Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Farewell, Level 4!

Last weekend, Tessa and I, along with Stephanie and Oliver, took another trip out to Orchard Hills in Barto, PA, for a CPE trial.

Although it is now winter, and no longer the glorious fall, the weather was absolutely lovely, and we had a really nice day.

The trial was a little bit smaller than the one I attended out there back in October, and we were actually able to get crate space in the crating area (instead of in the aisle!).  We were right near the door, but Tessa doesn't mind a bit of foot traffic going by her at all.

Our first run was Colors.  We don't actually need any more Colors for our C-ATCH, but I am signing up for it from time to time just because Tessa and I enjoy it.  We are working toward our Colors Championship, for which we need 15 Q's at Level 5.  Prior to this trial, we had six of those.

Our Colors run was just perfection.  Really, about the loveliest run it could possibly be.

She did a couple of really nice rear crosses, her weaves were solid, and she really didn't miss a beat.

It was a Q!  Her 7th at Level 5 in Colors.

Snooker was our "big" run of the day.  A Q in Snooker would . . . finally . . . finish off Level 4 for us in every category.

Granted, it is not that we have struggled to get out of Level 4 in Snooker, as we did, just a bit, in Wildcard and Jackpot. I simply hadn't entered the class in quite some time.

The Snooker course was . . . different.  The judge had the whole course smoshed onto one side of the ring.  One "red" jump was down at the far end, but the other three were set in a pinwheel formation clear down at the other end.  There just wasn't a really nice way to do the "red" - "color" - "red" - "color" - etc. opening with those three jumps bunched together like that.

I made a plan that I thought was going to work out well, and it might of had I not made a small, but significant, handling error!!

Our plan was to take the innermost "red" of the pinwheel, which would set us up well to take a tunnel right in front of Tessa.  Then I needed to call her past a jump that would be behind me, and from there I would send her to the back of the far "red" jump, which would set her up perfectly to take the weaves, and then take the "red" all the way down at the other end, and then the A-Fame would be directly ahead, and that would shoot us right into the closing course.

We started out great!  Everything went according to plan for the first three obstacles.  But I was so focused on calling her past the jump behind me after the tunnel that I sent her to the front side, not the back side, of the "red" jump at the other end.  Tessa, very naturally, went around to another jump, instead of coming past that one to go to the weaves.

Well, in Snooker, that's it.  We either had to commit to the "color" that Tessa had begun (the three jump combination that she started by taking that jump), or we would be whistled off.

My handling of the three jump combo was sloppy, and at the end of it, Tessa almost ran smack into me.  But we managed it!!

Then I had to call her past the weaves to get down to the other end of the ring!  She wanted those weaves!

But after that it was clear sailing!!  At the very end I forgot to cue the A-Frame, but that didn't matter - we had enough points without it!!

That was a crazy run, but we did it!  We got the Q!!!

And with that W, Tessa and I finally finished Level 4!

Tessa is now:  Tessa, CL4 (among other titles!)

In spite of the fact that I had to think fast during that run, and it wasn't all pretty, Snooker is still my favorite game!  I love the challenge that it presents.

Our last run of the day was Jackpot, and it was a non-Traditional!  Yay!!

The judge called this Jackpot "It's Yer Choice".  There was no distance in it at all - it was all about points.

As usual, every piece of equipment in the ring had a point value, but for each category of points (example, the 3 point obstacles), there was a different, higher, point value assigned the first time you took it.  There was an opening and a closing, and you had to attempt, and successfully complete, at least one piece of equipment in each category (to get the extra points) during the opening in order to qualify.  In addition, you had to accumulate enough points, throughout the entire run, to Q at your level.

I don't enjoy this kind of strategy in the same way that I enjoy Snooker-style strategy, but I came up with a plan and we ran it.  

It went very well, and we did qualify!!  Captions on the video show the points.

That was our first Level 5 Jackpot Q!!  Just four more to go now!!

It was such a nice day, and Tessa seemed to enjoy herself just as much as I did.  We ran our courses, took walks with Stephanie and Oliver, enjoyed food from the on-site vendor, and really just had a great day together.

Now we are getting so close to our C-ATCH!!  We just need:

2 Standard
1 Fullhouse
3 Wildcard
5 Snooker
4 Jackpot

A total of 15 Q's!!!  I can't believe we are where we are.  And I can't believe we are enjoying the ride so much!!  

Tessa is the best Agility girl in the entire world and there isn't another dog on this earth I would want to be taking this ride with!!

Congrats, Tessa, CL4!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Every New Beginning . . .

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end . . ."

                                                - Closing Time, Semisonic

Yesterday we had a bit of arctic chill.  Not the most horrible arctic chill ever, but enough to remind me of one of the worst days of my entire life.

Two years ago.  The Polar Vortex.  It was so cold that school was closed even thought there was no snow or ice.

My water pipes froze.

And I wished with every fiber of my being that the frozen pipes had been my biggest problem.

Speedy went in for surgery.  They went in and cut his small intestine open and got out the sock that was stuck in there.

That was the only night of his entire life that he ever spent away from home without me.

I worried, and I prayed . . . Before he went in I made a million promises to Speedy of the things we would do if he would only hold on and live just a few more years.

