a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Notes from Tuesday Night's Class

SUMMARY: Another student posted more than I did.
I posted a partial course map and some handling notes (Handling: Setting Dog's Tunnel Exit Expectations") after Tuesday's class.

Another student posted the full course and additional options and notes.

(I've added this link to my post, too.)

Brisk Morning Hike

SUMMARY: 1000 feet up and back before 10 a.m. Woot!
This morning I met agility dog Fin and his human mom for a cardio 2-mile hike one way up 1000 feet to Coyote Peak at Santa Teresa County Park.

Thank goodness for the fog to help keep us cool in that workout!

We saw quite a bit of wildlife, got a good workout, paused for photo ops at the top of the hill. I was in the middle of saying, "now we need to take a photo of all of us together," thinking we'd use the camera's timer, and at that moment an angel in white stepped out of the fog bank on the side of the hill, took our pictures, smiled, and vanished again. It was like a miracle.

We had to take our now-traditional photo at the same spot we always take one, to compare and contrast prior visits:

(Compare to December's hike photo and post:)

(And now compare to last August's afternoon hike photo and post:)

It's very funny that Tika and Boost are always on the same sides of me. I never make a conscious decision about that; both dogs walk on both sides of me, so not sure how it's worked out like that every time.

Two hours after we started, we were healthier, sweatier, and back in our vehicles.

For the complete collection of about 20 photos with brief narrative, visit this hike's photo page.

Update: July 31, 10p.m.PDT
Now you can read my hiking companion's blog and see her photos about today here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Video: What Next?

  • SUMMARY: To buy or fix or neither.
Wayyyy back in 2001 when I got my agility van, my 3rd agility dog, my agility house, and my agility canopy, it seemed like about the time to fill in the gaps in my agility collection. So I bought my own camcorder. It was fancy-pants one; the feature I really wanted was that it would also use the old tapes from the video camera I'd been borrowing from my sister.

It had tons of bells & whistles that I thought I'd surely use, but in fact pretty much what I used was: record, zoom, play. It recorded on miniDV (?) tapes, and now after all these years I have many, many of these tapes filled with agility stuff, only some of which I've converted to VCR tapes. (Didn't have a way to do DVDs until recently.)

I used the camcorder less and less often. It's bulky (by today's standards), I have to find someone available before each run to videotape, I have to explain how it works. A pain. So mostly I didn't.

Back in '05 or '06, when I attended the CPE National Championships in Elk Grove, I pulled it out to videotape everything--and it wouldn't work. So there was Tika racking up the 1st places, and I have no video of that. It cost me a huge amount of $ to get it repaired, and I vowed I'd use it to justify the expense. But, once again, my usage dribbled off.

So, fast forward (oh, yeah, another thing I used, plus rewind) to just this past spring, when I decided that I really needed more tapes of my runs with Boost to help me figure out what I'm doing right or wrong, not to mention just having mementos of my runs. And something fun to post to my blogs.

Anyhoooo-- I got the camera out first thing that particular Saturday morning, checked to be sure it worked, handed it to someone, got one run done, and then it crapped out.

I can't find a local shop who'll take it. I'm supposed to send it in to Sony for repair, with a minimum $271 fee, plus parts and possibly additional labor. Sheesh! Nowadays, I can get a whole new camcorder for that!

OK, sure, there are professionals videotaping at trials, but at, say, $8/run *minimum*, for 2 dogs and 5 runs a day, that's $160 for one weekend! Obviously some people have that kind of money, but not in my budget. I've bought a few from time to time and they're great. But.

Here's the question:
  • Repair? Means I can still use the tapes I've got, and can play them back to be able to convert to VCR or DVD. Plus I hate just tossing something like that if it's repairable. But--$271+postage+insurance+parts? Yikes.
  • Buy a flip video. Have used a couple. AMAZINGLY convenient; can slip into your pocket, plus there's basically one red button in the middle that you push to record. How easy is that? But they seem to work only off internal memory, limiting them to 1 to 4 hours and then you have to offload onto a computer. And their zoom is awful; only about 2x. I noticed right away that that's not very helpful for big agility rings. But from low $100s for 1-2 hours, $250ish for 4 hours. Cheap! Would I use it more because it's so convenient? Or would I hate it because I can't see what's going on for lack of zoom and for really low-quality video?
  • Buy an HD camcorder. Have ruled this out: They're still very expensive, I don't have an HD tv and am not likely to get one, and I'm not making professional movies, just mostly things to play on my computer or tv sometimes.
  • Buy a regular quality camcorder. Image quality isn't as nice as HD, but per Consumer Reports, even the cheapest ones have obviously better quality than the priciest flips. Can get them to use tapes (probably same ones I've been using--bonus, could still play my old tapes), or memory cards (which aren't cheap--like what digital cameras use). Looks like I can get a decent one for $250-$350. 
  • If I get one that doesn't play tapes, I'll have to pay someone to convert my existing hours & hours of tapes to DVD for me. (Another time-sucking research project--)
  • Do nothing, as I tend to stop using it over time.

Choices. Sigh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Handling: Setting Dog's Tunnel Exit Expectations

SUMMARY: A little thing from class Tuesday night.
This sketch is drawn from memory a day after class.Not on this drawing: #9 was in a straight path from #8 about 20 feet further on.

It demonstrated an interesting behavior on the part of most of the dogs.
We determined that probably the best handling for most handlers and dogs (especially fast dogs, where getting from 4 to 6 was tough) was this:
  1. Move laterally away from the weaves, supporting the dog in the weaves, to get into front cross position between 2 and 3 (means closer to 3 than 2). (Note: None of the dogs had problems getting over the 2 from the weaves independently.)
  2. Push the dog out slightly to get him around the back side of 4 and rfp and/or hold still briefly to be sure that you are anchoring him to pull into 5 (not go over 2).
  3. Serpentine the 6, pull the dog with you a couple of steps and push over 7. (Maybe if you were fast and your dog was slow, you could've gotten in for a front cross before 6, but because of where 9 was,  it was to your advantage to be on the takeoff side of #7 to be able to get there anyway.)
Here's the interesting thing. Most of us completed our 270 from 3 to 4 right on the wing of 4 and then instinctively ran parallel to the tunnel. This not only put us in a bad position to get the dog over 6 to 7, it also gave the dog the info that you were right with him, running parallel with him (the dotted line), so the dogs tended to blast straight out of the tunnel (dotted line).

If, however, you stayed as close to 3 as possible to push the dog out over 4, then it not only gave you more leverage in pulling the dog to the tunnel, but it also meant that when you turned and ran towards the *left* side of 6, the dog could see before he went into the tunnel that you were a good maybe 8 or 10 feet off to his left (dashed line), so when he came out of the tunnel, he was more inclined to turn to his left to see where you were (dashed line). This both put you in the ideal location for a serp and gave the dog a tighter turn to be able to take it successfully.

Thanks, Nancy, for figuring this out for us!

Update: July 31, 2:45 p.m. PDT (Another Power Paws student posted the whole course map with some additional exercises and handling notes here.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ol' Sore-Foot Tika

SUMMARY: Right front foot not happy.
Sometime between Monday morning and monday afternoon, Tika's right front foot became sore. That's about all I can tell you about it. I didn't see anything happen. I don't find any specific injuries. It doesn't bother her all the time: For example, she'll run out to the yard, grab her toy, bounce playfully a few times, then yelp and come limping. Twenty minutes later, she'll be blasting full speed across the yard after a squirrel. Couple of hours later, gets excited because I'm getting the leashes out, dances around and around, then suddenly yelps and is limping. Like that.

Last winter, we were out for several weeks for rest because of the little toe on her left front foot. I'm disinclined to spend money on a vet visit unless it gets worse or doesn't go away.

At least, thank goodness, we have no more trials scheduled until the end of August.

So I left her home tonight with the renter while I took Boost to class. Where, of course, her Aframe that fell apart over the weekend was perfect. But also the usual knocking bars, not wanting to come in to me on jumps, not liking rear crosses... so much to work on, so little time!

Monday, July 26, 2010

We Coulda Been a Contenda

SUMMARY: The successes and the almost-champion-of-the-universe-but-nots.

HEALTH: I remained symptom-free after about 8 p.m. Saturday night. Slept mostly OK until actual hunger pangs and hunger headache woke me middle of the night. A banana and a can of Diet Coke(R) with caffeine took care of those, respectively. In the morning, got up to the alarm and went to the trial without incident.

Early on, stuck to the bananas, pretzels, and 7-UP that seemed to have worked the best over the last couple of days; felt fine. At lunch, I headed to to the vendor fully intending to order plain rice and chicken (hey, works for dogs with upset tummies). BUT. Well. They had BLT on the menu. And that got my cravings moving, so I ordered one dry and on a whole-wheat pita. It was delicious, and I continued to feel just fine. So I guess I'm done with whatever it was. Whew!

