a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Killing Your Dog in an Auto Accident

SUMMARY: (Repost from my Facebook page) Have I mentioned why you should find a good system for securing your dog in your car?

Bay Teamer friend Holly Newman evaluated some dog seatbelt harnesses and gave good feedback here.

Now there's a german study, with photos, of what happens to dogs and humans in front-impact accidents given various means of restraint. As in: dogs seriously injured or killed, in the process seriously injuring the driver or passenger. Interesting to note that their chosen harness restraint fails in one of the ways that Holly suggests; would be interesting to know how the one she suggests for big dogs (which I purchased and use occasionally when I can't use crates)) would hold up in the same situation.

Dowload the study's PDF from this page at wachusett.pssweb.net to read it and view the photos (they used dummies so no gore); it's not very long but it's very scary. (Or you can google "test report securing pets in cars" and they usually have a "quick view" that lets you see it in HTML right in your browser, like this.

My dog's crates currently are aligned front to back, at the back of MUTT MVR. It's very convenient for me and they fit well, but I've known for a long time that that's not optimally safe. It was confirmed when i was rear-ended a year ago just after a stop sign (so fairly low speed) and the rear door was jammed shut. Fortunately the dogs weren't in the car at the time, so I didn't have to try to extricate the crates from inside the van.

I'm now going to have to figure out how to arrange them transversely (perpendicular to car's length) behind the front seats instead, for maximum security.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Running Dogwalk Calculator

SUMMARY: Are you fast enough?

Running-contacts.com has posted a note about their running contact calculator.
Read about and download the calculator here. You have to actually time yourself and your dog running; I plan on giving it a try soon but I really like the idea.

52 Weeks for Dogs Photos: Void

SUMMARY: Ack it's Saturday evening already!

Tried taking a ton of photos at knee level of Tika running with her favorite toy. None of them came out, not one out of about 75 shots. SighhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHH!!!!! Need to figure out what/why/how.

Plus now I'm down to about 24 hours to get a shot of her that I like for 52 weeks.

Going hiking tomorrow in Morgan Territory with agility friend and dogs, off leash again. Maybe I'll get something usable there.

Such pressure to achieve! :-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sibling--Well, Probably Not Rivalry

SUMMARY: Boost's brother starts out well at AKC Nationals.

I haven't been watching the AKC nationals in Tulsa, although you can buy a subscription for live videos (some events started yesterday).

Just heard that Boost's littermate brother, Derby, placed 3rd in 26" International Style Standard today. Derby belongs to Tammy, Boost's breeder. Good on ya, bro!

Can't say there's a rivalry there--we can't even get a dang Jumpers Q. So we're cheering them on full-heartedly.

Several other Bay Teamers and locals placed in events today, as well. Go, BT!

Former classmate and defending 16" champion Luka isn't there this year because she came up sore a while back and Ashley has been treating her recovery with the utmost care; they're barely back at rehabilitation stage now, after weeks of rest.

Good luck, all you many Californians out there in Tulsa who braved snow(!) through New Mexico to get there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Testing new location

SUMMARY: Have migrated blog to meet Blogger's new limitations; now dinking around with things.
Something else I've been dinking around with: I splurged and got the wireless shutter release I've been aching to replace (after losing wired one with theft last year).

Now--testing a URL photo reference instead of a photo upload; photo from a monster-themed baby shower a couple of months back:

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at http://dogblog.finchester.org/.
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

Note that, as always, tajmutthall.org also works.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Checking in on Performance Top Ten

SUMMARY: Must mean I'm thinking about competing again--
We've done 2 trials this year, and frankly we crapped out a whole lot more than I have good excuses for. And yet, for Tika (at the USDAA Top Ten for Performance page) (Oh, yeah, and noting that it's only february and half the country hardly has agility during the winter) (oh, yeah, and the blues are ones we're likely to see in competition, and one of our main competitors, Hobbes, I don't even know if he's done USDAA yet in performance this year):

