a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2003

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Inexhaustible dogs

Yesterday's comic: Does this look familiar?

Cathy by Cathy Guisewite

Cathy Aug 26, 2003, Universal Press Syndicate

Monday, August 25, 2003

Jake's USDAA/SMART weekend

Jake is such a good little boy most of the time. Now he's the star of the household in behavior, now that Rem's not around. Just had some new dogsitters the other weekend and Jake's the one they wanted to take home with them.

He had decent contacts all weekend. Not really fast, not really stopping for 2-on,2-off, but didn't miss any, either. Not SuperJake in any of his runs, although he moved along OK most of the time. He was VERY slow in the weaves in at least a couple of his runs. I don't know whether that's nerves or arthritis. Sometimes in class and here at home he blazes through them, but sometimes he's slow there, too.

He did a spectacular job on his Gambler's course, getting a gamble that no other Performance-level dog got and that wiped out almost 75% of the Championship-level dogs. People were congratulating us all day on that run. I wish I were better at making time to watch other people's runs--it's just that there always seems to be something to do, either with the trial work or with one of my two dogs.

Here's the gamble itself. The gamble line goes straight out from the side of #1 and straight down even with the right side of #5.

He earned qualifying scores and first places also in both of his Standard runs. And he Q'ed and placed 2nd in his jumpers, about 1 second behind a much larger dog with a much longer stride length.

The jumpers had several serpentines, and the gamble itself was a serpentine. So he's really good at serpentines--but the Pair Relay had a THREADLE, and he SERPENTINED it despite me planting myself and calling and pointing.

I got really annoyed in his Snooker run. We really want super-qualifying scores (top 15% of dogs competing against us) to earn his Performance championship (he finished his Championship championship 2 years ago this coming weekend). The 2 dogs before us crapped out. So I picked the easy course to run--and we crapped out when I stood &planted & called & pointed & he still took the wrong obstacle!

So we have to practice calling/coming (not merely drifting in my general direction) and threadles.

To be even more annoying, in the Steeplechase national qualifier, I called him a little early on a jump to make sure that he turned tightly going over the jump--instead, he skidded to a stop and avoided taking the jump! So I need to figure out why sometimes he doesn't call off and sometimes he's too good at it. I'm sure it's an inconsistent handling thing.

But in general I was pretty happy with 4 Q's (3 1sts and a 2nd aginst 5-7 dogs) out of 7 runs.

Tika Applying For Validation From AKC

There has been much debate from the beginning about whether Tika is pure Australian Shepherd. She's not a "conformation" Aussie--would win no blue ribbons for the ideal breed standard--a little bit too tall, coat a little too short, ears not quite bent enough, stuff like that. But she's sure in the range of the breed description, which you can read at http://www.akc.org/breeds/recbreeds/ausshep.cfm.

The photo there is of a big-coated conformation blue merle Aussie. Here's a photo of Tika, also a blue merle Aussie. For another comparison of Tika and verifiable aussies, see the March 30 archive.

Because she was a rescue, we have no way of proving her ancestry. But I'm going to go ahead and apply for an "ILP" (indefinite listing privilege) with AKC, which allows her to compete in AKC agility trials if I want to spend the money, which would ultimately allow her to be eligible to compete in the World Cup competition--if I want to throw away my entire life and find a way to drastically improve my handling ability and her skillset. The advantage that I have is that one of my instructors has been on the World Cup team for several years (rare! Only half a dozen dogs from the whole US of A each year!) so she knows the ropes AND if Tika can compete head-on with her dogs, then we're set.

I'd say, however, that there are 2 chances of that happening: slim and none. It's not really one of my goals (and there are so many handlers way better than me just in this area, even after my going-on-9-yrs experience!--it would be maybe too much of a stretch goal for me). My goal is to be able to take 1st place occasionally in USDAA Masters classes against competition like this. That'll be challenging enough.

Tika's USDAA/SMART weekend

Tika was a very good girl almost all weekend.

SUMMARY BY TOPIC: 7-run weekend.

