Monday, April 30, 2012

Semiretirement

SUMMARY: Time to scale Tika back. Dunno about Boost.
This was another weekend where Tika didn't look like she was having a lot of fun in agility. After the previous competition where she was back to grabbing my feet at the end of her runs, this weekend she did it only twice, and only half-heartedly (token grab and release). She wasn't fast. She didn't want to play before the runs and I couldn't jolly her into it. She stretched out fine, so no obvious signs of soreness.

And, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, her ears came up and her eyes sparkled and she ran full-tilt after the frisbee on saturday morning, saturday evening, sunday morning, sunday midday, and sunday at the end of the trial on the lawn where the rings had been.

I'd already decided after that last DAM team tournament that we're not doing team any more (with one exception to team with our long-time teammate Brenn who's also briefly coming out of team retirement), because the last couple of teams she's not been getting the individual Qs, and I don't really want to have to do 5 runs with her to get one team Q. And we don't need team Qs for *any* reason except Lifetime Achievement Awards (LAA)--and even that is iffy whether we'll finish the 58 more that we need for Platinum. It might be doable, but I guess I'm going to do it more gradually.

And, in fact, way more gradually. Since I don't know whether it's some soreness that doesn't show up in general stretching and play, or been-there-done-thatness, or thyroid, or what, I'm going to gradually do fewer classes with her and see how that goes.

Bay Team's May USDAA is this coming weekend, so here's how I've adjusted our entries as of last night, and why:
  • Standard: 2 runs, doing those. She needs 3 more in my quest for her PDCH-Gold. When she gets those, I might stop doing standard, since the escalating battle for her to go down on the table could make it very hard for us to get Qs and obviously she just doesn't want to, for whatever odd reason, after 10 years of doing tables. The awesome Hobbes Michalski also went into greater and greater table refusal mode as he got older, and this weekend the awesome Heath LeClair's human dad said that he's considering ceasing Standards with him since he also no longer wants to go down on the table. As someone who no longer wants to sit down on the floor because it's so hard to get up, I might understand.
  • Gamblers: 2 runs, canceled both. She used to be my Jedi Gambler girl--Gamblers was the first thing she reached Perf Gold in-- but between my miscues and her hearing, since she got that 35th Q, we've gotten only 1 out of the following 8 (12% Q rate). (Took her 58 tries for those 35, so 60% Q rate.)
  • Jumpers: 2 runs, doing those. She always liked jumpers--no pesky weaves or contacts; yesterday's jumpers is one of the only two classes where she grabbed my foot this weekend; she still Qs pretty regularly.
  • Snooker: 1 run, doing that. She needs 5 more in my quest for her PDCH-Gold. They don't have to be super-Qs, and I'm trying to pick easy, flowing courses now where I used to always pick fun, challenging ones because my excitement would get her excited, too.
  • Pairs: Canceled that. Actually worked out well because our dog partner Chaps is feeling a little wonky and his human mom already scratched him from everything except pairs for this weekend, so we talked and we're now both scratching pairs. I feel less comfortable doing pairs now because I'm now feeling like Tika and I are an unreliable pairs partner, after several years of feeling pretty reliable.
  • Steeplechase: Doing that. Well, she's not fast, but so far she's mostly still Qing and mostly still bringing home a small pittance of $. Or everyone else could crap out or scratch, like this weekend, and we win by default. [grin]
  • Grand Prix: Canceled that. Her Q rate is actually pretty high still in GP, but I just don't want to run that many runs right now. Probably if/when I stop doing Standard with her, I'll put her back into GP. So glad they did away with the table in GP (about 10 years ago).
Boost: Dunno. After my angst after Sunday's steeplechase round 2, I asked why I keep doing this to myself. And the answer was: HER excitement, bright eyes, and speed--and the thrill of the half courses in which everything clicks and she's flying around the course and I'm living at the edge being her guiding teammate.  Curses on the other halves of those courses where it all goes to pieces.

I've been so close to shutting down her number of runs, too, but then her amazing gambler's opening on Saturday, her jumpers Q on Sunday, her oh-so-nearly-perfect snooker on sunday, things like that-- those random rewards that keep telling me, hey we CAN do this sport and someday she WILL get that 5th jumpers leg and two more super-Qs!

Jumpers Qs came for us in April 2010, November 2010, August 2011, and April 2012. An average of one every 8 months. So it could even happen this year. [sighs again]

Well, we'll see how this coming weekend goes and gradually shape our strategy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Agility: The Sport of Manic Depression

SUMMARY: In which Steeplechases are won, obscenities are spoken, miracles happen, more miracles are so close to happening that when they don't it's a like a sucker punch to the gut while simultaneously being thrilled, and a bunch of Q ribbons come home.

