Saturday, May 3, 2008

TeamWhitney - The Videos

Blogspot Visitors, You have seen the text. You have seen the exciting stills. But are you ready for TeamWhitney, the Videos! Be still my pounding heart! Is the Sundance Festival ready for this presentation of cinema verite? Click on the links and see for yourself!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Road Trip Home

In the famous tune from the famous musical, they say that Oklahoma is "Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain." To describe the wind as we left Tulsa as "sweepin'" is like describing a blast furnace as a hair dryer. This is wind you can lean on. What's more we noticed something odd in the forests along the freeway: there were no tall trees. Take a closer look and there is an obvious reason for it. The higher branches of these trees are broken. Huge branches ripped off and left dangling. The trees simply cannot grow against the high praire wind.

You have to admire the hardiness of the souls who live here. Not only do they endure the absence of decent coffee and fresh orange juice, but they also somehow accomodate the wind without (at least outwardly) being incredibly cranky.

One display that manages to stand against the wind, but not the graffetti artists, is the buried cadillac "sculpture" outside of Amarillo (the wind in the panhandle is just as stiff as the wind in Oklahoma). The owner of Cadillac Ranch buried these cadillacs when they were new and pristine but has long ago accepted the project as living art.

Thank goodness there was a Starbucks in Albuquerque, but we didn't have a Peets until we returned to the Bay Area. Poor Whitney was very grateful to end the prolonged nap in her crate.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Man oh man. The day started with our so-called "hybrid" run. No, it does not mean super efficient with low emissions. It means a cross between a jumpers run and a standard run. Whitney had a clean run and a fast time (not the same kind of fast times they may have had at Ridgemont High, a movie TeamWhitney has never seen). Then we had to wait it out to see if we would make the cut for the finals. In the end, Whitney's cumulative score was 12th, and we were in the finals.

The finals are just an amazing experience. They are held in the middle of a 3 ring arena with stands on two sides. It seems that all of Tulsa decided the most exciting event in their city this week-end was not the Sunday New York Times, but instead, the agility nationals; so the place was packed with enthusiastic spectators. The final run was what we call a"technical" run. There were no places where the dogs could just run through a bunch of obstacles more or less in a row. Instead, there were very tight turns with traps lurking everywhere.

We ran as aggressively as you can on a technical course; and Whitney did incredibly well until we got to jump 17 where she turned the opposite way that I thought I had signaled. The crowd, which had been cheering wildly, cried out in despair thinking we were doomed. My heart was pounding. Not so fast. Whitney managed to regain her bearings, and we finished our run clean to huge applause (redemption always gets a big reward). We lost a second or two on the turn, but we ended up with a 6th place finish which resulted in TeamWhitney receiving a very unusual pink colored ribbon. Who picks these ribbons out for the AKC TeamWhitney cannot imagine; but what do we care? We are ecstatic!

Whitney had 7 out of 7 clean runs at these nationals and scored higher than a lot of dogs who are actually faster and who have super good handlers. Whitney went from 20th after the first round, to 16th after the second round, to 12th after the third round, to 6th in the finals. What a climb. And that's just this year. Looking back on our last three years at the AKC Nationals, Whitney has had 18 clean runs out of 19 total runs! Not too shabby at all.

Bow Wow video has tapes (if TeamWhitney may use such a technologically out of date term) of all of our runs. We will post them as soon as we receive them, which will probably be in about 4 weeks. For now we have some new still photos.

Also, as an indication of how competitive the 16" class has become, a 16" border collie, Driven, had the fastest time at the finals of all the jump heights. Normally, that is the sole province of the 24" dogs even though they have to run a little further because of the higher jump heights.

Tomorrow morning we are up early and headed back to the Bay Area; but we have had a lot of fun in Tulsa!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Report

Another grey windy day in Tulsa; but not nearly as cold as yesterday.

The standard run was very difficult. I have not seen the Q rate, but I suspect it was fairly low. Fortunately, Whitney had a clean run. We ran it very conservatively, consistent with the meat and potatoes discipline we are following. After the standard run, Whitney was the 20th ranked dog. (The top 13 dogs from the first three runs get into the finals).

The jumpers run was a lot easier and probably many dogs managed to get a clean run, as Whitney did. As a result of the jumpers run, Whitney's cumulative standing is 16th.

These standings show how incredibly competitive the 16" class has become since we first competed in the Nationals in 2006. There are some unbelieveably fast dogs now in this class. Some of the fast dogs had faults in one or the other of the early rounds, but there are some very fast dogs ahead of Whitney in these standings. Some of it is inevitable. Younger faster dogs are coming forward and pushing the envelope.

Our strategy is not to push hard and stick to the basics in the theory that if we have 3 clean runs, Whitney's natural speed will get her into the finals. In order for that to work, we will have to jump ahead by at least 3 dogs from our current position. It is certainly possible, since we came up 4 spots just from round 1 to round 2. Also two of the dogs that are ahead of us are there because of fractionally better times in the jumpers round.

We are going to stick with the strategy and hope for the best tomorrow. If we get into the finals, we will abandon meat and potatoes and go with a lighter fare. Any aggressive steps we can think of, short of being reckless will be employed.

