Friday, October 29, 2004

To Dog or Not to Dog, That is the Question

A friend who just got her new puppy asked, When're YOU getting a new babydog!?

I'm thinking slowly about it. My goal all along has been to have about 4 to 5 years between dogs' ages. Tika will be 4 in February, which means that the dog I'd want hasn't been born yet.

I'm torn, though. With three dogs in the house who get along really well, I don't want to introduce a problem like I had between Remington and Jake, which was a real stresser. And my budget is stretched beyond its limit, so thinking about additional vet bills, additional classes, and so on is a bit scary. Until I get all that straightened out and steady, I'm not sure I want to add to it.

On the other hand--I'll be down to only one agility dog, and what if she's sick or injured? I suppose then I could just go take a real vacation (smiley face) but I'd probably fret about not being out doing agility.

So I haven't thought really hard about a puppy from a known breeder or another rescue mix. Another rescue mix: I like how my dogs are distinctive but of course it's a crapshoot getting the right dog-- From a breeder: What breed? I don't know. I just don't think I want a Border Collie like everyone else even though I've always liked them--hmm, unless it's a really beautiful blue-- Or how about an Aussie like Paul Kirk's? The tall skinny short-haired really fast type? Or maybe something small for a change so I'm not competing against BCs all the time?--although I'm not really a small-dog person, I don't think--never that fond of shelties, don't particularly care for JRTs, Papillons are definitely not my style.

I've liked the looks of Malinois since I first saw them in agility, but I'll bet they're a lot more expensive than mixed breeds. :-) Then I saw a field Lab this last weekend at the CPE that got me quite excited. Not at all stocky like the show Labs, halfway between there & Remington, and very fast! Although I've preferred Goldens to Labs for many many years--and after watching (I've forgotten her name already--the lady in Flying Rearendas)'s goldens (Ted? and ?), hmm... but talk about not being able to tell the dogs apart from one another!

I've got plenty of time to think about it. And Mo and Gina have both said they'd be delighted to keep an eye out for a rescue or shelter dog for me. :-)

Or I could do like (one of our instructors) and get 2 puppies (BC and Sheltie...) at the same time! Crazy woman.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Little Catching Up

Walkies: I've had it with not being able to go for a relaxing walk with Tika. I dread it daily; half the time I come home more stressed than I left. No one wants to take her for a walk. Last night I tried to take the 3 dogs on leash--Tika without her Gentle Leader--just around the corner to try to see the lunar eclipse. Not only was she manic on the leash (as always) just trying to get out of our driveway and to the end of the court, but then she saw a cat and became unmanageable. Yessirree, the GL makes a big difference. But not enough.

Soooo--today I went back to Plan A, which I abandoned after 3 or 4 months with no noticeable success back when I first got her, which is to walk her alone and then walk the other dogs alone. It's not ideal because then all of the dogs get only half the exercise and entertainment, and Tika goes nuts in the house alone.

First day--every time she started past me, I turned and walked in the other direction (the old method I used for Remington, which also took months or maybe years to get him perfect). Within 10 minutes or less, she was walking docilely at my side, and I was actually able to go half a block or so in various directions without her moving ahead. Will it last? Dunno. We encountered no squirrels or cats and didn't go near the yards with barking dogs in them. How long will I have to do this with her alone before I can add her back to the pack? Who knows. I hope the answer isn't "never."

Agility Casey: Today we went over a jump, into a tunnel, and over a jump again without even really thinking about it. Often we have to repeat the approach to the tunnel or he goes past the jump the 2nd time. We still have the issue that, as soon as I toss his toy, he takes it and heads for the hills so I can't force him to do any more work. But he seems to love it--he blasts through tunnels and jets over jumps like a potential agility champ! Now to get sequences of more than 3 in a row.

Also, if I'm serious about this, I need to start EVERYthing--getting serious about teaching him the nose touch and driving to it, then doing it on the contact board, and so on. Need to work on his Down response and get him even more used to being on the table (and on getting onto it on command rather than having to be guided onto it). Then there are the weaving poles... ah, yes... And of course taking him places other than here to see whether he's still as interested in his toy. But am I serious about it?

Jakey Noodle-ooo: Yesterday we didn't go for a walk (Tika's class in the morning), then he was off doing something else during the one short time I played with the dogs in the yard. Mostly I sat at my desk and worked all day. By the time it was his classtime in the evening, he was rarin' to go. He always seems to be fast and enthused in class, but last night he was a master agility dog in all ways. What a guy. And I want to retire him? Hardly seems right.

