Monday, March 25, 2013

AKC Nationals!

I left my house at 2:30 on Tuesday, after work.  But first I had to make a stop at the Toyota Dealership since my "maintenance required soon" light had come on at lunch!  Luckily they were able to fit me in and it was just the tire rotation.  Phew!  I got stuck in really bad traffic going through Pasadena, and it lasted all the way to the end of civilization.  That meant I ended up driving really long and really late.  I couldn't make it to Phoenix to pick up Alicia, so I pulled over and slept in my car at a rest stop.  It was a bit cold, but otherwise not too bad!

The next morning I picked up ffluffy and we headed up to the 40.  The rest of the drive we made in 2 days and it was uneventful.  We did stop again at the Huge Pair of Legs and took some good pictures.

I love the Huge (Giant) Pair of Legs!

I was waving to a real person here!  Someone drove by and honked so I waved and ffluffy took the picture just then.

Trying again without the waving.  Fancy is posing better.
Trying to use the timer on the camera, dogs not cooperating!

Fancy peeking.  Lots of graffiti this time.

We got to Tulsa too late on Thursday to check in, but we knew we could check in Friday morning.

As it turns out, the line to check in Friday morning was horribly long, but luckily we still had enough time for our walk throughs.  Our crates were by ring 6, the one furthest from everything else.  I think that was not a good crating location since it was so far from the rest of the rings.  Since I had 3 dogs in 2 different jump heights and there were 6 rings in 3 buildings, I had to keep walking around, checking the status of the running order and walk throughs to make sure I didn't miss anything.  I did have to run my dogs out of order a few times, but I never missed a walk through.

The first day was a warm up run and Time 2 Beat.  If you came in first in T2B, you could win a spot into the challenger's round, provided you also had at least 2 clean runs.  If the first place dog already was in the challengers round or finals, they'd go down the list.  I knew Pie and Fancy were not fast enough to win a spot this way, but I thought Dottie might be.

Good thing the warm up round was just a warm up, because each of my dog's had some kind of issue. 
Pie was supposed to run with ffluffy, but she didn't want to.  Poor ffluffy went all the way to OK and didn't get to run a dog.  I ran Pie the rest of the weekend.

In T2B, Pie was clean with a respectable time, and Fancy had some kind of issue.  I don't remember what, but she didn't qualify.  This was Dottie's best run of the weekend.  She was fast, listened perfectly, nailed her weaves, contacts AND didn't drop any bars.  I came out of that run thinking that I finally had the dog whose potential I saw as a puppy.  I'm glad she started the weekend with such a great run, since we didn't qualify at all after that.  Dottie's time put her in 3rd, but since it is T2B, they don't give out placements.  Too bad!  The two dogs with faster times were both border collies.

The next day started the rounds that counted towards getting you into the finals, or not.  In Fancy's JWW run, she was meandering out to an off course jump.  I called her with increasing desperation and when she ignored me, I yelled, "DOWN!"  I felt bad to yell at my dog and to obviously be such a bad trainer and handler that it was necessary, but I didn't want to NQ on our first run when I was sure I could prevent it.  Her tail stayed up and she looked and me and came right away, as if to say, "Why didn't you say so?"  I don't think it upset her, at least.  She ended that round clean.

Pie also had a clean run.  Dottie had 3 bars and a refusal that was caused when the third bar came down and I said, "Dottie!" in exasperation.  I'm sure my timing caused the bar after the backside- I don't know why the others are coming down.

In Standard, all of the girls had great runs.  Fancy took 4th in her height, which is the same result as last year!  Pie was clean and that second clean run put her into 6th place overall.  For 24 inches they were taking 11 dogs into the finals, so for Pie, it was looking good!

Dottie had an amazing run.  She knocked the third bar, but everything else was great.  Well, actually, she face planted coming off the dog walk, which lead to a mis-read rear cross, but she didn't back jump so the only scored fault was the bar.  Even with that, the run felt really good.  Only 2 other dogs in the entire class (clean or not) were faster.  So even if all the other dogs ran clean with the times they had, she still would have been in third.  And if she hadn't faceplanted and turned the wrong way, who knows, maybe she could have been first!  When you watch Dottie run, vs. some of the other dogs, you don't think she is the fastest dog out there.  But her turns can be so freakishly tight, she makes up a lot of time there.  Who knew there was such thing as a bendy Malinois?  Pie turns like the Titanic- much more typical for a Malinois.  But Pie also has the excuse that her spine is fused...  Maybe Pie would more normally turn like the Queen Mary.  Either way, Dottie is a freak of nature- in a good way!

Fancy ate an almost full box of chewy chocolate chip cookies while waiting in the car at dinner.  We had wedged them behind a crate but that wasn't enough to foil her.  That night she only ate a few bites of dinner then put herself away here.  I guess she wasn't feeling too well!  Luckily it did not effect her the next day!

The last day- Fancy was seated 6th and they were only taking 4 dogs (plus the winner of the challenger's round.)  She had to move up two spots to make the finals.  And she did it!  She ran faster than the flat coat and the Aussie had a fault, so she was in the finals!

