a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get Uncomfortable

SUMMARY: Thoughts on moving out of your comfort zone.

The last couple of weeks, I've been pondering my comfort zones--what they are, why they're comfortable, how to move out of them, and what it will get me. Started from a couple of workshops I'm taking that have nothing to do with agility.

The point is that moving out of comfort zones is the only way to improve. That's how you learn. That's how your body builds itself. That's how your income grows. For example, you didn't learn to walk by doing what was comfortable--crawling. You struggled to stand on both feet. You struggled to take a step. You fell. And fell. And fell again. And again and again. And then, a whole new world opened up to you...OK, maybe in the short term where you could pull fragile china from tabletops, reach hot pans on the stove, and other fascinating opportunities such as those, enabling you to learn even more. But where would you be today if you were still crawling? Front crosses are hard enough to do on two legs; managing one on all fours would be a trick.

When you want to build muscle, you don't keep doing things that you can do easily; you do exercises that break down the muscle fibers, make you tired and achey, and allow the muscles to rebuild themselves into something better.

Sometimes it's hard to identify one's comfort zones. OK, I do well at work, I get pretty good performance reviews most of the time. But I'm already pretty good at what I do, and it hasn't made me rich yet, for example. I'd have to step into something that I know much less about, and risk my investment of time (at the very least), and possibly ego, and possibly status, and possibly money, to do something very different.

It's hard to do, and we don't LIKE moving out of our comfort zone. In fact, our brains fight against doing it, because in some ways it goes against the "rules" that we've built up for ourselves that say "this is how the world works, this is what's right, this is who you are." Like, "only really tall, long-legged people win the USDAA nationals" or "I am just not championship material."

Here are some everyday examples of what happens when I start to move out of my rule-based comfort zones:

  • Seatbelts. I always wear seatbelts in the car. Always. After agility class late in the evening, the last person out is supposed to close the gate to the driveway. It's a long driveway, maybe 500 feet? I have to remember ALLLLL the way down that I'm supposed to stop and close the gate, not just breeze on through like I usually do. So I leave my seatbelt off because it's a good reminder, and there is absolutely no safety or legal reason why I need it on during that time. But--it just about makes my body crawl out of my skin to leave the seatbelt off. Even as I'm sitting in my car thinking "Leave the seatbelt off," my hand is reaching for the seatbelt. Even after I've started moving and my hands are on the wheel, the back of my mind is yelling "Danger! Danger! Danger! Something's really wrong here! Wrong wrong wrong!" all the way down the driveway.
  • Sleeping. I can't sleep unless I have covers over me. I don't know why, but it makes me feel extraordinarily vulnerable. I become hyperconscious of the fact that there is nothing covering me. On very hot, sweaty nights, this is a bit of a problem. Through years of occasional hot, sweaty nights, I have gradually learned to sleep with a corner of the sheet draped over my hips. Then I am still secure and safe and can drift off. But if I roll over and the sheet falls off, boom, I'm wide awake, my mind yelling "Danger! Danger! Something's wrong here!"
  • Shaving in the shower. OK, not to gross anyone out, but through many decades of showering, I have inadvertently fallen into a pattern of what gets washed in what order, with a little shaving of the armpits and legs thrown in. If I switch anything for any reason, I suddenly can't figure out how, fer crying out loud, to finish cleaning myself! Maybe I want to check if the razor is still sharp enough, so I do a little shaving first. Now my habits say that I'm already done with what's normally done before the shaving, and I continue cleaning from that point. Making a conscious effort to back up and start at an earlier point of cleaning makes my brain scream "Wrong wrong wrong!"

I'm not talking about phobias or obsessions here. Just patterns that my mind has established as "normal" and that I feel uncomfortable about when I dare to breach the pattern. It's OK. I deal with it. I figure it out. I leave the seatbelt off. I get to sleep at night. I come out of the shower clean.

And in none of these cases is what I'm doing ACTUALLY wrong or dangerous or risky; it's just DIFFERENT, but it enables me to (a) remember to close the gate, (b) allows me to sleep on a hot night, and (c) lets me deal with things like an injured hand that has to be kept dry.

There are other things in life that are even less comfortable, and might indeed have some kind of increased risk, but have the potential for greater reward that are also not inherently wrong or actually dangerous. The trick is being able to identify when your mind is giving you incorrect information because it is out of its comfort zone and it doesn't know what to do next.

I mention all this here because I've also been thinking about it in terms of my agility training and competition. I'm not quite sure what it all means yet. Maybe you have similar minor experiences like mine in your own life, or have made great leaps forward in agility by finally doing something that you hadn't dared to do before. Stepping out of your comfort zone.

I'm just thinkin', it's time to get uncomfortable.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


SUMMARY: OK! Time to get serious about agility training!

Bring it on, human trainer person!

After everyone seemed light on the concept of Correct Contact Performance this last weekend--how did I manage to ruin Boost's Perfect Contacts? Really, they were the best I've ever had on a dog!?--I have vowed that we're all going to do 50 contacts a day here in the yard all week so we'll be prepared for this coming weekend's USDAA trial.

Although I don't know what it's worth--does Boost EVER leave a contact early here in the yard before being released? Not in the memory of humankind.

But what the heck, maybe if I do it often enough then it will overwrite the neural pathways that she has developed that say it's ok to leave the contact as soon as you feel like it. Research has shown that you can do that. That's kind of how you develop habits in your brain--do it over and over and your brain rewires itself. That's what neuro-linguistic programming is all about. Can one do NLP if one is a canine and doesn't have so much of the same linguistic capabilities? Can dogs do daily affirmations? Look in the mirror and say "I will do contacts correctly this weekend"?

"Every day, in every way, I am doing contacts better and better."

"Touch! Touch! Touch! Yes I can!"

I think perhaps we can do the equivalent with lots of repetition and reward.

So I will be a dog-brain rewiring specialist this week.