Short list:
  • Tika Qed in 3 out of 4 classes; the knocked bar in Standard wasn't her fault as I chickedn out of a front cross at the last minute and did something really weird that messed her up. She also won Steeplechase Round 2.
  • Boost Qed in 2 out of 4 classes, including a long-awaited Jumpers, our 4th!

Longer list:

First run of the day, Steeplechase Round 2:
  • Tika ran it adequately and cleanly, and we won, bringing home a whole $17, which still doesn't quite pay for entering it in the first place. We credit the win to not having to compete against any of the faster dogs-- 3 out of 7 in Round 1 went off course, one scratched; and in round 2 the winner of round 1 (who was a blazing 10 seconds faster than us) also scratched and the only other dog left knocked a bar. At 40.61 and 41.32 seconds, these were the slowest 2 clean steeplechase rounds that Tika has ever run.
  • Boost ran past a jump, then another jump, then near the end with "never give up" running through my head, ran past the same jump 3 times without taking it as I tried mightily to get her over it, and I walked her off the ring, put her away, and then had a cursing fit about taking #*@& bars in front of you. (I tried to have that zen attitude and really I almost never swear, but after a while this just gets to me.) Also she self-released from the Aframe and turned to face me, so I had to down her just to get past her; did that despite our home practice last night. My kind friends sat me at the score table and made me get busy.
Second run, Grand Prix:
  • Tika ran it adequately but not quickly; I forgot where I was going once and put in an extra front cross and then had to pull her off the wrong jump, then she turned back to me before the very last jump because now I was behind. She Qed but only 5th of 8 dogs. A full 12 seconds behind the winning dog and by far the slowest yards per second (33.4) of any of her Grand Prix Qs ever, most of which have been over 4 yps.
  • Boost: Well, we really need GP Qs for possible future titles, but I also really wanted to fix our contact issues. So I vowed that, if she self-released off any contact, I'd take her out of the ring. Lo, she did every one perfectly! She also ran past 2 jumps, missed her weave entry, and went off course (last one all my fault), but I was able to count it as a success because of the contacts.
Third run, Standard:
  • Tika ran it adequately but not quickly; aforementioned bar on my bobbled front cross. That course ate up dogs: only 7 of 55 Masters dogs Qed and only 7 of 28 performance dogs. Tika came in 4th on the strength of having "only" 5 faults, but still 10 full seconds behind the winning dog.
  • Boost: Got the Aframe and Dogwalk contacts nicely, ran past a couple of jumps, then came off the side of the teeter completely without even trying to go all the way to the end, so I picked her up and carried her calmly off the field. Too bad, so sad, don't get to keep playing.
 Fourth run, Jumpers:
  • Tika ran it adequately but not quickly. Didn't check the results so not sure how the times or placements ended up. (Will fill in when the results are posted online.)
  • Boost: I could see she was going to refuse a jump I was trying to rear cross, so I gave up and ran straight past it, and fortunately she decided to take it after all. That left us in the proverbial left field needing to go back in the opposite direction, so I had to make her "down" to realign myself and then we continued, but since I was now behind where I needed to be, she turned the wrong way after another jump, but we held it together and, OMG, a miracle happened and we were at the end with ALL the bars up and NO FAULTS! Our 4th-ever Jumpers Q! Not pretty, but I'll take it! Happiness reigned!
Fifth run, Snooker:
  • Tika: At this point in her career, I'm just looking for Qs, so I picked a pretty easy, flowing, 5-5-5 opening and she executed it and the rest of it, yes, adequately but not super-fast. So a Q and actually a 3rd place out of 7.
  • Boost: I've been begging the dog gods for snookers where we could get high points without involving jumps and where the last obstacle also doesn't contain a jump, and this one had weave poles as #7. It required that we go between and around obstacles at several stages, but mostly felt like it would flow  nicely. Not many people even tried for three 7s in the opening, but I thought it would be our kind of course and was a better option than either 6 (which had a jump) or 5 (which had a jump). Also required that she keep her bars up and make 4 perfect sets of weaves from odd angles.  My estimate said that we had a lot of time and could afford some bobbles, but much to my surprise, like a well-oiled machine she did the first 1, came ALL the way across the field to where I'd led out, made the weaves perfectly, did the 2nd 1, did the weaves perfectly again, threadled between two obstacles to the 3rd 1 and threadled back to th get the 3rd weaves perfectly, avoided the off-course potential going into the closing and both she and I were in exactly the right places and we went through 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, and all that was left was the weaves, and they were right in front of her and my heart soared because this time I knew we had the Super-Q!  ... And she entered at pole #2.  AuuuuuughhhhH! This hurts so much more than just crapping out early. So it was  a Q but way below a Super-Q. Wahhhh! I suppose it was too much to ask to get both a Jumpers Q and a Super-Q on the same weekend, but we were SOOO CLOSE! I so wanted to take back that one moment and, I dunno, work the entry a little harder, give her an "easy" command, I dunno I dunno I dunno. Sigh again.

