So, looks like I am good for writing a couple times a year, Facebook pretty much covers me these days. Hey look, cute pictures of my dog! It looks like 2017 will be my first foray into the online market, more money would be good and Tracy has made it all very easy. Plus topics I like teaching, so decel and criteria, we'll see how many people will sign up for such things. ;)
My 2016 agility goals were all about Cynosports, so weeks later I am finally recharging. I did a quick one day at a show over Thanksgiving so Betty could hand out her Christmas cookies, but otherwise Rich and I have been on an agility break. Vic has still been playing a little, he's nearly 10 and I don't like giving him complete layoffs from agility, because he seems best if I keep him in agility shape. But right now I am on weekend 2 of 5 weekends off from competing! Dogs are loving it, I am appreciating that I have my 3-pack still, Starlet is still hanging tough on our outings, she is definitely an old dog these days, but doing really well for 14. We lost Gari the Cat a couple months ago, probably to kidney disease, just me and the dogs now.
Vic's last big event and Rich's first big event that I felt like we were somewhat ready for. Both boys were on teams that had been planned for since Morgan Hill. Well, in Rich's case Lonny with Gunner was always on board, but our 3rd took some time. Our first choice decided to skip Cynosports, so we decided to ask Nancy and Pie to join the team and didn't get it locked down until after the Western Regional. If you had told me 2 years ago, I would be putting Rich on a team with Nancy, who I know wants to win the whole thing, I'd have said "maybe when he's 5-8...". I told myself the pressure of this team would be good for me. I need to start believing I can step to the line with Rich, when the pressure is on, and perform. This lesson is one I don't remember having to learn with Vic, I just always remember us having that skill.
Vic's team had the best name, "Drop the Mic", both Nancy and I expect that Cynosports '16 was the last big team event for Ten and Vic, so great name. Unfortunately, Ten wasn't quite right the first day and I encouraged Nancy to pull her from team to focus on getting her right for the individual classes. As much as I'd have liked to been competitive in the team event, it was really nice running my most awesome boy just for me. No worries about anyone else, just me and my best boy.
Wednesday was an odd day. Not because of the agility, I was only running in Rich in the warm up run. There was a lot of crying because of the election, people were afraid. I'm not happy with the outcome, but was very happy to have the distraction of the show to have a few days of blissful ignorance. I watched no news coverage, I had a "no politics" rule in place around me, really for the time I was out there, I had no idea what went on after Tuesday, until I got home Monday. Rich and my warm up run was fine, a sticky send to backside wrap that ended up with a bar coming down. Backside wraps and shoulder pulls into wraps are high on our "work on" list when we get back to training. That course was the first clue to one of the course themes of 2016 Cynosports, hard turns off of the frame. Rich met every challenge, but the running frame was definitely something that made you have to work harder this year.
Thursday was the first "real" day, my two most feared team courses with Rich. For Vic it was also PGP semifinals. I really hoped we could make that Finals, but our strength is our skills, more than freaky ground speed. Vic started the day with PVP Standard, a nice run, a little safe, but solid. I knew after running him the closing would be scary with Rich, since I barely made my front after the threadle with Vic... Rich's team ended up all being in the same group, which was awesome! I really don't understand why they can't make that always be the case. Rich was first of his team to go, Rich, then Gunner, then Pie, if I had to pick my run order for our team, that would have been it. Rich had a bar in the opening, my fault, I started falling behind and did a panic call on top of a bar. The threadle was scary as I thought, my rotation was late, so Rich jumped through the side of the broad jump, but I am happy I was able to hold it together and fix the error without an E. So, not a great performance, but we held our shit together as far as team goes. Everyone on the team made it around the course, which was taking out a lot of teams, so we knew we were in good standing after the round.
Next up for Vic was PGP semifinals, a good course for us, the line to the tunnel before the weaves played to our strengths. When I'm running Vic, anything seems possible and that line caused problems for a lot teams, but felt easy with Vic. I finished the run, it was a super run, we'd done our best and I didn't look at the scoreboard until the entire class had finished. I wanted to just appreciate that Vic and I had done our best and not think about the results. Turns out, he took 4th in the round, so a final Finals with my best boy and under the lights, finals under the lights is the best!