But then he'll spend the day lounging at my housemate's feet instead of with me. I dunno, maybe she gives him more food. Right now he's dozing on the floor near my desk, and I know she's upstairs eating dinner, so maybe it just depends on--hmmmm--the vibrational frequency of brainular molecules?

Monday, October 25, 2004

CPE Weekend Results (Turlock)

Tika's weekend ribbons at the top (qualifying on the left, placements on the right); Jake's at the bottom.
It's fun for me to be one of THE dogs to watch, rather than (like at USDAA) merely another excellent dog out of dozens of excellent dogs. But we're still competing against dogs like Bob's Diva and Barb Hasey's Cody and some other very fast dogs.

We got lots of compliments both from people who know us and from people who saw us run last year while we were having the foot-grabbing, contact-popping, start-line-leaving, etc. problems.

Tika Qed 8 out of 10; of the missing 2, one was a dumb handling error and the other was one of very few knocked bars for the weekend. Took 2 2nds, 7 1sts, and one 5th.

Jake Qed 9 out of 10; of the missing one, he was a high-scoring dog but I got greedy and went over time and in that class the rule was over time=no Q. Took 6 1sts and 4 2nds.

Basic trial statistics: This was a very small trial, limited to 350 runs/day over 5 classes, which means a maximum of 70 dogs--divided into 6 levels and 6 jump heights. (Some levels and jump heights have more dogs than others--e.g., 4" jump height had only 1 dog at any level.) On average, if we ignore the 4" jump height, that's only 2.3 dogs competing directly against each other at any time. In reality, Jake competed against 1 other dog all weekend; Tika against from 0 to 4 other dogs (on average, there were 2.5 of us). Tika, however, really earned her first places, as you shall see.

CPE is kinder in time limits and number of faults allowed, but in fact both dogs truly earned their Qs this weekend. In CPE, levels 4, 5, and C (championship) (and sometimes 3) run the same course, just different SCTs and fault limits. So I can compare against all dogs at those levels.

