Monday, April 9, 2012

The Letter M

Now that the craziness of AKC Nationals is over, it's back to focusing on training and preparing for the summer trials. We're in a second set of classes where we're working through the "Alphabet Drills" book. The past couple of weeks we've worked on the letter M, which has involved mostly serpentines.

I feel that Dally handles serpentines very well--she runs tight and quick through them. LaMesa, being young, still isn't as comfortable with serpentines as Dally, but she's starting to get the idea of them. I love serpentines because of the ease Dally handles them, so I like the letter M.

Because of Dally's travel during the past couple of weeks, LaMesa was the one I handled throughout the session, working on crisscrossing with rear and front crosses. We're still working on getting the hang of rear crosses, but we're getting there. I seem to have issues with my arms and being a little too dependent on using them to direct LaMesa in rear crosses, when it's really about moving my body and shoulders. So I've been trying to work on LaMesa recognizing my body movement and following that, rather than just my arms.

One key thing Melanie hammered into my head was that I have to wait for LaMesa to get in front of me and cross my path before I can have her switch--this is for both rears on the flat and over jumps. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, when you think about it. So now I'm trying to remember that, and remember to decelerate when we get to a point so she can get in front of me and switch. I'm finding myself looking down at the ground more watching her to cross my path so we can switch. That's not very efficient, but I'm hoping that after a while both LaMesa and I will get more comfortable with rear crosses I can bring my eyes up and be more aware of the course and not watching the ground.

I purchased a new jump from Max200 at Nationals, so now I'm lucky enough to have three jumps right now to work with in the backyard, until Merinda needs her jump back (then I'll be back down to two). So I'm hoping to set up some more things like the letter "M" and serpentines for LaMesa, as well as some three-jump gymnastics to continue working on her jumping form--it's getting better, which is great!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dally Takes on Nationals: Wrap-Up

Reno: The Biggest Little City in the World
Dally: The Biggest Little Corgi in the World
It's been a week since we ventured to Reno and competed in the AKC National Agility Championships. It started off very rocky because Wednesday, before I left for Reno, I was informed that my grandmother (my mom's mother, my last grandparent) had passed away. My mom reassured me that I needed to continue to compete at Nationals, and to know that my grandma would be very proud of me. She was very instrumental in the dog world--breeding, raising, and showing dogs and doing obedience and even dabbling in the beginnings of agility. It seemed rather apropos that life came full-circle with her youngest granddaughter to be competing in the AKC National Agility Championships.

It definitely was very worthwhile and something I will remember for a very long time. Did we win? No, but I knew that was going to be a long shot, but I just wanted to have a solid showing and prove that Dally was an agility dog. You see, because she wasn't necessarily bred, or even purchased, for agility, so she's not a natural. Yes, she's slow, yes she's the kind that she doesn't always go along with the plan, but she's smart and she's willing to do what I ask her because she loves me, and I love her. We've been through a lot together since I bought her in 2005, and she's definitely my heart dog. I wanted to show that you don't have to have a fast Border Collie to be competitive. I want to earn our PAX, and hopefully our PACH, and I want to do it while having fun. Not many have taken us seriously, but maybe now that we've qualified for Nationals, as well as moved onto the Challengers Round, I hope we are taken seriously.
Partners for life

The experience charged me up for the future possibilities. I want to qualify Dally again and improve upon our 8th place overall finish. I would love to qualify LaMesa because I see the dogs that are towards the top and I see LaMesa and her no-holds-bar attitude. I see so much potential in my little Vallhund that it drives me crazy! I have to remind myself that she's only 2 and we haven't even been competing in trials a year yet. But then I think about the future and wonder if our time is limited, especially when it comes to Dally (who will turn 7 in July) and my life and the flexibility I have with it right now. Will it still be flexible a year from now? Two? Even three?

