a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008


SUMMARY: Winter doesn't stop agility in California--but it might stop me.

I've heard people say how nice it is to have a break from training and trialing dogs during the off season. However, as I've noted here before, there is no off season for agility in my world.

We have a USDAA trail in two weeks, and it's an off-the-wall combination of events: all the Tournament classes (DAM Team, Steeplechase, Grand Prix) with also Jumpers, Gamblers, and Pairs. (No Standard, no Snooker.) AND--because some people really like the old games from back when trials were small and finished early in the day--Strategic Pairs.

I've decided that I need to refocus Tika's contacts on hitting her 2on/2off, and refocus Boost's contacts on STOPPING AND WAITING AND NOT TURNING TOWARDS ME. Boost's were so good for so long but have just started getting sloppy this summer.

So I've done a bit of nose-touch work to targets, on and off the dogwalk. Not a lot, just some, on days when I'm in the mood. And the mood is holding me back; maybe the rest of the world doesnt' take a break, but I feel like *I* need a break.

For instance, I haven't had jumps up in my yard since we came back from Scottsdale, and that's been almost a month, and I know that I need to practice lateral lead-outs and serpentines and keeping bars up. But I just don't wanna. The weather this year isn't encouraging an off season, either; it's supposed to be possibly into the mid-70s (F) today.

The dogs are going nuts because I've been ignoring them a bit while life goes on around me. Plus no class this week--for some reason the instructors didn't want to schedule classes on Thanksgiving day, go figure!

So, OK, I'll go do the agility trial but I might not shine because we're not practicing that things that we need to practice. And is that a waste of money and time? Torn. Conflicted. But it's a beautful day. Maybe I'll take the dogs hiking.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


SUMMARY: I'm just glad.

Backfill: (Posted Sunday morning.)
My family's all alive and we're all getting along and we love each other. My dogs are healthy and alive. I can afford a house and food. I have a job. I try to remember it's just the basics, just the basics.

Family at the dinner table. Twenty of us--only the niece & nephew in Baton Rouge weren't here.

(Clockwise from bottom left featuring assorted related hair: Brother-in-law Martin's hair, Bro-in-law Doug, Dad's cousin Carol, Dad, Mom, sister Sharon's main squeeze Mark, sister Sharon's hair, sister Linda's hair, Bro-in-law Paul, my cousin's spouse Simon, sister Ann's hair, niece Katie's hair, niece Elizabeth, my ex Jim, his mom, my chair, nephew Alex's hair, sister Susan's hair. Not in photo, me, cousin Dawn, niece Kate, or any of our hair.)

Jamela (cousin's dog) gets some Thanksgiving loving:

Annie (cousin's mom's dog) gets some Thanksgiving loving, but really she was more interested in the food.

The food guest of honor: Mr. Turkey.

Uncle Marty teaches his nieces the finer arts of computer gaming. (Oh, really, they can probably out-geek him any day of the week.)

Mom. Can you believe she turns 80 on Sunday? Her mom didn't look nearly so good on her 80th. No, she doesn't color her hair. I hope I'm so lucky!
But noooo, the hair in front of my ears is already fading...fading... But I'm thankful anyway!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Missed the Rainbow

SUMMARY: Just a touch of color in the sky

Coming back from our walk, I saw that a third of a rainbow shot up from the ground behind my house into the sky to meet the sunsetty clouds. Despite jogging the last 2 blocks, this was all that remained by the time I got my camera into the yard.

Still pretty cool.

Agility on Facebook

SUMMARY: Another addictive online time-wasting thing.

Thanks to several agility so-called friends who invited me to join Facebook, I did. Now I must spend at least half an hour a day checking what everyone's up to, because after I plugged in my email address book, I discovered that about 90 people I know are already facebook members.

The main interface is kind of cool, in an insidious addictive way. On your main page, it just has a little box where you type a sentence about what you're doing right now (or thinking or feeling or planning or resenting or hating or loving or...). Then it shows up in a list on all your friends' pages. So my page shows what all my facebook friends are active in, what they're doing, what their lives are like, and so on.

51 of the friends are agility friends (including 6 of you agility blogging pals), so my experience on facebook is primarily agility and dog oriented. (Of the others, 4 are relatives, 10 are sci fi/fantasy writer friends, half a dozen are work friends, and the rest are just random people I've met through the years, most of whom don't know each other.)

The worst part of facebook is all the cool applications that you can sign up for and participate in and engage with your friends in (or compete against them in). My particular bane is Word Challenge. A bunch of my agility friends now seem to be heavily into "Mob Wars" - "Join the Mafia, and start your own mob. Band together with your friends to become the most powerful force in the elite criminal underworld of Facebook." They have invited me to be members of their mobs, but so far I have resisted, although the automated status postings indicate that they're having a good time smuggling liquor, robbing banks, and so on.

You can see that this is all enhancing my agility knowledge and expertise.

Oh--although I have also signed up for Facebook groups including "Blue Merle Border Collies," "Running Contacts," "Agility Vision - Agility Video Service," "USDAA Agility," "NorCal Agility Addicts," "dog agility lovers group," and "Doghouse Arts," (oh and also "No on Prop 8," "SFFWA," "Clarion writers Workshop," "Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor," "International Talk Like a Pirate Day," and other critical social groups like that), there is a whole lot more activity going on in Mob Wars and Word Challenge than in any of those other groups.

Anyway, not that I'm encouraging you to join. It really is a time sink, and so far hasn't really given my any useful agility info. But it has been interesting.

Here are some of the "what Ellen is doing right now" posts I've made recently:

Today: Ellen cries Why why WHY would anyone make a washable dog bed cover out of red fabric that bleeds? Why?! (Poor previously tan dog bed cover...)

Yesterday: Ellen has too much to do and is hoping the dogs might take up a quiet hobby like stamp collecting.

