a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The World's Most Expensive Polo Shirt

SUMMARY: I'm out of excuses. Guess I'm going to Nationals. Besides, I want that shirt.

In her life, Tika has had 9 opportunities to earn a bye into the Grand Prix semifinals at the Nationals (and get a nifty "free" polo shirt to commemorate the occasion), which you can do either by placing in the top 50% in Round 2 of the regionals or the top 50% in the quarterfinals at the nationals:
  • Regional 2003: Made it to Round 2 at her first-ever regionals. Still a green dog. The run was flawless--well, except the little detail of running between the tire and the upright instead of going through the tire
  • Regional 2004: Made it to Round 2. Don't know what happened--we had 15 faults there.
  • Nationals 2004 quarterfinals: 5 faults. Placed 36th, and 34 dogs went to the semis.
  • Regionals 2005: Eed in round 1.
  • Nationals 2005 quarters: 5 faults. Placed 50th, and 41 dogs went.
  • Regional 2006: Made it to Round 2. Got called on the dogwalk up for 5 faults Placed 16th and 13 dogs got byes.
  • Nationals 2006 quarterfinals: Clean up to the next to the last jump, where I got overexcited and caused a backjump.
  • Regional 2007: Made it to Round 2. Fell off the dogwalk and Eed when I spent time making sure she was OK.
  • Nationals 2007 quarterfinals: I just messed up and pulled her out of the weaves early trying to run aggressively. Clean otherwise.
  • Regional 2008: Clean run and pretty fast for the Tika dog, and for her mom, too! (Although a full 6 seconds off the fastest dogs.) We did it! We did it! Taj MuttHall is just about overwhelmed with joy!

Who cares if no Taj MuttHall dogs Qed in dumb old Gamblers, Standard, or Steeplechase! Those Qs were probably all sour anyway.

The cost just to pick up the polo shirt that I've been wanting so badly for so long: A week off work, a drive to Arizona, a week in a hotel, massive entry fees for the Nationals, team shirts for the DAM teams... and all the incidental expenses, too. We're not adding up the cost to *earn* that polo shirt.

Another competitor was speculating that, if she earned that bye, maybe she could just send in her entry form and pay the entry fees, not bother making the trip, and just have someone pick up the shirt for her. Pricey for a polo shirt, but not as pricey as actually making the trip.

Boost and Tika celebrating their nationals qualifications with a little frisbee:

Scully, the Princess dog who never plays at trials, thinks that might actually look like fun:

Sparkle believes that there is evidence to be found, even if it's not yet clear about what:

There might be gophers here:

Ewww, what's this? Smells gross! Ewww! Guess I'd better roll in it!

Most of the judges getting their instructions from Leslie, who organizes workers:

Judge Scott 'splains what it's all about:

Taj MuttHall and Tie-Dye Superwoman pay no attention to the camera while working at the score table all weekend:

Our rideshare, Scully & Sparkle's mom, walks a course in her cool tie-dye.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

OK, We'll Take It

SUMMARY: In which we get some Qs the hard way.

The morning started chilly and foggy, which kept the day cool. Sun came out around noon and stayed out, but by mid-afternoon a cold wind had kicked in again.

Today's classes: Grand Prix Round 1, in which you must have 5 or fewer faults to Q and also to go on to Round 2, where one can earn a bye into the Nationals semifinals if you end up in the top 50%. (Next year, you'll need 0 faults to Q.)

And DAM team classes: Jumpers, Standard, Snooker, Gamblers, and the 3-dog relay. Where all 3 partners' scores are cumulative across all 5 runs to determine whether you Q--you have to end up within 25% of the top 3 teams' average cumulative score.

Tika's day

Tika mostly did well. I thought that she finally ran clean in Grand Prix (something like 20 of her 25 lifetime Qs are 5-faulters), but no, there was a 5-point fault, so it had to have been the dogwalk up contact. Still, now we have one more chance in Round 2 tomorrow to try to earn that career-long elusive bye into the semis. But the other dogs just keep getting faster and faster--

Her Jumpers run was very nice; our team as a whole placed 4th in jumpers out of 64 teams.

Her Standard I think was clean, too, but one partner went offcourse for an Elimination, and in Team, the one thing you don't want to do is E (or crap out early on the point-scoring classes).

We did fine in Snooker; I picked a conservative course in part because I wanted to run the same course with both dogs so I wanted one Boost could do, in part because I didn't think that we'd make time on anything more aggressive. You had the option of doing 4 reds, but I picked 3 reds with a 7-6-4 opening, and we got through it just fine--in 49.something seconds with a course time of 50, so I was right about the timing, and I think that put her about 12th of 64 dogs.

In Gamblers, we got 0 points on a dogwalk again in the opening for the up contact, and in the closing, she veered off to the side of the course and came to a complete stop, air-sniffing. Not sure whether the people on the other side of the chute from her had food, or what, but it cost us precious time. I thought that I could squeeze in two obstacles before the finish line, but nooo--whistle blew and we lost all our closing points. So she had a *very* low-scoring gamblers run.

One of our partners also didn't get really high points in gamblers, probably because of a teeter up-contact in the closing. Still, after 4 rounds, we were about 1/3 of the way up into the Qing teams, so if we could avoid Eing in the relay (which counts for a HUGE number of points), we'd earn a Q for the whole thing.

