a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Favorite Dog Lyrics

SUMMARY: Songs I like to sing to my dogs.

Through the years, I've found myself singing to my dogs, and although they seem unimpressed, I'm surprised at how many top-ten hits are actually dog related. Some snippits:
  • "Smellin' Something Good" by Shake-a Khan
    (smell it, smell it, smell it)...smell it like ya love it-- - Original lyrics
  • "Dogs Just Want To Play Tug" by Cyndi Leaper
    Even better than eating a bug, ohh, dogs just wanna play tu-ug, yes, dogs just want to play tug - Original lyrics
  • "Dirty Dogs" by AKC/DC
    Dirty dogs and I've done their feet-- (For when wiping off muddy-footed canines) - Original lyrics
Surely you know some others?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Walking the Dog

SUMMARY: Training Tika not to pull on the leash.

Just had a brief email discussion about training dogs not to pull on the leash, especially herding breeds when approaching something exciting like sheep.

Strategy that didn't work

[The other blog entry] reminded me of a John Rogerson strategy for fixing dogs who pull on leashes: as soon as they start to forge forward past you, grab the collar and PULL them forward, since most dogs' instincts are to resist whatever direction they're being pulled in.

I tried this with Tika for a little bit, but my miserable back wouldn't stand for it, so I quit. I don't remember why we were supposed to grab the collar and not just use the leash--or maybe we were just supposed to grab the leash at the collar (this was maybe 3 or 4 years ago so it's a little hazy)--but in any event, I can't picture bending down very much with a low-slung dog, and Tika is almost 23 inches at the withers.

Something that seems to be working

Here's what I started doing with Tika that seems to finally have an effect. Interestingly, I got the idea from watching a documentary on TV last year sometime (which is one of the approximately two only times I watched TV last year) where a woman who does sheep & sheepdogs took a rescue and taught it to do sheep with a 12-week time challenge. With mixed success, but that's neither here nor there--what she DID have, and very quickly, was a wild & crazy young shelter-reject Beardie who would bounce & leap & be excited...off leash and walking behind her at all times. It caught my attention.

(About this documentary: "From the award-winning public television series NATURE comes inspiring true stories of miraculous second chances. Henry Winkler narrates "Underdogs," in which two unwanted and abandoned dogs, Holly, an 85-pound bloodhound with a hyperactive and destructive nature, and Herbie, a two-year-old bearded collie who attacks livestock, get a last chance for a new beginning." Also: "For thousands of years, dogs have been more important as working partners to humans than as pets – for hunting, guarding, herding or retrieving. It’s these finely tuned instincts that often turn dogs into problem pets. Holly the bloodhound will destroy an armchair to follow a scent, and bearded collie Herbie petrifies sheep when he relentlessly chases them. To stop them joining the 100,000 dogs in the UK which end up in rescue centres each year, police dog trainer Larry Allen and sheepdog trainer Barbara Sykes have 12 weeks to turn the unruly pair into proper working animals. ")

Anyway, the trainer started with him on leash at the beginning, and as soon as the dog started to race ahead of her, she stepped on the leash to force him to lie down (which he did--eventually); nothing else. Then she'd praise him as long as he was lying down, and if he stayed lying down when she took her foot off the leash, then release him and try moving forward again. All I saw was that one shot, and she wasn't even talking about what she was doing, just that it wasn't acceptable for her dogs to take the lead.

I resolved to try it with Tika, since nothing else has really worked. I discovered that stepping on the leash of a crazed, forging dog isn't as easy as she made it look. So, despite my back, what I do as soon as her head moves ahead of the line of my body is stick my fingers into her collar under her chin and pull her head down (taking a step forward so that she's behind the line of my body) until she lies down. I praise and let go--if she moves without my permission, I do the same thing. There's no verbal, as this isn't something I want on command.

Then, when I'm ready, I step forward and then say "come with me" (I'm trying not to make it a "heel" or a "come", but "OK" is usually a complete release, and I wanted to invent something inbetween). Repeat. Repeat. Repeatrepeatrepeatrepeat. This might work much better on a dog who hadn't had years of experience forging ahead and pulling.

If I'm consistent at this, she stays behind me a much larger percentage of the time than with any other method I've used. (But it's harder to explain.) She's getting better and better over time. Would probably get better faster if I did it *all* the time in *all* situations.

Interestingly, I'm just reading a book by The Dog Whisperer guy (never seen his show), Cesar's Way, and he talks about how the leader of the pack is the one who makes and enforces the rules, and how the nonleaders never go past the leader when the pack is on the move. I knew that already, but that's one of the things that he emphasizes. Actually I'm enjoying his book quite a bit. It's just putting together a lot of pieces that I already knew and/or practiced and/or had thought about.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dog Parks and Sensitive Border Collies

SUMMARY: In which we go to the dog park, twice, and Boost is overwhelmed.

I took the dogs to the dog park this weekend. Boost has never been to a dog park. I don't remember whether Tika ever has, either, but she's less skittish than The Booster.

The park I went to has a very large, interestingly shaped space with trees and rocks and different textures and levels and things. And it has a separate big dog and little dog area. The thing that was funny was that all the little dogs' owners brought them into the big dog area. I think maybe that's where all the fun stuff happens!

When we got there first thing in the morning, there were 4 labs (one a puppy), a couple of medium-sized mixed breeds, and a black brindle frenchie! Boost was very intimidated by all the other dogs, but she has a good friend, Elliot the black brindle Frenchie, who's the same age she is, and they've been playing together since they were a few months old. So guess who she picked out of the crowd and kept trying to get to play with her! Yup, the Elliot look-alike! He didn't mind her, but also didn't seem particularly interested, either. She did get him to follow her around a little bit, but then he just plonked right down on the ground, panting, and wouldn't move. Poor Booster.

After a while, and after some of the other dogs left, she played a little bit with the 4-month-old Lab puppy, and then when she tired THAT one out, she got one of the mixes to chase her like crazy twice around the park, which tired THAT one out, then we went for a 2-mile walk on one of those paved urban bicycle/jogging/walking paths that threads along the stream bed. It's a pretty popular one, and it was a nice day--overcast and cool, perfect for brisk activity. By the end of our 2 miles (1 out, 1 back), Boost was getting stressy about all the people jogging or cycling past, which I was thinking meant that she was finally a bit tired.

