a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009


SUMMARY: Taxes, earthquake, agility dangers, necks, bugs, computers...

  • There was a 4.3 earthquake not far from here this morning. Wasn't home so don't know whether dogs noticed. But my guess is not. One quick shake and then a little rolling; nothing too disturbing.
  • I finally spent the time to get my papers together for the tax guy. I noticed once again that no agility-related or dog-related expenses seem to be tax deductible. Maybe if I were an agility instructor? Or an agility lecturer?
  • An agility friend and her dog collided this weekend at an agility trial, she fell and hit her head and was knocked unconscious. Scary. Spent the night in the hospital; she doesn't remember a thing about the incident.
  • What are those horrid sort of round bugs that are smaller than the head of a pin that have been infesting my kitchen cupboards now for probably a year? I think they came in in a batch of dog biscuits that weren't sealed up. Maybe 6 months ago, I emptied all the cupboards, threw out several things that had been infested, and put everything else in ziplock bags. But they've beeen increasing with a vengeance. Yesterday I went through the process again. Found 6 things in plastic bags that were infested; two I couldn't tell whether there was an opening in the bags--maybe they were infested when I put them in the bags. The others--they had eaten right through the bags! Another scary thing. Had to toss two supposedly sealed new dog treat things again that they somehow got through the bags.
  • Yet another agility friend apparently has a little cattledog with the same neck issues that Tika has. Apparently vet said it's from all the shaking of toys. Boost still shakes things like a 7.6 earthquake when we're tugging, but Tika doesn't much shake things any more (just pulls). Maybe that's because of her neck? The friend says no more shaking toys for her dog. How do you stop it? Argh.
  • I still haven't blogged my info from last weekend's trial. Tika did pretty good. But I took a few photos and I've been busy and now my computer's down, so I can't do anything with them. SOMEday I'll talk about last weekend. I took good notes!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ellen's Computer is So Down

SUMMARY: Ellen is beside herself. (A neat trick.)

I don't know what its problem is. Started doing a couple of odd things earlier this week. Called my company's expert; not familiar with symptoms and suggested updated virus check, which I ran for 2 days(!) to cover all my files. Not sure that it actually got through all 1.8 million files; a vague recollection that it said it had quit checking or the equivalent when it posted a note that it had found a virus. But that was in 2 zip files one really old that I probably didn't even need any more. And one named something like bugfix39392.zip that I have no idea what it was--problem with Norton antivirus is that it moves infected files to a "quarantine" and doesn't tell you where they came from.

My mac repair guy I don't think works weekends.

I have this emergency backup ancient laptop, but none of my files are on here. Hmmm--most are on an external drive, so in theory I could move them over here. But (a) this system doesn't run most of the latest software, and (b) if it is a virus rather than a total crapout of, say, the memory or the processor, then I don't think that I want to connect it...

I hate this!

Anyway--the computer did come upu long enough to suck down all my incoming email since about 9 last night, but not long enough for me to read it or see what it was. I hope nothing critical went through--


Friday, March 27, 2009

Tika Status

SUMMARY: It's the neck. Now what?

Tika is soooo wired and frantic when we go to the vet. I have to give her a sedative an hour before we go. Even so, she's soooo wired and frantic. Vet couldn't get the tiniest reaction from her; says Tika's probably so pumped on adrenaline that it overrides anything else she might be feeling.

But vet is pretty sure it's pinched nerve. Review x-ray notes from a year ago and said "narrowing of disks" in neck and back in about 3 places. Doesn't think it's worth taking more x-rays right now. Gave us more rimadyl to take for a couple of weeks. And take it easy for 3 or 4 weeks.

Of course, we did that in February, and Tika still managed to be sore at VAST.

So now... I have to decide what I'm going to do about agility with her. Although I'm still not entirely sure whether it's the agility that aggravates it (after all, we'd do an entire evening of class agility and never have a reaction) or the extra running around that we usually get to do in an open field at agility trials.


Taj MuttHall in Redneck

SUMMARY: Oh, man, this dialectizer is too much fun!

Here's my previous post in redneck. Study up! Git'er done!

(Except apparently there's no redneck for longer words like "appointment" or "technically" or "despondently".)


Taj MuttHall Houn'dog Diary

Survivin' an' even thrivin' in houn'dog agility.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Wo'ld Good, cuss it all t' tarnation. Facebook Good, cuss it all t' tarnation.

SUMMARY: Tika gits a vet appointment through facebook. Shet mah mouth!

Facebook is interestin'. It gits a lot of flack fo' th' banal thin's thet varmints post. But, fo' the dawgoned-est part, th' varmints ah knows post interestin' thin's. An' ah find out stuff thet ah w'dn't haf known otherwise. Like, a distant friend's Mammy-in-law died, cuss it all t' tarnation. Like, t'other distant friend jest had an operashun. Like, who among mah facebook friends is at th' AKC nashunals this hyar week. Shet mah mouth! Who got a noo houn'dog. Who lost a houn'dog. Who's wawkin' on runnin' corntacks.


Yestiddy, ah posted this hyar in mah status:

Tika is in so much pain (tbd whut exackly--arthritis?) thet Ellen has scratched both Tika an' Boost (technically still in rehab) fum th' whole 4 days of Haute TRACS. [sags despondently]

ah got plenty of sympathetic comments. One varmint axed when she'd be seein' th' vet. ah replied:

Scheduled vet fo' Monday. Regular vet gone this hyar week, so only one vet in office, already on overbooked, said ah c'd come set an' wait howevah long it took until a few minutes opened up an' ah decided it's not thet much of an emerjuncy. ah hope.

