Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Goodies Didn't Cause Seizures

SUMMARY: Clarifying that brain tumor most likely cause.

Although I thought I was clear in my email/blog post that the tests had eliminated most possible causes (including goodies) of Jake's seizures except a nodule or tumor on the brain, several people have asked about the goodies. The emergency clinic did quite a panel of blood and urine tests on Jake right after the first seizure, and everything was normal. This ruled out some causes of seizures, such as hypoglycemia, liver disease, or kidney failure. Xrays showed nothing odd in the stomach like lead fishing weights that could have caused sudden lead poisoning. I was able to provide the vets with the torn-up packages that Jake got into, and they said that there was nothing in the ingredients that would cause seizures even in quantity. As far as I was aware, there had been no trauma to his head at all to cause swelling, another possible seizure cause, and there were no symptoms of concussion, edema, or encephalitis. And no signs of heart problems or tumors, which could also have caused seizures.

Most likely at his age, they concurred, it would be a brain problem, and not even most probably a stroke but more likely a tumor or other nodule or growth in the brain. They considered that his brief stroke-like symptoms--having trouble standing--two weeks ago today was much more likely related than was his goodie fest. Furthermore, his main post-seizure symptom--pacing steadily in one-directional circles--is very typical of a brain tumor on that side of the cerebral cortex. And he had been drinking prodigiously all day, which could have been related to the goodies but I think he'd been doing it beforehand, too--don't remember--and that's another symptom of brain tumor.

I followed up with some reading on the internet, and nothing I found contradicted these opinions (which two emergency room vets and my own vet all agreed on). Basically, any one thing could point at several causes, but put everything together, and the brain tumor seemed most likely.

At 15, and with the seizures coming quickly, lasting forever (in excess of 3 minutes each) and miserable confusion and loss of self combined with horrible despairing yowling any time we tried to get him to hold still or confine him, lasting for hours after each, it seemed pointless to do more diagnostic tests. If we had confirmed it was a tumor, we could have put him on constant antiseizure meds, with no guarantee that they would work. If it wasn't a tumor, we could have spent ages doing more tests, also using antiseizure drugs, and maybe or maybe not coming up with an answer. I just couldn't bear to put him through any more of what he'd been through.

A little further reading on seizures in dogs:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Few Jake Photos

SUMMARY: A few photos from the last year or so.
These have all been published in this blog.
December 2005January 2007
January 2007December 2006
November 2006November 2006
Maybe more.....later

The Last Weekend

SUMMARY: I sent this email yesterday.

November 2006
I am completely unprepared to make this announcement. On Saturday, Jake ran in two CPE classes at the Championship level and Qed in both, even placing 3rd among 7 considerably younger dogs. He celebrated by getting into the front seat of my car while I was elsewhere and consuming 5 or 6 bags of truly gourmet dog treats, his own dream come true.

In the wee hours of Sunday, he had a major seizure and spent half a day at the emergency clinic recovering and being tested, none of which revealed anything. It wasn't the goodies, thank the gods. The main likely thing left would be a brain tumor, although we didn't scan for it. By afternoon he was the same old Jake, and I could only hope that it was a one-of-a-kind occurrence.

Last night, two more major seizures overwhelmed his poor little Jakey brain. This morning, although his tongue barely functioned and his mouth, mind, and body hardly better, Jake the Obsessive Chowhound proved to be indestructible and perked up as much as the damage allowed when I pulled out the goodie bag, and he took goodie after goodie from my hands, obsessively oblivious to anything else in the world, right up until the merciful drugs put him to sleep for the last time.

Oh, Jakey-man, my old guy.

Jake Performance III Jumpers video from 2003; in 2004 he was USDAA Top Ten in PIII Jumpers.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jake Seems Fine

SUMMARY: Jake is home and fine so far. Tests negative.

Jake is home. I had to sit in the waiting room for about half an hour to pick him up and talk to the vet; busy period there. The up side was that I got a bunch of cool dog-related links that I'll post in a bit. The down side was that I could hear him barking, barking, barking back in the back. I'd have told him to be quiet. I'm thinking that the folks back there were only too glad to have him out of there. It was his "I think you forgot about me" bark, such as a couple of times when he's accidentally been shut in the garage, or wants us to open the door for him instead of using the doggie door, or wants something that he thinks is out of his reach (maybe a rawhide on a shelf that I took away from someone or set aside for later).

They did xrays of everything except his head (don't work well thru the skull) and nothing showed up. Blood work normal. Chemistry (?) test normal. Hmm, forgot to ask whether they managed to get enough urine for a test there. They did not give him any antiseizure medication (phenobarbitol etc.); my misunderstanding. He just got one dose of valium and another sedative (ACE, harking back to some email discussions I've seen about what kind of anaesthesia is safe to use on dogs...).

He seems completely normal. Stool is normal now, no more signs of diarrhea. He's still drinking a lot, as he was yesterday (which I also attributed to all those goodies he ate).

Vet says that I can talk to my regular vet about brain scans or spinal fluid analysis. Also said that a first seizure at this age isn't good--usually indicates a problem with the brain (but could also be heart or something else causing lack of oxygen to the brain). If he has more than one seizure in 24 hours, take him in to the hospital. If it's less often, as long as they're not very long, then I can decide to just deal with it or talk to the vet about antiseizure drugs (a la epilepsy).

We shall see what time will tell. I think it's an uneasy coincidence that him getting into everything in the front of the car was followed by the seizure--but it's also awfully close in time to that very brief staggering episode 10 days ago.

Jake at Emergency Clinic after Good CPE

SUMMARY: Jake's status TBD. Bad ending to a lovely day.

Jake had a prolonged seizure in the wee hours of the morning. Don't know whether it's related to that little episode a week and a half ago where he briefly had trouble standing, or to getting into the front seat of the car during the trial yesterday and consuming every bag of Zukes and a variety of other dog treats that he could find. I don't think that he ate anything other than dog treats--can't find any evidence of it and can't think what it would be--but emergency vet doesn't think it would've been caused by dog treats.

They dosed him with phenobarbitol and another drug both to prevent seizures and to ease his horrible panic that continued after the seizure. Vet reports this morning that he's agitated and barking in his crate, and I couldn't tell him whether that was typical for being at the hospital, and they're too busy at the change of shift to let me in to see him and I have to go meet someone in an hour for some photos I've been trying to set up for weeks and don't want to cancel, so I don't know whether just seeing me would calm him or make him worse.