We went back to the dog park to get a drink; lots more dogs there this time, at least a dozen, and she was a little freaked. Ran to the nearest bench with a person on it, jumped up on the bench, and sat down and snuggled up against the person and then watched the dogs mill around her with some hesitant curiosity. But when I insisted that she get off the bench, she kept tucking tail and running and hiding under or behind one of the benches.

So we walked down around the corner to the far end, where there were just a couple of Jack Russell Terriers playing with their owners who were sitting on a bench. We hung out there a little bit and finally when one of the JRTs was alone, Boost got up the courage to approach, then they both did the play bow thing and started playing briefly. But that got the other dogs' attention, and the other JRT and a medium-small mixed breed came running over, and that did in her brain completely. Not only did she dive under the bench, but she showed her teeth and started snapping every time one of the dogs put its nose down near her.

I shouldn't have gone back when she was already tired and stressed about the walk, I guess. But I also think I should be doing more of that, gradually over time, if I could figure out a time of day when there wouldn't be many dogs there. I just hate driving 20 minutes each way for a 10-minute dog park session, you know?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wednesday Night 8:15 Class Photo Album

SUMMARY: Compare and contrast to Thursday morning class.

Wednesday Night 8:15 Class is certainly unique. Somehow we've fallen into our own Alphabet Training (see Nancy's article series in Clean Run), and it involves food. I understand that now all the other classes all week know what letter we're on and speculate on what might be served. Two weeks ago, it was "F", and among other things, Bobbie and Ken brought a portable stovetop and whipped up Fajitas for us.

Last night was "H". The main theme was Hawaiian. We had Hawaiian music, leis for all of us and the dogs, Mai Tais (I don't partake but others were quite happy to), and a variety of other themed foods. We didn't get quite as much running in last night as we usually do, between the food and me realizing that I had my camera with me--

Among the valuable lessons we learned: The state fish of Hawaii is the humuhumunukunukuapua'a, and the Hawaiian alphabet has only 14 characters.

I dunno, it's not the most conventional class format, but all I can say is that our placement rate has zoomed since we started all this.
Hail, Hail, the gang's [not] all here. Uncommon to find everyone in class at once. This week, Ashley was missing. Last week, I was gone. The week before, Jenn and Cathy were gone. Me in front, and (left to right) Jennifer, Jim, Tracey, Ken, Bobbie, Cathy, and the City of San Jose, "Gateway to Silicon Valley," glistening behind.
Honey-baked Ham, cookies with macadamia nuts, mangos, fresh pineapple... and more...
Kye the Aussie, hoping for ham.
Bobbie and Jenny the Golden prepare for a run.
Tika, hoping for ham.
Jennifer enjoying the ambiance.
Jennifer, Jim, and Tracey all enjoying the ambiance.
Flash the Sheltie always has something to tell me.
Kahuna Ken and a beautiful island wahine, Bobbie, enjoy the ambiance.
Jenny and Ken.
Jim and his Mai Tai dispensing dog-walk performance wisdom. In an unrelated incident earlier in the evening, Jim pointed out that a difficult threadle in earlier classes was easily performed even by fast dogs and large dogs with long strides, but missed by a small dog and a slow dog. The lesson we condensed from this (you might want to write this down, as it fits many real-life, nonagility situations): "It's not the size or the speed, it's the handling."
Cathy and Trooper. Trooper is famous because of Cathy's tendency to forget using his name during class runs, resulting in off-courses. So, whenever they missed a turn, we would all yell from the sideline, "TroooooPER!" And then, whenever ANYONE missed a turn, we would all yell from the sideline, "TroooooPER!" And now in some other classes during the week, as I understand it, whenever any random person misses a turn, people are starting to yell, "TrooooooPER!"
Apache the Terv, AKA Bubba, hoping for ham.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wishing for More Space

SUMMARY: Back yard dreamin'.

Isn't mapquest fun, now that you can see actual photos of the world? You can use it for scouting out potential agility sites (yeah--big field, but no parking lots anywhere near!). Or for capturing maps of your neighborhood:

  • My yard is outlined in red. Barely enough space for 3 jumps in a row if I keep them to 15 feet apart, when I'd really like 20 feet for more realistic maneuvers.
  • The yard I'd really like is at the green arrow. It was, oh joy!, up for sale last year, and it's exactly the same houseplan as my house, and I would've loved to trade and move across the street. Except. Asking price was half again as much as I paid 2001, and it didn't have a lot of the basic upgrades that mine has, not to mention the logistics of getting my house up for sale and coordinating the two sales and the moving--even if it was just across the street-- sigh--
  • Lookit all the swimming pools! I had no idea!
  • At the top, you can see some of the new 80-house development that went in about 3 years ago. Try doing agility in those yards, let alone adding a swimming pool! This (plus high-rise units) is the wave of the future in San Jose--efficient use of space for All Those People Needing Housing.
  • The big empty area to the right will someday be a 290-acre park; huge, for an area of dense suburbia. Probably won't be doing any agility in there, either. But it'll be nice not to have dense housing (see above) directly behind me.
  • The big red star floating above the intersection is a real public nuisance. In foggy weather, it drips red droplets onto cars driving by underneath. On sunny days, it casts big star-shaped shadows into the nearby yards. Birds are constantly running into it and falling to the ground, stunned, but the crows like to hang out on it and drop walnuts onto the pavement below to break them open.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Booster

SUMMARY: Weaves, Jumping, and Weight.

I've been concentrating--CONCENTRATING, I tell you!--on weave entries and staying in the weaves. She's been doing great for the last week and a half at home. That one session in class on the 10th (where the instructor made the whole set of weaves vanish except for 3 poles and then she finally figured out that they had vanished and then on the next try made the entry) seems to have taken her back to Weaving Brain Land, and she's doing some fabulous work. Then--we had NO weaving opportunities in class this week!

However--we proved in class that we can't do rear crosses worth beans, we can't do serpentines worth beans, we can't do pinwheels worth beans--although I blame the last on the fact that the 1-2 of the pinwheel put her facing right into the weaves, and since we've been practicing those so much...

