Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Luck at AKC Nationals!!!

We here at Team Magica (the parent organization of 'Team Teller') would like to wish all of our New York and New England friends the very best of luck at AKC Nationals this weekend. We're rooting for you and we love you! Run fast, run clean and most importantly have fun and enjoy the moments with your dogs and the national agility community. I expect full reports of your successes!

Some useful links for following the events of the weekend:

AKC coverage of the event (links to course maps will be here posted the morning of the event):
and on the AKC Facebook page: 

AgilityVision is once again live-streaming the state ISC and the individual rounds. They'll be producing a VOD and a DVD of the challenger and final rounds. I spent hours last year watching the livestream of 2010 National Championships - it was awesome to catch "local" friends in action on a national stage.

The location for 2012 hasn't been released yet (there should be an announcement at the 2011 event), but here's the information on how to qualify for it:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

Zodiac by Neal Stephenson came highly recommended by two of my coworkers who have been passing the paperback version around the office. I didn't feel like I had enough time to read the borrowed paperback so I spent an Audible credit and downloaded the audiobook.

Audible Publisher's Summary:
Sangamon Taylor's a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil - all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places.
Before long, Taylor's house is bombed, his every move followed, he's adopted by reservation Indians, moves onto the FBI's most wanted list, makes up with his girlfriend, and plays a starring role in the near-assassination of a presidential candidate. Closing the case with the aid of his burnout roomate, his tofu-eating comrades, three major networks, and a range of unconventional weaponry, Sangamon Taylor pulls off the most startling caper in Boston Harbor since the Tea Party.
As he navigates this ecological thriller with hardboiled wit and the biggest outboard motor he can get his hands on, Taylor reveals himself as one of the last of the white-hatted good guys in a very toxic world

When I downloaded the audiobook (and until a moment ago) I didn't realize that Zodiac was a 20+ year old novel - that makes a bit more sense now and makes me a bit more forgiving of some of the less sophisticated pieces of the plot-line and certainly some of the world-ignorance of the main characters.

I almost gave up on Zodiac about 5 hours through the audiobook and if I had a book already downloaded in my listening queue I probably would have. I stuck with the book through the end and while I won't put it on my "recommend to friends" list - in the end, the total wasn't quite as bad as the first five hours.

While I value a clean environment as much as "the average bear" - I don't agree with a lot of the fruity eco-terrorist agenda that was somewhat glorified in Zodiac. I spent a great deal of the book resenting "S.T." for his methods - even in light of the on-going nuclear tragedy in Japan and the "toxic harbor" that was Boston for much of the late 1980's. There is an awful lot of wordy sections where the narrator (S.T.) just goes on and on with irrelevant mush that has zero value in the plot progression.

Ax Norman's narration was pleasant enough. Die-hard residents of Boston (and probably most of Massachusetts) with have a hard time with pronunciation of some of the places and words supposedly spoken as a native of Boston - Naaaa-tick (instead of Neigh-tick), row-te instead of root (ie route 128). Mr. Norman's timing was fine and I expect if the subject- matter had been more captivating I'd likely be much more forgiving of a botched New England dialect.

As for an over-all review: if ecological thrillers are your cup of tea and you can forgive a lot of useless statements of out-dated facts and more than a few "captain obvious" chapters you might really love "Zodiac". If you're not particularly big on the topic, leave this one on the shelf.

Zodiac by Neal Stephenson was originally published in hardcover in1988, the audiobook version of Zodiac published by Macmillan Audio has an audible release date of November 3, 2009. Zodiac was narrated by Ax Norman and has a running time of 10 hours 19 minutes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

From the barn today

Hit the NOMAD barn to work Teller this morning - I'm so loving the barn practices! Teller was super sticky today - as in working closely - I'm not sure if I was maybe handling badly or if we were just off our games today - but we both made some weird mistakes that I wouldn't have predicted from him (and myself).

