Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tidings--


Merry Christmas from the Taj MuttHall, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dog Breeding

A friend's brother is looking for homes for puppies of his purebred sheltie. I don't really know the brother. But I'll bet I know more about him than one might think.

I'm betting (although I could be doing him an injustice) that he did not:
  • Ensure that his dog had all the proper veterinary tests and evaluations and x-rays and family tree analysis and/or DNA tests to be sure it was free from genetic or physical problems and wasn't likely to be a carrier of said problems
  • Ensure that she was a proven member of the breed (say, a good working dog, good show dog or at least conformation admired by knowledgeable breeders, good agility dog,, like that)
  • Ensure that the dog to which she was bred had likewise been vetted.
  • Know the male dog well (and the owners well)
  • Have a good idea of their market for the puppies and have at least some of the pups' new owners in line possibly even before the breeding took place
  • Have a detailed contract written up ahead of time for potential buyers to sign saying that he'll take the puppy back if it doesn't work out
  • Have a plan for checking the quality of home for the pups before they leave and for staying in touch with the pups' new "parents" to be sure they're still wanted & being taken care of and is knowledgeable enough about raising and training puppies (or has on hand a list of known experts for referrals) so he can help the new owners with difficulties.

Of course it's people who don't bother with that and/or don't bother with getting their dogs neutered or keeping them well confined if they don't who enable the rest of us to get rescue dogs... so maybe I shouldn't complain.

Like, when we adopted our husky from the pound mumble years ago (OK, 1981 if you must know) and she wasn't spayed yet and then escaped from the yard the first day we had her and apparently was in heat and we never knew it (although what either of us knew about identifying a dog in heat could be used for even the most onerous vacuum-chamber tests). And then the vet thought she was having a false pregnancy, so we really didn't research much about puppies or finding owners, and then we advertised randomly for people when they were 6 weeks old (nowadays everyone says that's at least 2 weeks too young), and although actually I *knew* that I should be asking lots of questions of the potential owners and all that—I didn't, I just was glad to get the puppies homes of any kind. So it's not like I don't understand that people don't know this stuff. But they could find out if they investigated a little bit.

The Big Problem with Poop-Wallowing Pups

The big problem with poop-wallowing pups, I realized with a stunned shock this morning, is that I don't know how I'm going to explain this to potential housesitters (even my housemate) should I decide to, oh, say, act like a real human being and go somewhere for the weekend without my dogs.

"Yes," I can say with sincerity, "It's a truly bonding experience to have just poured milk on your cereal, settled down in your nice warm robe and comfy slippers, and opened the funny pages, when the puppy and a noxious odor waft together through the dog door and wiggle up to you to share their new-found perfume." Then I can wax raphsodic about the joys of snagging the puppy's collar, hopefully not the part that's smeared with you-know-what, trying to stuff some goodies into your pocket with the other hand so that you'll have some rewards to try to mitigate slightly the trauma that the dog is about to endure, all the while keeping the dog far away from both yourself and the furniture.

Then imagine the pleasure of escorting the dog out through the narrow gap next to the doggie door, pausing while you kick off your slippers and slip on your yard shoes (never letting go of the dog), then out the porch door, down the stairs, and over to the spigot—and of course by now she knows what's going to happen because this has happened so many times before, so she's pulling and writhing and leaping in every direction, trying to get away. Then you turn on the hose with one hand, hanging onto the dog for dear life without your wrist getting sprained, and discover that the setting on the sprayer nozzle is wrong, so you fix that.

Then you try to spray off all the vestiges of doggie yuck from the dog's back, both sides, cheeks, ears, collar--oh yeah, and under the collar, too, don't forget that, and maybe on the legs, too--and some of it's layered pretty thickly for that truly intense aroma--without actually spraying the water under force directly in her ear, and without having the crud wash down into her eyes or mouth, and meanwhile keeping your hanging bathrobe away from the dog and the hose and the water--remember one hand is fighting with the collar and the other is holding the hose and you certainly don't want to try to snag her between your knees to hold her in place.

Meanwhile, as often as possible—still holding onto the collar—you set down the hose, tell the doggie what a good girl she is, and feed her some goodies. Then get back to work, you've barely touched the surface.

Oh, yes, housesitters will love that.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Twas the Night Before Sunday

Another nonpeaceful night in which all the creatures were stirring...

I went out yesterday afternoon for lunch and half a ballet (my first ever: Nutcracker) with friends. When I returned, the housemate told me that someone (presumably not him) had thrown up on the front doormat, which I finished cleaning up. The dogs greeted me, but Tika not with the usual insane screeching abandon. Indeed, she remained quite subdued the rest of the afternoon and evening. Example--a minute or two of enthused tug-of-war, then, when I tossed the toy, she followed it sedately and then lay down in a corner. So I knew she wasn't feeling well. In fact, all the dogs seemed unnaturally calm. I thought some of it might be the storm that was working its own way into a tantrum.

Went to bed about 10:00, the wind howling around the house. Got up at midnight because Tika wanted to go out; she and Boost both showed signs of diarrhea. That's with me standing on the wind-and-rain-blown porch in my bathrobe and slippers with a flashlight; usually I just let them go out, but I wanted to see why I was dragged from my bed to see what was the matter. (You know, away to the back deck I flew with a flash...light.)

Got up at 2 a.m. because Boost wanted to go out; she and Tika both showed signs of diarrhea. Got up at 4 a.m. because Tika wanted to go out; ditto. Jake went out every time, too, but I wasn't watching to see what he was up to. Got up at 6 a.m. because Boost wanted to go out; she pooped again but this time the other dogs stayed inside. Fortunately it wasn't heavy rain at any time during the night so the dogs weren't soaked through to the skin and it was fairly easy to dry them off.

Then, finally, got up at 8 a.m. because Jake felt that I had slept in plenty long enough past my usual wake-up time (7-7:30ish). I'm a little woozy. It's pouring rain out there now. But I'm left wondering: Why? What did they find in the yard? Are we done with it? Are they OK? As much a I like a good puzzle, this is NOT a good puzzle, it's a very bad one. Sigh.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Buja Boards

A friend asked whether I'd ever used a Buja Board—typically a 3'x3' piece of plywood with half of a small-to-medium ball (like a jolly ball) attached underneath in the center--or all of a smaller ball, like a softball--so that the board rocks around in all directions. It's designed to allow you to play with your dog while getting him used to the idea of motion underneath, such as for eventually teeter-totter training, wiggly tables, and so on.

I've used one a few brief times. I have a table here that's just pretty wiggly to begin with, and for Boost I just put the top on the ground with random things under it to make it wigglier and to bounce from side to side kinda like a very low teeter. Neither she nor any of my dogs have ever been particularly bothered by things moving under them, so I haven't gone out of my way to pursue it beyond the occasional "here get on this wiggly thing." I put boost on the board that Lisa Maynard had in class for the puppies and, with our bit of background play in my yard with my table top, she barely even noticed that she wasn't on bare ground any more. I don't think it wiggled any more than my makeshift one did.

More About Boostie

I've just updated Boost's page with a list of her siblings, and her history page (the story of how I came to own a BC for doing agility with) has a bit more info and a bunch more photos.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's Official!

When I first got The Booster, I right away came up with a name that I wanted to use for her official registered name: Interstellar Propulsion (Boost--Booster rocket--get it? OK, I thought it was obvious). But, after adding the required kennel name from the breeder (Hi C-Era), the AKC forms and instructions said that I had 2 too many characters. So I agonized & waffled & tried a whole lot of other names & came up with some potentially good ones, but I really wanted that one. (Friend Gail helped and came up with some better ones than my alternatives, but I still liked my original.)

So I dawdled and dawdled, waiting either to decide on one of the alternate names from my lists (kept pulling them out and reviewing them in case perhaps I had missed one that was particularly good) or for The Perfect Other Name to appear from the heavens. But no deux ex machina resolution for my dilemma.

Then, over time, two separate people told me that their understanding was that AKC would, in fact, nowadays accept names that were much longer than their forms allowed. So I took a chance a couple of weeks ago and finally sent in the forms (had to do it before her first birthday anyway, or pay a penalty).

The registration paper came back today and she's in! Ta-da! I'm so pleased. Simple things--

So it's now Hi C-Era Interstellar Propulsion to you, sirs and madams!

(I know that this sort of thing is old hat to many of my friends, but all my previous dogs have sufficed as "Finchester's Remington", "Finchester's Tika", and "Finchester's Jake." Now I'm all excited, though, and am thinking I should pay the registration-change fee to USDAA and CPE to change Tika's name to—oh—hmmm, guess I'll have to come up with something, eh? Nahhh, probably too late for her CATCH plaque if they're as efficient as they usually are in placing the order. What are the odds I could come up with something in the next couple of days that I liked & could catch the CATCH before it was done?)

Jake's Tooth

The lower right tooth (our right, his left) is out of position and discolored.
On Tuesday, while playing tug-o-war with Jake, I noticed that one of his very worn-away front teeth looked askew. Upon further examination, it proved to be a bit loose, although it didn't seem to bother him in the least (play ball! play ball! play ball!).

Still, I took him in to see the vet. Vet says there's likely a little bit of infection in there. Sometimes teeth that get loose like this come out on their own, but the incisors have very long roots and it seems unlikely that this one will pop out on its own. So we can either treat for a mild infection and just monitor the tooth, or we can schedule anaesthesia and do an extraction and do all the follow-up care on that. I opted for antibiotics for 2 weeks and just keep an eye on the tooth. There's no puffiness or lumps at the site and no reaction at all when we wiggle the tooth.

