a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Soreness and Weaves and Miscellany

SUMMARY: Tika hangs in there; Boost works on her entries; other stuff of no import.

Tika definitely felt perkier yesterday evening, but she also got an aspirin in late afternoon, so I'm not putting too much store by that. Earlier in the day, she was quite contented to lie down in the shade and watch me train with Boost; by dinnertime, she wanted no part of that hanging around inactively, even for treats, and had reverted to the normal behavior of charging out and barking at Boost just as she's coming out of a tunnel. It took some convincing to keep her off to the side. (Yeah, I know--just put her in the house--I just like the idea that someday I'll be able to tell my dog to wait there and she'll actually wait. So I keep practicing. As they say, imperfect practice makes imperfect... Or something witty like that...)

Boost worked on her weave entries. Ya know--we've fixed this so many times! It felt like back to square one on fast entries from anything more than a slight angle, even here in the yard. I went back and put a wire barrier to help her find the entry, and she went back to running through it or jumping over it to get to the second pole, which was a problem we had last year, the last time she wasn't making her entries.

Another trick that I haven't tried this time was to put up a barrier on the far side that she'd hit only if she made the incorrect entry, but I don't think it helped last time and so I'm not sure about this time, and frankly I'm a little doubtful about a solution that makes the dog more cautious about blasting through the weaves. I'd still rather have her blast through incorrectly than to slow down all the way through to be sure she's doing them right. Such a balancing act!

We had some serious talks--really, I think I still get the best results by just bodily picking her up and telling her to cut it out--and by the end of the day she was doing a perfectly fine job of collecting herself to get into the correct pole.

I have some other drills to try today and tomorrow.

I still haven't reproduced the popping-out-at-the-end behavior here, though. I've thought of a couple more things that I'll try today.

Three more days of practice until this weekend's Bay Team USDAA trial. We can become perfect between now and then!

Meanwhile, we take a pause from our day's occupation to review Things Dogs Aren't Supposed To Be Able To Do: Carry around a Buster Cube.

We won't mention--oh, OK, we will--that, to do this repeatedly, the dog has made tooth-sized holes on each side of the cube (not supposed to be able to do that, either) and in the little cylinder in the center that you're supposed to be able to remove but can't, any longer, because the plastic has been too toothed. At least it still dispenses food.

And even more meanwhile--Lo! How the roses e'er blooming! (That's 7 different rose bushes crammed into my front yard. I didn't plant them.) And an iris and some impatiens, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fiction Break

SUMMARY: Read a friend's Hugo-nominated short story. Free.

My Word Whirled post about: The Cambist and Lord Iron.

Poor Tika, Dumb Mom

SUMMARY: It's Tuesday and Tika's still sore.

As I said in a comment on my Sunday post, "I was stupid and let her play frisbee like a maniac before we went home and now she can barely move. Not even for food. Poor baby. More massaging, another doggie aspirin."

And Tika not moving for food is a dire thing. She was marginal yesterday, didn't even want to shake her blanket like a lunatic while I was getting dressed in the morning, which is a mandatory ritual.

Today she shook her blanket a little bit but, when she started to play with Boost (another morning ritual), very quickly she told The Booster a big what for, which I presume means that something hurt and she blamed it on the babydog.

She wants to run and chase her toy in the yard, but is chasing only tentatively and is not doing the usual try-to-stop-it or the very traditional pounce-and-release, either, and is all too happy to let Boost get ahead of her, nearly unheard of. I'm not preventing her from doing anything--she seems to be self-regulating at the moment, which means she's really sore. I feel so badly about the frisbee Sunday. But she WANTED to! She LOVED it! Jeez.

So--more aspirin, more massaging--which, incidentally, she is just about begging for. I don't spend nearly enough time hands-on with my dogs. A few minutes in the morning when we first get up, a tiny bit of love and affection after I wipe their feet off if the yard's muddy. Poor babies. I'm feeling just generally guilty today, I guess.

So now I'm trying to decide whether to scratch her now from this weekend's trial. Or maybe just leave her in one run a day. I don't want her mom to do something stupid to her again. Of course I'd like to do the Steeplechase on Saturday. But, if we're going to do that, it might be good to have a warm-up run in something else earlier in the day. Argh. I hate these decisions!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Photos in Clean Run

SUMMARY: Have camera, will photograph.

Well, I don't have an article in Clean Run yet, but they did buy a couple of my photos from the Rachel Sanders running-contacts seminar that I attended in January. Which, at the time, I thought I was taking only for myself until Rachel asked me about it later in the day.

It's a pretty good article, too (yeah, the photos are the most important thing of course!), including explanations of why she's using this method and why the various steps are important. May 2008 issue, page 41. Those weren't even the photos that I thought were the best or the most interesting, but there ya go. I did, however, use one of them in my post about the seminar.

The moral of the story is: Always carry a camera. And don't be afraid to use it.

Tika is Qualified in Grand Prix

SUMMARY: A relief to discover--

I was just putting Tika's ribbons from this weekend on the wall, and had to move a couple of older ones, and so noticed a 2008 Grand Prix qualifying ribbon already nestled among Tika's ribbons from last fall. Sure enough--she DID already get one GP Q, and now this weekend's makes two, and so now she's Qed for Nationals in GP. Whew! Just one more Steeplechase and she'll be all set. If I decide to go. Looking at her times compared to others in the Steeplechase in particular, but all the classes in general, plus this ongoing occasional soreness thing, makes me wonder whether it's worth the trip. I don't have to decide yet--

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It All Turns Out OK

SUMMARY: Tika's aches, Boost's weaves, generally an OK day.

It's funny that a day with no qualifying scores and with Tika turning up too sore to run again can end up feeling so successful.

Last night when we got home, I put Boost through some weaves, which she of course did perfectly. Then I really revved her up, held back on her collar, whacked at her with a toy that she just couldn't quite get, blasted her through the same tunnel twice and then launched her at the weaves--and Lo! she missed her entry! Whereupon I picked her right up (which she grumbled about) and walked her around telling her to cut out being lazy about her entries. And then I hoped the lesson would stick for the morning.

Pairs Relay: Tika had a lovely run in the morning, clean and smooth but not superfast; no Q because of partner's off-course, but these things happen. Boost made her weave pole entrance! Woo! But popped out early. I made her stop and wait and then go back in and fix the last couple of poles, hoping the lesson would stick. Then she blasted past a tough-angled jump and to the next obstacle for an offcourse (sorry, partner), then she left her Aframe before I released her, and I made her Down (several times because she kept popping back up in front of me every time I moved).

Standard: Tika wouldn't play tug with me during warm-up, which looked uncomfortably similar to the other times when she has then been too sore to run. Knowing that she'd Drama-Queen me if I were to be solicitous, I just acted as if everything was fine. I led out, did a release and pivoted. She started out slow, knocked the 2nd jump, slowed even more over the next two jumps, then came to a complete stop. Yikes. Of course this would be a day when she's in Round 2 of Steeplechase and guaranteed a cash prize if she could just complete the run. We of course left the ring.

Boost had quite a credible run. She actually entered her weaves correctly and stayed in all the way to the end. That alone was great, after yesterday's weaving disasters. She also stuck every one of her contacts until I released her. AND although she knocked two bars and did one spin before the last jump when she was way ahead of me, one bar I yelled over, and the other was just a little tip, not a major hit, and overall it was a lovely, smooth, masters-type run for The Booster. I felt good about it.

Jumpers: I scratched Tika from this class. Gave her a good massage and stretched her joints (which, incidentally, she loved), gave her a doggie aspirin, let her rest. Boost came so close to Qing that I could almost scream--it was lovely! She did run past one jump, and I backed up until she was in a position to take it (I'm trying to remember instructor's instructions to "don't leave the scene of the crime--make her take those jumps!"), and there were a couple of very tiny hesitations that I noticed but that weren't actual refusals, and she kept all her bars up, and it was wonderful how it all came together! If we're not careful, someday we might actually get a Standard or Jumpers leg.

