a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Another One-Ribbon Weekend

Well, I suppose one ribbon is better than no ribbons. Out of 3 USDAA weekends so far this year, we've earned two relay legs and one Steeplechase Q (which I'm happy about, no doubt at all).

She mostly ran very nicely this last weekend. Wet weather didn't seem to affect her one way or another. Unlike Remington, who used to adore wet, cold weather for doing agility.

Standard saturday: A training issue: I put her in a down-stay at the start line going into a chute and led out to the next obstacle, slightly offset from the chute. When I released her and started moving forward, she zoomed *past* the chute and we were offcourse instantly.

Grand Prix saturday: We need one more GP to qualify for the nationals. All we have to do is have 7 or fewer faults. That would allow, say, a knocked bar or a missed contact. Instead, we were faultless up until the next to last obstacle, when I overcalled her and she took a jump backwards for an offcourse, which is an elimination.

Jumpers saturday: Two bars down.

Gamblers saturday: Nicely run in the opening; we ended up exactly where I had planned when the whistle blew. She even did the gamble--but it included an A-frame, which she popped off above the yellow zone, negating the gamble. I said "touch" but I think I rushed her, which was stupid--we had 5 seconds left in the gamble out of 14 seconds, so there was no need to rush. (I didn't know how much time I had on course, but we were where I had planned and my walkthrough said that we had plenty of time. I just got excited, I guess.)

Pairs relay sunday: Tika was clean and fast; partner had a bar down but our total time plus faults still allowed the team to Q. That's 3 pairs Qs; we need 5 for our master's relay title. At this rate, we'll finish that before we ever get a gamblers or jumpers leg for our MAD!

Standard sunday: A nice run on a course that caused fully half of the dogs to go off-course, on a really muddy soupy field. We got called on the up contact of the teeter, for crying out loud, after making the up on our problematic dogwalk! And then we knocked a bar. But we weren't offcourse-- Only two of the 30+ 26"-inch dogs managed clean runs on this course.

Snooker sunday: She got a challenging opening beautifully, although slightly bobbled one weave entry. Then she failed to carry out ahead of me to #3 in the closing, heading straight for it then spinning back towards me for a refusal and a whistle-off-the-course. That's 3 times in 3 weekends we've had a failure to carry out. It might be me, not keeping up the pressure? Although I'm sure trying to keep it up. Time to go back to finding someone, anyone, to videotape my runs to see what's going on.

So, once again, she's running beautifully but we're not Qing. And now it's nothing consistent that I can really point at--e.g., she really didn't knock many bars this weekend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogger problem partially resolved

OK, here's a little more background for those who want to know: After my post on Feb 7, the next time I tried to post, my Blogger screens displayed no buttons for allowing me to complete my posting, and in addition I got error messages. This happened identically in Netscape (my usual brower), Safari, and Firefox. I installed the latest versions of each of them just to be sure.

I had installed no new software since the last week in January, so it didn't seem likely that any of that would have had an effect.

Indeed, it didn't--software I installed at the beginning of December, many many blogger posts ago, NetBlockade, disables something that Blogger now appears to be using, because when I disable NetBlockade, Blogger now works correctly.

So I'll try to catch up on My Life With Agility Dogs over the next few days.

Friday, February 18, 2005

testing again

OK, I'm on someone *else's* 10.3.7 Mac OS X and the screen looks fine. So it's my system, I guess. But what? What? WHAT?

Technical Problems with blogger--sorry no posts lately

I have lots to say, but have been unable to say it--blogger is not working suddenly with my OS X version. They don't know what the problem is. I don't know what the problem is. I'm now back to running System 9 and it looks like this will actually work. That doesn't answer the question of why it won't work on OS X.

...Ooops, I get an error ("required field must not be left blank") in Netscape. So now I'm trying IE 5.0 on sys 9. I don't get all of the buttons, but it looks like I've got a "publish post" button. If this works (or not) then I'm off to try another person's computer with OS X to see whether it works *there*. Ta.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Backfill: Feb 22Tika's panting will yet be the death of the known universe. One of my former housemates hated it. Complained about Tika always being right there "hahhh hahhhh hahhh hahhh" all the time. Current housemate's boyfriend hates it. They go hide in the housemate's bedroom to avoid it when eating meals. (I did clean up the dining room and move the big table in there so we could actually close the doors and keep the dogs out if we want, which they've done a couple of times, but it feels more like you're closing yourself in--)

I took the dogs to the Big Park this morning. Tika sat (loosely speaking) in the passenger seat. It takes about 15 minutes to drive over there. By the time we had arrived, the entire side window and fully half of the windshield were steamed up so as to be almost opaque. That's a lot of panting.