Yesterday we first revisited nose touches to a target. Ah, indeed, it's ok to just brush your nose past the surface of the target? Or swipe it along the target? Really? Did I ever teach them that? So instead of 50 contacts, we did 50 attempts to get them to >>ponk!<< their nose straight down on the target, not swipe, not push, not lower to their elbows first, not put a paw on it also. Just >>ponk!<< straight down and up. It's really lovely as long as I hold it in my hand at ground level or lean it against the toe of my shoe. Do you suppose the judge would mind if I stood at the end of the contact with a clear plastic target leaning on my shoe?

But there is something evil about the target lying flat on the ground. Really, once upon a time I could swear that we all did this correctly.

Actually, here in the yard, even without the target, Boost will bob her head up and down as if she were thinking about maybe ponking the target if it were there. I tried that this weekend in the ring after many many, shall we say hundreds, of leaving the contact earlies. She just stared at me. Stared. Like, "'Touch?' What is this noise you make?"

OK, so we will also do 50 jumps a day to learn once and for all that knocking the bars isn't an OK thing. Yesterday we probably didn't do 50 each. Might have done 20 each. If I were a Four Star Trainer, I would be logging these things so I'd know exactly how many I actually do. We all seemed to be getting the idea. Until we'd throw in a sequence, then we'd go back to whack-a-bar.

I'm jumping them both at 28" or so this week because we have a USDAA trial this weekend. I think Tika can handle a week of that. And Boost usually jumps 22", so maybe if I get her used to thinking higher and working harder at it, she'll pay attention.

But I also know that I need to work on her just *doing the obstacles in front of her* for crying out loud instead of looking at me. Or, officially, doing obstacles between me and her. Like, say, on a straight line to a turn where I'm calling her and have done the front cross and she's still blasting straight ahead full speed, looking at me and not bothering looking to see whether there's an actual obstacle there to take.

Oh, yes, we have lots of info on how to fix these things.

I just have to do it.

Mwah ha ha haaa! TMH and the Merle Girls (Boost, Tika, and MooMoo) will take over the agility world!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Well, Here's What's What

SUMMARY: Really, I love my dogs, I do. All them blue merles.

So... Boost has earned exactly one Q in the last three USDAA trials. OK, she had a really stupendous Standard run today (except for one knocked bar on a tough front cross, and the dogwalk that she left wayyy before I told her to, so she had to lie down for a bit to think about it) that I completely enjoyed running.

But--otherwise-- Well, I had to scratch her from the two CPE trials because of her sore muscles. So, so far in 2009, she has earned exactly--EXACTLY--one ribbon. ON the up side, I don't need to clear much wall space for her ribbons...

But one Q out of 3 USDAA trails? Pfah!

Tika ran nicely but is back to knocking bars... one in Steeplechase (so she ended in 6th place and the pocket-change checks ended at 5th place), one in Jumpers, both runs otherwise very nice and smooth even at 26".

Both dogs missed their weave entry in the Grand Prix; I know it was my fault because (a) Tika almost never misses her weave entries and (b) both dogs missed it in exactly the same way. Sigh.

And other bobbles and flubs and mess-ups. Boost hardly stuck any contacts all weekend, despite me making her "down" after every one she left early. But I did use her last contact run of the day--a botched Grand Prix run--to take the 3rd contact of the run, which she did beautifully, as a big success, made a big cheering fuss and ran out of the ring directly to her toy instead of finishing the course. Maybe that'll make an impression...

Plus the usual looking-at-mom-instead-of-what-obstacle-to-do-next sorts of things, running past jumps, like that. How on earth have we ever managed to earn 18 masters legs?! Seems like that was a different life-- or universe--

Still, Tika did Q 4 out of 9 runs, not too far off her 50% USDAA average, so I guess it's good enough. And neither dog looked sore all weekend, so I'm VERY happy for that.

The main bright parts of today were:
* Standard, in which both dogs ran very well and Tika Qed, which means she now needs only 2 standard (and 4 jumpers) for her silver ADCH.
* Hanging with assorted friends at the score table and other random places.
* Winning a night at Quail Lodge in Carmel. (I put almost all of my raffle tickets into free trial entries, and tossed one into the VERY popular lodge drawing for "what-the-heck" reasons... Odd how it turned out... I figured that, if on the very slim odds that I won, I'd use it to sleep over in June, when SMART is holding their first USDAA trial there on their property, but a couple of people told me that I shouldn't waste a night in a 4-star hotel on an agility night, but come back when I can really enjoy it for a day. Hmm. )
* Big bonus: Also won this very soft and snuggly and completely useless blue merle aussie dollie! How cute is this?! (Another one-ticket what-the-heck effort.) It's so hard to find blue merle anythings. I think I'll name him MooMoo. (Flash back to my 3-year-old self...)

OK, too tired to want to scan course maps. To bed...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Platinum Dog!

SUMMARY: Tika gets a big title! And Boost doesn't!

Tika did it! At the SMART trial Day One today, she earned a Q in Steeplechase Round 1, so she's in the money run for tomorrow AND--ta-daaaa!--that finishes her Tournament Masters Platinum. Like...w00t! Totally!

What is a Tournament Masters Platinum?
  • Tournaments consist of:
    • Grand Prix of Dog Agility
    • Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team Championship
    • Dog Agility Steeplechase
    These are the events that you enter during the year if you want to go to nationals. If you qualify. Enough times. With high enough scores.
  • What is Tournament Master? 10 Tournament Qs with at least 2 of each.
  • What is TM-Platinum? 50 Tournament Qs with at least 10 of each. Platinum is the highest award that you can get in USDAA. (Until some time in the future, people start getting double platinums or like that, then they'll invent some other titles, like TM-AA (agility addict) or TM-I-didn't-want-to-set-aside-any-money-for-retirement-anyway.)

