Monday, April 28, 2003

A Week In The Life--A Musical--You'll Laugh, You'll Cry, You'll Throw the Squeakie One More Time

Let's Go Strollin': Yesterday morning we managed to walk all the way over to my sister's house (about 1/3 mile) with hardly any pulling, just the occasional (every 10-20 steps) pop-turn or stop-wait or walk-into-oh-my-how'd-that-happen? reminder. Walking back was a little tougher because I didn't avoid walking past the fence of a yard with dogs in the back, and we had large quantities of lunging and severe corrections, but we finally walked past without pulling much at all.

This morning we did a more familiar walk, and Tika wasn't quite as bad as square one, but we never got more than half a block in either direction, because the yanking & lunging would get worse the further we went. Hrm.

Tiny bubbles, in my yard... Tried blowing bubbles to see whether Tika might like chasing them as much as Rem did. But no. Taste stupid. Stupid mom. Jake never did chase them. What am I going to do with all this bubble stuff?

Ain't Misbehavin'? Tika was a brat in class Wednesday, too--not staying at start, flying off dogwalk, running away after the geese in the field, sniffing another dog's butt, going to the obstacle in front of her instead of responding to "Teek, come!", and so on.

So when she'd do the wrong thing, I hooked her leash to the fence, got Jake out of the car, snuggled with him & played with him and then did one of the exercises with him--and Lo and Behold!--the next exercise Tika would do perfectly. But then we'd put Jake away, and she's start out OK, and then do some butt-headed thing again.

So it's not a not-understanding-what-to-do issue, it's understanding that she can't decide what activity she'll participate in now (e.g., doing agility vs. chasing squirrels, or doing agility with her mom vs. doing whatever she feels like doing on the course).

SOOO--We'd been discussing this for a couple of weeks, but our instructor now says for sure Tika's too immature to be out doing competitions, especially ones in which I can't correct the problems as they appear. So I've pulled her from everything except Jumpers at next weekend's Bay Team trial; signed her up for 2 days of fun match that I had been planning on skipping, and then the next trial or 2 are both NADAC, where I *can* do some training in the ring, so we'll leave those in place. Will decide later in May about the June CPE trials we're already signed up for.

Can't Get No Squirrelifaction, Though I Tried, and I Tried: Poor little half-grown squirrel got the bejeezus scared out of him on Saturday. Dogs apparently didn't actually catch him, but when I went out to see why they were continuing to bark frantically for hours on end, I found this little guy welded to a branch about my eye level, panting frantically, his eyes about twice the size of his head.

I chased the dogs inside and left him alone for about 10 minutes. Went back out--still glued to exactly the same spot, although he wasn't panting any more. I poked at him with a long stick to get him to move--which he did, around to the side of the branch away from me so I couldn't see him. (Or so he thought--except for his little desperate toes clinging to the bark.) We repeated that a few times, and then he started looking a little more annoyed than scared and went up and down a foot or 2 a couple of times.

So I went back inside for another few minutes, and this time he had removed himself to safer places when I came back out.

Poor baby. He definitely wasn't a full-grown guy. I hate it when the dogs actually catch a squirrel. Nothin' I can do after they've managed to grab and shake a couple of times. At least this guy probably learned a valuable lesson.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Glory and Disaster

Tika's USDAA weekend

Not sure whether this was the worst weekend we've had, but it has to be close. Back in Feb, when we were doing pretty good, in a fit of ambition I entered her in the DAM tournament AND novice. In order of the runs:

