Sunday, September 29, 2013

Champs 2013 -- Day 4 (The End)

That's Luke's 6th place ribbon from Round 5 yesterday. I have no idea why it took so long for them to be posted, but it was finally put out this morning. Yay for another good placement for the old man!

Sunday at Champs is the final round -- Round 7 -- for most teams. Some don't have a snowball's chance in hell of making the finals and run for fun or as a last ditch effort for placements (ahem, Secret). Others are under a little more stress because they are teetering on the edge of the finals cutoff. And still others are so far ahead of the rest of their group that they could pretty much poop in the ring and still win. lol  (Seriously, there were several people who were THAT far ahead). At any rate, Round 7 is generally pretty fun because most people really put it out there -- and I'm no different!

Seeing as Kaiser was in 11th going into the last round, I really didn't think there was even a remote possibility of him making the finals. Because of this, I decided I was going to go for broke, run like hell and see if we could knock it out. I really didn't feel nervous (umm... thank you Xanax...) and I felt totally at ease with this run. It started out great for about the first 10 obstacles or so, but then Kaiser blasted through an off course tunnel that I hadn't really even been concerned about. I opted not to fix the hoop he missed and kept going -- I even threw some blind crosses at the little guy. While he still doesn't read them as well as Secret and Luke do, he is getting better about them. He knocked the bar after the a-frame running full out, but finished with another great dog walk. Kaiser didn't get have a single contact fault all week and that is pretty awesome. Now if only we could fix that steering. Oh well. Somehow we were scored as having 65 faults on that run, which tells me he must have missed another obstacle. I don't know how or which, but it really wasn't worth reviewing/arguing. After seeing the results and how many other dogs in our class faulted on the run I kind of regretted not fixing the error and just taking the 10 off course faults -- but oh well, I still don't think it would have helped us at all. They did end up taking 7 dogs from our class into the finals instead of the 6 we expected. Kaiser ended up in 11th.

Much like the 7th round in 2011, I decided to push Luke for everything he had. This round was a Jumpers-focused round with 26 obstacles (all jumps except the contacts and weaves). Luke has seriously been rocking his Jumpers runs lately, so I figured I would drive just as hard as I do in a typical Jumpers round -- complete with multiple blind crosses (he has picked up on those so naturally!). This was a somewhat risky plan because even though he was in 9th place, everything was so close that if we had a big blunder it would easily knock us out of the finals. I did briefly consider playing it safe and doing rear crosses to float him through the course a little easier. Seriously, though, what fun is that? I *like* running him pedal to the metal and gosh darn it, that's what I was going to do.

He was FANTASTIC. Every moment of that run was just smooth as silk. In a class filled with super fast border collies, Luke was fast enough to come in 4th place! What a good boy. That score moved us up to 8th place overall and solidified Luke's spot in the finals (they ended up taking 12).

I had more or less exactly the same plan for Secret. Stay ahead and blind, blind, blind. Once again she just blew me away. She has really stepped up to the challenge this week -- the dog who seems to detest showing two days in a row has stayed on fire for four days! Unfortunately we had the slightest of bobbles. I made eye contact with her before a turn and she must have read it as more of a turn than it was, because she cut to the inside of a jump. We probably wasted at least three seconds fixing that and then it was just perfect after that. In the end, Secret got another 9th place and was 0.36 seconds out of the ribbons. Without the bobble she would have had a very nice placement. Darn it. That means that Secret did not get any ribbons at Champs this year which is kind of a bummer, but she did end up placing 14th overall in her division which is a HUGE improvement from last time. The mistakes she made this week surprised me, but they were made out of enthusiasm and excitement. I'm thrilled with her performance.

Running in the finals with Luke was an amazing experience and I'm so thankful to have had it. The course was fun -- the most challenging part was definitely the beginning. When we lined up to walk the course we all were thinking the same thing -- "Is that line for US?" All week long there have been extra challenges for the people participating in Triple Crown and all of the Stakes classes, but the distance challenge for us regular folks were pretty basic and simple. This, however, was a game changer.

The start of the course was jump, tunnel under the a-frame, jump (to the right of the frame). There was a line placed between the jump and the a-frame and the distance requirement was to start from behind the line and handle the first three obstacles from there. If your dog had no start line stay it was an automatic 5 point fault for you being over the line. That said, which is worse -- the five point line fault or a ten point off course if they take the a-frame? Hmm.

At any rate, I had full confidence that Luke could do this. In fact, I had a little TOO MUCH confidence because I left him on the start line (having said the word "tunnel" in his ear to get him turned on to it) and promptly turned my back and walked away. What a freaking idiot. It's one thing to leave him at home or to leave him at a local trial and know that he will stay -- but this is Champs! The energy is different! He was totally amped in that ring. Moron. Just as I was getting into position to start, I turned my shoulder and what should I see but a black dog on the a-frame next to me. Seriously, can I just have a do-over on that one thing?!

And with that I decided that I was going to run as fast as I possibly could and blow all those NADAC people away with some fancy blind crosses. hahaha  (Seriously, I cannot tell you how many people I saw handle with nothing but rear crosses all week long, even on slow dogs who would obviously run much better if their handler would just get IN FRONT of them.)  This week I really felt my hard work pay off in the running department. I was able to get ahead and stay ahead and really had a lot of fun doing it. I crossed in spots on this course that I'm pretty sure not a single other handler did (maybe some small dogs, I didn't see them all). And it. Felt. Awesome.