So I'm supposed to be setting up jumping sequences here at home. But that pretty much means moving everything out of the way, and that's a real chore, so I haven't. But tomorrow, I promise.

Meanwhile, The Booster got her annual checkup this week. The vet, all of his own accord, suggested that she could take 2-4 pounds off. The vet! You KNOW she's too heavy when the vet suggests it. (Although he did comment that her rear legs are packed with awesome muscles (or words to that effect).) I think there are enough of us doing agility now to have trained him into what we think an agility dog in peak form needs to feel like. In the old days, I think she'd have been so slim compared so most of the pet dogs he usually sees that he might never have said a thing.

Remember I had asked a couple of people to check her a couple of months ago because I felt that she had an extra layer of flesh where there shouldn't be any, and they agreed? I've cut her meal portions back a couple of times--more each time--since then. It doesn't seem to be making any difference. Dang. With Tika, if I cut back a quarter cup, I see the difference very quickly. I'm pondering what else to do...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tagging in the Blogosphere, Wikipedia, and Being There (Online)

SUMMARY: Nothing about dogs at all. A scholarly post with many related scholarly links and scholarly footnotes, too.

Until last week, I had never encountered the term "tagging" in the blogosphere. (Or, if I had, I ignored it.) Not that I spend much time Out There, really; just follow a very few agility blogs and a very few friends' blogs. So I'm not up on all the latest fads in larger parts of the blogiverse such as MySpace--which, if Blogger (my blog service) were the size of a pea, MySpace would be roughly the size of a rutabaga if the rutabaga were the size of, say, the erstwhile USSR. (See a map showing comparative sizes; generated from satellite photos, as I understand it.)

So, in the last week, a sometimes-agility blog that I've been watching said that she had been tagged to list the "top seven songs that stick in my head and won't leave." Huh, thought I, "tagged," huh, don't know what that's all about but I think I'm glad I don't have any of those crazed kinds of internet friends who actually interact with one another(**) (because believe me I already have more things to blog about(see following illustration) than anyone could possibly care about even if I paid them (1) ).

(Comic from xkcd.com.)

Then I got a comment from a semicommercial agility site--someone who's partway between being a legitimate blogger (meaning someone who, like me, blathers on about stuff that only a limited portion of the population(2) could care about) and a commercial site (meaning someone who has found a clever way to make money out of their blogaholism which I greatly resent (2a))--saying that he had tagged me. So I went there to find out what that meant. It meant that he has listed Taj MuttHall in a list of links of agility bloggers. Huh, thought I, don't know what that's all about, but, um, OK, I guess...(3)

Now--fool that I am, I created an account for myself on MySpace just so that I could --ah--interact with my sister-out-law(4) (she says that harassing users is strictly against MySpace rules, so I guess that's right out and I must simply "interact"). Well, now she has "tagged" me to "post 5 weird things about myself" and then, apparently, "tag" 5 more people to do the same.(5)

A noted scholarly expert on fudgsicles.(5a)
Anyway, Huh, thought I, what the fudgesicle? Could this be a legitimate, hip, with-it, cool, rad, happenin' blogification thing that I really need to immerse myself into and torture my nearest and dearest with? So I headed off to wikipedia to research it.

Sadly, poor, outdated Wikipedia had NOTHING about blog tagging at all! I had to actually google stuff to find ANYTHING on the subject. It turns out that there are two or maybe three kinds of "tagging":
  • Categorizing your web pages with labels--like this blog (and others under Blogger) have been doing for a few months now. Although there is in fact a difference between categorizing and tagging, as you can read here.
  • Interlinking related web sites by posting links on your site to other related sites. Like I have done by posting links to other agility-related blogs. You can read more about these first couple sort of relate kinds of tagging, tag clouds, instant hierarchies, and so on, here.
  • This third, dangerous, subversive, time-consuming(6) kind of tagging, about which I can find no definitive source. However, depending on which of thousands of blogs I look at, it means (a) list 7 little-known things about yourself and tag 7 more suckers--er, friends, (b) list 6 weird things about yourself and tag 6 more suckers, (c) list 5 favorite books and tag 5 more friends, (d) list 8 ways to [censored censored censored] and tag 8 of your [censored] to do the same (huh--with a rutabaga?) ... blah blah. And everyone just seems to know that this is what it means, at least in their own blogspace.

Where did it start? Why? By whom? And how do I kill them in a pleasingly agonizing way? Perhaps I'll have to look more into this fire-maggots-down-the-pantaloons thing.

My scholarly source for everything I know about fire maggots, Captain Jack T. Ripper (circa 1986; time has mellowed him but not the parrot, whom you really don't want to meet alone in a dark alley, especially if you're carrying crackers (7)).

Coming soon, my next post: Ha! You've been tagged! 57 endearments you've actually used in public for your dog, and tag 57 of your closest friends to do the same!(8)

(**) Because, you know, the internet is all about sharing your innermost secrets in total isolation from the rest of the world, not about developing any actual, say, human interrelationships. You could all be bots, for all I know, automatically generating emails or comments on my blogs based on empirical recognition of some agility or web meme.

(1) I mean, more than I'm currently paying.

(2) Nobody.

(2a) ...because I haven't come up with a clever way that I could be happy with to make money from MY blog.

(3) OK, I'll give you that link, too, because there's also useful and noncommercial info, but you've been forewarned(3a) that this site runs some ads and some links to products to purchase.

(3a) As opposed to aftwarned, I suppose.

(4) You think I'm making this up?

(5) I'll give you her link but Fair Warning--(a)most of her posts are private, including the tagging post, and (b) there are so many ads and videos & music & things on MySpace and/or her site there that it often freezes my browser.

(5a) My dad. Heh heh heh. (Circa 1997.)

(6) Time-consuming! Yes! Look how long it has taken me to research the topic, read all the pages and blogs that came up--for research purposes, of course--find all the appropriate places for this post to link to in all the correct humorous (of course I meant scholarly) spots, write this post, repeatedly restart my browser after myspace froze it, assemble a dish of peppermintstick ice cream with chocolate sprinkles to assuage my scholarly frustration, and so on.

(7) OK, I have descended pretty much totally into random chaotic neuron firings.

