kaiser was also in a good mood for his run. I elected to ask him for a lead out, just to practice it and give me a shot to beat him to the end of the dog walk. I did, he paused and I sent him on to the tunnel. Like I did with Secret, I made sure to use motion to support his send to the table, but because I know he is more prone to bouncing it I think I did stand up a little taller to make sure the little bugger stopped. He did, and I let him stand for the majority of the table count because I don't really care what he does so long as he stays on. lol He was acting a little unsure about what he was supposed to be doing, so I did ask him for a down before the count ended, at which point he pretty much got to release immediately.

Kaiser rode the teeter down nicely and waited for it to hit the ground, but then he jumped off the side of it again. Maybe I need to get the teeter out of the garage again. I was concerned about Kaiser catching big air over the a-frame again and probably didn't push enough, so he hit a little high, but was still in the yellow. If I over-handled the turn from 10 to 11 with Secret, then I REALLY over-handled it with Kaiser, but it got the job done. Unfortunately I used my motion in that turn so much that I got way ahead and was almost to the panel jump (but waaaaaay off to the right) when Kaiser did the broad jump. I started to step in a fraction too soon for the rear cross and pushed Kaiser off his line. He started to go straight for the chute (R), but then turned to come back to me, taking the panel jump the wrong way on the way back (W). I was like, "Damn...," but then I heard the judge say, "It's okay!" and then I remembered that weird rule about being able to have an off course in Novice Standard. Oh yeah, we can still Q! So I sent him back over the panel jump and finished the run in 42.81 (SCT 77). So apparently Kaiser can't get a JWW Q to save his life (um, Jumpers is his strongest class in NADAC...), but he's 2/2 in Standard so far!

To end our day, I won a $10 gas card in the worker raffle! It was for Holiday and I don't think we even have any of those around here, so I kept my eyes peeled on the way out and found a station selling gas for $3.25/gallon -- Win! It's $3.49 here at home, which is still pretty good considering how high it's been for the last many months.

The dogs were super quiet on the way home and zonked out pretty much from beginning to end. Do you see a hint of Kaiser's new harness, there? I finally got him a Julius K-9 harness, in a manly shade of teal blue. His "glittery rainbow" labels are on order.  :o)  I love our ComfortFlex harness, but it's almost two years old now and the velcro has started to give a lot on our walks lately. The harness is still held on by the nylon strap and clasp, but it looks bad and isn't as stable when the velcro gives out. I struggled a little because Kaiser seems to be right between sizes, but we settled on the "mini-mini" and I think it will work well for us. I'm sure I'll set him up and get actual pictures of him wearing it one of these days -- or maybe I'll just wait until his labels come in. I didn't do anything clever -- Just one that says, "Kaiser" and one that says, "Klee Kai." I'm sure it won't stop people from asking what he is, though. We got to educate several more people at the trial yesterday and I got numerous compliments on what a lovely dog he is.

We are off now until our next trip up to Burnsville for the MAC AKC trial on July 13. Secret's move-up request has already been sent! We did receive notice that Border Collie Rescue of MN is going to have a dock diving fun day next Sunday and I was very tempted to go... But I did not want to make the drive to MN three weekends in a row because I'm trying to actually be responsible about finances at the moment. Especially hard to say no to the AKC trial at Soccerblast at the end of July, but there is one in La Crosse in August so we'll live. The surface at Soccerblast is just so much nicer...

I have not decided who will run what at the NADAC trial in La Crosse in July. Right now I *am* leaning towards entering Secret at Champs, but I don't really feel like she needs to run that much NADAC to prepare. Heck, maybe running less NADAC will make her run faster at Champs because she'll be like, "Whee! 16" jumps!" lol

Oh, I totally forgot to mention -- I didn't get that psycho vibe from this group of AKC handlers at all.  ;o)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Well that wasn't so smart...

I did something stupid on Saturday. I went to a baby shower. Yes, I know, that's bad enough by itself. But in a moment of caving to peer pressure (i.e., the party was mostly being populated by young 20-something girls) I actually put in some effort to look fairly "girly" -- which included a pair of decent looking shoes. That would mean "not tennis shoes or flip-flops."

The above photo is the result of that decision. Mind you, I have worn these shoes MANY times without issue. I barely even walked that whole time! I made the fatal error of going to Walmart on my way home (yes, I know, bad enough on its own...) and apparently the extra walking I did there did me in.

This has put a cramp on not only the dogs' activity schedule lately, but I was just starting to get into a rhythm with that whole running business (yes, I know, I went a whole three times). Since this happened on Saturday, I have been unable to wear shoes. And since I'm not much into that whole barefoot running craze, that means we've kind of been stuck at home the last four days.

On Sunday I attempted to wear shoes long enough to run the dogs in the yard. I just set up a big speed arc consisting of three hoops, a tunnel, and three more hoops. I figured I could work the dogs without having to do too much moving myself at least. It was hot, but I succeeded in wearing them all out at least. Unfortunately I bled through both of my socks during this time and then proceeded to leave my shoes on long enough for my socks to dry to my feet. It was like pulling off band-aids. So not fun, I tell you.

I had plans on Monday but did squeak in some quick Chuck-it play before I had to leave, so I guess the dogs got to do something that night.

Last night I had to mow the back yard. That was kind of excruciating. I oozed through another pair of socks in that 90 minutes, but was at least smart enough to take them off right away this time! The sad part is that I apparently was walking funny the whole time trying to not hurt my feet and today my calves are killing me. KILLING ME.

Four days out, I still was not able to stomach wearing shoes today (I've been living in pair of butt-ugly sandals that don't touch the ouchy spots). I decided, though, to give the rollerblades a shot. It worked! My feet move so little while wearing them that I was able to put in 5.64 miles in 45 minutes with the dogs. I took them out individually on a loop that was just under 1.5 miles. Once I got back with Kaiser (last one), I took Secret out for one more spin because she's such a lunatic.

It didn't take long for Secret to go from being skittish about the rollerblades to being a total crackhead. She knows what they're about now and stood barking at the door the entire time I was putting them on. When I brought Luke back and grabbed Kaiser, Secret was certain it was her turn again -- which is why I figured it wouldn't hurt to take her out again. That second time was definitely much slower than the first, but she still enjoyed it.

The boys surprised me! Luke RAN for nearly the entire length of his turn, despite my pleas to slow down. lol I thought for sure Kaiser would fade fast due to the heat & humidity, but the little Northern dog probably had one of the faster mile times of the bunch today.

