Monday, September 27, 2010

Fourth Day of Judging Clinic

SUMMARY: Done! Glad to be back to normal--probably--
Related posts:

We went only until 5:30ish today--longer than originally scheduled, but the material was useful and we had a good time going out to lunch as a group at Casa da Fruta.

I completely wimped out on photos--SO much already in my head that I needed to wrassle with, still pretty tired even after a decent night's sleep, and it was HOT! But Team Small Dog did post a photo of me doing my Advanced Standard briefing and then sitting around in the shade with my buds after I finished my course-judging evaluation.

I did kind of OK on the huge written test--I think I got about 85% correct over all, which translates to close to 100% on some sections and pretty crappy on others. I now know that I don't know the rules for designing nonstandard classes (Snooker, Jumpers, Gamblers, Relay) worth beans, despite reading them several times and trying to remember them (particularly what are the minimum number of this or that allowed or required at each level). And I do not have memorized that the center of a teeter must be 24-27" high, not "uhhh--maybe 28 inches" or other nonmemorized answers like that.

And not surprisingly I missed some questions on Starters and Advanced scoring--I think that I know the rules but I've just not been exposed to them much as a competitor as I have been to masters, so sometimes I just fumblebrained it.

Then there was that question about a set of 24 weave poles and all I read was "weave poles" and somehow missed that it was 24 of them--I'm tellin' ya, I was still pretty fried!

But I finished in 2 hours of the allowed 3, including reviewing the questions I wasn't too sure about and trying to read everything 2 or 3 times to be sure I wasn't missing anything. Some material I was very confident of, so that went quickly, and some material i realized right away that I just didn't know and so sitting and staring at it wasn't going to make the answer appear (e.g., the height of the center of the teeter), and so those went pretty quickly. Many questions definitely made me think. Drawing little pictures sometimes helped and sometimes not.

So I've learned a lot, got to meet some people I otherwise wouldn't have, had a great time, and really really need sleep. (Sorry, dogs, 15 minutes of twilight fetch is all I want to do this evening, especially with record-high temps for this time of year still keeping things hot.)

Instructor/Evaluators Tim Laubach and Frank Holik did a superior job of keeping things upbeat and positive. All that positive-training dog lessons came in handy for them, I guess. But it wasn't simply "attagirl," it was constant reminders of expectations, purposes, and goals, and also finding constructive ways to say pretty much everything. Like, there were no, "Your course design sucks"; instead, the comments would be like, "this part is great; this part is too hard for Advanced but here are a few ways you could tweak it slightly and fix it." Very helpful.

They kept us apprised of our scores, mistakes, and successes at every step of the weekend, so we really never had to sit and dread the results. The main thing they reinforced all through was that simply doing well on the tests at this clinic doesn't guarantee that you'll be a judge. There's other criteria that they look at as well--your references, your attitude through the weekend, whehter you have certain weak areas that need improving before you can start judging, and so on. And Tim told us that it could be up to a month from now before we hear anything more, but that we will eventually get the final word.

And Susan and Kraig, in whose home and yard the clinic took place, not only participated all the way through, but served as gracious host and hostess, keeping their cool and their pleasantness intact through all the stress and sleeplessness and people traipsing in and out and asking to borrow a pencil (tsk, I took only pens) and all that, meanwhile with these 90-100-degree temps going on. Don't know how they did it, but I'm grateful!

Anyway.

I might talk more about the clinic and some things we learned, or I might not--there was SO much material crammed into the four days.

Yeah, SO MUCH material--the big point that Tim made was: This clinic is not going to turn you into a judge if you're not already basically ready for it. What it does, however, is to point out the areas that need work, so you can focus on those to get ready to become a judge. Like working the score table more, or timing more, or working in the advanced ring more, or course building, or whatever else it might be.

I'm looking forward to hearing what my final evaluation will be, and meanwhile have more time to contemplate whether I actually want to become a judge. Meanwhile---zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Third Day of Judging Clinic

SUMMARY: Thank the universe for showers! And what about that judge's path?
Related posts:

Hot day--in the 90s again--not enough sleep--before heading home this evening, I felt about ready to collapse. But home around 7:30, a little game of fetch with the dogs (in the near-dark), which I haven't done for 3 days, and a just-warm-enough shower--yeah, works wonders!

And dinner's in the microwave.

Apparently I have learned something about designing courses through the years just by competing and knowing how to walk courses looking for the challenges presented (so I can get through them with my dogs!). I got good marks for the dog's paths and challenges, but not so hot on designing a good judging path. Because, I mean, in all these years, it never occurred to me to even think about that. I admired judges because they always seemed to get to where they needed to be to judge the contacts and runout lines.

So who knew it was because they designed the courses so they could do so?! OK, probably lots of cleverer people than me figured that out. But doh! not Score Table Girl!

Basically, that's why you'll never see a 100x100 course with the dogwalk on one side, the aframe in the middle of the other side, the teeter in the middle of a 3rd side, and the weaves in the middle of the 4th side. Ya just can't get there to judge them all.

I also got top rating for my table count! Woohoo! (That's a joke--of all the zillions of things we're getting evaluated on, THAT'S what I did well on? OK, maybe I didn't have to explain that.)

Apparently I can do the on-course judging thing kinda OK, too. Just something else I've picked up by watching and paying attention. Raise the right kind of hand at the right time, keep my eye on the obstacles, get to where I need to be, and stay out of the dog's and handler's ways. Not as hard as I thought it would be, but I definitely need a lot more practice

I think I made a mistake on the score-table paperwork! Gah! Just a stupid thing that I forgot to mark (because the judge usually marks it, not the score table--and the thing is, I don't even NOTICE that stuff any more because, after seeing it at the score table and ignoring it for how many hundreds of classes, my brain apparently just filters it. Ah, well.

So I survived the day with decent ratings so far.

Tomorrow--the 3-hour written test. 80 questions, I believe. Jeez. I haven't done anything like that since college, which need I say was more than a couple of years ago.

And I have to STUDY! There are so many things I'm got only vaguely in my mind!

They told us: Even someone off the street can probably pass the Masters faults portion of the test--if it looks like a mistake, it's probably penalized. But Advanced and Starters? Pshewwww....

Now it's 8:15. Don't have to be there until 9 tomorrow, yeah!, but still gotta get up at 7:30 probably. SOoooooo---it's been fun, but now gotta go eat and study. Wish me luck!

P.S. Yesterday, I took some photos of some of the participants, but not all. Today, the over-the-hill paparazzi (santa cruz and vicinity, among others) were there in my judge's briefing test with their own cameras. I wonder if I'll make Team Small Dog this week?

Second Day of Judging Clinic

SUMMARY: Drooping...
Related posts:

It's now 12:15 a.m. on Sunday. I got up at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday. I'll be getting up about 7:00 a.m. tomorrow--er, today--that is, Sunday.

My Advanced Standard course is designed for tomorrow's testing stage 1. It's OK but there are a couple of things I don't like. I'm also supposed to be able to build a Starters Standard course off it, and I'm giving up. I have *a* course but it's not going to work because the dog is basicallyon the same side of the handler all the way and I ended up moving almost all the obstacles on the course. Gah.

So my testing might be over very early tomorrow if I fail miserably at this.

On the other hand--so many opportunities through all the testing phases tomorrow and monday to learn even more and to really focus in on what I don't know.

Sunday, in addition to my course design, there's the written scoring test (if I don't do well at that, I'll be disappointed in myself; after all, I am a Score Table Czar), the course-building test (you evaluate a real course set up in the field to figure out all the incorrect ways that they've tweaked it or left stuff lying around that shouldn't be there, safety issues, and so on)--I did pretty good on the practice on that one, so that should be OK, too; and the evaluation while judging actual dogs.

