Update #2 – Spryte’s Success and the Nationals

So finally I get the chance to do some updating of this blog. The last post was written two months ago but only posted today. My only excuse is that I’ve had other stuff to do and this blog is not so high on the priority list right now.

So going back to after the hip dislocation. Within three weeks Raven was going for fairly lengthy on lead walks with me. She had several weeks of massage and stretching and heat packs. Plus crating. The crating wasn’t a huge hit with her I must admit. But no way was I going to be giving her the opportunity to reinjure the hip. She was pulled out of all the trials leading up to the Nationals except for the one on August 24th where I put her in one NFC Novice Jumping class run. We started some pretty intensive swimming sessions as well. Intensive in that they happened every couple of days. She only swam for five minutes sessions initially and we worked our way up to 15 minutes. She stayed on the Rimadyl for three weeks.

Spryte had some good results during this time. She is now officially known as Winpara Out Of Sight AD JD JDO HT.
At that July ACWA Trial she managed to WIN the Open Jumping class against quite a large number of dogs, and in Open Agility she picked up a 3rd behind two very fast, experienced much older dogs so I was very impressed with how she ran even if we couldn’t get it quite together for the Novice classes.

Geraldton
The following weekend we drove up to Geraldton (me, Cypher and Spryte – Raven got to stay home and look after Tim, not sure that she would have chosen that option but there was no way I could take her without her doing her nut in the back of the car when I ran the other dogs, with my luck she would have done her hip again) to compete at a double header trial over the Saturday and Sunday. It was quite a fruitful weekend giving Spryte a little taste of going away and competing on different grounds, like a mini National practice I suppose.

Cypher picked up a 4th in Open Agility, 5th in Masters Agility, 8th in Open Jumping, 4th in the second Masters Agility, 9th in the second Open Jumping and a 4th in the second Masters Jumping. Six qualifications from eight runs was a good result for him, especially with some top 5 finishes.

Spryte won the first novice Agility for her first leg, picked up a 4th place in the second Open Jumping behind some very fast, experienced dogs again, then came 2nd in the second Novice Agility for her 2nd leg behind one of her pairs partners, the very fast, very exciting to watch Guirmere Snazzy and Cathy. At the conclusion of this weekend she only needs one more pass for her Open Jumping title (JDO) and one each for her AD and JD. So I was very happy with how the weekend went, it’s good to have all that effort pay off because the four hour drive home can seem very long when it’s one of those weekends where nothing goes right!

GSDA
The next weekend was the GSDA trial and this turned out to be a more expensive than usual training session for Spryte! We had the novice dog weave popping issue and some disagreement about contacts again. As in I wanted her to do them and she didn’t. 🙂 Totally my own fault. I have been a bad bad trainer when it comes to contacts. Wait let me rephrase that. I have been a bad bad TRIALLER when it comes to contacts. As in letting her go if she happens to get them even if she doesn’t give me the two on two off behaviour. I know as I’m letting it go in trial runs that this will be all bad. I think really I am just engaging in a form of procrastination again. Yes I know, it’s a shock to me too. Heh. But anyway…I keep putting this whole “must insist on trained contact behaviour in the ring” approach off. She runs through a contact and I think “Hmmm next time I’ll fix that”. Funnily enough it’s an oddity of dog training that once a dog does something (and really enjoys it, I mean literally you can see the GLEE on their faces, I kid you not) they tend to do it again. And again. And again. Of course this is not a new concept to me. *Sigh* At least Cypher was good old Mr Reliable again giving me two clears in both Masters Agility and Masters Jumping. I mishandled him in both Opens but was very pleased with both of those runs too.

CAWA Double Fundraiser Trial August 10th
Cypher was a good boy for this double trial. Picking up a clear round in both Open Agility and Masters Jumping in the morning and in the afternoon for four qualifications for the day. Spryte? Well we had eight practice runs. *vbg* I figure it was all part of our strategy, we didn’t want her peaking too early before the Nationals. Well that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. From what I can remember there was the odd bar down and disagreements about contacts again. The following day at the Teams and Strategic Pairs event Nifty and Cypher paired up (Nifty’s partner Raven being out of action and Cypher’s partner Sage being out of action as well) and managed to go clear for a pass in the Masters Strategic Pairs class.