They are trying to get a urine sample and want to do some xrays. It's almost $900 just for the overnight stay and this basic array of tests. They've found nothing in his blood work.

It's really too bad. He seemed very happy to be running in the morning. He did fairly well in Full House--a strategy game in which the handler usually designs the course but in this case was designed primarily by jake who couldn't hear me very well or maybe see me very well or who knows--but at any rate, earned a Qualifying score AND placed 3rd of 6 dogs. His second run was much later in the day, after the gorge-fest; Jumpers, and he was obviously slower, which didn't surprise me considering how much he had eaten. He still earned a qualifying score by only by grace of the CPE rule that drops fractional seconds: SCT was 36 and he took 36.5.

Tika Qed 4 out of 5 classes, and the 5th was a stupid handler trick--I thought that she was over the last jump when I slacked off and said "Good Girl!", but the bar went down right *after* that, so my brain had just extrapolated incorrectly. Sigh. And she took 1st place in all 5 classes (the other 24" dogs made more mistakes than we did in that same class).

Boost Qed 4 out of 5; the fifth was a couldn't-be-easier-to-Q nontraditional Jackpot that I just completely mishandled, got out of place, panicked, and couldn't think on my feet. We had about 20 chances to get it and my brain went south. Sigh.

Still, good for her 1st CPE trial, starting at Level 3 (completely bypassing 1 and 2), and she had two 1sts for the day. Qed in Standard with no faults although went past 2 jumps that I had to bring her back around for, in Jumpers although went pas 2 jumps that I had to bring her back around for, in Colors although missed weave entry and had to come back for it.

Fourth Q was in Full House with a nearly flawless run on a course that I designed beautifully, if I may say so myself--knocked a bar, so ended up with 1 fewer point than Tika, with whom I used the same course. And they were the 3rd and 4th-highest scoring dogs out of 125 competing--the two who beat us (a) are very fast smaller dogs who get 5 seconds more of running time and (b) have running Aframes, and I held each of my dogs on two Aframes long enough for a "good girl" and then release. That was definitely my highlight for the day.

Tika's Jackpot was about 5th highest of all 80+ 3/4/5/C dogs, all but one of the higher-scorers small dogs with more time.

And she was 4th fastest of all 3/4/5C in Wildcard, with all 3 faster dogs having running Aframes and I once again held her for a "good girl". Don't know if releasing her immediately would have beat the very fastest dog who was a full 1.5 seconds faster, but probably the other 2. She was at 4.94 yards per second, on a course including an Aframe, 6 weaves, and a 3-jump serpentine.

Her Colors was 2nd fastest of all 3/4/5/C again, but there was that danged bar down (her only non-Q). That was over 5 yards per second, with a teeter, 6 weaves, and two short, sharp right-angle turns.

Anyway, this is one reason why I like CPE--because we really seem like hot stuff because there is a much-smaller percentage of hot-stuff dogs at CPE trials than at USDAA trials, where any more it feels like 80 to 90% are hot-stuff dogs. Still, I watched so many amazing blazing dogs on course even here this weekend. And I think, because we just normally do so well in CPE, I relax more and therefore do even better than I might on a similar course at a USDAA trial and probably have even more fun with my dogs.

This was good typing this, I haven't thought about Jake for 5 whole minutes. Now it's off to deal with my day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More about the AKC

SUMMARY: Various comments, observations, and posts.

Another blogger's thoughts about the survey

"I feel so dirty".


Questions in and about the survey


Some of my observations on a few (not all) survey questions:
  • What is your relationship to the AKC? (Select all that apply.) One advantage to having registered Boost with AKC is that now I have the feeling that they'll consider my opinion to be worth something, because I am in fact now a purebred dog owner. I already know from my experience with Amber (OK, nearly 30 years ago, but still smarts) that they think that non-AKC dogs and non-purebred owners aren't worth much.

  • Should mixed breeds be restricted from qualifying for the AKC Companion Events' national championships and/or invitationals? (Yes/ No /I don't know) This is my main reason for voting for this, to allow mixed breeds to compete here. AKC gets to pick who's on the world cup team, and they do it primarily based on results of these events, and non-AKC dogs aren't eligible. Now, there's nothing in the survey about world cup specifically, and it might not be up to the AKC, it might be up to the FCI, and even if it is up to the AKC, they'll probably make it impossible for a non-AKC dog to be on the world cup team. But at least we'll have our chance to prove that we could be.

  • Please rate your agreement with the following statements (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree).

  • Kennel clubs should serve owners of all dogs - purebreds and/or mixed breeds. Well, duh, a dog's a dog. Strongly agree. I realize that that's not AKC's charter--it is to promote purebred dogs. But you don't know how long it took me to figure out, back in my early days of agility, that when I got a premium for an "all-breed" competition, they didn't really mean anything like "all", by a long shot.

  • Expanding mixed breed dogs' participation in AKC events will lessen AKC's commitment to the purebred dog. Doubtful. You can read their stance in their presentation about why they're proposing adding mixed-breeds: To prove once and for all that they're inferior to purebreds.

  • AKC would abandon years of tradition by allowing mixed breed competition. How do you respond to that? Fact: yes. Inference: Who knows? If you agree with this fact, will they consider that to be a negative thing? Do they realize that they have a true/false question that's not soliciting an opinion?

  • Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC Companion Events and educating them about AKC breeds may encourage them to make their next dog a purebred. Well, duh, exposing anyone to anything may make them act differently in the future.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to people without breeding and/or exhibiting experience joining clubs and influencing policy making. The first of two trick questions. Well, another duh, of course it will. Is this a bad thing? I think not. But AKC probably thinks it is.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to animal rights activists joining clubs and influencing policy making. Second trick question. This sounds like a good thing, right? Isn't everyone for animal rights? But nooo--I know from previous AKC statments that, to them, "animal rights activists" means "PETA extremists". But the question doesn't SAY "PETA extremists," so I can't respond to that inference. I can only hope that yes, indeed, animal rights activists who feel that it's a travesty that puppy mills can churn out AKC puppies in deplorable conditions and promote them as desireable offspring will in fact influence policy making. In any event, I'm pretty sure that if they get a lot of "agrees" on this one, they'll think that's bad.