(8) Because there ARE no weird things about me, let alone SIX of them. My whole life has been completely normal.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure

SUMMARY: Tika's photo reveals her distant ancestry.

Photo of Tika resembling a wolf
One of the first things that many people say to me about Tika is, "She looks like a wolf!"(1) Why would that be?

(1) I think I get this with her more than we ever got with our husky (for whom the best line was from a young boy: "Are you training her to be a wolf?")

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tika is Good

SUMMARY: Back from the vet and fine. Strong as an ox.

Vet said that, with just the sedative earlier, they had 3 people trying for 45 minutes to get her to hold still enough to flush the glands. With anaesthesia, it took about 10 minutes to do what they needed to do. He said, "You should buy her a harness and tow rope; she's so strong (especially with the rush of adrenaline) that if your car broke down, she could tow it for you!" That's a 43-lb agility dog for ya.

Now another 10 days of antibiotics and a recheck in 2 weeks. Jeez, that was an expensive vet visit.

Tika's Backside and Home Alone

SUMMARY: Tika's anal gland still infected.

After a week of oral antibiotics and antibiotic ointment, 3 days later Tika again began licking the affected area overmuch. Yum! Isn't that your first reaction when--um--certain parts itch? Think I'll lick that! Back to the vet. One gland is still infected.

She's such a drama queen at the vet's. Best treatment is to flush the gland, but last time we were in they tried that without a sedative and really couldn't get much done. So now she's at the vet for a half-day visit for a sedative and a second attempt at squeezing a catheter into a pinhole opening and flushing it thoroughly. (I wonder why she hates being at the vet so much?) Vet is doubtful that DQ will hold still enough for it to be done successfully even with a sedative.

Meanwhile, I'm going out for a few hours today, which means that Boost will be home alone I believe for the first time ever in her entire 27 months of life. Fortunately she's a pretty mellow dog, so should be fine. I'll really have no way of knowing what she's doing while I'm gone--barking like the neighbor's dog does all day? (And sometimes all night.) Or just snoozing off a good weave-pole and tunnel session and breakfast? I'm guessing the latter.

Update: 10:15 AM: Vet just called. "She's so strong and she wiggles so much" that they weren't able to do much in the way of flushing. And it was looking worse than he had hoped and there's a bit of a blood clot in there, too. They want to do a very quick, very light general anaesthesia to put her out for a few minutes to do the job right, otherwise he feels that we could be fighting this for months. Argh.

I gave them the go-ahead, although general anaesthesia always scares me. I'm supposed to be sneaking out to a movie with a friend to relax, and now i'm going to be worrying about this in the background the whole time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another Happy Rehomed Dog

SUMMARY: Celebrity dog watch.

Neil Gaiman (the writer--like there's any other Neil Gaiman) got a dog. (Thanks, Keith, for the info.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Paid Handlers

SUMMARY: Will agility become a sport of paid handlers?

I don't see a trend yet. But recently I spoke to a handler from Los Angeles who is running dogs for 3 different owners. I asked why, and she said, "Because they pay me." I asked why (OK, I'm nosy, but she brought it up), and she said, "Because I can Q when I run their dogs, and they can't." Furthermore, none of the owners were with her and the dogs. That rubbed me wrong. Isn't agility about spending quality time with your dog? (Says the sometimes overly competitive blogger.)

So the dogs were traveling with the handler out of town, as is common with show dogs on a circuit with a paid handler trying to earn majors and campaign for Crufts or Westminster or similar. But this was a CPE trial, of all places, where basic qualifying is pretty darned easy, and even qualifying for nationals is extremely simple, not like USDAA where titles and nationals qualifying scores are tough to come by. And CPE is in particular about having a good time with your dog.

Maybe she was giving a short answer to a none-of-my-business question. I got to thinking about people I know who run other people's dogs.

Other people have run my dogs when:
  • My foot was broken and when my back was out, and I wanted my dogs to remain accustomed to competing. We didn't get a lot of Qs during that time. But I was right there ringside. And it was friends running the dogs because they were good friends. It never occurred to me to pay them. Maybe that was naive of me.
  • On a dare with a classmate whose dog ran similarly to mine, we switched dogs for one run for fun.
  • I had my two dogs as partners in Pairs Relay, and of course you can't run two dogs, so someone else had to run one.

I know of other people who I think get some payment for running other people's dogs. In both cases, the owner has a long-term injury or handicap that prevents them from being able to run regularly in class or at trials. BUT--the owner also does most of the training, and attends the trials and is right there ringside while the dog is running.

And I have a friend who doesn't get paid (I don't think so, anyway) and who runs a dog whose owner is not there--but that's because she has only one dog of her own, and this is her neighbor's dog who wasn't getting enough attention from the working owner, and my friend just offered to teach the dog agility and compete with her own time and money.

In fact, I was starting to do exactly that with my previous housemate's dog before she moved out of town and I got Boost. But I'm still betting that, had I pursued that, the housemate would have been at the local trials when I competed with the dog, and she might not have wanted to be separated from her pooch long enough for me to take him to out-of-town trials.

What do other people think about these various reasons for handling other people's dogs?

Sorry About Blog Outage

SUMMARY: If you noticed that, for a couple of days, my latest post was from March 28--my service provider switched servers and restored my account from a March backup instead of from the current date. I think we're back to normal now.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thursday Morning Class Photo Album

SUMMARY: A bunch of photos to introduce Boost's Thursday morning classmates and show what the Power Paws Agility site is like.

