Monday, August 19, 2013

Regionals Take 2

I know, I know! Blog fail. 

But really, this is supposed to be an agility blog and there has been very little by way of agility this summer.

The Dog. I don't know exactly what's wrong. Neither do the vets. Intermittent lameness, soreness, tightness. It makes showing hard and training impossible.  THAT in turn makes showing interesting!

So given the past few months, I wasn't looking forward to the Regional with much excitement. Mostly worrying that she would be ok, stress over not letting down my team- but she'd had a great weekend two weeks ago and seemed to be feeling good. 

However, upon arrival... Bars, bars, bars. The Dog might knock one or two a weekend, not four in a run. Checked her out and found tell-tale heat on her back AGAIN. Off to the massage, Bat Cape on, and four hours rest gave me a much improved Dog later that day. The next morning she was knotted again but less so at least. The good news was that the massages helped a lot, and she was able to play in her classes. And she had a fun time- really! The Dog is an easy read inside the ring and she won't do things that hurt, which I am so thankful for.  She looked terribly wrong to start, but happy as can be once we got her fixed up. Whether it was me watching her instead of working the course, her feeling REALLY good after feeling bad, or the complete lack of training, we had an awful weekend result on paper, but I do love my fluffy girl. Seeing her bounce back and clown around was so cute. She did get her Challenge qualification with her one clean run, and I'm completely ok with quarterfinals. I'll just be grateful to run her without trepidation again and I hope we are on track for that now.  Rehab/conditioning program, here we come! 
As for my Little Pup, she has been on a roll lately! Perfect Pup has been qualifying in everything and most importantly, become a real teammate.  She decided agility is AWESOME and is more than happy to play with me instead of visit and tend to her own agenda.  I no longer feel physically ill over running her and don't even yell at people for looking at her anymore (kidding! sort of...). We even apparently can run OUTSIDE now! Huge strides for both of us! 

So, given that, I decided a few weeks ago that maybe I'd try and qualify her for Cynosports. She'd snagged her GP qualifiers early this year, so just needed Steeple. We had two chances before the qualifying period ended, and she managed to get one plus a security Q.  Then I'd entered her in the Regional mostly for exposure and had no expectations- but out of everything she could have done, she ended up with a Steeple Bye! Shocking. She *almost* had a MCJ Q- one little jump got missed at the end. Super run though; this girl is going to be FUN on those courses.

But she still gets to play in her first national! In the meantime though, The Pup is going to go to weave pole boot camp. She held her marbles pretty well- but her weaves are a low point apparently. She doesn't seem to like them too much (I think it bums her out to slow down and weave and not just GO). I need to help her figure out that weaves can be fast and fun too. Homework is good! 
I'm glad to be home, but I'm glad we went. Fun travels with my travel buddy (though a serious lack of delicious beer made it harder to drink away the long trial days! What the heck MO!?). It can't always be the perfect weekend but some good things came out of it at least.  My sweet Dog WILL be better. The only thing I will be worrying about at Cynosport will be her DW exits! Ha!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Regionals, Take 1

Fact: Trips to Michigan require more recovery time than Vegas Vacations.


Rather, trips to Michigan for Regionals that end up having unholy 14 hour days of agility in a sauna when your foot hurts and then you have to drive home in one shot to make it to work Monday require more recovery time than Vegas Vacations.

Yeah, that makes more sense.
After chewing over the Regional itself for a few days, I'm still not sure what to say.  I've experienced four separate regionals recently; three have been expertly run, enjoyable, large events. Take what you will from that. I intend to send some comments to the club and prefer not to be inflammatory in this space, but if anyone else who attended has any constructive criticism, I urge you to share as well.

I will say, for what we were all dealt this weekend, my dogs were MARVELOUS. 

