a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

So Far So Good

SUMMARY: Even Boost does well in class.

Last night, things look good. Even Boost did some difficult gambles--including one that no one else managed (didn't try that one with Tika). Even some with weaves at quite a distance with me dashing in and out among obstacles. Want no excuses from her at the next trial about popping out of weaves!

She ran well all evening. A joy.

Tika was happy and energetic, no sign of slowing down or soreness at all. Still practicing at 22" instead of 26".

Life is good.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Titles, tongues, trekking, tunes, with photos

SUMMARY: Still practicing terseness with assorted updates.


This arrived today. Woot! 50 Tournament legs at Championship level, highest possible tournament title. Never thought we'd never get there. But now already have 8 at Performance level after 10 tries.


Exercise the beasts in warm weather and see what hangs out.

How does such a small face contain such a gigantic tongue?

In case you always wondered: The inside of a panting dog.

Tika has a natural paw-tuck when lying down. Usually when I try a photo, she leaps up to check me out.


Left the Merle Girls at home and took myself for another 6-7 mile Sierra club hike with ~500 feet elevation gain at Rancho San Antonio. The hills were richly colored with this brilliant red foliage. Yeah, well, poison oak.

We don't often see horses on these trails, but this one passed us twice, trotting past the ubiquitous brilliant red foliage.

Air was a bit hazy/smoggy, but still had a nice view of the blimp hangar and wind tunnels at Moffett Field and of the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Looking down towards a section of trail on the dry hillside, probably the one on which we came up. And the requisite rich red foliage in the foreground.


Bad enough I make up bad lyrics when I'm awake. Last night dreamed I was in agility class and we were discussing the bad traffic coming home from the trial. (This is the only relationship that this topic has to dogs. It's a stretch but it's what I've got.) I said I had no trouble. Friend said it was awful just trying to get onto the freeway, how did you get around the on-ramp? I burst into song (to the tune of I'm Getting Married In The Morning):
We're stuck in traffic on the on ramp.
We're stuck in traffic going slow!
Pull out the stops! But let's watch for cops!
'Cause we're passing traffic going slow.
She looked at me blankly. I said, "Haven't you ever seen Mary Poppins?" which woke me up immediately, because of course it wasn't Mary Poppins, it was My Fair Lady. And it stunned me that the lyrics actually worked in real life, too, not just Dreamworld.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weaves. Terseness.

SUMMARY: wha's'up?

Practicing being concise, succinct, terse. Short blog posts. Yes. Sure.

Practicing weaves. Tika, who doesn't usually pop out in competition, I can get to pop out many times. Boost, who too often pops out in competition, I can't trick into popping no way no how.

Practicing serpentines. I need to practice (after all these years) to be in the right place. Boost needs to practice coming in & going out at sharp angles. I think we're both doing better.

No bar-knocking drills so far in the last week. Need to get back to that; bars are coming down again.

No competition again until Augst 29! Yay! Boo! Yay! Boo! Yay!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why Agility?

SUMMARY: My sport of choice, but why?
Many Muddy Paws passed along this topic from another blogger and made her own post on the subject. What got you into your sport of choice...why that one, why not another type of dog sport? What else have you tried, but don't care for? What haven't you tried but would like to? 

 Sometime in my teens, I decided that I wanted to train an Obedience Champion dog someday. When I got my first dog, Amber, I taught her come, sit, heel--but I had no real concept at all of how demanding obedience standards were. Not that it mattered; when I signed up my mixed-breed dog with an AKC obedience class, they told me essentially that, if I wanted an obedience champion, I should get a purebred dog. I gave up on that idea for many years.

When Remington came along, I took up the competitive obedience thing again; Mixed Breed Dog Club of America and UKC (and others?) provided same titles with same rules for non-AKC dogs. Learned a lot. Took private lessons from an instructor with a lot of successful students. Remington did very well. 

But I didn't find it exciting, really, or particularly active, although the ideas for training intrigued me. Practice was dull dull dull. And, the more I found out about the rigid SUBJECTIVE performance standards, the less thrilled I became. But I kept with the training with that "obedience champion" goal in mind until I broke my foot in early 1997. 

 I loved teaching him tricks; taught him everything I could think of, bought books and taught him more; tested out of "acting" level 1 and went into level 2 where we already knew several of the tricks. Tricks are a great crowd pleaser and turned out to be handy when he had to spend a lot of time at the doggie hospital for his cancer. Made him popular there and gave him something to do besides worry. We took a couple of 6-week sessions in scent tracking. Oh, mannnnn talk about dull practice! Although it's fun to see the dog start to get the idea and follow a track through a field, practice was: Find a seldom-used field (around here? tough). Spend about 10 minutes setting up a track. A couple of minutes following the track. Now, if the field is big enough, spend 10 minutes setting up another track. A minute or two following it. And then you're out of field. And not supposed to use the same field again for a week. Bleah. 
When I broke my foot, a friend arranged the loan of a sled-racing training cart with wheels. Remington was less than thrilled and preferred to have someone else do the pulling. 

The year before my broken foot, I had started competing in agility. Just 6 trials that year. As my foot healed, I discovered that I wanted to spend time doing agility. Never went back for more obedience lessons, tracking lessons, or "acting" lessons. 