Tika
SaturdayStandardFlawless, nothing even resembling a refusal or runout. Faster than all 4/5/C dogs except (the extremely fast German Shepherd) Diva, who beat us by .5 second but had a bar down.
JumpersAmong the fastest dogs although a handler error made an offcourse into an extra tunnel. But no bars down! No Q; 5th place.
Jackpot (Gamblers)Nontraditional with 2 on-course gambles that you could perform at any time; needed only one to Q. Each worth 15, 20, or 25 depending on how far you got... she got one 25 and then knocked a bar in the 2nd one but did it beautifully--1st in her class and 4th-highest of 28 4/5/C.
SnookerNo contacts, wahoo! A flawless three 7s and 2-7, fastest among all 39 3/4/5/C dogs.
Full House(Design your course like gambler's but with certain obstacles that you must complete.) In the rain after dark. She ran past an Aframe so missed 5 pts (friends watching says that they thought I had done it deliberately, so it must've been a gross handling error) but still took 1st in class and one point short of highest among 47 3/4/5/C dogs.
SundayStandardTika left the DW early so I made her stop, then waited until she Touched on the Afr, so we were slow; then knocked 1st bar on a serpentine. Half a Q (like NADAC).
SnookerAgain no contacts; an almost flawless three 7s and 2 thru 7A--knocked the last bar on #7 combo; 1st in her class and faster than all the dogs that successfully completed 51 pts.
JackpotSimilar to Saturday, except there were 3 gambles, one 15, one 20, one 25--she went perfectly out PAST a dogwalk entrance to the beginning of the 25 (a tunnel facing away)--but ran past the tunnel entrance, too. Got the 15 and 20 perfectly. 1st in her class; 4th highest again overall.
Wildcard(A short standard course but with some obstacle choices; you must take a certain combination of hard and easy choices.) No contacts again, VERY fast, no bars down--and an aussie named Mesa, whom I never saw run all weekend, beat us by 1.4 seconds on this 81-yd course! A little scary. But Tika was still 1st in her class and 2nd only to Mesa out of 49 3/4/5/C dogs.
Colors(Three 8-obstacle courses intertwined. You pick one.) Tika has a problem with this class because, unlike most classes in CPE, a knocked bar is an NQ at all levels. Last run of the weekend. She has knocked only 3 bars in 9 classes so far. BUT--She wouldn't stay sitting at the start line. In most classes I had to stop and tell her once after leaving her at the SL. This time I had to tell her about 5 times, and then when I finished my lead-out I waited until I knew she wasn't moving before releasing her. She knocked the 1st bar, dagnabbit, first time all weekend for the 1st bar. So NQ. BUT she did the rest flawlessly and was the fastest of about 45 dogs even with an Aframe EXCEPT for Mesa who beat her time soundly again! Still, a 2nd place in her class.
Jake
SaturdayStandard Missed a weave entry on a fast start (I was ahead of him); in CPE this is just wasted time but in other org's would have been a fault. Otherwise nice; got his contacts with me reverting to his original modus operandi of yelling "Contact!" and then he stops where he is.
JumpersNot superfast but nice and clean. Outside the ring, in lots of ways, I notice that his back legs aren't always working the way they should. He does very well for an arthritic dog.
Jackpot (Gamblers)Highest score of all 3/4/5/C dogs! One of those courses in which age & treachery (I mean experience) wins out over youth & speed. He got 20 points on each of the 25-point gambles and took a bunch of extra obstacles that I hadn't intended that turned out to be worth more than the extra 5 points on the gambles. Huh.
SnookerRan the same course as Tika, got 3 7s and 2-7. Both dogs ran nicely; Jake was 7 seconds slower than Tika over the same course with a time of 38.12 seconds. In other words, Jake is more than 20% slower than Tika. I don't often get to compare them directly where they're running the same course and both are essentially flawless. They had, overall, 50 seconds in which to complete the course, so neither dog is at all droopy. A total of 12 dogs, including mine, out of 39 dogs got 51 points on this course.
Full HouseAn excellent run although I got greedy and lost 2 of my points by being 2 seconds over time. What kills me is (and I've done this so many times before) that, at the last minute on course, I thought to myself, "hey, I can squeeze in a couple more points than the way I planned it if I do *this*--and then it turns out that my original course would have earned us about 2 more points and NOT lost us 2 points for a net gain of 4 points. And I always kick myself afterwards and then I end up doing it again some other time.
SundayStandardStarting to get light on his contacts again, but this time otherwise very nice.
SnookerA nice smooth 3 7s and 2-7; same course as Tika again but enough slower than other dogs to earn only a 2nd place. 16 other of 43 dogs also earned 51 points on this course.
JackpotSee notes in Tika's. Got the 25 pointer and 15 pointer perfectly but trying to send to the 20-pointer, which I thought was *easy* for him, he instead went out to a set of weaves going directly away from me, did them perfectly, then much to the audience's amusement, turned around and did them perfectly headed back towards me again. Among the highest-scoring dogs again, but again I got greedy on my way to the table and did one more obstacle--and ended up over time, but in this case the penalty was no Q.
Wildcard Fairly fast even with 2 sets of weaves. Same flawless course as Tika's, but his 19.77 seconds was noticeably slower than Tika's 15.44. Standard Course Time allowed was 38 seconds!
ColorsRan a different course from Tika to avoid the dogwalk. Nicely done with just one drift away from me but we reconnected before he went offcourse. Good enough for 1st place.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Some Agility Statistics

There were 212 dogs entered in this last weekend's trial. It was a medium-to-small trial.
  • 73 were Border Collies.
  • 28 were Australian Shepherds. (Including Tika, whom they still had listed as a Craussie.)
  • 17 were Shelties.
  • 18 were All-American (including Jake, entered as a Semidachshund as always).
  • 12 were Pembroke Welsh Corgis. (And an additional 3 were Cardigans.)
  • 5 German Shepherds.
  • 5 Jack Russells.
  • 4 Labs.
  • And 47 other dogs representing a total of 26 other breeds.


31 of the dogs had earned at least their ADCH. Five of them are in Jake's Wednesday night class (not including instructors but including Jake, of course); five more of them collectively belong to my dogs' three assorted instructors. 18 of them are fellow Bay Team members.

This trial didn't list dogs by age; at the TRACS trial 3 weeks ago, with 179 dogs, there was one 12-year-old dog (Jake) and one 11-year-old dog; jumped to eight 10-yr-olds. There were none older. Highest quantity was 5-yr-old dogs with 32. Dogs can't compete in USDAA until they're 18 months; only 2 entries were less than 2 years old; 2-yr-olds jumped up to 22.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tika's Weekend

Tika feels as if she's running so nicely--fast, smooth, paying attention. Seems a pity when we come away with only one Q out of 8 runs. Pairs relay wasn't her fault; everything else seems we had only one fault each time (but that's enough...)

