a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Google Maps

SUMMARY: Can you tell which is my house just by looking at the back yards? Would you bet on it?

P.S. Ignore the arrow. I don't know what it's pointing at, although it seems to imply that I reside in a recycling bin.

Knee Bounces Back and So Does the Other Car

SUMMARY: A bad day and a good day yesterday

By the time I had to leave home, I could get up the stairs two-legged using the railing (instead of step/drag, step/drag). The driving itself went better than I had expected; shifting from brake to accelerator didn't bother me at all. Stiff-legged it into my meeting, but the knee had stopped throbbing by then.

What was a problem was the guy who backed into my car in the parking lot. Sigh. So, in my copious spare time, even though it's his fault, I have to get my car inspected, arrange the body shop, then do without it for however long. And the insurance company does not reimburse me for my time and inconvenience. The least the guy could've done would've been to back into my passenger door, which already had a ding in it, but nooo, he had to be different!

At least he was insured, and pleasant, and actually called Geico in the parking lot and we got the "paperwork" done standing there. I also took pictures of the environment, just in case. (As I've said before--always carry a camera! Always!) And it seems to be just the driver's door. Which might not be too bad.

By the time evening classtime rolled around, I thought I'd be able to at least practice some distance work or maybe get someone else to run the beasts, so I went up. My first "run" was a walk and a little iffy; the second one I jogged a bit, then forgot myself and turned sharply at the end, which hurt equally sharply but receded very quickly. By the third or fourth run I was moving out onto the field between runs to help set poles. By the end of the evening I was even running.

We did a timed run at the end. Boy, that Boost is one fast puppy! We missed beating Ash & Luka's time because I didn't want to push it with my knee and so couldn't get to a 180-into-a-pinwheel turn and she went wayyy wide. Still beat everyone else's times by a second, even Steamer's, and we'd have had Luka easily with a tight loop. It's a thrill to watch The Booster run on a straight-out jumpers-with-weaves type course!

This morning my knee feels almost normal. I'll just keep icing & drugging & babying it a bit for the next couple of days. And maybe practice some kneeling so this doesn't happen again.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


SUMMARY: OK, that's pronounced like "irony" except that "iron-knee" gives the wrong impression, because it isn't, it's a mess.

Ah, yes, She-Who-Will-Be-Tempted-By-Irony must have been reading my blog about The Big Hole In The Ground, because, yes, my knee is hosed.

I have this waterfall-pond thing in my yard that I must periodically suction gunk from so that it continues to look beautiful. I do this with a little manual suctioner, with which I kneel by or on the pond edge for, I dunno, maybe 5 minutes once or twice a week to do the cleaning. With the clouds keeping the sun off it (less algae), the rain (flushing things out regularly), and the cold (dogs don't need to get into it to cool off as often), it hasn't needed sucking out in a few weeks.

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day and I could see the gunk accrued, lurking on the bottom, begging to be suctioned. So I did the same thing I've been doing for years. Except, when I then tried to stand up, I discovered that my knee had frozen into an agonizing rusted-shut mess. It hurt like Brittney Spears to stand. I almost couldn't put weight on it.

I hobbled into the house. Iced it. Took a couple of ibuprofen. Waited. Iced. Took a couple more (4 is prescription-level relief per my doctor for when I need it). Iced. Waited. By bedtime, I could still barely walk. Moving it at all caused me to yelp.

I tried sleeping, but it throbbed throbbed throbbed, and of course every time I'd start to doze off, I'd move slightly, and wake with a pained yelp. This is not fun. In case you were wondering.

At 3:30 I hobbled yelpingly into the bathroom to see whether I might still have vicodin left over from December 2006 (post-knee surgery). This wasn't a decision made lightly--I mean getting out of bed and trying to walk-- because walking really hurt. I did have some left, and it hadn't even expired yet. Don't like what it does to me otherwise, but my knee really needed it.

Also decided to brave the misery of descending the stairs to ice the bejeesus out of the knee some more. Still hurt like heck to get back upstairs. Still didn't fall asleep till 5:30.

It is marginally better this morning, but whether to take a step somewhere is still a major life decision. And I'm supposed to drive to Mountain View later this morning for a meeting. No more vicodin for me until later today. AND I have my only remaining weekly agility class tonight.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rachel's Running A-Frame Part 2

SUMMARY: Sorry it took so long--a little busy.
Part 1
Brief note on up contacts

Advance note: This was supposed to be the same seminar delivered once in the morning for 3 hours and once in the afternoon for 3 hours. However, by the time I had to leave, about 4 hours into the day, it looked like it was going to be a sort of 7-hour seminar with some repeat of what was covered earlier. In other words, I didn't really see the dénouement, which would be how to fade the PVC frame (except for removing the little feet from the bottom as a first step).

Adding the A-frame

OK, you've worked the simulated A-frame on the ground and the dog can do it reliably (all 4 feet in the box every time, with you ahead, behind, left, right, moving, standing). And you've videotaped consistently enough to know that she really is getting all 4 feet in every time.

Now you can move to the Aframe. Notes:
  • Start at 4'6".
  • Only 2-3 times a week, half a dozen at a time. Don't want to fatigue the dog.
  • Don't add other obstacles in sequence after A-frame until they're pretty solid.
  • She won't work dog on running Aframe until over a year old because of muscle & power development.