Here's what was setup from the earlier league when we arrived:

I started with a lead-out pivot to #3, wrapped 3-4 and rear-crossed the weave entry. This didn't work as well as I thought it would, the first time he went in at pole 4, the second time he got the entry and popped pole 10 anticipating the a-frame....I ended up liking the LOP with a front after #4 which put him right into the weaves...I'm not sure if I saw this setup in trial I'd be brave enough to handle the weave entry with a rear-cross anyhow - especially if we were working on a QQ.

I played with the 7-8-9-10 line a little. Knowing that I wanted to be on the table side of the teeter - and knowing that I did not want to rear-cross the teeter - I tried sending to #7 tunnel, calling over #8 and running the outside line to the teeter - which worked beautifully - but he DID look at the backside of #13. On the second way through I put a front between 7-8 and another between 9-10. BIG risk of getting in his way between 9-10 though.

From the table I led out to between, did a front cross (pivot really) before 13 which took the wrong course tunnel out of play - pulled him towards the a-frame and then pushed into the #14 side of the tunnel.

On the first run-through I actually pulled him off #18 (into me) when I tried to micro-manage that line. Don't micro-manage your dog Erica!

So some bobbles - unexpectedly so - silly mistakes, Great contacts, some super contact reps with high value reinforcement for "yellow"s. Normally I take both boys to the school for a romp and retrieve after barn practices - but todays weather (30 degrees and windy as all hell) just wasn't conducive to an outing - for me anyway, I'm still a little chilled from practice. The yellows seem to be happy with that decision - we're all just SO ready for spring weather. Ironic how 30 degrees back in December was just fine - hell 20 degrees in January was fine too - but 30 degrees at the end of March is just cruel - the snow flurries were a nice touch though.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How would you handle it?

Ran into asticky-wicket on a JWW course (designed by Denise VanHousen) last weekend - tough entry into that serpentine in the middle. It was hard for me to figure out where I wanted to be - mostly because I felt like there was a big section there in the middle where I'd be struggling to stay out of his way. Here's the part I'm talking about - the dog's path is in purple.
How would you handle it? Keep in mind that dogs would have been on the handler's right side to start with (based on how the course lead up to this spot). Handlers who rear-crossed (what is here as) the 4th jump often sent their dogs over the wrong-course middle jump in the serpentine - Cuing that turn too early.

Lots of bars came down as well - particularly what is labeled #7 below. I ended up getting a little closer to #6 than I had intended and was very lucky that Teller read the wrap from 6-7. And WOW was he happy to clear #8 and open up some extension after that.

Here's what I ended up doing - My path in green:

And here's that run on video:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why I love my agility peeps - reason #42

I get home on Sunday night - coming off a pretty stressful week (personally and professionally) - lots and lots of sleep disruption from the pager, then the trial weekend that just didn't go as planned, the lost dog that we unsuccessfully tracked Sunday afternoon when we got home from the trial weekend, etc. I didn't even sit down to watch my runs until Monday evening - and what did I find - well this video - taken by Ann. Totally cracked me up!

By the way - about Ann? Well, she rocks. One of those people who is just this AMAZING person. She and her PWD Fisher are phenomenal competitors - Fisher is currently ranked #2 PWD in the country with 2o2o contacts that are so bloody solid (I so jealous of those contacts!!!). Ann is one of those people who sits outside the ring and cheers (literally) for every single team....Excellent, Open, Novice - she's often the first person to congratulate someone on a clean run or a Q, but also one of those people who know exactly what to say to encourage other competitors when their runs don't go as planned. She's competitive and polished - but she's an amazing sportswoman as well - working several classes a day at trials, helping where-ever is needed and also taking the time to help film other people's runs. Yes, Ann rocks!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Any book that followed "A Discovery of Witches" had big shoes to fill - I had a few suggestions and ended up picking up "Water For Elephants" without paying much attention to the subject matter, reviews or length.

The Audible Publishers' Summary:
An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant. Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

Following the untimely deaths of his parents, Jacob's life is thrown into turmoil. Sent home from Vet school to identify their bodies he's confronted with some adult truths. His father (also a vet) was deeply in debt (for a number of reasons - including Jacob's tuition). Immediately following the funerals, the family home is foreclosed upon - Jacob returns to school (where else he he supposed to go) to sit for his final exams. He doesn't take them - instead wandering the rail lines and jumping a train. Which just so happens to be "The Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth" - it turns out it's neither the Benzini's or - all that spectacular.