Steeplechase: Steeplechase was even more interesting--of the 4 other dogs in her height, Cap is a perennial tournament winner locally and double finalist at Scottsdale last year, Maja is another perennial tournament winner, national finalist, and world cup member, Aiko is a former Steeplechase Nationals champion, Hobbes is a USDAA Top Ten dog and Nationals finalist. And they're all Border Collies. Tika is just Tika. In the first round, three of the four were in the 27-second range; Tika was at 32. I knew I couldn't make up that much speed; I could just try to handle well, try to excite her, and see whether everyone else crapped out. Well--Cap hurt his toe Saturday and so scratched, leaving only 4 of us.

I walked the Steeplechase course a couple of times quickly and then went back to Tika while the walk-through continued. There were only 8 dogs before Tika, so I gave her another bit of massaging and joint stretching, a little trotting around, then tricked her by pulling out the frisbee instead of the usual prerun Riot Tug, and she came out just bouncy and boingy and rarin' to go. So I went ahead and ran her.

She ran clean. Not an inspired round for speed, and I think she looked at little wonky in the weaves, but that's two clean Steeplechase rounds in one weekend--pretty rare for us!

Then--Maja eliminated, Hobbes had a 5-point fault, and Aiko almost went off-course into the wrong end of a tunnel, but saved the run--still a second faster than Tika, but leaving us with a 2nd place ribbon and a cash award that would actually do more than just buy lunch.

Taj MuttHall Mom is pretty happy, although with that nagging worry about what's going on with Tika. Time will tell--

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When You Wish Upon A Star

SUMMARY: Tika has a good day. Boost? Well-- Oh, and dogs' names, too.

Sometimes fantasies DO become realities. Tika earned that Grand Prix that I wanted for her, with a 5th place out of about 22 in her height. She earned that Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver (25 masters snooker legs), and did it in style in 4th place with a Super-Q. AND she ran clean in Steeplechase, being one of only five 26" dogs out of 21 to go on to round 2, ending a one-year dry spell (same trial last year) AND completing her Tournament Master Gold! Whoo! She got extra treats! Plus if we can avoid Eing tomorrow we're guaranteed to be in the money! A whole 3% of the purse for 5th place again!

She didn't get ANYTHING that I DIDn't ask for--completely crashed through the first bar in Standard, don't know why, although the rest of the run was nice, and had an excellent Gambler's opening but I got ahead of her when the first whistle blew and so had to come to a complete stop to send her, so she pulled off the gamble obstacle.

Boost's day can be summed up in two words, one consisting of a variety of emphatic puncutation marks: #%$&*@ weaves! She either mucked the entry, or popped out early, or sometimes both, or in the Steeplechase 6 or 7 times from a down-stay BEFORE the weave poles all in one run! And I waited around for 90 minutes or more for that run!

What am I to do? (That's a rhetorical question--I'm working on it--but meanwhile what passes for my wits are nearing a terminus...)

But the weather was nice, I was among friends, pal Apache and his dad finished their ADCH, Boost actually had a couple of runs that were very smooth with no refusals on jumps and made me feel like I was running a masters dog instead of a babydog, and she DID get the gamble although over time because we were out in the middle of the course HAVING ANOTHER DISCUSSION ABOUT POPPING OUT OF THE #%$&*@ WEAVES! ARRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh...

And speaking of ellipses--We discussed dogs whose names contain punctuation. Today there was "Rowdy!" and another California agility dog is "Tally Ho!". I said what about a dog named "." (pronounced "Dot")? Do you think that every secretary would call when you sent in your entry to say that you didn't give the dog's name? What would the gate steward call when they saw "." on the running order list? Or would they think it was a typo? And, hey, how about a dog named "ellipses" that was spelled like this: "..."?? Wouldn't it just be a blast chiding USDAA and CPE and all those other organizations for not spelling your dog's name right?

Then we got around to a dog who, after he wins the National Championships or maybe has his photo on the cover of Clean Run or otherwise now becomes famous, changes his name from a run-of-the-mill traditional dog name to a sort of a bone symbol on a stick something like this and now he's known as "The dog formerly known as Prince"? Wouldn't that be cool? Wouldn't you want to be trial secretary dealing with TDFNP's owner who wanted the symbol correctly on the page? (Thanks to my fellow scoretableist for the Prince idea. You can hit her if you want--it's not my fault!)

One Dog, Two Dog, No Dog, Three Dog

SUMMARY: Title chase this weekend, plus: What's the right number of dogs?

If all works well, this post will post itself while I am off having the time of my life making perfect weave entrances at the SMART USDAA trial in Prunedale. And working the score table. And maybe participating in:
  • Boost getting a Jumpers and a Standard leg to finish her MAD.
  • Tika getting a Steeplechase Q to finish her Tournament Master Gold.
  • Boost getting a Steeplechase Q, too, which will put them both halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big S.
  • Tika getting a Grand Prix Q, too, which will put her halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big GP.
  • Tika getting a Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver.

No, I don't really have anything I want to accomplish this weekend; why do you ask?

So, in case none of my dogs achieve anything this weekend and I need to replace them with something more qualifiable, let's talk about What's The Right Number of Dogs?

An agility friend is seriously in the midst of probably most likely adopting a third dog, first time she's done that (two was a leap, I believe), so wanted my opinion, me being an absolute wealth of useless, ambiguous opinions, and I agreeably rambled on about it. Here's my updated response, with photos.

One dog, December 1978 through August 1981

Amber joined me as a puppy. We were happy together. I took her many places with me. It's easy to travel with one dog. It's easy to play with one dog. One dog fits well into small spaces. It's easy to do training with one dog. And when all the Mystic Mints disappear from the box or there is poop on the carpet you know whom to talk to about it. And Amber was generally a Good Dog who generally came when called and stuff like that. Plus she'd hold a biscuit on her nose.

Two dogs, August 1981-July 1992

So I got married and figured that two people needed two dogs. Well, the new dog was very sweet but did NOT come when called and did NOT play and did NOT have any interest in doing training and could not hold a biscuit on her nose even if stapled it there (editor's note: Stapling is just a metaphor, no actual staples were used). At least Sheba and Amber got along--once in a while they'd chase each other around the yard, and they'd take turns eating from the same bowl even though we conveniently provided them with two independent bowls with actual food in both.

Sheba was not much fun to travel with and she always had to be on leash, always, or she would end up in Sheboygan. So we didn't go places with the dogs much. But at home one or the other was usually doing something entertaining, or being cute, so when one was slacking off and just hanging out, the other would gamely amuse us somehow. But if the carpet was torn to shreds, we couldn't ever be certain who was responsible, although we had a 99% probability guess on that one, SHEEEba!

One dog July 1992-May 1994

When Amber died, it just about broke my heart. This is one disadvantage of having dogs. They die. They break your heart. If you have one dog, they don't do it as often as if you have two or more dogs. The number of dogs dying seems to be proportional to the number of dogs in the family. I realized now that dogs die and furthermore, Amber died, and I would never be able to have another dog like her again and so why bother. Plus there was always dog hair everywhere and dust and dirt from the dogs everywhere and I was just tired of it, and Sheba was 11 anyway so if we just waited for her to die, which would undoubtedly be soon, then I could have a clean house again and no carpet ripped up and no spots on the lawn all the time and no worrying about dogsitters when we went places without the dogs, which was often.

Two dogs, May 1994-January 2002

When Sheba had rambled on to 13 and showed no signs of slowing down for or even being within a hundred miles of the exit from the highway of life (more metaphors, are you impressed?), it suddenly struck me that my own life would be very, very, very empty indeed if there were no dog in it, plus since Sheba did NOT play and did NOT hold a biscuit on her nose, she often bored me to tears, and wanted a dog who would be more doglike in those particular ways rather than just shedding everywhere and occasionally escaping and trying to thumb a ride to Sheboygan. And within a month, Remington came home.

Sheba was not happy about it. It was no longer easy to snuggle with both dogs, because one would be pissy about it. They did not share food bowls. Remington was generally a Good Dog but if we left him at home and took Sheba for a slow elderly walk, he shrieked, and if we left Sheba at home and took Rem for a brisk youngster walk, she'd be gone when we got back.

But, oddly enough, Sheba took one look at the young whippersnapper doing tricks for treats, and she wanted to, too! So the dog I had failed to teach even to sit when she was 3 learned, at 14, to sit and lie down on command, to shake, and to hold a biscuit on her nose! I loved it! And for the first time I really appreciated how dogs can affect each other in ways that are good for me. So maybe having more than one dog was a Good Thing.