For starters, my little Pup.  This was her first ever big event, only her second two day trial, second weekend in championship, and first time running more than three classes in a day. Because of the changes, she had to run most of her entered classes on Saturday. Hard courses, games she has never run, new environment... so many things thrown at her in rapid succession over an incredibly long day.

Was it perfect? Heck no. But dang, some brilliance in every run.  She held every start line, stayed on task, made good choices, and had some fun.  Her contacts were spectacular. She did a great job in Team Gamblers and Snookers. Not even a Starters Snookers leg to her name, and we ran a perfect three seven plan- she got her first LAA Q with that one and placed too! Her Jumpers run was fun (for 9pm at night)- I lost her in an off course tunnel, but was actually thrilled to see her run with that much drive. Good thing my teamies were AWESOME and supportive of happy off courses...

Her best moment of the day was a great comeback after I mismanaged her in Standard. I'd felt so bad for my handling and couldn't believe what she gave me following that: the Regional GP Round 1 course was fast and fun and she ran clean, placed 3rd, and made the finals. As for the finals, well, I blame a tasty looking black blob for teasing her while she was trying to weave. Other than that teeny lapse, she lived up to her name. It was a great run. Proud doesn't even begin to describe it.
My little Dog... Sadly, she ended up even more brain fried by Sunday than the Pup. After Steeple Finals, the last class, I just had to hug her. She is not a dog with endless endurance; she has her limits.  Most of what she does in agility is for ME. I am very thankful for every little bit she gives.

To her credit, she held up really well- only in the last two runs did she show her fatigue.  Her contacts were flying (in the good way) and she left every bar up. She placed several times, which at an event this size always gives me an extra bump. Her team of Blade's Hot Dates made the proverbial podium in third- not too shabby at all!  I had a blast with her Saturday, especially in Standard. FUN course. GP Finals was really fun too, even if the outcome wasn't quite what I'd wanted from on the onset. 
So even though there were some low points, they were balanced with highs. Isn't that just like life? In the end, I had brilliant dogs, a great time with my teamies all around,  loved playing with Great Nephew Puppy Boy (I'll work on his moniker), and had a bitchin' time checking out awesome eateries and local brews with my travel mate. Hmmm. The non agility parts were so fun, I reckon I can count this as a vacation!
Moral of the story- roll with the punches. Enjoy the little things. Take a detour. And there is ALWAYS a take 2.  Ours is coming in August!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Still Swingin'



Blink, blink, blink.

"Whaaa... What time is it? What MONTH is it??"

So ends a hibernation hiatus. 
You ever have that moment where you suddenly have what you wanted, after months and months of working to get it, and you're beyond happy- but then you immediately what?

Good question indeed.

Turns out this is a normal part of the goal life cycle but boy, did I ever get stuck in that 'now what' phase.

So I slept on it. All winter.

That was a long winter.
It wasn't all an inability to pick new goals for training and trialing. There was an overall question of life and 'what now' to be examined. This is off-topic, but by way of explanation, after a year of relentless change- some happy, some heartbreaking- life in general needed more consideration and direction. Sometimes you need to step back from everything and assess. Hence agility furlough.
So now what, right? After all this time, what next?

For starters, I'm teaching the dogs how to leap frog each other. We are going to make it to the circus one of these days!

What I mean is, the world is ours. What's next is only limited by my imagination really. And my mind is now open.
I feel, finally, unencumbered by doubt. I have so much. I won't say I have enough- I never want to stop reaching- but just because you can do better doesn't mean what you do now is necessarily bad. 

Even in this tumultuous and unfocused state that we've been living in, I think we three have each strengthened as members of the team. Respite is a gift; for me, perspective. So much. For The Dog, physical rest, well deserved after years of non stop training and trialing. And The Pup gains maturity. For evidence I call on Happiness, Fun, Excitement, Connection- big checks next to each of these measures, presenting as high engagement at our last trial, practice, you name it. And now forward: desire. The feeling creeping in again. I want to do this, I want to succeed at this.

