a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tika's Masters Qualification Record

SUMMARY: Some statistics on Tika's qualifying and nonqualifying masters runs.

I keep all of my competition info in a database, and I can pull it out in various ways if I think it'll help me to understand where we need work. Here's a very simple list of nonqualifying (N), qualifying (Q), and Super-Q (S) runs in the various events. To read it, start at the top and go left to right.

For example, in Masters Relay (below right), our first run was a Q, followed by 4 nonqualifying runs, two qualifying runs, 5 nonqualifying runs, and so on.

This shows me that we've improved tremendously in Gamblers, have a real problem in Standard (and Snooker Super-Qs), and have made inroads into Jumpers. Then I could look at the detailed records to see what has been causing our NQs (which I've already done, over and over :-) ); might be interesting on this chart to also list "E" (elimination usually for off-course) NQs separately from mere fault NQs (e.g., knocking a bar or a refusal at an obstacle).

Gamblers Jumpers
12NQ 12NQ
9NQ 6N2Q
N3Q 4N2Q
10NQ 4N2Q
2NQ 2N3Q
Grand PrixSteeplechase
2Q 4NQ
2NQ 2N2Q
2N2Q 2N

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mixed-Success Weekend

SUMMARY: Both dogs ran well and behaved themselves, but training and handling were issues.

I had a good time this weekend, loved running both dogs, and my knee held up fairly well.


No ADCH again. One issue that keeps cropping up is to try to cover wide-open territory and then send her ahead of me to an obstacle. Jake used to do that really well. Tika bounces along in front of me telling me that she doesn't understand what I want and is really excited and wants to do something. So we might not have made time on our necessarily aggressive Snooker course anyway, but what ended up killing us was, during the opening, a really fast blast from a tunnel into the weaves for the second time, I had her so revved up that she hit her weave entrance and bounced into the 3rd pole instead of the second. That hasn't happened in a long, long while, as I've worked so hard with her on weaves. After that, there was no way we could get the Super-Q no matter what I did for the rest of the run. Crap.

She had a lovely pairs run, although got tangled in the chute for some reason--it might have been my cross-behind and strong call, which I haven't usually used in the chute. Still, she was clean although partner was offcourse.

In her standard run, she was offcourse immediately on a lead-out pivot that I didn't time anywhere near well enough. Felt like I was working in molasses and just couldn't get myself moving until she was already committed for the wrong jump.

And the gamble was tough--only 9 of 69 dogs earned Qs. A few more dogs got the gamble but over time. My practice at home this week was spot on--I decided to do "weird handler weaves" with Tika a whole bunch, where I just do weird things and move in odd directions and so on while she's in the weaves and reward her when she stays in. She was hesitant at the beginning of the week (after not practicing this for a long while) but stronger by the end of the week. I was feeling confident about this gamble, where most dogs were popping out at weave #10. But, to start with, *I* bobbled a weave entry in the opening--thought she was going to miss it and called her just as she made a difficult skid and turn and made the entry perfectly (that practice pays off!) but came out again in response to my call. Didn't trust my dog to do her job! So we ended up missing 7 points in the opening, and then the closing involved the same set of weaves and I hung back a little to avoid the problems that other people were having, and danged if she didnt make her entry and immediately turn back and come to me to see what was going on! So much for practice makes perfect...

On the up side, she had a flawless Jumpers run; don't know how I could have gotten any more speed out of her, thought we had a chance of finally winning one, but no--3rd place (which, mind you, I'm not complaining about), missing second by only .14 of a second.

And most exciting, she knocked only one bar out of all 5 runs, and that was the first bar of the gamble opening, where it really didn't matter (and that's because she lay down at the start and there wasn't enough room for her to get elevated again).

She stuck her start line, stuck her contacts (came off one early and I held her up, then she was fine again), and was just a total joy to run. If only she felt the same way about my handling!

Boost with her "New Title" ribbon for her AD.


My other goal for the weekend was to finish Boost's AD--which we did, Phew!, now we can move up to Advanced in everything. Not entirely sure we're ready for it, as our issues are, again, handling and experience (both of us with each other, Boost, with different situations). Once again our biggest issue was blowing past things, usually when I'd give her a little call to change her line a little, and she'd change her line by a mile and blast past the next obstacle while looking at me. As someone said, like driving a Ferrari, you make one twitch on the steering and she veers a mile offcourse--she is *so amazingly fast*.

She started the day with a nearly flawless pairs run. I just about floated off the course. From A to Y, almost couldn't have asked for anything better. Held her start line without even raising her butt a fraction. Made her 2 contact entries smoothly, hit her two-on-two-offs fast and held them until I released her, made a very fast weave entry and stuck them all the way through, kept all her bars up, didn't run past anything. The only thing that wasn't perfect was that she slowed a bunch on the dogwalk up--she seems to not yet be able to identify the difference between a teeter and a dogwalk, and the fact that I use different words for them hasn't sunk in.

Our partner had a fault, but we Qed on the run (although didn't place). And she Qed in her Standard for the AD, but again didn't place--blew past the weaves (my fault involving a complicated table situation and I don't think she had a chance to see them until she was past them) and a jump, both of which I had to come back for.

