a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trick Dog Titles (Part 2)

SUMMARY: Obsessing about trick dog titles, because, why not?

What could we test out of right away?

Having downloaded the PDF file containing a list of possible tricks at each level (see previous post), here's where I think we stand.


Dog must be able to do 15 of these. I'd have to see the descriptions to know for sure, but here's what I think we could probably do:

3-2-1 let’s go! - Boost & Tika
back up - Tika (Boost learning)
beginning disc dog - Boost & Tika
come - Boost & Tika
doggy push-ups (not sure what this is)
down - Boost & Tika
drop it / give - Boost & Tika. Well--maybe Tika
fetch / take it - Boost & Tika
get your leash - Boost
hockey goalie
hoop jump - Boost & Tika
jump for joy
jump over a bar - Boost & Tika (well--maybe Boost--the dog who can't earn Jumpers Qs)
jump over my knee - probably Boost & Tika
kennel up (not sure what this is)
place (circle to my left side) - Tika (assuming this is "behind")
pull on a rope
shake hands—left and right - Tika; Boost just does left at the moment
side (swing to my left side) - Boost & Tika
sit - Boost & Tika
speak - Boost
spin circles - Boost & Tika
stay - Boost & Tika
take a bow - Would have to see a description; I've taught them "stretch" instead
touch a target - Boost & Tika
tunnel - Boost & Tika. I'm very confident about this one.
walk the dog (not sure what this is)

So-- that's 18 for Boost plus learning a couple, and 18 for Tika. OK, we could probably all be Novice Trick Dogs!


After earning novice, must do 5 from this list. Not entirely sure on many more of these descriptions. It would probably be worth going out and getting this book anyway.

balance and catch
carry my purse
discern objects names - Boost some
dog on point
easter egg hunt - depends on description. I can hide a treat in a room and tell each of Boost & Tika to go find it. So probably yes.
fetch my slippers
food refusal
head down
heel forward and backward
hide and seek
honk a bike horn
jump into my arms - Boost
jump through my arms
leg weave - Tika
mail carrier
newspaper delivery - Boost
paper-covered hoop
paws on my arm
pick a card from a deck
ring a bell to come inside
rollover - Boost & Tika
sit pretty / beg - Boost & Tika mostly learned
teeter-totter - Boost & Tika (yes, for sure)
under / over
wave goodbye
which hand holds the treat?

So maybe 5-6 for Boost, 4-5 for tika. Probably more when I see the descriptions.


This requires an additional 5 from this list:

act ashamed
baton jumping
chorus line kicks
climb a ladder
cover your eyes
directed jumping
directed retrieve
disc vault off my leg
disobedient dog—under the hoop
double hoop sequence
figure 8’s - Tika, Boost learning
find the remote / car keys
get the phone when it rings
go hide
jump over my back
my dog can count
play dead - Tika
play the piano
say your prayers - both Tika & Boost learning
through a hoop lying on the ground
turn off the light

One and two halves for Tika, two halves for boost.

Well, hrm, again, would have to see some of the descriptions, maybe we could do more, but clearly we need to work. Amber could do those things and also count, cover his eyes, and act ashamed. (He was, after all, my best trick dog so far.)


So much to do! Must have an additional 5 from this list:

bring me a beer from the fridge
bring me a tissue
contraband search
find the object with my scent
hoop jump over my back
jump rope
limp - Tika learning
open / close a door
pickpocket pooch
push a shopping cart
ring toss
roll a barrel
roll yourself in a blanket
rolling hoop dive
shell game
summersault / handstand vault
tidy up your toys - Boost
track a person’s scent trail
weave poles - Boost and Tika
world’s dumbest dog

We are so remiss! Time to get at it! Sorry, agility, we have new titles in mind, and these are things I think I can achieve without having to have perfect contacts or beautiful jumping styles!

Trick Dog Titles

SUMMARY: Why don't I think of these things?

Not only has this clever woman published a book of 101 dog tricks, but she has grouped them into 4 levels of difficulty and has associated Trick Dog titles with them! And for a mere fee, you, too, can register your dog, then (apparently for additional fees) get certificates with your dog's name proving that you've earned the titles.

You have to have witnesses sign a statement that they've read the trick description in the book so that they know how it's supposed to be performed, so you can't just say, yeah, I did it.

Plus now (for a fee) you can earn your trick dog instructor certificate, too!

Why do *I* not think of these things? Because the form for earning your titles is so inviting, and I am SO wanting to earn those titles. I am such a sucker--

Earn Your Trick Dog Title.

Quick Monterey Jaunt

SUMMARY: Photos photos photos

My sister called this morning and said, "We've decided to be spontaneous today!" and I said, "Cool, does that mean you're going to Monterey?"

She laaaaaughed, because of course they were going to Monterey. She asked how I knew. I said that's because that's what you always do when you're feeling spontaneous.

I grabbed my camera (she and her spouse are very patient with me) and we headed out. Scenery was beautiful, clouds were gorgeous, Monterey is always fun. Took a lot of photos, many related to dogs of course, and they're posted on my usual photo site with commentary.

To see them in a slide show, click the Slideshow button in the upper right when you go here:


Friday, February 26, 2010


SUMMARY: February 25 in south San Jose.

The rain is coming.

San Jose waits, the breath of spring from yesterday chased away by looming storm clouds. Spring has burst across the landscape, oblivious to mere human calendars claiming mid-winter, but today the fields of flowers must endure another reminder that it is, no matter how we'd wish it, still merely February.