Perspective though. I want to succeed by MY measures. It's nothing without that. It's all for fun, there is literally nothing to lose. Even a loss can be a win. And a win means nothing without the 'A' game to back it up.  You can play to get on base, or you can swing for the fences and bring it all home.  At the end of the day, what will make YOU happiest? I'll keep swinging.

Doubt can stay in the dugout.

Our direction is forward.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Few Good Dogs

Yes, plural. As in, The Dog wasn't the only hard working teamie this weekend at USDAA. We now can count The Pup among the few and the proud!!
I'm so (I repeat, SO) happy with The Pup. I ran her in just a few classes Sunday and she showed up to both!! Not naughty ADHD Pup who chases fuzzies. And visits. And runs away at the end of the run. No, it was my good fast girl. Who knows things and has a brain between her most giant alien ears. We finally saw a glimpse of her future, and boy. Shiny.
We followed Jen's advice. The hard bit about No Free Love. Only The Leader may bestow love and pets and eye contact. Essentially, all her friends largely were made to ignore her. She lived out in the car alone and only got to come in to play with me. We tried a new warm-up routine- sat and played ball before her turn, no arguing at all about paying attention to me. Much less stressful going in, I think. And those were only the beginning of the changes.
She was so much better dealing with the pressure and distractions. She seemed to acknowledge the people in the rings but had no pull to them. She could have left the ring to molest the crowd and steal a toy, but instead came easily to jump up after. Happy to be caught and get her rewards in due course.
The Pup fell asleep on my beer. Cute yet disturbing. 
As for the pressure, she broke a bit early on the first stay (on eye contact). She missed a jump towards the end of Jumpers and I ran her back, which wilted her slightly. She checked out a fuzzy right after but it was just a quick sniff where before the pressure of that redo would have put her to the point of all out fuzzy hunting and Pup-style validation seeking. She dealt with being 'wrong' much better than she ever has before.
The rest is just gravy. She ran FAST in jumpers before the missed jump. Like, hee-haw. Best extension yet in a show.

Until Standard, that is. What a great run. She held all the stays: start line, table, teeter. She ran her A and DW really well and stuck her weaves. Everything else in between was awesome too! She drove ahead which she hadn't seemed to feel like she could do before, and my was that drive in a nice gear.

AND we got another measure for 16"- one more to go before 3! Ga!
Lest we forget, my fluffy Dog. I figured something out. Why her brain broke. Or my brain. Whatever. Looking at this from the mental management standpoint, we were running in full Competitive mode with zero training of new things. Maintaining the machine through Cynosport. The machine had to be turned off during Recovery. Then our machine needed a reboot, so back to our foundations we went for Preparative measures.  Learning new things, modifying old. Our devices just haven’t been syncing yet with these developments, and in that case she reverts to thinking over doing.

I hadn’t realized this until most of the way through day two of our three day show.  I worried over the reasons for her somewhat hesitant runs early on- sad? Hurt? Issue with the facility? But then I had the lightbulb moment and I got smart and got clearer, and she turned around a lot. I'm not perfect. We had a meltdown in Steeple Rnd 2 even after I figured things out, but otherwise an awesome end to the weekend, each run better and better. Where we started with communication errors and carefulness, we ended on mind reading, good team work, and a fast happy Dog. It was very interesting.

Despite the weird that crept in, we still had a successful weekend on paper. (Although she ABSOLUTELY did NOT want to do her good 2o2o teeter. I asked her to the first run and she was SO SAD.  After that I didn’t ask for it and she offered a controlled-no boinking- 4 on the rest of the weekend.  I think I need to find a fun match to do some test runs before we pull that out again.)  We have our Steeple and Team Qs for Tennessee, we got TWO jumpers Qs (just two more to go before Gold ADCH!) and placements in all of our qualifying classes. She blazed through GP (one bar….GA!) so feeling good about future byes happening.   Overall actually, her standard type classes were really, really good. It was a weekend where I loved having running contacts. Sunday’s standard run was such a RUSH.  At the end both The Dog and I were like…heck yeah! If we were dudes we would have punched each other. That run is the perfect example of why I will not give them up, even if turns with her make me insane and sometimes it means we don’t qualify. 
No video. I agree, how lame. I so wish I’d recorded both girls’ standard runs yesterday.  But I have bruises all over from The Pup being caught and The Dog mauling me with joy afterwards, so that will serve as a tiny (painful) reminder for some time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nonpartisan Post