There are two narrators who speak as Jacob - David LeDoux as Jacob at twenty-three and John Randolph Jones as Jacob at Ninety - or Ninety-Three (this is sort of a running humor as the old duffer doesn't know if he's 90 - or 93). I initially found the 93 year old Jacob's voice to be annoying and grating. What started initially as charming became frustratingly slow and then as the 11th hour approached it was fitting and appropriate.

My overall impression of Water for Elephants is positive. Think "Fried Green Tomatoes" meets traveling circus - rich characters from another time and another world - circus culture a world of its own. There's an underlying love story - Boy loves unattainable Girl. Girl married to Boy's Boss. Boy loves chimp (ok, but not like that), Elephant loves Girl (but not like that either), etc....You'll feel good about the ending and OK with the wrapping of the threads.

Water for Elephants is now a "Major Motion Picture" - opening on April 22, 2011. I didn't see the trailer before listening to the book - but I think Reese Witherspoon is the PERFECT Marlena!

Here's the trailer for Water For Elephants:

Water for Elephants was written by Sara Gruen; narrated by David LeDoux (23 year old Jacob) and John Randolph Jones (90-- or 93 -- year old Jacob); published by HighBridge Audio. Water for Elephants (unabridged) has a running time of 11 hours 27 minutes and an Audible release date of May 24th, 2006.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

STDC - March 19-20, 2011

Whew! What a LONG weekend! It's already Tuesday and I think we're just barely starting to recover. On the plus side, both boys went for their annual exams today and those went well - got to love goldens who just stand there blinking their eyes during blood draws! With any luck they'll get to keep the rest of their blood for another 4 months until it's time for their summer tick panels.

A fun weekend with fun agility friends - I love my agility peeps! Not much in the way of Q's this weekend - Wrong courses and a refusal in our standard runs. A wrong course in one of our jumpers runs - but one nice clean JWW run on Saturday afternoon.

I saw a bit of that over-achiever mentality from Teller once he'd made a mistake. He just does weird stuff in that mode. I haven't seen it much lately because we just haven't made many mistakes. He tries so hard to be right...

Anyhow, what started at 4am on Saturday morning with the drive to NY ended on Sunday evening coming home to help track a lost beagle through the woods of Essex Junction. We covered some pretty treacherous terrain (including some hip deep snow) - that was ONE HELL of a track. Teller was able to stay on top of the snow while I fell through. He's tracking - pulling hard - clearly on scent and I'm just trying to stay on my feet. Unfortunately, we didn't find the lost dog (and she's still missing) - Teller tracked her to an embankment that I just didn't feel comfortable going down (and then trying to get back up). In the woods the snow is still really deep and at the bottom of the ravine was a really fast moving stream - probably a trickling stream in the summer time - but at present it wasn't something I wanted to mess with.

Our runs from the weekend (comic relief to be provided separately):

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Could it be spring?

I had an awful night with the pager last night on-call - just three hours of sleep. Made for a short day for me today in the office - and now that I'm no longer teaching (at Waggles) on Thursday nights I found myself with a whole lot of free time this afternoon - that NEVER happens to me!

So off to the school in search of some good footing to work the dogs on - and we found it - a sweet little elementary school soccer field size patch of earth. Not snow covered earth, not ice - real grass, real dirt - and also real puddles and real mud. To be honest this field has been plowed - huge snow-banks around the outside of the soccer field - but....TURF! Now, if this were my agility field (and not a public school playground) I wouldn't have let the dogs tear it up with footprints and broken grass - but alas, one more thing I don't need to worry about now.

Woo's off and running!

Happy Murph?

Woo aims for the muckiest part of the puddle.

All smiles for these yellow dogs!

ehhh, Woo? You've got a little something on your face (and your bib and your lip, and your tail...)


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A change of pace after "The Hunger Games" trilogy (young adult fiction), I downloaded a more adult oriented novel: "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness.

The Audible publisher's summary:

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries - and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as theTwilight series - with an extra serving of historical realism.

