a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Not Your Usual Nightmare

SUMMARY: It's not always about the dogs. But--Haydn?
In my dream:

A woman I know fairly well [in my dream] suggested that we go see the world-renowned orchestra led by the world-renowned director, playing a fabulous work by Haydn. She could get 2 tickets for a mere $80 each, and I somewhat hesitantly agreed.

We arrived, and worked our way up the aisle. And I mean, UP! The angle was extremely steep, and it went up and up and UP and up and up, to where my moderate acrophobia really kicked. I had to grab the stairs and walls and chairs as I worked my way up just to be able to make myself keep moving and not freeze on the spot. So far up that you really almost couldn't see the stage. REALLY up.

(And I've been up very high in some very steep venues, but this had 'em all beat.)

THEN discovered that the concert hall was built over a hill, so when you got the the top, you started going down the other side. Now you REALLY couldn't see the orchestra. And barely hear them. Instead, they had a large TV screen (like someone might have on the wall of their house) and speakers.

Furthermore, my friend hadn't realized that odd numbered seats were on one side of the hall and even-numbered were on the other side. So we weren't even seated within sight of each other.

Furthermore still more, it was the very last seats in the hall. And people who had brought their small kids had sent them to the back of the hall to play.

So I had paid $80 to sit in the back of a room, by myself, to watch Haydn performed on a TV, listening through speakers, with noisy kids playing around me.

I woke up bawling. The dogs were a bit concerned and came in close to see what was the matter.

I wasn't sure whether to keep bawling or to break into hysterical laughter. Really?! This is the worst thing I could manage to have a nightmare about?!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Results Already

SUMMARY: No cancer.
I got home from my afternoon meetings and there was already a phone message that my "nodule" is a completely benign "fibrocystic change" in the tissue. And that's that.

I guess I should rush out to the back yard and see whether my weave pole problems have been fixed that quickly, too!

Pinpointing the Problem and Dissecting it

SUMMARY: Weave poles and biopsy.
After my annual mammogram two weeks ago (annual because my sister had an occurrence of breast cancer), they called me in for a recheck, and then they called me in for a biopsy.

The offending spot towards the lower left with a couple of black hash marks scrawled on either side. Doc says the "nodule" is no more than half an inch. Half an inch sounds huge to me. But I didn't feel anything.

I've been through this before, a couple of times, in the last 20 years. Scary the first time, less so each following time. Previous times, they used ultrasound and a big needle to do the work. I expected the same, but this time the equipment was quite different.

I lay on a huge contoured table, face down, so that the relevant part of me hung down through a huge hole in the center. The table then rose so that the medical staff could easily get at their equipment underneath. Said equipment was essentially a small x-ray machine with the usual compressing plates to make the tissue spread out enough to be able to see things clearly. It's a "stereotopical" table, the nurse said, meaning that it takes photos (x-rays) from two directions to allow them to take the sample in exactly the right place in 3 dimensions.

It wasn't particularly comfortable lying like that for maybe 10 minutes while they got everything set up and positioned and photographed and needled. My neck and one shoulder became stiff. They used a local anaesthesia ("cold," said the doc. "Will sting." He was right about that. More than once). Then they cleaned things up and bandaged me and then I could sit up.

The other intriguing thing is that they implant a tiny titanium wire as close to the biopsy point as possible, so that if anyone has to go in there again, they'll know exactly where to go. They showed me one before they implanted it. No bigger than an eyelash.

Afterwards, they put me on a regular mammogram machine to check the wire's position. You can see it here--like a tiny "R". This image is from a slightly different angle, so I can't tell whether any of the dark round spots are now indications of holes where they remove tissue, or merely dark round spots.1

Now I wait until Tuesday for the results.

Which isn't why I called you here today. I came to talk about weave poles.