Performance Top Ten - Current Year Standings: Jumpers Level 3 Class

22" Height Class

Points Owner Dog Breed
14  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
13  Fosty, Channan Apollo Boxer
13  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
12  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
12  Brown, Patti Bailey English Shepherd
10  Chandler, Carlene Brenn Border Collie
Bean, Peggy Crash Labrador Retriever
Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
Woods, Vicki Tech Border Collie
Greiner, Alyssia Zippity Border Collie
Snelleman, Desiree T'ai Siberian Husky
Jones, Carrie Jive Border Collie
DeChance, Anne Stella All-Breed
Stiff-Carroll, Karen Jerome Rottweiler
Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
Brockman, Rebecca Mikki Belgian Malinois
Bickel, Leslie Cate E Catahoula Leopard Dog
Yarchin, Joe Pan Australian Shepherd
Ednie, Kathryn Ripley Collie - Rough
Clark, Marshall Pepper Australian Shepherd
Miller, Melanie Austin Vizsla
Dale, Jamie Sierra Labrador Retriever
McGinty, Sue Gunner German S-H Pointer
Thompson, Joy Strike Border Collie
Kucharski, Lisa Dust Australian Shepherd

Performance Top Ten - Current Year Standings: Gamblers Level 3 Class

22" Height Class

Points Owner Dog Breed
14  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
13  Fosty, Channan Apollo Boxer
13  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
12  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
12  Brown, Patti Bailey English Shepherd
10  Chandler, Carlene Brenn Border Collie
Bean, Peggy Crash Labrador Retriever
Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
Woods, Vicki Tech Border Collie
Greiner, Alyssia Zippity Border Collie
Snelleman, Desiree T'ai Siberian Husky
Jones, Carrie Jive Border Collie
DeChance, Anne Stella All-Breed
Stiff-Carroll, Karen Jerome Rottweiler
Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
Brockman, Rebecca Mikki Belgian Malinois
Bickel, Leslie Cate E Catahoula Leopard Dog
Yarchin, Joe Pan Australian Shepherd
Ednie, Kathryn Ripley Collie - Rough
Clark, Marshall Pepper Australian Shepherd
Miller, Melanie Austin Vizsla
Dale, Jamie Sierra Labrador Retriever
McGinty, Sue Gunner German S-H Pointer
Thompson, Joy Strike Border Collie
Kucharski, Lisa Dust Australian Shepherd

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Photos from Taj MuttHall Yard

SUMMARY: Spring! Sproing!
Momma dove cocks her head at the camera and tripod and oddball human balancing on the side of the hot tub.
Taj MuttYard has this old dying--well, ok, dead--apple tree that these big old bees just love. Bees bigger than the first joint on my thumb. They never sit still, never, buzz buzz buzz bumble bumble bumble. Need to figure out a better way to try to get a clearer shot. There are Big Black Bees--
and Big Yellow Bees. [Note added later in the evening: These appear to be The bees appear to be Xylocopa varipuncta (Valley carpenter bees), and the male is yellow, the female black!
And sproinging around in the yard--Human Mom is on a quest to get an awesome Tika With Favorite Toy shot. Not there yet, but this is kind of getting there.

Boost helps Human Mom figure out camera angles.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Happy Happy

SUMMARY: I'm still likin' this no-agility thing.

This weekend is my club's--The Bay Team's--CPE trial in Santa Rosa. About 2 hours from here. Would've meant another friday gone (packing, going to bed early), getting up at 4 a.m., competing all day, staying overnight--you know the drill.

Well, for one thing, I'm glad I had already decided not to go, because I've been so sick this week that I'd have had to cancel at the last minute and lost my entry fees.

But, well, it's a custom-made gorgeous spring day out there. Other than the fact that I might have an ear infection on top of everything (off to the doctor's office shortly--why this week?! why everything?!--), it is SO nice to just hang around, comb the dogs a bit, practice some tricks and some handling (of the dog's bodies), mow the lawn a little at a time (still a little tired), catch up on the computer, read the paper, take a leisurely shower--

--well, like, have a life! I am really liking this; it's taken several weekends off from agility for me to start relaxing into my weekends. And I'm not regretting being at the trial in any way at all. Sorry I had to tell them at almost the last minute (well, maybe 2 weeks ago) that I wouldn't be the score table czar after all. Once again, though, better 2 weeks ago than last night!

