a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday To Us

SUMMARY: Boost and Ellen's day.

Today, Boost are 3. And I are a bit older than that. Amazing that she's three already! How is that possible?!

She ran in class last night instead of Tika, and she looks lovely! Is coming in to me nicely on serpentines, although still has a tendency to knock bars there and to fly across the face of a steeply angled jump, but SO much better than just a few months ago. And her contacts are so nice! Do I want to break that 2o2o stop on the Aframe to get a running contact? TBD.

Here's the birthday card from my mother-out-law--for some odd reason people think I like dogs!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Got Call From the Vet and Tika's Fine

SUMMARY: Lots to report.

Tika's awake and sitting up. One of the roots of the suspect tooth was "badly abscessed" but they were able to clean it out and don't think that I'll need to do any nursing care on it, just antibiotics and Rimadyl for pain & swelling.

Other damaged tooth looks fine at the moment. All her teeth looked pretty clean, although they found a couple little pockets of tartar to clean out.

She has about a 4" gash on her inner thigh (! I'm so observant--but she doesn't roll over all that often except on the bed, and then I'm lying down next to her) but it's not deep and they think it'll be fine; looks like it has been there for a few days. Who knows what she hit and when?!

Her ears look good. Her nails didn't need much trimming, but they topped them off anyway.

X-rays showed many interesting things. And they're a good baseline for later. Her neck looks fine (back to the suspicion that the most-recent complaint wasn't the left side of the neck but the tooth).

Her hips "aren't perfect." The right one has some pinhead-sized bone spurs that probably aren't affecting her now. The left hip is slightly shallow and could have some problems eventually (I think I remember that the on-site vet a year or two ago thought that her soreness was her left hip--if so, maybe it just popped a little out of place--luxated--and then popped back again and was fine. Jake's knee used to do this all the time as he got older).

She has some teeny bits of arthritis in her midback that also probably aren't bothering her now, but there is one disk space that's a bit narrow and has some calcification inside the spinal area--probably not normally a problem but just twisting the wrong way or hitting something the wrong way could give her a lot of (probably) brief pain. It actually sounds very much like my own problem back.

Vet wants me to come in next week to talk about all of this in more detail.

So--she's OK! And things are hunky dory. I'll go get her in about 3 hours.

Waiting For The Call

SUMMARY: While Tika's at the vet, we have to do something to keep our mind off it.

I get scared about my dogs going under anesthesia. Especially when we don't know 100% what the problem is. I've talked myself into being reasonably calm while a teeeeny wee voice in the back of my head is screeching "panic! panic!" It didn't help that Boost was up about every hour from 9:30 until 3:30 with diarrhea. Seems OK this morning; no obvious cause.

Funny, got email this morning from a friend whose agility dog was under anesthesia YESTERDAY to have the same tooth removed for the same reason (but no swelling in their case). The tooth is a "carnasial tooth"--the largest upper premolar closest to the molars. I've heard twice today that that's the most commonly broken tooth in dogs and that it is commonly removed due to such damage.

(Image from this site.)

Still, as I emailed another friend this morning: After Remington, every little thing now makes me think "cancer!" and then I find myself thinking, "why doesn't everyone just get cancer and die and then I don't have to worry about it any more!" and then I could just kick myself and this morning I was hugging Tika and bawling about I didn't mean it don't leave me, that sort of pathetic thing. She thought I was a little over the top and didn't want to have anything to do with it.

I'm fine now.


Just waiting for the vet to call.

So Boost and I went for a long, not-too-leisurely stroll along the Guadalupe River. She whuffed briefly at another dog, but by George, I was able to stop and actually chat with another dog owner--something that I cannot do with Tika along and it's so discouraging.
My vet's pyracantha shrub. Those little tulip ears--surely it's a border collie?!
Big white bird thing (my mother would be ashamed of me) standing in the Guadalupe. Even swollen with the recent rains, it's not much of a river any more. But it is dammed in a couple of places. The one we walked past shortly thereafter (maybe 20 feet high?) has a salmon ladder.
Workers need to keep the blackberries cut back to allow flow and prevent flooding. It's a nice urban stroll along here.
So pretty, so calming. Such a nice morning (but cold--my earlobes were developing icicles as I jogged). Maybe we'll actually have class tonight.
--Or maybe not. (Back to the real world, waiting for the light rail to cross.)

And of course, where would we be without Mr. Chia Head, who has had a hair-raising experience!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today in California

SUMMARY: Tidbits and updates of a random nature.

By late yesterday afternoon, the clouds had largely cleared away in my area, treating me to a hopeful sunset marked only by one stubborn phalanx of clouds hovering in the west.

To the east, I finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Hamilton, which has been rumored to be ensnowed for the last couple of weeks, as the sky faded through pale pink, to purple, to night.

But it was short-lived; although not rainy today in my part of the bay area, I haven't seen a molecule of sunlight all day. And it has dropped once again to temperatures reminding us that it's a straight shot down the pacific coast from Alaska to California; was still hovering around 39 when I popped Tika into the car this morning and not much warmer now. It smells like impending snow to me, but that just might be my nostrils freezing.

Even the joggers--usually clad in running shorts in the least clement weather--were out in gloves and hats today. I wasn't even sure that Californians even OWNED gloves and hats. I know for sure that no one outside of the rural counties possesses anything like galoshes or rubbers (for shoes, come on now).

In any case, what I'm trying to say is that I'm NOT going to sleep in the back of my van this weekend in this weather, even with two layers of down and a couple of 45-pound furred heat engines. Guess I need to call the hotel(s). There goes another $100.

On my drive, I passed a truck for the Pet Butler--"picking up where your dog left off"--I'd say "only in California" but apparently not.

Filled up the tank in my Toyota Sienna today at $3.09/gallon--not bad; the cheapest it's been since mid-October, when it surged suddenly from the $2.90 range well up into the $3-plus stratosphere. Good thing I get 23 mpg. Wish I got better. Good thing I telecommute. (Definition: "Blog all day and then work at night, cursing about not having worked during the day.")