As for me, I think running is a better workout in general, but the blades sure work in a pinch when you've wrecked your feet.  :o)

Right now I'm just hoping that I'll actually be able to wear shoes come Saturday -- or else I'll be running barefoot at the AKC trial!

Our trial confirmation stated that there would be measuring reps present at this trial, cross everything you've got that Kaiser gets his 14" measurement that he needs to jump 8".

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer is here. And so is the hot.

Aside from the seemingly endless rain, we've had a pretty good spring this year. The temperatures have been pretty mild and not too bad to deal with. Well, summer officially arrived yesterday and with it came the heat and yucky humidity.

Steve at AgilityNerd posted on Facebook Thursday that he was having a little contest of sorts. To celebrate reaching 5,000 likes on his page he was going to pick one comment at random and do a video analysis for that person using that super awesome Coach's Eye software. He wanted this person to pick one drill out of the 72 he posted on this page:

It was 87 degrees when I came home from work that night, but at least it wasn't humid yet and I knew it wasn't going to get any better. On the off chance that I'd find myself picked, and because it was as good a time to do agility as any, I decided to go ahead and take a little video.

We didn't get picked, even though Steve was awesome enough to pick two people instead of one. That's totally okay, though, because I am well aware of my handling faults and where I could improve.  :o)  That's the entire reason why I try to video so many of our practice sessions in the first place; it's very helpful to see what I'm doing right AND wrong. Without this I'm sure it would be much harder to do this whole "train at home by yourself" business.

Who can pick one drill out of 72??? So of course I went ahead and did a second one.

We've managed to keep ourselves pretty busy this last week. Hopefully that will stay pretty consistent in the coming months because I've officially reached the panic stage of, "Holy crap, I'm so out of shape and have to get ready for Champs in three months." I also stepped on the scale on Monday for the first time in WAY TOO LONG and was a bit horrified at how I've managed to ignore a "growing" problem for so long. So.... Boot camp for me in the coming months...

The dogs think it's great! Basically this just means tons of trail hikes and rollerblading for them. We went out Tuesday, I believe, and did 2.6 miles in a not super impressive time, but I "ran" most of it. Secret was nutso on Thursday, so after running all three dogs in agility I took her out for a spin on the rollerblades -- It's helped, but she's still nuts. Yesterday I did the 2.6 mile loop again and bettered my time. This morning we went out for just over 3 miles and I somehow managed a 13-minute mile; which is awesome because it's way better than the last two times out, but sad because I used to be so much faster (several years ago when I was up to running 6+ miles at a time).

I have a fairly lofty goal by the time Champs roles around, but I'm stubborn determined that way.  :o) I think it's doable.

Speaking of... No, I still haven't entered. I might need to get on that one of these days. I'm still waffling on entering Secret. I feel like she needs to come along so that one dog is never left alone in the stall, so in that case she may as well run, right?

Kaiser-bomb! Sorry, had to end the post with that.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I don't want to talk about it...

So yeah... Today was not a good day.

I don't know what was wrong. My knee started killing me last night and still hurt like a son-of-a-gun this morning. My right knee is the one that typically gives me issues and this was my left, so I have no idea what that is about. I iced it and took ibuprofen. I don't think my knee was the cause of anything.

Laurie (who owns Family Dog Center) had to say goodbye to her 10 1/2 year old German Shepherd, Rocky, last night and most of us found out about that this morning. That totally sucked. That might have been part of the reason for my crappy day. Who knows.

Luke's Jumpers run started off our day and it was a great run! My knee was twinging and not happy, but we got through the run and had another fantastic time (maybe the old fart will be able to keep up with those "young veterans" at Champs after all?). Kaiser started great in his run -- even gave me another super awesome lead-out (we started practicing those for Champs now, too). He was moving out nicely enough that it was probably set to be another 100+ DRI run for him; until he completely blew me off on a front cross to run straight into the tunnel. Seriously. He looked at me and then took the tunnel.

Tunnelers was the second run of the day. In case you missed it, we just need the one Tunnelers Q for Kaiser's V-NATCH. Today's course was full of 180 turns and I was concerned about getting the first one. Well, Kaiser turned easily, looked at the tunnel entrance I was indicating and then went 15' sideways to take an off course tunnel. I picked him up, walked him off the course and put him in his crate with no words and no treats. I honestly don't think I've ever done that to him.

I have no explanation for how I felt about this. I was unbelievably upset about the whole thing. Not like screaming or beating my dog upset. Not really upset with myself (other than for being so upset to begin with). It was just an inexplicable feeling of disappointment, which I still don't really understand. When Kaiser missed Q after Q after Q in Chances I never came close to feeling this way. Maybe it's because that's Chances and you half expect to NQ? This was Tunnelers and while we don't run it often, Kaiser rarely NQ's in classes like this. It's TUNNELERS. And we got two, count-em, TWO NQ's this weekend.

Sadly, a dark cloud pretty much hung over my head for the rest of the day. I apparently was quite bad at hiding my disappointment because more than one person asked me if I was okay while I walked around like a zombie between classes. At one point I almost felt like crying. What is wrong with me?

Part of it might be Champs related. It's not fair to Kaiser, but I am hanging all of my hopes & dreams on his ability to win his division this year. He's been so steady and rock solid this year and today just felt so disconnected and lost. It's not his fault. He was tired today - SO tired. I ask a lot of him when I run him in everything like this. I probably need to cut back on that. He tries so hard.

Everyone in my crew flopped Chances. It was not a hard course, they should have gotten it. My dark cloud apparently clouded my vision and made my timing totally suck. But hey -- Secret was happy again, so yay for that! Kaiser seemed stressed. That made me sad.

His Touch-n-Go run was up next and I just wanted it to be fun for him. I'd put him in by Luke after Chances to see if it would make him happier and when I went to fetch him before his run he was out cold. Poor sleepy Kaiser. He put in a valiant effort and we did get a Q in that run. Go figure, we end up with an extra Q in the class I figured would hold us back from our V-NATCH....

Both Kaiser and Luke NQ'd at the same spot in Regular. Both completely missed my cue for the dog walk discrimination -- so apparently I need to go back to a more obvious RFP? Or maybe we just need to train. One of those, I'm sure.