Saturday:
  • Grand Prix: Nice run, missed up contact on dogwalk, Q, 13th out of 33 dogs.
  • Relay: Nice run, no faults, partner off course.
  • Gamblers: I bobbled lead-out pivot to the weaves & wasted maybe 5 seconds trying to get back in; overhandled & put her into a tunnel instead of across the 7-pt dogwalk, and then she flew off the top of the Aframe (like she expected it to keep going up? It was scary--she looked startled and I was afraid she'd hurt herself landing) and then I tripped over her & fell as the whistle blew and it was a mess.
  • Snooker: Knocked 1st bar in opening but I recovered & got the other 3 reds; in closing, knocked bar in #5 serpentine and so didn't Q. Otherwise smooth & fast.
  • Standard: Pulled too hard to the Aframe & pulled her away from it for a refusal & wasted time; knocked a bar, too, but most was nice.

Sunday:
  • Snooker: Knocked first bar but I recovered & got the other 3 reds; in closing, she slipped after the first jump of #5 and lost her footing and so ran past 2nd jump of #5 (the one that other dogs were knocking)... so didn't Q. Otherwise smooth & fast.
  • Jumpers: A nice fast smooth run except the runout on that 12-to-13 threadle--she then felt that we had to have a discussion about it when she came towards me, which wasted several seconds. No bars down.
  • Standard: Very nice except missed the weave entry--I think she was looking at me and didn't even see them because she ran through them about pole #4 (which probably means I overran them); no bars down, got the DWalk OK, too.

Start line: Gina watched several of Tika's runs. I've been keeping my head turned and trying to watch her at the start line all the way into my lead-out; had to tell her to sit again immediately on about 5 of the runs. Then she'd stay sitting... but at some point I have to look away to make sure I'm in the right spot before I stop and turn and look at her. She was sitting every time. But Gina told me that almost every time in those couple of seconds she was standing up and moving forward a foot or 2 or 3 and sitting again immediately. Argh!

Jake's Last USDAA Titles, Ever

This was Jake's last career opportunity to earn legs at a USDAA trial. After this, he'll be at 2 CPE trials and the USDAA nationals and then he's retiring. We came into this weekend still shy 2 snooker Qs for his AKD-Bronze and 1 Jumper Q for his AKD-Bronze (Performance equivalents to Snooker Ch Bronze (SCH-bronze) and Jumpers Champion Bronze (JCH-bronze)--that's 15 legs each at the Masters (or P3) level).

With fine form for a dog who'll be 13 in 2 weeks, is largely deaf, and is starting to have problems with arthritis, he got exactly 2 snooker Qs and a Jumpers Q this weekend, leaving his career USDAA title list as:

ADCh APD Jake, SACh-Bronze,SCh-Bronze,ASD-Bronze,AJD-Bronze,AKD-bronze

I am thrilled, sad but not terribly so yet because he's not really retired yet--but perhaps not surprisingly I am also scared. This really means that he's old and starting to be infirm, and in my limited experience it accelerates quickly once it starts. I'm holding on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Progress with Tika on Slamma Jamma

Progress in at least one area. I've sort of realized for a long time that, when playing with toys, she always brings them back and slams into you. I think I just mostly ignore it or sidestep it, except when it's a muddy toy and I'm wearing clothes that I care about. (Neither of which happens often.)

But a couple or three months ago, my favorite computer repair guy came by to help with a problem, and while we were waiting for the diagnostics to run, we went out into the back yard. He also has a dog and enjoys dogs, so he was throwing toys for the beasts. Tika returned the ball and slammed it into repair guy's you-know-where. I suddenly realized (takes me a while sometimes) that this was a real problem, and not merely a small annoyance.

So we started two new rules: 1) that I wouldn't play with the toy until Tika let go of it and 2) she wasn't allowed to hit me with it. We worked with clicker and spray bottle, over and over. There were times it seemed that she'd never let go of the ball except on the far side of the yard when she got tired of me not playing with her. And although she'd blink when she'd get sprayed when jamming the ball into me, it didn't really seem to have a strong effect on her. Still, she was getting to the point where she'd come almost to a stop, start squinting in expectation of being sprayed, and take a couple of very slow steps towards me and PUSH the ball against me. It's as if she believed that that's what she was *supposed* to do. (Which is certainly possible.)

I realized over the last couple of days that she's almost never hitting me with the ball (except when approaching from behind--apparently this isn't a behavior that generalizes well). And she almost always drops the ball fairly quickly when she brings it back.