Results from the Finals round haven't been individually posted, but the overall standings were posted on the website by the time I got back to the hotel. Looks like the 15 faults we picked up in that round bumped us back down to 9th place overall, but seriously, that is so awesome. You can't imagine what kind of dogs we've been competing against in the 12" Veteran class, so I am beyond proud of Luke for holding his own in that group of dogs. Considering this is very likely his last Champs, I am so happy he was able to go out with a bang. Third time is a charm!  :o)

The awards ceremony ran kind of late and it was 8:00 p.m. before we were packed up and out of there. The dogs spent a lot of time in the stall today and they did very well considering. Kizzy even seemed to have gotten used to it and was much quieter in the stall, so I felt okay leaving her in there to watch more runs today (which was nice!). Everyone is flat out at the hotel now and I'm sure they will be so happy to be back home tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the fenced in yard, that's for sure! We sure are spoiled with that.

I'm not so much looking forward to the drive, but I am looking forward to being home. There is a NADAC trial in a couple of weeks and I was planning on just entering Kaiser for his free day. I think now, though, I'm going to have to enter Luke, too, so he can come and brag about his amazing achievements this past week.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Champs 2013 -- Day 3

The highs and lows of agility.... This morning I found out that there had been a scoring error last night. One of the dogs (the dog who happens to be pounding our entire class) was erroneously given 30 faults on a clean run (reviewed by video), so when the scoring was redone the whole class was bumped down one placing. It didn't do anything to Kaiser's overall standing, but it did change his 1st place to a 2nd. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

And Round 5 was definitely a "lose some" round for Kaiser and I.... It was a three hour wait between our walk through and Kaiser's run (the first of my dogs today). In that time I managed to leave the screaming hooligan (i.e., Kizzy...) in the stall to watch some runs. And after watching said runs I started to doubt my plan with Kaiser and decided, on the fly, that I simply had to change my handling plan and do something that I hadn't even considered walking... Fast dog after fast dog (hell, even some slower ones) were all missing a turn and taking an off course hoop. That was my biggest concern with Kaiser on that course, so I stupidly decided at the last minute to rear cross that sequence.

Dumbest idea of my life. Taking the 10 off course faults and having a happy dog would have been better. I was stressing out hardcore before the run because I was sincerely worried about my change of plans. Gah, what is wrong with me... At any rate, Kaiser started off much slower than usual and was already hesitating coming out of the tunnel two obstacles before the problem spot (because he thought I was nuts, no doubt). Well, the rear cross did get the turn away that I needed, but Kaiser was so thrown off by me at that point that he ran off to a different off course obstacle. We recovered and he was good for a while, but then for some reason he pushed WAY out to another off course hoop on the way to the a-frame. Sigh. Twenty faults and a lot of time wasted. The only consolation was that much of the class struggled in this round, but it still bumped Kaiser right back down to 11th place. He is way out of finals contention.

Luke's run was nearly perfect. There was one part that I tried to handle with too much distance for no reason at all and he slowed down and was unsure for a couple of strides, but otherwise it was just beautiful. He pulled another 6th place with that round and moved into 11th place -- which I believe is the last dog to go into the finals. The placements/scores in the dogs from like 5th-11th is amazingly tight and could flop around very easily.

I apparently screwed up Secret's run this morning. The start was hoop, hoop, "out tunnel" under the dog walk. I did a little lead out and was well in position for the out and she appeared to be going to the tunnel. I focused too much on getting into position to blind cross her exit to the tunnel and she pulled on to the dog walk ramp. Then she argued at me a bit and wasted a little more time before going into the tunnel, after which she ran a FANTASTIC course. I'm not entirely sure what's going on here in Springfield, but she is easily running faster than I think she ever has in a trial. It's fun to see! On the other hand, she's kind of turned into a naughty brat here, too, because today she decided she was going to try to jump up and grab the shirt of anyone who walked near us. Ummm.... What? Something to watch closely tomorrow. At any rate, she ended up 12th in that round. Easily within shot of the ribbons without that fault, but oh well.

This post is void of pictures because the ribbons from Round 5 had not been posted by end of day today and because my friend, Jen, visited us and I didn't spend time hanging in the stall with the dogs. Sorry dogs.

Round 6.... Hmm. Sharon held a briefing following team and before the walk-through. There have been a lot of briefings and rule changes (this morning Sharon added faults for anyone who didn't go to the start line when they were supposed to, anyone who didn't finish the course running with their dog and anyone who turned to look at the clock before they had their dog on leash). Surprise, surprise -- Sharon threw EGC into Champs. Round 6 was the "speed course" of the week and consisted only of hoops and tunnels. It was to be scored like EGC, which more or less means if your dog misses an obstacle JUST KEEP GOING because you've already lost those points and you are just wasting time if you fix it. Wide turns and alterations of path are also dinged, to a lesser level. Sharon repeatedly stressed that you were supposed to JUST RUN on this course.

Much like Round 5 this morning, Round 6 also shuffled the standings a bit. Many of the dogs who have been placing very low made it into the ribbons with their slower yet clean & accurate runs. Quite a few of the top dogs picked up several faults.

After stressing Kaiser out so badly this morning I honestly just wanted to go out and have fun with him. He was ready, but a little wild.  :o)  We had a wide turn on a serpentine into a tunnel and then he cut in and missed the hoop after that tunnel, likely thanks to my handling choice in that spot. He also sliced a turn and missed a hoop before a tunnel -- but every single one of my dogs missed that hoop (as did many, many other dogs). Seriously. Every one of my dogs. You'd think I'd learn? At any rate, apparently he had a couple of wide turns because Kaiser ended up with 22 faults for 10th place in his class. It actually moved him back into 9th overall, though, which tells you how much the scores shuffled in his class.