I like agility because it involves both of us acting as a team at all times on the course, it's exciting, it's physically active and calorie-burning for both of us, it's mentally challenging for both of us, I can practice in my yard (now that I have enough equipment and almost enough space), judging is largely objective, not subjective [mostly], and all of my dogs have seemed more than eager to do it any time, anywhere. I've watched flyball, dock diving, freestyle (dance), rally-O, disc dog, herding, and lure coursing, and have read up quite a bit on all of these sports. 

  •  Obedience and rally-O work you as a team and you can practice in your yard, but none of the rest (for me and my dogs, anyway). 
  •  Tricks fill several of the items but not the physically active or calorie-burning bit, and "judging" is very subjective if you enter any kind of contest. 
  • Dock diving and flyball are all about the dog; all the handler does is get the dog excited and then watch him go. (Sorry, fans of these sports, I know there's training involved, but really--the handlers are watchers, not participants.)
  • Scent tracking--nothing there for me.
  • Lure coursing: Boost will do it sometimes but sometimes not; it terrifies Tika; and it's VERY expensive for what you get IMHO. And no teamwork, no training, nuthin' except fast running for the dog.
  • Disc dog: Maybe if I thought I could throw a frisbee worth beans, it would be OK, but physically it's still more about the dog and performance standards are largely subjective.
  • Freestyle: Just doesn't appeal to me.
  • Herding: Have had Boost on goats/sheep a few times. It is a complete blast watching the instincts guide her. If I had a lot more time and money, I'd probably pursue this just because of that. But--can't do it in my yard, not even in my city--too urban, there's just nowhere available! 
The mentally challenging part of agility is important for me; every course is different, so you're designing strategies during the walkthrough even for numbered courses. And the execution is done with your partner moving at 5 yards per second and you have to adjust on the fly as Things Happen. 

And one big thing: even after all these years, when I walk up and see an agility course with its brilliantly painted equipment in glowing rainbow colors spread out across the bright green lawn, it gives me the same Disneyland thrill and awe that hit me the first time that i ever saw an agility course, that night at Power Paws when I drove up to see what it was all about.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Antithistle Crusaders Strike Again

SUMMARY: What I do on nonagility weekends, number 33.

The native grasses in California were predominantly perennial bunch grasses, which were less inclined to flame on. Today, hillsides and meadows everywhere are predominantly tall, dry, highly flammable annual grasses such as oats and foxtails. Various groups make heroic efforts to try to preserve some of the few remaining bunch grass meadows. One effort is in yanking out the nasty invasive yellow star thistle from Los Trancos Open Space Preserve.

I've heard about these efforts for years but never tried it before; this year, I volunteered for the project and, so, got up to the alarm at 7:30 on this Saturday. OK, sure, that's better than 4:30 for dog agility, but the operative phrase here is "got up to the alarm." Bleaaaahhrrrr.

Dogs were excited, though, because 98% of the time when I get up to the alarm, it means DOG AGILITY YAYYYYY!!!! My goal was to be out the door by 8:30, showered, dressed, breakfasted, with lunch and supplies in hand. And, according to the official Taj MuttHall clock, yay!, I made it!

Had my official TMH purple leather gloves, knee pads, and my official Salinas/Monterey Agility Racing Team water bottle ready to go, so it would be almost exactly like being at an agility trial, at least as far as water bottles are concerned.

Dogs drooped miserably when I left them at home. Poor babies. But thistle would not go well with dogulouses.

...But wait--! MUTT MVR's official clock says that is is 8:41! Where did those 10 minutes vanish?

Ha ha, I always set MUTT MVR's clock ahead by 5 to 10 minutes to help me make sure to get places on time. Maybe it works. There have been no scientific studies to prove it.

I get to the open space place on time after just under an hour's drive, and we spend nearly 4 hours pulling the nasty stuff.

Now I'm home, dogs inform me that they're bored, I have photos photos photos backlogged everywhere plus am a little sleepy from getting up to the alarm bleaaaahrrrrr. So if you'd like to see more photos (about 20 total) and commentary, you will have to pop over here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

OK, Last Videos from Last Weekend, plus Standard Analysis

SUMMARY: Three Masters Standard runs: Compare and contrast.

This course was not a gimmee. From my point of view, the toughest parts were 5 to 9, 10 to 15, and 16 to 18. Hmm, that's pretty much the whole course, eh? But I divide them like that because they really presented 3 major handling issues.

From 5 to 9. Coming off the Aframe, the dog's path over #6 is toward the dogwalk, so they have to change leads to get to #7, so now they're heading for the tunnel, and now have to change leads again to get over 8 and to the dogwalk.

You could try a front cross between 6 and 7 if you could leave your dog on the Aframe and trust her to get the contact. But it's a lonnnnng way to go to get to the correct position; you need to be out beyond the North/South 80 line to have a straight line in your path from 7 to 8. So, to cover that huge distance, you're driving towards the dogwalk, which pushes the dog even harder in that direction when what you really want is for them to be turning tightly to get to #7. Some people managed it, but not many even tried.

