a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday at Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Boost crashes and burns, Tika feels good.

Mixed success on our runs today.

Boost Jumpers: Knocked the second bar, then popped out at the end of the weaves while I was trying to get ahead to manage a broad jump followed by a pull to the opposite tunnel end, and instead of grabbing her with intent, I just slowed and said "oops" or such, and she did come back but not before wrapping around the post of the broad jump, for an off course. Then one partner bit the next challenge, which was remembering whether you were on the first or second loop of the tunnel-tire-jump, and our third partner got the wrong end of that tunnel, so our team apparently agreed on Eing in Jumpers.

Boost Snooker: Did a nice lead-out pivot to the Aframe, stuck her contact, then knocked the second red. We managed to work our way slowly across the ring to the third red, then she popped her weaves in the last opening obstacle, giving us a whole 8 points in the opening. Then when I tried to send her out to the #2 tunnel in the closing, she tried to run between a closely space tunnel and Aframe--hard to do--then took the Aframe, and we were whistled off. At the moment, I don't remember what our partners did, even though I watched--I think the brain is a bit fried. It was a good design in that there was no obvious pattern that everyone attempted, and it was challenging in that there were plenty of equal-access off-course opportunities, which many dogs availed themselves of.

Tika Jumpers: Tika and Apache ran clean on a course that seemed to be eating up competitors, and our third (our draw partner) also did not E, so that was very promising.

Tika Snooker, one partner did great, one partner had a lot of opening points but only 2 closing points, and Tika (a) popped the Aframe for 0 points and then knocked the third red but she was already taking off for the next jump before I realized it, so we were whistled off with only 7 points. Curses!

Tika Steeplechase: Tika woke up today frisky and eager to go with no sign of soreness. We ran Jumpers first, and she looked lovely, so I didn't scratch her from Steeplechase quarterfinals. Unfortunately, she knocked the first bar--in the main ring, which has those huge wooden jumps with the heavy square wooden bars, and I think it probably stunned her a bit, because she also then knocked the second bar. The rest was lovely, but she'd have had to run clean to get even a slight chance of making it to the semifinals.

Photography, blog posting, articles for USDAA: I finally finished my article about Wednesday's course and found the person to hand it over to, but today, with dogs of different heights in different rings--and with the huge distances to walk from kennel to rings--I had no time for anything except the dogs and runs. Took a few photos between walkthroughs in the morning, but that was it.

Whoever was setting up USDAA's fiber optic network apparently somehow ended up with the wrong type of fiber, so yesterday and today they seem to have had no internet connection and no way to follow through on their hopes of broadcasting live all weekend. Hopefully it'll all be working soon.

I haven't even had a chance to check and see where Bay Teamers placed in anything from yesterday or today. So much for the on-the-spot reporter! Tomorrow I have only three runs all day, so it should be easier to do Stuff.

At last night's welcome dinner, a ton of Bay Teamers picked up their assorted bronze, silver, gold, and platinum lifetime award plaques, which was fun. Dinner was fine, companionship was good, and the comedian was Tim McGrew, whose jokes about being drunk (especially driving) didn't entertain me much, but he had some good lines here and there and when he finally got to some dog material at the end, he had the crowd roaring, so that worked out OK, too.

Tonight it was sushi with friends. Nice to have cool evening air, although it's still warm enough that I'm sitting outside without any kind of jacket. In the 90s both days so far, I dare say. And I'm having allergies like I haven't felt in years; don't know what's in the air. Ugh bleah. But I'm very happy that Tika's better today.

A sad note: Jonathan and Amy of Wishy The Writer lost one of their dogs, Mesa, on the trip here to some sort of seizure problem. I don't know the details. It's so painful to even think about. I don't know how they're managing to keep on going, but I think they're surrounded by friends here, which I hope helps.

Wednesday at Scottsdale

SUMMARY: A busy day and I didn't actually do anything.

My first day at the World Cynosports Whoosits was uneventful but somehow extremely busy, although I didn't enter today's sole class.

Woke early, walked the dogs, edited some photos while eating breakfast.

The RV Guy told us about a Discount Tire place just the other side of the freeway from Westworld--how convenient is that?--so I took the van over and got a new tire while finishing editing my photos (this is a sloowwww ancient computer). Then I sat in the Starbucks parking lot for an hour, uploading the photos, providing captions, and adding this morning's Taj MuttHall entry.

Stopped at the grocery store for ice. Back to the RV, walked the dogs again, then drove over to the crating area to unload our gear and get set up. Walked all four rings in which the course was set up to get a feel for it so that I could write about it for USDAA. Followed Dogg and Porsche (doesn't that sound like a Wall Street firm name?) to their ring around 2:00 to videotape their run, then watched other competitors of various heights ffor about an hour, taking notes and talking to people about their impressions of the course.

Tracked down our favorite doggie chiropractor because Tika was acting stiff and sore all day, besides never wanting to jump up into her crate the whole trip down yesterday. After working over all of Tika's joints, Ziji said that basically Tika was "a train wreck." Tika has always been much improved with Ziji's ministrations, and I've also now got her back on the rimadyl.

I might scratch her from Steeplechase Quarterfinals tomorrow, since we're so unlikely to move on in that anyway, but I'd really like to run team and also, preferably, Grand Prix. We'll see how she looks in the morning.

I finally finished lunch around 4:00. Now it's 5:30 and time to head over for the welcome/awards dinner. Where did the day go? And I took hardly any photos, too! I have an article halfway written for the USDAA site about Wednesday's class, but the person to whom I have to give it isn't arriving until tomorrow sometime, so I have time to finish it.

Meanwhile, once again at Westworld I kept an eye out for a flaming Yul Brenner, but so far we seem to be safe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Trip To Scottsdale 2008

SUMMARY: Mostly hunky dory. With a blip or two.

Dogg, my traveling companion this year, arranged for an RV rental at Westworld. I told Dogg that if we left my house by 8 a.m., we should be in Scottsdale by 10 p.m. no problem. So she arranged to meet RV Guy at Westworld at 11, when he would turn over a fully functional and ready-to-go RV. We actually hit the freeway at 7:40, so we were good!

All three dogs (my two and token Corgi Porsche) behaved themselves very well the entire trip, even though that meant that they ended up in their crates for most of 16 hours with only a few short walks interspersed.