Saturday:
  • Novice gamblers: Didn't stay at the start line. Removed her. Didn't have problems with staying the rest of the weekend.
  • Team jumpers: A pretty complex course, and we did it without E-ing! Missed weave entry & had to go back for it, and crashed a double-jump big time. Grabbed my feet as we crossed the finish line. (I'm trying to put her into a down after each occurrence but that doesn't really work, either.)
  • Novice Standard: Flew off A-frame. I stopped and said "Tika!" She came back & started to put herself back on the contact, so I quickly went on. She flew off the dogwalk. I stopped again. She came back and quickly DID put herself back on the contact. I had to take her off, of course. Never got to the teeter.
  • Novice jumpers: I crossed behind a little early and pulled her off a jump, which she then back-jumped. Otherwise she was fast & with me. Grabbed my feet as we crossed the finish line.
  • Team gamblers: In opening, knocked a bar. Missed one of 2 weave entrances. Flew off 1st teeter but I think she didn't realize it was a teeter because she looked as stunned as I felt. Brought her back & she did 2nd teeter perfectly. Tried to race around to get the gamble when the whistle blew; she started grabbing my feet when I did a front cross to get her into position. Managed to get her to take the first couple of obstacles but then she was off course. When she came back to me as I headed out of the ring, she grabbed my feet. I tried to push her away and said "Cut that out!" Judge said "Don't correct your dog. Leave the ring please." So I had to walk all the rest of the way out of the ring with her hanging on my feet. Argh.
  • Tunnel madness: Lots of fun. Our specialty. ;-) She was 2nd fastest dog out of 100 entries. Worked away from me very nicely and kept moving. Until we crossed the finish line, when she grabbed my feet. 181 yards in 32.31 seconds, with a couple of interesting sharp turns after straight dog-rocketing tunnels.
  • Team standard: 3rd obstacle was dogwalk. She ran past it. I called her back and put her on it. She FLEW off the far end, raced to the far side of the ring, ran around the fence they had erected between there & the novice ring, charged into the novice ring (they were course building at the time, thank heavens), ran all the way around the novice ring full speed a couple of times, went to a couple of people who called her but then dodged away. Got her back when she realized she couldn't see me any more & came looking for me--THEN she came when I called her.
Sunday:
  • Novice pairs: No aframe. Stuck the teeter beautifully. The dogwalk's end was pointed directly at her crate--don't know whether that's why she decided to get that contact, but she did, although it was sloppy--she stopped halfway down & looked back at me. Then slowly did 2-on/2-off. When I came up next to her to say "good girl," she lunged off the side towards me (leaving her back feet on the DW) and grabbed my feet. I managed to get her moving and we finished the course. We were the first dog; she grabbed my feet in the exchange box and I had to work most of my partner's run to get her to stay down and let go of my feet. She also knocked a bar and missed up contact on DW.
  • Novice standard: Missed up contact on dogwalk, then flew off (4th obst.) and I took her off.
  • Team snooker: I picked a fairly simple course--over a red at a fairly sharp angle & into a tunnel. But she ran *past/around* the red and hit the tunnel before I could stop her. 0 points.
  • Novice snooker: A very easy course--over a red straight across and into a tunnel. She knocked the red bar & hit the tunnel before I could stop her. Another 0 points. I felt badly about those 2 runs because she didn't really do anything wrong for a baby dog but we couldn't keep going.
  • Team relay: A weird bobble getting into weaves at an angle where she ended up going around a tunnel instead and coming back to me OVER it. Grabbed my feet and I had to gesture with my whole body a couple of times to get her to let go and get into the weaves. FLEW off the aframe big time but stayed right with me to come back to the tunnel under the Aframe & finish. Grabbed my feet after I handed over the baton.
Sooooo-- except for jumpers & tunnelers--we didn't have an excellent time. And it's 90% contacts and feet grabbing, with some up contacts on DW and some bar knocking. Oh, yeah, and a little bit of handling, too. Just a short list.

Jake's USDAA weekend

Good thing Jake was running well this weekend. (Except for gamblers. Argh! Two VERY doable gambles, and we didn't get either!). In order of the runs:

Saturday:
  • P3 Gamblers: A good, fast, high-scoring opening. In gamble--"Turn? What's a turn?" Still good for a 1st place.
  • P3 Standard: A good boy. 1st place and Qualifying. Pretty light on his contacts.
  • Oscar's Relay: Light on contacts but paying attention and fast enough. Partner was a very novice dog with an off-course, but we were still 2nd out of 13 pairs.
  • P3 Snooker: Wahoo! Just like old times! A stellar performance, 4 reds with a 5-6-7-7 opening & got all the way through with almost 10 seconds to spare! Good for a 1st place and super-Q in P3; would've been 7th in Masters with 6 SQs, but I'd have probably tried for another 7 in that case & just might have gotten it.
  • Tunnel madness: Pretty fast but not Superjake. In this one, he was competing against all the standard 22" dogs, most of whom are younger than his 11.5 yrs. (Not that that's a good excuse--look at the snooker!) Also I forgot where I was going at one point and we probably lost 3 seconds while I turned him around and got him back on track. He was 7 seconds slower than Tika.
Sunday:
  • P3 gamblers: Dag nabbit--carried out *too* far and didn't come in when I said "come come come come COME!" A conservative opening was good for only 2nd place.
  • P3 Standard: Another very nice run, also light on the contacts, also 1st place and Q.
  • P3 Jumpers: Wahoo! An excellent dog. 1st place and Q. And now it's online in a 1.8 MB movie for your viewing pleasure!

