Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kenna - 2019 AB/NWT Regional Champion

 Last weekend we attended the Alberta/Northwest Territories Regional Agility Championships just outside of Edmonton. This is a 2 day event that determines qualification for the National Championships, which this year will be in Ontario.

The weekend starts on Friday with an optional Steeplechase event. You can enter up to 2 AAC sanctioned Steeplechases, which do count for Q's toward your Steeplechase titles. These Steeplechases are also qualifiers for an invitational only Steeplechase on Sunday afternoon. The Steeplechase Final follows the Regional competition and provides entertainment for the majority of competitors (since only a few dogs make the final), spectators, and the volunteers while the organizing committee frantically tallies the totals from the day's competition to determine the final standing of several hundred dogs. It's a really fun event with music and cheering and a commentator, and everyone tends to run all out because there is no qualification on the line... just money!

Loving that running A-frame!
This year in the Steeplechase prelims Kenna placed 1st and 3rd in her two Steeplechases and qualified as the second place dog in her height for the Finals, which she went on to win. I was so proud of both of us. It is a fast course and I wanted to get a bunch of blind crosses in to stay ahead of her and push her to be her fastest... and I got them all in! Kenna ran amazing and was still giving me her all even though it was her 9th run after 3 days!

The Regional competition happens on the Saturday and Sunday. There are 3 runs each day: Jumpers, Standard, and Gamble. You run one of each and it works a little different than a local trial. In Jumpers and Standard you start with a certain number of points (75 for Jumpers and 100 for Standard) and for every mistake you make you lose points - 5 points for bars, 20 points for an off course, etc. If you are clean you keep your points and you also get bonus points, one point per second under the standard course time. In Gamble you start with 0 points and you collect points in your opening the way you normally would in a regular Gamble event. However, for your final gamble, instead of it just being a "yes/no" and you need it to qualify (and technically for placement it just doubles your opening points), you get 35 points for completing it successfully.

All of the points that you earn during the 6 runs get added together to give you a total at the end of the weekend. You need 350 points to qualify for Nationals. Placements in each height class are given from 1 to 10 (the AAC only provides 1 to 6, but here in Alberta we have an amazing competitor/doggy daycare owner who donates 7-10 each year).

The 24" Regular class is not the MOST competitive class. We had 12 dogs total running in our class compared to 51 in the 20" Regular and 20 dogs in both the 16" and 12" Regular classes. However, the 24" class is almost exclusively large border collies, world team border collies (being up jumped to their international height), and malinois. We were missing 2 really strong competitors this year... one wasn't entered and the other was pulled due to a handler injury. Still, we had some really strong competition in our class, including a multi world medalist. I cannot even express how proud I was that Kenna won the Regional Championship. This was her very first Regionals and she's only just turned 3... she's just starting to come into her prime agility years. She ran consistently all weekend and never put a paw out of place. For a greyhound to win this class full of border collies and malinois is just... unreal. I still can hardly believe it happened.

Now we look forward to our first National Championships in Ontario. That's been a headache in itself... having to fly a dog for the first time, having to pack for an agility trial with a limited amount of baggage space, coordinating hotel and car buddies. It's all quite the new experience for me, but I'm very excited to take this next step in my agility journey. We will also be trying out for the IFCS World Team at the National event, so wish us luck!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Kenna - CKC Team Canada Tryouts

I'm super thrilled with Kenna's performance at her first National team tryouts event this past weekend. Not only was it a huge personal victory for us as a team, but I hope for "off" breeds everywhere. Who would have thought someone could show up with a greyhound and survive in that level of competition?
For all of the trials and tribulations that we dealt with leading up to this event with switching from stopped to running A-frame, and then being unable to practice for 2 months because of my back... in spite of all of that I am absolutely amazed at how connected we were. It felt amazing to get out there and run with my crazy greyhound. I have never seen courses as ridiculously hard as some of those were, and yet we managed to get through them. I know what kinds of things we need to work on now that we've had this experience, so that we can make things smoother and faster and hopefully really challenge for a spot on the team next year.