Comments from fellow Bay Teamers about the survey materials

  • (Referring to her mixed-breed agility dog:) I would have put [my dog] up against any purebred. She may not have got 200s in obedience, but the 197/8s sure beat enough other people. Many people do get a purebred, after having a mix breed so they could compete in events.

  • (Long-time rescue foster home, agility with a variety of dogs:) I suggested the playing field be level, and may the best dog(s) win! Now, WHO would be afraid of that?

  • (Mandy, long-time boxer & golden owner, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA, AKC:) This is also a group that planned to allow puppies to be sold in pet stores last year until there was a huge uproar from their base. Not sure why I would support a group whose purpose in inviting me to participate is to 1) demonstrate that my dogs are inferior to purebreds and 2) generate more income for them while not allowing full participation. Thankfully, I don't need the AKC to give me its blessing to compete with my dog.

  • (Katie, owner of Labs, all rescue dogs:) Rome wasn't built in a day, and I welcome the opportunity to tell the AKC that I would like to see all dogs participate equally. The AKC is in a position to do a lot of good on behalf of all dogs, or a lot of evil on behalf of unscrupulous breeders. The more their constituency can help to drag them kicking and screaming in the right direction, the better.

  • (Jennifer, owner of a variety of dogs including border collies, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA-- In response to AKC packet statement: "Purebreds consistently score better than mixed breeds in head-to-head competition. The U.S. Dog Agility Association has given 63 lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance, and only three of those have gone to mixed breed dogs.") One thing I noticed is that their information packet is very disingenuous, not to mention wrong in places - USDAA has 150 lifetime achievement award winners listed on their website, with the number of mixed breeds in the double digits not 3 or 4 or whatever number AKC gives. Also the vast majority of the winners are Border Collies (surprise!) and most breeds have no winners at all - so that doesn't really translate to purebreds always beating mixed breeds when they compete together . . I added in the Comments section that I read the numbers to indicate that mixed breeds beat most purebreds when they compete (just to be wicked - I really don't care who beats whom). I won't switch from my present organizations no matter what AKC does.

The cheating mini-Aussie


(email from a purebred-owning friend who has competed very successfully in AKC, USDAA, and CPE at least:)
So a 12" jumping Aussie (Willow) won the top Aussie of the year awards, as well as winning the 12" class at the AKC invitational.

The Aussie parent club has complained, because Willow is an ILP, and she and her parents are registered as North American Shepherds (aka mini-Aussies) with the North American Shepherd parent club.

As a result, AKC has changed its ILP rules as follows (forwarded AKC posting):
As you all probably know, a formal complaint was filed with the American Kennel Club in November, identifying the North American Shepherd, Blue Moon Shine on Willow, as being ineligible for Indefinite Listing Privileges with the AKC because she is not a purebred Australian Shepherd, but is the offspring of two NAMASCUSA- registered North American Shepherds.

As a direct consequence of the formal complaint, the AKC Board of Directors discussed the matter at its January Board meeting. The AKC acted in record time to amend the rules for applying to receive Indefinite Listing Privileges.

Beginning immediately, persons applying for an ILP are required to attest that neither the dog on the application nor its parents has been registered, *or identified, anywhere* as a breed other than that stated on the application.

That means from now on, people who register their dogs with MASCA and/or NAMASCUSA (and/or NSDR-MA, etc. etc. etc.) or compete with their dogs as Miniature Australian Shepherds or Toy Australian Shepherds in MASCA/NAMASCUSA, ASCA or any Rare Breed events, or even identify their dogs on their own websites as Miniature or Toy Australian Shepherds, will be out of luck if they think they can cheat their way into competing in AKC performance events.

If an owner of a Miniature Australian (aka North American) Shepherd or Toy Australian Shepherd knows that it or its parents have been registered - or even just identifed *anywhere* - as a Miniature Australian Shepherd (North American Shepherd, Toy Australian Shepherd, etc. etc. etc.) that dog is explicitly *excluded* from Indefinite Listing Privilege eligibility.

Personally I think this is pretty sad. The mini-Aussies are very few generations from being Aussies, and they are awesome dogs. It is a shame that they are being removed from AKC competition because they don't satisfy the breed standard as far as the parent club is concerned. Of course, I think mixed breeds should be able to compete in AKC events too, and I keep hearing AKC is moving that way, which makes this decision strange.

You can see the complaint here.

Response 1 (Gail, purebred owner at top of both AKC and USDAA agility):
I'm ambivalent about this issue because of the special way in which dogs qualify to compete in the Invitational. If Willow won the 12" class at the regular Nationals I would have no qualms, because she'd get through to the final purely on the dog's merits relative to many other dogs. But that's not the case for the Invitational.

Qualifying for the Invitational is based on your AKC speed points in ExB Std and JWW plus 10 points for each double Q. You have to be among the top 5 in your breed to be invited (or if one them declines, #6). This system greatly favors dogs that measure into a lower-than-normal jump height because they tend to earn more speed points due to the slower SCT. In addition, if you barely measure under, you will be one of the longest-legged dogs in your class, so you'll often place, thereby getting multipliers for your speed points.

So Willow, who is barely under 14" (if she really is; a lot of the dogs at the Invitational looked like mis-measures), is at an advantage compared to regular Aussies who have to compete with BCs etc. and won't always be at the top of their height class. The two very small Aussies owned by the Carruzos were also at the Invitational for the same reason, but in the 16" class. So most of the Aussies that attended were not good examples of the breed standard, and since the whole point of the Invitational is to highlight the breeds . . .

The same thing was true for BC; at least 3 were in the 16" class.

All the pems that went to the Invitational were 8" dogs. That's because they are at the top of that height class, and it's a less competitive class than 12" where the larger corgis compete. I watched these dogs. A couple were good; [my corgi] at 11-/12 would have done much better than the others, but of course he never places anymore and racks up fewer points. Plus a lot of the little pems don't do USDAA because they'd have to jump 12", so they spend all their time at AKC trials, again racking up more points.

Beyond the way one qualifies to go to the Invitational, there is another rule that gave Willow an unfair advantage. Only one dog of each breed could go into the final in each height. So that means only 1 sheltie could go through to the final. The shelties were all in the 12" class, so one had to not only run clean all four rounds, one had to be the fastest of 5 shelties. Willow had no competitors.

