Monday, December 27, 2010

Back from Hounds

The 2010 version of Hounds for the Holidays went well with the gang and competition.  The not-so-nice aspects of it actually have a lot to do with the gang (or I should say "insiders") that run the event.

A small group of people actually run the trial but they do count a lot on volunteers.  Many of those volunteers have managed to insinuate themselves into the category of "insider" and contribute, somewhat, to taking some of the fun out of the event for others.

One of the necessary evils of competing here is vying for crate space.  It is a known thing that you need to get there at 5:30-6:00am on Thursday morning if you want primo crate space.  Crating space is limited in this facility.

Now, Wednesday night, volunteers and club members help unload the agility equipment and those that help have the opportunity to save crate space afterwards, thus avoiding the Thursday rush.  I was selected to help setup in 2009 but do to working (in Chicago) on Wednesday, could not make it in time to help.  They were not willing to let me substitute two workers in place of me, so our group joined the Thursday rush.

Each year, it seems that less and less crate space is available on Thursday morning.

This year, literally, 90% of the decent crate spaces were taken.  Unless I miss my guess, either they have 1/2 of the trial helping to set up or every Tom, Dick & Hairy is giving "insiders" a mat to save their space and save them bother of joining the rest of the miscreants to set up on Thursday.

Rumor had it that a very nice facility in an area of Milwaukee 99% nicer (and safer) than the current location was going to be the spot for this trial in 2010.  We heard that crating was more abundant there, etc.

But, if you are an "insider" you do want things changed.  "Better" is unimportant.  The key to having power is ensuring that change does not occur.  When they announced that they were staying at the current location, with the nasty crating set-up scheme, some of the "insiders" having a questionable public disposition cheered.  Unbeknownst to the majority of the people in the crowd (at the "briefing") they were unaware of the power struggle or that decisions were made in favor of a few instead of the majority.  Such is how things work, right?  Honestly, look at our governments, from city to state to Federal levels.  They operate the same way.

The last nail in the coffin of irritation was when we left at the end of the 4 days, one club member made her annoyance over the 4 days felt to our group.  We kept a crock pot (similar to the year before) on a small table, out of the way (and with club permission) for a variety of lunch meals for the gang during that time.  The woman in charge of the ribbons' table was annoyed by that crock pot from the very beginning and successfully lobbied so that we all knew, on Sunday, we were not welcome to bring it back next year.  I wish I was Italian as the fingers flung under my chin at Joanne would have more meaning.

It left a bitter taste in my mouth (as well as others). One person suggested we find an alternative.  Well, Cedar Rapids, IA has a 3-day show in a horse arena.  One woman showed at Hounds on Thursday and then journeyed to "CR" for the rest.

The trouble is, from Chicago, Hounds is 93 miles.  Cedar Rapids is 250 miles.  We almost always fight weather during this event.  We had the "blizzard" condition winds returning home this year, however, the Milwaukee to Chicago corridor was almost completely unaffected.  But journeying across farmland to compete in "CR", however familiar to my Hawkeye soul, is no picnic in the winter.

We will see what we do next year and weather the sting and the memory fades.  Hopefully some of the powers that be who do not act like snotty "insiders" give everyone a fair shake to save crate space on Wednesday night.

Regarding the competition itself, I'll start out with Robbie.  Robbie came into Hounds needing 38 points to get his MACH2.  That would be a tall task, even on a 4-day trial.  Prior to leaving, he visited his "Sports Medicine Vet" Dr. Cahill for a chiropractic adjustment on top of his acupuncture.  It worked like a charm.  He was spry and eager to go.  He ran very well all four days, netting 28 points out of the 38 he needs.  We have 10 points to go, which he can nab in one standard run (provided the judge's wheel is not overly snug).

Ghilley made her debut in Novice JWW.  I came into the trial not expecting too much or not sure what to expect as her weave poles were just freshly minted with the 2x2 method.

Well, each day I got a beautiful sit (and stay) at the line with her looking to the jump prior to release.  She definitely had a bit of the sniffies and at one point, on Friday, discovered the bar setter and went visit.  That was following a very horrible crossing move from me.

On Saturday, Ghilley netted her first JWW qualifying score!  We had one refusal as she came in on a jump (baby dog move) but she finished her weaves, albeit after a couple tries.

My only regret was that I have video of all four of her runs but on Saturday the All Fours gang vanished like ghosts in the night prior to my run leaving me with one unfortunate fellow who was too distracted to get her run on tape.  So, I have 3 out of 4 runs on tape where the only one not taped is her Q.  :-(

But I was very pleased with both of my doggy kids over the long weekend.

Our next competition is over New Year's where Robbie will be the solo star.  Ghilley came into season during a painful 4-day conformation show series and while she can show in conformation, she cannot show in anything else while in heat.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hounds for the Holidays...My Agility Tradition

MacDuff was my long attendee, competing from 1998 through 2008 & there in 2009

Robbie will go for MACH2

Ghilley will make her agility debut

Thursday, December 9th marks the 13th time I have attended the 4 days of agility in Milwaukee that the exhibitors fondly refer to as "Hounds for the Holidays".  I started competing in 1998 at this trial and have many fond memories of it.

The name relates back to the origins of the show when the Norweigan Elkhound club would sponsor a day or two.

Regardless, the name was so catchy that it caught on.

I remember feeling overwhelmed when I first arrived. Fortunately, I was part of a larger group of fellow agility competitors that I trained with. They took me under their wing, showed me the ropes and helped me acclimate to everything.

Now I find myself, with a different group, acting like one of the experienced competitors helping to tutor the newer competitors into handling all of the activity surrounding Hounds.

It has been and continues to be a very festive time with 3 rings of agility with up to 990 runs each day. Lots of people, lots of dogs and great doggie wares shopping.

The All Fours group ( that I attend with make a whole event of the experience.  We crate together, plan crate decorations, plan meals and snacks. We also plan where we go out to eat (humans only) each night to celebrate the day and each others company.

If I have yet to get into the holiday spirit, Hounds always brings me into it.

I head into the 2010 Hounds event with a positive outlook, albeit a certain sadness too.

2010 Hounds will be my first time without MacDuff. While my household is actually more peaceful without him, his absence from agility with me is palpable. He was a tremendous presence.

But, I go with the opportunity to net an elusive Hounds MACH for Robbie. It is a distinct possiblity but I am not betting the house on it. Yes, within our grasp but I am bound and determined not to put pressure on him. He tends to crumble under that and the more zen I am, the better Robbie runs.

Ghilley makes her agility debut at Hounds. The last time I had a dog running in Novice at Hounds was in 1998 with MacDuff.

She shows a lot of promise and we have been preparing for awhile now.

But, as I learned with Robbie, we will take things as they come. I honestly do expect Ghilley to be a really nice agility dog. But I will not hold the memories of my superstar, MacDuff, over her head as something to equal or exceed.

Ghilley has a more experienced handler than my two boys did. She has someone who has felt the utter joy of running with the fast dogs and also the unbelievable thrill of accomplishing a MACH with a dog that was convinced the ring would attack him.

I am looking forward to the quickly approaching long weekend. I have my Chicago Bears gear all ready to wear as we still have bragging rights over the Packer fans.

Bring it on baby!