The rain is coming.

Signs of spring have erupted in every direction. Tika's undercoat hangs off her like a llama's spring molt, and we think we should probably be combing all that out, but who has the time? Instead, we sweep and vacuum over and over and over. I'm sure that saves plenty of time.

The rain--is still coming. And it looks like it's bringing all its relatives, nieghbors, and facebook friends as well.


Last week, Mr. and Mrs. Mourning Dove moved into the pot on the top shelf of the alleged conservatory. I didn't check for Colonel Mustard or the lead pipe. We had none there last year, but the prior two years we hosted litter after litter of birdlets on that very same shelf. Mum watches me with her eternally surprised eye, sitting on a clutch of two eggs, sporting too much eye shadow as is her wont. Now, she huddles beneath the overhang, black eye watching the clouds ride in on the wind.

The heavy rain is coming.

We're sitting on the edge of the storm, patio spattered with drops. I rushed out an hour ago to mow the lawn after its day of drying out. That's the third week already this year it's needed mowing. This is not Minnesota. Didn't have time to trim around the dogwalk, although the dogs don't seem to mind. But the nesting bird does mean that, curses, once again I'm too late to hack away the huge winter overgrowth of the shrubs along the back fence--try it now, and I'm going to disturb someone's nursery for sure. Curses, curses, curses. Ruins the view, makes it harder to trim later.

Luckily, the Merle Girls and I got in a two-and-a-half mile walk with a friend this morning, scurrying before the darkening sky. Luckily, because the rain--the RAIN--is oh, so very here!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Truest Birthday Card

SUMMARY: At least, I hope it's true. Made me laugh, anyway.

(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

(Apologies to friends who DO have cute small dogs that they dress up and carry in their purses--your dogs are, of course,  cool, it's just that YOU are not ME.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dog Trip with No Dogs but Dog People

SUMMARY: John Nunes' funeral.
It was supposed to rain today. But, when I got up bright and early, they had taken the rain out of the forecast. Clouds still hovered and threatened occasionally, but for the most part it was a beautiful day. John must have friends in high places to turn the weather around for us.
I carpooled with two agility friends the hour and a half to Patterson out in the Central Valley. Many of the orchards (almonds, peaches, not sure what all is blooming at the moment) bloomed abundantly, looking almost like snowdrifts across acres and acres and even miles and miles of perfectly trimmed trees. This is mid-winter in California:

I think it's hard to write about funerals. You can't sum up a large life in an hour or two, although of course we have to try. Plus it seems more personal than, say, weddings. I didn't want to take photos of most things, feeling that it would be disrespectful or intrusive. But other things called out to be memorialized as part of my memories of John and I hoped that many of the people who couldn't attend could get a small piece of what we experienced through these very sparse photos.

The Catholic mass lasted a scant hour; didn't seem tedious to me, although I also don't know all the rituals and responses and songs that so many of the attendees knew, so it felt new. We arrived about 10 minutes before the service started, and the church  already overflowed with mourners. I sat just a few rows from the back and couldn't see most of what was happening up front, but I could hear just fine, and smell the incense.

I love bagpipes, and Stuart--spouse of another agility friend--turns out plays the bagpipes, so he piped John into and out of the church. Haunting and dramatic.

Don't know how many rows the church had, at least 20, with 16 people per row, plus a couple dozen standing because the pews simply had no more room. I guessed maybe 300 people. John was a well-known and well-liked man.

The program for the ceremony used a photo of John wearing dark blue jeans and a fine-lined blue and green plaid shirt. The gray-haired man in the pew directly in front of me wore blue pants of the same shade and a fine-lined blue and green plaid shirt. I kept wanting him to turn around and be John and prove that this was all a little mistake.

After the mass, we drove to the cemetery for a brief interment ceremony. Again, I didn't want to take personal or close-up photos, but I did want to show what a popular and honored man John was. Again, the crowd all around the ceremony was so dense that it was hard to see.

The cemetery itself touched me--just past Valentine's Day, heart balloons and red and white flowers festooned many of the graves of the recently departed.

Couldn't keep dry eyes through many parts of the day, but I nearly lost it when I saw his two spaniels there at graveside.  I think it's because dogs just don't understand, and I imagine their confusion in waiting for Human Dad to come home. Fortunately these two are accustomed to spending time with other people and will settle in happily at their new agility home(s). Everyone fawned over them and they loved the attention.

Leaving the cemetery, we drove back into town to the Masonic Hall for a generous meal. We were certain that they'd run out of food, but no, they were able to feed everyone plentifully--someone said, "It's because they knew John [and therefore the huge masses of people that were likely to appear]"--although there weren't enough seats for for quite the entire tremendous crowd. We had potatoes, green salad, tri-tip, beans, fruit salad, and desserts while chatting both with people we already knew and people we met with a common experience of having had John in our lives. While dining, the wonderful slide show of John's life (mostly his dog agility life) played and replayed on the wall at the end of the hall so we could remember him all over again. Thanks, Toni, for doing that. Agility people have so many talents.

The church didn't allow flowers at this time because it it is Lent, so I was told, so huge displays of flowers surrounded and covered the coffin at the cemetery, lined the walkway into the Masonic Hall, and surrounded the table covered with photos and mementos of John, including the Caninetarian of the Year award presented to him by the Bay Team two years ago.