Because the Invitational is explicitly not about identifying the most athletic agility dogs or the best teams, but rather is about highlighting all their approved breeds, I think that what AKC did makes senses. That's a separate issue from the Nationals, where I wish they'd let any dog compete, because that is a true skill competition.


My question (not so much in response to previous post but to original AKC): So if the dog hadn't registered elsewhere as a "Miniature Aussie", then AKC's "cheating" complaint would go away? Odd.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

AKC Considering Mixed Breeds in Competition

SUMMARY: Cross-post from Nancy Gyes

I would like to ask you to please participate in an AKC survey which is soliciting opinions on whether to allow mixed breeds to participate in AKC Events. I hope that you will agree that mixed breeds should be allowed to compete in the very same classes at all performance events with AKC purebreds.

I think that the AKC is close to making a decision in the direction of allowing them to compete in performance events. What is unclear is how they may allow them to participate. I would not like to see them create a separate class for the All American dogs instead of simply allowing them to participate in regular classes along side the rest of us. There are some very specific questions on the survey addressing that subject.

The survey will not take long, please take a few minutes and show your support to our friends and students with mixed breeds as well as all the owners of mixed breeds around the country. Speak up with your curser!

http://www.akc.org/mixedbreed_survey/


Thank you in advance,

Nancy Gyes
Owner of a mixed breed since 1976

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Checking In

SUMMARY: Good gods, has it really been almost a week since my last post?

Nothing much to report. Should have been working on exercises for my quads and knees and getting back into shape for everything. But no. Should have been working on Tika's dogwalk ups. But no. Have been doing a wee little bit of work on Boost's weaves, but that's it. I dunno, haven't been much in a training mood the last few days. Plus very busy otherwise, which might account for it.

I moved my Aframe over the huge space where the lilac shrub used to be, and promptly broke a sprinkler head. At least I'm not having to irrigate at the moment, but that's just one more annoying thing to add to my to-do list.

Went with some photography friends out to Ano Nuevo on the coast to see the elephant seals on Monday. Very cool as always. Took lots of photos that I'm still sorting through. It's a 3-mile round trip walk, and although I managed it without any great difficulty, I did find that it was a working effort to keep pace with the crowd (went with an Audobon society group, so all outdoorsy types used to covering ground). Knee was slightly achey by the end and I had a hitch in that hip, although I really couldn't detect any favoring of that leg, still there must have been. Andit was an easy hike, too, so yet another clue that I'm not where I need to be.

Furthermore, when I realized that I had sent the friends back to my van with the keys but hadn't mentioned that I had set the alarm, I had to jog to catch up to them, and THAT was hard. So I really do need to be doing more jogging and sprinting, not long sessions because it's too jarring for the knee, but enough to be comfortable at it again.

Saw Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night last night at San Jose Rep. Very intense.

Have been slowly working on infrastructure to convert my agility club's web site to primarily a wiki, making it easy for other club members to update info pages and maybe even to create a cool interactive agility wiki for the agility community at large. Lots still to do before we get to that stage.

And of course there's--(ominous music)--work.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weaves, Pushing the Envelope, and Getting Old

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves--huh? Tika and me--how far can we go? Getting old: Me and Jake.

Boost's Weaves

At our last 2 weekends of trials, Boost got all of her weave entries (except once where she didn't see them at all and went past the whole thing), and stayed in all of them except twice when I tried to get ahead & she popped out at last pole. At home, I've been working on fixing that last issue by getting farther ahead, racing her to the end, doing distractions, etc. And have been working on weave entrances with a short set of poles from various tough angles, sometimes just across the lawn but more often from a tunnel or over a jump.

Today in class she couldn't do weaves worth beans. She hit the first pole entry every time but then just started skipping randomly, often the 2nd pole but just as often staying in for a few poles & then skipping here and there. Jeez! I'd even just load her in manually to the first pole and still she'd skip. I wasn't racing her or anything. Finally towards the end on one troubled attempt, Nancy had us just go to the other end and weave back towards where we came from, and she did it fine. Then she was OK going the right way if I loaded her in carefully.

Then, after class was all over and Nancy "left the building," telling us all to do the exercise one more time, Boost not only made a difficult entry in flow, full speed, but stayed in the weaves all the way through very nicely, thank you very much.

So I blame it all on Nancy.

But seriously--what a frustrating experience! Hope it doesn't remanifest itself at a trial.

Tika Pushing the Envelope

I've said before how much I like my current class. In particular, Ken with Apache the Terv and Jenn with Kye the Aussie, all of us jumping 26", and Ash with Luka at 16", and all of us pushing the limits of our handling skills. Of course, Ashley and Luka are rapidly working their way into being in the top teams in the entire country in both USDAA and AKC, and I just can't compete with his vast stores of energy and long legs, but I can feed off of that drive to succeed. We talk about "The Cool Factor" in class a lot. That's one of Jim's seminar jokes--why would you choose one handling option over another? The Cool Factor! Because everyone will think you're totally cool if you can pull it off! What it really is, is stretching what we think we're capable of. All one of us has to say is, "I'm going to try it!" and the others of us are right in there, not wanting to be uncool. :-)

I'm finding that it's hard for me to pull up a lot of energy or to move my legs and arms really fast, though. Some of it, I'm sure, is just being out of shape from the months of knee issues and post-surgery. And I'm not doing much about it, either. Like--hmmm--I could've been doing the exercycle instead of typing this blog entry. But what fun is that? (Not.)

Getting older

And some of it is just getting older. Things just don't work the way they used to. Things come up sore that not only didn't used to be sore but that I didn't even know existed. How can I be feeling the effects of aging when I don't THINK I'm getting older? It's just not right!

My knee isn't perfectly better yet. After I've been sitting for a while--say, driving to/from class or at the computer--when I first stand up, if I try to take a good step immediately, the knee half the time collapses under me with a small bit of pain. I have to stand for a moment and let the knee loosen. I'm hoping that this is a transitory phase in its healing.