IF dogs show up and want to work! It was probably in the low 90s today and probably will be the same or warmer tomorrow.

Then Monday is the huge written test, the one that I keep hearing about is so hard.

I think I've memorized my yards-per-second numbers for all 3 Standard levels, and reviewed faulting, and ... oh, jeez, so much, I'm tired, off to bed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

First Day of Judging Clinic

SUMMARY: Wow.
Related posts:

It's 8:40 p.m. I've just gotten out of the shower, right after getting home. Dogs as expected are pestering pestering pestering. I still need to eat dinner (in the microwave) and--argh--design a masters standard course that nests into an Advanced course for tomorrow. And be back there by 8:30 (an hour's drive). I am going to be SO tired after 3-4 days of this!

But I'm learning so much! Very glad I'm there.

I don't have time to say much about it tonight--I should be memorizing the yards per second ranges for standard courses for all 3 levels in case I want to take the written judging test on Monday. We actually will do the nonwritten part tomorrow and Sunday-- as I understand it--where they check your on-course judging ability. Local people will come in with their dogs and run courses for us to try out our (often) fledgling skills.

I haven't aspired to be a judge in years. I'm still not sure I want to be one--my life is overly full and stressed enough. But, well, I dunno, maybe; there are parts of the job that could be fun.

But I must say that course design was *never* one of my interests and probably one of the biggest things to deter me from pursuing this. So I've competed in over 230 trials, most of which are 2-day events with 4-6 classes per day with 2 dogs each class, and have I absorbed *anything* about how to build a course? Not nearly as much as one might expect.

I have no clue whether I can actually create a master's course in the next hour and still get enough sleep tonight. But if I'm more or less on course with what others are doing by sunday afternoon, I'll probably go ahead and pay and take the rest of the test on Monday--I'll have invested all this time and money, and it seems silly not to take it if there's a glimmer of a chance I might pass. Or at least I'll know where I'm weak!

Dogs are going to have to wait until maybe Monday evening to get any attention from me. It's going to be a challenging next 3 days.

Judging/Course Building Clinic

SUMMARY: I be gonna git me some larnin'.
Related posts:

Four days of lecture and practice. I haven't done anything like this in a lonnnng time. Whole day Friday of lecture.

Less than an hour's drive from home, but a couple of the days are going to be lonnng.

I've prepared by reading through, and marking up, the entire lonnnng USDAA 2004 version of the rulebook (because, doh! they haven't updated it since 2004, instead just sending out periodic incomplete news releases that we have to piece together to come up with our own mental image of a rulebook).

I'm looking forward to this! What I'm not looking forward to is coming home to the dogs every day after a lonnnnng day and having them point out that I haven't played wif them or nuffin' alllll day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

NADAC Championships

SUMMARY: Live streaming.
Agilityvision is live streaming the NADAC championships, going on now through the weekend, I believe.

It's not like watching USDAA championships or the world team competitions. Used to be that, to qualify, you just had to Q half the classes each weekend for so many weekends (or something along those lines--it's been a while).

Interesting to see how so very many people stand in the middle and try to get their dogs to do obstacles. And I'm not talking about the specific distance-handling parts of the courses. It puzzles me; if you're herding sheep, OK, I can understand standing in one place and giving commands from a distance. But on a tight little course like this, seems to me that the ones who run with their dogs generally get more speed and more accuracy.

I haven't done a scientific evaluation on this, of course.

Also, you don't seem to see many Derrett followers here. It's all the arm-in-the-air and "switch" type handling. As long as you and the dog agree on what means what, any system works. Just interesting to note the prevalence of this one kind of handing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dang Weave Pole Surprises

SUMMARY: Broke Tika! Boost perfect!
Because Boost had a couple of weave pole problems the last couple of weeks--ok, really major major issues--I decided to work on weave poles this week.

I also had in mind that in grand prix on one of the recent weekends, Tika--my supposed weave pole expert--popped out as I angled away. And always in the back of my mind is the grand prix quarterfinals at Scottsdale the one year where the weaves aimed straight into the wall at the side of the ring but my perfect weave pole dog should be ok so I angled away and, of course, she popped out. Ruining an otherwise perfect run. (Funny the things we NEVER FORGOT THAT WILL HAUNT US FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.)

First I set up the weaves and just practiced weave entries from different angles, sending the dog from my side. Discovered that aiming at the first pole on the entry side at a 90-degree angle (in other words, straight at the poles) made both dogs go into the 2nd pole. So we worked on that  until it was better.

Then I set up the weaves crosswise in my yard so that they're almost running into the shrubbery on either side, with jumps on both sides of both ends, to practice sharp angled entries and staying in until the bitter end. And, of course, I can practice distractions like dancing, dropping or throwing toys, reversing my direction, veering away--like that.


So: I sent Tika over the jump in the lower right corner of the photo (heading towards us) and into the weaves. Perfect entry, but then without me doing anything tricky, she popped out on the left side before #10 (whereas the correct exit would be on the left side before #12). I said "oopsies" or the usual thing and did it again. Same result. So I just put her back in where she popped out--which proved to be challenging when she greatly resisted wanting to do that--rewarded lavishly when I got her in and she did the one more pole to the end, then back to the beginning. Same result.  So I tried a small barrier where she popped out. She jumped over it. I tried a larger barrier. She jumped over it. I tried a larger and wider one. She popped out and went around it.

So I pulled out all but 6 poles. Same result. Now she's just coming out and stopping right there.

I went back to hand-in-the-collar to guide her through the 6 poles, just like when we started training, rewarded lavishly. Repeated 2 more times to be sure she got it. Back to the beginning with 12 poles--same result. Turned her around and weaved in the opposite direction (coming towards us): Perfect. Repeated 2 more times with ample reward. Back to the original plan--same result.

I knocked down all but the 4 poles closest to the far side, sent her in, and Lo! she did it! Rewarded lavishly and quit THAT for the day.

I tell you this just to point out how insane agility training can be. This is my good weaving dog. My dog of many years of experience. My top ten in all 4 categories dog. Who apparently doesn't want to weave into anything so close to the end of the poles.  And, voila, I have a challenge that I'd never imagined, and now I can train to that until she can weave into the tightest of spaces and do it correctly.

It will challenge me to figure out how to set it up with enough successes to make it work.

And as for my problem dog, Boost? Perfect every time. Oh--wait--I did once get her to pop out when I threw the toy in the middle, but the next few times she didn't fall for it.

Then in class last night we had some challenging weave-entry exercises. Both dogs did perfectly every time.  I particularly liked this one:


With the dog on my right, I released from the Aframe and pushed forward but let the dogs find their own entries into the weaves (rather than, say, running beyond the weaves and wrapping the dog around me). Perfect!

So the next time we're in the weaves in the grand prix quarterfinals at nationals, we will all be prepared. No excuses.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And for Those of You in Merced County--

SUMMARY: VAST members doing dog agility demo.
Info:

Sunday, September 26 · 10:00am - 1:00pm
Merced County Fairgrounds

VAST will be performing an agility demo. There will be several other demos: police dog, flyball, agility, meet the breeds, a childrens corner and several games and contests for all.

This event is real fun for the entire family and bring your dog too.

[This is all the info I have, sorry; no web site given.]

So Many Clever Dogs In One Place at One Time

SUMMARY: Fun music video.
Well, I can't understand most of what they're singing, but you KNOW this video took a lot of preparation and practice. (Sort of like agility for the rock-video crowd.) And watch for obedience sequence ending with a dog on a leash, cracked me up!





How it was done

Added: Same day, 3:45p.m. PDT.
Now read the amazing story. 72 takes before they got it right--and that's AFTER weeks of rehearsals. If I had that kind of dedication to working on my contacts or doing sequences, maybe I'd be as good in agility as this team is in the video!