Lazing around. Getting backlogs of chores done. Doing some extra things that otherwise would be too-low-priority. Not really doing anything strenuous or ambitious while I'm still recovering.

Liking, liking, liking. And after this weekend, still 3 more weekends off. Then--the 4-day Haute TRACS, followed immediately by two weekends from my own two clubs, Bay Team and SMART. I dunno. I really don't want to skip those, but I find some little collection of synapses clicking out "oh, yes, you do!"

Ah, me. Just enjoying this beautiful weather, eating jello; renter is making vegetable soup for us for later. Happy happy happy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Things You Just Don't Take Photos Of

SUMMARY: Not the best health week ever.
One tries to do what one can to live a healthier life, given that one has exceeded half a century on this earth (could it be?! doesn't seem possible in those terms).

Plan A: Vacation

So, for example, one might go down to Carmel for a couple of days of wonderful long multi-mile walks in the perfect weather. Despite a sore throat waking one up during the night a couple of nights in a row, because surely that's just the change in the weather, maybe allergies.

Plan A1: Beach

Then after one day there, the next morning finding that one's body has no interest in getting out of bed, not very hungry for breakfast. One almost bags it and goes home right away, but no, it's beautiful down there and dammit one is going to follow one's plan and dammit go to the beach again and go hiking again.

So one goes to the beach and discovers that one doesn't have the energy or enthusiasm to go to the other end of the beach after all.

Plan A2: Hiking

So again one almost bags it and goes home, but figures, what the heck, now that one and one's beasts are in MUTT MVR, one might as well at least drop by the hiking park again for a tiny stroll in the sunshine.

So one does that. One finds that sitting down on every available bench has tremendous appeal. One's dogs are a little impatient. One ends up covering maybe a mile and a half, on the level, slowly, before discovering that one is suddenly very grateful for there being a restroom not too far from the chosen path. Perhaps something one ate the night before?

Plan B: Sleep sleep sleep

So one DOES bag it and head for home, an hour's drive, and despite a long night's sleep, one is dyin' for bed, crashes at home and sleeps for 2-3 hours before dragging one's self out of bed to try to do something useful with one's evening. Brain dead tired.

Plan C?: Common Cold

One wakes up still exhausted the next day and the nose has gone into full-time exercise (yes, running), and one is now pretty sure it's a cold, not just allergies. One sleeps a lot despite it being a work day. (So much for that Personal Time Off that one has finally accrued by doing less agility and more work--wasting it on sick days! When one works at home! That's pathetic.)

Making an effort on Wednesday

The next day, one crawls out of bed, still tired, still with a marathon nose, but puts in a full-time day to try to get the clients' deadlines met. Something, er, intestinal is telling one that perhaps one did have something that disagreed with one back in Carmel. Not too bad, just enough to notice.

Plan T: Thursday already, so on with the Chard

And that fatigue, the cold, the iffy digestive system keep one mostly in bed the next day, too, but by the middle of the afternoon, one showers (steam feels good!), washes hands thoroughly, bops into the grocery store for milk and bread and fresh garlic so one can finally cook that Swiss Chard.

Because, yes, in an effort to be healthy, one signed up for a local "CSE" (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery of fresh fruit & vegetables every 2 weeks, and the first box arrived last Friday. Fruits have been good but time to cook that Chard! If one has never cooked Chard before, or even eaten it as far as one knows, and one's renter has never eaten Chard before, one follows the farm's recipe for cooking it. Pretty easy and very tasty! And it's supposed to be very healthy. Even the renter, who's not much into "oddball" vegetables, seems to like it, and one discusses with one's renter how to use the next batch in salads or soups.

Plan ugh: Not what one had expected

Except halfway through, one's intestinal portions give a mighty alarm and now it's really serious. One hasn't been eating much all day, but still, not a happy system. But back to the Chard, finish it (very tasty, a little garlic & a little cayenne & a little olive oil).

And then--one spends the rest of the evening essentially in close personal communication with the white porcelain fixture in the Reading Room. One can't even sit at the computer long enough to read a paragraph. One finally discovers that lying down eases nature's call somewhat, at least longer between porcelain visits, so one gives up and crawls into bed.