Watching some of the top teams at Nationals showed that no matter what, it's all about having fun with your teammate. Kathy and Zinger, who were leading the 4-inches going into the Finals, made one little bobble in the Finals that knocked her from first to third. But she still has the most fun with her little tri-color Pembroke and she did her best to keep a positive outlook on everything. She cheered everyone on, after she took some time to herself. She is the ultimate agility competitor because she's about the fun and about her teammate. I have to be more like that, with both girls. This is fun--the dogs do it because you want them to, and they want to please you. Yes, you're paying a lot of money for the classes, seminars, trials, hotels, etc. So you do want to make the most of each run. But you have to live in the moment and be thankful that you can run with your dog.

So, I came away with memories, photos, a couple of ribbons, a new Max200 jump (yay!), and lots to work on. I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to go and compete. I hope every agility team has the same opportunity.

Hope to see you in Tulsa in 2013!!

Our entire AKC NAC Wrap-Up:

The future is endless for me and agility.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dally Takes on Nationals: Part 3

Note: Dally is finally home! Yay!! Roger made the 36 hour trip in only two days, stopping only at North Platte, Neb., to sleep Monday night. He pulled into his driveway in Columbus, Ohio, at 2 am Wednesday. Camille drove up that morning to pick Dally and Gus up from Carol (who picked up Hope along with the other two) and brought Dally to my office at 5 last night. She's very happy to be home, and LaMesa is very happy her sister has reappeared.

Sunday was an early morning, with walk-throughs starting at 6:30. Dally was one of the first dogs on the line, so I had to get there to walk the course, walk her, and wake her up and get her revved and ready to go. And of course this was a morning that Dally decided to not poop before our run, which made me nervous (while she's never done it on an indoor course, she has been known to eliminate some extra weight right before she climbed the Aframe, which is what I was worried about her doing in Hybrid--trust me, it's an agility handler's biggest fear and embarrassment).

The opening for the Hybrid course was a very demotivating one for all dogs, especially Dally. She's the kind of dog you don't want to do a start-line stay with because that demotivates her from the start, and it's hard to get her going after that. With Dally, I'm more of a rev-her-up-drop-and-go handler (as you have seen from my videos) because that's what works--make it a game and make her chase me. But with this opening, and with my heel still hurting badly, I couldn't easily do that--so I had to rev her up, then tell her to wait real quick while I got into position--this confused her greatly (not really what you want in Round 3 of Nationals). It was a slow, but steady run--we were clean, but just two seconds over the standard course time, which left us with a score of 96 (three points for every second you're late). I had hoped to have a clean Hybrid round for a cumulative score of 300, and a better chance at making the Challengers Round. Instead, the score of 96 placed us 10th in Round 3, and I was nervous it would hurt our chances for a fourth run on the weekend.

Revving Dally up with the tennie before

So then the long wait began... It had been my primary goal to make it to the Challengers Round. I wasn't sure if Dally would be fast enough to win it, but just to be in that round is an honor. (Deep down inside I had a goal of making it to the finals, but once I saw how slowly Dally was moving on the weekend, I figured it'd pretty difficult to get into the top three in our jump height.) After a couple of hours, I went upstairs to the computers and stared at the giant screen for what seemed like forever, chatting with some handlers in my height class, just waiting to see who made the Finals and who would be challenging for the fourth Finals spot. I chatted with the gal who ran behind me all weekend, with her (very) Miniature Schnauser, Dudley. She was just happy to have qualified for Nationals with all the problems Dudley had had last year. I felt the same way, but my competitiveness wanted more. Finally, the results came up and there was a "C" by Dally's name--we made the Challenger's Round! It was time to walk her until she pooped and study the course map.