Luke was super awesome. I really pushed him on this run and he ran great. I'm pretty sure I was likely the only person to throw in two blind crosses through an "S-shaped" sequence, but it worked beautifully for Luke. As I mentioned above, he did miss the one hoop and then he turned wide on a 180 hoop sequence. He ended up with 11 faults and 16th place, but the 12" Vet/JH class was one where things REALLY got shook up in the placings and despite placing 16th, Luke actually moved into 9th overall. That class was one where dogs who previously were nowhere near the top were in the ribbons and it really reordered things. I'm quite certain that Luke's group takes 11 into the finals. It's so tight in there, but we just have to keep it clean and I think we'll be good!

Secret shocked the hell out of me tonight. This is a dog who doesn't like Hoopers and she doesn't like Tunnelers because she finds neither of those obstacles highly motivating. Well... She's on crack this week and apparently tonight they were loads of fun! I threw the same blind cross sequence at Secret that had worked so well with Luke, but Secret was hauling ass through there and I was late on the second one. I had to scoop her up from behind me (fault) to get her in the tunnel and then she missed that one dratted hoop. She must have gone wide on the 180 sequence for another ding because she ended up with 12 faults and finished in 12th place in her class. But get this -- she was over two seconds faster than Luke's run, and I thought his run was great! Wow. That is really fast for Secret. I look forward to seeing the video for that run. Secret remains firmly in 15th place with really no hope of going higher (or lower, unless she gets a bazillion faults).

So.... This week is definitely not going quite as hoped for the little K-man. The faults have just added up too much for us. I was really hoping for a placement or two for Secret -- and we still have one more shot, so we'll see what tomorrow holds. My steady, reliable dog forgot to come with us this week, but who the hell cares -- this dog is pretty fun to run!  :o)  After coming so close to the finals in 2011 with Luke, I'm really proud of him and how well he's stepped up to the challenge. I've pushed him all week and he's been amazing. Rock on, old man.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Champs 2013 -- Day 2!

The boys were very bored this morning. But they were both pretty cute sporting their Back on Track jackets (okay, Luke is squeezed into Secret's...).   :o)

Last night was kind of rough. I think I might have mentioned in yesterday's post that Kizzy was a bit off. Well, right before we went to bed she blew out the back end and then about five minutes after the lights turned off she yacked in bed. Poor Kizzy. The stress of the day just got to her. I'm happy to report that she did much better today! She didn't get much to eat this morning and didn't have any more diarrhea or vomiting. By the time dinner rolled around she was back to bouncing and leaping while I prepared their dishes. Her big excitement of the day was when she broke out of the crate in the car and jumped out the car window.... Thank GOD someone I know (through Facebook, at least) saw it happen and grabbed her. I found out about this later when she messaged me on Facebook to see how Kizzy was. Ummm.... WHAT?! Well, I'm glad I know and I'm glad it turned out well -- so now Kizzy is back in the stall. I gave her a bully stick and at 12" long, that sucker should last her a while. It seemed to go better. We'll see.

Luke was up first this morning without too long of a wait (he was 29th in the ring). Round 3 just happened to be almost an exact replica of round 5 from 2011 -- the Weavers-focused course. There were only three differences -- the distance line, swapping a tunnel for the hoop at the start and the long set of weaves was cut to six. This was the course that Luke finally placed on in 2011 so I had my fingers crossed. He ROCKED it with another fantastic run and ended up in 6th place! I really couldn't be happier with that run. So we improved on two counts -- first we got a placement in an earlier round (3rd vs 5th) and he also bettered his placement (he got 7th on that course last time).  :o)

Secret seriously nailed that course, too. She was hauling ass, especially considering it was weaves focused (hooray for sets of six that are apparently more motivating!). Because of her recent feelings that she doesn't have to stop on contacts, I babysat the dog walk at the end more than I perhaps normally would have -- and since she was charging off faster than she typically runs I was more or less left in the dirt when I released her. She was sending ahead of me so well that I think I just forgot to say anything, so she stopped and spun in front of the last tunnel. I'd say in total we wasted at least three seconds, and that's just how far out of the ribbons she was. Bummer. I love how happy she is running, though! She is living up to her "sassypants" label as we wait in line, that's for sure. Bark, bark, bark, bark....

In 2011 Kaiser won on this course fairly handily (he had a giant bobble where he almost went off course and then I had to reset the weaves), so I also had high hopes for him. Well, it wasn't mean to be. He was a very good boy and gave me a stay at the start, but he still missed the entry to the first set of weaves. It took three tries to get him in the poles, which was a HUGE time suck. Not only that but on one of the resets he back-weaved for 10 faults. I had to fix the third set of weaves as well (same set as 2011), so that was more time. Yeah... Nowhere near the placements for that run. I liken this to Round 3 in 2011, though -- Kaiser does NOT like waiting so late in the day for his first run (he was in the last group today) and he goes a little crazy. He got 30 faults in round 3 last time, though, so I guess I'll take the 10!

Round 4 this afternoon/evening was a really fun course! It didn't seem familiar in the least, which was nice for a change. It was a more "technical" course (for NADAC at least) and many of us felt that this course would really shake things up a bit -- and it did. Many classes got rearranged a bit after this course.

Luke was awesome, awesome, awesome on this run. I really pushed him -- but I pushed too hard and released too soon on the dog walk. It was close -- really close. And because there are some 12" dogs running out of order I had to wait until almost the end to see if it got called or not. It did. Without the 10 faults it would have been another 6th place run, but ultimately I think it knocked him into 18th or something. Overall, though, he's in 13th place and well within reach of the finals if he continues to run as awesome as he always does.