I balked at the length - for the same reason that I just couldn't commit to David McCullough's novel John Adams (30 hours 1 Minute) - even though I'm very interested in the subject-matter and  I've heard more than a few glowing recommendations on the novel. The run-time of A Discovery of Witches at just over 24 hours was similarly off-putting - but based on the reviews, the presence on the New York Times Best-Sellers list and the clever summary convinced me to give it a try.

In a few words - I loved this book!! There have been a few books in the last 2 years that I've dedicated my drive times to audiobooks - The Help, The Forgotten Garden, The Book Thief, all three of Garth Stein's novels - that I've really enjoyed. All were fresh, unique and brilliant storytelling - with equally capturing narration. Solidly at the front of that pack now is "A Discovery of Witches". I love the concept, the writing was refreshing, the story was addictive and I never - not once felt like there was even a moment of extraneous material.

The characters are so rich - so likable - that I formed mental images of both Diana and Matthew - the latter I imagined looked an awful lot like another Matthew I knew in another lifetime (who wasn't a 1500 year-old vampire). I don't often find myself day-dreaming about the books I'm listening to on my commutes - but "A Discovery of Witches" was really that good.

Jennifer Ikeda's narration was superb. Absolutely superb. Her voice is warm, strong and completely plausible. Narrated in the voice of Diana Bishop (an orphan witch) - equally skillfully capturing Matthew's French mother (Isabeau), Matthew (Mattheau) as well as the American's Sarah and Rebecca.

A Discovery of Witches was written by Deborah Harkness; narrated by Jennifer Ikeda; published by Penguin Audio. A Discovery of Witches (unabridged) has a running time of 24 hours 2 minutes and an Audible release date of February 8th, 2011.

Also, for what it's worth, I managed to get through all 24 hours of audiobook in about a week-  on a week without a road-trip. I'm not sure what's next on my radio - I might just have to take some time 'off' audio content to savor a bit more of the taste of "A Discovery of Witches".

And one more P.P.S...Fair warning - "A Discovery of Witches" is book one of the "All Souls" trilogy (Deborah Harkness' website here). Book two is slated for release in 2012....Readers (like myself) who are captured by the story will have to wait for the next edition and hope that it's released on time. I have loved working my way through entire trilogies and series in one segmented lump - one after another (Steig Larsson's Girl series, The Hunger Games, David Baldacci's Camel Club, etc) without the suspense of waiting an entire year or more for the next book to come out. There's luxury in that....Now for some patience.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Sequencing - March 13th, 2011

Here are the plans for Sunday Sequencing- I'm hoping to get through two sequences.
Note the GREEN for St. Patricks' day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Practice at the NOMAD barn

I'm loving the barn practices this year. We're getting a lot accomplished in a very short amount of time - I'm getting exactly what I want to work on - and having some fun on super-fun courses to boot. That's a Win - a Win and a Win! Here's what got setup at practice this morning.

Teller was clean (and nice 2o2o contacts) the first run through so I decided to experiment the second time around - pushing distance on the dogwalk (worked), pushing way way out to #10 (worked), layering the tire at #11-12-13 (worked) and pushing ahead of him in the weaves to get a front cross before #18 and running down the other side of that line (he popped pole 10 the first time, nailed it the second time). All in all really good stuff!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is it wrong to covet thy neighbor's grass?

I'm getting desperate. Getting to trial all winter this year, getting out to the barn to train with the NOMAD group and my ever-present optimism really helped get me through winter. Sure there was cold, snow, tricky drives to and from trials, etc - but I held it together. Grinned, sucked it up, etc....but now that the shock of Monday's storm has worn off -  replaced by the blechs of springtime in Vermont. While my facebook friends post pictures of their dogs lounging in semi-green grassy backyards, my dogs are still breaking trails in 30" of snow. While 40 degrees today was good enough to thaw some "Tefco Performance Dog"** outside today, the accompanying rain, GIANT puddles and ever-persistent snowbanks are now just discouraging.