An amazing thing happened at this trial. A woman came up to us and said that she had seen my interview on Animal Planet two years ago. She said that my comments inspired her to get a border collie and begin agility. When she heard the announcer describe one of Whitney's runs over the loudspeaker system she rushed over to see the end of the run and came up and introduced herself to us. She gushed all over us for describing how accessible agility was. It was a humbling, but gratifying, experience for TeamWhitney.

Friday, March 28, 2008

First Day Report!

The facilities here at this trial are great. The expo buildings have modern plumbing. There are 4 rings with clean, raked dirt. There is plenty of room for the crating of hundreds of dogs. There is a large area for walking the dogs. And then there is the Oklahoma wind. This morning it was in the forties according to the thermometer; but I have no idea at all what the wind chill factor was. For us poor citizens of California the wind was a biting cold. The locals laughed and said it was a gentle spring breeze. They said that if we wanted to know what wind in Oklahoma was really like, we should come back in January. Anyhoo, it seemed really cold to TeamWhitney.

Agilitywise, the day was toasty warm. Whitney had a really nice jumpers run with very tight turns and a good time. She ended up 7th in the 16 inch class as a result of that first run.

The standard run was another matter altogether. It was one of those deceptively simple runs. Sure, there were a few difficult parts; but what the heck. In actuality, the Q rate for the standard course must have been really low. That course was chock full of opportunities for error. In our case, we are really grateful that we had a clean run; but it was very scary. Near the end of the run, Whitney barrelled off towards an off-course obstacle. I was able to call her off it just in the nick of time. As a result, our total time was a little slow; but, given my pounding heart, we didn't care.

The culmination of today's runs is the state tournament where the best performing states compete. California ended the day as the top ranked state; and Whitney's times in her two clean runs qualified her as one of the 4 dogs to represent California in the state tournament. Unfortunately, Whitney had the only clean run on the California Team and so we ended up dead last. Whitney had fun though. That girl liked getting another run into her day. Poor California has never won the state tournament!

The final cumulative rankings of the day were not available when we left; and the web page right now just shows the results of rounds 1 and 2 separately.

Last year TeamWhitney opened much like this year: two clean runs and a clean run in the state tournament. Then in the opening run of the elimination rounds, the bogeyman of handler error suddenly reared its ugly head. We are very much hoping to avoid a repeat of that pattern tomorrow when the competition for the finals begins.

The competition is going to be very tough based on what we observed today. There are 18 border collies in the 16" class, some very fast shelties, and, of course, our friend Luka, a pyranees shepherd who won last year. TeamWhitney's strategy going forward will be to run clean without doing anything fancy. We will just rely on Whitney's natural speed. Sure there are dogs who are much faster than Whitney; but a reasonable percentage of them will probably crash and burn before the qualification rounds are over.

All in all, what a huge amount of fun!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TeamWhitney Checks In

Today in Tulsa was hot, sunny and very windy. It is Oklahoma. Whitney and I went out to a local field for a limber up, but it was not weather for a work-out so we kept it short.

Ann had a great early morning run along a very nice parkway on the Arkansas River.

After finding a good local coffee house, we headed out to the Expo Center. The entrance has a huge statue of an oilman and a derrick. (see photo). The oilman is called the Golden Driller. The derrick is an actual derrick moved from a depleted field in Seminole, Oklahoma. The plaque says that it is "dedicated to the men [!] of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God's abundance a better life for mankind." In 1979, the Golden Driller was adopted by the Oklahoma Legislature as the state monument. According to Wikipedia (who does not trust Wikipedia), in October 2006, the Golden Driller was named the grand prize as a top ten "quirkiest destination" in the United States, winning its nominator a $90,000 international vacation for two. Enough about the Golden Driller.

We checked in and found the stall we are sharing with Ashley and Luka. It has a paved surface no less. Terry Le Clair and Heath are next door. Marcy and Mo and their dogs are two stalls down with a California Bear flag on their stall door.

They must sell wine out here somewhere; but we have not found a place, so beer it is.

The ISC competition begins tomorrow at 9!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Team Whitney Arrives in Tulsa

We have had a great road trip to Tulsa; but we have been beset by technology hassles. We had a great stop in Winslow Arizona where TeamWhitney was photographed "Standing on a Corner." Across the street a local shop was blaring out hits of the Eagles (whoever they were; the only eagle we know is on Stephen Colbert). I will post the photo from Winslow tomorrow. Continuing with the road trip, TeamWhitney was next photographed standing on the continental divide.

Unfortunately, we entered into a technology glitch in eastern New Mexico which endured through the Texas Panhandle all the way to Tulsa. We were not able to access the internet at any time. Now in Tulsa, the problem has been solved and WE'RE BACK.

Despite careful attention to I 40 in the area west of Amarillo, TeamWhitney did not see the cadillacs buried in the desert. We will try again on the return trip.

Photos will be posted tomorrow. We are just glad to be back on the internet. (By the way, there are no espresso coffee shops anywhere in downtown Tulsa).