I worry about Secret for as dead as she acts in the stall, but it's deceptive -- apparently she's learned that she needs to store her energy for the runs and then it just EXPLODES out of her. lol I thought that tonight's round would really be her time to shine. And she did -- she put in a *fantastic* first half of the course with a beautiful sequence from the dog walk through a tricky (for NADAC) serpentine into the weaves. Then it was a race to get her into the "out tunnel" under the a-frame (behind a line). I take the blame. She was charging ahead. I really felt like she had locked on to the tunnel and I'm sure I started to take a step away just prior to her actual commitment point. Bam, she pulled off and touched the a-frame. She may have only touched it with three paws, but when I attempted to resend her she climbed right back up the frame. 10 faults. Then I gave up and crossed the line for 5 more faults. Those plus the added time we spent in that area kind of sunk us. After today Secret is in 15th place overall. I'm still crossing my fingers for some placements for her, though. I know she has it in her!!

Tonight was Kaiser's night. This was kind of a replay of day two in 2011, really. Bad first round, awesome second round. It's kind of funny to think that Kaiser did so well on the more "technical" course with more off course opportunities, but he was just awesome. The awesomeness started with a fantastic lead-out that let me get a head start on the dog walk (thank you, Kaiser!!) and he stopped nice and deep so I could release him without wasting time begging for a creep. His serpentine was super nice, especially considering that it required him to jump right into me and we know how much he "loves" that. I was a little behind when he came out of the tunnel under the a-frame and he pulled in to me and ALMOST flipped out to take the hoop backwards. I wasted a lot of time in that spot trying to ensure that we stayed clean, but as soon as we were past it he was right back into gear and just flew through the end. I was worried about the final stretch because Kaiser has a habit of running past the a-frame when he is running at full speed. Not only was he running full out coming out of a tunnel, but it was also an "out frame" with that tunnel under it (we just don't see "out frame" that much). Blessedly the jump before the frame was more or less pointing them right at it, so Kaiser didn't even flinch. I was ahead of him saying, "Go! Go! Go! Go!" And he did.  :o)  Even with that GIANT bobble he was over a second ahead of the second place dog.

Several dogs in Kaiser's class struggled on this course. The standings got shuffled quite a bit and Kaiser is now in 8th place. We think 6 dogs go into the finals and if he can keep running clean there is still a shot. I don't know, I just need to focus on having fun with him and not putting so much pressure on us.

Can't wait to get our pretty blue ribbon tomorrow!  :o) Time for bed, it's almost 10:00. Hoping to actually sleep tonight....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Champs 2013 -- Day 1!

Day 1 of the 2013 NADAC Championships is in the bag and we are back at the hotel. I left the fairgrounds around 8:00 and they had not yet finished running Starter Stakes. What does that tell me? Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.... There was no Team round today and we add that tomorrow.

Today went well, aside from feeling like I spent more energy on Kizzy than I did any of the three dogs I was running. She was NOT a happy camper this morning and apparently the people crating near me were starting to complain. This means that I then spent the rest of my day either in the stall or having her with me to A) wear her out and B) make sure she wasn't screaming.

Round 1 was more or less just your typical course and I believe it was only 20 obstacles (plus the extra start hoop). Kaiser had too much momentum going over the a-frame and I was not able to call him back in time and he ended up touching the dog walk. That was his only fault in that round, though and he maintained great speed. Fast enough to be the second fastest dog in the class, but the faults dropped him down to 7th. Yay for ribbons! I was glad that I signed him up for the training runs, though, because I was able to train his dog walk at a distance right before our run and it stuck!

Luke had a clean run but there were two fairly big time-sucking bobbles where I had to redirect him. Because of that he came in something like 22 or 23.

Secret is freaking nuts today. She took off at the start line in round 1, but with no real direction. That meant that she veered to the right at the a-frame and I had to reset her for that. Then she LAUNCHED like a bat out of hell off the dog walk (20' away -- distance line) and then ran to me and flipped out to back jump the jump after the dog walk. Crazy dog. That earned us 20 faults and she also got 22 or 23 (I don't remember which of them was which).

We had a fairly long wait until Round 2 (but not as long as we'll have tomorrow....) and we all crashed in the stall for a while. It's impossible to actually nap there, though, thanks to all of the barking dogs around us. Not that I can complain....

I thought Kaiser would do very well on this course but he threw a couple of surprises at me. I failed to realize how alluring the tunnel under the a-frame would be as the dogs came around and Kaiser sucked right into it (it was far enough out that I didn't even consider it a discrimination, but you did have to pull in to get the a-frame). The distance portion was a send out to an arc of four hoops after the a-frame and I said "out" -- apparently this means, "Turn away" because that's what Kaiser did at the first hoop. He just circled the frame of the hoop, went through it again (10 faults) and kept going. He stopped high on his dog walk, but he did stop, so yay! Then we just finished as fast as we could. The 20 faults netted us 10th place and Kaiser dropped to 11th overall.

Luke had a lovely run, although he also contemplated turning left at the first hoop in the distance challenge. Hmm. Then he was golden until the weaves, where he totally missed the entry. But then he missed it the second time, too. Thankfully he got it on the third try and I ran way ahead to get him to finish as fast as he could (a straight finish into a tunnel). Luke was 19th in this round and moved up to 18th overall. Fingers crossed for more clean runs!

Secret is having a grand old time in the ring. She has decided that contacts are optional, I guess. I don't know if this is thanks to our recent speed work and all the quick-releasing (gee, you think?), but she was just blowing everything left and right tonight. The agility gods blessed us, though, and the judges must have thought they saw a toenail in each of them. Secret scored a clean run tonight and came in 9th place. Her weaves were the only part where I felt she was running slow, so I left her in the last set of 12 and she did speed up to catch me at the finish. Had the weaves been speedier she would have easily been in the ribbons. This placement moved Secret up to 15th in the standings.