The trial got done super early today -- I was out of there at 1:30. I stopped at Dairy Queen to console myself (dude, you can get a blizzard in a waffle cone now!) and after unpacking the car I loaded up the dogs and went to the river for a swim. Thanks to our never-ending monsoon season this year, I got to walk through some pretty nasty, stinky mud on the trail to our swimming spot. That was pretty awesome. We met a whole slew of people walking back from the beach area and I hoped that meant that we'd have it to ourselves. There were a handful of teenagers and their fat Boston-looking dog there when we arrived. The dog was not leashed and the group appeared to be heading towards us on purpose with the dog as though we were there to play with them. I looked at them and said, "Um, no." Thankfully that was all they needed to get the message -- they leashed the dog and left soon after.

They didn't need to leave, I just didn't need them thinking this was the dog park and that my dogs had any interest in socializing with their dog. What is with people? When I bring three dogs to the river what do you think we are there to do? When there is water and toys in one spot, my dogs do not want to visit with your dog. In fact, at least one of my dogs (yes, the bitchy one), will probably go after your dog if she thinks it will take her toy. So no, let's not have them meet, mmmkay?

I'm a little down on myself today. I have a lot of work to do (on myself) before Champs in September if I want to be a proper teammate to my dog(s).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Oh look! A barrel!

Last night started our three days of NADAC here in La Crosse. Sadly, despite taking the day off work yesterday I was just not feeling anything other than completely wiped out. I think working a half day would be more relaxing because I try to cram too much stuff into my days at home!  :o)

Kaiser did manage to pull out a Weavers Q, but that was our only Q of the evening. The wee man impressed me with some of the entries he managed to catch after going wide out of the tunnels, but I don't think it will be anywhere near a 100 DRI run. Kaiser did too much running around yesterday while I was home, too, and was not quite as zippy as usual. I don't believe we have any 100 DRI Weavers runs yet... One day.

Chances was up next and all three of my dogs zonked on that course. It was a "busy" course as far as Chances goes -- just a lot of different things going on. Kaiser didn't like the cramped box I was forced into and it pushed him around a jump. Luke went straight out of a tunnel instead of turning. Secret had a FANTASTIC run and was a happy & zippy girl -- Unfortunately I was unable to support a send out to a hoop after a tunnel, so she cut in early. There was no way to send back out to that one, so I just kept going and she nailed the rest of the course. I was thrilled with that run!

Kaiser's Touch-n-Go run was up next. He needed just one more TNG Q towards his V-NATCH this weekend. He was having a super run until the last dog walk -- he took the tunnel discrimination underneath it. Bummer. Good thing we have three shots at TNG this weekend, right?!

We ended with Regular. By this time I was just completely out of it and I think Kaiser was wondering what the heck was wrong with me. He ran a very conservative run and just didn't seem to trust that I knew where I was going. We NQ'd from the beginning when I got way behind at the dog walk/tunnel discrimination and after that we just sort of muddled through the rest of the run.

After a good night of sleep, Kaiser and I both did much better today! We managed to finish up the day 5/6! That tally includes the last of our Touch-n-Go Q's! Unfortunately the one NQ of the day was the one I totally didn't expect. Yup. Tunnelers.

The big news of the weekend is -- BARRELS! I guess it's a good thing I decided to suck it up and practice them, eh?

You know that whole deal about how "clubs have to request courses with barrels" for now and that they'll be mandatory in 2014? Yeah... Family Dog Center totally didn't ask for barrels. Didn't even hint at them. And look what they got. Granted, it's just one barrel in Touch-n-Go each day so it's no big deal -- but what if FDC didn't even have a barrel yet?

After Laurie said something to our judge about many people not having ever seen a barrel he went and looked at the rules on the forum. He agreed that it was supposed to be published beforehand and as of last night there was going to be no barrel. This morning, though, we said to just use the damn barrel and be done with it. Laurie had three barrels out for everyone to practice with and the spot where it was located on the TNG course was seriously a no-brainer.

I'm so over the whole stupid controversy that I agreed and said just put the stupid thing on course. Hell, put a ton of them out there; I'm beyond caring anymore.

There were a few dogs that were pretty clueless about what to do when they came to the barrel (pretty much all Novice dogs), but everyone got around it without a problem. Kaiser didn't exactly drive all that fast around it, but we managed just fine. I did say that if he NQ'd on that course (needed for his V-NATCH) I would blame the barrel, though.  :o)

Once I got Kaiser from 2-3 in Tunnelers I thought we had it in the bag. That was my worry point on course -- I never even envisioned him taking the off course that he did. Drat. Well, there's always tomorrow -- and good thing Kelly included that six with our bar, right?

Everyone did awesome in Chances today! Luke & Kaiser both brought home a Q. Secret had another nice run right up until she left the dog walk early and came off the side. Considering she misses a contact once in a blue moon... But still, perhaps I need to actually get my dog walk out of the garage and do some contact reinforcements here soon. Secret's dog walk has definitely been deteriorating lately.

The Tunnelers experiment was kind of a bust. Secret ran it just fine, but her love for tunnels has certainly not grown any since she last ran that class. I'm sure if we ran it on Friday she'd be a bit more high, but this was definitely not her fastest run. She clocked in at 5.5 yps, so definitely nothing to right home about, but a Q nonetheless.

Luke was a little loopy in his first round of Regular and did pretty much every naughty thing in the book -- Broke his start, took the tunnel (wrong) discrimination under the dog walk, left his dog walk contact without release and then blew me off on his a-frame contact. Oh Luke. Naughty old fart. Round 2 was much better but had two knocked bars -- both were my fault. Luke's last run of the day was Jumpers and he was awesome! He beat Kaiser's time by a full second!

We're back for more fun tomorrow. Kaiser has one more shot at his V-NATCH with another try at Tunnelers. He's running five runs total for the day, but that should be his second run so he should be fresh. Luke has three runs (they're only running one round of Regular, plus Jumpers and Chances) and Secret has a boring day with only one round of Chances.

Cross your fingers for Kaiser because I don't want to have to get his bar redone.  :o)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Use it or Lose it

So yeah... We have a NADAC trial this weekend. It's our first NADAC trial since April and the last time we practiced any sort of distance/Chances/NADAC-y type exercises was... The April trial. Secret wasn't even entered in that NADAC trial, so for her it's been since March!