Then I discovered dog agility. Rem went many places with me and learned many things. But Sheba was too old for that sort of stuff and her health was starting to fail. Meanwhile, "All my FRIENDS have two agility dogs, can I please please please, really, I'll take care of them!" The spouse wasn't smitten with the idea of three dogs (two dogs, two people, remember?), but meanwhile Jake became available and I really really wanted him to come home with me.

When Sheba died at 17, Jake was in our yard within a week. And we started doing agility.

So I discovered--duh--it's blatantly twice as expensive to have two dogs when you're competing in agility. It's not just twice the food and twice the basic vet bills and so on--it's twice the weekly lessons (money and time), twice the training in the yard (time), twice the entry fees (money), twice the work at a trial (pottying, warming up, cooling down, planning different handling strategies or courses because they run differently and have different strengths and weaknesses).

On the other hand, if one was injured, the other was still running. If one was having zero-qualifying weekends, the other was doing SOMETHING right so I wouldn't sink into a self-pitying pit of rancid despair (not quite worked into a blatant metaphor but close enough). So there were definitely advantages.

And, for two Basically Good Dogs, walking two dogs wasn't too hard, snuggling two dogs wasn't too hard, training two dogs wasn't too hard because one would wait when told.

But these two dogs despised each other. Fights were too common. It was extremely unpleasant. Plus they were boy dogs, so instead of making dead patches on my lawn, they peed all over the sides of things. And, once one did it, the other had to, too.

Three dogs, January 2002-March 2003

Both dogs were getting older. Jake had arthritis in his back. I figured that neither of them had more than a couple of good agility years left. I wanted to bring a third dog on board so that I wouldn't be left without an agility dog. After a divorce (really only very little to do with the dogs), and the purchase of a new Agility House, Tika came home with me.

Jake was grumpy about it, but Tika knew how to keep out of his way. It was a lot of fun having a new dog to teach from scratch to avoid making all the training mistakes I had made with the first two. I really enjoyed getting started with her, although, boy, training classes for THREE dogs was quite a wallet-unloader.

I used to go for nice peaceful mile-long walks every day with Jake and Remington, but Tika was a tremendous handful. I did it anyway because the other two dogs were manageable, but it became a bit stressful trying to walk her, too.

Tika entered her first trial with one run the same weekend that Remington first showed obvious-enough signs that something was wrong with him, so I never did have complete entry fees for three full dogs at a single trial, but my two "elderly dogs" up to that point (Rem 9, Jake 11) were still competing just fine so it could have gotten quite pricey--and REALLY busy--at trials.

But now I could take one dog for a walk at a time and not feel guilty because there'd be two dogs at home together. This didn't stop them from complaining about it, but I always felt much better that they were together. This way, I could work on Tika's leash-training by herself, could walk an ill Remington by himself, could walk Good Dog Jake for just a nice relaxing peaceful walk by ourselves. There were advantages to three dogs.

Plus, the things that Jake and Remington both did well at (not running out the front door, for example), Tika seemed to notice and learn from. (She was not so good at it later after Rem died, so actually having TWO other experienced dogs in the house was a very good thing for a rambunctious youngster.)

But three dogs on the bed was a real mess, especially with the two boys being picky about their personal space. I tried to train Tika to sleep in a crate off the bed, but my training failed--on me. So I had to manipulate myself all the time to sleep around 3 dogs on a king sized bed who didn't want to be within 3 feet of each other.

Two dogs, March 2003-2004ish

So, after Remington died, I discovered again how much I liked having two dogs. One on either end of the bed. One on either side of me for snuggling. One per hand when out walking. Two at a competition was plenty.

Three dogs, 2004ish-2005ish

And then I got a renter housemate who had a dog, too.

This actually worked out well, because I could play with and even dabble in agility with the third dog, but then turn him over to his mom for vet bills and feeding and walking and grooming and all that stuff.

Jake, whom I thought would have retired from agility years ago, kept going and going, but I knew that at his age (13ish), it couldn't last forever, and then I'd be down to only one agility dog again, and that's a terrible thing (what if one is injured? Then I'd have NO agility dogs!). I had thought that I might make little black Casey my 3rd, but then they moved out.

Two dogs briefly in 2005

When Casey left, Tika was already 4, and I figured it was time to bring in a 3rd dog again. It was a hard choice from a living perspective, though, because I REALLY liked having just 2 dogs everywhere except for competing at agility trials. But, still, Boost joined us shortly thereafter.

Three dogs April 2005-Feb 2007

Once again, I delighted in teaching my young new dog all kinds of wonderful new things. A puppy is a challenge, but also a joy in seeing her catch onto ideas.

But three dogs are harder. Harder to line up for photos. Harder to snuggle with--you just cannot do 3 simultaneously. More gear to carry and more space taken up at agility trials. One dog you can tuck in almost anywhere. Even with two dogs, you can get by without your own canopy if you're clever. But with three dogs, you gotta have the whole shebang (not to be confused with Sheboygan).

Harder to sleep with and manage in hotel rooms and vehicles. Two crates fit neatly across the back of the minivan, but not 3.

Two dogs Feb 2007-present

Abruptly, I found myself again with only two dogs. Sure, I missed Jake, but I don't miss having the three dogs. Except when I want to walk one dog at a time, or take one dog somewhere, I don't feel comfortable leaving the other dog home alone, so I am doomed to always have two dogs with me wherever I go. Don't like that part.

General discussion about how many dogs

First, I think that if you have found a dog that seems right to you and you have the time and energy for another dog, you should take him/her home. I've looked at so many dogs and thought "welllll allllmost but not quite," that I value it when I have a take-home response to a dog.

Second, I find two dogs much easier than three. I can walk 2 dogs at a time, pet 2 dogs at a time. Three dogs--depends on the dogs--gets to be a challenge, because now you're using one hand to manage two dogs. Some people just never do that--I've talked to folks who always just walk one dog at a time, whether "out for a walk" or just pottying at a trial. Tika is a tremendous chore to walk with. I managed it with Jake and Remington because they were pretty good on leash, but I find that her bad habits on leash tend to drift over to Boost and the thought of adding a 3rd dog to this mess deters me. So some of that really does depend on the dogs.

However, I also have the question lingering all the time about what happens when my current dogs get older, from an agility perspective. One answer would be to drop out of agility for a while. Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to do that. Sometimes I don't. Assuming that I'm still in an agility frame of mind, in 3 years, Boost will be 6 and Tika will be 10 and I'd want to start thinking about a puppy or young dog that year. I'm guessing that Tika won't be competing when she's 11 or 12. But I've been fooled before (witness Jake at 15). If I *don't* get a 3rd dog, and if these guys live good long healthy lives, let's say Tika dies at 15, boost will be 11 and might not be competing, either. That could be a long dry spell w/out competition.

On the other hand, having only one dog competing would be considerably less expensive. :-)

Somehow I've managed to keep 2 dogs competing most of the time. Tika had just attended her first couple of trials when Remington got sick and died, so I had 3 dogs entered in maybe 2 or 3 trials. Boost had just attended her first couple of trials when Jake suddenly went. At trials where I've had only one dog to run, it has been both relaxing and boring. And one or the other of them usually does *something* well, whereas back when I was one-dog with Remington and he didn't do well (which was often), it really bummed me.

Jake and Remington fought. I hated it. I don't miss that part, but that was the same whether I had just them or added Tika. But I wonder how I'd have felt if, say, I'd already had Rem and Tika and then added Jake. Dunno.

Adding Boost to the Tika/Jake combination was both good and bad. Jake was a grouch but there was something about the way Tika handled his snarfs that made them cautious partners. Tika's the only dog that Jake would play fetch around, and she'd run in and scoop up his toy or ricochet off him half the time and he usually let her get away with it (after a 2 or 3 month adjustment period, at least). And he'd imitate what she did and follow her around, and she'd pay attention to things he did to earn rewards. They were never friends, though. Tika loved Boost. They play with each other regularly. Jake hated Boost and she really felt the brunt of it, being a puppy. I tried to keep them apart but sometimes I just slipped up and he'd be all over her. And I don't know how much of it was because she was a puppy, because she was new, because she didn't know how to deal with him like Tika did, because he was jealous in his own weird way at her taking time from Tika, or because he could.