Contacts: Very fast, pounding into 2-on/2-off! (Teeter might even be a little faster after a couple of days of the new teeter-accelerator-training.) She had one Aframe where she went down so fast and hard that she sort of bounced off at the end, but stopped right where she was (rear feet about 6" on the grass), with her front paws out and shoulders lowered as if she had stopped with her rear feet ON the contact. It was kind of cute, actually. She turned her head to look at me and started to back up (an interesting behavior, given that I've NEVER made her back up to get on a contact), so I just gave her the OK and went on.

Contact speed: I didn't get any of her runs filmed or timed, so I still don't know how fast she's doing those contacts. But much faster than she does them in class.

Up contacts: Missed up-contact on Dogwalk in both standards. Argh. I know she's missed them before; when do we decide to work on something for that? (She did exactly same entry in gamblers and got the up--at least the judge called 5 pts for the DW.)

Start-line: Very good except iffy in steeplechase & broke in following round. Practiced a lot after that between runs and she was fine again. Oh, wait--one standard I led out 3 obst's, turned, put up my hand, hesitated--and she went without "OK." I let it go then, too, but we practiced more later and she was OK the next round.

Feet: Mouthed my feet after lots of sloppiness in steeplechase run, and a couple of times grabbed *at* feet at end, but came off it quickly each time and NOTHING like those times I couldn't walk because she had hold of my shoes.

Attention: Very focused and working hard.

Successes: 1st in snooker with 51 pts, fastest course time in jumpers of all heights, very high opening pts in gamblers, fastest or almost fastest course times in standards. Very ugly steeplechase but that was mostly me plus inexperience.

Weaves: high-speed practice with her in the yard has paid off--she missed only one entry all weekend, and I'm thinking that I did something odd after the preceding jump.

Competition: There were a couple of mini dogs who had 51 snooker points who took 6 seconds less than Tika. But I suspect that they have running contacts, whereas she stuck her contacts and I took time for a good long "good girl" and moving myself into position and all. Also there's a terv, Apache?, who was really close to her or beat her by a partial second a couple of times? Is that another of Rachel's students? Man, there are some super fast dogs out there--many having course problems, too--knocking bars, really slow or sloppy contacts, missing weave poles--but they'll be scary by the time they get to masters. We can't slack off at all. Dang!


We picked a snooker course that had three Aframe 7s, and she handled beautifully all through for 51 points, 4 solid Afr's and a good teeter, too. Certainly our best run of the weekend.

In gamblers, she paid good attention--got 2 more Afr's, a dogwalk, and a teeter. The gamble started with a tunnel going away and curving to the right--she came back in to me instead of "out" [I might not have pushed enough because it looked obvious], and we fumbled and did a BEhind to get her back out there, but then she did it all beautifully although over time. Her opening pts were 2nd highest of any dog, I believe, and we were on the down slope of an Afr when the whistle blew, so we were close on those extra 5 pts. :-)

Standards--well, those missed UPs on the DW either saved me from feeling bad or my bad handling kept it from mattering: I forgot the course the first day (pretty hard on a novice course!) and then on the 2nd day she knocked the top bar of a triple on a lead-out-pivot that I might have turned too soon on. But everything else was great. And she had the fastest or 2nd-fastest times both times! Even WITH holding on the contacts.

In steeplechase--wow--definitely our worst. She stood up at the start. I repeated "sit" and she did, but then she walked forward and paused. I let it go (dumb--I really wanted to run her on the course) and on release she ran AROUND the first jump. My handling wasn't up to her green level--we had miscues and wide turns, although she was trying really hard, and then I forgot the course towards the end, and when I was trying to regroup her, she finally had had enough and came in towards my feet. I stopped, made her sit [which she did IMMEDIATELY, which is a big improvement from previous feet-biting incidents], and then jumped her off the course. Oh, well.