T'other of mah facebook friends jest happens t'have th' same vet thet we does. An' she jest happened t'have an appointment fo' this hyar af'ernoon, as enny fool kin plainly see. An' she jest happened t'decide thet she c'd wait until next week an' offered th' spot t'us. An' ah accepped wif pleasure.

This hyar w'd nevah haf happened wifout facebook. Shet mah mouth!

Tika is feelin' above avahage today; runnin' aroun' like no'mal, jest sometimes fo'gits an' does sumpin fo'ceful o' twisty wif her front parts an' ye'ps. Not completely debilitated like she was Wednesday. Hopefully we kin pinpoint whar th' problem is an' then decide whar t'go fum thar.

ah's flored an' grateful fo' th' gif' of a vet appointment 3 days earlier. It don't cost her ennythin' 'cept time t'set up th' changed appointments, but it feels wonnerful an' it feels like a huge gif'. ah knows how hard it is sometimes t'git appointments at times thet is convenient. All is right wif th' wo'ld, cuss it all t' tarnation.

Labels: houn'dog health an' care, other varmints, Tika so'e, web sites

posted by E'f @ 1:18 PM (View as indivijool page)

World Good. Facebook Good.

SUMMARY: Tika gets a vet appointment through facebook.

Facebook is interesting. It gets a lot of flack for the banal things that people post. But, for the most part, the people I know post interesting things. And I find out stuff that I wouldn't have known otherwise. Like, a distant friend's mother-in-law died. Like, another distant friend just had an operation. Like, who among my facebook friends are at the AKC nationals this week. Who got a new puppy. Who lost a dog. Who's working on running contacts.


Yesterday, I posted this in my status:

Tika is in so much pain (tbd what exactly--arthritis?) that Ellen has scratched both Tika and Boost (technically still in rehab) from the whole 4 days of Haute TRACS. [sags despondently]

I got plenty of sympathetic comments. One person asked when she'd be seeing the vet. I replied:

Scheduled vet for Monday. Regular vet gone this week, so only one vet in office, already overbooked, said I could come sit and wait however long it took until a few minutes opened up and I decided it's not that much of an emergency. I hope.

Another of my facebook friends just happens to have the same vet that we do. And she just happened to have an appointment for this afternoon. And she just happened to decide that she could wait until next week and offered the spot to us. And I accepted with pleasure.

This would never have happened without facebook.

Tika is feeling above average today; running around like normal, just sometimes forgets and does something forceful or twisty with her front parts and yelps. Not completely debilitated like she was Wednesday. Hopefully we can pinpoint where the problem is and then decide where to go from there.

I'm floored and grateful for the gift of a vet appointment 3 days earlier. It doesn't cost her anything except time to set up the changed appointments, but it feels wonderful and it feels like a huge gift. I know how hard it is sometimes to get appointments at times that are convenient. All is right with the world.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Think First, Thow Toy Later

SUMMARY: Of all the stupid--

So the dogs wanted to play and run. The physical therapist had suggested that, if I want to throw a toy, I throw it into the bushes or other areas where they can't see it right away and have to hunt for it, to avoid that crashing, twisting leap/pounce putting all that weight onto their front parts in that special frantic way that they do.

So I've been casually tossing the toy into the corner among the potted plants behind the tunnel. Worked fine until Tika--yes, that one--in her furry wisdom, takes a very common shortcut: OVER the tunnel. Lands on her front feet. Shrieks, hunches over, scootches into the house whimpering, nubber tail plastered down onto her backside. Poor girly! Her Human Mom just didn't think about that shortcut, even though it's not an unusual one. Dumb dumb dumb.

It's just that, usually, when Tika has been so sore, she has these remarkable recoveries and nothing shows up again for months. So, she was better this morning, therefore, she's better. Right? Doh.

What I find interesting is that, when she's feeling sore or ill, Tika runs upstairs (isn't she SORE?) and leaps onto my bed, which is quite high (isn't she *SORE*?), and lounges up there all day, not down here on any of the doggie beds near me. Funny.

But you know that she's hurtin' when she won't come downstairs when I rustle the pretzel bag. Poor girly. Maybe I'm NOT going for a long hike with the dogs this Saturday.

Tika Is Fine Today

SUMMARY: Only a little sore.

Tika was still miserable at bedtime last night. But this morning, she's almost as perky as ever. I tried to pick her up one more time, and she still whined painfully, so it's not all gone.

My regular vet is gone this week, so there's only one vet there and she was booked even including the emergency slots that they reserve, and I decided with much angst that Tika's situation wasn't enough of an emergency to go down there and sit for however many hours it took until she could squeeze us in for a few minutes. (OK, I tried to make the sentence longer but couldn't.)

I've had mail from a friend whose dog has a compressed disk in his neck, with exactly the same symptoms. They have treated with prednisone, which made the symptoms go away, and continue with chiro and acupuncture, but are still in process of trying to figure out how bad it really is and what their options are.

Soooo that could be it for Tika, too. I had her x-rayed after the first couple of times this happened at my regular vet, and he and x-ray expert said she's got a tiny bit of arthritis in the neck that shouldn't generally cause problems but if things get in the wrong position, it could be very painful. I'll have to look up how long ago that was and decide whether I want to drive to a specialist to do xrays again. Sighhhhh-- just dropped $500 and a day off work taking Boost up to the orthopedist north of San Francisco for evaluation. Can't they space it out better?

