02 February 2009

No beer or strippers. I think.

The clock reads 3:52. Alarm is set for 4am but I'm awake and the dogs aren't and I have to wake them up to get them out of bed. A first. No one wakes up dogs, right? O'dark o'clock and that means one thing. We are driving somewhere far, far away and trying to get there in good time so I am not jumping out of the car and walking a course and running to get the first dog on the line and the dogs are like, huh? All blurry and asleep and warm in plastic boxes in the car. My new idea is, just get up earlier and less stress and get there earlier and enjoy that drive through the foggy ice swamp, past the haunted houses with plywood windows, and not be freaking out over not quite making it in time to walk the first course. And there's even time to pack a healthy lunch and have enough coffee first to be able to actually slice a tomato with a sharp knife and not any remove fingers or toes.

Ruby, lame and not even running, she's the one bouncing off walls because I whispered the secret words, dog agility, she understands 3 coffee mugs on the counter equals dog agility car ride and oops, she isn't supposed to run at all, even in the house. And not at 4 in the morning. Gustavo catches on that There Is A Party, is what he heard, and There Will Be Beer and Strippers! With swingy Nipple Tassles! Um, not quite, but it's close and so he's up and ready and spinning in his weird little circle he does when no one moving at his speed of light, and only Otterpop is not getting out of bed and ends up being dragged out from under the comforter as I'm loading up dogs into the car to drive for 2ish hours, across the mountains and through the cows. Most of the drive is pitch black, in the dark, and listening to Bon Iver and the Eels and Dee Lite. Not sure what the dogs are dreaming about, back to sleep in the back of the car.

It's just what we do, these dark, morning drives, my time with my dogs, trying to do this thing, better every time. I can see the stars over the hills. In the dark, I think of these profound sentences and mind blowing ways to make my life perfect. Something about staring at that sparkly yellow line stretching out in front of me. Except I can't write 'em down and drive at the same time, and then later on, the drive is done, the air is light, and there's more practical matters at hand like, where are my pop tarts and my shoes, and everything deep and clear and making perfect, freakish sense is gone and I have bigger fish to fry such as, to serpentine or not and would ya want to use a rear cross in there?

Let's start off saying that Otterpop and Hobbes, we had really nice Standard Q's, over in the Master's Ring. Handled the same way, people who make fun of the little dog handling. Exactly the same. Gustavo, first time running Standard in the Starters ring, where the courses are straightforward and earnest, no complications, laid out as if by singing Nuns, took 3 attempts to make it through his poles, and one extended comedy moment after a wide ass turn involving us racing each other around a jump it until either him or me jumped it. I don't remember who. It was a bit of a train wreck. My dreams dashed of my super champion acing his first standard like a pro. Hit the dogwalk contact, although not how we practice exactly, some nice moments in other bits, and his very first teeter. Which was great once we sorted out his attempted naughty cross. A hard class to run first thing in the morning with a squirrely, wild runner just running his heart out, first, and doing the whole agility bit, second.

He had an awesome snooker, blasted through all 7's for baby steps of learning to SuperQ at an early age, and a great gamblers that even had a teeter in the gamble, right on that pink line, but some screwy, uncompleted weave poles in his opening. Earned a couple Q's. Jumpers, his first, and let's just say for now, last, off course involving his Best Friend I Love You Tunnel. Have to always remember Jim's words about some of the super champion puppies, foundation trained since birth. Don't compare, accept him on his merits and train his as well as you can. Gustavo, we work hard and we've worked hard every day since you moved here from Juarez, speaking only espanol, a nearly grown desperado and I love you and everything you do! He was awarded Cutest Dog of the Trial by Richard Deppe. Never had that happen before. Thanks Judge. Almost as good as having perfect weave poles.

