Monday, November 19, 2007

GoodDog Competition Weekend

The GoodDog Agility Club had a competition last weekend. There were lots of dogs, lots of ribbons, and lots of Q's! I am finally learning some of this dog agility lingo and am meeting a lot of fun people who love their dogs and whose dogs love being athletes. Like Deuce, the budding young athlete pictured here. Little Deuce is a one year old jack russel terrier. He's still too young to compete (U.S. Dog Agility Association rules stipulate a dog must be at least 18 months), but is already learning the importance of hitting his contacts. Deuce was so cute as he crouched down on his yellow practice board, all intense. He may be a puppy, but he's serious about his sport! Baloo could learn a thing or two from Deuce, she tends to sail right over her contacts.

For the weekend events, I had the job of chief ring steward. That's a fancy title, my job was to make sure all the jobs in my ring were covered by the show volunteers. It takes a lot of effort by a lot of people to run an agility competition. Simple things like taking the dog leash from the start line where it is dropped by the handler to the spot where they finish; keeping score as the judge calls out points or signals faults; someone to make sure each competing dog checks in and is at the start line ready to go; and several people to reset jumps when needed. Watching the other dogs all weekend made me really want to get in on the fun. Although Baloo is not ready for the "standards" competition - the competition that involves all of the obstacles - I do plan to spend the next month preparing her for the "jumpers" and "gamblers" competitions. Jumpers involves lots of jumps, weave poles and tunnels (no contacts or teeter totters - where we need to improve) and the gambler competition is a course where the handler decides which obstacles to do (therefore we can avoid those obstacles that we may have problems with). Next show is in early January, can't wait!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Morning Hikes are the Best!

At 16,500 acres, South mountain park is the largest municipal park in the world! Imagine that, and only a couple miles from my front door. It sure is a beautiful place to be on a gorgeous day in November. Baloo and I started our day there this morning, along with hundreds of bikers, hikers, their dogs, and a few horses. Even though cars and trucks lined the road leading to the Pima Canyon Trailhead we only passed an occasional hiker on the quiet trail. We hiked along Beverly Canyon Trail for a bit, before walking along Pima Wash and finally returning to the trailhead via National Trail. I’m scoping out the plants for interesting subjects to draw. Already thinking about my final botanical illustration project - although I'm a good couple years away from finishing my courses and officially starting my assignment. Bursage, brittlebush, creosote, palo verde, ironwood and saguaro cactus dominate the rocky landscape of South Mountain. We watched a curve billed thrasher enjoying a sunny rock. Baloo’s nose was in overdrive, discovering who knows what about the dogs who had hiked before her and something about the fresh horse manure on the trail really appealed to her senses.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cynosport World Games

Baloo and I went to the Cynosport World Games at Westworld in Scottsdale today. We arrived early and walked around. There was a lot to see! Dogs everywhere. We saw several rhodesian ridgebacks, plus lots of typical agility sport dogs like shelties, australian shepards, border collies, a couple boxers, jack russel terriers, a couple italian greyhounds, yorkshire terriers, and plenty of mixed breed dogs. I wondered how Baloo would do at the Course A Lure this year. Last year Baloo didn't understand what she was supposed to do and was terrified of the tunnel, unsure about the tire, and not too crazy about the fake squirrel thing she was supposed to chase. This year was completely different. Baloo was so excited to chase the lure, she ran off after it lickity split, through the tire over the long jumps, through the tunnel around the bend and all the way to the end. She was still excited afterward and nearly dragged me along the ground as she kept trying to go after the lure again. After her run we walked around a bit more. We saw some of the frisbee competition and watched the herding dogs scramble after four sheep. We sat in the shade and watched a little free style - from what I could tell, that consisted of the dog doing tricks to music. We also watched a little bit of flyball, where the dogs run after a ball in relays, at a very fast and excited pace. Baloo received many complements, she is so calm and well mannered. Then we went back to the lure course for one more run. Baloo was even more excited and very fast. She ran the course in only about 18 seconds! We didn't stay around to see if she won a ribbon for her exceptional time. It was hot out, and the star was beginning to drag. Phoenix has been above normal temperatures the last few days, and unfortunately today was no exception. By noon it was pretty close to 90 farenheit. Baloo had really wanted to watch the final agility rounds where the best of the best would compete - she was looking forward to picking up a few tips. But it was too hot, so we called it a day - a really great day!