I've heard from one 3-dog person who suggested that "a pair and a spare" would be a good number of agility dogs to have (thanks, Team Small Dog), and another 3-dog person who ended up with one who physically can't do it, one who just isn't interested, and one who is a fabulous agility dog but is so reactive to other dogs that she's retired him from agility because the stress on both of them, and the risk, is too much.

Someone else said "That's why I have 4 dogs." So then there's my agility instructor who for a while had 4 dogs--one whose leg kept getting broken (not during agility), one who had repeat injuries to --toes? ankles?, one who started having exercise-induced seizures... Jeez, before you know it, I'm going to have to have a kennel full of back-up emergency dogs for when my main canines are out of commission.


Meanwhile, am trying for an appointment with my regular vet for Monday. Tika'll probably be fine then and we won't be able to tell what was causing the problem. (But I guess I'd rather that than Tika being miserable all weekend.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It Isn't Supposed to Work Like This

SUMMARY: Tika and Boost both out for the count.

See, I have two agility dogs of different ages so that I'll always have at least one in working order so that I can do agility anytime, anywhere. That's the way it's supposed to work, right?

With great frustration (and worry), I have just scratched both dogs from Haute TRACS (the big 4-day USDAA trial in 2 weeks).

First, you knew about Boost. Boost has tender, probably pulled, muscles in her lower abdomen/groin/leg area. I entered her in HT against her physical therapist's advice because I was going to be there anyway, running Tika, and I figured--what the heck, I can scratch her from some runs if I needed to, and at least she'd have had 4 weeks of rest if not the full recommended 8.

But, now, Tika. Tika's issue with coming up sore seems to be getting worse. At the VAST CPE two weeks ago, I wrote about how she was suddenly sore after her first run but reasonably functional (slower and more careful and hitting the ground hard over jumps and missing weave entries and like that, but happy to still be playing the game) . She's had rest and doggie aspirin and massage from me in the meantime.

This last weekend at the Bay Team CPE she was awesome--also jumping 20" for the first time--very fast, very happy, no sign of the VAST problems. However, by the time we got home, she was doing the hunched over thing and exited her crate from the car very gingerly. Yesterday she yelped occasionally with certain movements or contacts with people. Today she is in just plain goddamned misery. Can barely walk. I had to talk her into having breakfast--and if you know Tika, you know that this is very serious indeed. I don't know what it is--arthritis in her neck acting up? Pulled something? Broke something? Cramped muscles? Aspirin and massage have done nothing for her all day.

So--really--neither of my dogs is in a state to be able to do even 2 days of agility in just two weeks, let alone 3 or 4. So I pulled out. This'll be the first time I've missed this 4-day extravaganza.

Since I was earning free runs by signing up for crew chief two days and chief course builder the other two days, this leaves the clubs in the lurch. Not to mention my DAM teammates (only Tika's--I did show SOME restraint and didn't enter Boost in the 5 DAM events.)

I figured it was better to pull out now and give everyone two weeks to find replacements. Tomorrow I'll take Tika in to the regular vet to check for any basic things.

I'm just about at my wit's end--having 2 dogs is supposed to prevent me from ever having a weekend where I can't do agility! How come it's not working like that?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tika Pops The Weaves

SUMMARY: Video from two weeks ago.

At the CPE trial two weeks ago, I commented about Tika being sore and having trouble with the weaves although she's usually a superb weaver (makes entrances, doesn't pop out), and also landing heavily after every jump. Turns out that a friend videotaped her Wildcard run. She doesn't ACT sore, does she! But none-the-less I have nothing else to blame the weave issues on. (And it's hard to tell that she's landing heavily after the jumps unless you really know her.) Anyway, here she is, just a cutie altogether, having a good time running despite everything, and her handler being OK but not perfect as usual.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dogs Take Over the Roofs

SUMMARY: Photos on a theme.

On Flikr: Dogs on Roofs. For those with an obsession about dogs on roofs.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Off To Do Agility

SUMMARY: CPE this weekend in Santa Rosa

It's a 2-hour drive and there are supposed to be thundershowers. Unusual for California. This venue is under cover, so there are only 2 rings.

Boost is still on hiatus; I signed Tika up to jump 20" instead of 24", which means she'll be competing against about 8 dogs directly instead of 0 or 1. We'll have to be on our best form.

And what have we practiced? Nuthin'. Did a few contacts to remind her how to do them well--but she always does them fast with a good 2on/2off here at home. Did a few jumps. Did some odd sorts of sends and remote handling for gambling.

That's pretty much it. Haven't taken her to a Chiro after she was sore 2 weeks ago. Haven't done anything worth mentioning. (So I'm mentioning it.)

Only 4 classes each day. Hopefully we'll be done early both days.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hiking With or Without Dogs

SUMMARY: Brisk Sierra Club hike along lower Stevens Creek.

Last night I hiked a brisk 4 miles with the Sierra Club Wednesday night group. I'm always looking for broad expanses of grass that we could commandeer for agility trials, and our starting location--through Whisman Park--had lots of grass...but not exactly suitable for agility, unless you wanted to try some EXtreme Agility (think EXtreme Croquet).

Left my beasts at home because the latter part of the hike was into Shoreline, which doesn't allow them even on leashes. But another hiker showed up with his dog, a Border Collie Maybe named Kelly, so we ended up doing some creative detouring.

Which allowed us to go by this very active dog park nestled away in the corner near the Bay.

Saw lots of flowers; spring is here for sure!

More photos and narrative here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Still Life With Dogs. OK, Not So Still.

SUMMARY: It's not the camera that's the challenge.