Last year on the 15th of March I had the boys out at the school training - and I had my broad jump out in the front yard for obedience work. At this rate between the snow and mud I'll be lucky to have the jumps and contacts out by April - let alone have good enough footing to cart jumps and weaves to the school for training...

The boys love their performance dog - I however - well lets just say that I left the TPD in a bowl on top of my trash-can outside my garage when I left for work this morning. When I got out of my car this afternoon all I could smell was the TPD - outside in my driveway, 20' away from the bowl and wowsa, there it is! It's an outdoor meal (in this case a 'garage meal' as there's too much snow to feed them outside) and I refuse to even thaw it in my house. Which makes the goldens that much happier to see some signs of spring - to them I'm sure a chunk of partially thawed tripe is even better than a silly crocus.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Advanced Agility - March 10th, 2011

After the sequence we're going to work  on some 'gos', next week 'outs'.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

PACH an official title as of July 1st, 2011

AKC announced yesterday (via the Chairman's report) that the PACH prefix title will go into effect on July 1st, 2011 - two years ahead of the previously released date. PACH QQ's and PACH points are retro-active meaning that MANY dogs will be awarded the PACH title retroactively - perhaps even posthumously. 

Here's the link to the chairman's report:

And here's the relevant text from that report:
In Agility, I’m pleased to announce the creation of the Preferred Agility Championship title, or PACH, which will take effect July 1st. Originally scheduled for 2013, we’re happy to implement it almost 2 years ahead of schedule to recognize our Preferred Agility dogs. Dogs must achieve a minimum of 750 championship points and 20 double qualifying scores from the Excellent Standard and Jumpers with Weaves classes to obtain the championship.
The PACH title is also retroactive, so that any dog that met the requirements prior to July 1st, 2011 will have PACH prefix added to their AKC registered name in the registration database.

And one more interesting nugget from the Chairman's report:
Finally, we’re pleased to announce the first Master Agility Champion mixed-breed dog.
"Prince Doggie," a 5-year-old from Michigan completed the MACH title requirements on February 20 at a trial in Dexter, Michigan. This title came just ten months after the Canine Partners program enrollees became eligible to compete in AKC Agility, Obedience and Rally trials. It’s impressive to note that this accomplishment was achieved by a first-time dog owner! Congratulations to Prince Doggie!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cabin-Fever Reliever!

After the trial this weekend and the massive storm yesterday the boys were in need of some SERIOUS off-leash romping and retrieving time! Solution: head out to the school and let them RUN!

Filmed, mixed and edited exclusively on my iPhone.

Book Review: MockingJay by Suzanne Collins

MockingJay is the third book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy - if you've landed on this page without first reading Hunger Games and Catching Fire, go back and read those books before proceeding  and further here...

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena live, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge....

Short and to the point right? It's hard to say too much about MockingJay without giving away the entire series - so I'll leave the summary as follows:

It's a young adult series - written for a much younger audience than myself - and the median audience of this blog. Keep that in mind - it's a good story but remember the target audience and take that into account when judging the writing style.

My willingness to suspend disbelief was pretty low to non-existent for this series - the characters were likable but I was never particularly vested in their health/well being - perhaps because the storyline is ultimately predictable.

The plausibility factor of the trilogy was pretty low - the rest of the population of the planet doesn't exist, what used to be the United States is now a military state, various districts and a centralized totalitarian capital (in the rockies).

However, the Hunger Games Trilogy was pretty good entertainment for all thirty-five hours of the audio books...I'll give the series a recommendation with the above summary caveats.

MockingJay was written by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Carolyn McCormick; published by Scholastic Audio. The Hunger Games (unabridged) has a running time of 11 hours 43 minutes and an Audible release date of August 24, 2010.

Monday, March 07, 2011

30" of new powder....

As if the ride home from NY yesterday wasn't bad enough:
Route 22a - Just north of Fairhaven, VT

The storm that we came home to changed from 1-3 inches (yeah right) to 12-18 (yuck) to 18-24 (sugar-plum-fairy) to 20-30" (no comment). When things finished here today we had 30" of snow and some drifts up to 4' high.

Even at breakfast time there was WAY too much snow for Teller's liking.

