Monday, November 8, 2010

More Pros Than Cons

First and most importantly, Layla is definitely doing better than she was a couple of days ago.  Sunday was probably her best day, except for the pile of hurled-up food that I found on the floor a few hours ago.  She is walking better, more active, and I haven't seen her stumble nearly as much.

Of course, an ear infection is the best scenario, but it would present problems, too - it would mean that we're back to square one on the issue of finding Layla a new food to eat.  I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Thanks again for your continued good thoughts - it's already 2 AM now, so I'll be visiting your blogs in the morning.


It's strange, but I'm actually really happy to be done with trialing for a while.  I found this Fall season to be pretty tough, especially looking back at our exceptionally sunny Spring trials, in which we Q'd 8 out of 12 tries.  And, even the runs that were NQs, all except for one, were extremely fluid and connected.  The same, unfortunately, can't be said for the Fall trials, but I think we ended with more pros than cons.

Our first run on Saturday was Standard.  I really liked the course - I didn't have to lead out at all and the whole thing was really flowy.

We were on the start line again for a ridiculous amount of time - they had obstacles to fix and the EZ-Up tent near the stewards' table was blowing around a bit.  I decided after this run that I was no longer rushing in to the ring, even if the stewards told me to, and was not shy about bringing treats in to the little gated passageway in to the ring.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Given the rocky start, the run was really, really nice.  Marge went around one jump because she heard the hockey puck slamming against the side of the rink just beyond the trees, a few hundred feet away from us (perhaps some of you recall this post about that topic and how it's our nemesis at this park).  You can hear the same thud right after she finishes the Dog Walk.  But, I didn't go back to fix the jump - it would have broken her momentum.  She snapped back in to the agility game VERY quickly given that scary sound, and went on to do the teeter and the table perfectly - the two big things that we really needed to fix.

Our only other fault was Marge putting two paws on the teeter on the way to the blue tunnel after the A-Frame - it wouldn't have been a disqualifying fault, if not for the missed jump.  She did jump out of the ring after completing the course, but she came back in when I called her and thankfully didn't do it again for the rest of the weekend.

Nothing to really be unhappy about with this run.  It stinks, because a Q would have meant our OA title, but hey, I'll definitely take this.

Not too long after was our Jumpers run.  This was a pretty tricky course, with the tunnel entrances definitely being the hardest part.

She ran quite well again.  We had trouble at the first tunnel and got called for a refusal.  Then, I pulled her off the yellow single jump, so we had a runout and a backjump (wrong course - none are allowed in Jumpers).  But, we regained momentum quickly, her weave entrance was super, and the rest of the course was fine.  Definitely a course I wish I could "do over," because we would have Q'd if I didn't pull her off that darn jump.

Do you hear the sound of the swings in the background?  Somehow, it didn't bother her - thank goodness.  I guess she prefers the sound of swings of the sound of hockey!

So, the day was not a failure at all.  Given our last trial, with problems galore in both runs, this was definitely a huge step in the right direction.  I wanted her to be connected and engaged with me - and she was.

Sunday, our first run was Jumpers.  A really fun, flowy course, that lent itself nicely to rear crosses, our strength.

We qualified! It was definitely exhilarating to run this course.  She was totally on the ball.  We had a bobble at the blue tunnel (the entrance was right up against the face, an absolutely wicked angle), but didn't get called for a refusal.  It was nice to have a win attached to such a nice run, after the two "so close, yet so far" runs we had the day before.  A first place!

We went back to the practice jump after each of our runs - an activity recommended to us by our friend, fearful dog-savvy trainer, Stephen.  I really like this idea, as it really makes the whole agility thing a game, and kind of decreases the novelty of the ring, I think.

After a long wait, it was time for Open Standard - our last trial run of the year.  I didn't like the course at all - it was very, very tight, and I had watched the Excellent Standard dogs on a similar course run it, too.