Team Snooker was next, the class I felt least confident about with Rich. As a team, we came up with a good plan, no one was trying to win the class, but we were only leaving one point on the table, with our 3 6's and a 7 plan. This time Rich's team ran Pie, Rich and then Gunnner. Pie had an uncharacteristic bobble for a 1 point run. I went over to Nancy afterwards, told her it was okay, "we have this". Literally as I turned away to refocus before our run, I thought "you just said that about Rich and this is Snooker..." So, pressure, the pressure to give the team a boost, the pressure to step up and put down a solid score. The pressure of doing this with Mr. Freakspeed, who has been known to touch a bar or two and who's last Snooker run was a zero. I didn't work the first tunnel discrimination, so we picked up a 2, instead of a 6, but after that we were solid and our score was still up there on the page. Lon tried for two 7s and would have gotten it, but the 4th red dropped, literally three strides after Gunner finished it. The judge had called out "one!" and then had to change it to "ZERO!!!!". It's actually a good thing he was going for that 7, because Gunner would have been in the tunnel before he would have heard the judge. It was as impressive a recovery from an error that could have happened. After the first day, we were sitting in striking distance of the Top 10.
Last run of the day was Snooker with Vic, I already knew team was now a solo venture with Vic, so nothing to lose. I was surprised no one had posted a score that had as many points as I was planning (same plan I had for Rich). We were the last group and Vic was the last dog to run. Pressure again, but this time I knew that if we did the plan, we would win the class. I said on my FB post about the run, that I had always thought Vic should win a Snooker class at a big event and he just waited for his last time to do it. He made it look easy, hell, it WAS easy, Vic is my agility soulmate and I am so grateful we had this last Cynosports. Before every run, I gave him a hug and kiss and thanked him for the journey he has taken me on.
Thursday was a safe, warm day in team with Rich, just Team Gamblers, Vic had PVP Gamblers and Jumpers. Aside from the Team class, Rich also had both semifinals. I prefer the semifinals on different days, but that was the schedule, so didn't think too much about it. One of the challenges of Cynosports is walking all the courses first thing and then running them throughout the day. My first run was Vic's Gamblers run. I had walked the course with Lon and Nancy (who were also a PVP team). I said I would use Vic to see about the amount of time we would have. My timing was good, our points were fine, but when we started seeing other teams scores we agreed after GP we would meet up and try to figure out where we were leaving points out there. I didn't get video of the Gamblers run...
Grand Prix semifinals, I watched the run and realized one of my fronts was going to be ambitious, but that was my plan, so I just told myself I would make it happen. And I did, sure we were screaming wide, but Rich tried so hard and we were CLEAN! OMG OMG OMG! Yes, there may have been happy skipping getting the leash. ;) It wasn't that I didn't think it could happen or thought it wouldn't happen, I just hadn't thought about anything other than what the plan was and how I was going to make it happen. And usually I can hear sounds when running, but everything was quiet in my head, until we finished and then BOOM noise, colors and feelings returned in a flood. Actually, that's not true, I did start to have thoughts about how things were going when Rich was going in the tunnel before the dogwalk, I remember mentally yelling at myself "FUCK YOU!!!" and refocused. Strange what our brains can do. ;)
Vic's Jumpers run came between Rich's semifinals runs. I'm glad I didn't have to run Rich on that course, but not scary with Vic. Lots of fun, and I got to do my favorite "move" serp to a front on a push through. Vic was a very good boy, but seemed tired, I started to get a little nervous about PGP and wanted to get out of dodge as soon as we were done with the regular runs that day so he could have a good nap on the bed at the hotel.