Then one and one's renter, also, it turns out, spend the evening and most of the night in turns hurrying to each own's Reading Room, over and over, and then one hears the flushing of the facility, and on and on and on. One catches half an hour of sleep here or there but not much.

Look, now it's Friday

So then it's Friday. One is thirsty. One drinks a bit of water but it is still rejected. Later a little toast; maybe a little better received. Banana eaten slowly over a period of an hour mostly seems to be accepted. Around noon, one makes a bowl of jello that one and one's renter consume cautiously but mostly seems to be a safe thing to eat.

One crawls back into bed after that and sleeps for maybe 4 hours or so, so hooray, one's system seems to be cautiously optimistic about functioning a bit more normally.

So, more toast, more jello, a bit more water, then one has the energy to play fetch with the dogs for a bit out in the yard for the first time in several days.

By 8 p.m., one has successfully consumed two diet soft drinks and several handfuls of pretzels as well, plus a slice of very lightly buttered toast. Who knew how good such simple foods can taste when one is very hungry and very thirsty!

Who knew?

So: Apparently Swiss Chard has all kinds of useful nutrients. Which, when eaten in large quantities in particular to ones who aren't accustomed to it, can cause awful intestinal & stomach upset. (Many web sites, incidentally, point out not to give it to your rabbits, goats, or dogs, as it can cause severe diarrhea. Most human web sites point out how many healthy nutrients it has; only a few point out that it can cause issues. So one thinks that perhaps it's inherent in the Chard itself, not some infection--and one has taken it off the list of things to be delivered to one's house in the future.

Ah, isn't it lovely to live such a healthier life?!

Gratuitous nature photos to expunge mental images of intestinal distress

So, let one leave one with a few wildflowers from Monday, now that one has the energy to sit at the computer for an hour.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No More Guilt About Fewer Training Sessions

SUMMARY: For dogs, once a week may be better than 5 times a week.

Interesting! From a 2007 study:

"Using shaping and clicker training, 18 laboratory Beagles were trained to perform a target response. Nine dogs were trained once a week and nine dogs were trained five times a week. The results of the study show that dogs trained once a week learned the shaping exercise in significantly fewer training sessions than dogs trained five times a week. In addition, weekly trained dogs tended to have higher success rates at the different steps of the shaping exercise than the dogs trained five times a week. The dogs trained five times a week completed the shaping exercise in significantly fewer days than the weekly trained dogs. It is concluded that for dogs learning a given skill, weekly training results in better learning performance than training five times a week, when performance is measured in the number of training sessions required to reach a certain training level."

(c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Meyer, I., Ladewig, J., The relationship between number of training sessions per week and learning in dogs, Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2007), doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2007.06.016

(Download PDF.)

(Thanks, Wishy the Writer, for this info.)

Makes a bit of sense to me. When training one's muscles, you don't use the same muscle group every day; you work hard one day on one thing, then give it at least a day or two of rest while working on a different set of muscles. Apparently this translates to mental "muscle," too!

Remington always did better with only one or two training sessions a week, no matter how long or how intense. My other dogs love doing stuff as often as I want to do it, but it does seem sometimes that progress doesn't necessarily occur daily, but in leaps after several days of stasis.

Anyway, worth pondering!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Few Carmel Photos

SUMMARY: From among the hundreds I took.
I'm so tired, so very very very tired. Beyond just hiking and beaching tired. Don't know why. I think the sore-ish throat I've had since Friday night is just dry air and/or allergies. I *did* cover about 9 miles Saturday and 4 miles Sunday; but still, just drop-dead bone tired beyond reason.

So here are just a few of the photos from Saturday.

Our hotel room, with the stack o'dog supplies they provided us, and the 6"-deep pseudo-fireplace.

Tika loves the beach.

Boot did some running, too. Here, she looks like some sort of heraldic beast, not so much like a Border Collie. Perhaps a heraldic border collie, rampant.

One spot on the beach smelled really good, apparently. Both dogs rolled enthusiastically, then Tika discovered that if she dug instead of rolling, she could find some really excellent stuff to eat, which Human Mom annoyingly put a quick end to.

Tika loved to chase the frisbee. Boost usually brought it back.

After our beach trip, dogs took a nice nap.