Later I was working at the computer, ignoring the dogs--deadlines, you know. Tika decided it was time to do something. She's gotten much better about pawing at me or nudging me. So she sits about 18" from my elbow and pants. "hahhh hahhhh hahhh hahhh" constantly, not a break. I don't know how long she'd been sitting there before I noticed that she wasn't going away (one does develop some immunity), so I decided to keep an eye on the clock and see when she'd give up and lie down, go away, or stop panting. 15 minutes later I couldn't stand it any longer and got up to go do something else. (Can't do something *with* the dogs because that would be reinforcing the behavior. But she did get me to stand up and leave the computer. Hmmm.)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Near-Puppy Experience

Backfill: Feb 22
I've been saying for a long time that my next dog needs to be at least 4 years younger than Tika. Her fourth birthday is Monday (hard to believe sometimes). So that means that my next dog could be born any time after today.

But sometimes something comes along that's hard to pass up--

Email Feb 4:
For those of you who saw Tracey's pup this past weekend in Santa
Rosa and fell in love with her, she has 2 siblings that still are looking
for homes! They are both very smart, quick and look to be nice agility
prospects. Mom is a smooth coat BC....VERY nice and dad (by accident) is a
Kelpie. If you are interested let me know and I'll put you in touch with my
friend who has them. They are on a ranch currently and have been around
stock. Have had first shots.
VERY cool pups!!!!

OK, I've always liked Border Collies (BC) and Kelpies are pretty cool (see some photos I took of local agility Kelpies) and both parents are known (unlike so many mixed breeds) and they're still puppies...

Here's a photo of Tracy's puppy; apparently the two remaining are black-and-white, however, no tricolors.

I asked for more info and so got info from the original poster (a friend of the BC's owner), from Tracey, and from the BC's owner.

1. There is a girl and a boy, both black
with some white, short coated (like VERY short coated). They are located in
Plymouth (not far from Ranch Murrita). Ellen, I know this mama dog well. She is VERY sweet and would have made a great agility dog if Bobbie would have let her get off the ranch (she works
their cows), and onto the agility field. They train performance horses so
agility is not their priority :-).Thanks for your interest, Bobbie need to find them homes as she does notwant to raise any pups.

2. I'm having a blast with mine. Maiya is 16 weeks old now. The others [are all] black with a little white on feet and chest. She's about 27lbs. now. She's smart as a whip and loves to learn new things. Hopefully she'll be the best of both breeds. The mother is a really nice border. Very tall and lean. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the kelpie dad. He's a neighbor's dog that bred her by accident. Bobbie said he's a little stockier :(( I'm hoping she'll balance out between them.

3. The puppies were born on October 24th.....and are mostly black......alittle white on the chest...but that is about it. I have a male and a female left........I personally think the female is cute...but the male has a great personality also. Everybody who has taken one of the pups really is enjoying them.....says they are incredibly smart.

Then on Monday I found out that my housemate will be leaving, so I have no idea who I'll have in the house; I'll have to spend time finding someone; I have no idea whether I'll have the income that will allow me to do agility and/or lessons with any of my dogs; I have promised to do a project for Power Paws Camp for this year; and I'm finishing up one big contract and (I hope) starting another one in a couple of weeks.

The more I thought about it, the more I stressed about having another dog. BUT--they seemed to have fallen in my lap, so to speak. They seemed to be calling me. We know that the parents are (presumably) excellent working dogs, which is usually an excellent thing for agility dogs. And good looking pups. And a nice mix.

I called the breeder & she said this was a bad time for her to have puppies and she hadn't had time to spend with them; no training of any kind, have never been in the house, just mostly in the kennel and sometimes out loose around the ranch, where they've been pretty well behaved--stopped chasing the stock as soon as she scolded them for it. Hasn't spent enough time with them to really have a good idea about their personalities or temperament.

So that's no different from a rescue, really, except that we know who the parents are and what their early environment has been.

I made an appointment for today to drive 2.5 hours out to the Central Valley to check them out. But every time I started thinking about having another dog in the house, I could feel my blood pressure rise and my tension level escalate. By Thursday night, I was just about beside myself with "I'll never be able to handle this; it'll drive me nuts." The next morning, well-rested, I was able to think "maybe if I really stretch myself I can handle this," and I kept talking about the up sides to these puppies...

But by Friday night I realized that this is just not a good time for a new dog in my life. So I called and cancelled my appointment to view the pups. It's too bad, because they could be great agility dogs. But my relief when I made the phone call was tremendous.

So I'm back to where I was the week before, which is: Maybe in 6-9 months I'll be ready to consider another dog. Maybe next fall, as the agility season winds down. Maybe maybe maybe.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Changing Instructors

Backfill: Feb 22Well, it's finally happening. Our instructor, Rachel Sanders, has announced the end of March (give or take some weeks due to rain days) as her final time teaching classes in the Bay Area. They've bought property near San Luis Obispo and she's got more students there already than she can manage. We've known it was coming for almost a year, I think.

