Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crappy weekend at the Sunflower AKC trial

I had to sit down and get my thoughts out once again after a very disappointing, sucky weekend. It was eye opening and at the very best, motivating which is what I needed!

We started out the weekend by having snow that was not suppose to accumulate. Imagine my surprise when I woke up and saw the roads and ground covered. Now I am the biggest winter driver wimp you have ever met, so I was fairly scared even at this little dusting that we got. I decided to be brave, hoping that the main roads would be good and with the exception of Lawrence roads, they were all good. I drove about 10 mph in lawrence and just let everyone go around me!

We started off by running jumpers on Friday, with a wonderful jumpers course set up by Lavonda Herring who had great courses all weekend if I say so myself. Miller got a Q and left all his bars up and got his weaves so I was very happy. Then came standard and the dreaded dog walk. Miller has always had a very marginal dog walk and I have not been 100% clear on his criteria. We train in class that he is to stop with 2 feet on and 2 off and he gets a correction if he does this wrong, but he is usually stellar in class with contacts. He does a running aframe which has been natural to him, but stops on his teeter. Well in a trial, unfortuately, the quest for my MACH has really caused me to let him get away with some really close dog walks that do not even come close to what I get in class. I see that almighty Q and I forget things like criteria! Well, the last two shows, his dog walk has gotten worse and worse and haven't been pulling him just in case I got the double Q, which is really bad. It is worse when we run standard after jumpers because I will go ahead and hope that he got it. So the dog walk was the second to last obstacle and I had a double Q going, which makes it even harder and my plan was to run it like I run in class, which is to not baby it at all. The next obstacle was the last obstacle and it was a jump so I had planned to run to that jump, release him and then end, but unfortunately for me, he didn't hold his contact and got over the jump before I could get a correction in. I quickly leashed him up and put him in his crate and ignored him which usually hurts his feelings pretty bad. I was so mad at myself for not getting him corrected sooner and was hoping that the correction I got in was enough. I was also very conflicted becuase he had really run a perfect course and had gotten through all the hard stuff very nicely and tightly but just had one mistake. He was so happy with himself and I felt so bad for ignoring him but I don't know what else to do. I was so upset all night, from being angry at him, to angry at myself, to all out depressed. I feel like since miller is 10, we don't have much more competitive time and i hear his competition clock ticking very loudly which makes these decisons so much harder.

Day 2 dawned with us running standard first which is better for me when it comes to decision time. The dog walk was in the middle of the course this time so at least i wouldn't have run too much of the course before I had to pull him or make a decison. Well, this time, he came down in the contact zone but didn't make any attempt to stop. I stopped him immediately and pulled him. I got a good correction in and felt that the sunday we would be better. Of course we Q'd in jumpers so I basically had forgone a QQ to work on his dog walk. My trainer commented that i had really grown some balls. I felt good about my decision but at the same time, I still hear that time clock ticking.

Day 3 dawned again with standard first so again, easy decision. As he was transversing the dog walk, I could tell he had no intentions of stopping. I told him bottom and turned into him to make sure he heard me and I think what happened was he barked at me, talking back to me (he barks the whole course) and he slid off the contact. I think he was making an attempt at stopping but I felt like he had missed the contact and there was no point in going in. He has to learn that he can't back talk and he has to do what is expected of him. So i basically gave up 3 Qs to work on his dog walk. Talk about expensive practice!!!!! We didn't Q in jumpers as I think I was just not into running after three days of not even finishing a standard course. He missed the last weave pole, probably because I was getting ready to turn and he saw my footwork change so I blame myself. I had no reason to be turning so soon, but again I wasn't running with 100% of my mind. The run ended up being pretty good, I did say turn in front of a jump and he did a great turn, in front of it and not after he had jumped it, but again my fault. I ended the run on a good note with lots of cookies since both mistakes were my fault.

Now on to how I feel now and my observations for the weekend. On one hand, I am proud of myself for forgoing the Q. On the other hand I feel like I don't have much time left to get his MACH due to his age and I know i gave up at least 2 QQS this weekend. I do feel like it was a good idea since we have AKC nationals coming up and it is in North Carolina this year. I really don't want to drive all that way and have him have perfect runs except the dog walk. I know it is a good idea to use every run as training, especially since nationals is coming up in three months but that is such a hard mindset to keep. I know if jumpers is first and I have a Q already, it is going to make this decision to pull him so much harder. i was lucky this weekend that standard was first two days out of three. I hope I can keep this frame of mind because I have a tendancy to get all fired up and then loose it at the next show. Of course it doesn't help that I have a USDAA show next weekend and we only have two of those in our area so titles and Qs for nationals are very precious. I might have the tendency to let him get away with bad dog walks if I think I have the Q.