I sat at a table with a gentleman who had grown up with John and who shared some stories from their youth. All of them, still living in or near the same small town where they were born. Many agility folks made the trip in, like us, many from around the Bay Area and coast with an hour and a half to 2 hours drive out there. Hard to say how many agility friends attended, there was such a crowd and we could easily get lost in it. I'd guess 30 or more people I recognized and their significant others, and more who also  were involved in agility whom I didn't know before. And everyone wearing black, something most of us would never dare to attempt in our normal lives due to, yes, dog hair.

Midafternoon, we headed home again. The fresh winter-spring green of the hillsides glowed an amazing green as the sun touched it from behind the clouds, a nearly unbelievable green. Couldn't have had a more beautiful setting surrounding us to remember our last time with John. But--we felt a bit like we were staring out at the default background for Windows XP.
So--is it live, or is it Windows X(p)?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life Outside the Agility Lane

SUMMARY: Walking, photos, funeral--

I've started a standing date [well--I guess a standing walking date] with a friend to go for a bit of a walk-hike Friday mornings to make sure I get out and move. The dogs go with us. These are for our own exercise, so we haven't been taking our nice cameras with us. Today we walked along the Los Alamitos Creek Trail--another one of our urban trails that meanders in a more-or-less natural setting alongside a creek, with houses and businesses lurking unobtrusively on either side.

It was a fantastic section of trail, and only about 5 minutes from my house. Wildflowers are starting to come out everywhere; birdhouses of various sizes are placed strategically all among the trees. We saw tons of birds of many varieties, up to a great blue heron soaring past. Talked for a bit with a photographer with his tripod set-up, poised to snap woodpecker photos, and we had a nice chat about birds and nature and all that. I am going to have to go back with my camera. In my copious spare time. Since I don't take nearly enough photos already. [Riiiiight--]

I missed my 52 weeks for dogs photo last week. Today, with help of aforementioned friend, I went into the yard with Tika and the camera specifically to get this shot:

This was about the middle shot of 30 I took from different angles while the friend baited Tika's attention with treats. I rather like this. BUT a little bit earlier, I was able to snap a whole bunch of "ready" photos of Tika while the renter baited her attention with her Jolly Ball, and I decided that it would be more likely that I could reproduce the ear photo at some later date than the nice ready pose. [Rule is that the photo must be taken & posted in the same week.]

Good thing we got in some photos and exercise today (also did some agility late this afternoon) because tomorrow I'll be gone likely all day to John Nunes' funeral. I expect to see quite a few other agility folks there, but he also has a huge extended family that I've never met, and from all accounts they're all as wonderful as he is. Was. Argh.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sometimes I Think I've Had It With Agility

SUMMARY: A whining, self-pitying BUT post, move along now, nothing to see here, I doubt you'll want to read it.

I know that some weekends are better than others. I know that sometimes I'm better than at other times. And believe me after the heartbreaking news about John Nunes after this weekend, I know that there are so many more things in this world that are more important to me than Qs in agility competitions. And yet--but--

This last weekend was not among the best. Not the worst, by any means, but really, as the weekend wore on--23 runs all together--there was not one in which I wasn't disappointed with myself as a handler or as a trainer.

I could gripe about the very few incorrect things that Tika did and blame them on her, but in fact almost all were handling issues this time, and, really, flying off contacts is a training issue.

I acknowledge that her successes were also as a result of my skills as a trainer and a handler, and I know that we do better than many people, and I know that I should just be happy that she's healthy and happy and having a good time (and, believe me, I am happy on all those counts). But--I'm filled with BUTs.

And Boost is a beautiful happy dog who NEVER turns off to doing agility with all her heart and soul, and who loves me dearly, and I know that I should be happy about that (and, believe me, I am). And the fact that she qualified in Steeplechase despite a flaw or two, I know, I can attribute to my skills at training and handling. But--my BUTs just about overwhelmed me this last weekend.


