Sunday, November 23, 2014

Admitting Defeat

I always say that I'm admitting that winter is coming when I turn my heat on. This year I caved like a day or two before Halloween. It was cold and my house wasn't getting above 60 on its own, so that's when I gave in.

Truthfully, though, the true measure of defeat is when I finally put all of my agility equipment away. I put the majority of my equipment into the garage about two weeks ago. I left the dog walk outside, though, hoping that we would get a chance to train a couple more times (more for Kizzy's benefit than anything else). Then it snowed. And snowed some more. And was really freaking cold.

I let it sit, hoping that maybe Mother Nature would smile on us and melt it off. This weekend we finally had a turn in the weather (by "turn" I actually mean "the stupid temperatures finally came back up to average"). By today the snow was gone from the yard and the dog walk -- So, following a trip to La Crosse because I had to run puppy playtime at Petco, then a 4-mile hike in West Salem on the way home, I squeezed in one final training session before putting the dog walk away for the year. Sigh. Such a sad time. Oh well, training went well!

Now I'll sit inside the rest of the winter and continue to apply new Jamberry nail wraps.  ;o)  I should have enough to get me through this dreary, miserable season. You have to find a bright spot, right?

Cold weather is supposed to hit us again this week -- I'm just hoping that we can avoid ice. I hate ice. I can deal with snow if I must, but ice just sucks.

Monday, November 17, 2014

100%, 50%, & 16%...

I'm no mathematician, so that 16% figure might be off -- but that's our AKC weekend recapped in fast-forward. Secret was Ms. 100% again, going 6/6 for the weekend and bringing home QQ numbers 17, 18, and 19! Before we go and freak out that she only needs ONE more QQ for her MACH, let's realize that she also needs 101 more points, so.... I'm sure no dog in the history of agility has gotten 101 speed points in one single QQ, so that's obviously not happening. This weekend I looked over her records and noted that since we started doing AKC, Secret has had NINE days of trialing where she has not Q'd in both classes on the same day. That's pretty darn consistent. So, the pressure is off on that 20th QQ because it will not be her MACH -- unless, of course, we have some sort of string of bad luck where she suddenly starts acquiring single Qs, and that is okay, too!

The 50% goes to Kizzy! She picked up both of her Open JWW Qs this weekend which -- GASP -- means that she earned her first Open title and is now an EXCELLENT dog. Umm.... Okay. Not really sure how that happened. She was super close to her first Open Std Q on Saturday (one too many refusals - you only get one). I'll get to Sunday later. Sunday was also Kizzy's third birthday! She got to go shopping at Petco after the trial.

The lone dog in the 16% club goes to Kaiser. He had a really rough weekend. His jumping on Friday was atrocious. He crashed the first bar in Std and then just had no confidence. He got through that course fine after that, but with much stutter-jumping. Then in JWW he went around like three jumps (I didn't fix anything, what is the point)? He was jumping better on Saturday but still going around jumps. Finally on Sunday he was back to himself, but we had a minor bobble in Std and then he finally Qd in JWW to end the day. His only Q of the weekend. So much for qualifying for Nationals. He ended up 45 points short, he needed 61 going into the weekend. Oh well, not like we were going anyhow.

Friday started with Standard. I'm going to post all of our courses from this weekend because I thought they were super. I thought they were just challenging enough to keep me on my toes and still be fun for the dogs. Sadly, they had a very low Q-rate all weekend. Ilze was lamenting at how her Q-rate is always so low -- she thought around 20-30%. I don't feel that these were excessively or unfairly challenging in the least. I'm not sure if there were consistent areas where teams were messing up or if it was spread out. All I know is that I hope judges never dumb down their course designs because people aren't doing the training they need to do to be successful.

That sequence from the dog walk to the weaves was tricky due to the combination of it being SO FAR AWAY and that darn tire being totally in the way of where I would have naturally been. I just made sure to get ahead of both dogs so that I'd be past the tire when they left the contact and it was all good. Secret got 22 speed points on this run.

If I have any complaints about the entire weekend it is right here. A wrap on the tire at jump #2. I was surprised to see this, as I didn't think that AKC was "allowing" turns like that at the tire. That said, I never saw any issues with it. I just didn't crank either of my dogs very tight around the turn. Secret definitely lost some impulsion there because I don't think she was expecting it.