DUST: I crated in the limited crating area in the arena, which we reserved for trial committee. I might never do that again--there was so much dust that I'm going to have to dismantle everything I own now that it's home and clean them individually to get rid of the grit. Horked up dust for half an hour after packing up. In the future, would rather walk the extra 40 feet and set up my canopy on the grass. Too bad; it was very convenient there.

Coulda been a contenda #1: I forgot that we (and many other CPE events) offer Perfect Weekend awards: If you Q in all available classes, you get a special ribbon. Tika Qed 8 out of 8 this weekend, but because I wasn't there for the first two classes Saturday, we didn't qualify for the special Perfect Weekend ribbon. Drat!

Coulda been a contenda #2: I'm not too ashamed to admit that I love CPE because of the opportunity it provides to bring home a lot of first place ribbons for us. Tika especially. But, as I noted earlier, we still have to be on top of our game for that to happen. Like yesterday, where we took two firsts but overhandling her on the weaves in Wildcard caused a miscommunication and we ended up in 2nd place.

Today, out of five classes, Tika and I managed to pull down only 2nds in the first four, losing to our usual top competitor Chaps in three of them (due to handling issues in two of them and one, just, well, chaps was .3 seconds faster) and, oh, the angst, losing to Boost in the other! (The only class today in which they competed directly.) Finally pulled it out in Jumpers with a really nice, smooth, fast, bobble-free run for our only 1st.

Tika's Sunday

So, class by class:

Full House: My favorite CPE class, 30 seconds worth of rabid point accumulation, in which I'm always striving to be the highest-scoring dog out of all entrants at the trial. We weren't. Only 2nd highest. That dang upstart Boost beat her by 3 points!

Standard: I don't remember any bobbles (didn't make any notes on this one). Pretty good run, as I recall, but Chaps usually has an advantage in classes with dogwalks and weaves, and indeed they beat us by .3 seconds.

Jackpot AKA Gamblers--Coulda been a contenda #3: Today's was a nonstandard gamble, which amounted to 30 seconds of rabid point accumulation followed by another 18 seconds of rabid point accumulation that required at least a 1, 3, and 5-pointer and then getting to the table to stop the clock within the alloted time to qualify. I had a course that in theory could've wiped everyone off the face of the planet with our stunning accumulation of points.

Before we ran, I watched superfast sheltie Cory, who has nice running contacts, tear the place up with 76 points. I thought that our course could get at least that much if everything went well, but Cory's flowed better. Problem with Cory's plan was that it involved doing three fast and accurate dogwalks, and Tika can't be counted on for that.

So I stuck with my original plan but mishandled in the opening in the 3 places for time-wasting bobbles in all 3 places that I knew would be tough, so then chickened out of the slightly more aggressive closing. Result: 74 points, which was still way more than anyone except Cory, but 3 less than I had hoped for.

However, Chaps ran after us, therefore knowing that they had to push the limits to beat us, and did, and did. (Really pushed the limits--just a half second under time, getting very close to NQing on time.) They had 77 points, for high in trial to that point. [Follow up with Boost's run, below.]

Colors: ALMOST beautiful in really high-style execution, until I ASSUMED she'd go *out* to an Aframe when I said "climb," but instead came past it while I tried to get fancy and race ahead for a super-fast finish. So had to go back and approach it again. Result: Chaps' handler said, "thanks, that reminded me that I have to do an "out" there," and so we were a whole 4 seconds behind Chaps, although still good for 2nd place.

Jumpers: Smooth and fast and a win.

Boost's Sunday

Unlike yesterday, had no problems with weaves that I can recall.

She continued yesterday's trend of not stopping 2o2o at the bottom of the Aframe, but I just tried to anticipate that and use it instead of trying to fix it. Great for speed and point accrual, like as in Full House and Jackpot. But very bad in terms of having a reliable Aframe. Will fix later. (Yeah, right. Danger Will Robinson!)

Qed 4 for 5 (3 1sts and a 2nd) and had several best-in-trial...except oh wait...maybe not quite...

Full House: Rabid point accumulation. When Boost and Tika are both on and I or they don't muck up, Boost is just faster in ground speed and has faster weaves and dogwalk. (Especially when she's not bothering to stop on the Aframe.) Boost had 50 points to Tika's 47 for a 1st--I believe highest out of all dogs competing. What a good girl!

Standard--The Long Down Count: Here's the danger of the unreliable Aframe: If I'm behind her (which I was), she comes off and *comes in to face me* rather than, oh, say, looking for the next obstacle to do. So now she's in my way and I can't get to the correct handling position. I said "down," she downed, I took a step, she jumped up in front of me. "Down," step, jump up. "Down," step, jump up. "Down," step, jump up, "Down," step, sort of stay halfway down enough for me to cautiously get around her. Yeah, she has a fabulous down except when I really need it. (Have been here before.)

SOOO her time was 12 (!) seconds slower than Tika's, but she was in a different group and that was good enough for another 1st place and Q.

Jackpot/Gamblers--Coulda been a contenda #whatever: [Refer back to Tika's description.] So: I stole Cory's plan because it was smoother than my original plan and Boost can, in fact, handle three fast, accurate dogwalks. And we ROCKED! Oh, man, she was fast, she loved the course, she handled beautifully, everything was perfect (well, except for leaving the Aframes early, repeat "good for speed & point accrual"), I knew that we could be well past everyone else's totals at the entire trial and all we had to do for the Q and the full bonus points to wrap it up was to go over one jump on our way to the table to stop the clock. Aaaaaaaaaaaand she knocked the bar.

So I had to pull her away from the table to the jump beyond it--iffy now as to whether we'd make time, but still had a chance. Aaaaaaand she did the "what jump? this jump? This one? This jump?" crap, and THEN knocked the bar. I knew we wouldn't Q at that point, but we still needed a jump for the full bonus points, so we went beyond that to the last remaining jump in the vicinity, where she repeated the "what jump? this jump?" dance and finally, with me standing there as calmly as I could and just saying "hup!" she finally turned around, took a good look at it, and went over.

All of that--the speed and the jump drama--entertained the sympathetic crowd mightily. We did in fact end up with a trial high 79 (yowza) points, but no Q. Doh.

Colors--Coulda been a... you know...: A really, really nice run, except that she came off the Aframe early so I couldn't get a front cross in that I needed for a smooth finish and we had a spin and then a turn the wrong way on the two following jumps. However, she still pulled out the 2nd-fastest time of all dogs who ran the course (Chaps was fastest), 17.28, for a 1st and a Q; only 2 other dogs besides chaps and Boost even broke 20 seconds. Without the bobbles, I'm sure she'd have been fastest. But, in her specific group, good for a 1st and a Q.

Jumpers--Coulda been... A really lovely, amazingly smooth run, even better than Tika's, which is saying something. She was almost 2 seconds faster than Tika, in fact, and was indeed the fastest of all dogs on that course--but naturally, sighhh, had a bar down. At her level in CPE, that was still a Q, but not a 1st place.


Home, no photos (didn't want to leave my camera in that dusty environment so it stayed in the car), pile of ribbons, back to eating comfortably; and now back to our regularly scheduled life.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Went. Maybe good, maybe not.

SUMMARY: Got in 6 runs today--agility, I mean; maybe a couple or 3 other runs--in 3 out of 5 classes.
I decided that things had been stable for almost 4 hours, so I'd get dressed and go, even if it was for only one class. I was ready to get going when a friend returned one of the message I'd left and said that they were just setting up for Snooker, and she was chief gate steward, so they'd figure something out for me. So I told her I should be there in half an hour, threw the Merle Girls into MUTT MVR, and headed out.

My original plan had been to stop at the store on my way by and pick up some imodium, but I scratched that to be able to get there for Snooker, one of my favorite classes. One has to have one's priorities! Plus my assumption was that things would remain stable, or I probably wouldn't have gone. Sipped liquids and nibbled at pretzels and a banana on my way there.

Got there just in time to walk the course with the small dogs (big dogs--my height--had already run, but they reset the poles for me).

Tika had a just lovely Tika Snooker run, perfect 51-point score, fastest time of the only 3 dogs out of all the dogs competing who got 51 points. So a Q and a 1st.

Boost? Well: Did keep up her 1st red, which was nice, but missed the weave entries on the 2nd obstacle--twice--and then crashed into me to get past me to take an off course. No Q, nuthin'. Pfah.

Next up was Wildcard. First up, I overcalled Tika and pulled her off the weave poles and she had to have something to say about that, so a little wasted time, and ended up in merely 2nd place, with a time of something like 20.6 (faster dog 20.4 I think). So Q and 2nd.

Then Boost had a perfect run, including two perfect weave entries, lovely 2o2o contact, two rear crosses without bobbles, and kept all her bars up. For the fastest time (17.something seconds) out of all the dogs competing. Only one other dog came in below 20 seconds. So a Q and 1st.

