Hot Pants

Yeah – so if you thought I’d be posting a picture of me in hot pants – not so much. Those days are over. Unless it’s on a beach where people don’t know me. Although I will freely admit to rocking that look here in the comfort of my own private Idaho, which is comprised of my deck or the back edge of my lawn, and looking pretty damn fine doing it. I know this because I’ve looked at my reflection in the window walking by. I choose to ignore the Buddha belly part.

I actually was hot wearing long pants this weekend where temperatures soared into the mid to upper 80s. Hot as in sweaty. Not hot in an All-That kinda way. However, the alternative of running dog agility in shorts or in the uber more trendy alternative of a skort is not an option for me. That would expose my legs.

If I’m vain about anything, beside my enormous smartassedness that is, it is my legs. That was before I got dogs though. Specifically, that was before I got Brady.

I’ve never cared that I have enormous matching scars on my knees from a pre-laser micro-surgery time where surgeons took great delight in cutting open human flesh, flaying it open to do medieval torture, like putting screws into the growing parts of young pubescent girls, then closing the slices with sutures than could be measured in inches rather than millimeters. And then to repeat much the same, sans the inserting of screws because those had to be then removed, a mere year later due to the rapid growth spurt of the aforementioned pubescent female person. Those scars remind me of dear deceased Dr. Marcotte with his strange pedophilistic admiration of my 12-year old body. However, those scars are exactly the reason why I would not allow Dr. Marcotte and his far more sadistic orthopedic surgeon colleague to perform back surgery on me. I much preferred Dr. Marcotte’s soft admiring eyes goggling my nearly naked teenage body – naturally to monitor the curvature of my spine and to assure it got no worse – a few times a year.

Um, so back to Brady.

Brady is not a tolerant dog.

Many years ago – and I rue the days I said it – I used to say, even out loud and to many people – that I was so very glad I did not have a dog that barked at me when running agility.

The universe has an odd way of working sometimes. It’s called karma and karma is a bitch, beaotches!

Fast forward to training Brady. As Brady’s training progressed, there came a point in time where Brady’s learning curve clearly surpassed my own. In retrospect, he was paying attention to our instructor much better than I was. I guess this makes sense; he’s a border collie and I am only a human.

As Brady’s confidence grew, he began to “correct” me when I made mistakes. In the beginning, he was lenient. A bark here or there, a swerve into me with a bark. Typically, fairly gentle and in practice, only when I made grievous errors.

I can’t properly remember the first time he nipped me during competition. I do remember the first time he drew blood.

Now, before all the pack leaders of this world draw up in horror and start berating me for not being more dominant, please know this happens a lot in agility. We just don’t like to openly talk about it. It’s like a super secret special club you kinda don’t really want to belong to. Therefore, we don’t. We do whisper sometimes. Yes, that’s probably us in the corner conferring quietly as we compare battle wounds and discuss the best techniques to ward off teeth.

And we totally pretend we didn’t see anything happen when it happens to a fellow competitor. Actually, many of us have become very, very good at not only fending off the incoming nip, but also at covering the offense.

I have a personal “Curt Schilling” moment when after some poor handling move I made, Brady came in at me and got in a solid bite (okay, we had moved beyond nips at that point) to my lower calf. Did I flinch? Of course not, I walked off that agility field, head held high, smiling like a beauty queen, my horrid asshole dog prancing at my side (“I showed her not to do that dumbass move again!”), while the blood flowed into my sock. I know this because as soon as I got back to my vehicle and had thrown asshole dog in it, I pulled up my pants leg and hoped I had remembered band-aids.

I dearly love Brady. But he is the most unforgiving instructor. I make a poor handling choice and he runs at me screaming and with mouth wide open. This is why I hear Aerosmith songs in my head at start lines with Brady. Brady is Steven Tyler, minus the spandex.

Brady has made me a much better handler. Still not perfect, but things have improved a lot in the past 18 months. Now we have an agreement that he will be a bit more tolerant of my errors and I will not walk him off the course for being a jerk.

Then I started Camm.

Like Brady, and so unlike the extremely forgiving Jasmine and Youke, Camm isn’t very tolerant of handling mistakes on course. So despite the fact that I think I’m a better handler than I was a few years back, I’m far from perfect and Camm needs information at the speed of light.

Great, I finally get a handle of the need for speedy information to Brady and I get a dog that needs it even faster. It’s just a  lot for a slow human to process.

Unlike Brady, Camm prefers to deliver her punctuation points for my poor choices at my hands or wrists. Until a month ago. A month ago, she delivered her supreme dissatisfaction with something I’d done with a chomp to my leg. Luckily for all concerned, it was while we were working in a practice ring and not during the actual competition. Judges do not look favorably on this kind of behavior. But this time, instead of being horrified that my sweet dog that has nurtured me through the death of my mother and the loss of a job, and chewed the snot out of hundreds of tear-soaked tissues, did this horrible thing, I reacted instantaneously.