Inspired by the 76 degree day with no rain (holy cow, no rain?!), I decided to make up a drill to work the dogs on a few distance skills. Anybody who has been reading this blog for any length of time will surely be impressed that my Paint skills continue to improve. Maybe it's all of the computer work at my job? hahaha Some day I'll invest in Course Designer...

This nice little set-up offered the opportunity to practice many skills! You have your basic turn-away into a pinwheel up at the top left -- A NADAC favorite for sure! Good thing I set this up to practice because (aside from Luke, who rocks), you'd think my dogs had never done this before. Kaiser took like four or five tries before he locked off the weaves and remembered what "switch" means. Secret was better and got it on the second or third try. Really dogs...

I doubt you'd ever see a push from the second jump to the jump on the left, but what the hey, we did it anyhow! My brain wasn't sure if that was a switch or an out. Because lord knows I'm always consistent, Kaiser seemed to need a switch, Secret would go for either if timed correctly and Luke required an out. That's so handy that I've trained them all differently, it would seem...

Coming at it from the other direction gave us the chance to practice hitting weaves at a distance after coming out of a tunnel -- a classic spot where you see dogs turn in to the handler. Kaiser, my little weaving machine, struggled with staying out and finding the weave entry at first tonight. Too much rewarding for up close/tight work lately, I'm sure. After that we had the opportunity to pull in or push out to the far jump -- layering, another fun NADAC skill!

And finally you'll see that yes, I incorporated that stupid barrel into the drill as well (for the record, it will forever be referred to as "that stupid barrel," or TSB). To start with we just did a basic send "out" around the far side of TSB. Later on everyone got a turn at working slightly more complex maneuvers with TSB. We started with the tunnel and would switch it up between pushing out and wrapping back to run to the tunnel versus calling into me then doing a "switch" to turn around TSB and driving for the tunnel again.

I have to say, considering this is the "future of NADAC," I'm rather glad that I consented to actually practicing TSB. The dogs are taking to it remarkably well, but it's not as "easy" when you try to throw distance into the mix. And Kaiser being Kaiser spent a little time going past TSB, turning tight and then running the same side he just ran (hmm, kind of like our wraps!).

Secret had no problem with TSB when I was doing the simple "out" in our distance work, but the first time I brought her out to do the "fun" tunnel, hoop, TSB exercise she stood and barked at me until I restarted and tried again. She got it -- and much like our earlier drills she seems to like the switch turn the best.

Kaiser is running nearly the full weekend package with four runs on Friday, six runs on Saturday and five runs on Sunday (for whatever reason I decided not to bother running him in Weavers that day -- probably because I figure he'll have horrible diarrhea by then from all the treats he'll get). He should finish up his V-NATCH on Saturday, so cross your fingers that I didn't totally jinx myself by getting his bar already!

Luke gets to run Chances on Friday, his four core classes on Saturday and then three runs on Sunday (don't ask me why, but they are running one round of Regular that day...).

Secret is going to think this is a pretty sucky trial because she is entered in -- Chances. Boy, that's motivating. Chances Friday, Chances Saturday and Chances Sunday. My reasoning is simply that A) I'm broke, B) she's running a boatload of other classes between her USDAA and AKC trials, and C) she already has NATCH 2 points in Regular and Jumpers, so why bother? I did, for experimentation sake, enter her in Tunnelers on Saturday. It's been quite a while since we've played in that class and I'm curious to see what she does. They didn't have Tunnelers on Friday or I would have entered her then since the first day is (obviously) always her best.

The pictures from our open call audition with Barbara O'Brien in March were just posted. There are some great ones of both Kaiser & Secret. I'll put those up later this week.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Train, Don't Complain

(Sorry, I don't have any pictures to go along with this post, so you get one of Kaiser posing on our parade float today!)

Yesterday the online agility community blew up. Susan Garrett posted a video of her young dog, Swagger, taking a hard digger during a turn off the dog walk and then shortly thereafter having a pretty horrifying crash into a jump when his feet slipped out from under him on take-off. The reason: Rain.

The video was posted with the following intro:

Why I hate doing agility in the rain. It is just so dangerous for any dog (and handler) let alone a 2 year old that hasn't figured out different surfaces need different styles.

There were so many people who completely lambasted Susan for admitting it was dangerous and then making the decision to run Swagger anyways. Susan later chimed in to say that she had pulled her dogs from many runs that day and that this was an FEO run that she was using as a training session to get Swagger some experience running under these conditions.

This did nothing to calm the tides. I could not believe how many people were having a complete conniption about the situation. Have we really become so soft in this country that we think agility is only for pristine, climate-controlled conditions? (Well yes, okay, I admit I've become very spoiled....)

Watch agility from other countries. They are almost ALWAYS outdoors. They often get stuck running in the rain -- it seems there are several large events known for their muddy conditions. The people who just attended the WAO had to deal with wet & rainy weather in the outdoor ring. If you traveled overseas to compete in agility, would you REALLY scratch your dog because of a little rain? According to the majority of the people posting on Susan's page you'd think the answer would be yes. That's crazy.

We just got stuck running in the rain last weekend. It started raining shortly before Secret's Snooker run -- The photographer got three shots of her that day, all during that class, and her eyes are shut in all three of them. lol So while it's pretty evident that Secret doesn't wish to get rain in her eyes, she otherwise had no problems on that course (aside from dealing with her idiot handler).

I was a little more up in the air about running Luke. It had been raining for a solid two hours by that point and the ground was noticeably worked up (it didn't help that it had rained the day before as well). I did consider scratching him from the run, but I decided to go ahead and take it easy, letting him make his way around at an easier pace; not pushing like I normally would under better conditions. On that day, on that course, the dogs were FINE. It was the handlers who were noticeably having issues. I didn't see a single dog struggle with the surface in that run. A few handlers were brave enough to push themselves to get into position for the front cross (I was too worried I'd fall!), and the rest of us relied heavily on rear crosses. When the conditions call for it, you simple change your game plan.

One point that came up in this overblown thread on Susan's Facebook page was that people just don't TRAIN for running in the rain. I'm guilty of that. If the weather is less than ideal I use it as an excuse to not bother setting a drill and running the dogs.

We lucked out and got through the parade without rain today, but the skies opened while we were down at the park getting a bite to eat for lunch. I got absolutely SOAKED on the walk back to the truck (Lexie and Kaiser were in there and stayed dry). It was still raining when we got home. Luke & Secret had been home all day and were expecting to do something fun. Seeing as I was already wet and figured I couldn't get much wetter, I decided today would be a perfect opportunity to set a drill and work the dogs in the rain.

