Last of the Mohicans

I’ve been dusting up the Book of Agility Games, 3d ed and discovered that there was no really wicked good briefing nor erudite exegesis of the game Last of the Mohicans. It is small wonder that it is not a game held in higher favor in the TDAA (and soon to be Top Dog).

So I have corrected my oversight and have rewritten the entire thing, below. And because of my oversight, I must inflict this game on my own students this week.

Last of the Mohicans

In the years before the American Revolution certain frontiersmen were greatly feared and respected by hostile Indians because they had learned to load their muskets with powder and shot, and even fire their muskets, while on the run without stopping or even slowing down. This agility game was devised as a means of teaching the very Novice handler to stay in motion when running an agility course (and not stop alongside every jump on the way). Last of the Mohicans is the invention of Bud Houston.

Briefing

You’re a settler comfortable in your homestead (the collapsed tunnel) when word comes to you that a band of marauding Indians is on the war path, killing and scalping -defenseless settlers. You know that your only chance to survive is to make it to the fort (the table). As the crow flies it’s not very far away. But to get there you must go all the way around the mountain (the A-frame).

The dog will earn one point for each obstacle performed without fault between the homestead and the fort. The homestead (collapsed tunnel) and the fort (table) have no point value. The dog with the most points wins. Time is a tie-breaker only.

However, should you be caught by the Indians, and scalped, your dog will earn no score. And the scribe will indicate on the scribe-sheet: “RIP”.

These events will lead to you being caught and scalped by the Indians:

  • The handler stops (the Indians will catch you while you’re standing still)
  • The dog runs past an obstacle and the handler turns back to correct (you’ve run back towards the Indians. Bad strategy)
  • The dog’s path crosses itself (again, your path has taken you back towards the Indians). By definition, if a dog repeats an obstacle, he has crossed his own path.
  • The dog commits to any contact obstacle with all four paws.

Course Design

Last of the Mohicans lends itself to a pick-up transition that requires very little equipment movement. The start and finish obstacles might have to be moved to the two corners of the front of the ring, as with this course. Also the A-frame should be a central figure in the layout of the course with obstacles that provide for flow around it.

This is an example of the Numbered Course variation, which is how the game was originally played.

Judging Notes

Last of the Mohicans is one of the rare games in which the judge must be a judge of the handler; specifically for stopping or significant hesitation. This fault, since you are taking their scalp after all, should be accorded the same measure of restraint that you might use for calling a \hesitation refusal on the dog. The word “significant” gives us a good measuring tool: If you can say the word SIGNIFICANT as the handler hesitates, then you must blow the whistle and take his scalp. However, if all you can get out is “SIG…” you’re doing the team a disservice.

Mindful that the original intention of the game was to encourage handlers to stay in motion with their dogs, the judge should establish criteria for movement at the beginning of the course and at the end. In briefing the judge might advise that the handler could be standing still when calling the dog through the collapsed tunnel (the homestead); but had better be in motion when the dog comes out. Also, the table (the fort) is where time ends; so if the handler comes to a stop on the approach to the table… then it is such a shame that he will be scalped right outside the front gate. However, if the handler moves past the table to the side opposite the approach, then the judge will deem that he is safely in the fort.

Note that the scalping fault for the dog crossing his own path should be the obvious and measurable only. We’ve already stated that repeating an obstacle will constitute the path-crossing scalpage. Also, look for this sort of thing:

During the briefing you can reassure exhibitors that you won’t be looking for bulges in the dog’s path to find crossing faults; but having a mind like a steel trap you’ll certainly be calling the obvious.

Scoring

Last of the Mohicans is scored points, then time. Time is a tie-breaker only. The dog earns 1 point for each obstacle performed correctly.

If the handler stops or attempts to go back to correct any obstacle he is deemed dead by the judge. At that point the game ends and the team earns zero points.

Strategy

The significant strategies to this game are:

  • The Q and keep your scalp strategy: Don’t try to be a hero, understand how many points are required to qualify; go out and get them and get safely into the fort.
  • The greedy man’s strategy: This is like a game of “What’s My Line”. Go for the gusto; figure out what are the maximum number of points available, then figure out a way to get them without stopping and without causing the dog to cross his own path. Just remember: No guts, no glory.

Staying in motion is a pretty good strategy for agility in general; and certainly in this game will keep the handler from being scalped. If the dog runs past an obstacle without committing to the performance the handler will have to accept the missed point and continue. Remember that going back to correct the dog is a scalpable offense.

Variations

  • The Numbered Course variation is actually the original implementation of this game. The stated purpose is to stay in motion through a numbered sequence. The dog will earn one point for each obstacle performed. So the dog with the most points wins. Time is a tie-breaker only. As it turns out, Last of the Mohicans as a dog’s choice game is more interesting and cultivates a strategic approach to the game.
  • The Resurrection variation can be quite a bit of fun. Allow everyone to rerun the game with the obvious warning that only their second score will count. Certainly everyone with an RIP on their scribe-sheet will be keen to return to the world of the living. Anyone with a score from the first round (and a scalp) will have to measure their score against their ambition when deciding whether to take the gamble.

If you are inclined to invent your own variation avoid including contact obstacles. Remember that stopping or significantly hesitating for the dog on a contact obstacle is sometimes pretty nifty handling. Sometimes stopping or significantly hesitating is a matter of safety for the dog. For this reason, we do not include the contact obstacles as pointed obstacles in Last of the Mohicans.

Qualification

Typically the number of obstacles should dictate the qualifying criteria. For example, 40%  for Games I; 60% for Games II; and 80% for Games III would work. Values should be rounded. So in our sample course above, the qualifying criteria should be:

  • Games I ~ 5 points
  • Game II ~ 7 points
  • Games III ~ 10 points

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the movie Alien what was the name of Ripley’s cat?

And an apology… I called the trivia contest the other day an anagram. Sorry, I was being really dense. Actually, you’re supposed to rearrange the letters to form several words. And whatever that’s called, that’s what it is. But it’s not an anagram.

BLOG716

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore.

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2 Responses to “Last of the Mohicans”

  1. Deb Auer Says:

    The cat ‘s name was “Jones.”

  2. Michelle Says:

    TDAA is soon to be Top Dog??? Does that mean you are opening up TDAA to all size dogs? I could go with a name change from Teacup Dog to Top Dog but not excited about adding bigger dogs to our small dog organization.

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