Friday, June 15, 2012

Agility Retrospect...(part 2a)

Another title for this post might be "Agility Trial #3: 3rd Time's not the Charm" or maybe even "Our 3rd Agility Trial: Apparently Failure is an option."

I knew when I got started with agility that it wasn't going to be easy. I've heard time and again about people who've gone through all the hassle of registering for a trial, packing up the dog (and dog supplies and car), driving quite a distance, staying in some random hotel, getting up way too early on a morning that's way too cold, and sitting around for the better part of a day (or weekend) - all for the chance of qualifying in just one or two particular runs - only to have it all blown to heck in a matter of seconds. I just thought those types of disappointments would come at a much higher level, not in level 1! ...

How wrong was I?! We needed just two qualifying runs at this trial to finish our level 1 courses and earn our level 1 title; we needed both Jackpot and Snooker. There were two Snooker and only one Jackpot course being offered over the weekend, so I signed up for all three. I also signed up for Wildcard and Colors (both at level 2 -yea!), and two Standard level 1 courses. (While I had hoped that we'd be ready to move up to level 2 in Standard for this trial, Z was just not confident enough to complete the weave poles in public yet and was still not getting over the teeter reliably.)

Let me leave you in some suspense as to how it all went down (although the opening sentence of this post tells you quite clearly where this is going) while I take a moment to quickly define the two games that were new to us...

Jackpot ~ Again, I'll refer you to the experts at CPE- "The Object: To test the course planning strategies of the handler, and the dog’s ability to work at a distance. Jackpot is run as a two-part course".(see blurry course map below)
(Single jump=1 pt; circles=3 pts; contacts,combos, & weaves=5pts)
[In the above course, 2-4-6-8 is the 'gamble']
Here's my crack at explaining Jackasspot- The first part (or opening) consists of a series of obstacles that aren't numbered, but instead have point values. The handler decides what course to take in order to accumulate the required number of points for their level in the allotted amount of time. When that time is up, some awful buzzer buzzes indicating that the team should then move on to the 'gamble' (or closing). The gamble consists of a series of obstacles that the dog must perform, in order, with direction from the handler. The obstacles are set behind a line on the ground that the handler must not cross, thereby introducing the 'distance' challenge of this game. There is a set amount of time to perform the gamble as well, so in order to qualify the team must 1.) acquire the minimum points within the total time allowed [the gamble provides points in addition to the opening] and 2.) successfully complete the gamble with the handler outside the designated area, within the allowed gamble time.  Thanks again to Performance Dog Training for this great article about Jackpot.

Snooker ~ Oh boy, let's see if I can define this. There are 4 red jumps on the course, each worth one point (but you will only be jumping 3 of them, the 4th is only there should you knock a bar down on an attempt at a red jump and you need a 'back-up' red jump [knocked bars are not reset]). There is a series of obstacles on the course flagged #2-#7; the number corresponds both to the point value of that obstacle as well as it's number in a sequence you will try to perform in the closing (should you make it that far in the game). There is also a table that you end on which stops the clock. (see blurry course map below-click for larger pic)
(For this Snooker 6a/b count as 'one' obstacle and have to be completed together as do 7a/b/c)
...Okay, so the best way that Snooker has been explained to me is to think of the red jumps as 'doors' you need to open in order to take a points obstacle... You take a red jump, you 'open the door' to move on to any of the numbered (2-7) obstacles for that point value; you then take a different red jump (the 'doors' can only be opened once) and again go perform an obstacle for points (unlike the red jumps, any of the numbered jumps can be repeated for points); you then open your third 'door' (take your 3rd red jump) and perform another points obstacle. TahDah! - your opening sequence is now complete and hopefully you planned it well so you are now somewhere near the #2 obstacle because you will then have to run the 2-7 sequence (in order, without faulting) before heading to the pause table to stop the clock. (Important notes: If your last 'points' obstacle was the #2 obstacle, you must repeat it for it to count toward your closing and if at any point you knocked the bars or faulted any of the 2-7 obstacles, you can not proceed past that obstacle in your closing sequence, your point accumulation stops there, and you head to the table). Each level requires a certain total number of points to qualify. You must complete the 3 red jumps to points-obstacle opening, but you do not have to complete the closing, and of course, this is a faulted game. The best tip I can give is this - just listen for the judges whistle in the middle of your run (which means you screwed something up), go to the table to stop the clock (you can still place, even if you don't qualify- I know because I came in 1st place with my NQ), and watch the playback later to see what the heck happened! Ha!

Okay, back to me and Z ...
Our very first run of the weekend was Jackpot. You know, the one that we had one shot at. The one that if we didn't qualify in, it wouldn't matter what happened in either Snooker run because our hopes to get our level title that weekend would be gone. Well, we screwed the pooch, or rather, the pooch screwed me. We did our opening sequence okay with enough points. She was a tad 'all over the place', but that's just what she does on her first run - she's gotta case the joint, man! The buzzer sounded and we were in a good position to enter the (really easy, level 1) gamble. Z decided she wanted to take a couple of weaves on her way (okay, maybe I wasn't clear enough about our destination) and I really didn't mind since her even attempting weaves in public at this point was commendable for her and, at that point, we had plenty of time to complete a very basic 4-obstacle finish. She took the first jump-yea, the tunnel-yea, the third jump-yea, the last jump....ummm ...hello... the last jump ...HELLO... Zainey??... Hello!!!...It's over here, you spazzy little monster! ....

Are you kidding me!??!?!

I was honestly bummed. Mike came with us for the first time ever, her first agility trainer was there, and I really wanted her to get her title with them present. I know that is really, super-duper, ultra lame. Zainey doesn't know what a ribbon is, let alone WTF a 'title' is. I was the only one on our team who was disappointed. She actually looked quite happy as she completely blew me off at the end of that run - good for her! Good for that bouncy little dog inside of her that she rarely shows the world! I wish I could say I embraced that attitude for the rest of the trial weekend, but I didn't - while I am always happy to see her have a good (and dare I say more relaxed) time, I couldn't help *my disappointment at times, not in her, but in some elements of our performances and only because I know how far we've come after so much work and I just wanted it to show. 

Of course, this was only 1 of 7 runs at this trial, so yes, there is a 2nd part to this post - yikes! Stay tuned for that and also a final thought about whether or not this trial was actually failure in my mind.

*It is important for me to note that when I say 'my disappointment', I mean just that. I keep my disappointment for myself (and my supportive friends) and always celebrate with Zainey! I am forever proud of her for working through all of her issues and just getting her bony little butt out there in the first place.

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