Power Paws Agility is atop a hill a quarter of the way up towards Mount Hamilton and Lick Observatory. What you see in the background is just someone's driveway.
If you look west, you see--1000 feet below--Silicon Valley (San Jose and environs) spread out in the mist... (OK, it was foggy in the morning and it was hot and muggy the day before so maybe it was smog. But the view from here is usually spectacular, especially at night.)
Power Paws keeps sheep rather than spending all their time mowing acres and acres of hillsides. And they keep two llamas to protect the sheep from mountain lions. Sometimes the llamas come over to the fence and evaluate our agility techniques, which sends some of the dogs into quite the tizzy.
Never let it be said that we don't have shade with style.
On warm days, you can cool your dog in the tub. Wendy and Renegade demonstrate.
Tracey and her Golden, Cal, are also in our class. We have four Goldens, all related to each other, I believe, and all about 2 years old like Boost.
Sue's Golden, Chase (not shown), not only qualified in Steeplechase the other weekend but did really well in the second round, too. And they're not even out of Novice yet! He's very fast. If only he didn't like eating teeters.
Pat always wanted a dog named Bob. So what if it's a girl. Like my dad always wanted a dog named Sam. So what if she was a girl. Pat has been breeding high-drive working Goldens (including our classmates) that are fairly well-known in agility circles.
Pat and Bob demonstrate these cool transparent weave guide wires. Made by another Power Paws student, they're very easy to attach/detach. On the downside, they're very fragile. In class, our instructors make sure that each dog has what s/he needs for his/her own training situation. Like, Bob gets guides at the beginning of the weaves, the little sheltie gets stride-regulators on the Aframe, and so on.
Nancy, Mary, and Glenda evaluate the weave entries.
Nancy applauds another nice run.
Pat again, and Amy, who has a sheltie, and I didn't get any good pictures of her. We also have 2 shelties in our class. Amy always says "Oooh, I forgot!" when running the course, or "He's being naughty!" about her dog, but I think she gets more Qs than the rest of us put together. Plus she brings ice-cold watermelon slices for us every week during warm weather (blue cooler next to Pat).
Glenda has the other sheltie in our class.

Wendy enjoys one of the treats that people often bring to various classes when we share brags at the beginning of each session. Renegade hangs out.
Boost loves watching other dogs do agility.
Boost's sister, Bette, is in our class, along with Mary, a convenient human with whom to play tug and to get meals and a place to sleep from.
Here's one of Boost's half-brothers from her mother's (Tala) latest litter.
Pay the Flying Pig. If you dog soils the agility lawn, you must stuff a dollar in the slot on his back.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Boost's Mom MACH

SUMMARY: Tala earns her MACH--I think.

Tala on teeterTala on teeter
Boost on teeter

I just heard that Boost's mother, Tala (Blackwatch Hi C-Era Tala), earned her MACH this last weekend. Surprises me that she wouldn't already have it. Maybe it was a multiple MACH. (Although she has taken time out 3x in the last 5 years for puppies, and they have concentrated mostly on USDAA.)

I found online videos of Tala from 2003 (when she was only 3, with a substitute handler) here and here. You can see why I love it when people say that The Booster reminds them so much of Tala when she runs.

Congrats, mom. And owner/handler Greg Leal. (Or I might be completely out of date on this news--as usual.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bodily Function

SUMMARY: Me knee hurt. Grunt. Me hip hurt. Grunt. Me go doctor musculoskeletal.

Another agility blogger's post got me pondering the function of certain of my bodily parts.

The knee has been deteriorating again. Could it have anything to do with failing to keep up the exercises with which I had made great progress on strengthening my quads? Nah, I'm sure it's mere coincidence. Have been having trouble even getting up stairs the last couple of weeks.

My short-term solution? Ignore it, feed it drugs, keep doing agility, curse and fume and grunt every time I stand up, and hope it gets better.

OK, common sense finally prevailed and this week I've started those physical therapy exercises again, AND icing it at every opportunity. Although it hurts a bit just doing quad sets and leg lifts, Lo! already today I can feel a difference. How odd.

Two weeks ago I woke up with my opposite hip in pain. Could very well be from the recent increase in adjusting my movements to try to avoid hurting my knee. Not so much an ache as feeling that it was out of position and pinching something. Felt like it needed to be yanked and torqued. Hard to do to oneself. So I ignored it, fed it drugs, kept doing agility, cursed and fumed, and hoped it would get better. (Since this has been an unsuccessful strategy in the past, I figured it's worth another shot.) It actually did get a bit better over a week, then a week ago I could barely walk in the morning again.

So I made an emergency call to the chiropractor recommended by my housemate/renter. I haven't been to a chiro in years. Last time was one visit when my hip was so bad suddenly that I could barely walk (sound familiar?) and after one painful and uncomfortable visit, pop! it was better. I didn't like the treatment but I liked the result. And before that, a different one for a while for a wrist problem. Might have helped, might not have.

Unlike many of my athletic compatriots, I don't go in for regular appointments to get "adjusted". If I could do it once a year like I do for a regular physical checkup, maybe I would, but it always seemed to be "you need at least 6 visits to get reassembled properly." And without anything specific, I just haven't seen the point.

But in this case, I couldn't see going to my regular doc or even an orthopedist and expecting them to yank and torque anything, ever. Anyway, the guy fit me in to his schedule. In his office, I, who have been living in my body for a rather long time, fumbled around trying to explain where I thought it hurts, and meanwhile he put his thumb against a spot in my lower back and said "here?" and Yowp! it sure was. We had a long discussion, he took xrays, and he sent me home with instructions to ice it and to come back Monday after he'd had a chance to look at the x-rays.

Felt much better the next day. And all he did was take x-rays and poke my back once with his thumb. What a genius! But it's not perfect, still; I could tell when I started my quad sets and leg lifts--that hip is still not in kilter. On Monday, we went over the x-rays. My L3 and L4 vertebrae are completely out of whack--the L4 out of line front to back, the L3 side to side. And I've got quite a bit of degenerative disk disease there. (Yes, known; that's the area pinpointed on MRI for my bout with horrific sciatica.)

He wanted to know what sort of accident or trauma I'd been through maybe 10-15 years ago. Same question the docs wanted to know with the sciatica disaster, and I still got nuthin'. So he says he's going to stay away from my lower back entirely and just deal with the hip.

Chiropractic yanking and jerking--and especially in the neck--have always frightened me a bit, and especially with the latest studies shown that chiro neck-cracking can be dangerous. I was very glad to discover that he doesn't touch anything that doesn't need touching specifically, and our long discussions reassured me about his knowledge and approach.

So he did some work on my hip Monday, and it was NOT painful or scary, and it has helped a bit. Still icing. Still going back today and probably at least a couple more times until it's happy again. He thinks I need at least 6 visits to get reassembled properly. At the moment, he's covered by my Kaiser insurance, but that apparently ends in early June, so I'd better experience a rapid cure or I won't be able to afford it anyway. Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be icing it and resting it.