Sometimes I’m surprised at how hard it can be to find time to jot down my thoughts. I didn’t think I had that many? But I guess life has been pretty demanding. So that, plus a Leader living in her head equals not a ton of production and output for the past few months.  I thought though that I might try and shake a few things out to make room for what’s coming up. 
Pensive Pup lives in her head too.
It’s been some forced rest since the Nationals. The Dog showed me immediately after that she needed a break.  She pretty much mentally collapsed as soon as we got home; all agility knowledge fell out of her brain and she reverted to freezing and questioning.  We thought maybe it was all a bit too much, holding herself together so well for so many days in Colorado and in the time leading up, but there was likely also ME to blame: I needed a break too.  She is smart. She picks up on these things. So we broke so that we wouldn't end up all broken.

We are showing this weekend though.  Back at it, and then back off it for another month, taking it nice and easy through the rest of the year.  While I’d sure love some Jumpers Qs and a few things knocked out for Nationals next year, I think the reconnection with the dogs is a better goal.
Yeah. I said dogs. Plural.  Running The Pup again. We haven’t trained much agility with her. Just lots of time working on life skills. Like, How Not to Be an A$$. What to Bite Instead of The Dog, volumes one and two. Stop Barking and Go Lay Down.  I had noticed how much more focus and control she had back in the day when all we did was Smart Puppy (behavior) Skillz. Moving over to more agility training, less skill work was a bad move (apparently).   She knows equipment. She knows handling.  These are not what she needs to practice.  Hence, return to Smart Puppy.

This discovery was well-timed; Jen Pinder was in town last weekend and had many observations.  She was not fooled by The Pup’s excellent drivey agility and called her out for what she is. That would be, a thief. Among other things.  So having realized what she needed, I got a lot of ideas on how to get her there.  No telling that anything will have rubbed off in time for the weekend, but at least she is slightly easier to deal with in general.  Someday she will have patience. And coping skills under pressure. And the ability to drive and think at the same time. Surely?

As a note, I really liked Jen. The seminars focused a lot on contacts and I think it was the right move given her talents there. She had some fantastic observations, helpful ideas, and process guidance that was so in depth. Contact foundation to the extreme.  I audited most of it and came away filled with tips on training and mechanics and…everything.  There is a real science to it that I hadn’t realized.  I’ve been a bit, well, whatever, as long as you have criteria that you and your dog get that you maintain, it works. But the details of the position itself really matter for whether or not it will hold up over time.  There is really too much to say, but I think I will be a better teacher going forward and will be able to do things with my own dogs in an optimal way.

I will say though, I had a lot of Ah-Has! over The Dog’s teeter performance.  At the base is her issue with not liking the reverberation of the plank. And where she was “stopping” trying to hold a 4 on was right in the reverb sweet spot.  Add in letting her lay down on the teeter…  And not having her release forward… Ah-HA!  No wonder she hated the end and boinked off the side.  (Plus, I had let her run it sometimes. Oops.)  So I was at least on the right track a few months ago when I asked her to start doing a 2o2o, but now we have the rest of the formula and- wait for it- she actually is driving her teeter! And waiting!  She is a nerd; I should have known she would take to more criteria.  Now though, let’s see how well the Leader remembers to uphold it. 
After this weekend, a seminar with The Pup, and then like I said- nice and easy for a few months. I want to teach my dogs silly things again, have a life, and probably deal with some things I should have a year ago.