Steeplechase is tough because you have to be in the top 25% of the competitors to earn a Q, and it's based on time plus faults. So you have to be very fast, or merely fast but accurate, or VERY VERY fast indeed and maybe you'll get away with one mistake. Tika usually knocks a bar, and we're not in the VERY VERY fast indeed category. But today she didn't! Ticked the first bar, giving me a momentary heart attack, but it stayed up!

I am thrilled. She got a whole mess of bits of chicken quesadilla afterwards.

Now I can decide to move her down to all-Performance in the tournaments if I want to (so that she'll jump 22" instead of 26"). Which likely means that this will be the last Platinum she'll ever get (yes, you can also earn platinum in each of the 4 regular classes plus the platinum-ADCH). Because the count starts over from 0 when you move into Performance. And it has taken us 6 years to get here.

So I'm enjoying it while I can.

[Dang, left my course maps at the trial site. Will try to scan them in tomorrow & post here.]

Tika also Qed in Performance Pairs Relay, her first-ever Performance Q, so the count is now up to... 1. And in Performance Snooker, her second-ever Performance Q. So--2! (Had enough points for a super-Q but 2 other dogs were faster.)

She knocked 2 bars jumping 26" in Standard. And the gamble was very hard: Only about 1 in 7 dogs got it. Which is low even for USDAA masters.

Boost--well--she's physically looking good. Knocked some bars but nothing excessive. People watching say that she's moving beautifully. Had a couple of really nice runs that unfortunately ended early because of the knocked bars, but we also had way more than our share of runouts, refusals, and "you-mean-THIS-jump-THIS-one?" dances. Back to square 2. But she is FAST and fun to run when communication occurs with some semblance of success.

And the weather was great. And the chicken quesadillas at lunch were spectacular. And all my friends said how they missed me and hadn't seen me in FOREVER! (I missed one trial only! One! Really!) And I wore my latest new best-dressed-agility-handler jacket:

Could life be any better?

Tomorrow... Jumpers. Everyone has to keep their bars up. Tika, you hear me? You've been jumping 26" for years, you can do it again! Plus oh yeah standard and round 2 of the steeplechase in which Tika could actually come home with, oh, let's fantasize, maybe $6! And Grand Prix.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This Weekend

SUMMARY: USDAA trial, here we come

Both dogs (and I) did pretty good last night in our first class since Feb 12, about what might be expected. Instructor says Boost's bar knocking is now "like a normal dog"! and we just need to do a private session on two on anti-bar-knocking drills. Tika looked fine at 26". SMART USDAA, here we come!

I've got Tika entered in performance (jumping 22") in several classes. But still in Steeplechase and Grand Prix at 26" because we still need one tournament for our tournament platinum. And still in Standard and Jumpers at 26" because we still need 3 Standards and 4 Jumpers for our ADCH-Silver. Would just like to do that before she's all performance and we have to start the ADCH count all over again.

I don't even want to look at what Boost needs to get even her MAD; at least 2 of her siblings already have their ADCHs and I'm trying not to feel sibling rivalry (after all, they aren't MY siblings). I'm just going to try and go and enjoy her and relax and try to have her relax a bit going over jumps.


I'll tell ya--maybe I don't talk much in class or socialize much, but it was wonderful to be back among friends in the evening.

Going To Your First Agility Trial?

SUMMARY: Is this your first agility competition? You are new to the agility weekend thang? Here are some links to useful info.

  • Team Small Dog just posted a lovely article on what to do/look for/see/etc. at your first agility competition; well done, TSD. Read it here.
  • If anyone wants to download a PDF of how to read USDAA accumulator sheets, click here.
  • And here's a bunch more useful stuff for agility beginners.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

CPE Weekend By The Clock: The Movie

SUMMARY: You've read the blog, you've seen the trial, NOW in theaters near you: CPE Weekend By The Clock!

Since we're about to disappear for a weekend of USDAA agility, we figure that it's about time for us to post our notes from our March 21-22 CPE trial, huh? Am I right? 

The lights in the theater dim, and you sit back, ready to experience an entire CPE weekend IN REAL TIME, minute by minute. 

Oddly enough, Team Small Dog did a minute-by-minute diary of this same trial. But only Taj MuttHall actually wrote this stuff down AS IT HAPPENED and did not INVENT times like that certain TSD did after the fact. Very weird that we both decided to do this for the same weekend. But while I was furiously scribbling notes in every spare moment, she was taking pictures. So hers is more narratively illustrated. 


Prologue: Friday, and the camera FADES IN on:

3:00 pm: MUTT MVR is completely packed, with a full tank of gas, ready to go. I have forgotten nothing! Have all the stuff I need for sleeping in MUTT MVR tomorrow night and everything. I can be in bed by 8 tonight for a change!

8:30 pm: Giving Tika a deep massage pretrial, as she was so sore at that last CPE 2 wks ago. Boost wants one, too.
9:00 pm: Um... OK, missed 8. But what's an hour of sleep anyway?
9:30 pm: Am I still awake? Dang.

Scene 1: Saturday

2:15 am: Restless Boost wakes me up, What does she need? Another massage? She mucks around for a while, then goes back to sleep. But--now I'm wide awake.
2:45 am: Still awake. Do some Sudoku, which usually nods me right off.
3:00 am: Try more Sudoku.
3:15 am: Still awake. Turn out lights anyway.
3:30 am: Still awake.
3:45: Still awake.
3:50: Anticipating the weekend. Only 4 runs a day--and Boost isn't running--so we have a darned good shot at a Perfect Weekend (8 Qs out of 8) for Tika, since she can do 9 of 10 pretty regularly.
3:58: Alarm will go off in 2 minutes. Should I continue trying to fall asleep?
3:59: Up and at'm.

4:20: Dressed, dogs cooperated in pottying, leap into MUTTMVR, and head for Santa Rosa, 2 hours away.
5:00: Wet stuff on windshield. Am I encountering the foretold "chance of rain"?
5:25: Crossing the Richmond/San Rafael bridge spanning the San Francisco Bay. Finally bought a FasTrak transponder last year, so don't have to stop and fish for toll money.
5:26: Long, high, narrow bridge. Me no like.