The original Border Terrorist (Terrier), Bobbi, who was quite the competitor when I started agility but who has been retired for quite a while now, celebrated her 15th birthday just last November, same time as Jake. We just got word now that she's passed away. It's always too soon! And Jake's been doing pretty well, just the usual complaints from me that sometimes he just won't come out in the yard and play fetch. (But annoying me immensely because if I take it into the living room, he'll run forever as I bounce his toys off collectibles, priceless heirlooms, glass cabinets, and windows.) So sometimes I just insist. Yesterday afternoon, of 2 days of him looking at me eagerly but then trotting back into the house, I wouldn't let him go past me, and of course then he turned around, got his toy, and plunged full-heartedly into an enthused, tail-wagging all-out game of fetch. And then suddenly, after not really all that much running, he dropped his toy in the middle of the lawn (*never* does that) and just came over and stood next to me, panting and wagging his tail. Usually he wanders off with his toy to take a dunk in the pond or wander through the shady shrubs or something. It struck me as a little odd.

Then he trotted up the stairs to the porch, turned around, and just about fell right back down the steps. He started after Boost, blaming her, I guess, but when I came over, his back legs kept falling out from under him. Still, he managed to go back up the steps, but as I stroked his back, he started staggering, then would stand OK, then stagger off to the side again like he was losing his balance. Almost fell into the water bowl the couple of times he started to take a drink. But didn't want to lie down. So I just balanced him against my leg, stroking him gently, and in a minute or so he was fine again.

But it was scary; thought I'd be spending the evening at the emergency room. He's been fine ever since. People in class last night, who've had old dogs, said it sounded like a ministroke and that there could be more. So I guess at some point I'll take him in and talk to the vet about it. Argh. I'm just not ready for this.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blog format testing

SUMMARY: Experimenting with widening the text body and header; yayyyy I think I've got it but... getttinnnnng sleeeeepyyyy...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Health Milestones

SUMMARY: Things is lookin' good.

I realized today that, sometime in the last week, I crossed the threshold where I can now stoop or kneel to get at things in low cabinets, without pain, and get back up again (there's been the rub!) without hardly even noticing my knee. This is excellent, and it's been just 2 months and a not quite 2 weeks since my surgery.

The flu thing I think is mostly past, although the cough lingers. Today's the first day all week that I haven't still been very droopy and low-energy and needing to nap or at least lie down and rest for a while. And I think last night was the first night in at least 2 weeks that coughing wasn't an issue during the night. Huzzah!

Now if only I'd keep up on that exercycle work I keep promising I'd do--

Goals for Camp

SUMMARY: Many reasons for attending agility camp.

We are registered and paid up for Power Paws Camp in April. I'm looking forward to it, after a year (or two??) of not going. The truth is that my primary goal in going to camp is to get lots of ring time with Boost. I felt that Tika started to mature as a ring-savvy dog, and we started to click as a working team, during the 4 days that we first did camp together. I think it was one of the best things I could have done for us as a team. The difference between Us Before and Us After was almost astonishing. And so I want to try to repeat that effect with the Booster Babe.

Sure, I figure I'll learn new and interesting stuff there, or fine-tune some rusty skills, or relearn some things I maybe once knew or have forgotten, or get to practice things that we're not very good at, or fix some of our specific working issues. But those are all bonuses on top of simply spending lots of time working with my dog in different rings, on different equipment, somewhere other than the familiar back yard and training yard.

I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Random Musings

SUMMARY: Random notes and thoughts accumulated over the last 2 days.

Tika's Next USDAA Titles

By the way, that Super-Q also finished Tika's Snooker Master and Snooker Champion titles. Next up (if we want something to chase):
  • Snooker Bronze: 1 snooker Q
  • Gamblers Champion: 1 gamblers Q
  • Tournament Silver: 2 DAM team Qs

Next USDAA trials: March 17/18, April 12-15, April 28-29, May 5-6.

Barrelling Forward Mere Inches From Death

I was barrelling down the Sunol grade Sunday night at nearly 70 MPH with the flow of dense traffic, firmly gripping the steering wheel with hands determinedly at 10:00 and 2:00, surrounded by vehicles, when it struck me. There we were, each of us encased in nearly two tons of nearly paper-thin metal, rocketed down a slope at a speed of over 100 feet per second. That's the entire length of a football field in the time it takes you to take one breath. Do you realize how fast that is?

And furthermore, there are four lanes, with vehicles in each of those lanes, on either side of me feeling close enough for me to reach out and touch if I dared to take a hand off the wheel to roll down a window. And the road is not only going downhill, gravity propelling us even faster, but it's curving, so every one of us, side by side, hurtling along at speeds unimaginable for most of human history, must judge the exact curve of the road for hundreds of feet ahead, as the slightest twitch in the steering wheel or momentary relaxation where the wheels would find their natural path of going straight, not arcing, would send the vehicle slamming into the neighbor, or into the concrete K-rail sitting less than a foot beyond the outer lane marking, to carrom back into traffic, taking out multiple lanes of cars. In the dark, with only our headlights to guide us.

It's amazing that anyone survives. It's amazing that there are as few accidents as there are.

Boost's First Advanced Weekend

Wow. I knew we weren't ready for Advanced, but we looked even less ready than we did previously, and it wasn't all simply because they were advanced courses. What a mess! Oddly enough, we did better in the Grand Prix and the Steeplechase than in any of our regular classes, although we didn't Q. We survived the Steeplchase with no faults on a course where more than a third of the entrants were offcourse, but with too many bobbles to make time. And we Eed in the Grand Prix just two obstacles from the end on the place where I knew we'd have trouble (and where many much more experienced dogs also Eed), on a hard wrap from a tunnel going away from the dog walk onto the dogwalk without going back into the tunnel next to the dogwalk. If she'd made that, we'd have qualified.

She left several contacts without a release, she knocked bars, she ran past Aframes and dogwalks and tunnels, she kept turning back to me instead of pushing forward over lines of jumps, she popped out of weaves... argh. (Although she did some of all the same things very well, too. Still, more bobbles than I had expected.)

Back to the drawing board.

What's scary is that, in watching video of the only run I have of hers from this weekend, it looks like she's stutter stepping some of her jumps, which I didn't notice in person at all. Yikes.

