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October 25, 2011

Autumn Agility

October 22 & 23, 2011 at FDR Park…what a glorious autumn weekend for an agility trial! This was my 4th AKC trial for the year, and will be the last until 2012. Hosted by Skyline Agility Club, the weather was very crisp, mostly sunny, no rain or mud…perfect weather for the dogs!

Saturday was perfect, Dandy qualified in both Excellent B Standard and Jumpers With Weaves for his 3rd Double Q. Tempo qualified in both Novice B Standard and Jumpers With Weaves to finish his Novice Agility and Novice Jumpers titles. I moved Tempo up to Open for Sunday, and though he ran great in Open Standard, we incurred two refusals (run outs at jumps) so we did not qualify. However, he did earn his first leg in Open JWW with one refusal. Dandy did not qualify in his Excellent Standard class as he was a bit wild and I was not focused enough to anticipate his early off-course. But he did qualify in Excellent B JWW to earn his 5th MXJ leg. So overall, each dog was 3 out of 4.

I ran both boys in the 26” class for two reasons. First, they are both jumping 26” in USDAA and I prefer to maintain the same criteria since we run in USDAA most of the time. The second reason is that AKC has a new rule that the tire jump shall be set one jump height lower than the true jump height.  In the 24” class, the tire is set at only 20”. The 26” class uses a 24” tire. Since my dogs must jump a 26” tire in USDAA, I feel the 20” tire could be dangerous for them. A 20” tire will encourage a flatter trajectory which makes the tire even more risky. I will eventually have to move one of them to the 24” class, once Tempo gets to the Excellent level, since the 26” class is so small that it’s very difficult to run two dogs in it. Maybe AKC will eventually allow a break-away tire for the safety of all dogs, and then it won’t be so worrisome.

Since Tempo was the only 26” dog in Novice and Open, he easily took 1st place when he qualified. But he was faster than all the 24” dogs, so there is no shame. Dandy took 2nd place in all of his classes; there were only 3 dogs in Excellent B 26”, but the competition was fierce in this tiny group. Had Dandy been in 24”, he would have had a much easier time getting a blue ribbon! But placements do not influence me when making my decision on which height to compete in.

Some VIDEOS from the weekend:

Dandy in Saturday's Excellent B Standard

Dandy in Sunday's Excellent B JWW

Tempo's debut in Open Standard

Tempo's debut in Open JWW with a Q

October 19, 2011

2011 USDAA Nationals

The 2011 USDAA Cynosport World Games (a/k/a Nationals) is now history. The event was 6 days long, which is L-O-N-G. But I’m so glad I was a part of it. I drove down to Louisville, KY, on Monday, October 10, and drove home the following Monday. I managed to do the drive in 12 hours with just a few short pit stops. Thankfully the weather was nice and sunny on both of my travel days, which made it more pleasant.

The day before I left for Kentucky, I felt a cold coming on. By Tuesday, it was in full swing, and I was pretty miserable. On Thursday, I felt a little bit better, and by Friday, most of the cold had left my head. I still had an itchy throat, but breathing was much improved. I survived on lots of antihistamines, decongestants, cough drops and tissues.

My experience at Nationals had its share of highs and lows. Tempo was not entered as he is not ready for that level of competition, so it was just Dandy for this event. The warm-up class on Tuesday was just awful…Dandy had not been worked in several days, and after a 12 hour car ride on Monday, he was pretty wild! The course was a Grand Prix-style course, and while he nailed his contacts & weaves, and kept the bars up, he went off-course three times! I was not handling well at ALL, as I was feeling terrible from my head cold, so combine that with a wild Border Collie, and things did not go well. I was terrified that this was a prediction for the next 4 days. I was VERY glad that Tuesday’s class didn’t count for anything, and glad I DID enter it as a practice session. I was just hoping that I could get my act together for the next day… Wednesday through Saturday would be four Team Classes, plus Grand Prix & Steeplechase Quarterfinals. Dandy was teamed up with two other Border Collies for the Team event (3 dogs/handlers, 4 classes plus the Relay for the top 30 teams out of 170 teams.)

On Wednesday, we ran Team Gamblers. I was still off due to my cold, so I’m glad it was Gamblers where I could improvise a bit. We didn’t get the big bonus points as they required distance skills, which are a weakness for me & Dandy. But we managed to get a respectable number of points, placing us in the middle of the pack. On Thursday, we had Team Standard, and that course was chewing ‘em up & spitting ‘em out! I didn’t run until the afternoon so I got to watch a number of runs while scribing that class in the morning. Dandy ran the course clean, held the contacts, and we ended up 17th out of about 120 26” dogs.

Dandy in Team Standard

We also ran in Steeplechase Quarterfinals, which was a heartbreak…I had high hopes of making it to the Semi-Finals as Dandy usually does well in Steeplechase. He ran the course beautifully but he got hung up in the middle of the weavepoles as they were not securely staked; I heard the metal bases clanging, and wasn’t sure what happened until I saw Dandy exit incorrectly. At that point, I knew he missed a pole, so I had to do the weaves over again. Unfortunately, this cost us too much time and we missed the cut-off for the Semi-Finals by less than one second.