Yesterday: Ellen is taking an Xmas package to the PO for her niece & nephew in Baton Rouge.

Yesterday (OK, maybe i'm posting too often...): Ellen is thinking about turning up the thermostat.

Saturday: Ellen is sorting photos from hiking at Big Basin.

Friday: Ellen is going to take a NAP because she took her nieces to the midnight "Twilight" show.

Thurs: Ellen is going to take a nap so she can take her nieces to the midnight "Twilight" show.

Thurs: Ellen is catching up on facebook. Why did I start this?

Tues (some days are more profound than others): Ellen is vacuuming.

Mon: Ellen ponders Tika's speed, titles, and Performance vs Championship options. (With a link back to my post here at Taj MuttHall. See, you're not missing anything that's really important!)

Sun: Ellen is not sure how we managed it, but Tika Qed 8 of 9 at the NAF USDAA this weekend. (See, you guys already got that from reading Taj MuttHall!)

Fri: Ellen is packed and ready to go do some USDAA.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


SUMMARY: Dang Boost at night.

What, is Boost reading my blog now? She made me get up at 1:00 this morning to let her out.

Hiking Today

SUMMARY: Took photos among the redwoods.

Left the dogs home today and hiked at Big Basin Redwoods State Park among the majestic redwoods. Photos and commentary here. Here I am, admiring a biggish one.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Dog In The Night Party Umpty-Ump

SUMMARY: Boost's nights seem to be back to normal.

In the last month, Boost has asked to go out during the night only twice: Once at Scottsdale, which was my worst night hacking and snorting with the miserable cold, which could've just woken her up thoroughly, and once more on Nov 11. But otherwise, she's sleeping through the night.

Was it the 2nd round of tougher antibiotics for a longer period? Was it putting her in her crate after she came back in after insisting on going out? Don't know, but something worked, thank goodness.

For previous posts on the topic, click the Housebreaking label. (At least...it should bring up 4 other posts...)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

USDAA Rules Change to Qualify in Team Individual Events

SUMMARY: Now your individual events in DAM tournaments can count as Qualifying scores (Qs) towards your LAAs. Maybe.

Effective Sept 19, dogs can earn Qs in the individual events in the DAM tournament.

This will be calculated similarly to Steeplechase: Average the top 3 scores in each jump height, and dogs within 15% (Steeplechase is 25%) will earn a Q.

It's nice to get additional Qs towards the LAA. But. Take Tika, who always is within Steeplechase time at 25%, but just barely. She'd never be in steeplechase time at 15%. So she'll probably never Q in Team std or jumpers at 15% of the top 3 dogs.

I did a quick look at our Team Standard from Labor Day. Forty-eight 26" dogs ran. The top 3 did Standard in 29.39, 30.52, and 31.98 seconds. This averages to 30.63. Add 15% of that, and the qualifying score is 35.22. I see only 9 that would've Qed: Dan, Reya, Icon, Rusty, Jester, Apache, Cirque, Aiko, and London. All very fast border collies, I believe, except Apache (Terv--34.68) and Rusty (Aussie--32.71, actually pretty good). That's under 19% Qs.

Tika was clean but 2 seconds over. I didn't note anything in particular that we did wrong on course. Still, hmmm, we're often comparable to Apache's and Rusty's time, so maybe on a good day...

Once again, rewarding the very top dogs and blocking out those who aren't at the top of the sport. USDAA is less and less a venue for Just People with Just Dogs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boost's Speed and some Gambling Strategies

SUMMARY: Boost is very fast. Very. But does it ever show?

Hint #1 that she's very fast: Weaves. Jim B suggested in class last week that I should arrange a 60-weave-pole challenge at a future trial to see whether she could break the record. That was unsolicited, and a nice thing to say! Now that her weaves seem to be fixed again. I tried to find Official Scoring Info for the 60 Weave Pole Challenge, but it doesn't seem to be on the Clean Run site any more. Anyone know who's handling that event and tracking of results these days?

Hint #2 that she's very fast: Gamblers. When we can get our act together. I try to pick courses that we can do without bobbles so that we're not rehearsing garbage. It's not always easy to do, and sometimes is a lower-point course than ideal. But when we get it--we get the "how the * did you get xx points?!" from handlers of other very fast dogs. We were SO close last weekend, but no cigar.

In the walkthrough, I had picked out about 3 course plans that I liked, with some variant openings on each, and hadn't entirely decided which to do. Plans with the dogwalk were right out for Tika, because her dogwalk is so unreliable. Plans with the teeter were iffy for Boost--although her teeter is really fast, there was no good approach to it for us at our current performance level.

I was watching the scores come through before I ran. A talented friend with 2 fast dogs ran early and scored 60 and 61 points, more than any other dogs to that point. I hadn't added up the points from my plans; I usually don't, just try to maximize the number of higher-point obstacles and assume that it'll result in a bunch of points. But I commented to her that I wanted to know what her plan was, so she told me. It mapped almost perfectly to one of my options--mine had one more obstacle at the beginning--and I decided that if she was getting to the right place with her dogs with one fewer obstacle, I was probably overreaching.

Boost and I were not perfect on course. First, she ran under the tire going from the Aframe to the chute--that cost us 3 points. Then, after the chute, I had trouble getting her onto the dogwalk and ended up having to spin her around me to line her up again. Must have wasted at least 2 seconds. At the other end of the dogwalk, our "perfect" ability to say "left tunnel!" and have her blast right in there failed, as instead she came off the dogwalk towards me, and so we had to bobble a bit to get her into the #7 end of the tunnel--another second or two wasted.

