Sunday, March 31, 2013

Onondaga Kennel Assoc - March 28-31, 2013 (Part 1 of 2)

While it feels like we just got back from Oklahoma, it's been four weeks since our last agility trial - by design I absolutely needed the weekend before and the weekend after that trip 'off'. Rest, recuperate and recycle so they say.

Murphy's Rally Novice Title
April 1st, 2005
Salt City Cluster
Every spring we make a trip out to Syracuse for the big Salt City Cluster. Hard to believe but this was out ninth consecutive trip to this show - the first back in 2005 with Murphy in Rally Novice A. In 2005, Murphy Q'ed 4 out of four for his RN just one day before his first birthday.

Since then we've been back for conformation, agility, obedience and rally - for Murphy, Teller and now for Kipling. Last year I juggled multiple activities - Obedience and agility, this year we stuck with agility and introduced a second dog :-)

Teller made his agility debut at the Syracuse shows (in 20" preferred) back in 2009 when he was 27 months old:

Kip in his short agility career so far (his first trial was in late August 2012) has trialed in just two locations. Small one ring 330 run trials. Not a lot of chaos, not many spectators - though plenty of small spaces with lots of canines. Syracuse is a whole 'nother ball of wax entirely. Spectators, dogs, children, strollers, noise and general chaos on all four sides of the ring. A busy two-ring trial with lots going on. This was a test for Mr Kip - I entered him all four days, thinking that might be a mistake - but I really felt like he was ready, was focused and would be able to cope with all of the distractions - even if he did get distracted, we'd work through it. I was 99% sure he wouldn't leave me to go exploring outside the ring and figured there would be something to learn even if we had to go into remedial trial mode.

With a four day trial each dog had 8 runs - sixteen runs total. I'm going to break these into two posts - one covering Thursday and Friday and the other covering Saturday and Sunday. For comparison sake I'll include videos by class instead of by dog. You can watch Kip run the course and then Teller run the course (though I'm missing a couple of videos) - all four days ran tall to small so Kip got to be guinea pig every day :-)

Thursday Standard:Teller: Q!

Thursday JWW:
Kip: NQ with a distracted refusal at the weaves

Friday Standard:
Teller - NQ with a table fault/fall off table.

Kip - a hard-earned Q with a few weave call-offs! The Wrong course call was reversed by the judge after we finished our run.

Friday JWW:
Kip -  NQ RWF on a mis-read serp-line. He needed a bit more support there!

Teller - Q! HOT!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Follow-up to AKC NAC Experience

One thing that I keep coming back to in my reflection on the trip is how smoothly the event ran. Check-in was a little bobbly, but at the front of the line we really didn't feel the 'pain' some other teams felt. The remainder of the event ran smoothly from an exhibitor perspective.

On Friday morning, one of the rings wasn't ready - there was an issue with the footing - which was a safety issue. Instead of debating or trying to fix it, the warm-up round got moved from ring one to ring two, and time to beat was moved from ring two to ring six. Overnight rings one and two were re-grated and fixed. The footing the rest of the weekend was perfect in those two rings.

Exhibitors were not required nor expected to volunteer for this event. Exhibitors could course-build, but even arriving at 6am all three mornings all the course-building was complete when we arrived. The course building elves were clearly busy overnight. I saw the AKC reps that we're accustomed to seeing at local trials really digging in to course build, script, gate steward - those AKC folks worked very hard to make this event run smoothly.

That leads into the army of volunteers who were not there to show their dogs - but showed up to work (like dogs) all four (or five) days. Seriously - I don't know where AKC found all of these people - but there was an army of upbeat workers staffing six full rings of agility from 7am straight on through 7pm. There was a small tote-board near the show office that mentioned what jobs needed to be filled, but by the time I was unconflicted workers were all in place. What did these workers get for giving up their weekends? I think they got t-shirts and raffle tickets (for a kick-ass worker raffle).

A great deal of planning goes into these events and it shows. Thank you AKC for putting on such an awesome event and hats off to the volunteers that worked so hard so that I (and others) could spend a fun weekend playing with our dogs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AKC National Championships, Tulsa Oklahoma

Wow, what a whirlwind trip to the 2013 AKC National Agility Championships for Team Teller/Team Magica. This was our second year qualifying for the event but with last years event held in Reno, Nevada I just couldn't figure out how to make that work. This years event was held in Tulsa - a mere 1,600 miles from home. Teller is running in his prime this year - we had to go!