This has been an interesting process. I figured that it would take a while because she's been doing it the wrong way for so long, and I was right. But I've tried to be extremely consistent. Sometimes I lose track of what I'm doing, for some reason--multitasking, usually--and grab the ball while she still has it in the air.

And I've started making certain exceptions where she has just earned the reward of the ball, and she loves to play tug of war, so if she has it on the ground in the play position, I will sometimes take hold of it and play there.

It's nice to feel that I've made progress on *one* of her social issues. Now to deal with knocking out the come-from-behind issue.

We've also been trying to get her to back off and, preferably, lie down when people are eating, instead of standing two inches from the table and your elbow, panting. I think I'm not as consistent as that, although I'm trying hard to be less laissez faire about it. Someday...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wow, It's Happening So Fast

Monday night, Jake was ill. I couldn't tell whether it was his back and legs or something else that was bothering him, but when we went to bed, he'd lie down--then get up and move around and lie down--then get up and move around and lie down--then get up... I didn't sleep much. Then starting around 1:00 he'd jump off the bed and look at the door (my dogs' way of letting me know that they need to go outside--and my motherly instincts *almost* always wake me up for this. This is one good reason why having the dogs on the bed is a good idea--if they were sleeping on the floor, I might never hear them get up, and they never stare at the door loudly enough.), and I'd let him outside, and he'd wander around a little, pee, and then go back to bed.

Then he'd lie down--then get up and move around and lie down-- you know the drill, and then I'd finally doze off, and then he'd jump off the bed and stare at the door. At about 6:45 he finally threw up a couple of times and got it over with, so it apparently wasn't his back and legs.

But all day that day he wasn't enthused about playing chase in the back yard. I'd get the toy out and he'd look slightly interested; I'd throw it, he'd start to trot (trot!) after it, then veer away and give me a put-upon look. But eventually, after wandering around the yard a bit while I played with the other dogs, he'd go over, pick up the toy, and bring it to me to throw. And then he'd chase it madly as always.

We went out in the car, and he had trouble jumping in and in fact yelped when he missed and started sliding.

Was he still feeling ill, or was it his back & legs?

But in class last night, he ran just fine, like a lovely little agility dog, although I did jump him at only 12" for the evening.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Oh, My, Age Zooms In

The old dog taking his justified rest, one white paw just visible next to his face. (And NOT on my pillow.)
This week has not been good for little red dogs. On several occasions, just touching his lower back or thighs caused him to Yipe. I couldn't figure out where or what specifically--I didn't want to put him in so much pain that he'd yelp again, and almost everything I tried caused him pain. Yet he could go out into the yard and chase the ol' squeakie with aplomb.

He's occasionally on our walks slowed down for no apparent reason and just wanted to walk slowly. I've attributed it usually to there being too many other dogs along (Tika and Casey) or maybe he's thinking about producing some environmental contributions. But yesterday morning we went down to the Guadalupe trail nearby and started breezing along, and then abruptly he slowed. Visibly limping, although it was more of an uncomfortable gait rather than favoring a foot, and once again I couldn't figure out what, where, or why. Walked slowly back towards the car about a quarter of a mile or so--

His tail wasn't down, he still looked around interestedly and sniffed at things, but he was walking instead of trotting (and Jake in his whole life has never merely walked anywhere). Nothing visible in his feet anywhere, and I checked pretty carefully. Then, about a block from the car, he perked up, picked up the pace, and went back to the usual Jake trot with no sign of the limp from moments before. Something's probably popping in and out. I keep threatening to take him to one of my many friends' many chiropractors, but then I keep looking at my wallet--

I gave him half doses of Rimadyl all weekend (that's all I had left) and got him back on Glucosamine last week. There's been no yelping the last couple of days, and this morning's walk was completely normal.

Why Do I Always Wake Up With Dog Hair In My Mouth?

My pillow is always saturated with dog hair despite my best efforts to keep it covered. I can't figure out why. (You would think that a king-sized bed would have plenty of space other than on my pillow for certain rebellioius coat-blowing dogs to do their nesting--wouldn't you?)


Fortunately, Superdog is here to save the day. At least--in her dreams--

Finally started a photo album

Have been wanting to do this for a long time. Don't really have the tools for it, but here is a start on the photo album for all the photos that have appeared here. I've included only 5 of the 25 or so photo subdirectories so far, and each one changed/got better (I hope) as I went).