Everything else was lovely, but the whistle blew before she exited the #12 tunnel (I thought that she was out when the whistle blew, but we didn't get our 3 points for it so apparently not). So our total points for the run was 60 (including the gamble). If she hadn't run under the tire, and if we hadn't had silly bobbles at both ends of the dogwalk, she'd have had at least 66. Which would've been 5 more points than anyone else at the trial. Now, OK, Luka and Beadle and Heath and Cap weren't there, but damnit I still think we'd have been in there.

At the start of gamble, we were in perfect position and she did 1-4 perfectly, but came in to me before #5 and it took several lonnnng heart-stopping seconds to get her to finally go out. BUT because we were in good position and because she's so fast, we achieved it with about 3 seconds to spare.

Hint #3 that we have a whole truckload of work to do: Snooker. Getting Qs in Snooker should be easy. Especially ones like this weekend's, where getting three 7s was basically a speed course, not so much a handling course. In Tika's height, 6 of 9 dogs got 51 points, for example.

Two trials ago, Boost and I had so many bobbles--runouts, refusals, knocked bars--on what I thought was a fairly straight-forward course that we got only about 7 points before we finally had to leave the course. Someone looking only at the accumulator sheet said, "How is it possible for someone to be out there for 45 seconds and get only 7 points?" I laughed and explained.

This week: Deja vu.

First, I led out so that the dog saw nuthin' but tunnel when looking over the first jump (I made sure that the teeter was out of sight behind the wing, for example). I released and started running straight at the tunnel. Dog is supposed to come with you, right? Especially a dog who ran around jumps on lead outs something like 5 times this weekend trying to get to where you were? But noooo--she veered right and ran across the teeter, so I had to regroup, work her around to get her lined up to do the teeter instead of the #7 in the opening.

Then, trying to get her over the 2nd red (to the right of the teeter), we went into the "this jump? this jump? this jump?" refusal dance. Got it, got into the 7a tunnel, hit the first weave pole and then skipped, so had to spin her around and retry--reentered in the wrong place. Spun her around and retried and finally got it. On the 3rd red, I front-crossed after the weaves so that it would be an easy handling thing with her on my left to do the #1 and back to the weave, but nooo-- "this jump? this jump? this jump?" and then she crashed into the bar trying to do it sideways at the last minute.

So then I had to line her up for the 2-3, but now her brain is over the top and she's bouncing every which way. I am standing completely still and telling her in a calm voice "here" (which means line up on my right side) and patting my right leg. I'm not sure how long it took before she actually lined up and stopped bouncing bouncing bouncing. I made sure that she was looking straight across the #2 to the #3 (not looking at me) and I had a straight line to run to get to #4a.

I told her "through!" and she blasted across #2 and into the tunnel like greased lightning while I hauled my butt from a complete standstill--and she came back out the same end of the tunnel! I was ready to strangle her.

So there we were, looking at the accumulator sheet, with about 46 seconds used and only 9 points to our name.


If only we could harness that speed for the good of all mankind instead of using our powers for evil!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flea Fly Flo Flum

SUMMARY: Boost might have fleas. So much cleanup to do!

Since I started using Advantage or Frontline, I've had almost no problems with fleas on my dogs. Occasionally we pick up a couple from somewhere, and then I do a thorough cleaning and bathe the dogs and the problem goes away again.

"A thorough cleaning and bathe the dogs." Aye, there's the rub. I wash everything in sight--all my bedding (since the dogs sleep on the bed) and all their bedding--in bedroom crate, on kitchen beds, on office beds, in car crates, in mats used for agility crating...so much bedding! It takes ages to do all that--unzip things, unwrap things, get from all corners of the house and garage--and then wash, and then put back in place. And some of the stiffer mats don't wash very neatly. I've been at it for hours, it seems, and have barely started.

I vacuum all carpets thoroughly. Bedroom, even under the bookcase headboard--THERE's a challenge. Office--move even the printer tables and such. Living room, although we don't go in there often. Then there are the crevices around the mattress on the bed and other odd places. It's a lot of vacuuming! Usually I just sweep my kitchen, but for this I ought to vacuum around the edges anyway.

And bathing the dogs--ugh, I just have no energy for that this week.

And why am I doing this? For the last week or two, Boost has been scratching more and more often, and last night she woke me up several times scratching scratching scratching. I'm not seeing any obvious flea signs, but at Scottsdale in the trailer we rented, one evening I caught a flea hopping on the bed. So I'm thinking that she picked 'em up from the trailer or from being around zillions of who knows what kinds of dogs with what kinds of flea care for 5 solid days.

I'm only a week late with the latest application of Frontline because I ran out and I wanted to get it on sale this coming weekend--it's a bit pricey. But it sure beats all this work!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mom is Home and Improving

SUMMARY: Sounds so much better. Still things to follow up on.

The assorted drugs led to side effects that led to dehydration that led to really bad dehydration that led to brief renal failure and two and a half days in the hospital. She went home Sunday morning. I talked to her last night on the phone, and her voice and her words are completely mom again. She's still weak and still has the original pain that the doctors can't explain yet. More investigations forthcoming eventually, but they're taking it easy on her kidneys for a while.

I am so relieved that she's home and back to dealing with "only" severe pain and recovery from all the side effects, not loss of mental capacity and bodily shut downs. I'm sure she is, too. And my dad and my sisters.

Move Tika to Performance?

SUMMARY: Do I need to move Tika to the lower jump height division? What are my criteria?

I've had the gut feeling that Tika has been slowing down on her courses. She'll be 8 in February, but really I don't think of 8 as being that old, and we've gained a comfortable working relationship that works fairly well in USDAA and very well in CPE (which we're not doing much of at the moment). Plus she still jumps nicely most of the time at 26".

(Fun note: In CPE, I jump her at the highest height, 24", to avoid messing up her 26" USDAA Jumping. But she's legal for 20" in CPE. Which means that I could eventually move her down to 16" in their Specialist category--like Performance in USDAA--or even to 12" in their Enthusiast category! Can you picture Tika running a course at 12"?!)