After the nap, we hiked for a couple of hours, maybe 4-5 miles at Garland Regional Park. Thirsty dogs discover a new use for the rainwater collected in the Indian Grinding Rock. [why is this photo not showing up? Maybe it's still processing. Will double-check in the morning--]

Around sunset, we raced back to the beach to try for some sunset photos.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel-Away-From-the-Sea

SUMMARY: A vacation day with the dogs.

There is nothing like being in the great outdoors with your dogs running freely off-leash. Wish we could enjoy that with greater regularity.

For various reasons, I got a late start this morning and arrived in Carmel around 12:30 on a beautiful day, perfect for a little hiking. Although check-in time at the Cypress Inn is 4:00, I figured it was worth dropping by early to see whether our room was ready. Yowza, it was, so we made ourselves comfy in our spacious room. (The fireplace is a bit of a fake--it's about 8" deep with a tiny flame and no way to adjust it.)

We then walked the half mile down to the beach (and it is *down*). The beach is over a mile long, and we walked up to one end and partway down to the other, then randomly encountered a friend who happened to be there at the same time we were, and strolled back towards the first end again.

We played some frisbee as we went, but I quickly tired of Tika catching it, running out into the surf and dropping it, and then Boost refusing to get anywhere near moving water in order to bring the frisbee home. Each time, we had to follow the frisbee down the beach as it appeared and disappeared in the waves, until finally it was close enough to the receding edge of the wave for boost to bravely get her feet wet and retrieve it.

Squillions of dogs of every size, shape, and color romped on the beach, off leash. At times when I put the frisbee away, Boost made attempts to do outruns on dogs chasing their own toys, but I kept moving along the beach and so she had to come along, too.

Tika liked exploring and running in and out of the surf, but Boost just wanted to play frisbee. Tika once again became so excited that she had to grab my feet for a while to get it out of her system. Boost, not so excited.

Per the pedometer, we got about 3.5 miles of walking between going to & from and the long walks along the clean, smooth sandy shore. Stopped in the hotel room for a little while to play with my computer: Wireless is listed as being available in the courtyard, but my room is close enough that I get it right here.

Realized to my dismay that I hadn't brought the card reader for my camera's memory card. So no way to upload photos, which means that one again I've missed the deadline for my 52 Weeks For Dogs. Crudola. THat's twice in 2.5 months; I think you're out if you miss 4. Just last week was so busy--

And I think I got a lot of nice photos today, but can't use them next week because them's the rules.

After that, we drove out Carmel Valley Road about 8 miles, through Carmel Valley, to a regional park that allows dogs off-leash. (Carmel Valley is different from carmel-by-the-sea. They just want you to know that.)

The weather remained perfect; sunny but just cool enough that I could walk as briskly as I wanted to and not work up too much of a sweat. I picked trails to walk that were mostly level, but did a little uphill and downhill. One branch of a trail descended abruptly via a series of a few dozen steps cut into the hillside, crossing a broad trail running the length of the valley. Boost apparently found THAT exciting--she blasted up and down the stairs and raced madly back and forth on the trail down in the valley. Not sure what sparked that excitement. OK, for Tika it's surf at the beach, for boost it's stairs in the woods.

Boost was quite happy to just run and explore in the park, unlike at the beach. She mostly used her hobby horse floppy puppy gait (picture those horses mounted in a rack on springs that you'd rock back and forth on--kind of like that) that's so unlike the focused, intense border collie working look.

After the first 25 minutes, I discovered that my pedometer had fallen from my belt and dangled from its leash, and had registered only .2 miles. I'm thinkin' it missed maybe a mile of hiking.

Not a lot of wildflowers yet, but a few here and there. The showiest display came along the Lupine Loop, where--surprise!--a field of lupies blued the scenery.

When we got back to the car about 20 minutes before sunset, we were approaching 8 miles on the pedometer total for the day (plus whatever it didn't count while loose). We then parked back at the hotel and raced to the beach for some glorious after-sunset sky colors, then back up the hill again to the hotel for a shower in a nice marble shower, dinner with the dogs at my side in the restaurant (in the dog section)--AHI tuna and some stuff, and a coconut creme brullee, yum!

