Friday, August 31, 2012

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

SUMMARY: Boost's jumps and weaves; Tika in general.

Well, Thursday night's class was interesting for the Merle Girls.

Back up a step.

Last weekend, Boost handled beautifully, as if runouts and refusals had never been an issue. But, out of 12 runs, Boost knocked 10 bars. Ten! That's, shall we say, excessive. And although her weaves, which have been really excellent for several trials now, were perfect on Saturday, on Sunday out of 4 weaves, she missed one entry and, on another, popped two poles early.

The weaves were nuts, because I've been practicing weaves and not much else lately. So we might just be in another one of her sine-wave cycles (I should plot it out sometime) of not knowing how to do weaves.

The bars were nuts, so I actually had the energy and determination to do bar-knocking drills at home three days this week so far.

So, in class last night: Boost popped out of the first set of weaves FOUR times IN A ROW! Jeez!

But she continued her awesome running style from this weekend--nice run after nice run after nice run, just the way I always imagined it would be with her.

And the entire evening, she knocked or ticked only ONE bar!

Hi C-Era Interstellar Propulsion: Always a challenging border collie.

Tika, meanwhile, had a pretty nice weekend of competition: Qed 6 out of 8, and missed Qing in each of the jumpers by one bar, which has been unusual for her since she moved to performance. She placed 2nd in both Steeplechase and Grand Prix, which is pretty good for an 11.5-year-old dog.

But in class, all kinds of things went awry that I'm assortedly attributing to her not hearing well, possibly her not seeing well, and me not being fast enough to compensate for what always used to work well. After each of our garbled runs, I wondered how we ever manage to Qualify at all with this kind of handling and confusion.

Now, if I stop because we've gone astray in class, she *immediately* goes into "I'm looking for treats somehwere in the grass here" mode. She used to do that quite a bit when she was a young dog, but not much at all for several years. I'm taking it as a sign of stress rather than her really being naughty--I think she really doesn't understand what I want and probably doesn't understand why I'm not SAYING anything (do dogs realize that they're going deaf?).

Anyway, everyone presents challenges, including myself. Last week in class, I felt fleet of foot. This week, legs dragging. What's the difference? No idea.

Soooooo we might do a few more drills today and tomorrow.

This weekend, Friday through Monday, is the Western Regional Championships, and for only the 2nd time since 1995, I'm not going--well, except that I gave in an signed up for just the first two classes Sunday morning: Jumpers and Snooker, hoping to get that last Snooker that Tika now needs for her PDCH-Gold at our home club. If I don't stress out too much about it, which I'm wont to do.

So, if any of you are there, I might see you during my brief appearance Sunday morning. Otherwise, good luck at whatever you're doing this weekend, and have a great time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Team Taj MuttHall in the Agility Ring

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday

Start Line








Weave Poles








Table 

 A-frame




Broad Jump




 Jumping jumping jumping






Running Running Running



Finish Line





Thanks Sarah Hitzeman for all the photos from last weekend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Missing Dawn King?

SUMMARY: New blog location.

If you've been following Dawn King's blog--about her life as a librarian, or not; her dog Katie; her travels; her musings on life; her photos; her activisim in trying to make roads safer through improved safety requirements on long-haul truckers-- and have discovered that http://dawnking.interspike.com/ no longer works, sadly there were technical difficulties and that is no more.

However, she's trying to make yet another new start at http://dawnkinster.wordpress.com/. Update your bookmarks!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Veterans Honor Runs Link

SUMMARY: My partial videos of most of the old dogs' runs from yesterday, including 2 snippets from Tika's run.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEB8134AAB0512984&feature=edit_ok

Another One Of Those Days

SUMMARY: Second day of USDAA agility.

Well, I'm not nearly as bummed after a weekend of agility as I sometimes am. Boost had some really, really nice runs this weekend and it's just too bad that we didn't have more Qs to show for it.

Tika's Q rate was pretty good for this weekend, but I definitely noticed her increasing slowness and lack of confidence that she's doing the right thing in so many ways. But looks like we'll keep on competing for a while, yet, I guess.

Started the day with Standard. Both Tika and Boost had really nice runs and Qs, what more can I say? A friend commented, "Ellen, you got a Double Q!" Made me laugh.