Last month's PG&E bill was miserable, too--$350! And I use compact fluorescents; the furnace is on a set-back thermostat and isn't even on most of the day or night and is set for 66 from 6:30-10 in the morning and 6:30-10 at night. So I bumped it down to 65 and changed the 10:00s to 9:45s. AND I turned off my hot tub. We're talking real hardship, here; I mean, this IS California.

But then I also bought this little beauty that I've had my eye on for a while--only $18 plus postage on ebay, new. Have already started plugging things into it to see how many kwh they suck out of the grid. I'm hoping that I'll learn something new by doing this and can save myself even more.

Or else maybe it'll get warm again.

Meanwhile, of course, we'll have to satisfy our longing for summer with:

Mr. Chia Head!

His hair is light-starved, so I set him with his back to the window this morning, ergo on Day 7 he now sports that back-swept Isadora Duncan look, except without the bulging eyes and protruding tongue--oh, well, without the tongue, anyway.

Tika Tooth Update

SUMMARY: Tooth removal tomorrow.

The whole side of her face is swollen today. OK, I'm less convinced that it's been this all along, with the rapid progression of the swelling. I suppose it could have been working for a while, but there were an awful lot of signs that it was her back or neck. So we've got 2 problems working at once?!

Vet pointed out that she has broken off a point on each of her upper rear molars, but her teeth otherwise are healthy. He thinks it's possible that she damaged a root in that one tooth and that's what's happening now. He'll xray it before taking out the tooth to be sure it really is the tooth and really is the correct one.

He also said that it's unusual (but not unheard of) for the swelling to be out in the flesh of the cheek like that for a tooth, but since the gum by the tooth is sensitive, he's 90% sure it's the tooth. My deep fear of course is always cancer, and one of his 10%s was an older dog with swelling like this who had a tumor. But I think he also said that her lymph nodes felt good.

Took a blood test today to be sure she's up to anesthesia. Started antibiotics. Taking her in tomorrow at 8 a.m. to have the tooth removed (thanks, folks, for your comments and emails about this). Pick her up late afternoon. Vet says she should be fine to compete on Saturday, and in fact will probably feel better with the tooth out and the pain going down than if I waited until after the weekend.

While she's under, he'll also x-ray her neck and lower back. Doesn't want to keep her under any longer than necessary, but thinks that he can do those fairly quickly.

Sedation: Last two trip s to the vet, she's had a tranquilizer pill an hour before going. She's still not happy about being there, but she's definitely not as over-the-top frenzied get-me-out-of-here as usual. Better living through chemistry.

And she KNOWS. I pulled into the vet's parking lot; back of the car facing the road. Opened the back door, and Tika--usually pushing at the crate door to get out--is hunched in the back of the crate, giving me the hairy eyeball. Smell? Particular way a barking dog sounds here? Dunno--

Monday, January 28, 2008

OMG I've Figured It Out

SUMMARY: It's Tika's tooth.

At least for this time around, I've figured out why Tika suddenly acts miserable and sore when playing tug-of-war and becomes subdued and won't play. Why bending her neck to the left hurts. Why she'll be curled over to lick/nibble certain parts of her body and suddenly yelp and look miserable for a couple of minutes.

It's not her neck. Not her back. I just happened to look down at her from the correct angle just now, and noticed her left cheek (opposite my hand in this photo). I tried to put my finger inside to pull the cheek out to look, and she shrieked. Just touching the outside makes her yelp. I can't tell so much from wrestling her mouth open and looking inside, but that section of her gums does look a bit inflamed. Still, it looks like it's actually the skin on her cheek that's swollen--like the lump is NOT in her gums; when I do manage to pull the side of her mouth out, the lump seems to come with it. I've never had a dog with tooth problems or abscesses before, though, so don't know what to expect.

I don't think that this explains why, 4 weeks ago, she couldn't jump into her crate without yelping. But it fits everything else. I've got an appointment with the vet for tomorrow morning. I feel an ominously large vet bill coming.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Noah Would Feel Right At Home in Local Microclimates

SUMMARY: Rain, rain, go away, little doggies want to play.[1]

I'm not the only one underwhelmed by the pleasures of constant, dreary, steady rain. Yesterday's headline in the San Jose Mercury News was "When Will It Ever End?" (Subtitled "TOO WET TO GO OUT, TOO COLD TO PLAY BALL: RAIN THROUGH MONDAY, AND THAT'S NOT ALL", showing how much this country consists of Seussophiles[2].)


Sure, it stopped long enough for us to be lucky in our travel and agility yesterday, but within 20 minutes after we'd started driving home, we were encountering drizzle, and by the time we were home, I was dropping my traveling companion off in that same boring steady annoyingly wet but unexceptional in volume dang rain. Today's weather forecast in the Merc (click image for larger version):

Rain rain rain RAIN!

Keep in mind that San Jose averages only about 15 inches of rain a year, and we've gotten about 5 of that in the last couple of weeks. I'm not saying that this is a disaster area (although, now that the ground is fully saturated--finally!--the danger of landslides and floods begins to rise precipitously, so to speak). It's really about the Climatalogical Water Torture, a psychologically deadly device designed to reduce our psyches to blubbering gelatinous blobs.


However, amidst all this, students, we can take an interesting lesson in microclimates[3] in the San Francisco Bay Area. People in most of the US don't live among such amazing variances in such close proximity. The preceding map covers an area of about 120 miles, north to south. The map shows the rainfall from 4 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Saturday for each measured location. Samples:
  • South San Jose (near where I live): 0.39 inches.
  • Downtown San Jose (10 miles north in the same valley): 0.50 inches
  • Los Gatos (forming a 10-mile triangle with two preceding): 0.89
  • Boulder Creek (about 10 miles from Los Gatos, in the Santa Cruz mountains): 3.04
  • Gilroy (about 20 miles south of South San Jose in the same valley): 0.0
It has been snowing in the mountains all around us most of the time (drive time to top--maybe an hour because of curvy roads), but we're just getting rain.

So, we can be gloomy, we can be scholarly, or--

Best Choice

We can check on Mr. Chia Head!

