Mare Island in March

15 03 2011

Wow, i never thought we would be going back to Mare Island this year, not after this long and hearing about how the field rental price had doubled. It was a shame when i first heard about it. Flyball teams used Mare Island as a tournament hot spot, having both UFLI and NAFA tournaments 3-4 times a year. It was dry in the winter months, and shaded in the summer months even though it did get hot inside. Plus, the artificial astro turf made the perfect running surface-no one had to lay down matts, it was a solid and straight surface, and somewhat shock absorbing. We missed the sight, even though we sort of gained a new one at the Gridley fairgrounds. So it was great news to hear Bay Racers were hosting a NAFA tournament there begining of March. Although i was wondering what I would do at this sight to warm Jet up between races. Since we were at Mare Island last time, Ive added little warm up excersises before each race, where Jet does some wall work and a few frisbee tosses to stretch his legs and work on some good ol moscle memory. I only do a few reps, because my goal is to just keep his muscles from getting stiff and also because its been proven that dogs that have been warmed up prior to competing actually run better. Makes sence. I’ve been getting used to Gridley, where there is a wooden fence next to a open and deserted field where I can warm up him in peace. No such luxury at Mare island, where all the surrounding buildings are metal sided with ridges and encircled with concrete or pavement. But we would make do.

Jet earned his ONXY last year in August, and since this was the first NAFA tournament since earning the award, he was going to get his plaque! I am so proud of my boy, and when asked by our Region 16 director for a short bio to display at the tournament, I had difficulty in chosing what to write! Ive had such a journey with Jet, its hard to sum it all up in a short bio…he almost needs his own book. So several rough drafts later i sent his paperwork in.

Usually Mare Island is a luxury in that I can sleep in my own bed and save hotel fees. But since ive moved, its actually a longer drive by a considerable amount of time when you are leaving at 4 in the morning. So this time I decided to rent a motel room that was a few miles from the site. It ended up being a good thing to do, since I got more sleep and it was only about 80 dollars for two nights, an amount I was going to pay in gas anyways.

Saturday started off like any other tournament, I lurked around the hospitality table until the coffee was ready and then grabbed a muffin for breakfast. Then while pottying the dogs i searched for a good warm up area for Jet. There was a large patch of grass we normally run around in, which has a tree at the end that Jet is certain contains a squirrel that he saw run up there ONCE years ago and he KNOWS its still up there, taunting him. He always runs to this tree, jumping and barking up into the branches, just daring for that little rascle to come down again. One day, he’s gonna get it! I investigated the building near the grassy area and even though it was around pavement figured it would do ok for some wall work.

Jet wasnt getting to start this weekend, but I was ok with that, rather trying to focus on what we’ve been working on with his box and striding and trying to maintain that for long term. The first race he bobbled once but ran several 4.3’s with a pass and his box otherwise looked great and he kept his striding together. He seemed to be a little wider on his turns but that was ok for now and it wasnt dramatic. Throughout the day he ran several 4.3’s in a pass and stayed consistant aside from a couple times where he did 2 strides instead of 3. Several of his races were far apart and so we got lots of time to stretch and play a little frisbee in between and do some wall work.

Riley was doing well. I’ve been doing ALOT of bring-the-ball-back excersises with her at home with consists of her bringing the ball ALL THE WAY back to my hand. Sometimes she trys to get an easy reward by bringing it just to my hand and then dropping it as i am closing my fingers around the ball. When this happens I let the ball drop when she drops it and then, without saying a word, point to the ball on the floor. I dont repeat the command “Bring it”. she is very good about picking it back up and placing it right in my hand after that. Ive seen a huge improvement in her holding the ball farther past the line. I want her to always bring it at least 20 feet past the line, since she has a tendancy to drop it right on the line which is borderline flaggable and questionable to a clean run. Ive also started setting her up in practice to ignore balls left in the lane and always retrieve the ball from the box, even if im sending her for a re run and there might be a ball in her path. There have been several times ive re ran her and she picks up the ball on the ground in front of the box instead of in the box itself. So ive started scattering balls at random places in the lane, off to the side and directly in her path to try and simulate this for tournaments. She’s doing well and I expect this to help us!

At the end of the day the awards were presented and our regional director congratulated me as he handed me our Onyx plaque. After all we’ve been through and worked hard for, it was hard to believe it was sitting in my hands. A symbol of hard work, perseverance, determination, drive, biddability, loyalty…of both me and my dog. Together, along with my wonderful team mates and friends, he and I are a partnership in this victory. I felt honored to be a part of it. It is an achievement many handler/dog teams work hard at and sometimes never achieve, even after years. Jet and I accomplished it in 4 years, a reasonably fast amount of time, and overcame injury, illness, and different life obstacles to achieve. Im so proud of my boy!

On Sunday Jet’s first race on Loose Dogs was over 10 inch jumps. We’ve not practiced over 10 inch jumps in a very long time, and while I knew Jet really doesnt care either way, I had never done any stride pole work with him over that height and not prop work on the box either. Over tens, the dogs’ striding is affected significantly, then running over 7-8 inch jumps. The dogs are now having to think about jumping, instead of just running over the hurdles.  I shouldnt have worried about him though, Jet ran great. Over 10 inches he posted 4.3 with a pass and did perfect 3 strides and box on each heat. I was so happy about that 4.3 over 10’s and let him know about it!

I’d also been running my team mates’ borderstaffy, and lately he’s been dealing with some bring-the-ball issues so we were mixing up our methods of using the tug with him. He’s a handful but so fun to run and I enjoy every minute I get to spend with him. I think he’s inspired me to get a border/staffy one day! So I was letting him go, throwing his tug to the side of the ring and then showing him both of my empty hands on his way back, telling him to “bring it” all the way back. For Saturday he did perfect and brought the ball back every time, and I would reward him with his tug by grabbing it and giving it to him after it was apparent he had brought the ball back at least 30 feet over the line. On sunday we switched to food after he dropped the ball a couple times but with food he did amazingly well so we just need to figure out how to do that with the tug.

I was keeping up a steady day of warm ups with Jet, having him do his wall work and keeping him limber. I was a little conserned at the begining of the tournament that I had worked Jet too hard the couple days leading up to the tournament. He had alot more treadmill on thursday than I probably should have done, and I was conserned he would be tired. But after seeing how he was running over the 10’s and posting those 4.3’s I wasnt worried anymore.  But the best was yet to come, and on the second to last race of the day, after running the whole weekend, Jet ran a 4.25 with a pass!  Im not sure what my pass was, and so the line to line time was probably an even lower time. Not only that, his turn on the box was so high on the box that I could see the whole strip of white tape on the lower portion of the box when he was hitting.  Woohoo! Nothing like seeing hard work pay off!! I was so impressed with him.

So the weekend ended very well, full of sucess and the company of friends, great team mates, and great dogs. And now I just need to find a good place on my bedroom wall for Jet’s Onyx. 🙂




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