Weekend wrap up

I couldn’t do it, folks. I just couldn’t get excited about seeing The Dark Knight Rises. It’s too soon. No judgment on you if you went. But I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. I would have kept thinking, Is this about when the tear gas was thrown? Is this when the bullets started flying? And then all that movie violence and shooting would have just made me sad.

I’m sure this melancholy won’t last long. It’s sad, in a way, but I’m sure I’ll move on quickly along with the rest of America. But this weekend just felt like a heavy, lasting hangover.

It certainly didn’t keep me from doing stuff, however. Anything to get away from the endless loop of cable news.

On Friday, a little Charlie Chaplin was just what the doctor ordered. Beneath threatening skies, around 25 peeps from the neighborhood gathered in a picturesque courtyard wedged between a bunch of warehouses to watch two Charlie Chaplin movies, accompanied live by piano and clarinet. It was such a Lawrenceville thing to do.

The piano player had been hired by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to compose music for a Chaplin movie. Then, he just kept going. He even consulted with a Chaplin expert in the South Hills who had helped Robert Downey Jr. become Chaplin for the movie. His composition was like a cross between Scott Joplin and the Hora. A little ragtime with some minor-key Yiddish runs. A cool breeze made the evening almost seem like early fall. To lose yourself in the music and the story telling and incredible athleticism of Chaplin in 1 A.M. and The Rink was sort of amazing.

Then, on Saturday, I accompanied my sister-in-law, Kate from Hazelton, and her three Shelties, to the agility dog contest in lovely Cheswick.

What kind of bizarre subculture this is! I’m not sure I can do it justice in part of a post. But here goes. Several hundred dog owners took over the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena to completely get their freak on, canine style.

(Sorry for the pic quality on these. I discovered that iPhones suck unless the subject and cameraman hold perfectly still.) Agility dog contests are basically an obstacle course for owner and dog. The owner doesn’t have to do the things, of course, but must guide their beast through the course in the correct order. There are jumps and weave poles and A-frame ramps and tunnels and the ever frightening teeter. (Dogs generally don’t like being on things that move.) Your score is a combination of speed and accuracy. Dogs are docked points for knocking down jump bars, exiting the teeter to the side, missing weave poles, and for making big or little potty on the course.

Just off the course. Nervous owners go through their technique and await their turns as their dogs dream of the treat they are going to get. As you can see, while there are some men who participate, this is 90% ladies.The dogs are big and small, and compete in their appropriate size and weight classes.

Each obstacle has its own degree of canine difficulty.

This is the teeter. As you can see, this little dog (pig?) is doing it right. They must walk up the teeter until it falls over on the other end. Then, the dog must walk down the teeter and touch the yellow section before jumping off. I find this sort of cruel since dogs are colorblind.

I’m told that the weave poles are the toughest thing to teach a dog. It sure is cute to watch them bob and weave through them. Points are deducted if they miss one. Sometimes the dogs just wander out midway through and the handler makes them go back to the beginning. Some go through it very fast. Others take their time.

Nimitz was ready, game face on, and wearing his Thunder Shirt because it makes him look ripped and intimidates the other dogs.

This part was amazing…

Once they change the course, the judge takes all the handlers out to walk the course without their dogs. Here’s the thing. Handling is an art. The dogs are faster than you are (way faster than some of these folks) and you must be strategic about getting ahead of your dog to tell them what to do next. Sure, at the beginning I couldn’t believe how “into it” some of these folks were. A couple of hours later, I was judging handlers for not getting out there for their dog. I was commiserating with more than one dog that their handler totally screwed them by not hustling and in order to shout “Teeter!” or “Tunnel!” at just the right moment. I could so do this. Unfortunately, it’s pure breeds only. Mutts like Belle have no civil rights, I’m telling ya!

So when Kate’s (orange shirt) turn came, I was right out there scouting the best way to get from the weave poles to the tunnel. I got this!

Here, Lilly goes through the course like a champ. Didn’t miss a single thing. See Kate trying to get down there, but Lilly is already focused on the tunnel and not the jumps to the left and right, which she would ace after going through the tube.

Nimitz was flawless, too. Just not as quick as Lilly. Max was only along for moral support and was not entered this weekend. I’m telling you, the dogs love this. They train for it, and when it is their turn, they do their thing. At the end, there is a treat waiting and they jump around with great joy. It’s a great way for dog and owner to get some exercise and some bonding time. Really, a dog’s life is pretty boring most of the time.

When not running, the dogs hang out on what I call “pit row.”

The two champs (two blue ribbons!), Lilly and Nimitz, hang out together. Max is by himself, just in case someone pulls a hammy.

All in all, it was just the distraction I needed to get my mind off all that horror and tragedy. Now Belle just looks at me quizzically when I randomly run up beside her and yell out, “Weave!” or “Teeter!”

At least I’m having fun.

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About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on July 23, 2012, in Art, Misc, Pittsburgh, Sports and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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