  • Boost Pairs Relay: First run of the weekend, lovely, actually. For 10 whole obstacles on our half. We qualified (teammate had a brief flaw so we BARELY qualified, but at least it's a Q).
  • Tika Pairs Relay: Flew off the Aframe big time [contact training issue] so I made her Down and wait, and she thereby knocked the following bar when I released her. We BARELY qualified but at least it's a Q.
  • Boost Standard: Hit first pole in weaves so hard that she bounced and didn't bother collecting enough to make the turn into the second pole [weave  training], so faults plus time wasted. Knocked a bar [training and/or handling]. Slow down on table [training].
  • Tika Standard: Very fast and happy but WAY flew off the dogwalk. [contact training]
  • Boost Gamblers: In opening, left both Aframes w/out waiting for a release, so made her lie down both times [contact training], which meant that we were on the far side of the field when the whistle blew, so I basically sent her full-speed across the entire field to the jump-tunnel in the gamble, and she knocked the first bar,  [training and/or handling] so no Q although she did the whole gamble beautifully.
  • Tika Gamblers: Very happy and fast, but when I tried to do back-to-back Aframes, I took my eye off her and she ran *past* the second one instead of back up it, costing us 3 points and 1st place [handling]. So it was a Q and a 2nd and top ten points, but, dang it--
  • Boost Steeplechase: Pretty smooth and fast, actually, although she left the 2nd Aframe without waiting for a release, so I made her Down. [contact training]. Even with that delay, she was fast enough and smooth enough to qualify for round 2--by less than 2 seconds, barely.
  • Tika Steeplechase: Two Aframes. Very happy, pretty fast, I thought she had gotten toenails into both Aframe contacts, but the judge didn't think so. [contact training]. She was only .02 seconds slower than the first-place dog in her 22" class, but because there were too few dogs in 22", they combined us with the 16" border collies, whose times knocked us out of qualifying for round 2 because of the Aframe fault.
  • Boost Snooker: In opening, approaching weaves ahead of me, Boost turned back to me instead of going in [training gahhh!] so I ended up on wrong side of weaves from where I wanted to be, so when we exited I had to pull her past an incorrect obstacle but she ignored me and "Boost! Boost! Boost!" [training and/or handling] and that was it. Whistle off after 3 obstacles.
  • Tika Snooker: We had a great run going, but on the last of 4 reds in the opening, I forgot which way I wanted to turn and in my moment of lostness, put her right over an incorrect obstacle [handling], so whistled off. No Q, no top 10 points.
  • Boost Jumpers: Bars bars bars. [training] The run was actually fairly smooth, but, sigh, again no Q.
  • Tika Jumpers: Ran well after dark with OK but not great lighting. Missed some cues [handling] so very wide turns although generally smooth and comfortable. Lucky for us, other dogs were having more trouble with it than we were (I think it's the lighting) and we ended up with a 1st place. OK, happy about that, but you'd think my timing would be good by now. After 16 years of training and 200+ trials.
  • Sunday--

  • Boost Steeplechase Round 2: OMG what a disaster. [training mostly, maybe handling]. Well, we didn't "E", but that's mostly all I can say about it.
  • Tika Jumpers: I rather yelled as she was going over a jump and she knocked the bar.  [handling and probably some training] Otherwise smooth and happy, 2nd fastest time but this course was SO EASY that we were the ONLY 22" dog not to qualify! Argh!
  • Boost Jumpers: Two bars, including the first one, two runout attempts that I barely blocked, wide turns and calloffs--[handling, training, I dunno]
  • Tika Standard: On one 180-turn, I forgot how far out the 2nd jump was and pulled her past it for runout faults. [handling] Two very wide turns that were almost off courses when I didn't remember where I was going soon enough. She still was fast enough that she would've placed 3rd [of 13 dogs] if not for the fault. 
  • Boost Standard: Knocked a bar early. [Training] A major disaster on the table [apparently training--to give you a clue, our course time on this run was 76 seconds, compared to a Standard Course Time [max allowed] of 58 and a winning time of 43]. However, the closing sequence of 9 obstacles after the table flummoxed many handlers including some top ones whose dogs made wide turns or turned the wrong way etc--and Boost and I got through that sequence perfectly. I mean, PERFECTLY. I liked that. But still, would be nice to Q once in a while.
  • Tika Gamblers: I guess I got greedy in the opening after yesterday's mess. I knew that trying for one more Aframe might put us out of time, but I knew that tika was fast enough and good enough that we could still make it so worth trying even though there was a safer path. Except 1: The whistle blew as she jumped from the ground to the Aframe before she even hit it, so wasting about 3 of our 16 seconds. We STILL could have made it except 2: I left her on the Aframe and ran towards the gamble instead of collecting her, so she ran in the opposite direction at first. We STILL could have made it except that when I reversed myself and gathered her up, I proceeded to put her over the wrong lead-in jump to the gamble, so after the first gamble jump she didn't see the tunnel, so turned back to me, and I kept saying "through!" and she turned around, saw it, did the whole thing perfectly--but .98 seconds over time. [ALL handling crap, multiple times in one run]
  • Boost Gamblers: Didn't stick either Aframe in opening so made her down each time [training], so doing 2 dogwalks after that I held her for a long time on each contact, so we were wayyyyy out of position when the whistle blew. Even so, I managed to threadle her around the aframe and to the other side of the course where she did the gamble spot-on perfectly--but .49 seconds over time. Gah!  [Not often in one weekend where your dogs get all 4 gambles but you have only one Q to show for it]
  • Tika Grand Prix: Sent her to a jump and moved away too soon, pulling her off the jump for another runout fault. [handling] So I turned it into a contact training run and made her "down" or held her on all contacts, and even going back for that jump and those long contacts, she was 4th fastest, but no Q of course.
  • Boost Grand Prix: Good lord. Yikes. Got killed when she didn't come in to me on a 180 so ran past a jump despite me trying to stand in her way and to the next obstacle for off course/E. [training]
  • Tika Snooker: A speed course that was going to require 51 points for a Super-Q or even to place. She did everything I asked her to except once again I forgot which way I was going to turn, so spun suddenly to do as wrap as she was going over a jump and she knocked a bar.  [handling] We got all the way through the course with 44 points (that one 7-pointer short of 51). We  completely lucked out on this one--in all other heights, "everyone" was getting 51, but in our height, everyone else crapped out more than we did so only one dog got 51 so we ended up 2nd with a Super-Q and top ten points.
  • Boost Snooker: Didn't come in to me on a 180-turn and didn't respond to "Boost! Boost!  Boost!" [training and handling both] and once again off course after 3 obstacles.


For the weekend, out of 11 runs, Tika got one 1st/Q, two 2nd/Qs, and one Q no placement. Out of 12 runs, Boost got two Qs, no placements, no $ in steeplechase.

