a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2005

Thursday, March 31, 2005

To Puppy or not to Puppy?

Some agility people I know have a litter of Border Collies. Both the mom and dad are excellent agility competitors. Of course you don't know how the puppies will turn out in the long run, but the odds seem good that they'll be driven competitors.

They were born on my birthday.

There are two or maybe three still available, all female. The owner thinks that the black & white one might be the better agility dog--says she's very fast, the first one to race across the yard to them, and yet totally snuggly and relaxed. The two blue merles are a bit more wriggly (to consolidate my inexperienced experiments into one word), so they might not be as relaxed and snuggly, but does that make them more driven? I'm assured that they all love chasing toys and playing tug of war (I confirmed) and that none seem to be noise sensitive. They have all kinds of things to crawl all over and around--noisy, moving, etc.--so it seems likely that they won't be intimidated by agility equipment.

The blue merle ones are kind of cute. I always did like blue merles ever since I read about them in Albert Peyson Terhune's books. And I find it very hard to get excited about owning a basic black and white Border Collie, being around dozens of them at agility trials every weekend.

But these are AKC dogs, I believe (I didn't ask but I'm pretty sure) from quite desireable parents. They're asking (gasp) $1000 each. Holy toledo. But Nike Animal Rescue (where Remington came from) is now asking adoption fees "starting at" $175. Humane Society is $145. Of course, those fees include some things, such as spay/neuter (I didn't ask what the puppy's owners preferred to have happen with their puppies).

Am I ready for a puppy? My last puppy was Amber, in early 1979. I remember being exhausted then, and I'm *already* exhausted now. Can I afford a dog of known and extraordinary ancestry? Argh.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Trial Chair

I'm co-chair for this weekend's Bay Team CPE trial at Twin Creeks.

In the past, when filling this role, I've felt as if everything got delegated quickly & early. This time, with everything else I'm involved in, it's now the last minute and I keep finding more things that were just not dealt with adequately earlier.

Biggest thing is the equipment for the trial. Because one of our trailers is completely out of commission, we could have used people to haul some of the equipment in their own vehicles (like we used to do in the old days). But--we didn't get the equipment lists from the judges until the end of last week, and it's been raining so it's been hard for the person who's storing the trailers to go through the equipment, and they're up in the east foothills so it's a long drive and their classes have been cancelled so no one is going up there, and so we have virtually no volunteers to go get the equipment.

I was going to go up and try to fit a little bit into my van, but it looks like we might be able to just pay the guy's gardener $15/hour to help load and haul the equipment. This wasn't particularly in our budget. I hope we at least break even this trial. We're getting a lot more entries than we had expected, but that also means that we had to hire a judge and rent half a field for an extra day, too.


OK, off to OSH to look for contractor's tape in at least 3 colors.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Oddest Thing

Backfill: March 24 The oddest thing happened this morning. I was upstairs getting dressed to go for our usual morning walk, and the dogs were helping. For Casey, this usually means singing as loudly as he can and wagging his tail; for Jake, this involves sweeping back and forth around my ankles, looking extremely happy and emitting occasional woofs in exchange for a good rub on the back; for Tika, this involves leaping on and off the bed with Rope or Snake, giving it overwhelmingly over-the-top shakes, dropping it off the bed for me to pick up, and playing ferocious tug-of-war with me.

So all of a sudden I turned around and Tika had stopped her frenzy and was standing in the oddest way, sort of half sitting, with the oddest expression on her face. I started towards her to see what was up, and it wasn't until she started to move again that I realized that she had just peed quite thouroughly onto my carpet.

I was so startled that I didn't say anything specifically to her; just shouting something generally disturbed into the atmosphere and raced downstairs to get the appropriate clean-up implements.

I can't remember Tika ever doing her thing inside the house, even when I first got her. Not ever. I worried all morning over whether she might be ill in some odd way.

Then, later, I wondered about something that I had previously wondered about (although less intensely): Seems that, as the morning wears on, she pesters me more and more about paying attention to it being Walkies Time and less and less time out in the yard, so that when we actually go for a walk, after we get off our little street, the first thing she has to do is pee. So I've been thinking that she's just not bothering to go out into the yard but is instead holding on because she knows we'll be going for a walk soon.

And, on this particular morning, I was at least an hour, maybe 2 hours later than we usually go walking.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Alienating the Neighbors

Well, we've managed to do it again. I've been trying to be good about always taking a clicker and goodies with me when we go for a walk, but then we hardly ever see other dogs on a leash in this neighborhood, and so I get lazy again and don't take anything. Plus today it was kind of dreary and drizzly, so what fools would be out walking their dogs, anyway?