After 20 minutes, or so, of walking around the fairgrounds in the chilly air, studying to course map, Dally did her thing and it was time for me to do mine. I stood by the ring for more than an hour waiting for our walk-through (they were running behind, but no one bothered to tell the mass of people waiting to walk that it'd be a while before we walked). That was the worst part--the waiting. My foot hurt, I had to use the bathroom, my mind was playing tricks on me from the course map--so many things were going through my mind that I just wanted to walk the course, then get my dog and run. After walking with the rest of the Preferreds, I raced to my crate to grab Dally (we were the third dog on the line). I got her warmed up and moving--threw the tennie, did our stretches, focused on my plan. It was time to line up....and then it wasn't. (There was an error on the gate sheet where they had the #1 dog in our height running in Challengers when she didn't have to.) So I pulled Dally out of the line up and tried to get her focused back on me. Again, time to line up.... Wait...there's been another mix up. So, again I pull her out and keep her focused. People with little dogs were picking them up, allowing their leashes to swing to the ground, each time hitting Dally on the head, in the face, or on the butt--she did not approve. was time. The crowd was roaring for each runner because in Challengers (I don't have the video from that run, yet, but I will soon) you give it all you've got--it's all or nothing. Winner moves onto the Finals, the rest enjoy a seat in the stands and start planning for next year. When Dally and I finally got on the start line, the crowd started cheering, which spooked her more than I thought it would. She started over the first jump for the opening 180 (yes, the judges love those now) and when the crowd cheered, she jumped sideways between the two jumps towards me, causing a refusal and the crowd to go "Awwww..." No worries. I pushed her back around and we continued through the course....slowly. Dally was stressing, and I was fighting back the stress of not wanting to lose my dog in front of everyone--I just wanted to finish the course.
Dally enjoyed a beef tendon while we watched the Finals
Round--she deserved a special treat and time with her

We made it through...she popped out at the end of the weaves (which caught a lot of the top teams, since they were weaving white poles towards a white fence with a white wall behind the fence). I decided not to make her go through the weaves again because I wanted this to be a positive experience for her, not a stressful one. We weren't going to win Challengers with a score of 90 (that is, if we made time), so why force it? We ended the run, and I picked her up and hugged her, kissing her head and thanking her for being my partner through the weekend. It was an emotional ending to the weekend, and I was glad it was over...



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dally Takes On Nationals: Part 2

Day 2 of Nationals was actually officially Day 1, because the real competition started with jumpers with weaves and standard. This was where the runs really counted and you wanted to be clean--this is where the pressure started.

Our two clean round ribbons from Day 1.
We ran jumpers about mid-morning in Ring 4 (the dark, smaller ring). I was OK with running in Ring 4 because it was quieter, but the area to line up to go into the ring was cramped and harried. Surprisingly, I didn't feel many nerves (which, if you know me, you know that's amazing--I'm a very intense competitor in everything I do), I just wanted to get Dally out there and I wanted us to run. It was a doable course (which I was told is typical for the first two rounds because they want fast runs), so I was looking forward to seeing what Dally and I could show to the rest of the nation.

Dally started out strong, but she kept slowing to shake her head--not sure what that all was about, so that ate up a little bit of time. I was happy with how she handled the tight turns (she's efficient about taking the jump in the correct places when we handle things like pinwheels) and she nailed her weave poles with a consistent speed. She was running happy, and that was all that mattered to me. We finished with a clean round and in seventh place--not bad.

After what was some odd weather (between our Jumpers and Standard run, the area experienced a dust storm, followed by sideways rain with winds at 60-70 mph, followed by a 20 minute blizzard), it was finally time for Standard. It was a twisty, but still fast, course that I had to try to remember for more than two hours, since we walked it and then the 4s were all the way at the bottom of the list. Dally and I ended up being one of the last teams to run for the day, and I couldn't help but remember my trainer/friend's video from her Nationals run where she and her dog, Grace, were the last team to run Jumpers and Melanie ended up running into a jump--I did not want that to be me! (And I didn't want to be get lost on the course.)

The "roomies' in front of the Expo sign announcing Nationals.

My nerves were turned up as I waited...and waited....and waited. I didn't see anyone else run the opening like I had walked it, so I started to re-think things. A quick text to Melanie reassured me to "run my course" and have faith in myself and Dally. So we marched out, I roughed her up (I would really love to hear people's reactions when they see Dally reaching around like she's trying to bite me when I pick her up), and we set out for the run.

She started out fast through the first 180, but then the second 180 she slowed down (which I was afraid of, because it is very demotivating for a dog). It took me a while to get her to pick her speed back up, but she plodded through the course, staying focused on me through the whole thing. She nailed all 12 weaves (though I was concerned at the end when she started to weave wide around the last couple...) and then we sprinted to the finish. Another clean round, this time placing 8th, but we were sitting 7th overall for 4-inches.