Last up, my favorite, Full House. Tika first, ran a lovely course although with a couple of very wide turns where I didn't manage her well, so maybe could have squeezed more points out of it. I left before results were posted, so don't know where we ended up in placements. But a Q for sure.

Boost kept all her bars up but missed her weave entries--twice--and at the end ran past a jump and knocked a bar; those don't hurt us, we just didn't get points for any of those. So she'll have a lot fewer points than Tika, although should still be a Q.

Between and among those runs, I discovered that--doh!--*running* is maybe not the best thing for me to be doing when one has--ah--the runs. Walking around and sitting and helping with the scoring, I was fine.

I left as soon as we'd run our last run, didn't stay to help set up for tomorrow. Got the imodium. Left my stuff there; friends said they'd bring it home if I can't make it tomorrow.

My biggest disappointment: There was a tasty-looking birthday cake there, and I didn't dare eat any of it! I must say, though, I felt amazingly perky and light on my feet, all things considered.

The arena looks pretty much the same as I remembered it--hard to say, though, as details are fuzzy. However, instead of muddy muddy MUDDY, everything is dusty dusty DUSTY! Just people and dogs walking by were enough to cover everything in my crating area with a blatant layer of dust.

Compare today's tire to the 1996 tire photo from yesterday's post--in about the same spot in the arena, I think. (Didn't take the old one for reference or I probably could have gotten it exactly lined up.) I don't remember the very convenient actual restroom building last time; I think then it was just port-a-potties. Very grateful for it today!

And that's all for tonight!

Go or No?

SUMMARY: At home, not at trial.
Going to an agility trial was SO not going to happen this morning; after a much-interrupted night, I was unable to leave safe dashing distance of the facilities from about 4 a.m. until 7:30 or so. Finally got an hour and a half more sleep.

I've lost 3 lbs in a day, undoubtedly mostly fluid loss.

Then spent an hour slowly consuming 7-up and pretzels. "Clear liquids" are on the diet list, but I opted for pretzels rather than toast for my craving for salt. So far so good.

I'm a bit wiped out. But Full House is the last class of the day--I could still get there for that! Maybe I'll try calling a couple of people and finding out how far through the schedule they are, and go down just for that after another nap.

I'm thinking about this--I think that this is the first time in 14 years, 200-some-odd trials, that I've missed one because of my own illness. If I were a major-league baseball or football player, that would be making news.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh Bother, Said Pooh

SUMMARY: Or was that poo? (Can you say: Diarrhea? Can you even spell it without looking?)
This could be interesting--in hopefully not too bad an interesting way.

Something I ate, or inhaled, or was inserted into me by alien probes, started disagreeing with me late thursday evening (after I had written and preposted my last blog entry). I tossed and turned for hours, not feeling ill, just twitchy, like one might with too much caffeine (I'd had none). Finally rose at 3 a.m., in the mood for bread and water--made it more palatable by turning the bread into toast and water into mint herbal tea. Halfway through my snack, everything in my system abruptly decided to start coming out. Over and over and over for hours.

Got a couple of hours of sleep finally between about 7 and 9 a.m., and then it continued, and worse again after I tried a light breakfast.

I was supposed to join the Bay Teamers setting up the trial site at 2:00, but it wasn't until 4:00 that things had settled down enough to where I could safely be away from Critical Facilities for at least half an hour. Then boldly loaded the beasts into MUTT MVR and drove on down to San Martin, sipping water on the way. Everything was fine.

Surprisingly, I was still able to help set up, as apparently the site hadn't been ready at 2:00 as promised, so people stood around until 4:00 and were still setting up when I arrived. I helped, set up my stuff for tomorrow, let the Merle Girls out for a walk and visit, chatted with friends about tunnel repair, and everything was fine. Drove home again, finishing my 16-oz bottle of water; everything stayed fine.

So, around 6:30, starting to feel just a tad peckish, I had some toast and lemon herbal tea. Half an hour later, started in on a banana. None of which apparently pleased my innards; it's been back & forth to the loo ever since.

I know you wanted to know all that. But I say all that to point out that I've had about 2 hours of sleep, nothing to eat that's stayed in place for going on 24 hours, and I'm supposed to be doing agility all weekend.

I'm assuming it's something I ate and isn't contagious. But now my stuff is set up down there so I have to go. And I paid my entry fee and hate to lose it.

Well, maybe if I just don't eat anything all weekend. Assuming I can get some sleep tonight. About to go upstairs and find out.

Yep, should be interesting.

CPE Trial This Weekend

SUMMARY: Maybe my only CPE for this year.
There is SO much USDAA available now, and I am trying SO hard to cut back on weekends in agility, that there's not enough room for CPE, too. Which is too bad--means Tika will probably never get her C-ATE and Boost will never get her C-ATCH. If we keep up with just one CPE trial a year, I mean.

But this weekend, it's a Bay Team trial, and it's pretty close to my house; less than half an hour away. Yay! In the covered horse arena in San Martin where Remington and I attended our first-ever agility trial, and where he earned Q ribbons, thereby hooking me, despite the abysmal storm and mud on that first Saturday in January 1996. Fortunately I returned that Sunday and it was a lovely day.

...Our first-ever competition, on film, thanks to Bill Newcomb!  Note the mud-covered Aframe, and the handler's arm sticking stiffly out...

There's been no agility there since, and I've had no reason to go back. It'll be interesting to see whether it brings back memories that I haven't already brought back many times.

...14 and a half years ago! No wonder I felt more spry when I started. Note your basic cross-trainer shoes (no cleats), the handler's stiff arm pointing the way, and the dog-awful mud glistening along the fence--and covering the equipment and my jeans...  Oh, jeez, and our old original wood-frame tire! Wow! 

I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a relaxing weekend, despite probably being overworked at the score table--seems to happen at CPE trials, and despite temps that are supposed to be well into the 90s F (32+ C).

I'm particularly looking forward to Full House--my favorite CPE game, like a free-for-all gathering points. Is it no wonder that this is the only class in which Boost has advanced to Level C (the highest level)?

For the first time ever, Tika and Boost will be competing against each other, in the two Full House classes this weekend, because for the first time in CPE I've moved Tika down to 20" instead of letting her go at 24". And although Boost is eligible straight up for 16", I'll keep her at 20" as long as she has to jump 22" in USDAA.

My hope is to pick up a bunch of ribbons for both dogs, but particularly Hi C-Era Interstellar Propulsion herself, to salve my wounded pride at her usual iffy showing at USDAA trials. CPE is just excellent for bringing home ribbons, although some excellent competition awaits us this weekend; for example, Chaps (same dog who often beats us in USDAA unless we're teamed together) will be there. Don't remember the others, but in looking at the running order, I saw some definitely high-level competitors. So it won't be a cakewalk! But at least it won't be a mudwalk. I hope.

...You can really see how muddy parts of the ring were (and the jeans and the jacket--can you tell my dog put his paws on me?). Also note--the handler's stiff arm pointing the way. And the metal-frame lawn chairs in the background! Everyone had that kind back then! Now almost no one brings chairs like that; they're all the fabric collapsible camp-type chairs.  Ah, technology...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Good Kind of Paperwork

SUMMARY: Title certs.
Last week, a thick package came from USDAA: Tika's titles completed during this April's trials! (Plus one for the Booster.)

The only one we're missing is the Lifetime Achievement Award--but of course those are beautiful plaques, handed out at Nationals every year. Will have to wait a year or two to get that one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Part 4 of Packing for an Agility Weekend, Then and Now

SUMMARY: Fourth in a series comparing my 1996 gear to my 2010 gear, and transitions between.

[Previous parts: Part 1, transportation and others.; Part 2, shade, crate covers, mat.; Part 3, clothing]

  • Then--
    • 1996: Short-legged beach chair because it was small & so I'd be sitting at the ground level with my dog.
    • 1998: Double-wide folding chair because at a trial, another friend had one, and Remington sat on the chair with her and snuggled.  However, he never did that with me on MY chair.
    • 2001: Folding chair with built-in foot rest. Because of my back injury at the time, I couldn't sit in the normal position.
    • 2004: Foot rest kept getting in the way. Couldn't find a purple chair, so bought a blue folding chair.
  • Now--In 2005, a single friend with 2 matching purple chairs generously traded one of her purple ones for my blue one.

Sleeping over:
  • Then--Tent. Ground cloth. Sleeping bag. Air mattress.
  • Now--Thick chaise lounge pad and down comforter in the back of MUTT MVR.