Successes and Challenges

SUMMARY: Post-game analysis from this weekend.


  • Jumps taken: 52. Bars down: 0. Note: Big success!
  • Aframes taken: 3. Performance: didn't wait on any, nearly flew off one. Note: Need to fix somehow.
  • Dogwalks taken: 2. Performance: One slow, got a foot in but didn't stop; one fast & running but apparently didn't get a foot in (not flyoff though). Note: Fast is very good. Need consistency.
  • Weaves taken: 1. Performance: Reliable as always but seemed slow. Note: No action at this time.
  • Tables done: 1. Performance: Very slow. Note: Monitor in future.
  • Gambles attempted: 1. Performance: Like a champ on a challenging gamble.Note: Success; she worked to help me out on this one.


  • Jumps taken: 53. Bars down: 4. Refusals: 3? Note: Back to bar-knocking drills. Keep jumping her at 24"+ in class. Find ways to work on challenging jumps.
  • Aframes taken: 3. Performance: Nice, but left early once. Note: Corrected early one (down stay); Success on fast front cross after aframe and she stuck it.
  • Dogwalks taken: 2. Performance: Fast and solid Note: Success!
  • Weaves taken: 1. Performance: Just lovely Note: Success!
  • Tables done: 1. Performance: Fast and STAYED DOWN! Note: Success, although I stayed close and never took my eyes off her. Continue to monitor and try to proof in exciting situations.
  • Serpentines attempted: 2?. Performance: Good. Note: Big success!
  • Gambles attempted: 1. Performance: Did serp beautifully; came out of tunnel at me with no hint of "out".Note: Success on serps; really need to work on redirects out of a tunnel.


  • Runs: 10. Performance: Misjudged same pull-through wrap for both dogs. Note: Practice wrap/pull-throughs.
  • Attitude: Upbeat. Performance: Didn't stress out about ANY run, not even Snooker or the gamble that many people were missing even though it was a title I wanted. Note: Success! How did I achieve that inner calmness? Continue to monitor.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mostly Better Than Feared

SUMMARY: USDAA trial went generally well for us, on many counts.

Here's what I had rattling around in the Things To Worry About Department of my brain before today:
  • Tika has done almost no agility, and NO 26" jumps, in almost 4 weeks. She'd been sore (briefly) back then. Would a sudden rash of 5 classes in one day at 26" wipe her out? Would she be able to do them at all?
  • How come we haven't been able to to get that danged 15th Gamblers leg for our Bronze Gamblers? And will I ever, since I haven't practice distance work with her for 3 months?
  • Would the freeway between here & there still be closed due to flooding for our trip up this morning?
  • Would the ground under the horse arena cover (for our trial) be flooded? Filled with goopy mud?
  • Its been raining and gloomy and REALLY COLD (for rain) with bone-piercing arctic wind all week--this could be a miserable day, even with closing panels on half of the arena, because you still have to load & unload the car and potty the dogs and DRIVE in it.

But I needn't have spent the calories fretting. The freeway was still closed when I got up at 4 this morning, but by the time I picked up my friend with her dogs Scully and Sparkle, it was open. It wasn't raining at all, anywhere along the trip. The temps went all the way up into the mid-60s and there wasn't a breath of wind all day. The arena had one area maybe 10 feet by 3 feet that was floody & muddy, but it didn't really affect us much. The day started with a drop-dead gorgeous sunrise that started out awesome and just got better for the next 10 minutes.


Tika was SO excited to be doing agility, and no sign of soreness. Her first run of the day was gamblers, and MAN, she flew around that course! Even her dogwalk and teeters were super-fast, as we've been working on (before her medical and rain hiatus anyway). She was one of only about 10 of 76 Masters dogs who got the gamble. I thought that she had actually managed to beat everyone else (rare for Tika) by 2 points total, too, but apparently her fast dogwalk was not as accurate a dogwalk as it had looked to me, because we didn't get points for it, dropping us to 3rd of 19 26" dogs. But I know I shouldn't complain--she ran great, looked great, executed everything beautifully, got a hard gamble, and finished that Gamblers Bronze! (Now it's just the danged Jumpers...)

In fact, she Qed 3 of 5 for the weekend, also taking 3rd of 19 in Standard 26". Also had a nice pairs run, but the course was pretty easy and, so, many many many teams Qed and had very fast times. She and partner were 12th of 27 Open teams.

She knocked NO bars! Woooooo! Didn't Q in Jumpers because I tried to do a bit of a send-and-run, and managed to pull her past a jump for a refusal, dagnabbit.

And she backjumped on a wrap in the Snooker opening, but had successfully negotiated 11 jumps in a row up to that point without knocking any, so that was a bit of a victory.


Boost ran very nicely, looking more like a Master dog all the time, although the Q rate is still low. I knew that the gamble would be extremely difficult for her, and she failed exactly where I thought she would, but she DID do a serp leading into it with no effort at all--a big improvement. Her opening was nice but did the "THIS tire? You mean THIS tire? THIS one?" refusal in the opening and I just help my position and waited until she took it, so she didn't get all the way through our last Teeter (still in the air)--otherwise she'd have tied for highest opening points.

In Jumpers, she came past a sharply angled jump (my fault for not remembering what a babydog she is) AND knocked a bar, but otherwise she flew around that course without hesitations or bobbles. Looked good.

In Snooker, another babydog/overly assuming mom error--I thought she was with me while running for the next jump, and suddenly realized that there was no dog going over it--nor anywhere to be seen--and she had gone in a different direction than I thought we were going (took my eyes off her, in other words).

In Standard, oh, it was LOVELY, dang it, except for one "THIS jump? You mean THIS jump? THIS one?" refusal--but two in five runs compared to several per run like we were sometimes doing last year is a big improvement.

And in team--whoo!--she screamed around that course (figuratively, not literally--none of my dogs, thank goodness, have ever voiced while running) and her partner was pretty danged fast, too; they were 4th fastest of all 37 teams but she knocked a bar, so Q but no placement. But even with that 5-point fault added to their time, they were half a second faster than Tika's pair. Now, THAT's a fast team!