On Friday, we ran Team Snooker and Grand Prix Quarterfinals. Team Snooker went well, I went for three 7’s in the opening, which we got, and almost got through #7 in the closing, but with only 48 seconds, we didn’t quite make it; we just missed getting the 7 in the closing, so we ended up with 44 points. Grand Prix was yet another heartbreak. It was another tough course with a particularly gnarly section offering multiple off-course options. I handled well without choking; Dandy was brilliant, doing everything he’s been trained to do. Unfortunately, he was faulted for missing the ascent contact zone of the dogwalk. He has NEVER been faulted for “up contacts”, and whether he actually hit it or missed it, I can’t say for sure. Someone who was watching his run said he did hit it with his rear foot/feet. A few other 26” dogs were faulted for the same thing, so it appears that the judge wanted to see *front* feet in the contact zone. Bottom line is that we incurred 5 faults, and we would not be advancing to the Semi-Finals. Again, a fluke thing…some bad luck…and major disappointment…but it was still a beautiful run and one I’m very proud of.

Dandy in Grand Prix Quarter Final

Without advancing in Steeplechase or Grand Prix, we had just one run on Saturday, Team Jumpers. Once again, a gnarly course! I saw many great teams go off course. Dandy was once again brilliant, we were clean right up until the next-to-last jump when I rushed a rear cross and incurred a refusal, but it was just a little bobble in an otherwise beautiful run. Again, I was SO proud of Dandy.

Dandy in Team Jumpers

Sunday was Team Relay and Grand Prix Finals, so it was a day to relax and watch some of the best agility teams in the US. I ended up working every class, including the GP Finals, and I’m really glad I did. Last year, I watched from up in the stands, and felt that I would NEVER be able to handle that pressure…it just seemed way too scary! But sitting in the ring, setting bars and fixing tunnels, helped me realize that it’s still just agility. It’s you & your dog, doing the thing you love, but with the added excitement of going for gold! It would be amazing to someday be in the finals, but the competition is intense even in quarterfinals at Nationals, and anything can happen to anyone. A missed contact or a dropped bar might mean the end of one’s advancement, but it’s not the end of the world…just look at your dog’s face and he will tell you, it was still a blast!

Overall, Dandy was amazing. In the 4 team classes, he rocked…he got good scores in Gamblers & Snooker, just one refusal in Jumpers, and CLEAN in Standard. Our teammates had a bit of bad luck, so our team did not advance to the Relay but it didn’t matter…Dandy was awesome! In Steeplechase & Grand Prix quarters, it was just bad luck that kept us out of Semi-Finals. Again, Dandy ran beautifully! Throughout the 7 classes over 5 days, Dandy nailed every (down) contact & every weave entry. Not one bar came down, his jumping was stellar. He incurred just one refusal, and his only off-courses were in the one warm-up class. He did not come home with any ribbons or prizes but he truly ran like a champion all week. I could not be any prouder of my special boy.

Tempo was such a good boy all week long…I did take him out one day to the practice jumps when no one was using them, and jumped him for a couple of minutes. He was SO excited to get to play; too bad he couldn’t have played MORE. And a sidenote, he kept the bar up on every jump. He did get to play with his brother Quid, and with Dandy, every night in the motel room. Not a real exciting week for him but he never complained, he was a very good boy.

I did have several moments of tears…it’s just very hard to be at an event such as this and not feel the pain of missing Token. I bought a Rainbow Bridge charm for my bracelet, placed next to my tri-merle Border Collie charm. He is always in my heart…

Next year, USDAA Nationals will be in Colorado. I’m not planning on making that trip…1700 miles, high altitude, trial outdoors where weather can be snow or 80 degrees…but I sure do want to take Dandy to Nationals again someday! And Tempo needs a chance, too, so I’m hoping for another “east of the Mississippi” event someday.


October 4, 2011

September Addendum

I must have been really tired when I wrote my last blog entry…I left out my report on Tempo at K9Logix! And it was a very significant trial for him. I only entered him in 2 classes each day. He earned his 2nd Advanced Standard leg with a 1st place on Saturday, and came oh so close on Sunday for his 3rd…but I fell way behind as he drove ahead with all-new confidence, and he hit the A-Frame instead of the seesaw for an off-course fault. On Saturday, he ran in Steeplechase Round 1, and he was spectacular! He ran CLEAN and fast and placed FIRST in Round 1!!! Tempo & Dandy were both in the 26” class; Dandy missed the weave entry and with a miscommunication at the A-Frame, he only finished 6th in Round 1…so Tempo earned his bragging rights, beating his big brother for the first time. In Sunday’s Finals, both boys ran super…both lost a little time at the very last jump as they had to wait for me to catch up, but their times were very close. Dandy’s time was 32.8 and Tempo’s was 34.09 (Tempo wasn’t really sure he was supposed to take that last jump!) Dandy ran clean and finished overall in 2nd place, with Tempo hot on his heels in 3rd place. Tempo had 5 faults added to his score for ticking the Long Jump but he would have finished in 3rd with or without those 5 faults.

And we even have video of Tempo’s Round 1…So very proud of the baby boy!

Tempo's Steeplechase Round 1