Most of us sent to #6, hanging back so that we could run in a straight line from near the corner of the Aframe directly towards the far wing of #8, giving perhaps a bit of a serpentine cue for #7. Then rear cross 8 to get a turn to the dogwalk.

10 to 15. Here, you have to ensure that the dog goes through the tire on her way to the chute, which is a Northward push. In an ideal world, you'd like to be on the inside of the curve from 11 to 15, which means that you'd have to be in front cross position on the far side of #12 (around the 40N line) before the dog is coming out of the chute; if you're not far enough, you'll have to veer out around #12 , pulling the dog off #13.

But getting to that position is really tough given the push to #10 and the dog's speed from 10 through 11. You'd have to cover 40 feet in about 2-3 seconds--I'm not that fast! Most people with faster dogs opted, instead, to stay on the Aframe side of #12, give a serpentine cue, and rear cross 13.

16 to 18. The line from the table to the weaves is not straight. If you can leave your dog on the table while the judge is counting down 5 seconds, you could get into front cross position between 17 and 18 and get a nice smooth controlled path into the weaves.

You could also get into serp position on the Aframe side of #17. I think that either of these, if done right, would get the smoothest entry into the weaves.

Boost I don't trust to keep her elbows on the table. Tika might be OK, but I'd have to watch her carefully and not make an sudden moves or gestures or she'd be off the table in a flash. I elected instead to stay on the teeter side of #17, pull as if we were going to #14 until the dog was in line with the weave entry, and then use "left weave". Both dogs executed well, but I think it's a slower entrance than the preceding choices because it's not as obviously a semistraight line to the dogs.

Tika's Run

Tika's time was 43.75 on a standard course time of 54. We lost some time when I didn't get my line from 6 to 8 quite right and she turned the wrong way after 8. Still, it was good for 2rd place out of nine P3 22" dogs--the winner was 3 seconds faster.(3-Dog Video versions.)

Boost's Run

Boost's time was 39.96 (4 secs faster than Tika) with a SCT of 51. I expect her to be faster than Tika--in fact I expect her to be MUCH faster, so with Tika's wrong turn, their times are really disturbingly quite close to each other. The main thing with Boost is the stop on the contacts, which I'm not ready to sacrifice for glory in most cases. Not interested in Top Ten points particularly (except for fun). (3-Dog Video versions.)

Gina's Run

I include this with running contacts for comparison with littermate Boost. Tim has worked very hard on consistency; there was a long time where they weren't making a lot of contacts, but this weekend they were gorgeous. Now they just need to fix the bar-knocking thing. (Sound familiar?) And Gina moves through the course with a bit more confidence than Boost, it seems to me. Her time was an amazing 34.2ish, faster than ANY other masters or p3 dog, including Luka (in the same range) and the fabulous Sweep (36-plus). I love watching them run. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obstacle Times

SUMMARY: Are we competitive? Are we excellent? Or are we just dawdling along?

Kathy Keats has did a lot of work over several years accruing statistics on how quickly dogs do various agility obstacles. She was one of the first to start treating agility as a professional sport, where details like exactly how fast your weaves are or how quickly you cover ground is extremely important competitive information.

The latest post that I've seen of her data goes back to 2004; I've tried Googling for more recent info and haven't found any. Anyone seen anything more recent?

AGILEDOGS Digest - 23 Aug 2004 - Special issue (#2004-679)

From Kathy Keats

These have changed quite a bit in the last year or so...now:

Respectable 2.5
Competitive Less than 1.8
Excellent 1.3

Dog Walk
Respectable 3.0
Competitive Less than 2.2
Excellent 1.6 (fastest big dogs are pushing 1.4)

Respectable 2.0
Competitive Less than 1.5
Excellent 1.0 (big dogs only)

Weaves - a lot of people think that weaving is faster than it is. In
the 60 weave pole challenge dogs are going just over 12 seconds for 5
sets of poles. 12 seconds divided by 5 is 2.4. Although you can argue
the dogs slow down as they get tired, even a dog weaving at 11 seconds
which no one has come near yet is only going 2.2 seconds per set. The
first 3 poles of a set requires the dog to slow a tiny bit and get his
Respectable 3.5 to 4.0
Competitive Less than 3.0
Excellent Less than 2.5

Taj MuttHall times

I'm operating off the videos with a stopwatch, rather than working in real life with electronic timers, so it's hard to know how valid these numbers are. Here's how I timed them:

Contacts: From first paw hitting the obstacle to first paw on the ground on the other side.

Weaves: Head past first pole to head past last pole.

I thought that Boost's contact obstacles were significantly faster than Tika's; in execution, to my great surprise, they're very close on the Aframe and the Dogwalk because Boost runs up from the bottom and down to the end while Tika flies onto the up ramp and leaps off the down ramp in her "modified running contact." The main differences are the teeter and the weaves.

Here's what I got:

Aframe: 1.6 seconds
Dogwalk: 2.4 seconds
Teeter: 1.3 seconds
Weaves: 3.3 seconds

Aframe: 1.55 seconds
Dogwalk: 2.4 seconds
Teeter: 1.18 seconds
Weaves: 2.5 seconds

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Videos Videos Videos! GP and Pairs

SUMMARY: Grand Prix and Pairs Relay vids.