I had a good time with my friends, being score table supervisor and keeping busy, taking photos (an assortment shown here), playing a fast, challenging sport with my dogs-- let's hear it for a 2 month vacation from agility and for a 1-day trial. Even my failures as a handler didn't seem so galling today.

As much as it would slow down our Title Chase, maybe I really do need to take more time off from agility. WOuld certainly help my pocketbook, but maybe it would help my enjoyment of the basic experience of agility more, too.

New rescue sheltie, at a year and a half just joining a family dynasty of outstanding agility shelties.
The photographer is caught at her foul work again.
The remnants of a favorite one of these (I've had some that look like this).
On the trial secretary's box, the added tag says, "How special can it be if there's no beer?"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another Rainy Day

SUMMARY: Mr. C Head sprouts! On gray and windy Day 3, as promised!

Odd Dog-Related Things

SUMMARY: Rainbows and Chia Heads

The last several days have been just plain straight water-come-down-from-sky. Unusual for San Jose, where we often get the Camelot effect ("the rain may never all till after sundown; by 8 the morning fog must disappear"), or a big downpour and then clearing. It hasn't been downpouring; it's mostly been more than drizzling; a good pace for absorbing water into the ground, which is a Good Thing, but bad for doggie brains.

I now know why they called them bored-er collies. Someone has been getting into EVERYTHING and being quite a nuisance. But the yard is just too wet and muddy (and cold!, also unusual for rainy times) to go out into, and who wants to walk in this weather?

Instead--I'm growing a chia head! Yes, have always wanted to try one but never wanted to shell out the money for it. I stole this at our agility club's annual gift exchange; apparently everyone thought I was being nice to the guy I stole it from because who would REALLY want a chia head? Who knew that doing dog agility would lead directly into this fulfilling personal experience?

Three days to germination, it said; here we are at day 2. I can hardly wait!

So, meanwhile, what are we to do while waiting? Today I had a doctor's appointment, so I loaded the furballs into the van and, after the appointment, we went for a walk (yes, in the drizzly rainy stuff) all around the Kaiser campus. And just as we were returning to the parking lot, I looked up and saw this stunning reminder that life will not always be gray and dreary:

It was one of the most brilliant rainbows I've seen. I raced to the car, shoved in the sopping beasties, grabbed my cheapie camera (always carry one, always!), and raced backed to a good vantage point. Then I realized, hey, it's a DOUBLE!

Somehow managed to not take quite the right angles to be able to merge two snapshots into a smooth arc, but the whole thing looked something like this. It was already fading from my first glimpse of it, but note that the colors are reversed on the outer arc. (Click on the panorama to see a larger version.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Something Stupid

SUMMARY: Aaaaaand one more post for today.

Something I did on MySpace for fun. (argh, hope this link works, I canNOT figure out myspace bblogging...

I Feel So Safe

SUMMARY: They're barking at--what?

This evening, while cleaning the shower in my bedroom, I hit one wall with the scrub brush. Tika apparently felt that this was indicative of someone trying to break into the house, sprang from the bed, and leaped into the hallway in full ferocious Tika barking mode and wouldn't shut up no matter what I yelled (but I'll admit that I didn't try "speak"-- which works SO much better with her than "quiet").

Boost, apparently startled by the noise and/or Tika's reaction, was in full Repelling Boarders outcry at SOMETHING IN THE CORNER OF MY ROOM when I emerged from the bathroom. I was pretty sure that nothing and no one dangerous had snuck into my bedroom in the two minutes I'd been in the bathroom, but seeing that behavior in your dog none-the-less makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

Until you realize that what she was protecting you against was the blue merle border collie on the other side of the...mirror. Same mirror that's been in that room, in the same place, for the last 2 years and 10 months since she arrived. And she can't spend more than, oh, 10 or 12 hours a day in that room.

I'm so glad that I have such brave dogs identifying such horrific threats in my home. I feel so safe!

Another AKC Survey About Mixed Breeds

SUMMARY: AKC is still gathering opinions...

...about allowing mixes in performance events in this new survey.

Please pass the info along; post in your blog, etc.

It's just time for AKC to let all dogs perform in performance events--this isn't the breed ring.

Competing This Weekend and In the Past

SUMMARY: The dogs are looking forward to it, an so am I. Jake always did, too.

First trial since Thanksgiving weekend. Every time I've loaded stuff into the car, the dogs have started dancing around, only to look SOOOO disappointed when I leave without them. Breaks my heart.

Both dogs are in Masters this year, so I can do Bay Team's Masters-only Saturday and then come home. The trial is 2 hours away, so it'll be a long day, but it's under cover, so even if it's still raining, we're good to go. There's one of each of the regular five classes.

Time to remind myself where I am with titles and competing.

Boost: Has two Standard legs and one Snooker leg. In theory, she could get one each of Standard, Jumpers, Gamblers, and Relay and finish her MAD. Frankly, the odds of that are slim to none. I haven't been working on distance stuff with her much at all, AND she's another bar-knocker, AND we still have that refusal problem with jumps. But I'm sure it will be entertaining.

Tika: I would sure like to get that Gambler's leg to finish her Gamblers-Ch Bronze. That 15th leg has proven to be SO difficult to get, don't know why. Of course, I haven't been practicing distance work with her, either, doh! Nothing else is in reach this weekend.

Jake: Well, dang, he's been gone since last February. But a friend pointed out that, with the new rules for Lifetime Achievement Awards now combining Performance and Championship, maybe the little guy could get his LAA Bronze posthumously. So I went back and looked, but no such luck.

He had only 126 masters/p3 legs, counting the Grand Prixs. 52 masters, 12 GPs, 62 Perf's. It seemed like I moved him to performance late in his career, but he had only 4 years in masters and 3 years in Perf, so his "semidachshund semiretirement" went on for a while.

If I had entered him in more than just Jumpers during most of the last year he was competing, maybe he'd have gotten enough. But, no, I entered him in only one class each day at USDAA trials for all of 2005, and then retired him completely from USDAA in 2006. He WANTED to run more, but I was just worried about his arthritis. Just for the record, that's 87 runs that he didn't do in 2005 and 114 runs he didn't do in 2006.