We're back at the hotel now and Kizzy has been acting a bit off. She's sleeping now, so I'm hoping that it's just a case of being WAY over tired and not knowing what to do with herself... Earlier she just looked "uncomfortable" -- like maybe she was going to vomit, but as soon as I picked up the leash and took her outside she looked totally normal again. I think we all just need a good long night of sleep.

Especially because tomorrow will be a VERY long day. Maybe we'll come back to the hotel during team.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Champs 2013 -- We are here!

It's just after 8 p.m. and we are hunkered down for the night in our hotel room. Our day has gone about as good as one could hope for! We left home right on time and pulled out of the driveway at 10 a.m. By the time we hit Davenport, Iowa I was kind of done with driving. Ugh. We finally found a rest stop about 3 1/2 hours in and stopping to stretch my legs helped a lot. The dogs all did great and went potty, too. Yes, all four out on leash at once. That was fun.

With a quick stop for gas a half hour from our destination, we rolled into the fairgrounds in Springfield at 4:10. Just over six hours, not too bad!

I found my stall rather quickly -- we're right in the front row (I'm A11), so after parking in the covered arena I didn't have to trek my stuff too terribly far. Once again I managed to get a stall with a giant hole in it, but whatever.

I found people I know, dropped my USB off at the Three Pines station and walked Kizzy around for a while to try to wear her out a bit. The general briefing occurred shortly before 6 a.m. after which we all received our goodie bags (I haven't looked through mine yet, they are out in the car) and that was it for the night!

I ran to Walmart on the way to the hotel to pick up some food for the hotel (I figure milk & cereal is easy enough to do in the morning!) and then came and checked in. I'm staying at the Red Roof Inn again and could not be more pleased with my room. We are in a different building than last time, but I'm still on the first floor and my car is literally two steps from the door. We're right on a corner and there's a big patch of grass right outside the door, so bedtime potty trips will be nice and quick.  :o)

Kizzy is the only one really up and about now -- imagine that. I'm still not sure how I'm going to manage to wear her out this week. Oh well, it should be fun.

Tomorrow (and every other day) starts bright and early at 7 a.m.! I should be able to update daily!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Champs Stats (in case you are obsessive like me)

So yeah, for a person who stinks at math, I sure am obsessive about numbers....

That's a breakdown of the divisions at Champs this year and how many dogs from each group would be pulled into the finals based on whatever number Sharon decides to go with. I've heard people say anything from 15% to 30%, but yesterday in the forum Sharon made a comment about the top 1/3 being invited into the finals.

I don't know, that seems extraordinarily high, don't you think? We're talking over 70 dogs and I don't feel like it's gone on that long in past years that I've attended. And we aren't even including the Silver and Super Stakes dogs because those numbers have not been posted on the forum that I'm aware of.

So yeah. Who knows. But just in case you were curious, here you go.  :o)

Luke's class is the largest with 37 dogs. Our 16" Vet/JH class was one of the largest in 2011, so it appears that all of our dogs are getting older and dropping down into Skilled. lol  I believe Secret's class has shrunk a bit -- probably from a few of the old 16" dogs aging into Veteran status. I believe the number in Kaiser's division is very similar to last time, although I don't recognize too many dogs from 2011.

Only ONE MORE WEEK to obsess!

Monday, September 16, 2013

We're in the home stretch!

Alrighty, we are getting to that point where I start getting anxious and excited about our trip to Champs. In the months leading up to the event I'm all like, "Cool" -- but now it's starting to get real and I start to have minor meltdowns in my head and attempt to over-plan every tiny detail.

Ball & frisbee play have been banished until we get home from Springfield, although I do plan to have a few more speed work sessions where toys will be involved for those who find toys rewarding (i.e.: everyone but Kaiser). That means our daily routine for the last week and going forward basically consists of walking, running, walking and running some more.  :o)

Yesterday I took the whole crew to the high school track in Bangor for a run. Everyone needed to get out of the house and I didn't want to expose Luke to the still fairly-high ragweed counts on the bike trail. I don't have much experience running on tracks (let's face it, that was torture when I was in school!), so I was also curious to see if running on the springy surface would improve my times significantly. That wasn't really the case (although I did finish 5 miles in 59 minutes, so I'm still getting faster!), but I do think the surface was good for my knees.

At first the dogs were all like "WHEEEEEEE!" The two little dogs were on the new extra-long Flexi leashes and were careening to & fro like hoodlums while Luke & Secret made sure to chase all of the bunnies under the fence. It took about two miles for everyone to really settle in (that would be eight laps, ugh) and then all went well really until about mile four when pretty much everyone but Secret started dragging a bit. I was tempted to push it out to six miles, but when I hit the five-mile mark I decided to call it quits for the dogs' sake. Secret, who had been playing "racehorse" on the track most of the morning, still had plenty left in her -- so it looks like as I continue to increase distance I may have to just take her with me and stop abusing everyone else.

It certainly made for a quiet day yesterday, though! We got back to the house around 1:00 and aside from getting up for dinner, nobody moved at all until we went to bed last night! (See picture above, they were still pooped!)

I went to the NADAC trial in La Crosse on Saturday, but held to my promise of not running any dogs this weekend. I took Kizzy along for the ride, but left the other three at home. Of course, once I got there and saw how stinking easy the Chances course was that day I was regretting not bringing everyone along for a fairly easy Q, but oh well, that's how it goes. All of the courses were fun that day and my dogs would have enjoyed them, but I do not regret my decision to not trial them until Champs. It would just be too much pressure. Instead, I spent the day working (and won the worker raffle, yay!!), course-building and socializing Kizzy. She did great! While there was still plenty of vocalizing, especially in the morning, I felt that it was much less so than at the last trial she attended. We made a stop at Petco on the way home and she was a good girl there, as well!