For the most part, the trip went very smoothly. We had a little bit of an issue right at the city limits of Blythe, which involved car-part modifications like this:

But all together, we were in Scottsdale at 9:30, had a late dinner, did some grocery shopping, verified that I could make an Internet connection at the Starbucks by the grocery store (because I have an AT&T account anyway), and discovered that RV Guy had the trailer there but not set up. We responded politely to his questions (like "Do you need the water hooked up tonight?" Correct answer: "Yes please." Internal answer: "Are you nuts? Why do you think we're paying all this $ for an RV instead of sleeping in a tent?") and were finally in bed and asleep sometime after midnight.

More photos and narrative here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woo Hoo! We're Here and We're Connected!

SUMMARY: IN Scottsdale with Wifi.

OK, we're here, we're across the street from westworld, I've found the starbucks with internet connection and, even though they're closed for the night, I can still get onto the web, so I think I'm good for the week! Now we have to go find the guy with our RV...

'Night. See you tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Off to Nationals to Create More Unsorted Photos!

SUMMARY: Have skimmed through some photos from the weekend, but mostly it's been getting ready to go to Scottsdale.

Well, I have not by any means finished going through all my Monterey photos. You can pretend that the birds in these photos are dogs if you need a dog-photo fix.

Because the area was socked in with fog, we spent our "sunset shoot" looking for cool images like these, which were just lying around on the beach waiting for our cameras to suck them up.

In case you were wondering, this is sort of what you see a lot of when you go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a group of 50 photographers:

And here I am in another experiment with self-portraiture.

Meanwhile, traveling companions Debbie and Porsche (the dog, not the vehicle) dropped by most of their stuff today, and it's now all neatly stowed in my van waiting for the very last last-minute additions bright and early. We expect to be on the road by 8:00 and in Scottsdale by 10 p.m.

I seriously doubt I'll get a post in tomorrow, but hopefully Wednesday, unless my computer fails to recognize its power cord again--

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fun with Photos

SUMMARY: Some photography at the end of the day in Monterey.

We had a ton of great lectures today and saw many, many inspirational photos. So, after the day was done, I raced down to Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row areas to snap some sunset/twilight/night shots. THis laptop takes far too long to load and process images, so I ican't really do much with them tonight, but here are some highlights, after lectures on looking for lighting, looking for shapes and patterns, looking for opportunities, composition, shooting at sunset and twilight, and so much more

What about the obligatory canine photos that makes this appropriate fare for Taj MuttHall? I saw quite a few dogs out for their evening constitutionals, but it was too dark to catch them on film. Except for these terriers, who hung around while their human mom examined a candy store. They were every which way, everywhere, and wouldn't hold still for the fraction of a second it took to click the shutter. But I kinda like the way this one turned out.

Tomorrow I'm going to be shooting a tanker-load of photos on top of the 100 I snuck in in an hour this evening. Maybe someday I'll finish processing my Montreal photos so I can then go through my Monterey photos and then perhaps move on to some other Mont--Montserrat, perhaps?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Really Prepping for Nationals

SUMMARY: Trying to clean up the small list of things that it's good to review.

This week's training focus has been on things that I can work on in the yard, that review issues that we've had problems with lately, and just a broad spectrum of things that we might encounter at Scottsdale.

Because Tika was sore last week/weekend, I don't want to do much with her to jar her neck, but since she's enthusiastically running and playing tug with no signs of pain this week, I'm doing some training but being selective about it.

Last night I took only Boost to class. For the second week in a row, we've been doing only Jumpers work (by popular demand... how'd we get a class with no contact worries but lots of jumping issues?! Didn't the world used to be the other way around? Like Tika, for example...) And, wow, where did I get a dog who can DO JUMPERS COURSES?! We did not have a single refusal all evening, and the only runout was one where others had trouble, too. She's still knocking a lot of bars, but, man, she was flying! And even doing rear crosses! And serps! And wayyy lateral lead-outs! And everything! What fun!

  • Boost: Assorted exercises to get her to focus on obstacles ahead of her instead of on me.
  • Boost: Lots of jumping long rows of jumps (well... what I can fit in my yard). Thanks to a friendly reminder from an online friend, I dug out my Susan Salo notes from wayyyy back--which is how I worked with Boost when we first started-- and set up some sequences. It's very interesting to see how rough she really is over these things, but how very quickly she figures it out and starts bounce-jumping everything without knocking the bars. But every little change I make is almost like starting over. For example, on one sequence (about 6', 8', 10', 11', and 12' apart with various low heights on the bars), after she had run it smoothly 4 times, I went through and bumped the distance about 2 inches between everything--and she was back to double-striding and knocking bars the first couple of times. But she very quickly got back to bounce-jumping cleanly. Clearly I haven't done enough of this kind of work with her. Silly me. But based on class last night, I think that this plus the focus exercises are making a big difference. Keeping my fingers crossed!
  • Boost: Tires. I hauled the tire out from behind the shed, because at 2 of the last 3 trials she ran under a tire. Incorporating it into sequences, running ahead of her and behind her, approaching from different angles, turning afterwards, and so on.
  • Boost: Broad jump. Because we haven't done many of them (although there was one in class last night on a slight angle) and I know they're going to show up in a tough place again at Nationals.
  • Boost: Table. Still working on the staying down and not doing the hydraulic elbow-lift thing. Although I think the best solution is still to work on it right before we go into the ring.
  • Tika: Because her contacts have become so iffy, I'm just trying to do a ton of dogwalks and Aframes every day. More on the dogwalk, since it's not so hard on the neck and shoulders. I figure that if she has 100 good contacts in her memory when we get to Scottsdale, that she'll think more about doing them right while we're there.
  • Tika: Low-stress jumping, and not much of it. Using a couple of Susan Salo-type drills, with the bars mostly at 8" and 12" with some 16". Just so she stays in the groove and gets in a relaxed jumping mindset.
  • Tika: Snooker and Gamblers kind of moves, with tunnels, very low jumps, and occasional 6-pole weaves.
  • Boost: Start-line stays. Because she broke hers a couple of times last weekend. I used to try to be sure to reward staying at least 25-35% of the time, but I've slacked off because she's been so good. Never give up, never give up!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scottsdale Actual Walking and Running Schedules

SUMMARY: Imagine yourself at Scottsdale.

Now you, too, can wallow in the pleasure of reading the actual walking and running schedules, savor figuring out when you actually need to be where, and vicariously luxuriate in walking five or six courses between 7:30 and 9:00 and then running them all at some random time as late as 4:30 later that day. Don't you feel energized? Enlivened?