I am one of those sort of ambiguous dog people. I love having my dogs around. I am so tired of the dirt and the hair and the overhead. I would really miss not having a dog around. I might actually enjoy living without dogs (but it's been so long since I've really done so that I'm not sure about that). The thought of losing them both for some reason sometimes terrifies me. It happens to people, losing two dogs in a short period of time. Three dogs seems less likely that you'd ever suddenly find yourself dogless, sort of an insurance policy of unconditional love or something.

And I don't think that 3 dogs makes it any more complicated in feeding--I just use dry kibble--or keeping the house and yard cleaned. If I'm going to sweep the floor, it doesn't matter how many dogs have shed on it. If I'm wandering around the yard picking up poop twice a day, it doesn't matter how many individual poops there are.

But expenses definitely go up with a 3rd dog. Half again as much food. Half again as many medical bills. If for some reason you need to board them or otherwise cared for (I seldom do, but sometimes), the expenses are per dog. Same if you have them groomed (I seldom do because of the cost, but would if I could afford it). If you have all of them in classes of some kind, it's per dog.

Overall, I prefer being a 2-dog person. And the odds are good that someday I'll find myself with 3 dogs again. But here's the other thing: Several people have told me that 4 dogs are easier than 3, because you can do everything 2 dogs at a time without one dog feeling left out and making a fuss or being resentful. Huh. Dunno. But just in case you find TWO dogs you really like--well--you can give it a try and let me know.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wednesday Night Workout Hike

SUMMARY: Conditioning for Havasu Falls

Hiked again Wednesday night with the Sierra club. It was a near-sprint up to Black Mountain summit in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve and back--just under 5 miles and about 800-900 feet in elevation change (2000 feet above sea level to 3000 feet, and remember I live at about 50 feet)--from 6:30 to 8:30 Wednesday evening with the Sierra Club group I've been hiking with. Man, those guys move!

I barely got some photos by pausing for a nanosecond and then jogging to catch up. Lots of wildflowers but there was no way I had time to kneel and try to set up for a macro shot.

One member of the group has a service dog. No disability that prevents him from running miles every day and doing these brisk hikes. This means there'll always be a dog along when he's in town. That's kind of cool. A substitute dog and I don't have to take my own along.

My knee is holding up well, although it had very minor kvetches on Thursday, just because it needed to feel appreciated. Sure, this was a more gradual climb and descent than we'll get in the Grand Canyon area. But I think I'm going to do fine. More photos here.

Proofing Weaves Update

SUMMARY: Weave drills in class.

Sometimes I'm prescient. On Tuesday, I said "I need to practice running Boost to and from weaves with 40 feet [but] my yard allows about 5 feet [so] instead I will ... practice sticky weaves..."

Last night in class, we did weave pole drills! I felt so prepared, except that I expected that Boost would screw up her entry every time we blasted at them from 20 or more feet away, which she so very did. We had a little talk or two about how I know she knows how to get those entries and I'm tired of having to be there to babysit them and she'd better cut it out, and she got the next couple, but I'm going to have to remember to babysit weave entries this weekend.

But she did great with all the veering in and out, front crossing early, rear crossing late, working at a distance, crossing the weaves perpendicularly. I was pleased with my girlie; once she was in, she stayed in for the duration.

Of course, I think pretty much all the dogs did for all the drills, and most of them had better entries. Ah, well, one step at a time!

Tika, of course, on the one I did with her, was a perfect weaving beastie even when I gave her a crappy approach.

Now I just need to figure out SOME way to give Boost some more realistic (more competition-like) approaches to the weaves in my yard so she can practice collecting herself and get her furry little butt kicked when she doesn't bother. Next week. Sure.

Boost surrounds herself with metaweavepoles to practice getting into the proper mindset for making her entries.

Tika is fully in the weave pole zen and needs no external stimulants.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Proofing Weaves

SUMMARY: In which our heroines try not to pop out of the weaves in the disastrous back yard.

Here's the thing. I've got this project at work That Would Not Die. Any day now I'll be done with it. I've been thinking that for three months now. So I'm busy. I'm stressed. I'm not in the mood to go work on piddly agility details like actual skills that would help us earn Qs and not throw our money away on entry fees where we'll NQ for the same problems we made at the last trial. I'd rather not think about it and then go NQ at the next trial and then complain about how I can't believe we did the same stupid thing again to everyone who'll listen (which is pretty much no one, because everyone in agility knows about us whiners who will shut up eventually if you don't encourage them and then we can get back to gossiping about dogs).

So I have two USDAA weekends coming up. Boost STILL needs one Standard and one Jumpers for her MAD (Master Agility Dog) title, which is what *I* need to feel like I have an actual masters-level dog and not a puppy who somehow stumbled into masters by some freak accident. And why did we not have those Qs last weekend, for example? Knocked bars. Plus, in other runs, total havoc. AND neither dog has a Steeplechase Q this year, not one, and Tika needs a mere one for her Gold Tournament Master and both need TWO to qualify for Nationals. And Tika, who has a lifetime accumulation of 21 Grand Prix legs, hasn't managed *one* this year, not a single one, and she needs TWO GPs to qualify in that for Nationals.

So I guess I should probably practice SOMETHING. For some reason I don't mind practicing weaves as much as other stuff. For one thing, there are no bars to set every time you mess up. And you don't have to give rewards right at the base of the contact--you throw the reward from wherever you're standing. So, being basically lazy, weave poles are good for me--not as good as tunnels, but actually my dogs are pretty good at tunnels (run through it fast. Hard concept.) so I don't have to practice much, although I do, ALL the TIME when playing fetch (you have to run really fast through a tunnel to get your toy. So someday I will probably pay for this on course when they decide to run really fast through a tunnel instead of doing a contact or a jump).

As usual, I digress. I was going to digress more about how I need to practice running Boost to and from weaves with 40 feet and a jump between her and the next obstacle and how my yard allows about 5 feet--otherwise I'll run them into a diseased apply tree or over a smooth, slippery concrete patio--so it's not the best practice, but instead I will go right into how I also need to practice sticky weaves--dogs who will stick in the weaves no matter what I do. Since BOTH dogs, yes even TIKA THE WEAVING MARVEL, have popped out of weaves more than once in recent trials.

And here's some of what I do, using my creative genius (also called "borrowing everyone else's ideas") to come up with every distraction I can think of. Cross behind when sending to the weaves. Cross behind and stop suddenly. Cross behind and change my mind. Cross behind just before they get to the last pole. Send at a 90-degree angle from 10 feet away and then rear cross perpendicular to 10 feet on the other side. Run alongside and stop suddenly early. Or middle. Or right before the end. Run ahead and front cross suddenly. Front cross early. Front cross late. Start to front cross and stop. Run alongside and turn and run back where I came from. Run alongside and slooooowwww dowwwwn and SPEED UP and stop suddenly. Run alongside and spin in circles. Run alongside. Stop. Start. Stop. Run alongside and veer suddenly away. Run alongside and suddenly yell something stupid--"begonia!" is my favorite. Or sing. Stop and wave my arms. Run and wave my arms. Drop a toy subtly at my feet while I'm running. Throw the toy while they're still in the weaves. Toss a toy in the air while I'm running. Kick the toy on the ground while they're in the weaves. Stop and play with the toy on the ground. Throw the toy off to the side. Throw the toy right exactly next to them in the weaves (this is an advanced distraction that you really need to work up to; give the poor pups a break!). Run alongside, veering in and out and waving my arms. Send the dog straight into the weaves ahead of me and stand there while they do all 12. Do five back-to-back weaves as fast as I can get them to turn and redo them and try to get them to pop out right at the end of each set (this is especially good practice if you ever have a chance to do a 60-weave-pole challenge). Do all the same things at 20 feet away if I can figure out how in my yard so that it'll apply equally well in a gamble.

