Monday, June 25, 2012

Ten Up, Ten Down

This past weekend, nearly one year to the day after she earned her first qualifying score in AKC agility's Excellent B Jumpers with Weaves class (and nearly two years to the day since she finished her Novice Jumpers title),  Marge earned her tenth and final qualifying score and finished her Master Excellent Jumpers title.

(Thanks for taping, Amy!)

It's been quite a ride for Marge and me, and I really never would have thought a few years ago that we would rise to such an advanced level of competition.  Sure, she's not lightning fast, and our record is not stellar compared to some, but I'm sure whoever was responsible for her at the Cherokee County Animal Control in Georgia never thought she'd compete in agility.  They might even be surprised to know she made it out of the shelter/rescue system and is, in fact, alive today.

Our totals so far: 1 QQ, 3 MX legs, 10 MXJ legs, and 103 MACH points.  When we're slumping or not seeing the results we'd like, it helps to look at those numbers to see how truly far we've come.

My goal for the remainder of this year is to even out the number of Standard (MX) legs that we have and hopefully finish the MX title. Once that happens, I have no doubt that we'll pick up a couple of more QQ's and get to work on the title that we really want.  I estimate that I'll probably have about 10 to 15 more days of trialing this year to get the ball rolling!

Stay tuned for some non-agility updates in the future, including a new training endeavor we've taken on, as well as Marge's yearly video compilation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heating Up!

This weekend, we braved the heat and humidity and attended two days of agility trials in Somerset County, NJ.  The trial site has, in the past, been a local favorite location for events, but bad experiences with flooding scared most of the host clubs to indoor sites.  However, a couple of clubs in our area clustered together to bring a trial back to the park this year.

Fortunately, we didn't have any rain, but boy, was it hot!  Arrow is unaffected by the heat, but Marge didn't put in any stellar times this weekend, courtesy of the sun beating down on her black coat.

Saturday, Marge was on the line for her MXJ.  The course looked quite doable, and I only identified one problem area for Marge.  If we were going to NQ, we were going to NQ on the tunnel.  Guess what? That's what happened!  Instead of driving ahead in to the tunnel (the third to last obstacle), Marge made a left and stopped the timer, taking an off-course jump.

At first, I couldn't figure out why this happened.  But, on my way to the site the following morning, it clicked in my head: I screamed out "tunnel," which probably sounds similar to my rear cross cue, "turn."  This has happened a couple of other times in the past, and it makes sense now - Marge is confusing the two words!  I am going to have to start saying "go tunnel," which has worked in the past.

Marge's second run that day was another near-miss.  A tunnel-to-dogwalk challenge did us in, and instead of rocketing out of the tunnel on to the dog walk, she went straight back in to the tunnel.  I didn't upload this video, because there's not too much to see in it otherwise.

Arrow had a stellar Saturday.  We snapped a streak of NQ's in Jumpers for her 9th MXJ leg, and then put the cherry on top with a Q in Standard. I was on Cloud 9 after her Jumpers run... it felt great to finally qualify, after coming so close so many times.

Sunday was brutally hot.  My day was made much more pleasant by Louie, who surprised me by driving out to the trial after telling me he wasn't coming to cheer me on and hopefully see me get at least one MXJ title.  (He brought with him a little MXJ present in anticipation of Marge finishing her title.. she didn't get it, but a present is a present and she'll get it soon enough!)

Once again, I stepped to the line in Jumpers, now with two MXJs on the line (one for each dog).  It wasn't meant to be.  The weave pole entrance was extremely difficult, moreso than I gave it credit for, and neither dog managed their entrance.  That was Marge's only fault - Arrow had a bar down in addition to the weave run-out.

Between runs, we hung out in my friend's RV with our buddies, Bailey and Spirit.  The dogs were very happy to get out of the sun and in to the AC for a little while.

Later in the day, Arrow had a little bit of a wild Standard run - she missed her weaves, took a bar down, took an off course, and released herself on the dog walk after hanging off of the side with her back feet way above the contact!  She also missed a jump after I botched a front cross. Not a great way to end my weekend with her, but I wasn't too upset, considering our very successful Saturday.

Marge, on the other hand, added a Q to what was about to become Q-less weekend.  Though I really wanted to finish her Jumpers title, I'll always take a Standard Q - they're hard to come by!

Some candids from the weekend:

And, my personal favorite...

Next up - one day (Friday) at a park we haven't been to in two years.  Two MXJs on the line again - here's hoping we snag them both!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Marge And The Spaceship

Last month, when the space shuttle Enterprise flew over NYC before landing at John F. Kennedy Airport, I was stuck at work.

I had literally been waiting for the event since the previous year, and it pained me greatly to see it on TV, miles and miles away, while I folded towels and got people ice packs.

The next day, I set out to Kennedy Airport to at least catch a glimpse of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with Enterprise perched atop.  It was really a sight to see and only made me more upset to have missed its historic landing.

I nearly missed the next leg of its journey, which occurred yesterday.  I thought its voyage from JFK to a holding terminal in New Jersey was set to occur today, but my father had apparently heard about it on the radio and discovered it was, indeed, moving that day.  After doing a little research, I found out that it would cross underneath the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge around 5:30 PM, and I was NOT going to miss it.

And neither was my dog.

I had no idea there would be that many people spectating... I honestly thought that, for the average person, the space shuttle hype had died down.  Turns out it hadn't.  Fort Wadsworth was packed with photographers, families, dogs... and screaming children.

