Disaster!

Someone will tell me from time to time after a romp out in the agility ring “That was a complete disaster!” My response will be invariably, “Well you know, the Hindenburg was a disaster. You just had a bumpy game with a dog.”

And yet the word “disaster” is on my mind. My web site has been down for several days now (managed by intent.net). This is truly not a disaster given the paucity of my business. And I am patient knowing that it’ll be up and running sooner or later.

There is an important business point I need to make here. A half a life-time ago I was a part of the disaster recovery team for Phelps Dodge, a very old and conservative American company (and today owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.). When something breaks business can’t stop. It’s not enough to say we’ll fix the broken thing; we must resume, we must recover.

A meteor could have dropped on Phelps Dodge headquarters and within about 24 hours all systems would be restored; and this is in spite of the loss of complete computer systems and possibly even key personnel. And the plan was so thoughtful and detailed that not only would computer systems and data be restored, but the phone system, the copier, and supplies as meticulously defined as paper-clips would be in place. Certainly a large corporation shouldn’t flounder for wont of a paper-clip.

So, in selection of a web service provider, I would like to see a disaster recovery plan. Let’s say a piece of firmware melts down. Now we have to get in touch with the manufacturer (who doesn’t do business on weekends by the bye), and wait for him to Fedex that computer part.

I’m sorry. This has already taken too long. If the computer goes down it should, it must, immediately come back up on an alternate processor. Maybe there’s a business idea here for someone to provide disaster recovery services for all the mom and pop web service providers in the world. I’ll bet you anything that big corporations who do their own web service have exactly this kind of provision as a part of their own disaster recovery planner.

Sunday Clinic

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I’m going to document many of the sequences we worked with on the weekend; but wanted to share this straight-away. I ended the clinic on Sunday with kind of a romping sequence. My intention was to make it easy and free and fast. Naturally, it defied my early expectations and became completely challenging in it’s own subtle ways.

The original exercise I designed was all about the #9 through #11 practice with the discrimination. By the afternoon of the clinic I knew this was overly technical and likely to make people frustrated and grumpy. So I added the big sweeping lines around the A-frame which made it quite a fun romp and frankly got the speed and energy up and took considerable tedium out of the drill.

Because the opening is such a straight-line ripper that it’ll be a bit of a trick drawing the dog properly to jump #4 rather than losing him off-course into the pipe tunnel. A dandy response here is a simple static Post Turn pre-cuing the dog to the turn simply by the handler putting on the brakes after jump #3. Some handlers might need something more dramatic like an RFP or a Flip. Other handlers don’t need much of anything as their dogs will faithfully hold a Velcro position no matter where they choose to go.

The next truly interesting moment will be the approach to the pipe tunnel at #9. We might lose a dog or two to the wrong-course option at jump #2/15. More likely will be the handler turning away from the pipe tunnel prematurely causing the dog to draw up onto the A-frame for a wrong course. I often tell my students that when the handler takes the blocking position in a discrimination they are obligated to do only one thing. Block!

The transition from the pipe tunnel at #9, getting back to the A-frame at #11 is one of the technical bits in this course; and the pull-through after jump #10 was a skill we had already practiced on the day. If the handler doesn’t understand his job the dog is inclined to go wrong course after jump #10 either to jump #7 if turning right or back to the tire at #1/16 if turning left (and, of course, we saw both).

The choice of turning right or left at jump #10 had all to do with the handler’s strategy for getting to the #12 pipe tunnel after the dismount of the A-frame. There were several solutions for this interesting transition. The handler might bend, which means he comes dog the A-frame with dog-on-right and simply steps into the dog’s path causing him to bend away into a path that favors the pipe tunnel. With dog-on-left the handler might step forward into a Front Cross or hold the dog on left for a moment for a Post & Tandem approach. Anything that actually work is right.

In a bit a surprise to me the transition from the pipe tunnel at #12 to jump #13 became one of the more challenging moments. Most handlers after getting the dog into the pipe tunnel simply died in terms of movement. They went all flat-footed and awaited the dog shooting out of the tunnel. Four observable results come from this moment of sloth: 1) the turning radius of the dog ranges far too widely after the pipe tunnel; 2) the energy of the dog deflates to reflect the lack of energy of the handler; 3) With nothing productive to do the handler will find a way to fault this simple sequence; 4) The dog will do it just fine and seems unaffected by the handler’s loss of presence. Anyhow, I coached them before the second run that it might be a good idea to step up towards the exit of the pipe tunnel in this sequence being nearby to the dog showing counter rotation to tighten the turn and a quick accelerating step to immediately energize the dog to the race.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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