Thursday, March 11, 2010

Catching Up - February AKC Trial

Boy, do I have a story to tell! A fair warning - this will be a long one :)

I had planned to take Philip to his first AKC trial in January, but it got canceled due to rain. The next trial was taking place at a local annual dog show, and my instructor had warned me that the weekend of that show is notorious for rain as well. Nonetheless, I decided that I would take chances and sign up for it anyway.

As the date was approaching, the weather had been sunny for a couple of weeks, so I was hopeful. However, only a couple days before the trial, the forecasts changed to rain... on Friday the forecasts boasted 100% chance, but the skies were still clear. I figured they must be lying as usual and went to bed expecting a great Agility day.

I was awakened around 5am on Saturday by the sound of water hitting the porch outside my window. My instructor was right after all, and it wasn't just raining, it was pouring out of a bucket in the sky! Our check-in time wasn't until noon, but the trial would be taking place on a dirt lot, so it couldn't be good no matter what. Geared up in layers and with lots of towels on hand, we headed out to the trial site. We arrived to find a pretty empty lot, and I went to see what the rings looked like

Wait, let's take a closer look, I dubbed this one "the lake ring"

The other ring wasn't much better, though it didn't have standing water in it, rather just lots of slushy mud. I made my way through the deep sticky stuff to the check-in table and found out that more than half of the Excellent dogs didn't show up, hence why it was so empty.

Philip got measured and we waited for the FAST class to begin. It would take place in the lake ring, but the course didn't look very hard, so I devised a minimal-point plan and hoped for the better. Philip took off to a good start, taking 3 jumps and completing the send bonus, at which point we only needed the tire and the A-Frame to get the rest of the points. This is where everything changed - the tire and the frame were both surrounded by water, and my normally water-loving dog looked at me like I was completely insane. He moved at a snail's pace and barely jumped the tire after lots of coaxing. There was no way he could get enough momentum to get over the A-Frame at this rate, so I took him to a tunnel instead - fewer points, way out of the planned path, and through more swampy water. The buzzer rang as he entered the tunnel, and we made our way to the finish line. Not enough points and way too much overtime - NQ in FAST.

"I can't believe you made me do that!"

We watched the few brave Open dogs take on the slush and mud. Some seemed to love it, others did a similar stunt to Philip's. It rained on and off and the ring conditions weren't improving one bit. Our next run would be JWW, in the drier muddy ring. The course wasn't overly complicated, but the mud was sticky. I walked the course, what did we have to lose at this point? I went in expecting another failure, but Philip surprised me and ran fast and with no faults - we earned our very clean Q and got the 1st place in the group! Maybe mud isn't so bad after all, the prince simply wishes not to get his lovely self wet

Unfortunately for us, the Standard run was to be in the lake ring again, but I thought maybe Philip would have gotten used to it by now. Not so - as soon as we hit the swampy lake, he practically refused to move. Nonetheless, I made him complete every obstacle, and despite barely making it up the A-Frame, and redoing the weaves several times before getting it right, he actually completed everything without faults. We were 25 seconds overtime due to the lake stalling though, so we got an NQ.

"Whew, mud fest is over! Time to roll in excitement"

By Saturday night, the rain had stopped, and Sunday morning looked like a promising sunny day. I got to the trial site to see the rings nicely cleaned off, most of the mud pushed to the side. Many more dogs were there, and the trial had to start a couple hours late due to the cleaning efforts, but it was all worth it!

Summer shows off the better ring conditions (as well as how to jump properly)

The FAST class is often offered on just one day of the weekend (if at all), so we only had two runs on Sunday - JWW and STD. Philip started off great on his jumpers run, but half way through he knocked off a jump bar, and another, and another. Wow - 3 knocked bars in one run, I've never seen him do that before. I hoped it was just a fluke, but the standard run wasn't much better - he knocked another bar right at the beginning, and later took the wrong end of a tunnel.

Both runs were NQs of course, and I'm not sure what caused all the bar knocking. Maybe the more packed surface was slipping from under Philip's feet? We practice on grass, so this was a bit new to him. Thankfully, most trials take place on a grassy surface, but just in case I'm going to try and find a dirt lot to practice jumps on every once in a while.

Well, that's the end of our muddy adventures. Tired dog is tired

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