    But she really did run beautifully all the way through the rest of it and it was hard to be truly annoyed. Wish we could click like that more often.

In short, in one day with Boost I went from uncontrollable frustration, to calm acceptance of the issues and managing the failures on course, to exhilaration after the Jumpers Q, to more exhilaration being 2 seconds worth of weaves from a Super-Q to that aforementioned sucker-punch to the gut feeling, then back to joy at how well she had done the course overall.

And Tika--well, when I got the frisbee out, no sign of tiredness or slowness or disinterest. So there must be something about the agility itself that she's not liking or that's bothering her. An unfinished story.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SMART USDAA Day 1

SUMMARY: Tika reliable and slow, Boost fast and, well...

Here's the deal.

We had 6 runs each dog today.

Tika Qed in everything except gamblers, and that's because she was slow enough that she wasn't even close to where I thought she'd be, and so I wasn't prepared, and managed to push her *past* the first gamble jump, which disqualified us, but when I brought her back around, she did the whole gamble perfectly.

My overwhelming feeling is of slowness. She's still Qing with plenty of room, but plod plod plod--compared to her former self and of course compared to Boost. F'rinstance, her yards per second today in standard was about 3.4, which is among the half dozen slowest YPS she's ever gotten on standard courses--all of which have been in the last 6 months. So, yeh, slow.

She even placed:
  • 3rd of 9 in  Standard (but, as I noted, slow, so a lot of that was other people with faults)
  • 4h of 7 in Gamblers (and got few enough points that, even if she had Qed, she'd still have been only 4th
  • 3rd of 9 in Snooker--I picked a lower-point course for ease and comfort
  • 4th of 8 in Jumpers--a full 6.5 seconds slower than the winning dog who ran it in 22.02
  • 2nd of 5 in Steeplechase--2 of the 5 E'ed
  • 2nd of 9 with partner Chaps in pairs relay--and if she hadn't seemed so uncertain in 2 or 3 places, we'd have made up the half second we were behind 1st.
So, yeah, I'm happy and sad at the same time. I'm not quite jollying her through the course, but she doesn't seem drivey at all. Doesn't seem sore or unwilling, but also grabbed my feet only at the end of the first run of the day and no others, so she's not her normal excited self.

I worked on managing her more, to avoid recent hearing-related communication issues, but we still had some iffy spots anyway.

Boost, on the other hand,  NQed in everything except Steeplechase, and even that wasn't lovely-- Backstory: Second run of the day was Gamblers, and I was pretty sure we weren't going to get the gamble, so I went for points points points in the opening for Glory. And indeed, we had the highest opening points of all 40 22" dogs and the 2nd highest out of all 96 dogs at the trial. And we were in a good position for the gamble, but we failed it in 2 different ways. Anyway, after the 1st contact, she realized that I was releasing quickly and so started self-releasing and instead of nipping it in the bud, I let it go so that I could get my Glory. (Which, incidentally, no one else pays attention to because we didn't Q.)

As a result, the rest of the day she continued to self-release, so in Steeplechase she was ahead of me going over the aframe and didn't even slow down, just came off and turned back to face me, so I had to put her into a down to get myself past her to finish the course. Other than that it was pretty nice--kept up her bars, got her weaves fine, etc.

Boost E'ed on refusals and runouts in 2 of the classes today, sigh. 

It was a beautiful day to be out in the open air at Prunedale doing agility. A little warm in the sun midday, which might have contributed to Tika slowing down. Heat never used to affect her, but now I notice that it does. Don't know what that's going to be like as we get into summer!

We came home this evening and I put Boost over some contacts and tried to get her to release early, to no avail. Maybe that'll be  a reminder.

Oh--and practiced some fast table downs with Tika; hmmm, come to think of it, it has also been only the last few months when she hasnt' wanted to go down on the table in Standard, so that sure could be the main thing affecting our yards per second, and today was no exception.