In jumpers, blew past 2 jumps when I made those little adjustment calls (was TRYING to keep my mouth shut) and I just didn't go back for them; just wanted her to keep running, and man did she ever!

In gamblers, had some issues with go-ons to obstacles in front of us, but were in nice position for the gamble--and she blew past a jump that required a little more direction ('out' or 'left' or something) from me, but did obstacles 1,2, and 4 with tremendous speed and elan. :-)

And in snooker, her opening of 5-7-7 was absolutely luverly including go-ons to obstacles way ahead of me, but the closing started with a serpentine-type move across a jump and she blew right past it into the next tunnel and I couldn't possibly call her off of it (flat footed yelling "boost!boost!boost!" but nooooooooo). But I already knew all too well that serpentine-type jumping is an issue with us: That was solidly drilled in on our courses at Scottsdale. Soooo need even more of that!

But altogether she was a pleasure to be on the course with. Did all of her contacts beautifully, made all of her weave entrances except that one and stayed in all of them once she was in, kept all her bars up, etc. etc. What a good girl.

How many Boost trials?

So I don't know what to say about "Boost earned her AD in only X trials." It's a weird count. At the Labor Day trial, I entered only one class a day and used it for training, not for Qing (e.g., repeating the missed weaves in the gamble opening even though the whistle had blown). So does that trial count, since I deliberately blew off Qs?

At the next trial, she Qed 6 of 9 or so--short only 1 for her AD. And that's the one where my knee blew up.

At the next trial, we were handicapped by the fact that I literally could not run with her because of my knee, AND by the fact that that's when her weave poles fell apart and she couldn't complete a weave successfully all weekend. Would it have mattered if I could have run with her? Probably not, although a couple of classes that was decidedly the relevant factor in not Qing. So maybe I should count that trial and maybe not.

The next trial was the Nationals, and we were trying to make a go of it on masters-level courses and she did very well (including weaves) except for the aforementioned serpentiney kinds of moves. So do I count the nationals as a real trial? Not on the AD campaign, because she couldn't earn Qs.

So she completed her AD in only--um, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trials depending on how you count 'em. (grin)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just Some Photos

SUMMARY: Have camera, will shoot.
Jake returns from a fetch with his Tug'N'Treat. This is two days in a row he asked to play. But this morning we went for a walk first, which was ALWAYS how we did it all the years I've had him until the knee really acted up last year, so the walks dribbled away. So now, all is right with the world and it's fitting a proper to Fetch.
Usually, however, Tika has abandoned her own toy for the joy of proving that she can always get to Jake's toy before he does (then either scooping it up and carrying it 5 to 10 feet then dropping, or simply barking twice, "Beat you!"). In this case, Jake almost always returns with an escort tender as seen here. Boost would never get away with any of this with Jake.
Boost's idea of playing fetch while Jake and/or Tika go after their toys: Doing an outrun full speed across the yard to be ahead of them as I start to throw the toy, then racing back to me to watch them fixedly in the likely chance that either of them will move rapidly again. I'm realizing that this is probably why she never wanted to go around front of the goats in her herding test--she was expecting them to take off full speed after a tennis ball.
Meanwhile--It's a pencil eraser! It's a shoe polisher! These nifty slip-on shoes that have become so popular are wonderful for me. I can pull them on and off in an instant to, say, wash off mud, they're comfortable, I can do moderate agility in the yard or yard work in them. I knew that my first pair, these ash-gray ones, had become gradually more soiled and discolored ("ash gray," she says? Hmmm--), but I didn't realize how much so until I just bought a second pair (not shown). Then I went looking for ways to clean suede shoes. Found this on ehow.com, used a large pencil eraser (the pointed kind that you push on the end) for about 15 minutes on one of these--what a difference!
Here's a funny lemon from my tree next to a regular (but smallish) one like all the others on my tree. Have been told it's a worm of some kind. There's actually a type of citrus that does this all the time but even more so, the Buddha's hand citron. What's really funny, though, is how my camera interpreted the bright yellow against my greenish teal dogwalk. Bright blue?!

Agility-Related Goals for This Week

SUMMARY: Some realism, some extreme optimism.

  • Today: Walk around the (long) block--about 2/3 miles. Exercycle briskly 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Jump-knocking drills with Tika and Boost. Finish removing plants around lilac in hopes it will be taken away later today--then another 15 feet of usable length in my yard! Woohoo! Go to class with Tika, my cold be danged.
  • Thurs: Walk around the long block. Exercycle 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Go to class with Boost. Go-on drills with Boost. Bar-knocking and snooker practice with Tika.
  • Fri: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. Pack & load car for the weekend (usually takes 1-2 hours). Snooker and bar-knocking drills with Tika. Go-on drills with Boost. Get to bed early.
  • Rise at the crack of 4am, drive 2 hours to Santa Rosa, ice my knee after every run (5 with Tika), earn Tika's ADCH with a Super-Q, don't freeze my buns off. Night at Motel 6.
  • Sun: Ice my knee after every run (5 with Boost), earn Boost's AD with a Standard leg. Don't freeze my buns off. Remember to do stuff with Jake. Drive home, stopping for nap if need be.
  • Mon: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. I dunno, that's 5 days from now!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


SUMMARY: Just thinking.