Today, just as we were passing the house with a German Shepherd who lives in the garage (or at least barks there--perhaps he misheard what that room was to be used for), two dogs came down the other side of the street on leash. Tika starts to whine and yap and leap at the leash, so I tighten up on her leash and tell her as calmly as possible, "I don't think so." Well, the other dogs are not peacefully walking by--at least one of them, a large black probably Lab, is hauling at the leash in our direction and making his own racket, and then Tika's actions set Jake and Casey off on barking, all of which together--German Shepherd barking 10 feet away, me holding her firmly and trying to get her to lie down, Jake & Casey barking, and the other dog screaming obscenities at her from across the street, make her go completely apeshit. She thrashes and screams and sounds altogether like a 6-dog dogfight all by herself.

I'm trying to keep myself between me and her line of sight for the other dogs, and I can barely get her front end down and it takes all my effort; I'm starting to yell in casey and jake's faces to SHUT UP! to get them, at least, to be quiet.

And a lady in a bathrobe comes out the front door of the house 8 feet away and says, "Is there a problem?" Well, yes. I say, "Did I wake you up? I'm so sorry." And she comes back with some variant of "Is there a problem?" and I'm trying to hold onto Tika who is thrashing and shrieking, and I say something like, "I'm sorry, there were other dogs walking across the street and she got very excited." And she says, "My dog is very nervous" with some other words before and after it that I honestly can't hear, so I'm not sure whether she's telling me explicitly to please move out from in front of her house or what.

But the other dogs are finally out of sight, and I manage to get Tika into a down position, and she's heaving breaths and whining with each, still tense but now breathing instead of shrieking and spouting.

OK, so how many people did I manage to alienate with that episode? Everyone who has encountered me and Tika walking around the neighborhood where there's another dog in sight most likely thinks I'm an idiot dog owner and Tika is a nasty aggressive dangerous dog who shouldn't be allowed in public. No one has ever said that, but that might be what *I* was thinking if I saw something like that.

At least it was 10 in the morning, not 8 or so, when we sometimes walk.

Moral of the story--always always carry goodies and a clicker when you're walking an insane dog.

No Madera USDAA

So here I am, at home, and there's a USDAA trial in Madera. It has been a long time since I've missed a Madera USDAA trial. My limited budget, limited vacation time contributed heavily to my missing it, but the final straw was that I was out of town the last 2 weekends and I'll be doing agility next weekend, and four committed weekends in a row is just too much for me--I keep saying that I'm trying to cut back and keep some semblance of a Real Life.

But I miss it. And all my friends are there. (OK, not entirely true; I've received email and a phone call from 2 friends who have often also gone to Madera who expected that I'd be there this weekend and didn't expect a response from me.)


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Looking for a Housemate

Well, the lady with 2 dogs isn't going to move in after all. I wish she hadn't spent 3 weeks implying that she was going to (including 10 days out of town) and then changing her mind. Back to square one.

Anyone want to share a big house--rent 2 bedrooms & have access to the yard, probably with their dog? (I'm not sure that non-dog people will be interested.) View Craigslist ad.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

True Doggie Devotion

OK, I bought a house based on whether I could do agility with my dogs in the yard; I bought a minivan for my dogs even though I'm not a minivan fan; I spend my weekends doing weird dog crud.

But. I do not have a credit card with my dog on it, like my (soon-to-be-ex) housemate just got! Is that cool, or what?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Got a Pesky Colors Leg!

Tika had a very fine weekend. We had 10 runs for the weekend, and Tika Qed in 8 of them, including finally getting one of those elusive Level 3 Colors legs.

We had trouble taking 1st in the various classes, though, but not for lack of trying--we just happened to have two of the best dogs at the trial competing against us in many of our classes. Sigh. For example, in Saturday's Full House, Tika earned 49 points--losing 2 points in what I believe was a timing error but I can't prove it--leaving us with 47 points. That made us the 3rd-highest scorer of all 38 dogs at levels 4, 5, and C (championship) who ran the same course. Within each of those 3 levels, dogs were divided into roughly 5 height levels. So there were actually somewhere between 10 & 15 different groups of dogs for placements. But guess where the other 2 higher-scoring dogs were grouped--yes, indeed, Tika's height and Tika's level.

(The 49 pts would have put us in 2nd place. The 1st place dog had 55 points, so I had to ask what course she had chosen for her dog. Turns out that they made more efficient use of their yardage than we did, so they got more lower-point obstacles, more than bypassing our score where we covered more ground to get fewer high-point obstacles. Interesting course.)

