Random Happenings

Random notes and pics about events in the life of a not-your-typical Computer Science grad student. (Yes I am a nerd, but I don't live and breathe the SciFi channel, well maybe Stargate SG-1...)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Next time I'll wear knee pads

Audrey and I signed up for dog agility training classes. From Wikipedia: "Dog agility is a sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy." (Image also from Wikipedia.) It's a perfect class for the two of us because Audrey really enjoys being active. Running, swimming, fetching, frisbee, ... you name it. She's a working dog, after-all!

There are only three dogs in the class, which I like because that means we get a lot of personal attention and there are fewer distractions for Audrey. I find that if I sufficiently arm myself with yummy treats like hot dogs and cheese (what dog could resist that?), then she stays pretty focused on me.

In our first class we worked on three obstacles: the jump, the open-ended tunnel, and the weave poles. Audrey was probably the most energetic and excited of the dogs there. (And no, I'm not just saying that because I'm her owner. Okay, well I'm maybe a tad bit biased...) She was running as fast as she could, anxious to jump over the bars and run through the tunnels. In fact, she was practically lunging at the tunnels when she was waiting for her turn. We were last in line, and while I held on to her collar, she would lunge forward every time the other owners yelled "Tunnel!" to their dogs.

After a few times through the tunnel, the trainer told us that we needed to run as fast as we could to beat our dogs to the other end of the obstacle. That would help teach them to run the course fast and not throttle their speed waiting for you. That's no small task when you have a 60 lb running machine sprinting at full speed.

We were working on the tunnel obstacle and the trainer told me on the next attempt to run as fast as I could. "Okay," I thought, "I can do that, I think ..." So it is our turn through the tunnel, and I prepare myself. First, I grab onto Audrey's collar at the back of her neck with my right hand. Then, I crouch down a bit in a lunge --- just like for a race. I look at Audrey. "Ready?" She looks at me with a twinkle in her eye. "I was born ready," she seemed to say. I take one last deep breath. "Tunnel!" I shout as I release her collar and sprint as fast as I could past the tunnel. I think she could sense the intensity I felt to sprint --- she was like a bullet shot from a gun. I'm running and shouting "Good girl, Audrey! Go! Go! Go!"

Just when I think "I actually beat her!", I find myself tumbling, no ... flying, across the mud and dirt. Somehow she got confused onto which side of the tunnel I would be and ran clear into me from behind. She hit me so hard it nearly knocked the breath out of me! I really didn't realize when I signed up for class that this would be a contact sport. I am seriously considering showing up to the next class wearing a helmet and knee pads!

Of course everyone ran up to see if I was okay and made a big deal out of things. Even when it is not your fault (witnesses confirm that Audrey takes the full blame for this one), it is still embarrassing to fall like that. I mean, it was pretty spectacular. I had dirt in my hair, down my shirt, and somehow inside my socks! The picture of grace.

We recovered, though, and managed to finish the rest of the class mostly unscathed. (The weave poles knocked me in the face a couple of times... They may look innocent, but speaking from personal experience, they can throw a few good jabs.) All in all, we had an absolute blast! I can't wait for the next one.

One last note: As we were leaving the class, the trainer pulled us aside. "Are you sure Audrey hasn't had any agility experience before?" she asks. I told her that her "experience" is a sum total of 30 minutes playing on an agility course once and I definitely didn't know what I was doing. "Well, she has the drive to be really good at this, competition level. You should think about it." Okay, I think, but really we've only had a single one hour lesson. I think it's a little too early to tell that kind of thing. Audrey and I won't be quitting our day-jobs any time soon. Pretty funny though!


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