Jeez, I'd hate to have a toothless old dog in my care. Vet says his other teeth look fine, though.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What IS the Attraction?

I am very tired of going out in the subfreezing weather in the morning and holding onto the collar of a struggling dog whose neck, shoulders, collar, and face are most likely covered with objectionable material in which she has been rolling, and hosing her off with icy water. Neither of us enjoy it. We're doing it pretty much every day. How can I get her to make the connection?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Landscaping for Dogs

Mulch surrounds this lilac planter; it provides the perfect camouflage for doggie deposits.
I've come to believe that there's no such thing ("landscaping for dogs"). If it's plain dirt, the dogs get dusty in summer and muddy in winter. If it's grass, they'll dig up parts of it because it smells interesting or they'll inadvertently create those little round bare spots all over it, or wear paths across frequently traveled parts of it.

If it's mulch, like the wood-chip mulch I have on half of my yard, it needs constant redistribution because when you toss toys for them to chase, they slide to a halt on the surface, pushing mounds of mulch up along the sides of the yard. Plus it can all be about the same size and color as doggie deposits that you're trying to clean up so you don't step in while moving around the yard.

Concrete's no good--it's ugly, it's hard (you don't really want dogs jumping and leaping on it, say, for agility practice), and you can't rearrange it really easily unless you own your own jackhammer and backhoe.

There's now artificial turf that apparently is better than the real thing and doesn't have the problems with being slippery and hard that the 1970s version had. It's laid down on top of a thick absorbent layer, too, so you don't have water or other dog-provided liquids sitting on or near the surface. You don't have to mow it or water it. But (a) it's very expensive and (b) like concrete, once it's there, you can't change your mind about it.


Landcaping hereabouts is very confused this year; temperatures stayed very mild until very recently. Most of these trees were mostly green until a week or so ago. Now they're starting to drop their leaves in earnest—in mid-December! Very confused.
Trees and shrubs are right out, too, at least the deciduous ones. You think it's hard to find doggie deposits on the raggedy, spot-marked lawn or in mulch without leaves, you oughta try it with the surfaces covered with hundreds of random-shaped yellowish-and-brownish leaves, all of which could be disguising or covering up those--ahem--unwanted yard decorations.

This nice fountain takes more than the basic anti-algae, leaf-removal treatment, because doggie toys, dirty doggie toungues, and dirty doggie feet find their way herein as well.
And as for water features— well, the dogs think they're great, especially if they're rancid, because that makes much better drinking water than the fresh stuff in their water bowl conveniently located near the door to the house. Or, if the water's particularly clear, it's good to take your large toss-n-fetch toy that you've been salivating on and that's been rolling in the dust and loose mulch and drop it into the water to rinse it off.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Boost's Page

I've finally given Boost her own page like the other dogs have. Click the link under her photo. Then go to the Full Story to read my guilt-assuaging explanation of why I got a Border Collie with which to do dog agility. Still collecting photos to add later.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Quintessential Agility Car

Clean Run Magazine is doing an email survey on agility vehicles. Here are my responses:

Q: What breed(s) of dog do you own, and how many of each breed?

Sheltie mix, Aussie Probably, Border Collie (1 each)

Q: What automobile do you drive?

2001 Toyota Sienna LE

Toyota web site with description & links to detailed features.

Q: Is it a van, station wagon, SUV, truck, or car?

Minivan.

Q: How long have you had it?

4 years—as of this very week.

Q: Did you purchase it new or used?

Used, with 21,000 miles on it.

Q: Did you purchase it with transporting dogs and gear to trials in mind?

Yes! Otherwise I'd have a nifty sporty little sedan! I'm not a minivan fan!

Q: Can you estimate the highway and city gas mileage you get (if not, don't worry, I would have no clue either)?

Highway, 24 mpg. City, I don't do that much, maybe 20?

Q: Have you modified your vehicle in any way? If so, how?

No. (We're not mentioning the custom crushing on the lower edge of the rear hatch door where I occasionally forget to close the door before opening or closing the garage door on top of it.)

Q: What things do you like about your vehicle, especially in terms of using it for agility-related travel?


  • I can get a lot of stuff into it, including 2 medium-large metal crates across the back (just barely), a full-size canopy (with one crate sitting on top of it, and lots and lots of other stuff.

  • Seats come out sort of easily and independently of each other (4 individual seats in the back, no benches), so I normally have 3 seats stored stacked in my garage. As a bonus, the metal gidgies to which the seats normally attach make excellent tie-downs for my dogs' crates. (Cars where the seats fold into the floor don't have this; plus seats are HEAVY so seats that stay in the car add unneeded weight when you're driving.

  • Front and back heat & a/c can be controlled separately, so I don't have to have heat blowing on the dogs when I'm cold (or a/c blowing on me when they're hot).

  • Spare tire is stored under the car so all I have to move if I have a flat is enough stuff to get at the bolt in the back floor that I have to turn (a million times) to release the tire.

  • Standard (I think) roof rack for the occasional extra thing that there's just not room for. And the crossways slats adjust forward and backward.

  • Sliding doors on BOTH sides.

  • Powered sliding door is very nice...when it's working properly.

  • Toyotas have been reliable cars for me and this is doing fine at 84,000 miles.

  • Reasonable gas mileage.

  • Cruise control!

  • Good power (6 cyl) going over hills and mountains; good acceleration for freeway merging.

  • Lights that automatically turn off (interior & exterior) after a certain time if you forget or if you leave your door open.

  • Power exterior mirrors.

  • Front & rear wipers.

  • CD player.

Q: What don't you like about it?

  • Removable seats--on the down side, it is SO much easier to be able to just fold a seat down into the floor and not have to haul the heavy thing around the garage & store it forever if you're not using it.

  • Other minivans (even later-model Siennas) seem to have a few extra inches side to side so I could get my crates in easier and a few extra inches front to back.

  • Side door windows don't open.

Q: Will you purchase a similar vehicle in the future? Why or why not?

Yes, because I need the space.

Q: What are some characteristics that your agility vehicle must have?

  • Space for 2-3 med-large crates, large canopy, all the other typical agility stuff plus camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, etc.).

  • Good gas mileage. Cruise control. Good power and acceleration.

  • Must fit in the garage.

  • Heat & A/C.

Q: What are some luxuries you'd like to have for your agility vehicle?

  • All power doors that work well both under power and manually. My powered door has been flaky since I got it (used) and, when I turn off the power, it is very difficult to use. I've used other vans that work smoothly either way.

  • Heated seats.

  • Side air bags.

  • Hybrid engine for better fuel economy.

  • Automated cleaning system that removes all dog hair at the push of a button. (OK, I didn't really list that in the survey.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Weave Pole Entries

Boost is in the process of learning weave pole entries using Susan Garrett's two-by-two method. The beginning is simply having 2 poles alone and teaching the dog to run through them. Boost is getting pretty good at it once she realizes that that's the game we're playing at the moment. I'm at a disadvantage in some ways because my yard is crowded with agility equipment and so Boost runs past it, through it, and around it all the time. Susan (and others) have said repeatedly that it's a bad idea to let dogs learn to run past agility equipment, because in the long run you don't want them doing that. Oh, well, I'll have to work around that disadvantage.

Tika has really nice weave pole entries. Even though I believe in using 12-pole weaves as often as possible in training, for this I used 6-pole weaves. After she got the basic weave poles down, we had a couple of problems. One was that she'd hit the poles at such a tremendous speed that she'd bounce off the second pole, sometimes causing her to bounce right past the next necessary step--and a couple of times, actually knocking the weave poles over. The other problem was that she wasn't working hard enough at finding the correct entry from difficult directions or when I wasn't right there, a couple of steps before the weaves, to get her to line up.

My biggest progress on both of these issues came with a pretty simple exercise in the yard that we did over and over. I lined up two tunnels in U shapes facing each other, about 40 or 50 feet apart, and put a set of 6 weaves between them. Then I just blasted her back and forth from tunnel to tunnel, doing the weaves in between. (Note that I'm not talking 10 times in a row with no interruption; sometimes 1, 2, 3, or maybe as many as 4 but not usually, then a lot of excited playing with her tug toy.) I used the clicker when she was having a little trouble with certain entries. She'd be going so fast that rewarding for the click at the end of the poles worked very well for her.

This set-up allowed me to vary the distance between the tunnels and the weaves, so she had to adjust her full-speed stride no matter the distance of the approach. I could change my physical position easily--closer or further away, before or after the pole entrance, facing her or facing away, etc. I could change the angle of the weaves gradually, clockwise or counterclockwise, from the main path between the tunnels, so she had to get the entry at full speed from either direction to some very sharp angles--towards the end (after lots of practice), I could have the weaves roughly perpendicular to the path between the tunnels, which gives us better than 90-degree independent entries.

I cleaned up the really sharp angles (greater than 90 degrees) using jumps rather than tunnels for the various approaches. I'm not sure whether she can do a 180-degree turn into the weaves from directly alongside them--hmmm, will have to give that a try today--but she has gotten so reliable that sometimes I forget that, in reality, some weave entries in competition really are extremely difficult and need at least a clue from the handler about where the dog should be going. Still, I can plan on doing very difficult courses or challenging handling strategies that involve the weaves because I know that she'll work hard at getting that weave entry.