It was not to be.  I thought that maybe we could squeeze out a nice run, but, I guess after a long weekend, Marge's brain was fried.  I think this is both good stress and bad - she held both of her contacts, did the teeter, and weaved like a superstar (all hard, mentally taxing obstacles), but had lots of control issues and some aimless running.

The table was erroneously left at 24", which was a big jump for my little girl, and definitely contributed to her table refusal.  She also didn't like the judge (he was one of those guys who gets up pretty close to you on the contact obstacles).  A lot of dogs gave him funny looks, to be honest.

The spectators also played a role.  After the table, she went to go visit some kids who were practically hanging over the ring gates, possibly with food in hand.

My friend Gloria went to go "yell" at them during the run, telling them how much time and money we spend to get our dogs to do well and have fun out here at shows.  Unfortunately, her efforts didn't seem to help much, as they and several other kids were absolutely causing havoc at the trial site, especially during the Novice Standard class (which I worked ring crew in - and yelled at the kids several times to get them to move off of the fence).  They were making noise, eating food very close to the rings, bouncing balls, running around, oh, you name it.  Then, there were the people with their untrained, unentered dogs walking around, who let their dogs approach and bark at the show dogs.   I will be bringing this up at our club's meeting, because it really adds unnecessary stressors on the exhibitors and their dogs and perhaps we need more intervention.  It's nice to attract new people, but they need to know their limitations. The spectators have NEVER been this bad.

I kind of snapped at one well-meaning guy, who admired my dog and didn't take my "She's shy" to mean that he should NOT put his grubby hands on her.  I moved in the way of his hand and told him, "No thank you!!!!" - he was taken aback, but after two days of trialing, neither Marge nor I really wanted to be bothered and I was afraid that she might tell him off in her own little MargeDog way when he reached for her.  I tried to further explain that I needed to be her little bodyguard in this big, scary world, but bobbled over my words and he left.  Whatever.  People need to get some dog sense and ASK before they approach a dog.

So, the weekend didn't end spectacularly, with a pretty crappy run coupled with the spectator stress.  But, the weekend was a decent success, I'd say - Marge was comfortable at the trial site and comfortable in the ring, for the most part, did well at a busy trial, and picked up her second OAJ leg.  She now needs one more in each class to finally say goodbye to Open and head for Excellent.  I'm unsure when our next trial will be (not 'til 2011, for sure), but more on that another time.  For now, we need a well-deserved break from even thinking about it.


Lrusso November 8, 2010 at 2:26 AM  

That picture of marge at the bottom is HILARIOUS.

Martha November 8, 2010 at 5:12 AM  

Glad to hear the news is better for Layla.
You are still working very hard Sam!
martha and bailey x

Diana November 8, 2010 at 8:09 AM  

I thought your runs were very nice. Remember its your responsiblity to make sure the equipment is set at the right height for your dog. I know that seems werid but thats the rules. So make sure you check. I knew someone who ran their dog at the wrong jump ht, because of conflicts the jump hts were changing after each dog , and she ran. Had beautiful run and then we realized it was at the wrong jump ht. She didnt get her "Q" and didnt get a rerun. So make sure you check.
On the first run, she didnt take that jump because your rear cross was late. She thought she was going to the jump in front of her. I dont think it had anything to do with noise. I didnt listen to the vedeo and it didnt look like any noise bothered her. So watch it again and just watch yourself and see what you think.
The last run, I think you needed to run it differently. I think you needed to do a 2 jump lead out with a call to heel. You will be facing the tunnel, with your shoulders facing your dog and the tunnel. That way she know where she is going right from the start. (Its Linda Mecklenburgs call to heel drills). Coming out of the tunnel she see that jump right in front and thinks thats where she is going. If you did the call to heel thing, then you could have been at that end of the tunnel to get her attention and let her know she isnt going the way she thought she was. I think after all the mistakes she just started stressing but you were able to get her back and finsh nicely. All these things just take time to learn. Your "q" rate usually goes down as the courses get harder. Then once you really become a team, they start going back up again. I think you should be really proud of those runs. Diana

Cyndi and Stumpy November 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

Whatever else, Marge looks FABULOUS in blue! Congrats!