She had been getting slower and slower all day, and seemed more reluctant to run, and I was worried whether she was sore.

But when I got her out around 6:00 for her Team Relay run, she was frisky and excited, and she ran beautifully. Too beautifully--the one hard part where I knew that I had to come to a complete stop and call her hard, well, I called "Tika, COME!" but she was so fast that she was ahead of me and so I didn't STOP and plant and wait for her to come in, and bam, just like that, we had Eed. So I was entirely sure that we hadn't Qed, and my partners headed off to camp (or home) for the day.

I was taken completely by surprise when they announced the Qualifiers and we had squeaked in by the barest of margins at the bottom of the heap. OK, I'll take it!

And, so, OK, I shouldn't even think about this--but so far that's 3 for 3 Qs for Tika this weekend.

Boost's day

So much for our short-found success on runouts, refusals, and bar-knocking. Those won't kill you in team the way they would in regular classes, except that three Rs in one run does cause an Elimination.

In Grand Prix, we were bouncing around jumps like a pinball game. I think that we somehow got away with only 15 faults between bars, runouts, and refusals, but of course a really slow time and nowhere near Q range.

In Team Jumpers, we already had a bar down and a refusal when we got to a difficult wrap jump that quite a few dogs back-jumped for an Elimination, but I thought I had it figured out... of course, we backjumped it. Crap!

In Team Standard, the carnage continued, with 2 bars, a runout, and a refusal, but at least we didn't E. (Our time plus faults ended up being something like 65 points, but an E would have cost us 120, so at least we held on by our toenails.)

In Snooker, she knocked the 2nd red on the far side of the field, the only one that was very difficult to get to a replacement red, but we actually managed to work our way through a bunch of obstacles to fix it, and then into the closing, and she hadn't knocked any other bars, and we were running straight at jump #6, and suddenly she stopped and turned in front of me, and I nearly tripped, and that was a refusal, so we didn't get 6 or 7. So it was an average score, but I really had wanted to make up for that jumpers E.

In Gamblers, she actually did very well. She knocked the first bar (costing 1 point); ran past one required jump that we had to go back for, which was OK, just cost time; ran past another 1-pointer in the opening; and ran past a 2-pointer in the closing. But our timing was otherwise beautiful. She did everything I asked for, her contacts were lovely, and we ended up 12th of 111 dogs even with those bobbles and lost points. I was happy about that one.

Oddly enough, I thought that Tika's team was doing much better than Boost's, but after 4 rounds when I looked, Boost's team was actually one place ahead of Tika's! And so also about 1/3 of the way into the Q list. So all we had to do was all 3 of us avoid E-ing in the relay round, and we'd finally earn Boost's first-ever DAM Q! I was a little stressy, you might guess.

In team, I was more worried about getting her through a difficult part of her course (different from Tika's) than I was about Tika's run, and it wasn't completely smooth, but we did it! And then our partners were clean, too! So we finally have our first DAM Team Q.

On the down side, obviously one week of work wasn't enough to eradicate the runouts and refusals, although I think it was better than last weekend. On the up side, wow, she is doing weaves beautifully, her contacts are still lovely, and I haven't broken her start-line stay yet, although I did see once that she was standing up before I released her, and I let her get away with it (because it was a team event). So all is not lost, and in fact the weaving is looking very good finally. I hope that stays fixed!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Good Start

SUMMARY: Good, good, everything's good, except there's no gas in my car.

The drive down to Prunedale was lovely, only a slight slowdown in one place. The weather there was mild and sunny with just a tinge of evening chill creeping in, perfect for agility. We started the Pairs Relay class right on time.

Boost ran like a real Masters dog--no runouts or even the hint of a refusal, did a hard entry to the weaves and stayed in all the way through. Knocked one bar, but it was a normal sort of bar knock, not a frantic must-get-through-it kind. Just lovely! We had a couple of wide-ish turns where I didn't handle really well but they weren't awful ones at all, and our partner was clean and we had a combined runtime of just over 39 seconds where the fastest couple of teams were in the 35 range, so that was a very good time indeed, and we Qed easily.

Tika also had a lovely run, and even though her partner had a runout and another 5-point fault, our combined time was plenty good enough for a Q also.

As we finished, the fog just started sending tentative tendrils across the fields, so tomorrow should start very cool, a nice contrast to the heat here in San Jose.

The drive home went mostly swimmingly; just one post-accident clean-up that slowed us probably no more than 10 minutes, maybe only 5. We drove home into a pleasing although pale pink sunset and were home before complete dark.

I knew it was too good to last.

The van is low on gas. And--my gas station was out of gas! How rude is that! I can get to the trial in the morning, but home again would be tight. Oh, well, it was a minor thing in a lovely afternoon.

Good News and Bad News

SUMMARY: DAM Team changes; Boost changes.

The bad news is that Brenn decided to scratch from team. I'm almost surprised at how disappointed I was. Originally the team was Brenn and Skeeter's team and they took Tika on board, so I always kind of thought of it as their team. And Brenn's a great dog (oh, and I like her handler/mom, too) and it's just sad that we can't run with her. The good news is that she's probably OK and hasn't scratched from everything yet.