  • It's been SO dry here this winter. Not just in terms of rain (which we're quite low on), but the air. My fingers have been cracking since December. I use moisturizing hand lotion all the time. But I wash my hands so often, too, with being out with the dogs and (the last week or so) a cold and doing stuff in the yard, it's hard to keep up. Now my lips are chapping, my whole face is flaking. I think I'm starting to go hoarse--cold/cough or dry air? Ack.
  • The lilac bush is going going...hopefully soon gone! Blog commenters are good at making me put my money where my mouth is. I offered it on Freecycle.org, thinking that no one could really possibly want an 8' tall/wide shrub, but I was swamped with replies. This is apparently the ideal time to remove it. So after 5 years in this house, it's finally going*. But this means I'm having to dig up all the plants around it that I want to keep and move elsehwere. This is why I found/bought/stole/created dozens of pots and potting soil all summer, to do this, and then it just seemed like SO much work. But with shovels impending, I've made good progress today (yessss---less billable work again) and hopefully can finish tomorrow.
  • Tip for the brain dead: When you're lifting something really heavy and you're out of condition and you want to set it on a platform (read "agility table") that's next to you, turn, don't twist at the waist. Owwwies. I knew that. OK, now I have a sore back muscle on one side. Hope it doesn't stiffen up before the weekend.
  • For 2 days straight, Jake wouldn't play fetch no matter what I tried. Would finally go and get the toy and then skirt around me at the edges of the yard to dart back into the house. Yesterday he was coaxable, but I had to coax a lot. Then he fetched forever. Today I wasn't in the mood for coaxing, and he lay on the deck watching me toss a toy for the others for about 20 minutes between uprooting irises and narcissi, then he came down and asked me to to play fetch! I was thrilled. Did it a long time, too, like yesterday. Sucks getting old.
  • My mom's closest cousin--my clever, funny, "aunt"--has been writing incoherent letters from her home in New York. Senility/alzheimers/whatever is setting in big time. I think that's the curse & the fear of the woodward family women: Live a long life with your body and a shorter one with your mind. It's scary. My mom's doing good so far but we all know from her stories of her grandmother and from the way her mom deteriorated that we all could be next in line...and now the cousin... Argh even more. I'll just assume that doing agility will preserve my mind forever. Or, the way I sometimes run courses, no one will know the difference anyway. That's probably a better strategy--just be incomprehensible all the time so you and everyone else just get used to it.
*Oops, that would be an unclear pronoun reference. The lilac shrub has not, in fact, EVER been in this house to my knowledge, but *I* have been.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taj MuttHall Gets A Redesign

SUMMARY: I'm changing my template from scratch. Sorry for any disruptions.

Because Blogger has a whole major new release of its software and there are some interesting features that I'd like to make use of and don't want to try kludging together one line at a time, I'm going to use one of their default templates and tweak it from there back towards my own little customizations.

Hope this doesn't completely muck up everything. Expect things to move around and change abruptly from time to time.

9:45 PM PST: Known issues: (1) Header background (dark blue-gray) starts to repeat behind next set of boxes. Unknown why. (2) space for posting isn't very wide. Need to photoshop and upload a bunch of revised graphics to make it wider. Not sure I want to spend the time right now, but it sure is naaaaarooooooow. (3) I'd like the labels to be down in the post footer like they showed for the template, but not sure whether it's possible and not feeling like researching at the moment. (4) For prettiness, could redo the dog photos with rounded corners. Sigh. Lo-pri. (5)The lines under the headers in the sidebar are inconsistent in various ways. (6) The borders around the dog photos have vanished & won't come back. Don't know why.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another Remington Story

SUMMARY: Remington's cancer info on the web finds a long-lost twin

I just got email from another person who lost her dog to hemangiosarcoma, but the twist on this story is that the dog could almost be Rem's long-lost sister. Seeing the photos were jarring--for both of us--but bring back warm if bittersweet memories anyway.

(The quality of my photos also reminds me that I know a lot more about scanning & editing photos for the web now than I did 4 years ago. Maybe someday I'll redo them-- or not--)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stop Obsessing!

Yes, it really is 9 months of the year in which I can still qualify for the USDAA Nationals. Why am I obsessing about it?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

No CPE for Me This Year

SUMMARY: How can there be so many trials and so little time? And money?

First, you have to understand that I spearheaded getting CPE into The Bay Team. I attended the early first demo trials in CA held by other clubs, I researched it, I proposed it to the club, I volunteered to chair the first couple of trials, found a new agility site, and so on and so on. (Although we now do two CPEs a year instead of two NADACs, that was more NADAC's doing than mine. Once everyone had an alternative, almost everyone welcomed it with delight.)

No CPE this year worth mentioning

And yet--I'm thinking that I'm not going to be doing any CPE this year except for the two Bay Team ones and the VAST one in March that I've already committed to be chief ring steward for in exchange for free entries and maybe the Thanksgiving one at WAG, which is always a hoot. I'm really really really trying to cut back on the number of trials. Don't really WANT to, but money is a big factor--both in entry fees/hotel/gas and in time that I'm not putting in my max billable hours when I'm going off to agility for the weekend, and my finances show it. In 2005 and 2006 I vowed I'd cut back from 20-some-odd to only 10 a year. I managed to cut back to 20-some-odd. (Not one of my most successful goal-setting experiences.)

