a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2003

Friday, May 30, 2003

Trainer Training

Just attended a 4-day seminar by John Rogerson, a British dog trainer who's one of the top trainers around. Seminar was geared towards people who provide dog-training classes. John's a fascinating, entertaining speaker. I took 54 pages of notes--argh--and I learned a lot. Now to apply it all to *my* dogs!

Actually--now to get a good night's sleep.

Friday, May 23, 2003

ILPing Tika

I've been almost convinced by my various friends that I should ILP Tika with the AKC. (Indefinite Listing Privilege: A registration that says "she's probably a purebred but we have no way to prove it.") Makes her eligible to compete in performance events. Don't know whether I want to. But I'm also discovering that *every* agility organization has plenty of things for me to allow myself to be annoyed about if I feel like being annoyed. So I try to focus on Being There, participating, having a good time with my dogs, praying that the squirrels are on vacation--

See http://www.akc.org/registration/ilpex.cfm.

So do you think she looks like an Aussie? Certainly lots of people do.

Another Week of Dog Training / Tika Possessed by Squirrels

Sunday and Monday I'll be doing dog agility in Elk Grove. This is NADAC agility, which doesn't penalize you unduly for training in the ring. (That is, you earn an elimination in the run but can continue. In other venues, they toss you out of the ring on your butt with possibly invective from the judge for being so rude.) We probably need this opportunity for Tika.

Then Tue-Fri I'll be commuting daily to Novato for a dog-training class from John Rogerson, a guru of dog behavior & training from England. That'll be long commute--over an hour each way. Luckily someone else in this neighborhood (a club member) is also attending, so we'll carpool. Can't take our dogs; we'll be practicing his techniques on shelter dogs at the humane society where the seminar takes place. Looking forward to it. Not looking forward to coming home after a long day and having wild dogs say "Let's PLAY PLAY PLAY PLAY PLAY AUUUUUUGHHHHHH!!!!"

There were squirrels everywhere at Tika's training this week. This week, certainly, it seemed like such strong atavistic prey drive that she didn't even care when I left the ring and hid. Sometimes that works. Maybe she's figured out that I'll come back eventually. More likely I think she just didn't care at the moment. We spent the next half hour walking around the perimeter on leash (her on one end, me on the other), attempting to get her to focus on me. She mostly did what I asked, but with a desperate frenzy; have a couple of blood-blisters on my fingers (from treats) to show for it. And her attention was *never* fully on me; one ear or both remained cocked towards where the squirrels were. And if we happened to be near a tree where they decided to dance, she was almost uncontrollable.

Went for a walk Tuesday evening, and a dog came out of the driveway about 30 feet away, just a shy, friendly dog, and she also went nuts. I tried to get her to sit as soon as I saw what was going on, but she really was almost uncontrollable. Even with the gentle leader. I had one hand in her collar, one in her gentle leader, one under her collar with fingers under muzzle for control as we learned in class, one hand trying to hold her mouth shut because the screeching, slathering, snarling frenzy of noise coming from her mouth was painful to my ears, instigating to Jake, frightening (fortunately) to the other dog, and I didn't know what to the people who were standing there with their dog.

OK, I don't think I really have that many hands. I was more than a little disconcerted. She's nuts when there's another dog around the neighborhood, but this is the worst I've seen in a while. This was like the first few weeks or months all over again. After I walked the dogs home, I went back to the house to apologize and to explain that I don't really have a dog-aggressive, vicious (maybe viscous) dog. Fortunately they have 2 dogs of varied training themselves, and we had a nice long chat, and they claimed that they didn't even think twice about the whole thing. Very circumspect of them.

It was a bad couple of days.

Plus I've got a 40-hour work week (plus some commuting) going, first in a while, and I'm exhausted, dogs are neglected, house is neglected, having some bad allergic reactions to something (lips swelling up?!--started with middle upper lip wed morning, moved to upper right by wed evening; thursday morning had moved around to lower right, by end of day lower middle; this morning very slightly lower left, but mostly I think it's gone; an odd progression with no logic that I can figure), don't have rental income and it's the end of the month; but at least I do now have a contract for a couple of months, which I had also been stressing about. OK, time to go for a walk with... the dogs... ba-dum, ba-dum.....ba-dum, ba-dum.... (think sharks)

Friday, May 16, 2003

Bee Agility

Here is why we use herding dogs instead of pollen-gathering insects for agility. I have this big ugly greenhouse outside my office, covering the outside back wall of my house. I have been slowly dismantling it. Where the door used to be, there is now nothing but a narrow steel frame and a huge door-sized open space. Where the lower wall next to the door used to be, there is now nothing but a narrow metal frame surrounding a huge wall-sized open space about 3' high and 5' wide. Above that, and next to the door, is the only solid surface remaining: the window, which I didn't get around to completely unscrewing.

For the last 10 minutes, a bumblebee has been trying to get out through the lower corner of the window, about 2" to the left of the gaping door-shaped space and about 2" above the gaping wall-sized space. We won't mention the whole bloomin' rest of the interior of the greenhouse in which he could buzz around to his little overstressed heart's content if he'd bother to back up about 1/4".

uh-oh... Tika is starting to watch him, now--thinking-- Nope, coming from a culture in which eating an enemy's brains imbues you with their intelligence, she apparently decided it would be a risky number to partake of Mr. Bee. So she's lying down inside the greenhouse, lazily observing and taking notes.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Tika Is a Good Girl/Jake Propels Himself/Cancer Lives On/The Next Thurber

Tika was a very good girl in class yesterday. Got all of her contacts. Ran off only once, and I knew I didn't have her attention when I put her at the start line, and I was dumb and should have gotten her long leash for that attempt. But she did come back fairly quickly instead of running off to the far side. Didn't grab my feet at all, but I'm also trying to make sure she gets some kind of reward when I screw up (which, unfortunately, *I* was doing a lot) instead of making her frustrated.

But she still doesn't walk nicely on a leash! Jeez, it's always back to square 1. Maybe I should just tie her in a cart and pull the cart...nah, pulling stuff is bad for my back.

Jake's back seems to have been doing fine all week. I've been tossing squeakies for him on the ground, not too far, but he still propels himself to them at rocket speed and lands on them full force. So I've been trying to toss them directly in front of him so he can just grab them in the air without jumping or scooping.

We don't have agility this weekend, so that's good for resting up.

I keep getting email from people who find Remington's cancer site on the web and write to say thanks for having the information and the story. So many dogs-- so sad. Worst are the ones who've had more than one dog with hemangiosarcoma. Sucks sucks sucks. I don't know what I'd do.

Just read a wonderful compilation of Thurber dog stories, articles, and notes. Wish I could write like that. I've been thinking for years about how to write the story of *my* dogs in a way that would entertain. I can do it, I know I can. --I think I can. --I might be able to. --Next week. --Or later.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Agility Camp 2003

4 solid days of agility learning. Again. Yow. Physically exhausting--walked over 8 miles each day, between going back & forth between camp & rings, and walking & running the courses. Did pretty good, although Tika's stays at the start line went from pretty good to nonexistent. One of Friday's instructors classified it as start-line stress, when she advanced from merely not staying to running out of the ring.

Feet-grabbing problem went from almost nonexistent to pretty bad to a little better--Susan Garret suggested making sure that I reward her, a lot, during course runs so she knows she's doing things right. I think she was also the one that suggested trying to get her moving again and, if I can, to then continue running to a spot where I can reward her. She cautioned against substituting any behavior (such as high five or sitting, which other people had suggested), which I was a bit worried about, actually. Also cautioned against rewarding dog for going wrong--at least one instructor said that the instant we go wrong on course, toss the toy for her to get. But I think I kind of like that, although I can see that it could contribute to her wanting to grab something when things go awry. Susan also said to put her up in her crate a bit if I can't get her off my feet. Every instructor who saw the behavior suggested something different for dealing with it. Was a little frustrating.

BUT other than those known problems, we did pretty good. She did slide off a couple of contacts and/or leave early after stopping, but no blatant fly-offs. But then, we probably didn't do more than a dozen contacts all weekend, if that.

Jake's back: Jake's back is quite sore again. I was scheduled to do a fun match this weekend in Elk Grove. Drove straight there from Camp, set up, went to bed. Jake was iffy in late afternoon and early evening, and seemed to be much worse in the middle of the night even though I gave him rimadyl at dinnertime. AND it was frigging cold and I couldn't get warm, and neither could he, so I packed everything up at 4 in the morning and came home so I could see the vet. Had to stop in Livermore and take a 45 minute nap because I was getting so drowsy.

'Course he seemed much better by the time we got here, although still yelping occasionally. Vet said his neck and lower back are sore but nothing drastic. Suggested doing xrays again, since it's been 2 years since the last ones (and since his last episode of back pain). All of this might have been precipitated by Tika landing straight on his back during frisbee Wednesday morning.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Where Do These Things Come From?

Had a pretty good weekend at the Bay Team trial. Life seems to be picking up. I have started to feel a little bit at home in my "new" yard for the first time (since buying the place in Sept '01). Woke up middle of the night briefly, but then Jake decided he needed to go out, and then I was wide awake. So I was up for a bit, had hot chocolate, read for a while, went back to bed. Was just dozing off, jake's snooker runs running vaguely through my head, when all of a sudden I was THERE (where?), walking Remington on leash, and he was turning back towards me--and I woke up in a panic--I forgot Rem at the trial! I didn't do his runs! I didn't bring him home! He wasn't in the room! And of course, instantly realizing--he hadn't been there at all, he isn't here, he never will be here. All washing over me in an instant, from nowhere. Waking me completely in tears.

I did think about & talk about Rem this weekend, all in a matter-of-fact way (e.g., "My dog loves this rainy weather"; "Yeah, this always got Rem pretty excited, too."). Only once, when I was talking with someone about new dogs, and I was trying to say that it would be a while before I got another one again, for this reason & that reason & because I'd still think of it as filling in the spot left gaping empty by Remington--and I couldn't finish the sentence because it lodged in my throat and nothing at all dared come out.

So I don't really know where that rude awakening came from this morning, 2 months after Rem died. I'm still rattled and overwhelmed, a couple of hours later. More sleep not possible.

Wanted to say some about all of Jake's qualifying runs this weekend (everything except 1 standard, including 2 gamblers!), but I've got too much else to do before leaving this morning for Power Paws Camp for a week.