Friday, April 18, 2003

Comfort and Ashes

Wednesday morning was one of the nicest I can remember in a very long time. I woke up sort of slowly. Dogs always seem to know when I'm waking up, even if I don't think I've moved or changed my breathing. Jake hasn't always been snuggy in the morning lately--well, he was never really snuggy, but he used to come over & check my ears for damage that might have occurred during the night, and to get scritched. Tika likes to snuggle but I have to get her to come up and lie next to me. She often lies down next to my legs and presents her tummy for rubs, which I can't reach because my arms are up with me where I'm lying down.

That morning, she came up right next to me on my right side, and jake came right up next to me on my left side. I turned on my side towards Jake, and he lay over on his side, back pressed against me, head on my lower arm, while I rubbed him gently and stroked Tika with my other hand. I was so relaxed. I gradually stopped rubbing, and we all just lay there, me with my eyes closed, warm dog bodies relaxed against me. I haven't felt that content or relaxed in a great while. I think I like having only 2 dogs, especially 2 who aren't touchy about how close the other dog is.

Last night I called the emergency clinic to find out why Remington's ashes had never appeared. Turns out they've been there, in a cupboard, waiting for me to pick them up, for quite a while. No one had called. Person on duty had no idea why not. I went right over and picked them up, feeling guilty and dumb at the same time. Guilty because Rem hated staying at the hospital, and especially when I couldn't be there with him. And dumb because there's nothing left of him but ashes and memories and I really seriously doubt that the ashes care one way or another where they are. It's only me who cares.

I still don't know what to do with what's left of him. Ashes are sealed in a nice cedar box, currently with his collar and tags wrapped around it, sitting on my table next to his photos and a nice plant that the Mixed Breed Dog Club sent in his memory. Never asked for my other dogs' ashes. Didn't know what I'd do with them. Still don't. Have thought I might try to distribute them out there in nature somewhere where he would have liked to run and play, but I think he would have liked to be with me even more.

Dang, for first time in a while, I'm crying again.

He was such a good boy.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Another Weekend, Another Agility Trial

Agility in the rain is SO much--um--fun. Saturday it never stopped dropping moisture from the sky, sometimes only a drizzle, sometimes closer to a downpour. Not bad enough at any time to cancel the trial, although dogs stopped running briefly a couple of times. Fields remained good all the way through, which wouldn't have been true at many sites. Dixon May Fairgrounds isn't a bad place for agility. And it's only about an hour and forty-five minutes from here. I had planned on camping out overnight so I wouldn't have that drive again early Sunday a.m., but I didn't want to try setting up camp in the rain, so I indeed came home Saturday night & got up again at 5 Sunday morning. Nice thing was that it was a small trial, so I was done running by noon both days.

Jake had an OK weekend. Again I felt as if we weren't clicking on most things. He had a decent gamble opening--not awesome--got his contacts--and missed the gamble just barely; did better than most dogs. I think only one dog of any height got that gamble. A few got it over time, but not many of those, either. He Qed in one standard and won/Qed jumpers; other standard run we were just completely out of synch--he also stopped at the 10th weave pole to sniff at a disturbed spot on the grass, then popped out, and every time I'd try to put him back in there, he'd sniff at the same spot and pop out again. Also big wide turns and missed obstacles and wrong obstacles and jeez what a mess. Snooker was ok except he slipped behind me to take a wrong obstacle. Oh, well.

Tika is such a brat about her contacts. We practiced them all week at home. Did them fine in class. Practiced on the ground and on the trailer ramp at the trial. Came home Saturday night and drilled them. At the trial--flies right off, not even attempting to do them properly. Has been doing her teeters well, but not dogwalk or Aframe. I just put her in a down, asked for her leash, and walked her off the field each time. So that was 3 out of the 5 runs-- In Snooker we didn't get too far; she got sucked in by a tunnel that I was trying to pull her away from, with me standing 15 feet away yelling "Come come come come!" to no avail. But we haven't really practiced running *among* obstacles without taking them, which is a whole additional skill.