Also, for years I've been putting Tika into a down-stay at the start line, because the Sit-Stay was too tempting for her to stand up and take off early. Lately, she's been not wanting to go down at the start line, either, although I've insisted. Twice today I gave up and let her sit. Sure enough, she was already up and creeping forward at the end of my lead-out, but she hadn't actually taken off yet.

Funny. Odd. Different. Strange. All takes adjustment.

I guess I'll go back tomorrow and give it all another go.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sports Photos

SUMMARY: April theme gallery entries.
Every month, the photo club that I joined last year has 2 weeks for entering a photo contest and 2 weeks for submitting photos to a theme gallery, which is just for fun. This month's gallery theme was "Sports," and these are the existing photos from last year that I decided to submit.

You can safely guess that I'm the only one whose sports photos didn't involve humans.

"The Best Use of a Flower-Speckled Field"

"Maiya Catching Some Air Over the A-Frame"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here Comes USDAA Again

SUMMARY: Injuries, class, weekends.
I've been trying to take it easy with Boost for the last week to let whatever's going on in her right rear leg heal up a bit. We've been going for long walks and playing gentle fetch (where she doesn't run full speed and doesn't crash & slue around like crazy getting the toy) and a lot of tug'o'war. No practicing agility--no tunnels (which she loves) or jumps or anything.

She never looks sore except sometimes when she gets up from lying there for a while. I haven't noticed it in the last few days, so maybe it just needed a little rest.

Tonight in class is the first agility I've done with either dog since class last week. Our first couple of runs were disasters with both dogs. I wasn't getting in my cues, or boost was knocking bars, or I just can't think fast enough to do what I'm supposed to do when something changes on course (e.g., boost knocks a bar and all I'm thinking about is rewarding her for making a tight wrap around a jump upright, so she wraps and knocks the bar and gets a reward). I frustrate myself so often with my own mental limitations.

In one run, both dogs knocked the same bar when I put in a front cross (and Tika doesn't knock that many bars any more), and in another run, both dogs popped out of the weaves that were heading generally towards a large hedge (but really, 10 feet away!).

Ah, well. By the end of the evening I think all three of us were doing better.

Which is good, because we have a USDAA trial this weekend and another next weekend.

Both at Manzanita Park at Prunedale, both by clubs of which I'm a member. I'll be at the score table again.

I moaned and groaned and waffled mightily over what to enter either dog in after our last couple of trials, putting off the decision until the last possible moment, then just went ahead and entered both dogs in everything as usual and got the entries in the mail just barely in time to meet the closing dates.

Tika has seemed so healthy and happy and eager lately. Just that deafness thing.

I have no reason to believe that either dog will do any better in the coming competitions than we've done in previous ones. I'm trying to adjust my expectations and attitude accordingly.

I'm both looking forward to the weekends of agility and regretting the lost weekends that could've been full of things *other* than agility. As usual.

Guess if we all stay healthy and happy, it should be good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rarities and Treasures in the Coyote Hills

SUMMARY: Native wildflower hike on Coyote Ridge via Kirby Landfill.
Last weekend, I rose early, left the poor dogs at home, and joined docents from the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority on a wildflower hike of about 5 miles round trip up about 700 feet to the top of Coyote Ridge (which apparently isn't an official name, just a convenient one).

Important backstory

Kirby landfill, CalTrans (responsible for U.S. Highway 101 through the Coyote Valley), the Open Space Authority, Hewlett-Packard (corporate owner of thousands of acres here, dunno why), and others have collaborated to preserve the serpentine grasslands of this area. Serpentinite is a kind of rock which, when erodes, makes for a nutrient-poor serpentine soil, in which numerous plants and animals (such as the red-legged frog) thrive--as long as the serpentine environment is preserved.

From Coyote Ridge, looking back down towards U.S. Highway 101 in the Coyote valley, Santa Cruz mountains behind. In the distance, notice the brilliant yellow carpet below the foothills--nonnative and very invasive mustard. Beautiful but problematic. Also, notice the deer--yeh. We'll get back to that.


One challenge is eradicating horribly invasive natives, such as the yellow star thistle, whose tall structures block light and steal nutrients from the smaller native and endemic plants. Furthermore, the exhaust from hundreds of thousands--millions?-- of cars passing on the freeway dumps more nitrogen into the nearby environment than most people put onto their lawns in any given year, making the nutrient-poor soils suddenly nutrient rich, which further invites nonnatives into the area.