6:20: Arrive at Fairgrounds. In the dark. Danged early-arriving daylight savings time! Gimme my morning daylight!
6:22: Place is empty of people, replete with crating set-ups. It's like coming home again! I belong here!
7:30: Setting up the adjunct score tables and other set-up randomness.


7:50: Interesting course but really pretty easy for a fast, experienced dog like Tika (and even a slow, experienced handler like me). Piece-a-cake fer sure! A good way to start our quest for the Perfect Weekend!
7:55: But--well--huh, it sure has a lot of places where I could do front crosses. And you KNOW that 2 front crosses = 1 serpentine. And serps can really speed things up if you can pull them off. And since Tika's jumping 20" this weekend instead of 24", we're directly competing against a bunch of others.
8:00: OK, I've decided on one challenging serp, but we can do it--Tika just needs to blast out of a straight tunnel and over the jump in front of her while I fade right.

8:05: On course, and Tika is FLYING! No sign of soreness! Loves the 20"!
8:05:15: We're 3/4 of the way through, Tika hits the straight tunnel, I look right and fade for the serp--don't they say never take your eyes off your dog? OK, hrm, so what's one off-course anyway? Who needs a stinkin' Perfect Weekend ribbon anyway?

8:30: So odd to have only one dog competing. Take Boost out to the big field to practice stays and recalls and other less-frantic running, per Physical Therapist's suggestions. I toss the toy where she can't see it and release her. I yell directions like "Left! Left! LEFT!!!" and she's just running around randomly. Huh, weren't you under the impression that this dog understands right & left commands? Another dream of agility utopia shattered.

9:30 We love snooker. We love getting all 51 points in CPE because it's usually so doable. We love doing it faster than anyone else. And there is so much time allowed on such a short course that I have no excuses for not doing three sevens in the opening. I just have to move quickly ahead of her while she's in the first set of weaves to get around the backside of the tunnel before she does an offcourse INTO the tunnel. Piece of cake; she's got great weaves.

9:40: Tika fast and very happy, keeps the first red bar up, and blasts into the weaves. I'm watching her go, delighting that she's looking so OH CRAP CRAP CRAP I'M SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING AHEAD OF HER TO PREVENT AN OFFCOURSE INTO... The... tunnel...
OK, Qualifying ribbons are overrated anyway, besides, I already have a ton of them from other trials. Right? Right?

9:50: Boost out to the field again. I have vowed that, every time Tika runs, I'll then take Boost out for interaction and exercise. So far so good. But--I am right, no response to "left" or "right" in the field with the toy out of sight. BUT-- she does when she's standing still! She does when she's running to CHASE the toy (e.g., she's running away from me, I yell left, she veers left, and THEN I throw the toy. Apparently this context--not running, not knowing where the toy is is a context in which left and right do not exist in any normal sense of the words. Perhaps in this context they mean "keep looking!"

11:30: What I'm doing between runs all weekend is working the auxiliary score table. That's finishing the scribe sheets and ascertaining Qs so that the computer can calculate placements.

SUBLIMINAL SHOT: Vicke's matching green fingernails and shirt. THAT'll wake you right up.

1:00: Lunch is teriyaki chicken wrap from the lunch vendor at the Home Show down the other end of the fairgrounds. Love home shows. But our show chair said that browsing the home show and forgetting to come to the ring is NOT an acceptable excuse for missing your assigned running order, so I'd better Just Say No.

1:30: It's nontraditional: There's a gamble in the middle that can be taken in various ways for either 15, 20, or 25 points. You can do two for credit. Plus there's a whole boatload of tunnels together in that area--a fast tunneling dog could rack up a squillion points after doing 2 of the gambles just doing tunnels! OK, I have a really nice flowing plan with the 20+15 (the 25er is wayyy too much yardage). With the tunnels, we should end up with about 76 points. Woot! Love that kind of course. All I have to do is execute my part of the teamwork according to the plan I laid out.

1:50: Well. OK. There is always SOME flaw in my plan, and apparently today I am it. NEXT time I will remember to do my threadle Qs so she doesn't waste time doing an entire Aframe for no points and... well, heck, to just run the *#@% course I actually planned! Brain no workee. BUT Tika runs beautifully, is keeping up all her bars, and we end up with 67 points instead of 76. Out of maybe 100 dogs, only 6 end up with higher scores despite my best efforts to be lower. But TWO are in our exact group. So we end up with 3rd. With a Q. I shouldn't complain. Really. I shouldn't.

2:30: Wish I could've tried that one with Boost. All those tunnels! And my plan DID have a nice flow to it, which is what she needs with me. Woohoo!

2:50: Out with Boost to the lawn. Can't BELIEVE she doesn't respond to left/right on the flat! Odd odd odd.

SUBLIMINAL SHOT: Liza MANAGING THE RUNNING ORDER. Actually quite cold all day.

3:00 Starts drizzling. Glasses spotting up. Coat speckled. Boost oblivious. Fortunately the rings and crating are under cover in the arena.

3:05: Rain blowing in waves past the arena. I want to sleep in MUTT MVR with THIS going on? A friend invites me to sleep at her place, about 45-60 minutes away, but I am blithely unconcerned and thank her anyway, plus that's a long way to drive.

3:10: Only Standard is left. Maybe another hour until we can walk and run, and we're up early in the running order, so I could actually maybe leave before 5 if I wanted to go somewhere else for the night. Pondered driving back to Richmond for my cousin's husband's celebratory BBQ for his sparkling new U.S. citizenship--but--in the rain? Over an hour's drive? Over that bridge twice more? Uhhhh... no.

3:15: Rain pounding on the metal roof.