You know, these dogs should have no excuse at all for ever popping out of the weaves. Ever. But you also know, I have to keep redoing these sorts of things, because if I stop practicing, then they start popping. Why can't things just stay fixed?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wildflower Identification--And Not

SUMMARY: A volunteer project not involving dogs.

If you'd like to see my photos (many blurry again) of my hike and wildflower identification (or failure to identify) project, read about it here.

(I will have you know that it has now taken me longer to sort through, label, edit, upload, describe, organize, and research the photos I took than the entire time that I spent driving to & from and actually going on the hike--and it was a 4-hour hike! I hate digital photography.)

Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine.

SUMMARY: Boost is bored.

When Boost thinks that I have been sitting at my computer long enough, this is what she does. Stand outside the door to my office and stare at me. For maybe an hour. How can Border Collies do that? I couldn't stand in one place and stare for even 5 minutes without noticing that maybe the glass is dirty and going and cleaning all my windows.

But maybe I would find it easier to do if I had an extra thing to do while staring. Like Boost does. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. For an hour. With brief stretches of bemused silence after I scream "cut it out you're driving me nuts" with my fingers tangled in my hair.

Fortunately today I will be going off to an unopened open space preserve to survey wildflowers. No staring dogs.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Yard Has Gone To The Dogs

SUMMARY: Dogs. Everything dogs. Can't I just have a little garden to myself?

Now you can view photos and read many educational and informative details all about how The Yard Has Gone To The Dogs (adventures in flowers and sods). To put you in the mood: Dogs And Sod Still Life:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Phun With Photography

SUMMARY: The renter played with the beasts this evening, so I had a chance to try some action shots.

None of these have the sharpest focus. It was overcast and getting darkish; that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I used the SLR's automatic sports setting instead of figuring out my own settings--and things were still only fair to middling. Every one of these shots I cropped and/or tweaked the lighting. But you might enjoy them anyway. This is the best of 160. And I actually convinced myself to delete a whole bunch of the worst ones. But not 100. Even though only maybe a dozen are worth looking at again. Dork.

Wrestling for the toy is so much more fulfilling than chasing it. This is the dog who won't stick to a toy at class or competitions because, she claims, she's not really into toys.

"C'mon, the ball's right here! Nice and juicy ball! I've got it all lined up for you! Really, I'll let you kick it if you want to! Lucy and Charlie Brown? Whoozat?"

Boost drops the toy, turns, and blasts off because she knows that The Kick is coming.

This is my favorite shot: Tika trying to block the kick.

What Tika does between wrestling with the ball, chasing it, and not bringing it back. Eat grass. This enables her to spend half her zooming-around time horking on grass blades. I'm sure that's deeply fulfilling in some berserk twisted canine fashion, too.

Try THIS with your agility Mastiff.

I like the sweet little coy expression on Boost's face as she munges the ball.

"OK, enough running; the ball is mine now!" Complete with punk-canine-stylish inside-out ear.

You know that dogs keep most of their tongue rolled up in a compartment in the back of their mouth and unroll it only for special occasions.

Boost's favorite activity: Circling. And circling. And circling. And circling. Did I mention circling?

But Boost will fetch the ball no matter where it lands, even in the compost bin. Who left that open, anyway?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hiking Without the Dogs

SUMMARY: Brisk hike with other people's dogs.

This evening I went on a lovely 4-ish mile hike, about 500 feet up and back down, at the Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve, which has been open to the public only for a very few years. Not only do they allow dogs on leash, but there's a huge section in the middle of the park where dogs are allowed off leash.

However, I did not take my beasts; too much trouble when I'm getting to know people in this Sierra Club group and also watch my feet and the poison oak. Maybe some other time.

The lower elevations were lush forests along a stream bed.

The dogs wanted to go on the dusky-footed woodrat trail.

From higher up Pulgas Ridge, you could see all the way out to San Francisco Bay.

It was a pretty huge group hiking this evening. I feel good now. My legs are comfortably tired and I'm starting to believe that I can actually do this Grand Canyon hike thingie.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dang Steeplechase

SUMMARY: Dang Steeplechase.

I thought for a moment that Tika had completed her Tournament Master Gold this weekend, but noooo-- she needs one more Steeplechase for that. Faugh! We cannot run a clean steeplechase to save our lives. We also have earned only one Steeplechase Q in the last year and a half. For us, it's not the TIME; she's plenty fast enough as the following table shows. It's just that, when she's between 0 and 5 seconds under time, we earn a 5-point fault, which (scoring on time plus faults) puts us out of the running; when she is more than 5 seconds under time so that we actually have room for a 5-point fault, she earns 10 faults. And, gadzooks, the couple of times that we haven't earned faults--we run past a thing or two, wasting enough time to put us over time!

We are so bloody consistent in our failure strategy! I wish I could be so consistent n a SUCCESS strategy!

Here it is in ugly black and white since September 2006. I say again, faugh!
Qual our
SCT under
time by
faults notes best
n 36.4 40.19 n/a E offcourse 31.71
n 34.44 40.46 6.02 10 2 bars 32.13
n 41.76 38.42 -3.34 ran beyond Afr and past a tunnel (lots of wasted time) 29.84
n 37.3 43.05 5.75 10 2 bars 32.65
n 39.98 39.04 -0.94 bobbled BOTH weave entries 30.1
Q 39.68 40.43 0.75 bobbled one weave entry 31.64
n n/a E offcourse
n 32.96 37.92 4.96 10 2 bars 29.61
n 34.51 35.66 1.15 5 bar and pulled her past a jump (wasted time) 27.59
n 28.86 35.2 6.34 10 hit broad & bar 26.94
n 30.69 32.72 2.03 5 popped Afr 24.82
n n/a E offcourse
n 37.24 37.29 0.05 5 bar 28.95

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boring Notes To Self From Weekend

SUMMARY: What we did well on, but mostly what we screwed up. (This is my third post of the day. You'll probably more enjoy my previous posts about Weekend Courses or Haute TRACS is Almost Done.


  • Weaves: Hitting the correct entry and then skipping a pole. Several times. This cost us 14 points in Saturday's Snooker, time in the Steeplechase, I don't know where else as I didn't take good notes at the time. Popping out early. She did this almost 100% on Thursday, I think. I made her go back in and correct them on the theory that slowing her down is punishment enough. That didn't seem to help, so on Friday I made her lie down and THEN made her go back in and fix them. The next set of weaves she did the entry-skipping thing again; made her lie down, then go back in, and she finished them completely and I whooped and ran her quickly out of the ring over a couple of fast obstacles.

    That seems to have fixed it again, as she completed all of her weaves correctly on Saturday, I'm pretty sure, enough that I dared three sets in the gamble and she did great, made entries AND stayed in. Woo.
  • Contacts: Oh, bad dog, left the first two early in team standard and I didn't want to mess around in Team events. So later I made her lie down when she left a contact or two early, and that seems to have fixed it again. You really do have to stay on top of this stuff, don't you!
  • Start line stay: She is so good! Although in that same first team run, she left before I released her, and I let her get away with it because it was team. I feared for my life after that, but in fact she stuck all of her remaining start-line stays all weekend very nicely.
  • Bars and refusals: I just didn't count them well this weekend. There were many, many, many on Thursday but seemed to be better on Friday and even better on Saturday. I wonder, if I had stayed through Sunday, whether we'd have actually had a run or two with no refusals or knocked bars? We just don't practice enough running and jumping, I guess. Not enough room for it in my yard; class is so much more focused on handling.
  • Energy: So far she seems to maintain total drive and enthusiasm, although she was more easily distracted away from her tug toy while going to and from the ring. I hope that's just growing maturity and confidence, not a stress reaction. I'd hate to think that I'm slowing her down in the ring by my incompetent handling or stressing her out about doing well in the ring.


  • Contacts: Barely getting toenails into the Aframe down contacts and flying over most of the dogwalk downs. I don't believe that we were called for any dogwalk ups this weekend. Maybe I'm concentrating on the wrong part of the contact and Rachel's right about that being trivial! I need to just decide how she's supposed to do her contacts and what I'm willing to accept in the ring and go about fixing it again. She never used to have so many flyoffs. I don't think so, anyway.
  • Drive and enthusiasm: I've always had trouble getting her to play with a toy before a run, except the first run of the morning, where she really gets into it--until we get ringside, where she'd rather sniff the ground. Presumably that's mostly the chow-hound's food obsession, but the amount of time I spend dragging her around by the neck trying to do a little jogging to warm up or just to get from one side of the ring to the other is a little bit concerning. Is this a stress reaction more than mere food sniffing?