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Know You're An Agility Addict When--

SUMMARY: New! Fun list; can you find a description that matches yourself?
New tab for easy finding! Click the "Addiction" link above. (Obviously you have to be on my site to do this, not reading via email or a reader.)

Maintenance Costs and Built-In Obsolescence

SUMMARY: Garden tools and dogs.

I have this newish lawn mower. Bought it just a few years ago, after discovering that the cost to sharpen my 25-year-old mower was more than half of what a new one cost (on sale). It was only a push mower, no engine parts, so really it could've gone on forever, and how much improvement could they really have made in a manual push mower? But some parts were having trouble staying in place, the height adjustment didn't adjust much at all, and I decided to replace. I freecycled the old one.

Now the new one needs sharpening--did you notice the long and ragged lawn in those weaving Boost photos last wednesday? Because I have to go over it 2 or 3 or 4 times, not a fun prospect. So I'll pay my $65 and wait a week and then hopefully it will once again coup de grace--er, cut the grass--as nicely as when it was new.

The hedge trimmer that I absconded with from friend Steph a few years back--hmm, did I ever pay her for it? think not--tsk--now needs either sharpening or new blades. Because, instead of cutting my shrubs, it's now mostly massaging them. I'm sure the hedges feel more relaxed, but I don't. But sharpening--several places won't do it, the only quote I got was for $75 but they'd "have to see it first". New blades--hard to find them on the web; don't know how old the trimmer is, but they're special order & take 2 weeks and cost almost $50 including postage (that's assuming that the company knows what it's talking about; a couple others said that they're obsolete and no longer available).

I also called the manufacturer for instructions on blade replacement (because it wasn't intuitively obvious). And the instruction manual for this model isn't on their regular web site. The very nice lady found me the manual online, but it has no blade-replacement instructions. Oh, no, she said, you won't find that kind of instruction in any of our manuals. But if you call the service center in Hayward (that is, it's a toll call), and ask for a technician, I'm sure they'd be glad to explain how to do it.

Sooooo I decided I'd spent enough time already on this, went down to Sears which is right down the street and which has some well-rated hedge trimmers, and bought a new equivalent one (on sale) for about what I'd have paid for blades for the old one.

And as for the dogs-- when they're asking you to tote up your annual costs for having household canines, I don't think they usually include vacuum cleaner bags. Mine fill up quickly! Have to replace them almost every time I vacuum. Which is, OK, not all that often, but I probably go through 20 bags a year.

...OK, OK, that's not a *huge* expense, but still--it's one of those hidden costs that just add up. On the other hand--letting the hair fall on the floor is a lot cheaper than taking them to the groomers.

But, if I were to spend some time this week combing, and then using my new hedge trimmer to defrazzle my hedges, and my newly sharpened lawnmower to trim my lawn, man, next week I should be able to get some really nice, well-maintained-looking photos! Looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Simple Truths of the Universe: The Agility Version

SUMMARY: From a friend's facebook status:

100 years from now it will not matter what kind of car you drove, how much money you had or what kind of house you lived in...but it will matter if your dog can hit an A-FRAME CONTACT!!!

OK, Lee E--had a rough weekend with the contacts, eh?

Bitey Bitey Bitey

SUMMARY: Open the door for your mystery bite.
(1) OK, can anyone name the thing that I'm parodying in my SUMMARY line?

(2) In camp, we used to sing a song with several verses about wishing you were various animals doing various naughty things, one of which went:

Oh I wish I were a little mos-qui-TOE (mos-qui-TOE)
Oh I wish I were a little mos-qui-TOE (mos-qui-TOE)
I'd go bitey bitey bitey
Under everybody's nightie
Oh I wish I were a little mos-qui-TOE.

(3) WARNING GROSS FACTOR AHEAD!

Mosquito bites haven't been acting properly for me for quite a few years. Instead of a smooth itchy raised thing, I get hard round pea-sized red painful lumps. And instead of itching, they just hurt. The first couple times, I thought it was red ant bites, since I slept out in an area known for red ants. But then they showed up many times when I slept outdoors in various random places. And mosquitoes are the only thing I can think that's in common.

I tried to explain my weird reaction to my MD a year or so ago; she said, "Mosquito bites do that." I tried to tell her that this wasn't normal. She seemed to think that I didn't know what mosquito bites looked like.

Which is like this:


Anyway, last Saturday night I slept in MUTT MVR with the doors and windows open because it was too hot with them closed. But I did wear long underwear. So here's what I ended up with:


With about 17 or 18 on my left hand, another 7 or 8 on my other hand, and 3 on my face. They got harder and bigger and redder and more painful every day. Now, this seems to be sort of the typical reaction I get nowadays for mosquito bites. But I usually end up with only one or two. Not like this!

Then they started breaking open and oozing. So on Friday I finally called the doctor's office and asked to have someone look at them. My regular doctor wasn't there. The doctor I saw said, well, those sure don't look like mosquito bites, and took a bunch of photos and emailed them to the dermatologist to look at. What with waiting to get in and waiting for the analysis and all, I was there for about 2 hours.

The diagnosis: "Arthropod bites." That's high-falutin'-speak for "some insecty kind of thing bit you." The treatment: Cortisone cream.

Well, so, after 2 days of the cream, they're getting slowly better. But then--these lumps I've gotten in recent years *do* seem to eventually start getting better. So was the time and money spent on doctors and meds worth it? Guess I'll never know--I could've done my own test case and applied the cream to only half of them to see whether it made a difference, but I thought of that only just now, doh.

The other suggestion was to check and treat my dogs for infestations. Yeh--it happens only when I sleep in the open air, and my dogs aren't even sleeping as close to me as they normally do ON MY BED EVERY NIGHT, and you think there's a connection?!?

So anyhoo, glad I could share.

And, by the way:

Arr, shiver me timbers, a curse on thee, ya scurvy arthropod bites!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Avast ye scurvy agility dogs!

SUMMARY: Brush up on your piratical lingo.
Once again, me hearties, September 19 be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arr, ye be visitin' thar web site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hurricane Katrina Dog Rescue

SUMMARY: Stories of heartbreak, determination, delight, and the power of people who care.
For the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Agile Pooch (Holly N) has reposted the blogs that were posted originally day by day as Bay Teamers and friends of Bay Team donated money, materials, and even more amazing, time and energy to drop everything--their lives, their incomes--to go to Louisiana and try to find and rescue the pets that authorities had so cruelly forced people to leave behind or that people otherwise were unable to take along, perhaps expecting to be back soon.

It was sometimes hard to read the posts, but the successes also were many.

If you have time and inclination, these stories are amazing. I hope that she reposts the photos, too (at the moment the photo links seem to be out of date).

An amazing story from a sometimes surreal time:

Hurricane Katrina: The Lamar-Dixon Chronicles.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perhaps It's Time for a Break

SUMMARY: Upcoming agility and current (if imaginary) tribulations.
I have 3 weekends off from competition, then one trial, then 4 weekends off, then a trial, then 3 weekends off, and our last trial of the year. Perhaps it's a very good thing that I have all that noncompetition time--

I'm standing near the Steeplechase ring, and all of a sudden the gate says "We're done!" and the course builders rush onto the course. "Wait," I say, stunned, running towards the gate, "I haven't run yet!" She shrugs, "Tell the course builders," and walks away. I run onto the field, where they're pulling down the ring tape and picking up the course numbers. "I haven't run yet!" I say frantically, thinking of two dogs and two dang entry fees for Steeplechase about to go down the drain (I also just realized with rising panic that I haven't walked it yet, but first things first). One course builder say, "Tell the judge," and continues pulling up the tunnel stakes. The judge is nowhere to be seen. I stand in the middle of the ring and cry out loud--

"I HAVEN'T RUN YET!" which wakes me right up. The dogs are intrigued. Me, big L on the forehead. Doh. Taking a deep shaking breath and reminding myself, "It's just a dream! It doesn't happen like that in real life!"