Many USDAA trials

I'd rather concentrate on USDAA, and I count 13 USDAA trials just within 2 hours of home this year, plus Scottsdale, and there we go, that uses up my maximum of 10 trials for the year. (Read: Ha! I'll never cut back to 10!) It's been really tough going for almost 4 months with no agility competitions because of my knee, but in some ways kind of nice. I'm horrified to see that there are 2 months during the summer when there's NOTHING (cpe or usdaa anyway) anywhere at all. (Read my personal online weekend calendar)

Free entries would of course help, but I also don't want to exhaust myself working chief ring steward every trial with 3 dogs to tend to. And I not everyone gives free entries for that, anyway. Score table's a little better but, again, not everyone gives freebies for that, and it does tie me down a lot although not so exhausting.

Other issues

So I dunno. I hate to give up the opportunities to do stuff with Boost in CPE, or to eventually in some distant fantasy future earn Tika's CATE, but I just don't see how I'm going to swing it. And the lotto machine wouldn't take my dollar yesterday, so THAT plan won't work.

AND I'm going to do power paws camp this year with Boost, I've decided--I submitted my application today--we really need the intense time together and the learning experience, and there goes another weekend and my budget all blown to pieces. :-/ Sigh. Why couldn't I take up an inexpensive hobby like... like... I dunno, graffiti? (As long as you don't get caught.)

Take the summer off?

So back onto those 8 weeks in midsummer: I can't believe that there's nothing to do between the VAST USDAA June 2/3 and the Bay Team CPE July 21/22. (Read Karey's Famous Calendar for agility of interest to Bay Areans) That's 6 weekends in a row with no agility! Oh, sure, if you do that namby-pamby AKC stuff or can deal with NADAC so-called agility--or drive to Portland!?!?! for USDAA-- why can't some of these folks move their CPEs and USDAAs from the winter & spring out to the middle of summer? That's a great time for agility in the Central Valley! (Read about the central valley summer climate)

Argh! What will I do???

Qualifying for nationals

Plus it's scary having 3 months(!) from the VAST USDAA to the next USDAA at the end of August. I'm trying to not panic about national qualification, but since I missed a couple of chances in the fall due to my knee, I see only:
VAST: Grand Prix and steeplechase
CAT: stpl only
Haute TRACS combined trial: gp, stp, team (4-day trial, argh, that's where my knee first blew out last year)
SMART: probably stp, gp
Bay Team--No tournament at all??? When was the last time that we ever had no tournament at all? Is this overreaction to last year when Saturday was All-Team, All The Time, and no one came?
VAST: team, stp, gp (all in 2 days??)

then all of a sudden we've got 3 months off before the next set of 3 USDAAs in a row (last chances before nationals) and I'll be stewing like crazy if we haven't already Qed in everything for Scottsdale. This needing *2* each of BOTH Steeplechase and Grand Prix is nuts. Thank the gods that it requires only one team so far. My Q rate is just not that high that I think I can get 2 out of 3 with both dogs in both GP and stpl! Argh argh argh!

There are a couple in there in southern california, but driving 6 hours each way is REALLY exhausting. (I know, I know, I'm spoiled rotten.)

Life as an agility addict is full of difficult choices. And, I know, I'm supposed to be doing this for FUN. Which it is. And think how much time and money it will save me if my dogs don't qualify for nationals for a change!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Diagrams for Yesterday's Post

SUMMARY: I knew it would be hard to explain without pictures.

Note that the second case is one-sided only; if she's on my right and so is supposed to bear left after the jump, she correctly does so. And it's funny because the second case is really the same thing as the first case, if one were to gradually rotate the jump (or one's position in relation to it) around the clock 90 degrees. Hmmm. Something else to try--see at what angle the left-turning thing begins to manifest.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boost's Training

SUMMARY: Just a few notes on Boost issues for the week.

From our semiprivate lesson with Nancy this weekend:
  • I can face a jump straight on towards its side (so that, drawing a line from one side of the jump to the other and extending it, that's where I'm standing), and with Boost at my side, I can back off to 20 feet or more from the jump, say "go on" with just my arm & leg moving forward on that side, and she'll go out and jump the jump. But at some point when she's on my left side, she starts crossing before the jump and taking it from the right. Odd.

  • I can face a jump right at its center (as if I'm going to run forward and go over it) and toss a toy and send Boost over the jump to get the toy, immediately sliding to the side beyond the jump (so if she's on my left side, I send her and slide right). But no matter where we start or where I toss the toy or how quickly or far I slide, she almost always turns to her left! Go figure!

  • If I try to get ahead of her in the weaves, she pops the last 2 poles. Dang, I keep thinking we've fixed this. I mean, 6 months ago I was racing ahead and doing front crosses. Back to the drawing board. Our assignment for this week is to be able to run alongside her; in our lesson, I had to stay a step behind her shoulder to keep her from popping at the end. But all her entrances were nice!