Cyndi and Stumpy November 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

Whatever else, Marge looks FABULOUS in blue! Congrats!

LauraK November 8, 2010 at 9:54 AM  

Nice runs! Looks like Marge was having a blast out there. Sorry you had some bad spectators- some people just don't understand dogs and how much time we put into training them. They think that they can throw their dogs out there and just compete without training- it always cracks me up. Hope you girls have a nice, restful break from agility and that Marge gets to just enjoy being a dog for a bit!

Amy / Layla the Malamute November 8, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

Very nice runs!

I like the "almost" runs (the first two, from Saturday) because they're little mistakes rather than huge ones that could take weeks/months/however long to fix. The kind where if you had a "do-over" it'd almost definitely be a clean run? Yeah I'd rather Q, but still.

I would be so, so mad at the kids and probably would have been downright nasty to them. I have no tolerance for that, or for any obnoxious spectator of any age. I hate when people bring the unentered dogs to shows. They do it at conformation shows too, and their little 19 pound Chihuahua starts snarling at Layla, and she snarls back, who do you think will get reprimanded? Ridiculous, and unfair.

They were talking in class a few weeks ago about a ring crew that left either the table at a different height or the tire at a different height, and all the people that Q'd had their scores rescinded and weren't allowed to try again. I don't think that's fair, either - that's the purpose of a ring crew - but I guess their logic is somewhere.

Glad you're taking time off. The two times that I took a few weeks/months off with Layla (first my shoulder surgery, then her toy mouse incident) she came back more focused and ready to play than ever before.

The Nationals are so cool. My first and only one so far was last year, but they're just addictive. Layla's my first ever purebred (I wanted to do obedience and agility and it was before AKC allowed mixes) so it's all new to me too, but it's incredible.

As far as the unentered dogs, it would take extra workers that would take away from the people working the agility ring, but maybe you can have a "welcoming committee" which stand near where the cars come in. In reality, they'd be checking for dogs, without publicly stating it. That's a huge pet peeve of mine and it's really just dangerous for everyone involved.

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! November 8, 2010 at 10:33 AM  

Stumpy and her human are correct:

Blue is SO Marge's ribbon colour of choice!

Thanks for sharing!

Sam November 8, 2010 at 11:00 AM  

Diana - I know the call to heel would have worked better, but I didn't want to lead out at all this trial, as it really just seems to pile the stress on to Marge. That would have been a long lead out.

And I'm really 100% sure she heard the hockey puck on the missed jump. It may not have been the whole problem because she did jump long due to my rear cross, but she turned her head and slowed for a minute. It didn't show up on the video, but it was there.

But I definitely am proud of these runs! Well, maybe not the last one. :)

Sue November 8, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

Glad to hear that Layla is better. The antibiotic can be causing some stomach distress.

Now you and Marge can relax for a while and start fresh in the spring. Congrats on all your wins this year. You've come a long way.

Dog_geek November 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM  

Good to hear that Layla is improving!

There is one trial I go to every year where the spectators are bad. One year, a family of four actually laid stuff out for a picnic about 10 feet away from the exit gate of the ring, in direct line-of-site from the last jump. When we finished the course, there they were, all sitting on their blanket eating ther lunch, and they actually clapped their hands and called to my dog as he came over the last jump. Luckily, my dog didn't go to them and came back to me to get leashed, but sheesh! At another trial, a mob of kids wanted to pet each dog and give it treats as it came out of the ring. That wouldn't have been a problem for L, but B would have a heart attack if she saw 8 or 9 kids coming at her at the exit gate. I had to ask the trial chair to put a stop to it, and I felt like a big meanie, but oh well!

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ November 8, 2010 at 2:28 PM  

So good to hear that Layla is doing better.