Weave Poles

SOOOOO I actually set up a weave pole drill yesterday. Very simple. A curved tunnel with each end pointing at one end of a set of 6 weave poles about 22 feet away. And one jump between the tunnel and one end of the weaves, which I could move to either side, so the dog could approach directly from the tunnel or over a jump from the tunnel, into right-angle weave entries. (The turn left into the poles was the same gamble that Boost missed in class Tues night--as nicely diagrammed here by TSD and the same Snooker 6b-to-7 that Boost missed in the trial Saturday as shown here.)

I need to focus on where exactly the weave pole nodule is so that I can biopsy it, analyze, decide what treatment is needed, and wait until Tuesday for the results. (That being class day.)

Tika had no problem turning left into the poles. Turning to the right, however, she'd make the entry but skip the next pole. Huh. Interesting. Seemed vaguely familiar, like I've seen this before. So we worked on that from closer, easier angles to longer, harder approaches. Didn't take much for her to be doing them all correctly.

Boost had no problem with the end that Tika didn't like (and that's supposedly the "difficult" end for most dogs), but, turning left, she entered on the wrong side every time. I made the angle easier and easier until she started getting it--had to be almost straight on. As soon as we angled out about 15 degrees back towards the tunnel, she'd revert to the wrong side. I dropped out all except 3 poles. Same problem. Dropped to 2 poles, and all of a sudden she could make the correct entry every time.


And a little lightbulb2 went off in my head. And that lightbulb said, "You've had EXACTLY the same lightbulb before!" And that previous lightbulb said, "I've determined that she has trouble entering weaves when she has to bear left." (Right here in this very blog post from August 2007.)

So, I have zeroed in on what I hope is not a malignant problem, but merely a benign but annoying lump upon which I must use precision tools  to make sure that it doesn't recur.

OK, I'm set. I have a plan and two huge bandaids on my certain anatomical part that I'm not supposed to remove or shower over for another day, so let's hope I don't work up too huge a sweat while practicing weave entries.

Mood: Waiting. Hopeful.

1 These images cost me $10 and an hour of waiting. I hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

2 LED, of course, or perhaps compact fluorescent.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Class, weaves, running, proprioception or SOMETHING

SUMMARY: Class ups frustration level with myself.
Yesterday after Team Small Dog's post about weave and tunnel entries, I almost got motivated to work on some real agility drills for tunnel and weave entrances.

I said that I've done no agility practice for 2 months, but technically that's not true; since I have stuff set up in my yard, once in a while we do some tiny small thing. Tunnel entrances and sends we do all the time. (They're fast and fun and I don't have to work too hard at it.) Weaves we do a lot. (Same thing.)

Plus I feel like I know what I'm doing with those training drills.

SOOO I went out into the yard. Beautiful sunny day. But the jumps were all down; the weaves were tucked out of the way in random inaccessible places. So I reverted to just Fetch.

Class last night. Drills with Tika went very well, except when she was sniffing at the start line and abandoning it to go check out [fill in the blank].

With Boost. Well. OK, I know that we have problems with rear crosses. I have to decelerate early and then run full blast at the jump without slowing down until she's in the air. We had some tough ones (for us). And I'd walk it with the run full blast at the jump. And every time I'd deliberately and consciously run full blast at the jump, and she'd still stop and push off it. The only way I could get her over the jumps was by running past them, which is NOT a rear cross.

And the instructor would say, you have to decel and then run at it full blast without slowing down, and I'd say I *did*, and she'd say, not enough, or, you need to wait longer, or, just, no, you didn't, you stopped (and I'd say, that's because there was a jump wing a foot in front of me). So apparently I have no idea what I'm doing on the field. I'm not saying she's wrong, because of course she isn't. I'm saying I'm frustrated because I think I'm doing what I'm supposed to do but that's not what's actually happening outside my head.

And then there were the constant reminders to run straight through the end of the course, because Boost kept turning back towards me and knocking the last bar. And, so, like, the last run of the evening, we had problem after problem, and when we finally got to the end, I blasted full speed past the end of the course and I'm thinking to myself, "well, at least THIS time she can't say that I didn't run all the way through," but of course the first words out of her mouth were, "you can't be stopping before the end, you have to run all the way through."