I am VERY tired. Dogs are completely sacked out. Think I'll join them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


SUMMARY: A two-day doggie trip sans agility. Can you imagine?!

Last year, a funny thing happened at the worker's raffle table. I earned a bunch of raffle tickets by working all day. I usually put them all into any free-entry certificates, hoping to win one here and there. Just for fun, I dropped one ticket into the bulging-full jar for one free night at the Cypress Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Because, why not?

And I won.

Pets are Welcome there. In fact, all of Carmel loves dogs. Nearby Monterey's pretty good about them, too. In Carmel, I can shop and dine out and hike and go to the beach, all with my dogs along. You know it's dog-friendly when that's noted at the top of their Wikipedia article!

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a truly charming town, originally an artist's enclave but now an extremely pricey (and yet still charming) town that has no street numbers for houses; the houses all have names instead. And they're all different.

Believe me, I will be taking my camera!

You should also read about some of their unusual laws.

We're going next week, just me and the Merle Girls. Our reserved room has a king-sized bed, fireplace, and private courtyard, usually running in the $400/night range at full price. Well--technically, the room isn't FREE because they don't include the $50/night pet fee in the free gift certificate. But that's OK, I'll take it anyway.

I am SO looking forward to a couple of days of off-leash hiking and beaching, some nice meals, tons of photos, and a little pampering. And, although I may meet with some agility friends for beaching or hiking, there will in fact be no agility activities for us at all! THIS is my new life. ;-)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Class Should Be Interesting Tonight

SUMMARY: We've had no class for two weeks due to rain. And--

--tonight it's not raining! But it's overcast and gray and the wind wails around the house with a message from the north. By 8:00 this evening, the thermometer will read 44F (6.7C), but with wind chill and humidity, Accuweather's estimate on the cold feel will be 39 (3.9C). That's almost bearable if there's no wind, but, dang, that wind!

And I'm running on 3 hours of sleep from last night. We won't mention any names, right, BOOST?!?!

Could be an interesting evening. I am, at the moment, after a nice warm bowl of chicken noodle soup, pondering just crawling into bed and calling it a night. But the canids are restless, prowling around the house and yard, gleeful with temperatures that allow them to run and run and never overheat!

Still, that down comforter and electric mattress pad are calling my name. How cavemen survived without electric mattress pads, I'll never know.

I have 45 minutes to decide. Ah, me.

Monday, March 08, 2010


SUMMARY: Musings between agilities.

Tika's fur is SO thick that her feet and legs are like sponges, and particularly the thick hairy bits on her behind. I'm thinkin' that makes her Sponge-dog Hairpants. Am I right?

My not-too inspired-photo for week 9 of 52 Weeks for Dogs:

When we go for a walk, and we encounter grassy areas, I play tug of war with Boost and her leash and allow her to run run run a bit with the handle of the leash in her mouth. She runs 20 feet ahead and then comes back for more tug. (She has never ever ever run out into the street, but I'm very careful anyway.) She now gets very excited when we get to grassland! Because we all get to run and play! And so, singing to her as we go, with apologies to Paul Simon:

We're going to grassland
In southern San Jose
We're going to grassland.
Doggies and walkers with leashies
and we are going to grassland!
My walking companion is five years old
She is so bored with simply smells
But soon we'll tug and play
And pretend to run away
in grassland!

(Original lyrics here.)

We've had no class for two weeks; been rained out. Rented the field with a friend and her 3 border collies Saturday afternoon and went up and practiced for a couple of hours. Mostly ran Tika just to run Tika. Tried to set up things with Boost where she's ahead of me or I have to push her out or I have to serp her. Bars were knocked. Speed occurred. Progress might have been made. I think just DOING things like that over and over until we get them right is probably good.

At home, have done some desultory threadles and serps. Today took a different approach: Worked on sending them into gambles where they had to keep going straight ahead of me. Not too bad on just jump jump tunnel, but stick a teeter instead of the 2nd jump and things went all to pot. This was good. Good practice at keeping their focus straight ahead.