We just want a slightly silly shot of the 3 of us for facebook. ("We" loosely interpeted to mean "human residents of Taj MuttHall".) Can't have the same profile photo for too long!

The cheap snapshot camera goes onto the laundry hamper and we do a test shot for angle and height. Tika starts rearranging the bedding for us.

Too low, so we shim up the camera a little bit. Set up the dogs, turn on the camera's timer (TMH doesn't have a remote control), and leap into position.

Oh, man, I almost had it perfect on the first shot! Except (1) just before the timer went off, Boost shifted to her left, so she's cut off, although she's looking at the camera, (2) I just look way too cheery compared to the dogs, (3) I kinda thought it would be fun to have the dragon/heart art hovering over our heads, and here it's kind of cut off, and (4) why is it so dark?. (OK, "almost perfect" by some people's definition maybe isn't so picky.)

Next try--

dagnabbit, kinda cute--both dogs are still looking at the camera--but how did the camera shim itself too high this time, cutting off my hands, I thought I put it back in the exact same way? And Boost refused to put her paws over the edge of the bed this time. Next try--

OK, Boost is getting bored or stressed and wants to leave, and I'm trying to talk her out of it. Great. But the framing's just about perfect if I can convince the beasts to just stay there while I'm leaping in and out of position to check and reset the camera. Next try--

OK, Boost's not totally looking at the camera, but I've got more important things to do and this'll have to suffice. Except that, being lazy, I left the pink curtains closed so everything has a pinkish tinge, and it's still a little on the dark side. So, into photoshop we go--

Took out the pink nicely. Better. But Tika's fur should be white and I could swear that it has a yellow cast. More photoshopping--

Indeed it sure did! To my eye, this looks closest to the "natural" colors of the room and its inhabitants. It might look blue to you compared to the previous one--that's because the previous one is so yellow! See, taking a quick snapshot just doesn't work for me any more. It's gotten so complicated.

How did I get the dogs to look at the camera? Foul trickery--I just pointed at the camera right before the timer went off, when it was making little beeping sounds, and said "what's that?" Bing!, instant attention. In other situations, I might have used food and done the same thing.

For another self-portrait-with-dogs adventure, read this old post.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Choices Made

SUMMARY: I make some progress with dogs but not much.

I went ahead and moved Tika down to 20" for this coming weekend's CPE trial. Oh, well, so we'll be competing against more excellent dogs. That's what competition's all about, and maybe she'll jump more comfortably. She knocked only that one bar a week ago all weekend, but she sure wasn't comfortable landing.

I'm moving Tika gradually to Performance (jumping 22") instead of CHampionship (26") in USDAA. I think. I went ahead and left Tika in the two championship USDAA DAM teams for April and June (so far)--which means she's still jumping 26"--and have left her in championship Steeplechase and Grand Prix so far--because she still needs ONE tournament of any kind for her Platinum Tournament Master. And 26" in Standard and Jumpers, because she needs just a few more of those for her ADCH-Silver. But I'm conceding to her repeating soreness and moving her down to 22" in other classes. We'll see whether it makes a difference.

I'm supposed to be giving Boost a complete rest from intense running for 2 weeks per physical therapist, just giving her excellent, long hikes over varied terrain. Well, after 2 days of 2-mile walks over level sidewalks, I decided that I'm just too busy to go driving for an hour to get to someplace where I can let the dogs off leash to hike, and I'm just not going to do it. I have to drive 15 minutes just to get someplace with uphills and downhills, and I'm just not going to do it, even though I could use it, too.

I worked on lots of tug of war, set up a cart with a platform so she could put her front feet on it and push it around with her rear legs (both dogs, actually, for everything), one exercise from the PT, and practiced with their rear legs up on a step and streeeeetchhhhing them out (also from PT), and working on sitting up. Tricks.

And by Saturday evening Boost was going nuts. Pulling all the toys out of the toy box and chewing on that. Poking at the space heater because she knows it gets my attention (dammit!). Throwing her bedding around. Standing in the yard and barking at phantom ideas. In short--that dog needs more exercise that I can give her around here without running her (dammit!). Good thing she's not *seriously* injured. We'd both go insane.

So I went back to running her in the yard. Mostly avoiding agility equipment except using a 4" bar to practice handling maneuvers, and a straight tunnel to try to avoid banking off the sides.

She's also on prescription anti-inflamatories for 3 weeks to see whether it makes a difference in her movements. I avoided paying another $100 at the vet's for supplements that I don't even believe will do anything based on recent research.

So many decisions to make, one after another. And so many of them affecting my dogs' lives and health.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who's Watching "Watchmen"?

SUMMARY: Not much of a movie review. With dogs.

We knew that Watchmen was almost 3 hours when we went in, but it didn't feel like it. I've been to shorter movies that seemed much longer. It's not for the squeamish. Blood flings itself everywhere. (Although, in its defense, you mostly see the blood and only very quick takes on the sources of said sanguinity.) There's brutality (reasoned and insane) and sadism and appalling cruelty and erotic scenes and betrayals and god-like beings and Richard Nixon elected to 5 terms in office and like that. To make the story work, I think it had to be like that. Interesting story line, interesting characters, and interesting how all the seemingly unrelated and trivial things tie together at the end, posing an intriguing moral and philosophical dilemma.

But here's the thing: The dogs die.

I hate it when dogs die. No, this was definitely not an adored family dog deliberately pulling at your heartstrings. These were violent dogs who didn't really know what they were doing and paid the price of their owner's evil with their own lives. It's just not right. Among all that carnage, jeez, and the dogs were really on screen for a only few seconds in a couple of places, but the dogs dying really got to me. And what they were involved in was heartbreaking and sickening, too. Sigh.