The other good news is that there seem to be at least a couple of options for replacement 3rds, so unless something goes awry again between now and Saturday, we're good to compete.

On the training side: Boost did great in class tonight! Hardly any bars knocked, no runouts or refusals--man, we even had one jumpers pretty-much complete course run where, if we were competing, we'd have Qed, and done so without any "saves" like our Standard Q last weekend. Just a danged lovely run. Do you know how long it has been since I've had a run like that with her? And she just kept it up! So all this concerted effort over the last 5 days has paid off. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it holds for the weekend.

The bad news on that front is--nothing! She did great! Even on her weave poles during some tough weave pole drills.

Whoo! I'm ready!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


SUMMARY: I repeat. Hot.

This is what my kitchen and back porch, respectively, measure in at right now.

For you Farenheit-challenged rest of the world: 28.5C/40.9. The thermometer under the tree across the yard says merely 99. And Salinas (near Regionals trial site) is only 75.

Also note wallpaper that I STILL haven't finished removing. And plaque that was a gift and I hope it's reasonably accurate. But right now my brain is starting to fry.

Is It Nationals or Is It Not?

SUMMARY: Maybe the Regionals will decide for me. Or maybe I'll decide whatever I want to decide.

Why I might go, part 1

My working theory is this: If either of my dogs earn a bye into even the Grand Prix semifinals at the Regionals this weekend, then I'll go just to finally get the danged polo shirt, which I haven't gotten one of since 2001. Or if Boost qualifies in DAM, so she has something to do all week at Scottsdale. Or even Steeplechase, then at least she could do Grand Prix and Steeplechase and then go hang out in the shade while Tika and I try to place 12th in Team Gamblers again. If we decide that we're going to bother with our Aframe contacts again. But I digress.

Why I might go, part 2

On the other hand, I have a friend who wants me to go and travel with her. I'd love to do it. Maybe that'll be my real deciding factor. If I had unlimited time and money, I do enjoy being there and watching all the finals in person and taking pictures and all that, and I know I'd have someone with whom I already know I'd have fun to spend many many hours in the car and hotel and meals and so on with. Because in the year when my foot was broken, she drove me and my dogs to many trials and in fact ran my dogs for me sometimes (because oddly it's hard to run dogs with a broken foot). Remington thought she was wonderful.

Regionals where

So. Regionals this weekend. It's not 20 minutes from my house this year; instead, 50 minutes (at 5 a.m. but maybe 90 minutes sunday afternoon when the flea market at the Big Red Barn is letting out and traffic backs up on 101 most of the way to Baja California).

But the weather tends to be cooler because it's at the coast. Which is good, because today it is very hot here in south San Jose.

Regionals Friday

I signed up for pairs relay, which is the only class Friday evening. Now I wish I hadn't, because that means a lonnnng drive Friday afternoon when everyone else is leaving town for the holiday weekend, then work score table so even if I'm done running my dogs I have to stay, then an hour drive home, crash into bed and get right back up the next morning and go back down. Somehow it seems better to make that drive if I actually stay there for 10 hours and then have my evening to myself when I get home. To fall asleep with my face in my soup, like that.

Tika's DAM Team

Tika's longtime DAM teammate, Brenn, came up limping last weekend and scratched from last Sunday. We have our shirts with Savanna for Borderin' on K-Aus, and this might be the last time we can run together, because Brenn is now in performance in everything except this DAM. We're waiting to hear today what the vet says. Brenn seems fine, not limping even by Tuesday, but of course no one wants her to run if it's a bad idea. It's probably just an arthritis flare-up, which she's been dealing with since she was 3, and it might go into remission for months again. But it does throw Tika's whole likelihood of running in or Qing in team into question. She doesn't need it for this year's nationals. But just 2 more team Qs is 10, enough for eventual Platinum (assuming that we can ever get there with anything else!) and I can stop doing them if I want to.

Title chase

So here's what's on the plate for this weekend:
  • Boost could qualify in Steeplechase for Nationals
  • Boost could qualify in DAM for Nationals
  • Boost could earn her MAD (just one Jumpers! Just that's all! Just because she's missed 14 out of 14 jumpers so far--but somehow we did get a Standard leg last weekend, so who knows!)
  • Boost earn 1 of two legs left for her Relay Master.
  • Tika earn her Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award--9 Qs of ANY kind, and we have 9 opportunities this weekend! That would be a 100% Q rate! That is what we'd need after last weekend to bring our average back up to 50%!
  • You know when I'm starting to talk with my tongue in my cheek! Because of all the !s !

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preparing to Compete

SUMMARY: Working on Boost's lead-out pivot, go-on, bar knocking, runouts, and refusals. Is that enough?

OK, if I could fix these things about Boost, I'd have the perfect agility dog. Well...OK, table issues and starting to leave contacts early, but those are so minor in comparison.
  • Lead-out pivot: This is typically where the first two obstacles are in a straight line and the third obstacle is off to one side. So you put the dog in a stay, lead out to your front cross position (or somewhere along that line), release the dog, and then pivot (make your front cross). Boost has been repeatedly going past the second jump if I move too soon or sometimes even if I don't, and sometimes even past the first jump.
  • Go-on: When there are obstacles in front of you and I'm yelling "go! hup! go hup! go!" and running as hard as a can, don't stop and turn back at me to see whether I'm serious about it! (Notice I changed who "you" is between first and second bullets.)
  • Bar knocking: Slam bam crash.
  • Runout: Dog runs past the plane of the obstacle they're supposed to be taking. (See bullet #1 for a specific case.)
  • Refusal: Dog approaches correct obstacle but then doesn't take it. (See bullet #2 for a specific case.)