Yes, perhaps it's a good think I'm taking some weekends off.

But I did sign up for the course building clinic after all--

Dogwalk speed

SUMMARY: Timer built into the dogwalk.
Where I train now has beeper/timers built into the dogwalk, and the Aframe is coming soon. So you can use the beeper to indicate when the dog hits the yellow zone (e.g., if you're doing running contacts), or attach the timer clock, which times from their first hit on the up contact to their first hit on the down contact.

Boost's time Tuesday night was 1.32 seconds, 2nd fastest that I saw (another Border Collie did 1.23). And I've been thinking that she slows down for the descent. Pretty darned cool.

I didn't notice Tika's time.

I wonder how fast Boost's sister Gina's fabulous running dogwalk is? Didn't film any of Gina at the Regionals, but it sure looked good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poo Power

SUMMARY: A practical use for dog waste.
Some of you may know that I am a Master Composter for the County of Santa Clara. Means, yes, I teach occasional workshops on backyard composting, and, yes, ask me questions about yard waste and composting and voila I answer. Usually.

I just don't have really good answers about what to do with doggie droppings. Here are some answers, none of which are completely satisfactory (depending on where you live and your resources):
  • If it's Tika's, pick it up quickly or Boost will either roll in it or eat it. (I know you wanted to know.)
  • Don't compost it in your yard waste compost bin--same reason you don't want to compost human waste: Carnivore/omnivore waste contains pathogens that aren't easily destroyed. So the poop might go away but not necessarily the nasty bits, and if you're putting it all into one place, it might concentrate that, and if you're using the compost for your food garden--well--I wouldn't put dog poop in it.
  • That said: It is organic matter and it will decompose. I've heard from many people that Just Do It: Put it in the compost and don't worry about it.
  • If your yard is large enough, let it decompose where it is or off to the side somewhere; Ma Nature is very good at dealing with that sort of thing.
  • There are doggie doo digesters;  Basically a plastic bin with no bottom that you bury in the ground and add the appropriate digester enzymes and water. I tried one for about 3 years and it never worked properly for me. A neighbor in my new neighborhood had no luck with one, either. I have read about them working for others.
  • There is another commercial product that claims to handle dog waste. They made a presentation at a Master Composter meeting and it was all hype, not hard info, and they weren't willing to let the composters have one to test it. Don't remember its name. Seems extremely dubious.
  • Add a direct sewer connection and shovel it into that.
  • Dump it into your toilet.
  • Hire a dog poo service and let them deal with it.
  • Bag it and toss it in the trash. (That's what I now do. I've been told that some municipalities prohibit that.)

But now here's a very cool idea for places that have larger amounts of dog waste: A digester that produces and uses methane on location!
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-09/fidos-poo-powers-streetlight-massachusetts-dog-park
Would be interesting to know how much input it requires to provide useful amounts of output. As of yet, it's just a demo; no commercial models are available. But what a great idea!

Thoughts from 9/11

SUMMARY: A friend's post about then and now.
I don't often veer from dogs, agility, hiking, and life's little stories. But every line here had me saying, "Yes! Yes!! YES!" And so, herewith, my view of the events of 9/11 and the dismaying current reverberations from that day.
Friend Jim VO said:

My summary of conversations I have had or have heard today [Sept 11]:

Burning a flag is political free speech protected by law.

Burning a book in public is called a nuisance fire and can result in a fine and/or time in the city jail.

Burning a book of religious scripture under full media attention is at least an attempt to incite a riot and at worst domestic terrorism, both punishable by law.

Those who crash an airplane into a skyscraper are suicidal cowards.

Those who die inside the skyscraper are tragic victims of theology in the hands of lunatics.

Those who run into the burning skyscraper to help strangers are called heroes.

The place where the skyscraper stood is not "sacred." That would be idolatry and/or blasphemy. It is a memorial of sadness and bravery, akin to Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.

Those who wish to continue their practice of prayer and worship three blocks from the skyscraper as they did before the tragedy are called devout.

That place of worship may be called "sacred" depending on the specific use under the affiliated religion.

Those who consider this place of worship to be "inconsiderate and in bad taste" are delusional with anger, fear, and/or moral arrogance.

Those who uphold and protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (including free assembly and religious practice) are called Americans.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NOT about Tika Top Ten

SUMMARY: Really, I'm not keeping track.
I said you wouldn't have to hear more about it until the end of the year. But for those who can't contain their curiosity (like me), I made a new tab above to show our rough current status, and I'll keep that up to date as USDAA and I come into and go out of sync.

But I will say this: *IF* it takes about the same number of points to be in the Top Ten this year as it did last year, Tika is now very comfortably in in all four classes. YaHOOOOOey!

That means that I can just slack off the rest of the year!

Or not...

About Refunding Entry Fees

SUMMARY: Some clubs do sometimes, some clubs don't.
It's important that clubs have a stated policy about entry refunds after the closing date (usually 2-3 weeks before the trial). It's important that the policy be reasonable. It's important that the policy be consistent.

Some thoughts along those lines:

  • You don't want clubs necessarily playing favorites--refunds to some people after the closing but not to others. However--you can see that it might be reasonable to deny a refund to someone who wants to scratch after the closing date, time after time after time (it happens!), but to allow a refund to someone who always attends the trials and works their buns off but on one weekend has genuinely extenuating circumstances. But the lines aren't always so clear cut.
  • Some clubs refund if a bitch goes into heat after the closing date. I've heard breeders say, "yeah, but they should've known that Fuzzy was due to go into heat."  I don't know about that stuff. It's just what I've heard.
  • There was quite a  brouhaha earlier this year--on facebook or blogs or perhaps all--about a large (AKC?) trial that got rained out (?) and refused to refund any fees, even though that was their stated policy.  
  • There are usually expenses that the club has to pay whether or not the trial goes on. They might have paid a nonrefundable deposit or fee for the site. They might have rented equipment. They might have to pay for the judge's nonrefundable transportation costs.  If the judges actually made it into town, they might have to pay for the judge's lodging. If there were out-of-pocket expenses for the trial--ribbons, food, and so on--then those are also nonrefundable. That said--there is almost always money that goes back to the club (and in AKC with their hugely inflated entry fees, that's particularly true); in that situation, I'd think that the trial would have given an accounting of their own nonrefundable expenses and then at least refunded the remainder. I think that's more or less what eventually happened.
  • The club I attended this weekend who didn't refund my partial fees for scratching Tika 2 days before the trial (almost 2 full weeks after closing, and a few days after "secondary closing" intended only for move-ups earned the immediately preceding weekend) does have a clearly stated policy: no refunds for any reason after the closing date.
  • When I asked for refunds for a third of Tika's runs was reminded gently of the policy, I said OK.  (I might have been less sanguine if, say, I had broken my ankle and couldn't run either dog and couldn't get a refund, but that wasn't the situation.) When I got there and scratched Tika from a couple of runs, they gave me a certificate for roughly equivalent free entries for a future trial. That's above and beyond what they've committed to do, and I'm grateful.
  • At least one other person was refused a refund and was quite upset (and did not show up--I didn't hear the reason, but I know that the previous weekend the dog had finished the title they were working for).  Here's what the club had to say about that: They used to give refunds after the closing date for various excuses, including "dog in heat". Then they discovered that, on multiple occasions, people were entering *other trials* on that same weekend instead. So they instituted a no-refund policy.  I don't blame 'em.
  • In short: Easy to have a stated policy, but not so easy to decide what's reasonable in all situations.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    A Few Minutes With Agility Rooney

    SUMMARY: Many random thoughts and maybe some results from this weekend.
    • Dang bees! Why were there so many bees this weekend and why did they care about my can of *diet* soda? (Not yellowjackets, yes bees.) I tried to protect my open can at the score table by dropping my hat over it, but, um, what a mess on the paperwork when i grabbed my hat to go run. I tried  a paper towel over it, but that was awkward. An eraser worked ok--if I remembered. I went to work on my mental game: If, at any time, I were to take a swig of soda and feel SOMETHING not soda-ish in the mouthful, I will spit it out instantly. I like to be prepared!  I wonder how AK knew when she had TWO bees in her can and had to abandon it?