Although Tika gave me a good scare--at the very last jump, as she approached it with me a little behind, she suddenly started to turn back towards me (something she's doing more often) and my heart sank--getting all the way through the entire course and then lose it to a refusal on the LAST jump?! But while she was still roughly parallel to the jump and still moving, so she hadn't turned away from it yet, she saw me and executed the most astonishing turn back to the jump from about 6 inches away and I swear went over it sideways and didn't knock the bar. Another friend came by to comment, "Tika was just messing with you there at the end." Dogs! Sheesh!

Boost was in Gamblers, and for a change I couldn't come up with an opening that I liked. Had one that was kinda OK, but in talking to a friend after the walk-thru was done, decided on a different course. Not sure whether we'd have done better on my original course, but we sure couldn't have done much worse--first four obstacles were jump, jump, tunnel, weaves, and let me just say that, out of all of those, she did the tunnel just fine. Sigh. Then I wasted time insisting that she do the weaves correctly, so never even got minimum opening points, so it's just as well that my oddball handling gesticulations in the gamble portion were for naught.

Tika then got to run in Steeplechase Round 2. She was clean, but even though it had 2 Aframes rather than 2 sets of weaves, and even though the faster dog had a bar down, we still came in only 2nd! (Sad day when her clean run can't make up the 5 second fault penalty of the other dog. Missed only by .12 of a second, though--so close to winning!) Of course, there were only 3 dogs in our height in round 2. We brought home a whole $6 for that.

Grand Prix ran really well for both dogs, too. It chewed up a lot of dogs--pretty small Qualifying percentage--but I thought it ran smoothly. Tika was clean and Qed (although only 5th place of 12 dogs--10 seconds behind the 1st place!). Boost had a lovely run and I blew it by overcalling in one spot, thereby pulling her off a jump for a refusal error and no Q, but the rest was nice.

Snooker--For Tika, I just wanted a plain Q, so I picked a nice,  simple little triple loop in the opening using 6-6-6 which did not turn out to be the sign of the devil as it fed nicely into the closing and we completed it easily for 48 points and a Q and 3rd place of 7 dogs. Yayyyyyyy another one down and now only ONE until PDCH gold! It's been a while since we've Qed two Snookers in a row!

For Boost, though, I wanted the Super-Q and I was absolutely convinced that, among the 40 dogs in her class, a large number would be able to get well into the 50-point range ( 3 or 4 reds optional) and that's what would be required for the Super_Q. So I picked a more aggressive course (although one I thought we could do comfortably)--and...... in the opening, she knocked a bar, missed the weave entry  which wasted time to fix, then I forgot to do a front cross so we wasted time getting into position for the next obstacle and I therefore also gave confusing instructions on the following obstacle wasting more time, and then she knocked bar #3 in the closing. A complete disaster, jeez. And this kills me--48 points turned out to be super-Qs! Gah. Of course, even if I had just used Tika's same course, she probably would've knocked the same bars, since those were in the same path that Tika took. Ah, well.

Then Jumpers. Both dogs ran smoothly and had really nice times, except that Tika crashed through one jump, not sure why--she was still only 2 seconds slower than the winner--and Boost just tipped a bar off when i did a post turn, so neither dog Qed but I was happy with how they ran.

So, for the day:
Tika 3/4 Qs, placements of a 2nd and a 3rd, one bar down, one scare at the last jump, plus $6 for a clean Steeplechase Round 2. (And both tables in Standard this weekend were one-"Down" tables, didn't have to keep saying it over and over. Yeah!)

Boost 1/5 Qs, no placements. 5 bars down, all contacts good, 2/4 perfect sets of weaves (one entry on wrong side, one popped out at #10), one runout that was my fault, no other refusals or runouts! That last one is AMAZING to me! And I certainly can't account for that for this whole weekend by my intensive training efforts, because there has been none!

My stamina: I actually held up pretty well; maybe my dogs did OK because I was able to get to where I needed to be. I'm trying to pay even more attention to my timing and on my willingness to trust the dog and move sooner. But some weekends, my legs feel like lead... this weekend, felt pretty good. The only one  that was really hard was when I had to run Tika in Steeplechase (fast, intense course with a lot of handler activity) and then less than 10 minutes later run her in Snooker--my poor legs just wouldn't move! I obviously need more recovery time. My knee feels good, too.

So, over all, a day and weekend that definitely didn't suck.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some, Come In The Middle Some

SUMMARY: Saturday at agility.

Well, at least we got the Jumpers and Snookers out of the way first thing in the morning so I didn't fret about them all day.

Boost had really gorgeous Jumpers run with an excellent time--no refusals, no runouts or hesitations--but sadly, 2 bars down.