I just threw five jumps out in the yard in somewhat of a box pattern. I worked all three dogs on fast lines, turns, wraps, backsides, threadles, etc. I didn't see a single one of them slip even once and nobody seemed the least put off by the rain.

I'm glad I decided to go ahead and do this -- and I should keep it up! We don't trial outdoors much (it's simply not offered around here anymore), but I know I would feel better about running my dogs in less than perfect conditions if it was something we trained for on a regular basis.

Oh yeah, I even worked a stupid barrel into our set-up. I brought it out after Secret's first turn and just set it to make a pinwheel out of two jumps that were next to each other. The boys had no issue and drove right around it. Secret's still not sure and is hesitant going into the turn, then drives out when she realizes she was correct. Stupid barrels. We'll keep working with them, though.

We had a fun day with our visitors yesterday. Everyone got along, and I returned a completely green Westie to my parents.  :o)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Double the fun!

The one big thing that has always kept Secret from expressing her inner disc-dog superstar (aside from the fact that she seems to have major issues "playing" away from home) has been her complete refusal to play with more than one disc at a time. I'm pretty sure this stemmed from the early lessons of, "This is Luke's frisbee; this is your frisbee; you only play with your frisbee." I did try early on to get her to play with more than one disc and it's always been a no-go.

We did work on it a bit last year and over the winter again. We actually progressed to the point where Secret would grab a frisbee out of my hand (the lesser-valued one of the day) and then her reward was that I'd throw the one she wanted. She always, always expressed a very clear preference for one disc over another -- but it didn't matter which one it was; that could always change from one session to the next. Typically whichever one was shown to her first was the the one she claimed as her frisbee for the day.

Tonight I had to be very, very mean to Secret. Luke and Kaiser had a vet appointment at 4:00, so I left Secret at home by herself. I'm pretty certain this might be the first time I've actually done that. Knowing that she would likely not be very pleased about the scenario, I decided to squeeze in a quick game of solo frisbee with her before we left (didn't want Luke all hot and panty for his appointment anyhow).

I'm not entirely sure why I grabbed two frisbees, but I did. And surprise, surprise! The finicky one was happy to play with both of them! Over and over again! I tell you, it made for a nice fast workout for her since there was no down time. Run, get frisbee, run back, drop, run after new frisbee, run back, etc. Sweet deal, this could be a bonus! A more tired border collie in a shorter amount of time. Well, it's all relative; we all know she recharges in 10 minutes regardless... Which is why she got to play again when we got home.

I guess now we can resume our dream of being world champion disc dog stars.  Maybe first I should work on taking our show on the road so that she will actually play in other locations... More than likely her disc dog career will make it as far as her dock jumping career. Some things are better off left to play and not competition, I guess.

My parent's dogs are coming to hang out with us tomorrow. Fingers crossed that nobody eats anybody and that everyone gets along. I'm going to mow the back yard, so they can all hang out together outside while I do that -- and I'll return a green Westie to my parents.  :o)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Today is another "blog action day" and we are supposed to blog on our thoughts on how the various agility organizations could improve things. Please be sure to visit the main DBAD Action Day page to visit the other blogs writing on this subject. I think it will be a very interesting day of posts!

I figured I'd start off with NADAC for two reasons -- It's the organization with which I've been involved the longest and it's also the organization with which I find the most faults.

Luke and I started competing in NADAC in 2007, only a few short months after we started taking classes. This was the most obvious choice for us because the facility where we trained hosted (and still hosts) 8-10 NADAC trials per year. They also host a few AKC trials per year, but this was before AKC started to allow mixed breeds into their trials.

I attended a NADAC trial as a spectator in February of 2007 and it looked like loads of fun. The people I met at the trial were very friendly and I'm still friends with many of them to this day. This trial just so happened to be the very last in this area that had the teeter. NADAC banned the use of teeters in trials shortly after. I discovered this when we entered our first trial in April and I was surprised to see that there was no teeter. Luke liked the teeter, but whatever.

This was the first NADAC change I experienced, although history (and friends) tell me that there were numerous others prior to that. It didn't take me very long to understand the running joke of how often the rules change in NADAC, but none of it really bothered me. The next big change after I started was the removal of the distance line in Regular. Can't say that one really bothered me, although nor would it bother me to have it back again. Undoubtedly it would not do anything to help NADAC's popularity among the masses, though.

I remember when hoops were introduced. We were at a trial in Minneapolis and the club surprised everyone by offering a "bonus" class at the end of the day. It was a numbered course (like Jumpers) and the obstacles were all hula-hoops zip-tied to a PVC frame (I don't even know if those are allowed anymore). I actually bought a photo of Luke running through a sparkly hoop because I thought it was cool.  :o)  I've never been a hoop-hater like some I know. I know people who have left NADAC over this obstacle (likely just the straw that broke the camel's back). I do, however, take issue with just how much this obstacle has crept its way into NADAC in general. These days, despite Sharon claiming that there should be more jumps than hoops in a Regular course, it is very common to have a course comprised with a majority of hoops vs. jumps. Weavers and Touch-n-Go now have hoops outnumber the tunnels on course. Only by some small miracle have we kept them out of Tunnelers, I guess.

One change I look back at now and laugh is when Sharon decided to move to single-bar jumps. You would not believe the stink I threw about that. I was schooling with 3' wide single-bar jumps at home; I'm still not sure why that was such a big deal for me. Likely it goes back to the root of most of my problems with NADAC -- the reason given for the change. In this case I seem to recall the major justification being that "it would save time during jump height changes." I still find that one ridiculous.

Most recently we have the addition of the barrel to NADAC agility. The barrel was originally introduced in EGC -- which, shall we mention, was originally created completely separate of NADAC and it was said it would stay separate from NADAC... but we all know how long that lasted. The barrel is creeping its way into regular trials on a requested basis at the moment and will be required in 2014. Honestly, I'm kind of exhausted on this subject. You can see my last post for a few thoughts (and lots of good discussion in the comments, too!). Again, one of my biggest "issues" with the introduction of the barrel was the reasoning given behind it. We were told that they were going to be used to replace the "dangerous" U-shaped tunnels that were causing dogs to slip and fall. Really? Whatever.

