Monday, July 11, 2011

Sugar Bush Farm

As soon as I finished my midterm on Friday, I raced to the car, drove home and let Jonah out.  After his compulsory laps around the yard with stops to do the other essentials, he returned to me wagging.  I opened the doors of the car and crate and he lept into the already-packed car.  Next stop:  picking up Dave from work.  He was already outside waiting for us.  After that: traffic.  But really it was as good as it could have been at 4:30 on a Friday heading out of the city.  Within an hour, we were free and clear headed west.

We pulled into the driveway at Sugar Bush Farm just before eight and were welcomed by the owners who were amazingly friendly and escorted us by golfcart to the best camping spot on the property (at least I thought so).  It was at the back of the lower level ring, about 20 feet back from the ring itself.  To one side was a tarp that someone had set up but it turned out the next day they never used it.  On the other side was a vast cornfield.  It was lovely and quiet with a great view of the ring.  I could even see the 45C ring if I looked in the other direction.  We set up our tents with the shade tent right in front of the camping tent for an additional vestibule which turned out to be a nice treat.  Then, after reading for a while, we went to sleep.

It was raining, and the sound on the tent was as relaxing as could be.  Of course, I didn't exactly want to take Jonah out at his normal 10:00 in the pouring rain, and before I knew it I had fallen asleep.  At one o'clock, I woke up and the rain had stopped.  Jonah and Dave were sleeping soundly but I figured it was a good time to take Jonah out and go to the bathroom myself.

Half asleep, I stumbled out of the tent with nothing but myself and Jonah.  I should have remembered I wasn't in the suburbs anymore, and I wasn't at home, either.  It was dark.  Really dark.  As in, black.  I couldn't see anything unless I was on top of it.  Then, before I knew it, Jonah was pooping!  Again, there should be no surprise here.  I took him out for his nightly walk so that he could do this.  Yet, as I checked my pockets, I knew I didn't have a poop bag (at home, I don't pick up Jonah's poop because he has two wooded acres to himself back there, so when I go out at night I don't normally bring poop bags).  Here we were, in the middle of a dark field.  I knew I couldn't leave it there, but I also knew that if I left the spot I'd never find it again.  Heck, I couldn't even see the poop now.  So (and I hesitate even to write this because it's so gross, but sometimes extreme situations call for extreme measures), I waited a minute, took a breath, and reached down to collect the poop.  Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I had expected.  Then we started towards the bathroom.

A minute later, I felt a thrusting pull on the leash and Jonah was growling.  Next he began to bark.  Having only one free hand at this point, I struggled to reach him and quiet him.  Then I hear Dave whispering, "Jonah! Quiet!  It's me."  Staying put and quieting him wasn't working so I just let the leash loose and ran after him towards the whisper.  We still couldn't see Dave.  Yet, a second later, all was quiet.  Dave and I were shaking.  Here we were in the middle of the field with our dog making a ruckus. I was extremely embarrassed and I hope we didn't wake everyone up.  We were at least 100 yards from the nearest camper, but we realized in the morning that voices carried awfully far in that space.  Oh well. We were nowhere near as loud as the pack of coyotes that got to screaming a few hours later.

Then it was back to sleep, and before we knew it the sun was shining on a beautifully misty morning in New York.  All was well.

Round One:  Jackpot Level 3
     This was a non-traditional Jackpot, and I thought it was very doable.  We had to consecutively do two tunnels, a jump and an A-frame at very minimal distance, in any order and at any time in flow.  I was not worried and I walked a course that looked very promising.  I was excited.  Then, as we went to warm up, we were both slipping on the wet morning grass.  I had time to go put on cleats, but there was nothing I could do for Jonah.  In the past, I'd always thought cleats were unnecessary, but when I was actively slipping I definitely thought it was worth it.  (Note:  I didn't buy cleats for agility--I have them for my other sport, ultimate frisbee, but they happened to be in the car, so why not use them?)

When it was our turn, we went in the ring and Jonah immediately got excited, leaping and barking.  I guess this behavior is here to stay--it wasn't just a strange hitch from Bo-Gee.  With the electronic 'go,' I did a bit of a slingshot start and we were off, flying down the outside line of jumps.  Reaching the end of the line, I planted my cleats and turned towards the dogwalk.  Jonah dug in his claws but there was nothing he could do to keep his legs under him and down he slipped.  He was up quickly, though, and seemed no worse for the wear.  He raced over the dogwalk and right through his contact.  Yarg!  They are so good at home, and I was planted completely still at the bottom.  He went right down to the end but he showed no sign of stopping.  Humph.  At least he's no where near blowing the contact.  In fact, it's a pretty nice running contact.

Next we made our approach to the gamble.  Jonah was full speed and ready.  Tunnel, frame, jump...frame!  I was not paying attention and was unclear about directing him through the discrimination.  I was just thinking that since the tunnel was closer to me he'd come to that, but I didn't work it hard at all and it's completely my fault.  Oops, sorry bud.  It was alright though.  We could do the gamble at any time.  So, I figured we'd just go ahead and do it now.  Tunnel-frame-jump...DAD!  After taking the jump Jonah saw Dave filming him and he raced across the field to see him.  I couldn't believe it.  He had been so focused.  My "comes" fell on deft ears.  I was kind of shocked, as this just is not his typical behavior, and therefore I don't really know how to react.

Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only maybe eight seconds or so, he clicked back into gear and came racing back.  I got him in the tunnel to finish the gamble, then raced for the table, but was too late.  We were about 10 feet away from the table when the buzzer sounded.  Sigh.  That's two Jackpots in a row that we've missed.  I was pretty unhappy about it until, when I was getting lunch, there was a woman who'd just gotten her C-ATCH.  Someone else in line congratulated her and she responded wryly, "Finally!  We've only needed that one Jackpot Q since December."  I guess maybe missing two isn't so bad.  We even got a white ribbon.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
    This was a nice course and it ran well for us.  At one point there was an offside tunnel entry and I pulled him too hard.  Thinking I didn't want the tunnel, Jonah looked around and thought he was supposed to take the dogwalk.  I called him back and he stopped, but I think I was too harsh in my call.  I was thinking this was the start of another crazy moment, but instead he looked kind of hurt by my tone.  Sorry buddy, my bad again.  Luckily he doesn't hold grudges, and he went into the tunnel and finished the rest of the course very nicely (although he ran through the dogwalk contact again!  argh!).  The only other thing of note was that I had to rear-cross the A-frame.  I don't usually do that, and the consequence was that he turned around to look for me when he got to the top.  Then he was on his way, though, and finished the course well.  First and Q.

Round 3:  Snooker Level 4
     For our Level 4 debut, I decided to go for it.  The course had all three of the reds at the start line with only one out in the field.  The seven obstacle was the weaves, which were not bidirectional:  they had to be taken back towards the start line.  Well, I made a plan and stuck with it, even though all I heard during the walk through was, "Three sevens are impossible."  Well, it wasn't impossible, as I saw a 16" dog do it, but it certainly wasn't easy and I didn't know that it was possible for us.

We went in the ring and I set Jonah up.  He was excited again, but he let me put him in a sit-stay and I walked out a good ways--probably close to 20"--as a lead out.  I felt confident walking out there.  When I turned back to him he was sitting quietly, looking at me patiently.  When I said OK, he took the first jump and headed right to me.  What a good boy.  Then I had to push him around for the weave entry, which he nailed and he sailed through the weaves.  Next we had to run back to the start line for another red.  I pushed to the backside and he flew over the jump.  We ran around the outside of the obstacles for the next pass at the weaves.  Unfortunately that ran him past his dad.  No running over this time, but he slowed and looked over at Dave.  Then his attention snapped back and we got the weaves for the second time.  The third red was the easiest; it was the one right out in the field next to the weaves.  Yet, as we turned towards it he had to stop and look for dad again.  Come on, Jonah.  Two seconds or so and then he jumped the red and we were off.  Through the weaves for the third time, then tunnel (2), jump (3), jump (4), double (5), jump (6), and back to the weaves (7).  We turned for the table and I was kind of shocked the timer hadn't gone off, but we made it!

It was not an especially pretty run, thanks to the two stops to find dad, but it was good enough.  Q and 1st.  We were the only level 4 dog to get 51 points, and one of only a handful in any level (the course was 45C).  Of course, the fastest dog to get 51 points was a full 10 seconds faster than us.  We've still got plenty of room for improvement!

Round 4:  Wildcard Level 3
     Unfortunately the walk-thru for this course was right when I was running Snooker in the other ring.  I got to walk it, but I was worried I'd miss my run so I walked it very quickly, and in hindsight I don't think I made the best plan.  The first wildcard was a tunnel/A-frame discrimination.  I led out past the first jump and towards the tunnel.  He was excellent for the lead-out again, and nailed the discrimination, took the next two jumps and then cruised a tunnel, leapt over a double and then missed a 90 degree on-side weave entry.  I know he has trouble with this angle, so I think I should have chosen the tunnel rather than the double as the wildcard right before the weaves.  It was farther away so I thought the double would save time, but the missed entry took more time than the tunnel would have.  Oh well.  We fixed it quickly and raced to the end.  It was a really nice run except for the missed entry.  Unfortunately, it was a very competitive class, the biggest we'd ever been in, so it was only good enough for 3rd, but I was just happy with the Q.  I know if I'd had more time to think about this round I could have given Jonah a better chance.

All in all, it was a good day but not our best trial.  The last two times we've been out Jonah has been fantastic, so it's a little bit of a bummer to feel like we're backsliding.  Still, we had moments of greatness and came home with three Q's and two blues in a very competitive trial.  In general, I'm happy when I can safely say that something is my fault, but I get frustrated with the dad-finding because Jonah completely disconnects from me.  I need to think about how to work on this.  I'm going to set some courses in our back area and have Dave come out there while we run them.  He may also come to one of our lessons.

I'll post about our camping soon, but now I need to get to work.

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