And in the end, he didn't make it.  He survived the surgery, but died a few days later from complications.

No matter how much I run the heat, there is a chill in the air in our house when we have these arctic blasts.  The feeling of that particular chill reminds me, to the very core, of that day and then of what followed.

I sat around yesterday evening and kept busy watching TV and doing stuff on the computer.  Really, just wanting the time to go by so we can get out of this artic cold snap.  It is going to warm up later in the week.

But I wasn't alone, and I was so grateful.  I would often look up and meet two eager, fresh, young eyes radiating forth joy and curiosity.  Bandit . . . the one who is living all of those promises I made to Speedy on that day.

At one time I was afraid that I would resent my then-unknown puppy because I would associate him with Speedy's loss.  I thought I would love him a little less because he wouldn't be as beautiful and he wouldn't be as special and he wouldn't be exceptional.

But I have found that the opposite is true.  I can bear Speedy's loss because of Bandit.  Bandit brought joy and fun and youth and potential back into our home.

And Bandit is beautiful.  And he is special.  And he is exceptional!  Bandit lives and he loves with so much style and grace and purpose.  And I really could not love him more!

I don't know why I was blessed with two dogs who are so equal in that indescribable quality that Speedy had that made the world a better place just because he was in it, but for some reason I have been!

And so . . . this chill reminds me of the worst time of my entire life, but it also reminds me to be grateful for what I have.  It reminds me that while time may be fleeting, Bandit and I have every glorious second of right now.

Our new beginning may have come from another beginning's end, but it is a good beginning.  It is our here and our now.

And I wouldn't trade what we have.  Not for anything.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

DCD - CH (2) Team Hammar

Yesterday morning I received results for the Giving Thanks Event for the Dogs Can Dance Challenge for this past November.

I had entered three performances.

Classical Freestyle

First, to get started on our Team's DCD - CF (3) - Classical Freestyle Title (3), I submitted the first take of Dean's Smooth routine from our filming in June.  I had submitted the second take back in July - it was the better one.  But the first take really was good enough to submit, so I went ahead and put it in for Classical Freestyle Intermediate for our third time around!

Dean got a nice score for this - 139 points!!

We got some nice comments, too:

"You did a wonderful job giving Dean the confidence to shine, by choosing well the music and the moves."

"Your teamwork is inspiring, and beautiful.  Dean is always looking to you for feedback, and enjoying himself in your dance.  Great job showcasing your handsome boy."

"All the work between you shines through in this performance.  Dean is a happy worker and you do a very nice job with him."


On a whim, at the last minute, I decided to enter a video that I had of Speedy dancing to one of his favorites, "I Love to Love".  I had never submitted any video of him performing to this music to the Challenge, although I did use it for our Entry Level music.

I had an old video that I had taken that I had hoped to submit to WCFO to try for that last leg of our Intermediate Title, by video, but I was not able to get a good enough take with him for that.

But the video had not been submitted, and it fit the criteria for the Dogs Can Dance Challenge Entertainment Division.  I entered it in Opening Act, toward our DCD - Ent (3) - Entertainment Division Title (3).

We earned a whopping 147 points!!  Of the three routines I submitted, Speedy's scored the highest!

I am so pleased that he can still be a point-earning member of the Team!  I still have some other video that I could eventually submit for him, if I am so inclined in the future.

We got wonderful comments:

"It was very nice seeing Speedy execute the circle moves that he loves and is very good at.  Clever placement, and good musically."

"Speedy did love to dance, so this seems so completely appropriate for his theme."

"The lifetime of work you put in with Speedy shines through in this routine."

Musical Interpretation

And finally . . . Tessa!

I submitted her New York, New York routine - the one she and I created together this past summer, and the one we earned our WCFO Intermediate Title with back in November - into Musical Intepretation.

This was for something very special.  We just needed 25 more points in Musical Interpretation to earn our DCD - CH (2) - Dogs Can Dance Challenge Championship #2.

Although I felt that this particular routine would actually have been suited more toward Entertainment Division, Tessa and I performed a take with undecorated jumps, featuring her movement more than the "show" to submit in this event for Musical Interpretation.

We earned 117 points for the performance and . . . 

Team Hammar's DCD - CH (2) !!

I was extra pleased by the comments that Tessa and I received!

"Choreography was mostly in keeping with the music, with some brilliant movements.  I loved the creativity of adding the jumps."

"You put effort into making her feel good about her part."

"Thank you for sharing the beautiful Tessa with us"

"Tessa sure is doing well.  She is a talented girl and you certainly showed of her many abilities"

Those, and many more, were such nice comments!

I am very proud of my team.

For our second time around:

Tessa earned Classical Freestyle Beginner
Dean earned Classical Freestyle Intermediate and Advanced

Speedy earned both levels in Entertainment

Speedy earned Musical Interpretation Frequent Flyer
Dean earned Musical Interpretation International Flyer (at the live event!)
Tessa earned Musical Interpretation World Traveler

So . . . a very nice balance of contributions for the three of them!!

And Team Hammar dances on!!  Tessa has already done her performance for the next event, and I have an idea for Dean . . .