The serpentine grasslands were originally filled with native and endemic bunch grasses and small, uncommon flowers, an even smaller portion of the latter which support the endangered and very rare Bay Checkerspot. This colorful butterfly now exists in small numbers in only in two small serpentine grassland areas--Coyote Ridge about 15 miles south from my house, and Edgewood Park about 40 minutes north--also right alongside a major freeway that runs between San Jose and San Francisco.

(Vocabulary: "Native" means that it was here originally; "endemic" means that it appears only in California.)

On Into the Hike

The road up which we hiked begins in the landfill property--odd juxtaposition: endangered flora and fauna with a landfill!--and is normally off limits to all but the cattle ranchers who maintain cattle in the area, landfill personnel, researchers, and other similar official type persons. Only a few times a year does the Open Space Authority take some of the general people up into the hills. This hike was limited to 20 people and it stunned me that even fewer than that showed up. What an experience and what a treasure--hoping not only for visions of wildflowers, but maybe even a rare glimpse of the legendary Bay Checkerspot! The docents (4 of them) almost outnumbered us mere muggles.

We started under chilly, overcast skies, which was of concern, because, for example, the California Poppy doesn't unfurl until 68 degrees (F), with similar limits for many other flowers, and if the flowers aren't open, the butterflies don't come out to play. Fortunately the sun soon came out and we had perfect weather for a hike. The hillsides had also been invigorated by unusual, heavy rains in the preceding couple of weeks.

We had barely started the hike when a flurry of wings from the wetlands beside us alerted us to a black-crowned night heron bursting from the nearby reeds and heading for a safer, more distant location. My camera wasn't set for birding, but I panned along and got some recognizable shots.


Not too far up the path, the docents stopped to point out a rare treat: The state grass (purple needlegrass), the state flower (California poppy), and the state rock (serpentinite) all together on the hillside. It wasn't 68 degrees yet, so the poppies remained furled, but that didn't last long.

Poppies are not endangered and were everywhere; their large flowers and brilliant color dominate the landscape, and they are gorgeous.

You could frame almost any scene on the entire hike with poppies, like this view back across the Coyote Valley.

The ponds are old quarries that have been filled with water and stocked with catch-and-release fish. The high peak is Loma Prieta, the tallest in the Santa Cruz coastal range, at (3,790 ft (1,155 m)). I'm not sure what this grass is.

Even the poppy seedpods are stunning in shape and color.

For the first half hour, a huge gyrating flock of seagulls, undoubtedly here because of the landfill (which is very well maintained, BTW, with no visible signs of garbage, just bare soil), hovered over us, following us up the hill for the first half hour or so. We tried to hike quickly to get away from them, but they stayed with us. Protect your heads!


Partway up the ridge, some eagle-eyed hiker with binoculars spotted a pair of deer in the scrub below us. What I saw was, well, see the first photo above, lower right corner. But with my 200mm lens, I zoomed in and was finally able to actually find them.

Some really rare treasures

We stopped regularly to admire various plants, and the natives, endemics, and endangered plants were there waiting for us.

The native, endemic white Mount Hamilton Thistle occurs in only a few documented locations. (I posted photos of it from Santa Teresa Park last year sometime; didn't realize how rare it was.)

The native, endemic San Francisco Wallflower is also endangered.

The native, endemic Santa Clara Dudleya, a succulent type plant, is also rare and occurs in only a few random places near here. It wasn't in bloom yet.

The native, endemic, and endangered Most Beautiful Jewel Flower (how's that for a name?!) also appears in only a few locations near here. And only 3 of the plants that we saw were in bloom. The blooms are about the diameter of a fingernail on a sparse stalk. Very unusual appearance.

Not-so-rare treasures

We also saw many other flowers that are not endangered or rare, although no butterflies yet.

Fremont Tidy Tips are endemic to California but they are fairly common.

Not sure what this species of Fiddleneck is (note the fiddle neck!), but they're also native but common.

Also not positive on the species of scorpionweed (so named because its flower stalk also curls much like the fiddleneck--or like a scorpion's tail) but it's native, and I caught a bee wallowing around on this patch.

Saw many instances of this gilia, and I like them because they're purple. Native and not uncommon.

No flower was too small to pass my notice, like this tiny native lotus:

But we had yet to see a butterfly anywhere, let alone a Bay Checkerspot. I kept hoping.

Along the spine of Coyote Ridge

We reached the top of the ridge finally and started scanning the hills on the far side for native Tule Elk. The Elk were hunted to near extinction nearly a century ago, but eventually a tiny pocket of survivors was found a hundred miles south of here and reintroduced in the late 1970s. Now the local herd numbers about 400. We did finally see some, but so far away that even zooming in with my lens and then blowing up the photo just reveals little tan spots.