Still, she took 1st 6 times out of 10. (This is NOT USDAA. Had a discussion this weekend with someone about how USDAA is probably the most competitive and challenging venue of all of them, with AKC probably 2nd. Most "competitive" people (including myself in that lot) don't do NADAC any more. Most also don't do CPE. But, since I don't do AKC--here I am.

Of Tika's two non-Qs, one was a Jumpers course for which Tika's handler made a bad mistake, resulting in an offcourse, and the other was a Jumpers course in which Tika did not wait for the release at the start line, and her handler (although not in position) foolishly let her go, resulting in an almost instantaneous offcourse.

So we've kept up our pretty much perfect record for Jumpers of: perfectly run course: bars down; offcourse: no bars down.

The particularly exciting news is that Tika did not drop a single bar all day Saturday. Wahoo! I don't know whether that's ever happened; I'd have to search the last 2 years in detail. She did drop 2 bars on Sunday, both of them the first bar on the course, both after she lay down at the start line and was (I think) a little too close to the first bar for a lying takeoff. But she lay down for other rounds, too, and didn't knock bars.

Jake ran, too. He had seemed confused and disgruntled at the last 3 trials where he didn't get to run at all, so I entered him in level C in Jumpers both days. He did beautifully. We had no bobbles, and only a couple of places where he slowed slightly when he wasn't entirely sure where to go next. I hustled to get in front of him on turns. Took 1st both times, too. What a dog! Why did I want to retire him?

He jumps 12" as a Veteran in CPE. People have suggested that I move him down to "Specialist" (the equivalent of Level 3), where he could jump 8", but that's just laughable at the moment for a dog who jumped 24" and 22" in USDAA for most of his career.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Off to Turlock We Go

Aaaaaand it's another CPE agility weekend. I'd rather be doing USDAA, but somehow I decided to do this weekend at CPE instead of next weekend's USDAA in Madera. In retrospect, I'm not quite sure why.

Will Tika ever earn a Level 3 Colors leg? She needs 2 to move to Level 4. She's already in Level 5 in 3 or 4 classes and Level 4 in the other 2 or 3. But can we get that Colors leg? Noooo--

Colors is a short course. Judge lays out 3 possible intertwining routes on the field, each of about 8 obstacles. Our problem is not doing the route--it's keeping the bars up. In CPE, you're allowed to earn a Qualifying score in most classes even if you knock a bar, but I guess they figure that with only 8 obstacles, you'd better be able to keep the bars up, because no dropped bars are allowed. So we've done lots of very nice on-course Colors runs with just a single bar dropped.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Spay or Neuter Your Dog!

I'm sure that people aren't looking for a lecture when they call to ask about my rental. I try not to lecture, but it's soooo tempting.

Me: So, I assume that your dog is spayed (neutered)?
Phoner: Er, no.
Me: And why is that?
Phoner (answer 1):I will, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. [Ed note: Dog is 2 years old.]
Me (in my inner voice): You idiot, what are you going to do when your dog gets pregnant by some random tramp who climbs over the fence when the dog is in heat? Do you know how many unwanted mixed-breed puppies are euthanized every year just here in Santa Clara County? What are you thinking? Do you have a brain? If your dog is a male, what kind of irresponsible owner are you? Do you know how hard a male dog will work to get to a female in heat? Do you want to be responsible for random quantities of unwanted mixed-breed puppies that you never even see or *have* to take responsibility for? What are you thinking?
Me (in my outer voice): I'm sorry, I'll take only spayed or neutered dogs. I don't need the whole hubbub around females in heat or males chasing females in heat or marking territory or fighting.