Then there's the issue of her coming up sore periodically. This weekend she did 6 runs Saturday and was fine, then Jumpers Sunday morning and was fine, then came out of her crate before Snooker saying "I'm sore, I'm hunched over, I don't want to play tug of war, I can't do anything." Fortunately there were about 8 dogs ahead of us, so I got her moving, got her stretching, massaged her neck and spine and shoulders, used treats to encourage her to stretch her neck and back in various ways (boy, she really perked up at the treats), and by the time we went into the ring, she looked perky and comfortable. Ran fine. Ran fine in Standard, too. Ran fine for frisbee later. Looks fine today. Maybe just a cramp? But I was inches away from scratching her because she looked so unhappy.

So there's that to consider.

To help decide how much she's slowed down, I took my useful database of info I've collected on my dogs' runs through the years, threw out Novice and Advanced classes, threw out classes where we had refusals or runouts (because they'd skew the picture of her true speed), chose only Grand Prix, Jumpers, and Standard as useful classes, and ended up with data from early 2004 through this weekend. For each of the 3 classes I plotted the following in Excel charts: Her yards per second (YPS), how far off the SCT (standard course time) her time was, and how far off the first-place dog's time she was.

I couldn't clearly tell from the plot of her YPS whether she's slowing, so I did a sort of a running average, and it showed a few interesting things.

1) Her YPS in Standard abruptly shot up starting in April 2007. (--about .2 YPS--which for her would be about 2.5 seconds faster on a Standard course.) What happened in April 2007? The Aframe height changed from 6'3" to 5'10". (Caveat: At some point last year I decided that it was OK for Tika to have running contacts because she was doing it anyway and we needed the extra speed. I can't find my blog post on that, but I was still trying to get the 2o2o behavior at that time.)

I can't quite tell whether it affected everyone equally; it looks like she picked up some time compared to the first-place dogs, but not a lot.

2) Her Standard YPS has indeed been drifting slowly downward since, from 3.9 then to 3.7 now, over a year and a half. So we've lost those couple of seconds again.

3) Her Jumpers YPS rose steadily from 2004 to 2006 as we learned how to work together, peaked at almost 6 YPS in early 2006, slid steadily to just over 5.5 YPS in mid-2007, and has very slightly drifted to below 5.5 YPS since. (In other words, she hasn't slowed much on Jumpers courses in the last year and a half.)

4) Oddly, her Grand Prix YPS average seems to have climbed slightly over time--but we don't have nearly as many good data points on that.

So I'm not sure what it tells me. She's still way below SCT and is by no measures a slow dog. But the numbers from this weekend tell me that we're still fighting a battle to ever earn placement ribbons: Note that in every class, she did very well as the Q rate seemed low--but in almost every case, she was the slowest of the dogs to Q or to get the highest points.

I don't know what moving her to Performance would do in that area; Performance is not an escape from experienced, top-quality competitors. Several dogs who've beaten her consistently in the past in Championship are now in Performance.

The other thing is--she's now getting so close to her ADCH-Silver that it would be nice to finish at least that, and if this weekend's any indication, she's very capable of doing it without hurting herself. To do that, she needs 25 legs in each of the 5 regular classes, and has:
* Standard: 22
* Relay: 26
* Gamblers: 22
* Snooker: 30
* Jumpers: 20

It's always those danged Jumpers, isn't it!

So I'm sticking with a wait and see strategy on her regular classes.

I can also decide on the tournament classes. All she needs for her Platinum Tournament Championship is one DAM Team Q and one additional Q of any kind (DAM, Steeplechase, Grand Prix). There are no higher awards in the Tournament area. So I could move her to Performance's lower jump height there if I wanted to. The question is just whether--if there's another Nationals out west--I'd want to qualify her in Championship or in Performance, and whether I'd really want to go anyway, with the fact (same as this year) that she just can't compete with the top dogs.

It's only Gamblers where we can really shine on opening poins, as usual.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Did Tika Think This Was CPE?

SUMMARY: Tika had a good weekend. Boost is a work in progress. Still.

Wow--Tika Qed in 8 of 9 classes at the USDAA trial this weekend, only one bar in Jumpers on Saturday standing between us and a "perfect weekend". This is her highest USDAA Qing percentage for a weekend ever, in all 68 USDAAs in which she's fully competed. Can't explain it; a couple of excellent dog/handler teams commented that this was one of their worst USDAA weekends ever.

She did go 7 of 9 once in 2004, when she was still mostly in Starters. And she's gone 6 of 8 three times, in August 2004 (still in Advanced), August 2006, and April 2007.

Tika brought home ribbons as follows (Saturday against 15 other dogs, Sunday against 9 others):
  • Sat Standard: Q/3rd (only 3 Qed)
  • Sat Grand Prix: Q/4th (only 4 Qed)
  • Sat Pairs: Q/1st (of 20 Open pairs)
  • Sat Steeplechase: Q/5th (only 5 Qed--actually no one ever gives ribbons for Steeplechase, just checks. Am I supposed to go out and buy my own ribbon? Sheesh.)
  • Sat Gamblers: Q/2nd (of 2 dogs w/highest points)
  • Sat Jumpers: --
  • Sun Jumpers: Q/4th (only 4 Qed)
  • Sun Snooker: Q (6th of 6 dogs who got 51 pts)
  • Sun Standard: Q/2nd (only 2 Qed)
  • AND I put her name into the raffle and she won a free day's entry at a future trial! This was just her weekend.

Boost had 3 runs that were almost beautiful--Saturday's Standard, Saturday's Jumpers, and today's Standard--a generally successful Gamblers (Q/4th of 30 dogs) although still greatly flawed, and a whole lot of demonstrations of how much work we still need to do.