In pairs, which was after the steeplechase, I paid for letting her get away with the sloppy start line, because she did NOT stay during my lead-out, so I had to call her back--she went sniffing for a few seconds, but finally came--put her into a sit and continued, and she was beautiful after that. (Our partner--Ken Boyd's new BC Digby--took time out to go visit with the judge, so we were well-partnered for that round.)

In Jumpers, she completely flattened an entire double-jump--standards and everything-- (Gail & Anne said that it looked like I hesitated and did something odd with my shoulders and tika was trying hard to react to it)--which slowed her a bit but she didnt' seem disconcerted and looked at me alertly as if "what next?", so I kept going. She also knocked the following bar, which doesn't surprise me. But we still had the fastest time of any novice.

I'm very happy with the way things are going.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Remington Memories

For a while I worked on writing down everything that I could remember about Remington, and then started scanning in photos to go with it. I seem to have stalled about a month ago, so I'll put up what I have now--all in one long, huge file, sorry. If I add more later, I'll attempt to clearly flag changes.

Read "Remington, In Tidbits" and look at a photospread of a Squirrelhund At Work.

Monday, August 11, 2003

A Fine Weekend

Saturday we mostly hung around; I tried to do some work, showed the house to a couple of possible renters, did chores, went out for dinner, stuff like that. While playing with the dogs in the yard, I tried sending Tika into the weaves from a right angle (a very hard entry) while I was sitting down in the shade (never tried that before--usually I'm moving or at least aiming her in the direction I want her to go)--and she kept getting those weave entries! Blows me away. Just a couple of weeks ago she couldn't get the hard ones worth beans. We've been practicing, but something must have clicked suddenly in her furry little head about actually *working* to get the correct entry instead of simply taking whatever pole is convenient. Whatta gal.

Sunday we drove out to Elk Grove for just one day of a 2-day trial. Getting up at 4 a.m. is not, in fact, my idea of fun, but the traffic was much better then (1 hr 50 minutes) than coming home (2 hr 40 mins), where my foot and ankle were starting to cramp from the stop/go/slow-speed commute. Must admit that's the worst that coming back from Elk Grove has been in quite a while, though.

Jake's Performance: He was not fast this weekend. Maybe my perspective is a little skewed from running Tika, but he just wasn't the zippy dog that he's capable of being. Yeah, it was pretty warm. Yeah, he's going on 12. But I did my best to rev him up with rousing tug-of-wars right beforehand, and hosed him down before and after, that sort of thing. We also just weren't clicking--again--off courses, pulling out of weave poles (twice!), slow/wide turns despite my best deliberate efforts to be crisp and in the right position. Still, he did earn qualifying scores in 3 out of 5 of his runs, which I suppose I shouldn't complain about.

One of our northern CA competitiors, Max and Jessica O., earned their CPE championship last weekend, making them the first CATCH in CA. It would've been nice for Jake to be there--he does Q a lot, usually--but we haven't been entering all of the trials that Max and Jessica have been, by far!, so we still have a ways to go. But we're probably among the top 3 or 4 contenders, still. (Although the others are also attending more CPEs than we are, so it'll be a while for us.)

Tika's Performance: Yow! Whatta girl! (I say again.) Finally things were clicking again. She stayed at the start line all 5 runs. She got all her contacts beautifully [and I'm trying to remember how many we did--a lot--15?]--left early 2x, but not very early, and she hesitated immediately when she realized it, instead of taking off. She got Qualifying scores in all 5 AND took 1st in all 5.

We, unlike me & Jake, seemed to be communicating well. We had what I think was probably a flawless Jumpers run. Completed the whole course in 17-something seconds, which was 4 seconds faster than all other Level 1 and 2 dogs of any height (probably about 50-60 dogs; I didn't count).

[Picture: The sort of jumpers course on which Tika excels--6.66 yards per second!]

Our Gamblers was also pretty fine. The judge created an extremely nontraditional course, in which there were 3 possible gambles on the course, with bonuses possible on 2 of them. Tika did all 3 (although one didn't count because she knocked a bar, but it was a challenging one where the dog had to go straight away from you into the middle of 3 tunnels!--and I was extremely proud of her for doing it correctly), and she got the bonus on one of the 2. She was with me every step of the way, intensely focused, nice tight turns, probably did more obstacles than any other dog.