Phoner (answer 2): I'm planning on breeding him/her eventually.
Me: Oh, so your dog is a champion of some sort?
Phoner: Answer A: No, he's just a really cool dog. Answer B: No, but he's from champion lines.
Me (still in my outer voice, politely): Oh, so you're showing your dog or competing in some format to earn a championship, or he's a proven working dog?
Phoner: No.
Me (still in my outer voice, trying to be helpful): Oh, so you have some kind of agreement with the breeder?
Phoner:No, it's just my personal plan to breed him/her.
Me (in my inner voice): You raving lunatic, don't you think that *every* dog is a cool dog? I've had 5 dogs, all but one rescues, and they were *all* cool dogs, and should I have just kept cranking out random puppies because they were cool? And, in fact, my first dog was of championship lines on BOTH sides of her family: German Shepherd and Golden Retriever. Guess I should've bred *her* repeatedly, too? Oh, yours is a *pedigreed purebred*, huh? OK, go look at the English Bulldog/Golden Retriever/Rottweiler/Jack Russell rescue pages on the web and go talk to the shelter people about how many *cool purebred* dogs are unwanted out there. Sure, add a few more so other ignorant people like yourself can breed more unwanted dogs of purebred lines. And of COURSE I'm SURE that you're planning on carefully interviewing each prospective owner, visiting their home, writing up a contract that the dog must revert to you if they ever decide they don't want it, and following up with the owner over time to see how the dog is doing, like any RESPONSIBLE BREEDER would do?
Me (in my outer voice): I'm sorry, I'll take only spayed or neutered dogs. I don't need the whole hubbub around females in heat or males chasing females in heat or marking territory or fighting.

It's not like I've always understood all this myself, but I always had my dogs spayed/neutered--only Sheba managed to become pregnant. We had an appointment for her to be spayed and she managed to escape the first week we had her and when we finally got her back she was pregnant, and we just gave the puppies away to random people. Nowadays, the pound takes care of the neutering before the dog ever leaves the premesis, which is wise.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

*How* many dogs?

The most promising response to my ads for a new housemate came from a 3-year member of our agility club--whom no one had ever met. She started agility classes but then didn't have time for it, so never started competing, but maintained her membership, thinking she'd get back to it eventually, I suppose.

She has--well--*two* medium-large dogs, a young female Aussie (smaller than Tika but with a similar skinny build, not the stocky show-Aussie build) and an older "Labrador-Springer" mix, but he looks like a Flatcoated Retriever to me.

That would be four dogs, for those who weren't sure about the two plus two thing. Not counting the hypothetical dog that I might want to get later this year. It could be interesting.

The young Aussie is a bit reactive to strange things--of which there seem to be many in her world--and isn't too keen on having anything to do with other dogs, but once she set the boundary very clearly with Tika, Tika wanted to have nothing to do with her, which is wise (as opposed to deciding to fight).

When Casey first moved in, Jake pretty much hid up in my bedroom for the first couple of weeks, but he eventually got over it. Tika and Casey, however, got along fine from day one.

These other two dogs apparently are great friends--male and female--and I don't really know exactly how the whole thing would work. But the woman is out of town this week and I'm waiting to hear back from her whether she wants to proceed. And meanwhile *I'll* be out of town (without the dogs! Yes!) for the weekend, so I probably won't know until next week.

I'm not sure that I'm enthused about this particular mix of four dogs, but they did spend a few minutes at the park in each others' vicinity and then in the back yard for a while (them not interested in my dogs particularly; Tika mostly hiding in the house and Jake hugging my legs). But the lady seems nice and the dogs seem basically good, so-- we'll see--

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Boring. And weave entries.

In some ways it's good that I've not got much to add.

Mostly I've been working a lot, which tires me out and bores the dogs--a bad combination. And it's been raining quite a bit off and on the last month or 2 (surprise--it's winter!), which makes me not want to play in the yard, which bores the dogs--a bad combination. So instead I eat a lot of Girl Scout cookies and Valentine's candy and other healthy things.

In class about 3 weeks ago we got the lecture on consistently training weave pole entries. "Consistently training" meaning clearly identifying and tracking where in a 360-degree arc from the weave pole entry do you send the dog, and whether over a jump or not, and whether the dog is on your right or left; noting where you are for each side of the weave entrances from which side of your body, etc., and start each training session where you last left off being only partially successful, so that you're not always going back to the beginning and spending (wasting) time redoing things that you already do well, instead working on the entries that need improvement.

This has proven challenging. Not getting weave entries--Tika's are already pretty good and get better and better the more I work on them, which is something that I can do easily on my yard--but identifying where exactly they break down. For example, let's say I have a jump about 9 feet and 45 degrees away from the weave entry. I note my starting position. I note Tika's starting position. I direct her over the jump and into the weaves and she's fine. Using the same setup, I move her slightly to one side from where she had been. She doesn't make the entry. Or I move her one foot back and she doesn't make it. But move her 2 feet back and she does make it.

So I know that in that general vicinity we sometimes have trouble making the entry. But I can't say that, with the jump 9' away at a 45-degree angle and me on the left, she makes/doesn't make the entry. I also have to factor in how far she is from the jump and where she is in relation to either side of the jump. This is too many factors for me to track.

So I'm falling back on "practice weave entries that I know are difficult for her".