Oh, yeah, they did retape the tire that started Boost on her running-under-the-tire jag, but none-the-less she ran under it again in Gamblers, turning a 1st-place run into a 4th place. (Shown here at much lower than her jump height, in case you wondered how she could run under it...)

The trip home provided some interesting photo ops. When I talk about Boost crashing and burning on course, it's never as bad as this poor guy:

Out in the middle of miles of fields in the Central Valley, this guy was just cruising along parallel to the freeway.

This is what we look like while sitting at a complete standstill in traffic on the way home after a long weekend because of a big accident. Even Tika wants to know what's going on. (I've got my cell-phone ear phone on in case someone were to call me about my Mom. They didn't, but I had called them before leaving Turlock and she was home and doing OK.)

And here's my view from the stoplight on the exit ramp--almost home!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mom's Getting Better

SUMMARY: Being off drugs helps; being in hospital helps.

Sisters report that, two days after being taken off the drugs I was most suspicious of, her voice has come back and she seems to be mentally completely Mom again. Plus now she's in the hospital getting IV fluids and meds to deal with some other snowballing nasty side effects. I'm hoping she'll be home again within a day or so and completely back to normal. More tests are pending.

Drugs she was taken off of were Vicodin and oxybutynin (thanks, dad).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Competition This Weekend

SUMMARY: USDAA trial, and it's going to be warm.

I'll be in Turlock this weekend for a USDAA competition. And it's going to be pretty warm; can you believe these temperatures for mid-November?

Tomorrow is supposed to break a 70-year-old temperature record for this date in San Jose by at least a couple of degrees. What ever happened to "the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow" for Thanksgiving? --Oh, yeah, I'm in California.

I've practiced pretty much nothing with the dogs all week, just running them in wild circles mostly through the 3 tunnels in my yard. If we were still doing NADAC, we'd be all set for the Tunnelers class, except that Boost still doesn't get the idea of a rear cross going into a tunnel. I'm practically tripping over her before she goes in to give the idea that I'm crossing to the other side, and she doesn't seem to get it. I'll think of something to try.

I dragged out a set of 6 weave poles yesterday and set them up against the back of the lot so the only way into them is at a 90 degree angle and we played with that a bit. Both dogs need work, but neither were terrible at it.

I've been worried about my mom's health; I think that some medications weren't appropriate for her. Doctors have changed that, among other things, and hopefully she'll be on an upward curve within a few days. I've been so lucky with my parents that they've been reasonably healthy and active, especially for people approaching 80. Mom's birthday is in 2 weeks. It would be nice if she were back to her normal self for the family Thanksgiving gathering.

And I've been looking at retirement-plus-continued-care places with my Dad. At one of them, saw someone walking a dog, and it suddenly became important to me to find out whether they allowed pets of any kind. My parents don't have pets these days. But I do! What if I wanted to retire at a young and perky age and take my dogs with me? The lady giving our tour doesn't do pets, so she wasn't sure whether there were limitations, but said she knew people there who had multiple cats or small dogs. Small dogs! Hah! These would be 12" agility dogs, or maybe 8". Not like REAL dogs. Present company excepted, I'm sure.

Trial Size

This is sort of a trial-size trial. Only about 60 dogs in all of Masters, about 10 in Advanced, about 8 in Starters. Wow. That's like trials when I first started agility, where Remington would be the only dog in his height in Starters.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Moving the Cynosports Games

SUMMARY: Should the USDAA Nationals be held in different locations?

For those who feel that the Cynosports World Games ("USDAA Nationals") should be made available to other people in other parts of the country, there's now an online petition that you can sign. (Thanks Johann The Dog for the pointer.)

I said:
As one who never wants to fly my dogs anywhere, it seems a shame that people in other parts of the country don't have the same opportunity that I have had for 5 years to drive to the World Cynosports games. If I'd had to fly, I'd have never gone, never earned a ribbon in any event, never made it to the team finals, never gotten my semifinalist polo shirt. Other people want these opportunities, too.

The other real reason is that I'm tired of getting tempted into going and using up a week or more of vacation and of the expense. If it's out of the drivable area, I won't be tempted!


SUMMARY: Trying to have Less Stuff

Ever since the last time I moved and was horrified at how much Stuff I owned--even after my Ex got a chunk of it--I've been trying to divest. It's hard. I like my Stuff.

Every month I seem to get rid of something, but every month I also seem to find things that I just have to have, which I then have to add to my inventory database. I try not to. But it's hard. I like my Stuff.

I finally made the goal a couple of months ago that, by the end of 2009, I'd own 25% less Stuff. And I've been poking away at that goal ever since. This is REALLY hard! I REALLY like my stuff! And it's becoming clear that my goal is a little unclear, too. Is it 25% less Stuff by volume? By value? By item quantity? If I keep all my books, do I have to get rid of all my Christmas decorations to make up for it? If I keep all my furniture, do I have to get rid of all my dog agility equipment to make up for it? This is like an immense puzzle in figuring out how to interpret what I really wanted and what I really meant.

And speaking of puzzles--I love doing jigsaw puzzles and I own a large ton of them, many of which I've bought since I sold the previous house in November 2000, which was the last time that I actually DID a jigsaw puzzle. So do I get of all of them because I haven't touched them in 8 years? Do I pick a few favorites that I've done more than once in the past because I enjoyed them? Do I pick a few new ones that I haven't yet done and hang onto them for that emergency spurt of jigsaw neediness?