The original plan was to pack two humans and two dogs for the journey - Easy-peasy! Just Teller and Ali in a mini-van with plenty of room for luggage, coolers, gear and a general inefficiency of packing. Well, that just didn't work out quite as planned and suddenly all three of my dogs AND the delightful princess Ali (a border collie) are headed to Tulsa. In typical Erica fashion we had a car-load of everything I thought we might possibly need - including 45# of raw dog food, two dozen bully sticks, nine polo shirts, fourteen pairs of socks (and that was just my suitcase), bowls, buckets, bedding, crates for their stall, more bedding, trailmix, snap-peas, chocolate, gum, protein shakes, bottled coffee, trash bags and two rolls of papertowels. We were clearly prepared!

For your viewing pleasure here's our seven day trip condensed into a 5:52 video clip. We had an absolutely phenomenal time from start to finish. I'd forgotten how much fun roadtrips can be when you have hours in a car with good company:  lots of laughs, we made great time, the dogs held it together more or less until the very end, though when we arrived home at 11:45pm last night they were all too excited to gallop wildly around the yard until they remembered that they still hadn't been fed their dinner.

For those of you playing AKC agility - you've got to go to nationals at least once in your lifetime. I had debated not going this year, saving the money to qualify two dogs (Kip and Teller) for the 2014 AKC National Championships rumored to be held on the east coast next March (Harrisburg, PA?). I entered before closing (first week of January) figuring that gave me more time to decide whether or not to go - figuring in the worst case I had just bought a $140 t-shirt. Then a friend of mine suddenly lost her MACh3 golden retriever Ben to hemangiosarcoma. Ben was to her what Teller is to me - he's my heart, he probably knows me better than any human ever will. Yes, he's a dog - but we have souls that sing the same heart song. Next year is a promise- this year was a guarantee. Maybe we'll all qualify for 2014, maybe we'll all be healthy and sound enough to go, maybe we'll have the finances to go - maybe we won't. This year was certain; next year is a gift not yet wrapped.

So last Tuesday afternoon we packed that rental van to the gills (thank god for rear-view cameras) and went to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Leaving Tuesday early evening we made it all the way to Buffalo, NY (400 miles). Wednesday was a big push from Buffalo, NY to Springfield, MO (1000 miles) and a smaller (200 miles) 3 hour push from Springfield to Tulsa. On the return trip we went all the way from Tulsa to Indiana on Sunday (400 miles) and then Indiana to home on Monday (1100 miles).

The 20" T2B class.
The 20" class had 444 dogs entered. Yes, that included regular and preferred dogs - but the number is the same: four-hundred and forty-four dogs! Friday's warm-up round for the 20" dogs took over 8 hours to run, with time to beat taking about the same and each dog had to run warm-up before T2B. On Saturday half the dogs (groups 4-5-6) ran round two (standard) before round one (JWW) in two different rings in two different buildings. Sunday's hybrid round was split into two adjoining rings with half the 20" class in each ring - each ring with three walk-through groups.

From a statistic standpoint (and you know I love statistics), it was not our best weekend of agility. Teller picked up a T2B leg on Friday afternoon - which happens to be the only leg that counts for anything (it counts as a real T2B leg). In each of our other three runs we had one mistake each run, which cost us a lot of time and knocked us down to #215 overall. I would have loved to come home with three clean rounds (JWW, Standard and Hybrid) - which would have put us in at least the top 50, but it just wasn't to be.

I am pleased with how he ran - nothing phases this dog - people, announcers, packed in dogs, hanging out in a horse stall - he just runs as he runs anywhere else. My perfect Teller, thank you for giving me such a memorable first trip to national championships. If I'm lucky enough to dance 2014 with Teller and Kipling I'll go in with a successful 2013 behind us.