    • One can never play too much frisbee. [Boost and Tika wanted me to point that out.]

    • Don't you love driving through areas where you don't live and looking at the names of all the places you pass? And wondering what's there, and whether you'll ever actually stop there, and how they got their names? Turlock, Keyes, Ceres, Modesto (moe DESS toe), Crows Landing, Tuolumne (TWA-lum-ee), Vernalis, Stockton, Merced (mer SED), Tracy, San Joaquin (wha-KEEN), Patterson, Mountain House, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton (which is right next door to Livermore, maybe to make up for having more liver?), Byron, Altamont, Dublin, Walnut Creek.
       

    • How DO you pronounce Vernalis?

    • Steeplechase Round 1 on Saturday was one of the most flowing, fast, fun-looking Steeplechase courses that I've even seen. I mean, a novice dog could've done that course with her eyes closed!

    • Sadly, Boost was not a novice dog with her eyes closed. Need I say more?

    • Tika seemed healthy and happy all weekend. I scratched her from Grand Prix and Jumpers on Saturday, so she did only 5 runs instead of 7, just to not push my luck. I was going to scratch her from Steeplechase, too, but after Boost and I managed to munge it up, I just really wanted to run SOME dog on that wonderful course. 

    • Tika and Brenn tied for 1st on that course at 38.44 seconds. How cool is that?

    • What's the difference between pragmatic and practical? Adept and adroit? Discomfort and discomfit?  Ordnance and ordinance? Mandatory and compulsory?  (Thanks, Says You on NRP.)

    • I'm going to go see Says You live in San Francisco in April! How cool is THAT?

    • Boost ran completely past at least 3 sets of weaves this weekend and messed up the entry on several more. Gah, they're REALLY broken again! Which doesn't explain why sometimes she nailed them at full speed.

    • OMG, sometimes I just don't have much fun running Boost.

    • Thank goodness for a breeze on days when the temps are well into the 90s.

    • You cannot have too many cold drinks on days like that! Even if the bees like them, too.

    • When I was making notes for this list (2 hours ago), what did I mean by "acan slit stiders?"

    • Just found out (i'm a little behind) that Bay Teamer Dave Grubel is judging at the USDAA nationals this year! He is so perfect for the job!


    • Saturday's Jumpers: Boost was SO ALMOST NEARLY perfect--no runouts or refusals or wrong turns, and only a little bit of wide turns, and one knocked bar! Gah, so close! That's now 55 tries with only one Q.

    • Sunday's Jumpers: Boost! OMG OMG OMG! She was flawless! I mean it, she was flawless! Check out this video! (Hmm, I used a different way of posting it and if you're viewing this other than at my site, youmight have to go there to see it.)

    • OMG, sometimes I LOVE running my Booster!

    • Unfortunately... sigh... her *handler* wasn't perfect and inserted an extra jump. You know that suddenly heart-stopped realization: "oops, I think we were supposed to turn at the last jump, not this jump."  I didn't need to hear the whistle to know that I blew it. Really sucks to waste a flawless Boost performance on a really stupid handler move.  But she got some very excited happy border collie playing and rewarding before handler went off to sulk.

    • Her time was FASTER than the winning dog! *Including the extra jump!* Dang.

    • Oh, man, Katrina sure makes some awesome molasses/ginger cookies! I checked quite a few of them to be sure that the quality was consistent.

    • Steeplechase Round 2: Second place in 22" performance paid $5.28. How come I don't know what 1st place paid? Exercise for the student using this video: Where in the course did we manage to miss beating Brenn, who was .53 seconds faster?
    • They say there is no free lunch, but all weekend all workers wore stickers stating, "Free Lunch." So I guess "They" are wrong again.

    • That early-morning smell in the agricultural central valley--sort of a composting/manure/swamp smell infusing everything. Not quite pleasant, not quite unpleasant, not at all like early morning smells in Silicon Valley.

    • Boost quick recap:
      • Relay: Partner took a long leadout and had 10 faults. No Q.
      • Steeplechase Round 1: Not pleasant.
      • Grand Prix Saturday. Didn't stick aframe. Ran past weaves (for 2nd or 3rd time already), so took her off.
      • Standard Sat: Not pleasant.
      • Standard Sunday: Nice contacts (whew, finally!) and weaves. 
      • Gamblers Saturday: Very high opening points, did the gamble, but 1 sec over time because of "what this jump" on my key lead-in jump.
      • Gamblers Sunday: Very high opening points, but missed the gamble because she turned back to me when she got ahead of me instead of  keeping on going.
      • Snooker Saturday: A really beautiful 4-red opening and knocked 2 in the closing.
      • Snooker Sunday: A really beautiful closing and OH so close in the opening but screwed up a weave entry so, instead of a super-Q, we got merely another Q. But it felt good.
      • Jumpers sat & sun: Two VERY close runs. See above.

    • I sure sweated a lot this weekend! Tried to always have a cold soda at hand to replenish.

    • Feels REALLY good at the end of the day to peel off that sweaty shirt, bra, and socks before the long drive home.  (Yes, you silly people, I did put on clean ones.)

    • Tika quick recap:
      • Steeplechase round 1 and 2: Pretty good. See above.
      • Standard: 1st place Saturday and Sunday.
      • Gamblers: 1st place Saturday and Sunday.
      • Snooker Saturday: Beautiful 4-red opening, and then I lost my dog. At least the audience was amused. But everyone had so much trouble with the course, we actually place 3rd with a mere 25 points and got a Top Ten point for our trouble. 
      • Snooker Sunday: Picked my course and stuck with it, didn't try to outdo anyone. Had a couple of bobbles. Result: Tied one other dog for points but 2.5 seconds slower for a 2nd. I'll take it!
      • Relay: Partner E'ed.
      • Jumpers sunday (scratched Sat): 2nd place, 1 sec slower than 1st. No particular reason that I remember.
      • Top Ten points: Not a lot of dogs at this trial, but we did pick up a few points. More than when I was actively thinking "Must Get Lots of Top Ten Points" and went back to just doing what we do. A learning moment.

    • I had to keep abandoning the score table to go run my dogs. As the trial was coming to a close, I finally sat down to work again--where EM and LB were holding down the fort-- picked up my soda can, poured a cold mouthful--and there was SOMETHING in my mouth other than liquid. Without a fraction of a second's hesitation, my weekend-long mental conditioning kicked in and I spewed out the whole mouthful--yes, bee and all--all over the score table, the paperwork, my fellow score table worker, the score table box, the calculator--

    • I don't know that I've ever seen LB laugh that hard. Thank goodness she has a good sense of humor. Agility people are the best--as, for the 2nd time in two days, I'm mopping up soda from all over the score table.

    • Dang bees.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Front Crosses Gone Wrong and One Good Run

    SUMMARY: Coupla videos from last weekend.
    If you're on facebook, you may have already seen these. But if not--then here's something to look at while I'm off in Turlock.

    By request of a certain Arizonian agilitator, first here's my  "Front Crosses Gone Horribly Wrong" tape from this last weekend. There were actually a couple more, but thank goodness they weren't filmed.