Tika had a nice but not superfast Jumpers run and knocked the third to the last bar, dangit.

Boost's Snooker opening was a bit of a mess--knocked one of the red bars after a refusal, so we didn't get a SuperQ, but her closing sequence was really nice (9 obstacles) and at least it was a Q.

Tika's Snooker--I picked a really simple, low-scoring one that she had to get all the way through the 7 in the closing to Q, and I took my eyes of her on the #7, which was a 3-jump serpentine, and she cut behind me--fortunately did not take an off-course obstacle and so we were able to go back and complete it for a Q. Another one down, phew! Only two to go for Gold PDCH.

Boost's Standard run was really nice, too, except, yes, a bar down.

Tika's Standard run was nice but quite slow in places--I really see her slowing down to see what I'm doing when I'm behind her, and she was slow in tunnels today--but she did Q.

Tika wasn't entered in Gamblers. Boost I thought was having problems with her rear legs and I pulled her out of gamblers. :-( Turns out it wassssss... I have no idea. But she seems to be fine.

In Steeplechase, Tika was clean for a Q, so we can run tomorrow for the money. Boost's Steeplechase was actually pretty nice except for a bar down and then I took my eyes off her and she cut behind me--fortunately did not take an off-course obstacle and so we were able to go back and complete it (jeez, does that sound familiar?) but with both the bar and the wasted time, we did not Q.

Tika wasn't entered in Pairs Relay. Boost ran beautifully, but her partner had an offcourse.

So: Tika 3/4 Qs, no placements, one bar down, one cut behind.

Boost 1/6 Qs, no placements. 5 bars down, all contacts good except left one teeter early, 4/4 perfect sets of weaves, two refusals on jumps but only in the Snooker opening where they just waste time, and one cut behind.

Tomorrow, we go back and get another shot at Snooker, Standard, and Jumpers, and throw in Steeplechase round 2 for Tika, another Gamblers for Boost, and Grand Prix for both.

The most fun part of the day was watching all the 10-year-old-or-older dogs do their four-obstacle runs with a little story about each of them. There were a LOT of dogs entered in that--many of whom are still competing, but quite a few whom we haven't seen in a while but still mostly look really good for "old" dogs.

Here they all are, listed mostly in order of increasing age, from just barely 10 up to 17. It's amazing how many had multiple championships, high-level lifetime achievements, Top Ten appearances, and so many other accomplishments, yet the recurring theme in what people had to say about their dogs was how the dogs changed their lives and thanking the dogs for putting up with their humans' hobbies and foibles.




Here's Stormy the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, making silly happy faces for the camera. Retired early due to leg issues.


Wonderful Kelly the mixed breed, whose USDAA achievements are all platinum. She retired a year or so ago.


Surely the Aussie, the only one who really dressed for the occasion. I believe she's now recently retired, too.
The event is also in honor of SMART's 10th anniversary, so Rob Michalski, the club's original president, said a few short words.

His wife, Derede, still a powerhouse behind the club, read a short, funny, and sweet agility parody of Visit from Saint Nicholas.
Some of the older dogs waiting their turns to run.


A few other older dogs, with Carlene and Brenn (still competing) in front.

They gave each dog a lovely folder with a certificate listing their lifetime achievements of any ilk, and they took photos. Tomorrow we'll get the photos to insert into the other side.



Tika adores hers, of course.


I and a friend also used my tiny camera in its video mode to get shaky, incomplete videos of several of the dogs' runs. They're uploading to youtube; will have to add a link, probably tomorrow evening.

Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEB8134AAB0512984&feature=edit_ok

Hug your dogs--these dogs all seemed like they were pups just yesterday!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Yes, Another Weekend Of Agility

SUMMARY: USDAA in Prunedale

Two days of agility again.

Tika's energy and stamina has been down a bit, although she did ok on our 5.5-mile hike with 1200-foot elevation gain on Sunday. Not zooming around nearly like she used to, but it was pretty warm and all the dogs were a bit subdued, and she certainly held up better than I did.




Boost--well, did I do my homework this week? No. Not enough energy on my part to do it. *I'm* the one with really lower energy and stamina these days. Working on it.

In class last night, Boost's first run, a jumping drill, was really nice except htat she ticked a bar and I forgot that I'm supposed to be stopping her for ticked and knocked bars. Next run, had to stop her about every 3rd jump. We never did get through the drill, even starting where we stopped before. Then she couldn't even get over a 16" jump without knocking it, while I was trying to get her to have some success for rewards. Insane.

