The Mad Dash

I think I logged about 25 miles last week. That’s dog miles. Distance walked or half-jogged with the dogs.

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I don’t wear a pedometer or any of the fancy gadgets that are essentially the same thing, so my guesstimate is based on known mileage of some of the areas I hiked last week. Then again, it’s hard to calculate the numerous side trails taken. Plus, hiking with friends that do possess fancy gadgets has taught me I seriously underestimate my distance.

Being dogs, JaYoBaCa at least doubled that, if not tripled it. I read somewhere a long time ago that if off leash, a dog will triple the distance a human walks while out hiking. I’ve no idea if this is true and I don’t have a source to quote. I’m sure I could google it, but I’m too lazy.

That 25 miles or so does not include ordinary everyday sort of stuff and doesn’t include the agility weekend miles logged.

I log a lot of distance during agility trials. I typically park away from arenas since I keep the dogs in the car for the most part and like them to have a fairly quiet area. I also like to find a shady place to park. For some unknown and slightly annoying reason, virtually no place I’ve ever done agility at has shady parking nearby. I suppose that this might be one of those blessing in disguise kind of things.

I also run at least two dogs at trials typically, and more like three most times. That’s a lot of running back and forth to get dogs. Note to self, in the future, seriously consider getting a smaller dog so as not to have so many in the same height group. But that would mean that I’d have to like small dogs more than I do. Hmmm.

When I was running Jasmine, I had three dogs all in the same height class. Another good reason for retiring her.

I only trialed one day this past weekend and ran three dogs. It seemed fairly easy physically, but that was only due to the aforementioned 25 miles.

At least at this past trial I only had three classes where the dogs ran in the same class. Please note the hint of sarcasm.

Every agility trial has a posted running order at the entry gate into the ring. Competitors are expected to adhere to that running order for the most part. Those of us competing with multiple dogs are allowed some latitude in rearranging the gate sheet to accommodate our need to get the aforementioned multiple dogs shuffled and into the ring in some reasonable order that still allows for the competitor to not drop dead from a heart attack getting there.

Interestingly, the majority of people running multiple dogs, like myself, choose to park in the back forty somewhere. We are the annoying people who gate stewards – the people in charge of managing the running order and getting people into the ring efficiently so the trial can move in a timely manner – love to hate. They hate us because we literally show up, often huffing and puffing, at the last second. But we are almost always there on time and in running order, magically appearing out of the dust and usually just out of peripheral sight of the gate steward.

“Youke! I’m looking for Youke! He’s the next dog in!” That is often shouted at full volume with just a hint of panic or anger in the gate steward’s voice, the latter contingent upon the gate steward’s experience.

“We’re right here.” This is always stated fairly quietly and calmly, either because there is no need to waste additional breath that might be needed to actually breathe or because one arrived with time to spare and has actually been hanging out in the holding area for a minute or so – always unbeknownst to the poor gate steward.

One of my favorite tasks to perform at an agility show is actually being a gate steward. I love it because it indulges my inner bossiness and need to yell at people. And I confess that I love those people who run with multiple dogs and just magically appear when they’re supposed to.

See, we all seem to develop some super magical sense of timing that many people running just one dog, that hang out in the holding area for 10 minutes or longer at a time to “be ready,” but still cannot seem to get their asses in the ring before the previous dog has already exited, wasting valuable time that everyone loves to complain about when it’s 5 pm and the trial hasn’t ended yet, cannot seem to comprehend.

Still, that magic comes at a bit of a physical cost.

I enjoy a good challenge and thrive on an adrenaline rush. I got both at this trial when I saw I had six dogs between each of mine.

Keep in mind that agility is mainly a game of speed. Brady had a run this week that was under 16 seconds.

In order to magically appear at the gate on time and enter the ring in a timely manner, I first must prepare myself mentally. That starts with counting out how many dogs are between mine and quickly, and very un-mathematically calculating the time for each dog to run the course, depending on the type of course. Naturally, I usually have my three dogs entered in the class that runs the fastest or has the least number of obstacles to perform. That quick calculation translates into a very unscientific, “it’ll be okay to walk very quickly up to the car” or “a jog to the car will get me back and forth in time” to “jesus h, christ, I better fucking run my ass to the car to get back on time.”

These are all very good things as it starts my heart racing before I actually have to do the racing part.

This past Sunday, Brady was usually the fifth dog in the run order. No problem. A quick walk or slight jog outside the perimeter of the arena, up the hill and across the parking lot to my vehicle and then back down the hill and around the arena perimeter got us there in plenty of time, usually with adequate time for Brady to pee on many things.

The real fun began when Brady’s run was over and then I had to run Youke and Camm.

Since I believe strongly in rewarding my dogs for playing agility with me by playing with them, but currently run three dogs and don’t usually have a lot of time between runs, I’ve perfected The Running Tug Game for Brady and Camm, both of whom enjoy playing a game of tug after runs. So, on Sunday, after Brady finished his runs – all of which were super fabulous this weekend – I dashed out of the ring, grabbed the tug toy I’d left in my chair ringside and ran up the hill, with Brady beside me and tugging on his toy as we ran.back to the car. Then I grabbed Youke and ran back down the hill to the arena to get to the ring for his turn. Youke is not super big on playing tug outside of the living room. Therefore, when we run back to the car after his run, I promise him a game of ball and I toss it back and forth for 30 seconds or so before loading him back up and snatching Camm for her turn.

Youke and Camm do not have time to pee on many things. I’m pretty happy that neither is particularly interested in doing that.

My friends with fancy gadgets tell me that they log a lot of miles at agility trials between running their dogs, going back and forth between arena and vehicle and volunteering at trials as ringside workers.

I’ve decided that while curious about my own mileage, I don’t really need to know. That way, I can’t try to rationalize eating any more cookies at trials than I already do.

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