Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maggie reluctantly agrees to more

There are some things Maggie will do for the sake of the team, and she did enjoy a Touch N Go course (and Q'd!) but the next day on the dogwalk, she sought help from her fans in the stands. "Hey! Deb's here!

Maggie in Tennessee

I had to post this. "Are you nuts? you must be, if you think I am going to run and jump under these conditions."

Books--the price wars

You've heard or read of the new pricing "strategy" by Wal Mart (they started it. So typical) Amazon and Target, where the online shopper can buy bestsellers (they picked 10 titles) at $8.99. Then Sears decided that if you brought a $8.99 book receipt in their stores, you could get credit (Sears doesn't sell books, but labeled their vengeance "KEEP AMERICA READING") .
So my smart friend George has it all figured out:
1) Buy all ten books online
2) Take the receipts to Sears and get a leaf blower
3) Return the books to Barnes & Noble for store credit and buy DVDs
4) Watch movies, blow leaves from his lawn
6) Sell the movies on eBay.

I'd add 7) buy a book from an independent bookseller.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winn's photo from the Awards ceremony at TDAA PetitPrix

The Nationals--what a month!

I’ve spent the better part of the past month traveling for my hobby, dog agility. It was a most enjoyable trip!
National events are the highlight of my year. I was lucky enough to go from the NADAC Championships to the Corgi Nationals to the TDAA “Petit Prix”. It is so much fun to see friends from all over the country, make new friends, and compete against some great teams.
NADAC this year was in Shelbyville TN. Conditions were not ideal: hot and humid (when it wasn’t raining) and deep, rocky footing. I had more fun socializing and coming back to the guesthouse that a friend and I rented than the competition. Maggie reminded me that she left Tennessee as a puppy for good reason! After the first runs she was happily promoted to the front office. Although it’s a disappointment to have your dog not run well at a national event, it would be so unfair to ask it of a partner who usually gives it her best shot. As I said to my friends, Maggie has nothing to prove to anyone.
Winn cares not about conditions and ran well. I suffered from some handling goofs the first day and it cost us, I’m sure, in the overall standings. I learned that I really have to focus and get into the game from the first run. Even over the 15 runs (yes), over five days (yes!) of this Championships, even though Winn ran clean from the second day on, it wasn’t enough to make the Finals. I could beat myself up, or I could learn from this; I hope I’ll always choose to learn.
So after the NADAC event, we drove from Shelbyville to Fort Mitchell KY for two days of Corgi Nationals agility. Again, friends—some I’d never met in person! arrived to celebrate the Pembroke. My good friend (and co-breeder of Winn’s litter) Cindy Traylor was there with a new friend., Maureen Flaherty, who has Winn’s nephew Jagger. Cindy has Winn’s sister and his uncle “Beau” one of my very favorite dogs. Beau had just won HIT at the herding part of the Corgi Nationals!
We ran four runs over the two days, and Winn ran really well, qualifying in all four runs and placing in three. At the end of the second day, he was awarded the “Poppy” trophy which is a big deal—it’s a Challenge Trophy awarded to the high scoring agility dog at the Nationals—and our four clean runs edged out another dog with four clean runs too, by virtue of time. It was, and is, a huge honor, and we got photos of Winn and Beau with their trophies.
We drove home and rested up for about a week before loading up the van again and heading for Racine WI for the TDAA Nationals. TDAA is “Teacup” agility, for dogs measuring 17” and under at the withers. The equipment is small and the distances between obstacles are much shorter. All in all, to go from NADAC distance to TDAA in three weeks’ time is a big adjustment! But I have always trained with the goal of being successful in all the agility organizations, and Winn made the adjustment. (Huge thanks here to both Annelise Allan, our friend, mentor and trainer, and to Stacy Peardot-Goudy, whose seminars we never ever miss)
The TDAA event was another test of endurance, with five runs to the Semifinals, two Semifinal runs, and a “winner take all” Finals Round. We stayed in the middle of the pack throughout the first five runs, but both Maggie and Winn made the Semis! Maggie likes TDAA a lot, she doesn’t have to run as far and the contact obstacles are smaller and shorter. She wasn’t fast enough to make the Finals, but she worked her butt off. She made me so proud!
Winn ‘s runs over the tournament were all solid with the exception of his weave pole performance. The short, vertically striped poles seemed to faze him (and probably caused me to over handle—which never works!) but his Steeplechase Semifinals run was terrific and helped us get to the Finals, I’m sure (the scoring for the tournament was complicated and I didn’t pay much attention to it).
The Finals run was a strategy game called Who Dares Wins. A 21-obstacle course was set. Each obstacle was worth points. You had an optimum time of 50 seconds with a point penalty for going under or over. You could start anywhere on the course and run more than the 21 obstacles. We were given a lot of time to study the course map, and a good long walk through to figure out strategy.
I walked a possible plan and then added one obstacle. I paced the yardage, thinking about how many obstacles and yards Winn and I can usually run in 50 seconds. I walked it twice and came up with the same yardage, and it felt right. We had to turn in our estimated points before anyone ran. I turned in my estimate and watched the first few dogs run. From what I could see, I knew that we’d have to run fast! A lot of dogs were on the dogwalk when the buzzer went off, costing them points.
Then it was our turn. It’s funny, but I enjoy this sport so much, and love running with my dogs, that I really don’t get nervous, even in a competition like this. I have gotten to the point where my routine involves visualizing the course (correctly!), taking some good deep breaths, and then remembering to smile. So as I stood on the line, I was all set. Winn and I walked out to the middle of the ring, since I’d decided to start on #15 and run from there. I put Winn in a down, led out, and signaled to the timer that we were ready.
What happened next will live in my memory for a long time. I’ve had “in the zone” runs before and in fact lately a lot of runs with Winn have been there—our partnership has evolved this year to a great “sweet spot” and it’s been a lot of fun. But this run went beyond that to an entirely new zone. When the buzzer went off as Winn cleared the final jump, the crowd went wild, signaling what was a perfect run. I had correctly estimated a course that we executed without a misstep, flowing through the obstacles without a pause. Even those weave poles were flawless.
The run held up over the course of the Finals and Winn is now a National Champion. The president of the organization, Bud Houston, paid me terrific compliments in person and on his own blog. I have a video of the run which will help me remember the moment. And the overall experience of this past month has given me a lot to think about, to reflect upon, to make goals for the next year.
As I sit here typing, both Maggie and Winn, the dogs who have taught me everything, snooze on the couch. They could not be more different, these two, and yet we are a team. Maggie has given me the gift of patience. She makes me laugh every single day. Winn has given me the gift of confidence. He makes me look good. I am the luckiest girl on the planet.