And here's the site layout. We're crating in the upper right near the end of the big blue rectangle; Ring #5 at the lower left (labeled #6 on the map; why they decided to call them "Main Ring" and "Ring 1" through "Ring 5" is a puzzlement) is about a quarter mile (.4 km) from there. For perspective, each of the rings is at least 100 feet (30.5 m) wide.

We'll get our exercise, for sure. Some people take bikes, scooters, Segways, or other modes of local transport. I'm looking forward to the walking to keep me active and in shape.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Cynosports Info Available

SUMMARY: Woo hoo, running orders and teammates and everything are available here!

They sent a final confirmation with a real, live, confirmed replacement 3rd for Tika's team. Someone had posted a comment in response to my earlier blog about losing our 3rd to say that they thought Darlene Woz and her dog might be entered as draws, but although I know who she is and have talked to her briefly at trials, I wasn't sure that she'd know me and I didn't have contact info anyway, so I let it go. But guess whom USDAA matched us with! Yup. It's cool to know that it's someone I'll recognize and whom I like, as much as I've seen of her (as a judge). Now if I can only get in touch with her before 11:00 tomorrow morning, I could still order her a matching tie-dye shirt if she wants one.

So if anyone knows how to contact her, let her know I'm looking...

I'd forgotten, with a year's break, how insane my walking and running schedules will be at Scottsdale with dogs of 2 different heights. Looks like this (Corrected 10/23 7:15a.m.):

10:00 set-up open
1:30-3:30 check in
5:30-9:00ish awards dinner
7:30-7:40 Ring 5 Walk Jumpers (Boost)
8:00-8:10 Ring 2 Walk Jumpers (Tika)
8:30-8:40 Ring 3 Walk Snooker (Boost)
9:00-9:10 Main Ring Walk Steeplechase Quarters (Tika)
9:15-9:25 Ring 1 Walk Snooker (Tika)
9:30-10:25 Ring 5 Run Jumpers (Boost)
11:35-12:40 Ring 2 Run Jumpers (Tika)
1:40-2:30 Ring 3 Run Snooker (Boost)
3:00-3:50 Main Ring Run Steeplechase Quarters (Tika)
4:00- Ring 1 Run Snooker (Tika)
7:30-7:40 Ring 5 Walk Steeplechase Semis (TBD Tika)
7:45-7:55 Ring 3 Walk Standard (Tika)
8:00-8:10 Ring 2 Walk GP Quarters (Boost)
9:15-9:25 Ring 4 Walk Standard (Boost)
9:30-10:15 Ring 5 Run Steeplechase Semis (TBD Tika)
10:20-11:15 Ring 3 Run Standard (Tika)
11:30-12:30 Ring 2 Run GP Quarters (Boost)
4:20- Ring 4 Run Standard (Boost)
6:30 Main Ring PNS Finals (watch)
7:30-7:40 Ring 4 Walk Gamblers (Boost)
8:00-8:10 Ring 5 Walk GP Semis (TBD Boost)
9:00-9:10 Ring 2 Walk GP Semis (Tika)
9:15-9:25 Ring 3 Walk Gamblers (Tika)
9:30-10:19 Ring 4 Run Gamblers (Boost)
12:45-1:18 Ring 5 Run GP Semis (TBD Boost)
1:30-2:55 Ring 2 Run GP Semis (Tika)
2:58- Ring 3 Run Gamblers (Tika)
6:30 Main Ring Steeplechase & PSJ finals (watch)
7:00-7:10 Ring 2 Walk Europ. Jumpers (Boost)
7:15-7:25 Ring 2 Walk Europ. Jumpers (Tika)
8:00-9:05 Ring 2 Run Eur. Jmpers (Boost & Tika)
UNLESS in team finals, then
8:00-8:10 Ring 5 Walk Europ. jumpers
8:00- Ring 5 Run Europ. jumpers
10:00-10:30 Main Ring Walk Team finals (TBD)
10:45 Main Ring PVP/Relay Finals (TBD/watch)
2:00 Main Ring Veterans Showcase, Grand Prix finals

I also said I'd love to do some reporting for USDAA--along with my reporting for Taj MuttHall and The Bay Team AND shooting tons of photos. I'm going to need a week to relax from my week in Scottsdale! But I am SO looking forward to it now.

Yum, Buried Muddy Treats

SUMMARY: Tika finds a rawhide that Boost buried. Buries it somewhere else, then licks the dirt off her nose. Tasteee!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nationals Online

SUMMARY: Where you can find info next week.

USDAA has just announced that they're hoping to be streaming live video from Scottsdale. More info here. This should be very cool for folks who can't be there!

I'm taking my computer and hope to be posting here daily or nearly so.

And I'll also try to post updates on Bay Teamers at Scottsdale at http://www.bayteam.org/wiki/Bay_Team_reports_from_Scottsdale_2008.

We'll see how the computer and the wifi and everything works!

Nationals Musings

SUMMARY: Meant to say some of this Sunday and forgot.

Early working version of Boost's photo for t-shirt:

  • I can barely believe that, a week from today, we'll be on the road to Scottsdale. Where'd all my practice time go? Why aren't my dogs perfect yet?
  • Tika didn't show any signs of soreness yesterday (Monday) at all. I have been giving her rimadyl. I haven't been restricting her running.
  • Found out over the weekend that one of Boost's teammates came up lame last week. Argh. But the report as of yesterday is that she's looking good and is planning on competing next week.
  • Haven't heard anything more from USDAA about whether for sure we've been assigned a draw 3rd for Tika's team. Other people tell me that they just leave you hanging until you get there. Presumably that's to keep people like my partner from saying "I'm entered only in team and there's no point in going if we don't have a 3rd" and bailing out. I can only hope that the earlier response, "If you teammate withdraws her entry. I will place one of the dogs I have entered as a draw on your team," really means that we really will have a 3rd, since our teammate withdrew her entry later that day. But it would have been nice for them to send a confirmation to us that they've acknowledged our teammate's withdrawal and that they do have a draw for us (it's been over 2 weeks since she withdrew and 5 days since my last email query). I realize that this is a huge show and they've got a lot to do. Still, we're the ones paying the bills--
  • Now that it's almost here, I'm getting excited about it again. I do like going. I am working on being upbeat and optimistic about our chances for everything. I have great teammates (at least, the ones I have left).
  • Our last practices before Scottsdale: Any day at home in the yard, where I can refresh contacts, work on rear crosses and serpentines, practice some snooker moves. Thursday night in class; I'm planning on leaving Tika at home, which I never do, I don't know how she's going to react to that. Unfortunately I'll miss Power Paws' annual pre-Nationals practice this weekend while I'm off at my photography seminar. And then Monday, at home in the yard again. I just don't have time this week to take a couple of extra hours up at Power Paws. Although...jeez...Boost sure needs that work with wider-open spaces. Crud. Crud.
  • One of my teams has a shirt designed & printed. The other team...well, I've been busy, one person has scratched, and we haven't even talked about it. I wonder if it's too late for some kind of rush job. But... what?