So I've been doing these things:
  • Put a toy beyond a line of jumps and run with her saying "go!". She runs without a second thought to me, fast and directly to the toy. After doing it a couple of times like that, I don't put the toy but use the same sequence of jumps, so she still drives out and then I throw the toy past her once she gets there.
  • Setting her up with a variety of lateral lead-outs (where I move further and further away from the second obstacle but still indicate with my body language that she should take the first 2 obstacles).
  • Practice lead-out pivots where I'm more and more visible off to one side (an extension of previous bullet).
  • Say "oopsies" and make her stop EVERY time she knocks a bar. I'm back into the camp that says that she has to take responsibility for some things. The fact that she can jump just fine given the right motivation indicates to me that she can grasp the concept of not knocking the bar.
  • Just plain bar-knocking drills, more or less standing in place close to the jump and then getting her to jump it from weid angles with me doing weird things and reward for not hitting the bar.
  • Just trying various full-speed maneuvers of the kind where she's likely to not take a jump or run around it, and back-chaining to better performance.
  • For "go-ons", trying very hard to keep running myself until I reach her. Also trying to make sure that I go THERE to play with her and the toy, not waiting for her to bring it back to me.
  • Going up to Power Paws to practice, where they've got more space and a less-familiar set-up and more options with the same obstacle arrangement.

I think I see improvement already after 3 fairly intense training days (an hour a day at power paws (split between 2 dogs plus plenty of rest in the shade) plus another 10-15 minutes 2x/day at home).

Here we are at Power Paws, practicing out lead-out pivot. Dog is lined up so she's looking straight along a straight line drawn over the centers of the first 2 jumps. (Although in this shot her body looks like she's facing a bit to the right. This was my nth attempt at setting the camera in a good position, so she might be off by a wee bit here.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Number 9... Number 9...

SUMMARY: In which our agility sequence is rudely interrupted.

Apparently we're no longer doing number 9 in agility sequences in our back yard. Too much Beatles? Too much love potion? Who's to say what occurs in Border Collie minds?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shouldn't Complain Too Much

SUMMARY: Tika vs Boost as younger dogs.

It's two years after Boost's first trial; she's competed in 33 trials (24 of them USDAA) and has 9 masters legs, 3 Grand Prix Qs, and 1 Steeplechase Q.

Two years after Tika's first trial, she had competed in 44 trials (20 of them USDAA) and had only just completed her AAD, so was in Masters only in Standard, with zero Qs out of 5 attempts, 4 Grand Prix Qs, and 1 Steeplechase Q.

(After Tika's 24th USDAA trial, she had 4 Masters Qs including one Super-Q, 6 GP Qs, and still only 1 Steeplechase.)

Sooooo it'll come eventually. I hope.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Runs from this weekend

SUMMARY: summarytext

Tika's Saturday Standard

Tika doesn't bother stopping for contact zones but is fairly solidly in them. I look completely uncoordinated in these videos. On the field, I feel like I'm sprinting alongside the dogwalk, but here it looks like I'm jogging, and not very well.

She knocks a bar near the end, obviously because I'm not telegraphing the front cross/change of direction well. At the very end, you can see her diving in to grab my feet as usual.

Boost's Saturday Standard

Same course as Tika. It was a Qualifier, but not lovely:
1. After the weaves, there's a tunnel then a jump. She comes to me instead of going over the jump, then barely makes it, then turns right instead of towards the Aframe and I sort of reach over the jump to push her away from backjumping.
2. Three jumps after the dogwalk, she wants to go around but I extend my arm over the jump area again to bring her in.
3. On the table, you can hear the judge pause several times as her elbows come up.
4. The next to the last jump, you can see her starting to look back at me instead of looking for jumps.

Boost's Steeplechase

This is a more typical round:
1. Runouts galore.
2. Pops out of weaves and I can't get control of her to put her back into the correct place and finally give up and take the E just so I can go on.
3. Leaves the A-frame without a release word both times and I make her lie down until she stays down long enough that I was able to release her.
4. At the end, looking back at me and turning back to me.

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties with the volunteer videographer, Tika's lovely Steeplechase (with bad A-frames) looks remarkably like the inside of a lens cap.

Sunday Results

SUMMARY: Generally had a good time. But pretty awful in the Q department.

My first run of the day was with Tika in Grand Prix, and like yesterday's first run, it was lovely and gave me hopes for a successful day--cool weather, Tika was jazzed, we connected well, and although she slammed a bar that I thought had cost us 5 faults, in fact it never fell, so she Qed and was one of only 5 of twenty-one 26" dogs who ran clean, for a lovely 5th place grand prix ribbon. We run clean so seldom in GP--and place almost never--that it delighted me.