OK, it was a good film. But if you go see it, be forewarned.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boost Visits the Orthopedist and Tika Goes For a Hike

SUMMARY: Boost looks good but there's work to do.

We drove wayyyyy out of town this morning--about an hour and a half--to the current favorite dog sports orthopedist, up in Marin, north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. A long way from home.

And there in the lobby was an agility friend who lives a few blocks away from here, picking up her dog. Small world.

Dr. S did a quick physical exam and said that nothing seemed amiss, except that she didn't want to extend her rear legs but that could be pain or it could be that she just doesn't want to extend her rear legs. So he agreed that x-rays of her pelvis would be good to eliminate anything structural.

We left Boost to be sedated and x-rayed and went in search of the Oakwood Valley Trail in the Tennessee Valley. (I thought that was farther away than Marin, but what do I know?)

It was a lovely day for a hike, we found the trail easily, and I thought we had a couple of hours, so we set out briskly. It was muddy in spots, but otherwise the trail was wide and comfortable with a slight uphill grade.

They had told me that this was a dog-friendly trail, and indeed the only people I saw on the trail were five other lone women with their dogs (three black labs, a husky, a golden retriever, and a black and tan coonhound I think). No men, no dogless people. Interesting. And for some odd reason I didn't take photos of any of the dogs.

Tika behaved VERY well, met each of them fairly comfortably. No shrieking and throwing herself at the end of the leash. Odd.

We were about a mile out when my cell phone rang to tell me that Boost would be available an hour earlier than estimated, so we turned and went back. (I'll load more photos of the hike later.)

Dr. S showed the x-rays, and said that she could be the poster child for excellent OFA hips. Nice deep sockets with the leg bones well-seated. However, when he pulled on her legs, he can none-the-less feel that they're loose--the hip moves slightly out of the socket and back in again.

This might not be a problem; there are apparently many many loose-hipped border collies that never have any issues. Or it might be a problem; some of those border collies develop arthritis. There's no sign of that in Boost at this time. So Dr. S. said that he sees no reason why she can't do everything normally.

Then we did the physical therapist. She ended up doing a thorough and deep massage to be sure there were no soft-tissue issues, and indeed she found that Boost reacted with discomfort to pressure on a couple of small, deep muscles under her rear legs, and a bit on the shoulders where she said that she'd expect a dog to be compensating with her shoulders for soreness in the rear.

Boost, after initial misgivings, really relaxed into the massage except for raising her head and glaring when the sore spots were hit. Didn't hurt that there was still a lingering bit of sedative.

Then we talked at great length about exercises to strengthen and tighten her hips, abdomen, and lower body in general. I have so much homework to do! I have a video now, too, that explains some of the exercises.

I didn't get home until after 6 this evening, so gone for 9 hours. A long day. I'm tired. Glad there's nothing serious with Boost, but the physical therapist suggested a couple of weeks of rest with no intense, driven running. Just lots and lots of hiking. Ack! More time that I don't have! And that's just NOT going to burn off the energy!

Well, we'll see what we come up with.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ribbons and Choices

SUMMARY: Tika does well but is sore; Boost runs a lot; TMH can't make up its mind.

These March winter mornings in Turlock started with frost on the grass but the sun rising bright and clear. By early afternoon, people had stripped off their coats and some had started hosing down their dogs to keep them cool. But when the sun set--Brr!

With Boost's agility career on hiatus while I figure out whether she has a physical problem, all my hopes for the weekend rested on Tika. If Tika can keep her bars up, she usually excels in CPE events. This is good, because I'd like to eventually earn enough Qs for her C-ATE (250 about), and she has a long way to go. We do few CPE trials any more, so every run counts because Tika is 8 and comes up sore more and more often.

We had 10 runs this weekend, and I promised myself that I would take Boost out after every one of Tika's runs and do something physically and mentally stimulating with her in lieu of a run.

First thing in the morning, we always play a bit of frisbee to loosen up the dogs and burn off the edge so that they'll relax in their crates. We did so Saturday. Then, on our way off the field, a friend with border collies that Boost loves to chase headed out to the playing field, so we went back out and ran a bunch more.

I try to keep the frisbee low so that the dogs aren't leaping and torquing their backs, but a couple of times I missed and I cringed seeing Tika's leaps.

Tika Sore? About 2 hours later, when I took Tika out of her crate for her first run, she emerged hunchy and stiff. Well, crap! I've driven all this way, paid my entry fees for the weekend (which are now nonrefundable), have only one dog to run, and this is one of the few CPEs for us this year. Plus when I've scratched Tika in the past, she often then goes blasting around the field full speed after squirrels, so how sore can she be? She is a known drama queen when it comes to injuries, too, so I have to take that into account.

I massage her, stretch her a bit, try to get her spine and shoulders mobile the way I was shown. (I'm not very good at this.) First run is Colors, only 11 obstacles, so what the heck. She runs fairly well, keeps all her bars up, but I can see that she's catching herself roughly when landing after each jump. But she's bright-eyed and eager and fast. Ends up 3rd fastest of all 58 dogs, all heights/levels, on the same course.

She's the ONLY dog in her level and height--24"--so she's guaranteed first place every time unless she eliminates, and there's not much chance of that. But I'll take the ribbons only if we've earned them.

She gets a doggie aspirin, more rubbing, and then I take Boost out for some running and training.