    This is quick excerpts from two runs where front crosses didn't work quite as planned. (First--I got stuck behind jump, managed to push Boost out over correct jump but because of my garbled body language, she turned the wrong way so angle was wrong for next jump and ended up coming inside and then backjumping.) (Second--fed Tika neatly into wrong side of weave pole entry.)


    Most of our best runs were on Sunday and, for some annoying reason,   I didn't take any vids on Sunday, and only a couple on Monday. So the only halfway decent run I actually captured was Tika's Team Standard 2nd place from Saturday:

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Many Many Runs This Weekend and an Iffy Dog

    SUMMARY: 7 runs saturday, 5 possible Sunday. And is Tika OK?
    This weekend's VAST USDAA trial, out in Turlock, should be "unseasonably cool"--merely 90F (32C) for a predicted high. Guess I'll be packing the shorts.

    Tika started looking completely bouncy and happy yesterday, but I've mostly kept her from running until late this afternoon, when I tossed the toy into some shrubs or behind some things so that she wouldn't be chasing madly or lunging onto it. That looked OK, so I put her over some 16" jumps, then a sequence with 16" jumps and tunnels, and she still looks fine.

    I sure hope she stays sound this weekend. But I dunno: SEVEN runs on Saturday? Only four planned for Sunday (plus possible Round 2 of Steeplechase).

    Normally I'd welcome that for both my dogs--the more trial activity, the more it burns out that extraneous energy.

    But I'm still thinking I should scratch Tika from some of the classes. Realized I can't scratch from pairs, because I promised this one specifically to someone who's had trouble getting Qs with various partners. That would really suck if I had to pull Tika for being sore.

    Probably will scratch grand prix.

    She usually does well in Steeplechase, and it's always nice to come home with some $$$, but if I scratch that, that's OK--I'm not caring at all about Performance Tournament Top Ten, as our record overall hasn't been that great this year. On the other hand--she just needs 2 tournaments to finish her performance tournament Silver, which would be cool.

    But not at the expense of the other classes where it would be nice to get more top ten points. Really, that's the main reason I entered these 3 in a row.

    Could scratch jumpers; I think she's got plenty of T10 to be in for this year no matter what else we do. But she likes Jumpers.

    I hate making these choices. Dang.

    Anyway--small trial, lots of runs--but all masters runs are in one ring, so no stressing on conflicts. Also, potluck saturday evening, which is always tasty and FUN.

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    Nifty Blogger Feature: Static Pages

    SUMMARY: Note the "Home" and "USDAA Rules" links above.
    Blogger has included this feature for quite some time and I've been meaning to investigate. Static pages don't show up as blog entries; instead, they can contain static information that you want to be generally available (e.g., "About me") at all times.

    Turns out to be pretty easy to use; it's just like editing blog pages.

    So now there's a USDAA Rules tab, under which I'll put USDAA Rules info (really, did I have to explain that?) that might be of use to me or to readers. Just now added "Top Ten Rules" explaining how Top Ten points are calculated.

    Anything you can think of in my prior posts that you've wanted to refer to more than once (doesn't have to be USDAA rules) that you'd like to see a link for? I've got some ideas... although not much time at the moment (or ever).

    Tika Not At Her Best

    SUMMARY: She's still sore. And we're trialing this weekend.
    This particularly sucks because this club is one of many who really don't do refunds after the closing date. (Most clubs say they don't but, if finances allow, sometimes some of them do.) So my money is sunk into this trial whether I run her or not.

    I'm thinking I'm going to scratch her from the classes that don't count towards the regular Top Ten**--that is, stick with Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers, and scratch Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and Pairs Relay.

    We'll see how she's doing as the next 48 hours wear on, though.

    Dang.

    ----
    ** Not that I'm counting Top Ten points any more, or even mentioning them in this blog. (As i clearly stated in Titles Schmitles.)

    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    To Test Or Not To Test, That is The Question

    SUMMARY: Paranoid about dog health. And I guess no course design clinic, either.
    Agility is all about money. (When it's not all about the clothing or all about the Qs or all about the food or maybe even all about having fun.) We're FINALLY having a USDAA course-design clinic and judging test this month in our area; tried for it several years back and couldn't get enough people. I'd really like to go. At $295 for the clinic and $65 for the judging test afterwards? Yikes. That's nuts. But I'd still like to go.

    Yet another friend's agility dog just died from hemangiosarcoma, which is what took Remington. Seems to appear in the 8-12 year range, and some friends are doing one-time midlife ultrasounds on their dogs to check for tumors. I've been thinking about Tika's on-again, off-again discomfort, and likening it to Remington's on-again, off-again discomfort and his sometimes-superdog and sometimes-not-interested approach to agility. In retrospect, determined that a lot of that, at least in his last year or two, was probably due to the tumor. Soooooooooocoooullld it be the same thing for Tika?

    I ran out of Rimadyl, Tika's still not 100% today, so when I called the vet's office for a refill, I posed the question. Turned out that she's overdue for her bortadella shot and way overdue for a heartworm blood test, so I made an appointment for this afternoon and in we went.

    Forgot to give Tika her sedative before going in--Human mom fail!--poor doggie shook like a leaf, and you should've heard her screech when the vet took her temp. But we got through it--I accidentally got her head inside my fleece while holding her for that torture and it seemed to calm her more than just holding onto her.

    He also suggested that, since I'm using the rimadyl more, we should consider doing a full blood-work panel now and possibly more often in the future to check her liver and kidney function and other vital signs.

    Turns out that ultrasound for the full torso cavity (spleen, heart, and lungs being the most crucial points for possible hemangiosarcoma) could run around $1000, and he says it's just like the full-body scanning for humans that some places (for-profit scanning centers) are pushing: Odds of them finding something real are extremely small, and more often than not they find something that they really then have to suggest that you get further testing done on, and the odds are extremely high that that ends up being nothing significant.

    He said, if I had that kind of money to throw around regularly without noticing it in my budget, sure, I could do that every year or every 6 months or however often I wanted it, and it might catch something before it got serious. Or--not. When just randomly scanning for something, the beginnings of tumors are small enough that they're not likely to be identified. If I do just one scan, it could be, say, very different from what it would be 3 months down the road because the evidence isn't yet large enough to be detected. No way to know one way or the other.

    And really, he says, there's no "epidemic" of hemangiosarcoma; of course like anything else by statistical laws it's never perfectly distributed among the entire dog population, so making assumptions based on a small group isn't really going to give useful data in most cases.

    I know all that.

    So I'm pretty much talked out of doing the ultrasounds of all her major organs.

    The total bill--bloodwork, bortadella shot, rimadyl (double prescription this time because it's cheaper each in larger quantities), consultation and physical check-up--nearly $400. And i don't think my vet is particularly expensive.

    But that bill has pretty much also talked me out of signing up for the course-building clinic. Ah, well, given a choice between that and my merle girl's health, guess you know which I'll pick.

    These Are Not My Beautiful Contacts

    SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday. (Thanks--I think--friend Sarah for photos.)
    x

    Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    Oh, Right, Titles for Tika Plus Summary

    SUMMARY: Just remembered--
    As I noted in Titles Schmitles, Tika could possibly have earned 3 titles this weekend. Well, crapped out in Steeplechase and Grand Prix, so didn't get the really cool [Performance] Tournament Silver.

    But did complete the other two:
    • One Q in Standard, for (Perf.) Standard Champion. (ASD?)
    • One Q in Snooker, for  (Perf.) Snooker Champion Bronze. (AKD-Bronze?)
    I'd count these as "minor" titles in the sense that they are among the things that just come along without any stress or overt angst on my part.