Dog beds and mats:
  • Then--Old beach towel.
  • Now--I have all of these, and use different ones depending on the circumstances:
    • Hand-made roll-up bed with ties, bought my first year for Remington from some ladies at a trial who made them as a fund-raiser.
    • Thick white furry mat with blue trim that I bought for Jake.
    • Purple faux fur (plush) mats that always stay in the wire crates in MUTT MVR.
    • Another purple plush mat usually used when sleeping in van.
    • Two ivory-colored plush mats, usually used in soft crates on cold or wet days.

Dog water and containers:
  • Then--Water carrier: Gallon tupperware cannister, because that's what I had; kept in the pantry between trials. Bowls: Water bowl from house went into car for weekends, then back into the house.
  • Now--Water carrier: Two one-gallon jugs with sturdy screw-on lids that pop open for pouring. Kept in MUTT MVR at all times. Bowls: Metal pails that clip into soft crates. Anti-spill one-piece bowls for wire crates in MUTT MVR. Two-part anti-spill bowl that also lives in MUTT MVR at all times for class or when dogs are loose in car. Folding bowls in suitcase for hotel use.

Dogfood and bowls:
  • Then--The first year, came home every night no matter what, so didn't have to take food. Next step: Food bowls from house went into car. Food was premeasured into individual labeled quart zip-lock bags for each dog and meal so I didn't have to take my measuring cups with me.
  • Now--Dedicated gear bag for food stuff, including metal bowls that always stay in that bag, measuring cups that always stay in that bag, and filled-up gallon  zip-lock bags.

A Modest Proposal to Solve Everything

SUMMARY: Lots of trials, classes, and intense practice help one's weight and health, plus save unwanted dogs and improve the economy.
From UBA HR Elements, July 2010:

Twenty-eight states saw their obesity rates rise in the past year, according to research by the Trust for America's Health. Mississippi had the highest rank for a sixth year in a row -- with 33.8 percent of the adult population rated obese -- followed by Alabama and Tennessee (both 31.6 percent). Nearly all the top 10 states were in the South. The healthiest states were concentrated in the Northeast and West. Colorado had the lowest obesity rate at 19.1 percent.

Scary. But Colorado rocks! (I wonder if that's why they call them the Rockies?) California is just 9 places higher than Colorado. I found that info by browsing around and following links on the Trust for America's Health site.

I know that my weight is more stable--or even dropping--when i'm doing a lot of agility. And, although there are overweight or obese people in agility (Full disclosure: I'm on the borderline of the BMI "overweight" category), there aren't many, and it seems to me that there is a much larger proportion of obviously ideally-weighted people than you'd find at your average shopping center.

Plus those who do carry extra pounds I'm willing to bet are much more healthy than those of the same weight who don't. I've been reading plenty of research lately that says that's the case (no surprise): Overweight people who exercise are healthier than overweight people who don't. (Too busy to find the links right now... sorry..)

So, to solve the obesity problem: Everyone in those southern states should take up dog agility! It would find homes for all those millions of dogs currently in shelters or foster homes (or being euthanized) and pour money into the economy for all those vendors and judges and agility sites and equipment manufacturers, who would then spend it on other goods and services--so we could fix the economy, too!

I'm sure there are many other similar large-scale benefits like that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


SUMMARY: Plastic wrap:Yum! and amazing ADCH and PF vs Ch.

Plastic wrap

One thing you need to know about Tika: When I toss the toy for the dogs, Tika likes to scoop it up and keep on going in a straight line until something possibly interesting or possibly inconvenient (e.g., a fence) appears before her. Then she drops the toy. Then Boost brings it back. If the object was interesting, Tika might not follow Boost back immediately, but does so usually before I can throw the toy again.

The other thing you need to know about Tika is that she is a chow hound beyond belief. Off leash, she seems happiest when sniffing around in the grass, or around other people's canopies, for lost molecules of food. She has veered off in the middle of agility runs to go out to the edge of the ring to scoop up a morsel that no human could have detected.

So, Sunday morning, there's this huge beautiful lawn where we can warm up our dogs. I toss the frisbee, Tika scoops it up and runs till she gets to a row of canopies (no one there yet, it's early), drops the frisbee, and starts sniffing.

I call her name once (I try not to say "Come" unless I know I can enforce it) and don't worry too much about it when she doesn't respond. Sniff sniff sniff, while Boost brings me the frisbee.

Then suddenly, Tika dives under the lowered canopy, grabs something large, and starts chomping. I yell various useless things, tell Boost to "down", and run as fast as I can in Tika's direction. It's a big field. As I get closer, I can see that she has one of the huge sandwiches that Quail Lodge provided us for lunch--huge!--and still mostly wrapped in plastic wrap! Crap!

I yell other things, like NO! and DROP IT! (neither of which Tika understands, I can guarantee that) and COME! (which she knows what it's supposed to mean but doesn't care enough), but she understands my rapid approach and tone of voice, so flees just far enough away from me so that she can stop and swallow the whoooole thing, and I see the dangling plastic wrap disappear inside my dog.

That's a lot of plastic wrap.

An agility competitor who's also a vet makes a casual comment about Tika not needing dinner today. I confirm with her that I can probably not worry about the plastic, since Tika's a large dog and her system can probably deal with it, but just to be aware if she's not producing poop, starts vomiting, or stops eating. So I don't worry about it. Tika shows no ill signs all day.

Monday, no sign of plastic wrap, and everything else seems to be working normally.

This morning, when I went out for our morning play session, there was the plastic wrap. Whew!

So I probably should have signed up for Susan Garrett's brand new online course, "The Five Minute Formula for a Perfect Recall". I've listened to her video about the course, and it sounds great, but that wasn't in my budget and I have various susan garrett (and other) games related to recalls already that I only pay attention to once in a while (and when I do, the recall improves). So maybe later. And hope that meanwhile Tika doesn't kill herself in some way where a reliable recall would really have helped. Plus I'm sure registration is closed by now. But it's the budget that's the biggest issue at the moment.

Amazing ADCH

Friend Cheri and her Border Collie Jeepers earned their ADCH this weekend. I can still remember so clearly when they had their first trial coming up, and Cheri was so worried that she'd embarrass herself with her new dog and all her training mistakes.

...No wonder I can remember it clearly, because that was JUST 10 MONTHS AGO! They've been in Masters for exactly 3 months.

Even Tika's performance ADCH, which she got very quickly as an experienced and speedy dog, took 6 months after her last class moved from Championship to Performance. There were probably fewer days of trials in those 6 months than there have been in the last 3, but still--C&J are a Qing machine!

Congratulations to an awesome team!

Championship vs Performance for Tika's scores

Sometimes I feel odd about Tika being in Performance when she was still doing reasonably well in Championship. But then I remind myself that I did it because of her recurring soreness and arthritis, and anyway, now she *is* 9 and a half. Dog participation in our USDAA trials drops off noticeably at 7 years and again pretty sharply at about 10 years. So she's getting up there.

It is so much fun for me to be winning classes and top ten points; we'd have never been in the Top Ten in the Championship program and we almost never won classes there.

And then I get put in my place by a dog like the super-accelerated Daz who whupped our butts in several classes this last weekend. I don't know how old Daz is or why he's in performance, but we've got our work cut out for us if we see much of him/her.

Anyway, I thought I'd compare Tika's wins from this weekend with the Championship 26" dogs to see how she'd have placed (assuming she'd have had the same speed at 26" rather than 22" AND kept her bars up, either of which I dunno).
  • Saturday jumpers: Won P3 22". In champion 26", would've been 3rd of 20 or so.
  • Saturday Snooker: Won P3 22" and SuperQ. In Ch 26", would've been 4th of 20ish, but there were only 3 SuperQs (we did that a lot, one out of SuperQ position).
  • Saturday Gamblers: Won P3 22". In Ch 26", would've been 2nd place.
  • Sunday Standard: Won P3 22". In Ch 26", would've been merely 5th.
  • Sunday Jumpers: Won P3 22" (with a faceplant and really wide turns). In Ch 26", would've been a lowly 10th of 20 dogs.
  • Saturday Steeplechase Round 1: Placed 3rd (behind Daz and Chaps). In Ch 26"--here's one of the weird disconnects--she'd have placed 2nd!  Round 2: Placed 3rd (same dogs). In Ch 26"--she'd have placed 2nd also!
So, anyway, we're still doing well in comparison. Mojo score!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tika Top Ten Update Again

SUMMARY: Updating the table I published a while back.
This shows:
  • How many points we've got and trials entered so far this year (through July 18), plus how many more trials I plan to enter this year
  • Per USDAA site, as of June 26ish, how many pts the current #10 dog has
  • How many points it took in 2009 to make Top Ten in that class.

trials so far
trials more
Tika '10
Current #10 pts'09 USDAA
to be top 10
Gamblers7 5 252130
Snooker7528 1830
Standard75 262236

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday at Day on the Green

SUMMARY: USDAA trial second day.
Yeah, indeed, it was no picnic dragging myself out of bed at 5 this morning. Dogs were eager to go again, though. The drive took 80  minutes. Just after the turnoff from Highway 1 onto Carmel Valley Road, there was a decoy dog show that wasn't ours.  Funny, two dog events so close together on the same weekend. (This is an AKC type conformance and obedience show, I believe.)