CAWA Fundraiser Trial August 24th
Spryte was back in form for this one, which was good considering we were leaving in four days for the Nationals! She won the Novice Agility class in the morning and that gave her her AD title. Cypher picked up a qualification in Open Jumping as well and did a beautiful run for SECOND place in Masters Agility. Very pleased with that as getting into the top 3 in Masters here is not easy. This was the trial where I tried Raven out for the first time with a Novice Jumping run in the NFC class. We had been doing single bits of equipment for the week before, single bar jumps etc, the ends of contacts. I really thought it wouldn’t be wise to take her over to the Nationals without some sort of course under her belt in nearly two months. She held her startline, I led out and ran the entire course silently, she managed it fine knocking one bar when I did a lazy rear cross on her. I was handling conservatively I must admit that but it will be some time before I feel she might be up to a bit of excited handling. She goes quick enough without me pushing so we’ll see. She pulled up fine from that run, having had plenty of massage and stretching before hand and a decent warm up. I walked her out afterwards and she was fine, no signs of stiffness at all. I’d pretty much decided by that evening she would be attending the Nationals.

ANKC AGILITY NATIONALS Friday, Saturday and Sunday August 29th, 30th and 31st
This National was an eye opening experience for many reasons. Overall I was absolutely over the moon with how my guys went although in retrospect I think taking three was slightly over ambitious. That said though I managed to get each of them into a final and for that I was immensely proud of them. Nearly 4000 runs took place over the three days. The first day was a teams event plus games and the first qualifying heat for both Open Agility and Open Jumping. The second day was the fullest with another teams event in the morning followed by two qualifying heats for every class – Novice, Excellent, Open and Masters Agility and Jumping. The third day was the last qualifying heat for Novice, Excellent and Masters plus the finals. So the schedule was very tight and packed and to be honest I think the next Nationals is going to have to span four days. Anyway onto my results:
Day One (Friday) – This was the best day really for us, as Raven is now the

2008 National Masters Gamblers Champion

and

2008 National Masters Strategic Pairs Champion with her pairs partners – Sue Hogben with Nifty

I was stunned to tell the truth. Here’s this dog with a dislocated hip less than two months ago and a full bone marrow transplant back in June and she doesn’t just compete at the Nationals. She wins! Not much would have been able to wipe the smile off my face after finishing those courses with her.
Yet still it seemed as if more good fortune was due our way. Little miss Spryte in her first run of the day in the Novice Strategic Pairs class with her partner Spice and Andrea Patching (who was very tolerant I must say as I basically had numerous courses to remember so I simply asked if she could do this part and that part and that’s how we were going to do it!) took out first place there too. Spryte is now the

2008 National Novice Strategic Pairs Champion along with her partners Spice and Andrea.


This all took place in the morning so I was kind of wondering if that was going to be it for our successes of the weekend because really – how much good luck can someone have? If I’d had to go home at that point I would have still been extremely happy with how we had gone.

Anyway in the afternoon we took a hike out to the back paddock to the Open Jumping course. It looked quite tricky for the baby dogs but I figured I’d get Raven and Cypher through it. I ran Spryte first in the 400 height and was stunned to see us finish the course clear. The distance challenge was not easy for the baby dogs so I was very impressed than not only had she run clear at the Nationals she had also finished her title. What an excellent way to finish the title and how odd that she gets her JDO BEFORE her JD. I ran Raven and she was going great guns until I just did too much of an exciting front cross way in front of her which always causes her to accelerate madly and bars came down. I withdrew her immediately figuring A: I had enough running to do that weekend and B: Wanting her to conserve her energy as much as possible. Cypher ran it and ran clear as well too so was very pleased with him. Now to get into the finals you needed to finish in the top 7 out of something like 180 dogs. Needless to say I didn’t think either Cypher or Spryte would have a chance. Cypher is just not quick enough and whilst Spryte is quick I don’t think you can afford to have even the slightest wobble at the Nats and she had one going into the distance challenge. And yet at presentations that night Spryte’s name got called out! In 6th place! I was just as stoked about that as I was about her first place in Pairs. My baby dog at her first nationals makes a final of one of the most hotly competitive classes there. What a little star! Open Agility – what happened there….I’m trying to recall it. Well Raven had decided that two months without out any kind of training meant she could break her startline so she was through tyre, up the dogwalk, down the dogwalk running through the colour and flattening out over two bars before I’d pretty much got past the first up plank on the dogwalk. Yeah we withdrew from that one. Cypher qualified in this but it was a generous clear I thought since I pretty much caused a refusal of a bar and had to bring him round to do it again. Idiot handler strikes again! And Spryte? Hmmm…I think we had an off course into a wrong tunnel entry or was it a missed contact. No wait. I remember. She dropped a bar in the distance challenge. That’s right I remember now, she was going great guns too, but on memory I don’t think I was able to call her off the wrong tunnel entry in the distance challenge as she was just so far in front of me.

