Monday, October 31, 2011

Muddy Paws

Our Saturday morning started out pretty stressful, but it turned out to be a nice day.

I knew the bridge in Quechee was out from the hurricane, but luckily (I thought) we didn't have to go that way.  I'd heard that the Taftsville bridge was intact, so I thought we were all set.  Wrong.  We got to the Taftsville bridge and it was closed, too.  That meant a 4 mile drive along the beautiful but terribly potholed and washboarded dirt river road into Woodstock where we could cross that bridge and drive that same 4 miles back along the other side of the river, this time thankfully on a paved road, but we got behind a slow out-of-towner who didn't help us make up time.  8 miles might not sound like a lot, but it added a good half hour to our trip.

Thus, instead of rolling up right before the briefing as I'd hoped, by the time we pulled in and I ran up to see what was happening, they were already on 16" dogs.  BLAH!  I was so annoyed.  I figured I'd ask and see if they'd put the bars up and let us run even though I hadn't walked the course or even seen a course map, but I wasn't feeling good about the request.  It was my own fault, after all, that I was late.  BUT THEN...whether by an act of God or pure coincidence (I said a little prayer just in case), they had accidentally run the non-traditional Jackpot that was scheduled to be run on Saturday on Friday night instead, so now they were actually running a traditional Jackpot, levels 4/5/C.  Thankfully we are still in Level 3 (maybe it's not so bad we missed those other Q's?), so we had enough time to breathe.  We parked, I picked up course maps and made a plan and Jonah got to do what he needed to do.  Soon it was time to walk and the day was officially underway.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
     Jonah was wild when I took him out of the car.  It was much colder than it has been (high 30s), and we were both a little chilly.  So when we got in the ring he was a wild man.  We launched over the first few jumps (a pinwheel), and he spun super wide around the turn because he was so hyped up and ran right past a jump.  After our third jump we heard yelling and it turned out the timer hadn't started so we got to start again.  I thought maybe he'd settle a little bit, but no such luck.  He did exactly the same thing again and ran past that same jump.  Oh well, not worth fixing and on we went.  He was going so fast that I forgot my plan to RC the A-frame.  It was an A-frame with a tunnel under it so I'd wanted to be able to call him towards me after the A-frame and into the tunnel and then out of the tunnel and back onto the A-frame.  Having forgotten my cross, I had to flip him.  He was obedient, but in his wild rage the turns were much wider than they could have been.  Oh well.  His contacts were great.  Then we went into a tunnel and I'd expected the whistle to blow but it didn't so we improvised a bit until it finally blew.  Then it was to the gamble and it was over before I blinked:  jump, far side of tunnel, jump, table.  It was a pretty easy gamble as the line was very close, but I'll take it.  Good boy Jonah.  We collected 50 points and won the class.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     There was a tricky opening line with potential off courses in this course that had been the same for the upper level dogs.  I'd worked that class so I'd gotten to see lots of people screw it up.  By far the best success was when dogs were either really slow (which apparently Jonah was not going to be) or the handlers led out.  I like to run with him to get him more excited, but since he'd been so wild in the first round and the ring there is small and doesn't really necessarily reward the fastest dogs, I decided to lead out.  He did the opening line beautifully and I thought I was good to go.  His A-frame contact was lovely and I caught myself watching it rather than being fully aware of what came next.  My unclear handling allowed him to run around the next jump and into the following tunnel.  I would like him to have taken the jump since it was clearly in his path, but I'll take the blame since I wasn't 100% there.  After we fixed that he had a lovely end to the course.  His weaves were pretty impressive.  He shot off the teeter ahead of me and I just yelled "weave," which he did independently and flew over the last two jumps.  I realized that I'm uncomfortable when he's ahead of me, as it happens so rarely!  With the off-course and the time it took up we were 4th in the class, but it was a Q so we'll take it.  Now we only need one more Level 3 Standard Q.

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 5!
     I couldn't have asked for anything more from Jonah's Level 5 debut.  Since I've previously fallen into the trap of planning too many tight turns in Fullhouse, I decided to just run the outside track as a loop.  It was potentially dangerous because the table was right on that line and we had to take a detour through a tunnel to avoid it (table is live and stops the clock at any time in Fullhouse), but I decided to go for it.  The result was a really great run.  Jonah was fast and flawless.  His contacts were excellent, his weaves were fast and independent, he never looked at the table, and we almost got to the end of all that I had planned.  Unfortunately the whistle blew over the last jump (a double worth 5 points) so we didn't get those points, but we still ended up with 41 points for 1st place and a Q.  I glanced at the other scores and the only people I saw who got more points got 43 and they had small dogs who made a nice tight figure 8 over the 5 point double.  I don't like doing that with Jonah because it's unmotivating for him, so I was happy with my plan and glad it worked so well.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     I really tried to go for speed in this jumpers course, and I didn't support a jump in the opening serpentine enough, so I had to stop and call him around back to it.  Then he got going nicely through the middle half of the course until he saw his Dad and had to stop to wag in his direction.  Luckily he focused back on me pretty quickly and we cruised through the end of the course.  It was not a beautiful run but it was clean.  It was a big class and we were one of the first dogs so I decided not to wait for scores.  Unless something funny happened it was a Q, but I'm sure it wasn't a first place.  It showed me that I need to remember that he's not as focused at trials and I shouldn't just assume he'll read my mind like he often does in practice.  He's doing well but we're still pretty new to agility in the grand scheme of things.

It was a good day.  Check back tomorrow to hear what happened later that night!

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