How can I be so unaware of what I'm doing? I feel like when I'm trying to train boost, just training myself: How can I fix the problem when I don't even know what's really going on? It is completely discouraging.

Then for our last run of the evening, we practiced a gamble. Which had a jump-weave entry exactly like that snooker super-Q that we missed on Saturday because boost entered the wrong side of hte weaves. Predictable. She entered the wrong side of the weaves. Then the other instructor told me that my approach was wrong over the jump. I said it was a training issue. He said it was my angle and told me where to jump from. I think I have a clue how to do gambles and when I have a training issue.

I followed the instructions anyway. She entered the wrong side. He suggested yet another approach. She entered the wrong side.

She will be 6 years old in less than a week. We've done so so so so many weave entries. Why can she still not do correct entries? Why why why why why? I don't understand why she doesn't get it but tika got it so quickly. I've never understood that. More frustration. (BTW, Tika had no problem with that entry in the gamble.)

Then of course kicking myself for not actually going out yesterday and practicing weave entries.

Mood: Frustrated to tears and still not really wanting to practice.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January in California

SUMMARY: Today I have all my windows open. Because it is warmer outside than inside.
Plus this photo of me hugging my orange tree is specifically for Lisa of Mutts and a Klutz. So you can enjoy San Jose vicariously while you are having Canada kinds of climate.

How Many Points Does It Take? (Redux)

SUMMARY: USDAA Top Ten Points Required to be in Performance 22" Top Ten, 2005-2010

Still haven't found info for 2008.

2005 18 22 14 (9th pl 29!) 34
2006 21 20 18 24
2007 26 21 22 27
2008 ? ? ? ?
2009 30 28 30 36
2010 37 25 31 34

Why the huge jump in Gamblers points required from last year? Why the drop in Jumpers and Standard from last year?

Funny to note that Standard was so very high in 2005 and then dropped again.

I think that big jumps or high values like that have to be related to a largish group of dogs who dominate the class for that year. For example, maybe one year you have all the Top Ten from Championship 26" dogs dropping into Performance 22", and that first year in Performance they all do well, blowing away everyone else they compete against all across the country. Then maybe the next year most of them retire or take time off, so placements are more evenly spread across a larger number of dogs that year.

Orrrrr maybe clubs are offering a lot more Gamblers classes this year than last year.

Orrrrr the USDAA specifications for course design or judging change for a class from one year to the next.

And here's an interesting question: As the number of dogs competing drops (which might also be happening), does the number of points required go up or down? One could speculate that it would go up because the dogs that stick around tend to be the ones who do well, and they're less likely to be occasionally displaced by dogs who compete only occasionally. So they'd accrue more points in a year.

Fun to speculate, but really I have no idea.

Inquiring minds want to know why!

2010 Top Ten Final

SUMMARY: I'll make it official: Tika Top Ten Craussie!

I snuck in a comment in my summary page that we really are in the Top Ten in all four classes, but I guess I should make it official by showing the USDAA charts.

Tika has turned into a dog who's so easy to handle and accommodates my worst handling faux pas (which is both singular and plural, in case you wondered). I don't know that I have the stomach for even thinking about Top Ten for a second year in a row. I'm still pondering going off and doing a bunch of CPE instead of USDAA. Maybe later in the year. Or taking more time off. Still TBD.