A friend also delivered our custom-ordered fancy ribbon from the earlier trial where Tika finished her ADCH-Bronze, so I got to hang that on her crate and enjoy it all day.

However--that was it. Snooker--I made a bad mistake and knocked us out on the 2nd obstacle. Jumpers: One bar down. Standard: Missed getting a toenail into the A-frame contact zone by a hair's breadth, according to the judge. (She could've gotten a toenail in and it would've looked the same to me: Dog flying off the Aframe. So I'm glad that the judge is looking! Or maybe not!)

So much for Tika's 50% Q rate in USDAA. Last time she had a USDAA weekend that bad was 3 whole years ago--34 USDAA trials ago--where she managed 0 for 10--and before that, a whole 'nother year back, where she had 3 trials in 3 months with 0 or 1 Qs.

So that made me sad. On the other hand, I made a special effort to get her revved up for every run this weekend, no slacking off (could the bars and contacts be a byproduct? Perhaps, perhaps--) and she ran very well indeed and it was a pleasure to be in the ring with her every round.

Boost continued today with refusal, runouts, and bar crashing, although she did weave poles just beautifully in all 3 classes that had them. In fact, she completed a beautiful and difficult opening in Snooker, requiring her to take a jump after I led out 2/3 of the way across the field, wrap around the Aframe into the weaves, and then complete the weaves as I did a rear cross. It was lovely. And then we went back into refusals/runouts/bar crashing.

I managed to laugh after our last run of the day, Jumpers, which was so full of errors that it was hard to do anything but laugh, but really can't I figure out how to run with this dog? All those entry fees for nuthin' are an expensive way to not have as much fun as I'd like.

Walking the Jumpers course (including Team Small Dog Leader) to show what nice, pleasant weather we had and of course since it was Team Small Dog, I had to get a different angle on the whole thing. Hmm. This could work. Must practice technique more.

I'm threatening to go up to Power Paws every day this week just to run jumpers courses for an hour (with breaks). Maybe I need another private lesson for more suggestions, because some of the ones I've worked on don't seem to have the desired effect. That's a lot of time, though, and I'm busy busy busy...

Here's most of the 16" USA World Team dissecting a course run. I'll bet they practice at Power Paws a lot more than I do. Or somewhere.

My shoulders have nearly bought the farm--I'm doing physical therapy now, and the right biceps hurts SO badly most of the time. Not sure what aggravated them more now, as they've been off & on bad for a few years now. But they're baaaaaaad in the very bad sense. Had to borrow shade space from a couple of friends because there was no way I could manage a canopy. It worked out very nicely. (Boost's crate covered or she throws herself wildly against the sides when she sees dogs doing anything interesting, knocking over the water and putting holes in the crate and like that.)

We also didn't manage to win any free entries in the workers raffler, but we did land this catch instead (I think I dropped one ticket in because, what the heck, who doesn't need dogfood?). Tika thinks this was the best raffle prize ever and wants to know when's dinner?

Lastly, I remembered to take a picture of agility feet so that we can compare and contrast to hiking feet. What to do with the comparison is left as an exercise for the student.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Results

SUMMARY: Not the way I had expected the day to go, exactly--

Boost started the weekend by earning that 3rd elusive Masters Standard Q! It wasn't the most beautiful run in the world, and we HAVE to fix that thing where she lifts her elbows off the table, but it wasn't particularly ugly, either, felt pretty nice, and made me very happy. Woo! Seemed like the weekend would be great!


All the rest of Boost's runs--Gamblers, Steeplechase, Pairs, and Jumpers--were cacophonies of runouts, refusals, bars knocked, leaving contacts early and turning back to me, and even a bonus pop-out-of-the-weaves for good measure. A mess altogether.

Tika seemed quite happy to be out doing agility again, after our 5-weekend break, so she ran fast and pretty smoothly. Except.

Standard: Knocked a bar. Steeplechase: Popped the Aframe. Jumpers: Knocked a bar. Pairs: Knocked a bar AND popped the Aframe. Gamblers: In the opening, knocked a bar and popped the dogwalk, so a fairly low opening points of 40 instead of a nearing-top-range opening of 46 points. And then she took just a step! Just one! past the tunnel opening in the gamble, negating it, although she then completed the rest of the hard part with complete perfection.

So Tika, whom I can count on to get about 50% Qs at USDAA trials, got zilch, nada, zip, zero, none.

Still, she runs so nicely, and when she's so fast and excited, I do love running her.

But Boost's herky jerky not-doing-obstacles and nearly tripping me trying to get around her and such are NOT fun. She's not moving around the course fast because she's not moving around the course; I'm herky jerky to make up for what she's doing; it just feels ugly and stumpy and uncoordinated. It is not fun. I even picked what I thought was a pretty smooth gambler's course and she knocked the first 3 bars and ran past a couple of tunnel entrances and like that. Not smooth. Not fun.


Hope tomorrow's a little better in the Q department.

Coming Right Up: Agility Weekends! Plus Puppies!

SUMMARY: Four USDAA trials in the next 5 weeks.

Starting this weekend, then next weekend, then a break, then two more weekends. Whew! Busy!

I might go to only three of the four, which include Boost's last 3 chances to earn her last Steeplechase Qualifier for Nationals, and her one last chance to earn her DAM Qualifier.

