Friday, August 12, 2011

Bloem (possibly only part 1 - depends on how tired I get), car doors and electric blankets

So last weekend, the gang (me, Spaz, Special Needs, Stein) headed off to an icy cold Bloemfontein, for the Montego Classic Weekend 2011.  I left at 02h30 on Friday morning, firstly because it meant one night less away from home, secondly because I love driving alone in the dark... yes, yes, I know, it is an unhealthy habit, but so be it.  The nice thing about driving like this is that you have an excuse to stop at every Engen 1-Stop for Wimpy coffee... gotta love Wimpy coffee.  Anyhow, as per the usual, my post will NOT be in chronological order, in fact it won't be in any order... it will be in the order that my slightly insane, agility addicted brain decides to interpret it.

So first of all, I am a bit of an 'accommodation snob'... I want a really nice shower, with enough hot water and good pressure and I want a very comfortable clean bed... since these are the only two functions of a B&B/hotel/cottage/chalet/broom closet/shack I ever use when I travel to dog shows.  And I could not have been more pleased.  I had a stunning room, a huge property for the dogs to run and a very friendly labbie for the boys to play with.  The owners were SO accommodating and friendly and helpful it is not even true.  Even the other GUESTS adored the dogs and came for cuddles with them.  Let's not forget the fact that I got completely spoilt by the fact that they switched on the heater AND the electric blanket every night before my return.  Haha, those of you that want to know more for next year will have to negotiate with me, since I want to make sure I book first!
I went with a few goals in mind this weekend.  First of all there was my Quake-e-star, the Monster Man also known as Special Needs.  Now I was frowned upon the entire weekend for calling Quake, 'my special needs child', but honestly people, he IS special needs... I don't mean that in a bad or horrible way, but the little (big) dude is really a weird dog and I have to accommodate him.  This was his first 'away weekend' and considering the struggles I have had with him, I had ZERO expectations... I was prepared for 10/10 Eliminations.  My goal with him, was to have just ONE round, where he was enthusiastic and didn't shut down... I wasn't worried about the semi-long drive... Quake LOVES driving, he gets to nap with his head by my elbow.  But for little special needs boys, EVERYTHING is oh so very exciting, people and sounds and pretty colours and other dogs... all of those normally cancels me out.  The worst part is, that when I stress about this, he becomes worse and has been known to run off and greet judges by completely bowling them over and licking their faces.  I have done various experiments with him to try and de-sensitise him...  This weekend, my plan was just to socialise WITH him... I got him out of his crate early, a good few dogs before his runs, I chilled in my chair with him, I let him say allow to handlers and dogs (after asking for their permission of course)...  I basically let him be.  The one thing I DID do, was withdraw him when I felt he had to much on one day or when the course was too difficult for Grade 1.

So to cut a long story short... oh sh!t, not so short, I have already been rambling... Anyhow, Quake surprised me and nearly brought me to tears this weekend (NEARLY, nothing more than that mind you).  He absolutely loved being there.  As a minor bonus he managed some clear rounds, some qualifications and placings in 5 of the 7 rounds I ran him in (I THINK, lost track of all of that)... But A LOT more important... Quake was completely comfortable in the environment, both at the show grounds and at my accommodation... even better... for the first time EVER on Sunday, Quake came screaming out of his crate and shot off towards the rings, looking back at me saying 'come on ma, lets go play agility'  and the best ever?  Right next to the ring, with people and dogs about Quake started tugging at his leash, growling playfully and asking to play.  I also went back and was able to correct mistakes without Quake freaking out and refusing to do the rest of the course...  Okay so this sounds stupid to most of you... hell it would have sounded stupid to me before I actually got Quake, but trust me, this is THE biggest leap he has EVER taken forward... *smiles contently*.

Those that know me, will remember that I said in May this year, that Quake had 6 months... if he enjoyed agility that would be AWESOME, if not, that would be cool too, he would continue being a house dog and beloved pet.  Of course I knew his potential, living with him and training him and all, but if he didn't enjoy competitive agility, I wasn't going to force him down that road.  His agility career was looking bleak and the next ultimatum was that if he shut down the week before Bloem at local shows, he would not be going... then he surprised me with a super clear round and a first place... he obviously wanted to go to Bloem.  And he didn't disappoint.  He really is special needs and he might always be... I don't mind treating him differently than my other dogs, as long as he enjoys it!  It has been hard for me, for the past 14 years, I have had highly motivated dogs, and yes, there have been a ton of mistakes, but nothing has been harder than this.  I always stand ringside (as I did this weekend) and express y disgust for people that FORCE their dogs to do agility... it could not be more apparent that said dogs do not want to be there, so where did I draw the line for my own unmotivated dog?  Well apparently I will have to wait and see :)  Haha, one thing I will say is that it is A LOT more exhausting running, my slower boy Quake than it is Chaos... Jeez, I came of the course completely out of breath a few times, even though Quake runs about 1.5m/s slower than Chaos. Here are some of his highs and lows of the past weekend:

