Recap of the trip itself, chronological order:
(warning, all photos are crappy ones from my Droid)
Tuesday we left around 8am, hit some traffic and some rain but had no problems. Stopped in Indianapolis and there was some of this:
Wed I woke up around 5:45 and we left Indy around 6:30am, driving through some driving white-out snow conditions off and on for about an hour before it cleared up and was smooth sailing the rest of the way to Tulsa. Where there was promptly more of this:
We rested all evening, but I woke up early Thursday anyway, went to the site around 8 and dropped off crates for ACR then went for a really nice hike in the warm sunshine, where the dogs obliged me by posing on a rock:
Then we went to the airport and picked up our roommate, went back to the site and set up our crates in the stall, and I set up one of ACR's tables that had been dropped off, posted schedules, etc. Then we went grocery shopping and settled in for the event.
I'll cover the dogs' performances after our brief picture journal is finished ;)
The drive home: well I had an extra passenger, a rescue dog from TX who is going to NJ to live with Ria and David from ACR. He's a big dude so I needed my bigger crate set up in the car, meaning it was basically packed to the gills, but we made it work.
I stopped for gas in Springfield MO and as I pulled up to the pump I heard a funny noise and noticed the tire pressure light come on in my car. Got out, and the back tire was TOTALLY flat. Nice rip/hole in the sidewall. So it ended up getting towed on a flat bed truck to a Wal-mart, who got me a new tire. The dogs were troopers, getting lifted IN THE CAR the entire time - they were all in crates so likely none the wiser as to their strange situations.
Here's the really, really weird part. In 2010 on the way TO Tulsa for AKC Nationals, I found that my one front tire had a slow leak, and I stopped at a Wal-mart to get it fixed. In Springfield MO. THE EXACT SAME WAL-MART. WTF??? Apparently I need to find a new route to and from Tulsa!
After that delay, I got into the hotel really late Monday night (for me, which is like 10:30pm), finally for the first time in an entire week, I slept until my alarm went off, and then got home today around 3pm.
Now for the dogs' recaps.
I'll start with Strafe, because he was a superstar. Friday I entered only him in the warm-up run, figuring a baby/teenage dog could use the ringtime after the long drive. Sure enough, he went jump-faceplant-crash, then ran off his dogwalk, knocked another bar, and SCREAMED at me once. Oh my. But then he cleaned up his act and got 3rd place in Time 2 Beat that afternoon - I did feel he ran a bit tentatively on that run, probably because of me yelling at him for knocking bars in the warm-up. Saturday started out with Jumpers with weaves, and I decided to run slightly conservatively, as in I did not really work my corners that hard, although I did utilize nice strong handling choices in general. He placed 6th with a pretty good time. In Standard I kept changing my mind about my handling, failed to help him with a weak point in his training right now (lateral sends/parallel doubles) and he knocked the front bar off the double. He would have been 4th if he had been clean though. I was still happy with him. Sunday the pressure was on, and I sort of accidentally went really conservative by doing almost all rear crosses in the Hybrid round, I didn't plan that many but somehow found myself doing them. It worked out anyway, as they made him turn REALLY tight and he kept up all his bars for 4th place and securing our spot in the Challenger Round. For that one, I knew we had to go for it, with dogs like Pace, Solar, and Solei breathing fire right down our necks. And we did - unfortunately he slipped and hung himself up really hard on the 2nd weave pole, which cost us precious time. I am pretty sure we would not have won anyway, but I am super proud of him for hanging onto the weaves instead of popping out when that happened, and we were still just a few tenths behind the 2nd place dog, finishing with a very competitive strong 3rd place. All in all, a great debut at AKC Nationals with a dog who is just barely 2 and 1/2 years old!
Now on to Kiba...
I have been blogging for a few months now about Kiba's vision and jumping. After much thought, I think her vision is having another effect on the way she runs agility as well. I think it is causing us to have off courses that we never would have had previously. I believe Kiba's ETS is caused by her being far-sighted - she can see things far away on the horizon very well - she notices things often before I do. But set her 10 feet from a jump and she has a very hard time keeping the bar up. At speed, I believe she is judging and committing to jumps (and other obstacles) very early, in order to safely negotiate them. As she ages and her vision deteriorates somewhat, I think this is getting to be a stronger behavior.
The good news: Kiba got 3rd place in T2B with a pretty good run, although I did have to guard the bars a little bit. The bad news: after that Kiba hit the triple in JWW (otherwise would have placed 1st), and then proceeded to have THREE off courses in the following 2 runs. All, I believe, were caused by her attempts to locate, judge, and commit to the jumps properly. I was pretty sad after Round 2 since that put her out of the running for even the Challenger round. I think she was visually distracted by an off course possibility that she didn't realize was there, landed, looked at it, and then when she looked back at me she thought she should back-jump.
So I have spent the last few days trying to figure out what to do with her. She is 8 years old, physically she is doing fairly well, although Saturday evening she was a little stiff and sore up front, but it worked out pretty quickly after some mobilization by Ria. In general, she is physically fit to continue jumping 16". But it is becoming very difficult for me to run her - I have to change my handling, I am failing more at figuring out how to get her to see the right obstacle, and she is failing more at finding it. She is hitting the spread jumps more and more consistently. And she is getting off courses a LOT more than she did a year or two ago. I do not think most of these issues would be alleviated by moving her to 12" preferred.
I have not *quite* decided what to do with her, but I also think it is a safety issue - if my dog cannot properly locate me and the correct obstacle on course, she is becoming a bit of a danger to herself, especially at the speed with which she moves around the course.
For now, i have withdrawn her from the only trial she was entered in. I will have to decide if I will continue to run her in USDAA or not. At least there she is in Performance already so there are no spread jumps. But the courses can be quite difficult, and with her locking onto obstacles earlier and earlier, successfully negotiating those courses may become nigh impossible.
More rumination is required, but right now it is looking like this year may be just for Strafe, with maybe Seri making a few odd appearances here and there.....
PS: I have ordered videos from 4 Legged Flix, so I will post them whenever I get them, but it might be a week or more!