Feedback welcome. First I'll try to get all the photos in (and probably not any time soon, sorry), then I'll go back and try to add captions and/or a link to the blog entry in which they appeared.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Conservation of Dog Toy Mass/Energy

Apparently there is some natural physical law concerning the quantity of mass of dog toys in the back yard. I hadn't realized it before, but, like Newton, I experienced a dramatic demonstration of the natural law in my very yard yesterday.

The ideal toy. Blue version.

Prehistory

First, we must detour to about 5 months ago. I had a couple of nifty latticework rubber balls, one red, one blue, about 6 inches in diameter, each containing a squeakie ball. These turned out to be the ideal Jakie toy: A squeakie that he could still squeak but that he couldn't tear to shreds when unsupervised, a ball that you could easily throw and that would bounce a bit and roll enticingly, and yet a lovely toy for playing tug that both dog and mortal could grasp easily.

On the Hunt

Well and so, about 5 months ago, the red one vanished. Toys often vanish around here--Casey loves to have a toy in his mouth, but he is also wont to drop it wherever he happens to be standing at the moment that he has some other thought about what to do with his mouth, and he seldom goes back and gets the toy in the same thought process event. I'm constantly retrieving toys from behind the shrubs, behind the waterfall, over in the side yard by the recycling bin, over in the other side yard behind the shed, in the middle of the flower bed, on top of the compost pile (don't ask), and so on. Often the retrieval involves hands and knees. Finding and retrieving Casey's dropped toys could be a full-time job if it paid a little better.

And he's particularly fond of taking the other dogs' favorite toys when they have a moment of disattention. So I was pretty sure that Casey must have taken the red one and dropped it in some place that we mere mortals would not occur to look, let alone put our little canine bodies into with a mouth full of toys. Back then, I wandered all over the house & yard looking for it.

On about three other occasions, I made concerted hard-core efforts to find the red one--moved everything I could think to move, peered under everything that I could imagine had an under to it, shoved my arms and head INTO various shrubberies to see whether it had gotten caught on, among, or behind branches. Pulled the Aframe forward from where it's leaning against the fence--that's where we found his missing collar after a couple of months, but I was pretty sure we had narrowed the gap to where even Casey couldn't enter, and indeed there was no collection of dog toys back there. Mangled myself on the blackberry vines just to be sure it hadn't gotten lost in the bramble. Went into parts of my yard that I never dare go because there are spiders and things.

My final conclusion was that perhaps some visiting child or guest had tossed the red one over the fence somewhere and, if no one had returned it by now, it would never see the light of day again.

Handing Myself Over to Fate

Therefore, finally, last week, I gave up. Now, although I still had the blue one, I always like to have a backup version of Favorite Toys because the one I expect to be around occasionally goes walkabout (see also, "Casey loves to have a toy in his mouth," etc.) and then I and the dogs can do nothing but pout for days until it reappears. Hence, backup versions. SO I went to the dog store, paid an exhorbitant amount for *two* rubber latticework balls (because the blue one is already torn in one spot and is acting a bit creaky), and added the new purple one to the collection of backyard toys.

You know that getting a new one tempts the hand of fate, right?

Tika's Toy Ties In

Shortly thereafter, Tika's favorite teal Jollyball (about 6" in diameter, with handle until Casey removes it, see previous posts in this blog) started exhibiting signs of having had enough. All those months of tug-o-war and dog chomping have sliced myriad tiny slits into its surface, and several of them finally banded together into one large slice near the handle side of the ball. I hate throwing away a Jolly Ball that still has nominally a handle, but yesterday afternoon, while we were out playing (pre-Dogwalk move), Tika chomped hard on it, her nose and upper jaw went right into the large slot, and it grabbed right down onto her schnozz, harder as she tried to pull her nose out, and she looked a little panicked.

I just happened to have a brand-new Jolly Ball, bright purple, waiting in the garage. SO I set aside the holy (sic) teal ball, got out the new purple one to Tika's quivering delight, and played with her for a few minutes. Then I returned to the garage for a few seconds to get my tape measure to begin measuring the yard for the dogwalk moval. (OK, come on, if you can have a REmoval, you've first got to have a moval, right?) As I came out of the garage, Tika was kind of shaking her head to one side as if something were in her ear. I *think* she had the purple jollyball in her mouth at the time, but I really don't remember clearly. I called her over to me to look in her ear. A bit dirty, didn't see anything, but kind of rubbed it and scraped it with my finger and sure enough got a tiny bit of grass. Then I had to scritch her a bit and she had to rub her head around a bit.