2010 Top 25 as of 1/2/11 (possibly incomplete) per USDAA site
This should be the final numbers for 2010. (Could be some tweaks in proofreading, but it won't knock us out of Top Ten.)
NOTE 2: Gray = dog in 10th place per USDAA at that date
NOTE 3: * = dogs often seen at local competitions
NOTE 4: (BT)= Bay Team or SMART members (other than myself)


in '09, took 30+ pts to be in Top Ten (some 30 didn't make it)

Points Owner Dog Breed
94  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
82  Baley, Diane * Gidget Labrador Retriever
59  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
54  Koenig, Ann Josh Border Collie
47  Besche, Deborah Cassie Border Collie
46  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
44  Armstrong, Elizabeth Riggs Border Collie
43  Lindholm, Rosanne Taser Belgian Sheepdog
40  (BT) Danver, Jean * Chaps Australian Shepherd
37  Ross, Nancy Spotty Border Collie
35  Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
33  Elkins, Laura Keegan Border Collie
33  (BT) Chandler, Carlene * Brenn Border Collie
33  Topham, Kathy Catcher Border Collie
32  Greenholt, Susan Ika German Shepherd Dog
31  Wallace, Richard Spot Labrador Retriever
28  Herman, Jill Oso Australian Shepherd
26  Palmieri, Rebecca Bailey Labrador Retriever
25  Kiah, Jerry Frenzi German Shepherd Dog
24  Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
24  Silverman, Sally Bounce Australian Shepherd
24  Glines, Marjorie * Kash Border Collie
22  Graumann, Anne Ace Australian Shepherd
21  Fardy, Kathleen Jigsaw Labrador Retriever
21  Franklin, Jeanne Caliber Border Collie

Jumpers 22" Height Class

in '09, took 28+ pts (some 28 didn't make it)

Points Owner Dog Breed
64  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
59  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
54  Ross, Nancy Spotty Border Collie
53  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
40  Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
35  (BT) Danver, Jean * Chaps Australian Shepherd
33  Scott, Liz Milo Australian Shepherd
33  Jones, Carrie Jive Border Collie
27  Brown, Patti Bailey English Shepherd
25  Clement, Kathy Psyche Border Collie
25  Koenig, Ann Josh Border Collie
25  Topham, Kathy Catcher Border Collie
25  Herman, Jill Oso Australian Shepherd
23  Gooding, Kris Summer Labrador Retriever
23  Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
23  (BT) Fosty, Channan * Apollo Boxer
22  Elkins, Laura Keegan Border Collie
22  Armstrong, Elizabeth Riggs Border Collie
22  (BT) Chandler, Carlene * Brenn Border Collie
21  Greenholt, Susan Vista German Shepherd Dog
20  Brockman, Rebecca Mikki Belgian Malinois
19  Mckinney, Colleen Dexter All-Breed
19  Gregory, James Pilot Golden Retriever
19  Besche, Deborah Cassie Border Collie
19  Dunn, Seth Otto Labrador Retriever

Snooker 22" Height Class

in '09, took 30 (we had 29 and were in 11th place)

Points Owner Dog Breed
71  Baley, Diane * Gidget Labrador Retriever
65  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
57  Brooks, Elizabeth Finn Australian Shepherd
42  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
41  Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
34  Scott, Liz Milo Australian Shepherd
34  Besche, Deborah Cassie Border Collie
33  Dusenbery, Sandy Axsym Belgian Malinois
32  Roman, Helena Sadie Labrador Retriever
31  (BT) Danver, Jean * Chaps Australian Shepherd
30  Beaulieu, Claudette Ian Border Collie
30  Topham, Kathy Catcher Border Collie
28  Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
28  (BT) Bickel, Leslie * Cate E Catahoula Leopard Dog
27  Palmieri, Rebecca Bailey Labrador Retriever
27  Dunn, Seth Otto Labrador Retriever
26  (BT) Michalski, Robert * Hobbes Border Collie
26  Armstrong, Elizabeth Riggs Border Collie
26  Ross, Nancy Spotty Border Collie
23  (BT) Chandler, Carlene * Brenn Border Collie
22  Elkins, Laura Keegan Border Collie
22  Koenig, Ann Josh Border Collie
22  James, Kim Skillett Belgian Malinois
20  Cochran, Patricia Missy All-Breed
19  Gregory, James Pilot Golden Retriever