Then the skies burst into a sudden downpour, although the sun continued to shine brightly. I retreated to the back porch, but continued to send the dogs down to the lawn area to do obstacles for a thrown reward. Rain didn't bother either of them! And revealed again that Boost doesn't know her left from right except in certain very circumscribed situations. I think this was actually an excellent exercise, because now the dogs do not have my body language (good and/or bad) to guide them, just my commands! So they have to listen! AND pay attention!

Again, I think progress occurred and I think I'll try more of that. That continued until I looked up across my back fence--and had to abandon the dogs to race for my camera:

Meanwhile, I am STILL liking the idea of not doing agility. Of course, after our 4-day mega-event Apr 15-18, in rapid succession there are my own home clubs' USDAA trials April 24-25 and May 1-2. See, this is the problem with trying to spread my agility out over the year: The convenient ones and the highest ROI ones are all glopped exceedingly tightly in just a couple of spots during the year, and the rest of the year is empy (that's empty without the hard-to-pronounce t in the middle).

Sigh. I will be VERY tired after those two and a half weeks are over! And probably ready for no more agility for a very long time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cars Got Passwords?

SUMMARY: How does it know I made the last payment? Looking at my bank statement?
Paid off MUTT MVR in January. Figured I'd take it in for a check-up in early February, which was wayyy overdue. Didn't look bad at all, only >>gulp<< $900 worth of maintenance and repairs. Plus one more thing that they needed to order a part for, another $150 (including labor).

Took MUTT MVR back today to get that part installed. I walked home with the dogs--35 minutes over 2 miles including plenty of halts for reminders about pulling on the leash. Nice day for a really brisk walk, too.

The work was pretty quick, took them only a couple of hours, even with all of the recall business they're having to deal with at the moment. Their shuttle came & took me over there, I paid my bill, got into MUTT MVR. Rolled up the windows that the technician had rolled down--and--

Crunch, the passenger side window made an awful noise and just stuck halfway up. I know it's not something they did, just miserable coincidence. It made a funny noise a week or so ago when I had it open and reclosed it. That was the window broken into last May and replaced. Thought maybe a piece of broken glass was still in there and had jiggled loose, but of COURSE didn't think about it when I took it in this morning.

They managed to manhandle it closed so I can drive around without rain or pigeons coming through the window. Labor estimate to take it apart and see what's wrong--another $130. Best guess, it's the whooziewhatzer scissoring mechanism that raises and lowers the window. Bet that's not free.

How do vehicles KNOW that they're paid off?! Curses.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Dogs Got Wednesdays?

SUMMARY: How do they know what night it is?

I don't get it. It's 7:30 Wednesday evening, when we have been leaving for agility class in recent months. BUT.

We haven't been to class in 2 weeks. (Anyway we're supposed to be going on Tuesdays but have been rained out.)

We went for a long walk to the park and some frisbee in the rain instead.

They got a full dinner instead of the usual quick snack before class.

I don't do ANYTHING DIFFERENT on Wednesdays than any other day, and in fact did stuff LESS like an agility class night tonight than I would on a normal class night. Why are they in here nudging me and pestering me and telling me it's time to get going? What do dogs know from Wednesdays?

Renter says it must be because he always brings home Chinese food (and always the same Chinese food) on Wednesdays and they always get the same little Chinese food treat (a single bite) from him. Is that really it?
Dogs are amazing. And I can see it's going to be a long evening. They've stopped nudging but are lying there staring at me.

NO CLASS TONIGHT, YOU HEAR ME? If you can identify WEDNESDAYS, you're certainly clever enought to READ MY LIPS: "NO class tonight!!"
Looking to my left:

Looking to my right:

Monday, March 01, 2010

Now What?

SUMMARY: Losing it about agility. A longish and introspective post.
Friends know that I've been saying for several years that I'm doing too much agility and I miss my old life and I'm going to cut back on the agility.

Well, I have...from a high of 23 weekends in 2003 down to 18 last year. Last year was tough because a couple of those weekends were because the dog or dogs were injured or other oddball reasons, and I was sad and frustrated at the time.