T-shirt for Kevin with Jill, Lisa with Carson, and Ellen with Boost, hereafter known as Handling Distortion (thanks, Kevin, for a great job and Spinal Tap for inspiration!):

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last Week's Results Table

SUMMARY: Fun with database exports so revisiting Oct 11/12 Haute Dawgs USDAA results.

OK, I've set up my database to export everything the way I want it for here and then I just have to do a little hand editing of the comments, so what the hey, here's the table from LAST weekend's USDAA.

(top 10)
1st plc
min pts
our faultsnote
SatBoostSteeplechasen34th of 4747.6929.8637.20sec10.49serp, wvs
SatBoostMas Gamblersn21st of 4724+027+2521+25pts
Nice opening, gmbl bar
SatBoostMas Jumpersn

37secErunouts refs bars
SatBoostMas Snookern25th of 4014+924+2737pts
handling, wvs
SatBoostMas Standardn? of 39

secErunouts refs wvs table
SunBoostGrand Prixn20th of 3645.7638.0950sec20runouts refs bars
SunBoostMas Gamblersn37th of 4233+045+2021+20pts
nice opening, gmbl bar
SunBoostMas Jumpersn35th of 4030.0125.1440sec10nice, bar & leadout pivot
SunBoostMas RelayQ11th of 2638.9237.8757sec5bar, fast smooth
SunBoostMas Standardn? of 34

secEAlmost perfect
SatTikaSteeplechasen? of 1833.50
secEAfr, serp
SatTikaMas GamblersQ5th of 1717+2526+2521+25pts
SatTikaMas Jumpersn8th of 1528.2924.1237sec
SatTikaMas Snookern10th of 1715+5+37pts
bar, forgot course
SatTikaMas Standardn8th of 1743.3436.147sec5contact
SunTikaGrand PrixQ2nd of 1543.2135.8450sec
Only 2 Qed
SunTikaMas GamblersQ5th of 1540+2045+2021+20pts
SunTikaMas Jumpersn11th of 1429.0824.3940sec5smooth, bar
SunTikaMas RelayQ17th of 2652.1737.8757sec
SunTikaMas Standardn? of 16

secEdogwalk, forgot course

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well Things Are Interesting

SUMMARY: Another Tika title, some soreness, some progress, some nationals musings

(top 10)
1st plc
min pts
our faults note
SatBoostGrand Prixn
secEa mess
SatBoostMas Gamblersn17th of 3233+047+2518+25pts
Nice opening
SatBoostMas RelayQ5th of 2155.1953.3276sec10bar
SatBoostMas Relay-61.5453.2276sec20a mess
SatBoostMas Standardn21st of 2956.3839.7753sec18.38probs
SunBoostMas Jumpersn
secENice! Bar, serp
SunBoostMas Snookern9+24+2737pts
Too hard
SunBoostMas Standardn16th of 2645.2939.7854sec10Nice! Bar, up DW
SatTikaGrand Prixn6th of 1244.5033.6949sec10Aframe
SatTikaMas GamblersQ3rd of 12 (3)26+2533+2518+25pts
SatTikaMas RelayQ7th of 2160.9053.2276sec10handling
SatTikaMas StandardQ4th of 1044.7039.0253sec
SunTikaMas Snookern24+224+2737pts
SunTikaMas Standardn

The weekend started with a promising-looking sunrise.

It's so weird to have a Lowe's and its parking lot looming over the field--that's on top of where this site used to have room for a 3rd and 4th ring. Not no more.

Tika seemed mostly OK Saturday. She ran nicely and Qed in 3 of 4 classes, missing only the Grand Prix where I tried a tricky maneuver that failed, pulling her past the Aframe for a refusal and then because I was behind her after I got her onto it, she flew right off the other side. She also placed in those 3 classes, and finished her Relay Champion Silver title (25th Q).

On Sunday, she ran happily outside the ring but acted gingerly when jumping. In her first run, Standard, about 2/3 of the way through, she yelped landing from a jump, but we were so close to the end and she kept going without slowing down--but then I was watching her and starting to try to take it easy on the course, and I pulled her past an obstacle just about 6 jumps from the end, so we just ran quickly off course.

Before her Snooker run, she looked reluctant to get going, but I did a bunch of warmups and stretching, and then she took the practice jump with no obvious sign of problems. But, once we were out on the course, she started landing heavily after jumps and saying "oomph" or the equivalent--not a yelp, but obviously not comfy, but still she kept going, although slowing down--once again, I started watching her more than the course and once again pulled her past an obstacle, so we just ran quickly out of the ring again.

So I scratched her from Jumpers. I'm sure she'll be fine before nationals with R&R&R (rest, relaxation, rimadyl).

This was my view most of the weekend.

Boost managed to Q again in Pairs Relay, where it's OK to knock a bar. We ran it twice, once as an accommodating dog, and the 2nd time (different half of course) was a mess--didn't stick start line, so got a refusal as I was dealing with that, a bar, two more refusals or runouts, Bleah.

Her Saturday standard was a bit of a mess: ran under the tire again (did so 2 trials ago, different tire, different site), ran past a very easy jump, ran across the front of another jump, and a couple of other weird bobbly things, plus not sticking her contacts very well.

In Gamblers, I found a really lovely flowing high-point opening that I thought she did perfectly, but instead of having 45 opening points (which would've been 2nd highest of all dogs all heights), she was missing a 7 and a 5-pointer, with no inidication why, and the judge didn't remember. Ratz. It's just for the glory, because we missed the gamble on a stupid handler thing, but still...

Grand Prix didn't look so good, either; didn't stick her contacts and so got out of place for following obstacles for at least one refusal and a lot of wasted time, missed weave entry (although a lot of dogs missed that entry), some other disorganized stuff and I ended up just running her off and not doing all the last jumps.

Sunday looked up a bit. Both her Standard and Jumpers were smooth and fast. I worked the contacts for a long time in Standard, so her time was slow, and she had a bar down, but otherwise it was beautiful--except she got called for the dogwalk up contact. And jumpers she had a bar and then ran parallel past a tough serpentine that I didn't work well, but wow it felt and looked good otherwise.

