Sunday, May 4, 2008

Agility Trials and Tribulations

We were going to an agility trial for dogs and we were relatively certain that we had followed the directions we had been given pretty well, so I was surprised to see this sign on the entry gate to the activity field and two course setups! Still, signs are often funny, misleading, double meaning or otherwise interesting so I am never truly surprised I guess.In the center of the picture below, you will see the gate with the "No Dogs" sign. OK. But a "no dumping" sign as well? With hundreds of dogs spending two days running at the site? Some body's gotta be a kidder!
This was the first time we were able to catch up with Marilyn's sister Julie at one of the many agility trials she runs with her two dogs. We had hoped to see her, make that "them", run in Phoenix, but plans had to change and so this trip to Bainbridge near Harrisburg was the next best available date and venue for us. Timing is everything. And speaking of that, here's Julie with the timing instrument at one of the judges' stations in the master's ring.

There's more to it than I am going to explain, but basically the dogs compete to see which one can run the obstacle course in the fastest time and with the least amount of contact with the jumps. I found it rather like a horse jumping show, but with a twist, as I have never seen a horse run through a tunnel or scramble over an A-frame or even across a narrow little bridge.

It was a wonderful day with Julie and the dogs and a lot of her friends who share the same sport. Generally, it was a laid back day, but not entirely. I couldn't help but notice that some of the trainers tried to psych out the competition by leaving the tailgate of the transport vehicle open with all those pretty and impressive ribbons displayed to the fullest. Some will say it is just a matter of taking pride in the accomplishments of the dog and trainer team. (But I ain't buying it...)

Here Julie puts one of the dogs through its paces. It's either Ranger or Strider- but truthfully I can't tell you which one is which. I'm hoping that neither the sister-in-law nor the dogs are offended by this shortcoming! I like to think they are going just soooo fast that no one can tell them apart.

After each round of the trial the course is changed. From what I could tell, the change was rather radical- enough so that neither the trainer nor the dog knew what to expect when it came time for them to run. A brief time period is given for the trainers to walk, or run as the case may be, the course before the competition starts again. I had almost as much fun watching the trainers and their various techniques of learning and preparing for the new course as I did when the dogs ran. I don't think it's necessarily supposed to be that way, but it worked for me.

I especially liked the "bob and weave poles" (for seven points if I remember correctly). I don't think they were actually called that, but I think you'll get the idea. Kind of like an up close and personal equivalent of the barrel weave at a rodeo. Border collies are some fast! And agile! And that's exactly the point!

Some family photos are better than others, eh, Julie? And this one- well, it rates right up there...
OK! Big finish now. Quick! Before the buzzer goes off!

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