OK, trying something different for these videos from this weekend, rather than directing you to the 3-Dog Video site. These are all lower-resolution MP4 vids, displayed larger than their actual size so they're sort of grainy. You can click the 3-dog video link to have your option (like the prior day's vids) of which size/resolution to play.

I was able to purchase these videos on an introductory special price. Can't do it every weekend, but it was nice to get some for a change.

For discussions of these runs, see Saturday's and Sunday's posts.

Grand Prix

Grand Prix Boost
See the Dread Border Collie Spin in two places, one for a runout 5-point fault. But the rest is nice. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Grand Prix Tika
See her try very hard in 2 places to take the off-course obstacle but come back to me thank goodness gracious. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Pairs Relay

Tika goes to investigate the judge and gets a runout. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Boost pops weaves, knocks bar, and skips a jump. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Boost Steeplechase Round 2 Video

SUMMARY: Thanks, 3 Dog Video!

Here is Boost, just two steps to the right from taking home a big Steeplechase purse. :-)

Between the first jump and the tunnel there is another jump; you can see that she is NOT jumping between there. Really, the jump was almost in her way (I lined her up deliberately pointing at it and not at the tunnel) and it wasn't very much of a lead-out pivot at all, but dang she didn't get it. Rest of the run is lovely, though.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Boost Steeplechase Video

SUMMARY: 3-Dog Video comes through again, thanks Steve.

Boost's Round 1 Steeplechase video. Same deal as Tika's; pick the resolution at the top (when you click the play arrow).

Boost's run was 5.46 seconds slower than the winning dog that round. I've used my stopwatch to figure out some differences; held her on the two Aframes for a total of somewhere around 1.5 seconds; the place nearing the end where she slows down to look back at me, turns back to me, spins, and then finally gets going again is at least 3 seconds.

Running contacts, I tell ya-- plus a dog who'll just keep taking obstacles in front of her!--would be handy.

And here's the course map:

Tika's Saturday Steeplechase Video

SUMMARY: viewing online

Here's video of Tika's Steeplechase (Performance) run on Saturday. There are links at the top so that you can see it in whatever definition your computer will handle, from smallest (web) to high def.

You can see where I sent her offcourse: After the first aframe, the next two jumps are incorrect--I clap my hands in a little frustration realizing that I blew it and then deciding to go on with the correct sequence. The rest of the course is correct, although after the wrong jump, Tika's flow is bad briefly because she's not coming from where she should've been coming from.

Her course time WITH the extra jump and veering out of line there is STILL well within qualifying time, so she was hauling. In fact, looks to me that it's actually even within *Championship* qualifying time. Sighhhhh such a nice run--

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yessirree I Have Agility Dogs

SUMMARY: Another fine weekend, all in all.

The drive back down to Carmel started the day nicely with entertainment from Mother Nature. The sunrise took various forms and colors and I captured only some of them.

It's interesting, driving through a sunny morning and yet being able to see that you're about to drive into a fog bank in the next low-lying area.

Then, suddenly, you're in the fog. And fog is seldom more entrancing than when it's wrapping around some of the distinctive Monterey trees.

Several of us volunteered to wear leis to be the "ambassadors" who could answer anyone's questions, whether Starters folks trying to understand Snooker or Members Of The Public with questions. I got one to match my tie-dye.

We started the day with Snooker with a deceptively devious course. I thought that I could easily get Tika through a six and two fives, but this course required precision handling every step of the way and not many of us were up to it; not a lot qualified, and considering that there were 4 reds, only maybe 3 or 4 out of 120 dogs got more than 50 points. We made it through 6 and 5--barely--and then Tika took a bonus red at the wrong time and we were out.

Boost I had figured on 3 sevens; acutally I liked the flow better than Tika's course, but it covered a lot more ground and I didn't believe that Tika had the speed for it, whereas Boost does. We in fact got through the three 7s in the opening very nicely, with just a couple of occurrences of "this jump?" dancing around, which cost us time. But then I managed to NOT handle the #2 in the closing the way I had walked it, got in Boost's way, and she knocked the bar, and we were done. We *might* have had enough time left to finish the closing after our opening bobbles, but it would've been close.

So no Snooker Qs again.

Tika qualified in Performance Grand Prix *again* and *again* took 2nd place, not the lovely 1st that would earn us a bye into round 2 at the regionals in september. Explain me this, that tika can continually win steeplechase against the same dogs that she can't beat in Grand Prix? Argh. I shouldn't be complaining about Qing OR about placing 2nd in GP, but still...

And Tika had a lovely Standard run, getting enough toes into the contact zones to convince the judge that they were legal, although I miscued something and she turned in completely the wrong direction, losing several seconds to get her back on track. Don't know whether the correct execution would have gotten us the win; she Qed and came in 2nd there, too (to the same dog who beat her in Grand Prix) by a big gap of 3 and a half seconds.

Boost's Grand Prix was SO close to being lovely, but an ominous thing happened--instead of doing the "refusal dance" at 2 jumps ("this one? this one? really?"), she did the dread Border Collie full-speed spin! Ack! Not a good sign; don't want her to start spinning--it's a terrible habit for the dog to get into. But it's a sign of not getting the right info fast enough. Still--it really was SO close to being lovely! And we got called for only 1 refusal, so it was SO close to being an actual Q!