Steeplechase semifinals was interesting. There were quite a few BIS at the show (as they should be) and Rich decided that our friend Sheri knew where they all were. So, I took off his leash at the warm-up jump and he promptly ran off to where he thought Sheri would be. He would not take the jump. He would not play with his toy. He would not take food. I started to panic, but then remembered "nothing good has ever come from panic". So, I waited by the ring, told myself he would be fine once we went in and tried to remember the course. Sure enough, he was fine once we entered the ring, but I don't think I was until he was in the first tunnel. ;) A little safe on the front to the weaves and a little late on the front to the closing line, but Rich was great! Such smart jumping, he was squealing around the course and another Finals for Rich! I had said going into this Cynosports that this would be the year I lost my semifinals curse, I had never made a Finals without going through quarterfinals, now 3 for 3 through the semis, the curse is officially dead. :)
We met up for a team lunch after Steeplechase to figure out where we were leaving points in Gamblers. In the end we realized our plan was mostly good, just needed to do more jumps in the closing. I think part of the confusion was the way times were set for the different jump heights. Let's just say the top P8" dog had a 97, I think there were two with that score and the top C22" dog has 72 points... I don't think the judge planned on giving the little dogs such an advantage, but it would appear they had a substantial one. Again, our run order was Pie, Rich and the Gunner. Nancy made the right call after a bobble, so Lon and I knew we had to step up. I changed my plan to go for a couple extra points in the opening and not sure exactly what I did in the closing, but I think my brain was wired to get every point we had thought was possible and somehow we did it. 65 points for Rich, I probably could have gotten one more jump which would have given us 74. As it was, we did good, good enough for 2nd place in the class! Another solid effort by Lon and one more team class to go.
I went back to the hotel after that, to let Vic rest up. I took a walk down memory lane, so many great memories with Vic as my teammate. And I cried, happy/sad tears, our time with these dogs is so short, I want my time with Vic to just keep going and going, but also knew how lucky I was to know this would be our last time on a big stage. I knew I would appreciate the moment, I just hoped I wouldn't start crying on the course. When I took a look at the course, I couldn't have asked for a better course for us. My plan was all in, I was going to push the line to the dogwalk. I told it to Nancy who agreed, "it's Vic you can do anything." So during walkthrough I found it amusing that I was the only one walking the side of the frame and the side of the line I was. My push line plan not being the common plan was understandable to me, but I am surprised no one else did a front before the frame and push the line afterwards. Before our run, I could feel my emotions coming up, a friend of mine asked "do you need a hug?" knowing full well that would be the last thing I'd want. ;) Our turn to step to the line and a hug and kiss for Vic, I told him he is the best thing that has ever happened to me, thanked him again, reminded him to "sit" and started leading out. My eyes started to fill up and I looked back at Vic who promptly pushed, then completely broke his startline. God I love this dog. :) I can always hear the crowd in Finals, it's not distracting, it adds to the fun. And I could hear my friends, yelling at me to run, cheering when he made the weave entry and encouraging my aggressive closing plan. I was a little late and then didn't threadle the jump to the dogwalk, I was just pumped full of adrenaline and RUNNING. That turn cost us the win, but I threw it down hard and Vic gave me everything he had. I'm thrilled with the run and not going to complain about 2nd place in Vic's first and last PGP at Cynosports. It's an awesome way to leave that stage. :) Back to the hotel, after a stop for a fancy bacon cheeseburger that Vic did not have to share.
Saturday at Cynosports I started to hit a wall. And not one of the beautiful viaduct jumps that were in all the rings, but just tired. The days start so early and with two dogs in two different divisions, I never had enough of a break to go back to the hotel. I will try to remember the marathon factor of Cynosports the next time I go, but I suspect it will be easier when I am just running Rich.
First thing that happened on Saturday was checking the team standings and seeing Vic had ended up the top 16" PVP dog in the tournament and Rich's team had moved to 3rd or 4th in the DAM with just Jumpers to go. We also had the first run of Biathlon on Saturday.
Rich knocked the second or third jump, so I used the run to proof criteria. I'm a little conflicted with my plan to work criteria after that. On one hand, we were in striking range of the podium in DAM and I did not know what Relay would look like, plus we were definitely in GP Finals, so again, might want to make sure he's waiting for his release word (he was :)). But hindsight, we could have been in the hunt, with the 5 faults and it is Cynosports, so should I be pushing my hardest in all the individual classes? I'm really not sure what the answer is, but it is a question I will be pondering. Vic's biathlon run was solid, one miscue, but a ton of good stuff and we would have been in the ribbons for the run, if they gave ribbons for individual runs of Biathlon. The two biathlon classes were the only time I did anything other than my meat and potatoes handling and only with Rich. I'm not sure if the counter rotation was needed before the dogwalk with him, but it did get me down the line easier. I did not use it with Vic, but Rich is faster, so a little head start is helpful. I'm still not into practicing such things and so rarely do blinds or spins, it doesn't make sense to use practice time on them. I can do them when it counts, so I would rather use my training time for the skills that keep those options available, which are my meat and potato skills.