  • I need to shut up more and rely more on precise body language. Funny thing, that; seems people have been telling me that for 12 years. You'd think they'd learn!

Seeing Large Versions of my Photos

SUMMARY: For many of my blog photos, you can click on the image and a really large version then displays on your screen. Handy for seeing course layout details and such.

I might have neglected to mention this before. But, if you position your cursor over the image and it changes to a link-pointer icon (usually a finger), you can click on the photo to see an enlarged version.

Depends on how I upload them. But for most photos since December 2005, that's been true. Enjoy.

Brrr! But Keep On Practicing

SUMMARY: Near-record lows for California, but that deters our agility not a whit. So much to work on. And my back yard is less limiting than I thought.

Saturday morning, 10 a.m.
Tika's favorite pond still has a layer of ice.
My back yard as no one has ever seen it before--from my plum tree! Jake ponders the incomprehensible activities of mom.

The low parts of the Bay Area have been colder before, but not by much, and not on these dates. It's cold. There oughta be a law. We live in California for a reason, and this sort of thing just shouldn't be allowed. All our artichoke and citrus crops are freezing to death, literally. What will we do, what will we do?

But at least the sun is shining. So, in the sun, it's fine to be out in the yard running around with the dogs, as long as I'm dressed snugly and don't mind numb fingers.

I could probably get by without weekly classes, after 12 years of them, if I were any better at--on my own-- (a) figuring out what I'm doing wrong, (b) keeping up with the latest knowledge and skills about training and handling, and (c) figuring out how to create simple yet versatile course layouts in my yard to assist in developing my handling skills.

The latter is quite hard for me. Probably I just never work at it very much. Course design just doesn't excite me. Plus, as you can see from the photo, although my yard is about 95 feet long and varies from about 25 to 40 feet wide, there's a lot of unusable space (patio and trees and such) plus that danged lilac shrub and planter right in the middle of my practice area. I'd have torn it out along with all the other shrubs, trees, and planters 5 years ago, except that the landscape designer I talked to convinced me to leave it. It really is gorgeous and smells delicious. For about 6 days, once a year. Is it worth it? I've been threatening to take it out for the last 5 years, but of course I also planted a whole lot of smaller plants and bulbs around it, so I want to take those out, too--and so it stalls.

But I digress.

I got a complementary copy of Dog Sports magazine at the USDAA nationals this year, and it has a lovely little backyard grid of 7 obstacles that allow you to practice a phenomenal array of techniques and paths in a small area. They've got it laid out on a 40 by 50 grid, but with only a little tweaking here and there, I've got it fit into about 30 by 40. I've used it for three days now and I'm not yet running out of handling challenges that we need work on.

The obstacles are:
  • the tunnel (theirs looks like maybe a 15-footer spread over 10 feet; mine is just 10 feet)
  • table
  • teeter (mine, which you can barely see in front of the Aframe, is at an angle to avoid the aframe and the corner flower garden, but theirs was aimed straight at the table)
  • 6-pole weaves (mine isn't quite where theirs is in relation to the tunnel, but close)
  • Three jumps arranged in a pinwheel--one next to the teeter, one opposite it (next to dogwalk in my yard), and one perpendicular to them that you can barely see out by the winter-naked lilac shrub. (OK, you can barely see it and only if you peer really closely)

They've got a dozen or so courses of 6 to 9 obstacles laid out starting at the table, and another dozen ending at the table, so you can combine them for longer courses if you're inclined. You can get to either end of the weaves from either end of the tunnel. You can go past the weaves on either end to get to the pinwheel. On those three jumps, you can practice pinwheels, wraps, 180s (bypassing the back jump). You can practice a push out and turn over the left jump to the teeter. You can practice either end of the weaves from any of the three jumps from any direction--coming towards you or going away and wrapping. And from the teeter. And from the table. And from the table you can do jumps, either end of the weaves (far end is tricky), eitehr end of the tunnel. And so on.

I of course have an added level of complexity because I have a dogwalk set up to the right, and beyond the far jump of the pinwheel I can send the dog straight to another tunnel or turn left over an additional jump which can get me to *another* tunnel and so on and so on.

The only major flaw here is that the approach from the table to the tunnel is on the concrete patio, but I do few enough of them that they probably won't hurt--and Tika, for one, is always up on the hot tub and flying off onto the patio all on her own, so if that doesn't bother her, a few table exits won't, either.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


SUMMARY: Agility blogging, agility training, agility entries, agility knee

Saw my orthopedic surgeon Tuesday for the last time; he said there's absolutely no fluid in the knee which is awesome considering where I'd been for months before the surgery, and gave me a 100%-go-for-it rating (no restrictions of any kind), just suggested that I keep on with my physical therapy to build those danged quads.