We wonder whether it fooled a lot of spectators who never made it further down to the road to our REAL show (which was hidden wayyyy back in the Quail Lodge grounds.)
...Boost admires the truly amazing turf, and the camera seems to want to make her a truly BLUE merle with nothing to go on but brilliant green, which it also got a little wrong...

Tika won Jumpers again (by a mere .02 seconds) for another 5 Top Ten points, putting us I'd say with 100% confidence in the Top Ten for Jumpers for 2010.

In Gamblers, she flew off the dogwalk, costing us 5 points, turned way wide twice when I was trying to call her in, and that's all it took so that, when her 2nd teeter was descending, the whistle blew and the judge didn't give us those 5 points, either. So instead of winning--not even in the placements. Although she got the gamble nicely, so did "everyone else" in her group.

In Snooker, well crap, *I* thought I was doing a tight wrap to a 7-point obstacle and *she* thought she was going straight ahead to a 4-point obstacle, and since she was in better communication with her feet than I was, the 4-pointer won, again keeping us out of the placements (although she got all the way through the course) because "everyone else" in her group got the full 51 total points.

But she did win Standard today, so, except for Jumpers, she reversed her well-done courses from yesterday.

In Steeplechase round 2, we all finished in exactly the same order we placed in the first round, so we came home with a 3rd place and $12.

Boost had a lovely Gamblers today, placing 6th out of 53 dogs in her class. Once again, no Q in Jumpers--one dang bar!--or Snooker--knocked the first dang red! How is it that I'm trying to get a Jumping and Snookering dog and instead seem to have a Standard and Gambling dog? (I know there are lots of people who'd trade me Jumpers or Super-Qs for Gamblers legs. Too bad it doesn't work like that.)

We actually brought home some titles:
  • Boost's Gamblers Champion (10 Qs)
  • Boost's Standard Champion (10 Qs)
  • Tika's Performance Jumpers Champion (10 Qs)

To remind myself of how badly my new quest for Top Ten points has skewed my agility-success world view, I've been feeling like this weekend was decent but not great because Tika and I missed so many opportunities for Top Ten points, mostly with just one stupid thing here or there.  It wasn't until I got home this evening and entered it all into the database that I did a double-take and had to go back and check: Tika actually Qed 9 out of 10 runs this weekend! So, really, it was  a pretty good weekend.

While packing up at the end of the day, I found this little guy snugged up in a fold in Boost's crate, under the sheet covering her. Shows you how damp they must keep the lawns usually! (Today they had gotten so dry that dogs were face-planting left and right in the twisty Jumpers course, both of my dogs included.)  I had to wander a bit to find a place to put him where I hoped he'd be safe from all the packing-up activity. (Probably a Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra, also called the Pacific Chorus Frog.)

The drive home took Two. And. A. Half. Hours! But, while sitting stationary on the road drumming my fingers, it gave me a chance to admire the endless artichoke fields...

...and the cleverly disguised cell phone tower (amazing, isn't it, how much their clever disguise makes it look exactly like a disguised cell phone tower?)...

...and the big red barn, whose flea markets and sales are often the cause of major backups coming home, but didn't seem to be anything going on there today.
And, once again, we're home, I'm tired, dogs are not, and it's now bedtime.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday at Day on the Green

SUMMARY: USDAA trial first day.
Our agility day started the way saturdays usually start--the alarm going off at 4:30 in the morning. I was dreaming either about the handlebars on my bike not staying straight (I haven't ridden my bike in many years) or about the huge garden spider who had spun her web in my doorway and was thereby catching pigeons trying to fly through. And I couldn't take pictures of it because my camera was in another room, and to get there, I'd have to go through the doorway--

Anyway, the alarm went off and I remained dreamily groggy the whole time while dressing, pottying the Merle Girls, and filling the cooler. My mind's built-in MP3 player started singing:

Oh, how I hate to get up in the morrrrrrrning!
Oh, how I'd love to remain in bed!

But we got on the road in record time and, after an 85-minute drive, arrived at the Quail Lodge/Golf mecca agility site. A friend saved an ideal place for me, right alongside the entry road, so I could just toss everything out of MUTT MVR right there, go park the van, and then come back and set up.

...The girls think there must be something more interesting going on over THERE. (Tika: "Maybe food!" Boost: "Maybe Border Collies!")...

 The morning started with foggy overcast--had to use my wipers on full on the way down--but it burned off quickly and we had perfect sunshine on the most perfect lawn I've ever seen that doesn't have a cup and a flag in the middle of it. And a cold marine wind that made the ambient temperature just about right.

Even the portapotties were in bright, cheery, sunny colors, none of this gloomy blue bathroom portosan color that you usually see.

We are now set up and ready for a successful day of agility! (Regarding recent posts about packing for agility then and now--purple/teal striped mat, purple/teally sheet to throw over crates, purple striped beach towel atop crates, purple/teal crates, purple/teal treat holder, purple chair, 2 purple gear bags...)

Anyway--Boost started the day in style, by Qing in Standard on a course in which only 9 of 53 dogs in her height Qed! (25 Eliminated.) We placed 8th--a little issue with not keeping the elbows down on the table, although we probably lost only  a few seconds on it this time.

So if BOOST and I can do it, then Supertika and I surely can, right? Well--yah, lovely on everything except going from the table to the tunnel, where she cut behind me and went into the wrong end. My feet, hands, shoulders, everything were pointing to the correct end. However, in fact, I could've solved the problem by just hanging back 2 steps and running with her instead of assuming she'd come where I was pointing. Dang. Is it going to be another one of those days?  So E for Teek in standard. No top ten points for YOU! Curseeees!

Next up: Steeplechase. So what happened to the Boostergirl who ran standard with me? What a disaster!

Tika ran Steeplechase well but didn't feel fast to me. She finished in 3rd place (out of 8 dogs) with a time of 33.10, 2.5 seconds behind Daz and .6 seconds behind Chaps. We qualified easily to run in the money round tomorrow, but only 3rd place, sigh. (I know, how quickly I've become accustomed to Tika's successes in Performance.)

Grand Prix came after that. Boost's run wasn't as much of a disaster as Steeplechase, but we E'ed on refusals--not as bad as it sounds: skipped a weave pole and had to come back for it, and then massive confusion on one jump for 2 refusals on the same jump. Otherwise most of it looked pretty darned good.

Tika again was smooth in the Grand Prix but felt slower than recent weekends, and she--yes--finished 3rd (out of 8 dogs), with a time of 38.67, 1.3 seconds behind Daz and .33 seconds behind Chaps. Yeah well dang, so it's going to be one of THESE kinds of days instead, is it? But at least we're Qing and placing. Still, I could've really used the Standard Top Ten points--T10 is what we're here for!

Gamblers picked up a bit. Boost had a lovely opening, although she knocked one bar and ran past one,  AND she got the gamble without a single hesitation. (It was very similar to a gamble we'd worked on in the back yard this week, so, hey, practice DOES help!)  She placed 12th of 59 dogs--those extra 2 points would've maybe put her in the ribbons. But I was pleased anyway.

Tika knocked a bar in her Gamblers opening, and BARELY got toenails into two Aframe contacts--all scary in this crowd, but she aced the gamble, and I apparently aced my planning because she was into the gamble just a fraction of a second after the whistle blew. Turns out it that was our saving grace--three of us got the same number of points (danged knocked bar) but we won on time. So 1st place of 8 and 5 Top Ten points! Yeeha!

Then Snooker. Boost bobbled her way through a moderatlely complex opening--actually most of it was pretty good, but we probably wasted time in a couple of places that would've kept us from completely the whole course anyway. But it didn't matter, as she knocked bar #3 in the closing, keeping us out of even Qing range.

Tika got through the same opening, looking considerably perkier (I think she likes my heightened excitement in Snooker, although I try to remain calm)--although her Aframe was amazingly iffy. AND she made it all the way through the closing, although my heart almost stopped when I was SURE she had missed the Aframe contact again--but no, then the judge called the point value and we were safe! After the 1st 11 dogs, we were in first place, but had to wait an hour before the last 2 dogs ran to know whether we actually won and got a Super-Q (we did! and for 7 Top Ten points because there were 13 dogs).

...why we particularly like SMART's SuperQ ribbons...

Then came Jumpers. Agggghhhh, Boost's first half of the course was gorgeous and fast. Her second half of the course was gorgeous and fast. It was that jump in the middle that she wouldn't come in to me over, instead running past, full sped, LOOKING AT ME DAGNABBIT THE WHOLE TIME and took an off-course jump. Eh, who wants any danged Jumpers Qs anyway.

