Friday, June 09, 2006

Ptuj, April 29

English speakers will no doubt have some difficulty with that initial consonant cluster. One of these days I will indulge my inner linguist and write a post on phonotactics. If you can say “Patooey” that’s close enough for now.

Ptuj is in eastern Slovenia, not a part I know very well. About a two and half hour drive from here. I left at about 5:30 a.m., with both dogs. Monika stayed home, ostensibly to study. It was some extra work and stress for me to have Olivia along without Monika to handle her, but she benefits enormously from the socialization experience—the exposure to crowds, strange sights and sounds and people and dogs--so I took her.

Olivia and Lyra have completely opposite behaviors in cars. In a moving car, Oli curls up (or stretches out, depending on her mood) and goes to sleep almost the moment the engine starts, and pretty much stays that way unless she needs a bathroom break, which she lets us know by whining restlessly. Lyra is alert the entire way, sitting up, looking out the window, occasionally trying to herd a passing or oncoming car. In a parked car, on the other hand, Lyra curls up into a little ball in the back seat, pressed up against the door, and snoozes, pretty much oblivious to the environment. Meanwhile, Oli turns into a slavering vicious beast, jumping all over the interior and snarling and lunging at anyone who passes within a few feet. We’re working on that. And, er, many other things as well.

It rained most of the way there, and indeed most of the day. Not hard, but steadily. The course was wet, but not, fortunately, overly muddy. I ran in hiking boots, which slow me down but keep my feet dry and provide much better traction than the smooth soles of my worn sneakers. We had ten faults on the first run, for missing a contact zone on the bridge and flubbing the first slalom attempt. I think. Hard to recall the details now. I do remember she was unfocused in her attitude and helter-skelter in her movements, and I wanted to do a nice slow controlled run, especially in the wet conditions, so I called her back a few times when she got too far ahead of me. I was pleased, and a little suprised, when she took the bridge right in stride, since in previous competitions she's been hesitant. Unfortunately, she was a little too bold and forward-going, and leaped off right over the contact zone. We lucked out in one respect: originally the teeter-totter was one of the obstacles on the agility course, but the judge replaced it with an ordinary jump when the first competitor, a very seasoned and unflappable small dog, slipped on it during his run. The teeter-totter is Lyra's bête noire.

We were sixth after the first run, of 14 competitors. Lower turnout than usual, probably because some people wimped out at the last minute due to the rain. Then we had a clean run on the second, jumping run. Many of the dogs in the small and medium categories were disqualified on the chute obstacle, having balked at going through the sopping wet fabric. Didn’t seem to bother the border collies, though, with their speed and size. With a clean second run, overall we managed to come third, and took home another cup. No dog food, alas—not all competitions are sponsored by dog food manufacturers. A little disappointing, especially given the relatively high travel costs—I had no idea the motorway between Ljubljana and Maribor cost so much.

Still, it was well worth the trip: there was a team competition in addition to the individual, so Lyra got to go a third time, on a more challenging course (J2). She made quite a respectable showing for a relative novice. Just five faults for missing the entrance on the slalom the first time. My fault; I should have positioned myself on the other side of her and come at it at less of an angle. She corrected it quickly, and sailed through the rest. Our Ajdovščina team came tenth of sixteen. Four members can compete on a team; the best three results are used in the ranking. Since there were only three of us Ajdovščina folks competing, this is a solid result.

The star of the day was Aron, with three clean and fast runs, winning in his A2/J2 large category, and contributing the best performance of our team.

As for Olivia, she started out as a menace, snarling threateningly at passing dogs and people, especially when crowded, gradually toned it down to the level of a nuisance(dirty looks, muffled growls, and avoidance), and by the end of the day was mingling with the others happily and safely.

On the way back home I dropped Lyra off in Ljubljana, for a mini-vacation with her friends Jana and Dean. She adores them, and the feeling is mutual.


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