Team Jumpers was a fun course, scary with Rich, because broad jumps are not always our friend and the plan was an aggressive front before the broad jump. Run order was Pie, Gunner and Rich, the order I hoped would never happen. ;) Pie went first with a beautiful, spot on run that ended up being 3rd in the class, such a pretty run. Gunner had a couple bars, but threw down a time that would have been 2nd in the class. I did notice in Lon's run that he had nearly gotten caught on the wrong side of the closing line, so told myself to be aware of that. Rich's turn, teammates have been solid, we're in the hunt for the podium, but need me to have a good run. I reminded myself of a Billy Jean King saying: "Pressure is a privilege." I thought of my friends who have not been as lucky as I have been with their dogs health. I visualized the run and fired up Rich "do you want to go FAST?!?! Let's go FAST!" Again, the run is something of a blur, just giving Rich the info he needed, feeling a bit rushed to the front before the broad, because I admired a send just a little too long and then chasing him into the last tunnel... And then, "ummmm...shit, I'm on the wrong side". So many thoughts of what the resolution would be, "do I double rear? Can I make a serp?" that happened in a second or two. I can hear the fear in my voice when Rich comes out of the last tunnel. Solution was a flicky "RIGHT, RICH COME!!!" And clean, left some time on the clock with that closing line, but Rich covered for me. Rich saved my butt. :) I'd rather him not have to do that, but that he could, that he did, is huge. :)
After my teammates, the first person to come up to me was Svetlana from Russia. She'd been staying in SB the week before and had dropped in on a couple classes I was doing, to get some practice in. I really enjoyed her, nice lady, damn she has some cool skills on her dogs and Skippy, I have such a dog crush on that boy. She came up with a big grin on her face and said "very good", which made me laugh because it had to be the verbal override that impressed her. And it was very good, Rich won the class by over a second. :) So we knew the first place team was all clear in the round, but kind of expected to be in 2nd place, turns out we stayed in third or moved to third... The top 5 teams were so close to each other. We were in third by .5, behind first by 10 points, an exciting Relay to come! Oh! And Rich ended up being the #2 overall 22" dog, just behind Svetlana and Skippy.
I ran back to the hotel, so I could take a shower (it was hot) and grab the black pants for Steeplechase Finals. I had just gotten back when the texts started coming about getting back to go over plans for Team Relay. So much hindsight on this evening, but I did get in a shower and the dogs napped for the 1/2 hour I was at the hotel.
Team Relay had frames on two of the sections and a teeter in the 3rd. We decided Rich would run first, took advantage of his running frame and also took into consideration his youth, because I honestly wasn't sure how high he would be with the excitement. We walked, we talked handling strategies and planned our baton exchanges. I have to say, we were a great team in all ways. I'm so fortunate to have had Lon and Nancy as teammates. This run was the most nervous I have been, it is easier when the pressure is just on you to perform for yourself, but when you add in the outcome of others, the pressure goes up. This is probably what I like most about team, that pressure to achieve when others need you to. I had a death grip on the baton when we went in the ring, Rich was high as a kite, but nothing I haven't seen before. I remember my last thought when I heard "go", "do I have to...". And we went, a solid fast run, clean baton exchange and then both Nancy and Lon ran clean as well. Nothing more we could do, just wait and see where we ended up. Turns out 2nd place in Team Relay, right behind the team sitting in 1st place and 2nd place overall. Two podium pictures for Rich with our super awesome teammates. So cool!