She still sometimes hits that second pole and bounces, but now she always makes it into the second turn; the only problem with that is that it slows her down a fraction as she recovers. I can live with that--

My thought is that I can start the tunnel-weave entry-tunnel with Boost soon in conjunction with the 2-pole entry, as she gets better and better at that simply on the flat. I hope I'm directing her correctly; you always hate working on something for a while and then discovering that you missed a tricky key component that makes all the difference in the world. I'll have to ponder the tunnel-entry-tunnel thing, though; it might be most effective only after the dog has learned that they have to make that turn into the second pole. But maybe not. TBD.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Maybe Even More Agility Bloggers--

Heh--things I never knew about Blogger and I've been on for a few years now. You can pick some specific interests to show up in your user profile, then someone can pick, say, "Dog agility" as an interest and it lists other Blogger users who also picked that interest! Not that I need anything else to spend my time on...

Other Agility Dog Blogs

I'll have to put permanent links to these up here, somewhere, soon-- Seems to me there must be many, many more, but apparently the Blogger.com search finds the text only in the blog titles, not in the description, because I didn't see Taj MuttHall listed in their search results anywhere when asking about dog agility. Harrumph.

Is Jake Retiring or Not? And Jump Heights--

Jake and jump height comparisons: Jake stands 17.75 inches at the withers (top of shoulder blades). For comparison, the top of the purple-banded bar is at 16" (just about 2" shorter than Jake's shoulders). The top bar is 24", the height Jake jumped for at least the first couple of years in USDAA until they lowered it to 22" (the next bar down). In CPE, he's currently jumping 12" (the lower cow-print bar) but could drop to 8" in CPE "Specialist" class (the lowest checkered bar).

I had decided (again) that the week after Thanksgiving would be Jake's last week in class and then he'd be retired from classes, if not entirely from competing, although I'm pretty sure I'll not jump him 16" in USDAA any more. Jumping veterans 12" in CPE should be plenty fine, though. And we can always still drop to 8" in CPE "Specialist" if we want to! (Quite a difference for a dog who earned his ADCH at 24"...)

Except last week in class he ran like a champ, at 12" anyway. We had quite a discussion about how one decides to retire a dog. One comment was that one waits for the dog to let you know he's ready to retire (and after LAST Thanksgiving's official retirement from agility, we already know that Jake let me know in no uncertain terms that he wasn't ready to retire yet--). Another comment was that if we all quit agility when we had aches and pains and arthritis and injury, we'd all be spending evenings and weekends at home instead of doing agility.

So then the class decided that Jake should at least keep coming to class until the end of the year. (So--OK--that's only this week and next week--) You know I love having other people make my decisions for me.

Yesterday afternoon he did not want to come outside and play ball while I had Tika and Boost out. It's always hard to tell whether that's because (a) he's feeling stiff and achey, (b) he's hoping the housemate will give him some sandwich meat, (c) there's a rawhide bone that he's been guarding (not chewing) for 2 days and he doesn't want to leave it alone in the house for fear some stranger will sneak in and abscond with it. Yesterday I suspected (c) but you never can tell.

Up at Power Paws Agility, there's a dog-potty area that is on a slope of about--I'm guessing--30%. It's hard to walk on; this is the kind of terrain that requires sheep with longer legs on the left side than on the right so they can stand upright to graze instead of falling over sideways. Last night I took Jake out there, and he trotted around, tail wagging, looking for Just The Right Spot--but every time he turned to go in a different direction, his rear legs started falling out from under him. It just didn't look like a good healthy rear propulsion system.

It started drizzling as class began. Most (not all, but most) dogs seem to enjoy cooler, slightly damper weather. Energizes them for agility. Remington used to love it; I got some of his best runs in such weather. Last night, it seemed to be the same for Jake. Not only was he excited, but I believe he started out running even faster than he did the previous week. And he ran very nicely, too; we ran like a championship team and he even made some difficult weave entries!

How DOES one decide when it's time to retire a dog? Apparently being 14 and arthritic isn't sufficient.

We decided to retire for the evening when, about half an hour before the end of class, it started to rain in earnest. Jake was not enthused about that much water. I tried to convince him to duck under one of the plastic lawn chairs, but he thought it was some kind of trick and did his best to avoid it. Fortunately I carry a fold-uppable (foldable-up? foldable-uppable?) poncho in my car for myself--still got quite wet, though. Then the lights on the field went out. Only a single light remained lit, barely enough for us to help the instructor clear the equipment from the field because they were heading out of town for four days to Winter Camp. Then sopping me and sopping Jake headed home to our warm, dry bed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kaput Stealth Dog

Boost has now broken two plastic "I'm lost" phone number collar tags, so as of yesterday, she has an official metal one. This now tings against her license tag, so I hope that we'll have fewer incidences of Stealth Dog. (Example: Open door to garage door, step out with one foot, grab something off the shelf by the door, step back inside, close door. Fifteen minutes later notice that the puppy hasn't been lately seen. Open door to garage. Voila: Stealth dog.)

Pet Stores

One of the cool things about pet stores is that you can take your pet into them. All of my first five dogs have enjoyed the trip. It's like a candy store—or maybe Disneyland's whole Main Street—for dogs. So much to look at! So much to smell! So many little treaties to be found hiding under the edges of the shelving!

Boost, however, finds the whole concept terrifying. Too much stimulation. Noises behind the shelving (in the next aisle). Dead animal parts all over the place (bones, rawhides, stuff like that--you don't know, you could be next!). Large unfamiliar objects. Small unfamiliar objects. Sudden wafts of unfamiliar odors.

She likes the fact that some people give her goodies, but she might or might not be too worried or downright scared to accept or enjoy the treats. I try letting her walk in at her own pace, but we don't usually get very far that way. I try sitting with her and just doing calming things, so she might calm down and sit next to me, but as soon as I release her, the tail's between the legs again and she's heading for the door. At least she's not peeing all over the floor any more.

Jake and Tika love it, though. So little time, so many things to smell and eat! Can hardly get them to leave the store. I've tried taking Boost in with one or the other of the dogs, and I think it helps just a little bit, but what is more likely to happen is that we'll get much further into the store and then she panics and wants out.

Oh, well, I'll keep working at it. The more scary things in this world that she can master, the better we'll all be for it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Holiday Spirit

Ah, yes, the true holiday spirit--soft cushy Christmas toys and big sharp pointy teeth.
OK, that's better.

Words Not Dogs

I've been meaning to do this for a long time. Now I've done it. Check out the beta version of Word Whirled.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dog Photos Just For Fun



When my housemate makes his sandwiches for work the next day, guess who regularly shares some tidbits.
Boostie at 10 months. Stretching--bored? cramped? ready to play?
Close-up of the brown part of her eye that you usually can't see so that it looks just blue (as in preceding photo). Note holiday collar. Imagine holiday music playing in the background.

And picture decorations of red on a green Christmas tree...no, wait, tree has been sitting out in a basin of water for 2 days. Took Boost out to look at it to see whether it would spook her. "Yeah? A tree. So what?" But when I first turned on my stereo--"Bark! Bark! Danger! Look out! Something's invading our house! Woof!" But ended up quite curious when I started pushing buttons (switching CDs) and the sound changed. She had to put her feet up on the stereo to look. Waiting to see what happens when the tree springs into existence in the living room in a threatening manner. Probably tomorrow.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

We Were Doing So Well--

Boost is getting better and better at bladder control. Before we left for the USDAA nationals November 8th, it had been at least 2, maybe 3 weeks since we'd had an accident in the house...until the night before we left. My friend/co-driver Jackie was here with her 9-month-old French Bulldog, Elliot--just a couple of days younger than Boost--and he and Boostie played and played. While we later sat and ate dinner, with Elliot snoozing in his crate, Boost snoozed soundly on the floor near the crate. (Excercise is a great thing for puppies!

After dinner, Jackie walked over to Elliot's crate and let him out--Boost scrambled suddenly to her feet, taken by surprise I guess, and very excited—and peed on the floor without, I think, even realizing that she was doing it.

But that was the last time...until yesterday afternoon. I was up in the attic in Santa's Workshop. The housemate was down in the kitchen. Apparently Tika was hanging around by the doggie door, probably watching the housemate to see whether he'd be distributing any free food. Housemate reports that Boost was running back and forth in a slightly unusual manner, between the hall and Tika, not going past Tika out the doggie door. He assumed that she was playing (because she often runs back and forth on her own, although usually with a toy), until she squatted on the carpet-runner doormat.

So I had to apply Nature's Miracle and let it sit for a while, then wash the carpet. She's 10 months old now; I can't imagine (well--I can, but for argument's sake--) that we'll be having many more of these accidents. I hope.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Height and Weight

I meant to mention that I really did get my weight back down to my goal weight range well before going off to the nationals and I'm managing to keep it there so far. I do love to eat. There will be lots of time off from dog stuff over the next month. Argh. We'll see how it goes--

Boost's Branches

What is it about sticks?

Boost seems to prefer chewing on branches, sticks, and logs more than almost anything. I've tried to divert the chewing, with very limited success. Here's what happens if I give each of the dogs a nice rawhide bone:

Jake carries his around and growls constantly at Boost when she dares to even be in the same room with him. For hours. Constantly. CONSTANTLY. JAKE, SHUT UP!!!!

Boost buries hers in the back yard somewhere then comes inside and lies there, watching, while:

Tika chews on hers for a while. Depending on the size of the rawhide, she usually quits about 2/3 of the way through and goes looking for something else. Boost usually takes over from there until it's finished. Then she goes and gets a stick.