Went to class with Tika last night for the 2nd time since arthroscopy. Knee is still a bit stiff but the big problem is that I don't feel that I'm moving anywhere near full speed. I need to practice running, but of course running is the worst thing that one can do now that one has had confirmed that one's knee has begun arthritis. Just HAVE to get back to walking, at least, and maybe jog around the back yard a couple of times a day--I'm sure that 100 feet of jogging will be helpful--

Tika, however, did very well. She was even pretty close to trial-fast. (Where I can't normally get her revved to full excited speed in class, then she takes off like a rocket at trials. It's exhilarating at trials but wish I could practice our living-on-the-edge running a bit more often.) I had trouble with a couple of trick round-about-front-crosses-after-270s kinds of things that we were doing, but Tika had no trouble with some tough weave entrances that others were challenged by. So I guess we're all getting something out of the class.

Agility blogging, for me, was solely an attempt to keep my own diary of my dogs' lives and progress. It has turned into this social thing. People actually read it. And of course I'm intrigued by the thoughts and experiences that other agility people go through, especially in different parts of the country. In class and at trials we don't usually talk about our day-to-day experiences, our fears, our hopes, our deepest challenges (well, ok, I talk about my deepest challenges all the time to anyone who'll listen, usually right after I've screwed up another run). One of the blogs I've been reading for a while (Flirt the Squirt) just pointed me to yet another agility blog, this one Colorado based, and the writing is entertaining: Days of Speed and Slowtime Mondays: How Not to Train for Triathlon and Dog Agility. Just what I need, more blogs to follow. :-)

It's been 2 months since I was last in class with Boost, and today's the day (if we don't get some surprise rain or, they're predicting for san jose, snow flurries (!!). At the moment it's sunny and 30 degrees, quite cold for 9 a.m. She's been blasting around the equipment in the back yard, where I mostly send her rather than run with her, looking ever so much like her superstar mama. But our problems on courses were showing up to be my inability to judge when she had actually committed to an obstacle and pulling her off constantly, and not signalling soon enough on tight turns. I mean, Tika's fast, but-- well, I think Boost could beat Tika, and Tika's speed is right up there. Maybe Tika and I have just gotten used to each other, and Boost's still just a baby competitor. Although she'll be 2 in just 3 weeks! Can you believe it?

So anyway I said "yes" (with some arm twisting) to a classmate's suggestion that we try for a two-dog private lesson with Nancy on Sunday. I can use all the field time I can get with The Booster for now. Especially since I've started sending in those entries with the highest hopes, and wanting to get Qs instead of feeling like I'm wasting my entry fees.

And there's where the money comes in (aside from lessons, I mean). Bay Team's first trial is one day Masters, one day Starters/Advanced, and I had two $50 gift certificates, so I had to pay only about $20 for that weekend (plus I guess I'll need to stay in a hotel; no sleeping in my minivan in this weather). But I also sent in my entry for the following weekend for VAST. Five runs per dog Saturday, four-per Sunday, for a nondiscounted total of--gulp--$248. PLUS gas to get there and hotel in cold/wet weather. This is why I have no money. This is why there aren't very many younger competitors. I'm signing up for trial committee jobs that earn me free entries left and right, but that still covers only a small portion of my entry fees.

If it weren't so much danged FUN.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Boost Photo

SUMMARY: For comparison to Bette photo

Boost watching Tika
OK, here's a photo of Boost from the same side as Bette. Compare and contrast.

Here are a few things right off the bat:
  • Boost's ears don't stand upright; Bette's do.
  • The white on Bette's muzzle surrounds her nose; Boost has grey right to her nose.
  • Bette's left foreleg is all white; Boost has grey almost to the paw.
  • Boost's eyes are different colors; Bette's are both golden brown.
  • Bette seems to have a lot more black on her left side than Boost, but it might be the lighting, too.

Sisters and Cousins and Aunts

SUMMARY: Christmas card photo from a friend

Skeeter the Australian Cattle Dog and Bette the Border Collie
(Scan from an injet print)
It's very different for me, having a dog with known parents and littermates. Fun in a big way, and stressful, too--you want to do at least as well as all of those relatives. Plus, besides littermates, there are full siblings from different litters, half siblings from different litters... and step-sisters and step-brothers, too. Like Tika and Boost are step-sisters. And the dogs' owners are now Boost's Aunts and Uncles, on the theory that we're all "mom" and "dad" to our dogs--but yet we're not related to each other.

Here's a Christmas card photo from Boost's Aunt Mary. Mary and Skeeter (the cattle dog in the photo) were one of Tika's two partners in the Team event at nationals this year with whom we made the finals. And Bette is Boost's littermate. There are a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences. I'll have to see whether I can get Boost to sit in a similar pose and take a snapshot.

Monday, January 08, 2007


SUMMARY: The challenges in trying to schedule my hours.

I'm coming to believe that my life is ruled by exceptions, not by regularity. I am arriving at this revelation based on a week's worth of attempting to schedule out exactly 9 hours of billable working time--more than I usually do--per weekday for a week, and being unable to manage it.

To start with, I assume that I'm schedulable from 7:30 in the morning, about my average time for morning rising, until 10:00 at night, when I (nominally) retire to bed. Subtract 9 hours of work, gives me 5 and a half hours per day for other activities.

