A Touch of Summer in Fall on Long Island

In the spring and fall, agility trials are so plentiful around here that you might have a choice of several venues and locations on any given weekend. This past weekend there was Skyline’s CPE trial in Stony Point and two AKC trials – a small one on Long Island and a larger one in eastern PA. Door #1, door #2 or door #3? The CPE trial was the closest and being a Skyline member I rarely pass up a club trial, but I’m prioritizing on AKC these days so I broke with tradition and went with door #2 – the Long Island trial.

I’m not at all sorry I did! While participants at the other trials ended up slogging through a cross between agility and mud wrestling, we had great footing and not a drop of rain. If I were to be picky, I would have preferred it to have been about 10 degrees cooler and a little less humid, but it overall we lucked out big-time. A great judge and some fun courses rounded out the weekend.

Big news of the weekend was that Raven got her AXJ on Saturday on a very technical course which didn’t yield a lot of Q ribbons! We had some weebly-wobbly lines which cost us time, but her short body and responsiveness make her fun to handle on that kind of course.

I don’t always bother to take a toy when we win one, but I couldn’t resist that one – it’s a Halloween bat and it’s too cute!

I think Jayda would have done well on that course too, had she not taken down the triple early on. She was feeling rather stressed on Saturday and I think she was taking off early, because she ticked the triple on her Standard run also. After she dropped the bar, I decided to try a blind cross in part of the course – I was really itching to try it, but would never have had the guts if there was a Q on the line. It almost worked – I didn’t give her long legs quite enough room and pushed her to the wrong side of the jump. But she took the cue nicely and didn’t even look at the off course tunnel – had I stepped a little deeper into the pocket and given her the room she needed, it would have been really nice – that move is filed away for future use :).

It was a jumpers kind of weekend. Sunday’s course was promised to be a “wahoo” course, and it was, with lots of running for dogs and handlers alike. On Sunday Jayda was much more relaxed and this time BOTH girls Q’d in JWW. Raven started out very sluggish (she’s not a fan of hot weather) but picked up speed about 4 obstacles into the course, JUST squeaking by on time for her first MXJ leg. Jayda finished the weekend with a beautiful, attentive 1st place run, beating Raven’s time for her 4th MJP leg and the most points she’s ever earned in a Jumpers run! Wahoo, Jayda :)!

So the new Family Challenge is on: Which sister will get her Master Jumpers title first? Stay tuned!

NADAC Weekend (and videos)

Last weekend we did the SCOR NADAC trial. Cheap entry fees and close to home – how could I resist? We lucked into some beautiful weather and had a lot of fun. BTW, totally LOVED that they chose to offer “per owner” discount pricing packages. I run multiple dogs and since I don’t run any of them in all classes I usually wind up paying top dollar for my runs. Thanks SCOR, much appreciated. I wish more clubs and venues would price like this!

And we even have some video! I rarely think to ask anyone to video my runs and I really should do so more often. I’m not the most elegant handler and I usually cringe when I watch the playback (blame my parents – I NEEDED ballet lessons, I got piano lessons) but I always come away with something to work on. Anyway, huge thanks to Jane and Sue for videoing us!

Bryce likes NADAC because not only do they let Little Old Men like him jump 8″, but there are so many classes without contacts that he gets some variety too. Several people commented on how happy he looked this weekend :). Here he is in Tunnelers:

There’s no such thing as too much Bryce, so here he is in Jumpers. There’s a hill on this field and the old man wasn’t lovin’ those uphill sprints. Can’t say I blame him, by the end of the weekend my legs felt like LEAD!

Bryce had an “interesting” Hoopers run. He started out running normally … all of a sudden he sat down and started pulling at his tail hair. TOTALLY unlike him to stop mid-run, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t anything that hurt (a leaf, maybe?) so I got him moving again. Did a few more hoops, he stopped AGAIN. “Restarted” him a second time, finished the course (squeezing in just barely 1″ under time). As soon as he jumped into my arms I reached around to see what was going on back there… and tangled in his “pants” was a 6″ long pine twig! Yep – that would do it. Poor guy – he ran the course and got his Outstanding Hoopers title with a STICK stuck on his butt! How embarassing! (Sorry – no video of this.)

(I made a point of doing “inspection” before the rest of our runs!)

Raven was looking great in all weekend. When she’s “on” she’s so much fun :)! Here she is in Tunnelers. She went wide on those 180’s – that “bungee” effect you get from some fast dogs when (ahem!) the handler stops moving (I “flailed” too – ugh!) – but she isn’t as obstacle focused as my “big dogs” so if I’d taken off running I would have risked her missing the tunnel entrance altogether. See? Something to work on.