Most people really liked that big loop in the middle. Meh. Secret doesn't find them very exciting -- Kaiser normally does, but this was his super bad jumping day. He went around jumps eight and nine. And the last one, too, I think. The close was fun! So many people wrapped to the inside of 17. I did a blended front cross. Both of my dogs went super wide off 16 -- Kaiser because that's what Kaiser does, and Secret because I was holding my breath trying to make sure I didn't cause her to knock a bar. She got 11 speed points on this run.

Saturday started with JWW. Again people were obsessed with the inside wrap at 9, but wrapping turning them to the right presented such a better line, so that's what I did. I want to say that Kaiser missed one (or two) of the jumps before the weaves again on this run. With both dogs I opted to run ahead in the weaves and front cross at the end so that I would be rear crossing at 18 for a nice tight turn. It worked swell -- so much better than those who nearly collided with their dog trying to stay on the inside for that push in that teeny tiny space between 17 and 18. Secret only got 8 speed points on this one. I didn't think she felt that slow.

With Kizzy I opted for an ugly rear cross after three -- and it actually was a rear cross (without a spin!) because she went WAY wide before she turned for the tunnel. Here an inside wrap was the proper thing to do, so that's what we did. I squeezed in a front cross on the landing side of 8 and then again after 10. She got through this whole course with 0 faults for a score of 100! She was so good!

I am sitting here staring at the picture of Saturday's Master Standard course and cannot for the life of me remember where Kaiser NQ'd. I led out with both dogs to get a front cross between 2 and 3. Both dogs got the dog walk contact with no problem. Both dogs got the teeter/table. Did Kaiser go around jump 10? I don't think so. I have no idea. I crunched in a front cross between the chute and triple with both dogs -- Secret is pretty much a superstar for getting over the triple with as little room as I gave her. Man, I have no idea where Kaiser NQ'd on this course... I'm not saying he Q'd because he definitely did not, but this is bugging me... Secret got 21 speed points on this one.

I remember where Kizzy NQ'd, though.  :o)  I led out just a little bit with her on this course, too, and went for a blind between 2 and 3. She stopped on the dog walk!! What a good, good girl! Then she stopped on the teeter! And the table! Then came the part of the course that I had no idea how I was going to get through cleanly with Kizzy. See that tunnel down there? The one that requires a pull/rear cross? Yeah, she still doesn't do those. So, coming off the table I just ran like hell to try to fit in a blind after 12 -- and so did Kizzy, right past the tire and over the next jump. That's okay, you can do that in Open and still qualify. I fixed the tire and then was obviously way behind for any sort of cross, so I pulled her up before she got close enough to the tunnel to call it a refusal and did some ugly stuff that didn't get called. Then she got her a-frame! And her weaves! And then she ran right past the chute.... Blargh. One too many refusals. Oh well, that would have been a pretty ugly Q anyhow.

It was a teeny tiny trial and we got done very early every day. I was going to take the dogs hiking on Saturday but when Kizzy stayed laying in the dog bed when I was vacuuming 6" away I decided to stay home and let everyone sleep. She had stayed inside all day on Saturday and was pooped!

Sunday started with Time 2 Beat, so I took my time leaving home that day. Our first run was Standard. The tunnel/dog walk at the start was the closest discrimination of the weekend - nearly NADAC standards there. I led out just a bit with Kaiser and ran with Secret and all was good (the tire was pointing at it anyhow). Front crossed after the teeter and then turned both dogs to the inside on that wrap at 9. Well, that was the plan. I must have done something super wonky with Kaiser because he turned the other way and instead of going with it and pulling him through the gap between the jump and the tire I had some word vomit and danced around a bit, and watched him back-jump instead of wrapping in either direction. Totally my fault. The rest of his run was super, with much better jumping than the whole weekend prior. With Kaiser I had more than enough distance off the a-frame for a front cross after 14. With Secret I had to do a rear on the flat after the chute and it worked fine. She got 19 speed points on this run.

I was pretty concerned about the start of the Open Std course with Kizzy. Which is probably why she had a total brain meltdown. Leading out at a tire? I was very unsure of that. A tunnel under the dog walk? I was super unsure of that. Stupid me unclipped her leash and then, when she stood up, I asked her to sit again. Adios, Kizzy! She was out. And then she was super naughty and was impossible to catch for the next five minutes while she ran batshit crazy circles around a border collie puppy before someone managed to scruff her. I took her directly to the van where she got to decompress until her next run. It was needed. Her brain had pretty much fallen out of her ears the moment we arrived at the trial that morning. She was having a holy freakout at the daycare dogs that were charging the fence as we walked past. Then she was squeaking inside and was basically inconsolable. I thought she was pretty settled before we went in the ring, but I guess not.

