02 May 2011

Satellite radio tells us everything we want to know about the dog show over the weekend and also marks our end of mellow 70's pop hits in the car.

So in the words of mellow 1975 pop hits satellite radio stars America,

"Well I tried to make it Sunday but I got so damn depressed
That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed"

Luckily, I did not get myself undressed at the dog show. I stayed fully clothed at all times. I may have exposed various amounts of plumber's ass with some wardrobe malfunctions of too short shirt for too low shorts. But by the end of the day Sunday, both dogs and myself were totally unraveled to the point that I was ready to just go climb into the dumpster. I think it is fitting that I am the official garbage lady of the local dog shows.

Otterpop didn't start out having a bad weekend. She won both Grand Prix and Steeplechase. She brought home a bunch of Q's including a SuperQ and both Gambles. She had some great, fast startlines, but they wore thin and sad by the end of the weekend, and even though she was always revved up and barking and flying around before she goes in the ring, as the weekend wore on, she was kind of over the whole agility at a dog show thing. Otterpop is the dog who can never have enough turns when we practice, who can do everything on and on and on. She tells me so constantly. But she ended Sunday with a Pairs run that almost did have me climbing into the dumpster with all the garbage.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, makes me sadder than seeing a dog do agility slowly. And then to see MY dog doing agility slowly, breaks my heart not just into 2 but into 12. 12 jagged chunks that have hangnails and exposed roots. Coated in the sticky juice that settles in the bottoms of the trash bins.

She did have a couple of runs that involved the stickers. There were tiny, sharp burrs on one of the fields, and I pulled her out of 2 runs when she went 3 legged with a sticker foot. This also made me feel really bad, for trying to make my little dogs run around on sticker fields.

The burrs were a huge issue for Gustavo. He had a lot of issues, though, so I don't know how much comes from things like weenie stickers in his weenie fur, and how much is just he is a big stress case. He did have a very nice Standard run, complete with a table. This was a big deal. And he had a lovely Steeplechase second round where I made a handling error that cost us an E. He had ups and downs all weekend, but overall, his runs eroded into one hot mess as the weekend progressed, with poles falling apart, startlines falling apart, and ending with, that heart breaking issue that I never thought Gustavo would have, running slowly. When this started, my heart broke in even more pieces. 27 jagged, sharp, double hangnail pieces, where I felt so bad for him.

As Don Mclean likes to remind us,
"Bye bye Miss American Pie"

I'm pretty sure this doesn't have anything to do with our agility woes, actually. But how could I not throw it in here? At least I didn't quote Bread.

Life is hard for Gustavo. He hit a bar in one class and FREAKED out. The stickers FREAKED him out. I pulled a gob off of his tummy after one run where it looked like he was running with toddly little back legs. Anytime something goes a little bit wrong in his little world, he is FREAKED out. I have no doubt that he was really trying. He was listening. He was playing with his toy. Being in charge of cleaning the bathrooms gave me much access to his favorite-cardboard toilet paper rolls. He was even playing with the frisbee, which is almost unheard of for him in public around so much distraction. But as the weekend went on, I do think he was trying with all his might, but it hurts his brain to try that hard and we start having train wrecks.

Oh Gustavo. Like our friend Gordon Lightfoot tells us,
"If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell"

I'm not going to go on. It ends badly. Gordon is crying. Laura is practically crying. Gustavo isn't finding his leash and is dancing about underneath a chair near the score table.

So I have Gustavo, who I believe is trying very hard but just can't hold it together at dog shows. And I have Otterpop, who just plain old STOPS trying for reasons not even Elton John knows.

Where does this leave me? I believe Stealers Wheel said it best with their very long moustaches and bellbottoms,
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you"

I know. It's not the end of the world. But we are 6 months into our champion practicing and I think that honestly, even if we're getting a little bit better, we still have this big competition problem. Which sort of makes the whole champion thing, a little bit, eh, not so useful. I sure do love my dogs, and we all sure do love agility. I know we need to get a lot better, but how I can be so off on my training and handling that I train my dogs to fall apart at shows is the piece I'm still not figuring out. I think today though, we are going to take a break from practicing and just go walk in the forest for a long, long time.

"I think it's going to be a long long time
til touchdown brings me round again to find"

Elton John, you are so fired. Otterpop's mind is going to be soothed elsewhere from now on.


Amy Carlson said...

Geez, you feel like me. Or do I feel like you? Are there any lyrics to that effect? It sure seems like I am reading my own life in your words.

Liz said...

Sounds like we had similar weekends. I feel your pain. I also try to remind myself that my dog stopping to stare at me in the weave poles has no effect on unrest in the Middle East or global hunger, but it still is so damn depressing to me in my little myopic universe...

I have no words of encouragement to offer unfortunately as I am in desperate need of some as well. Misery loves company and all that.

team small dog said...

Mary, your running dogwalks sure are looking good!

I think the things that makes me most frustrated are:

1. Otterpop can run so good and fast, but then just decide at some point, nope. For whatever reasons. She has runs that were so great, then, nope. She can be completely amped up, barking and carrying on, then step up to the startline and nope. It is hard to predict when the nope one is going to happen.

2. Gustavo should always be fast, even if he is unfocused or goes feral on his training. Seeing him have some slow runs Sunday afternoon freaked me out. It's most likely with him that his brain wears out, but I think I liked it better when his brain wore out and he went feral fast, instead of this new thing of slowing down. And he's been doing his misfiring brain staring stuff at night way more. Maybe it means he's trying REALLY hard to hold it together, but I don't think that's a direction we want to go.

So it's training and handling. The more I improve my handling, the more consistent they should be. The more I improve my training, the more consistent they should be.