By 4pm there was a drift up to the door. In line with that
old "how many dogs does it take to change a light bulb"
 joke, Teller really wishes he was a cocker spaniel and could just go pee on the floor.

4:00 or so - still no sign of the village plow truck. 24" of snow in the road.
We ain't going anywhere today folks.

Snow on my deck.

Point of reference - my pool is 50" tall and mostly hidden
by snow - keep in mind we had 2 days of 45 degrees and rain - so
a lot of snow actually melted over the weekend.

Addendum to movin' up...

One last thought on the whole move up/not to move up - If the question was "I just finished my open title, should I move up to excellent A?" I think the answer is much easier - of course you should. The variables are different - it's not a huge leap to excellent from open, sure you *could* get more mileage in open, but the challenges are likely similar and once again - you're dog doesn't know the difference does he?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Southern Adirondack Agility Club - March 5-6th, 2011

Teller and I made our way down to High Goal Farm this weekend for the March edition of Southern Adirondack Agility Club's AKC Agility trials. We got up at oh-dark-thirty Saturday morning to drive in the rain (and sleet) to get to New York - en route I discovered two important things:

1) Chivalry is not entirely dead...I had to pull over in Vergennes to fill my washer fluid reservoir. It's 6am, there's not a lot of traffic - it's a super-small town. In the time it took me to partially pull into a closed gas station, get out of the van, get the gallon of fluid out of the back of the van, pop the hood (find the silly hood catch-lever) and fill the reservoir I had not one, not two but THREE guys stop to ask if I needed any assistance. All set - just filling the washer fluid. NOTE TO SELF - add this to the pre-departure check-list - and buy a new gallon of washer fluid to restock the one that I used....

2) Vermont's back-roads are a special kind of hell this time of year. The frostheaves on rt 22a (and rt 22) were bone-jarring - coupled with the enormous pot holes and dips, 40mph wind the ride was pretty miserable. Sure the interstate can be badly maintained - but at least one isn't likely to find oneself flung around the road for miles on end. Sheeesh.

As for our runs - loved the courses this week by Darryl Warren - hadn't shown under him before - will show under him again - super nice to exhibitors, nicely nested courses for fast change-overs, courses with challenges - seemed to run well for small dogs and big dogs.

Saturday Standard - Tunnel/Aframe discrimination - Woo got it, front cross to the teeter and Teller accelerates to the teeter - DAMN, wasn't really expecting that. Wrong course jump after the teeter - on an otherwise nice run. Time was really good despite the wrong course - lots of good stuff.

Saturday JWW - Silly bar came down - and came down late. Not sure why, thought I might have been in his way and a hard rub bounced the bar in the jump cup? I dunno. It was OK - time was really good for the run and if we're going to NQ we might as well get it over with on the same day :-)

Sunday JWW - Super nice, fast course. I thought the yardage was a little tight on what felt like a long course - 140 yards seems short for an excellent JWW course. Regardless - Teller had a gorgeous run for another JWW Q

Sunday Standard - Another nice course - and another Standard Q - Super YAY. That's MX leg #7 and Double Q #5. In the event that anyone else was keeping track we're now sitting at 270 points....

Here's the video from the weekend:

Saturday, March 05, 2011

So you've finished your first novice title - Part Three

So you know the move-up rules and have an idea of the differences between novice and open courses - but you're still trying to decide - should I move my dog up to Open. I've always been a list maker and planner so here are my pros and cons:

+ I don't train for novice - I train for Excellent - the same thing goes for my students - I don't setup novice sequences for classes, that being said - once you've mastered the competition novice course - Open is the next logical step to test your skillset - to see where you are in your training.  

+ The questions asked of dog and handler in Open are more complex - harder puzzles - immensely more satisfying to solve. From an adrenalin junkie standpoint - throw me the hard stuff - I like it :-) All the sweeter when we beat the course.

+ Your dog doesn't know that you've filled out a move-up form. They're stepping out into the ring to play with their person, keep it fun keep it play and it is what you make it.

+ Trials typically run FAST -> Standard -> JWW and from Excellent -> Open -> Novice. Moving up to open probably means that you won't be the last dog of the trial, you'll probably get to leave a bit sooner too.