I am starting to waffle about Nationals. I do have fun when I go. It's just--well--all this. OK, I'm thinking about it again with a little prodding from friends. Arrrghhhh, tough choices! Why can't everything in life be easy?

Boost is still knocking bars, still refusing jumps that I think are obvious. Instructor has lots of good suggestions on things to work on, and I do some of them, but sometimes I just can't get it right even when I think I am! Takes someone else to watch me and tell me again where I'm going astray.

So--what we could accomplish in these next few weeks:
  • Boost qualify in Steeplechase for Nationals
  • Boost qualify in DAM for Nationals
  • Boost earn her MAD (just one Standard--out of at least 4 chances! And one Jumpers--out of at least 3 chances! Just that's all!) (Just because she's missed 13 out of 13 jumpers so far, and 12 out of the last 12 standards...how did we ever get 2 standards out of her first 4 in masters?! Seems like someone else's life in some other universe.)
  • Boost earn her Relay Master (two Qs out of 3 chances)
  • Tika earn her Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award--10 Qs of ANY kind out of at least 27 chances

But, all that aside, here's a bonus puppy picture: Boost's mom with her new litter of full siblings. (Not my photo.) More agility blue merles, coming right up!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why Dogs Should Not Be Loose in Your Vehicle

SUMMARY: Save their lives, and maybe yours, too.

If your dogs travel loose in your car when you drive, please read this whole post. Please.

My dogs used to travel loose in my car. They never traveled a lot; occasional jaunts to someone's house or maybe to a nearby park. As I did more and more agility, however, covering thousands of miles a year, I started to wonder: Children up to 60 pounds are required by law to use special restraints in the car (not loose like we were as kids) for their own safety, and adults are required by law to wear seat belts; what was I thinking by endangering my dogs' lives--and mine--when there were such easy fixes?

In case you haven't already thought about it--and please tell me that you have--here are the bare facts of why dogs should be restrained in cars, as taken from BarkBuckleUp.com:

"In an accident, an unrestrained animal is dangerous to the human passengers as well. Even in an accident of only 30 mph, ... 60-pound dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, a windshield, or another passenger. Even if the animal survives, it can impede the progress of rescue workers for whom every moment is precious.

"Unrestrained pets can also distract the driver, and cause an accident. Even pets that are normally well behaved could be frightened by something unusual and dive for the driver's feet or lap. Following a car accident, an unrestrained pet could escape and be hit by another vehicle or cause another collision. A frightened dog may attack strangers who are trying to help."

Another, recent article provides a summary on traveling with dogs:
"Paws on Board" by Teresa Odle
. Basically, dogs should be:

* In well-designed harnesses attached to seatbelts or other secure restraints in the vehicle, or
* In crates that are secured to the car (my dogs now ride in crates that are strapped either to D-rings in the car floor or to seat belts).

The article also mentions a new California bill passed by the assembly that "outlaws pets sitting in a driver's lap while driving."

But after the basic facts--well, you can dismiss it and say that you drive safely and you'd never do anything dangerous with your dogs in the car. Instead, let me give you several stories.

Someone Else's Mistake #1

My fears were consolidated when another student at Power Paws died when her car rolled over (she wasn't driving) on the way home from an agility trial. Her husband brought the dogs' crates to show us why having dogs in crates is a good thing: His wife was dead, the crates were mangled, but the dogs were unharmed. Unharmed. Looking at those bent and crushed crates, my heart nearly crumbled imagining what could have happened to the dogs if they had been loose, and at what I was letting my dogs in for without any restraint.

She wasn't the only one to suffer a similar fate. This is about the time that I picked up this "Don't Drive Drowsy" sticker from the "Live to run again" foundation. It's on my driver's-side window, and I try to look at that sticker every time I get into my car.

Also at that time, for my dogs, I started with harnesses that I bought at the SPCA, but changed to sturdier, safer ones after reading my friend Holly's research on dog harnesses (an excellent article if you're thinking about dog "seat belts").

Someone Else's Mistake #2

From my former housemate, now living in L.A. (with her little black dog Casey, whom I wrote about when he lived here), July 22, 2008:

I'll give you the gory details later, if you want them, but I was in a serious car accident Friday night.

For once in my life Casey was not with me. Seriously, Ellen, it is a miracle that I am alive and not even any broken bones. Had Casey been in the car there is no f... way he would have survived.

Please tell me what you know about seat belts for pets. The best kind, what to look for, where to find them, etc. I am buying one immediately.

(The gory details)
We were rear-ended. HARD. So hard it pushed us into the back of an 18-wheeler. The ambulance arrived pretty quickly. By that time some good samaritans saw that we were in a car filling with smoke and unable to get out. Somehow they managed to get the doors open and drag us to safety. We were taken to a local hospital in the ambulance. I had a nasty cut on my right leg. (A good two inches of my shin bone was exposed - it was sickening.) They were afraid that [my friend] Robot had internal bleeding because of the way the seat belt sliced him across his torso, but after tests he was sent home. I was x-rayed and somehow that ER doctor managed to take the mangled mess of meat that was my leg and stitch it back together. Just 32 sutures in an almost perfect "V" on my right shin.