Boost's Standard run was scheduled near the very end of the 120-or-so masters dogs, and that class was still getting going while *everything* else, including my score table job, finished and the courses cleared away and packed. I really didn't want to wait for an hour or more for Boost's run and have it be another mess or something that would reinforce those ugly spins.

But... well, I waited. And I'm so glad I did, because Boost ran PERFECTLY! Stayed at the start line, went over jumps in front of her, hit all her contacts, made her weave entry and stayed in to the end--oh, it was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, like a run with a fast dog like her SHOULD be!

I could tell in a couple of places that she slowed slightly, not showing a CONFIDENT drive forward, but still DID go forward, even responded correctly to TWO rear crosses AND a serpentine... I mean, really, it was beautiful, and I have no complaints whatsoever; it's quite a breakthrough for her, and I don't expect her to be as confident and driven through a difficult course (only 8 of 38 dogs in her group Qed) as some other dogs, so for her at this time it was a spot-on, flawless run.

I am still floating.

Furthermore, she was fast enough to place 3rd of those 38 dogs! She's never earned Top Ten points before, ever, and this weekend she did it in TWO classes (Gamblers yesterday and Standard today). Wooty woot!

Now, it's not like she was really super-fast--just fast enough. Her time was 39.96, only about 4 yards per second. The 1st place time was 38.73, which makes her look pretty good--until you realize that dogs like Sweep [Basic] had a time of 36-something (although with a contact called), and Boost's sister Gina had an absolutely drop-dead astounding time of 34-something (although slammed through two jump bars).

So we can just keep doing what we've been doing, I guess, and her confidence will build, and so will her speed, and then I can also start releasing her very quickly on her contacts (if I want to go for placements)--note that Gina has glorious full-out running contacts and Boost stops at the bottom of each one. That alone makes quite a difference.

On the way home, traffic came to almost a complete stop much sooner than it had yesterday evening. Grumble grumble.

Gave me a chance to roll down the window and admire strawberry fields forever.

After taking 20 minutes to go half a mile, I looked at the map and saw an alternate route that took me a few miles out of my way, but at least I drove at the speed limit the whole way. Back on the main highway 101, traffic was at only about half speed through Prunedale and beyond, but finally picked up to near speed limit.

Today, my 1 hr/15 minute morning drive turned into a 2-hour evening drive home. Gahhhh.

But here we are, I'm happy, dogs did quite well again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cool Things

SUMMARY: Day 1 of USDAA agility.

It was 100 at my house in San Jose again today, per the renter--but we didn't care! It was cool and breezy in Carmel at Quail Lodge! Day started a bit foggy but cleared up quickly.

The site is really lovely--I have never seen a more perfect lawn in all my decades of existence. Denser and more even than some carpeting I've encountered in my day! We'll see how it holds up to two days of a 3-ring agility trial.

The Quail Lodge folks turned this into a major production; they promote their dog-friendliness and their high-quality event capabilities. Man, they really did everything up in amazing detail! Instead of stickers printed at home with the work "Lunch" for workers, they handed out these amazing laminated cards. All their work was like that. Hamburgers at lunch were excellent, with tons of fresh add-ons (lettuce, tomato, etc.)

The only thing about the site was that, even though the rings were arranged in a square, it seemed like I was doing a ton more walking than usual. At 9:00, I already had over 3 miles on my pedometer. Right now (end of day), 9.7 miles.

Of course there were the occasional mandatory adorable Boxer puppy experiences.

I worked at the score table (as usual) most of the day. Erika did, too. She claims that I'm dangerous with a camera.

We're now using whiteboards at each ring to schedule workers on the fly (prescheduled workers filled in, then replaced as needed as the day goes on).

The day started well, with both dogs Qing in Gamblers. Tika won hers and had the 2nd highest score of 43 Performance dogs all heights.

Here's the cool thing: Boost placed 6th of 45 dogs in her height class; her littermate Gina placed 2nd, and her littermate Beck placed 5th. Is that cool, or what?

Also, Boost qualified in Steeplechase with a lovely clean run--only one turn back to me before the final jump. That's only her 3rd Steeplechase Q in her 3 years of competing, and two of them have been this summer already. I like that trend.

Tika ran her Steeplechase perfectly; the problem was that *I* didn't, having a brain hiccup halfway through the course where I put her over an extra jump that wasn't actually part of the course. Sighhhhhh--

Things mostly deteriorated from there. Boost's Standard run was also lovely except for a serpentine move that I botched so that she both knocked the bar and missed the following jump. Tika's Standard run was lovely except that--shortly after a conversation with friends about how Tika doesn't do 2 on/2 off but most of the time gets her contacts--she FLEW off the aframe despite me plowing in front of her to try to prevent it.

Boost's Round 2 of Steeplechase was a thing of absolute beauty; her time was only a second slower that the winning dog, half a second slower than 2nd place...hold that thought... The course had 2 Aframes and I decided to release her quickly For Greater Glory and then worry later about about repairing what would likely be the ensuing damage to contacts that have been almost rock solid the last two weekends.