[Picture: first gamble: over jump and through middle tunnel. 15 points if you stayed behind line behind jump; 10 pts if you were behind side lines]

She ended up with 71 points--the knocked-bar gamble would have added 13, which would have made her the highest-scoring dog of all heights *all* levels, even 4, 5, and championship levels! As it was, only 3 dogs had higher scores--

Including Jake, with 74 because he got all the gambles and bonuses, although he did several fewer obstacles because my brain quit working (last run of a hot day, you know, or some excuse) and I bobbled a couple of things, called him off ones he should've taken, retook obstacles we had already gotten points for, and quit early when we could've gotten more points. But he was a very good boy for that one.

Tika's Full House was flawless--the 2nd time. One doesn't usually get 2 tries at a course. We started out OK, but then she ran past an obstacle and then the whistle blew when I wasn't expecting it and had to do some weird handling, whereupon she grabbed at my feet. Turns out that the whistle blew because there was a problem with the timer, so we got to start over. And it was perfectly executed as I had planned it! She was so beautiful on course, carrying out over even r 2 or 3 obstacles ahead of me, getting her contacts and waiting, and going straight to the table at the end. And no foot grabbing. She was only about the 3rd highest score of all dogs all heights all levels because I went for (a) a flowing course rather than a more twisty, turning-back-on-your-path one to pick up some extra points, and (b) I had her wait a good solid period of time on each of the 4 obstacles she took. I'm very proud of *that* run, too.

Our two Standard courses were less than stellar, but still fast and qualifying, and not nearly as garbled as some have been in the past. In the first one, she took the wrong end of a tunnel but that was all handler error, and she redirected very nicely without having to grab my feet to teach me a lesson. In the second one, in 2 places she ran past obstacles, but they were difficult handling situations and again not her fault--a more-experienced dog might have gotten them--but on the other hand on both courses there were some *very* difficult turning and calling-off challenges that wiped out a lot of dogs, *including* more experienced ones, that she handled perfectly.

One highlight for me (one takes pleasures where one finds them) was a 2-jump lead-out aimed directly at a dogwalk, where the dog had to make a sharp left turn to the 3rd jump. I led out, stood at the far side of the 3rd jump facing that way, leaned back and held out my off-hand (this is all correct handling, really), and gave her the ok. She blasted across the first jump and as I started my move, I could see her smoothly and without a blip or hesitation change her direction to take the 2nd jump so that she could hit the turn and the 3rd jump hardly slowing at all. It was a moment of sheer beauty, especially since we'd been failing lead-out pivots very similar to that in class just last Wed. night.

And the nice thing about the running-past ones--I managed to get her turned, redirected, run around a couple of other obstacles without going off course, and into the correct place--without her once grabbing my feet! Those are exactly the places where she'd be most likely to do it.

So maybe the last 2 weekends where I just picked her up and walked off with her, explaining quietly into her ear why that was a bad idea, finally sank in.

What a pleasure running her this weekend!

Friday, August 08, 2003

Dog Didn't Make Little Green Apples...

Jake just loooooves his fresh fruit. I try, I really do, to pick up all the fruit that the evil serpent has dropped from the trees to tempt Jake, but there's so much of it and there are 3 trees--

He eats them, but I think he carries them around more than the time he spends munching. And there won't be a toothmark on one until he's good and ready to crunch it up and swallow it, stem and seeds and all. (Waste not, want not.)

There's also a pear tree out there that seems to have a lot of fruit this year. Last year, it had only a little, and the dogs and birds got most of it. None of it's ripe yet, but many are dropping onto the ground. Yesterday I tossed Jake's squeaky in that direction during our 2-3-times daily squeaky-fetch experience, and he picked up a pear and brought it back instead of the squeaky. And those of you who know Jake know how he feels about squeakies!
The Duplex by Glenn McCoy

The Duplex Aug 7, 2003, Universal Press Syndicate

So we played fetch with that until I lost interest, then he ate the pear. Then he got another one. I had to clear every piece of fruit from the ground around the whole yard, and then had to beg, before he went back to his squeaky.