I have bits of chewed-up wood all over my floor and carpet constantly. Sometimes, if Boost isn't actively working on a particularly appealing thick piece of wood, Jake or Tika will spell her on it so that I don't have to suffer through any period of time when my carpet is actually free of little woody splinters and chips.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chris Zink's Puppy Training Rules of Thumb

Chris Zink is a vet who specializes in canine sports medicine and participates in dog agility with her dogs. To avoid the risk of injuries in young dogs and to avoid the development of problems that will appear later, she recommends the following:
  • Between 6 and 14 months (Boost is now 10): Can use angled contacts but not full-height Aframe. No weave training that requires bending the spine (well--ahem--that would be pretty much most weave training). Jumps no higher than elbow. No endurance training. Strength training including beg, crawl, back up, roll over, wave, tugging in moderation (ha!), running uphill.
  • After 14 months (jeez--that's half a year from now!): Work up to full-height Aframe, start weaves, gradually raise jumps, all to reach maximum height/angle/bending by 18 months (!). Strength training 3 to 4 times a week, including jump chutes (a line of jumps--we've been doing some short ones in short groups for a couple of months), backing up stairs (ack, we started this already a month ago), side-stepping. Endurance training; start with 3 20-minute walks per week in a trot.
  • After 2 years: Serious endurance training such as in a trot for several miles every other day.)

All of which means that I have to be PATIENT and not start my weaves until much much later. I know that that many experienced trainers have simply waited and then taught their dogs weaves in a period of about 2 weeks right before they begin competing, same thing with not going up to full-height jumps until then. In AKC, though, you can legally start competing at 12 months. Lots of people whom I know have felt that this was a bad idea from the start. CPE allows 15 months. In USDAA, not until 18 months, which is my tentative goal.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Weekend's Story

Thursday Evening, Thanksgiving

Well. Another agility weekend approaches. I'm scheduled to be in Elk Grove Friday and Saturday for a CPE trial. I'm tired. I'm full. I've spent more than an hour, as usual, loading the car and assembling and packing everything I'll need. I'm even more tired. I haven't attempted to clean up the kitchen from a little food preparation this morning. It's going to have to wait until Sunday. I need to get up at 4:00 Friday morning to get to Elk Grove by 6:30ish for a decent parking spot, and to set up my canopy and potty the dogs and get settled and all, to be ready for the first walkthrough at 7:30.

We've hardly seen any rain all year so far. The weather through autumn has been warm and dry; idyllic, pastoral, lovely, mild, perfect agility weather. But--now that I'm doing agility locally for the first time in over a month--it's scheduled to rain tomorrow. ("Chance of scattered showers" in Elk Grove.)

Why am I going instead of enjoying my 4-day weekend? Because Tika still needs that Jumpers leg (qualifying score towards titles) to finish her first agility championship, to become a CPE Agility Trial Champion, the C-ATCH. And because Tika in particular needs something to do. And because there's a Turkey Trot fun event Friday evening, which Jake's team won last year and Tika's team almost won except we took an extra obstacle at the last possible moment, costing us both time and faults. I'm aiming to rectify that situation. Although Tika's team from last year won't be there so I'm currently teamless. Will have to arrange something when I get there. Part of Jake's team is available, but we'll have to find a 3rd probably.

Well. To bed. I'm tired.

Friday morning

The alarm goes off. I really don't want to wake up. Jeez, I'm tired. I drag myself vertical, dress warmly, fold up The Booster's crate, follow the wave of dogs out into the back yard with a flashlight so that I will know who has pooped. Nothing worse than walking your dogs around, on leash, at an agility event, not knowing whether you should keep walking because you don't know whether someone needs to poop and you don't want to (a) put them back in their crate for 3 hours when they're on the verge or (b) put them in the ring to run really fast when they're on the verge. So starting now I have to keep track. Of three dogs' potty habits.

Everything's wet, so it has rained, although at the moment there's no descending moisture. Great. Well, at least the Elk Grove arena is covered. Still, one has to potty and exercise the dogs outside.

I load the drinks and special doggy junk food into the cooler, load the cooler into the car, set a caffeinated diet Coke ready to drink, let Boost and Tika into their travel crates and strap Jake into his seatbelt, and head for the central valley. It's drizzling.

I have time to think while I'm driving because switching the windshield wipers from low to high to intermittent to off and back around again isn't all that intellectually stimulating. Sometimes I hate thinking this much. Tika's problem with Jumpers is knocking bars. Oh, sure, once in a blue moon we go off course, but I'd say much less than the average bear. In USDAA, you cannot earn a jumpers leg with any knocked bars, and Tika routinely knocks one. In CPE, until you're at the Championship level, you can get away with knocking one bar and still get the Q (Qualifying score--same as a leg). So Tika routinely knocks TWO. I've been working on jumping techniques a very little bit with her since coming back from the nationals, but not a lot, because I've not felt really well for a good portion of the last week. Argh.

And our next chance to get that last Jumpers leg isn't until early January. I've waited for 3 months since our last chance. This is going to go on forever! Like many people, the feeling about the last leg for the CH is that it's just going to be so good to get it over with, to stop having to wonder when it'll happen, to stop stressing over it every time you run a class where This Could Be It. Even though it's "only" CPE and even though Tika's really still fairly young, I find that I really want to get this leg.

We get all the way to Elk Grove without a flat tire (unlike 2 other trips there earlier this year...) We arrive at Starfleet Arena at the WAG facility just after 6:30. Get a good parking spot. It's not raining at that moment, but it's on the cold side. I get to work setting up my canopy. (Have to move Boost to elsewhere in the car, unstrap and unload Boost's crate, which sits atop the canopy, get the canopy frame out and loosen it up, get out the bag with the canopy top and sides, get it set up and staked in (it's a bit breezy), and just then it starts drizzling. Perfect timing! Can't tell you how often I've had to try to set up in the rain.

Colors

Today, they're running tall to small and top-level down, so Tika, one of a very few 24" dogs, is up right about 8:00. We had a terrible time getting enough Colors legs towards our C-ATCH because you cannot have any bars down in this one. Tika is on. I'm on. We're communicating well. Tika blasts through that course without a single time-wasting bobble, although she doesn't stick after she hits the ground after the Aframe. I let it go, although I probably shouldn't.

She keeps all her bars up.

Tika is the fastest of all of the 87 dogs of various heights and levels who run this course. 1st place and a Q.

Jake is also running in Colors. He's been getting slower over time, and particularly going through curved tunnels and through the weaves. And I always need to get him out of his crate in plenty of time to work out all the aches and stiffness of his arthritis. But there are so many dogs between Tika and Jake that I get involved in several conversations about Turkey Trot teams and strategies and all of a sudden I realize that the dog before Jake is running.

I race out to my canopy; Jake is 100% guaranteed sound asleep; wakes up as I whip open the zipper to his crate and leaps to his feet--and he's ready to go! Jeez! Even in the cold and rain, he trots from his crate, tail wagging, stretches mightily, and starts dancing around for his goodies. He jogs, even runs with me, tail going, as I dash back to the ring. They've moved us to the end of our height, so I have about a minute in which to get him to do some lefts and rights and something like stretches, but no time in which to get him revved up or go over practice jumps.

He's also lately been leaving the start line early. I think it has something to do with being deaf and not being certain about what I want. Or maybe he's just naughty. Anyway, to do this course well, I need to lead out past the first two jumps, push him sharply into a curved tunnel, and make a right turn into a set of weaves--and he's also been missing weave entries the last several months, so I have to be very careful.

He stays at the start line!

I release him and he blasts towards me like the Jake of old, redirects into the tunnel without a hitch or hesitation, zooms through it like he used to, and makes his weave entry! He zooms through a second curved tunnel and I'm having to be on my toes; he hasn't run like this much in a while. A pefect run for a now-14-year-old guy! He's had trouble winning even in CPE for a while because his time has been slow, but he beats all 6 other dogs in his class for a Q and first place. Whatta guy.

This weekend is starting out quite well, actually. I hope it continues.

CPE Placements

One cool thing about CPE (for us)--we're a big team in a small pond, rather than in USDAA where we're a small team in a big pond with lots of big fishies. Even with Jake, when he wasn't quite so old and deaf and slowing, we did very well, but with Tika's speed and drive and our skill as a team, we're definitely at the top of the heap in CPE. We still have some competition that keeps us on our toes, but we're all closer to being equals and there aren't nearly so many as in USDAA.

CPE also makes it easier to take placement ribbons home. There are 7 levels and 6 heights, so that for any one class (e.g., Colors), there are potentially 42 first places available. In fact, for this Colors class, 113 dogs ran and 32 earned first places. That's not a bad proportion. Some groups are always more crowded than others, however. For example, the 16" groups and 20" groups always have quite a few dogs in them (except at Level 1, where it's also likely to be a small group); the "S" level and the 8" height groups are examples where there are likely to be very few dogs. Jake's two classes consisted of 7 and 9 dogs; Tika's six consisted of between 2 and 5 dogs.

In contrast, at a USDAA trial, there are 3 levels, 2 categories, and 4 heights, so there are only 24 potential first places per class.

Wildcard

It's about a 10-obstacle course but there are 3 places where you have a choice of obstacles and you have to do the right ones or you don't Q. And keep your bars up.

Tika doesn't even pretend to hit the ground at the bottom of the Aframe, taking off from somewhere mid-yellow-zone. I stop to tell her briefly that this isn't a good idea, then we take off again.

But she keeps all her bars up. And despite the stop to discuss her contact, she's still 4th fastest of about 90 dogs. Of course, ONE of those four happens to be in her exact height and level, so she takes only a 2nd place with her Q on that run.