It was Boost's 15th Pairs Q, so now she's got her RCh-Bronze.

I have had worse weekends. But--

And so--

I have come away from the weekend realizing deeply that I need to change something, in my attitude or my schedule or my approach towards training or probably all of those interconnected things, or I will spend many more weekends regretting the things I haven't done and the mistakes I've made and the money I've spent to make the same mistakes again and again rather than reaping the rewards that my dogs are capable of and that I *think* I'm capable of (although at times I wonder). I haven't entirely decided what that means, but I have pretty much decided that I'm not going to trial in March at all, scratching 2 of the only 3 CPE trials I was planning on for the year. Beyond that--I dunno.

Maybe monthly private lessons instead of regular weekly classes. Maybe get back to a disciplined list of specific skills to work on each day during each week, like when I was first training each dog--it's so clear then what you need to work on. Like, from class, you'd come home with an assignment to work very certain exercises with, say, 4 weave poles, or two jumps, or a target and a clicker. Small, easily identifiable pieces.

The difference there is that progress seemed to happen so fast, I was always going forward, but now, it's like backing up two steps and trying again, over and over.

Hey, yeah, Boost hasn't popped out of the weaves early in two whole trials now, I'm so happy about that. But now we have to work on table issues again and contacts again and bars always.

I'm tired of not being a better handler, I'm tired of my dogs making mistakes, I'm tired of trying to be circumspect about the fact that I don't train enough or correctly to fix the problems and so I should accept the consequences and not bemoan them. But. But. But.

Funny side note

Rereading this, I note that I'm still saying "whistle blew" to start the gamble--since we started using electronic timers all the time a few years ago, it has been a buzzer and never a whistle, yet I still think of it as "whistle blew," not "buzzer buzzed". Sort of like "dialing" a telephone, I guess.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Snooker Video You've Been Waiting For

SUMMARY: Bay Teamer Silvina and Maja demonstrate amazing calm in a difficult situation while earning a perfect score in Snooker.

From Sunday evening at the Turlock USDAA. This was one of the most amazing runs I've seen. Check out that teeter execution as Silvina's puppy T-Cam can't wait to join the fun.
View it now.

(I should note that T-Cam is Boost's full sister, but from a litter 4 years later. Yes, Boost has lost self-control with Tika at home many times and at class once--and, yes, Tika kept going with the distraction. But never in competition and I don't think ever with that teeter--)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Technology Fails Us Again

SUMMARY: Loss to the agility community.

I am not reconciled to my mortality nor to that of my friends and family. With all the modern miracles of technology and medicine, it just seems logical that nice, smart, generous, happy, productive, and loved people could go on being nice, smart, generous, happy, productive, and loved as long as they want to.

But no. They die.

R.I.P. John Nunes Feb 15, 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Danged Super-Qs!

SUMMARY: New championships for fellow Bay Teamers from this weekend's VAST trial.

(Yes, it seems to be a catch-up day on blog posts. I posted a slightly shorter version of this to my club but wanted to also post it here to remember parts of my weekend.)

What a wild weekend at VAST--at least from the Masters score table's perspective! We fit in a full 5 masters classes in ring 1 on Saturday (and steeplechase ran in ring 2); and 4 masters classes plus Grand Prix on sunday in Ring 1 (and Steeplechase Round 2 in Ring 2).

I woke at 4:30 to dense fog in San Jose and dreaded the 2-hour drive to Turlock, because the Central Valley can be the King of Pea-Soup Fog in the early morning.

Fortunately it was thick enough to slow me to 50 or 55 MPH in only a few places (but not the folks whipping by me at 65-70! Sheesh! No wonder we get 30-car pileups in the fog!), so light-enough fog most of the way that I could see clearly far ahead.

Cold fog enveloped the trial site briefly Saturday and again well into Sunday morning, but it warmed up nicely to shirtsleeve weather for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Having TWO Snooker classes and TWO Gamblers classes gave wonderful opportunities to fill in Qs that prove challenging for many handlers, in particular, Snooker Super-Qs. [Three Super-Qs are required to earn a Championship. To earn one, your score must be in the top 15% of dogs competing in your height. This makes the competition fierce and the super-Qs hard to come by in this highly competitive northern California, even for many excellent dogs.]

Saturday Super-Qs

Saturday's Snooker required that you attempt all 4 reds, which were spread out around the outside of the course. This meant that people chose a variety of paths through the course with many off-course opportunities, and it was virtually impossible to earn the highest possible score (although I think one dog might have done it), so scores were unpredictable. At the score table, we had the usual cluster of people praying for Super-Qs and still in contention hovering nearby and waiting to see how many Super-Qs would be awarded and whether they'd be on.

The pressure sits on the score table to double-and-triple check all the scribe sheets and the accumulator sheets, because there are lots of numbers involved and there's nothing worse than having to tell someone later that we've taken away a super-Q they thought they had earned (which we had to do saturday due to a math error, fortunately not one needed for a title and handled graciously by the handler, thanks Barbara).

The 22" class, as usual, had a huge number of entrants--over 30--so 22" handlers had to wait forEVER for us to finish marking the scores.

Linda Greene, seeing me put an "SQ" on her score, asked about 4 times was I absolutely positively sure about that, and I confirmed that yes, I was, and she said, "Thank goodness I don't have to worry about Super-Qs any more." What she DIDN'T tell me was that it had been the only thing standing between Kiwi and her ADCH! (championship title)

I was delighted to see them take a victory lap with their new ADCH pole shortly thereafter to cheers and applause.