As for the weekend, it's all pretty foreign to us, but we thought the runs looked pretty darn good. The club should post signs with standard etiquette for spectators and then enforce them. That's just our two cents.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Anna the GSD November 8, 2010 at 4:52 PM  

Nice blue bling!!! :)

I hate noisy little peoples also used to say the "she's shy" thing when people wanted to come up and pet me, and now she just says "no" before they start...then I like to suprise her and run up to them to be petted, making mom look like a dork. :)

Kari in Alaska November 8, 2010 at 6:56 PM  

It sounds to me like you were ready for a break (and some sleep if its 2am!). Glad to hear kitty is doing better


Sara November 8, 2010 at 7:05 PM  

I'm glad Layla is doing better. That is good to hear.

I'm also glad that you went home from this trial feeling much more positive about things. I think you are doing a great job at helping Marge deal with her stressors. There will always be those "hockey pucks" in life, but Marge knows that you've got her back.

Two French Bulldogs November 8, 2010 at 10:39 PM  

The runs looked purrty good. Love your last picture Marge
Benny & Lily

KB November 8, 2010 at 11:08 PM  

I think that BLUE suits Marge beautifully! It seems like an overall excellent weekend. Sure, there were some issues, but all in all, it sounds like Marge had fun at the trial and so did you. That's the most important thing!

The kids sound like a huge distraction. I'm really impressed that Marge did so well with all the hubb-bubb, including hockey pucks and swings creaking, around her.

And, I'm so happy that Layla is doing better. One step forward is a good thing.

Lorenza November 9, 2010 at 12:32 AM  

I am happy to know Layla is doing better. Paws still crosse here for her!
Sorry you had some not very good spectators. But Marge sure had fun, right?
Take care
Kisses and hugs

Gus, Louie and Callie November 9, 2010 at 5:40 PM  

Looks to us like you did an awesome job...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Muttsandaklutz November 9, 2010 at 8:02 PM  

First, I'm so glad to hear that Layla is doing better. Sending positive thoughts for continued improvement!

Marge's first three runs were totally awesome as far as I'm concerned, and a bonus Q and first place in that Jumpers - way to go! Her a-frame is looking great, and her weaves -- wow!! Way to go.

BRUTUS November 9, 2010 at 8:06 PM  

Wow, I just can't believe how far you've come! Some beautiful running & handling there. Ugh, I hate when a course starts or ends with a tunnel, and you had both!! Congrats on the blue/Q run - and there was a LOT going on around that ring! Surprising to see how late in the year you hold trials there - ours were over a month ago!! Keep up the amazing work, and enjoy your time off. Bet you'll come back into the ring with a bang!


AC November 9, 2010 at 10:14 PM  

I'm so glad that you finished the trial season on an up note. Maybe everything wasn't perfect but it sounds like you still had a good weekend.

Good for Marge for recovering after that hockey puck smack!

I so feel ya with the "people have no dog sense" thing. I think a lot of good stuff (better general care) has come from our companion animal culture but the bad came with it (every dog is here for *me* to enjoy). It sure is hard to navigate sometimes.

Kathy Mocharnuk November 10, 2010 at 10:38 AM  

You guys had some really great moments. Looking back over the last year....or year and a half you have to look back over that journey and be so proud of how much Marge has grown and how far you have come, especially when she is your first agiity dog, and not just in agiity, in rally and just in general life. You know almost everyone goes through a little period with the harder courses, the dogs increasing confidence and some of the break down of training that comes with trialing if things are not maintained on a regular basis.....I know very few people that do not go through a period where things just feel like they are falling apart, then they all come together again, way better. Breeze is pretty awesome and she is going to be great and we have been stalled too, but it is just part of the journey, I would skip this part if I could...LOL, and I am not so accepting right after a hard trial, LOL. You guys are going to keep growing and we will all start having it come together better then ever pretty soon, and wont that be fun??? I am looking forward to it.

Anonymous November 10, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

Still hoping and wishing the best for Layla -- sounds like it very well could be the ears, which sounds like the most treatable scenario. And congratulations to Sam! Great pics -- gracious in victory, indeed.
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