I was NEVER sure that I was doing the right thing for him; he really wanted to run and never really relaxed at a trial until he had been on course at least once, sometimes twice. He did fine jumping at 12" in CPE the whole time, and 16" for a dog who started out jumping 24" didn't really seem like that much. And, furthermore, he never had trouble at 16" while he was doing that. I just didn't want to push it, which was the wise thing to do.

But, oh well--

Historical side note: You know, I think Jake was only in 3 DAM team events ever in his entire 10-year USDAA agility career and never Qed! And only 6 steeplechases, with only 1 Q. Shows how times have changed. Boost's been competing for just over a year, and she's already been in 8 Steeplechases and four DAM events.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tika's Soreness Status--No News (Is Good News?)

SUMMARY: Everything seems fine.

Tika's been off the rimadyl for 4 days now. She's done plenty of running, I've gradually added back in tug-o-war (although still trying to keep the violence level a little down from normal); have done bunches of weaves, some contacts, tunnels. Jumped 20" in class this week and we never saw any sign of a problem or slowdown.

I have no idea what the problem was. Haven't taken her anywhere for a follow-up, since the problem seems to have vanished. If there's a chiro on site at this weekend's trial, I'll probably try to arrange a session there. Otherwise, I'm letting it slide again.

The trial this weekend is only one day for us--Saturday is all Masters; Sunday is Novice and Advanced. Today it has been raining steadily and I haven't been outside with the dogs even once. This is kind of rare for California, this continuous, all-day precipitation. And in theory it might be going on all week. Crud--and just when I need to be working her more to get her back up to 26".

(And, sorry, you'll have to wait another day for my part 2 of Rachel's seminar info.)

Rachel's Up Contacts

SUMMARY: summarytext

I asked Rachel about using this method for up contacts, because I know that she's done it and because that's (currently) my main interest with Tika. This seminar didn't cover it, but Rachel said that the criteria and the training are different--for example, the criteria is one foot in--and she has worked with multiple dogs on this, too.

I'm convinced enough that she's come far enough with this that I'm going to schedule a time to go down to Atascadero some day soon (I hope) to work with her.

She did say, though, that she's not sure that one could use this method to teach BOTH a solid up contact AND a running down contact, because the criteria are different for a similar set-up. I said I'd be interested in doing that, though. She wasn't encouraging.

For Tika, if that's the case, I'll have to decide whether the missed Qs from the up contact are more relevant than the missed Qs from time--but here I'm talking about Steeplechases and Grand Prixs. Sure, we've missed some Standard Qs from up contacts, but in fact she has more Standard Qs (16) than any regular class except Snooker (22), so that's not a major concern at the moment. BUT the number of times that we've missed a Steeplechase Q by less than a second or two when we've dropped a bar, or the number of times we've missed getting into Round 2 of the Grand Prix by a second or two when we've had some fault, says that if I increased the reliable speed of her Aframe, maybe I'd get more Qs in St and more 2nd rounds in GP even WITH the fault.

On the other hand, it's also true that, when I really push her, she pops off the Aframe anyway so isn't wasting a lot of time there--although it might still waste a little time because I'm taken by surprise and because she knows she's likely to get called on it so might hesitate.

So, anyway, I have to decide, but I think a couple of hours with Rachel will help me with that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rachel's Running A-Frame

SUMMARY: Attended a half-day seminar with Rachel Sanders on running A-frames.

Disclaimer: This is a summary of what I heard. It is also my interpretation of what I thought was meant. Any errors are mine, not Rachel's. This is my first real exposure to this method. (Figured I had to say this before people start pointing out my mistakes!)
Jan 23: I've cut out a bunch from my original post, as it was too detailed to be fair to Rachel.


To get the dog to do the down ramp in two strides, hitting all four feet in the contact zone, and leave the A-frame without stopping. For dogs of any breed, any size.

Why? Rachel isn't doing this primarily for speed on the course; she's doing it because she believes that running contacts are much easier on the dogs physically than 2 on/2 off ("2o2o"). And she believes that this method will prove to be more reliable than several other methods of teaching running contacts, which she discussed. (She also discussed several of what she calls myths about running contacts, like dogs of only certain builds can do it, or dogs can learn to do it on only one height of A-frame, etc.)

She has now worked with more than 60 dogs with this method, quite a few of whom are competing. She's still refining it as she encounters more dogs with different responses to the method--which is, of course, completely typical for working out a new method.

After a 3-hour seminar, jam-packed with info, I am jazzed about the possibilities and realized very quickly that even the 3 hours could provide enough to get me started but not necessarily all trouble-shooting issues and a detailed training plan. I'm hoping to get some more work with Rachel in March.


The box will be centered over the contact zone.
A "box" made out of PVC.

The corners are just standard PVC ells with a third "leg" where a riser would screw in.

Corner detailHold in place with plastic tie and bungie to chain underneath Aframe.

Training the box

Click to mark all four feet in the box by tossing the reward away from you.

Before you get to the A-frame, you work with the box on the ground, first teaching the dog to go into it with all four feet. First, when the dog shows any interest in the box, click and reward inside the box, away from you. Then reward for all four feet in the box.

Continuing box training

To get the dog moving out of the box, reward by tossing treat outside the box. (This box is slightly raised to make it easier for this dog.)

Eventually, reward motion that carries the dog out of the box opposite the side on which he entered. Toss the treat away from you across the dog's path so the dog doesn't look at you for the reward. Replace the treat with a toy as soon as possible.
By now you should lose the chair, but try to find a way to stand where you're not tempted to move, lean, etc.

Gradually you work further away from the box, always rewarding only if all four feet land inside the box. (Rachel emphasizes that the only way that you can train your eye to recognize it is by videotaping and watching your actions.) Then you'd gradually add motion. Same sort of thing as teaching any other obstacle.

Flat A-frame

Flat representation of an A-frame.

Rachel also discusses how to practice doing the A-frame without actually having one, using jumps to emulate the layout of an A-frame as shown in the photo. The middle jump represents the apex of the A-frame. The PVC box goes right where it would go on the Aframe.