Step 1 positioning
Step 3 positioning
Breaking 2on/2off part 1

Breaking 2on/2off optional part 3
Set up the box on the A-frame (see Part 1). Back chain the dog by placing the dog on the A-frame above the 2nd slat above the contact zone. Then you get into whatever position you're going to start from (remember to vary) and give the command (oh, yeah, did I mention adding a command way back when they've learned how to run into and out of the box?).

Second step is with the dog starting just beyond the apex (on the down side).

Third step is to get the dog to run the whole thing with a good running start.

Breaking the 2-On/2-Off

For dogs who've already been trained to the 2-on/2-off method of stopping at the bottom, you need to break that behavior. They might just avoid it naturally when you set them up as discussed above, but if they don't, you need 2 or 3 extra steps.

Important: DO NOT EVER give the 2o/2o command on the Aframe again. (If you keep the 2o/2o dogwalk, you'll want to intermingle some DWs and AFs to be sure dog understands the difference.)

First, put the box on the ground slightly in front of the Aframe and set the dog up in the 2o/2o position; you'll have to do this manually somehow because you DO NOT EVER give the 2o/2o command again. Move to your position, then give the "hit it" command. Dog should do it just like he's been doing it on the ground all along.

Second, set the dog on the Aframe in the contact zone so all 4 feet are there (since that's where he's going to be hitting, in theory). Move to your position and give the "hit it" command.

You shouldn't have to do these steps more than once or twice, I think she said. If the dog still wants to stop when you go back to the Aframe steps 1/2/3, you can just make it harder for the dog to stop by angling the box so it's partway off the Aframe a couple of times.

That's it! Now you have running A-frames!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Walking Into A Big Hole In The Ground

SUMMARY: I can do it; really I can.

I have this list. I've had this list for many, many years. It's all the things I want to do or see before I go on to the great parking lot in the sky. Oops, dang, now there's a movie about it, and this kind of list actually has a name, and it's called a "Bucket List." (Things to do before you kick the bucket.) Who knew?

"Hike into the Grand Canyon" is one of the list items. (I have always assumed that Hike Out Of The Grand Canyon is also on the list, but I suppose that's icing on the cake. There's always horses. At $150 a ride.)

Last fall, a friend an I actually made reservations for this coming May at the lodge at Havasu Falls. It's just a little wee hop of a hike. Don't let the bright red "Strenuous!" label on the page fool you. What's 10 miles, anyway? 19 miles of it straight down the side of a cliff and and 35 along the bottom of a never-ending canyon, but really, it's nothing.

If I only were walking 1-1.5 miles daily as I did for so many years until my knee crapped out on me last year and then I also lost Jake, who was a good dog for walking with, and left me with TIKA THE WALKHOUND FROM HADES. Here you see how much fun we're both having while I try to photograph flowers on a little stroll down the path along the local river, which has a vertical change of elevation of about 0.3 inches on a bad day. You should see how much more fun we both have when another dog walks by within 35 miles.

She will not be going to Havasu Falls with us.

But I also made this ToDoList back before I owned any kind of camera except the sort that you stick in your pocket and it's fine until you actually want to take a picture. Like, say, of an Ovis canadensis nelsoni at a quarter of a mile and you wish you had a real telephoto lens.

But now I have multitudes of SLR cameras (approximately two) with hundreds of lenses to complement them (at least 3, certainly less than 4). And as you can see, taking photos as I hike (or as I do just about anything, for that matter) is just as important as actually DOING the thing. Maybe moreso. Sorting them afterwards? Well, sort of liking walking out of the canyon, that's also icing on the cake--the point is that I TOOK the photos. Right? Am I right?

So not only do I have to get myself and 3 days of water and clothing down into the canyon, plus lunch (and sunscreen), I have to carry 40 pounds of camera equipment or I will feel NAKED. (Although I guess I probably don't need to take all two tripods.)

Anyway, the point is, I'm trying to get out and walk a whole lot more to get in shape for this lifetime dream, and I'm not doing it really well, (although perhaps better than I have for a while), and my excuse is always, "because the dogs need the exercise and stimulation as much as I do, but I can't deal with Tika today, so I guess I'll sit at home instead."

And, oh, by the way, on this list (which takes up several pages), the only mention of dogs is one question buried at the end under "miscellaneous," which is: "Where do dogs fit into all this?" You might guess that this was before Remington, Jake, Tika, Boost, and dog agility in general. Back when I wasn't sure whether dogs fit into it anywhere. Look at me now. Who knew?

(P.S. Thanks, Steph, for the photo. Note the stylish backwards baseball cap. I wear it to keep the sun out of my eyes. But pressing a camera against my face works just about as well and it would bump against the front of the cap, so my official photographer cap is backwards.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Border Collie Intelligence and Fame

SUMMARY: This dog has some interesting cognitive abilities.

There's a Border Collie on the cover of this month's National Geographic! (And it's not Rico, for those who are tired of the same dog used over and over for animal intelligence articles). This border collie not only recognizes over 300 objects by name, but learns words for new ones "as quickly as a human toddler," and can recognize the items by word or by photograph! So, when shown an object, can pick out the matching photo; when shown a photo, can pick out the matching object.

But they didn't say whether she does agility.

(Read the article here.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Foggy Agility Practice

SUMMARY: Foggy air, foggy brain

In lieu of Tika's class, I went up to Power Paws' field this morning with a friend an her dogs to practice. There was already a challenging-looking jumpers (with weaves) course set up, so we walked it and ran it. She did very well with her two little dogs, with only a couple of challenges, but Tika and I had to work on a couple of sections to get them right, and Boost and I never did make it all the way through the course successfully.