Standard

Standard numbered course. Tika is being quite wired. Maybe it's the off-and-on rain and cool weather. Maybe she likes seeing me look like a drowned rat. Maybe she's just glad to be doing agility after hours in the crate. She blasts off from the start line, does the first few obstacles, hits the teeter totter like Mario Andretti, slams it to the ground, and immediately takes off over the next jump, leaving me standing there waiting for her to WAIT AT THE BOTTOM FOR HER RELEASE. OK, this is too much. I just stand there until she trots and dances back to me to tell me Come ON, mom, don't just STAND there! This is FUN! and I tell her that that was no way to do a contact, that she'd better pay better attention to her touch, all the while casually strolling past the next jump so she doesn't take it again, with her dancing around in front of me, now calming a little, though, as she realizes she's being scolded.

Finally I line her up for the next obstacle, the dogwalk, and she propels herself across nearing the speed of sound, hits the bottom full speed--and waits for her release! We continue around the course, she does the Aframe rapidly, hits the bottom--and waits for her release!

AND she keeps all her bars up.

Even with that long pause, she takes 1st and a Q in her group, although we're certainly not at the top of the speed list for this one.

Turkey Trot

It's finally, oh, I dunno, 6 pm. I'm a bit tired but looking forward to the turkey trot. At least it stopped raining. We've had most of the day to look over the course map, which looks something like this:


This is strategic triplets. You'll notice that, although the course is numbered, the sequence is broken up all over the ring--first three start in lower right and go up; next three start in upper left and go right, etc. The idea is that the three dogs position themselves to perform the various sequences in order. So, for example, the first dog is ready at #1; the second dog is ready at #4; the third dog is ready at #7. As soon as the first dog completes #3, the second dog does 4-5-6. As soon as that dog successfully completes #6, the third dog does 7-8-9. Meanwhile, dog #1 and #2 have been getting into position to do #10 and #11-12-13. And so on.

You can divide up the course any way you want among the dogs. The only requirement is that at SOME point all the numbered obstacles must be taken in the order from 1 to 22. It doesn't matter if you do other obstacles in-between. For example, the dog doing 4-5-6 could then zip through the tunnel #17 to get into position for #11-12-13 while the other dogs are completing 7-8-9 and then 10. Clear as mud?

Jake's team. (Somehow I never managed to gather my other team and get a picture.)

I used colors to show how Jake's team divided the course among the three dogs; green, blue, and red represent 3 different dogs.

Here's the big trick. If a dog has a fault--knocked bar, missed contact, and so on (it's not possible by definition to have an offcourse since it doesn't matter if other obstacles are taken in-between), one of your teammates must redo the obstacle correctly. Repeat until obstacle taken correctly. So, for example, if Tika were to knock a bar, I'd have to be resetting the bar (and controlling my dog reasonably well) while yelling for help and one of my teammates would have to race over and take the jump without faulting it.

Or, if Tika were to pop the dogwalk contact, one of my teammates would have to redo the dogwalk and get the contact correctly--if they missed, I or my 3rd teammate would have to try, etc. (which happened to one team--took 4 tries to get a dogwalk down contact).

The smaller trick is that the handler who does #1 must be carrying the baton (a rubber chicken) and the handler who does #22 must be carrying the baton, so a switch has to be made somewhere in all that chaos on course.

So. Tika's team broke it up slightly differently, although pretty similar, and assigned dogs to different combinations, so she did 4-5-6, 11-12, and 16-17-18. There are 3 bars in that collection. I warned my teammates that Tika's biggest issue is knocking bars, so to be on their toes. Plus the dogs get *very* excited with all the hubbub, plus running and stopping, other dogs on the course, going past obstacles, doing weird things--

Tika did the 4-5-6 without knocking a bar. She was really fast. Our teammates are doing fine but I'm not calling out "switch" (our particular keyword) when I'm done because I'm first calling Tika so she doesn't end up on the far side of the universe. My teammates are doing fine. We're about to do 11-12 when our offduty teammate's dog blasts into the opposite end of tunnel #12 and I have to wait for them to get out of the way. We do that bit and line up for 16-17-18. Tika is wired beyond belief. We get the signal. She takes off--and leaves up her final bar! And then--

--I have NEVER seen Tika completely clear air going over the top of an Aframe before. I was afraid that she was going to land clear out on the ground, but in fact she lands about halfway down, hits her contact, and sticks it. My teammates finish, and we leave the course in great delight.

Jake's parts were more subdued, and he was more subdued--I think in part because he's mostly deaf and we didn't have as many dogs crossing our paths--and despite having to do 4 tunnels and a 12-pole weave (he did the blue dog part), he once again did them very quickly for him, and our teammates--reliable, experienced dogs all--did fine.

Our winning turkey baskets.
The top top turkey turkey and her two turkey dogs.



There were a few other teams who also had no faults for which they had to switch, but some of them wasted time doing longer sequences with the same dog, requiring wrapping around jumps, covering more yardage, and so on. One team that I thought was going to beat us ended up making the only "off course" flaw that could get them--the last dog did #21 and #22, stopping the clock, before the previous dog had completed #19 and 20. So you really had to know what the dog before you was doing.

We had to wait a bit for the results to be announced. There were three 8/12" teams, 7 16" teams (Jake's group) and 10 20/24" teams (Tika's group). We knew we had done well, but as they announced 3rd and 2nd places in each and it wasn't us, I knew that we had won.

I was the only handler on two winning teams. And I don't think that any of this year's winners were last year's winners except Jake. So--we got 2 turkey baskets stuffed with people and doggie goodies, and each winner had to wear their "Top Turkey" button for the rest of the weekend. I had to wear two.

We didn't get out of there until about 7:30; I found my hotel finally, grabbed some food, took some stuff up to the hotel room, pottied the dogs, blah blah. Didn't get to bed til around 10, late for an agility night. The last dog walking takes place in air that's far colder than it had been that morning. Seems like we're in for a chill.

But all in all quite a successful and happy day.

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning came really early. Woke with a tickle in my throat and a cough about 4:15 and, by the time it had cleared, I couldn't get back to sleep. (This seldom happens on agility weekends--I'm always so tired that I have no trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or returning to sleep when I do wake up.) I had intended to get up at 6:00 but finally gave up about 5:40. Showered. Dressed. Took the dogs out to potty.

It is COLD COLD COLD. Brrr. With a bit of a wind, too. Dogs all cooperate and do their business together, making my life so much easier. I pack up everything and the dogs and myself and I'm back over at Starfleet Arena by 6:30ish.

It's STILL cold cold cold as the sun comes up. Glad I put on my long (not thermal) underwear pants in the morning. I do have my long down coat with me, but it's so awkward to move around in and I don't want to get it dirty in the covered dirt arena, which gets EVERYthing dusty no matter how careful you are. I'll reserve it for moments of true cold desperation. Turns out that I never do switch to it, although there are times when, if I couldn't perch in front of someone's large propane heater, I'd have probably needed it.

Our first run isn't until noon. Things are NOT running efficiently and I'm not sure why people aren't pushing to make it happen. At this rate I'll be lucky to get my jumpers run done by dinnertime--today they're running small to tall and novice up, so Tika is running last in each class. Which means that our Jumpers run will be about the 3rd to the last of the entire day.

Who's going to want to stick around that long in this weather? The sun is out, but it's not helping much. I buy a big cup of hot chocolate from Hungry Dog Catering, who's grilling and cooking onsite, and it's the most wonderful thing I've had in ages. Warms my hands and my belly.

I help out at the trial--always do--doing one job or another. Get my worker raffle tickets, put them into various cool stuff in the raffle. Most of the things that interest me are in Sunday's drawing and I won't be here, so I ask my friends to check for me. My friend Arlene, who works at Bed Bath & Beyond, brings me my own box of peppermint bark because she knows I love it and they carry it only around the holidays (and apparently run out quickly). This makes my day seem much brighter. But still cold.

Standard

Our standard run for today has some tricky bits to it, but I'm feeling relaxed and confident. After all, this is NOT for a title or a C-ATCH; it's just one more leg among the hundreds I'll need to get for our eventual C-ATE. Yeah, like that's ever going to happen. So it's basically for fun. In two places on the course, I manage to fail to push Tika out to her next obstacle, so she runs past one jump that we have to spin around to take, and almost runs past a tunnel entrance, but we catch it in time.

And she keeps her bars up.

I'm afraid to say anything about all those bars that are staying up. Not that I'm superstitious--but I don't want to jinx it anyway.

Despite the bobbles, Tika is still the fastest of the eleven 24" dogs doing this course and among the five fastest of the 100 or so others. For a first place and a Q.

Snooker

Things start to fall apart here. It's 4 in the afternoon and we've still got all of levels 1/2, 3, and 4/5/C of the Jumpers classes still to course build, wait for walk throughs (with the 4/5/C split into 2 groups). I'm really tired now, with the stress of waiting for that jumpers run, having been up since 4 that morning, not getting enough sleep the night before, being COLD COLD COLD all day. People are starting to give up and head home, although not as many as there would have been on a Sunday; most people are staying through tomorrow, although I still have a 2-hour drive home.

I haven't had dinner. I don't have dinner with me. Hungry Dog Catering has gone home. First, I forget that Jake is a 12" dog now, not a 16" dog, so I haven't been able to walk the course for him. Since this is CPE, I could probably have just told them that I forgot and they'd have let me walk and run with the bigger dogs, but I just didn't want to confuse things or hold them up, so I construct a course that I think will be easy for us to get through so that he can simply run an entire course, since it's his only run of the day.