+ There's NOTHING - and I mean NOTHING like beating a tough course - a tough Novice course, a tough Open course or a tough Excellent course...It's a great rush - and it only gets better (and more addictive).

- From a placement point of view - Q's are going to be harder to come by. With increased challenge, green teams are probably going to have a lower Q rate in open than they had in novice. Open classes are often larger classes with more dogs per height class. Placements are also probably harder to come by as well.

- The transition from 6 poles to 12 poles can be hard for some dogs. Before moving to open take an honest look at your weave work - Is your dog reliably making his weave entries at speed? Is your dog staying in the poles through pole 12? I'd move up a dog who might have less than 100% entry accuracy if he was solid in 12 poles. I'd feel less comfortable moving up a dog with "pop out at pole 10" problems in training - because I wouldn't have a lot of opportunity to "fix" it successfully (three try rule) without introducing stage stress.

- Handlers know that they've moved up and handlers know when they've NQ'ed. It's the handler's job to keep the ring a positive place to play agility.

- The bottomline is that open asks more of the team....More work, more training....More reward too (and really, shouldn't that be a plus?)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is book two in "The Hunger Games" trilogy - the first book is "The Hunger Games" (obviously)...which I finished and reviewed on Monday - I finished Catching Fire last night on my way home from class (Thursday) - so I worked my way through "Catching Fire" in about three days...

The Audible Publishers Summary:
Katniss Everdeen continues to struggle to protect herself and her family from the Capitol in this second novel from the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy.

I suppose that is about as much that can be said about book two without giving away the plot from book one - only now you know that Katniss survived book one (giggle).

I found book two to be a bit more superficial - and a bit more contrived. The story is as engaging as book one, the characters are just as likable - even if they are ultimately predictable. There's a strong sense (for me anyway) that as either main character I'd make drastically different choices and while there are undercurrents of rebellion - the premise of an American society without freedom still feels implausible.

The narration of "Catching Fire" is every bit as good as "The Hunger Games" - Carolyn McCormick is a pleasant and capable narrator and a significant contributor to the quality of the story.

I've already downloaded Book Three: MockingJay....I suspect it'll go as quickly as book two.

Catching Fire was written by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Carolyn McCormick; published by Scholastic Audio. The Hunger Games (unabridged) has a running time of 11 hours 41 minutes and an Audible release date of September 1st, 2009.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Intermediate Agility - March 3rd, 2011

Here's the plan for the intermediate class tonight:

Advanced Agility - March 3rd, 2011

Here's the plan for tonight....remind me, I have some hand-outs for you guys as well.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

So you've finished your first novice title - Part Two

So now you're all set when it comes to the rules of move-ups. The particulars of Novice A and Novice B. But what else should you consider when you move up to Open?

Suddenly mistakes "count"
In novice you've got some leeway to make mistakes. One or two refusals, a wrong course, a table fault (or two) and a pretty generous time-fault 'allowance' too. Refusals on the weaves don't count (though you only have three bites at the apple under the September 2010 rule changes). In open weaves are judged and there are now 12 of them - every attempt at getting weave entries or pop-outs count as refusals. In the land of Open you can have one refusal on a qualifying run - so you must become more accurate in your navigation around course.

It gets harder
It used to be that the BIG difference between novice and open was the triple jump and possibly dealing with 12 weave poles (back when Murphy was in Open judges had the option to use 12 OR 6 weave poles). A lot of judges nest their courses - Open is usually the excellent course minus a couple of challenges, Novice is Open minus a couple of challenges...sometimes removing those challenges makes the course easier - sometimes if a judge is not careful, removing a jump and a challenge actually makes the open course harder than the excellent course.

There's a big jump in technicality of courses from novice to open and arguably less so from open to excellent. It's not entirely unusual for folks to finish up their novice titles fairly easily, move up to open and stay there for a while working through the increased challenge and fewer allowed mistakes (to qualify)...