So that was the Friday. We won some stuff, got quite a few clears and went home tired but pretty happy with the results. More importantly Raven had pulled up fine and no sign of any stiffness or soreness after the days events. If anything she was a little too UP! I slept like a log that night. A solid six hours.

Day Two (Saturday) – This day was a mixed results day but still one that left me feeling good about our achievements so far. I had gone to this National with Raven just absolutely thrilled to be able to be there and compete. To win or qualify was just icing on the cake as far as I was concerned. So when Raven pulled off a clear run in the hardest Masters Jumping course I’ve ever done and managed to finish in 6th I was absolutely chuffed with her. Honestly this course was so challenging that word spread ike wildfire around the grounds (and these grounds were huge by the way – to walk from one ring to another sometimes took like ten minutes!!) and the course became known as THE TUNNEL ONE. I have never run a design like this before and I hope to never again. In fact it is so unique I feel the need to post the course design right here. I think there were 8 qualifiers in about 170 dogs. Raven had made a Masters Jumping final. I was more than thrilled with her. In the morning the Masters Agility course looked to be quite challenging as well but much more in the way of could be do-able type challenging. Raven just knocked one bar and I withdrew. I then ran Cypher and we did a pretty solid run and I got him through it clear. We were early on in the running order so I thought nothing of it, lots more dogs to run and no doubt lots more clears as well. Spryte had some hard luck stories – although that said some of those stories did involve contacts and me not being able to walk the course because I was involved in three other rings at the front of the grounds whilst the walking was taking place down the far end of the grounds. She did a beautiful Open Agility run at one point and just missed the a frame contact by a toe and it was in the distance challenge so that didn’t help. To be honest with her first run of the day in Novice Jumping I was completely stunned by her speed. It seemed like she had shifted up about 6 gears and it caught me by surprise my reactions definitely not quick enough in giving her the information she needed quickly enough. Then I mishandled a rear cross with in another Novice Jumping run. The Novice Agility courses were more challenging than I was used to, with some strong call offs and sharp turns for the youngsters which left very little room for error. And in my case no room at all! So no clear rounds for her all day. Cypher had a couple of qualifiers and one that I count as a qualifier – a very nicely run open Agility course that was speedy for him and without a single wobble. However the judge decided to give me a penalty because whilst I placed him on lead immediately I lost hold of the lead when he tugged with me as we left the ring ropes. Yeah. Not going to talk about it except to say that there was some rather extreme interpretations of the rules at this event (over the whole weekend in fact) that were not necessary by a long shot. Agility is supposed to be fun people – stop sucking the fun out of it! Where was I? Oh yes Cypher. Turns out by the end of the day he finished in FIFTH place in the Masters Agility class and had therefore qualified for a final. Good old Mr Reliable….though I really shouldn’t call him old, he’s only just about to turn four! I was very pleased with how he ran all weekend actually, he tried his best, did everything I asked and is the most consistent dog I have ever had the pleasure of owning and training. I know I bag on his speed sometimes but really he goes as fast as he can and enjoys his agility and the tugging afterwards, can’t ask much more than that.

