Monday, October 19, 2009

Mattaponi and Virginia

What a whirlwind week! On Tuesday we went to the Bouvier des Flandres of America (sounds more important than it is) agility trial in Essex Junction - hard to pass up a local trial that is so close to home. It was the club's national specialty and while last Monday was a GORGEOUS fall day, Tuesday was MISERABLE! Rain, wind and 39 degrees. I went because I wanted to see what Teller thought of 24" weaves and also to see where our contacts were now.

So, 24" weaves - they weren't a big deal in Novice FAST with six poles, we NQ'ed on time after a lovely run when I got in his way and we spent 10 seconds goofing around at the finish jump - oh well...In Open STD, he gave me another lovely run - popping out at pole 7 of the weaves and then blowing the a-frame. In a very technical (and slippery) Excellent JWW he was so on - got his weave entry then just sort of fell out in the middle. He finished nicely....

There's a bit of a trend here. For a while (July) we had great contacts but were having weave problems - either entries or poles 8 or 10. The 8 or 10 problem was basically striding - he started bouncing more - and indeed in the 24" weaves he was bouncing higher - which was odd. He was also JEEPED in the cool wet weather - so that could be part of it. Then in September we had LOVELY weaves but started having problems with the A-Frame contact. We're in the process of going back to Rachel Sander's Reliable running A-Frame (box work). While we're doing box work I've been using his willingness to DROP to get the A-Frame contacts - however, on Tuesday I didn't get the word "DOWN" out in time to affect the contact performance. He's such a young dog still - sometimes it's easy to forget that. He gives me such great moments, he'll come together in time. So I've got to remember that it's OK that something falls out as something else gets stronger. One of our fellow competitors (who has an AWESOME golden) made some time to come over and tell me how well he's doing - he's going to be there. I just have to be patient :-)

The next day (Wednesday) Teller went in for CERF and cardiac clearances - he passed both (yay). The clinic ran SOOOO late, so instead of getting on the road at 9:00 we didn't get on the road until nearly 11:30, then driving 11 hours to northern VA to visit my mom and dad. We ran into an accident (and a closed road) on I-295 which further delayed us - we didn't get there until 11pm - and my folks are NOT night owls!

I did the tourist thing on Thursday and Friday - but unfortunately I brought the cold weather down there with me - it was upper 40's low 50's all four days I was down there - with drizzling rain and wind...NOT FUN. The weather affected my tourism opportunities and also my ability to get the dogs out to run...that and that there are ZERO places within 30 miles of my parent's house to run the dogs - I spent over 2 hours on Friday looking for a fenced place to run the dogs as my parents have an invisible fence - but my dogs are not radio trained - I'm pretty sure Teller would take a shock to go see a squirrel, deer or dog-fearing child anyhow.

Saturday and Sunday we were entered in the Mattaponi Kennel Club Agility trial (held here: http://www.cedarrunhc.com/). It was in a HUGE indoor arena. I was impressed with the footing - I expected the sand to be much deeper - I was pleasantly surprised - sand with a lot of rubber. The dogs had great traction on that surface and it appeared to be pretty clean. Folks in Virginia are apparently not used to 40 degrees and raining - so it was funny to see so many dogs (of all breeds - including nordic breeds) wearing coats! I worked out of my car, which I think works well for Teller - the trick is to not bring him in too soon. So on Saturday I brought him in, let him see the place and smell the place - played some attention games - which all went very well, then put him away again. Saturday's STD and JWW runs were in direct conflict - chaos. I ended up running JWW first - Teller gave me a great effort and came out with a 2nd and Q for his second Ex A JWW leg. Standard was a trappy course - but so much fun to run. I'm not sure if it was that I didn't know a soul - or we were just connected but we put down a 51 second STD run (SCT was 71) and we missed the weave entry, popped out and had to restart - and STILL came in so under time. I was bummed about the weaves, but thrilled with the contacts (A-Frame and dogwalk) and how nicely he worked for me a mere 10 minutes after his JWW run.

Sunday we ran STD first, blew the entry to the weaves and he put his head down before jumping on the table (that's two R's). On Sunday I rear-crossed the weaves in JWW, he made his entry and I thought he was committed to the poles and he wasn't - oh well! The rest of the run was on the money - there was a really low Q rate on that course - lots of traps - so I was pleased that we made it through everything else.

In the larger scheme of things: Teller saw his first horses - on Sunday one walked within 10' and he didn't bark, nor try to eat it. Teller did not try to eat or roll in horse poop, and as clean as that arena looked, that my fleece and jeans from the weekend STILL smells like horses means that there were horse smells in there - and he wasn't at all sniffy...There were a lot of pigeons in the arena - flying back and forth all day - which he noted and then ignored. When that dog is on, he's so on and I love that about him.

Both boys handled integration with my parent's dogs beautifully. Their aussie is a bossy control freak and has bitten Murphy a couple of times in the past - always when Teller and their lab are playing - he gets frustrated so he takes it out on Murphy. Murph spent the weekend giving him a wide berth - calmly avoiding the ruckus. Teller took the bossy aussie in stride, managing the situation with looks and dismissal. There was no chasing of their kitty (who unlike Q does not believe that she's a dog). Teller had his stuff stolen all weekend (his chewies, his toys) and gave them freely. Now the barking when my parents got up at 5am - that was unnecessary...but considering we NEVER stay in other people's houses and I NEVER ask them to integrate into other packs (sharing chewies, water bowls, toys, and kitties) they did really well. They're good boys and I tend to not give them enough credit.

In all, the agility community in VA did not appear to be all that different than the scene in New England. I would have expected some more diversity - it's still a "white lady" sport, there are the same "super-stars" - young, amazingly athletic and talented handlers (they were really super sportswomen too) going for world-team spots. But the majority of the folks are out there to play with their dogs and have fun. Lots and lots of rooting for everyone else - collective "ooohhhhhhhs" when a dog got sucked off-course - which happened a lot! Lots and lots of running contacts and lots of blind crosses. Those super-star types used a lot of blind crosses - which worked beautifully for them (remember fast, athletic, talented) but didn't seem to work as well for the not so fast and not so athletic. I didn't see as many lead-outs as I would have expected - I had some comments about my four jump lead-out on Saturday. There were quite a few straight lines, tunnels were used as traps in almost every course I saw....

We got home in under 9 hours today (we went I-95 by way of the Jersey Turnpike all the way to New Haven where we picked up I-91). I think it saved some time over the I-87 to Fort Ann - all those back roads can go either way - but we're limited to 50mph for well over 100 miles and in heavy tractor trailer traffic it's a nightmare..that and they closed the Champlain Bridge - that thing is a death-trap anyhow.

As with everything as nice as it was to visit - it's great to be back home again. Q missed us. I heard him crying from the driveway before I'd even gotten into the house. I know he was well cared for while I was gone, he was fed and watered and he's not big on attention from me - but he loves his dogs and really misses his Murphy.

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