Icing, OK... but, man, I have *agility* to do! So it's off to class with Tika tonight, Boost tomorrow, training in the yard... I'm nothing if not foolishly in denial.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fun With Databases

SUMMARY: Tika and I are improving; the data proves it.

At each of the last five trials, Tika has come home with at least one new USDAA title. That reflects two things: one, we're right in the numbers where we just need a couple of legs here and there to fill in some of those titles; two, we're actually getting Qs more consistently. In fact, we're approaching a 50% Q rate over the last year.

Got me a-wonderin': It seemed like ages and ages between legs for Tika for the longest time. How long WAS it? So I turned to my handy-dandy database of all of my runs, ever, in agility, and figured the following about Tika's Masters level runs:
  • The first ten Qs took 62 tries over 12 months. (The length of time, of course, is somewhat reflective of how many trials are available and that we attend.)
  • The second ten Qs took 50 tries over 8 months.
  • The next ten took 31 tries over 4 months.
  • The next 10 took 21 tries over 4months.
  • The next 10 took 25 tries over 6 months. (oh--that included several runs where I couldn't run worth beans because of my knee and several more where we tried having Ashley run her and she'd have none of it. So these numbers are a little skewed.)
  • The next ten took 22 tries over 2 months.
  • This last weekend, we got another 5 out of 9 tries.

I like the way the numbers are going.

But it's going to be a while for more titles, most likely, because we're now entering the gap between 15 Masters legs per class (Bronze title in each class) and 25 Masters legs (Silver titles) per class. That's a lot of Qing for us. Although we could finish our Tournament Silver the first weekend in June if our re-reformulated team manages a DAM Team Q.

But here's what really intrigues me: My impression was that, of all those missed Qs, we've missed a million legs by single knocked bars or missing the dogwalk up contact--but no! Only 17 were single knocked bars, and 4 missed dogwalk ups! We've had combinations of those, and those with other faults, but our single-fault non-Qs aren't as many as I had thought.

However, if you toss in Grand Prixs... another 4 one-bar runs, another seven dogwalk-up-onlys. Huh--wonder what it is about the GPs and our dogwalks? Go figure.

Meanwhile, I'd love to have the consistency of Luka and Ashley, who have now won every major AKC event this year. Sucks that Norway won't let them in to be on the US World Cup Team because of her docked tail. We'll have a big celebration in class Wednesday night, though, I'm sure, for this latest win at the Tryouts. And I'll just have to keep remembering that I'm not Ashley, I'm me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Videos from the Weekend

SUMMARY: Qualifying runs from both Boost and Tika. They're not necessarily our best runs, but they're all that I remembered to have someone tape, out of 18 runs.

Tika's Sunday Jumpers

On this one, I had to run as fast as I could because of the straight tunnels and the distance covered. Watching myself, I look flat-footed the whole way. I need remedial lessons in how to run fast, obviously. In the far corner, you'll see me signaling Tika to turn away from me by raising my off arm. I don't do this. I have never been trained to do this. This is not in my repertoire. I'm not exactly sure where that comes from. The "right!" should do it. Then, as we come in for the closing, where I start yelling "left" and "go go go!" is because I was trying to get myself past the next-to-last jump to serpentine it before she arrived, and I didn't make it--that's because I waited (as usual) way too long on the preceding serp "to be sure she made it" instead of trusting her training and hauling butt a second or two earlier. That missed serp is where she turns in to me a bit and hesitates.

Boost's Sunday Standard

Demonstrating a lovely start-line stay. Video's zoomed out too much most of the time for this small screen, so you really can't see her start to rise while in a down on the table, or run past the weaves (except that she has to come back to me to make a second approach, which she makes nicely). After she leaves the teeter before I give the "break" command, I make her lie down, and then I do the next two down contacts deliberately slowly and controlled.

On this video, you'll hear a lot of voice that sounds like it could be me, but it's not. The only things you'll actually hear from me are "break" from the start line, "Boost boost" and "Come!" on a couple of hard pulls, and then a "woohoo" when she completes the weaves. All the other stuff is going on in the ring behind the videographer.

Weekend Results

SUMMARY: A smallish USDAA trial. Boost still can't do weaves. But does earn two Advanced Qs. Tika still can't get a 1st. But does get two Super-Qs.

This was definitely a down-sized USDAA trial for around here. Probably because there were no Nationals Tournament events. Tika's group, 26" Masters, had only 10 to 12 dogs competing. Boost's group, 22" Advanced, had only 7 to 11. Rings were torn down Sunday by 3:00, a nice change, although we at the score table were finishing Masters Gamblers until at least that long and then still had to tear down our own set-ups, so I didn't hit the road until after 4--but still much better than many weekends, when I'm driving home in the dark.

Tika's Weekend

Despite the small number of competitors, and despite Tika running very well Sunday and fairly well Saturday (she seemed slow all day), and Qing 5 for 9, we still couldn't pull out a 1st place. (I know, I know: don't get greedy--wasn't that long ago I was complaining about not being able to place--) She did earn two 2nds, two 3rds, and three 4ths.

Our only bad offcourse for the weekend was in Pairs, where I simply forgot the course--but I didn't feel too badly because our partner had already gone offcourse.

(Note that I distinguish bad offcourses as being those that result in an Elimination, versus, say, merely annoying things in a Gambler's opening where they might cost us a placement.)

We had nice Standard runs both days that I thought were clean, but was told after the fact that we had a bar down on Saturday and missed the dogwalk up contact on Sunday, so those were disappointments. Tika surprised me by keeping her bars up in both Jumpers runs for two Qs, and Sunday's was just about perfect except for a failed serpentine attempt near the end that caused her to turn a bit towards me for the loss of at least half a second, which dropped us to 3rd instead of 1st, the times were so tight. And Saturday's was a 4th.