Robot is bruised and sore, but left to go back to Texas this morning. Robot & I both feel incredibly lucky to be alive, much less to be in one piece! My entire body hurts, but nothing is broken. If Casey had been in the car, which he is about 95% of the time, he would not have survived. No way, no how. I am currently shopping for pet seat belts.

I'm sure airbags saved our lives.
I am very happy with my Hyundai. (Well, what used to be my Hyundai)
Always wear a seatbelt.
Make sure your insurance payments are up to date.
Secure your pets in the car if they ride with you.
Live each day as if it is your last, because it damn well could be.

Someone Else's Mistake #3

From my occasional agility-traveling friend (Scully and Sparkle's mom), about her sister, who also does agility, August 15, 2008:

Pam's car was totaled yesterday and she was very, very lucky. She was driving home from work and some guy came up from behind way too fast. He tried to swerve around her, cut in too soon and hit her rear quarter panel. Pam ended up shooting across two lanes of traffic and up an embankment. The car rolled at least twice on the way back down and landed driver's door down. Pam climbed out the passenger door and passers by got the dogs' crates out and moved them to a safe distance. Pam's business partner came and took Pam and the dogs back to the vet hospital while our brother came and dealt with the tow truck people. [About the dogs:] Haiden is fine and Raina has a chipped bone on her hock. She sees a surgeon today but the hope is she can get by with just a splint. She did not reinjure her spine which is excellent news. Pam is sore but seems to have no serious injuries.

Taj MuttHall adds: What if the dogs hadn't been in crates?

Someone Else's Mistake #4

Added: Aug 22, 5:10 p.m. From Scully and Sparkle's mom again:
Years ago Mom was driving her van with a dog crated in the back. Traffic on the freeway came to a dead stop but the driver behind her didn't notice and plowed into her at 60mph. Mom's van was shoved forward into the car ahead of her, the back doors popped open and the crate landed on the freeway. The van was totaled but the dog was fine.

Last Story

I don't remember the details. (Maybe someone out there knows? This is how I remember it.) Two people traveling from an agility trial in southern California rolled the vehicle in the wild mountains across the Grapevine. Their unrestrained dogs got loose. They were lucky that none ran out onto the freeway, but one vanished and was never found.

Please don't leave your dogs loose in the vehicle.

Update: Aug 26, 2008, 3 p.m.: Also visit Johann the Dog's Car Safety For Dogs! page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We Interrupt Dog Agility and Hiking for a Sleepover Party

SUMMARY: An annual birthday party in Visalia.

(With some but not very sincere apologies to Team Small Dog for shamelessly stealing her theme AND dialog for today's post.)
So I went to a sleepover party this weekend.

Every year (for roughly 25 years) we've gone to Visalia--in California's central valley where it's HOT in August--for my brother-in-law's birthday sleepover party. It was cute when they were in college. Now, outsiders find it odd that we're still taking our sleeping bags and sleeping out for two nights on the lawn in his parents' back yard next to the pool. (Caption: Bunches of group photos. This year was one of the smallest Vicons ever, only 17 people.)

But, ha!, we enjoy ourselves! Take that! (Plus, now, it's tradition!) Even if it is 102 F when we arrive at 6 Friday evening.

And I am always the photographer. (Caption: Me checking some photos. This was one of five Mac Powerbooks in this very back yard. Not a Windows in sight. Ha! Again!)

(Caption: I had some help, though. (Damn iPhones with their built-in cameras!))

(Caption: Much fun at "Vicon.")

(Caption: We mostly hang out in the shade by the pool. VERY traditional.)

(Caption: Reading is an important tradition so that your brain doesn't rot in the sun while doing nothing for 3 days. Especially if you know the author. )

(Caption: Nice guests.)

(Caption: I make some new friends. And I don't even drink beer.)

(Caption: Cute nieces and nephews are de rigueur.)

(Caption: Wild Hawaiian shirts are de rigueur AND traditional. Plus breakfast in the shade, with a very traditional scrambled eggs, toast, and sausagey-type meat products.)

(Caption: One of my favorite traditions: Birthday cake Saturday night!)

(Caption: An innovation this year: Movies alfresco.)

(Caption: Did you know how easy it is to make a Richard M. Nixon shadow image?)

Caption: A big toast. (It's hot. Everyone's always drinking something.)

Every year, I take my "The Party's here" sign out of my attic, put it into the car, drive 3 hours, set it up on the front lawn of the party house, leave it there for 3 days, take a photo of it (not sure why--another tradition), put it back into my car, drive it home, and put it back into my attic.
(Caption: Here's what it looked like this year.)

(Caption: Here's the very funny thing: We look it up on Google maps Street View. What perfect timing their cameras had last year!)

Tomorrow (or whenever): Back to the dogs.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Joy and Grief

SUMMARY: Puppies and another tragedy.

Our Thursday-night agility class has more or less 8 dogs and handlers.

Boost's mom (Tala) had a repeat mating with Boost's dad, and two of the people in class are on the short list to get puppies from that litter. Just heard that Tala gave birth this weekend to 5 puppies. Those are Boost's full brothers and sisters, just not littermates. Pretty exciting that I'll get to meet them and hear about their exploits as they grow.

