Monthly Archives: October 2009

It’s not perfect in paradise.

As much as I can, I wait for a sunny, or at least rain free, day to do my laundry so I can hang it out to dry. I was busy this past weekend with agility, and it’s been raining off and on since Saturday night. Looking at the forecast, I thought I’d have enough rain free hours today to get my laundry done. I didn’t realize I had accumulated 3 loads, but I started it as soon as I got up and had it hanging on the line by 10 AM. I was preoccupied for a while after that, and went out front to check on D’Argo about an hour later. The front yard was full of smoke. Apparently someone else in the neighborhood decided this rain free day would be the perfect time to ignite their burn pile and the smoke, instead of rising, was clinging to the ground, and even dropping ashes on my clean laundry. The forecast was for the wind to increase so I thought the stronger wind might air out the smoky laundry, so I left it. I had to meet a friend in the afternoon, to help him identify trees on his property, and while we were walking, a line of storms moved in, earlier than I had anticipated. By the time I got home, nearly an inch of rain had fallen. My laundry smelled like a wet campfire. So much for the freshness of the outdoors. The forecast now says rain until the weekend, so I’m rewashing the clothes, and I’ll be using my dryer to dry them. Hopefully I can remember how it works. That’s country life!

D’Argo’s first competition.

This past weekend D’Argo and I competed in our first agility trial. It was a United Kennel Club agility event sponsored by the OK Paws K-9 Sports Club. It was held at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman, in the show barn. The Cleveland County Fair was held three weeks ago, so you can imagine the wonderful lingering odors, especially if you’re a dog. The course was on dirt, a venue D’Argo hasn’t experienced before. To avoid some of the pitfalls of a new venue, we participated in the Show-N-Go on Friday night, an opportunity for a couple of practice runs. I would have to call that experience an educational disaster. D’Argo was one of the first ones through the course and I could not get him to focus on me. He was so intrigued by all the new smells I had to stick food between his nose and the floor to get his attention. As the evening wore on, a lot of the dogs were urinating on the equipment, which led other dogs to following suit, and so on. When it came time for D’Argo’s second run, he added his note to the olfactory chorus. At that point I didn’t have high hopes for the weekend.

The trial starts with the judge’s briefing, where he tells you how many seconds you have to run the course without penalty, how he wants you to mount and dismount the pause table, when he’ll call a fault, and so forth. Then the handlers get to walk the course, figuring out how to approach each obstacle, and where difficulties and traps might arise. Peter calls this invisible dog agility, and it is pretty funny to watch. I’m in the pink shirt walking away from the camera with my invisible dog. For my Class it was a fairly straightforward course with thirteen obstacles. Several types of jumps, the A-frame, the teeter, the dog walk, standard tunnel, collapsed tunnel (also called the chute), and the hoop tunnel (a funky looking contraption where the dogs run through a series of hoops set at 90 degrees to each other; it looks like a straight tunnel if you line the dog up straight, but if you don’t he could come into it from the side causing a fault).

Because D’Argo and I are newbies, we were competing in AG1-A, the A designation meaning I can walk my dog through the course obstacles one time, on leash. The photo is of D’Argo on the dog walk. It’s much higher than the one I built, but he doesn’t seem to care. The rules are very strict for the walk through, if you go over an obstacle more than once points are deducted from your actual run, the same goes for losing control of your dog. Our walk through went well, and we were first in line, for our trial run. I should explain at this point that I rushed out to get D’Argo, after the handlers walk through, and took him out to pee, which of course he wouldn’t do. This led to our disqualification as D’Argo proceeded to pee inside the tunnel. The run hadn’t been pretty up to that point. I wasn’t giving him directions soon enough and he wandered all over the place, checking out the fences, saying hello to the course crew, having a grand old time. When I finally got him out of the tunnel, he finally finished the course by somehow squeezing between the final jump and the pole holding the electronic eye that stops the timer. Oops! Oh well, we were already disqualified.

Our second run (technically called a trial), was on the same course but in reverse order. Mary, my instructor and coach, came up to me beforehand and gave me some more pointers: Give the directions sooner, take him out when there are ten dogs ahead of you, and restrict his water until after he’s done. Sound advice which I took to heart, then ran a nearly flawless trial scoring 195 out of 200 in 48 seconds (we had 79 seconds for that course.) Peter managed to capture us going over the A-frame and through the dreaded tunnel. D’Argo hesitated momentarily when he entered the tunnel, but I urged more speed and he came darting out the other side, to my great relief.

This is D’Argo coming off the teeter and heading for a jump, then he’ll make a turn and dive into the chute on the far side. I must say I was full of giggles after that trial. It was so much fun and I learned one of the keys to running a terrier: keep them moving fast enough so they don’t have time to sniff! Of course that can lead to other problems. On day 2, in our second trial, D’Argo came off the walkway so fast, he slid right off the pause table. As the name suggests, you’re supposed to stop on the pause table and sit for five seconds. Our two trials on Sunday were far from pretty, but the were good enough to qualify, added to our first qualifying trial from Saturday, we earned our AG1 title which is the UKC novice agility title. Any qualifying trial from now on will count towards our champion title.

I keep saying “our” because it really is a team effort. D’Argo knows how to run all the obstacles, but I have to tell him which way to go and to make sure he’s lined up correctly to successfully navigate the next obstacle. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of this little stray, found on the road in Oklahoma City, adopted March 2008, at about the age of 1 year; who didn’t even know how to sit on command; who loved me but didn’t completely trust me, and now has not only earned his first agility title, but also passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen Certification. Yes, I’m tooting his horn, because he doesn’t have the lips for it!

I have to admit that I might be hooked on agility. It’s a really fun sport and I spent the weekend with a lot of good people. While I’m tooting horns, I should mention that almost all exhibitors from the Canine Sports Academy, where I train, titled this weekend. From left to right, is Sara with the Sheltie, Fancy, Nick with the Border Collie, Sadie, Kathy the owner of the Academy, holding all of Duffy’s ribbons, Karen with the Corgi, Duffy (D’Argo’s buddy), Mary, in the blue sweatshirt, and me, with my little champ, D’Argo.

This is D’Argo’s title ribbon. I’m trying to figure out how I can hang it on the wall over his food bowl, along with his CGC certificate.

It was a long and exciting weekend and D’Argo and I are just plum tuckered. When we got home he grabbed his new toy to chew in the living room and fell asleep in the middle of the floor. He eventually moved to his favorite snuggle bed, and his favorite sleeping position. Today is our final class in intermediate agility and, as Mary said, we couldn’t possibly have had a better graduation. Here, here!