Whew, it's been a busy couple of weeks, hence the lack of posts - sorry about that. We went to another trial this last weekend, and it was certainly very eventful, so let's get to it :)
Most trials in this area are organized in a way that Excellent is split into two size groups (4"-16" and 20"-26"), and in one-judge trials, the big dogs usually get to go in the morning, followed by the smaller dogs. Every once in a while they switch it up though, and the small dogs go first thing in the morning. So that was the case this time, and Philip's Excellent Standard run was supposed to be around 9-9:30am.
For some reason, I stayed up pretty late on Friday, so waking up on Saturday was tough. I managed to sleep in later than I had planned, so I rushed out the door once I finally woke up. Of course that meant I'd mess something up... and so I forgot to bring a bottle of water and a bowl for Philip - sigh. Thankfully, there was water available and Philip can drink from the palm of my hand pretty well! To add to my troubles, I got lost a couple of times on the way...
When I had finally made it to the trial, the Excellent Standard ring was already being walked, so I rushed to grab a map and survey the course. This was the toughest course I've seen thus far - with several tight turns and lucrative off-course obstacles. I talked with my instructor and she recommended a couple of interesting maneuvers that I hadn't practiced. She is obviously more experienced though, so I trust her opinion, and practiced the moves while walking the course. Funny thing though is that she was running one of her own dogs before it was my turn, and I saw her mess up one of those tough spots.
We were soon ready to run, and Philip started off pretty well (he seems to always start well). However, when he got to the table, he got up on it and flew right off - something he's never done before. I couldn't believe he did that (I still can't!), but nonetheless, I got him back on the table and continued the course. The first tough spot was coming off a jump into the chute, with a tunnel right behind it. Due to the approach, the dogs were coming off of the jump pretty wide, and naturally aiming for the tunnel rather than the chute (and many took that wrong course). The plan was to turn back before aligning Philip with the chute, and it actually worked pretty well - he went right for the chute. Right after was the second tricky spot (the harder of the two). Here, Philip was coming off of the teeter, with a jump right in front of him, but was supposed to take the weaves to the right. My original thought was to pull him right off, but our instructor recommended lining him up with the weaves before turning, so as to not mess up the weaves entry. This is the spot her dog messed up (taking the jump), and of course Philip also went straight for the jump. Looking back, while this plan was good for an experienced dog/handler team, I probably would have been better off pulling him off to the side right away. Oh well, it didn't matter at that point anyway - NQ with a table fault and a wrong course for Philip.
The Open jumpers course looked very nice - it was laid out such that the whole course could be run without ever switching sides, and I was sure we'd do great on it. Philip was the first dog on the line, had a nice start, but unfortunately knocked down the 4th jump bar. I was hoping that after his wonderful performance at USDAA this month, the bar knocking would stop, but there it was - messing with our runs yet again. Philip ran the rest of the course beautifully, but of course the bar gave us an NQ yet again.
On Sunday, I got up on time and had no trouble getting there, but came to find an even more difficult Excellent Standard course (and here I thought that Saturday's course was bad). There was a spot of two jumps next to each other, and the dog was to go over this place twice, taking the less intuitive jump both times. I talked with our instructor again, and she recommended layering (leaving the wrong jump in between Philip and me and pointing to the correct one) the first time, and rear-crossing the second time. The rear-cross seemed like a good idea, but I wasn't sure Philip would ignore a layered jump - we have only practiced such a thing once in class. So I came up with a second plan that would simply require a lot more running from me, and decided I would choose which to do once I get there.
More than half of the dogs before us had messed up the jumps, so it wasn't looking good. When our turn came, I was ready with both plans, but Philip had another plan in mind - before even getting to the pair of jumps, he went way off course and climbed the A-Frame while I screamed "Philip, over here! Philip! Philip!" at the top of my lungs. I could have done cartwheels and he would have still ignored me... So I got him off the frame and decided that since the run is a mess up anyway, I would try the layering thing. What do you know - it worked wonderfully! Philip didn't even look at the jump in between us and went straight for the correct one! Later, he messed up the weaves entry though, and knocked a panel jump down. I had some iffy handling too, and the second pass through the evil pair of jumps didn't go as smoothly as the first, but we got it right anyway. Of course this was an NQ, but weirdly enough all the mess-ups were not what I was expecting at all! To put it in my instructor's words - "what a bad dog!"
The eventful part of the weekend came soon after the Standard run - as the big dogs were finishing up the JWW course, someone pointed to some smoke on the nearby hill. Was it a just a BBQ? Nope - it was a brush fire, a quickly spreading one too!
I checked if someone had called 911 (they had!) and we all watched while the big dogs got ready for Standard. The fire trucks seemed to have taken an extremely long time to show up, but we finally heard sirens. It was pretty funny actually - most of the dogs broke into howls when the siren approached, what a chorus! What shocked me though, is that some cars weren't moving over for the fire trucks, on a two-lane road at that (one each way)! What's wrong with people? Can't they see the burning hill?
More fire trucks followed, as well as a helicopter and a couple of planes. Another helicopter and plane joined later as well. It was pretty cool to watch them put out the fire - red fire retardant being dumped from the planes, water dumped from the helicopters, and firefighters with hoses on the ground (though there are apparently no fire hydrants in that area, so they didn't have the needed pressure).
The whole ordeal continued for several hours. The helicopters flew over to a nearby reservoir to pick up some water and came back to dump it over and over again. I was amazed at how well these guys can aim the water! We had to continue with the trial of course, but some dogs didn't enjoy all the noise one bit. At one point, a helicopter flew super close to us - it was pretty scary, and the dog on course was really terrified. Thankfully, the judge let them re-run though.
The main fire was contained and put out eventually, and it was nice and quiet by the time the Open JWW run started. It was a pretty good course, a bit harder than Saturday, but still not bad. However, Philip still managed to take another wrong course while ignoring my screams - sigh! No other mistakes, but since no wrong courses are allowed in JWW, it was another NQ for us.
As we got ready to leave, I could still see the firefighters roaming the hill, checking for any left over hot spots, but thankfully nothing flared up. So we ended the weekend with no Qs, but at least the fire ordeal added some fun :)