It was a funny Snooker weekend for us. It took us two and a half years to earn our first three Super-Qs (top 15% of dogs in our class), and then we earned two this weekend. But I can't say they were stellar Super-Qs. Saturday's opening was a nicely done 4-red opening, although (as I mentioned earlier) she was a bit slow, and so I was really driving her through the close. I thought she was going past the first jump on #7 and called her hard, which pulled her on MY side of the jump--but when I looked at the score, she hadn't gotten credit for #6 in the closing. I had to ask around before someone could tell me that in fact I completely ignored #6 and went straight from 5 to 7. Huh. Another fine brainular failure. In looking at her time, we wouldn't have made it through both 6 and 7 anyway. But--huh--with a mere 42 total points, we still snagged one of the two Super-Qs. That's not a common occurrence by any means. And Sunday's we bobbled so many obstacles in our four-red opening (two fives and two sevens) that I was sure we weren't going to make time, but we did get all the way through--barely. But most people didn't get through, and we were beaten by one point by only one person who did a five and a six with two sevens in the opening. But still good enough to snag the 2nd Super-Q.

In a normal weekend, those failures and bobbles would have left us out in the cold. But I'll take the Super-Qs and 2nd places. (grin)

Our Gamblers on Saturday was slowish, but no problem with the gamble, so we Qed and took third. On Sunday she was fast and driven but I had a couple of bobbles in the opening so didn't quite finish the last set of poles I had planned before the whistle blew, leaving us with 3rd-highest opening points of all masters instead of 1st-highest. But the gamble was a doozy. Only 7 of 61 Masters dogs got it. It's one of those super-challenging gambles where every step presents its own challenge and where you wish that you'd get partial credit for each step, because so many dogs failed along the way that each part you got was an achievement. Tika got 3 of the 4 obstacles but I couldn't figure out how to get her over the last one.

Here's the gamble: (1) Can your dog weave forward away from you? (2) Can you push them out of the weaves ahead of you over a jump straight ahead? (3) Can you turn them right over a jump angled to the left? (4) Can you get them past the dogwalk and into the far end of the tunnel? (5) With the dog blasting almost straight at you, can you turn them directly away from you and back out 15 feet over a jump?

Boost gets excited when dogs within her sight are playing intensely or doing fast agility, and throws herself against the crate walls. Usually she knocks over the water bucket and leaves the crate upright. This time--well--she just wanted to do something different.

Boost's Weekend

Another entertaining riot of weave pole failures. In Sunday's gamble, she popped out at the end after a spectacular high-point opening. In Pairs she popped out at the end and we had to go back to the beginning and start over. I tried working them in gamblers and openings and we had to make multiple tries. She did them nicely in Standard on saturday but that's because I sent her offcourse right before them (not intentionally, really) and then was able to line her up perfectly. And in Sunday's Standard she actually did them and we managed a Q, although it wasn't a smooth run at all.

Snookers were both handling disasters. She knocked the first bar on Saturday and while I sat there with glazed eyes and brain, she took the next obstacle, so we were whistled off immediately. And on Sunday I tried a front-cross wrap (U-turn) after an opening straight line of 4 jumps, and she didn't turn at all, kept right on going over an offcourse jump. More to practice--

In Saturday's Jumpers, we knocked three (!) bars and went past a couple of jumps that I swung around and retried. In Sunday's, she kept all her bars up, came past a serpentine jump so I just backed up, holding the serpentine arm and shoulder position, so that she had to go back around the jump and finally took it--yay--and that was our only bobble, so she Qed.

Saturday's gamble was a serpentine and I was afraid she wouldn't handle it--actually she did, finally, too late, but it took about 5 tries to get her to go over the first jump. I've never seen a dog move so fast towards a jump and stop so abruptly, so many times, looking back to see whether I really meant *that* jump!

So, overall, a Standard and a Jumpers Q, which means we're only one Standard and one Pairs away from our AAD and moving up to Masters. And we are still sooooo not ready to be in Masters. Next trial--three weeks in Turlock, then not again until August, so we've got of time to work on the lots of things we have to work on.


I spent the night at a friend's house in Vallejo. A very pleasant evening and a comfortable night in a dog-friendly house and yard before we both returned to competition on Sunday morning. It was half an hour from the site, but it was a beautiful drive through pastureland and wetlands, relaxing and scenic and so different from the usual interstates that make up most of my agility commutes.

On the way home, I decided to brave the 80/880/580 interchange where a tanker truck exploded last weekend and melted part of on overpass. How bad could it be, said I to myself, the detour is all freeway and it's just a bloop east and then bloop back south again. Ho ho. It was half an hour bad, is what it was. Took 30 minutes to go less than 3 miles. Sure, lots of lanes merging down to two to get onto 580, and it went right past the missing chunk of freeway. But, surprise, it picked up to full speed the instant it passed the bad part. I think that other people--like me, with my camera held against the steering wheel so I didn't have to take my eyes off the car in front of me, felt that if they'd been sitting in stop & go (mostly stop) traffic for half an hour, they deserved a 3-second look at the mess. It wasn't much of a look, either. We could only see the missing part of the upper deck; the lower deck was out of sight and anyway is so completely repaired already that it was scheduled to be open in time for this morning's commute. If only it had been one day sooner!
Freeway mess. Although it's not really a mess. You can just see the missing segment of roadway above the cars. Doesn't look much different from an incomplete freeway interchange.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poo Dog, Poor Dog, Pooped Mom, and Weekend

SUMMARY: Boost's habit of rolling in smelly stuff; Tika's anal glands; my hip & knee; more USDAA coming right up.

Poo Dog

Boost's only major flaw is her propensity for rolling in what some, more particular, people might refer to as "poo". Tika's in most particular. The first couple of times she did it, I was properly horrified, rushed her carefully upstairs into the shower, and gave her a nice bath with warm water and gentle shampoo and all that. The next three thousand times--ferget it. It's the hose in the back yard, with the nozzle set to "shower." Even though she loves to play with the hose spray when it's play time, she's not so keen on the hose dominating the interaction for however long it takes to remove the noisome globs of offensive material.

The other evening, I spent 3 hours down at city hall to try to ensure that dogs like her can continue to be born--San Jose is considering adopting a new animal ordinance that includes limiting litters to one per female per lifetime unless you're a Commercial Kennel, in which case all kinds of inspections and regulations and licensing fees and restrictions such as "must not occur within 250 feet of another dwelling" apply. Since Boost is from her mom's second litter, she might not have been born if such an ordinance had existed. (Maybe more on that topic some other time.) However, sometimes I wonder--

When I got home--late--long council meeting--she greeted me very briefly albeit enthusiastically at the door and then vanished. I didn't think about it while I had a soft drink and talked to my housemate and scritched Tika a bunch, but then realized that Boost had not been around. I went looking to see where she was, and she was lying in the cubby under my desk. Huh, thought I, that's really weird; why is she hiding? "Booster," said I, "why are you hiding under my desk?" She put her ears back, tipped her tail briefly, and scootched back into the dark recesses among the computer cables as far as she could.