Although we didn't make the team this year, I am beyond proud of us. Kenna finished 25th out of 57 dogs, just one spot out from being named as an alternate to the EO team. She got points in two of her runs, and two of the runs she was eliminated on were such minor errors (one by me and one probably a combination of me and her). She made some really tough weave pole entries and she hit all of her A-frame contacts. I tried some things that I thought "yeah, she can do that in theory" but that I would usually never try in a regular trial (I'd pick something safer but slower) and she showed me just what a great skill set she has.
I also need to say a thank you to everyone who supported us through this experience. To the people who have been encouraging me for the past year to take her to tryouts; I was cursing you all when I started to see some of the courses, but it turns out you were right after all. To everyone who had kind words for us on our runs, even our less than perfect ones. The huge cheer at the end of our second agility run (we were only the second team to run it clean) gives me goosebumps and shows just how amazing, supportive, and inclusive the agility world can be. And finally to my coaches for all of their advice and help over the years.
This was a bit of a scary undertaking. If you asked me before whether I thought a greyhound could make a Canadian National team I would have said, "I don't know", if you ask me now... I think it's certainly a possibility and I'm excited to keep trying with the best partner I could ask for.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Kenna - Terry Simons Seminar

Kenna and I were lucky enough to snag a spot in the Terry Simons seminar that happened recently in Edmonton. A local competitor/dog daycare owner here brings him up every year, but as with all these seminars spots are hard to come by and fill quickly. As a result this is actually the first big seminar that I've attended.

The seminar was held at a turf facility, where we have taken classes on occasion. It's the only turf facility in the area that I'm aware of. It's good to get Kenna running on a variety of footings to get her comfortable, but I definitely find that turf is not her favourite. It can be a bit slippery and I do see her slip on turns and pull bars more often than usual, I also find she's not as fast (though this may also be related to the fact that the facility is not full size so obstacles tend to be a little closer together, which is obviously not as ideal for her to get up to speed.

I was really pleased with how Kenna handled everything. We didn't have any major problems with any of the course segments we were shown, mostly working on small adjustments and tweaks here and there. I'm feeling great about how she's matured and where we're at with her third birthday coming up in just a few days.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Summit (May 5, 2005-January 30, 2019)

(May 26, 2019 - I wasn't able to post this at the time... and then you know how the months slip on and on. It should have been easy really... just copy and paste from Facebook, but I also had to post it on a couple of forums and it's just so tiring and painful to share that pain over and over again with different groups of people.)

Goodbye to the best first dog that anyone could ever have asked for. Goodbye to the dog that introduced me to the breed I love and to the sport I love. It's because of Summit's patient, willing, but slightly training challenged self that Kili and Kenna have been able to become the successful agility dogs that they are today, and the reason that I will always own greyhounds.

We adopted Summit while I was in vet school. He was 5 years old and the easiest dog you'll ever meet. He walked into our home and accepted the rabbits, the first time dog owners, all the dog festivals that I could now gleefully attend because I had a dog of my own, and so much more. He let me clip his nails, brush his teeth, sign him up as a blood donor, drag him around to ultimate games, collect blood and give vaccines on my own... even stitch and remove lumps without sedation or restraint.

And when I decided that maybe I actually could train a greyhound to do agility, he went right along with it. Although we never mastered the teeter or the weave poles, and he never trialed, he taught me so much... including that if I wanted an agility greyhound... I could have an agility greyhound. And so instead of getting a border collie when we were ready for dog number two, we got Kili.
I said this fall that I didn't think Summit would make it through the winter, but as the months passed I started to think maybe he would. Maybe he'd make it to his next birthday. But then about 2 weeks ago he started to be a little slow getting up for dinner. I thought his arthritis was progressing and increased his pain medication, but that didn't help. A few days later he refused to eat until I mixed in some canned food, and I felt the first twinge of anxiety - this dog had never refused food in his life. Then a few days after that he refused to eat even after adding canned food and cheese - and then I knew something was very wrong. Despite his bloodwork being normal, his continued picky appetite made me ultrasound him last week. There were some concerns about his liver and one segment of small intestine but no concrete answers. His appetite picked up over the weekend and I started to hope maybe he'd rally for a little longer.