I get him out of his crate, and once again he's very happy and bouncy. We could do very well on this course. I line him up and he again stays at his start line. We do red, color, red, color, red...and he doesn't turn the same way I'm turning (this has been an ongoing problem, worse and worse the less he hears) even though I tried very hard to signal strongly with my body. I dash around the jump to try to catch his attention, but meanwhile he's dashing around to the other side of the jump to figure out where I went, and then he sees me--and backjumps the dang jump. So we're done. At least I can run him across the course and through a tunnel and jump to get to the table to stop the clock, but I'm disappointed in myself both for missing the walkthrough (I think I'd have done something different if I'd actually been able to walk through the sequence) and in my handling.

Then Tika is up. I plan a course where I have to lead out ALLLLL the way across the course and call her to me over a jump and onto the #7 obstacle. Everyone does this in USDAA. In CPE, it apparently impresses people (anyway, those who don't do USDAA). I sat her at the start line and started walking out. She lifted her butt and shuffled her front feet and I said "sit" again, and she sat and waited very nicely while I walked all the way out there, lined up, turned, and finally released her. We had a couple of bobbles where I wasn't clear and she turned to bark at me rather than do the next obstacle, but for the most part it goes well, she's VERY fast and does most of her turns and send-outs very nicely, and we're on target to get 49 points (out of 51 possible)--and the end-of-time whistle blows before we can complete #6 and 7 (for 13 points) in the closing. Now, we did waste some time in the bobbles, but this was a VERY quick course and Tika is a VERY quick dog and I'm a bit baffled as to how we could be out of time.

A friend later tells me that I set Tika up so close to the start line that, when she half stood and moved her feet, her nose crossed the start line and started the clock. So I probably lost 15 seconds or more of a 45-second course with my lead-out before she started running. I thought I had lined her up a ways before the orange cone near us, but apparently the line to the other orange cone wasn't where I thought it was. Because normally I set her up with lots of room exactly because she does often stand and step or scootch a bit.

So it's still a Q. It's only a 4th place instead of a solid first. But--

She kept all her bars up! It's getting spooky. Is she just having a good bar weekend or is she saving them all for Jumpers?

I'm getting nervous. Hungry. More tired, let's say exhausted. It is really cold, although I'm sure it's not freezing. I waste some time by dismantling my canopy before it gets dark, and apparently just in time, because the wind accelerates and pulls up and destroys 3 other canopies in my vicinity within a half hour of when I finished my packing. The dogs are now in their crates in the car. They've been pottied. I remember that I didn't eat my banana that morning, so I have that to tie me over. (Tied me over? Tide me over?)

Jumpers


I watch other people run the jumpers course. It's a tougher one, lots of loop-de-dos and a couple of tricky places where you either have to be blindingly fast yourself to make a tricky front cross, or be fast in a different direction to push your dog out of a line of jumps to a tunnel--never easy, but even harder with a fast, long-strided dog. It looks more like a small-dog course than a big-dog course, but I haven't walked it yet. Still, even small dogs are having trouble with it.

Finally the 16, 20, and 24" dogs walk the course. It requires 4 or 5 quick front crosses from me, which is a lot, but I think we can do it. I think I can even be in position to easily make the push out to the tunnel. But then I watch all the 16 and 20" dogs do the course, and some of them are experienced, expert handlers, and THEY have trouble with the course. There's nothing else for me to do, really, but watch, though. It's dark. It's cold. Nowhere else to go, nothing else to do.

Finally we get to the 24" dogs. It's after 7 pm. I can assure you that, if I didn't want this run so badly, I'd have been on the road probably 2 hours ago. Which means that i can't even pretend that this is a normal run any more; it's special enough that I have to stay for it.

People are leaving as they finish their runs. No wonder. It's cold and getting colder by the minute, and it's late, and they all want food and sleep. But that means that, IF I succeed, I'll have only a few friends still there to celebrate and to sign my pole. I comfort myself by telling myself that I can leave it there for Sunday and have Arlene bring it to me during the next week or 2, because I'll be seeing her at least twice. Then I try not to get my hopes up, because we could so easily knock 2 bars on this course.

We Finally Run

We're finally on the line. Tika is wired. She is more than wired. She is in rocket launching mode again. I don't know that I need this on this course, where we need to be smooth and sleek and in control. She'll be fast, that's for sure. I take a really deep breath and walk out. The start-line stay is important on this one, or we'll be offcourse into the wrong side of a tunnel on obstacle #3.

She stays. I release her, and she flies across the first two jumps and into the correct tunnel end and I do my first cross while she's in the tunnel. The first danger is past--often the bars that she knocks are the first or second as she begins with excitement. We make a long haul up one side of the course and I get my second front cross in--and a bar goes down! Jeez Louise! That's it, that's our limit, and we still have three quarters of the course to do. The arena is silent. We zoom back in the direction we came and I start working my way away from her towards my push as she starts around a curve.

This is what I hate about having people know that this is a key run for us. I know they're all watching. I know they're all holding their breaths. I know that if I blow it, I have to deal with my disappointment as well as with everyone else having wanted to say congrats and not being able to. I don't like it. The only reason TO do it is that, if you succeed, people cheer wildly and then you get to do a run around the ring wit your ribbon and your bar, which they'll have had waiting hidden in the background, and your dog running madly around the obstacles, not knowing exactly what the deal is but having fun. So I guess for the most part it's better that people know.

I try not to think about it. I try to just get into the flow of the course. I almost forget to do my next front cross, but I get it in while she's in the tunnel after all. We loop around several jumps--and I almost forget to do my last front cross, too (can tell from that that I'm nervous because my brain is shutting down), but skeedaddle into place just in the nick of time without distracting Tika.

And then we're in the homestretch, down a slightly curving line of three jumps and through the tire--and we're done. Now--it's possible that we could've knocked 2 bars. It wouldn't have been the first time that she ticked one lightly that dislodged and went down quietly into the dirt instead of rattling against the uprights as it fell. I didn't hear her tick any, but then I don't always.

It's possible that, in my state of mind, I forgot some of the course and in fact did not complete it successfully. It went by so fast that it's certainly possible. I'm gathering Tika up and praising her wildly (because she was a great dog on this course whether or not we got that Q and that C-ATCH) but waiting a heartbeat, or two--and several people start cheering and screaming, and then I know. And I jump up in the air with my arms over my head and I start cheering and Tika is jumping up and down and I'm telling her what a great dog she is. Someone runs out and hands me my bar and my ribbon--I'm ashamed to say that I have no idea who it is, I'm just making sure that I don't drop them when they hand them to me and that Tika doesn't go running in some other direction, and then we make a wild run around the ring, me running faster than I feel like I have in years, Tika blasting around the outer perimeter with joy and abandon.

It's just a dang CPE championship, for crying out loud, not even the USDAA ADCH, which we've still got a long way to go for. But I'm relieved and grinning and happy.

And tired and hungry.

Me, Tika, our bar and ribbon, and the nice judge who designed and judged our championship run.
I accept my assorted congratulations as everyone dashes to clear out for the night. I feed my dogs dinner, potty them one last time, collect the info about my jumpers run--she is by far the fastest of 111 dogs who've run that course, and it doesn't surprise me, because *she* had absolutely no hesitations, blips, or bobbles, and was really hitting her stride--but because of the knocked bar we place only 4th in our group.

The Long Journey Home

Then I finally hit the road. It's 8 pm. I am now officially working to stay fully alert, AND my stomach is telling me that it's very very hungry, AND my car is almost out of gas. I have to make a detour to the nearest gas station, and there aren't any fast foods nearby, so I have to stop again half an hour down the road to buy a taco (at the drive-up window, and then eating as I'm going).

I'm feeling droopy. Prairie Home Companion, which can entertain me if my timing is right, is long over. I'm not sure whether I'm going to make it only to Tracy or actually over the hills to Livermore, but I know I'm going to have to stop for a nap.

This weekend's haul. Only Jake's Snooker run didn't earn a Q or placement or win.
Something interesting-sounding comes on just before Tracy, so I make a break for the Altamont Pass, but it turns out to be not that interesting and now I'm having to work hard to have the pretense of remaining alert. Over in Livermore, I pull over at the first exit with which I'm familiar and know that there's a safe parking lot in which I can stop for an hour. I do so. I recline my seat back a few inches--that's all it'll go with all the stuff loaded behind it--and pull my down jacket over me. No pillow. Boost is restless at first--this is weird--but then settles. I must have dropped to sleep within about 3 minutes, even sitting mostly upright with almost nothing supporting my head.

Wake up a little after 10:30, an hour later, dash in to the restroom at the JITB, and head home. In bed by midnight.

I'd say generally a pretty darned fine weekend, and we're all still alive and healthy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One of those Days--

OK, this had nothing to do with dogs. Except that I've been feeling a little tired and unenthused about dealing with Real Life now that I'm back in it, including playing with or training dogs.

Met with my newish financial advisors to find out why their previous employer claims that they were terminated and have legal action against them. They're upset about that and say that it's the other way around. I got a plausible story, though, but none-the-less this wasn't something that I wanted to be in the middle of. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home to pick up a few things that I need. Didn't want to spend too much money but it's about time to replace that CO2 detector that went south last month, the power strip in the garage in which at least one outlet doesn't work, and etc. Happened to notice that the 2006 Thomas Bros map books are out, and my sad disintegrating ancient copies need replacing. So I popped 2 of the books into my stack. The total came up and I just about fell over backwards. Of course the books had no prices on them--no one would buy them if they did, I'm sure. That's about $65 worth of map books. I had to think about it on the way out to the car and I've decided that they're going to have to go back. So that means another trip.