Since she didn't have two clean runs, Dottie had no chance of making the finals.  I was hoping for a placement, but I turned into a wuss and bailed on a front cross, which then caused her to turn too tight and she couldn't hold onto the weave entry.  Even though it was bad for Dottie, it showed me I HAD to make it with Pie.  All Pie had to do was run clean and she'd be in the finals.  I made the front cross, even though it was late, and she made the weave entry. Sadly, she knocked the bar before the A frame, so no finals, but a good try!

While we waited for the challenger's round to finish, ffluffy and I loaded the car and got ready to go.  Finally it was time for finals.  The P dogs ran first so I didn't have to wait too long.  I brought Fancy into the packed arena, and as the first 4 inch dog stepped to the line, the crowd erupted in cheers, foot stomping and some kind of noise makers.  Fancy's tail went down, her ears went back, and her eyes got huge.  She shot darting looks around and tried to slink off.  Poor Fancy!  When Fancy was younger she had no noise sensitivity, but as she got older, she became gun shy.  I've never seen a reaction like this to loud noises though.  I fed her cookies, played with the cookie bag, walked her around, and asked her about the beach.  I guess I owe her a beach trip because she came out of it.  For a while I was worried I'd step up to the line and she'd take off out of the ring!

Our first "yikes" moment in the finals was she almost went around the broad jump.  The more I push Fancy for speed, the sloppier we get.  But with the other 4 dogs in the finals all being border collies, I didn't want us looking like we were slackers.  Her turn off the a frame was very tight and she had a very fast teeter.  I have a video from when Fancy was in her first Finals at the Invitational, and Animal Planet was filming.  The announcer made note of the fact that her teeter was very slow.  He was still talking about it when we had a refusal a few jumps later.  This time the announcer should have said how fast her teeter was- I think it was the fastest teeter she's ever done!  Approaching the end, Fancy popped off the dog walk, despite me shouting DOWN! at her in the yellow.  She did hit the yellow, but the unexpected pop through me off.  I tried to get in my front cross but she blew behind me, still taking the correct jump, and headed for the off course jump!  As the crowd got loud, my brain clicked off, and all I could do was watch.  I don't think I even called her.  Maybe she was listening to the crowd because as the last second, she came back!  We ended up in second place, no thanks to me!

After quick pictures and awards, ffluffy and I (and the 7 dogs) hopped in the van for the long drive home.  We left at 7 pm and stopped for a 3 hr nap in the car in New Mexico.  I made it home at 11 pm Monday night.  What a yucky drive!  But I had to be at work on Tuesday...

This was Fancy's last national.  She can't fly in cargo and by the time the Nationals are back within driving distance, she'll be more elderly and possibly more sound sensitive.  I think it is great to go out on top!

This was probably Pie's last national at the regular height.  Her back is only going to get less bendy and she loves agility so much that I want her to be able to do it as long as she wants.  I expect she will be in P sooner rather than later.

This was Dottie's first national.  She is 3 and while there were younger dogs than her, she was very young mentally up until, oh, last week or so.  I hope we have many more nationals a head of us, and I expect she'll only get better.  I knew going in Dottie was not consistent enough to do well, but I also knew she had the speed to place the highest of any of my girls if she did qualify. And I was right!

This was super long!  I'll close by saying the drive was terrible, but the rest of the experience was great and I love my dogs so much!  They are so good in the car, in the hotel, and around the show grounds.  They take the huge event in stride (except Dottie did look up at the stands to check out the people her first time in the big building) and they did their best to do what I asked.  I hoped when I adopted Pie and Dottie that they would like agility and be good at it.  That seems to be the case (although it took Dottie a while!)  I was doing agility with Bloom when I adopted Fancy, but I didn't have any expectations regarding agility.  I can't believe she turned out to place 2nd at the Nationals!  When I saw her in that kennel at VC Animal Reg, I had no such thoughts or dreams.  She was cute, didn't bite me when I pet her, so I took her home.  I remember our first agility, about 7 days after I adopted her.  Not only did she stick with me when I took the leash off, but she went over jumps in a sequence.  Later, we went through a period when she ran very slow and was getting 1, 2 or zero Mach points a run.  I re-assessed my training, my goals, trialed her less, and overcame that problem.  It is so true that dog training is a journey.  It is really nice to have this accomplishment, but what it really does for me is remind me about how we got there, and all the fun we had along the way.

Now the question is: What is the most appropriate way to reward Fancy?

Some additional pictures:

Stacking the crates.  The way the pros do it.

The van is bigger than the Buick, but we also brought less stuff this time.

Driving through Flagstaff.

Fancy called shotgun.

Saw a sign for Largest Piece of Petrified Wood so we pulled over to check it out.  It was big!
Puppy Peep and Mals posing with teepees by petrified wood.
The Malinois guard the teepee.  Good Malinois.

The small dogs.

Looking towards downtown Tulsa from our Motel 6.

Proof that all 4 were there.  Who knew Muffin had a stay?

Our crating area.

Me using the computer and the dogs feeling right at home.

Dottie taking over the pillow, as usual.

The ribbons are stacking up!

This was ring 6, but now it is torn down.

More ribbons!

The finals ring.

The finals crowd.

Posing with my best Fancy before our Finals run.

Sunrise in New Mexico after a dark night.

Back in CA!

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