Standard 22" Height Class

(in '09, took 36)

Points Owner Dog Breed
68  Ross, Nancy Spotty Border Collie
66  (BT) Danver, Jean * Chaps Australian Shepherd
65  Eizember, Joleen Scorch Border Collie
49  Dennison, Richard Gabby Labrador Retriever
48  Finch, Ellen Levy Tika All-Breed
43  Besche, Deborah Cassie Border Collie
37  DeChance, Annie Stella All-Breed
36  Palmieri, Rebecca Bailey Labrador Retriever
36  (BT) Chandler, Carlene * Brenn Border Collie
34  Greiner, Alyssia Zippity Border Collie
33  Koenig, Ann Josh Border Collie
33  Andrle, Anne Ski Border Collie
31  Topham, Kathy Catcher Border Collie
31  Silverman, Sally Bounce Australian Shepherd
31  Beaulieu, Claudette Ian Border Collie
29  Armstrong, Elizabeth Riggs Border Collie
29  (BT) Pryse, Laura * Brazen Border Collie
26  Swanson, Eric Molly Labrador Retriever
25  Elkins, Laura Keegan Border Collie
24  Denereaz, Jennifer True Labrador Retriever
23  Frado, Chris Snoop Doggy Dogg German Shepherd Dog
22  Fardy, Kathleen Jigsaw Labrador Retriever
21  Herman, Jill Oso Australian Shepherd
21  Whittenberg, Cherie Detour Border Collie
21  Gregory, James Pilot Golden Retriever

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wildcat Canyon and Ridge Trail Hike

SUMMARY: Paradise on earth! With views!
After the trial, we drove halfway home and spent the night with my cousin and her spouse in their beautiful home (drat, I keep visiting people with these beautiful homes, and keep coming back to my messy place! Must fix!). He cooked us a wonderful Moroccan-style fish and carrots meal in a Moroccan terrine. We ate it with fresh, heated olive bread. I was so stuffed that I didn't have room for the amazing fruit salad. (But we finished it off the next day for breakfast and lunch).

(He claims he's from Wisconsin, but I'm suspicious about the accent.)

I slept soundly in a truly comfy bed with nice, thick covers. Sure, might be record-highs for this date in the middle of the day in the sun, but still winter temps at night.

My cousin and I got up bright and early to hit the trail around 8. Probably really headed out closer to 8:30 with various things like me forgetting to switch into my hiking boots and having to go back for them.

The day was perfect. Nominally approaching 70F, with a tiny breeze and very slight overcast. Sunny but warm but cool, if you know what I mean. Absolutely perfect hiking weather, so even on the uphills we didn't overheat, yet didn't freeze when standing still.

The hike showed about 8.5 miles (13.7 km) on my pedometer; best I could map it in mapmyrun.com was about 7.9. Reality most likely somewhere between. (The numbers mark their calculated mileposts.)

We started at about 170 ft (52m) above sea level and got as high as the 1057-foot (322 m) highest point on the ridge, so an excellent workout. Our route took us up gradually, so there were only a couple of short sections where I started to get out of breath.

The one weird thing of the day was that, partway up the trail, my nose suddenly started bleeding. I wasn't working that hard, hadn't bumped it or blown it. Just suddenly blood running down my lip. Fortunately it stopped pretty quickly and didn't recur.

(And I wonder whether the red shirts were the ones who all died on the steep downhills while Captain Kirk fought off the insidious alien intelligence.)

An interesting gate across one yard.
When we passed it the first time, there were excited barking Collies. Not there coming back, but up in the hills we saw people and a pack of Collies off the trail down by the stream. Coincidence? I think not.

Maybe Practice Is A Good Thing

SUMMARY: A not-very-successful or satisfying agility day. (Plus Gamblers and Snooker course analysis.)
Saturday started with the alarm at 4:30. I was SO tired. And--wait--hadn't I kinda said I wasn't going to do this part any more, this getting up so early being among the things I like the least about agility? Maybe I'll pull the blanket back over my head and go back to sleep.