We didn't get as much time practicing as we would have liked. Lessons learned (duh):
  • If you're paying field rental per hour, it doesn't make much sense to go up with a friend whose dogs are very different heights, especially if there's a jumpers course already set, because you'll spend half your time setting bars.
  • Arrive at least 20 minutes early to evaluate the lay of the land and get ready to go. (I don't know why I thought that arriving AT the start time would work for me--I always arrive 15-20 minutes before class!)
  • Get a dog who doesn't roll in poo so that, just when you're about to walk out the door, you have to spend 5 minutes cleaning her off. (Boost! Again! That's 4 times in about a week and a half, after maybe a couple of months with nuthin'.)

I'd give you a course layout, but not sure that I could capture it correctly enough to reflect the challenges.

It was a foggy, foggy morning. When we first get there, Friend walks out into the field to see whether there is, in fact, a dogwalk anywhere out there:

Boost and Tika liked watching the other dogs run:

There are more photos with narration here, not really agility, just the fog and the site and the critters (sheep, llamas, dogs). It's just easier to upload photos there than here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hiking With the Dogs

SUMMARY: Tika is nuts, but it gets our legs moving.

Went for a casual 2-mile-or-more stroll today with a friend along the upper Guadalupe River Trail. It was a cool morning, probably around 60; mostly sunny with just a few high, thin clouds. We marveled at how few people we passed on this suburban trail along the riparian corridor, while along the major roads, just hundreds of feet away up two sides of our traversal area, thousands and thousands of cars and their passengers rushed by, thinking they were in the middle of a city and not taking the time to walk and enjoy our many wonderful open space areas. Their bad; our good fortune.

Tika, as usual, went ape-nuts every time we passed a dog, but as long as one of use could get a hand in her collar before she had a chance to start flinging herself at the end of the leash, it wasn't too bad. Boost was pretty good except for wanting to put pressure on the leash while moving ahead. One group of women stopped to pet and admire the dogs and the dogs thought they were far more interesting than we were, stopping to look at birds and take photos and boring stuff like that.

My friend took her multiple lensed-camera and did a credible job of shooting while steering one or the other of my dogs (here, with Boost). I didn't take my own nifty camera--too much, with the dogs along--but I did take my point-n-shooter, and a few photos weren't half bad. See them here, with captions.

Friday, February 15, 2008

DAM(n) Teams

SUMMARY: Teams come, teams go...

After the chaos of the other week, trying to line up all my teams, I FINALLY just this morning got confirmation that I have a team for Tika for the April DAM team tournament--because another team lost their 3rd.

And I just now this afternoon got word that one of Boost's teammates has to have surgery, so now I need a third again for that weekend. And we've still got 2 months to go--what might happen between now and then? Or the June DAM? Or the July DAM? Who knew that agility could have so much suspense and drama?

Another Fun URL

SUMMARY: One more; made me laugh.

Dreams of a Future Agility Champion

Assorted Fun URLs

SUMMARY: People send me these things; I have to get rid of them SOMEHOW or they'll end up in a huge pile on my disk drive!

  • Mating call Ringtones: You can play the coyote sample on your computer and see whether it makes your dogs as crazy as it made mine.
  • How a dog sees an agility course (animated), gives some idea of what dogs see in front of them (although not so much peripheral)...if you can stand the addictive/brain mangling soundtrack.
  • Agility dog's-eye view: Camera strapped to dog's head. Looks remarkably similar to the animated version.
  • Animal Planet's Mutt-Maker Game: Select from a few breeds and assemble silly-looking mixes with equally silly-sounding breed names. Watch how the generated breed name changes as you change portions of the dog! A guaranteed pointless time-waster! But cute.
  • The Daily Coyote: Beautiful photography of a woman raising a coyote pup.
  • Off to the Iditarod! Former Bay Teamer who used to run in agility with one of the original Jakes (an Aussie), is competing in the Iditarod this year. (According the the list available from the interactive map on the official web site, Liz is currently in 64th out of 96 teams. Pretty good for a rookie!)
  • Johann the Dog's Agility Squidoo Lens: I don't know what a Squidoo or a lens is, and I do know that Johann is a for-profit (but real agility dog) dog, but Johann's mom does a good job of sorting through things agility and finding cool stuff. Includes videos of other species doing agility.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Closer Foxie

SUMMARY: Field Foxie came closer today.

Still really too far away even for my long lens (this is seriously cropped from a larger photo again).

Meanwhile, I was being stalked by Mr. Egret. Never could get a good photo--he kept trees and shrubs between us at all times, and froze or pulled back every time I tried to get to a better position. (This photo is NOT cropped--he really was close.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Friend at Westminster

SUMMARY: Elliott makes the trip.

Elliott the Frenchie, with whom Boost played wildly as a puppy (and the two of them still play enthusiastically when given a chance), went to Westminster this year! They didn't win any awards according to their results page--although Patty Hearst's (!) Frenchie came in 2nd--but they show up pretty early in this official video; she's the third one in line at the beginning, in the pale peach suit. (There are videos for all the breed competitions, in case you know anyone there. Or in case you want to be amazed at the fat Border Collies, all of whom look like they could afford to lose 10 pounds. Can those guys actually WORK?? OK, OK, don't go there--)

Wed, Feb 13, 10:45 a.m: Wait, OK, sure, let's go there. Here are comments so far:

Blogger wishy the writer said...