    Any, BTW, a summary of the weekend:
    BoostTikaNotes on TIKA's
    Runs 12 13Pulled from 2 of those because of soreness
    Qs 2 8Includes 1 Super-Q
    1st 0 2Incl's 5 Top Ten pts for Standard
    2nd 0 2Includes 5 top tens for snooker
    3rd 0 1Includes 3 top tens for gamblers
    Competing against 42-80 dogs 10-18 dogs

    And in Lifetime Achievement Award Qs, Tika now has 290; needs 350 for Gold and 500 for Platinum. I really still don't see how we'll ever get to platinum with her recurring soreness, but Gold may be doable next year--we've earned 64 so far in 2010 in 10 trials; 4 trials to go this year.

    So many numbers to track, so little time!

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    SouthWest Regional: Another 3-Day Weekend

    SUMMARY: Yup, we went, we agilitated, we got some Qs.
    Tika Saturday--Performance Team ("Here We Go Again" with many-time teammate Brenn):

    18 dogs competed in Tika's height in Team. Handling error in team snooker kept Tika to only 17 points. Won Team Gamblers. Second in Team Standard. Some bobbles (wrong turns) in team Jumpers--clean but only 6th of 18 dogs. Brenn did well, too, and we were clean in the relay. Our combined scores placed us 4th out of 30 teams--again--dang that snooker round! We were only 10 points/faults/seconds out of 3rd place over 5 classes times 2 dogs. So close. But it was definitely a Q and I'm not unhappy with 4th.

    Tika Saturday Steeplechase: On a tough tunnel calloff, I yelled "Come! Come!" which I know from years of experience does nothing. I needed "Tika!" Off course. So no Round 2.

    Tika Sunday:

    Won Standard. With 10 dogs--IF I were still counting Top Ten points, which of course I'm not, that would be 5 more. (The 11th dog dropped out, or it would've been 7 for 1st. Ah, well. Older dogs sometimes get sore & tired & can't do as much. Hold that thought.)

    In Gamblers, tied 2 other dogs for high points but, due to a [sigh] strategy error, out of 12 dogs, we placed 3rd based on time instead of 1st. I'm not counting Top Ten Points now. But, if I were, that would be 3 more.

    In Pairs Relay, Tika knocked a bar and our awesome teammate Chaps (who won a ton of events this weekend) had a contact and a refusal in their mere 10 obstacles--but even with 15 faults, our combined time was fast enough (barely) to at least Q.

    Grand Prix--gah, handler tried a slightly aggressive weave pole thing that she thought was actually pretty safe with Tika--but Tika popped out at #10, so no Q, although even with having to go back and fix it, we were within a few seconds of hte first place time. Ah, well.

    Tika Monday:
    Snooker: Tika ran competently but was slow in the tunnels (of which we did several). Did 4 reds in the opening, ran out of time on the approach to the 3rd part of #7 in the closing. In retrospect, I realize that I was urging her on, which I don't usually have to do in snooker because she gets so roused up in that game. We were lucky that only 1 dog (Chaps) beat our score, so 2nd of 14 dogs, and since I'm not counting Top Ten points, I won't mention that that's 5 more.

    Jumpers: Short story: Sore, so pulled her out halfway through. Got her a massage with the wonderful Pawssage lady who noted my distress, stated her fondness for older dogs, and gave us at least a 10-minute evaluation and massage without charging us anything. Tika likes this sort of work and it seemed to help. But--

    Standard: Short story: Still sore, so pulled her out after 3 obstacles. This was probably the first time in 7 years that she did a careful Aframe and stopped in 2o/2o position. Ah, me, older dogs sometimes get sore & tired & can't do as much.

    Now: Seems to be feeling pretty good. At 4:30 after packing up, wanted to run and play frisbee, but I said no. She should be good for VAST USDAA next weekend.

    Boost Saturday DAM team with Ariel and Gustavo as BAG Ladies:

    Thought she did well in Team Gamblers, but no, lots of people got way more points than she did. About average. 20th of 80 dogs--not awful, but not great. I actually mistimed it and we could've gotten 5-8 more points. Team Snooker: Again, not awful--27th of 80 dogs, but missed weave entry in closing on #6. Team Jumpers, Eed on refusals I think. Team Standard--well--we didn't E, but ended with a course time of 65.59 (to compare, winner was 37.22) and 24 course faults! About as bad as you can do w/out Eing.

    Team Relay: Before the relay, our team's cumulative score had us 4th from last of 42 teams. We ran early in the 3-dog relay and all 3 of us ran clean (compared to all of us having Es and other problems in the earlier classes). Interestingly, very few teams ran that without at least one dog Eing, which pulled us all the way up to 24th of 42 teams! Not quite enough to Q, but we were pretty pleased with our relay showing.

    Steeplechase Round 1: Weave issues, runout issues. No Q.

    Boost Sunday:

    Pairs Relay: I thought her half was flawless--really lovely! But apparently got called on the up contact on the teeter?! Teammate had a refusal but also pretty fast; we Qed anyway. And so Boost continues her steady march towards what I see as an eventual Relay Platinum without every getting a single Snooker Super-Q or any more Jumpers Qs. Silly.

    Gamblers: Oh, man, a nice opening--among the highest scores--and did the gamble, but on the last jump, which was a double, knocked the first bar. How does one knock JUST the first bar on a double? Dang.

    Standard: Oh, man, ALMOST PERFECT! Beautiful weaves, held all contacts, running ahead of me, kept her bars up, beautiful table, etc., just one rear cross that I apparently didn't manage well for a runout.

    Boost Monday:

    Snooker: Tried Tika's same course. Knocked 2nd red in the opening and #4 in the opening, but got nicely all the way through 7 in the closing. So it was a Q but still not a super-Q.

    Jumpers: Gah.

    Rafflin' Dog: Boost won me TWO free entry cert's in raffles this weekend! That's really super! I'm thinkin' she's easily earned her RfM (Raffle Master) title by now!

    Saturday, September 04, 2010

    Comparing Dogs

    SUMMARY: When did who get what?
    Well, it's true that Boost is somewhat better at some things than Tika was at her age. In fact--well, Boost is better at almost everything than Tika. Except, no surprise, Grand Prix (kinda), Snooker (a bit), and Jumpers (a bunch). It's good to remind myself, though, that she does in fact have strengths.

    I'm going to be offline for 3 days most likely, so I'm setting this up to post this weekend.

    Title or achievement Tika age Boost age notes
    MAD 4.5 5.5 Tika wins (requires 3 Standard and 1 each of Gamblers, Jumpers, Snooker, and Relay)
    Standard Master (5 Qs) 5 4.5 boost wins
    Standard Champ (10 Qs) 6 5.5 boost wins
    Relay Master (5Qs) 4.5 3.5 boost wins
    Relay Champ (10 Qs 5.5 4.5 boost wins
    Relay bronze (15 Qs) 6 5 boost wins
    Gamblers Master (5 Qs) 5.5 4.5 boost wins
    Gamblers Champ (10 Qs) 6 5.5 Boost wins
    Tournament Master
    (10 Qs, at least 2 each)
    5.5 4.5 boost wins
    Title or achievement Tika qty Boost qty notes
    Steeplechase Qs at age 5.5 5 9 boost wins
    Clean Grand Prixs at age 5.5 2 2 tie--but note, until recently, dogs could Q with 5 faults. Tika had 12 more 5-fault Qs at this age; boost has only five 5-fault GPs. So really Tika wins.
    Snooker SuperQs at age 5.5 2 0 tika wins
    Jumpers Qs at age 5.5 5 1 tika really wins

    Friday, September 03, 2010

    The Place I Thought I Wanted!

    SUMMARY: But alas, the time is not right.
    Workin' Paws is for sale--alas for the agility community, unless another agility person buys it. They host seminars and fun matches and ASCA trials and much more.

