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.


  1. Yay Luke!!! And I am so happy and excited for Secret! It must have felt so great running your happy, sassy girl every single run!

  2. Congrats on a great week! Way to go Luke! I pretty much felt the same about Legend's finals run-once it went to pot I just had fun. We didn't have a chance to change our position much so we just had fun.

    And so true about NADAC and all the rea crossers. Mfriend Linda included. She swears her dog runs better with rears but she never practices fronts enough to see if they will speed her up once she gets good at them.

    I blind a lot with Lyric and front frequently with Legend. My first dog was slow and I never reared. It took me a long time to get comfortable with a rear. But now I have a dog that needs it sometimes!

    1. It's been my biggest issue with NADAC handlers since forever. And I was one of them -- when I first started I swore to god that I could not do front crosses with Luke. My instructor never really pushed it and let me keep getting by with all of the rears. Once Luke started working away from me more I started to experiment with them mostly at a distance. It probably wasn't until Secret came along that I really got into handling from the front, because she was my first dog that really required it for motivation.

      Since then, though, I've seen how handling from the front helps all three of my dogs. There will always be situations where rear crosses are a better or maybe even only option, but I think handlers need to have all three skills in their toolbox. I know I used fronts, blinds & rears on all three dogs this past week!

      I don't care if people are more comfortable with rear crosses. Rear crosses are fine. The only time it REALLY bothers me is when the handler is *standing there* waiting for the dog to cross in front of them when it would have taken very little effort and would have sped the dog up had the handler kept moving and done a front (or blind...) cross.

      And THAT is why I am still so mad at myself for Kaiser's round 5..... Because I was one of those people -- waiting for my dog, because I was stupid and didn't handle like I normally do/should have. In addition to my blunder in Luke's finals run, Kaiser's round 5 is my biggest regret. :o( Stupid nerves.

  3. Yes, I've seen those handlers that stand there as well!