Day Three (Sunday) – Today was the last chance to qualify for the finals and yeah my guys didn’t do anything in the morning. I had pulled Cy from Masters Agility and just focused on Jumping. I had pulled Raven from Masters Jumping and just focused on Masters Agility. And Spryte was in both her Novice runs. Cy ran clear in Masters Jumping but so did about 26 other dogs I think so he finished in 18th or something like that. I prefer that to the 8th place we finished in Open Jumping Saturday afternoon! It’s great to know he nearly made it into a final like that but sometimes you just go perhaps I don’t want to know he missed out on a finals run by point nothing of a second! Raven did an absolute ripper on an Agility run that would have made the finals easily time wise but she just knocked one bar. This course I didn’t withdraw on thinking that this could possibly be out last ever run in a Masters Agility class at a National! Spryte? Well Seems like Idiot Handler had been missing in action for a while and chose her Novice Jumping course to come out on. Firstly I got lost. Yes. Lost. On a bloody 16 obstacle course. Unbelievable. So unbelievable in fact that I was completely flustered by this and tehrefore forgot to handle her properly for an off entry tunnel. So there went that chance! In Novice Agility? You know how I said that contact thing always comes back to bite you in the ass at some point? Well this was our point. Big time. Missed the a frame contact by about a toe length. Perfect other than that. *Shrugs* What can you do? I had pretty much sealed that fate with all my fart arsing around with her contacts in trials so I took it on the chin as you do and still gave her the biggest hug at the end of her run. She was in a final already – no point being greedy. 🙂

Finals – There were 8 finals to be run. I was in three ofthem. The last three. Open Jumping, followed by Masters Jumping and followed by Masters Agility. So I got Spryte out eventually to get her ready for the OJ final. When I walked the course I realised it didn’t matter how many times I walked this she would would be very unlikely to get the difficult distance challenge. She was third into the ring in 400 height class. After all my doubts about her she went and bloody did the distance challenge! I was absolutely stunned as the spectators could tell by my tone of voice. We were five jumps from home after the weavers and I hadn’t anticipated the sharp turn and thus call off for the angle home. She took a jump off course. Bugger! My fault entirely but to be honest I didn’t feel the slightest bit disappointed. She did exactly everything I asked and had completed a challenge that it turned out only ONE dog out of the entire finals class could manage to go clear on. She’s just turned 2. She’s gonna have a few more goes at Nationals in her lifetime. I can’t wait to share them with her. Raven in Masters Jumping was up next. This course was pretty much as hard (and in some places harder) as THE TUNNEL ONE. Heh. And by this point our start line behaviour was non existent so I’m quite sure that we didn’t get past just three before we had a fault. I withdrew after a bit because by that stage the grounds were wet, boggy and muddy and very slippery. So we thanked the judge and left the ring. She had made it to the Masters Jumping finals startline. It was more than i could have ever hoped for.
Cypher in Masters Agility – by the time it was his turn I think there was maybe one clear round. I revved him up something chronic with his tug toy and he was buzzing on the start line. This was a nice course to run but really to be honest, none of the handlers felt particularly safe running on the grounds as they were incredibly boggy and slippery by then, you did feel that you could land on your ass very quickly if you weren’t careful. Cypher did a cracker of a run, he was going great guns and we had about four obstacles left when I opened my mouth and said ‘Out’. One tiny word. And of course he did it. He went out just like I said. When he didn’t need to go out he just needed to turn with me into a tunnel. With the way he was running he would have finished in at least 4th if not 3rd place. Ahhh well. This was disappointing because I had made the stuff up here and this was a Masters final that he could have quite easily gone clear on, unlike Spryte who I wasn’t expecting to do anything with in the OJ final. Cypher of course was none the wiser, tugging like mad at the end of his run. He had done me proud, ran well, ran fast and did everything I asked. And this from a dog I was wondering if I should bother with the expense of taking!

And so that was it. The end of the Nationals. As a last note I have to make mention of Western Australia as a state and how well they did – we walked away with FOUR out of the eight finals wins, we had a couple of runners up and top 6 finishes in the finals. As a state we did very well, we won FOUR out of nine possible Games classes and had top 5 finishes in the rest just about. I am proud to be part of our WA Agility community because we can say without hesitation our dogs are some of the fastest, best trained and best handled out there. To live and compete in WA is to set the bar high for our agility standards and that has to be an asset anyway you look at it.

Roll on 2010 and the next Nationals – to be held here in sunny Perth at the end of April.
I will post some pics and some courses in the next post.