Kids and Dog agility

So i have been feeling like I am at a cross roads and it is best for me to get it out and talk about it. Having a few beers always helps the creative juices flow so here goes. I have been feeling like I am standing at a cross roads as to what I need to do with my life. I feel like my career is taken care of, even if I have to change jobs, I know science is my life and I am only happy being a lab rat. I feel like my marriage is taken care of because I could never ask for a better man than Tony. Who else is going to put up with my dog addiction and my spending habits at dog shows? Now on to the problem or the cross in the road! Should I have kids? I am 30 years old now and the older I get, the more set in my ways I am getting. I love dog showing and love traveling to shows on the weekend, but should i be starting a family now instead of searching for the next breeding of my next puppy? I want to have those mommy feelings, those tinglings you get when you hold someone else's baby, but I am just not getting them. I always said as a child I wanted to have children before I was 30 so that they could enjoy their grandparents. Now I am 30 and my mom will be 60 this year and I haven't even seriously entertained the idea of a family. No, I take that back, I have entertained the idea and quickly shot it down! Let's see, how can i be pregnant and run at AKC nationals and USDAA nationals? Would i be through with Miller's MACH in time or would i have to wait until the baby is a little older and postpone my biggest goal right now? I really feel like we will finish his MACH this year, but then there is MACH 2, and 3 and so on and also harley waiting in the wings. There is also USDAA, ASCA and NADAC titles to work on and can't do that with a baby on the hip. Sometimes I feel like these titles and things are so silly and why am I wasting so much time and effort to get them, but I love what I do and can't envision stopping. Most of the women in my sport are older women, women who have had kids, given someone else a majority of their life and are finally getting back to doing something that they want to do. They are finished for the most part with the child raising period of their lives. Some have grandkids, but dog shows are first to them because they are done giving their lives to others. TIme for their selfish period. I just haven't gotten out of my selfish period! I know me and I know if I have kids, I will be just as devoted to them as I am with my dogs and I could see that being a disaster with my dog stuff and I just don't want that to happen. I want to be able to do the stuff that I want to do, not go to PTA meetings, playdates, and birthday parties.

I wish I had that maternal feeling, wish that I wanted a baby. I have always felt that if God wanted me to be a mommy, it would have happened by now. We don't use any precautions since we have been married and it hasn't happened yet. Sometimes I wonder if my work is keeping me from getting pregnant. I have worked with dangerous pathogens since 2000 and now work with horrible chemicals like DAB and Ethidium bromide and formamide and formaldehyde. I also extensively worked with many organic solvents when I was doing my master's research. I always wonder if I have horrible germ line mutations that make my little eggs useless. Guess we won't really know unless we really try hard. I admire all of my friends who are mommies. They seem so happy and never complain about their lack of me time. They juggle crazy schedules, no sleep, sickness and multiple children no problem. Maybe I will be that way some day, maybe not.

I guess it boils down to a couple of things: 1. I am very selfish and 2. do i lack that mommy gene? Am i going to regret not having children if I choose that path of the cross road or will i just continue to be happy and do my thing with the dogs? I love my dogs, they are my children, but they only live 15 or so years and I dread the day when my eldest who is 11 has to cross the bridge. Can I manage doing both as some people do? Babies are very expensive and time consuming, just like dogs and dog sports. If i have one, will I have to give up the other? I guess I should just give it up to God and stop worrying about it. If it happens it does, if it doesn't, oh well i wasn't meant to be a mommy. I guess worrying about it does show that I am slightly inclined to the idea, however small. Well, time to go groom the dogs!!!!! Enough self pity for now!

Harley and Decisions

So I am at work, having to work late, but mainly just setting stuff up and waiting for it to be done so had a minute to get on here and type a little. Had something that is been bothering me so the best way to get it out is to write about it. I am just disappointed in how harley turned out and that really bugs me. I am sure it is something tony and I did when he was younger of course. I had gotten harley with the intentions of him being my main agility dog. Right after we got him, Miller started showing interest in doing agility so I suggested to my husband that he do the puppy agility classes with him so I could take the advanced classes with Miller. We did this for quite a while and things went great. Tony decided when harley was old enough to enter him and show him, which i thought was still a great idea.

The problem started when Harley started fudging on his contacts and tony let him get away with it. Harley's contact position is 2 on and 2 off (meaning two feet on the ground and two feet on the contact obstacle). As they showed more and more, Tony let him get away with more and more. It started out as letting him release himself off of the contact, to a moving contact, to no contact and even flying off the top of the obstacle. Now mind you, in class he had perfect contacts so tony held to this ideal that he would eventually get it. Well, our trainer was in the background saying "pull him for this", but Tony just couldn't do it. Doing agility was harley's reward, so letting him continue the course after he had done something wrong just reinforced the behavior. Tony finally started pulling him after getting into EX A and then getting stuck in standard for a year, but it was too late. The damage was done. Tony finally decided that showing wasn't for him because it lost all of its fun for him. Who wants to continually run a dog and have to pull them at the very first contact obstacle on the course, every single run? Anyway, Harley was still young and I saw him slowly maturing so I just wanted to give it time. I had been running miller and decided to take on running both dogs and just use harley's runs as training runs. I felt like I had no problem pulling him for not doing his contact criteria because Miller's run was the one that counted anyway. Well, that started off great, however now Harley got stressed because he knew he was in the wrong so then our table performance fell apart. He would get on the table and you could just see the stress oozing out of his pores. He would do the whole, "i don't see you" routine, so here we go again, pulling him for this, even though it was stress related. I decided to re work the table as I hated having to say "table, down" or "table sit". I decided the command "load up" should mean get on whatever and lay down. We got a table and worked it and now he is doing very well on the table.