I stopped at Subway to get some lunch. Ordered my usual Deli-Style Roast Beef. Took it home with me. Sat down for a nice relaxing meal--and the roll was as hard as a rock. Yuck. I couldn't even eat it. Ate the filling but not the roll.

Tried replacing the power strip and the new one doesn't work AT ALL. At least now I've got 2 reasons to go back to Home Depot. Not like I really want to spend the time.

Housemate cooked pizza this evening and invited me to have some. Crust burned pretty solidly. So we scraped the toppings off and ate them. That was tasty but not quite complete, if you know what I mean.

My credit union has switched to a new method of signing in that's more secure. Took me 10 minutes to get through all the mumbo jumbo when all I wanted to do was to transfer some funds. Then it ceased to let me sign in any more. STill haven't managed to transfer the funds.

I guess the day could've been worse. Just lots of little annoying things all day. And I'm REALLY tired, and once again I've done almost no work-work today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Working on Daily Notes...

I'm in the process of posting notes from the trip for each day. Done so far:

Tuesday.
Wednesday (posted Wed, nov 16, 3 pm).
Thursday (posted Thurs, Nov 17, 8:30 pm).
Friday (posted Thurs, 9:30 pm).
More briefly about Thursday, mostly about Boost's siblings (posted Tues, nov 22, 5:30 pm).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Home From the Nationals

We're home! Arrived at 6:30 this morning after driving all night, Jackie switching off with me every 1-3 hours. We tossed everything of mine from her car into a heap in the garage--it's one huge heap--and then I cleaned up the assorted messes left by my housemate (perhaps he thought I wasn't getting back until tomorrow?), then I slept for about 3 hours, then I had lunch and skimmed the various newspapers to see what happened in the rest of the insignificant world for the past week, then I downloaded some results and course maps from the nationals--

And here I am.

I have many photos (mostly not of us) and perhaps lots of commentary. A brief summary: Tika did better than last year in general, completing all courses except one of the 8 in which we competed. Jake did worse than last year, getting eliminated in all 3 of his runs. Tika and I, however, maintained our nearly perfect record of having at least one flaw in each run. None-the-less, she ran well in everything and truly beautifully in a couple of runs.

Time Gamble: Missed the up contact on the dogwalk and left the teeter early, heading for the wrong obstacle, so had a bobble that wasted probably a second or so. But my time estimate for her run would've been right on if she hadn't had the bobble, I believe.

Team Snooker: Missed the first weave-pole entry in the opening, which didn't count against us except for time, which probably dropped us in the placements slightly. But otherwise she got all the way through the snooker course, which very few teams managed on this particular course. In terms of placements, this was our highlight, placing 11th out of the top dogs in the country & the world in the 26" height class. (Ribbons given only to 8th in 26"--to 12th in 22", but there were more dogs entered in 22". Oh, well.) This was an excellent contribution to our Team effort; my partners got fewer points (18 and 19? something like that, compared to our 44) but still more than many people got. Run-TMZ ended the day in 74th place out of about 200 teams.

Steeplechase semifinals. Knocked a bar. Our run was smooth but not super-Tika; we were about 3 seconds off the pace, I think, which actually put us a long way away from making the final round even if we hadn't knocked the dang bar.

Team Standard: From a personal performance perspective, this was the highlight of our weekend. Tika was wired before the run--why, I don't know--and that little switch that puts her into world-class speed and drive flipped on and it was like a glorious dream running that course--except that she was so fast that I decided I couldn't get to a front cross that I really needed to keep her on course, tried just pulling instead, and got an offcourse. But the memory of that run overall is still a thrill. Even though my E dropped our Team to about 121st.

Power and Speed: Made it through the contacts-plus-weaves opening without any faults (last year we ran out of time for bobbles) but knocked a bar in the closing. At least we stayed on course and were reasonably fast--I think I counted that, in time alone, we were about 30th fastest; with the bar, we were about 50th.

Team Gamblers: Did well enough, I'm guessing middle of the pack. Knocked a bar, which cost us only one point. But, as is so typical, despite telling myself that I was going to run the final course that I chose during the walkthru, I changed my mind halfway through the course and I'm guessing that it cost us probably 3 to 6 points that I might have otherwise gotten. Still wouldn't have put us among the way top finishers, so that's not too bad, and I did get more points than my other teammates, so that's OK.

Team Jumpers: Did nicely, pretty fast as usual, knocked a bar. One teammate went clean on this run (I think) and another Eed. Our Team ended the weekend in 128th place overall. At least it's not last, but too bad we didn't crack the top 50%. Only the top 36 teams continued to the finals.

Grand Prix quarterfinals. Missed the up contact on the dogwalk. If we had run clean, our time was good enough to go to the semifinals, but it wasnt good enough with the fault. The top 50% of the dogs went on. If I counted correctly, we missed by 9 dogs (out of a couple hundred?) this year, compared to 2 dogs last year for last year's knocked bar. Sigh.

OK, I think I might go get more sleep.

Friday, November 11, 2005

FRIDAY: GP, Standard, Power and Speed

Backfill: Thurs, Nov 17
photos later

This is my busiest agility day with 5 runs in 4 rings. We've been grabbing the free continental breakfast at the hotel and heading for the show site. I'm usually pretty good about getting going in the morning, but my estimates are off when I have 3 dogs to worry about pottying successfully, let alone taking them up & down 4 flights of stairs for each trip. So we've been a little rushed each time.

Jackie dropped me off in the parking lot a mere 3 minutes or so before my first scheduled walkthrough, in Ring 1 at 7:14. I cross the last two rows of the parking lot, duck under the fence (they didn't think thru the competitor access very well), trot down the gravelly slope, across the dry wash, up the slope on the other side. Past the first giant crating tent and out the gate past ring 4. Cut out and around rings 2 and 3 because you can't just go past them. Past the Dock Dog pool. I'm jogging as much as I can, but I'm not up to jogging the whole way. Past the end of ring 2, past all the vendors in the vendor area. Past the food vendors and the USDAA Hospitality tent. I arrive ringside just as they're announcing the switch to my group's walkthrough--according to my watch, even with jogging, it took me 5 minutes to get from the parking lot into the ring. Sheesh.

That's my Grand Prix Quarterfinals walkthrough. The course really doesn't look bad to me at all; I think we can handle it easily without an offcourse. I'm hoping that this year we run clean; a mere knocked bar kept us out of the semis last year, but our time was good enough to make it without the fault. Many of my friends placed high enough in the Bay Team Regional Qualifier in September to earn a Bye to the semifinal or final round. We, of course, managed to go offcourse in that particular GP qualifier, although we had good runs in most of the NONregional GP qualifiers last year. I'd really really like to make it to the semifinals, at least.

There are a few reasons why. (1)I just want to prove that we can do it! (2) You don't get a cool polo shirt until you make it to the semis. (3) The Veterans Grand Prix used to allow any old dog who had qualified for the nationals in previous years to run; this year they upped the requirement to only veterans who've made it to the semifinals. Fortunately, Jake managed to do that once (just barely). When Tika gets older, I'd like her to be eligible, also, assuming that they continue to run the Veterans Grand Prix.

At 7:56, my Power and Speed walkthrough commences. I've got Jake and Tika entered in this. You must first complete all the contacts plus weaves, in any order, within a specific amount of time, to be allowed to continue to the jumping/timed portion of the course. The Good Lord only knows what I was thinking when I entered Jake, since he pops his dogwalk contact 98% of the time. And it's risky for Tika, since she often misses her dogwalk up. But I come up with a course strategy that I think will handle both--making a sharp turn from the teeter directly to the dogwalk, so that Tika doesn't have enough speed to jump over the up contact, and so that Jake is aimed out towards the side of the ring with no other obstcles in front of him to give him reason to want to jump off early. Maybe it'll slow him down.

At 8:24, I get my 10-minute walkthrough for Team Standard. It looks like a slightly challenging course but wide open in several places, which is Tika's kind of course. If I can hang onto her through the couple of challenges, we'll probably do well. This is one place where I appreciate having a dog who can be relied on to stop on contacts--there's a jump about 12 feet straight in front of the dogwalk, but you have to turn the dog 180 away from you into a tunnel instead of taking that jump. Will be hard for dogs with running contacts.

Despite the excruciatingly detailed walkthrough schedule, there's no walkthrough scheduled for Veterans Grand Prix. Last night, someone told me that they had asked and were told that the walkthrough was in the afternoon before the runs (starting at 3:00). However--surprise--about halfway through my 10-minute Standard walkthru, they announce that Veterans should be walking the GP course *now* during this 10-minute slot. It distracts me a bit... I want to make the walkthrough and debate cutting out of the Standard walkthrough early, until my mind clears and I realize that no one will know if I just wait until the next group and then walk with them.

So that's what I do, starting at 8:38. Veteran Grand Prix is supposed to be the same course as Tika's Grand Prix, but in a different ring. Now, all courses all weekend are split between 2 rings. That means that someone attempts to set up exactly the same course in 2 places. Whenever this has been done, I have never ever seen 2 courses that have exactly the same challenges. Moving a jump by a foot or changing its angle by 5 degrees or the tunnel entry moving a few inches can mean the difference between life and death. And the same holds true here.

For example, the weave pole entry in Tika's ring is much harder; you have to push out to it, while here it's in flow with the preceding jumps. However, in Tika's ring, the dog looks from the starting line over 2 jumps and can just see the corner of the A-Frame that's #3; in Jake's ring, the tunnel that's under the A-frame sticks out completely visibly into the dog's view over the first 2 jumps. In Tika's ring, it's not visible to the dog at all. So I'm going to have to lead out farther with Jake to make sure I'm in position to yank him up the A-Frame, especially since he refused it twice on Thursday.