Then work with the dog in the same way you did with just the box--first standing still at different positions, then adding motion from different positions. Goal is always all four feet in the box.

(I'll have to post more tomorrow--on working the A-frame itself and on breaking a 2o2o contact to move to a running contact.)

Update: Feb 27 2008
"Tomorrow" eventually came: Part 2

OK OK I'll get a new broom

SUMMARY: It's been, oh, I dunno, 20 years; I guess it could be retired.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bored Buried Boost

SUMMARY: Cute factor.

When Boost gets bored, she starts rearranging things. I got up from my desk last night to discover that she had rearranged the dog-bed cushion on top of most of herself, and was lying there peacefully, peeking out over the top of the cushion, resting her chin among its folds.

Is that cute. Or what.

Tomorrow: Brief notes & photos from Rachel Sander's running contacts seminar.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Weaving Maniacs

SUMMARY: Boost and Tika show off.

I had such fun making that tricks video the other day, here's another one for you: Boost and Tika demonstrate sending out past 12 poles and wrapping into the far entrance. (Only a minute and a half.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tika's Soreness Status

SUMMARY: Seems fine to me.

Ran Tika in class last night, one round of jumpers at 16", several rounds at 20", and she seemed fine to me. Switched to Boost for the contacts portion of class. I'll start working Tika a bit more in the yard this week and edge up to 26" by class next week.

Updated Links

SUMMARY: Getting other places from here.

It's the beginning of the year, hence I'm trying to catch up on a 20-year backlog of Things To Do. Ha! Like the list will EVER get shorter instead of longer!

I added some Agility Blogs links for more that I visit regularly--Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction, Lucy and Walter, and Johann the Dog.

For my own use, I organized the list in roughly the order of frequency in which they typically post. Mind you, that is NOT a criticism. My day goes much more smoothly when there are only one or two short posts out there to read. I hate people like me, who post long and post often.

None-the-less, I learn oodles from reading others' posts, and not always what one might expect. Here's what I like about the blogs in my list.

Team Small Dog...Small Fast Kick Yer Ass

Added: Feb 28, 2008A local competitor whose dogs I actually know. This is a very different kind of blog. Stylish, funny, with a quirky mix of satire, agility, fashion, agility, TV, small black mixed-breed dogs, random train of thought, celebrities, politics, all tied in somehow, usually, to dogs and, yes, agility.

Elite Forces...

Blogs more regularly than even I do. Often makes me laugh. Covers lots of relevant topics, not just "I woke up with a hangnail today." In addition to the ubiquitous BCs, runs Staffies. Plus is a photography buff in an advanced amateur sort of way, as am I. Lots of people visit and comment, which broadens and enhances the scope of each post.

Johann the Dog

I've commented before that this is a money-making site. Johann is apparently becoming famous. But what I like about it is that it's also an honest diary of a real working agility dog and his family. In particular, good features are: Posts are always short (see above). Posts are cleverly slanted (always from Johann's point of view without being overly cutesy). Contains lots of info about events, issues, items, and activities that I truly might have an interest in, even if some of them are sponsored posts (which are clearly labeled as such), or simply click-through-to-earn-johann-some-pocket-change (not labeled as such, I just assume...but lots of sites do that--I would if I could get off my lazy butt to finish implementing it, because I actually signed up to be able to do it in a couple of places years ago).

And there ya go, now I've given Johann a bunch more free publicity.

Days of Speed...

I laugh out loud at Elayne's clever posts more often than at any other agility site. She's also a triathlete, which makes for some interesting posts outside my usual knowledge base. Unlike some of us, doesn't post daily just because she has a blog--has an eye for things that are particularly interesting or funny or noteworthy, so I know I'll always get a good read. Occasionally posts beautiful scenic photos from her Colorado location.

Yoshi and Trek

Updated URL: May 30, 2011 A friend with agility corgis. More like personal training notes than a blog intended for general public consumption (which, incidentally, is what Taj MuttHall was INTENDED to be). Still, sometimes there are tips and hints related to her specific issues. But Ellen's a friend, I'm interested in her dogs and how they're doing, so I peruse. If you want some really thought-provoking posts on a random assortment of topics, read her Non-Dog Blog (link at the top of her page). She's also very much into mountain climbing and general physical health.

Flirt and Bodhi's Blog

This was the first agility blog that I found and started reading regularly. Amy often ponders the deep meanings of life, agility, and everything, eliciting plenty of "ah-ha!" moments from my own psyche, ego, superego, or id. Plus good details on agility training. And human-health issues, since we seem occasionally to share the same "my body isn't what it used to be" concerns.

Training Journal for Devon and Jaime

Such cute dogs, who couldn't be hooked? Doesn't post often, which makes every post noteworthy as we get glimpses into "Cedarfield"'s life and thoughts. Sometimes expresses interesting views that might be unpopular, which has led her to make some posts available only to her friends list, which I believe that you can request, as I did, by signing up for LiveJournal and then clicking the appropriate link. Often posts questions rather than answers, which makes any blogger's heart sing ("Oh, boy, I can write about myself SOME MORE!") but also gets my brain working.

Lucy and Walter

These Canadian dogs are still relative newcomers to agility, so the perspectives are fresh and the newcomer's appreciation for the sport is rejuvenating. Plus they're dogs after my own heart--not purebred or Border Collies, so I love seeing them succeed. They also participate in several other sports, giving them a well-rounded view of the world and giving me an eye into places I've not gone--but nicely separate from the agility, so you don't have to feel obligated to read them if you're really not interested.

Raven and Cipher

Posts once a week or even less often. These seem to be very successful dogs in Australia, so it's fun to read about the differences in the sport. Lots of photos of her dogs. Plus Raven has recently been treated for lymphoma, so it's even more special to see her back competing and succeeding.

Team Fernandez-Lopez

Only occasional posts, but often useful to the larger agility world, not just posts about themselves. Plus they have a whole variety of breeds, including one of the top agility Rotties in the country.