Otterpop, you started out rough and slow and ended up running pretty all right. The judge in her ring, not a pushy contact aggressor, and Otterpop happy as a clam to run in there, after got over her morning nerves. That pesky Gambler's Q and SuperQ, hopes dashed, even with classy runs but just didn't happen. Otterpop happy to be out in the sun, rolling on her back in the grass, actually in kind of a pleasant mood. Probably gloating that Ruby didn't have any turns and she got ALL the turns, except for the turns that went to Gustavo, who doesn't really count, she thinks. Ruby, shuffled around the grounds few times, possibly confused as to why she didn't have a turn the whole day, but seemed pretty happy snoozing in her bed in the car in the sun, before turning around, driving back into the sun, at the end of the day.


Simba said...

question for you: I can't find the old post - but you discussed how each of TSD have different contact performance - can you either direct me to that post - or expand on what your decision was in choosing which contact each dog uses and why?


(I'm inclined to teach Simba a running contact - but in class we are taught 2o2o...if I had to choose a stopped contact method - I would prefer him to do a 4 on the floor version - as he's top heavy and I worry about the eventual strain of the 2o2o. Dilemma, dilemma!


team small dog said...

Contacts in a lengthy nutshell-

First I will say, as an agility teacher, it is really hard to teach anything but a basic 2o/2o in a group class. At least for me. Tried and true, best results. Running contact teaching is harder to guarantee good results and I think harder to train.

Dog 1 Ruby-started w 2o/2o everything. When started trialing, learned about running contacts. Cool and fast! All small dogs doing them. Tried to just start running and give a treat at the bottom. Worked fine on the a-frame, teeter (run to end) but taught her a great dogwalk leap that took years to fix and eventually worked hard teaching a true running dogwalk w a clicker and picking a point I need her feet to hit. But I can't say how it holds up in trials because she doesn't trial much. When she does, it had been working consistently.

Dog 2 Otterpop-Started w 4 on the floor everything. It was a natural fit for her, she likes to slide into downs for some reason. Slide into down on teeter, down after a-frame and dogwalk. Eventually bagged the down on a-frame and she has a very solid running a-frame. In practice still use that 95% of the time on the dogwalk, and juggle back and forth in trials of down or just run off the end. Is complicated because she freaks out when judges come up close to watch her contact. Her dogwalk contact, if I let her run it in trials can be missed occasionally, like in GP Finals at Regionals.

Dog 3 Gustavo-Taught a true running a-frame, step by step w a clicker. Has been awesome and very consistent. It was totally part of his foundation training and took a long time. Taught him to run to end of the teeter and use whatever position he is most comfortable with-he has a great teeter and goes down on his front legs and his butt in the air and I am totally ok with this. Have a 2o/2o on dogwalk because I just want the tried and true with his super turbo speed and know he is going to go to the bottom. This weekend he ran all the way to the bottom, stopped, didn't nose touch, and self released. It is stunning and solid in practice. I am very glad I am teaching him a stop!

I know people training running dogwalks now, but I am afraid to try. Since he's only trialed a teensy, weensy bit, can't say how any of this is doing in the long run. I just want to not worry about it, and a 2o/2o is less worries for me.

I think a heavy dog on the a-frame is where you might worry on the strain. Ruby has crappy shoulders on both sides and has had a million injuries and never really did a 2o/2o so there you go.

I think it is really hard to teach running contacts if you do not have equipment you can practice on yourself, a lot. Needs a LOT of repetitions, whereas you can teach 2o/2o anywhere and apply it to anything.

Simba said...

THANKS! Lots of food for thought. Will likely keep a stopped contact performance going - as I don't have my own contact equipment (or even a yard!) I rely on class time and occasional rental space to get on real equipment.

Elf said...

Cool photos. Recognize some of them. This time I took none except of my birthday cake. Drove there in the complete foggy dark Saturday morning and home in the complete dark Sunday evening. Was very tempting going home across 132 to try a night photo of the huge giant cathedral dome lit from inside and glowing dramatically--but--very tired must not stop will never get started again.

Double S said...

Is there really a sign that reads "believe" under the plastic-horse-mounted-on-a-pole? What are those letters under there?

Congrats on your successful trip to Turlock!

team small dog said...

The sign under the horse really says RELEW but I cropped it so it looked more like believe. I am busted. I don't know why it says RELEW. I guess that's the horse's name.