At the top of the ridge, we found a research station--a fenced-in section of serpentine meadow to protect it from cattle, deer, and elk. Beyond the research station perched the observatories on distant Mount Hamilton, which somehow seemed appropriate. The flowers were more profuse and taller here than outside the fence.

Walking along the spine of the ridge, where John Muir walked, enjoyed the weather, and wrote about the meadows of wildflowers over a century ago, we found other native but more common species, such as the blue-eyed grass (purple and not a grass, go figure) and the Red Maids.



Also more Tidy Tips and many other flowers.

Entering Checkerspotland

We also started seeing many instances of the few key plants on which the Bay Checkerspot larvae or adults feed: Purple Sanicle, which is a native flower, appeared in small patches all across the meadows. (Flowerhead is about the size of standard clover, maybe a little smaller.)

California plantain, a widespread native, is also key--it's a tiny, tiny thing, only 3 or 4 inches tall from the ground, and with such tiny, subtle flowers that you'd normally never notice it.

And another Checkerspot favorite is Owl's Clover--another native that's not endangered but that I've never seen many of.

Most of the hike, I'd been lagging to take photos and then running to catch up. But, along the ridgeline road, the others took over with their binoculars searching for meadowlarks and elk, and I raced ahead to snap a photo of the front of the group for a change. As I turned around, out in front for the first time, suddenly a flittering shape caught my eye and I snapped my camera to my eye as this little guy landed on the road maybe 15 feet in front of me--and, YES, OH WOW, a Bay Checkerspot it is!

Denouement

After a long leisurely lunch atop the ridge, we descended, still enjoying the views and learning more about other native flowers, and turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks (below) circled lazily above us.

What a great day!

P.S. I took a whole lot more photos of these and other wildflowers and birds and posted them (with a bit more commentary) on my photo site here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Miscellany Again

SUMMARY: Vibrating collar, newspaper fetching, face plants, Border Collies, excellent agility dogs.

My new vibrating collar arrived yesterday; I was so excited! Plugged it in for its 12-hour charge, tried to turn it on this morning, and it doesn't work per the instructions. Half an hour of trying to figure it out, then 20 minutes on the phone with support, and they're going to have to send me a replacement. Sigh. At least I'm getting a new one, but I so wanted to be able to play with it this weekend?

[break]

Y'all probably know that Boost gets the paper from the driveway for me every morning. She loves it; so excited to charge out there, pounce on it (sometimes sliding and a little ripping, but I don't mind), grab it, and come running back in. Sometimes I get the Excited Bark before she goes out.

The other morning, as she was running back up the driveway, a squirrel ran right in front of her and off across the lawn! I saw those ears go up, the tail come up (the "wow, now THIS is REALLY INTERESTING" look) and she veered from her path about a meter or so (in this context, saying "about 2 feet" or "about a yard" both seemed to be ambiguous, hurray for metric), with me thinking, "uh oh", then she veered back in and continued running up the steps to deliver the paper! You go, Border Collie!

Tika was never that kind of dog.

[break]

Speaking of Border Collies--Boost sometimes likes to sleep in her crate in the bedroom. I think when the nights are warmer, she goes there. She hasn't slept in it for a while, but the last two nights, she's gone right in there. Last night, as I climbed into bed, she stuck her head out, stepped out stretching, and I said, "Oh, look, a Border Collie!", trying to be funny, but she completely misunderstood: Went into alarm barking, looking around and at the door in particular. Took a while to convince her that SHE was the border collie I was talking about!

[break]

Last night in class, I did a faceplant. Not doing actual agility, no, of course not. I had just snapped the leash back onto Boost to leave her at the sidelines, turned and stepped away, and somehow a loop of the leash caught my foot and slammed me face forward onto the ground. I've never had this happen before. Usually you *trip* over something--your foot catches and releases as you flail, trying to catch yourself. Nope, it was as if my foot had been suddenly nailed to the ground and the centripetal force slammed me down before I could even get my arms out. Hit my forehead, cheek, nose, glasses, chin, shoulders, hips. A little stunning but on the face of it (ha) almost undoubtedly less painful than landing on my knees or having my arms extended trying to catch myself. I'm quite proud of myself for being able to use centripetal in a sentence.