We tried a complex Snooker course to try for a Super-Q, but it was way beyond our skill level and not a pretty thing to watch.

On the very positive side, she went down and stayed down on her table in both Standards, with just a wee tiny bit of down-stay work outside the ring Saturday and none sunday because I forgot, so that's a nice change of pace. And I'm starting to feel very confident about her weaves; I know that I still have to watch the entry and not get ahead of her, but I don't have to babysit or worry for the most part any more.

Here's Roulette, a full sister from a repeat breeding of Boost's mother and father. Look familiar? Even has a two-tone right eye.

And here's Dash, of Dash and Ash, who periodically appeared and did all the obligatory very-cute-puppy things. He's so TINY!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting Lesson On Running Fast

SUMMARY: What I learned today about keeping up with Boost.

A friend watched me do some long runs trying to get Boost to run ahead of me over a fairly straight line of jumps instead of waiting, turning back, or spinning. She told me that I keep slowing down when Boost gets ahead of me. Of course I don't mean to; what I *do* do is point with my arm to try to keep the pressure on and yell "go! go! Hup!"

This was a "Doh!" moment. Apparently I cannot run as fast with my arm pointing ahead of me, while yelling, as I can when I just pump my arms, shut up, and run like hell bent for leather (whatever that means). When I did that, Boost didn't get quite as far ahead of me, but furthermore, the important thing was that she kept going straight, over jumps. Not super-driven going confidently away from me, but not stopping or doing refusals, either.

OK. We're going to try that this weekend if the opportunity arises.

Sore Points: 270s and Tika's Neck

SUMMARY: This week's training and Tika's sore, again.

This week in the yard I've been concentrating on 270-degree turns with various angles of approach and departure. Both dogs need more practice at it. Just not something I've concentrated on in a long time.

Wednesday evening, Tika came up sore. Yelping when doing her usual excited-about-food leaping, so didn't even want to leap for that. No practice yesterday during the day and I tried massaging her arms and neck and back. She loves that! So relaxed, eyes half shut. She'd make a good princess.

But she ran around the yard after the toy and random evil squirrels full-speed just fine and played tug-of-war, so it's getting out of the horizontal movement that's hurting. However, last night in class, wouldn't play tug of war at all. Went over a 16" practice jump just fine, and 22", but when I tried to just run her on a course at 22" (4" lower than usual), she went over the first jump and then hunched up and stopped. Crap.

So last night it was a rimadyl and today we'll just try more massage and stretching and a little bit of distance work with tunnels and maybe very low jumps, to keep her warmed up. I don't need this right before a competition weekend! Crap again.

Also for Boost have been practicing just running full-speed down a straight line of jumps. Which, in my yard, is 3 jumps about 15 feet apart, which is nothing--I can keep up with her easily, so I have to deliberately hang back and not run that fast. Which is very different from what we encounter in competition.

And that showed very well last night in class, when there were 4 jumps going all the way across the field and I was about four thousand feet behind her by the second jump and then she's veering right and left and starting to want to spin while she's ahead of me.

So in a few minutes once again we're going up to Power Paws to use their field for an hour to practice long series of jumps in a row, working with various things to have her focus on going rather than waiting.

She did have some very nice runs last night, although rear crosses are also still a bugaboo. Got more advice on working on that from World Team Coach, so there's more for today.

This weekend's pretty light for a weekend of USDAA agility. But, still, if Tika's healthy, she could earn her Silver Pairs Relay title (that's 25 Qs); Boost could earn her Standard Masters title (that's 5 Qs), and if we could get that dang jumpers leg, her MAD (requires 3 Standard legs and one of everything else).

So here I go...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sing Your Puppies to Sleep

SUMMARY: Cute names and the amazing power of lullabyes.

As I mentioned, there seems to be a plethora of puppies suddenly! It's so hard to come up with unique names in agility, and yet people keep coming up with good ones. For the party gal, Jenn, there's Tonic (Jenn and Tonic); for Ash there's now Dash (Ash & Dash); for the lady who videotapes agility trials and whose husband works in high tech, it's the name of one of his products that seems appropriate for a camera person: Tcam.

And for all those puppies out there who won't settle down: Warm up your singing voice! Link forwarded by a friend. (Direct link)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lessons From The Weekend

SUMMARY: Thoughts on achievements and challenges.

  • Photography: MM, who is a semipro photographer (as in makes money at it but I dont think makes most of her income from it), commented about how she didn't feel like bringing her camera this weekend because she didn't think she'd have time to shoot anything and she didn't want to make the effort to get it ready and bring in, and then was inundated with requests for photos and there was no photog here at all, all weekend, said that the lesson is: Just always bring your camera. My version is: If you have your camera around your neck, you will use it. If it is sitting next to your dogs' crates and you're working score table and running 2 dogs all weekend and the days are long, you won't. Can you believe I was at a trial all weekend and this is the only photo I took?