But, as weekends have gone by, with and without agility, and has the "without" weekends have at first hurt but then became gifts of free time, I have come more and more to realize:

  • How much I hate getting up at 4 in the morning.
  • How much I resent agility taking almost all my vacation days.
  • How stressed I am trying to get in full weeks of work around agility weekends; there is no time for me, ever, it seems.
  • How much I like being around my house and yard with NOTHING SCHEDULED except maybe a movie with a friend.
  • How much I can catch up on, or just relax and enjoy, in a weekend at home.
  • How relaxed I feel during the week when there's no trial the following weekend.
  • How much I enjoy doing things OTHER than agility, like I always used to BEFORE agility.
  • How much happier I am to have money to spend on something other than agility once in a while.
  • How tired I am of fine-tuning dogs' agility performance. I mean, I *tried* to start Boost right, like with Susan Salo's approach to learning jumping. Maybe didn't do as much of it as I should have, because at some point she started knocking those bars, and now it's drudgery for me to try to fix it. I know all the advice that says that you should make ways to make training fun for you as well as for the dog, but, well, OK, it isn't.
  • How crushed I was at deciding--because of Tika's on-again off-again pains and aches-- not to take Tika to the nationals in Performance although she'd had an excellent year...and regretting it and regretting it and regretting it... until she came up injured at that trial just a couple of weeks after when Nationals would have been, completely justifying my reluctance to go. And suddenly it was like I'd been let free from something I'd thought I was chasing. Of course it helps that the USDAA Nationals aren't within driving distance any more.

I've felt that I was coming to this point for a very long time, and I'm starting to think that I'm actually here: I want most of agility out of my life.

We'll see how I do when the USDAA trials start coming fast and furious later in the year. I still want to do some, just REALLY not 18 weekends a year of it!

Which leaves me with the question: So, what do I do with these crazy driven dogs who love agility for so many reasons? I mean, I love agility, too. I've developed such an amazing rapport with all of my agility dogs that I never had with them as pets--and I was pretty close with my "merely" pet dogs. Agility keeps me physically active, which is crucial for me. It burns off their energy. It gives us an excuse to really focus on each other individually. And I've met so many wonderful people whom I now consider my friends--although I almost never see any of them except at agility events. Because they're all always doing agility! There are a lot of laughs and good times in agility.

I'm thinking that, if I take a weekend and don't do agility, I should do somehting else with them. Like, drive an hour to a park where they can run off leash and spend 2 or 3 hours hiking and drive back. Of course, there goes half a day of my weekend right there, and it might very well be a solitary effort rather than with dozens of friends who are all interested in each other and each other's dogs.

Conversely, there's a lot of pain in agility. Dogs die. People's goals are thwarted (mine, too). People and dogs injured. This is all really a very small part of agility, but at times now it feels constant constant constant, and maybe that's a sign of where I am, that the pain grows instead of simply being dips in the background from which one recovers.

I had decided not to do any agility in March... easy enough because it's just 2 of the 4 or so CPE trials I had figured on doing for the year... and now I find that I am looking towards the 4-day trial in April both with excitement (it's a big, fun, exciting event) and trepidation (it's four frigging days of agility).

I dunno. I'm trying to take some time off from agility. I'm trying not to think "but my dogs are getting older and their agility lives are short." I'm trying to remember that, by the time these dogs are gone (gods willing), I'll be in my mid-60s. My arthritic knees aren't getting any better. MY life is going to be short enough, no matter how long it is. I have so much else I want to do in my life and I'm not getting it done.

I think I'm thinking out loud. I think I'm coming to where 230 weekends of agility competition (not to mention seminars and fun matches and classes) over 14 years have just worn out their welcome.

I started agility classes for something fun to do with Remington because he needed more exercise and more of a mental workout than simply tricks and playing in the yard were giving him. It certainly did that. I had never intended to compete, just keep going to classes every week for the fun. Don't know whether I could go back to just that.

Anyway--feels like I'm at a crossroad and I'm not yet entirely sure which direction I'm headed. There will be agility--heck, Tika and I could try again this year for Top Ten!--heck, Boost might actually someday earn a Jumpers Q and her MAD title! (I've almost given up on a championship)--but, like any addict, I'm trying to find a way to do it in true moderation without going cold turkey. Don't know whether that's possible.

Ah, well, yes, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day!

List of competition weekends and number of runs each

Click to see larger images.