Tika, whose favorite class really is probably jumpers, because there are no pesky contacts, aced it, winning (1st out of 10, for 5 top ten points--dang, one dog scratched or that'd have been 7 points. But actually we've got so many in Jumpers now that I think we're home free in this event).

...Tika's ribbon collection from today looks a whole lot better than last trial's entire weekend...
...And Boost's collection isn't awful, and I'm not OBJECTING to gamblers and standard, mind you, it's just that we have more than plenty of those and no Jumpers or Snooker Super-Qs...

Boost, however, redeemed herself by winning a free day's entry in the raffle. Seems to me that Boost has been my most successful dog in raffle winnings. And I'm likin' it.

The schedule said we'd be done around 6:00, but it neglected to tell me (or I just wasn't thinking straight), that they added Strategic Pairs to my ring after that. And since they're "paying" me for being Score Table Czar, I felt obligated to stick around to score that event. (We didn't enter it for various reasons.) So here's when I actually left Carmel for my minimum 85-minute drive--which due to traffic turned into about a 100-minute drive--

So it was arrive home, stash cooler ice & drinks for tomorrow, load photos off camera, label & upload them, shower, dinner, dry hair, type up blog... OMG it's 11 already?!?!

Well, you know what song I'll be singing in the morning tomorrow when the alarm goes off at 5:00.

Down in Cool Carmel

SUMMARY: USDAA weekend again
It's supposed to be approaching 100F (38C) on Saturday here at home, but only in the high 70s F (25ish C) in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where this weekend's SMART trial is being held on the beautiful Quail Lodge turf.

I guess I shouldn't be counting my chances for Top Ten points, since we crapped out so thoroughly last weekend. BUT--I will anyway. Two each gamblers, snooker, jumpers, and Standard.

For some reason there are always more dogs in P3 Snooker than in the other 3 classes. Are people keeping their dogs in Snooker to get elusive Super-Qs before they retire completely? It's a puzzle to me.

Boost, well, sigh, we need Super-Qs and Jumpers Qs.

This week I did one day in the park where I jogged and sprinted. That's one day more than I've done in months. In class Tuesday night, my legs were so leaden I couldn't even run a complete in-course class. I don't know how I've deteriorated so badly. Seems like I've never recovered completely from 2 weekends ago, followed by my evening hike 2 days after that. It's odd.

I've been practicing "outs" and gambles in my back yard, a little. Pulled out some old gamblers course maps from my files. I dunno why--it's Jumping I need to work on with Boost. But hard to do in my back yard.

Excuses, excuses.

I will go, I will work the score table, I will run, I will enjoy not being at home in the un-air-conditioned house, I will have fun with my dogs and my friends. That's the plan, anyway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Part 3 of Packing for an Agility Weekend, Then and Now

SUMMARY: Third in a series comparing my 1996 gear to my 2010 gear, and transitions between.

[Previous parts: Part 1, transportation and others.; Part 2, shade, crate covers, mat.]

(I see at least one more part after this, maybe 2. But today, the most important part, because remember, it's all about the clothing!

  • Then--I had perfectly lovely cross-trainers...you know, "tennis shoes." Can't remember for sure, now, but I think I'd already started competing (1996) before I realized how slippery grass could be. I "borrowed" my then-spouse's old soccer cleats, because he wasn't using them anyway, and they sort of fit.

    The first time I attended Power Paws Camp--early 2000s--Clean Run had a booth to which they hauled all kinds of goodies, including large stocks of shoes for agility people. I tried a bunch on, found a pair of gray Dita cleats that fit nicely (although, like I did at everything else's price, I gasped at the price for *dog* event shoes), bought them, and wore them happily for a couple or three years. But the leather had started cracking, pieces were coming loose, the cleats were wearing down.

    So at USDAA Nationals, maybe 2004 or 2005, Clean Run was again there with a huge store. There was a new manufacturer of shoes specifically for agility, I think Agile Gear? (No, maybe not, Agile or Agility something.) The shoes fit me like a charm, better than the Ditas! I delightedly shelled out the huge money for them. They lasted me exactly 3 months before they started literally falling to pieces. Great concept, huh!
  • Now--The next year, I bought a pair of the same Ditas I'd had before, and I'm still wearing them. A bit worn around the edges, that's for sure. (And oh, BTW, I still have the OLD pair of Ditas in the garage "just in case"--guess I should check and see which pair is really more worn out now!)

    Oh--huh--I see that Dita now has an entire category of dog agility shoes! How cool is that?

Waterproof footwear:
  • Then--Ew! Ew! Walking around on the dewy grass early in the morning, shoes and socks and feet got sopping wet! Ew! My then-spouse gifted me with my own pair of rubber Wellies (generic). I could slip my feet in and out pretty easily. Great idea. Used them for two or three years, then carried them around in the car just in case for a couple more years, then they mouldered in the back yard until last winter, when I really needed them for some urgent repair work in the yard in the rain, but they were kaput.
  • Now--Pfui, what's a little moisture on one's toes?

  • Then--
    • Phase 1: Whatever T-shirts I had. Nuthin' with dogs on them.
    • Phase 2: Bay Team t-shirts.
    • Phase 3: My first USDAA Nationals, in San Diego, 2000--OMG, in the vendor area I was like a kid in FAO Schwartz! I had never seen so much dog-related gear--and clothing! Had to buy a couple of dog-agility-related t-shirts so that I'd have some! 
    • Phase 4: Got my first USDAA polo shirts at the 2000 and 2001 Nationals. I think that's what we got just for showing up, rather than t-shirts.
    • Phase 5: USDAA put in its Nationals premium (I think 2004) that it preferred exhibitors to wear polo shirts--tucked in. I bought a tie-dye polo shirt to show my contempt for upper-crust dress codes. And our team shirts were polo shirts. So were our team shirts for the next 4 years.
  • Now--Mostly polo shirts (I think my neck likes to breathe). Tucked in to absorb the sweat better. (Well, you asked.) Usually dog-related. Or one of my other dozens of dog-related shirts.

    Almost never wear non-dog-related shirts to agility events any more.

Bras (yah, gotta mention it, this is crucial agility clothing for some of us competitors!):

  • Then--Whatever sorts of lightweight yet feminine support garments I owned.
  • Now--Sports bras, definitely. The kind you could pull your shirt off over your head and wave it to your fans and you'd still be be more modestly (yet still colorfully) dressed than in a typical bathing suit. I have black, white, gray, purple, teal, blue, light blue, navy, and blue/purple tie dye.
  • Then--I don't really like wearing hats. Never have. (Although they intrigue me, and I have a hat collection.)  But with the sun beating down on you and getting in your eyes, gotta do SOMEthin'.  Around the time I started agility, a vendor at an art & wine festival had these cool visored scarves, basically. So you tied the scarf on your head with the visor over your eyes. I likeed that because it wasn't so hat-like and I could adjust the tightness very easily. Bonus: I could use it as a dog tug toy in an emergency.  Liked my first one so much that I later bought a 2nd one. Then--probably because basically I don't like hats-- I gradually stopped using them. (They're still in my dog gear bag, though.)

    Mostly avoided hats for a few years. Had a couple of baseball caps that I used sometimes. But my head likes to be free, even though it knows that it's not a good idea from a skin cancer perspective.
  • Now--Maybe 3 years ago, I bought this great "Wag more, bark less" baseball cap at Doggone Good, which I really liked, and it motivated me to start wearing it all the time.

    THEN a year or two later, my sister the Disneyland superfan (to my mere fan-ness) gave me an awesome Pluto Unleashed baseball cap, which has now become my full-time baseball agility cap. I love the expression on Pluto's face, sly and ready to go. (Sometimes Wag More Bark Less makes a token appearance. It's good to have 2 hats I like.)

  • Then--Levi's jeans.
  • Now--Levi's jeans. (Nice to know that SOME things stay the same!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Part 2 of Packing for an Agility Weekend, Then and Now

SUMMARY: Second in a series comparing my 1996 gear to my 2010 gear, and transitions between.

[Previous parts: Part 1, transportation and others.]