    Because these rustic rural greater-than-life-sized carved wood statues are new to this site, and they stood out like sore carved-wood thumbs against the underside of the modern all-metal bleachers where they store large steel barrels for trash. You couldn't not notice these guys welcoming you as you walked through the gate to go to the restroom
  • Boost weaves: Twice this weekend, I was ahead of Boost at the weave entry and she entered correctly but so hard that she bounced off the 2nd pole and skipped one. Something to work on. We had some other weave issues this weekend of the random sort, but I still count hr weaves as successful when she's not popping out at the end, which she never did.
  • Boost staying in crate: I came back to my crates after working the score table for a full round and discovered that I had never zipped Boost's crate, and she was still inside. What a good girl! Training does pay! (Although I can't picture that working for Tika...)
  • Boost bars: Grumble. Both gambles executed perfectly except for knocked bars. That's not supposed to be the hard part! Must work more.
  • Boost elbows off table: On Saturday, she never did get her elbows down on the table. (But we had already Eed, so it didn't matter.) Sunday, we worked on excited down-stays on the ground before going into the ring, and her table down was perfect. Same result as last weekend. Training does pay! Need to remember to do this before every Standard round!
  • Boost smooth runs: I see some progress. Our Standard run Sunday was so close--no runouts or refusals or knocked bars--but she left the table early when I led wayyy out and ended with an off-course. But I was still happy with it. Jumpers Sunday was also close, with just a bar and an issue on the lead-out pivot (which isn't the same thing as when we're running). So practice does pay. Just need to keep at it.
  • Boost practice with lots of space: Things that I need to work on up at Power Paws or somewhere where there's lots of space: Lead-out pivots more more more. Just sending her ahead of me over long lines of jumps. She's still turning back to me and then eventually waiting, resulting in refusals or runouts. Can work on a little bit of jump-focus rather than me-focus here at home, but still I'll bet that just running in a huge U of jumps around the entire field would be a good thing to do many times.
  • My brain: Forgot Tika's course twice this weekend. Didn't feel stressed, they weren't particularly important or stand-out runs. It's very odd. I wonder if there's a trend? Something to ponder. It's also funny, because one of them I had just run correctly with Boost. That alone cost me two Qs this weekend.
  • Tika's contacts: She does them so fast & such good 2 on/2off in training. I've let them completely go to heck in competition. Do I want to try to fix them? Aframes I can force her to get a foot or two in if I get in front of her as she's coming down, so if I can plan the course so that I'm front crossing or running past, she's fast and hits it. Maybe it's good because it forces me to keep moving ahead of her. But it's bad when I can't, as in Saturday's Steeplechase, with 2 Aframes, where she was way ahead of me both times and wasn't even close to getting a toe in. Maybe I just need to run faster! But contacts alone cost us 2 Qs this weekend.
  • Tika's bars: Knocked a bar in Snooker opening, so we definitely wouldn't have Super-Qed. Knocked a bar in both Saturday's and Sunday's Jumpers. Bars alone cost us two Qs this weekend.
  • Trust all your senses; even measuring tools lie: Quite a few dogs didn't make time on Saturday's Master Standard course. When dogs who moved pretty smoothly through the course on Sunday were also over time by 5 or 10 seconds or more, there was considerable debate about whether the calculations were correct. The judge, after listening to several complaints, did finally say that the yardage for the course seemed odd for what she had laid out. So someone walked the measuring wheel along a 50-foot measuring tape and came up with 41 feet. That poor scoretable. Fortunately it was only Saturday's and Sunday's Masters Standards that they had to review for over-time dogs; nothing else in that ring to that point had required the measuring wheel.
  • I'm happy with two dogs: All kinds of people have new puppies! Blue merle Border Collies! Blue merle Pyrenean Shepherd! They are VERY cute and quite beautiful. And, no, I don't find that I have any urge at all right now to add a puppy to my clan.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too Much Wind

SUMMARY: The wind blew blew blew all weekend. That must explain the dropped bars.

The Dixon site is known for its winds. They have had a trial or two over time where they had to strap the jump bars to the jumps to keep them from blowing off repeatedly, and relying on the judge for whether they SHOULD have fallen. Not quite that bad this time, but most of the jumps had to be staked, we used huge rocks to hold down everything on the score table (dang, why didn't I think to take a picture of that? It's the wind drying out my brain...), and my skin and respiratory system are so dessicated that they'd make the long-term inhabitants of the Valley of the Kings look thoroughly moisturized.

Qs, though, were in short supply.

Boost finally got her only Q of the weekend out of 10 tries, in the last run of the weekend, pairs relay. She knocked a bar (which is OK as long as your time plus faults stays below the required number), but she and her teammate had the second-fastest time of all 26 masters open pairs. That's very promising. And she did have a bit of a hesitation before one jump--not enough for a refusal but fractions of seconds matter--and I did hold her a bit on the Aframe because she's been leaving early. So the speed really is very promising when she actually runs instead of looking back at me to see what I'm doing and thence going around jumps or earning refusals.

And that finished her Relay title, which is her first Masters-level title. Happy!

Tika earned Qs in Gamblers both days, 5th place out of 17 both times (dang, just out of placement-ribbon range!), and also in pairs, and--funny thing for a dog who has earned most of her 25 Grand Prix Qs with 5 faults--she was one of only two 26" dogs who ran clean in the Grand Prix today, taking 2nd, which I think is the best we've ever done. So I guess it *is* possible that everyone else in the known universe could crap out at Nationals and we'd be left standing.

Except that the rest of her runs had issues, so the opposite seems more likely.

(Boost also did the gambles beautifully both days, but knocked a bar in each. Dang bars!)

Maybe more tomorrow. Mostly I had fun, mostly the dogs ran well, and very mostly indeed I'm glad to be home and out of that wind!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Getting Ready for Competition

SUMMARY: What we're working on.

Monday: Don't remember.

Tuesday: My own Jumpers practice at Power Paws field: Rear crosses, serps, wide lateral lead-outs, long snooker-type lead-outs with a jump close to the dog, long runs where the dog will be very fast. Not knocking bars. When we're both still, focus on obstacle (Boost).

Wednesday: Sending in front of me across the yard to a tunnel (while I'm running). Both dogs send pretty good if I start from a stand-still, but when I start running (as in a gamble), my direction and timing has to be good if I want or need to stop and turn.

Thursday: Morning: Lateral "out"s for gambling.

Thursday class: Don't think there was an obvious theme. Some rear crosses, quite a few serps, lots of "you better not wait around; trust your dog and move!" kinds of things. One hard turn from a tunnel pulled to a jump, where Instructor Punmaster assured us that no dog all week had missed the jump, you know what runout-happy BC ran way out past it and never even looked at it. Sigh.

Today: Yesterday's practice showed that both dogs need work on lateral outs. Last night showed that I still need to work on pulling boost and not getting a runout. Limited time. Also have to pack for the weekend. And work.

Possible titles this weekend

* Boost MAD (one jumpers needed, two chances)
* Boost Standard Master (SAM?) (one needed, two chances)
* Boost Relay Master (RM) (one needed, one chance)
* Tika Nuthin'! Oddly, I always think that she's way behind on jumpers legs, because she was for so long. But now she has 18 gamblers, 19 each standard and jumpers, 23 relays, 29 snooker. Titling levels for each are at 25 and 35 legs.

Erikson v. Columbus

SUMMARY: History ain't what it used to be.

Remember when we were in school (not sayin' when) and we celebrated Columbus Day1 with fanfare and little construction-paper cut-outs of the Nina, Pinto, and Santa Domingo? Because, after all, Chris discovered the New World?2 Well, along about 1964 we apparently realized that someone else had been here a whole 400 years earlier "opening new frontiers"2, and Congress officially authorized the President of the U.S. to recognize Leif Erikson Day every Oct 9, which he has faithfully done ever since.

(1 Remember the cute little rhyme to help you learn your important dates? "In fourteen hundred and ninety-three, Columbus sailed the deep blue sea"? See how well you remember now?)