Learning experience #1: Release early on the first Aframe, and that's all it takes for the Border Collie to not bother doing 2o/2o on the 2nd aframe! (Got feet in yellow but no bothering to stop at the bottom.)

Learning experience #2--on a teeny weeny lead-out pivot, I didn't give her enough info, I guess, because she ran NEXT to the 2nd jump instead of going over it. No point in going back and fixing it, because it's all about the speed, so we just blasted through the rest of the course and it was SOOOOOOO lovely! I really like the trend of her running instead of waiting for me (still doing it, but not quite as disastrously), and mostly keeping her bars up.

Pairs relay: Boost's partner needed the Q for her bronze title and ran clean. Boost popped out of the weaves, knocked a bar, and ran past the next to the last jump for an offcourse. I felt bad about that.

Tika was paired with a pretty slow dog, perhaps in the hopes that Tika's speed and reliability would get her a Q. And the other dog was SLOOWWW... never more than a walk or trot. Tika started out great, but then there was this big wide turn that I didn't worry about because there was NOTHING out in that part of the field that she could go off course on. Except, when we came around the turn, there was a JUDGE out in that big empty spot, and Tika went over to see what was going on, wasting time AND going past the next jump for an additional 5-second penalty.

Tika never does this. I can't EVER remember her paying any attention to the judge, even in her crazy novice days. The result: Our team missed qualifying by 5 and a fraction seconds. Arghhhh!

Jumpers: Tika helped me finish the day not feeling too badly as she earned one more 26" Jumpers Q! Huzzah! One more to go to 25. Only 4.5 seconds slower than the Amazing Icon, World Team member, which is pretty good I'm thinkin'.

Boost's Jumpers was more of a mess, back to looking at me instead of at obstacles, so she crashed the upright of a triple, ran past 2 jumps, knocked 3 bars--back to the old-style Boost for the last 2 runs of the day.

Drive home had some traffic, so the 5:00 AM drive of 1 hr and 15 minutes turned into an afternoon drive of 1 hr 30 minutes, but stopped only in this one merging section and mostly not awful.

OMG, look at the time. Off to bed, then another early day at cool Carmel while San Jose swelters some more!

A Brief Moment of Fame

SUMMARY: Remington's cast revisited--

Remington made animal-in-a-cast Of The Day for July 14.

Friday, July 17, 2009

We're Ready

SUMMARY: Friday night thoughts for the weekend.

It was still 88F outside at 7:00 Friday evening. Strawberries & whipped cream for dinner.

Reports from early arrivals at the trial site, Quail Lodge in Carmel, report that the site is gorgeous and the temp was 65 and slighty foggy. Awesome.

Both dogs did some bar-knocking drills and some serpentine drills. Too hot to do much else, or for very long.

Tika seems fine in most respects today, except that certain things make her yelp. :-( Still, she's running full out, jumping cleanly, tugging of war in her most fervent manner. More rimadyl, more massaging.

My showerhead just broke. Aughhh! In a heat wave on a friday night before an agility weekend! Sheesh. I have a hand-held sprayer alternative, but I have just learned that one must be coordinated to avoid continually spraying oneself in the face. Sputttppfff!

Tomorrow: Gamblers, Standard, Jumpers (both dogs need Qs! Really!), Steeplechase round 1 and 2, and Pairs.

Sunday: Snooker, Grand Prix, and Standard. And home early? One can dream.

It's 8 p.m. as I write this, and I need to be in bed *now* for that 4 a.m. arising. It will be to *#&@ hot for me to get to sleep right now. I would be lying there, oozing sweat into my sheets. Eh, sleep is overrated.

Boost's ears occasionally start to stand up, giving her a puppyish charm. Never lasts long. Maybe the heat makes them rise.

Training Progress

SUMMARY: As usual, some things get better and some get worse.

Yesterday morning, we went for a long walk, played frisbee in the park, and did our usual chase-the-toy games in the yard. More of the same in the late afternoon, with some running/jumping exercises.

Because we're doing USDAA this weekend, and because Tika needs Jumpers legs #24 and #25 at 26" (while everything else she's in is a Performance 22"), she ran last night in class mostly at 26". I warmed her up pretty good, got her pretty excited. We've been doing the same bar-knocking drills as for Boost, and she's been just about perfect. Last night in class, she knocked several bars and seemed slow to me (but maybe that's in comparison to Boost).

We got home, had dinner, relaxed a bit--and when I got out the prunes for their evening treats, she grabbed one, hunched over, and exited rapidly upstairs to the bedroom. Zounds! (a) Tika never leaves the vicinity of food except in dire straits. (b) the sign of not feeling well or being in pain is beelining for the bedroom.

So she got some rimadyl and a nice massage.

As for Boost, who desperately needs Jumpers leg #1 (!!! still !!!), she knocked bars but not so badly (I know, I know, a knocked bar is a knocked bar), BUT (a) instructor said, wow, she's really working to avoid knocking them, and they're mostly because you're talking to her when she's right on top of the obstacle, and she didn't knock any with her hock (which was the main perceived "lazy" problem); and (b) she was really running, not doing runouts and refusals while looking at me the whole time, continuing the trend from last weekend's trial.