It takes me about 3 hours a day to do only the basics--rise, eat breakfast while skimming the morning paper (and doing my average-8-minute crossword), shower, dress, prepare and eat lunch, prepare and eat dinner, do the exercises I'm supposed to do to strengthen my knees, go through my mail, clean the dishes...in short, just get by. I'm not even talking about bonus activities like reconciling my checkbook or doing the laundry.

Dogs consume a lot of my time on top of that. Two days a week, we have agility class (once for Boost, once for Tika), which is 1.5 to 1.75 hours of class time plus gathering oneself and one's dogs to go, driving there, and driving back. That consumes 3 hours each time, so for those two days a week, I have only 2.5 hours in which to do my 3 hours of basics.

But wait-- even on those days, there's just a minimal amount of dog attention that needs to be paid, let's say 10 minutes per dog sometime during the day (and that's not really enough to satisfy them, AND that has to include toenail trimming, hair removal, and such), that's another half an hour per day that's a high priority. More realistically, it's 10 minutes per dog twice a day, or I have bored, impatient, unexercised dogs starting to climb the walls. And even that's a minimum. And they don't count the time in which I'm rearranging or setting up agility obstacles for exercises or picking up 24 hours worth of three dogs' waste matter from around my large yard.

So I'm in arrears already from those 2 days unless I eat my reheated pizza over my keyboard while working, skip the exercises, skip the morning paper, skip the dog exercise--oh, wait, can't do that, dogs go nuts. OK, so I'm not going to manage 9 hours a day on those 2 days.

But the other 3 days should be fine, right? 9 hours of work plus 3 hours of basics plus 1 hour of dog exercise and I actually have 90 minutes of free time for those bonus activities like laundry or grocery shopping or watering the potted plants in the yard so they don't die or mowing the lawn before it overwhelms me.

So here's how my life is ruled by exceptions.

Last Tuesday, I was only a little behind schedule until 6 p.m., just needed 3 hours of billable time to make my daily goal. And a friend who's been living in Germany for the last 2 years calls. He's in town for a day or two. We'd like to get together. The only time our schedules look like they'll match is RIGHT NOW. So I bustle around, vacuuming up the dog hair and washing the dishes so at least there's a semblance of order and cleanliness. Then he's here for 2 hours and I actually kick him out so that I can get back to my billable hours. But I can't manage to stay awake and focused until midnight, so I'm out of luck.

The next day, middle of the day, I'm right on target. I have half an hour scheduled to bip to the bank to make a deposit and to the PO to drop off my bills. I'll sneak in a quick walk around the block with the dogs in a different neighborhood, by the PO. So I load the dogs in the car--and the battery won't go. I spend 10 minutes trying to trick it into starting, but no go. Unload the dogs, call AAA. Then deal with AAA when they get here, and it's not merely a drained battery, it's a battery on its last leg. Then deal with getting a new battery for the car. So I don't make my target that day.

The next day, I'm sitting quietly at my desk, enjoying a post-Christmas nougat, when a crown pops right off my tooth. I grab a paper towel to capture it, but Lo, my full stein of cherry soda is sitting on one edge of the paper towel, and now I have cherry soda all through and under my day timer, all over my desk, into and under the binder with my project info, all through the hardcopies of the document with my notes, and dripping onto the carpet. Cherry soda. There goes 15 minutes dealing with that, then call the dentist. That wasn't a lot of time that day because my dentist was out, but it rolled over into a 2-hour trip and procedure today.

This morning, I'm right on time for leaving the house to get to the dentist, except that as I start down the stairs, Jake vomits all over the wood in the hallway. This isn't something that can be left for later. I have to clean that up and hence am late for the dentist.

And as I'm putting things away, I notice the Discover magazine sitting by my door to remind me that my subscription has inexplicably stopped. This is after I already had to send them a letter a couple of months back, with a copy of my check, saying, "stop sending me past due notices because I sent you a check, here it is, please fix your records." So the past due notices stopped, and then my subscription did, too. So now I have to find the last issue that I received, get another copy of my check, find out when my subscription was supposed to be good through, and write another letter...

And then I have to come home and write about it in my blog. There's another 30 minutes down the tube. So I'll have to stay away for the rest of the week.

Oh, and I forgot to mention--my jaw is now throbbing and is approaching the moan-out-loud state of pain, and that's after a big dose of ibuprofen earlier. It's going to be hard to concentrate on anything requiring any thought at all, and if I take a codeine that'll put an end to any brainular function whatsoever. Tra la.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Jakester

SUMMARY: Just a couple of Jake photos.

Jake taking a snooze in the brand-new bed he got for Christmas, thanks to my sister Ann and her family.The last 3 (?) digits of Jake's tattoo, maybe 8 years old. Can you tell what numbers they are? I just got Tika and Boost tattooed, and I hope theirs don't look like this in 8 years.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Progress--And Back to Square One

SUMMARY: Knee is good. But about those November Nationals--

I started making a point of doing a little bit of sprinting with the dogs in the yard during training this week, and it worked fine. Took Tika to class Wednesday night for the first time since before Christmas and only the second time since November 15. She seemed happy to be there, ran off to explore only once on a missed tough weave entry that I didn't handle very well, and actually paid attention on the down contacts instead of snuffling for food.

course map showing layering challengeI went ahead and ran full out where I could, and it felt good to be doing it! The knee is still marginally puffy and I could feel that it didn't bend quite as nicely as my good knee, and I felt like a lump of lead trying to accelerate, but at least I was able to make the effort. I even tried for a really tricky send-dog-to-tunnel, layer-the-aframe, get ahead of the following jump for a front cross and actually made it--barely, as Tika's turn before I captured her on the front cross was very wide, but I got there and made the turn and was very pleased that my knee didn't complain. (It wasn't an official class exercise but I wanted to see whether I could do it. The diagram shows Tika's path in red solid, mine in blue dotted. Squares are 10 feet. Distances are my rough recollections from 2 nights ago.)