Jayda ran well all weekend, but we struggle for time in the upper levels. She’s right on the “bubble” and the least little hesitation puts us over, which kind of sucks. NADAC’s big distances between obstacles are the worst – she’s faster on more tightly-spaced courses. For those of you who don’t know Jayda, Jayda really enjoys DOING agility but she’s a VERY nervous and environmentally sensitive dog. She’s MUCH better than she was, but it’s difficult for her to let loose and RUN at a trial. However she often makes up in steadiness for what she lacks in speed. We made time on this course and finished her Elite Regular title.

Note the little look over her shoulder as she came out of the blue tunnel. Photographer was back there, I think.

My Clever Girls

It finally stopped snowing … I think! Flowers are blooming, outdoor agility trials are doable again. Spring? Maybe, just maybe!

Redbud Tree


At the risk of boring you with Yet Another Stupid, Boring Ribbon Photo, I’m going to post one anyway. Here are the spoils from our first 2 (one day each) AKC trials so far this year: We do pretty well in AKC … when we actually ENTER some TRIALS :). What a concept!

Jayda and Raven - AKC, Spring 2011

Jayda finished her OAP, got her first OFP Q and her first 2 Q’s in Ex B JWW. As of July 1 she will have 6 PACH points – look out world, only 744 to go :)! Seriously, I want her MJP/MXP and think a PAX is doable. I’m not ruling OUT a PACH (anything’s possible), but unless we can pick up a LOT of points in standard it could get awfully pricey chasing those points. Then again, if there’s one thing to be said about Jayda, it’s that she’s full of surprises. We’ll see.

Raven got 2 Q’s in Open JWW to finish her OAJ and join her sister in Excellent – yay! She also got her first Novice Standard Q – which was a pleasant surprise, considering I uh – only got serious about teaching her the broad jump and the chute about 2-3 weeks before the trial :)! Her 2nd attempt the chute was a little twisted – she could have gotten through it, but she didn’t THINK she could and gave up. Back to the drawing board on chutes, and mental note to check the chute before we run and call for a “chute fluffer” to fix it if necessary!

I’m starting to taper off NADAC and CPE to focus more on our goals in AKC. Not leaving either venue completely, but I’m doing NADAC mostly for Bryce these days, and CPE … I want to finish Jayda’s C-ATCH2 in the next year (9 Q’s away) and her C-ATCH3 eventually, but CPE will become purely a winter sport for us (hard to resist 4-6 trials in our own training building!). I have to say that now that my dogs are all past the green dog stage I find CPE trials a combination of exhausting, expensive, and … dare I say it … kinda boring. Might go back to USDAA one of these days or try UKI, but Jayda’s not really a USDAA kind of girl.

AKC, Course Map Chants, and Murphy’s Laws of Agility

So this past weekend we did an AKC trial. I was smart and entered the 2 days it didn’t rain! I used to do this particular trial all the time but haven’t gone to it in a few years. There’s always a conflict with something closer, but I really want to get going on Jay-ven’s AKC titles so this time it won out. It was fun seeing people I don’t run into that often … and to count the double-takes when they saw me there. Not one but TWO people I knew got MACH’s – that was nice!

Two weekends ago, we were at a CPE trial on a beautiful, secluded site. A gruelling hike to the tenting area, even from the drop off zone, but perfect for a dog like Jayda because everything was far from the rings. This weekend’s trial was a BIG outdoor trial – about 3x as many people and lots going on. I knew it would be challenging for Jayda, I think I underestimated HOW overwhelming it would be.

Re: Jayda’s Agility Skills

When it comes to technical skills and her understanding of handling cues, Jayda is definitely playing with a full deck … but occasionally she gets flustered and drops her cards.

Jayda isn’t afraid of people – she likes most people. She just doesn’t deal well with new things and people sitting elbow-to-elbow all around the Excellent ring watching her run was initially too novel for her. Two jumps into her first run , and she had an “OMFG” moment, leading to a few extra, random jumps. I got her attention back, picked up the course at the nearest obstacle and ran the remaining 2/3 sans weaves but otherwise cleanly – to my surprise, earning us a bit of applause from ringside. It must have been a fairly impressive recovery? Aw, thanks you guys :)!

She was still a little stressy during Open Standard – ran a nice course but lost it in the poles.

Raven fared much better, picking up a whopping 67 pts her first time in Novice FAST (with 7 seconds to spare), and a 1st and Q in Nov JWW. Everything’s interesting, nothing phases her – she played tug with me and kept sticking her head in the equipment buckets looking at all the kewl stuff in there (Jayda wanted nothing to do with those creepy buckets.) If she had a complaint it would be that there was an awful lot of walking for her short little legs.