I whipped around and faced Camm down, put my finger in her face, grabbed her and marched her, and I do mean march, back to the car. She’s wasn’t thrown in, but there was none of the usually coos and cuddles. I then refused to acknowledge her existence for the next hour. This is a devastating punishment for Camm.

Needless to say, no nasty cheap-shots since and any other attempts to nip have been, well, nipped.

All of which is to say, that although I wore long black pants to run agility this past weekend, I came home with all body parts intact and unmarked.

This still doesn’t mean I’m donning a skort any time soon. For one, is anyone but myself aware that when one bends over to remove the leash from their dog at the start line that there’s often a great deal of southern exposure? Sorry realtors of the world, sometimes southern exposure is not such a good thing.

Um, so this started out as a post about Cammi Pants and how super awesome she is right now. Seems to have ridden off on a bit of a tangent. So if you’re still with me on this ….

The weekend was originally supposed to be all about Brady. I decided he might like all of my attention and not have to share any of the glory with the others.

I rarely just run one dog anymore. I just find I get rather bored. I like the adrenaline rush of running multiple dogs and trying to figure out the different ways to handle courses and running different levels. Truthfully, sometimes I have just found that running the younger dogs like the experienced dogs is just a better idea, and it often works. Did I mention that they pay attention to their instructors?

Brady and I ran Saturday at a NADAC trial locally put on by a local club. He seemed fine with the idea of being the only dog, but was not nearly as demonstratively happy about it as I had anticipated. Whatever, dude.

I promptly screwed up the first course by doing the exact thing I had told myself not to do. I often take the first obstacle for granted and just assume the dog will go from A to B with no direction from me. An instructor recently videotaped me doing this and made it painfully evident the hubris in my assumptions. Clearly, Brady should be biting me more often.

Made up for that though by smoking the weavers course. Went on to the standard runs and did fairly decent, although we only qualified on the second of the two standard runs. Last class of the day was jumpers. Because of Brady, I now love jumpers. I used to hate it. So many jumps, so many turns, so very hard to keep track of what went where, even with memorizing the patterns or shapes of the course and not just the numbers. Brady and I typically either smoke a jumpers course or we set it on fire .. as in we go down in flames because it’s so flamboyantly awful. Brady is not an in-between kind of dog to run. We qualified on Saturday’s course, despite two bobbles, and only because Brady can make up the errors with ground speed.

On Sunday, I decided to bring Camm too and entered her in some runs. She’s shown some major progression in the last couple of trials and I figured that worse case scenario, we’d try for some decent training moments. That’s something I try to think about for every trial we enter. Good thing. We have a lot of training moments.

Brady and I started off spectacularly bad and out of synch. I take all credit. I think the only reason he didn’t get super pissed with me is that maybe he was surprised by my inept handling. We’ve actually been really in synch of late, but maybe having to skip out on competitions recently due to his injury hurt us. We finally got it together on the fourth course of the day – touch n go- which turned out to be our best run of the weekend. Brady and I also achieved a much coveted chances qualifier – his first entry at that higher level, and we qualified in tunnelers.

Camm was amazing. She had a fantastic jumpers run, keeping all the bars up, no spinning and no coming screaming at me due to a mis-cue. I’d like to think that was because there were none. In actuality, just as I was thinking how incredibly spectacular the run was and how in synch we were, blah, blah, blah, I let off the pressure ever so slightly and she ran by one of the last jumps. Damn that inner dialogue! No matter though. It was a gorgeous run and she did exactly what I cued. A win in my book.

I ended up walking her off the first standard course. She was amped up and after she leaped a dogwalk contact I could see we had nowhere to go but down in major flames. Ended up calling her to me and carrying her out. She came back with a firmer focus a few minutes later for round two of standard and ended up in first place.

By now we were firing on all cylinders. So I decided to play a little challenge game. This game was only between myself and I because I learned my lesson several years ago about making competition about others. The game involved Brady and Camm, but of course they didn’t know it nor would they have really cared had they known. Okay, Camm probably would care if she spoke more fluent human.

I decided to go run tunnelers with guns loaded and see if Camm could beat Brady’s time. Brady regularly scores run indexes in NADAC at 90 and above, especially in the games courses, and has some in tunnelers over 100. it’s interesting to me, but I admit I normally don’t really care. For me, the most important part is that agility stays a fun game. But sometimes fun can include which of my dogs ran a course the fastest or the best. Camm is in open tunnelers and Brady is at the elite level, but the course is the same. The only difference between the levels is the qualifying times. Camm easily runs at elite level time when clean.

Cammi Pants ran that tunnelers course in just over 18 seconds. That was with a couple of wide turns.

Brady ran after her run. His turns were tighter, likely because he is the more experienced dog. I handled the run exactly the same way. or nearly so. I let off the pressure – really must stop doing that! – ever so slightly heading toward the stretch, again taking for granted that he was headed for the tunnel right in front of him. Nope, he responded – appropriately I might add – to the release and came into me, causing a bobble. Circled back – this all took place in a matter of less than two seconds, and finished the course clean. That momentarily bobble cost. Camm beat Brady’s time by 1.92 seconds.

It’ll be fun over the next several trials to play this experiment again.

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