Boost Play and Training. I manage to keep my promise to Boost 8 out of the 10 runs for the weekend. I start and end every session just as if we were going into competition, using the right leash, the right toy, the right warm-up, then the right back-to-the-crate routine with treats and all. While she's out, we practice a variety of things:
* Sit-stay and down-stay, including with lots of excitement and toy throws. Even did a little out-of-sight stays, which we've never worked on before. Only 5 seconds, but she held it.
* Down from a distance while she's moving. Took her a couple of tries to realize what was going on, but then she got it and did very well. None of my other dogs have been able to do that without a lot of work, and even then reluctantly. But Boost has a super-fast down and seems comfortable doing it.
* Lateral lead-outs. Goal was to ensure that she was looking at the jump, not me, before I released her. We've done these before, but obviously not enough. It took her a very long time the first couple of times before she stopped staring at me and looked in the general direction of the jump inadvertently, at which point I released her and threw the toy. What a quick study she is!--By the end of the weekend, she was back to doing it pretty reliably.
* Sends to a jump from various directions (just a jump frame with a bar on the ground).
* Lateral "out" commands (around garbage cans) while we're moving together.
* Sitting up on her rear legs.
* Rolling over.
* "Close"--command for running next to me instead of ahead, until I say "go".
* Various running and moving ground exercises.

She seemed to enjoy it and didn't look disappointed or confused when I put her back in her crate, since I was following the same competition routine. (Unlike Jake who was quite disturbed and sulky about doing the agility that he expected.)

Plus she got to Run With The Border Collies for about half an hour at the end of the weekend while I packed my car.

Tika Still Sore--Or Not?
Tika came out of her crate with the same hunchy look for almost every run, although she always perked up completely when i presented treats. Did lots more massaging and stretching than I usually do with her. She loves the attention.

I couldn't decide whether to scratch her from the rest of the weekend. I really didn't want to, for my own sake, which is not how you're supposed to make decisions for your dog. On the other hand, she was always excited about running, enough so that we were having troubles with our start-line stays, and she always did the over-the-top grab-mom's-feet thing at the end of every run. And this is a known issue, not some mysterious malady.

Tika not looking at all wonky:

So I ran her all weekend, although she was landing heavily and grunting after her jumps and turning wide the whole time (except for one run), not her usual effortless flowing jumping and tight turns.

That Dang Snooker. The only run of the weekend where she didn't come out of the crate looking sore--and didn't keep her bars up--was the last run on Saturday, Snooker. The sun had already disappeared and it was much cooler. Maybe she liked the coolth.

Snooker in CPE is different from USDAA Snooker, in that you MUST successfully complete three reds to be able to earn a qualifying score (if you then go on and earn enough points in the closing). There is a fourth red on the course, but you can (must) take it ONLY if you knock one of the other reds. I explained this to a few people during the briefing.

Tika was the last dog to run of the class and of the day, so we ran a couple of hours after the briefing. I put her in a down stay and started my long lead-out to get into position. Next thing I know, there she is right next to me, bright eyed and bushy nubbered.

I set her up about 12 feet off the first jump to give her the right strides to get over the jump without knocking it. What she does when she decides she's going to self start is to stand up, slowly creep forward until she's right up before the jump, then takes off without enough space.

I looked back and, sure enough, the bar was down. I had hoped for a 51-point (perfect) run, but that was out of the question. And then my 12 years of USDAA experience kicked in: If I did just the two additional reds and the closing, I'd still have enough points to qualify. So that's what we did, and we did it quickly and smoothly. And we got to the end, and the judge comes over and says, "Did you realize that you could have taken the fourth red and still earned a qualifying score?" Oh--well--crud. I can't even remember my own advice for two hours! So we got no points for the closing at all and no Q.

You Know What Happens When You Assume. Our only other non-Q for the weekend was the preceding Standard run, which Tika did nicely all the way to the 2nd to last obstacle, which was a dogwalk-tunnel discrimination. I yelled "Climb!" and raced ahead, assuming that she'd do it because her arc from the previous obstacle led there--but Nooooo! Silly mom, tunnel much easier when mom's ahead. Body language takes precedence over voice commands.

Tika--Yes--Still Sore, But Happy.
In Snooker first thing Sunday morning, we had short weaves in the opening for for 7 points. Every time, Tika--my superb weaving dog--either went into the weaves on the wrong side because it was closer or went into the correct place and came right back out again. Wasted a tremendous amount of time in the opening, so we missed our perfect 51 points by less than one second! Argh! It was a qualifying score, but still, I didn't understand.

Until, before the next run, I had her do figure-8s around my legs, and the first time, she yelped and stopped! OK, sore side-to-side, too. So we added additional manipulations and stretchings and bendings, and she was decent after that, although still slower in the weaves than usual. And I didn't try pushing her speed during our runs, which I usually would do, to get her more excited and driving.

Qing and Firsts.
In all, Tika earned 8 of 10 Qs. It's always better for me (I feel better about my first places) if there are other 24"-jumping dogs in my height and level. But the two catahoulas weren't there, the BCs Annie and Django who sometimes jump 24" weren't there, and BC Brenn has moved down to 20".

As a result, to make me feel that we've earned our first places, I compare our scores and times to every other dog, all heights/all levels, who have done the same course. This time, Tika was never the top dog, but out of 50-60 dogs, she was still between the 3nd and 10th fastest or highest-scoring dog, so I felt that the 1st were earned.

Note that, in USDAA, if we weren't feeling well and were making mistakes on the course, we'd be wayyyy down in the rankings somewhere, but here in CPE, Tika is still near the top.