By the end of the evening it was feeling a little achey, though, so I didn't stay for the last run, but I have no complaints--except that I really felt those additional 6 pounds I've put on since my knee surgery (from being sedentary AND eating too much crap).

Boost's Thursday class was cancelled due to rain again, so I haven't had class with her for 2 months, argh! Instead I went to physical therapy, and walked nearly a mile at a brisk pace in 15 minutes on the treadmill, then did 6 minutes of exercycle but knee was starting to complain then--plus there had been all the other assorted quad exercises before that. But I did all kinds of things that I wasn't able to do without pain the last time I was there--gee, a whole month ago, December 7--and haven't been able to do even for a couple of months before the surgery. So i guess I really am making progress.

It was sore and stiff Thursday night/Friday morning, but just a very little bit--I want to emphasize that--and by afternoon it felt fine, and I worked out with the dogs a little in the yard and did fine, and walked into the Home Show and was on my feet for 3 hours working the Home Composting Education booth, so I'm getting so close to normal! Wahoo!

Dogs are dying for more exercise and entertainment, though. So, instead, tomorrow I'm taking Tika and Boost to get tattoos, which I'm sure they'll love. They'll be big hearts that say "Mom". OK, kidding, they'll be ID numbers as additional backups to their microchips and ID tags. I really want my dogs to come back to me if they get out.

Meanwhile, I'm already starting to fret about whether we'll qualify for the Nationals again! Tika has one Grand Prix qualifier and needs one more; needs 2 Steeplechases; needs Team. Boost needs everything. And we had to cancel out of two trials in October with GP and Steeplechase because of my knee, so our opportunities are fewer and fewer... argh! I hate this! We just hardly got back from Scottsdale and already I'm thinking about next November! Sighhh

Monday, January 01, 2007

Agility Goals

SUMMARY: I always have goals that I pay more or less attention to. Here are some current ones.

One of the only 2 or 3 agility blogs that I follow (Training Journal for Devon and Jaime) stated her 2007 agility goals and challenged readers to share their agility goals for 2007. I responded with a summary of the following:

I don't really set New Year's goals; my agility goals evolve and I try to keep them current based on our current issues.

My current goals with Tika are to practice jump-knocking drills 20 times 3 times a week and practice serpentines 20 times a week. And to fix the dogwalk up contact by practicing touch-n-go drills, crud, I hate these, 10 times a day, 3 days a week. I hope that's enough. I had intended to work on the dang dogwalk while we had all this down time, to really develop her skill and muscle memory for it--we've done no agility since the Nationals at the beginning of November--but look, here it is January and only 3 and a half weeks to our first USDAA trial of the year! (I'm not doing any CPE this month because I'm still not running full out as I continue knee recuperation.)

My current goal with Boost is to learn how to do serpentines and threadles. (I should have been working on these all along--they're a big gap in our skill set compared to our classmates.) I have some excellent notes from Nancy from class that I need to dig out and review, because I've been trying to reproduce from memory and am not succeeding. I don't know why I'm willing to try 20 or 30 times to figure it out on my own but not willing to walk out to the garage to get my training notebook from the car. My laziness manifests itself in odd ways. And our first class since before Thanksgiving is this Thursday! So I want to be ready to go...

And my goal for my knee recovery is to get back to doing my exercises for my quads--at least 30 minutes of exercycle a day (snoooorrrre) and at least 15 minutes of other exercises, and to keep walking more every day to build up to a mile a day again. I did actually do exercycle and leg lifts today, and I have been walking more and more all the time, have gone back to parking my car way far out in the parking lot and walking into the store and all that, and the knee is holding up better and better for just walking. And I need to start working in some jogging around the yard and a little tiny bit of working up towards sprinting, to really confirm where the knee is still painful and where it's just stiff or getting out of condition.

I think I'll be fine for the Jan 27-28 trial. At least it's low-key: Saturday is only Masters, so that's 5 runs with Tika, and Sunday is only Starters and Advanced, so that's 5 runs with Boost. But the following weekend is a full-scale USDAA trial out in Turlock--4 runs plus Steeplechase EACH on Saturday; 3 runs plus Grand Prix EACH on Sunday--and I just filled out my entry to run in everything for both Tika and Boost.

And, oh yeah, speaking of goals that I don't have specific control over: I want to finish that one Snooker Super-Q for Tika's ADCH and that one Standard leg for Boost's AD! ASAP! (But the former will be helped by bar-knocking drills, and the latter should be immensely helped by all the weave-entry practice we've been doing.)