[break]

Both dogs did great in class last night. Tika and I seemed to be communicating very well. Boost had one little sequence where she knocked 3 bars in a row and we stopped and regrouped. Mostly bars did not come down. And at the end, a tricky run with a couple of back-side-front-cross funny things we didn't get through, and I decided that was enough practicing failures and stopped that quickly. But mostly all really nice, including Boost sending to the weaves 10 feet on the far side of the dogwalk from me.

More false hope for actual Qs in the future.

[break]
No agility again this weekend. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Silent World

SUMMARY: Tika's deafness--and vision.

I seem to be able to watch Tika's deafness increase week by week, almost day by day. Some developments:

Now sometimes she can't hear me if I say her name and she's in the same room, but usually she can if I say it loudly.

For a while, she's been lying in her bed periodically woofing once (that gets to be really annoying--about about every 3 to 8 seconds, "woof!"). I wonder whether she's hearing ringing in her ears. Or voices! Or she can't distinguish little random background noises from things she used to bark at. (Believe me, when she used to bark at things, there was no quiet single woof thing going on.) Oh, she still sometimes hears louder things and sounds off as usual. It's those inbetween things that are just odd.

No more barking when someone rings the doorbell or knocks on the door. :-( In fact, I used to never even have people get that far, because Tika would start barking before they got there.

No more barking when the mailperson comes every day. That used to be so handy if I had something I needed to mail and hadn't set it out. Not sure how long that's been going on; just one of those things that I became aware isn't happening any more.

This morning, Tika was lying with her back to me about halfway between me and my renter, about 10 feet away from each of us. I got up from my desk and opened the sliding door to the yard; no reaction. I said her name in my normal voice, no reaction. I yelled her name--she jumped up and went to the renter! Oh, my.

Today I ordered a vibrating collar so I can start train her to look for me in response to a vibration. I ordered a type with no shock option because I don't ever want there to be a mistake.

Also I've been wondering about her vision. Often lately when I toss a treat on the floor for her (to protect my fingers), she doesn't seem to see me toss it, and then sometimes can't find it when she does see me toss it.

Trying not to cry about it. She's always been such an active (and reactive) dog, and so good at finding things and letting me know what's going on. And physically she seems fine, still running like crazy in the back yard for her toy.

And she was beside herself with joy when a couple of my friends came to visit yesterday.

I'm still entering her in agility trials a couple of months out, waiting to see how all that goes.

Oh, mannnn...I'm now rattling treats in the treat jar two feet above her head, and not a reaction at all. (Boost, in the other room, jumped up and is now staring at me.)

Oh, Tika...

OK, she heard the clicker above her head, leaped to her feet! Big jackpot mostly because I was so glad to see that.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Visiting Parents

SUMMARY: A brief Cupertino interlude.
Last night, I sorted through about 600 slides to pick ones that I wanted to send out to be scanned in. And my slide viewer didn't light up. It's a pretty simple mechanical thing, enough so that even I knew how it was supposed to work, but it didn't. I replaced the batteries, no luck. I went shopping to get a new light bulb, replaced that, and it still didn't work. I fiddled around with the little metal pieces that conduct the current for a little while, and nothing, no light. Grrr.

Today, I had some things to drop off at my parents' house while I was in their neighborhood. So, as long as I was going, I took my slide viewer. After a little normal sort of conversation, I asked plaintively, "Daddy, can you fix my toy?"

While Dad was in the other room uttering various sounds and making interesting noises with my toy, I noticed that my mom was wearing her Girl Scout volunteer shirt and the color looked really nice on her. My mom was a girl scout or involved in scouting from when she was a little girl--many, many decades of scouting, and she was at a scouting event today, part of the organization's 100th anniversary year.


She says none of her photos look like her any more. I said I've noticed that lately about my own photos--the camera does weird things to my face so it doesn't look the way I *really* look any more. She said that's exactly how she feels.

Then dad came back into the room, and Lo! the slide viewer lit up! Thank goodness for Repair Hero Man!


On the way out, I stopped to take a photo I've been meaning to get for a while, cuz you don't see one of *these* locked to a pole in a shopping center every day.


All that, plus a morning spent with a friend whose father just died and an afternoon at the movies (Iron Lady) with another friend, then playing with the dogs and potting some flowers and random other household chores, and huh, it's past my bedtime and somehow I forgot to have dinner. Guess it's string cheese and crackers again and then goodnight.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doggie Drugs and Magic Tongues

SUMMARY: How do they do that?
Boost is now back on her benadryl--one and a half small, bright pink tablets twice a day--for that itching that now seems to hit her every year.

Both dogs (and I) are now taking glucosamine, half a tablet for each of them twice a day.