Even my dogs have Stuff. We used to get Thanks For Coming check-in goodies at every trial (fortunately that seems to have mostly gone by the wayside), and I accrued so many toys that way. Plus we go through favorites, and I stock up on them, and something happens: Remington used to go through those ropes with knots in them, so I bought a ton, and then when he was about 3 or 4, he completely lost interest in ropes. I still have a bunch. He liked the soft furry "flippy" frisbees, and I bought a ton of them. Then cancer took him. Jake loved the soft plastic spiny squeaky toys, like the little porcupines and other similar shapes. He'd squeak one like crazy for a few weeks, then tear it to pieces. I stocked up on soft plastic spiny squeakies--and then he died very suddenly. Things like that.

Over the last 2 years, I've donated a bunch to our club's worker raffle and given away a bunch at the holiday gift exchange of BOTH agility clubs of which I am a member.

Today I gathered all the dog toys from all the places I've had them stashed and organized them across the living room floor. Holy cow. Or holy dog. I'm guessing there are millions of children in the world who have fewer toys than my dogs. (Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger version of it to make out more details.)

Many of my stash are new, unused, still with labels or very lightly used. Some are old and battered but I don't want to toss because my dogs like those in particular, such as, for instance, the plush squeaky that used to be a--um--never sure--mouse in an easter egg?--that Tika still loves, even though there's no squeaky, no stuffing, it's just a floppy plush well-worn body.

So should I give away all the brand new ones? What about the somewhat used ones? It'll take me years to go through them all. I'm getting better about tossing the various parts that come off of various toys, even though some of those parts are brand new and are larger than some of the individual brand-new toys themselves. But, still... so much!

Tons of tug toys of various manufacture--ropes, snakes, floppy plush things. Bones to stuff with peanut butter. Kongs and similar objects to stuff with treats. Squeaky plastic toys. Squeaky plush toys. Chew toys (which my dogs have never been interested in chewing; they all prefer sticks from the yard). Frisbees of many varieties, including a bunch of hard plastic matching ones when I thought for a little while that I might start doing Disk Dog, even a sheep-shaped one. Dumbbell shapes, both squeaky and solid. Balls--squeaky, soft, tennis, solid, kickable. Bait bags, tug'n'treats, and toys with velcro openings, all of which you can put treats in and use to encourage dogs to play with toys if they're inclined not to--which was Remington, which is why I have so many of them. Already gave away quite a few of those, but still have many left. Toys that make noises other than squeaking, which Tika particularly seems to like, but the mechanisms never last very long, and I hate to toss a toy that's practically new. Latticework balls--I like those for fetch; they throw, but not really far, they're lightweight, they're easy to tug with--and eventually the lattice breaks. The Jolly Ball of which we always have to have one in the yard and we play with it every day. Tika in particular loves that one; Boost'll play with anything although she defaults to that one because we play with it with Tika. And on and on.

Boost and Tika are dyin' out in the hallway looking at the wonderland of dog toys spread out in front of them but unreachable. Such dog abuse!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Uninspired and Still Reliving Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Postnationals Tropical Depression

I am SO uninterested in practicing anything related to agility. Maybe it's because I worked on it so much more than usual before Scottsdale. Maybe it's because it's finally raining in San Jose worth mentioning and the lawn looks gorgeous (how can that possibly happen overnight?) and I know that dogs rampaging around on it will tear it even more to shreds by spring way beyond what the grubs did to it this fall and the barometic pressure is hosed.

Maybe I'm still still still getting over that nasty cold from Arizona.

Maybe it's that everything in my life is full of challenging transitions at the moment: So much to learn, so much to process, only so many hours in the day. Pursuing photography more. Want to get back to writing more--November is NaNoWriMo again and again I have friends pounding away at their keyboards and again I'm missing it; agility season never ends in California (but girl don't they warn ya...) and we've got a trial this weekend and I'm looking for teams for both dogs for our December trial because my Scottsdale teammates aren't available; trying to get rid of Stuff From My House; eager to help my parents with some things; Boost wants me to throw the tennis ball throw the tennis ball just throw it; Tika is bored and chasing around after the crows in the sky; not enough chocolate; not enough hiking.

I need some ommmmmmmmm time I think. Or more sunrises like this one Sunday morning over the kenneling area in Scottsdale.

I thought I'd type up more notes from our competition at Scottsdale but am feeling uninspired there, too. Have sort of sorted through the photos at a quick first pass. More work to do. I like this one of Robert and Cap in the Grand Prix finals, making sure they get that danged dogwalk contact after 10 of the 24 22" finalists got called on it. And the judge is looking to make sure he does, too!

Here's my World's Most Expensive Polo Shirt! (I'm wearing it over my other shirt, which is why I look a little bulky in the upper vicinities.)

Here's my traveling companion, Dogg, with her Grand Prix finalist shirt, wearing her finalist Team shirt as well. Looks pretty danged happy to me! I'm delighted that she's done so well, as this is the first time at the nationals with her new corgi after 3 years of absence after her last one died so suddenly (see here and here).

Her license plate is apparently pretty accurate; in addition to being in two of the three finals, Porsche was the overall highest-scoring 12" dog in the team event over four individual classes. Not bad for a wee shy doggie.

And here's d star corgi her very self.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Family Resemblance

SUMMARY: Some features pass through generations...

So I was sitting in the stands Saturday evening, waiting for the Steeplechase finals to start, and I turned around and about 5 rows above us was Boost. Or, wait--Boost at about 5 or 6 months old. I looked away again; there are so many blue merle border collies around these days and I guess they all look pretty much the same. (Like black & white border collies look pretty much the same. OK OK don't land on me, I know I know.)

But I looked again, and it was SO Boost. I commented to friends how much that puppy looked like Boost. And finally I had to climb up there and ask where the puppy was from. Turns out it's one of the litter from Boost's sister Gina, the littermate who looked the most like Boost and their mom, Tala. He even has heterochromia in the same eye as Boost!

Who'd have ever thought I'd get to know Border Collie faces well enough to be able to pick out a nephew (Shazam) in a crowd? I don't think I could do that with my own real human nieces and nephews!