The weather is unclear. There's supposed to be a chance of rain. It starts out sunny, gets very cloudy, gets sunny, gets cloudy. In fact, it never rains at all, but it is quite a bit cooler than Wednesday.

OK, then, unlike yesterday, I get into the GP ring with Tika right away at 9:00. I'm calm. She runs smoothly and professionally. She keeps all her bars up. On the last third of the course--starting with the dogwalk--she misses the up contact. Everything else is lovely. Dag blaggedy blag. I won't know for sure until the end of the day, but in fact this year she misses the 50% cutoff to the semis by 8 dogs because of the fault. Her time alone would've placed her securely among the 41 dogs going on, at about 25th place.

Then we get a brief respite and Jake runs Power and Speed around 10:00. He does the teeter nicely, runs across the dogwalk--I decide on the strategy of slowing down, coming to a complete stop behind him, saying nothing. He slows wayyyy down, hesitates--and flies right off the down contact. Bam, our run is over. I run him off the course rapidly over a few jumps so that I can get to the finish-line side and so that he can actually run a little teeny bit, and he's very fast and happy.

Tika runs a while later, and she handles the opening sequence marvelously. Then, halfway through the closing, I for some unexplained reason make a front cross that I hadn't intended to make, meaning that 2 obstacles later I end up behind her trying to push her over a jump, which she struggles mightily to make despite my clumsy effort, but knocks the bar in the process. It also slowed her down several steps, at least. She ends in about 51st place among 120 dogs, but if you ignore all faults, she's the 30th fastest dog. (But only 1.5 seconds behind the fastest dog, to show how tight close some of these times can be!)

Then I get a bit of a break for lunch and shopping and socializing...and pottying and exercising dogs, as usual. My Run-TMZ teammates both run the Standard course without Eing (which is the key in Team events), although they have faults. The pressure's on.

Jake is up first in Veteran's Grand Prix, with the group starting around 3:00. And--as I start to lead out, he takes off running, gets ahead of me, and zooms right into that too-visible tunnel, offcourse immediately. I ask the judge whether we can keep going (having noticed that pretty much all dogs who E have been immediately leaving the course, but not having read or heard any such rule), and the judge graciously says yes. It is, after all, Veterans, and this might be the only class for some of them. Now, to make it worse, JAKE RUNS FAST, and HE DOES FAST WEAVES (which he hardly ever does in competition any more), AND.... HE MAKES HIS D***M DOGWALK DOWN CONTACT! That's because this course also has a 180-degree turn from the dogwalk into a tunnel, and I bust my little california buns to get way ahead of him, so that as he's coming down the ramp I'm in front of him and I tell him to TURN with a big body & arm gesture before he's even in the yellow zone. So he takes a couple of steps to think about it, which puts him into the yellow contact zone, and then he flips perfectly into the tunnel and finishes the course in style. Curse that cute evil little doggie!

Although in fact I'm very pleased with the run, considering that this is probably his last USDAA run ever, since I don't think I want to jump him at 16" any more.

Finally Tika is up in Team Standard, our group starting around 4:00. Well--she's wired. Totally. I can tell before we go into the ring that that magic switch is flipped. And, on this course, where I really really don't want an E for an offcourse, I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. We do some calming exercises before stepping into the ring.

She actually stays at the start line. I do my leadout. I release her over the first two jumps, which stay up--and she is off and running in true World Champion style. She does everything super fast. She and I seem to be in perfect synch, making our turns tight and hitting every obstacle in the perfect location. She gets her up contact on the dogwalk. She makes the perfect, fast turn into the tunnel at the end of the dogwalk. We're heading for the home stretch--a chute followed by a sharp turn into a U of jumps. I need to make a front cross to make that sharp turn, but despite getting ahead of her before the chute, I decide that I can't make the cross with her speed, and I hang back--and she goes off course coming out of the chute. I quickly pick her up and finish the U of jumps, all of which she keeps up, still blasting away.

I am floating on adrenaline and joy with the pleasure of the run at the same time that I'm teetering on the brink of despair for that dang offcourse. I'm like that most of the day, but by evening the despair has worn away and the memory of that nearly perfect run is the overwhelming feeling. I'm happier about that run, I think, than about our high-placing Snoooker run. I need to run the video and try getting a time for the course if we hadn't done the offcourse to see whether she still might have placed (although I did hold her briefly on the contacts in all cases).

So that was our competition day. A mixed bag but not a disaster. As for Run-TMZ, my E in Standard was a big contributor to us dropping to 121st out of 205 teams. We'll try to make it up tomorrow in Gamblers and Jumpers.

In the evening, it's the Steeplechase finals and we stay and watch. Man, those dogs are fast. I reported on them in the Bay Team Blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

THURSDAY: Snooker and Steeplechase

Backfill: Thurs, Nov. 17
photos later

Today began our challenging walk-through and run schedule. My first 10-minute walkthrough, for Steeplechase semifinals, started at 7 a.m., with the sun just rising on what might be a cloudy day or might be warm. Then I twiddled my thumbs, more or less, until my next 10-minute walkthrough, for Team Snooker, at 8:24.

THEN came the hard part--remembering the courses and the feel of being out there until my Snooker run at 1:00 and my Steeplechase run at 3:00. That meant that I had a walkthrough and run of Snooker between the steeplechase walkthru and run--as well as lots of other activities to kill the intervening time.

There are many good vendors here. Way too many. There's a vendor with those PVC-frame doggie beds that I've been wanting another one of. Clean Run is here with their supply of agility shoes, and my old ones are very close to being officially worn out. Lots of cool toys; several vendors have the extra-long purple Riot Tug that I want another one of. And Bully Sticks. And... Oh, man, guess I'm going shopping even though I don't need to spend the money. I'll definitely need new shoes within a few short months, though, and better to pay now and save not only shipping but also there's an introductory discount for some styles. Sighhh--

Not only that, there's a food vendor selling cotton candy and another selling kettle corn. All day, every day! What's a girl to do?

The Snooker course is interesting. I like courses that aren't simply speed courses, where handling and strategy play a part, too. At first glimpse, this looks like a speed course because the #7 obstacle is a tunnel-jump-tunnel combination , which are fast obstacles. But, when you start adding up yardage to get from the reds to the 7, and through the 7, and back again, and then the twisty-turny 2-thru-7 closing sequence, and consider the very tight time allowed, it becomes clear (at least to me) that people are not going to be making 3 sevens. I time it several ways for Tika trying to do merely 2 sevens and conclude that, even as fast as she is, she's not going to be able to do it. Even one seven is doubtful, although there's one way of handling the sequence that is SOOOOOOO tempting that I'm still considering it up to the last minute. But, in the end, I stick with my plan of two fives (6-pole weaves) and a four (a 3-jump sequence).

After watching dog after dog fail to make it through the opening or run out of time way before finishing the closing, I'm more convinced than ever that I've chosen the right course. I drive her as much as I can; I'm wired and she's almost wired. She misses her first weave pole entry, which isn't a penalty but wastes time on a very tight course. I drive her even harder and the rest of the course is flawless--and the whistle blows a fraction of a second after we complete the #7 in the closing.

Turns out that we're one of only a very few dogs who complete the course in the alloted time and with our selected opening, and Tika places 11th among about 160 26" dogs--and I'm absolutely delighted about that. That's the highest she's ever placed at a Nationals event. It's not quite a ribbon (only to 8th), but anyway I'm pretty happy.

My Run-TMZ partners don't bomb out completely--one of my agility friends reported that her entire team managed to earn 3 points between them in this particular snooker course--each earning something like 18 points, and pleasingly, at the end of the day, we start the team competition in 74th place out of 205 teams. Only the top 36 will go to the final round. We aren't really expecting to be there, but...really...if we can hang in there without any Es in any of the remaining events, we could get awfully close. That's a good way to start the Team tournament.

The Steeplechase is a slight disappointment. Tika's run is fast and smooth--which in fact I'm pleased with--but not completely driven. I know that she has a higher gear. I mean, she's one fast dog anyway, but usually I don't go looking for that higher gear, and so I don't really know how to find it when I want it. Turns out it doesn't matter, as we knock a bar just like we did last year, but this time our speed alone is 3 seconds slower than the time it took to qualify for the finals; if I remember correctly, we were more like a second under last year and I had hoped we could at least be in that range, with or without faults. Oh, well, something else to work on-- besides not knocking bars, I mean.

Jake is entered in nothing today. All the dogs are bored. Jake is so stiff every time I take him out of the crate, but he does eventually play frisbee with me, after a LOT of coaxing and teasing and insisting and commanding.

In the evening, I stroll the quarter mile from my hotel to the "American Grill" (Jill's?) down the street to join a few friends and acquaintances for dinner while Jackie is out with a local friend from high school days. The meal is good, not too expensive, and is served among good friends and good humor. One of their dessert choices is apple crisp, and I order it (2 nights in a row!) and it's cooked fresh in an individual pan and is quite tasty.

Then, to bed. (Leaving out all the dozens of times I took the dogs out one or 2 at a time to potty or play or both. Taking all 3 results in Boost and Tika yanking constantly on the leashes and me getting into a foul mood really quickly. Tika can walk decently on leash, although she has to work at it, and she does best if I have my bait bag with me. And Boost can walk decently on leash in between major distractions (of which there are still many for a puppyish dog), but does best when she's the only one and I have my bait bag with me (do I detect a pattern?).)