Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lure Coursing at Bayshore Companion Dog Club

aka: Crookytail gets 2/3rds of the way to his sad pity title!

Sunday morning, Crooky and I drove out to the Freehold Show Grounds in middle New Jersey for a super sweet chance to work on his Coursing Aptitude title. I brought Pongu too, hoping that we'd get to work on a little bit of play and engagement next to the agility rings (there was also a large AKC agility trial going on at the same time, and I wanted to see how Pongu would do in that environment), but haha that didn't happen.


We got there on time (miraculously) because even though my GPS was not able to find the exact address of the place, it was able to find the correct road, and then when I passed a parking lot full of hatchbacks with silvery cooling canopies draped over them, welp, doesn't take a whole lot of experience in dog sports to know what that means.

So we rolled on in and I tried to park far away from the lure coursing field (because I didn't want Crooky to go bananas like he did at the fun run where he could see the bags darting past from the parking lot), but I picked a spot overlooking a TOTALLY EMPTY UNRELATED FIELD WHERE NOTHING WAS HAPPENING and that was still too much. Crooky was dead certain that large grassy field = lure coursing (after one exposure! and to think, I call him my stupid dog), so he just kept jumping around and straining to see the imaginary bag that he was completely sure had to be out there somewhere, if only he looked hard enough.

I checked him in, which involved gaiting him back and forth in front of the scribes' table so they could see whether he was lame. Clearly he was not lame in the literal sense, as he kept trying to jerk me off my feet so he could go chase the bag that was being sent through some test runs on the course. Jury's still out on the figurative sense.

When the other dogs started running before him, Crooky started screaming at the bag. I have never heard him make a noise like that ever in his life. It was this crazy high-pitched banshee wail. Listening to it, you'd think that dog still had his nuts and someone was crushing them slowly in a vise. I was so worried somebody would come over and tell me to stop torturing my dog, because clearly he was in agony beyond all belief.

But nobody said anything, because I guess if you do lure coursing you have pretty much seen it all.

Eventually Crooky got his turn and he just blasted after that bag with total intense concentration like nothing he had ever shown before. Given that he is a large ungainly dog with spondylosis, and lure coursing is a sport designed for greyhounds, he did not ever get very close to the thing, but he sure did try to kill himself by running his heart out.

Strangely, when the bag stopped at the end of the course, Crooky got a little freaked out and didn't want to go near it. The astounded confusion on his face was hilarious. It was like he genuinely believed he had been chasing some insane rabbit in a ghost costume, and then all of a sudden the rabbit was gone and the plastic ghost costume was gone and instead it had all been transformed into a couple of plastic bags. He just looked so amazed and so cheated.

He had to hit the bag to stop the clock, though, so I got him to do a nose touch to the bag and then we trotted out of there. I moved the car to a different, shadier lot that did not overlook a field, went to go watch a couple of hours of agility (which was equal parts inspiring, terrifying, and impossible for me to comprehend), and then tried to take Pongu out to go potty and play by the agility rings.

This proved to be a miscalculation because Crooky apparently thought I was taking Pongu out to chase the bag (he will never understand that there are dogs in the world who have no interest in that bag) and he could not stand being left behind, so he vaulted out of the car window and came after us within a minute or two. I heard people yelling "loose dog! loose dog!" and I knew exactly who it was long before he came into view.

Fortunately I grabbed him way before he even came within eyesight of the agility rings, and even more fortunately I'd parked about a quarter-mile away from the lure coursing field, so Crooky did not get a chance to disturb any other dogs during his brief episode of freedom.

After that I locked him up in my friend's wire crate and reflected on how I'm going to have to invest in my own doggy jail box if I want to keep taking Crooky to these things. Apparently he can Houdini his way out of a five-inch window gap if plastic bags are involved. Doggy jail is the only safe place to keep a crazed Crookydog.

After another hour or so, Crooky got his second turn. He screamed at the bag some more (hitting an even higher fever pitch when one of the dogs before him, an English Springer Spaniel[? not 100% sure on this], was not that interested in chasing the bag, which blew Crooky's mind and caused him to go into an apparent frustrated nerdrage the likes of which I'd only seen from Pongu before), tried to bash through a wooden fence to get to the bag (causing me to innocently sidle away before anyone realized that my delinquent dog had almost knocked one of the boards loose), and finally got his chance to run.

That time he happily tried to kill the bags at the end of the course.

Then Crooky went back in the car and I watched a little more agility.

Watching agility, especially at a multi-ring trial, is incredibly frazzling to me right now. It's like trying to listen to three simultaneous conversations in a foreign language where you only know about 50 words. I don't really understand anything and my brain quickly short-circuits from the effort, such that its processing capacity basically drops to that of a concussed goldfish suffering from early-onset dementia. I was forgetting stuff I'd seen five minutes earlier and repeating stuff I'd said two minutes earlier. Truly an awesome first impression to make among Agility People (although maybe now they'll be nicer to me because clearly I am a pitiable special-needs person who cannot be expected to function like an actual adult).

And that was Crookytail's Lure Coursing Day.

Special bonus picture with pittie friend Molly:

(Someday I'd like to see those two baying dingbats go after the bag together. They can be a pack of wild hooligans! Like hunting beagles! Only... bigger, and less good at actual hunting. Sadly this will never happen because no plastic bag could ever survive their combined powers.)

At some point, when my arms heal, I'll take Crooky out to get his third qualifying leg. There's no hurry, though. I am at least going to wait until my arms stop aching from shoulder to wrist.