The contacts are still another story. I do believe that pulling him is the best thing to do as he knows his job since he is perfect everywhere else. I have toyed with the idea of retraining the contacts with a different method (not running), but we moved to a new house and all of my contacts are stored as we don't have enough room for them in our yard anymore. Retraining the table took alot of time and effort so I would need contacts in the yard that I could work every day. Harley is going to be 6 this year and Miller did not really come into his own until he was 6 so there is hope. The problem now is that he needs one more Q for his EX A title and even though I don't show him often, I have found myself letting him fudge on his contacts to get the stinking Q. I have also stopped showing him very much because I to hate to pay entry fees to do three obstacles and then leave the course. Tony use to pay his entry fees, but he stopped and miller also started doing so well that I wanted to enter him more and money doesn't grow on trees so I have had to make some hard decisions. Of course my trainer thinks that not showing him is hurting him but why show him when he still refuses to get his contacts in a trial. I have tried everything with this dog as far as taking him to showngos to get him to break his contacts, taking him to NADAC trials where you can physically put them back on the contacts or redo them, and pulling him. I am at a loss as to what to do next. I can't really concentrate on him right now because I am trying to finish up my MACH with miller and go to nationals again for 2010 in AKC and in USDAA (2009). I want to do more USDAA and have cut out all NADAC so I can afford to do this. Harley is just getting put aside, which could be good in a way, more time to mature. I often wonder if we put too much pressure on him as a young dog to do well. We waited to teach weaves till after he was 1, waiting to jump until we thought he was ready, took handling classes as well as obstacles classes with him, and socialized the heck out of him because he went to all the shows that miller went to. He was so awesome and usually won first place in his classes and soared through novice and open. We saw so much potential and then it all vanished. I still take classes with him every tuesday night, and i do see moments of brilliance and of course perfect contacts, so I know someday he will be great, but when is someday? I think Miller probably has one more year of good competition in him, but I will probably continue to show him as long as he wants to go. I will move him to preferred when it is time, and maybe do more NADAC for fun, but hopefully, knock on wood, this is at least a year or more from now. Miller will be 10 this year but I sure don't see him running like he is that old. I do look forward to handling harley more as he is a blast to run when he has contacts. He is much faster than Miller and takes alot more finesse than miller. He is very obstacle focused so keeping that balance between handler and obstacle focus is hard. He also prefers to be driven on the course, even if he is faster because if you let him drift and distance, his brain goes out the door! He takes a lot more front crosses and staying on your toes than miller does, which can be nerve wracking and can be exhilarating too. So all of that is to say that I just don' know what to do and wish i had the answer. I know that financially I will have to either show miller less to show harley more and that just isn't going to happen just yet. I have worked two jobs before to pay for my addiction as tony calls it, but then I never saw tony and barely had much time for training, so even though i was going to more trials, we weren't doing any better. I am hoping that we strike it rich with the lottery because that would help and then I could buy and indoor arena for my trainer so we could do classes indoors and have class year around, temperature controlled, which would help. We current do everything outdoors which sucks right now as it is below 0. well, enough of my whining and moaning! Timer is fixing to go off so better get ready to go home!

USDAA nationals 2008

Part 1
Well, just got back from Arizona from USDAA nationals and thought I'd better blog about it. Another national event and more thoughts and emotions to get out. This was a new experience for me because not only have I never camped in and set up an RV, I don't do much USDAA so I didn't know what to expect. My trainer goes every year and loves it and convinced me to try it out and of course I loved it too. USDAA has games classes where you actually have to strategize and I love that aspect of it, as well as they have a team event. To qualify for nationals, you have to Q at a regular show as a team but you can have any teammate you want for nationals. There are also two individual events that you can qualify for but you have to Q twice to go to nationals and participate in those events. The first show I tried, my team one first and I won first in one of the individual events so I got a bye into the finals at a regional event. USDAA makes is so much more accessible to Q for nationals, and I really like that. Mom decided she wanted to go with me so we decided we were going to rent an RV out there and just drive together and stay on site. It was a very good decision to do so!

