It's been another busy couple of months. I had an awesome time judging at the Queensland State Agility Titles. I was a little bit nervous leading up to it. I take a lot of pride in my courses and I wanted them to be really good. My goal is always to test peoples skills but at the same time keep them fun, flowing and most importantly safe for the dogs. My awesome mentor Jan Eigl Eide continually pushes me with my course design to make it better and better and I wanted to make sure my courses for this event ticked all the boxes. I got to see some incredibly fast dogs while I was there. In some cases possibly a bit too much speed and not enough actual skills but they were a lot of fun to watch no matter what the outcome. Afterwards I thought that my Novice Jumping was a little bit too hard. I think if I had of turned one jump slightly more it would have been perfect. But to ease my concern when the same class were presented with a racetrack one of the other judges set up we went from one Q in the 500 height on my course to three Q's on the racetrack course. So I'm not sure making mine different would have made much difference. When things went right I saw some stunning runs. The dog and handler combination that won my Masters Jumping class were poetry in motion and it was such an amazing run. Watching those special runs is one of the things I enjoy most about judging.
There have been a lot of conversations about judges recently both on main Facebook groups and also Judge only FB groups. Australia wide quite a few are getting pretty fed up with the social media bashing that happens on a disappointingly regular basis. There is a lady from over east who is currently travelling around Europe with her dog while training and competing. She wrote an interesting blog about the differences between Australia and Europe. Australia didn't come off so well in her opinion although it wasn't all bad. I understand what she is saying and I agreed with plenty of it given that I compete as well. I do think there are Australian judges who do not get the concept of flow, how important a dogs line is and think that constantly pulling a dog off its line is how a course should be. They also think that European courses are dangerous and simply promote dogs running flat out with no skill required whatsoever. I have so far avoided getting drawn into those conversations. People will believe what they want to believe and I know that arguing on FB is not going to change anyone's opinion because everyone thinks they are right. But I do regularly feel my own frustrations when I walk a Masters course for Veto and the course barely takes up half the ring. But I know who's courses suit Veto and who's don't and now I just don't enter under the judges who's style will be detrimental for Veto. If I had a different dog then it probably wouldn't be an issue. I think we do place too much emphasis on the almighty Q card in Australia. I would rather challenge myself on an amazing course and have a penalty than run some horrible unpleasant course where my dog can barely take two strides in a straight line before another turn, yet go clear. But I'm not sure that I'm in the majority there. I probably average about 10% to 20% Q rate on my courses and I sometimes wonder if people would rather have something different and just get loads of Q's. Of course if every judge designed the same style of course it would get boring pretty quickly.
As a judge I believe in what I do. I get a significant amount of satisfaction watching dogs run my courses when they are handled well. There are times when you have multiple dogs run your course badly and you question what you have set up. But then someone will come in and run it exactly how you thought it should be run and it will look amazing. Then you breathe a big sigh of relief! I think my style is developing, especially after having Jan's influence and input. I love building big courses with loads of room that let dogs run. I've been following the course design of a handful of European judges and using them to influence and inspire my own design. I don't think I've quite developed my own style yet. I'm still figuring out what that is. But I'm a lot closer than what I was before.
Veto's agility down time over winter is continuing. We've done a few trials but I haven't entered much. I've been focusing on exercises from the Fenzi Empowerment course that I signed up for. It's been fun creating challenges for him and watching him work through them and get more confident and brave. I've joined ADAA again after letting my membership lapse a few years ago. I don't have the capacity to trial every single weekend so had been no point being with ANKC and ADAA. Ve has made big leaps forward in his confidence in the ring but I know what I see when he is somewhere that he feels safe and we are still a long way from that at a trial. Veto enjoys agility which I see all the time at home. I really want to use ADAA to get a heap of training rounds under his belt where I break the course into pieces and reward him with his tuggy the whole way around. I can see really big benefits to that if he is going to have an agility future.
We've had a bit of a blip with Veto's health. When he was at physio a few weeks ago I noticed what looked like an ulcer on one side of his eye. On further investigation (i.e. numerous vet trips) an ophthalmologist diagnosed him with a condition called Pannus (also known as Chronic Superficial Keratitis). It's an autoimmune disease that affects the cornea part of the eye and if left untreated can eventually scar the eye so badly it can cause serious vision impairment or blindness. There is no real cause of this condition but scientists think that exposure to UV light can be a factor. Apparently it is very common in German Shepherd Dogs and Greyhounds. Veto will be fine as it was picked up early. It will require lifelong twice daily treatment of a immunosuppressant eye ointment. Yay ...but he does get to wear these super cool Doggles eyewear on bright sunny days.
The old man of the house Sonic turned eleven this month. He's doing pretty well and enjoying life. My goal is to keep him as pain free as possible with his hips. He's become Veto's wing man at trials to help Ve feel more confident. Sonic has no real love for dogs he doesn't know but he's not frightened, just doesn't like them. And of course he loves agility so he's happy to be there, although I'm sure he'd rather be doing agility than watching Veto get to have all the fun. And it's always nice to have him around.