My fatigued mind began to make connections. "Oh, you didn't--" I reached under and put my hand in her collar, and felt--something--on her face that shouldn't have been there. I started to withdraw my hand and I didn't have to take it very far before the odor confirmed my dawning suspicion.

I had thought for quite a while that it was my tone of voice or body language when I saw that she had enpooed herself that would make her turn and run, but in this case I had had no clue until after she had already turned, and run, and hid. So she has clearly made the association between being covered with poo and getting hosed off. And yet--and yet--she cannot help herself! It's like the worst kinds of addictions! You rue it after you're done, but the next time the temptation occurs, whammo! there you are indulging once again.

Poor Dog

Over the last 3 or 4 weeks, Tika has been licking more and more insistently at her anal area. Not all the time, but when she begins, she doesn't want to stop. I thought it might be her anal glands, but since I've never had to deal with them before (only one of my 6 dogs ever needed help emptying them, and then the vet had to do it), I really didn't know what I was looking for. Plus she's extremely sensitive about being touched anywhere except in a petting sort of mode (which makes going to the vet a major source of traumatic stress disorder right on the spot). Plus she can lock her little remaining tailbone down over her netherlands so tightly that a hydraulic jack couldn't lift it. Plus all that thick, thick fur.

I finally decided that something had to be done since it was obviously bothering her. So I took her to the vet, along with a clicker and a huge bag of cut-up goodies. Did a lot of tricks and lying down and settling and stuff in the waiting room, and every time I'd go for another handful of goodies, she'd throw herself against the exit door, desperately trying to escape. Her respiration rate doubles or triples--and for Tika the always-over-the-top-dog anyway, that's an accomplishment. Fortuately she's very food motivated, so as long as I had a piece in my hand, she'd hang in there. But so agitated that any attempts to get her to take it gently (read: leave fingers attached to hands) were unsuccessful.

The vet has never, ever, heard her normal heartrate. They always say it's quite elevated. But they can also see that she's about to hyperventilate and then explode from the stress. She was really very good for a dog who normally shrieks when the vet tries to look in her ears. She's never shown signs of trying to nip at anyone during this kind of ritual torture, but she is by far the most-stressed vet-visting dog I've ever had.

Anyway--her anal glands are infected. So I need to try to get some ointment under the locked-down tail twice a day, and give her an antibiotic pill twice a day, for about a week, and then take her back in two weeks for another stimulating visit.

Pooped Mom

My knee has been bothering me a bit. I try to walk normally, not favoring it. But my opposite hip has been flaring up for the last week, off and on. Feels more like something's out of alignment (my thumb sometimes does that, and if I kind of twist and yank it, then instantly it's better--but I haven't found a way to twist and yank my own hip) than merely sore. Feel like I need a chiropractor, not a doctor. Last night, by bedtime, it was so bad that I had trouble falling to sleep, and then it woke me constantly, probably every time I moved in my sleep, all night. I might have gotten 3 hours of sleep.

When I finally dragged myself downstairs around 9 a.m., it hurt with every step and I really was using the handrail to drag myself to the computer to try to find more info about chiropractic care on the Kaiser Medical web site. I sat at the computer for about half an hour, and apparently it rearranged itself during that time, because I was then able to walk, and shower, and dress, and even go to Boost's class, with only minor discomfort.

I haven't been to a chirpractor in many years--hmm, last time my hip was bothering me, in fact. Went to a new one recommended by my renter. Doctor seems nice, and competent, too. Also has 2 dogs and knows what dog agility is, which in my book is always a plus. But he didn't want to do any twisting and pulling until he had done xrays, and it was the end of the day and he was already staying late to see me, so he'll have the xrays processed over the weekend and I'll see him again Monday morning.

But meanwhile that leaves me with ice and antiinflammatories to get me through the weekend. What a pathetic body!

This weekend

Which brings me to this weekend: More USDAA. And a very rare trial in which there is not a single Tournament (national qualifier) class. Just double everything except Relay.

I've managed to work on Boost's weaves only once so far this week. Who knows what the weekend will bring. The scary thought is that she *could* get 2 more standard, or 2 more Snooker, or one more gamblers, this weekend, and move up to Masters in any of those. We are SO not ready. Her AAD (intermediate title--Advanced Agility Dog) requires just 2 Standard, a jumpers, and a relay. We are so so SO not ready for masters. But if she keeps failing to do weaves, the standards aren't likely to come any time soon. On the other hand, if she has fits of perfect weavage like she did this past weekend, we could conceivable finish that title this weekend.

Nope, don't even think about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Camp Photos

SUMMARY: Tons of photos, mine and pro's.

OK, all of the photos that I took at camp are now up on my smugmug site. I did no picking through them for the highlights (except that you saw them here in my camp blog entries). If for some obscure reason you want to,
you can order prints or download electronic versions from my site (I don't get money for them; it's just your cost).

And the semiprofessional (meaning she doesn't do this full time, I don't believe) photographer who was there all 4 days has posted photos, too; her $5 professional price for prints or digitals is quite reasonable. I mention Marcy because she's in class right before Boost's class so we see each other in passing every week. That makes us nearly sisters.

Gamble Trends to Practice

SUMMARY: Two gamble maneuvers from recent competitions to practice.

Gamble maneuvers sometimes seem to run in trends. Here are a couple trends represented by three gambles seen this year here in California. None of these had very high success rates. Tika, whom I'd have thought would send well across a jump to a tunnel through a box (formed by Aframe and another obstacle), went from #1 to #4 in both those gambles. And although we can do wraps from tunnels to contacts when I can get in there with them, neither of my dogs can do them at a distance--the trick seemed to be to get them to run straight out of the tunnel and then turn them, rather than trying to turn them immediately out of the tunnel like you might close in.