Er, but first I have to finish all the seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  
Can you believe how long I have been doing this??

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cynosport 2012 Recap-A-Palooza

Hello technology. Sorry to give you the boot the last week or so, but it’s good to spend time apart, you know?

I thought about updating during the nationals, but I opted to be selfish and take the week for me and The Dog. I don’t have the option to just immerse myself in agility so many days that I forget what day it even IS more than this one time a year- so why not?  I imagine others enjoy weeks camping in the mountains or wherever for the same reasons and this way I at least got to sleep indoors, take showers and have Panera coffee every morning.
Oh, what a week.  For all the hemming and hawing about nationals outdoors in Denver this year, the weather was great, the site was lovely, and no dogs were apprehended and arraigned on ten counts of being a pit bull. Sure, some hiccups occurred, but they probably always will. Life happens; it’s just in how you deal.

So that was goal number one this year. Keep calm. Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Last year I couldn’t shake the bad; couldn’t block out the crazy.  This year my new mental management skills provided a warm fuzzy shield. Bad run? Meh. Crazy? Deflected. Grumpiness? Hola, here is a smile for you.

I imagine others wanted to kill me but hey, so much better for me and The Dog to actually ENJOY the week.  At the very least I wanted to know that I had fun- sadly I don’t think everyone can say that.
Let it be said- I DID have fun.  Me and my rusty fat Dog had a blast.  I went in just plain glad we had the chance to run at all.  I knew we were (both) a bit out of our peak, but I also knew that just weeks before we’d been there and it probably wasn’t completely gone. I believed that all of the work we’d done this year would get us through.  I focused on our best moments of the year and decided that there was no reason we couldn’t do well.  Goal number two was set- individual placement!
We had a lot of chances this year.  We got to run in the team classes and semis, but also the IFCS as well. I figured our odds were good, even given the impressive competition.  The Dog has some tricks up her…well, not sleeves, but you know.   So every run, I went in with that goal in mind. It’s the NATIONALS. If you aren’t going to pull the tricks out now, then when?
Overall, The Dog was amazing. She had a good Gamblers run, and a GREAT Snookers run.  That was the only team class that had me scared- I had walked a lame plan and then realized there was time to be more interesting. So I went back and forth over three different (unwalked!) options all morning, finally settling on one as I went to get her out to run. I knew it was iffy, but in the end we pulled it off with time to spare.  That run ended up 13th (one out of placement); so pleased with that contribution!

Then we had Team Jumpers, AKA the course that SURELY was meant to be the IFCS Jumpers course??? Nope, sorry! Apparently the judge from Asia wanted to um, challenge us. That was absolutely the most fun course.  So much fun to watch too!  The Dog aced it, and ended up with the 12th best time, just 1/100th from placement (at this point goal number two was just taunting me!!) behind a three way tie for 11th.

Our last team class was Standard and she nailed it. I can’t see anything I would change about that run. And it was good enough for 6th place!  The score table told me there were 290 22” dogs running in team. Having my little Dog in the very top for multiple runs is so HAPPY MAKING!!!
Our group goal (and goal number three for me) was to make the dang relay finals.  Since our teammates (Black Dog and BFAM!) were amazing, we finally did!  We had a scary but not TOO scary relay run and ended up 8th overall out of 170 championship teams. My secret goal was Top Ten (to get the good loot!) so I was beyond happy.

As far as our semi and IFCS performances: She ran clean in IFCS Jumpers but was unfortunately pretty sloppy on her contacts on the Agility run so no finals there. Her Agility run though was, I think, her best of the weekend otherwise and maybe my favorite run. She was so frickin’ SMART! That was not an easy course and there were a lot of Es, but she made it so smooth and put up an awesome time.

Her one bar of the weekend happened in the Steeplechase semi.  It was also the one run she looked a little hesitant.  I’m beyond happy that we recovered from that run to go on to some of the best she has had!  