Mom and I left KS on Monday (we had metallica tickets so we couldn't leave till after the concert and had to pack the car and get stuff on sunday) and drove to Albuquerque which took us about 12 hours. We drove to Mesa the next day to pick up the RV. Well apparently mom was suppose to watch a video on how to hook things up and such but she didn't want to because she knew miller and I were out in the heat waiting. I think it would have really helped but in the end we figured everything out. We had no problems getting to the show site but we couldn't figure out how to hook the damn thing up to the power and water. What we learned was a) the power supply has a breaker box and only works when the breakers are on and b)the water pump needs to be on so the water doesn't leak. We ended up figuring out the electrical situation thanks to the guy with the huge RV next to us but we didn't figure out the whole water thing until we left. Not a problem except for in the am when you wake up and you need to pee really bad as the shower house was very far away from our RV and walking when you have to pee really bad is kind of hard. Anyway, we shared the RV with an agility friend of mine and her two dogs to split costs. It was really nice being able to sit in the air conditioning when everyone else had to just sit in the crating area all day in the heat.

So the show is so big that they assign you a group that has specific walking and running times. We all had to make up charts so that we could keep track of ourselves as they had 6 rings with walk throughs starting at 7:30 and going until 9:30. You only had 10 minutes to walk each course which was actually nice as you couldn't obsess over the courses. The problem was you might have to walk 4 courses and then run them so you had to just keep the current course in your mind and get rid of the other 3 or so but then remember them as soon as you ran the next one. Sometimes I felt so stressed that I didn't really have time to be stressed if that makes sense, but my little chart of times helped me and mom helped me tons. We had a spot in the crating area, but it was pretty far away from the rings. USDAA nationals is so big, they have dock dog diving, lure coursing, herding, disc dog, and flyball all going on at the same time so the agility is kind of stuck in the middle of all that. Mom did a great job of going and getting miller and pottying him and basically being my kennel bitch.

The first day we just had one class called european standard. I thought the course had some really cool challenges and we had our first clean run! I was really shocked that he kept his bars up as i had to do some pretty tight front crosses but we were really in sync and did well. I think we came in 6th out of all of the P22 inch dogs. Oh let me back up though. Right before we headed down to run, i got a call from one of our KS folks that was coming down that said my teammate's dog had broken his leg. I am really surprised I performed well at all because I think I was in shock. I knew that it had to happen to alot of teams so i figured that they would just re-assign me to another team, but in the back of my mind, I was really scared that I wouldn't get to run at all except my one individual run. I also knew we couldn't leave early because we had someone staying in our RV but I really didn't know how i could sit there and watch everyone else when I wanted to be out there running. I felt so bad for my teammate too because she thought she had stepped on him and that was what had broken his leg (he is a JRT) and I knew it could just as easily have been miller with an injury. I talked to someone in administration right off the bat and they told me not to worry that I would be assigned a teammate by the end of the day but to check back later to make sure it got taken care of. Well, I checked back 3 times and they kept telling me to come back. I was getting fairly worried by the end of the day but they kept telling me not to worry.

Day 2 was a very busy day with three walks and runs including the quarter finals of PNS which was the only individual run I had. I was lucky because I walked all three and then ran them fairly quickly instead of like several of our friends who walked in the am and then didn't run until 4 or so in the pm. The weather was really, really hot so keeping the dogs cool and comfortable was a chore. We were lucky to have the RV and that is probably the main reason miller did so well. Anyway, I had jumpers, PNS quarter finals and snooker to run that day. Without knowing my teammate, i decided to be conservative with my runs. Miller knocked the first bar in jumpers which is weird but in team events, it isn't as big a deal. We were clean in PNS quarter finals and actually won 2nd place which was really cool. Snooker was a good run too, but I didn't go for all sevens like I normally do not knowing who my teammate was. I ended the day well, but still not having a teammate after they told me I would.

Day 3 dawned and I still didn't have a teammate and the USDAA folks were getting a little tired of me, but I was getting tired of them. They finally told me a name and when I looked in the book, that dog hadn't done very well, but I felt like miracles could happen and that miller's good runs could help us. We had standard and the semi-finals of PNS to run so I had to focus. PNS finals were that night and I just knew we could do it. We ran standard first and it was a very tricky course. I got through the hard stuff and was on the homestretch when I felt myself start to freak out, but i managed to pull it together and get a clean run out of it. That course killed alot of teams so I was really proud to have a clean run. I had PNS semis next and felt really confident and relaxed. I really didn't feel nervous or anxious when I stepped to the line. Miller and I were going great and I was again in the homestretch when I sent him over the wrong jump and was eliminated. In PNS, you can't have any wrong courses or bars or missed contacts. I was devastated and of course our whole group was there watching and cheering me on. I went back to the RV and cried for an hour, I was so upset. I really didn't feel like my nerves had a part of it, but I really can't explain what happened. I hope i wasn't overconfident and I really don't feel like I forgot the course as I went to that wrong jump as if it was right. I hope this isn't a trend of choking at national events. We went that night to watch the finals which was very hard for me to do. We had a member of our group in the finals so I had to go and cheer her on, no matter how i felt about myself and my runs. It was so hard sitting there and wondering what would have happened had i not sent him over the wrong jump. Amanda did great and I am so proud of her and her aussie Gunnar.