The only two dogs who beat us consistently all weekend were a fast little sheltie who has running A-frames and--in point accumulation classes--5 more seconds than we do, and a Border Collie in the 20" group.

The Horns of Height Dilemmas. Now, Tika is eligible to run 20" in CPE. I do 24" because she has to jump 26" in USDAA. So I could move her down to 20" for future trials to see whether that's better. Here's my personal dilemma: Because the 20" BC made no mistakes this weekend, and is also at Level C, if Tika had been running at 20", 7 or 8 of those 8 pretty blues would have been pretty reds. As much as I like competition, I must admit that a guarantee of not getting 1st is rough.

When Tika is 100%, we can almost never beat those other dogs on speed, so in timed courses, we usually win only if they make mistakes. In points courses, we can win when we create a cleverer, more efficient way of collecting points than the others, which is possible sometimes but not always.

Here's the second dilemma: in USDAA, I could move Tika to Performance and jump her at 22" instead of 26". But: I've already signed her up for the next two DAM Team events with 3-dog teams, with Tika at 26". And they'd be fun teams. We already have our team names (not always easy) and one even has a logo already. And I'd like to run with them. But if I go to performance, I'd have to find different teams. And closing is only a week away for one of them, which would leave that team stuck without a 3rd. But I want to do these teams!

So I'll probably stay at 26" at least for those. Maybe move her to Performance in some other things. And stay higher in Steeplechase and Grand Prix until she earns her 50th tournament leg.

I hate this. Dogs shouldn't get older and sorer.

But I Had Fun. In all, though, it was a good weekend. So I wasn't even particularly annoyed when I left the grounds around 7:30(!) Sunday evening. Especially because Boost got to romp with a ton of other Border Collies the whole time I packed.

Here's Bump, Dig, Boost's half-sister Quas ("Kass"), and Boost--who always just watches and outruns the other BCs:

Never thought I'd be able to tell one black & white BC from another, but over time, I've gotten to know some reasonably well. Here are housemates Bump, Dig, and Styx (with Cattle Dog Skeeter in the back), then blue merles Boost, sister Bette, and Quas.

It seemed like a lot of dogs milling and dashing around! (Easier to count when they're in a snapshot.) So sometimes we hardly noticed when other random dogs joined the crowd.

Skeeter is largely blind due to glaucoma; has only one eye left. But her Human Mom can get her to leap and play by shrieking and doing monstery things with her arms. It's very cute. While Boost sits, poised, waiting intently for a border collie to start running.

Tika kept rushing back to the van and looking hopeful. That's because they usually get dinner right before we go home. And we know who's the chow hound.

And I wasn't even annoyed when, while heading to the freeway, the car felt funny handling, and I wondered whether I had a tire problem, and then the tire-pressure light came on. I pulled into the Jack-in-the-Box, and sure enough, one tire's pressure was 5 lbs lower than the others, and it had this little ding.

Safe to drive? Dunno. Don't want to have blow-out on the way home; that WOULD annoy me. So I called AAA to have them look at the tire. Took less than half an hour to get there, but it gave me plenty of time to enjoy my healthy french fries...

to watch the moon come up over JITB...

to take endless sunset photos...

Here's a scenic one of the sunset reflected in my minivan's window. Glamorous, huh?

Then AAA arrived. He said: Dunno, but he'd replace the tire to be safe rather than sorry. He had the right tools to do it in about 3 minutes. Amazing.

Got home VERY late and slept VERY well for many, many hours.

Had These Photos And What To Do With Them? But lastly--just for you, gratuitous barking grassy Bump photos:

Friday, March 06, 2009

News and Notes

SUMMARY: stuff..

Yesterday I did just a wee bit of agility with Tika in the yard. You have seldom seen her so excited to be doing agility! Wow was she fast--on the contacts, in the weaves, in her table down. Fast fast fast! Maybe it was good to take a couple of weeks off. Not that I usually practice that much, but we did usually have class every week and I'd do SOMETHING on the equipment with them almost every day. Maybe she will keep it up this weekend. Maybe I'd better put her over some jumps today (still too wet and slippery on the ground yesterday).

Boost wanted to go, too. So I set up a completely straight tunnel so she wouldn't slip (wet wet wet) and set it so that her exit put her in line for the dogwalk, which I figured wouldn't be hard on her backside. This was one happy dog! You can tell because she starts going into a superfrenzy on her toy afterwards. I dunno what I'm going to do with her all weekend! At least at this trial there's a huge fenced field where she can run loose and we can throw a toy or practice obedience or tricks or groundwork or something.

Daylight savings time starts Saturday night! Always interesting on a trial weekend to see who shows up at the wrong time on Sunday. I feed my dogs usually around 10:00 and 6:00. And they know it. They start hanging all over me and mooning around until I feed them. My dogs have NO PROBLEM adjusting to daylight savings time for their meals. But it takes them about 6 months to decide that it's ok to wait an extra hour when standard time rolls back in.

For some mental exercise, I've started teaching the dogs to bring me their bowls for meals. I worked really hard last week for several days just trying to associate the word "bowl" with the object and having them get it from a short distance with nothing else intruding. First time I put them out on the deck and said "bring me your BOWL," tika veered off to the side and brought me her BALL. Doh! OK, back to square one, associating the word DISH with the object. Silly trainer.