After a short "Corgi Cooldown," we packed things up to head back to the hotel so the furkids could rest and we could go to dinner. Carol and Hope were celebrating two clean rounds as well, and the Final Four were playing, so off to Claim Jumper for dinner and some beer. We went back and tried to go to bed early because Sunday was going to be an early day--first walk-throughs for Hybrid started at 7, and I was in the first group. We were still stuck on Eastern time, but thankfully we were tired enough it didn't matter.


(Sidenote: Dally made it back to Columbus, Ohio, at 2 this morning--Roger made the 36 hour drive in two days! Camille is picking her and Gus up from Carol late this morning and then heading south. I can't wait to have my bunny butt back home!!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dally Takes on the AKC Nationals Pt 1

After what has seemed like a whirlwind weekend of travel, runs, sightseeing, and lack of sleep, I'm finally back from my travel to Reno while Dally is en route to Lexington via Roger's car. We've completed AKC Nationals 2012, and I don't know who's more exhausted (by this time tomorrow, that answer will be Dally, as she'll still be travelling!).
I'll probably try to review the weekend in more than one post, just because there's so much to tell...
Last Monday Dally began her trip West with Roger and five other dogs: Gus (Papillon), Hope (Pembroke Welsh Corgi), Scribbles (French Bulldog), Aussie (Australian Shepherd), and Keebler (Pembroke Welsh Corgi...with a tail). Roger drove for three days, stopping in North Platte, Neb., the first night; Salt Lake City the second; and finally in Reno the third. We flew out Thursday morning, so the reunion was a sweet one that afternoon. I was so happy to see my Corg, and she was pretty excited, too.

After being reunited with the furkids, we set off to check in at the Expo Center to get our exhibitor packets, sign-up for our Friday warm-up run, and settle things in our stall. Check-in was fairly easy, and that allowed us to get in and get out, and then head for a late lunch/early dinner at a Mexican restaurant (agility people love Mexican, ok?).
See the wild horses in the background of Dally's profile?
After a little bit of relaxing in the hotel room, we set off on an adventure to find wild horses in the desert mountains with some friends of Roger and Elissa's. We took the dogs with us, which meant Dally got to see horses and bark....a lot.
After some wild horse spotting, and a few candid photos, we found two of the (many) brothels in the mountains and I took the opportunity to get a photo of Dally in front of the Wild Horse Brothel and Mustang Ranch--goal #1 complete of my photo tour of Reno!

We turned in early to prepare for Friday and our warm-up Standard run.
At the AKC National Agility Championships, there are four rings going at once--three in the main Expo Center, and one in the Livestock Pavilion, which was also where our inside stall was. Ring 4 was also smaller, and darker, than the three other rings, and we got to run our warm-up and Jumpers run in that small ring--yippee.
Dally handled the warm-up run just fine, minus missing her weave pole entrance and then popping out at 10. (She was going at a good clip in the weaves, and I didn't want to stress her in the ring before the big event, so I just pushed her on--so what if she's not clean in the warm-up round, right?)

The "roomies" in front of the Reno Livestock Expo Center.
We didn't enter Time2Beat on Friday because I knew she didn't have the chance to be the fastest dog for the automatic bid to the Challengers Round, plus she's not really a three-day trial dog--I needed her at her best for the next two days.

So after our warm-up runs, we did some more sightseeing--this time driving up into the (prettier) mountains to find Lake Tahoe and see it from the mountains and from the shoreline. It was beautiful! We saw lots of snow (we only had one day of snow all winter long), and took some photos of the pups in the snow with the mountains in the background. We got up to at least 8,1000 feet in elevation when we saw Lake Tahoe from above--it was very cold and very windy up there. Then we made the trek back down the mountain to see the lake from the shore--talk about peaceful, I could stand and listen to the waves crashing on the shoreline all day (if it wasn't so gosh darn cold!). I took some photos of Dally on the beach, until the waves crashed up and spooked her, then we drove back towards Reno via Crescent City, which was a nice change.

We had dinner and relaxed in the hotel room, in preparation for the big event to start...


Together in front of Lake Tahoe.