Wishy the Writer

Another Amy, from Arizona. Hasn't been blogging much lately, as she has sensibly decided that Real Life is even better to pay attention to. When she posts, it might be about agility, it might be about motherhood (which admittedly is low on my interest list), or it might be about being a writer (which, for me, is even higher on my interest list than agility, although it's often suppressed while I tweak those damned contact performances). And it's all warm and from the heart.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Remington's Tricks Repertoire

SUMMARY: A ten-minute video of Remington's tricks.

Remington was my tricks dog. Before I'd ever heard of agility, before I started practicing for competition obedience (in which we never actually competed), it was tricks for us. He was so eager to learn--and so eager to get treats--and I could barely keep up with him. When I learned how to do clicker training, it sped up his learning process even more.

This is not a complete set of behaviors that he'd do on command, but it covers most of them. In my experience, simply executing the tricks is only half of the entertainment value; the rest is how to use the tricks unexpectedly with entertaining verbal patter.

This video was my attempt to quickly capture a dying dog's legacy. At the time, I regretted not having filmed them while he was healthy (but how was I to know? He was only nine), because the whole time I noticed how slow and low-key his responses were, where he usually danced, pranced, and bounced through his routines. A couple of weeks later, he was gone, so I'm glad to have anything at all.

This is the first time I've dared to view the videos. His death has always felt too recent and too raw; I've feared that I'd plunge into a bawling jag and ruin my whole day. It has just recently occurred to me that it has been five years. Five. Years.

So I pulled out the tapes last night and watched the whole hour. I didn't cry once, although a pocket of tears kept tapping me in the gut (what an image, huh?). I did kick myself for not moving those agility jumps out of the way of the cameraman. Where was my sense of artistry? (Probably completely exhausted, as was the rest of me, waiting for Remington's cancer to become irretrievably bad.) Mostly, while watching, I smiled and laughed. So then I sat down with iMovie and put together these highlights. This isn't a Performance as such; it's just an Inventory. But for what it's worth, here it is. (And here's a text list of Rem's tricks.)

(The original video, with subtitles--doesn't work so well any more)

(Video w/out subtitles, now on YouTube:)

(Thanks to my housemate-at-the-time, who offered encouragement in the background, and her teenage son, who did a lovely job of videotaping.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Choosing a Dog

SUMMARY: There are so many ways to go about it, and so few of them have anything to do with anything but what feels right.

One fun thing about participating in the dog-agility blogging community is seeing recurring themes that transcend geographical location, breed of dog, general drift of a specific blog site, and so on.

Such as: Choosing your next dog. Here are some recent discussions on this topic in other dog-agility blogs:

Here's how I've chosen my dogs:
  • Amber: One night, coming home from the swing shift, I caught a prowler looking in my apartment window. It terrified me. The next morning, co-workers announced that their German Shepherd and their Golden Retriever were pregnant and they'd have puppies in a few weeks. Those were 2 of the breeds I thought I might want some day (Collie being the other). (Ah! Research!) I'd never heard of puppy testing. Puppies were just something that you picked one of and took home. So I did. Of the litter, four were black, but two were the same beautiful blonde as my family's mixed-breed dog, and I picked one for my own. I no longer remember how I chose one over the other; I did agonize for a while over whether to take BOTH.
  • Sheba the Wonder-Husky: When I got married, I figured that my spouse needed a dog of his own. He thought Siberian Huskies were beautiful. I read a little about them in my dog books and agreed that they were beautiful. (Ah! Research!) So I haunted the humane society for several weeks, rejecting a variety of Siberians for a variety of reasons (should I have been suspicious that there were so many stray huskies?). Then I found one with a sign on her run saying something like "Lone Star is a sweet, wonderful, delightful dog. We have already held her two weeks past her euthanasia date because she really needs to go home with someone. Please help." (I have no idea where she'd been hiding during my previous trips.) She did indeed seem to be the sweetest, gentlest, calmest, most beautiful dog in the universe. My new spouse agreed, we took her home, and renamed her Sheba.
  • Remington the Squirrelhund: Two years after Amber died, I had decided that I finally was ready for another dog. But now, 15 years after her birth, I knew a lot more about dogs. I did a lot of reading. We went to dog shows and talked to the breeders and owners of several breeds that we were interested in. I narrowed it down to probably Australian Shepherd or Border Collie (mind you, this was before I had ever heard of dog agility). Then, one day, we went to a pet store to buy food on sale, and NARF was having an adoption fair for their rescues, and I found Remington, and he looked just like Amber, and he went home with us right then. (Ah! Research!)
  • Jake the SemiDachshund: He had belonged to a fellow club member who was also my obedience instructor, and Remington and Jake had been on a team together at a USDAA trial. For some reason I really liked him. (Ah! Research!) When he became available for adoption (this story is quite shortened for this post), our husky was barely on her dying legs and my spouse didn't want three dogs and felt it wasn't fair to an old, ailing dog to have a new dog in the house. I kept stalling Jake's current foster home and, finally, the inevitable happened and our 17-year-old husky died. Jake came home with me the following week.
  • Tika: Remington was getting old. Jake was getting older. It was time to start looking for another dog to start training as my next agility dog. Rem was never big on tug of war or fetch, and I knew that I wanted a dog who liked those things. I wanted one with drive and intelligence for agility. I wanted one who would snuggle. I had recently divorced and was living in a rental. An agility acquaintance was fostering a beautiful Kelpie mix that I would have taken home with me, but the landlord was an idiot and I didn't want to risk anything by bringing in a third dog. But, with this discussion, the acquaintance became a friend and she kept me in mind as she got other foster dogs. She showed me two or three other dogs over the next few months, which I rejected. Shortly after I moved into my own home, she introduced me to Tika, who loved to tug, would stop immediately to snuggle, was a gorgeous blue merle (which I've wanted since I was a kid), an Australian Shepherd-type dog (see research before Remington came home), and yet different enough from standard Aussies to appeal to me (I liked the shorter-haired, longer-legged ones). I think it was the blue merle as much as anything that kept drawing me to her, because she barked barked barked barked BARKED, at anything and everything. Well--the friend made progress on that, and a couple of months after I first saw her, I finally decided to bring her home on a trial basis. She never left.
  • Boost: OK, REALLY long story. Read it here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

USDAA rule updates for 2008

SUMMARY: Good news for Performance dogs

Friend and Bay Teammate Holly Newman sent this to the club and gave me permission to post verbatim here. Thanks, Holly!