    She does seem to me to be tiring and flagging sooner and more often. Heat never seemed to matter to her, but this weekend she didn't leap immediately to her feet when I approached her crate saying, "Tika, you want to do some agility?" This is so unlike her. This just adds to the assorted things I have been noting about her getting tired so much faster than Boost, where not long ago she could completely keep up, or about being good for only a couple or three runs in class before her drive visibly drops.

    I mean, really, she's still a fast dog, but not drivey fast like she often used to be. Her Saturday Jumpers speed was 5.25 yards per second, which is good but not great (Boost's 5.96, winning dog 6.41).

    So I have all these questions running through my head: Is she sore? Is she getting old? Does she have something seriously wrong with her like Remington did that mystified me about his performance for so long? Is she out of condition, am I not doing enough with her? Should I be doing less with her? Argh, so hard to figure out.
  • Weaves: I keep relying too much on her being a "good weaving dog" and then don't work the weave entries or exits at ALL and then get errors or pop-outs. But she did make a couple of really beautiful and very difficult weave entries all on her own this weekend. I'm not always certain where I need to give a bit more info and where she's fine on her own. Should probably experiment.
  • Start-line stays: She has been so much better at staying since I started having her lie down at the start, which she wanted to do half the time anyway. She still sometimes gets up early and creeps up on the first obstacle, but I'll take it as long as she doesn't actually start doing the course on her own. It's not so much of a problem with electronic timing, so she's not creeping across the start line, but I have to make sure I give her plenty of room--just in case--for those classes (gamblers, snooker) where a traditional start line is still used.


  • Energy:I really felt droopy Thursday, which was not the hottest day, and all weekend I seemed to have trouble getting my feet to take me where I wanted to go. It might have been lack of sleep on Thursday. It might have been allergy drugs Thursday and Friday so I didn't take them Friday night, but didn't feel any better Saturday. I keep thinking I'm in reasonable condition. I sure wish I was in the right frame of mind to take these extra pounds off again! It's just not happening at the moment. I'm sure that contributes immensely to my perceived inability to move around the course.
  • Handling: I made SO many mistakes this weekend that I SO know better. The kind where the instant you make it you know you've just screwed up, usually even before the dog goes off course/knocks a bar/gets a refusal/etc. Where is my brain? I realize that everyone makes mistakes, but this weekend felt particularly bad for me.
  • Attitude: On the other hand, I felt less stress about any of my runs than I have in a long time. I enjoyed myself on course, I didn't feel like crawling into a corner and bawling when I messed up yet another course, I never felt the kind of self-pressure I feel for, say, the last leg for an ADCH or trying to get a needed Super-Q or such. Even though I wanted Tika's 2 jumpers for her ADCH-Bronze, I wasn't thinking about it at all during my runs, just concentrating on the runs themselves. So the question is--did I make more stupid errors because I *wasn't* stressed and running on adrenaline? My Q rate doesn't seem to be horribly different from other USDAA trials, so I'm not sure really what difference any of this really made.

Weekend Courses

SUMMARY: Some interesting courses from the Haute TRACS event.

Here's a selection of interesting courses from this weekend. Coincidentally, they also are all from different judges (also judging, Tami McClung).

Team Snooker

I like Snookers that give people a lot of reasonable options so that everyone isn't running virtually the same course over and over. That's hard to do. Tammy did a nice job with this one by making 3 and 7 (and 4 of course) one-way-only during opening and closing and 2, 5, and 6 usable from any direction, any which way. Time was 50 secs for large dogs, 55 for 16", and 60 for 12".

The 4, 5, 6, and 7 were most-frequently used in the opening in various combinations. I had a two-part strategy: Find something that flows fairly nicely so I didn't have to be doing call-offs and threadles between obstacles, and secondly, hope that everyone else trying to do more complicated things crap out. Hence, my plan was (as numbered on the map) middle red to #2 to right red to #4 teeter, to left red to #5, to upper red. After that, I veered onto the dogwalk #7 for Boost because she has fast & reliable contacts, and #6 for Tika because her dogwalk up and down are iffy but her weaves are good.

It worked well except that Boost slid off the dogwalk on the way up (I guess I didn't line her up well, although she also slid off the dogwalk in the Standard ring later, and the teeter later, too) so I had to go back and redo it, and then she knocked the bar on #3 in the closing. She actually did a great job of sending out to the red after the teeter and then swinging around and sending ahead of me to the #5 pinwheel--except she knocked one of the bars there. Still, no refusals that I remember.

And I was already feeling stupid and lethargic in Tika's closing and didn't bother lining her up for the #4 teeter, so she came on from the side above the contact, earning a whistle.

Huh, I forgot to note what the higher or typical scores were for this class; sorry. Will fix that when the results are posted online.

Team Gamblers

Team Gamblers is always interesting because it's nontraditional. Funny that a USDAA friend commented to me recently that she wasn't that fond of CPE nontraditional gambles because you always had to figure out new rules, whereas traditional gambles you don't--but everyone accepts and generally likes to play Team Gambles, which are exactly the same concept as CPE nontraditional gambles. (Judge invents something. Period.)

This was a how-greedy-are-you kind of gamble. Big dogs had 30 seconds. The Aframe was worth zero, BUT it doubled any points that you had gotten up to that point. You could do it once, and then continue earning points as usual until the whistle blew. Attempting it and blowing it did nothing except waste time. However, the gotcha was this: If your dog was on the Aframe in any way at all (e.g., even holding a 2-on, 2-off) when the whistle blew, you lost EVERYTHING.

Also, if you did the weaves as a gamble from behind the line, they were worth 7 instead of 5.

Many people did some part of this sequence: tire-teeter-jump(to the left)-tire-teeter-"get to the weaves"-weaves-tunnel-weaves-jump-Aframe, where "get to the weaves" is either the tunnel or the 3 jumps after the teeter. If you completed ALL of it successfully, this sequence earned you 78 points. Most people didn't try for the whole sequence, maybe leaving out the tire at the beginning (which I left out for Tika but did with Boost), or going directly from the first weaves to the jump-Aframe, etc.

Highest score was 89, good lord, I have no idea how they managed it--even doing that sequence and then doing the tunnel under the Aframe twice would've been only 84 points and you'd have to be really really really fast to do that.

Typical scores were in the 60-64 range. Both my dogs popped out of their first set of weaves, dagnabbit, must be something in the water and not something their handler was doing. Tika ended up with 64 points, placing 19th of 43; Boost had 60, placing 28th of 73. (ANd I'm still puzzled because I thought she did 2 points MORE than Tika! Never had time to go back and check the scribe sheet.)

Grand Prix

The Grand Prix had about a 50% Qualifying rate, I believe, but very few of those were clean qualifiers. I think that only about 4 dogs out of 44 in Tika's jump height, for example, had clean runs, although a bunch qualified with 5 faults.

A lot of people had problems of one sort or another in the sequence between the dogwalk and the #15 tunnel. There was much debate about whether to send the dog to #13, and serpentine #14 into the tunnel, but I think it was tighter in reality than it looks on paper. Some people front crossed between 13 and 14 and pulled into 15; some did front crosses in both places.

Tika flew off the dogwalk while I stopped flat-footed in an attempt to get her to make the contact, then when I called her hard, she knocked the bar on #13 but still didn't turn in time to avoid the runout line on #14, so within 2 obstacles we had 15 faults. The rest was nice.

Boost was having weave pole issues a lot the first day, including here.

Another problem area for people was the 10-11-12 sequence. I handled it by running on the far side of the dogwalk, rear crossing the tunnel, and catching up to my dog for a wrap to the dogwalk. They both slowed and looked back at me, but weren't close enough to 11 for a refusal. Tika pushed/wrapped nicely, but Boost looking back at me put her into multiple-refusal-land, and this is the point in the course where I finally left. Ashley's the only one I saw who did it on that same side AND got a front cross in before the #10 tunnel. Most people ran on this side of the dogwalk, with the dog veering off towards the tire before the handler got there, sometimes taking it for an offcourse, or ended up backjumping the #11, either before or after taking it the correct way.