Today I took Summit to work for another ultrasound, but an hour before, he suddenly couldn't sit up or stand, he seemed uncomfortable and anxious. He had to be carried to the ultrasound room for his scan, where Cam determined that he had a mass in his intestines and fluid in his chest, likely metastatic GI lymphoma or adenocarcinoma (x-rays of his chest last week were normal). Since he progressively seemed more and more disoriented (almost seemed like he was having an old dog vestibular event, wanting to turn/roll to one side) we made the decision to let him go right away. He never asked anything of us in all the time we had him, we certainly could not deny him a quick goodbye while he was suffering.

I knew that our time with Summit was growing very short, but I was not prepared for the possibility that I might not be bringing him home with me tonight. Hopefully you have found Caspian and Adrienne on the other side... I suspect Sebastian will not be long in following you so maybe don't go too far and the 3 of you wait for him until he's ready too. I will miss you, and will always be thankful to have had my good boy showing me the ropes of dog ownership. You are the standard against which all other dogs will be measured. Rest easy, my best of boys

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Kili - Master Challenge Dog of Canada

Kili also finished her Challenge title at our last trial, saving herself only slight embarrassment. You see, Kili has been running agility for about 5 years now... and Kenna for just over a year. But well, they're two very different dogs who got two very different handlers during their formative years!

In typical Kili fashion, we had a couple of complete throw away runs in Standard and Steeplechase and we had two very nice runs in Challenge and Snooker. With Kili you just often don't know exactly what dog you've got on the line until you get going.

But in all seriousness, Kili has accomplished the goals I set for her and then some. She is working on her Silver titles in AAC right now which is nothing to sneeze at for any dog, and especially for a sighthound. Hopefully we will have many more years to run together and many more titles to finish. She can be a bit of a kamikaze, but I love her and she loves to play this sport with me... you really can't ask for much more.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kenna - Master Challenge Dog of Canada

We were at a local trial this past weekend. I was exhausted from working the day before and feeling a little put out that I would have to work again the next day... and you know maybe I should have taken a day of just hanging around at home resting and catching up on errands instead of being at agility. But what fun is there in that when I'm planning my life?

The girls did a great job of making it worthwhile. Kenna had a perfect day with 4 qualifying runs in Standard, Steeplechase, Snooker and Challenge, which completed her Challenge title. She also hit all 5 of the A-frames she was presented with, which makes me feel great about where we're at with retraining her to a running frame. This dog is absolutely amazing. I swear there's nothing she can't do.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kenna - International Night

How did I get so lucky to have this dog as my partner? Kenna absolutely blew me away yesterday at International Night. I say "jump" and she asks, "how high?"... I say let's change to a running frame and 4 weeks later it's almost perfect. What more could I ask for in a dog? I only wish I was the handler she deserves to be her best. I'm trying my hardest and have learned so much, but as usual most of our mistakes were my fault. And she's okay with that... she's so forgiving and just wants to play with me.

It's funny though, because I'm always kind of disappointed with how much slower Kenna looks on video than in real life. I just about died yesterday, Kenna was so fast, and now I watch the videos back and I'm like "meh". (Ironically, her weave poles look way faster on video than they feel in person.) Either she's not as fast as I think (but this seems unlikely because I myself am probably one of the fastest handlers and I can barely keep up and stay ahead) or that darn long stride of hers is very deceiving on video. It would be super interesting if I could get video of a border collie and Kenna with similar total course times to play side by side as a little experiment on the impact stride length has on the perception of speed on video. I remember a discussion about this during a horse show jumping event that I was watching years ago... there was a relatively larger horse with a long stride and the commentator discussed how it looked like it was kind of lumbering along but in fact it was on pace to set the fastest time. I tried to look this topic up online, however, and couldn't find anything remotely relative.