Which is which?

(First is Shazam; second is Boost. And here's Shazam's whole new family. Dang, I didn't get their email addresses to send the photo. And I had a notepad with me, too!)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Random Thoughts from Scottsdale Trip

SUMMARY: All kinds of experiences, thoughts, and rumors.

  • Videos: I got absolutely no videos of any of my dogs' runs. Forgot to take the camera out of the car, or forgot to take it ringside, or forgot to ask someone to videotape... I blame it on my head being stuffed to the gills with fluid which flowed constantly out of my nose and eyes. One friend videotaped at least a couple of our runs on her camera, so maybe I'll get something eventually.
  • More on the tire blow-out: The back side of my right front tire blew out. I don't know why. Dogg thinks we hit something, because something made a really loud odd flapping then ricocheting noise under the car, which I think might have been the first piece of the tire coming apart, but which could also possibly have been whatever caused it to come apart. We pulled over at the very convenient next exit to examine the tires, found nothing, and 2 miles down the freeway the tire really blew out. It was not at all difficult to handle the car and get over to the side. Normally I'd have changed it myself, but we were too close to traffic for me to be comfortable without a large truck between it and me. It took less than half an hour for the Tire Guy to show up, and not long at all to replace the tire. Just a small nuisance, really; we were very lucky there. Here are the very odd things about this experience:
  • Coincidence? Karma? For about the previous 15 minutes, we had been talking about flat tire experiences.
  • While we were waiting, I noticed that the tie-downs for the four-foot-long table on my car-top carrier had come loose, and if we had driven much longer, it would have probably flown off onto the highway behind us, causing maybe a major disaster.
  • We passed some friends on the freeway just before this, who kind of waved and we waved back but eventually we separated. They told us later that they were trying to tell us that our table was coming loose, but we didn't get that message. They apparently also had a blowout an hour or so later.
  • Where I spent an hour Wednesday morning:
  • Sudden losses: At the PNS finals, they had an official moment of silence in memory of Wishy the Writer's husband's dog Mesa, who had earned a bye into that final round. So hard to lose a dog; particularly hard when it's sudden and unexpected; even more so on your way to the national championships where you have a good chance of winning. Hug your dogs. Appreciate them.
  • Walking: For Thursday through Sunday, my pedometer measured 40.25 miles. And it was attached to me the whole time. So presumably it measured what I walked. That's a huge site!
  • Crating error: When I got to Westworld, I discovered that, instead of packing Tika's and Boost's crates, I had packed Boost's and Jake's. (I remember thinking how well they seemed to fit into the car--but I was packing things differently because there were two of us and I wasn't taking a lot of things that I usually take.) Thank goodness for agility friends who pack extra stuff; one of my dogs would've been very cramped otherwise.
  • Long legs: If you calculated the average height of the Steeplechase finalist humans, would it be wayyy above the average height of Americans? Above the average height of agility competitors at Scottsdale? Above the average agility competitor in general? Think Ashley Deacon, Stacy Peardot-Goudy, Terry Smorch, Sandy Rogers, Robert Yi, Channon Fosty, and so many others--
  • Crating with friends and walking and talking: We reserved 25 crating spaces in a row for Bay Teamers. I think that was only about two-thirds of the club members who actually attended; the others presumably crated out of their RVs. It was very nice to leave one's dogs and belongings surrounded by familiar people; as Dogg noted, even if everyone wasn't there all the time, usually there was someone there most of the time. Also, four of us shared the same channel on our walkie talkies so we could keep in touch about what we were doing, who needed what, and when we'd be meeting up again. It was fun.
  • My USDAA news posts: I wrote up course analyses for three of the courses for posting on the USDAA news site, which USDAA's Brenna Fender jam packed with stories, results, and course maps. Now that was a full-time job! My articles:
  • European Standard
  • Team Snooker
  • Team Gamblers
  • Tired? Sick? Recovering? Man, I was way wiped out yesterday! Mostly unloaded the car, tried to catch up with all my email and photos but failed to get through half of each before crawling into bed and sleeping for about 10 hours. I've been up for 2 hours now and am mostly through my email and newspapers and snail mail, still trying to load all the photos onto the computer, and I'm drooping and about ready to go back to bed to sleep as long as my body wants.
  • Future nationals: Oh, what fun are rumors if you don't spread them and cause some angst? Ken said at Wednesday night's dinner that they're evaluating other sites and would love to hold it elsewhere if they can find an appropriate location. Later in the weekend, I spoke to someone who said they had spoken to someone who said they had spoken to Ken who said that the event would be at Westworld for the next 3 years. This seems silly to me, since there's a huge contingent of competitors who are being left out, but on the other hand(s), (a) someone from Westworld (?) got the microphone during one of the final rounds and said something about looking forward to having this event there in the future (could be just wishful thinking?) and (b) the finals were filled with people from around the country, so the top competitiors seem to get there no matter what. But it sure would be nice for some of them to have shorter trips and not have to fly their dogs, and for me not to be tempted into spending more than a week of vacation every year on the Cynosports event.
  • The Smoothies, as before, were wonderful tasty fruity treats in the heat. You could get peach (mix), mango (mix), strawberry (mix), or banana (fresh), and they were all wonderful, especially if you mixed two flavors. Mmm! Even my dogs loved the tastes they got.
  • I took another 800ish photos. Still haven't finished Montreal's photos! I'm thinking that a lot of this weekend's will be junk, though, as I shot a lot of photos of people and dogs while they were moving around.
  • RV onsite: Having the trailer onsite was very handy for Dogg and her dog, who got plenty of air conditioned rest between runs. With two dogs in different rings, I didn't have time to go alllll the way out to the far lot between runs. But it was very nice to have it so close when getting up early for walkthroughs and at the end of the day if we wanted a change of clothes or anything else. Nice to have a refrigerator onsite. Funky small shower, and you're really living in close proximity to someone else so that getting up in the night to visit the Little Agility Handler's Room is a notable disturbance, but I'd be willing to do it again. Just really missed the onsite web connection. Home away from home:
  • Who's your daddy?