Jumpers was a lot of fun--basically a big X across the field joined at the top, with tunnels at the 2 top corners. Holy rocket ship. She did the whole thing in less than 17 seconds; most dogs were in the 20+ range. In fact, she knocked one bar and even with the 5-point penalty added to her time, was fast enough to win her class. One other dog had a faster time--16.08, while hers I think was 16.8--one of those fast german shepherds whose stride is so long that, on a course like this, running full out, I don't think Tika could match him--although maybe, because one leg of the X did curve so that at one point the dog was looking at the wrong jump, which Tika did, although she called off it, she did slow down and change her path a bit to recover. Might have been 1 second's worth.

But to make me feel better, the Shepherd knocked 3 or 4 bars. :-)

She's gone back to pretty much pulling on the leash full time on our walks. Jeez. Now what?

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Brain vs Emotion

Yesterday late afternoon, I was at the computer, Jake was lying beside me, Tika was out back. All of a sudden over in the direction of Rem's old bed a dog stood up and shook off with a jingle of the collar--just like Rem used to do when he thought I had been at the computer too long. I looked up sharply, for a fleeting moment really actually expecting to see Remington before reality caught up with me. In fact it was Tika, who apparently had come in and lain down while I wasn't paying attention.

It's been 4 weeks. It'll be a lot longer until those expectations fade away.

Walkies!

Holy cow, we actually almost had a real walk this morning! We're still a long way from perfect, but I actually found myself striding along and able to enjoy myself! You can tell I'm excited because I'm using multiple !'s ! I decided not to go down the part of the street where there are barking dogs in several back yards because she just gets too excited and I just didn't want to be doing that many corrections after starting out so nicely. I even took off her gentle leader for the last half of the walk and just used the buckle collar! Getting across the street to the house was still perhaps the most challenging, but it still took no more than eight or twelve tries, nothing at all like the other day.

It could happen, it could happen! (singing in a childlike happy voice)

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Tika Might Be A Real Aussie!

There's been debate since I got Tika on whether she's all Aussie or a mix. Some people think she could be all aussie, just nowhere near show lines; others think that there's got to be a mix. A couple of things are her ears (way more erect than aussie's) and her face (longer and thinner). Just bought a book on Australian Shepherds--and there's a photo of a dog very much like Tika--including the same ear that won't tulip over all the time! What do *you* think? (In the photo I've already got of her, you can't really see her ruff, which is almost nonexistant compared to most Aussies'--very much like the other dog's! I'll have to try to get a full frontal foto of Tik.)

Tika first; Aussie like Tika second; more standard Aussie next.

Trying to Ease Off the Reminders

Today I rearranged the dog beds.

I've had 3 in a row along the wall across from my desk--Rem's on the right (a raised PVC bed w/big soft cushion), Jake's on the left (an ancient upholstered chair), and another, smaller, raised PVC bed with a fleece mat in the middle. No one ever used the third one much. There's a heater vent at bed level in the wall between Rem's bed and the middle one. Remington simply loved lying next to the heater vent, so that was perfect for him. The other 2 don't much like it, I don't think.

I've been trying to see whether either of them will use Rem's old bed. Washed the cover so it didn't smell as much like Rem. Both would hop on and off, but not stay. So a week or so ago I moved just the big cushion onto the floor on the opposite side of the aisle. Both of them have now spent time lounging there, but especially Tika.

Today I moved it back onto the raised bed. I also moved all the beds around so that they're no longer in the positions they were in while Remington was alive. I'm hoping that that will make it easier for the others to decide to use the beds more freely. And I'm hoping it will avoid the problem that everytime I notice Rem's empty bed in the same old corner, it stabs me.

We'll see whether the fact that everything is rearranged is actually *more* noticeable.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Walkies--Is There Any Hope At All?

Today was a little better than the last 4 days, which were as bad as when we started. Decided to do the full .66 mile around-the-block loop. Got stuck next to any yards with dogs barking in the back, and one with a dog sitting out in front. Then we got *really* stuck trying to cross the street and past the one house back to our house. I must've spent more than 5 minutes trying to convince Tika to pay attention. She just didn't and wouldn't. Sheesh. So much for a smart dog. And she had walked so *nicely* almost the whole block before that.

Sooooooo--I walked 1.71 miles in the .66 mile loop, given all the turn-and-go-the-other-ways that I did. No wonder I was tired!

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Missing the Bigdog

I so badly want to hug Remington. I can almost feel the texture of his coat, the pressure of him leaning away from me because he hated being hugged, the patient forbearance as I pull his warm fifty pounds close and give him a good rub. Almost. But I *can't* feel it. Sh*t.