Day 4 dawned with me getting a new teammate for whatever reason in the book, and she had been eliminated on a course so again we were screwed. I decided to just have fun with gamblers and had a great run with miller. I am so proud of his runs and his performances and this encourages me for AKC nationals. I decided to let him do lure coursing as a reward but he didn't really get it till the end and then it was over. They had so many events that the dogs could do and I really wanted him to do herding but was afraid he might kill the little bitty goats they were using and I can't afford a goat right now, nor did i have a big enough cooler to haul a goat in. We again had a different set of finals that night in which my trainer was in and we had a great time cheering her on. She ended up getting 2nd place with her dog Bode and winning some money. We are so proud of her and her accomplishments with both her dogs!

Day 5 dawned with one event left, european jumpers. Again we had a very fun and fast course and I decided to just push miller and see how fast he could run it. My pushing cost me a bar but he did great and had a good time for as old as he is. I just hope he is competitive next year as he was this year. We really don't know how old he is so I hope that we still have a good competitive year left. We had yet another final to watch and lori had both of her dogs and got a 3rd and a 7th place with skye and bode. Bode would have kicked major butt but he knocked the second to last jump.

Part 2

So i am finally getting around to part 2 of my usdaa nationals blog. I am wide awake because I had a huge glass of sweet tea at about 8:30 tonight so it may be a long night. Where was I....... Oh yeah, nationals was a blast but i ended up having several weird emotions and thoughts. You see, the majority of the dogs at most national events seem to be either border collies or shelties. I have resisted the urge thus far to get either of these breeds because I love aussies. They are a perfect fit for me in all ways, and I have always wanted to be successful in my breed and not just try and take the easy way out. Now, I do have alot of friends with shelties and borders and they assure me that it is not the easy way out and i believe them, but you should hear the groans when people with other breeds show up with their cute and cuddly border collie puppy, "oh looks like he/she has gone over the to the dark side!".

So here i was watching the finals for Grand Prix and Steeplechase, going "wow, i want to be out there", but not seeing my breed represented at all. Last year at AKC nationals, there were a few other breeds represented, but the majority of the finalists were borders in my height division and a border collie won i think 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch and 26 inch division. I found myself saying, "I want to be out there", and i" want the dog that is going to get me out there." Suddenly I was looking in the border collie rescue tent admiring the nice dogs they had there. What is wrong with me???? What happened to doing the best i could with the breed i have? I feel like a giant traitor for even thinking these things. You know what though, there is a red and white border collie in our town's shelter right now, coincidence? Don't know yet but I am going to meet her this weekend.

I use to think that i would be content with just going to nationals and having clean good runs, but I sure am not feeling that way now. Maybe I would have felt differently had I gotten to the finals, but here is the other issue. Miller is in performance level which is still competitive, but the really good dogs are in Championship level in USDAA. Now in AKC, we compete with the awesome dogs because they jump the same height as miller does. USDAA does their measurement differently so miller would have to jump 26 inches in championship and have a higher a-frame angle, whereas he jumps 20 inches in AKC. USDAA courses are different than AKC courses because in my opinion, they are bigger, spread wider and cover more ground, which is great for big strided border collies. They eat those courses up and they are a ton of fun to run on because you can really open up and run. Again, in my opinion, AKC courses are very tight, twist and turny, and cater to more precision handling with a little bit of opening up to run occasionally. They really cater to miller's style of running because he is very handler focuses and tends to not take traps (hope i didn't just jinx my self) and he typically turns and jumps very tight. I guess the point i was getting at was that miller can be competitive more so in AKC than in USDAA, even if i could jump him at 26 inches. And i was also trying to get at that I want a dog that can run in championship and be competitive with those borders. Granted, I have seen some really awesome aussies that can give them a run for their money, but I have never seen them beat those border collies, at least not at a national show.

My other feeling/fear is that I feel like miller's competitive career may be winding down and I don't want to waste any courses with stupid handler mistakes. We really don't know how old he is, he was a rescue and they thought he was 2 at the time i got him, which makes him 9 now. I know dogs have been competitive up in their double digits, but i really feel like this is the last year we may be competitive in any venue. I feel like we need to make the most of every national event we go to. Injuries happen in this sport and can happen at any time and end a career, so I had really hoped we had been in at least one final, either team or PNS. I was disappointed with myself as a handler but very pleased with him. I hope we can make the most of this year, do well in AKC nationals and maybe go back to USDAA nationals and stay injury free. Now that we don't have lots of land for him and harley to run on, he hasn't had any injuries thus far (knock on a huge piece of wood). I hope to keep it that way and have a good year in both venues. My main focus is to finish miller's MACH and qualify for as many nationals as I can.