Another Vanishment, More Mysterious Still

Then we couldn't find the brand new purple jolly ball. It's purple, right? So it's not going to be hard to see among all of the green shrubberies and such. I kept prompting her to find it, and she bounded all over the yard and even into the house, looking for it, to no avail. I eventually joined the hunt, and we looked and looked and looked. I even went back into the garage, although I was pretty sure that she hadn't followed me in. I crawled under shrubberies (found several Casey-deposited toys even though he's been out of town for 4 days), looked behind all the furniture, even sent the dogs through the tunnels in case it had somehow gotten in there, looked in the ground cover on the one side of the yard.

How is it *possible* for a bright purple 6" diameter brand new ball to vanish while it's allegedly in plain sight of an allegedly intelligent human and two toy-motivated dogs? I can only begin to describe my level of frustration. Eventually I had to relent to the "It'll Show Up Eventually If I Pretend To Ignore It" strategy, got out the old cruddy teal ball again, and continued playing with the dogs while beginning the arduous dogwalk-move episode.

Little did I realize that the purple jollyball was merely a sacrifice in the conservation of dog-toy matter.

A Revelation From Above

So there I was, rapidly moving towards exhaustion, sweat trickling down my delicate feminine form, 400 pounds of dogwalk in my hands, lifted forward and above my head to get it between the tree limbs, struggling to drag it against the clutching tufts of lawn grass just another couple of inches so I could rest it on the branch AND simultaneously trying to lift it just another six inches, and as I shoved and yanked and looked up to see what was preventing the dagratted thing from going UP--what to my wondering eyes should appear, lodged in the very highest center branches among the foliage of the apple tree, but a red rubber latticework ball.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that Casey didn't put it there.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Why Agility Is So Much Work

I moved my dogwalk today.

About Moving Equipment In General

Many people move their agility equipment all the time. For example, I move my jumps and weave poles around as much as possible in my little hanks of grass and mulch. I occasionally move my tunnels, but mostly I leave them wrapped around trees in the yard's corners and looped around the patio, which makes the yard seem bigger because I can send the dogs over jumps or weaves in the middle of the yard and blast them full speed through the tunnels and on to more obstacles, making the yard seem bigger and getting more speed from the beasts.

Plus the tunnels are heavy. Plus if I move them where there's grass, I have to move them again right away or the grass dies. A whole lot more of it than dies when I leave my weaves or jumps in place for more than a couple of days, which I do too often.

Away Way Back In the Ages Dark

I got myself a dogwalk and an Aframe at Power Paws Camp, hm, I believe it was 2 years ago last May. Sort of a housewarming present to myself. Back when I thought I had unlimited money. I scouted around the yard and determined that there was exactly one place where I could set up the dogwalk. It took me a couple of hours to figure out how to assemble it, to assemble it, and then to get the tension right so that it would all hold together.

I should explain--it's not that I didn't know where the tension needed to be--there was a perfectly obvious loop, clip, and wire. The problem was in how to get the tension tense enough to be able to slip the clip over the loop. Somehow I managed it--don't remember how (that was way way back in the ages dark, you know) but I do remember that it took me a very long time and I worked up a big piece of oozing sweat.

After that--well, even if I had had someplace else to move the dogwalk to, that sucker's heavy, even broken into 3 pieces. And it doesn't have wheels.

Why the Time Has Come

You're supposed to move equipment around often so that the dogs (and you) can work different approaches & strategies & learn that equipment can be located anywhere at any time, not always 5 feet out from the shrubbery along the back fence. So I decided it was time to move my dogwalk around (2.5 years is "often" for this equipment, IMHO). The dogwalk is almost 36 feet long. You'd like to be able to give the dogs a running start straight at it. In its previous position:
  • One end had a fairly clear straight-on approach--except that the ramp ended in a depression, so really the dogs were forced to leap onto the ramp, in Tika's case always missing the contact zone. Since she's had so many problems with faults for missing the up dogwalk contact, I stopped doing that a few months back.
  • The other end had a fairly straight on approach--if I took the dog back between the back shrubbery and the apple tree and the pond, in a little narrow gravelly area that's wide enough for the width of a dog. But that kind of precludes running straight on from any other obstacles.
So, for months, we've been practicing speed dogwalks from one end to the other, and wraps onto the dogwalk, but nothing straight on.