Steeplechase Finals walked a hour or so later. Hindsight, I should have gone home after the walk and had someone text me when 12" Championship was running. I had never been in a Steeplechase Finals and while I have watched it, I apparently never appreciated how LONG it takes. I had students competing and I wanted to be there to cheer them on (two of them made it to the podium!!!). Hindsight is pretty useless, so I will call it a lesson, next time I will go home, but this year I didn't. My plan was fine, it's Steeplechase, there really isn't much strategy. ;) But I pulled lateral a little too soon and caused a refusal. Rich was amazing, so fast, so smart, he was great. Next time I will be great too!
Last day was Biathlon Jumpers and Grand Prix Finals. I was officially dragging, but so appreciative of the showing we'd had. I caused refusals with both Rich and Vic in Biathlon Jumpers, really I nearly scratched Rich, but I ran Vic first, so I wasn't going to get in extra sleep scratching the run. But if I'd known Rich could have still been in the hunt for a placement with 5 faults, maybe I would have been more present. Vic I just said a "left" when I should have kept my mouth shut. As it was, we still finished 6th in Biathlon, so more loot for my most awesome boy and a friend/student won the whole thing, so that was also awesome. :)
Grand Prix Finals... First lesson is make sure you are on USDAA's mailing list for any changes that can happen for walkthroughs. It was just luck that I meandered over to the ring and saw a gathering of handlers. The moved up the time and at least one handler missed their walkthrough entirely. Next lesson I would learn later, but it is don't waste time trying to figure out a way to make something happen that you can't make happen, because you don't trust a skill needed for the obvious plan. Just do the obvious plan and focus on executing to the best of your ability. I did do a better job about relaxing before the run, really it was all good, other than my delusional belief that I could support Rich's running frame and somehow get to a blind cross, so I could get to a front cross... ;) I didn't make it to the blind and while I was thinking "ohhhh....no way" I should have been cueing the rear cross I should have just accepted I was doing from the beginning and caused a bar with a very very late and loud cue. I held his teeter after that, daring someone to call it, his teeter was something I expected would be called because sometimes USDAA seems to go with the board has to hit the ground before feet do, which never happens with Rich's teeter. But it is a GREAT teeter, one that I heard the crowd respond to, which is fun. I actually think I made the turn wider than it would have been after the teeter, by holding it, because I was impatient on the turn and just cued the jump and took off. Had I still been running for real, he would have seen me decelerate on approach to the jump. After that the run was good and a fast time despite the second a half teeter, plus a VERY wide turn where the bar came down. Again, next time I will do better!
And with that Cynosports was over. Angela (Rich's super awesome breeder) flew out for the event and I am so happy she was able to see us do well. Rich's brother Jimmy Neutron also made both Finals in 26", so she had lots to cheer for. On my FB you can see pictures of Rich and Jimmy, Rich is so tiny next to his brother. They're about the same height, but Jimmy is so much more dog than Rich with the same sweet habits. Such a lovely litter, I am so lucky that I found Angela, so lucky to have Rich. Our future is bright.
Instead of trying to make the drive home, I joined my teammates for a night of laughter, drinks and food somewhere near the CO river. A great way to end the weekend and the dogs appreciated having some time playing in the river the next morning. Then the drive home, where I fell asleep by 3pm and woke up at 2am to hungry dogs. Cynosports 2016, wow, just amazing, lessons learned, exciting successes and so much fun.
And as is the case after a big event, it all stops meaning as much so quickly after it is done. I try to not forget and that's the reason for this epic post, I don't want to just move on to whatever is next, I want to make sure I appreciate what happened and remember it.
What is next is more time at the beach and hiking the hills. Then we move on to the next goals. Vic is officially in the "appreciate every run like it's his last" stage. I love him so much and want to make sure my schedule still allows us to play this silly game while we can. Rich and I will start the qualifying process for 2018 AKC Nat'ls at the end of the month. We finished up our 24" requirements for WTT, so we'll start back at 20". Big event that I plan on attending next year will be WTT, maybe we'll go to Cynosports, but right now I'm just expecting to go to WTT. Training plans are starting up, but we have a couple months before serious training will begin again. Rich is turning 4 at the end of the month, we are now a team, 2018 will be our next really busy year of big competitions, but you never know, 2017 could see us on the FCI World Team...