Saturday ran very late, until after dark, at least 6 or 7 p.m.

Sunday Super-Qs

Sunday was similar, except that Snooker was the VERY last class of the weekend, and 22" was the VERY last group to run, and it was well after dark so people ran under artificial field lighting rather than daylight, and the cold began creeping in, and many competitors abandoned ship. We had *so* many scratches that it wasn't clear how many Super-Qs we'd be able to give until we had completed the running order.

Furthermore, this course had only 3 reds right next to the 7-point obstacle, so we knew that you'd have to do the highest-possible 51 points AND be among the fastest to do it to earn a super-Q. All of us remaining to do score table also had to run 2 dogs each, so the score table seemed chaotic at times, but we kept at it, double-and-triple checking as we went. [Special thanks to those who stuck it out to the bitter end to help me at the score table--Sandy Zajkowski, Holly Newman, Karey Krauter--]

It astounded me how many 26" and 22" competitors remained for their runs after 6 p.m. on a Sunday, amazing hardy super-competitive NorCal peoples! Still, between trying to verify scratches and keep track of scribe sheets raining in on us, we made it through to 7:00, when competition ended. We sat there, working, with half a dozen people tearing down the field and half a dozen people and one judge hanging around waiting to see the final scores. I was cold, tired, pressured [but revved high with the excitement of the class], and so I think moving more slowly on confirming scores than I might have earlier in the weekend.

Sure enough, almost every group had multiple 51-point scores, so they weren't all going to get Super-Qs. In the end, several of those took themselves out of the running by touching their dogs before crossing the finish line, so they still Qed but, because they had no valid course time, they ranked below those who earned a time at the finish line.

The very very very last individual mark I made on the accumulator sheet was "SQ" for Dave Bennett and Zack. About 40 people (OK really only 2 or 3) kept asking Are you sure are you sure, he's had one taken away from him before?! And I double-checked with Karey looking over my shoulder and, sure enough, it was a Super-Q for Zack, and holy cow, another ADCH for the weekend! So, with the remaining dozen of us cheering and screaming and applauding as loudly as we could, Dave and Zack took their victory lap around the field, and then we all went home.

Other titles

ALSO earning an ADCH this weekend, Lauri Plummer and the delightful pointy-eared Lark ;-), who's one of those dogs about whom you think, "What, they don't ALREADY have their ADCH?" I missed that entire escapade, so I can't fill in the story.

And two others, Katrina/Maddie and Jeanne/Brandy Mae [OK, which is the dog and which is the handler in each team?!] completed their Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Silver and ADCH-Gold this weekend.

I Was SO Busy That--

Dang, I never got to sign *anyone's* ADCH bars! I hope they reappear at the next trial--

Video Fun

SUMMARY: Nothing to do with me, but I enjoyed these.

Very silly, wish I'd thought of that, wish they'd have cut out the muffled snickering in the background. "Dinner for One":

Welcome to my world (and I'm sure that most of you reading this can relate!). "There's Dog Hair in Everything I Do":


SUMMARY: USDAA catches up on title certificates.

Got all of these in the mail Friday. Tika was apparently a busy little Merle Girl back in September!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hopes for Titles Addendum

SUMMARY: Lotta lifetime runs
Oh! And Tika is only 21 Qs away from her silver lifetime achievement award (LAA). At our average Q rate, that'll be another 5 or 6 trials, but at our *best* Q rate it could be 2-3. Go, Tika!

Hopes for Titles

SUMMARY: This weekend could help--
So, this weekend. Here's what could happen:

  • Tika could earn a Standard leg to complete her PD3 (Performance MAD). 
  • That would then leave Tika with only 2 Standards and 3 Jumpers to her APD (performance ADCH).  We have 2 tries at Standard and 2 tries at Jumpers this weekend, so in the best of all possible worlds, we'd come out of the weekend needing only one Standard for her APD. But--then--these *are* Standard and Jumpers. Not our strongest suits.
  • Boost could earn a Jumpers leg to complete her MAD. (Argh. I don't want to even count. We might be up to 40 tries without a single one.) We have 2 tries. I'm going outside RIGHT NOW to do more jumping drills.
  • Boost could earn a Standard leg, making 10,  for her Standard Championship (SACh). Two tries.
  • Boost could earn a Pairs leg, making 15, for her Relay  Bronze (RCh-Bronze).
  • Boost could earn a Snooker Super-Q. Two tries. Yeah. We're hard on the heels of  jumpers on Super-Q attempts without success. That would leave only 2 more SQs...and 5 Jumpers Qs [insert epithet].... to her ADCH.
All together, this weekend, we have 2 each of Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers; one each of Pairs, Steeplechase, and Grand Prix. That should keep us busy!

Weather should be lovely, cool but sunny-ish. See y'all at the score table as usual!

Training for the Weekend

SUMMARY: Serps, bars, USDAA this weekend.
Yes, boys and girls, we have a USDAA trial this weekend out in Turlock. And, since I've been concentrating on other important things in the meantime [um--facebook?--]*, and Boost turned 5 two weeks ago and Tika turns 8 this weekend, I figure it's time to finally spend some time fixing ALL OUR AGILITY ISSUES before the trial this weekend.