(2 Never mind those hundreds of millions of inconvenient half-naked uncivilized aboriginals who'd been hopping around the forest in their mocussinass for the last 20,000 years.)

What, you might ask, does this have to do with agility or dogs? Well, I'm getting there-- see, I've now spent half an hour googling "national (a variety of random things) day" and feeling a warm, cheery glow about all the things that are available for us to celebrate. Sure, you can mark your calendars for National Mutt Day on Dec 2! (Sorry, Boost, I couldn't find a National Border Collie Day.)

But here's the thing: There's no National Dog Agility Day?! I'm hereby proposing creating such a thing. I'll make a web page for it and everything. But I need to pick a date. Anyone have any good suggestions for what date and why?

P.S. Isn't it nice how Boost's hat matches BOTH her eyes? You wish you had it so good!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Escaping Dogs

SUMMARY: Our Siberian Husky had nuthin' on this beagle.

My Siberian Husky, Sheba, who lived to be 17, was one of the canine world's Houdini reincarnations. She went under, through, or over every fence that we concocted. We put her on a tie-out in the yard (a long line on a pulley so she had a lot of room to move), and she'd slip out of her collar no matter how tightly we fastened it, and you should've seen our jaws drop when, after the first time we buckled her firmly into a harness, we arrived home to find an empty, still-buckled harness attached to the line. In the house, she could pop the security bar out of the window, flip the latch, push open the window and the screen, and be gone in under 3 minutes. At about age 12, she learned how to lift the heavy iron L-bar latch on the big wrought-iron gates in our driveway and pull the gate open.

Here's a video of a beagle named Sofia who tops even those stories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dog Photos

SUMMARY: Updated blog photos

I changed the dogs' portraits on the right--all except Remington's. They just didn't look like my dogs! I was trying for more formal pictures but those were the wrong ones to choose. I so much regret not having some really great photos of Jake--so many photos, and so many were SO CLOSE-- guess it's time to go out and make a real effort at getting some really good photos of my dogs' faces, because these are all 2 years old or more.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bars! Argh! No time! Argh!

SUMMARY: The work never ends.

I haven't done much agility practice with the dogs since Thursday night's class. Who'd'a thunk they'd both have forgotten how to jump since then? Bars going down like crazy in the yard this morning! Auuuuuuuggghhhhhh!

I'm now signed up for being out of town for the next four weekends. Auuuughhhh! That means no time to do anything except work and be gone. Chores and errands will fall even farther behind--
* USDAA trial this weekend, Dixon.
* USDAA trial next weekend, Madera.
* Photography conference and workshop in Monterey the following weekend (no dogs)--whoo!
* Next day, leave for Scottsdale and the USDAA Nationals for a week.

We're almost there already! Argh! And my dogs are knocking bars! Argh argh argh!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It's San Andreas' Fault

SUMMARY: Today's hike: An educational experience along the famous fault line at Los Trancos Open Space Preserve. Photos here.

Team Troubles for Nationals

SUMMARY: Losing a team member hurts.

One of my teammates for Nationals, for Tika's team, has found out that her father, who is quite ill, will most likely be in the hospital by the time Scottsdale rolls around, so she can no longer commit to going. I don't envy her situation at all, having someone close to her be so ill.

But that does leave us other two in a bind. Remember, this was the team of people who weren't going to go and all talked each other into going at the last minute. Closing date for entries is long past, so we can't talk someone else into going in her place. No one else in the huge Bay Team apparently entered as a draw. So we don't have a 3rd.

If we don't have a 3rd, then that means each of our dogs would be doing only 2 or maybe 3 runs for the whole week without the additional 4-5 for team. And that would really suck. It would suck enough, in fact, that our other teammate says that if we can't confirm a 3rd before we go, he'll cancel out, too, because it's way too expensive for just one dog and only 2 runs, both of them the extra-don't-really-count-for-fun runs.

I've just sent email to the USDAA trial secretary asking what's the process for finding an entered 3rd.

Life often hands one some interesting challenges, eh?

Meanwhile, Boost's team ("Handling Distortion") already has a t-shirt design, thanks to teammate Jill's human dad. And it'll be purple, too. Good color choice.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Teague Hill Hike Photos

SUMMARY: 29 photos from the hike here.

Rain. And Phone Books.

SUMMARY: Boost does some surprising fetching and is surprised by water from the sky.

It last rained in San Jose on March 15. Yesterday's forecast called for rain last night and this morning. An agility friend posted on her web site, "I wonder what rain feels like?" Anticipation lay low, humming, in the background of all conversations in the valley. Rain. At last.

Every morning, Boost fetches the newspaper for me from the driveway. Today, she woke me at 5:30 demanding to go out (drat, are we not over this yet? And it was going so well--). The ground was dry. Another wet forecast turning out to be all wet?

Since I was getting up at 6:00 anyway to go for an early hiking adventure, I opened the front door to see whether the paper yet sat in its plastic rain-bag at the end of my driveway. Nothing was there. But Boost burst past me, down the sidewalk, and skidded to a halt next to a dark, hulking, plastic-wrapped shape near the roses, and began to work at grabbing it. --What on earth--?

I walked out to the sidewalk, and discovered that the Phonebook Fairy had left the new phonebook for me, carelessly wrapped in plastic so that one end was protected from potential rain but the other end lay completely exposed. And dry. Boost was wrestling enthusiastically, trying to find some pages to grab, as the whole thing was, shall i say, a wee bit larger than even the usual Sunday-supplemented Saturday paper. I hurriedly aligned the phone book with the spine towards her, to prevent having the entire M section ripped out with a too-effusive effort to Get That Newspaper.

I didn't think she could actually manage it, but with several bits of assistance and several drops and re-pick-ups, she managed to get that whole huge thing into the house and deliver it to where she always delivers the paper. Quite an entertainment for her mom early in the morning.

As I gave her some thanks-for-fetching treats, the sky opened. How grateful was I now for being wakened early and also having the dog run out the front door without permission? Had she done neither of those things, I'd now have a sopping wet gigantic blob of former phonebook.

A few minutes later, Tika put up a big racket about Something Dangerous In The Front Yard. I peered out the door, and sure enough, the paper itself had arrived. So I fetched Boost, lined her up, said, "Ready....Get The Paper!" and released her. She blasted down the steps to the sidewalk--and skidded to a halt. She jerked her head and body left and right. She ran to one side. She stepped back. She looked at the roses like she might be about to spook. She started to wuff a "Danger! Unknown danger!" wuff, when I realized what was happening: She hadn't been rained on in 7 and a half months.