Health In Agility

I wasn't as recovered as I had thought I might be from last week's flu. I coughed and hacked and blew my nose all weekend, feeling badly as much about possibly spreading something that I thought I was over as I felt about being there and not feeling in my prime. I tried to always smother my coughs in my jacket rather than my hands or the air, and carried a little bottle of Purell hand sanitizer around with me to slather on my hands every time I touched my nose or lips. I sure hope I didn't spread anything.

Survived the days, but had a cough that rattled in my chest and just wouldn't clear all night Friday and Saturday nights. Sat up for several hours in the middle of the night in the Motel 6 in Turlock Saturday night, because sitting seemed to reduce the hacking, which gave me a chance to watch the film "Three Wishes", a just all-around feel-good film with the most interesting mixed-breed cute but almost alien terrier dog costarring with Patrick Swayze.

Before that, and despite Tika's ADCH and other good showings for the day, what kept running through my head were all the things that we had muffed all day long. Seems that my mood follows my physical state in more ways than one, and I was tired and weak and coughy and achey and so were my thoughts. By the time the movie was over, I felt good about life and myself and my dogs and that's when I really began to enjoy having finished Tika's ADCH.

Odder things have happened.

Knee's Good

My knee, meanwhile, held up fine. I iced it on general principles when I got to the motel, but it didn't bother me all weekend and seems not to have any puffiness or soreness afterwards (aside from what had been there before post-op already). That's very promising.

DAM Team News


Tika's team, Three's A Charm did well at the Nationals in November, but now it turns out that Skeeter, our third, is losing her vision and is apparently now retired from agility. At first they thought it was PRA, but turns out it's glaucoma, and just heard today that with treatment she actually seems to be doing better, although her depth perception is iffy. In any event, looks like they probably won't be competing any more.

So Brenn and Tika decided to go an unusual route and asked a 12" dog, a papillon named Roxee, to be our third for the April Haute TRACS team event. (Photo of Roxee, her handler Rob, and her owner.)

Now we just need a team name. Roxee's owner (different from her handler) had some possible suggestions that I didn't have the presence of mind to write down, so we'll have to find out again.

Qualifying for Nationals


Tika earned another 5-fault Grand Prix Q, so she's now GP qualified for the Nationals. She turned on the rocket fuel for Steeplechase and didn't even pretend to stick her contacts although I came to a full stop expecting her to, too, so she got way ahead of me and then turned back to see what I was up to, wasting time, but the killer was when somehow I managed to push her PAST an entire tunnel and had to run back for it. So technically we were clean but about 3 seconds over time.

So Tika still needs 2 Steeplechases and a Team, and Boost still needs everything. Gah.

Knocking Bars


After 5 runs on Saturday and 3 on Sunday during which Tika did not knock a single bar--not one!--I dared to hope that we could manage another Jumpers Q. Well, she was fast and felt smooth, no bobbles on this course, although still coming in a second and a half behind first place--but with TWO bars down, I guess to make up for the rest of the weekend. Sigh. So much for sticking around to the dire end instead of heading home early. But one's gotta hope. Only 4 of the 16 26" dogs who stuck around managed to qualify on this course, so we were in good but frustrated company.

What Was Your Last Q?


Got to wondering over the weekend whether anyone had ever done a study to see whether there was a predominance of one type of class that most often held people back from a key title. For example, Tika had moved up to Masters Standard before she finally earned her first-ever Jumpers Q for her AD (novice title). Then it was a Gamblers Q that kept us from our USDAA MAD, which seems to me to be pretty common. And it was a Jumpers Q again that kept us from our CPE C-ATCH for so long. So it's been my surprise to discover that it was a Snooker Q that kept us from our ADCH.

With Remington, it was Standards that kept us from ever earning our MAD.

With Jake, it was a Gamblers leg that kept him from his ADCH, a Standard for his NATCH, and a Snooker for his C-ATCH, but the latter really wasn't much of a delay, it just happened to be the last Q needed (compared to alllll the others, which were significant delays after the last preceding Qs).

So, even based on my dogs, I can't make any general statement about the most-common class to be last.

How about for everyone else? Feel free to drop a comment here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Snooker Videos

SUMMARY: Tika's ADCH run--and Fable's by comparison

The Other Big Thing

SUMMARY: Tika brings home some USDAA placement ribbons, a rarity.

Way, way back in the ages dark, our instructor at the time (Rachel) suggested that we should all have goals for our agility that we reevaluate at the beginning of every year, along the lines of "qualify for the nationals in all three events" or "lick that dogwalk up contact problem for good". My stated goal was for Tika to "Take 1st regularly at USDAA trials among the usual gang of suspects."

That was a long time ago.

We hardly ever place in the top 4 in USDAA events. In fact--for those of you who just love the fact that I have a database where I can pull this info out in half a minute--in Tika's 179 Masters runs through last weekend, Tika has places in the top four for placement ribbons exactly 11 times:
  • Two 2nds (her previous two Super-Qs)
  • Five 3rds (2 gamblers, 2 standards, 1 jumper; 4 at trials with fewer than 20 dogs)
  • Four 4ths (3 at trials with fewer than 20 dogs; 2 jumpers, 1 snooker, 1 standard)
We've never placed first in Masters. Never.

On Saturday, as the day drew to a close, it sank in that, not only had Tika earned her ADCH, but she had placed in three separate classes: 4th in pairs (and that's with an unknown 5-point fault; both I and my partner thought we were clean), and 3rd in both Standard and Snooker, all Qs. In one day, we had increased our lifetime number of Masters placements by over 25%.

It gave me an added cheery glow to the edges of the ADCH, but at the same time I couldn't help but note that there were still only between 20 and 24 dogs in our height class (our average Masters competition size over all this time is over 27 dogs, so this was a smallish trial this weekend), and even with the smaller number, we haven't managed to break the First Place Barrier.

This is in strong contrast to CPE trials, where it's unusual for Tika to NOT place first. As you might know if you've read some of my CPE posts, it is furthermore commonplace for Tika to have the fastest time or the highest number of points over *all* dogs competing on the same course, not just her own height class. I'm always a little disappointed when we can't pull off three or four of those in one CPE weekend. (It's just like, at at the CPE nationals, Tika takes 1st in most of her classes, 2nd in another, takes high in trial in Standard, and so on--but at the USDAA nationals I'm climbing all over myself with ecstasy when we place 10th or 11th in our height in even one event, let alone make it to the final round and place 22nd there over all heights in another event.) And there you have, in a nutshell, the difference in the competition between CPE and USDAA.