In class this week, Tika did our jumpers courses just absolutely beautifully and looked completely healthy. I'm sure that, had we done contacts, they'd have been perfect as always (they were last week).

It was Serpentine night, and Boost and I demonstrated once again that this is a major chink in our armour: Boost wouldn't come in, or knocked the bar when she did, or in one memorable escapade, took me out at the knees so that my denim-blue-colored fleece became stylishly mottled with mud-colored mud. Both with serps and with blasting through a tunnel, if I'm yelling to get her to come in my direction, she keeps going in her original trajectory full speed while LOOKING at me, and then after evaluating that I'm not moving, makes a huge ugly L-shaped turn to come in to me.

She also [gasp!] knocked bars in several places.

So yesterday I actually set up some serp thingies with jumps and tunnels in my yard. Tika did them flawlessly (when my timing was good, anyway, and even sometimes when it was iffy). Boost had a terrible time.

So we backed off to just our customized bar-knocking drills, and after doing about 40 just-one-jump drills when she got to where she wasn't even ticking the bar any more, we went back to the serp drill and broke it down into pieces until she could finally do two at-speed single-jump serps without knocking the bar, and we quit that for the day.

Also working on contacts with both dogs. I have suffered for my sins, oh Dogfather! I relaxed my nose-touch criteria and both dogs' contacts have deteriorated. So we went back to remedial nose touches to a target, then standing at the end of the ramp doing target nose touches, then partway down the ramp and running to targeted nose touches, until I ran out of special treats and we left that for the day, too.

I hope I can get more of all of that in today, among packing, going for a nice brisk hike with a friend, and work, and--um--facebook.*

*OK, some facebook, but really photography and work and random random random things, but saying "facebook" is funnier. I think.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Agility the Sport of Submillionaires

SUMMARY: Time to win the lottery.

I try not to think too hard about it. I try to make sure my checkbook balance doesn't drop below zero. But, really, agility isn't cheap and it isn't getting any cheaper.

This April features the now-entrenched annual 4-day extravaganza of agility known as Haute TRACS, co-hosted by two clubs.

Not only does it cost me two days off work--plus whatever lodging or camping fees I care to pay (unless I want to drive 2 hours out and back every day--then it's just gas and argh lack of sleep...)--but just the entry fees are astounding. It's not that much more than twice a 2-day weekend of agility, but they are cramming every class known to mankind, multiple times, into their four rings of step-right-up agility entertainment.

Here's what you crazed agility addicts get for your agility dollars:
DAM Team (5 runs. Plus wouldn't "5 Run Dam" be a great name for a rap group?)
Steeplechase (1 run guaranteed plus 2nd round if you qualify)
Grand Prix (1 run)
Standard (4 (!) runs)
Gamblers (3 runs)
Snooker (3 runs)
Jumpers (3 runs)
Pairs Relay (2 runs)

That's wayyy jeeez holy dogedo a bunch of running! Particularly with two dogs. I love it--great exercise mentally and physically for me and the dogs, lots of friends and excitement.

Can't say I wouldn't be happier with only 2 or 3 days, though; four days is a very long, very exhausting weekend. Which makes one think that one should take *another* day off work on Monday to regroup one's depleted axons and muscular fibers.

And the entry fees for all this, if you choose to enter everything, per dog? $270. If you have the know-how and the willingness (latter is a big issue), you can sometimes earn free entries for ONE dog by working your buns off in a trial job all day. I do this whenever I can. And that also sometimes earns me bonus money-off certificates to save up for future entry fees. So I'm lucky enough to get a fairly big discount for this trial. But that does not, alas and alack, translate to free.

Now, horsey people (aka my sister) would tell you that the entry fees are trivial compared to horse show entry fees. Plus I can throw my dogs in the back of my van and they can sleep with me on my hotel bed. Minivans and hotel beds get a little crowded when you cram in those horses (plus you think your spouse's feet are cold under the blankets, try horseshoes).

I would have added that, with dogs, if you mess up, you're not likely to get thrown head over heels and land on your head and end up in the hospital unconscious (like you would with horses) except that exactly that happened to a club member earlier this year, but still I think it's less common with dogs than horses.

So, anyway, it's a good thing I'm the sister who grew up liking dogs. Sister can have her horses and horse shows!

Plus, "Sister Can Have" would be a great name for a rock band.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Bad Dog

SUMMARY: Who's the agility champion?
Here's my week 5 photo for my 52 Weeks for Dogs photo group. The challenge this week was "where dogs shouldn't be."

My notes on the Flickr site:

Places where dogs should not be: Any *good* agility dog knows that one is supposed to go *through* the tunnel, not stand *on* it to get a better look at the squirrels and birds.

Although this one is posed, there is a reason that all of my less-sturdy tunnels in the back yard are squished into narrow oblongs instead of being open circles.

Fortunately, Tika is also an expert at running through the tunnels and has earned her championships multiple times over.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Life in the Agility Lane

SUMMARY: Dogs + class + car + yard + blahblahblah
For some reason, people seem to think that I'm into dogs. Go figure.

For example, my nephew gave me a lightweight fleece blanket with a picture of golden retriever (or maybe lab) puppies on it. Very nice blanket. But, see, dog stuff is not part of my *normal* life (in which I might use a blanket); it's part of my *dog* life. My house is decorated with dragons, not dog stuff. But, well, it gets cold around here with the heat turned down, so, nifty, a blanket. I take it down to my office chair to wrap around myself.