    And alas for me. It's in an area I've thought about buying into in the past. It's a gorgeous site with beautiful views.   It's agility-ready!  And, if I could sell my house for what it recently appraised for, I could probably afford to buy it. BUT.

    Here's what I've learned from knowing agility couples who own and run agility facilities: It's a frigging lot of work and money. And I'm not keeping up with the maintenance (let alone improvements) on my own, much smaller place. And I have only one income. So, alas, the time is not right for this for me.

    However, if you want an agility place in Hollister, please buy it so the rest of us can keep using it!

    Seller's description:

    5 Acres with Mountain Views.
    North County Ranch Style has 4 bedrooms 3 baths
    3250 Sq. Ft of living space
    Large Loft
    Formal Dining Room
    Tile Fireplace Hearth
    Central Air Conditioning
    Wood Burning Fireplace with Gas Starter
    3 or More Car Garage
    All Fenced and Crossed Fenced with Mare Motel
    Blue Value Water
    Walking distance to the most desirable elementary school in San Benito County.
    Two grass agility fields: 90 X 150 and 98 X 98, all on Blue Value Water!
    Evening lights for fields
    Arena area
    Over 90 Jackson and Perkins Rosebushes
    Many planted trees
    Parking area for events and matches
    Plenty of room for sheep and horses

    Will be priced in the $600,000's

    Thanks,
    Susan Paulsen
    510-708-0723

    Thursday, September 02, 2010

    Fixing the Danged Contacts

    SUMMARY: Boosts, once lovely, are broke. Tika's, always struggling, are broke. Plus some useful definitions.

    Definitions

    • Two on/two off (2o/2o): Stops at the bottom of the contact with two feet on it and two feet on the ground. A common strategy for ensuring that the dog hits the contact zone, because it is an easily teachable position.
    • Running contact: A *trained* pattern in which the dog doesn't slow down on the descent but must run through the end of the board, not leap from it.
    • Maintaining criteria: Choosing a way in which something should be done and then refusing to accept less than that. For example, for 2o/2o, not accepting the dog running past it or leaping off it. (That's after you've been through all the training process, of course.)
    • Running contacts through gradual relaxation of criteria: Agility-dog-training joke.

    Tika's Contacts

    In early training, her contacts were lovely, fast, accurate 2o/2o. That meant things like, if I was way behind her, she still ran full-speed to the end of the contact and stopped; she didn't slow down and wait for me. And she *stopped*. Until there were squirrels in the training facility (remember on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where the voice says, "Thar be squirrels ahead!"? (During the 30 years before the dang move-based renovation anyway.) That was the warning in class!

    We fixed that by putting tika on a 20-foot lead, which the instructor held while I ran tika on the contact, and when she flew off after the squirrel, she came to an abrupt and ignominious end (of the lead, that is).

    She's been just about perfect just about always in class even since, but I have fought with it at trials for lo these many years. A few years back, I just stopped. I was spending trial after trial after trial giving away my entry fees because I'd do something to correct her or stop her on the contacts when she tried to run through them. Turns out that she was hitting the yellow contact zone most of the time, and she was fast but not as fast as many of those Border Collies, so I've been accepting the "modified running contacts" (as one innocent admirer called them).

    Except that means that I have to babysit the contacts. It does make a difference in how i run a course. Like last weekend's Grand Prix, where I really wanted to be 10 feet away from her on the dogwalk to get a critical front cross. And she bailed BIG time.

    Or in Steeplechase Round 2, where I got almost right on top of her on the Aframe but she still bailed BIG time.

    I'm thinking that it's the rubberized contacts. They are SO quiet and the surface is gentle and easily gripped, and I think it accelerates the dogs!

    Boost's contacts

    Have always been lovely in class. (You know how it goes.) And were pretty good in competition, too, although--

    Well, see, we started with a nose touch at the end of the contact (to keep the dog focused forward) and, despite warnings, I dropped that criteria. So Boost started running to the end and swiveling back to face me. That's a problem when I'm trying to go straight or turn away. And then she started leaving the contacts without waiting for my release --I'm afraid I encouraged that by releasing very quickly in things like Gamblers and Steeplechase.

    Last weekend, she stuck only one of all the aframes, dogwalks, and teeters that we did. One. Which makes it very hard to get distance and assume that she'll be facing the correct direction at the end of the contact. In the past, slowing down and making her DOWN when she leaves early has fixed the problem. Well, that didn't work Saturday.

    So Sunday I picked her up and took her off after she left the contacts early (well, ok, except in round 2 of the Steeplechase.)

    I'm going to blame some of that on the rubberized contacts, too.

    So--fixing them--

    Hard to fix nonsticky 2o/2o when the dogs do them fine at home and in class. They're way past where me doing things like crossing in front, saying "good dog", moving suddenly, throwing a toy, and so on will get them to break.

    In class this week, I bumped up the level to my most excited and devious. Got Boost to break once with one method and another time with a different method, and then she was solid. So I got the instructor involved. NG appeared suddenly on the opposite side of the contact as I yelled "touch!", and NG yelled in an excited voice while running, "yay, get it!" and threw a toy. On the dogwalk, Boost watched with fascination but didn't break; on the Aframe, she broke, we repeated, and then she was solid.

    Tika? Ha! No food involved, Tika didn't care what the instructor was doing. Continued with rock solid contacts, completely ignoring NG.

    Sigh, so this weekend--Regionals--3 days--

    Sooooo with Boost I probably will take her off the course again if she leaves the contacts early. I REALLY need reliable 2o2o. I hope the message gets through.

    With Tika, I dunno. In competition, if she's going to do 2o2o, she tends to slow way down, so I like the speed of the "modified running contacts." And she's 9 and a half now. And I fought with them for SO long, I just don't want to go back to it.

    Did take a couple of seminars in running contacts, thinking they'd be perfect for her, but the training is (seems to me) far more rigorous than the 2o2o, and I've just never felt rigorous enough. Plus REtraining contacts after 8 years, yeah, well, good luck with that.

    Guess we'll see how they look after the minor catches in class! Wish me luck!

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010

    Titles Schmitles

    SUMMARY: Current and for the rest of the year.
    OK, really, I am NOT going to look at or even think about Top Ten points until after the December trial. Really. Because there's nothing I can do about what the other dogs are going to do, and I'm not going to start adding trials to my calendar to try to pick up more Top Ten points. I'd rather go back to just having fun enjoying Tika being super in Performance and not worry about it. Really. REALLY.

    So, with that out of the way:
    • With Boost's Steeplechase Q last weekend, she completed her Tournament Bronze title! (15 tournament Qs with at least 3 in each of the three.) There'll be no more titles in this unless she can start getting Grand Prix Qs--only 3 in her whole agility career so far--and we can't compete in Grand Prix at the Regionals because she got none this year, for instance. But, OK, nice to have that Bronze.
    • With Tika's Pairs Relay Q last weekend, she completed her Relay Champion-Bronze (15 Qs). And so the march through the metals continues.
    This weekend:

    There are only the three tournaments plus one each of the regular classes (and an extra Standard). So not a lot of oppportunities for titles. Still--IF--
    • ...Tika Qs in all 3 Tournaments, that would be her Performance Tournament Silver.
    • ...Tika Qs in one Standard, that would be (Perf.) Standard Champion.
    • ...Tika Qs in Snooker, that would be (Perf.) Snooker Champion Bronze.
    • ...Boost Qs in anything--I'll be happy! (But no titles are possible at this point.)
    The rest of the year after this weekend:

    Four more USDAA trials, one a month, so plenty more chances for Qs and titles.

    And here's another milestone: I am managing to continue cutting back on my weekends at trials. This year I'll have had only 14 weekends, which is the lowest since 2000 (and down from a high of 23 in 2003). Good for me! I earn my Not Going To Too Many Trials Bronze! (Dropping BELOW 15.)