But I'm frustrated that I still can't do either well enough to get consistency at this point in our agility careers.

Elf said...

Oh, Laura. I was sitting in the lower bleachers crying by myself for a dozen reasons that I'll whine about on my own time. Sometimes it all seems so impossible. You work way harder than I do at agility, and at the same time I think your dogs are way more challenging than mine. You do a fabulous job with all of them, and still sometimes it's hard to know why things happen the way they do. Remington used to go from winning NADAC elite jumpers runs (which is tough to do, because of the speed) to walking through gamblers openings. With him, I finally realized that I had to just run and have fun and not care about Qs and also just run him maybe 2 or 3 runs a day and not practice much during the week. Absence [from doing agility] made his heart grow fonder. But I don't know whether I'd have had the strength to do all that if I hadn't had Jake, who was more reliable on the speed and also had the benefit of better training and wouldn't shut down. Tika was an utter disaster in so many ways her first couple of years of agility, and yet somehow, yes with work, it got better. It's just hard. I think many, if not most of us, go through these periods where there just doesn't seem to be an answer. I think you're a great handler. I wish you were training and handling my dogs!

The thing is, lots of people seem to have a handle on how to train border collies. But there aren't a lot of people who know how to train Otterpops or Gustavos, becuase, well, there' only one of each anywhere. So you're not only dealing with basic agility training, you're blazing whole new trails. Wish it were easier than that.

(And Mary, I'm amazed every time I see you and Ariel run, she is SO fast and does such amazing things for you on the course.)

team small dog said...

I guess all dogs are different to train, I don't know that mine are harder to train than any others. I know Gustavo has been harder for me to train than my other dogs, but maybe he would have been easy for someone else to train.

Lots of people have a hard time training border collies, from what I hear!

I think it's just some people are such good dog trainers, they make it look easy. I think I am one of those learners by trial and error, but I spend a bit too much time on the error side I think!

I'm not really sure why I don't give up, I did set my sights on Monday and am over feeling sorry for myself and ready to go back and practice and train some more, and just keep seeing if we can get better at it.

Also for sure I'm not listening to that radio station anymore. Hopefully Otterpop's personality stays improved and adjusted and we can go back to regular programming.

Jodi, eh? said...

You gals sound like a whole bunch of great supportive friends. You're lucky to have each other.

andrea said...

it sounds like there was lots of good .. I work hard to hold thre good runs close and let the other ones slide far far away ... you are champions .. all of ya!

maryclover said...

Laura hang in there. Mary is so right about two two day trial weekends in a row. If TSD isn't used to that kind of trialling, it can take it's toll.

You have champion in your blood and so do Otterpop and Gustavo (and Ruby from the sidelines). So just keep on keepin on!

If it makes you feel any better Zane and I are off to World Team tryouts this weekend and tonight at class on the last run of the night I broke his tunnel. A misplaced cone scared him so much that it took almost an hour to get him back into any tunnel. I'm hoping he forgets the trauma by Friday.

Hang in there. Gustavo and Otterpop do love this game even if sometimes it can be overwhelming.

team small dog said...

Good luck to you and Zane at the tryouts, Mary C! What an exciting weekend this is going to be for all of you! If you make the team, then you will be coming out here for practices I think! Hula's Tiki Room!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've only been to Prunedale once for a trial (LONG trip for me) and I cried there too! Maybe it's a think? ahhahaha.

Back to back big shows will take it out of anyone, even Gustavo-types.

Hope things are more sunshine and rainbows now.


Anonymous said...

There were a lot of runs last weekend, do you think they'd do better running in less classes? Also, I have to say, rehome/rescues bring challenges that a well-adjusted/bred for agility puppy often doesn't bring. I've been lucky to have consistent success with all my dogs, but without question, my red bc (a rehome with baggage) was the hardest and she was also the least consistent. She is also the dog that I have learned the most from. My well-adjusted/bred for agility bc, Vic, has been so much easier and he lets me worry about things like my handling or lines, when with Starlet my handling strategies were about what would keep her happy.

And congrats on Gustavo's super Standard on Saturday!

Elf said...

@agilityfrk: My well-adjusted, bred-for-agility high-priced BC with parents and 4 siblings all with ADCHs and/or MACHs has been my most frustrating agility dog to date (of my 4 dogs all different, and the 1st 3 all rescues), at least it seems that way right now. So there are no guarantees there, either! So, yeah, Laura, you're right, some of us have trouble training BCs, too. :-)

team small dog said...

Yes, I think they are so used to competing for one day that the long weekend was hard for them. Especially Gustavo. That happened to him last summer when we did the same thing, 2 long shows in a row and by the end of regionals he was a fried, horrible mess. I think I was hoping he was growing up, but yes, clearly it is still not his thing to do so much agility for so many days.

Otterpop is kind of the wild card. Sometimes she can go go go. Other times, like on Sunday, nuh uh. A lot of times she can be awful in the morning, then get used to the ring and the judge, then be great later in the day. This one, she just quit at the end. I never know with her if it's mental, sore, both.

I keep thinking the better I train, the better I handle, the better fitness they have, that they can be consistent in the ring, but there might be things about them that are forever out of my hands.

Anonymous said...

@Elf, no question some dogs are harder than others, but if I have to deal with issues, it's easier for me, if I know the full history (what did I reward too much, what didn't I reward enough...). Obviously, some people have the gift for creating consistent fast teammates over and over again. Most people have to work harder for it.

just a reader said...

Oh, I have a consistently snail-slow border collie (sometimes she connects to her mothership, just like G) so yeah... it's not always rainbows and butterflies with BCs either.
But it's good to hear tsd rocked the last practice!