3:17: COOLNESS--Spike the Border Newf drops by for a visit! Good old Spike, retired now and visibly aged, was a puppy from a Border Collie/Newfoundland breeding for studying genetic behaviors at Cal Berkeley. His agility littermate, Bruno, died a year or so ago, but Spike is here for a really good scritching. His black shaggy coat glistens from the rain; his Newfie genes don't care a whit for that pounding wetness from the sky.

4:30: What a crowd-- 83 level 3/4/5/C dogs at once! OK, the course seems pretty straight-forward. Only one iffy place--coming down the Aframe, we have to make a right turn, but there's a jump straight ahead. If Tika blasts of the Frame without bothering to stop, there's a good chance for an off-course there. But forewarned is forearmed, right? And I've got plenty of forearms (at least 2), so I'm good. Right? Am I right?


4:45: START with simple lateral lead-out pivot.
Tika DOESN'T CATCH the pivot for some reason (maybe likes 20" jumps TOO much?)
 and almost TAKES offcourse,
TURN to get to the right place.
MISSES a rear cross and
TURNS the wrong way, wasting more time.
she's BLASTING for the off-course jump and
SHOULD BE SCREAMING is TEEEEEEKA! because "come" usually means "go faster!" But a miracle occurs,
she throws up dust SKIDDING into a turn right in front of the jump and then
HEADING my way. More wasted time, but then we finish CLEAN! No bars down! Whatta girl! CHEER at finish line while

5:15: The score tables are fully manned. My dogs have run. I have nothing to do except wait. What a weird thing for me.


6:03: Finally! Done for the day! We finally managed a 1st in Standard, too, despite the wasted time, due to two things: It's apparently a very hard course, as only about 55% Qualify at all (and the lower levels can Q with faults, too), which is low for CPE. And the one dog in our group who was faster than we were had two contact faults. So there ya go.

6:15: Feed the dogs. Putting away all the score table and light-weight ring stuff for the night. I won TWO free entries in the raffle! OK, day is looking up.

6:30: Pizza arrives at the arena for the couple dozen of us who stick around. It's quite cold, but mostly stopped raining.

There's some discussion about not doing CPE any more. We always get full trials, but--we can't get someone to take over the ribbon czar position. We can't get anyone to help build the courses after the last run of the day. Same half a dozen people out of a club of 250 tired of doing the same demanding jobs. Of course, a majority of the club members don't do CPE. We'll see how this goes... we have 2 more CPEs scheduled for this year alone.

8:00: Pizza is done, conversation is done, dogs have exercised a bunch. It's cold. It's wet. I'm exhausted. I give in and call my friend and ask whether the invitation still stands. It does. We head out.

9:50pm: In a lovely conversation with a friend while THE EVIL FLOOR experience occurs. Will write about that separately later.

10pm-6am A lovely night's sleep in a warm bed.

Scene 3: SUNDAY
7:15: back at the site. Set up aux score tables again, exercise dogs, etc.

9:00:   Odd angles on the contacts. Tough dogwalk/tunnel discrimination. We really blew one of those last weekend.

9:35: Warming up for run. Tika is SO excited! Loves her new milker toy! Hasn't played this much with a toy at a trial in a long time.

9:40: Woohooo! We're running! We're fast! We don't even look at the offcourse on the discrimination! She keeps her bars up AND gets her feet solidly into the contact yellow zones! Life is good! Turns out that we're the 3rd fastest of all 77 dogs who ran that course, but neither of those 2 are in our exact group, so we're 1st again.

Life IS gooood.

9:50:  I have a lovely high-point plan but I have to hope that she's not knocking bars, because we need 3 successful jumps and my conquering-the-world plan has only 3 jumps in it.

11:25: Well, ya KNOWWWWW I am tired of the brain rearranging the course that was safely in my mind BEFORE I went into the ring. Missed a flip and once again Tika wasted time doing an entire Aframe for no points. And I go off into the wrong direction once. SOOOOOO it's a Q but barely above average points, so another 3rd place. Stil, running well, doing weaves with no sign of soreness, turning beautifully. Happy dog. Happy handler.

11:40: The turkey panini (grilled sandwich) tastes reeeeeeeal gooood.


1:00: They're just about ready to walk the afternoon classes. Standard went way too long. Don't think we're finishing early today, and Tika is almost the last dog in the day's running order.

1:30: This is one of those COlors courses where I don't really see the point--one option is simple and flowing and the other side isn't, and there's no difference in which obstacles they do. This should be easy-peasy...AND fast, since is't just basically a big loop with no contacts. IF Tika lets me lead out, and she's been antsy, lifting her hairy tummy off the ground while in a down-stay at the start line. Brat.

2:10:00: Tika stays! We go!

2:10:13.31: Woooooooo hooooooooitissofasticantbelieveitsalreadyover! another Q and should be a fast time.

2:30: Indeed, 2nd fastest of all 77 dogs who ran the course at 13.31 seconds, and that faster one NOT in our group and really only .03 (!!!) seconds faster, so a 1st place. I always DID like the color blue.

3:00:  This is another one where, if I keep my head and do my crosses right, we should have a blazingly fast time. Really no handling challenges for us at all. It's a tough entry to the weaves, but NOT FOR MY TIKA WEAVIN' DOG!

4:30:  Remember about getting those crosses in? Forget briefly where I'm going and Tika veers in the wrong direction, and although I catch her in time to avoid an off-course, you know that's going to hurt us on time on a course like this with no contacts anywhere.

5:00: Sure nuff, we're only the 3rd fastest of all 72 dogs who did the same course, but this time we're a full half second slower. Positively CRAWLING! But again a first place and a Q, and I'll take it. We're done! 6 out of 8, four 1sts. Really I should NOT complain, and I don't.

7:00: The arena is packed up, my stuff is packed up, dogs have had all the running they want out in the field, and it's time to GOOOOO HOOOOOOOME!