Don't get me wrong, though -- I believe NADAC has been at the forefront of a lot of GOOD changes and ideas. I believe even the staunchest anti-NADAC competitors will give credit to Sharon for making rubberized contacts the norm. That said, I'll never understand those who are so against the rubber belting... I appreciate the 5' a-frame that NADAC offers as well as the multitude of jump height options available.

Unfortunately I just don't feel challenged by NADAC courses anymore. I enjoy Jumpers and Chances for the thrill these classes offer, but aside from that it's become a pattern of just going through the motions. Thankfully there are certain added incentives to keep my interest. For a period of time I started running bonus lines with Luke to add some excitement to my day. Our Q-rate plummeted, but it kept me on my toes and got my heart pumping! We did fewer bonus lines when Sharon changed the rules that bonus attempts had to be ran first in the class and stopped them altogether when she proclaimed that all attempts must be videoed and sent in for qualifying purposes. No thanks.

These days my fun is with Kaiser. He's my first dog capable of obtaining runs with a DRI over 100 (how that is calculated is beyond my ability to explain here) -- but for those not in the know it basically means he's in the top percentage of dogs running on those courses. My goal for every run is to get a 100+ DRI, which makes me push and try new things. We've had a lot of high 90's runs, but he's starting to get more consistent and pushing the edge! Our last trial netted us 3 runs with a DRI over 100! Two Regular runs (hard to come by!) and one Jumpers run. My goal for Kaiser is to get a Platinum Speed Star, but that requires TWENTY runs in Regular. We'll keep trying! Kaiser just loves NADAC, which is why we keep plugging away despite all of the changes that exasperate me to no end. Oh, and the people. I really love my NADAC friends.

One way I feel NADAC could improve is to make it customary for judges to create their own courses. I feel we'd see a lot more diversity and interesting challenges if this were the case, versus having them pick from a catalog as is the current practice. Granted, it's been stated that anyone (even myself!) can submit courses for review, but considering the incredibly small amount that this happens I'm sure we can all guess how many make the pass. So instead we continue working with the relatively limited course book and run on the same courses time and time again (in 2012 I ran duplicate courses no fewer than four times).

A recent discussion on the NADAC forum revealed that Sharon has been pulling courses from very old books (like 2005-2007) and people have apparently been complaining about the level of difficulty in these courses (believing them to be "new" challenges). One can only hope that we get a chance to see these "new/old" courses at our trial in June.

I've only been competing in USDAA since February of 2012, so I don't feel I have nearly as much to say on the subject. I really enjoy the variety of classes that are offered in a day, although classes like Snooker and Pairs scared the heck out of me when we started! I've really come to appreciate the challenges of the USDAA games, though, and I feel they've made me a better all-around handler!

There is really only one thing that comes to mind when I think of improvements for USDAA -- and that would be jump heights, jump heights, jump heights.

Luke and I actually did a USDAA fun match very early on in our agility career. Family Dog Center briefly toyed with the idea of adding USDAA trials to their calendar and hosted a fun match to gain approval. I registered Luke and we gave it a shot. The lowest he could jump at the time was 22" -- he was jumping 20" in NADAC back then so I didn't stress too much over it, but I wasn't thrilled about the height on the awful mats that FDC used to have.

The games were totally foreign to me, but we had a fun experience. Unfortunately USDAA never took off in La Crosse. They hosted one trial, and of course it just happened to be a weekend where I was traveling to a NADAC trial in MN. Little did I know that Luke's registration would come in handy several years later when he was eligible to start running as a Veteran!  :o)

I'm still super bummed that Kaiser isn't able to play in USDAA. We gave it a shot, but the little guy told me loud and clear that he just isn't comfortable jumping 12" anymore. It's pretty sad when he's one of the fastest dogs in NADAC and he can barely make time on a P2 Jumpers course. The powers that be at USDAA told everyone at the beginning of the year that there would be an announcement regarding jump heights no later than July of this year. Well, we are into June and still no word... My fingers are crossed that maybe, just maybe Kaiser will get to play in USDAA again one day. Well, I suppose he'll be able to jump 8" when he turns 8 years old. lol

Finally, I have mixed feelings on the Super Q that is required to attain one's ADCH/PDCH. On one hand I'm all for it because I understand the reason behind the requirement. On the other hand, I'm starting to wonder if Secret will EVER be able to complete the requirements for her PDCH. No doubt we will be one of those teams who finishes straight up to Platinum when the third SQ finally rolls around... That stings a little.

In a way I'd rather see them up the overall Q requirements and dismiss the SQ (or change the definition somehow). I've always thought that 5 Q's per class wasn't terribly impressive. Consider the difference of getting 23 Q's in Regular, 13 Q's in Jumpers and 13 Q's in Chances for a NATCH, for example (plus 13 more each of Tunnelers, Touch-n-Go & Weavers for V-NATCH). Or the 20 QQ's in AKC. I think they could definitely broaden their requirements in USDAA to increase the overall difficulty and remove the necessity for the Super Q. Alas, it is what it is and we'll keep plugging away.

Having attended a grand total of ONE AKC trial (although entries are sent for two more!), I really don't feel I can spout off much on this subject.

I appreciate that AKC is giving me another option for Kaiser where he can jump 8" (well, hopefully -- if we can get him officially measured at 14"!). I appreciate the short chute, which Secret seems to like immensely more than the chute in USDAA. I appreciate the lowered a-frame for little dogs, although Kaiser still went sailing over it like it was the USDAA frame...

I'm not a huge fan of the American Kennel Club in general. They really chapped my hide with how they went about introducing the mixed breed program. Despite the fact of how it turned out, the fact that they even considered doing the whole "separate but equal" deal really upset me. It still bothers me that clubs have the option of not allowing mixed breeds.

It also bothers me IMMENSELY that Kaiser had to be registered as a mixed breed to participate. That's just my own weird little quirk, though, and something I'll get over. It would be nice if they had some sort of a program for breeds recognized through other Kennel Clubs. Before Kaiser was neutered AKC wasn't even an option for us.

I think the sticker policy at AKC trials is stupid. I also think the rule about not wearing your dog's name on your shirt is stupid. Do you know how many shirts I have with the names of my dogs on them?! I've wondered what would happen if I wore one of Luke's shirts to an AKC trial. I'm not running him, would that be allowed? lol Such silly rules...

It would be nice if AKC would implement a Veterans program, too.