Also, here's a collection of greeting cards I've received over the last year. (Did I ever mention to anyone that I'm also known for things piratical? Apparently I did--)

Despite trying to keep my dog life and regular life separate, they all intertwine. Last night, backing out of the driveway to go to agility class, I broke off a sprinkler riser by the driveway. Eight and a half years in this house, backing out of the same driveway, and I've never touched it. Go figure.

Dogs did well in class last night. Tika's contacts were beautiful (sigh), very fast 2-on/2-off. Boost's weaves were beautiful. Boost still knocking some bars and not wanting to come in to me on serpentines. We were lucky: Tuesday classes were cancelled due to rain and it's supposed to be raining again today, so we just squeezed in Wednesday.

I'm trying to transfer out of the Wednesday night class because it's getting close to Real Hikes season with the sierra club Wednesday Night Hikers. But evening classes are very popular and at the moment there might not be any other openings. (My old Thursday night class was turned into a world-team class. Go figure there are enough people at that level around here for their own weekly class. Tough competition all the time at local trials.)

This morning the Merle Girls and I dropped off MUTT MVR at the dealer to take care of a few things. I set the alarm for 6:30 to be first in line, and the dogs were VERY excited because alarm always means going to dog agility. They were a little confused when I did a few things that I don't normally do on agility morning. (Yes, they did really look puzzled.) After dropping off the van, we walked home the two and a half miles. I remember making this walk back when i first moved here, and being exhausted at the end. Now? Piece of cake. I don't hike all that often at the moment, but when I do walk or hike, it tends to be more than a mile, so am I a studly hiker or what, doing my 2.5 completely level sidewalk walk?

At home, I'm sitting at the breakfast table, which on my split level looks down over my office, just a wrought-iron railing separating them. Tika comes over, looks through the railing, and starts growling, then when I say "What?" she goes into full offensive barking, looking down into my office. I look that way to see what evil she has detected (note that Tika is NOT Boost, who sees evil in many places, but not Tika ever). Go figure. Here's what I see:

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

This Training Thing Is Hard!

SUMMARY: Thanks to my friend Sarah for these photos from Sunday's fun match.

Boost is so intent on watching me as I start lining her up at my side at the start line. She'd probably be a great heeler in obedience.

Boost waiting as I lead out. Is this an intense dog or what?

Tika saves her energy at the start line for more important things.

...Like blasting her way up the dogwalk. Too bad that she slows on the down ramp. She's so fast going down at home when I get her revved up. This training thing is hard!

...Or like blasting away from the teeter. She's not superfast on the teeter; jumps to a comfortable tilting point, rides it down gently, then takes off. Always in the yellow zone, 2o2o not needed, but not the fastest ride down. This training thing is hard!

...Or like blasting away from the Aframe after correctly getting her 2o2o. Again, fast 2o2o at home and in class, just trots down to it in competition or flies off way high. This--er--yes--training thing is hard!

Boost sails over the top of the Aframe. She doesn't usually catch some air doing it, but keeps her center of gravity low and wastes no steps. (Here you can really see that streak of gray in my hair above my ear. Good thing I'm blonde and it doesn't show that easily. Yet. In some light.)

I like this one because you can see the wood chips flying behind her, and those wide-open eyes show that she is having the hyper time of her life out there.

Boost's teeter is blazing. She doesn't ride it down out at the end like some dogs; near as I can tell, she rides it down her and uses the momentum of the slam-down to slide to the end as it hits. Some times faster than others. Wish I could get the fastest version all the time. This, sigh, training thing is hard. BUT her teeter is blazing even when it's slow, so of course I don't work on improving it.

Oh, good lord, who trained that dogwalk? Why is she not driving to the end looking forward? That is SUCH a problem that she's looking back at me instead of driving to the end. Training is... well... you know...

At least this time she actually got one foot in the correct zone (ground at end of board) rather than popping off halfway into the yellow to come back and meet me. I was *warned* that if I didn't keep up my drive-to-nose-touch-at-end criteria, I'd pay for it eventually. I hate when they're right and I'm lazy.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Grab Bag Day

SUMMARY: blog issues, sad week, funny list,  d*d rats.

* Blog: Just got notice from blogger that they are doing away with the mechanism by which I post and manage my blog. They have an alternative that they really like but doesn't fit my needs. I'm going to have to convert or think of something else by March. Sucks. I wasn't really planning on spending time figuring out new technology or finding a new blogging service that will support me. Sucks being a techie geek who wants to do things most people don't. I understand their reasons, but still--after 7 years... converting everything to another site will be impossible. Argh.

* Sadnesses: Can we erase the last week and start over? Wednesday, Jigs. Friday, Scully. Saturday, Shooter. Monday, Katie. (Suddenly discovered cancer; escalating kidney disease; age-related illness; unknown (just--found her lying there, she was 11).) Please let it stop for a while. Meanwhile--go do something special with your dog.

* Funniness: I really needed this--"You know you're an agility addict when...". It's a facebook group. I hope they'll post their list on a public site, too, because it's too good to hide just on FB. Meanwhile, if you're on FB, read the list.

* D[amne]d d[ea]d rats. Can't find. Place reeks. Too cold to have windows open. Argh.

* Have some nice photos of the Merle Girls from this weekend. Will post when I have time. They are SUCH GOOD-LOOKING DOGS! I am so lucky to have them.