Coming out of the #15 tunnel to #16, an amazing number of dogs headed straight for the chute or the #20 final jump (again indicating that the actual layout was slightly different from the course map). Some dogs went around #17 or #18 or both. The #6 to #7 caused some off courses at #3. The 7-8-9 caused some off courses onto the dogwalk.

In short, lots of opportunities to screw up.

There were


The Steeplechase really wiped people out. There were some, like me, who took the Aframe path after the first set of weave poles instead of the correct path. The biggest challenge was the 12-13-14. Lots of dogs had problems with the broad jump itself, and many dogs went into the wrong end of the #14 tunnel. There were some offcourses from 10-11 over the 18 or 3, but not as many as you might think, as those were fairly obvious problems that people were prepared for.

The #5-6-7 also gave problems. I think that the jump was further to the right, in reality, so a lot of dogs were pulling past it on the left as the handler broke off towards the weaves.

Many many many missed weave entries, particularly after the #6, and it's not entirely clear to me why, unless the dog was heading for the tunnel and so came in at an odd angle. Tika had no problem. Boost made the entry but skipped the next pole, but she's been doing that a lot lately so I don't think it had much to do with the course.

Fastest times were in the mid-28-seconds, posted by Cap, Luka, and...uh...I should remember but don't (having worked that score table most of the day--wow what a long class, 5 hours!). Those fast times plus the high fault and offcourse rate kept the number of qualifiers very low, it seems to me.

Haute TRACS Is Almost Done

SUMMARY: Some success. Some failure. Some high-tech fun. Some nifty colors.
Here's a brief wrap-up, in which we determine whether it's possible for me to actually be brief after 3 days of agility. (It's hot. Hot hot hot almost like summer. 90ish degrees. I am glad to be home, not doing more agility. A friend said it was weird that I would do three days and not all 4. This from someone who thinks that 4 days of agility in a row is a Good Thing. They are all still there, being normal and very hot and tired. I am home and clean and coolish and well-rested and typing in my blog and, apparently, weird. Who wins?) It was largely a weekend of stupid handler tricks. Note to self: Need new brain. Details later maybe. I thought I'd maybe get a chance to cruise around and take lots of photos, especially to help Team Small Dog's discussion of what makes cool agility fashion, but nooo, I was busy either being behind on my score table work or running my dogs or being exhausted. I did, however, take the opportunity to photograph what really stylish agility handlers have: all agility gear in their favorite colors. Which is guess what for me. Thursday was All Team, All Day, All Rings. Five runs each dog. Combine your scores with your 2 partners' and then if you're within 25% of the average of the top 3 teams--or within the top 50%, whichever is larger (see, USDAA wants to compete with CPE on the complexity of scoring, since they don't want ANYONE to be better than them at anything)--well, then you Qualify For Nationals. Five runs for one Q. Maybe. OK, I have to be brief. OK. I can do this. Tika qualified. Boost didn't, capped by a memorable Jumpers run with about 4 bars down and half a dozen refusals, although the judge claimed it was only 30 faults. But wait! All is not lost! I won two, count-them-2, things in the worker's raffle on Thursday! Vanna, would you sniff at what we won? Thanks, Vanna! Yes, a free entry for another trial plus a big box of Guard-The-House Goodies! And a purple tug toy that I forgot to put into the picture! Friday I started the day by earning 15 faults with Tika in Masters Standard, 15 faults with Boost in Masters Standard, 15 faults with Tika in Grand Prix, and messing up so badly in Grand Prix with Boost that halfway through I finally asked the judge "which way is out?" and he pointed and we went. Fortunately Tom Kula was laughing inside, not steaming with irritation. At least I hope so because he seems like that kind of guy. 

 Then Tika got a Jumpers Q, which is kind of a miracle because (A) it's Jumpers and (B) we'd not run well so far, and Boost kept it to a mere 10 faults. Friday afternoon, Tika ran a nice pairs relay course but her partner had problems with the weaves and knocked a bar, so no Q; Boost's partner had a nice pairs relay course but Boost managed to earn 15 faults (this being my number for the weekend, I guess) in little figure 8 with only about 8 obstacles, so no Q. And I mishandled both through the Snooker course, resulting in a Q (but not Super) for Tika and none for Boost. 

 In the evening, I had a lovely potluck with some friends and also briefly engaged in a conversation with two of the judges, Tom Kula and Karen Gloor, about how USDAA really should move the Nationals around to other places in the country, and I'm tired of going (but I HAVE to because it's LOCAL, you know) and the people in Arizona are tired of doing all that work (while at the same time enjoying having it there--I am paraphrasing all of this), and how People Think That USDAA Nationals Should Be About USDAA Not A Hundred Other Agility Sports (which I am fairly confident that most of the U.S. bloggers in my list (to the right) have had something to say about although I cannot now find any of those specific posts--perhaps you'll tell me where yours are and I can link to them here). 

 Saturday continued with non-Qing Standard for both, but I got a boost with Boost's first-ever Masters Gamblers Q (woohoo!), although Tika was over time on the gamble due to (once again) stupid handler tricks. Steeplechase was depressing--with Boost, I forgot which loop I was on and did the second loop first, although she was clean to that point (although wasted time on a missed weave entry). And Tika knocked the next-to-the-last bar on a badly done rear cross (I was trying to push a bit more speed there). She'd have qualified (as usual) without that dang bar--but, jeeper creeper, her time was only .05 seconds under! That was almost 8 seconds slower than the fastest dog! Still, I'd have loved to get that Q, no matter how squeaky it was. 

 In Masters Snooker, I mishandled both dogs dramatically again, resulting in a Barely Q for Tika and a Barely Not Q for Boost. Sighhhhhhh-- But things picked up with our final run of the weekend, Jumpers, where Tika again ran clean and Boost ALMOST ran clean. With Tika's two Jumpers Qs for the weekend, that finished her ADCH-Bronze (like a triple ADCH). I am all, like, happy happy joy joy and Tika is all, like, where's the food? 

 And Boost's Jumpers run--no refusals, no spins, no runouts, and only one knocked bar, --was SUCH a joy to finally run a nice fast smooth run with her! She had a couple of hesitations that might have knocked a couple of seconds off our time, but even so her time was more than 3 seconds faster than Tika and barely 2 seconds under the fastest time, and there were some super dogs running this weekend. I am all, like, wow, bouncing around with delight and Boost is all, like, wow, Mom has energy to play way crazy tug of war after the run, not just before it! 

 So Tika came home with 5 Qs out of 11 possible and her ADCH-Bronze; Boost with 1 Q out of 11 possible which is one leg closer to her MAD. And furthermore, I got to take my first ride on a Segway! Which one of my high-tech friends (Apache's dad) was tootling around on all weekend. And which was really VERY cool and I would love to ride some more! And which I asked a complete stranger to take a photo of me on it, and I said, "let's move over here so I have just grass behind me, not cars," and he moved, too, so that the cars were still behind me. I would not make a very good even-more-amateur-photographer-than-me instructor. In other high-tech news, we demonstrate that even major canopy tears can be repaired--at least temporarily--with stylish matching duct tape, as indicated by my stylish popular agility noncompeting slip-on shoe. I don't even know what they call these. But hundreds of people wear them. Horse people too I think. Maybe even normal people, because Big 5 has sales on them all the time and there are about 270 different brands that are all basically exactly the same, just some fit and some don't. But wait! There's more, to distract us from sad disintegrating canopy covers! We won AGAIN in Saturday's raffle! Yes, it's another free entry, plus a Costco Samoyed-in-a-bag! No, just kidding, ha ha, I already have one dog with too much undercoat. Really it's a throw for the dogs themselves to sleep on, and we'll try it on our bed and see whether they like that better than they like curling up and shedding directly on my pillow. However, despite all the raffle-winning excitement, the dogs are ready for me to get the danged van loaded and head for home. I did not put them in the van. They loaded themselves and gave me impatient looks while I rearranged stylish blue and purple agility gear for informative and educational photography. And now, as this blog sinks slowly and not so briefly into the west, we leave you with one last gratuitous cute photo from this very moment:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Haute TRACS Is Almost Here

SUMMARY: Scribe sheets are done. Running orders are posted. Leaving early Thursday morning.