There are plenty of other organizations out there from which to choose from, but I'll leave those suggestions to the people who actually participate in those organizations. We did briefly play in TDAA, but that just wasn't Kaiser's cup of tea. No wonder, he's never really accepted that he's a small dog.

I would love to try both ASCA and UKI Agility one day, but I'm already maxed out with three organizations at the moment. Maybe some day. When I win the lottery and/or find my sugar daddy.  :o)

Monday, June 3, 2013

I caved....

I did it. I caved. I have been as anti-barrel as they come (as it pertains to this obstacle appearing in NADAC courses) and today I finally said, "Screw it," and introduced it to the dogs.

Obviously it's not rocket science. My dogs had better darn well know how to go out and around something, but I still figured maybe we should do some official training with it and throw in into our first "sequence."

By the way, isn't our "barrel" pretty? I always knew that stupid wheel-less garbage can the last owners of this house left behind would come in handy after sitting in the garage for five years.

I learned that Family Dog Center had acquired a few sets of barrels while talking to Travis and Laurie at the AKC trial. Well there went the entire basis behind my argument of why we could not see barrels at Champs this year. I thought for certain they would hold out until the last possible minute before purchasing any new required equipment, but no, they went and threw my plan out the window.  ;o)  Laurie doesn't plan on asking for any courses with barrels any time soon, but she figures at least she's prepared now. And apparently they are toying around with offering EGC, which I've always felt would be hugely dangerous on that turf... To me EGC is for dirt and grass, and that's about it.

At the beginning of the year Sharon proclaimed that there would NOT be barrels at the 2013 Championships in Springfield, IL. I probably should have saved that post because I'm just waiting for the announcement that there will be barrels and that nothing of the sort was ever said. Regardless, I've decided to just suck it up and start working this stupid garbage can into our drills now and then.

It's most important for Kaiser to get the knack of them because he's my speed demon and also the only one of my dogs who is 100% attending Championships this year. Thankfully he took to the whole thing faster than either of the other two. The switch turn was a little harder for him, but the odds of seeing something like that are probably slim to none. Thus far the move I've seen used most with barrels at traditional NADAC trials is a silly L-shaped turn that I think is kind of pointless.

To start with I'm working on introducing a nice tight wrap back to me and driving straight on down the line. Secret has the "drive out of the turn" part totally nailed and doesn't even mind pushing the barrel around a bit to do so, but she was a bit slow to turn on to driving INTO the turn. She did get better, though.

Luke has no problem driving into the turn as fast as he can, but then he turns like the Titanic and doesn't give me much of a wrap. lol  He figured it out, but still wants to go wide -- So the L-shaped turns would be right up his alley. Both Secret and Luke did well with the flip/wraps and that's actually when I got the best drives into the turn out of Secret!

I just did all of this while playing fetch with the Chuck-it, which was part of the reason for some of the super wide turns we got -- but also the best method for getting good drive out of the turns. I started with just the "barrel" and added the hoops to try to help them get the idea of a tighter turn. It worked nicely.

I had Kaiser's V-NATCH bar delivered to me at the USDAA trial this weekend because our super awesome bar provider won't be able to make it to the NADAC trial this month. That's not bad luck or anything, right? To get one's bar before the award has been earned?  ;o)  If it helps, I haven't unwrapped the paper off the name/date part because surely THAT would be bad luck. And yes, I said date. Boy, that's not getting cocky, is it? Ha! Kelly did throw an extra six on there in case Kaiser doesn't finish it on the 15th (Saturday). Considering that we have three shots at the one Touch-n-Go Q we need and two shots at the one Tunnelers Q we need, I figure we'd have to have a REALLY BAD WEEKEND to not get it. But hey, he is a Klee Kai... So you just never know.

One of these days I should send in Kaiser's Champs entries and make it official. Then I can continue to waffle over what to do about the other two.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Not my best day

I started to title this post, "Not OUR best day" -- But then I realized that's a load of hooey because the dogs were just fine. This train wreck was all on me. Okay, it wasn't THAT bad, but it certainly wasn't one of my more shining moments.

What I can take away from this experience is that I really cannot plan back-to-back "up at the crack of dawn" away trials without some sort of a rest day in between to recharge my batteries. I never quite caught up after our fun trip to Think Pawsitive on Monday and had been dragging all week long. I did go to bed at 8 p.m. on Friday, but a combination of the bright shining sun at that time, the fact that my neighbors were outside playing basketball next to my bedroom window and then the storm that blew through at midnight requiring me to get up to close up the house.... Well yeah, I was kind of useless yesterday.

Lake Elmo is not a bad drive -- about 2 1/2 hours. We were on the road at 4:40 a.m. and with a stop for breakfast we pulled into the fairgrounds at 7:10. I threw my tent bag and a couple of crates in the car in case I decided we needed to set up outside the car, but my preference for the day was definitely to work out of the car if we could. I had also brought along my reflect-a-mesh panel to throw over the car if the weather surprised us by being nice -- And good thing I did, because we were WELL over the predicted high of 64 degrees. I'm guessing we were over 80 before the storms rolled in. The car seemed to stay comfortable, especially after I backed it into a shady spot well away from the arena after I was told my dogs were being heathens and charging at passersby...

The day started with Gamblers and Luke was the first dog on the line. For the first time, I actually opted for the same plan for both Luke and Secret, which made my life considerably easier with my limited mental capacity for the day.

We started at the jump next to the finish jump and went for the tunnel under the a-frame. Well, that was the plan -- Luke took the frame and then missed the contact. That meant I could pick up where we left off and we did back to back a-frames (the 5-point obstacle on this course) and then the jump to the left to the tunnel. I think Luke knocked that jump thanks to my poorly timed switch cue. From there it was up the dog walk, then jump, teeter, jump, teeter. We still had some time to kill, so we went forward to the jump and then back into the tunnel under the dog walk.

That's when the buzzer sounded for Luke, so I sent him back into the tunnel to start the gamble. Almost every single dog at the trial spun in front of the jump and nobody was whistled for a refusal. We figure it's because the dogs really weren't "seeing" the jump and thus weren't "refusing" it. Luke was one of these, but thankfully he's super awesome at sending back out. With the added time for Veterans, he finished well under time for this third Gamblers Q. Two more for his first USDAA title!