Volt, well he just went with for funsies (yes you are allowed to shoot me now... I am NOT the teen girl movie slang type).  He did get me a bit concerned, as he wasn't recalling off other dogs, but oh well, just something for me to work on.  He played... A LOT... with tons of dogs, BC pup (still awaiting the pics btw J), mini Aussie girl, adult BC's, some Puli's, a couple of poodles... etc etc.  We also did some serious tugging right next to the rings and a few waits.  Volt is a dream, so easy to work with and take along everywhere, since nothing phases him.  He is convinced that the entire world loves him... not always a good quality, but oh well. He did also peak the interest of some handlers that have not seen him before... haha even made a very... erm how do I say this nicely... egotistical small dog handler stress big time and poor Stein is not even a year old yet!

So on to my heart and soul boy, the one and only Spaz.  I went with two specific goals in mind this time around... and I managed to achieve neither.  But then my boy surprised me by achieving something else which I did not remotely expect (Thanks Dawn!).  Please understand me, he ran like a friggin dream, with me making some serious mistakes (as will be so apparent in the video, which by the way is also in absolutely no distinguishable order).  The biggest problem of the weekend is that he cost me no less than 6 rounds with one bar each (spectacular times though), that was heart-breaking.  It DID remind me, however, that I haven't done my own special version of knock-training in more than a month.  *Bangs head against wall*.  When I KNOW he responds so well to this... okay all together now 'JACKASS'.  He did manage some good clear rounds though and his I could not have asked more from his contacts!  What a man.  His see-saws did slow down towards the end of the weekend... think he was just DONE, kind of like me.  The grounds in Bloem are very hard and has almost no grass... not complaining, but considering how stiff I STILL am, I think the dogs must have taken strain. The courses over-all were surprisingly easy and I only though of 1 course as challenging.  This did make for good competition on time.  The other thing which is becoming more apparent with every bumper weekend is the following:

Most dogs + tons of rounds = tired
Chaos + tons of rounds = Insane and full of energy

What an odd boy, but it does get my timing off badly... hmmm... yet another thing to remember and work on. Anyhow, I have adjusted my goals now and the year goes on... I am so happy with the Spaz... and on that note... Happy B-Day my boy, 5 years ago, today you were born and MAN am I glad you came into my life! Anyhow, herewith Chaos's highs and lows in Bloem:

Other random thoughts:

1.  I dislike judges that do not set up appropriate lower grade courses, some are just lazy, some just cannot 'see' it, some have never run a dog, some are just ignorant.  Regardless, I have a philosophy NOT to complain about grade 3 courses, I should be able to do whatever you throw at me, however my grade 1 dog should not be subjected to the same circumstances.
2.  Phrase of the weekend.... Terminal Disappointment.  Thanks W, it is STILL stuck in my head.
3.  I ended up stewarding for Flyball this weekend... jeez, I though agility people were bad, but MAN, those flyball oaks can get disjointed about things hey?  Really exciting sport though... hmmmm, might my dogs be learning FB soon?  Let's wait and see.
4.  I don't like arrogant people and bad attitudes.
5.  If your dog is aggressive or particularly unpredictable in ANY way... do NOT tie it up on a rickety stake right next to the ring and do NOT take it into a crowded hall, filled with other people and dogs.
6.  Do not throw a ball in a 100 square kilometres from a braai (barbecue) or any other object containing hot coals... dogs have the ability to change the trajectory of a ball so they land on TOP of the coals.
7.  Do not shut your finger in the car door (yes I actually managed to do this and I am pretty sure I will lose my right index finger's nail)
8.  Judges that don't call handling faults really irritate me... seriously if 'touching your dog' aided your dog in any way (for example to get the pole entry), this should be faulted.
9.  I have had an over-stimulation of tunnels under dog walks, I promise for the rest of my judging this year, there will be no tunnels under dog walks.
10.  I LOVE the camaraderie of 'away shows'.  I like seeing people that live half-way across the country from me.  I like seeing new dogs.  I like catching up with friends.  I like getting input from other people.  I like giving input (haha, yes sorry to those of you that didn't know me from a bar of soap).
11.  Apparently when I go away for 5 days, my hubby starts baking... I like it.
12.  LK breeds DAMN fast mini-aussies/NAS's... wow.
13.  People and dogs are equally unpredictable.

On a special note, a well done to my god-daughter-dog Seis... what a weekend!

Hmmm... I think that is enough for now... I may or may not post a part two with some more thoughts... who knows!

All photos courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

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