Our biggest remaining runout issue is coming in to me on *#&@ serpentines! Back to work on those, too.

This weekend: Should be near 90s in San Jose. Should be near mid-70s at the coast in Carmel, which is where the trial is. Whew! It's a 75-minute drive (per mapquest; I've never been there before), and I'm going to hoof it home overnight rather than spending the night there. So: Up at 4 a.m. or thereabouts once again Saturday morning, an hour later Sunday.

Better pack! And get some real work in! And one final bar-knocking practice!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It Was Like a Fairy Tale Come True

SUMMARY: ...except the magic was the power of space flight and each hero's success was in coming back alive.

When I was born, no manmade object--let alone a human--had ever gone up into space. It wasn't until I was nearly two that the first satellite, Russia's Sputnik, woke the world to the realization that we had crossed a threshold: Before, we were a species locked to the ground, to a single planet, with the universe beyond our thin layer of atmosphere forbidden to us. And then, now, we stepped into a reality in which Infinity and Beyond were suddenly within our reach.

(Telstar was about the size of one of those inflatable exercise balls--34 inches across. Wikipedia photo source.)

My first recollections of our conquest of The Darkness Beyond were twofold: First, standing in the darkened driveway of our apartment complex with my parents and the neighbors, standing, eager, waiting, eyes heavenward, straining to see the tiny speck of light of Telstar on its scheduled pass across the heavens. I was six, and I knew from the excitement around me that something magical had happened.

(Wikipedia photo source.)
And, second, we knew all about the Mercury capsules, tiny tin cans barely big enough for a human, barely popping into space and dropping back to the sea, whence they were plucked by helicopter from the waters and deposited on the deck of a military vessel nearby. These were always suspenseful--would they burn up on reentry? Would they find that tiny speck in the ocean? The first American into space reached that goal for a mere 15 minutes the year I turned 5. Nine months later, the first American ever--and almost the first human ever--orbited Earth...a mere 3 times over a four-hour period. We must have seen these on TV (we had a TV in our house by then), because when my parents gifted me with a tiny plastic Mercury space capsule and bright orange helicopter with a skyhook dangling from a string, I knew all about how they were used. I loved that toy.(Wikimedia image source.)

This was my world as a child: Space travel was a miracle and our first steps into space were tiny, halting, fragile, risky things.

We watched every rocket launch on TV--and every one played out on TV for hours, broadcast live. We watched the countdown-- "T minus two hours and counting" said the man in the background--and sometimes you could see activity on the ground or watch the astronaut (with Gemini, two astronauts; with Apollo, finally, three) make his way into the tiny capsule. "T minus 10 seconds...9...8...7..." and I'd feel my heart rise with the rocket as it ponderously rose, ever so slowly, amazingly slowly for the tremendous power and fury of the fires and smoke erupting from its base, finally, magically, into the air, and the cameras watched it, the light of its rocket flickering, flickering, growing ever smaller, until it was out of sight.

A miracle. Every flight had simulations broadcast so that you could see what the rocket stages were doing as they separated, how the capsule maneuvered in space. And then, always at the end, that terrifying, burning, racing plunge into the sea, with no control; they dropped from orbit and fell, a flaming stone, through the atmosphere to the water below.

Forty years ago today--I was thirteen--men walked on the moon. Everyone talked about it. Everyone watched the broadcasts coming back live--Live!--from another planet. Astounding, just...astounding. The solar system now seemed within our reach, it felt like there was nowhere we couldn't go, places we couldn't explore, resources we couldn't find: Now--we could do it all! And yet, for all that we could land on the moon under control, and leave its surface again, back home to Earth and there was still that uncontrolled plummet to the vast, cold sea. (Wikipedia image source.)

I was fully an adult--out of college, married, owned my first home and then my second, before that changed. We watched the launch of the first space shuttle on TV, all of us, waiting to see whether it would even fly. And then, two days later, the suspenseful time as it descended from orbit back through the atmosphere and those dreadful minutes of silence where communication was impossible--

And, by all the Gods, it came through! We might have cheered when we heard the astronaut's voices as radio contact was reestablished. And then we waited with bated breath, begging silently, fists clenched, waiting to see whether it was possible for it to actually land again, under control, on the ground, safely and predictably. Then Lo!, it did! And I cried from the joy of it.

(Wikipedia photo source)

Not long after that, as we who remembered how it had been sat around the TV for yet another blast-off, still as astounding as it had always been, my youngest sister (9 years younger), wandered into the living room, said, "Oh, another rocket launch," and wandered out again. And that was the first I truly realized that the magic of it all was lost to those who hadn't grown up with it, for whom space flight was a matter of fact, shuttles landing under a pilot's control an everyday occurrence.

I hope that, within my lifetime, we will find the magic again and find our way out to our moon, our neighboring planets, and their moons. Because it seems so sad that we should be imprisoned here, on a single planet, our little castle with nowhere to go if it should burn, when we have had the magic in our hands and shown that we could use it. I hope.

Bloomin' Yard

SUMMARY: If you like flower photos, this is for you.

I tried to do a complete inventory of everything blooming in my yard on June 15 (oops, didn't get to it until the 27th) and today, July 15.