The scribe-sheet "party" went well Sunday evening. Three of us worked for about 3 hours, with a short break for dinner, and stuck all those stickers. Although--wait--but no! The relays were not done! So secretary has to do those herself! She said, it's a pointless exercise to do them any earlier than mere hours before leaving for the show site, because people drop out and weird stuff happens and everything has to be rearranged. I think she's had to deal with dozens of team changes before and after closing. I'm so glad she's good at this and likes doing it.

Meanwhile, have I been working on Tika's up contact drills? No! Her running Aframe contact drills? No! Bar-knocking drills for both dogs? No! Distance work for both dogs and especially Boost for that desperately needed gamble for her MAD? No way! Rear crosses for Boost to avoid refusals? Nuh-uh! Tika's "come" directly through a field of obstacles for Snooker? Nopey dopey! Proofing Boost's weaves which have gone south? Non non non!

Have I been trying to plant flowers and resod my lawn instead? Oui oui oui! Do I have photos and no time in which to post them? You betcha! Maybe tonight! Maybe tomorrow! Maybe never! It's good to have a plan! And here is a tasty preview photo morsel of my ugly ugly lawnage and the first bit of soddage laid in to fill the bare spottages.

Meanwhile, I still have to empty & vacuum the van (will be sleeping in it this weekend, so ew ew ew don't want to sleep among transported sod debris) and pack everything up for 3 or maybe 4 days. If neither dog makes Round 2 in Steeplechase, I'll be coming home Saturday evening (right after the Bay Team meeting). If either of them makes it--jeez, it would be so tempting to stay through an ENTIRE day just for one round 2 run--I qualify in Steeplechase so seldom! We shall see--have I ever qualified in Steeplechase with any dog at Haute TRACS? No no no! Damned bars!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Contact Consult and Commuting

SUMMARY: Went to Rachel's for contact work. Long drive, interesting touristing.

I set up an appointment with Rachel a couple of months in advanced, she's so booked up. Last Wednesday was the day. I groggily rose and was on the road with the beasts by 8:30 for our 11:30 appointment in Atascadero. Tuesday was a beautiful sunny day. Thursday was a beautiful sunny day. Here is what it did on Wednesday, at least within a 10 mile radius centered on Atascadero.

So we stood bravely in the drizzle for the better part of 3 hours to talk about contacts and how to use her box-training method to help Tika's dogwalk up and start her on a running Aframe.

Here is what the view from Rachel's yard looks like. Rough life, huh?

Here is what Rachel said about Tika's dogwalk up contacts. "You're missing only 10%? That's, what, one every 2 or 3 weekends, assuming that you're doing dogwalks in gambles?" She says that usually people looking for help are missing at least half the time, and mine is a minor problem. For me, though, it's just one more in a long line of one-fault runs that keep me from qualifying. More often it's knocked bars, or the Aframe down, sure, but if I can eliminate this problem--

But we worked on her technique, anyway, for getting two feet into a zone-sized box while running. I had already taught Tika to get into the box on a "Hit it" command, months ago, but stopped before Rachel's seminar in January because I wasn't sure where I needed to go with it. I told Rachel that Tika could already find the box on command (but I always have a lingering doubt on whether I really taught it or somehow my imagination was playing a trick on me)--and Tika saved my honor by showing that she could, indeed, go into the box no matter where I set her up and no matter where I was standing. The biggest issue is that she's not RUNNING, which is why I added (months and months and months ago) the treat-dispensing machine beyond the box, hoping that she'd speed up to get there. (She didn't.)

(Rachel suggests that the problem with "Hit it!" is that it makes the judges look more closely at the up contact because now they know that you have an issue with it.) But at the end of the session, we tried to get Tika to miss the dogwalk up to see whether we could detect a pattern, and she nailed it every time, over and over. And we were both running full out, too. So she's not missing when she's trying to catch up to me. Or maybe it was because we'd spent an hour and a half getting her to get her two feet into the box on the ground so she was more conscious of it. (We weren't using it on the dogwalk.) Rachel thought that Tika was, in fact, already adjusting her stride when I said "hit it!" on the dogwalk, even though we've never used the box on the actual equipment. Huh. Maybe.

We also worked on Tika's boxwork for the Aframe down contact as described in Rachel's seminar.

So, anyway, I have homework to do on getting her to do the boxes correctly at a full run (when she speeds up, she starts dropping just one foot in for the dogwalk box and only a couple of feet, not 4, in the Aframe box).

Boost's down contacts

I said that I wanted to tweak Boost's down contacts a bit because, although she's fast, she takes about 300 fast, tiny steps in the last part of the descent, and I thought she'd be faster if we could eliminate those. Rachel watched her do a couple. Boost did a couple of absolutely perfect Aframes, no slower steps, and Rachel said, you've got a genuine 2-second dogwalk, and there aren't many people who can really claim that. Why mess with it? So I guess I won't. So we did a little work on how I cause refusals with my handling of Boost.

Here is what I look like after several hours of rain and with knowledge hopefully soaking into my brain along with Atascadero water-fall-from-sky and a 3-hour drive home ahead of me.

Going home

I've been doing these Wednesday evening hikes starting at 6:00 to help me get ready for Havasu Falls. But, leaving from Atascadero around 3, there was no way I'd make a 3-or-more-hour trip plus drop off the dogs and change my clothes. So I suddenly realized that I had something I almost never have: A leisurely drive home with no deadline, where I could stop or do whatever I wanted. And since it wasn't a hot, sunny day, I could even leave the dogs in the van.

Driving out of the hills from Rachel's house, I took the time to stop for photos of the native fauna in their natural habitat, all within easy camera range of the vehicle:

A deer in its native woodland meadow:

A triceratops leaving its native gazebo:

My entire drive was along U.S. 101, following the route of old El Camino Real (or should that be "El old Camino Real"?), so I had to duck down a scenic frontage road to sneak up on this beauty in its native habitat, the side of the highway:

I'm glad that they're back, lining El Camino Real all up and down California. They used to be there, then idiots gradually stole them all, and now I guess they've found a way to attach the bells so that they aren't so easily removed.

This detour also gave me the opportunity to see this rarely viewed Santa Fe railroad fake engine in its native habitat, a front yard in rural California:

Then I stopped in San Miguel to see the mission. Right off the highway is a modern mission-like bell tower, connected to the ruins of the old adobe wall around a couple of acres of Mission land:

The mission itself is somewhat open for tours, although the church and cemetery are current closed to the public because the walls are about to fall on top of you and are propped up with giant props while they retrofit it to better withstand earthquakes. The arches on the extension next to the church are all of different sizes and shapes. They claim that this was done deliberately and that San Miguel was known far and wide for these interesting arches. Personally I suspect that the architect was known far and wide for having too many sangrias.

When I looked in Wikipedia for a link to the mission, I discovered that the article was sparse and had no modern photos, so I had to add some photos and more text. View the updated wikipedia article on Mission San Miguel Arcangel.

Across the street, I discovered that there's an old adobe that's also an historical monument, the Rios-Caledonia adobe. It originally served as a stage stop and inn on old El The Camino ancient historic Real until the train put a stop to that (perhaps the very Santa Fe rotting down the road a bit?), then it was used for an assortment of purposes until someone got the great idea of turning it into a tourist attraction back in the 1930s when it was still practically new (well, compared to now, anyway).

When I went to wikipedia for a link to THAT article, I discovered that there WAS no article, just links to it in various places, so I had to write it up and upload more photos, which you can see here. The mission and adobe are tied together somehow in a weird mass murder, if you're into that sort of history.

The adobe museum is open only Friday through Sunday, but the grounds were open, so I could browse the outside, admire the fact that they had doggie-pick-up bags readily available onsite, and get both eyes poked out simultaneously in the well-tended cactus garden.

On the trip, I passed The Old El Camp Roberts, which looks like it's falling apart, literally, although it's supposedly still in use by the National Guard.

Lastly, I had this disturbing encounter: