Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Holiday in the Sun

I just spent my three-day holiday weekend doing agility, and although I was having fun, I asked myself several times if I was insane. It was damn hot--like middle-of-July hot. It's always fairly hot here in NC from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so I shouldn't have been surprised, but damn, it was mind-alteringly frakking hot. Also, I wore a baseball cap on Saturday, but it made my head so hot I switched to a visor for Sunday and Monday. Now my scalp is sunburned up at the crown of my head (I have terribly thin hair). So now on my agility gear wish list is some sort of ventilated sun hat ... I'm sure there are lots of outrageously expensive ones out there just waiting for me ...

Dogs can have a hard time in such heat--they're covered in fur and they only sweat through their tongues and the pads of their feet, so their preferred course of action is not to be running around doing athletic things in the sun. So when they're not running we do all kinds of things to keep them cool: get them to jump in baby pools, spray them with water, keep them in the shade, put "cool coats" on them, etc.

Lucy handles heat fairly well, but it does dampen her enthusiasm for running fast. She seems perfectly happy to do agility with me when it's hot, albeit slowly. I usually get her wet before her runs (I bribe her to get into the baby pool and then splash water on her belly and back) because she's always friskier after a swim or a bath. The downside of this is that she also really likes to roll in the grass when she's wet, and she did so during two of her runs. Both times she did it when I was trying to steer her back on track after a mistake--once when she had an incorrect weave pole entry and another when she ran by a jump she was supposed to take. I think that when I stop her forward momentum and try to turn her around to attempt something again it stresses her out a little, so she defaults into a behavior she knows she will enjoy-sometimes she goes into sniffy terrier mode, sometimes she decides to have a little happy roll in the grass. I think it's her way of saying "screw you, you have no idea what you're doing out here, so I'll just amuse myself a bit."

Anyway, as usual our results varied this weekend. I had two qualifying runs in Advanced Pairs, which is one more than I needed for that title, so now I move up to Masters in that event (an explanation of the different USDAA events can be found here). I also qualified in Snooker, which means one more Q will move me up to Masters in that one, too. A had an almost-Q in Gamblers-we made the gamble but went .74 seconds over time. We have such a hard time in that event that I'm sort of considering that a victory ... maybe it's not an official Q, but it feels like progress to me. It was our first trial in Masters Jumpers, and we didn't get any Qs there because o off-course obstacles (but someone assured me that we looked like we belonged on the Masters course, so that was a good thing). We got no Qs in Advanced Standard, either, which is actually fine at this point because one more Standard Q and we have to move up to Masters in that, too. It doesn't seem as fun in Masters-a few of the people get far too intense and it's stressful to be around them. Once you get to Masters it's not enough just to qualify, because for some of your titles you need "Super Qs," for which you must finish in the top 15% of your class. So people get very competitive. I don't want to ever get to the point where it's not any fun, and I certainly don't want to forget that it needs to always be fun for Lucy.

There's one guy who runs an awesome golden retriever named Cider, and he has a tag on his leash that says something like "Laugh with Cider today because tomorrow you may be crying without her." So now I think of that (with Lucy's name in place of Cider's of course) every time I find myself focusing on qualifying runs or feeling down about errors. So every run is a victory as long as Lucy's having fun.

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