9:15: At home! Yay. In the garage. Open Tika's crate... and she stands up stiffly, exits the crate gingerly and yelps. Oh crap crap crap crap crap!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Are All Unique

SUMMARY: Google searches don't always come up with what you expect.

For grins and giggles, Ii googled to see whether anyone has talked about me and my dogs anywhere out there behind my browser's back. I plugged in "Ellen Tika Boost Jake Remington," which you'd think would be danged unique. Eh?

Other than several pages of Taj MuttHall and The Bay Team's web site, here are some of the surprising search results (no links included, just the google-retrieved text. Really you don't need to be spending more time reading pointless web pages than you already are; am I right?):
  • Fotos de famosas y famosos -
    jake baysinger keralaerotica publicinvasion fratmentv com the brazzers asshole freevideosex .... the @ 2008-09-11 05:45:48; Ellen Muth Nudes Tika Rainn Nude ...... commonage, i'm sured that it interestingly 11 48 remington shotgun , ..... what foods boost hgh allegra printer
  • Blank--
    Remie Remington Remo Remus. Remy Ren Rena Renate. Renauld Renault Rench Rendo ..... Tiger boost Tiger lilly Tigga Tigger. Tiggy Tigo Tigra Tika. Tiki Tikiboy Tikka Tila ...... Elle Ellen Ellery Elley. Ellie Ellie mae Ellie may Ellington ..... Jak Jake Jakey Jaki. Jakoba Jalape Jalapeno Jalapeño ...
  • AEC Qualified Horses--
    Joliet Jake / Karen Schlingmann (PA) [ PH , T ] ..... Remington XXV / Densey Juvonen (PA) [ A , I ] .... Sweepea Dean / Ellen Williams (VA) [ I ] ... Tika / Skyeler Icke (VA) [ I , PH ] .... USEA Gives Amateurs a Boost Towards AEC Think you're not qualified for the 2009 Bit of Britain/USEA American Eventing ...
  • November 2008 | We Love Soaps--
    As of this afternoon, fans of AS THE WORLD TURNS' Van Hansis and Jake ...... At the tender age of 3, Ellen Wheeler (Marley Love on ANOTHER WORLD) got her first ..... She was Stephanie Zimbalist's in REMINGTON STEELE and Kate Jackson's in ...... Bree Williamson, BethAnn Bonner and Tika Sumpter (ONE LIFE TO LIVE), ...... to save the show, and to boost its ratings, ......
  • TheSims2.com - MySims - Blog--
    Remington London (male, Libra, Pizza Delivery) Aspiration: Family ...... Ellen Frost (Female, Aries), a Freshman year student majoring in Economics. ...... Tika Tiki Tikka Tikki Tiko TikTok (after the character in "The Wizard of Oz) ...... The best way to boost a relationship quickly is by having your Sim tell a ...... Andy, Parker, Randy, Matt, Finn, Jake, Forest, Travis, ......
  • 19540220 Boxoffice / February 20, 1954 -- (can't find the Boost in this one--buried somewhere--)
    The Ehte had been a "B" theatre Jake Solz and his son Sidney are ..... The theatre is owned by Rob B. Ca.se C. J. Remington, Fair Oaks, was . . . the women. .... Walla Walla, were on the Row "Tanga Tika," filmed in Tahiti by Seattle's own ...... from H. S. and Mary Ellen Waldorf for $29000, The Palace Theatre Co,, ...
  • eCampus.com ISBN Browser - 97805952
    9780595224401 : The Longest Way Home: Jake, Harry and Robert : Barnes, Arthur ...... 9780595246335 : Warriors for the Working Day : Ekstrom, Ellen L. ...... 9780595289752 : Shaasha Barta: The Book of the 41 Virtues : TIKA ..... 9780595294824 : Remington Hills : Wallace, D. Michael ...... 9780595207824 : Feeling Good for Life: The Clinically Proven Exercise and Diet System That Will Help You Burn Fat, Build Muscle, Boost Your Mood, and Conquer Depression ...
  • あっぷあっぷOfficial Blog » いちご生クリームワッフル!!!
    41mKKt0 | ellen stewart licking co ohio. トラックバック by http://www.onlyrobes.com/page.php?p=5072882 ...... Tika T3 Light Failure. knUN4t0 | Transmitt Wattage Distance ...... WmbBut0 | claas chopper hp boost ...... rCvT1t0 | jake diebler ... remington us 1917 gun stock. My2wCt0 | writing paper w borders ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Things in April

SUMMARY: The mind wanders. The life wanders.

  • Last week it was so cold that I ran the space heater under my desk on several days. Yesterday we beat the all-time temp record for this date, which was set over100 years ago. Hey, people, this is supposed to be April! Dogs don't much care--still wnat me to Throw The Toy--except that when they fetch it, they run and drop it in the shade and wait for me to come get it. This weekend--when we're doing agility again finally, mind you--it's supposed to be cool and very rainy. Unsettled weather: Unsettling.
  • Last summer I bought a brand new purple Jolly Ball for the back yard. (Well, really, for the dogs, but it lives in the back yard.) The dogs love that toy. Shortly thereafter, it vanished. I looked everwhere, even underneath the miles of shrubbery lining my fence. Nada. Finally gave up and bought a new one.

    Last week I got to work finishing that trimming job I started...uh...a while back. Guess who's been overwintering 6 feet up in the shelter of the shrubbery? Yes! Mr. Jolly Ball!

    Reminds me of the time that Mr. Red Jolly Ball vanished from the yard and I gave up and bought a new one. Came autumn, fruit trees dropped their leaves--and there was Mr.RJB nestling in the branches of the apple tree 15 feet up. (Thought I had a post on this but can't find it. Sorry; know you're disappointed.)