Secret's plan was exactly the same, only she was a good girl and took the tunnel first like I asked. I was thrilled with her double teeter performance! I think we have finally sent that ship sailing and have generalized that all teeters are a-okay. The buzzer went off before I could get Secret into the tunnel under the dog walk, so I called her to me and we started the gamble. She also spun around before going out to the jump. Unfortunately she spent too much time barking at me, so while she DID go back out and complete the gamble cleanly, the buzzer went off at the second-to-last jump. I guess the good news is that she is getting the challenges at Masters, but silly little things have kept us from Qing so far. We'll get there....

Grand Prix was the second run of the day and it was already starting to get pretty warm and sunny. I was really regretting not packing shorts, but who wears shorts when it's 60 degrees? Stupid weather forecasters...

This run did not make it on video, but it was not my most shining moment. I was late on the front cross before the weaves, causing Secret to go way wide up by the chute (she was moving out nicely on this run and I was not prepared to keep up). I front-crossed on the exit of the a-frame to ensure the correct end of the tunnel. Secret took the chute with more enthusiasm than I've seen from her in quite a while and really sailed nicely down the next line. So much so that I was very far behind where I needed to be for my planned blind cross between the tire and the teeter. I should have forced a front in there, but my feeble brain said, "let's try a rear at the teeter!" Um... No. Refusal.

I did a blind between the tunnel and the next jump then got really lazy and decided to layer the jump between 18 and 19. Because I was giving no support whatsoever, Secret took the layered jump for an E.

Standard was up next. By this point I was starting to feel physically ill from a combination of exhaustion and heat. I'm lucky that the Veteran dogs run first and that it was a small to tall day, so there were something like 15 dogs between Luke and Secret. Pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to handle anything less...

Luke didn't make it on video, but he put in a nice solid run. Unfortunately I barely managed to indicate the table after the teeter and he ran far enough past the side of it to earn a refusal. He ended up with a total of 10 faults and I'm not entirely sure where the other 5 came from... I know he got the dog walk and I'm pretty sure he was fine on the a-frame, so I'm going to guess that maybe it was an up contact? Who knows.

I jammed up Secret pretty bad between two and three to force in a front cross. With another forced front cross after three it was no wonder she wasn't trusting me anymore and started to slow down. Her energy level was starting to match mine on this run, which as we already know was pretty bad. That said, we somehow managed to hold it together for a Q -- which is a small miracle considering she nearly left the weaves on me three times. One of them is obvious in the video, the other two were minor where I could see her eyes/head wandering. I think she was giving up on me at that point.

This was Secret's third P3 Standard Q. That means when she FINALLY gets her first Gamblers Q she will earn her MPD title! That was something I hadn't even realized until I was recording points today...

Standard was followed by pairs. Secret was paired with Taro, the Terv she paired with for her P2 Pairs Q back in September. Once again luck was on our side because Susan (Taro's owner) actually WANTED the second half -- which contained both the weaves and the chute, so of course that worked out well. Secret's half was mostly jumps and the teeter, which apparently she now loves.

Secret started out well until I failed to indicate the jump after the teeter in my rush to push out to the tunnel under the frame. I managed to get her back without an off course, but it was wasted time and it slowed her momentum. Taro broke the tire for another five faults but was clean after that.

Our ten faults put us over the qualifying cut-off, unfortunately. Actually, we were only three and change under time to begin with, so either of our faults would have kept us from qualifying.

It had started to cool off by this point, I'd been drinking a ton of water and the course was shorter -- so thankfully I felt less like dying after this run.

Snooker was next! The good news is that the seven on this course was totally doable for Secret and it didn't include the weaves. The bad news is that this was Secret's fifth run of the day and well, that whole mental absence issue of mine. It had REALLY cooled off by the time we were walking this course. Unfortunately it started to rain right before the class started to run.

It wasn't raining super hard, though, and Secret really didn't seem put off by it. Think about it, though, this is a dog who willingly stays outside to play in the rain by herself at home...

My opening went just as planned. We started with the red on the right, did the 7 combo, front crossed to bring her to the red in the center, back up to the a-frame for the 7, then the left red, followed by the 7 again to the red on top and then hit the 7 for the fourth time. Then I didn't pull hard enough or in any other way indicate a wrap, so Secret went wide and took the red jump on the way to start the close. Totally my fault.

With four sevens in the opening we would have only had to get through three to Q. Alas, we would have had to get through six to SQ and I was pretty certain that the buzzer would go off while she was in the weaves at five, so our quest continues. Some day the stars will align in our favor.

I didn't enter Secret in Jumpers at this trial because it would have been her sixth run of the day. I figured she has her PJM title now (just received in the mail from USDAA, so it's official!), so we can hold off a bit while the other classes catch up.

Luke was entered, though, in our quest to possibly finish out his Veteran Versatility title some day (might have to start entering Snooker for that to happen, though...). By this time it had been raining for about two hours and the ground was starting to get very muddy and slick. I was strongly debating pulling Luke from this run, but the course was pretty flowing and I figured we could take it easy and still make Veteran time easy enough. I planned for pretty much all rear crosses to let Luke choose his own speed and path through the course -- the majority of other entrants opted for the same.

Unfortunately Luke dropped at bar at 3 before going into the tunnel. I felt my feet slip before the 5 jump, so at that point I started to run VERY conservatively. From there on it was a pretty half-assed run. A poorly supported rear cross at 10 caused a refusal and we were clean from there. Thankfully I don't feel like Luke was sliding around nearly as much as I felt I was, so no harm done there.

Surprisingly, I didn't see a single person fall while running this course! I did see a gentleman with mud all up his backside, though, so I'm guessing he must have fallen while running in the other ring. Oh the joys of outdoor trials...

Thankfully we made it home safely around 7:30 p.m. I came home with a pocket full of MAC vouchers after working all day and then trading off some of my other vouchers with some friends. Since I no longer travel for NADAC trials, I just didn't know when I'd ever use the MMBC or Agile Canines vouchers I've been sitting on for so long -- And now I have enough MAC vouchers to pay for our AKC trial in July!

And that's a very good thing because my car did end up needing to have a second wheel bearing replaced this past week, which means we're up to $900 on that bill... Hooray. I will say, though, that we had a very quiet ride on the trip to MN, so I guess it makes a difference. Not only that, but my gas mileage went way up, too!

The other bit of good news is that I checked the mail when we got home yesterday and Kaiser's paycheck from his modeling gigs in April was there! Could not have possibly come at a better time. And since I never did bother to ask what these things pay, I was very happily surprised.  :o)