Last weekend Chico and I went and played ‘gilities an AKC trial held by the Mount Diablo Dog Training Club and organized by Abba Dogs Trial Services. In an effort to keep from getting burned out or stressed, I entered classes on Friday and Sunday, with a day off in the middle. At the urging of Sandy Rogers I entered this trial (and one next weekend) at the excellent level in Jumpers. (I’ve written before about being spooked by the courses at that top level.) I tried it a year ago when we were first eligible and didn’t like it – too many handlers in the walk through, courses too challenging to even remember – I was just freaked out. And since we had no Qs at that level, we could go back down to Open, and I did. And got no Qs at that level either. Anyhow, Sandy urged me to just go for it, and I did.
My goals for me were divide the Excellent courses into sections, make a plan for each section, and then execute my plan while keeping an eye on Chico. (It seems that I tend to concentrate so hard on not tripping on a jump standard and remembering which way to turn that I forget to stay checked-in with my partner.) My goals for Chico were that he hit his contacts and do the weave poles. After the first runs (below), I added the goal of holding his start line.
One of those enterprising competitors that brings pro gear to tape the runs (Agility in Motion) was in attendance, and I splurged and bought the videos of our runs. For those of you with five extra minutes, they are below.
First day, first run, Time 2 Beat. No start line, missed the first obstacle. When I review the video, it’s not hard to see why. After I handed the leash to the leash runner, did I look at my dog? No. I watched her walk away. And where did Chico go? Right after her. Right where I was looking. There are a few moments when we pulled it together, but I mis-directed him plenty of times.
First day, second run, Excellent Jumpers. My goal was nail the opening (obstacles one through four), and we got it. The third time we tried the weaves, we almost got ’em, but Chico popped out after number ten. Then we did pretty well for a while, but at about forty seconds, I try a blind cross, but I’m not looking at Chico and I lose him. It takes a second or two before I figure this out, so at forty-four seconds you can see me stop and look around desperately for my dog. In that second of searching my eyes met the judge’s eyes, and the look he gave me was so sympathetic, so understanding…it said “Yup, you lost your dog. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last.” Or as we say back home, at Agility Charm School, “Hey, that doesn’t make you special.”
And after our day off, on to Sunday’s runs.
First run, second day, Time 2 Beat. Weave poles, not so great; Chico missed a jump near the end of the course and I wasn’t looking at him, so didn’t realize it until I watched the video. His contacts on the A-frame were very good both times, that’s a goal achieved. And there were some moments of brilliance. There’s a rear cross in the middle of the course that works just like it is supposed to. I love that.
Second run, second day, Excellent Jumpers. We got the opening, we got the closing, the middle – not so much.
Last run, second day, Open Standard. The big achievement of our weekend. Steering, weave poles, contacts – all in one run. The entry to the weaves was really hard, everyone said so, so missing it, no big deal, and at this level, you get some ‘do overs’ and we nailed it on the second try. And watch Chico dive into the poles on that second try. What a great dog. I wanted a front cross after the chute, but wasn’t moving fast enough, hence the rear cross on the see-saw. That rear sort of threw Chico off, but I kept driving and he kept going. A little wide on the last turn, I didn’t set the new line quite soon enough; all that nit-picking at myself aside, it was a qualifying run that earned us our Open Standard title. Classmates back home, note that we owe you another cake.
This is a long entry, thanks for sticking with it to the end. Next weekend we’re off to Santa Rosa for another AKC trial, competing at excellent level in both Standard and Jumpers. The coming trial is sponsored by the local chapter of the American Bloodhound Club and organized by Lynda Tjarks Agility.