Today, I was attempting to do some yard work. The squeaky was out and about. Tika's Toy was out and about. Tika's Toy kept reappearing to have me play tug of war with it. The squeaky kept reappearing to be tossed across the yard. Then, one time, I tossed the squeaky and an apple came back.

Same thing, no teethmarks. Jake dropped it in front of me, wagging his tail, looking expectantly at it and then at me in exactly the same manner that he does when asking for the squeaky to be thrown. So we played apple for a while, until I got bored, then he ate it.

More convenient than having to give up the toy for it to be put away, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Just The Little Linen Things

When I change my towels, I drop the old ones on the floor while I put the new ones in place. Tika loves my used washcloths. The reasons are probably disgusting dog reasons, but it's still entertaining--she'll pick up the washcloth gingerly with her very front teeth, shake it a couple of times with just her head (not a full-body shake like she'd use with an excellent toy, but more as if she's shaking off a little dust). Then she'll put it on the floor in just the perfect position, and start rubbing the side of her face into it. Might even roll on it a bit, get really excited, then leap to her feet and start the whole thing from the front-teeth-pickup routine again.

None of my previous 4 dogs have ever shown an interest in my used linens that I can recall.

Monday, August 04, 2003

A Year Ago Today

Remington finished his NADAC Agility Trial Champion title (NATCH). (See diary entry.) Didn't yet know he had cancer. First undiagnosed sick episode was still 2 weeks in the future.

Here are Jake and Rem with the ribbons they won that weekend and the signed jump bar that the host club awarded Rem. Was just going through some photos from back then and found this.

And I must say that I'm still quite unhappy that I still don't have the NATCH plaque, even though asking for it when his cancer was first diagnosed. That'll hurt when and if it ever shows up. Jeez, just realized it's been 5 months now since he died. Still miss him something awful. Still can see him as clearly as if he'd just left the room.

You know, I do NOT miss that, since he's been gone, no food has ever been taken off the kitchen counters or dining table, and the wastebaskets have never been emptied and strewn around the floor. Those were Rem's ways of letting me know that he was tired of me being out of the house. But, boy, I'd be willing to put up with them--

Jakey Wakey the Fruit Dog

Jake had spurts of being pretty fast at the fun match but several nonspurts of being fairly slow. It was hot, but that doesn't usually stop him from, say, chasing squeakies at .95 times the speed of light. His weave poles are on-again, off-again. Sometimes he hits them like a real pro, but more and more often he takes them at a slow and cautious pace. Sometimes both during the same class session, not predictably in any order, or I'd be more inclined to think it was the bone spur on his toe or some other arthritisy thing.

It might be, anyway, of course, but it's not clear.

He is generally such a good boy. I entered him in the fun match to see whether I could get him to do his contacts there the way that he does them in class--nice and fast to a solid 2-on/2-off stance. Flew off the first one, so I made him do it again, and he slowed down a bit for the contact and with some encouragement managed to get there.

Have been discovering at home that he has no CLUE how to do contacts. So apparently I have successfully trained him to do beautiful contacts in class and nowhere else on the known planet. That's mostly what we lose Q scores to any more, popped contacts, so I wish I could fix them.

But (see earlier various posts) he is SUCH a slow learner.

Apples: It's apple season now. Plums are all gone, so now he's munching whatever other fruit he can find in the yard. Body doesn't digest all of those big chunks of barely ripe fruit very well. (Don't ask how I know.) He's constantly got one between his paws while lounging around. Sometimes he eats them. Sometimes he lies there, chin on one paw, emitting whines that get gradually longer, higher pitched, and sharper. That's the "don't anyone dare to steal my apple" whine, although in fact he's on the far side of the room, my back is to him while I work on the computer, and Tika's out lying on the deck, watching for invasive squirrels.