Sunday morning we started with Gamblers. Saturday's gamble was disappointing: Somehow in our opening sequence, Tika turned around on top of the Aframe and went back down the same side, negating a whole ton of points (and it wasn't a rear cross, either), and furthermore followed that by negating the gamble by taking a 2nd gamble obstacle in a row while I was trying to put on the skids and get back to her, so although she did the gamble flawlessly, we had very low opening points and no Q to show for it. So back to Sunday. Despite Saturday, Tika has lately proven to be a very good gamblin' dog, so there's been no stress, just fun for us.


The course presented lots of options in the opening, which meant that a clever course could possibly beat faster dogs whose handlers didn't think of that particular option. I like that, because sometimes I can come up with clever courses. And the gamble itself looked challenging and yet like one that I thought Tika and I had a good chance at while everyone else would crap out. I like that, too. (Being basically competitive.)

However, when we were told to clear the course, I hadn't come up with a course that I liked. My thought was jump, weaves, jump, tire, back through the tire, teeter, Aframe, jump, weaves, jump, teeter, aframe. But I wasn't thrilled with the back-to-back tire because Tika would be blasting at it after a wide-open run and it would be hard to make a tight turn; we had left the chute entirely undone, wasting a perfectly fine set of points; and I thought we'd have extra time left that we'd have to waste doing figure 8s on the two jumps this on this side of the Aframe while waiting for the gamble whistle.

I tried figuring out how to fit in weaves-chute-weaves-chute because it looked like a nice fast simple loop, and also teeter-tire-teeter-tire made a nice loop, but I couldn't manage to work them all in and also get two Aframes and still end up near the approach to the 1-2 instead of stuck in the back corner behind the aframe, teeter, and chute.

I chatted with our classmate, Ashley, who's always a good one for aggressive courses because he's regularly blowing everyone's socks off with his runs with Luka, so he always has lots of obstacles and covers lots of ground, plus he's in 16" so in no way in direct competition with us. (Although most friends will share their courses--even for super-Qs--it always feels weird to me to ask someone for ideas when you're both hoping for placements.)

He started with the jump-Aframe and went out to the tire, which I hadn't even thought of, duh-- Hence jump-aframe-tire-teeter-tire-teeter-aframe-jump-weave-weave but he couldn't figure out how to get the chute in. Duh, I thought, and said, "weave-chute-weave-chute", and we both departed with pleased excitement about that course. Had a nice flow to it and, if I released Tika from all four contacts immediately, I felt that we had a chance at it.

To wrap up what's again becoming a long story, Tika executed perfectly, the whistle blew as we were entering the last chute so we didn't get those last 2 points; she's really fast and sent out nicely for a change ahead of me across #1 and #2, caught my meaning immediately as she blasted out of #2 and pushed herself back out to #3 instead of continuing to veer towards me, got the up contact, did a fast dogwalk, stuck her down contact, and made it over the #4 before time ran out without having knocked any bars. Another Q.

The almost-end of the story is that, not only did she Q, but she placed 1st in the 26" class. And, sure, there were only 22 dogs, but we're still competing against perennial national finalists like Rachel Sanders and the amazing Fable, Greg Leal and Coty and Tala, Susan Cochrane and Aiko, Tania Chadwick and Kidd... So I was very pleased and proud.

But the real end to the story is that our score ended up being the highest of all 82 masters dogs, all heights, even Luka, who ran a modified opening that exchanged some points for a chance to do the dogwalk in the hopes that it would help Luka realize it was there and make the gamble. They did get the gamble, but who knows whether it was because of that or just because they know what they're doing anyway.'

The top left quadrant of the accumulator sheet. (Click for larger image.)
What a thrill! And I'm not being facetious. This was a bigger feat to me than the ADCH, of all things, maybe because I knew that, eventually, we'd just get that Dang Super-Q and finish the ADCH, but I wasn't convinced any longer that we'd ever get a 1st, let alone high score, in Masters.

But we drove all out on this one; I sacrificed later contact stability for an instant release, and pushed pushed pushed, and yet felt no major stress because nothing at all of any significance hinged on our Qing or placing. This reminds me of a comment made by, I believe, Jo Sermon, on more than one occasion: That the worst thing that happened to agility in the U.S. is titles. She says that, in the UK (at least until recently), you advanced to higher levels only by placing and there was no such thing as a Qualifying score/minimum acceptable level. You had to go all out all the time to try to beat other dogs, but because there are SO many dogs competing over there and so few placements to be had, the stress level was low, resulting in an attitude of, ah, what the heck, I'm not going to win anyway, I might as well get the best I possibly can out of me and my dog and just have a great time. She said that coming over here to the states, she sees people overhandling, overrestraining, undercompeting, and so on, and so often not letting their dogs be as good as they could be because they're so worried about doing things letter-perfect to get that minimal Q.

And I'm somewhat guilty of that. I almost always hold Tika on her contacts because, otherwise, she starts blowing them off entirely and then we get faults and lose our chances to Q. But, when it's important to me to finish among the top--such as in Snookers and Steeplechases--I release her as fast as I can and drive her as hard as I can and we do reasonably well most of the time. So I wonder what my agility life would be like if I drove her like that all the time?

And maybe it's time to find out. We have no reason left to hold it in. Sure, there are bronzes and silvers and golds and, maybe, someday, platinums if we Q enough, but really that ADCH is the plateau beyond which one's entire agility career stretches out beyond. Huh. Something to ponder.

That Dang Super-Q...Finally!

SUMMARY: ADCH Tika


Tika finally earned that Dang Third Super-Q on Saturday, so now she's ADCH C-ATCH Finchester's Tika. It is my hope that we can continue to earn more Super-Qs for the fun of it, more often than once every year or so.

Although I felt pretty good on Friday, a sleep interrupted constantly by coughing that night followed by the 4 a.m. wake-and-drive bit Saturday morning, plus apparently being not quite as over my flu-or-whatever as I had hoped, left me rather drained most of the day Saturday and off-and-on Sunday. When I saw the course map for Snooker, my hopes sank: It had only 3 reds with an easy-to-get-to weaves as #7, followed by a very tight little circle of obstacles 2 through 7 for the closing. That meant that it would be a speed course, not a handling course. Our odds are much better on a handling course because Tika can be fast but tight. However, on an all-speed course, we just can't quite keep up with the Top Ten Candidate crowd. So, even if we were to make it through for all 51 points, we were sure to be 4th or 5th or 6th with only three Super-Qs available.