Tika and I started with her classes for basic obedience, which gradually morphed into beginning agility classes, then I switched classes at least once to get into some more advanced course handling techniques, and there we've been since. So it's 3 years of work with one instructor. I've learned so much.

Now I need to start thinking about taking classes elsewhere. I've been taking classes at Power Paws Agility since I started with Remington 9 years ago, first with Rem and then with Jake as well. I learned so much from them, too. I have liked having multiple instructors, because they all have different skills and perspectives and experiences, so I think that I get a better all-around Learning Experience. And I like going up to Power Paws, too.

So I'm going to try to get Tika into class there. Ideally I'd go back to what I had with Rem and Jake--back-to-back classes with Tika and Jake so that I have to make the drive up into the Alum Rock Hills only once a week. Since Jake is more or less retired, he could really be in almost any class, although I've been with this particular Wednesday night group for so long that it feels like home (although actually the Wed night attendees have gradually changed over the years--).

But it will be odd having a different instructor for me with Tika after all this time.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Losing Casey

And on a downer note--Wednesday night I finally did it: Asked my agility instructors whether they'd be starting a beginning agility class soon, and told them I'd like to enroll Casey. Last night when I got home, the housemate informed me that she'd accepted a job in Los Angeles! So Casey will be leaving, and my wonderful housemate, and I'll be back to square one in trying to find someone to pay the rent. Sigh. I hate looking for housemates!

Musings on the Steeplechase

The Event

The Steeplechase is a special tournament event within the USDAA. It has its own National (or International, I suppose) championship every year. Steeplechase courses are designed to be extremely fast, exciting to watch and fun to run. Courses are numbered, but they eliminate the teeter, the table, and the dogwalk; they repeat either the A-frame or the weave poles. In short, they're essentially jumpers courses with weaves and A-frame thrown in for good measure.

The course is judged on time plus faults, with no "standard course time"--whoever has the lowest combined score wins. However, an off-course immediately disqualifies you. To qualify for the nationals, a dog must finish in the top 30% of dogs competing at the same height. (Used to be top 25%, I believe, until this year?)

Regional qualifiers have two parts, usually run on two separate days. The top 30% of the dogs on Day 1 qualify to go to the Nationals and also qualify to go to the bonus Round 2 on the 2nd day. Round 2 does nothing else in terms of qualifying for the Nationals, but it is the only event in all of American agility that pays cash prizes. For example, for 26" dogs, the 1st-place dog takes home 10% of the total entry fees for the Steeplechase; the 7th-place dog takes home 1%; and anything below that in theory gets nothing.

My History in Steeplechase

I almost always entered my dogs in tournament classes even when I had no intention of going to the National Championships. First, it's good practice; second, it's a delight and a prestige (at least in my own mind) to have qualified and/or places; third, it's just good practice.

In my first few years of competing, I went to only a few trials a year, so I never encountered a Steeplechase until 1998.

Remington entered exactly 5 steeplechases--one a year--after that, and Qualified only once, in May of 20000 (11th out of, I believe, 11 dogs who moved up). In the 2nd round he proceeded to completely turn off and basically trotted around the course; the only reason he didn't finish last is because some faster dogs went off course.

Jake entered exactly 6 Steeplechases--one a year (none in 2004 because they sadly do not offer a Performance-level or Veteran Steeplechase)--and interestingly Qualified only in the same one that Remington qualified in, placing 13th out of (I think) 13 dogs who moved up. In Round 2, he turned into SuperJake and we were on a roll until the last few jumps in a swing around to a straight line to the finish, where he swung PAST one of the jumps and took the next one before I could stop him, for an off course.

So I've never considered myself a person who had Steeplchase dogs; I always watched from the sidelines.

Tika and Steeplechases

Clubs must be offering a lot more Steeplechases these days, because in only 2 years of competition, Tika has entered seven already. She E'ed (eliminated--off courses) in 3 of her first 4.

In her 5th Steeplechase Round 1, she placed 10th out of (I think) 10 or 11 dogs who qualified. In Round 2, we watched as other dogs knocked bars wildly or went off course (Tika had one bar down) and we placed 6th! We took home a check for $10. Try to imagine my excitement, after 8 and a half years of agility competition, to finally place in the money in the Steeplechase!

This weekend, we did even better in Round 1 with a faultless run, placing 4th out of 11 dogs who moved up. Some of the very fast local dogs weren't there, but many of the very fast local dogs were; this was not a cakewalk by any means. Now I've qualified twice in six-month span. Perhaps it's a fluke, but I think not. We placed 8th and took home a check for just over $5 (which is odd because I thought anything beyond 7th wasn't supposed to get a check--do you suppose I wrote our placement down incorrectly? Why didn't this occur to me yesterday when I could verify? Dang). We'd have placed a strong 2nd if it weren't for the knocked bar--and no one else can say that (because even others with knocked bars were slower than the actual 2nd-place dog).