The price of everything dog related seems to have shot up. For several years I've paid roughly the same for my 40-lb. bags of kibble--somewhere between $25 and $30 regular price but you could often get it on sale for the low $20s. Last fall, BAM!, shot up to $40 a bag! It does last about 4 weeks, so I'm feeding my dogs on $1.50 a day, which is way less than *I* cost to feed. But still, wow, what a jump, and it feels worse because it was so sudden. Same thing with bully sticks. Could get a dozen at Costco for $12.99 for the longest time. Then, overnight last fall, BAM!, $20. I'm less eager to pay almost $2 each for a chew that lasts about 20 minutes. Although I *do* cut them in half usually; scarfing down a whole one usually gets me dog vomit sometime during the night (like, say, last night for example, when I didn't cut them in half).

That's all for now. This weekend: CPE. Next week: Boost visits the orthopedist.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New Toys

SUMMARY: A selection of fun things for a rainy day.

Tika loved her weasel. It made such great weasely sounds when she squeezed it.
But most of the sound toys have cheap plastic boxes that break as soon as a big dog bites enthusiastically. And Tika loves making those things make those noises! Same thing happened to the weasel and the frog and the monkey I finally found.

Then Johann the Dog posted about the Animal Sounds Babble Ball. I heard the weasel sounds in the video! And the monkey, too! And the frog! And it looked sturdy! So I ordered TWO. (After a mistake where I ordered the TALKING babble ball instead of the animal sounds one.)

Johann suggested putting it in a sock, which sounded like a great idea until I realized that I don't have any old socks lying around.

I had a flash of brilliance when the babble balls arrived. I had some large plush toys with replaceable squeakers stuffed away in the closet waiting for some reason to use them (had them for Remington, who'd play with a toy consistently only if there were food in it). Sure enough, the large chipmunk just barely closed around it. It's perfect! I can actually get a grip to play tug of war, I can throw it w/out the hard plastic damaging anything.

Tika is in 7th heaven! It makes noises all the time and she can chew on it or tug it or chase it. Happy happy dog. She was SO excited that she just about took my hand off (ow!) and you should've seen how frustrated she was when I tried to play with Boost with it for a little bit.

I did a web search for "Noy velcro dog treat" or something similar (Dr. Noy is the manufacturer), and lots of stuff came up. The large chipmunk has apparently been discontinued, but I also have a large squirrel, rat, and playtpus, and at one time had a giant spider or crab or something with a lot of legs, all sturdy and with a velcro fastener, and I think all by the same manufacturer. Very well made.

Next toy: I discovered early on that Boost loves her little bone-shaped plush toys. Not very dense plush, just the size to fit in her mouth. She runs and plays in and out of the house, through the tunnels, and back again, all by herself, carrying and squeaking that little toy. No other squeaky will do.

When the squeaky finally died on the blue one (after a lonnng time--she's gentle with it), I looked forever to find a similar replacement. I found ONE in a pet store. Leopard print. I kept looking, because I knew that one would die eventually, and found ONE more just recently--good, because the old leopardskin one just died. So I got the new red-trimmed leopard-skin one out this morning.

She played with it like it was the the Dog God's gift to her personally--just lying there squeaking it, rolling on her back and squeaking it, running in and out and squeakng it, doing the play bow and squeaking it. I tried to get the camera out after about 20 minutes of this, but she dropped the toy into her empty detergent box and then started going for the box. Which is one of her recent favorite toys.

The other new toy is a rubber milker. Used in milking machines, and I guess when they wear out, they're just trash. Someone discovered that they make great dog toys. I'm sure that eventually someone will start selling them, but I got mine from a friend.

They're the perfect dog toy: Good safe material (you know that, because it's used in our milk supply!), a little bit stretchy, a little bit floppy, soft rubber so easy to grip by human and dog for tug, throws easily and bounces a little when you throw it but not too much. I'm a convert!


Preparing for CPE Agility This Weekend

SUMMARY: ...in the rain...with no practice... riding along with my train of thoughts this drizzly morning...

Since I haven't been going to class and haven't been working on agility with Boost, that means (by various contorted TMH logic) that we also haven't been doing agility with Tika. So it has now been at least 2 weeks since I've done ANYTHING with agility equipment.

And now there's a competition coming this weekend. And the yard is sopping wet and muddy, and it's raining, and looks to keep that way most of the week. Maybe I should get out there and do it anyway; good practice for Tika to run in the rain in case we have to do so this weekend. Maybe just a few bar-knocking drills and contact drills. Maybe some weave entries. Maybe some gambles. I dunno. I'm almost entirely unmotivated.

Tika is gradually working on her C-ATE in CPE. That's roughly equivalent to the ADCH-Silver: around 250 Qs at the top level of competition. That's a lot of Qs when you're doing only 3-4 CPE trials a year, with a maximum of 8-10 possible each weekend--with a trend lately towards 8 rather than 10--and you know that we won't get all the Qs every time.

I was more interested in Boost trying to get a few more CPE titles and work on her C-ATCH, since that's more within range (Tika needs about 130 Qs still but Boost needs only 45), but the next 2 weekends are 2 of our 4 or 5 CPEs for all of 2009, and she's not competing. Sigh.

Now that Tika's 8, I'm wondering whether we'll ever get the C-ATE; if she gets 7 of 8 Qs (pushing it) per trial at 5 trials (pushing it) a year, that's another 4 years, and I'm thinking it's unlikely she'll be competing that long (although in CPE she will be legal to jump at 16" and even 12" if I really wanted to be extreme--oh but I have to check whether moving her to Specialist or whatever resets the count on the C-ATE? Gads, I hope not!).

And I'm not sure that I want to give up USDAA trials for CPE trials.