Grand Prix semi: semi-filled with regret. The DW to weaves combo was the EXACT Achilles heel of our RDW training. We have worked this so much, but it still plagues us.  I have to have perfect timing and I didn’t- pulled her off the side, slipped and she ran into me. This greatly offended her so it took a bit to get back on track, but then she had an awesome end.  Per my camera timer, even being liberal, it would have been fast enough otherwise so… NEXT YEAR!
So, goals accomplished.  Next year we up the ante. I see what I have, and it’s really enough. She may not be able to win the finals, but there is no doubt she could be in them.  I have some homework to get us there (and it mostly centers on DOG WALK TURNS!) but I am thrilled with how far she has come in a year.  Guess what? I have a teammate!  This is what I’ve always hoped for with The Dog! The rest is just gravy.  
Video, of course (the song is sort of lame- YouTube made me change it from the awesome thing I had which was from public domain, so, huh?): 

And video of The Pup rocking the Lure for the Cure! She thought it was AWESOME until they tried to stop her from busting down the end gate to get the 'squirrel.' Jerks.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Playing Catch Up

After a mandatory and unwelcome three week break, I’m happy to report that The Dog is back.  She was most happy to be released from the injured list/bubble wrap and I was most happy to oblige and dust off the agility leash.  We celebrated her return in the best way we know how- a trial.
Hola, unrelated hiking adventure picture for post jazzing-up!
So many sad stories that could have been ours too: No Dog, or Long-term Damaged Dog or Dog Who Could Never Show Again.  I have been fretting over which draw we’d pull from the Outcome Lottery for weeks.  Considering that The Dog has STILL not let go of being bit by a fly several years ago, it seemed a very real possibility that she would not be ready so soon to deal with the dog show world; strange dogs, forward dogs, crate-guarding butthead dogs, all seemed so scary and PTSD-inducing now where before they went largely unnoticed. 

A wall! What we are looking for is the river though!
But, save some wide-eyed looks from her in the early morning on Saturday, she survived this first test.  How lucky we are that she seems no worse for the wear, physically or mentally. Terrible haircut, as I keep lamenting, but for all the trauma I still have my good Dog.  

Well there it is! Er, these coordinates seem off..
It was an uplifting weekend.  It will send me into next week with a lot of good feelings, regardless of how things turn out.  She did a great job.  Besides showing up happy and excited and ready to run (which is really all I was hoping for) I think we lost nothing in those three weeks.   Her jumping was awesome, teeters were better than ever (though not saying much, but she is applying a behavior instead of going WEEEEE!), Aframes were perfection… and just plain old good attention. (Side note of happiness: we got to help Black Dog finish off her Platinum ADCH! With the worst relay run ever! Black Dog rocks!) 

Our only oops/disconnect moments came immediately after the DW in both standard runs.  This was something I did NOT expect. I thought for sure her DWs would be sticky if anything given the courses.  The rings were very small and one course ran into a wall (And in GP, REALLY ran into a wall, so much I elected not to run it- scary!!) and the other had a 180 degree pull.  Surely sticky-inducing?  But no. Fast Dog runs DWs very happily super straight off…and then goes WEEEE! I think I was verrrry slow in my turn cues. I really misjudged her speed, but goodness was glad to see that confidence! 

Maybe try this vertical descent? 
So yes. We feel good. Some homework planned for the week, but much less than I thought we would have to deal with.  Mostly just have this feeling I am going to finally be able to enjoy a trip to Cyno.  

We are set with byes, so no round 1 stress. We get to play in the extra classes so won’t be as bored. I took a look at the schedule and based on the running order, everything is pretty ideal. And bonus, I sure like Colorado. It’s just all shaping up to be a fun time I think.  And who knows, maybe more doors opening?  I have to think that at some point in time, it will be ‘our time;’ so why not now?