I felt drained enough that I wasn't even sure that I had the energy to push Tika through this course at her top speed. So I went in with the expectation that this would not be our day. And we made it through, with only one place where she started to turn the wrong way after a red and I was afraid I'd just set her up for a backjump when I forgot to do a front cross after the first set of weaves, but we recovered and made it on all the way through with time left on the clock. Still, I watched two other dogs make it all the way through, too, and I put Tika away and wandered off to the latrines, grumbling to a couple of friends on the way that I'm tired of those times when my brain can hold it together for 51 points and still be an also-ran.


Lovely ribbon and our fancy pole, filled to the brim with friends's signatures. (Might try for a clearer photo later today.)
I got a drink and wandered by the score table as the end of the 26" class approached--and discovered that there were only three 26" dogs with 51 points on the sheet, and we knew that all except one of the remaining dogs were not teams who would beat us. When that last possiblity for a faster 51 crapped out, I got Tika out of her crate again and hung around the ring. We've been needing--and failing to get--this super-Q for so long that, although there are plenty of friends who are aware that we just need a Super-Q, I have not been mentioning it often at the last couple of weekends because we've messed up so often. My friend at the score table knew that was our ADCH, but she was the only one immediately cognizant. I realized that, if we took a victory lap, no one would know what was going on. THEN I realized that I was too tired, and my throat too raspy, to have any energy to jump up and down and yell (not that I'm a jumpy-yelly person anyway), nor even to hunt down the trail committee because I know they have awards available. And I just didn't care, just wanted to take the lap and go sit down. So I just jogged out to Sandra Katzen (who's been involved in agility since the birth of USDAA, pretty cool), told her that was our ADCH, she gave us a hug, and we jogged around the course trying to look peppy. There were some cheers and applause from people who happened to notice us during the jump-height change, but it was pretty low-key and that was a very good thing for me at that moment. THEN I went and sat down.

It's odd to admit that my greatest feeling upon discovering the Super-Q was exhausted relief, not euphoria nor even some level of elation...Eventually, cheerful satisfaction made an appearance on Sunday, and that's about where I am today.

Erika and Dave kindly took a bunch of shots of us with our awards on Sunday, some of which turned out very nice and smiley and looking-into-the-camera, but I've decided that I like this one th best, where we think we're still getting ready to be shot.
I didn't even have the energy to deal with arranging to have our photo taken, so we didn't do that until the next day--but I can assure you that I was wearing a bright blue-and-purple tie-dyed shirt for the momentous occasion.

So, in summary, it turns out that the course was, in fact, a handling course, not a speed course. There were a variety of issues, but I think primarily in two places. More people than I expected had trouble with the #3 and #4 discrimination, and I had already watched ten thousand people bomb on the threadle at #5. Before going in, after watching quite a few dogs take that #5 as a serpentine despite their handlers' attempts, I almost decided to try a different, desperate handling strategy. But, fortunately, my cooler brain prevailed. We had spent so much time in Rachel Sanders' classes working on the technique for the threadle--SO DANG much time--that I decided I would just rely on the strength of those many repeated practices, then and repeatedly in my own yard over the last couple of years. We've never been truly smooth at it, but we both know the drill and can usually execute it, clumsily but successfully. And I'm glad we did. It was really clumsy indeed, and we're lucky we weren't called for a refusal on the second half, but we did it. She was lovely all the way through, and now we're done with that.

I'm going to try posting a video later today.

But--we made another milestone on Sunday that, interestingly, I found that I felt more strongly about than the ADCH. Tune in later, same ADCH time, same ADCH channel--

Friday, February 02, 2007

Survival!

SUMMARY: The flu seems to have departed.

And I think I'm gonna be all right.
Yeah, the worst is over,
Now the morning sun is shining like a Red Q Ribbon. (1) (2)

(1)In USDAA, qualifying ribbons are maroon. Kinda red. On to Turlock for competition!
(2)With apologies to Simon & Garfunkle.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Happy Birthdays

SUMMARY: Lots of Finch agility birthdays. Celebrate with the flu.

Yesterday Boost turned 2 and I turned mumble hack hack cough. Sorry, that was the flu choking me up for a minute. Had a lingering cold for the last 2 weeks that finally seemed to be almost gone by the end of the weekend, then monday evening felt overly tired & sore & was approaching miserable by wake-up Tuesday. Abandoned computer almost entirely tuesday afternoon and went back to bed, something I almost never do--working from home, I can sit for a while then rest, etc. But nooooo.

Got my flu shot this year, too, back in Oct. They say it would be worse if I hadn't.

A little bit of a fever tuesday but not much. The three worst parts: (1)No energy, just want to lie down. Can only watch TV. What kind of hell is that? (2) Coughing, blowing nose, coughing coughing coughing. Yesterdayevening stomach muscles and between shoulder blades were getting to that sore place where you desperately want to cough to clear your breathing and desperately want not to because it hurts. Better today, so coughing must have slacked off some, but hard to tell otherwise. At the moment (3) worst part is excruciating pain moving through my joints which is not fever-like at all. Trying to decide whether to go see the doctor. Tuesday night shoulders hurt so bad could barely move arms. Wednesday moved into my knees and last night into my fingers. This morning could barely walk & it hurt, although that has eased some. Right now hands so bad can't wash w/out pain, can't grip anything. But--it's a miracle--or a curse--I can type some until I'm so exhausted from being exhausted that I have to go lie down again.

Don't want to miss this weekend's next chance at Tika's super-Q because my next chance isn't for another 6 weeks, and would just be so nice to finish before Tika's 6th birthday, which is the 14th of February. Plus this weekend has Grand Prix and Steeplechase and--since I've been obsessing about those--don't want to miss them.

But at the moment the thought of trying to do ANYTHING makes me want to crawl right back into bed. Bleaaaaahhhhh--- need to be better before tomorrow afternoon so I have the energy to pack the car.

Dogs are going nuts. Thank goodness the renter-housemate plays with them a little daily.

And now--back to lie-down state.