I use little slices of cheese to wrap the stuff in and, although Tika scarfs things down so fast that she doesn't notice, Boost isn't fond of having weird crunchy things hidden in her cheese.

So what I do is, wrap the whole pink tablet in a piece of cheese, and after Boost takes it, quickly keep shoving small bits of cheese into her mouth and wait until she's done swallowing to be sure that she's not spitting anything out. Do the same thing with the half pink tablet and follow-on cheese. Done? Do the same with the big white half tablet and follow-on cheese. Done?

Boost looks at me, hoping for more, licks her lips, then spits out the big pink tablet and the small half a pink tablet.

Sheez!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't Use That Photo, It Looks Like I'm Giving Advice

SUMMARY: As one agility friend responded, "And...?"

Really, I'm always quiet and have nothing to say.



P.S. Huh, time for a haircut again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mat Matters

SUMMARY: Goodbye to some old plastic friends, hello to the newest member.

Way way back in the ages dark, the first couple of years I did agility, my dogs just lay on the grass in an x-pen or in their crates on the grass. After a rainy trial or two, though, and a really dusty crating area after that, I finally saw the value in having one of those plastic rug-mats that everyone seems to have.

I bought the first one that looked vaguely purple.
In fact, it's red and blue, which is obvious up close, and the pattern is kind of hokey, it was only 6x8, but that was a good size for a couple of crates with no canopy, it looked vaguely purple and, well, it was available, which is always a key factor in my shopping decisions.

I sometimes saw people throwing away their decrepit mats, and I vowed that I'd always take good care of mine, fold it carefully, pack it carefully, and it would last forever. Well, that hokey ugly first mat has held up reasonably well for being, now, about 14 years old, but it is in fact disintegrating--little pieces falling off every time I open it; binding coming off and the edge raveling; parts are badly faded so doesn't even pretend to look purple any more; and, let's face it, the pattern is still stupid.


It folded up into a long bundle that was just thin enough to shove between the dog's crate and the side of the van if I worked at it, so it mostly stayed in the car for several years.


But the main reason it didn't die completely a long time ago is because about about a year after buying that mat, I found this one, which is so TOTALLY my colors and my kind of pattern:


Still only 6x8, but this one folded up into this handy-dandy size that sat in the window well next to the dog's crate, so no struggling to get it in place.


I kept using the original one, trying to save the newer one for later, but when I finally got a 10x10 canopy, I started using BOTH mats, overlapping, to try to fill more of the 10x10 area. Eventually I gave up on that idea--too much work, too many edges to trip over, so I've used just the teal/purple one most of the last many years, and it really is disintegrating now, broken along most of its seams and folds and held together by faith.


I knew its time was coming, so a couple of years back, I bought this one. I MEANT to get a full-sized one to match the canopy size, but, once again, this was what was easily available, and although a large purple/white checkerboard wasn't my first choice for a pattern,  at least it wasn't butt-ugly and it was genuinely purple, even though it was STILL barely more than 6x8. And, yeh, it was available. BUT about the 3rd or 4th time I used it, the whole edge started to unravel. That was disappointing.

It kept unraveling because I was too lazy to duct-tape it, so after a while I folded it up into its square and left it in the garage and continued using my deteriorating teal/purple one.

Finally, this weekend when packing my dearly beloved teal/purple mat, I ceased to think "the time is coming" and decided "the time is here", so I left it at home and reactivated the purple/white checkerboard, placing the frayed edge under the crates, and decided that eventually, soon, I'd just need to make the effort to really find a mat that fit all my needs.

On Saturday, while killing time between runs (see what happens when I'm not full-time at the score table?) I decided to browse quickly through the vendors, probably not buying anything because, after all, I have everything. And then this caught my eye.


It's really purple, matches my purple/black/teal crates, it has a subtle and not stupid pattern, it's very sturdy--even has grommets along the sides for staking down--and FINALLY it's a full 9x9! So, yep, it's now mine.


It's also HUGE compared to the others. No sticking it alongside the crates; it's going to take up obvious space in MUTT MVR. The price we pay for a well-furnished agility home away from home.


The two oldest ones are now headed for the landfill. I hate tossing things if there's a chance they can be reused or recycled in some way, but I haven't come up with anywhere for them to go, so out they go. So long, and thanks for all the memories.

Haven't decided yet about the purple and white one--might duct-tape that edge after all and use it for indoor trials where a smaller mat is more practical--although that also usually means dust and dirt, and all those large white squares--gah. Can decide later. But for now--my new Mat and I are looking forward to our next trial and his very first use with the Taj MuttHall clan.