  • Then--Phase 1, X-pen progression:

    • A: A couple of old beach towels (one yellow, one blue) draped over the x-pen. 
    • B: In a moment of inspiration, I bought a couple of small sun umbrellas (deep green, not really teal) designed for clipping to a chair, which I clipped to the x-pen and moved around as the sun moved during the day. The clips were flimsy and broke pretty quickly, and it was challenging to find a way to clip the very thin, round, smooth metal handle to the x-pen.
    • C: I bought yard and yards of blue/purple flowery fabric with which I was going to sew an x-pen cover and matching storage bags. I cut one piece that was long enough to go across the top of the xpen and down 2 sides (but it's only 32" wide, so it doesn't come close to covering everything).
  • Then--Phase 2, Crate progression:

    • A: When the first dog moved into a crate (too expensive to buy 2 at once, plus I already had an x-pen for the 2nd dog), I finally broke down and bought a small piece of that silvery metallic-looking sun fabric, maybe 3'x5', just big enough for one crate.
    • B: When both dogs moved into crates, I bought a large beach umbrella (purple & blue) at Costco. Despite the pointed screw end, it would NOT go into the typical ground at agility trials, and it was really hard to fasten it to the crates to keep it upright. AND it also needed constant moving to chase shade from the sun, despite clipping the beach towels and/or shade fabric to it. It still rotated annoyingly at all the wrong times. 
    • C: Eventually I broke down and bought a sturdy metal umbrella/cup holder (purple) that pushes into the ground so I could tie the umbrella to the stand. It mostly worked. When I discovered loop bungies, those worked much better at keeping the umbrella in place. But there never was really enough shade for me AND the dogs, even though...
    • D: I bought (on sale) two lovely purple beach towels that are specifically for agility shade or for covering my chair on muddy days. 
    • E: But still--And my friends had canopies!
  • Now--Canopy progression:

    • A: When I got MUTT MVR (late 2001), I finally bought myself a huge, sturdy, 10x10 canopy at Costco (white--custom purple would've been WAYYY expensive). It is frigging heavy, but it has outlasted many windstorms and heavy rain. The canopy's seams are deteriorating now, though, and whenever I'm going somewhere where I think I can crate out of the car or in existing shade, I really try not to take that huge, heavy thang with me. But it'll be with me this weekend! (And it has proved to be useful for many nondog outside activities as well.) 
    • B: Shortly therafter, I bought a full 5'(?)x10' silvery shade fabic. (Had always seemed too expensive when a cheap old sheet or towels would work. But it's really the right tool for the job.
    • C: At the CPE nationals in 2005 (?), each dog got one (I think 4x6) silvery shade fabric as a check-in gift. I now use all of those shade fabrics regularly.
    • D: Oh-- I still carry around the piece of blue/purple flowery fabric (the rest of the bolt is still sitting in my garage--anyone want it?), AND the purple beach towels, which have come in handy for SO many things.      Oh, yeah, and those old green chair umbrellas, with or without clips, are also still in my garage because they'll be useful SOMEday.

Crate covers:
  • Then--As above, for shade or to give dog privacy from neighboring dogs.
  • Now--If Boost can see those fun, fast dogs running and playing, she hits the sides of the crate repeatedly, knocking over her water and moving the crate halfway across the field (and/or tipping it over). So I bought a purpley/tealy/bluey flowered sheet at a garage sale for maybe $1 that's good for all kinds of things, although mostly for tossing over Boost's crate to shield her view.

Mat for ground:
  • Then--

    • I used to laugh at dog people with their plastic carpets with designs like oriental carpets (except often with doggy patterns): You've got to be kidding! What's wrong with grass? ...er, burr clover?... ...er... dust? OK, OK, I'll toss down a beach towel on the...er, sopping wet grass? ...er...mud? ...er, rain? Oh, OK, I get it.
    • So I grudgingly paid out the bucks for a 6x8 mat (10x10 too expensive) woven in blue and red (so at a distance it looks purple, best I could find at that time) with these cutesy dog images on it. I sneered at people with their falling-apart mats--edging dangling off, broken at the folds, just totally scuzzy-looking, because *I* would take tender care of My Precious and it would last forever. 
    • A couple of years later, I found a teal and purple striped mat! (6x8, no 10x10 in sight) and bought it because I liked the colors. Meanwhile, my original mat was getting a little ratty--every fold and unfold made it worse and worse. They're just cheap plastic mats, really. But I kept using it because it was functional and hadn't died completely.
    • A couple of years after that, I found a purple and white one with a paw print pattern (again I think 6x8).
    • For a long time, I used TWO or ALL THREE mats, trying to cover the entire ground under my 10x10 canopy.
  • Now--The original mat--edging dangling off, broken at the folds, just totally scuzzy-looking--was still in MUTT MVR until about a year ago, when I pulled it out and just left it in the garage. It's not bad enough to toss, but it's not my favorite, and I wasn't using it any more. My newest purple/white one deteriorated faster than either of my first two mats, plus  it's really thick and luxurious (read: pain to pack), so it stays in the garage, unused. Now it's just my one little teal/purple striped mat. (Whose edging is starting to come off and folds starting to break.)  If I could ever find a 10x10 one of those, I'd buy it. (Once found a vendor who had one but had promised it to someone else and she didn't get another one, sigh.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Part 1 of Packing for an Agility Weekend, Then and Now

SUMMARY: First in a series comparing my 1996 gear to my 2010 gear, and transitions between.

I got to thinking about all the Dog Stuff that I now own, carry around with me without thinking about it, and/or load into the car routinely, that back in 1995 I'd never thought about that, in 1996 when I attended my first competitions, looked entirely different from what it looks like now.

My list of topics is so long, I think I'll break it into several posts over the next few days. This is Part 1. This could be a continuing series as I think of things I've got now but didn't then, had then but don't know, or tried in between and abandoned.

  • Then--Just one, Remington, my pet dog who made a decent agility dog some of the time.
  • Now--Two dogs (Tika and Boost), both obtained specifically with agility in mind.

  • Then--My grown-up luxury sedan, my four-door Acura Legend. I got an amazing amount of stuff into it, but when I decided I wanted a 3rd dog and a canopy, it was right out.
  • Now--Minivan, MUTT MVR. I bought it for only one reason: Hauling dogs and their gear around.
Dogs in vehicle:
  • Then--Rem sat in the front seat and watched the world go by. After a year or so of that, I bought seatbelt harnesses at the SPCA. They proved to be pretty flimsy, in retrospect. When I read friend Holly's post on good harnesses, I bought two sturdy ones (for Rem and Jake at that time).
  • Now--When I got my 3rd dog (Tika) and my minivan, she began riding in a crate right away. Jake and Rem continued using their harnesses until they passed away. Boost and Tika now both have their own crates strapped into MUTT MVR.
Hauling stuff to and from the vehicle:
  • Then--We had a red metal dolly that could convert from a furniture-moving upright to a 4-wheel thingie. Tiny wheels, tiny dolly, very heavy and very difficult to move across, say, gravel or grass. I scoped out what was available over several years.I love the huge metal carts in brilliant powder-coated colors with huge wheels and folding handle, but they are huge and I don't have a lot of room, plus they are expensive. The basic wire or tubular crate-sized carts that people pull don't work well with my problem back & shoulders and the wheels aren't the best over rough terrain.
  • Now--I saw the light when a friend showed up with a light-weight folding dolly with an extra-deep shelf. That was what I wanted! But also expensive. I was delighted when, at a flea market one weekend, I found a guy selling his, nearly new, for practically nothing. (Looks something like this.) Have used this for several years now.
Where to put the dog at the trial:
  • Then--I didn't own a crate and didn't think I wanted to. At my first seminar, I planned on just putting Rem in a chair like I did in class. But when I arrived--everyone else had a crate or an x-pen! Doh! I think the instructor loaned me an x-pen and noted that my leash/chair plan wouldn't work at a trial. So I went out and bought a huge x-pen "so he could move around." It was really heavy and space-consuming in my Legend.
  • Now--Each dog has her own zippered soft crate (purple, black, and teal). Each cost considerably more than the x-pen, but combined they are so much lighter and so much easier to store and move around, and the dogs are generally happier than they are in the x-pen. (Read how my dog converted me to crate use.)
Clips and bungies:
  • Then--Oh, yeah, we had the usual pile of random long bungies in a box in the garage. After a couple of trials, I started taking the box with me for the trial, futzing with long bungies, then putting the box away afterwards.  I saw that people had metal clips that they used for various things, and we had a couple of old metal clips in the garage that I'd likewise borrow for the weekend.
  • Now--I have a bag full of metal and plastic clips of various sizes (some even blue and purple) that I've bought through the years and stay exclusively with my dog stuff. Same thing when I discovered loop bungies: have a whole bunch of different lengths on a clip, and some straight bungies (purple) that I bought specifically to go with my dog stuff.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Over the River and Through the Woods--

SUMMARY: To agility trials we go.
My dad looked at my online weekends calendar and asked how many miles I put on MUTT MVR each year.

(I didn't point out that there are a lot of competitions that I *could* go to but don't, as exemplified by the famous Karey's Calendar.)

Because I don't have a regular commute, I always say that most of my annual mileage (12,000-15,000 miles [19,000-24,000 km]) is dog-related. But is that so?