The run orders for Champs have been posted on the NADAC forum, which really makes things seem real! It looks like Kaiser's group has 19 dogs in it this year. My brain is saying that the top 30% go to the finals, which would be 6 dogs. There's a very good chance that four of those dogs could well be our little group from MN/WI -- we've got some tough competition there.  :o)

Luke's group of 12" Veteran/JH dogs appears to be the largest class with 36 entries. That would send 11 dogs into the finals. Secret's group has 27 dogs, which looks like 8 dogs going into the finals (unless it gets rounded up to 9, who knows). I wish my brain didn't work this way because I shouldn't be so focused on the numbers so much as just running and having fun with my dogs, but I can't help it. I'm sure I'll be putting together score-tracking spreadsheets before I leave this year.

Sharon announced on the forum yesterday that they would be allowing training runs for $6/min in the ring where pre-champs is being held. I signed up for one each day, Thurs-Sat, figuring that it would be a good way to re-enforce Kaiser's dog walk once we get down there. I will use the slot for whomever needs it most, but I'm just going to guess it will be Kaiser. We can even have food in that ring, so it will be a good way to boost his "happy" if he needs it, too.

I need to settle down, I know. I even had a dream the other night about Champs stuff, and I never remember my dreams! This one is sticking with me, though. lol Basically I arrived and found out I was sharing a stall with four other people and was freaking out about not being able to fit a single crate in that area, and then somehow Kaiser and Secret got lost. It was pretty horrible, and shows you my level of internal stress right now. Haha!!! Might need to refill my Xanax prescription before leaving, you think?

Luke & Kaiser visit the chiropractor today. It's been a long time since either of them have been checked out, so I'm curious to see how it goes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mental Health Day

I woke up this morning and was just, "Meh." Even after walking the dogs I was still pretty, "Meh," and just didn't feel super awesome. I didn't have anything pressing going on at work today, so I decided to take a much needed "mental health" day and take it easy at home with the dogs. They were all crazy this morning, so I figured in order to get any peace and quiet I'd have to do something to wear them out a bit.

One thing I've always appreciated about Steve over at is his amazing ability to see just about every possible way you could handle a course/drill/sequence. It has made me try to analyze things the same way to attempt to get out of a handling rut and away from always doing the "safe" thing.

Yesterday Steve posted the above course on his blog as part of a fun collaboration with another blogger. They were to each analyze the course and run it with their dog(s).

After watching their videos I was inspired to set this course for myself, thinking it looked like loads of fun. I don't have any fancy video editing software, though, so I simply set up the camera and tried to run the course with several variations. Of course, now that I'm sitting in the house and have watched the video back I'm thinking, "Why didn't I do this?" or "Why didn't I do that?" There are obviously still many different handling options one could utilize on this course!

My backyard is deader than dead and the grass is very dry and slippery. Add to that the fact that the ground is like concrete at the moment, so I decided to give Secret a break and set all of the jumps at 20". It was fairly warm & humid out (I'm so done with the humidity for the year!), so she's not the zippiest she's ever been, but she tried hard. I included all of our attempts, so there are a couple of blunders in the video.  :o)

I did run Kaiser through the course as well, but I didn't include his attempts on the video. He was a sad little man today. I think the naughty little turd helped himself to the open bag of dog food in the garage (waiting to get dumped into the food bin...) and had a full belly when it was his turn to run. He went through the motions and made it through the course, but he just had no oomph to speak of and wasn't really excited about anything. His belly looked very full, so I'm pretty sure I guessed correctly about him helping himself to a snack. I'll let him chill for a bit and in the next couple of weeks I'll probably just start to focus on speed drills instead of handling exercises in prep for Champs.

Kizzy got to come out and play, too. We just did some jump/tunnel work using this setup -- nothing too fancy -- and I got bit a lot when doing collar grabs to release the toy. Another day, another bruise. lol  I joke, but I do think she's getting better about it. She can still be a naughty stinker, though! She gets away with a lot because she's so little and cute...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Ha ha! Kizzy's harness labels finally arrived. They must have come over on a boat from Germany for as long as it took.  ;o)   (No, I just got the order in right after they'd already received a shipment, so I had to wait.)  I do so love the Julius K9 harnesses -- just for these!

Somehow I didn't struggle nearly so much over what to get put on Kizzy's labels. It just kind of came naturally.

Okay, I gave her a nice one, too.

And really, that's all there is to report at the moment. I decided that this would be one of those rare nights I take off and do nothing -- it happens like once every two weeks, but my overworked and still achy hip appreciates it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Secret OA, OAJ!

We are home from yet another perfect weekend of AKC agility! Secret's streak has continued and she remains at 100% Q-rate -- but best of all, she is HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY at these trials. I wish I knew why it was so much different for her. AKC is her happy place for some reason (granted, only having two runs is probably a large part of it, plus not having to do Chances).

I was happy with all of her runs this weekend. Today was typically slower as day two always is, but she was still trying hard and giving it her all. She's always right up there in the Open class -- if not the fastest time, one of the top ones. I'm excited to see how she stacks up against the Masters class, where maybe she'll actually start to see some competition.  :o)

I'm thrilled that we get to move up to Excellent at our trial next month and play on the "big dog" courses. There were several times this weekend that I wished we would have gotten a shot at those courses! I was all set to go ahead and enter Secret all three days in October, but then I was just glancing at the titles and was reminded that you need two different judges for your title -- so if she stayed perfect then her Sunday runs wouldn't even count. Boo. I'll have to think about that one. I mean, you never know, she may not Q.  ;o)

Kaiser had a good weekend, too! Yesterday he got to run Time 2 Beat for the first time and as I figured this style of course was right up his alley. I did pull away too soon on a turn to a teeter, causing him to turn early before a jump, but we saved it and thankfully R's are not called in T2B! Unfortunately he made up his own courses in JWW (just one off course) and Std (30 faults total), so no Q's there. Today, however, he was spot on and had a QQ day!