Here's my advice for all the folks contemplating a run to qualify for 2014:
- Rent a stall. AKC gives you free crating for one space - these crating spots were in the arenas that while the dust was kept to a minimum were still dusty. With three dogs, I needed to be in a stall (unentered dogs were not allowed in crating area unless dogs fit in same space (sharing a crate or stacked). The stall gave us a dust-free area to keep our dogs that was relatively quiet, dust-free and secured - we locked our dogs in the stalls with a combo lock when we weren't there, so we knew they were where we left them.
- Baby wipes. Silly things right?
- Pack your EZ-Pass. We used the one in our rental car, but there's a transaction fee for every toll. So a $25 toll will cost us $28, still worth it - but given the fact that Sharon and I between us own 4 ez-passes for our personal vehicles, we could have saved about $15 by using our own (but actually only saved $2-3 by paying tolls with cash).
- If your trip has stop-overs, pack multiple overnight bags. I dragged my HUGE piece of luggage out of that van on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights (and loaded it back up Wednesday, Sunday and Monday mornings). My luggage was over Murphy's rear crate, and was super awkward to get in and out of the van. If I had packed two bags (one for the road and one for the trial) I could have rotated bags out of the van and brought a small pack in and out of hotel rooms.
- Do it - you never know when you won't have another year. I've nursed my knee along for a few weeks, I don't know if I'm looking at a torn meniscus or something else - I could lose a month or three of trialing this year if I have to have knee surgery, that puts a lot of 2014 in jeopardy for me - especially Kip's 2014 as it'll take him longer to get his 500 points.
- Shop around for rentals. We saved over $400 by going through costco travel - of all things. Didn't have to pay for unlimited miles or a second driver. With all of those pieces 'free', plus the discount through costco, we put over 3,200 miles on our van for less than $300 (not including tolls).
- oh, and just do it!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

SAAC - March 2-3, 2013

A bit of a mixed bag for the boys this weekend - though we were all over the board in the Q department, I felt like Teller and Kip had really solid performances in every run. Teller is really moving out there and Kip is coming together with every run, is starting to see lines and turns. Contacts...a work in progress. He's still not giving me his training contacts in trial, I'm not asking for the 2o2o because I want him to move through the contacts - particularly the a-frame.

Saturday we finished the day zero for four. Silly things really, Teller deciding that taking a tunnel was more fun than stopping to take the table (good lord, what have I created?) and then taking an uncharacteristic (for him) knocked bar in JWW.

Kip had two solid runs on Saturday - in standard he got a bit of the lookie-loos and came around the panel after the teeter (R-W-F) - BUT I was impressed at how he went ahead of me off that line to the teeter. "Got it!". I pushed his weaves at the end of the run and he came out at pole 10 to take the dogwalk. OK, we've got a hole there in trial. I'll work on it. In JWW later that afternoon he was in a cookin' run and came out of the weaves in the same place - not once, but three times! I initially thought it was that we were heading to the wall, or pressure from the judge - but now I think it was something else entirely. He was exceedingly wound up, he was running beautifully and that last line was calling his name. And since he got to cheat in the morning, why not cheat in the afternoon. I'm not inferring malice, because that's not his personality in the slightest - I think the weaves were slowing him down and he wanted to GO FAST!

Sunday as always is a new day. Teller finished his weekend with career QQ #71. We're off for the rest of the month (except for that thing in Tulsa) so it was a good way to go out. Woo had an 11 point JWW run and an 18 point standard run - AND while he didn't go into his 2o/2o - he did pause and wait to be released on his dogwalk. I really needed that stop ahead of our trip west. I didn't get video of his JWW run - which was just smooth from start to finish, but standard is below.

Kip got a new big-boy leather martingale collar.
One of our trial friends made it for him this afternoon.
What a lucky-lucky golden retriever!
Kip had a great day of his own. I goofed in JWW - stayed too long with him in the weaves after the faults on Saturday and ended up way behind him and out of position to handle the next line. As a result I had to throw in rear where I'd planned a blind and he just didn't read it well. He's not at the point where I can throw him at a jump and expect him to see the new line. He curled off the jump to me, we corrected and finished the rest of the run cleanly. He didn't take my mistake personally and he didn't miss a beat. A bit of unexpected maturity from my boy who isn't even two years old yet (mid-April). Kip's afternoon standard run was a bit of a 'hot mess' - with a couple of saves (one to each of our credits I think) - but good enough for 3rd place in 24" Masters and 14 points - I'm quite sure that we added about 30 yards to the course.

And the best part? Getting home early enough to meet some friends for a romp in the schoolyard before heading home to do chores, unpacking, laundry, dishes, etc. There was much making up for two long days in crates with retrieving, rolling in the snow, running around and a general sense of insane silliness!