Mixed Breed Agility Calendar

SUMMARY: Starring Tika.

FYI, a local photographer has put together a Mixed-Breed agility calendar for 2009 with Tika included.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Home From Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Uneventful trip.

Other than the coke spilled on the car floor, the trip was thankfully uneventful. Lots of good conversation, quiet dogs, a visit to Casa de Fruta for some mint-swirl fudge.

There was an odd moment of disorientation last night as we were entering the L.A. area and moisture spattered on our windshield. It took me a few seconds of wondering where the water was coming from before it occurred to me: Oh, yeah, sometimes water falls from the sky! It has been SOOOO long since we've had rain, and after a week in sunny 90-ish dry heat in Scottsdale, it was the furthest thing from my mind.

Now I'm back in San Jose, it's cool, windy, and rainy. Dogs have too much energy, I have 500 emails, 5 phone calls, hundreds of photos, a heap of dirty laundry, FOUR more shirts (! -- and I keep saying I don't need any more t-shirts or polo shirts, thanks! although the new polo is special), and lots of memories to sift through. We'll see how much I get done before collapsing in bed.

...oh, yeah, and I have to fill out my absentee ballot that I ordered so I can get it done ahead of time and not worry about having to get to the poll on election day. Huh. How's that work again?

Sunday Night Somewhere Near the Ontario Airport

SUMMARY: That would be Ontario, California, not the other one.

I finally started having a little more energy by late Saturday afternoon, but really in terms of any ounce of extra energy for, say, typing up a blog entry, or driving down the block to the starbucks to post it--fagettaboutit.

Tika had a decent run in the Grand Prix semifinals except had faults and her time would never have made the cutoff into the finals anyway. But I wasn't unhappy with the run.

Tika's team ended up 88 out of 176 team, so--yes!--we were in the top 50%. Boost's team ended up something like 153, so--yes!--we were not last.

The most exciting part was that my traveling companion, Dogg, made it to both the Grand Prix finals and the team finals. Lots of our friends, classmates, and fellow Bay Teamers were in all the assorted finals, as well, so it made for a very personal interest in all the goings-on. Spent today watching the assorted finals, made a quick pass through the vendors for the first time (had no energy earlier in the week), packed everything up, and headed west.

Decided to spend the night in a nice hotel with plenty of space for 2 people and 3 dogs. We'll be on the road again in the morning. I have stories to tell and billions of photos, most of which I never had the energy to look at, and we'll see how long it takes me to get through any of them.

I see that a lot of people posted comments on earlier blog entries; haven't had time to look at them this evening and I'm ready for sleeeeeeeeep. Maybe I'll get a chance before I get on the road in the morning. Or maybe now.

Friday and Saturday morning at Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Not at my best; some personal notes.

Well, I've been hit by either severe allergies or a cold. Picture walking around the Nationals with a hankie crammed permanently against one's nose, eyes bleary, in the continuing 90-ish degree heat. Really sucked my energy for doing much of anything, so this is the first time I've hit the computer in 2 days.

Thursday I tried a benadryl, which not only left my existing symptoms in place but added Xtreme Drowsiness (new sport I guess). I tried Claritin Friday, which I've used before and felt that it didn't help and, by golly, it didn't help again. Last night I popped a Sudafed with antihistamine/decongestant, and last night and so far today it's been somewhat manageable.

I took Boost over to the herding instinct test again, and the Herding Guy said that she's very easy to work with and could probably pass her "PT" (Pretest?) title right away, although he suggests that I should take a lesson or two first so that I knew better what she was supposed to be doing. She seems to have a pretty good job already: Herding Guy told me that he was telling her to do left flanks and right flanks and other things that I don't remember, but he wasn't actually telling her anything, it must have been subtle body language, because I could see that she changed what she was doing but I couldn't really tell how his body language was different each time. It's fun watching her work, but it makes her tired pretty quickly, especially in this heat. I think that she's in pretty good condition, but then I see this, and she's probably nowhere near where she'd need to be for real herding.

In competition, both dogs had Team Standard on Friday, Boost had Grand Prix quarterfinals Friday, both have Team Gamblers today and Tika has Grand Prix semis.

Tika and one of her partners did fairly well in Standard, each with a bar down, and respectable although not fantastic times, but our 3rd Eed. Still, apparently many people were Eing, because that dropped us only about 15 places of 174 teams, while at least one team I know who had been in the 90th range zoomed up to 40th range when none of them Eed.

Boost didn't E, but we had a runout, a refusal, and two knocked bars. One partner was clean, one partner went offcourse on a hard calloff that wasn't quite hard enough. I haven't check to see our current standings yet.

Boost also did not E in Grand Prix, which was OK since lots of dogs seemed to be getting off courses there. However, she knocked a bar, popped out of the MIDDLE of the weaves even though I stayed with her this time to keep her in, and then on a hard call to the teeter, she was too busy doing a runout again and ran ACROSS the teeter up so that we had to go back for it. So I think it was 15 faults--have to go check--or possibly an E on refusals. So no semifinals for her.

This morning so far I've run only Boost in gamblers, and although I thought I picked a fairly flowy course, we miscommunicated on 6 of the 10 obstacles that we actually got around to attempting in the opening. I salvaged some points out of the closing, but not as many as I was hoping for.


Afternoon: Tika had a lovely Gamblers run; did everything I had planned and timing was perfect for my chosen ideal closing and we ended up with 64 points, which was good for 20th place out of (I think) about 130 26" dogs.