    Now--*I* would notice if I tossed a JB into a tree or a shrub. Renter claims that he'd notice, too. OK, you guys, fess up: Who's been sneaking into my yard and tossing JBs into mysterious places?
  • Huh--this horrible nasty way overgrown privet, once stripped of its branches (my intention was to remove it entirely--maybe there's be more room for another tunnel?), has apparently self-grafted like crazy. He never listened to Mom Privet saying, "If you keep wrapping your branches around each other like that, they'll freeze that way!" Makes me want to stop sticking my elbow in my ear all the time. Fortunately it did not self-graft itself around Mr. JB. The real problem here is that now I think that this is so cool that I don't want to take it out after all. Sigh. The price one pays for one's art.
  • Naming dogs: I take forever to come up with dog names. That's why Jake stayed Jake as he was before i got him, and Remington stayed Remington as he was in his pre-TMH life. Keep threatening to name my next dog Spot or Fido or King or Queenie. ...So...how come no one ever names their dog Kingie or Queen? Is this sexist?
  • Just lounging around in the yard, watching the Graf Agility Zeppelin float by.
  • Painted Ladies recently migrated northward through our area in massive quantities.

  • We're starting agility class again this Thursday, after a 9-week absence for R&R Woo hoo! Dogs will be much happier. We're just starting some practice again in the yard. Boost is still knocking bars. I've been perhaps less than faithful in doing everything that was recommended during our hiatus. But we did have a good time. Mostly.
  • Unemployment rate in Silicon Valley popped up to 11.2%. California overall 11%. Fourth highest in the country among all 50 states. Wasn't high tech supposed to be recession-proof? Agility trial entries are down. Is it the economy, stupid? Or the stupid economy?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

She Swoons Because It's All About the Clothing

SUMMARY: Agility is coming and we're not prepared. A Facebook experience, confirming that agility is all about the clothing.

I have been intrigued to see that this single Facebook status message and the single follow-up photo have elicited more comments from more people than any other facebook or blog post to date. You guys all have strange appetites. You Facebook fanatics have undoubtedly seen this as it unfolded. But--in the interest of preserving it for posterity (I have only the best interest of history books in mind)--

It all started with my status note on Thursday (compare and contrast to more typical status messages like "Joe Smith...is heading for bed after a wonderful evening with friends," "Jane Doe...loves her new iphone," "Bo Hunk...is leaving for [fill in name of agility trial]" -- all of which are interesting but, like, normal):

Ellen Levy Finch stops suddenly, looks at her calendar aghast, and realizes that she'll be competing in agility in 8 days and neither dog has practiced in a month! She swooons.

The response trail looked more or less like this:

MB: Nice dramatic flair! [polite clapping] I can *almost* imagine you swooning.
TMH: On the divan, of course. In the parlour.
MB: I'll send for the smelling salts!
TMH: LOL! Perfect. I mean--fiddle-dee-dee!
MJ: So, with the whole parlour, smelling salts, etc, scene, I guess this means you'll be wearing a bare shoulder afternoon gown, in Spring shades, with long gloves, and a wide brim sun hat with matching ribbon tie. Oh, and being sensible, Doc Martins during competition. I'd *love* to see pics!
TMH: Sure, I'll send photos of such as soon as I have them.
MJ: Send whatever you end up with, I'll have to see what I can do. *digs through pile of old install disks* Where's that Photoshop?

So I had to dig through all my old agility photos to find one of me (lots with just the dogs, but "me" usually shows up as just a fat knee or blurred pointing finger) that I could post in response. Here's what I "found": "Dressed for swooning on the agility field. Prepare the smelling salts!"

And here's the brouhaha (emphasis on haha) it engendered:

KM: Where's the parasol to shade your delicate lap dogs from the sun?
MB: ROFL! How long did that take you to do?
GD: wow...in the agility competitions I have attended, the people are dressed like regular schlubs - polar fleece and/or shorts depending on the time of year...are there different types of competitions with different dress codes?
KM: Victorian agility is big in the Bay Area. If you think Ellen's costume looks good, you should see the dogs!
MB: Those hoop skirts are a b*&^ to run in tho!
AS: Beats wearing an Elizabethan Collar wouldn't you say?
TMH: Yep, we always dress in period costume, a different period for each season. I understand that this summer will be Mongol Horde. We'll have to bring yurts instead of our regular canopies.
TMH: P.S. This is for you, Mike!
TMH: P.P.S. Taken at SP's Workin' Paws!
CS: makes me think of Phil in his pirate costume...or as the Power Flaws girl (?) Kinda miss that guy
TMH: I was trying to find a photo of him to prove the theory that agility is done in costume. Thought I had some, but noooo--
TMH: P.P.P.S. OK, in the REAL reality, it took about 20 minutes in photoshop, I think, including finding a dress photo that's compatible with a photo of me with dog.
GD: Now I'm disappointed. It certainly would add a little flair to the whole thing...imagine some long ribbons in the doggies fur, flapping as they run the course!
SP: Why yes...it is a requirement to dress in period costume if you run a dog at Workin' Paws. Otherwise you can't attend. Thank you Ellen for giving me heads up on the Mongol Horde. I will get that ready!
LR: Love how the dress is the proper TMH colour.
MB: Garth, you have that confused with our rhythmic gymnastics courses, where the dogs and handlers must twirl a ribbon while running. Totally different from our period-costume-of-the-season courses....Now where did I store that yurt and fur g-string from last season's Mongol festivities?
MJ: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You know, TMH, maybe we'd attend more events if they WERE costumed! (The audience could vote on best costume, keep themselves amused while judges were doing judgy things.)
TMH: How about if the *audience* comes in costume? Hmm. OK, free admission to all spectators who come in costume from now on!
SY: Yes, very nice dress. I hope you can run in that.
AS: Occasionally, agility people have been known to show up in hippie attire.... and then there was that guy who used to run in a kilt... What ever happened to him?
TMH: He moved back east.
AS: Like Eastern Scotland?
TMH: LOL. Not that far.
TC: And, that wasn't dress-up...it was everyday attire.
Remember the trial (WVDS) when Bill N. and Terry S. dressed in top hat and tails and ran their dog in pairs?
TMH: Wasn't there! Sounds lovely.
TMH: Yeah, EB has several kilts.
EC: So how are the photoshop lessons going?
TMH: [some noncommittal reply]
MJ: Several kilts make sense if:
(1) you've got a pile of money - they're $500+;
(2) you need the "dress" tartan for evening, in-town occasions;
(3) you need a "hunting" version for country, day wear, or a trip to the pub;
(4) you need your old one as a loaner for all your friends who don't have one and might, I repeat *might,* be persuaded to try ... Read Moreone, if it were free, arm twisting were employed by their significant whatevers, and everyone in earshot promised to surrender their cameras. (Pics will be taken, of course, and posted immediately!)
Dave: Woah...I have the exact same agility outfit. Good thing we didn't wear them at the same time...THAT would have been embarrassing.
TMH: Dave, The *first* thing that popped into my head when I saw that dress was, "Whoa, that is like so TOTALLY Dave's style!" but I just crossed my fingers and hoped that you hadn't already found it.
TMH: Mike, Of course we're talking modern-man kilts: all-black, all-tan, nice washable materials for mucking around with dogs or attending dinner parties. I know I have a photo around here somewhere...grumble grumble... OK, I'll look for it more some other time.