Last Masters run of the weekend! Fronts for Kaiser, blinds for Secret -- except for the rear cross I did with both at 16 for a nice turn. I told Secret I didn't care if she Q'd or not, but she did, and got 9 speed points on this one. Kaiser FINALLY got his only Q of the weekend and 16 points. Sorry little dyslexic buddy, you needed 61.  :o)

I had no flipping clue what to expect from Kizzy after her earlier performance. I hoped that her timeout in the van was what she needed. Her poor little brain was fried. I opted for a drop and go at the start to remove the pressure of any sort of start line. I started on the right side of one and then front crossed between 3 and 4. She went super duper wide after 5 (looking at the door?) but then came and hit her weave entry -- and then after a few poles got that weirdly vacant look and veered off to the right. I got her back and she finished them on the second try. From there it was just one more front cross between 8 and 9, then I just had to manage to not get lost until the end (seriously, I almost did). She stuck with me and finished clean and, holy cow, got her Open JWW title! She went 3/4 through this class, only NQing on her very first attempt at the class. Craziness. Then again, this is pretty much the only thing we ever practice, so it makes sense that she has more skills for this class than Standard....

So, our next trial is the giant Hounds for the Holidays 3-ring trial in Milwaukee. Yeah. In Excellent. Should be interesting.

And now it's time to complain. Today got up to 15 degrees for a high. It's only the middle of November. We have had freezing temperatures and snow for the last week. This sucks. A lot. I hate living here. This is going to be the most miserable winter ever.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Oh NADAC....

I have been so busy lately that I admittedly have not kept up with the NADAC message board at all. I popped on for a bit today and oh look. Something changed again.

I have NEVER been a fan of the VT (video tape) aspect of NADAC. Originally the VT program was separate of the traditional program. Whatever, if people want their VT titles then go for it. Then VT points were allowed to be used towards qualifying for Champs. Then you could apply 50% of your VT Qs towards titles, but the other half still had to come from actual, real trials.

Well, now you can get a plain old ordinary NATCH in your backyard without ever attending a real life trial. How convenient is that? This is based on the "integrity and professionalism" of those who have been participating in the program. Because, of course, you KNOW people are going to be like, "This was really the 8th time we tried this course, but I'm submitting it like it's my first." -- Or, "We totally just drilled our contacts using massive amounts of treats about 20 times in a row, so let's quick get this next run on tape while Spot is still fooled into thinking I have food on me."

Thanks for devaluing the NATCH even further, NADAC.

There is an entire organization (VALOR) for those who have dogs who do not do well in trial environments (and truthfully, their courses are probably more interesting than NADAC's, so...). I have never found it appropriate for an organization to apply "qualifications" from runs you do in the privacy of your backyard and submit via video to be mixed with those earned in the stressful "you really can only do it ONCE" atmosphere of a trial. They are NOT the same. They should not be rewarded the same.

You sure as hell aren't going to see anyone get a MACH or an ADCH at home. I don't even see the value in it. People will be all like, "My dog is NATCH 12!" and now we'll have to quantify that with, "Did you actually earn those Q's at a trial?" And sadly, now it's entirely possible that the answer will be "no." My dogs have 11 NATCH/V-NATCH awards between them. I would be embarrassed to have anyone believe I earned any part of those awards in my backyard.... That is not what agility is all about. We train to trial. Those who trial are rewarded with titles and awards. I don't expect someone to bake me a cake for anything I do in my backyard -- that is called training. Training happens at home. Trialing happens at trials.

NADAC -- Anything for a buck!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Super WHAT?!

The impossible has happened. I was the biggest naysayer of them all, saying that Secret would never get a Super Q. I was wrong. Let's clarify one point, though -- It's not that I ever felt she was incapable of winning her class. She has done that a few times. It's just that EVERY SINGLE TIME we ran P3 Snooker we were combined with the P16 dogs. I actually thought we were destined for the same fate yesterday, but apparently someone titled and moved up from Saturday to Sunday because suddenly we had the magic number of 7 dogs in our class. Our own SQ(s?)! Not combined or based on the P16 class at all!

As it turns out, though, even if we would have been combined we would have still gotten the SQ under the new rules -- because Secret's score of 50 beat even the 1st place P16 dog! Their highest-scoring dog had 49 points. Holy cow! Way to go, Secret!