Then, the last run of the evening, a standard-type course, she was just lovely.

Of course, her weave entries remain broken -- think I've mentioned it here lately somewhere, where she has decided once again that she enters between the first two poles no matter which direction she's coming from, rather than always entering with her left shoulder to the first pole. Jeez, I *knew* they wouldn't stay fixed! Weave entries is about the only thing I *have* worked on her at home with, and there has been no improvement.

Darn dog. So maybe I just wait and see whether they fix themselves again? No idea what goes through the little BC brain.

She started scratching obsessively again about a month ago--third year in a row now--and two weeks of benadryl and Genta spray followed by two weeks of hydroxyzine didn't make it stop (just like last year), so (just like last year) we went in to the vet; she got a cortisone shot, which (just like last year) did a pretty good job of knocking it out, and now she's on prednisone pills in decreasing doses for the next 3 weeks and we hope that'll be it for this year.

I just have to remember to let her out of her crate to potty on a very regular basis this weekend--liquid seems to pass through so quickly when they're on preds, and it is so sad for them when I don't get them out of their crate in time. But at least I'm very aware of that nowadays.

Otherwise, this weekend hoping for progress on finishing off Tika's Snookers so we can claim the Gold PDCH. Would be nice.

And, as always, praying for jumpers and snooker super-Qs for Boost.

Doesn't this all sound so familiar? Bro-ken-rec-ord. Well, should be nice to be around the usual agility friends, plus the senior-dog honoring ceremony thing for dogs 10 and over is Saturday, and at least Tika and I should do well in that. ;-)

So, off to bed, I guess.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

If It's Not 115F, Is It Vicon? Yes!

SUMMARY: Vicon moves to Point Arena.

Even the familiar can change, and yet remain familiar.

Since 1985 or 1986 (the records are murky), since my sister became serious about the guy who's now my brother-in-law, I've been attending "Vicon" (for Visalia convention as a joke) in Visalia in August--a giant sleep-over party for family and friends for a 3-day weekend.

If you're not familiar with Visalia (as many aren't), it's a "small" community of merely 124,000 people that takes about 3 hours of mostly smooth freeway driving from my place to put you smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley. The average high temperature for the month of August is 93.3F (34.1C) and overnight low average is 64.8F (18.2C). Believe me, it's been plenty much warmer on many years. The big appeal to counter the heat is that we've slept on the in-laws' huge back lawn in the shade of glorious old trees and plunged into the clear blue swimming pool as needed.

So, yep, for all those years we've learned the routine--how to get there, what to bring, where to set up in the yard, what to do, how to keep cool, which Hawaiian shirts to wear, where to buy more ice and drinks--everything to have a comfortable and familiar routine.

Oh, except one year it didn't happen; one year my sister was in the hospital producing my niece so it was an afternoon-only party locally; and one year we tried it in another sister's yard with a swimmming pool but it wasn't quite the same without being out of town and REALLY hot.

However, last year was Visalia's last year. The in-laws can't host it any more. A sad thought indeed, especially for the bro-in-law, so we weren't sure that it was going to continue in any form.

Luckily, we found another location: A 22-acre site with four cabins, a kitchen, a dining pavilion, and a living room, privacy, quiet--more expensive than the in-laws' yard, but still reasonable--in Point Arena.

If you're not familiar with Point Arena (as many aren't), it's a truly small community of 449 people (down 25 from the 2000 census) on the coast 3 hours north of San Francisco. Its temperatures--well, f'rinstance, the forecast high for August 11 (when we were there) for Visalia was 110; for Point Arena, 72.

From wondering whether we'd be too hot or have enough ice, we went to wondering whether we'd be too cold and have enough of anything we could possibly need--because this is the general store (groceries, hardware, and anything else you need) in Point Arena:


If you need to shop more, you can drive an hour north on the curvy Coast Highway to Fort Bragg. But if you really need to shop, or need anything substantial, it's probably an hour south along the snaking Coast Highway and another hour inland to Santa Rosa.

But look at the color of that sky! Plus-- zebra?!


We still had over 20 people (including assorted offspring); the weather proved coolish to warmish (Sunday was definitely shirt-sleeve weather at the site way up on the ridge, but fleece weather down on the beaches); the accommodations were almost perfect (this is the first time it's been rented out and there were some, er, issues with the self-contained water, power, and sewer Sunday morning, but nothing that we couldn't work around); and we still managed to have a great time.