Well, still not sleepy, so I guess i can write more. Another fear I have is that harley is never going to get it together. He is a speed demon, but lacks maturity and although we have seen a ton more this year (he is 5), i still haven't seen consistency that I thought he would have now. He is going to be the type of dog that needs total focus and I can't do that right now with miller running too. With his speed, if we can get consistency, I do think he will be competitive at national events, but I just don't think he is where he needs to be at this point in his life. I do see some awesome parts to runs still, but he still has very huge blow up, ugly runs too. He just isn't miller and I am going to have to get use that and move on. He is extremely obstacle focused and fast and I am use to handler focused and medium speed. He will take a huge adjustment some day when I run him exclusively. I have been trying to run them both, but I really want to do multiple venues with miller and go to more AKC shows, plus nationals, so that is taking the bulk of my money and time.

Okay so now it is midnight and I guess I need to get to bed. Mom and I made a top 10 list of things we learned on this trip, except it is more than 10 and in no particular order so I guess I will end with that.

22. Ghost towns do exist!
21. There really is a subway in every single little town, even more than there is mcdonalds!
20. Dogs can learn to pee and poop on rock and asphalt. There really is no grass in AZ or NM.
19. What the heck is petrified wood and why is it available at every gift shop, truck stop, trinket store, and gas station in AZ and NM.
18. You really can go from desert to scrub to full blown mountains in less than an hour.
17. Sometimes you can be so stressed that you don't have time to notice that you are stressed.
16. Gas really is cheap in KS no matter how much we complain about how high it is here!
15. When at usdaa nationals, have a catchy team name so they play a cool song for you before you run in the finals.
14. Driving an RV is easy. You are so big, people fear you and get out of your way.
13. Does anyone other than people in Tx know what the heck a musscat is?
12. Trust the lady on the GPS except when she says keep left or keep right.
11. YOu can pass really easily in TX and OK because it is really flat and you can see forever!
10, Dalhart TX stinks! Get ready to hold your nose for about 10 miles.
9. At usdaa nationals, some of the vendors give away free stuff so go see the vendors as soon as you get there and they are set up.
8. I have sucker written on my forehead in big letters and photographers know this and take lots of pictures of my dogs knowing that i will buy every last one of them.
7. When you are bored to death riding through TX and OK, running over tumbleweeds and "killing them" is a fun game.
6. When you are out of poop bags, prairie dog holes make a good place to kick poop.
5. YOu can make it through 4 states in one day if you try hard enough.
4. Mom can drive, use the cruise control, pour a cup of coffee, and smoke at the same time.
3. Pumping out an RV is actually very easy, just be sure to take gloves!
2. Don't let your dog pee on an indian reservations. They have stickers in the ground everywhere. How did indians ever go barefoot?
1. I can not drive in the mountains. I get horrible panic attacks coming down 7% grades. Note to self: AZ can be very mountainous in parts!

Go-Dogs Omaha Show 2008

GO-DOGS, Omaha show

I just got back from Omaha and had to sit down after unloading the van and blog for a minute. I had a great weekend, despite the crappy weather that mother nature decided to throw at me. We were tent camping, but due to the rain and 30 mph wind, the KOA decided to give us a cabin, which was really nice of them since I was going to have to sleep in my van in the cold rain and wind. Anyway, Miller had a great weekend, going 4 for 6, getting 83 MACH points and our final double Q for AKC nationals (North Carolina here we come!), with two seconds, a third and a first. We did really well, despite the soggy field. We don't do many outdoor trials for that very reason and battled wind and cold all weekend. We only need 54 more points for our MACH and 67 more for nationals.

To start out the weekend, we had two runs on friday, when the weather was nice. I got to Omaha with time to spare, so I set up my pop up and got settled in. We had standard first and Miller had a great run. The whole course was full of traps which is great for Miller, who is totally handler focused. He got a second place with a border collie beating him (go figure) but we multiplied out points so we ended up with 22 points. Jumpers was next with an awesome jumpers course. I had it, had gotten all the hard stuff and then over rotated on my front cross and sent him over a jump instead of sending him to the weave poles. Oh well, my fault, so we headed out to the camp ground to set up our tent. My friend barb who was also camping wasn't suppose to get there until 9 or so so I had a lot of time to kill. I just wanted to say i LOVE KOA! They had a mini golf course, bikes you could rent, and all kinds of activities you could do. I got my tent set up by myself and decided to try and take a nap. I had bought a little cot to lay on instead of having to lug my air mattress around, but miller decided he wanted to lay on it with me so there was no sleeping to be done. It was so cool, they even delivered pizza to our campsite! Barb got there around 9 so we built a fire and sat around to almost 11 just talking.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early! I couldn't really sleep well because miller was taking up most of the cot and I couldn't get comfortable. I felt like I woke up every hour trying to shift to get in a good position. The showers were nice, hot water is always a bonus, and it wasn't too cold in the shower house. Got over to the trial site with plenty of time to spare and starting walking jumpers. I seem to do better when we start with jumpers so i was very optimistic for the day. Got through jumpers clean while other dogs were really struggling with the soggy ground. We ended up getting a first which hardly ever happens with 18 MACH points! Then on to a very nice standard course where I also Q'd with a second place and 18 MACH points. What was the most important was that was our final QQ for nationals that we needed!!!! We decided to head over to cabela's since it was starting to rain. By the time we went back to the campground, the rain was really pouring down and I had to make the decision to tear down my tent since we were hearing we were going to have 30 mph wind. Of course, it was pouring so I got completely soaked, but got the tent tore down and Miller and I safely in the van. I was bored so I decided to go into the KOA store and one of the ladies that worked there, that I had talked to the day before asked if i was still staying in my tent and when I told her no that I was staying in my van, she quickly gave me a cabin to stay in. Barb and I were so excited to have heat and electricity and beds that weren't the floor of the van! I slept like a rock that night, even though the wind was blowing 100 mph!!!!
Sunday dawned with mild wind, but cold sun. We ran jumpers first again and miller had one knocked bar that was probably my fault. I was determined to try some new stuff in standard and the course seemed really tough so I had no expectations. I went out there and had a great run with a second place and 25 MACH points.