So that's how it stands as of 11:00 this morning. I am now desperately in search of:
* Photo of EB in his agility or evening kilt (I do have the latter--must be in my archives somewhere).
* Photo of Phil in any of his--uh--unusual agility outfits (I've seen photos but don't remember whether they're mine--more searching necessary).
* Photo of Bill N & Terry S in tops & tails doing agility.
* Like that.

Remember: Agility is all about the clothing. Really.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AKC Confirms that Mixed-Breed Dogs Aren't Real Dogs

SUMMARY: New program for mixed-breed dogs in AKC performance events segregates them from the "real" competitors.

Details are in three posts on this site; read all 3.

And here's a PDF link to the original AKC document that this is a copy of.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Windy Day in California

SUMMARY: What's all this blowing about?

Man, the winds are nuts this afternoon! They are slamming through my yard, and yet the sky is clear, no storm in sight. Ripping pieces off my trees and throwing them around the yard. Dogs want to play, don't seem to mind the wind, but I'm afraid of getting whupped on the head. Weird. And I certainly don't want to go for a walk in this. 40-50 MPH! Jeepers creepers.

This is the kind of weather where, at Power Paws field atop a hill in eastern san jose, the Aframes blow across the field, teeters flip, and tunnels get wrapped around trees if they're not staked down.
Read news about the winds.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hiking Photos

SUMMARY: Fun in the sun and in the cow plop.

Sunday was just about a perfect spring day. Clear skies, temperatures just on the edge of cool, excellent for hiking.

We started out at 9 in the morning, and the parking lot was nearly empty. The dogs were delighted with the concept of being off leash and exploring. I mean, like, totally and completely delighted. Sniffed at everything. Boost promptly found a dead toad to roll in, and the day continued along those veins.

Wildflowers bloomed in every direction. In particular, lupines were everywhere. Some entire fields filled with the blue of lupines.

The trail ran alongside and across a stream. Somewhere a sign said no swimming, but we couldn't keep the Golden Retrievers out of it. And Tika, oddly enough for a dog who might be, who knows, Australian Shepherd and Husky, loves the water, too.

Renegade amazed me by carrying a toy almost the entire trip. Retrievers! He also displayed his innate agility. He and Boost were in puppy agility class together, but Ren is now retired from agility and spends his days hiking, swimming, retrieving, and writing his memoirs.

Horses and cows had laid out many delectable patties along the trail and meadows. Tika and Boost loved it.

Would you put your hand in there to try to reattach a leash to the collar?

None of the beasts apparently suffers from any fear of heights or of falling down the cliffs. Nice to have four feet and a low center of gravity.

Wendy and Keith and the beasts forge ahead while I--as usual--snap photos and then rush to catch up.

And so another adventure comes to an end. By the time we were home, the dogs were rested up and ready to play again. Everyone got a good hosing down, to their dismay.

These are just a few of the photos; see the rest--lots of wildflowers and happy dogs--here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Dog Health and Hiking

SUMMARY: Both dogs seem fine. Did some nice hiking with dogs and wildflowers today.

Tika's still taking rimadyl twice a day per vet's suggestion. Haven't heard a yelp or whine of pain out of her since maybe Monday last week. Boost of course has never indicated that she's in pain. Dang dogs.

I've been doing some of the Pilates for Pooches exercises and some additional ones that the physical therapist suggested. The DVD is interesting and useful. At least, it'll be useful if I can stick with the exercise program. Like I'm good at that. Hah.

It's weird to be surrounded by agility equipment and not be using any of it.

So today we went for a nice off-leash hike instead. (Also suggested by two or three dog-medical-type people as being excellent for both dogs.) Challenge is that we have to drive 45 minutes one way to get to such a place, then $5 parking plus $2 per dog. Not something I'd do every day, or even every week. Sigh.

Friends who live up in that area constantly post notes on facebook about all the cool offleash hiking they do with their dogs. If I ever had any urge to move again, I'd consider moving more up thataway for that reason. So we met today at Sunol Regional Wilderness to go trekking.

The dogs loved it. The people hiked maybe 3 miles; the dogs must've covered three times that.

And how long did the energy burn-off last? For the whole 45-minute drive home, at which point they were well rested and ready to play. It didn't last NEARLY as long as the horse and/or cow manure in which they both rolled enthusiastically. We did a lot of hosing off when we got home.

I've got some photos almost ready for viewing but there are some issues with my photo site. Will post the link when they're ready.

Hope everyone who's going to the 4-day Haute TRACS extravaganza trial enjoy it without me. [sniffle] I'm sure it'll be difficult for them.