Stay tuned in future months for more Steeplechase thrills and chills.

Tika's Weekend

Well, Tika's doing very nicely, and we're SOOOOO close to getting Qs...


  • Standard. Beautiful. Except that, when approaching the table, she stopped and turned back towards me. Don't know why. Our only fault. Who'd'a ever thought it would be that, rather than our usual bars or up-contact on the dogwalk?
  • Gamblers. Not beautiful. Bobbled almost everything in the opening and so were in the wrong place for the closing but the main issue was that I couldn't get her to "out" during the gamble. I thought she had a good "out"! When I want a *little* out and say "out" during a run, she swerves way out there!
  • Pairs Relay. Tika knocked a bar but, since this class is time plus faults (if the combination is less than the standard course time), and our partner was good and Tika was fast, we Qed anyway.
  • Snooker. A good fast strong beginning and then, on a tight wrap, I moved too soon and she backjumped.
  • Steeplechase Round 1. A lovely, unhurried, faultless run and we took 4th out of 33 dogs for a Q.

    1st, Aiko 24.41 (Last year's national champion)
    2nd, Hobbes 28.17 (A perennial national finalist)
    3rd, Cappuccino 29.01 (One of our former Wed-morning classmates)
    4th, Tika 29.17
    7th, Boomer (a current Wed-morning classmate)


  • Snooker. A good fast strong beginning and then knocked a red and I couldn't get her to turn and come back.
  • Jumpers: She didn't wait for release so took her off.
  • Steeplechase round 2, A-frame and 2 weaves. A very fast smooth run until 4th from last jump, when she knocked the bar and spun in towards me instead of taking the next jump. Even with the spin, she was the 2nd fastest 26" dog but the knocked bar dropped her to 8th. (1st: Aiko, 28.27; 2nd: Hobbes, 33.27; Tika at 32.79 with the spin. (I think our classmates Cap finished 4th and Boomer 6th?)
  • Gamblers: 1 point off the highest opening score. But couldn't get her to turn away from me off a teeter in the gamble.
  • Standard: Oh it went all to heck here--knocked bars and off-courses galore. But she had a nice start-line sit, good contacts, good weaves.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

One-Day USDAA Trial

Our club (The Bay Team) experimented with a masters-one-day, advanced-and-novice-one day format. It seemed to work pretty well with a 2-day trial up in Santa Rosa. Long way for me to drive--nearly 2 hours starting at 4 a.m.--which is beyond where I usually arrange for a hotel overnight. But since it was just a one-day trial (I entered Tika on Saturday), I just came on home when we were done. Fortunately I have a cousin in Richmond who was home and offered me dinner on the way home, so I got a break at about the 1-hour point, also avoiding some horrendous traffic going south on 80 early in the evening.


Tika did very well--6 runs and not a single Q among them, but none-the-less I was fairly pleased.

She stayed sitting still at the start line in all but one case, where she stood up and I let her go anyway (dumb dumb dumb) but it didn't seem to affect her the rest of the day. I didn't do much in the way of long lead-outs, so that she could succeed at staying in one place and get to run. So this made me very happy, considering where we were in November at our last competition.

She got all her weave entries beautifully. She did all of her contacts fast and waited--although she left early a couple of times, one of which perhaps contributed to her going offcourse on the next tunnel.

She didn't knock the first bar in Snooker, even though I led out considerably. That's always a pleasure. She knocked 2 bars in Jumpers although the course itself worked quite smoothly--which was OK because about half the class went offcourse on that Jumpers course, so I guess we did good!

And in gamblers she got a difficult turn over the first 3 obstacles but then didn't carry out (on the "easy part") to the last 2 obstacles. Still, lots and lots of dogs missed that first part, so she looked OK there, too.

So--offcourse in one of her 2 pairs run (partner went offcourse in same place in the other one!), 2 bars knocked in Jumpers, I messed up on calling her in Snooker for an early exit, Gamblers she got lots of opening points but (as I said) missed the complete gamble; Standard missed the up on the dogwalk (this is looking really ugly again lately) and then offcourse into wrong end of a tunnel. But she was fast and attentive and I had a good time.

Of course--I don't know how many 0-Q weekends I can handle and still feel cheerful.


This was Jake's first weekend not competing. I think he seemed confused about getting out, doing tricks, playing a bunch of frisbee and tug of war, and then going back in the crate. But maybe I'm the only one who's confused.

In class last night, where his formerly foster mom Nancy taught our class for the first time in many many months, she said that he looked the best she's even seen him. He is running *really* well in class. I'm still second and third and fourth-guessing whether I'm doing the right thing by not entering him in competitions.