Plus I'm getting a little tired of it taking up so much space (5' out from the rear shrub & fence; I couldn't move it any closer to the shrubbery because there's a big old mongo apple tree in the way). (It takes me a while to get tired of things that would require work to change.)
The best seats in the house. Squirrels, beware!

The Move Begins

Soooooooo--I remeasured the yard. I discovered that there is, in fact, exactly one and only one other location in the yard where it would be available for straight-on runs for both ends, take up a bit less space closer to the back fence, be off more of my lawn and more into the mulch area, therefore taking up less visual presence in the part of my yard where people are ever likely to go.

It took me over an hour to move the son-of-a-catwalk. (Which is another reason I don't move it all that often.) First, the ramps have to come off. They merely have a tab (A) that fits into a slot (B) on the main walk--but the suckers weigh about 60 pounds each and they have to be at the perfect angle to slip in and out of that slot. If the downside ends are higher or lower than that perfect angle, no-comie-outie. And my yard is just not level back there. So I had to do some clever maneuvers involving several muscles (I dosed up on Aleve at my back's request later on), bricks, shovels, and convenient profanities just to slip tabs A out of slots B.

Then I had to move the main part with the legs and supporting pipes. (Decided it would be easier to do that than to attempt to disassemble the legs & reassemble.) After trial and error I found that, if I managed to get the bottom of the frame into the air at waist-level, then the legs on the other end would more or less slide across the grass rather than dig in and hold. Getting it to waist level, however, required considerably more muscles and a good sense of balance, because one has to lift about 100 pounds (guessing) straight up from ground level without doing anything stupid with your back or knees, and the shape of the framework made that ding-dangily difficult. But I did it. More than once, in fact.

Aye, There's The Rub(s)

Then I had to get it into the designated position. To do that, however, I needed to unhook the tension-wire clip from the loop. It took much huffiment & puffiment to get enough slack to wrestle the clip off. At which point the supporting pipes fell out, which I had forgotten about. At least that lightened the whole shebang by probably another 50 pounds. (It is possible that my aching back and shoulders were not allowing an accurate estimate of the weights involved.) THEN getting it into position required some more muscles that I don't usually recognize as regular participants in my anatomy, plus luck, plus sweat, plus balancing a 200-pound dogwalk on one of its feet while running back and forth from front to back to inch it gradually between two big solid wood limbs without dropping it on anyone or anything fragile. (Interesting, related, story about conservation of dog-toy matter tomorrow.)

THEN came the tension thing. I replaced the supporting pipes, then tried and tried and tried to push one set of legs hard enough towards the other set of legs to be able to slip the wire-clip back over the loop. I got the gap from 3" down to 2" down to 1"--and gave up and called my sister, who conveniently moved in down the block so that she could provide assistance with agility equipment and conveniently has a fiance with a strong back and an agreeable personality. I begged him to stop by for *one minute*--which he did, came up with a clever way of getting the slack I needed for clip slipping (required one person for tension and one person for clipping even so). As his minute was up, he took his cleverness and went home again.

Then I had to get tabs A back into slots B. By this time, well into my second hour, I'm sure, I was getting the hang of lifting one 300-lb. item with one shoulder while balancing the end of another 100-lb. item on the end of the one on my shoulder and nudging carefully with random parts of my anatomy to get it to *fall* into the proper position--ensuring that in the meantime assorted dog assistants hadn't wandered into the work area without their hardhats.

But Wait--There's More!

Then I had a bunch of vegetation trimming to do. Then there were all of the flower planters that I had judiciously arranged this spring into areas that were complementary to the dogwalk, didn't kill too much of the lawn, were out of the dogs' ways as they slalomed among the breaks in the back shrubbery, and yet still received water from the lawn sprinklers. Now, with the new dogwalk position, none of those positions worked, so I had to rejudiciously rearrange them all, including replacing one sprinkler head (and probably need to do another) for better coverage.

Golf isn't the only sport with hazards.

I took Tika over the dogwalk, slowly, in both directions (not simultaneously), to see whether she'd freak out at its new location or whether it would collapse and kill her. Fortunately neither occurred. The second time, Jake followed on her heels, not wanting to miss the unique experience.

I still haven't figured out what to do with the crocodile. At the moment he remains sunbathing directly in the newly created head-on path from the tunnel to one end of the dogwalk. And, in case you haven't moved a croc lately, they're bloody heavy, too.

So--I moved my dogwalk today. I can hardly wait until I recover enough that I can acutally use it in a practice session.