Course time (SCT) goes down as the levels go up. I've transcribed the AKC rules and regulations into a handy-dandy table below - but I'll use a real life example to illustrate my point. This past weekend we were down in NH at the Middlesex County Kennel Club agility trial. The Excellent standard course on Saturday measured 173 yards for the 24" dogs. This translated to a Standard course time of 65 seconds. Here's the math behind that "65" seconds: 173 divided by 2.9 equals 59.655 - which rounds UP to 60 seconds, then add 5 seconds for the pause table. For an open standard 24" class  that 173 yard course translates to a 73 second SCT (173 divided by 2.55 equals 67.84 plus 5 for the table). In novice a 173 yard standard course would have a SCT of  84 seconds for the 24" dogs (173 divided by 2.2 equals 78.636 plus 5 seconds for the table)...Some of this is hypothetical because it's incredibly unlikely that you'd ever have a 173 yard novice standard course - though I suppose it's possible. For illustration purposes though (and all other things being equal) a dog having trouble making course time in novice is going to have a harder time making SCT in Open and Excellent - and time faults become more costly in Open and Excellent A (no time faults allowed in Excellent B).

AKC Yards Per Second8"12"16"20" and 26"24"
Novice Standard 1.85 yps2.0 yps2.15 yps2.25 yps2.20 yps
Novice JWW2.30 yps2.5 yps2.75 yps3.0 yps2.80 yps
Open Standard2.25 yps2.35 yps2.50 yps2.65 yps2.55 yps
Open JWW2.8 yps3.0 yps3.25 yps3.5 yps3.30 yps
Excellent Standard2.50 yps2.7 yps2.85 yps3.1 yps2.9 yps
Excellent JWW3.05 yps3.25 yps3.5 yps3.75 yps3.55 yps

Want to figure out you're own YPS? It's equally easy (though I'm pleased to have "an app for that"). Take total course time and divide it by your time: 173 (yards) divided by 42.51 (seconds) equals 4.07 yards per second - in Excellent standard that would translate to 22 MACH points.

What else you ask?
Stand by for part three when I'll discuss what I'd do - - and what I'd tell my agility kidz to do.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

So you've finished your first novice title - Part One

For those new to AKC agility there are often more questions after one finishes their first title (or titles) than there are when they're getting ready to hit their first trial. I know my agility "kidz" have had some questions regarding "what happens next".

So, you've finished your dog's NA, NAJ or NF (or NAP, NJP, NFP).
If you're new to AKC agility you've probably finished these titles out of the novice A class - Congratulations! Titles are always fun to finish - but there's something special about that first agility title on your Novice A dog - Mine was Murphy's NAJ at the 2006 Southern Berkshire Golden Retriever Club's agility trial - seems like forever and yesterday all at the same time. There are a few rules around move-ups that you'll need to be aware of:

1) If you finished that novice title out of the A class you do not HAVE to move up to open, but you do need to move your dog into Novice B for any future trial that has not closed yet. So, for day two of the current trial you stay in Novice A. For the trial "next weekend" that has also closed - you'll also stay in Novice A. For the trial in 4 weeks that hasn't closed yet, you'll need to send a note to the trial secretary and change into the B class. If you've titled out of novice B or the Novice preferred class there's nothing else you need to do (until you're ready to move up).

2) If you finish your title on the first day of a multi-day trial you do have the option of moving up to Open (remember there isn't Open A/B - just Open and Open Preferred). You do not have to immediately move up in AKC (some venues require move-ups after finishing titles). You should not feel bad about picking up bumper legs if that's what you want to do.

3) If you decide to move up for the next day's trial you MUST do so by 30 minutes prior to the start of classes the next day - some secretaries enforce a "by the end of the trial day" rule - but if you know that you want or plan to move up, don't wait until the last minute - make the trial secretary's life easier and fill out a move-up form (the trial secretary will have copies for you to fill out) and submit it (completely filled out) as soon as the class results are finalized. Remember to make the same move-up requests for other upcoming trials by contacting those trial secretaries. When you arrive on the next day, make sure that you're on the Open gate sheets, check in early in the event that if there's a problem you have time to fix it and then prepare yourself to have an awesome open run!

Part TWO of this very timely series will help you decide whether or not to move UP - and to expect  in Open!