So I had to run out into the rain to reassure her, run with her down to the paper at the end of the driveway, and then follow her as quickly as I could as she dashed back inside, plastic-bagged paper grasped firmly in her jaws. OK, so now **I'M** wet, but at least the phone book is dry.

(I'll try to get my hike photos up soon. No dogs this time, though.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tiring Out the Dogs--Ha!

SUMMARY: OK, an 8-mile hike is good for half a day.

For those familiar with Palo Alto and Stanford, here's the route we took Wednesday evening (thanks, Karin, for mapping it and for these photos):

Here we are before the hike.

Agility friend Karey joined us with her three Border Collies.

We of course enjoyed the questions about our dogs, and were entertained both by those who thought that Karey's three dogs must be related because they look so much alike (for Border Collieists--not!) and by those, conversely, who looked at the three of them and Boost and said that the four of them looked so different that it was hard to believe that they were all the same breed.

As for wearing out the dogs--by 2:00 yesterday, my beasts were inquiring why we weren't out doing something active and exciting, and they had no problem at all running full tilt at toys or Evil Squirrels. (Tika caught one earlier this week. Sigh.)

Class started out on a high note, as our instructor (World Team Coach) was just back from Helsinki with multiple golds and some other excellent performances for the USA team. Woo Team USA!

In class, Tika seemed on the slow side, but Boost exulted in being on an agility course for the first time in two weeks, and had some lovely runs. We had lots of rear-cross opportunities last night, though, and we found some of our weak areas. In particular, if I have to bring Boost towards me before making a rear cross, I push her off the jump just about every time.

We worked on that quite a bit, with assistance, and succeeded easily the last time I tried it at the very end of the evening. I just need to set up similar things, as she just might have been patterned on that one set-up by then.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Subscribe to Taj MuttHall by email

SUMMARY: For your visiting convenience.

I've set up an automated email delivery for posts to Taj MuttHall, so that every post automatically goes in an email to you if you want it, so you don't have to remember to come here and look.

(If you already come here and look, that's fine--I don't want to start adding huge gobs of text and photos to the Internet Superhighway if it's not necessary. But if you prefer the automated thing and don't mind weirdly formatted email versions of my posts--well, at least you'll know that I've posted something and you can come here and look!)

(Or if you use RSS feeds, I've had that set up for a while. I think. I don't do RSS, so who knows.)

To subscribe, do ONE of the following:
  • If you have a yahoo user ID or don't mind signing up for one (it's free and you don't get any weird emails from them), go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tajmutthall/ and ask to Join the Group. I'll have to approve you but will probably do so.
  • Send me email (at webmaster (at) finchester (dot) org) telling me what email address to use, and I'll add you directly.

A couple of people I already signed up without them asking. You'd have received an email by now telling you so.

Tiring Out the Dogs

SUMMARY: Longggggg walk.

I try to walk a mile or so with the dogs every day. Really the last couple of years it's been more like 3-4 times a week (and sometimes other days without the dogs, like the 5-7 milers Wednesday evenings with the Sierra Club group).

Since I got back from Montreal, the dogs have been pestering pestering PESTERING me for more activity. I walked 2 miles with them Sunday, a mile and a half Monday, none Tuesday. Played and practiced pretty hard for about 15-20 minutes each in the yard daily, with some extra random fetch here and there. But they had a whole week of minimal activity backed up in their systems and I needed to get it out somehow.

Last night, the Wednesday hike wound through the walkways, paths, and streets of Palo Alto and Stanford University, and dogs are legal. So I took the merle girls for the first time. According to my pedometer, we walked just under 8 miles, briskly, over about 2 and a half hours.

I haven't heard a thing from either dog all morning. It's 11:00 already. Not a peep, not a "here's a toy," not a "let's DO something", nothing! SOUNDLY snoozing dogs.

I only hope they can work in class this evening.

Good workout for them. Should do more often.

Goals and the Iditarod

SUMMARY: A former Bay Teamer completes the 2008 Iditarod.

In my earlier days of agility, there were three Jakes competing in the same jump height and the same level of competition: My Jake, Bill Cuthbertson's Border Collie Jake, and Liz Parrish's Aussie Jake. About 10 years ago, Liz and Jake and the rest of their crew moved to southern Oregon to run a dog-friendly bed and breakfast with acres and acres of land on Klamath Lake. (I've mentioned Crystalwood Lodge before, in August and in 2003 and my photos here.)

While there, she traded agility and flyball and all that for dogsled racing, and has been pursing the singular goal of running the Iditarod for her 50th birthday. She succeeded, running and finishing the 2008 Iditarod. She gave a talk here Tuesday night about her training, her determination to reach the goal, her dogs, the Iditarod itself, and her first lead dog, Briar, after whom her kennel (Briar's Patch) is named.

Of the roughly 98 teams who started the race, 78 finished, and she was among them. It is interesting to note that, in 2008, 290 people summited on Mount Everest, but only 78 finished the Iditarod. It's a grueling, extremely challenging experience through harsh wilderness. And she's not a big burly gal whom one could imagine wrestling a moose; she's more than petite and had to overcome tremendous physical challenges to achieve this goal.

But she trained and conditioned her dogs well for this, knew what they could handle, and monitored every one of them carefully for signs of problems. In a sport that is sometimes criticized for how hard it is on dogs, she has won awards for best-cared-for teams in some of her races, and she finished the Iditarod with 14 of her original 16 dogs, one of only two competitors to do so well. And the only dogs whom she sent back simply had sore muscles--and she knew that the same way that we agility people know immediately if something's wrong with our dogs: They don't leap to their feet immediately, they start out a little slowly, they might be completely willing to work and go all out once they've loosened up, but you know that there's something going on under that fur.

My post on the world's most expensive polo shirt makes it seem like a complete bargain compared to what she called "the world's most expensive belt buckle" and the 6 solid months a year she spent training for years, and driving to and from Minnesota and Alaska and everywhere else they needed to go. Just the equipment and gear and fees and travel for the Iditarod alone she estimated at $50,000. She did find some sponsors, but still-- Wow.

She printed a ton of really nice t-shirts with a picture of her team running around Crater Lake
and I bought myself one on a green background, although it was hard to pass up the purple one, which also looked great. If you're in the mood for a mushing t-shirt, short- or long-sleeved, I'll bet that you can still order one.

And then go back to being glad that agility is such an inexpensive sport that requires only one dog!