How can we be sure those are border collies in the video? I didn't even see the sheep in the ring. Were the sheep hiding behind the gal in the suit and high heels? I'm confused.

9:04 AM

Blogger Elf said...

The AKC breed standard starts out saying "the Border Collie's intensity, energy and trainability ... are features so important that they are equal to physical size and appearance." To which I ask: "So why are those items then summarily ignored in the rest of the breed standard?" and "What makes anyone think that *appearance* should be anywhere near *equal* in importance?"

Boost is AKC registered. Because she was eligible and because AKC has dog agility. That's my excuse, even if I'm never likely to compete in AKC agility.


9:17 AM

More Family Resemblances

SUMMARY: Half-brother shows family resemblance

BoostRowdy(?) (half sibling)Tala (mamadog)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chains (continued)

SUMMARY: Oh! I forgot back chaining!

When I had my first dog, back around 1980, a lady neighbor had a pomeranian that she'd tell "Pick up your toys" and he'd run around the room, picking up his toys and putting them in the toy basket. I was floored. This was just the neighbor lady's lap dog, fer crying out loud! I thought that someday I'd try to figure out how to teach my dog to do that, but had no clue where to start and never did get to work on it. Remington (my 3rd dog) was a great trick dog but not big on picking things up to begin with, let alone on command, so we never worked on that. And Jake, who loved picking things up, had the learning capacity of half a grapenut, so I never tried it with him.

Last month, Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction posted a video of her dog picking up his toys. Wow, I said! (I say "wow" a lot sometimes.) I know how to do that now! Plus I have a Booster who fetches the newspaper every morning and will work really hard to do stuff for me! (I suspected I'd have to write off Tika, who also works hard for the clicker, but who had to spend months in remedial retrieving school because she loves to hold onto things if you're playing tug of war but won't bring them back usually.)

After the first session, Boost looked like she was getting a clue. Tika figured out that I wanted her to put her mouth on things, but since she never actually picked them up, progress was slow, although everything in sight was heavily salivated. After the second session, Boost was starting to deliberately take things into the vicinity of the basket, although she'd hover over it and then toss the toy beyond it (perhaps a clicking error on my part that I didn't detect soon enough). Tika was starting to move things, one salivary inch at a time, towards the basket, but since nothing made it more than an inch above the ground, nothing was going INTO the basket.

After the third session, Boost was actively starting to look for the basket and would pick up any objects when I pointed to them. Tika and I had decided that it would be funnier to teach her to stand IN the basket, since that's what she was trying to do anyway to get closer to the food.

On the fourth session, I dared to demonstrate it for the housemate. Boost still needs a little encouragement to pick some things up; needs some discouragement from picking up things that are already in the basket and dropping them back in; and a little reminder that a basket 4 feet away is no different from one 3 feet away, but wow (!), she was really doing it! And Tika was up to having 3 feet IN the basket; I'm having a tough time making the transition to 4 feet just by shaping, but I'll try to be patient.

When both are more consistent and complete in their behaviors, I'll videotape it.

And, yes, I did Boost's behavior using large dollops of backchaining and clicks/treats.


SUMMARY: Tire chain, key chain, food chain, DNA chain, chain of thought, hair chainge

Tire Chain

At Sunday's practice, they set up last weekend's Grand Prix run. There's a sequence where the dog blasts through a chute, has to go out to take the tire at an oblique angle, and then pull in to hit the weaves, probably while the handler is behind them and/or working at a distance to set up for the next sequence. In competition, Boost handled this well. Sunday, she did the chute and the tire and then missed the weave entry completely. So I sent her back to the tire--and she ran under it. I sent her again, again she went under it, and I said "No!" I mean, she hasn't missed a tire entry in I don't know how long, certainly never in competition.

I started making the entry easier and easier for her (but the side of the tire was always what I saw), and every time she flew under it, I said "no!" and brought her back. It was on the 5th try where I put her in a sit directly facing the tire that I realized that the heavy (heavy!) tire chain was dangling down completely through the center of the tire. Curses on whoever set the tire! And curses on me for not noticing that my dog was trying not to kill herself. I felt terrible! After a break and some other activities, I put her back through the tire in both directions and she did fine, so I didn't break her permanently. Dogs are so resilient; handlers can be so stupid.

Chain of thought

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza had a fabulous juggler. For me, breathtakingly talented. However, the first thing that caught my eye when he walked out on stage was his breathtakingly glittery silver lame suit. When he took off the silver lame jacket to reveal a silver lame shirt, I was hooked. But he distracted me with 20 minutes of some of the finest juggling I've ever seen, and some of it was the sheer duration without ever missing. Ever. At the end of the act, my first reaction was, "Wow! What a spectacular juggler!" and my second reaction was--and I'm sure, as agility addicts, yours would be the same--"Where can I get an outfit like that to do agility in"? You can watch the first half minute of this video to see the suit, and if you're inclined, watch the rest for the first half of his act.

Key Chain

Agility friend #2 commented this weekend, wow! That's quite a key chain! I realized then that my keychain has gone beyond being a mere utilitarian ring--after all, I have only 3 keys--and has become sort of the Swiss Army/Smithsonian/Andy Warhol of keychains.