The drive was a bear Friday afternoon; awful traffic, plus 2 hours of twisty windy roads on the cliffs of the coast. Beautiful if you're feeling leisurely but not if you want to get to where you're going and relax. 5 hours there; 4 hours back on Sunday evening. But--as I said, still managed to have a great time, but very tired!

I've attended 27 or 28 Vicons now, and this sign has come with me probably 20 of those times:
(Plus someone hung a Hawaiian shirt on the fence as well--with the familiar sign and familiar shirt, ya couldn't hardly miss the entrance.)

The owner had a fire going before we got there and said, "keep it burning all weekend; the smoke keeps the mosquitoes down."  From the kitchen porch, looking up at the four cabins (and Mutt Mvr poised to unload.)

The huge difference for me was that, for the first time in those 27 years, the Merle Girls got to come along. What an experience for all concerned!  Some of the small children couldn't get enough of throwing the frisbee or the ball for Boost, who was sometimes a little discombobulated at the distinctive styles of throwing and kicking utilized by two-to-eight-year-olds, but somehow survived the trauma. (From the cabins looking down at the bar pavilion, the huge kitchen (it extends to the back), the dining pavilion, and a storage shed).




I got one of the cabins--apparently the Nautical Room--because I thought that would be easier for corralling the beasts while I slept than in a tent (because at Vicon, activities seem to go on almost around the clock).





Half the crew slept in tents.  My sister and her spouse know how to do it in style.

 The Merle Girls loved being off-leash all the time--Tika, in particular, identified the center of food activity right away and could be found there at any time of day, giving cooking tips ("add rice, drop one cup on floor..."). She checked in with me periodically, but mostly wanted to be where the food was...


Or, if no food, where the snugglies were--


Boost started out as the complete Mommy's Dog, staying close to me at all times, but as the weekend went by, gradually daring to take her eyes off me from time to time and even to snuggle up to a couple of friendly looking strangers once or twice.
I knew that amazing progress in independence had been made by Sunday because, when I headed off to the restroom, she just looked at me, then continued playing frisbee with the child du jour.

She also was intrigued by the smells in the kitchen, and although it took her a while to get over the Evil Floor Syndrome--going over a period of less than 48 hours from not going in, to scrabbling frantically in,  to racing hurriedly across it, to walking allll the way in in slowly and backing allll the way out quickly, to just wandering around and cleaning up spills--but although the bath/shower building had the identical floor, she never got over the scrabbling frantically stage there. She did, however, want to follow me into the bathroom and, after a couple of suggestions the first time, just automatically would hit the floor in a Down as soon as we got to the place where I sat down. Quick learner in  some ways, not in others. Dogs. Weird.

But the Merle Girls were on their feet the entire time from when we arrived Friday night around 7 until bed around 10:30, then from when I got up at 8 the next morning until bedtime and on Sunday until we left around 1:30-- oh, at least, Boost was. By Saturday afternoon, Tika was up for lying down to guard the food supplies rather than maintaining an active patrol.


And by Sunday morning, poor dog could barely stand up and spent a lot of time sleeping. In the kitchen doorway, of course.


Saturday evening, as we sat around the conflagration neé campfire, when I made them go into their x-pen next to me, they both protested that they were FINE and wanted to come OUT and didn't NEED a nap, MOOOOooommm! Three minutes later--


Still, it was a very unusual situation for them--I don't know whether they've ever been off leash in an unstructured outdoors situation (offleash on hikes, but that's not unstructured), let alone with complete strangers around. They both did very well. I knew Tika would--she likes people and small children and exploring--but although Boost has been good around the very few small children and occasional stranger that she's encountered briefly, I wasn't  sure how she'd act. Her confidence grew amazingly, I think, although sometimes the unfamiliarity of it all was a little too much: The dog who *hates* getting into my lap would just jump up there and need a hug for a minute.

There were little trails here and there, so we could go on mini-hikes around the 22 acres, by ourselves or with others. Dogs liked that.

Boost was tired enough to lie down sometimes on her own, but basically the energy reserves never drained. Bored Sunday morning, found a stick to chew up, which the smallest offspring-type found interesting:
Oh--right--and there were a bunch of other people there, too.
Hmm, didn't realize until just now that red/hot pink was apparently the official Vicon-in-Mendocino-County color! Happy 31st anniversary, Vicon!

(I'll post the rest of the photos, including those w/out dogs, later and add a link here.)