Our day started a bit before 5 a.m., which was really more like 6 a.m. thanks to the time change that I hate with a passion -- but it was to our advantage yesterday, I guess. We hit the road just after 6:00 and arrived at Canine Sports Zone around 8:10. I hadn't been worried about getting there early because the day started with the second round of Biathlon (I would have liked to run fancy jumpers, but it was an all or none deal, so...). Kizzy needed to be measured, so I found the judge after the class was done and promptly got chastised for not being there before the trial "when all the measuring happens." Really? There are 460 runs and you expect me to worry about getting to the trial before it starts when I won't be running for another hour? Whatever, the judge was nice enough to measure her --- and gave her a measurement of 13"! This judge was a CMJ, even. Not that it matters because it's all under 14", but 13" is definitely the lowest we've measured her at.

Secret's Jumpers run was our first run. The run order suited us well and gave us plenty of time to warm up and get psyched up, so Secret was in a very good mood. She put in a great run on this course for 4th place. She saved my butt when I got out of position on the 9-11 sequence to the tunnel. She could have easily pulled off the tunnel but she was a good girl and followed my verbal directions.

Kizzy's Jumpers run was up next. What a great USDAA debut for the crazy dog! I elected to do a running start all day after removing her harness while holding her. Historically we disconnect when I take things off over her head, so I figured I'd just avoid it and not bother with any stays -- and they weren't needed anyhow. We had another sloppy "rear cross" at the start, but after that it was great! She was beat (barely) by a dog who runs in the Masters level at AKC, so not too shabby.

Secret's Snooker run followed -- I drew out our path on the course map. I'm pretty sure nobody else did this configuration, but I thought it worked nicely. We had one  very close call when Secret started to go for the #3 tunnel on the way to our second red, but we saved it. There was one person M22 that went for and got all 7s, and maybe one other person who had 7-7-6, which surprised me. Usually people around here seem to go for broke for the points, but that wasn't the case at all and the Masters people in particular seemed to be avoiding the a-frame like the plague. Secret was just great on this course and opened up nicely in all of those wide open spots. Good girl! I can't even begin to describe how it felt when I saw the Super Q posted in the results.  :o)  Pretty sure I did a quadruple-take.

On Kizzy's map I drew the path she actually took. My plan varied slightly in that I was going to go to the tunnel under the a-frame after the last red. She went wide behind me and took the jump, so I was like, "Well, I guess we're taking the a-frame!" I had avoided that in my plan just in case she got called on the contact, but she was good. I wasn't sure about the out-tunnel under the a-frame in the closing, but it was far enough out that it wasn't an issue. I turned her to the inside after 6 and she refused the a-frame. Then refused the a-frame again. ?  She might have refused it once more before she finally went up and the buzzer went off. So we finished with 1-4, 1-6, 1-7, and 20 in the close for a Q!

Secret's Pairs run was next. In my confirmation I had a partner, but not on the gate sheet, so I ended up with an accommodating dog. This was a good thing, though, because I E'd the run with a bad turn from the jump to the teeter (we were the second half, the squares). Secret went wide and took the off course jump. Stupid handler. It was Secret's only NQ of the day.

Up next was Grand Prix. Secret had been kind of "meh" during the Pairs run and I wasn't sure how much she had left in her, but she was ready to go for this one! Her weaves still weren't as fast as they've been lately, but she opened up nicely in the other parts -- especially that line from the weaves to the tunnel! She ended up with a Q and 4th place.

It was getting so late and I was seriously contemplating leaving before Standard. I knew Kizzy's brain was going to be fried and it was Secret's 5th run -- but she'd run so well in Grand Prix that I figured we may as well stick around. And so many dogs had scratched Standard that I didn't think it would be THAT long until Kizzy's run.

Secret did a great job and took 2nd in her class.

There probably isn't much point in posting Kizzy's Standard course map because we only made it to obstacle 5, but it was a good start.  :o)  She did her weaves (on the second try)! Then she bounced off the table and lost her ever-loving mind. She started to do her crazy little Klee Kai "you can't catch me" dance in circles around the table, and then eventually she just said adios and took off for the exit. Yup, she was done. It was almost 8:00 p.m., who can blame her? It was a good effort. Didn't get to any of the contacts, but oh well...

We got home just before 10:00 p.m. It was a LONG day -- but very fun! I'm glad that we were able to give USDAA a shot again. I'm not sure when we'll get to play again, but hopefully soon. We have AKC coming up for our next few trials. We'll get Secret's MACH out of the way and then who knows, maybe she can get that PDCH after all!