Murphy’s Law of Agility Trials:

If you have classes in multiple rings, you will at some point in the day have to be in two places at once, regardless of how carefully the trial schedule is planned. The odds of this increase exponentially, depending on how many dogs you are running.

With Jayda popping the poles twice in a row, I was determined get in some weave review work in before Sunday. It was dark when we got home Saturday but fortunately we didn’t have to be there early the next morning, so there I was in my teeny little yard at 6:30 AM Sunday with a tape measure and my stick-in-ground weaves. While setting up, I saw some mushrooms towards the end of the little grass patch – UGH! I’m MAJOR paranoid about mushrooms, so that meant I also had to get out the trowel and dig up my yard before we could practice. By the time I was done, I had just enough time to reinforce a couple of sets of weaves – oh well, better than nothing!

Saturday was perfect weather – moderate and sunny. Sunday was cloudy, cold and windy. Wind is not Jayda’s favorite thing – things blow around, move, make noise … way too unpredictable!

Murphy’s Second Law of Agility Trials:

Your dog will be farthest from whichever of those 2 courses you need to run first. (If you try to cheat this law by setting up your crates equidistant to both rings, YOU will somehow end up on the opposite side of the trial grounds.. like in the porta-johns or something… when they start calling you.)

Murphy’s First and Second laws made an appearance for Jayda’s runs on Sunday. I never take her out early because she stresses, but I thought I had time to check on ring 1’s timing and still get her to ring 3 in time for her run. As luck would have it, 2 dogs weren’t there and I arrived at ring #3 just AFTER they marked me absent and were setting up the next height! Ack!!! Fortunately, the judge let me run at the end of the class. Took Jayda back to her crate, went back to ring #1, which was now just about to walk Ex JWW.

Afraid of missing her run AGAIN, I kinda rushed the walkthrough. There was also a big crowd of people walking, so it’s not like it was easy to get your bearings in a couple of quick passes. I do, however, have a little trick that I use: “The Course Map Chant”.

The Course Map Chant™ (“CMC”) Method of Course Memorization:

When walking the course, make up and memorize a silly little ditty (optionally set to music), telling yourself what handling you plan to do and which direction the course goes. For example, a jww course may go something like this: “One two cross, three four cross, bear right 6 7 8 – weave – 10 … eleven cross, push out, ser-pen-tine and done!”

When I’ve adequately walked a course, I do my little chant in my head while running and everything just flows. If I haven’t walked the course enough, I have something to fall back on (besides the numbers) to me keep from getting lost, though my timing will suffer. It may not be pretty but it can salvage an entry fee, and with AKC entries at a going rate of $24 for the first run in these parts, … well … salvage baby, salvage!

So I did my quickie-walkthrough grabbed Jayda and headed over to the other ring … only to have a dozen things cause delay after delay after delay. With the dog that stresses when she waits – wonderful! Between that and the wind and course builders starting to anticipate setting the next course, by the time I got her into the ring I was sure we were headed for a one-way trip to Meltdownville. I took off her leash, squeezed her shoulders, told her she could do it…

And we had an AWESOME run! We used our one-refusal ticket with a false start at the poles, but once she went in my 7AM training paid off and they were perfect.

How awesome? The judge actually came up to us afterwards and told me how much she enjoyed watching us! She thought it was “very pretty” and liked that I was nice to my dog the entire time – wow, and what a sweet thing to say :)!

Ran from there back to the Ex JWW ring, where it was almost our turn. By this time I was feeling more confident and knew Jayda had at least run off some of her nerves, but that was the “busy” ring again.

We had a little hesitation in the poles when she eyeballed the crowd for a second, but I got her through clean and ran the rest clean and under time! Had some wobbly spots where I had to rely on “the chant” because I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going, but Jayda’s such a good egg – she made us look good.

After a LONG break, I ended the weekend with an exhilarating JWW run with Raven, where “sticky-pup” amazed me by going into obstacle focus for several jumps, diving ahead into the poles at full speed …and sticking them! Damn, that girl can weave! Woohoo, Babydog! Just one little moment of “the bouncies” near the end to slow us down, but that was good enough for a 29″ run, a 1st place Q and a title. On to Open!

Raven also saw her cousin Zinna at the trial – the two girls thought this family reunion called for a party, but since we were waiting to run, the timing (not to mention the location) was rather innapropriate so Terry and I had to be the fun police. A play date may be in order – can you say “22 lbs of cuteness :)?”