Rough guess on dog-related miles per year:

  • Vet. At least one per dog for check-up and shots. Usually at least a couple more for various reasons--pick up a prescription, medical issue, whatever.  Let's say 6/year, 17 miles round trip=about 100 miles.
  • Agility class. We don't really have class once a week (holidays, rain, instructor out of town, etc.) but with extra trips to rent the field, get a private lesson, and so on, let's say 52 weeks a year. 26 miles round trip. 1350 miles.
  • Competitions. In the last few years I've not gone to trials that take more than 2 hours to get to (other than Nationals). That's still at least 20 weekends a year, including occasional fun matches, seminars, and what-not. There are either the 2-hours-away trials, in which case I don't come home to sleep saturday night, or the 1-hour-away trials, in which case I do come home Saturday night. Either way, the mileage for a weekend is probably about the same. Say, 200 miles round trip. 4000 miles.
  • If you throw in a trip to Nationals in Scottsdale (heh--that's not happening any more, thank goodness!), that adds another 2000 in one week. But didn't go last year, and I'm not going off to the more eastern parts, for sure.

Well, lessee, that's only 5500 miles [8850 km].

I don't go to the groomers; pet food is usually picked up on the way by the store--huh. Might make special trips here or there for dog things, but nothing immediately pops to mind. Still, that's roughly a third to a half of my annual miles.

And there you have it: The whole reason I have a minivan instead of a nice sporty or luxury car. Dog travel. That is, it is indeed a MUTT MVR.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More on Car Emergency Labeling

SUMMARY: Another source for tags
Johann the Dog notes:
There's also a site called BarkBuckleUp.com; they have emergency cards for your car with a window sticker to alert emergency responders. They are free with the cost of shipping...Here's our post. And the site to order: http://barkbuckleup.com/Members/Registration.asp


SUMMARY: Wikipedia does it again.
For a couple of years, I enthusiastically took photos of any different breed of dog I encountered for wikipedia. (Which wasn't that many, given that mostly I saw dogs in agility, and mostly there aren't that many different breeds doing USDAA or CPE agility.)

That photo enthusiasm was because, when WP hooked me, it had very little dog info of any kind. At one point, I had created, expanded, seriously edited, and/or added photos and infoboxes to every breed page on the entire site, and every other dog-related page, too. (Before I got unhooked. But eventually there were billions and billions of dog-related pages, and billions and billions of people making less than helpful edits, and I just got tired of keeping up.)

Anyway, many of my breed photos are still used in articles, even though many are nothing to write home about (leashes very visible, etc.). And they are all still ON wikipedia even if not being used.

Photos from wikipedia are quite popular. By publishing them there, I allow other people to use the photos (basically for noncommercial purposes) if they give credit to me and a link back to where the photo exists on wikipedia. People don't all seem to bother with that, so my photos are all over the web now, sometimes even with other people's copyrights watermarked on them. I got tired of chasing those down and asking them to fix them, too.

For example, if you go to google images and search for any of the following, you'll see these photos over and over:
  • "smooth collie" or "collie dumbbell", a smooth tricolored collie with a dumbbell in his mouth, on a field of grass, facing left (sometimes right, when they've reversed the photo). That's my photo of my agility friend Rowan.
  • "rat terrier", there's an angled full body shot of a rat terrier looking up, with a purple leash coming out to the foreground. My photo.
  • "australian kelpie", red and tan guy, side view, with him looking out at you, leash going off to the side. Mine.
  • "boston terrier", side view with him looking slightly at you, brindle and white, grass background. Mine.
  • "cavalier king charles spaniel." Sitting on a wood surface (actually it's a picnic table). Mine.
  • "clicker training." A hand holder a clicker, looking down at the hand and at a sitting dog who looks remarkably like Tika. Oh--wait--it IS tika!  Surprise, another photo of mine.
  • And on and on.

I'm no longer bothering to check whether these are legally copied.

You can see all my wikipedia dog photos here.

I've made three or four sales of  photos based on ones that people found on Wikipedia.

So now, last week, I just received a mysterious package, from someone i'd never heard of, containing a book I'd never heard of, on a topic I'd never pick up a book about on my own.  But, leafing through it, it occurred to me to check the photo credits: Oh, yeah, a couple of years back, this guy actually emailed me about using one of my photos. So, in this book, on page 44, next to an image of a dachshund from a hundred years ago, is my photo of this miniature dachshund.

To be polite, I started reading the book, The Origin Then and Now, by David N. Reznick, from Princeton Press.  I'm only about 3 or 4 chapters in, including intro and background and such, and it is in fact readable and interesting. I'm not sure whether I'll make it all the way through, but so far, so good (I just don't have patience or time for dull or badly written material). I'm proud to be part of this project and to have my name listed in the photo credits.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


SUMMARY: Filling in on a couple of previous posts (last weekend and crate emergency info).

Emergency crate info

I just updated yesterday's post with more info about my crate tags including a note from the lady who makes them.

Head bonk

Hey, I forgot to mention, on top of all of my other physical woes, my huge head-whack last weekend at the trial. Monday morning, I somehow lost track of where my hatchback door had stopped (tree branch in the way). So I leaned over to do something with the dogs, stood up rapidly, and whanged my head on the corner of the door. It really hurt; I am not making this up. I had to sit down and make loud moans on exhales and hissing through my teeth on inhale sorts of noises. I'm sure it was an ugly picture, and glad no one was crating near me, but now I'm telling you about it anyway.

I had intended to spend my few spare minutes packing up, but instead spent much more time packing ice on my head and wondering whether one could get a concussion from a corner hit like that. It was hard to stand up for a few minutes, but that's because it hurt every time I moved, but on the outside, not the inside, if you can picture that. There was no blood, thank goodness, but even with the ice I had a lump the size of half a golf ball. I am reminded of that every time I shower. That was just the capper to one of my more uncomfortable weekends.

I seem to hit my head more and more often as the years go by. Can anyone tell me whether the top of one's skull continues to grow? I don't get it: I can look straight at an open car door, bend to get something out of the seat, and whack my head on the way *in*. If someday they find me dead on the kitchen floor from multiple blunt force traumas to my head, it'll probably be from repeatedly standing up under refrigerator or cabinet doors.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pet Crate Emergency Info

SUMMARY: Vital information in case of an auto accident.
It's nice to assume that, if you are in an accident, things are not going to be too bad and you can take care of your dogs yourself. However, that might not be the case; you could be badly injured or even killed. Assuming that your dogs are still alive, injured or not, it would be so much better if rescuers had all the info they needed to ensure that the dogs are taken care of correctly and that the right people are contacted about them.

I have emergency info attached to both dogs' crates. The outside has a photo and brief message; inside the zippered compartment, there's detailed info about my dogs and contact info.

You can make your own pretty easily--tape it to the crate or laminate it or put it in a protective plastic sleeve-- or you can buy cards from various places.

Buy the ones I have

From pethints.com.

More info on mine added: July 11, 11 a.m. PDT-- They're pricey but well made and definitely eye-catching. They have two zippered pouches: The front one with the basic emergency message and the dog's photo, and the one underneath in which you can put as many documents as you want. It comes with a couple of detailed forms that you can fill out.

I just emailed a request for new forms since (thanks to this article) I realized that my emergency info is out of date. She sent me new forms as Word docs and also said:
"pass on the good news since I have not been able to attend any agility events this year, I have some new spring pouch colors, pink, lime green and baby blue. I can also do special orders with your color choice for the paws on each side. I have about 20-color options. Unfortunately not all of these details are at my website so if anyone has interest they can call or email me.

Peggy Hintz
Owner PetHINTS.com

Buy a card

Here on zazzle, you can upload your dog's photo and your info and purchase cards. I like the message on the front; it's short and to the point (and reproducing here, also for archival purposes):

Make your own; from the SF Bay West Highland White Terrier Club

This article has recommendations on what info to include; I'm repeating it here in case the link every goes away (you know how the internet is):

The following information should be attached to each dog's crate as well as maintained in the glove compartment of your car:

  • A paper copy of your dog's vaccination records, especially rabies.
  • Documentation of your dog's special needs and/or medications.
  • Color photo of your dog and his microchip information.
  • Your vet's phone number and two emergency contacts.

We recommend making a crate tag with the following emergency information:


In the event that I am incapacitated and unable to make my requests known regarding my dogs, please honor the following requests:

Please notify (name) at (telephone numbers) as soon as possible. If he/she can not be reached, contact (name) at (telephone numbers). If he/she cannot be reached, contact (more names and telephones numbers).


If the dogs are not injured, they are to be cared for by one of the above parties or by the nearest reputable boarding kennel and be kept in the best possible manner until arrangements can be made to get them home.

If the dogs are injured, they are to be cared for by the nearest reputable veterinarian. I prefer my veterinarian (name) be contacted at (telephone umber) regarding decisions on the dogs care and treatment.

If the dog is injured BEYOND ALL HOPE of recovery, as attested by a certified veterinarian, they are to be humanely euthanized.

My dogs may be identified by microchip (number).


Your Name (print)
Telephone Number

(Thanks, Mutts, for the idea for this post.)