Browse the photos, with very brief comments, here for June, here for July.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hot and Stuff

SUMMARY: Heat, hammers, walkies, training.

I've carried a hammer in my car since forever. Comes in handy at every agility trial for pounding in canopy stakes and pulling them out afterward. After our June CPE trial, my hammer vanished. Looked everywhere I could think of. I'm half convinced that, someday, I'll open some box or bag or whatever and there it'll be, tucked absent-mindedly away for transport back to the van from where I was set up. Meanwhile--gots no hammer in MUTT MVR.

Dropped in to Orchard Supply & Hardware today to pick up another one. I mean, how much could a hammer cost, anyway. Twenty bucks! For a basic, reasonably heavy, wood-handled claw hammer! Sheesh! Bought it anyway.

It's been hot again, up in the high 90s (32C+) & low 100s (38+). No A/C in this house. Last couple of nights it hasn't cooled down overnight; tonight it's doing better. At 6 this evening, I got up to go out to the yard with the dogs; Tika would have none of it. Did she want to stay inside? No! She wanted to go for a walk! Straight out to the front hall, eager, prancing, bright-eyed. Wouldn't come out to the yard, wanted a Walk. So we went for about a 2-mile walk. It was danged still hot, and humid, too (not compared to some places in this country, but still--), and I was very hot when we got home.

Have been working on some of the jumping drills for Boost and, what the heck, Tika, too. They're both doing very well.

USDAA trial this weekend, and Tika has to jump 26" in just the Jumpers class. Only 2 more Jumpers legs to ADCH-Silver. Everything else at 22" performance.

Hope it's cooler this weekend! Site is closer to the ocean, so often is cooler than here in the summer-miserable San Jose desert.

Time to go to bed and practice sweating all over the sheets. Ta.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Heart My Dog Heads and Fruit

SUMMARY: All the misappropriated lyrics you could want at K-TMH, plus fruit news.

Remember when you used to see "I heart my dog head" on everything? Yeah, like this notepad, which I got because at the time I had a Siberian Husky a long long time ago, like, she's been dead for 12 years, which shows you how long a fad pad can last: Even today, when I'm expressing affection for my dogs, I say "I heart my dog heads!" It's such a catchy phrase.

And with that comes today's song, developed after many long seconds out in the yard playing tunnel/fetch, sung to the tune of "Fish Heads":
Dog heads, dog heads, Fluffy woofy dog heads,
Dog heads, dog heads, I heart them!

In the morning, happy waggy dog heads.
In the evening, dog hair in my soup!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

Ask your dog head anything you want to
When they answer, they will bark!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

Sent my dog heads out to do a tunnel
Didn't have to yell to get them in!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

OK, but enough of operatic tension; it's time for a non sequitur, so let's talk about fruit. Jake was the consummate fruit dog, if I may make a tiny pun; would do anything to get a banana; ate figs until he'd put on about 15-20% of additional weight within a few short weeks; pigged out on apples faster than I could pick up the fallen ones daily; even ate oranges from time to time. He particularly used to eat plums until he had pretty much a steady stream going in one end and out the other, if you know what I mean. Wish Tika would eat more plums, because her anal glands have gone bad a couple of times (May 2007, July 2008), and one simple advice was to feed her 3 prunes a couple of times a week or daily or whenever I remember. Have been doing that--she likes prunes--and so far, so good.

Neither of my current dogs seem interested in oranges, apples, or plums, but they are apparently into pears. I have been finding pear stems lying in the oddest places in the house; apparently, they are not an edible part. Here's the culprit, nibbling off the last minuscule portions of actual fruit:
Tika apparently likes them enough to not merely wait for some to fall to the ground (or disdains those because they're now soiled--after all, who knows what those other dogs have been doing on the ground around that tree), but leaps at the tree to pull fresh ones off. Sadly I have not been able to get to a camera fast enough to record this.
This year, the usually profuse plums were small and nonprofuse; usually we make at least a couple of batches of plum sorbet, but not this year. We rescued barely enough to eat a few a day for a couple of weeks, and that's it. Hardly any went into the compost pile.

The blackberries were disappointing, too. Again, normally I haul in a quart or two a day during the time that they're ripe, but this year the beast depredation was awful, the berries were small and sparse, and a lot of them ripened oddly--half ripe and the other half not ripe, staying red and hard and tart. Very disappointing; I think I had enough for about 4 bowls of morning cereal, and that was it. No blackberry ice cream or sorbet this year, either. Sighhhh

However, the lemon tree, which last year had few, teeny, dry lemons, this year is back to its profusity, as are the orange trees. But check out this orange: Looks like someone neatly sliced a quarter out of it and grafted in part of a lemon, which grew right into place. I wonder if it's possible for a quarter of an orange blossom to be pollinated with lemon-tree pollen and produce this oddity? (I didn't cut it open to see what it was like inside.)

Meanwhile, I've been practicing the "find the obstacle" game. Play tug, take toy away, point body in general direction of the agility obstacle I want them to take, say name of obstacle, praise if they take the correct one. It seems to be very true that, for my dogs, "any noun will do" for whatever the nearest obstacle is. I need to do much much more of training by obstacle name.

And for now, farewell.