If you have been paying close attention to the USDAA Performance Program changes for 2008, then this is redundant and you can delete it. But if you haven't, and you have a Performance or a split-Pf/Ch dog, the rule changes are VERY important as regards titling.

Here are the highlights from http://www.usdaa.com/article.cfm?newsID=793, with some confirmed interpretations.


1. "...the Board has postponed the inclusion of Relay qualifications in the Performance Dog I, II and III titles (PD1, PD2 & PD3) to January 1, 2009."

This change was originally supposed to happen on January 1, 2008, but they found that in some areas, people were having trouble getting enough Performance dog entries to put together a meaningful Relay class. So they're giving an extra year for the program to grow. So the PD1,2,3 still only requires Standard, Jumpers, Gamblers, and Snooker classes.

2. "...Similarly, tournament qualification inclusion in the Accomplished Performance Dog title will be postponed until January 1, 2009."

This change is for the same reasons as #1. So the APD through 2008 requires 5 of each Standard and Games class, and 5 PNS legs but no Relay, VP or PSJ legs.

3. "...because the effective dates of implementation of the relay and tournament requirements in the versatility titles -[PDI, PDII, PDIII, and APD] - are being postponed for another full year to 2009, there will be no grandfathering of the old titling requirements for these awards once the new regulations become effective."

Wow, this means that if you don't finish your APD in 2008, you WILL have to meet all of the new Tournament and Relay requirements. When the ADCH changed to require tournaments and the MAD changed from 7 Standard to 5, there was a year of grandfathering when you could earn your ADCH under the old rules if you got your MAD by a certain date. NOT SO with the new APD requirements.


1. "...beginning in 2008, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be calculated without regard to which program a qualification has been earned."

This one is a HUGE change for those of us with aging dogs. We still have to get 15 legs of everything (except Tournament) and 150 total, but the 15 legs NO LONGER have to be all in Championship. They can be any combination of Championship and Performance. Here's why this is huge: in the past, if you had a struggle for 15 in any Championship class, you had to decide whether to go for the LAA or the APD. In other words, you might have struggled for one or two last Ch Gamblers to get 15, which means you never had an opportunity to get the 5 Pf Gamblers you need for APD. Now, you can move to Pf and all of the Ch and Pf legs combine toward the 15 required in each class. This means that you can go for your APD without sacrificing your LAA goals. Woo hoo! I'm expecting this single change to move a lot of dogs to Performance, which will also help alleviate the problems that led to #1 and #2 above.

2. "In all cases, as in previous changes, any qualifications earned become a part of a competitor's permanent record, and such qualifications will be considered at such time a new titling requirement may become effective. For example, 2007 qualifications in Performance tournaments will count toward the Lifetime Achievement award under its new formula beginning January 1, 2008."

So if you had gone back and forth between Ch and Pf for any reason, you might have earned some Pf legs. Even if you earned these prior to this year, they will count under the new combo rules. This is GREAT news for the dogs that have re-entered in Pf after an injury, because the legs they have already earned will count toward the LAA minimums.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tika's Doing Fine

SUMMARY: Nothing wrong that I can see.

Of course Tika has been fine since I took her in to the vet. However, she's also been on Rimadyl and I've also been taking it way easy on her, in particular no tug-of-war, since the vet thought that it was her neck that was sore.

But we've all been lolling around the house--it's been cold and blustery and rainy (major power outages in the area the last few days--as much rain in several days as all of the rest of the rain year so far, probably even more; snow on the nearby mountaintops). And the yard is a bit on the muddy side. And I don't want Tika slipping on mud or wet pavement on the patio and reinjuring something. And it's so hard to play with just Boost anyway.

I hate having a dog on restricted activity. Probably not as much as Tika hates it. But I'm still not keeping her in a crate, and trying to get out walking a little bit daily (on suggestion of vet).

Not nearly enough exercise for them or for me. Bleah.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Year Follow-up and Back to Tika's Back

SUMMARY: Had a good time; Tika not better.

I had a lovely time with my 200 miles of driving on New Year's Eve/Day. Got a chance to visit a bit with friends whom I seldom see and talk to some interesting new folks. Plus eat tons of really good food everywhere I went. Sigh. Time to get out walking--really--

Took Tika to class last night. She started out, during warm-up, enthusiastically playing tug and then suddenly backing off of it and looking concerned. I ran her around a bit, put her over a couple of low jumps, then 22" jumps, then a couple of 26", and she looked OK. But when I actually ran her on a course, she was slow (for Tika) and looked like she was jumping oddly. The next course, I asked instructor J to please watch her. He said that she sure looked like she was jumping carefully, and it looked to me like she was sort of throwing herself over the jump and landing heavily on her front legs, taking all the weight in her shoulders. And usually she's a very smooth, lightly landing jumper.

I ran her in one more exercise at 16" instead of 26". She moved pretty quickly, but her turns were still slow and she was slow through curved tunnels.

We did almost no training until after Christmas, after she last came up sore on Dec 20. But in the meantime she ran full out playing fetch and tug in the yard. And we've been for walks and she's been her usually cheery pulling-at-the-leash self. Then, when I've cautiously done some work over the last few days, she looked fine to me, even going over a couple of full-height jumps.

I am in a bit of a funk over this. Because of her panic attacks at the vet's, I need to give her a sedative before going over there, and if I want x-rays--which I think I do--she's going to have to have anaesthesia probably because I doubt that they'd ever get her to lie still enough. Which then means staying there at the vet for half a day probably. And all of this is going to cost me. Argh. My poor doggie, I want to know what's going on, but since she's never gone out and gotten a job, it all comes out of my pocket.

Out next trial is supposed to be a one-day Masters-only USDAA, Jan 26. I've been assuming that she'll be fine for that, but now I don't know. Bleah.