Besides the keys (my house key is tie-dyed blue/purple, although it's worn away mostly), I have a sturdy blue metal Maglite flashlight, handy for finding stray doggie deposits after dark, a green LED extremely bright spotlight, handy for blinding yourself if you're holding the wrong end, my Weight Watchers Lifetime Member keychain, a circlet that used to have an "E" attached", the lock/beeper for my car, an I Heart My Dog tag in case anyone doubted it and needed proof, and a dragon caribiner, reflecting my dragon collection, of which I have many more than I have dogs, by a factor of probably 200.

So now you know.

DNA Chain

Quick: Which is Boost? Which is her mom, Tala? Is there a slight resemblance?

And here's a token Tika photo with her favorite Tika Toy, so she won't feel left out:

Food Chain

I keep trying to get photos of the foxes that live in the field behind me. They come up close to the fence to taunt me into frenziedly finding my telephoto lens, only to fade into the distance. They are so CUTE when they leap into the air and plunge nose-first into a gopher hole. Here is the best I've done so far:

Think it's a little blurry? That's because it's enlarged from this original, which is the nearest I've gotten with my 300mm lens for crying out loud!

Hair Chain[ge]

Well, had to make this fit into the "chain" theme SOMEhow. The instructions warn that, if you let the chia grow for too long, they become embedded and you'll have to remove their roots with a WIRE BRUSH. Heaven forfend. So it is time for Mr. Chia Head to say a fond farewell to his copious tresses. Today, we have reduced him to a mohawk. It's pretty pathetic; he needs a better stylist.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Busy Weekend

SUMMARY: Good thing I had a weekend off from dog agility so I could relax and catch up around the house. Not.

But I had fun.

Saturday Morning: Hiking

Got up to the alarm at 7 a.m. (This is a free weekend, right? No alarm? Argh. Remember: I'm doing this because I WANT to.) Left the house at 8:00 with Friend #1 for an hour's drive up into the hills to Henry Coe State Park, where we hiked leisurely for about 3 hours and took photos. Home about 1:30.
A trail sign partway along our route; more trails visible just beyond. "Flat Frog" trail? Not a pretty image...
Cool fungus, with the "pitcher" on the left maybe 8 inches tall, at the base of a tree. No clue what it is yet.

Saturday Afternoon: Kooza

Brief hello to dogs, quick shower, change clothes, and dashed off to meet Friend #2 (from agility) and her spouse for Cirque de Soleil's Kooza at 4:00. An amazing show of humor, skill, daredeviltry, and contortion (my favorites: the juggler and the contortionists). Afterwards, dinner at Elephant Bar, which I'd never heard of, but had good meals at reasonable prices and an interesting ambiance.

For a temporary structure, the Cirque tents are HUGE! And their stripes stand out in the urban landscape. Friend and her spouse turn back to see what's keeping me.
Elephant Bar: There's a life-sized African elephant emerging from the wall above the diners, and various pachydermous artifacts everywhere.

Sunday Morning: Practice

Home by maybe 9:30, and it's right to bed because I have to get up Sunday morning at 7:00 to the alarm (this IS a weekend off, right?) to bake brownies for the SMART agility club practice/meeting/potluck. Friend #3 meets up with me at 9:00 a.m. with her two dogs, and the six of us drive an hour down to Hollister for a couple of hours of practice, a lovely potluck, and a reasonably short meeting, then more practice, then home.
Workin' Paws is in the back yard of these people's home. They've got TWO competition-sized fields! (Wouldn't that be grand? Twenty feet from your back door?) Here's field 1 with Friend #3 in the background. Look at the wide-open spaces!
Here's field 2 complete with Team Small Dog leaving the practice field. What a lovely mountainous view to wake up to every day!
Here I am, posing. The slightly-less-posed shot was blurry. Technology! Pah!
This guy came in 2nd in a poker tournament and decided to spend his winnings on something that would help him to remember his victory and make him very happy: Meet Tex[as Hold'em]. Now there's a man with his priorities straight!

Sunday evening:Party

Then an hour's drive home, play with all the dogs in yard a bit (Hey! I'm already getting pretty tired! How come they want to play again? Dang herding dog endurance!), quick shower and change and head over to my parent's house for a family birthday celebration.
Parents went to town decorating for the birthday party. We even got personalized Welcome letters.
Eight of us have birthdays within a 2-month period, so they baked two cakes and put our initials on them. (I'm "ELF".)
Plus we got Mardi Gras beads. In my fave colors.
AND I got a cool new baseball cap from my sister that combines Disney with dogs (why do people think I like dogs?). I love how Pluto looks as if he's got a really clever, sneaky trick up his sleeve. Reminds me of a truth about dog agility--youth and enthusiasm will always be beaten by age and treachery. Or something like that.

Sunday Late Evening: Photos and Blog

Then...sighhhhhh...two hours transferring photos to the computer, doing a quick search and edit for a few that I can use on my blog (deal with the rest later. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows.) then upload them for the blog and type in some notes...

Sorry, K.A., it'll be yet another day at least for the rest of Rachel's seminar!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The End of A Wednesday Night Era

SUMMARY: I've resigned from the Wednesday night 8:15 class.

And my heart is breaking. I love that class. But, for various reasons related to finances, I have to cut back to one class, and, at the moment, I need Boost's particular class more.

More info: Feb 8, 11:15 a.m. Omigosh! How could I have left THAT out! Or THAT? Or THAT? (See below)


I've been in Wed. night 8:15 class for a very long time--don't ask me how long; it might give away how ancient I really am. I might have taken some time off while on disability with my back in early 2001, so Current Era might have started then, but it's also possible that I was in the class, then out, then back in again, for years before that.