It was a great weekend and I can't wait for another one!!!!!!

Wichita 2008

Well, just got back from the Wichita show and boy am i tired! We camped this weekend and either froze our butts off or the wind just about blew us away. At least this year we actually had a pop up camper and we weren't on the ground as usual. Wichita is one of the big shows as they have conformation, obedience, rally, herding, agility, and lure coursing. There are tons of vendors and tons of spectators. It can be a good situation as well as bad for the pocket book!

Miller and I started out the weekend good, qualifiying in jumpers and getting 7th place with 10 MACH points. For those of you who don't know agility, the MACH or master agility champion is the goal of every agility competitor. It is the top award you can achieve with your dog and is highly coveted. To get it, you must be in Excellent B in both the jumpers class and the standard class. You have to have 20 double Qs which means in one day, you have to qualify in both classes and you have to gather speed points to total 750. Speed points are achieved by getting times under standard course time, so the faster you run, the better. Anyway, we were disappointed in the fact that we didn't double Q that day, but miller decided he was superman and didn't need to stop on the contact on the dog walk, but yet flying off the dog walk was an option, so I got a good training opportunity in.

Saturday dawned after a good nights sleep in the camper and a good meal at the good ole Cracker barrel. We actually got a much needed double Q with a second place in standard and 25 MACH points and a third in jumpers with 13 MACH points. We went out to applebees to celebrate that night and actually started out in the camper with no problems. As the night progressed however, the wind started blowing with gale force and the camper was rocking violently. I don't think I could sleep as I was afraid we were going to tip over. I finally ended up sleeping in the van and not getting much sleep at all. My camping mate was wide awake at 5:30 (we didn't need to be at the venue until 7:30 or so) and she decided since I was in the van, she could break down the camper in the dark and cold. I tried to help her, but she was a woman on a mission!

Sunday started out good with a Q in standard and a second place and 27 MACH points. I am up to 583 out of 750 so I think I will make my points this year. He got second by 0.01 of a second to a border collie who was a litter mate to Juice. Juice is a world team member's dog and has won every top award in every venue including international venues. We didn't Q in jumpers but i think he was tired and ready to go home. I don't think he wanted to wait around until ribbons were handed out anyway. We got to go watch barb's dog lure course which is really cool if you haven't seen it before. I ended up frequenting the vendors too much but we didn't have to pay for camping and I didn't have to pay for gas since I rode with someone so it was a win win situation for me. Now I have to go back to work and try not to miss showing for two weeks!

AKC nationals, Tulsa 2008

I just got back from AKC nationals and boy am i exhausted. It has been an exciting, weird, and tiring trip. I had planned on just going as a volunteer/exhibitor and came out of the experience with three clean runs with someone else's dog. I think my dog is mad at me now, but I had such a great time, spent lots of money and met lots of new aussie people in the process.

I traveled down to Tulsa OK on thursday. We had to check in on thursday afternoon and set up our crate space and decorate our stalls. We were set up in horse stalls in the barn next to the arena with the rings. Some states went all out with banners and streamers and blow up flamingos or sharks or whatever. We had sunflowers and the kansas state flag to decorate our area. One of the states, colorado, went all out and even had music playing that had colorado in the song somewhere. They even had flags with their handlers and dogs on each individual flag. WOW! We checked in and checked out the vendors for the weekend. I immediately bought a shirt and got all of the free stuff I could get. We then had a social gathering of all of the exhibitors and volunteers with finger foods and drinks.

Friday morning was the start of the ISC competition. This was a very important day for world team members as it showed the world team coach that they were ready for international competition. All the states were also competing against each other but it was kind of unfair because bigger states had more competitors and thus more chances to qualify for the finals. Kansas only had 13 competitors which couldn't really compete with bigger states that had close to 100 on their teams. Our team did the best that they could, but Wisconsin ended up winning with their world team member getting to compete with two dogs in the finals.