For both women, this'll be the first time that they've picked out a puppy for agility. (But will be the 2nd agility dog for one--and she's learning to be a great handler and has done very well with her aussie-- and the 4th agility dog for the other--and she's been on the Argentinian world team with two of hers already.) What prospects!

Another dog in our class has been Homer, another BC. His main handler's current dog was in last year's Scottsdale finals in Grand Prix, DAM Team, and Steeplechase (placing 2nd there), so this is no ordinary handler, either. And Homer has been learning running contacts, and Robert and Karen have been obsessive about them, and they looked like they could be unstoppable in the ring. Except that Homer, at 2 years old, collapsed this weekend after swimming and died.

It hit me in the gut. I try to picture Boost, when she was two (January 2007) just starting to compete, with all of her verve for living and those bright, intelligent eyes and her phenomenally fast weaves and drive and how she loves to do things with me, suddenly being gone. Oh, it hurts to think of what Homer's owners must be going through.

That is still the hardest part about knowing so many dogs so well now.

The Dog in the Night Follow-Up

SUMMARY: Boost is fine probably.

The vet found nothing wrong with Boost even after doing a culture of her urine and testing for a few other things. So we're going back to the assumption that it's probably behavioral, because everything else that could be medical is both rare and harder to diagnose.

However, he did say that certain bacterial infections won't show up in the culture especially if they're mild, so let's try 10 days of antibiotics anyway and see whether it helps because sometimes it does. I'm leery of antibiotics just on general principles, but he felt from our long discussion that I had asked the right questions and tried the right things and said that, if it were his dog, he'd do it. So, OK, we're doing it.

I picked up the pills right before leaving town midday Friday and just got back. The dogsitter (Renter) said that she didn't wake him up at night and he saw no signs of puddles in the morning. Of course, I haven't even been up to my bedroom yet, so who knows--

But I'm back on thinking we'll simultaneously treat it as behavioral. Starting with, if she gets me up, she goes into her crate instead of on the bed when we come back in.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dog In The Night

SUMMARY: Boost and her potty habits. Or what.

I am exhausted. Boost has gotten worse about not sleeping through the night. Last time I bemoaned this, someone suggested maybe she had a bladder or other urinary-tract infection, but no, I was sure it was just some sort of training that she had figured out was being trained when in fact it wasn't being trained, it was all a misunderstanding.

So I determinedly walked her out back before bedtime and insisted on a good pee and then we'd go to bed. And it got a little better sometimes, and then finally we had a good solid run of a whole week, 7 days, with no asking to go out after bedtime. Then we backslid for a few days, then we had maybe 5 days with no going out, and then the last couple of weeks it's back to almost every night.

What still doesn't have me convinced that it's a UTI is that she sometimes goes ALL DANG DAY at an agility trial without wanting to pee, so if it were a real problem, wouldn't it affect her all the time? And then the usual pattern is: pee and go to bed, then maybe within an hour, ask to go out again (what, is she holding it back?) then maybe or maybe not in another 1-2 hours ask to go out again but almost never after 1 or 2 in the morning. Then she's fine until whenever I wake up for real, which sometimes these days isn't until 9 because I'm so wiped out from being woken up.

Anyway, OK, now i'm going out of town for 2 nights without the dogs and realizing that I have to explain this to my renter, who's watching the dogs for me. I did not have to explain this back in May when I went to Arizona for a week. So clearly it has gotten worse, not better.

So this morning I went out with her, wearing rubber gloves (me, not Boost), and shoved a little baby-food jar into the appropriate location to gather a sample. Now we have a vet's appointment for tomorrow morning. The receptionist said, oh, no, they'll want to get their own sample. I seem to remember from a past dog, ages ago, where the vet said it's sometimes hard to get their own sample so if I could get one, that would be helpful. But that was then and this is now. And maybe I don't remember that well. So should I dump the sample? Nah, guess I'll hold on to it for a day and let it brew. Or maybe try again tomorrow morning just in case.

Meanwhile, Boost enjoys a little boxing. I spend money on dog toys why?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Birthday Party With Relatives

SUMMARY: Boost's breeder's 40th birthday.

I didn't take my dogs because this wasn't a dog event, but people who were already there had their dogs, and so did the (very surprised) guestess of honor. Many of them were related to Boost.

Bette, Boost's littermate:
Qas ("kass"), Boost's half sister (same mother):
Rowdy, littermate to Qas. He's got the same half-blue, half-brown eye that Boost does (his right eye) but I wasn't able to get a good photo of it:
Quirk, father to Qas and Rowdy:
Quirk in a less dignified party moment:
Tango, "uncle" to all those Border Collie puppies, and a pretty decent agility dog himself (really, those two dogs were the only ones to suffer the indignity of hats, and each wore won for maybe 30 seconds for a photo op. They were very good sports about it.):
Tango's photo was printed in sugar on the birthday cake:
Boost's mom, Tala, is pregnant again with pups from Boost's father, so another litter of half a dozen full siblings is on its way:
Also there were Coty (Boost's dad), Qwik (littermate to Qas and Rowdy), Derby (Boost littermate), but I got out only the crappy snapshot camera and it wasn't cooperating much with me and they were running around enjoying themselves, so no photos. But here's the birthday card that Boost and I made for Tammy:

View all my party photos (none of me, of course).