Be that as it may, for a long time I had Jake in that class, with other old-timers who'd been doing agility since the dark ages: Gail and Flint the Corgi, Debbie and Reno the Corgi, Ellen and Cali the Corgi, Arlene and Scully the Little Black Dog (aka Verwende Princess). Hmm, lots of small dogs, where Jake jumped 22". And Gwen with Spike the Border Newf. We had all known each other a very long time, and we were friends. We had our own Wednesday-night email list (still do, in fact; still share our doggie and agility triumphs and sorrows with this same old list), we got together outside of class and outside of agility.

But, in two short and painful months or so in 2005, some of the old dogs were retired from class--Spike and Scully--and two dogs became ill and died very suddenly--Cali and Reno--and Flint moved to a different time that worked better for his handler, and all of a sudden Jake and I were the only ones in the class. I was a bit sad about that. We all got along well, and I just knew that anyone added to the class would be newcomers and not long-time bosom buddies with all those years of shared history. How could it ever possibly be as good?

A newer class

Over the next year or so, the class built up again. They added Ken with Apache the Terv--I didn't know them except as friendly competitors who often beat Tika's times in our novice classes (damn their eyes!). Along with Ken came Bobbie and her Golden, Jenny. Basically complete strangers.

Two AKC Sheltie ladies--Cathy with Trooper and Tracey with Flash--joined, and I wondered what I could possibly have in common with them. Our old classmate, Gail, who sometimes teaches novice classes, sent her promising new student, Ashley with Luka the Pyrenean Shepherd, to get a class with Jim, and he joined us and stayed.

And shortly after that, I retired Jake from class because I had Tika and Boost in classes as well, and three classes was too much for me. That's when Tika moved into Wednesday night 8:15. Later, Jennifer with Kye the Aussie, who reminded me a lot of Tika physically but whom I otherwise knew nothing about, joined. So, altogether, a whole bunch of strangers, most of whom didn't know each other from Adam Ant, thrown together randomly.

There was one late addition, in the middle of 2007, someone I had known for quite a while (and had had class with at other times): Lisa with her young Border Collie, Carson.

Results and Sayonara

I never would have dreamed how much I have come to love that class. We have laughed so hard, so often, at so many things. We've instigated running gags by the handful, without which any relationship is merely a shallow shadow of what it could be. There's the desperate race to pick up the most cones between runs--we elevated it to an art! or was it yet another sick competition?--and the invention of the Bars Sluts!

We have challenged each other to outdo the Cool Factor handling maneuvers--Ashley is absolutely fearless and became the King of the Serpentines, and Jenn and Ken run fast 26" dogs whose times are competitive with Tika's (and Lisa with Carson, too, but she's managed to avoid talking trash with us on a regular basis), and so we're always pushing each other to do better and better. Ken and Jenn and I in particular seem willing to try anything challenging if there's a chance that one of the others might try it and succeed, making them Cool and us Not.

Then there's Tracy and Flash, inexorably working their way towards MACH-37 and learning new moves in the meantime, even though they claim they don't really need them. And, of course, the influence of Instructor J, who drives us to run as fast as we can so the sound of the wind in our ears drowns out his puns, but also always points out the Cool Factor moves that we might not have thought of, or the challenging moves that "you probably can't get there," or "the Monday Night class had no trouble with this," or "everyone else had trouble with this," to which the response is always, "But this is the Wednesday Night 8:15 class!" and "Piece of cake!"

I don't think it's coincidence that Tika's Top Ten points went from 16 in 2005 to 76 in 2007. The mix of people in this class has been very good for me.

And we've become friends in an odd cliquish sort of way. There's always a Wednesday Night 8:15 party Saturday night at out-of-town trials (to which, incidentally, anyone dropping by is invited with wide-open arms; there's always too much food and plenty to drink). We skipped class and went out for Xmas dinner together this year. To my knowledge, that's never been done by any other Power Paws class, ever. And of course our nearly world-famous ABCs of food nights all last year made every night a celebration. Ken and Bobbie and Tracey in particular always had the most spectacular array of foods and were Party Meisters on all occasions, although Jennifer and Ashley were no slouches on upping the food-quality competition level. (My waistline doesn't thank them, but it was bonding and it was delicious and it was fun.)

But the fact remains that agility is a luxury for me and I have to pare back. And Boost and I need the kind of work that we're getting in the other class just a bit more than I need the kind of challenge that I'm getting in this class. They're both very important. But I have to choose. I waited until last night to say anything at all, because I really didn't want to go. I'd have burst into tears last night if I'd had to talk about it any more.

The funny/odd thing is that PP convinced Jennifer and Kye to move to Boost's Thursday class for various reasons, but in particular because another student needed Wed night 8:15 for his schedule, and there wasn't room for another student. But now I'm leaving, too, so there'll be an opening in Wed. night 8:15.

I'll tell ya, I'm so glad that Jennifer and Kye will still be in my class.

But, overall, I feel as if I have left a relationship, it's that kind of pain. Pretty sad, huh? I need another life--

Jennifer baked a Kye cake for the occasion of her last night in class. He even had a little Aussie nubber tail with a white tip. And he tasted very good, too.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nose Touches


Nose-touch demo video.

Team, Team, Who's Got the Team?

SUMMARY: So many DAM events, so little coherence.

Remember back when you had maybe one DAM tournament every year or two somewhere in the general vicinity of a thousand miles? Those were the days.

In this USDAA-qualifying year, we have/have had five--FIVE!--DAM events within 2 hours of my home. I skipped the one in December because I wanted the time off. Leaves me with:
  • Haute TRACS (HT)in April: A major 4-day event, 4 rings, and not even on a holiday weekend. Team has always been Thursday/Friday there, so I can't even wait for the weekend.
  • NAF in June: A smaller trial--2 rings--by a small club but still popular because of the DAM.
  • Bay Team in July (BT July): The maniacs in my club have now announced our 7th--or is it 8th?!--multiple-ring event of the year on a new weekend, but wait, let's make it 3, maybe 4 days, too!
  • Bay Team SW Regional September (BT Regional): The big one. Three days, FIVE rings, can you believe it?

For the last 2 years, Tika has been teaming with Brenn and I like it. We don't have a steady partner yet since our original came up with glaucoma and can't really compete any more. But I abandoned her for Haute TRACS for a silly name--yes, I talked two other handlers into teaming up with us because our dogs' names, combined, sounded like "Tic-tac-toe". It was a total lark, although the dogs are good, too. So Brenn went off and found another team for HT.

Meanwhile, I had confirmed with Brenn that we'd team with our one-time teammate, Savanna (who came up with "Borderin' on K-Aus", which we used with a different dog at Nationals), at NAF and at BT July.

Boost's sister, Bette, had arranged by email for us to team with Trek for Haute TRACS, who we tried to team with last year but then Trek got injured; we had used the team name "Sisters on a Trek" anyway, with a different team, but now we were goood. Well, found out this weekend that some of the email never arrived, so two of us thought we had a team, and one of us thought we didn't, so Trek was scheduled to be with someone else at HT, leaving us short a teammate.

We both went off and asked other people if they'd be interested in teaming with us at HT--the sister-dog Beck and another blue merle, Fleet, but fortunately one didn't commit right away so I was able to back out of that one, so we think we now have a solid team there with Fleet.

But also I asked Bette's mom whether we wanted to team with Trek at NAF and BT July. Oh, she told me, maybe BT July, but Bette is teaming with Brenn (they're very good friends) for NAF. Well, if you recall from above, I thought that Tika was teaming with Brenn for NAF. So it turns out that Brenn's mom was having the same problem I was having with all these events and had promised to team with Tika and Savanna AND with Bette at NAF.

So I said, OK, how about if Savanna and Tika find someone else for NAF, then, and Boost & Bette & Brenn team for NAF, and then Boost/Bette/Trek for BT July and maybe BT regional. That was OK, so I went off and found Trek's mom and confirmed that we could team with her for NAF and for BT July. Trek's mom said, are you sure, so I went back to Bette's mom, who said yes, NAF and BT July, and I confirmed with Trek. (See, we're already confused about which 2 trials, and the conversations had been only an hour or two apart).

Then I went to Savanna's mom to tell her that oops, Brenn was already committed for NAF, but we're still OK for BT July, so we'd have to find a teammate for NAF. She happened to be standing with the handler for my other tic-tac-toe dog, who had teamed with Savanna at the December DAM, where they had qualified and then were splitting up because of these other promises. We agreed that "tac" would join us for NAF.

Then, at 11:30 Saturday night, I woke in a cold sweat, trying to remember who was teamed with whom and when, and had to get paper and pen to write it all down, and discovered that I had double-booked Boost & Bette for NAF and needed to talk to Trek's mom in the morning, which I did, and she was very nice about it.

But then Savanna's mom came by to say that she had thought we were talking about the BT regional, not BT July (and, actually, I had thought so too originally on all counts except that everyone kept saying, "you mean the July BT, not the regional, right? So then I thought I was the only confused one). In fact, she had planned that, if they qualified again at Haute TRACS, then they wouldn't need to do team again for BT July and could take a rest, especially since it would likely be very hot that weekend. But if we'd be willing to take her tentatively for BT July and reevaluate after HT, she's game, and meanwile would we be willing to commit firmly for the BT Regional? We said yes (so, OK, now I have to start thinking about Boost's team for the regional, and also who to approach as a tentative replacement for Savannah if needed for BT July).

So today I sent email to everyone on my "dance card" to confirm the teams. Turns out that the "toe" handler for "tic-tac-toe" thought that our plans were tentative, so while I've been telling everyone for 3 months about our clever team, she's been making plans to rest up her dog and not overdo it on the 4-day HT trial. And the "tac" part thought that it was tentative and never confirmed, so has her own team. I am apparently a total dork for not having confirmed this thoroughly! So, as of today, I don't have a team for Tika for HT--and pretty much everyone has already settled their teams, especially after the trial this last weekend when everyone could schmooze around. Curses!

Do you follow any of this? Neither do I. I am SO stressed trying to keep track of all of this! And, of course, now having committed to teams, if we DO qualify early-on, it would be awful for me to back out of future teams to save time and money and stress. Sighhhh.... at least additional Qs (I can only hope) will be useful for advanced titles.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Weekend Photos

SUMMARY: So many nice things to look at.

I hardly had my camera out at all this weekend (too busy, too much rain), but driving home Saturday early evening was too lovely to pass up.
Driving due west on 132 into the sunset. In the middle of nowhere. "Vernalis"?? Really nowhere--it doesn't even currently have a Wikipedia article! Now that's a real nowhere, man! Rain puddles line the pavement, reflecting the sky's fading blue.
It wasn't a drop-dead gorgeous sunset, rather, low-key dramatic. And very welcome, after two weeks of rain, to notice that the sky above these clouds was clear.
Along the California Coastal Ranges, those hovering clouds are really the omnipresent coastal fog bank trying to pour over the crest into the Central Valley. ... And, of course, there's...
...Mr Chia head, Day 14!

Which does have a Wikipedia article.

Weekend Videos

SUMMARY: Successes and near-successes

A few videos from this weekend. Didn't get most of our runs, including (sigh) Tika's lovely Jumpers, but by putting the camera where I'd have to trip over it to get my next dog out, I managed to remember it maybe half the time.

Here are some runs. I feel like I'm out there zipping lightly around the course, but here it looks like I'm lumbering like someone whose knees are sore, and it looks like I'm running on my heels instead of digging in with my toes. More to work on... plus the pounds I've put on since Nationals really show. I hate winter! (Doesn't help that I'm wearing, what, 5 layers of clothing?)

Tika's Master Standard on Sunday was lovely. Her contacts were very fast, including the dogwalk, and she kept all her bars up. But she decided to come off the table a second too early, for a disqualifying 5 faults. So sad; subtracting the time she wasted, her course time would've been up in the placements (among twenty 26" dogs):

Boost on the same course was fast, but we're just not communicating, as you'll see multiple times here, once resulting in a knocked bar, which was our only called fault on that run:

Tika's Sunday Gamble was lovely, except that she was fast enough that I ran out of obstacles to do and, not thinking well on my feet, ran right past a perfectly available teeter, which would have given Tika 1st place instead of 3rd (among 21 dogs). But her gamble was lovely (it's jump/jump/weaves/jump after the buzzer).

When Boost ran, now I knew that I could fit in two teeters, and did so. Still can see some lack of communication on where I want her to go, including blowing the gamble entry, but the opening was pretty good, with high points equivalent to the 1st-place dog:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Birthday Girls

SUMMARY: Photo of Boost and sisters

I was lucky enough to catch Boost and three of her sisters at this weekend's trial, just 3 days after their third birthday. From left to right, Beck, Gina, Boost, and Bette. Missing is brother Derby, who just wasn't there this weekend (might try again at another trial), sister Kyna (?), whom I haven't seen or heard anything about in a couple of years, and the 7th sister who was mysteriously sold as a pet dog to Hawaii or something odd like that.

Update: Feb 5, 1:05 p.m. PST (comment from Tammy, the siblings' breeder): Derby was practicing being bad at an AKC trial last weekend, Caena has blown out her cruciate ligament, apparently badly enough that they couldn't do surgery to fix it, so it's physical therapy and rest for her. Blue girl (Tinker) lives in San Mateo as a happy pet. I don't think anyone has gone to Hawaii, that I am aware of. :)

The Vet Bill

SUMMARY: Ouch. There goes the tax refund--and more.

Tika's total bill for the tooth thang: $913, plus $389 for additional requested services. I'm guessing that there are less-expensive vets, but I really like mine and have been going to that facility for nearly 30 years; not inclined to try to find another. Maybe I'm foolish about that.
  • Exam/consultation: $62
  • Pills (10 days antibiotics, 7 days Rimadyl): $61
  • Half a day hospitalization: $63
  • Meds at hospital, injected (antibiotics, anti-inflammatory): $50
  • Tech assistance: $45
  • sedative: $37.50
  • anesthetic procedure: $220
  • surgery: $90
  • surgical pack/etc.: $15.50
  • Heart/oxygen/etc. monitors: $50
  • Toxic waste/env. fee: $4
  • Venipuncture: $14
  • Lab fees for blood test: $124
  • X-ray of tooth: $77

(I'll have to double-check on lab fees--blood test was presurgery to be sure she was healthy enough, but I don't know what all the test entailed for that $124!)

Additional services at the same time:
  • X-ray consultation: $60
  • 3 Xrays of neck, back, hips: $249
  • Teeth cleaning: $80

(X-ray consultation--not sure whether that would've been charged for just the tooth, or whether that was only for the additional x-rays.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Home From A Cold USDAA Weekend

SUMMARY: Quick wrap-up: Didn't get what I wanted, but it wasn't a total loss.

It was cold. As in: Saturday morning, all the water tubs and dishes had solid crusts of ice. This is the California Central Valley, remember: It's supposed to be HOT! It was also supposed to rain a lot, but it held off Saturday until the last hour or so, and this morning wee got only a few showers, and the field drained very, very nicely indeed, so it could have been much worse.

Tika needed: Steeplechase. Grand Prix. Jumpers.

What Tika got: Two gamblers (8th and 3rd of 22). Pairs (4th of 30). And--yes! Woohooo! A jumpers! (6th of 24, just one out of Top Ten-point-accrual range).

Boost needed: Steeplechase. Gamblers (had 2 chances). Standard (had 2 chances). Jumpers.

What Boost got: Pairs.

That's 3 Masters Gamblers in a row for Tika, which is cool because it ends a bit of a drought there. And she ran beautifully, fast, happily all weekend, setting aside my concerns about her physical health and age.

Boost looks more and more like a masters dog all the time. Sunday's Standard was lovely but for one bar. We went off course on only one of 9 runs, and that was a bad handling move as much as puppy inexperience. Her gambler's opening today was spot on; lots of points and fast and accurate and no bobbles.

I'm home, I'm finally almost warm, I think I'll go have dinner, shower, & go to my nice warm bed!