So actually it's more the "I have a really cool apple here, and I wish someone would try to take it from me so that I could whisk it away and eat it in front of her" whine.

Agility Fun Match and Tika's Tummy

We went up to Elk Grove yesterday for a fun match. It was pretty warm.

Tika did good. Actually her agility skills are danged good; it's that foot-grabbing thing that I especially wanted to work on. She cooperated by grabbing at me a couple of times durig the very first runs. I picked her up and carried her across the ring each time she did it, saying in her ear "don't you grab my feet", then put her down, made her sit-stay, and ran her some more. Not sure whether that's as good as carrying her out to her crate, but she seemed less interested in my feet as the day went on.

Of course, as the day went on, it was hotter AND I was probably acting more relaxed, less like a trial, AND I did whip goodies out of my pocket a couple of times, so she might have caught on that this wasn't the real thing. I wouldn't put it past her.

Contacts pretty darned good (after she flew off the 1st one and I made her walk back around and redo the obstacle). Got most of her weave entries, although she really crashes into them and has trouble managing the next couple when she gets a good running start at them.

Didn't stay at the start line the first run, but I brought her back and put her back in a stay and then that was fine the rest of the day, too.

She and Jake, of course, slept the wholllllle way home and then, of course, were rarin' to go when we got here, while I had a horrific headache that just hadn't quit all day. Had to stop twice on the way home to stretch and close my eyes and put my head down (would have tried taking a nap but it was too danged hot).

Because I felt so awful, I slothed on the couch for an hour or so, sort of watching TV while trying to get my head to relax. Then, because I felt so awful, I didn't bother closing off the living room like I usually do when I'm not in there. Hold that thought.

It's been so warm--usually I close the door to my bedroom, but I've been keeping it partway open so the fanned air can circulate, with a wastebasket in the door to (a) keep it from slamming shut and (b) discourage the dogs from wandering out in the middle of the night without me knowing (because, on the rare occasions when they need to leave the room, it's almost always potty or sick--and I'd rather know about it).

Anyway, for whatever reason, Tika wanted to get up at midnight and go outside. Then at 2:30. Then at 4:30. Each time I let her out for a short while, while I cradled my poor excuse for a head on the table. She'd come back in ready to go back to bed. A couple or 3 times she woke me up with sharp whines or groans. None of this is at all normal for her--trying to remember--I think she's been sick in the night maybe once before. At 6, when she leaped out of bed again, I woke up enough to realize that the bedroom door was wide open, meaning that sometime between 4:30 and 6 she had already been out of the room on her own.

I followed her downstairs and let her out. There were 3 distinct areas of vomit, all different colors and consistencies (you want more details?) inside in the general vicinity of the kitchen door (where the beasts usually go in and out during the day). I didn't see what she did first thing when she went out, because I did a quickie cleanup so that I and Jake could walk through without stepping in goo.

But then she just lay out on the lawn with her head down. She doesn't usually lie on the lawn; lies on the porch or inside with us. Didn't leap up to play when I walked out to join her, but her little nubber tail did wag and she snuggled up close for petting.

After I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen area, I went looking--sure enough, 3 separate spots in the living room and 2 more in my office. Poor girl.

But thank goodness for the wonderful hand-held carpet washer that I got from a good friend!

Nothing obvious in the output that would tell me what caused it. She was a little low on energy the rest of the morning, although she did say that she wanted to go for a walk. (I avoided it because of her stomach and my head.) By the time my headache was finally gone after a couple of naps, late afternoon, she seemed completely better. Ate breakfast and dinner with no apparent problems.

I get so nervous now, after going through the cancer thing with Rem, but I did refrain from calling the vet when it was clear that she still had her full appetitie and breakfast was staying down.

Maybe it was a very delayed reaction to running in the heat? Maybe it was a very delayed reaction to the Bully Stick that she consumed in the car on the way home? (But no chunks of bully-stickness appeared.) Hope that whatever it was was here and gone.