I was initially a little worried and regretted bringing Marge.  I'm always happy to help her through her fears and adjust my plans so that she could be comfortable, but, I won't lie, I was getting a little unnerved thinking about having to move out of my spot and missing the shuttle float by because something spooked my dog.

However, as usual, Marge proved me wrong, and was happy to hunker down in the grass in front of me, despite the small crowd of people I was standing near.  (There was a larger crowd that arguably had a better view, but there were so many big cameras and so many kids running around that even I wouldn't have been comfortable standing there, let alone my dog.)

Still, I wondered if the shuttle's impending arrival would bring a swarm of people that would freak my dog out.  I had my Grandma act as a bodyguard of sorts and stand next to me to prevent any one else from coming too close to Marge.

As the shuttle emerged in the distance, no big groups came.  They were apparently, much to my delight, happy with their present locations, and did not wish to give up their prime viewing spots for one or two alternative shots.

Of course, the occasion couldn't be completely drama free, and my dog, although unfazed by the crowds, instead decided to make a spectacle of herself by nearly falling over a VERY steep cliff, her back legs dangling over the side and her front claws clinging desperately to the ledge in front of her.

I hoisted her back over just in time to get a couple of decent shots with my not-so-great camera.

As Enterprise was once again obscured by the brush, I gathered up Marge's leash and ventured to a new spot so that I could snap it again.

The crowds were even bigger here at this point, but Marge was still OK, and soon a few raindrops fell and led to an exodus of roughly half the people standing nearby.  Though the comments about Marge's behavior were mostly positive (one person mentioned that they didn't even know a dog was nearby because of how discretely Marge stood with me), one woman asked me to move "the dog" because "she's afraid of dogs."

Though I am generally sympathetic to the needs of others, I'll admit, I was super pissed about her request, seeing as 1) I was in a public place, 2) there were lots of dogs around; YOU move if you don't want to stand near them, 3) my dog was reeled close to me and not all that close to her and 4) she had not looked, barked, growled, not even sniffed in this woman's direction.

I do wonder if it had something to do with the fact that Marge is a black, muscular, pointy-eared dog, but who the heck knows.

I managed to snap one shot of Marge with Enterprise in the distance before I heeded the grump's request to avoid conflict.

Enterprise soon began to appear as only a small dot in the distance, and although my sister with her fancy big-lensed camera stuck around for a bit more, I headed back to the car with my family and Marge.

Of course, the perfect outing had to have one little fear blip in it, as a large BOOM resonated through the air, perhaps the sound of a vehicle backfiring, and sent Marge scrambling to the car for dear life.  I was sad that we had to end the trip on this note, but, it is what it is.

I'm hoping to catch it again Wednesday, as it departs New Jersey for its final resting place, the Intrepid Museum.  The journey will likely take me in to Manhattan, so Marge will have to sit this one out. Guess I'm trying to make up for the fact that I missed the flyover!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Agility Slumber Party

Last weekend, Louie and I went overnight to a two day agility trial with Marge and Arrow.

I only had one Q all weekend (Marge's 9th MXJ leg, for 6 MACH points).

This was probably my favorite course from the weekend, because both dogs did extremely well on it.  Although Arrow didn't qualify (due to having the first bar down and skipping the 3rd weave pole), my run with her felt so connected and smooth.

Arrow's Standard runs were plagued by bad handling on my part, and her Jumpers runs were both beautiful, heartbreaking near-miss runs (one bar and weave pole issues in both).  I hadn't practiced with Arrow for two weeks before this trial, which definitely impacted my handling, particularly in Standard, since timing is of the utmost importance with a dog as fast as she is.  I chickened out of front crosses that might have saved a run or two and went back to my old arm-straight-up-in-the-air nonsense that pulled her off of at least two obstacles in Standard.

You'll see what I mean if you watch a video featuring all of her runs here.  The Jumpers runs were so nice.

Marge's Standard runs featured the same old, same old... beautiful, clean, runs, but a teeter jump-off on Saturday, and a table jump-off on Sunday dashed any MX legs or double-Q hopes.  Her non-qualifying Jumpers run, too, was doomed due to a very stupid handling choice by me.  I haven't even bothered to upload them, because there's not much to be learned from them.

Bottom line.. I need to practice more.  between finals, graduation, the weather, and various other factors, I have not been doing a lot of agility lately.  And Marge, of course, needs some serious contact obstacle proofing.  We're NQ'ing in Standard on the same things, over and over again.

Despite the low Q rate, we had a wonderful time.  Arrow was perfectly behaved, and she and Marge shared the hotel room like they'd been living together for years!  They even played together a little bit.. a first for the two of them.  They have always sort of coexisted by ignoring each other, but I think after spending some time together at the past couple agility trials, they have become friends.

Marge preferred to snooze on the bed adjacent to mine.  Though she would have happily shared with Arrow, Arrow decided that the cushiony chair next to our bed was the perfect Border Collie recharging station.

Apparently, their sleeping quarters were more than sufficient, because they were both ready to go by 4 AM, jumping all over the bed to wake me up to go outside.  I was not happy, but obliged, since I knew Miss Marge had to poop.

The trial site did start to heat up quite a bit on the 2nd day.  I had a fan blowing on them and they had ample water, but the air was definitely stuffy. Arrow thought that jumping up and biting the hose was the perfect way to keep cool.  Marge preferred to suffer through the heat.

Understandably, they were pooped when it was all said and done, and curled up together for a nap on the way home.

Next up: two days at North Branch Park in a week.  Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but it sure would be nice to finish two MXJs that weekend!

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