We got to really have fun in his Novice JWW when we learned that there had been a timer malfunction for our first run. It had been a great run on a fun little course, so when I was offered the chance for a re-run for time I took it -- and it was FUN! I really pushed Kaiser -- it was great practice for Champs! -- and he came in with a 5.92 yps time. The judge thought our first run had been faster, but it's hard to say.

I over-handled him in a big way in Std, but I was being greedy and wanted the Q. I hovered at the table to try to keep him from bouncing off and earned us a Refusal, but that was (thankfully) his only fault in that run for his first Open Q!

No video from yesterday, but we did get video today!

This was a very small trial and we got done early both days -- So I decided to take Secret & Kaiser to play at the beach before going home each day. Secret thinks it's awesome; Kaiser could take it or leave it, I'm pretty sure, so I'm not sure how much of a reward it was for him. lol  It was very hot yesterday and the beach was pretty crowded, but today we had it practically to ourselves.

There is a giant dock that they use for water skiing shows that is covered in green turf -- I've always wanted to try jumping Secret off of it, but it's always been busy/crowded when we go there. It was free today, so we got to play! It's very high up, at least the height of a dock jumping dock, so it was fun to see how far Secret could jump with the added height. She rocked it (after the first hesitant plop into the water, at least). Loads and loads of fun.

I have decided not to enter any dogs in any classes at the NADAC trial next weekend. We are going to save ourselves for Champs now -- plus the $$ I would have put towards the trial is being handed over to the doggy chiropractor. Secret was a mess when she went in this week and will be going back the Monday before we leave. Kaiser and Luke will both be seen next Monday. Luke is already scheduled to go in with Secret before we leave and if Kaiser needs it for some reason he'll get it, too.

It's getting close!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time moves on.... And our partners get older.

Luke and I started agility in January of 2007 when he had just turned three years old. Since then we have watched many of the dogs we competed with early on grow older, retire and/or pass away. With every year that passes, these losses hit me harder because I know that I, too, will eventually have to go through that experience.

Luke's 10th birthday is just around the corner. For a dog his size, that's pretty old. For as much as he's beat up his body over the years, it's pretty remarkable that he's not held together by duct tape at this point.  ;o)  I've been very fortunate that he has aged as well as he has, but even still I know that his retirement is drawing near. Sorry for him, but Kizzy's arrival has probably pushed that date up a little sooner than I may have originally planned, simply because I will not be able to afford to compete with four dogs. That's okay, though. I think we're getting close.

We are attending NADAC Championships later this month and it will be Luke's third and final time competing at this event. I really waffled on weather or not to enter him this year. He will be three months shy of meeting the Double-Digit qualifications at that time, which kind of bummed me out a little -- I would have loved to run him in that group, but he will have to compete against the "young vets" running in his Skilled 12" class. I feel he still has a chance to be competitive in this group, though, and we will go, have fun, and give it our best shot. We came within 7 points -- SEVEN POINTS -- of making the finals at our last trip to Springfield in 2011, so this year I'm going in with the mindset of "he CAN do it" and we'll have fun on every run.

I feel blessed to have had the time I've had with Luke. He was diagnosed with Addison's disease in October of 2009 -- just two weeks after returning home from our first trip to NADAC Championships. We had been closing in on our first NATCH at the time and I felt like my dreams were shattered. Beyond that, though, I almost lost my dog in that experience and it was a wake-up call to how special every moment is together. I didn't know if we'd do agility anymore, but I was happy that I still had my best friend with me.

Thanks to our wonderful vet, we did get back into agility -- and in record time, too. He was back to trialing in December and up to full steam just a few months after that. We finished that first NATCH that summer, only to be followed by two Versatility NATCH's (something I thought would never happen thanks to our issues making time in Weavers) and three more NATCH titles (and closing in on NATCH 5 now!). I feel so blessed to have taken this journey with Luke and will always be so thankful for what he taught me.


Not only did Luke have to put up with all of my rookie blunders in agility -- and there were a lot of them -- but he's also had to put up with all of the new dogs and fosters that have come through the house.  :o)  Luke was an only dog for the first four years of his life and he thought that was a pretty good deal. He came to work with me every day -- we'd often walk or ride bike to work, which he thought was the most fun ever! Then we'd come home and go to the barn together where he'd get to run around eating horse poop and followed me as I rode (either around the arena or out on the trail). If it was still light out when we got home he'd usually get to play frisbee, too, before going in for the night. It was a dog's life, for sure!

In spring of 2008 Luke's world was turned upside down. That's when Kaiser came along (because once you get involved in agility, heaven knows you can't just have one dog!). Luke was not impressed. In fact, he was downright depressed for the first month. He's gotten better about it over the years, though. Secret joined us in December of 2009, followed by fosters Max, Joe and Missy. By the time Kizzy arrived a couple of months ago Luke had learned to just role with the punches and in some ways I think he's actually starting to like the other dogs now. He's a wonderful role model for any dog that comes into the house, though, and I appreciate that he is 100% trustworthy around everyone. It's nice to have one dog that I never, ever have to worry about.

Luke is not the ideal build for an agility dog. He is very large, standing at 26" tall and weighing in at 77lbs (he was 85 lbs for the earlier part of his career -- he lost a lot of weight when he got sick and we just opted to keep it off for his own good). We had a lot of issues with injuries when first starting out in agility. There were shoulder injuries (frisbee didn't help any of these, either), bicipital tendonitis, spondylosis, Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, etc. For a while it felt like it was one thing after another. And then, of course, the Addison's diagnosis.