I was volunteering that day as a scribe which meant many hours of watching the judge. As a scribe, you have to write down the judges calls on what is basically a report card, so if you look away for the briefest of moments, you could miss a call. I had a judge that had a great sense of humor so he made the day go by quickly. Friday afternoon, one of our fellow competitors, who was running three dogs asked me to run one of her aussies the next day in the national competition. I had already said i would volunteer the next day, plus I wasn't sure if I wanted to run a dog, but then my trainer talked me into it. She told me it was a good experience for me to run a dog at nationals and I agreed that it was.

Nationals can be very overwhelming for a competitor. The 20 inch class, which is what I normally run in locally, had over 200 dogs with 5 walk-thrus that only lasted 7 minutes each. That means you have to memorize a rather tricky course with 20 obstacles in 7 minutes and keep it in your head for hours. There were four rings so you had to know which ring and where at what time you would run. Plus you had to make sure you were in the ring at the right time so you wouldn't miss your run. I had never run this dog before but thought he ran similar to my aussie. He had different words for his contacts and also had a start line stay problem that I knew of. I also knew he didn't like dogs in his face, so I had to manage him very carefully to keep him out of any altercations. Lucky for me, one of my aussie friends I met at USASA last year was there to run interference with me, keep me calm and keep me breathing. She stayed with me until I was the next in the ring and was an absolute angel. I was the 17th dog in so I didn't have too much time to get too nervous. I was in luck with the lead out problem because the first course i had for the day was a tunnel, so no lead out needed. I was told he wasn't a tunnel suck, but he ended up being one, and I nearly lost him after jump three, when we had to go past the tunnel entrances to get to the dog walk. I had a huge call off and then we got going. He was a shopper which meant I had to keep his head the whole time. My dog Miller is basically in handler focus at all times, which is a bitch when I need him to go away from me or go on, but this dog loved working away so I had to keep his attention at all times. When we finally finished the course clean, I thought I might pass out! My first run at nationals and I was clean!!! The crowds were huge so having all those people clap for me, plus all of our kansas supporters clap for me was phenomenal!

We had our second run for the day, which was a jumpers course that afternoon. The jumpers course was in ring 3 and had a big crowd watching. I felt better about this run as I felt like our timing was going to be better. I did need a lead out on this course so that made me slightly nervous, but again Susan was there to talk me through all of my options and how to handle him. My trainer was running two dogs, so she helped me when she could, but was basically busy the whole time. She had alot of confidence in me and told me that I was just as good as everyone else out there and that I should keep my head up. I started the course with confidence and executed all my crosses and was headed for home when I think the oxygen stopped going to my brain. I forgot where to go but somehow remembered at the last second and managed to get maverick over the last few jumps and into the tunnel and we were home free! Clean run number 2!!!I was really, really walking on air at this point.

Round 3 was what they call the hybrid round and was a cross between jumpers and standard. I felt like again we would have a good run since our timing seemed to be clicking. We were in ring 4 this time which was in a separate arena and had a smaller crowd. I was 52nd in so I was in the second walking group out of five. I went to the line confidently, but Maverick didn't seem very focused this run. He was sniffing at the start line and got up before i could even get away from the start line. He did sit back down and we started the run off nicely. I got a great front cross in on the landing side of the triple which i would have never attempted with miller! I got around the course to the teeter and that was when we had our bobble. I told him to spot and he did, but as I was executing my front cross, he took off of the teeter and i had to do a oh crap go over and a rear cross to get him back on course. I thought for sure we had a refusal but we didn't and we ended the course with a great tight rear cross to the chute and great speed on the backside jumps. He did stay on the a-frame contact long enough for me to release him and get over the last jump, with yet another clean run!!!!!!

The next round was the challengers round, which was a last chance for dogs that were on the bubble. So many dogs had already made it to the finals and the next 10 or so dogs after that got to compete in the challengers round. The course was very tough and technical and since only one dog got to move on to the finals, the handlers were running as hard as they could to make the fastest time. It was very exciting to see people running there hearts out, trying to make it into the finals. The finals were also very exciting as again the handlers had to run as hard as possible but clean. We got to see some amazing runs by some Kansas folks and even had a Kansan come in second in the 24 inch class. I will always remember this experience and hope to be back with my own dog next year in North Carolina.

At one point, we were sitting in 12th place overall with our three clean runs, but the faster border collies soon edged us out. We finished 40th place overall with over 200 dogs in our class so I am very proud of our performance. There were many aussies that made it to the finals and I cheered very hard for them, but the border collies prevailed and won not only the 20 inch division, but also the 16 inch and the 24 inch division. The challengers round and the finals round were highly exciting to watch even though I wished I was there. I felt like mentally, I could have handled the challenges that were present in the final round, but speed is a must and maverick wasn't fast enough to beat those border collies. I met alot of great aussie people and got to pet some of the top aussies in the country. I got lots of complements on my handling, which went to my head of course and I hope it helps me keep my confidence high for this weekend. I only need two more QQs to qualify for nationals and less than 200 points to get my speed points. Here's to a good agility season!!!!