Knock on wood, Luke has been amazingly healthy in his senior years. I've lowered his jump height (he typically runs Kaiser's 8" jumps at home, 12" in NADAC and 16" occasionally in USDAA), rarely train him anymore, and make sure he gets plenty of activity. Last year I decided to let him start playing frisbee again and this is still his most favorite thing in the world.

I've definitely noticed a change in him this year, though. This allergy season has been very hard on Luke. In the recent hot/humid spells he has struggled even on our two-mile walks. Sitting in the yard last night after our training session it struck me that he is really starting to look older -- Look past the graying that has been there since he was three -- it's in his eyes.

So, in a few short weeks we will leave for NADAC Championships. We will have the best time ever and I will treasure the experience with my old man. There will never be another "first dog" and there will never be another like him.

Be sure to check out the other postings for this Dog Agility Blog Event!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Can you handle it? Yes we can! :o)

Last week Steve over at posted the above course that was recently used in one of his handling seminars. He also included a video in which he went through the course section by section and described a few different handling options. I felt there were a few things that he didn't cover, and since the course looked like lots of fun I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Unfortunately I tried setting the camera all around the yard and simply could not find a spot that would manage to cover the entire course (or anything even close, really). Note to self, don't set courses sideways the length of the yard if you want to have any shot at getting video.... With the dog walk at the end of the yard, though, I felt it was my best/only real option. So yeah, I know these posts are horribly boring without video...

I was short a couple of jumps, so jump 14 was a hoop, as was obstacle 1/20. Hindsight being what it is, I probably should have made 12 the hoop and left 14 as a jump to better capture the difficulty of the wrap. Oh well, it worked well enough.

Working with Steve's suggestions, I really focused on trying multiple ways to handle the various sequences. I just realized that I never did do the rear cross from 4-5 with any dog (or any rear cross for that matter), but I did lead out, run with, front cross on the landing side of 3 and go up and front cross the takeoff side of 3. I also threw in a front cross between 4-5 a couple of times to handle the weaves from the left.

The next part probably offered the most variety for us. Handling the weaves, jump, tunnel as a serpentine from the right was probably the most efficient. We also did a front/blind cross before six with either another front cross or a blended front cross into the tunnel. One option that Steve didn't present in his video was to serpentine from the left, pushing the dog over 6, pulling into the tunnel from the backside and picking them up on their left at the exit. I would fathom that I would never try that at a trial on this setup, but it's good practice!

For the wrap at 8, Secret seemed to do better going to the right (kept up more speed than with a front cross out of the tunnel followed by a front cross wrap -- all of those fronts just killed her momentum). Kaiser did better wrapping to the left because it removed the likelihood of taking the off course 18 jump.

From there it was pretty basic. I thought flipping the wrap at 14 would be prettier than it was, but it turned out that wrapping to the inside was definitely for the best (again, it would have been nice to have a bar jump here vs a hoop). No matter which way we wrapped they didn't have a problem getting to the tunnel.

For the closing, Kaiser seemed to do best with a rear cross behind 19 unless I was way ahead of him to beat him through that slight turn -- that was hard to do, though, because he kept sensing me pulling away and would have a refusal at the tunnel. No such issue with Secret, though. Her problem was that she came blasting out of the tunnel so stinking fast that she went way wide to the side of 19. I was able to hustle enough to get in a blind cross between 18-19 and this seemed to take care of it.

Everyone was wired tonight! Secret's jump work was fantastic (24"), but her weaves were not too speedy. She has a chiropractor appointment on Thursday, so hopefully that makes for a happy Secret this weekend at the AKC trial. Kaiser was sassing at me, so you know he's having fun when that's going on. Luke played, too, but he was slipping a lot on the dead grass so we took it fairly easy.

Kizzy got to play afterwards! I used the tuggy for her jump work -- still as crazy as ever. She is definitely more focused with food, but she has made improvement with the tug. We seem to be figuring out a release cue, but unfortunately (for me) she seems to think it's, "Let go, scream & bite." But again, it's getting better and she doesn't usually bite too hard.  ;o)  I bumped the teeter up in height a bit tonight and while Kizzy was a little thrown off at first she quickly got over it.

Tomorrow is a blog action day on aging dogs. I have lots of thoughts on that subject, so be sure to check in to see if I figure out how to put it all together.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kaiser is in Target!!

Look what news I got today! The first of Kaiser's merchandise is appearing on the shelves at Target!!

I actually just stopped at the one in La Crosse on Saturday to see if any of the Halloween stuff was hitting the store yet, but unfortunately I didn't find anything (they did have some Halloween toys out, though, so I figure it must be soon).

That said, imagine my surprise when this photo popped up on Facebook today. It was posted on the wall of a Klee Kai friend of mine up in Minneapolis by one of her friends who saw it in the store. I have no idea why they have the winter wear out already, but LOOK! Kaiser made it on the packaging!!  :o)

It's just the coolest thing ever. I can't wait to see what else he might have been chosen for.....

Not much else to report, I've been slacking in the training department -- but we've been doing lots of running! I tallied up my August total and was a little surprised to see that we did 124 miles last month (that would be walking, running, and I think one rollerblading outing at the beginning of the month before it got hot). Today the weather finally broke and we enjoyed a 5-mile run in 63 degree weather. The dogs have been just dragging in the heat and humidity, so I was glad to see that the girls were their bright & energetic selves with the cooler weather. The boys got to go for a walk when we got home and they, too, seemed much happier with the cooler weather. Looks like we have a few more nice days in front of us and then it heats back up for the weekend. Oh well, at least our trial is indoors!