Uhhh, nah, can't, promised to be score table czar. Plus the dogs are on to me.

Good thing I didn't, because I'd have missed our best run of the day. Here's how the day went, in order:

  • Tika  Gamblers: Very good opening and got the gamble. First place, Q, only dog of 8 in P3 22" to get the gamble. In fact, one of only 5 dogs out of 38 in Pf to get the gamble. In fact, one of only 14 of 90 dogs total to get the gamble. Pretty low Qing rate.  (I'll talk more about the gamble at the end.)
  • Boost  Gamblers: Didn't stay at start line. Took her off and put her away.
  • Tika  Jumpers: Didn't stay at start line. Took her off and put her away. Were they, like, plotting against me?
  • Boost Jumpers: Left start line as I was raising my arm, but decided to run her anyway. Except she ran past roughly the 3rd jump and we were therefore immediately offcourse and E'ed. The rest was kind of OK except for one refusal problem on the incoming jump in  a serp.
  • Tika  Standard: An almost gorgeous run. But judge called our dogwalk up contact. Dang up contacts! Just, dang them all to heck! I do not like them, Sam I Am! I wish they'd stop faulting them. So, no Q or placement on a fairly straight-forward course in which neither Tika nor I really did anything wrong. (Except she didn't want to go down on the table so lost several seconds there--still well under standard course time but wouldn't have placed with that delay.)
  • Boost  Standard: Lovely beginning--including start-line stay--for 4 obstacles. Then she came off the side of the teeter when I crossed behind, and wouldn't lie down when I kept telling her to while trying to get in front of her. The judge whistled us off for training in the ring. (As she really should have.) 
  •  Tika Snooker: Tika did everything I asked, except that I ran the wrong course at #6 in the closing. Enough points for a Q but no placement or Super-Q. It's not a straight-forward course, and people are crapping out all over the place just trying to get through the opening. Performance 8/12" left an unclaimed Super-Q; so did Performance 16". (That's because not enough people Qed--and SQs go to only the top 15% of competitors, so you know the Q rate was low!)  But, of course, in *Tika's* group (Performance 22"), 5 out of 8 just HAD to Q, competing for a mere 2 SQs. Dang those 22" Performance dogs! (I'll talk more about the snooker at the end.)
  • Boost Snooker: Got away from me at one point in the opening and took a 2-pointer instead of a 6-pointer, but that's OK, because so many people were crapping out completely. Got all the way through #6 and all she had to do for her first-ever super-Q (with a mere 48 points!) was one set of weaves. Aaaaannnnnd she skipped the first pole. Crap! So, yet another plain garden-variety Q.
  • Tika Pairs: Tika and partner ran really well. Yay! So did another pair, who beat us by barely more than one second. But I'm happy with the run and happy to take 2nd out of 11 teams.
  • Boost Pairs: Boost's partner does very well. Boost knocks 2 bars but only one ended up on the scribe sheet. Do I talk to the judge about it? I don't, and here's why: We Qed with or without that fault, and our placement remained the same with or without it. So it made no difference. Happy about the Q, not thrilled with 2 bars.
Three Qs for Tika, one 1st (our only Top Ten Points), one 2nd.

Two Qs for Boost: Pairs and basic Snooker, both of which she has a zillion of and I don't care so much about.

I should practice more on fixing our weaknesses. Duh! For weekend:
  • Tika one start-line stay complete blow-off (my back still turned, still walking away), boost one like that, one when I was raising my arm but said nothing.
  • Table down crappy: Tika (since boost never got that far, don't know whether hers was, too.)
  • Cross-behind screw-up on teeter: Boost
  • Bars down: two in one 10-obstacle run: Boost
  • Serpentine FAIL: Boost
  • Forgotten course: One, plus one where I stood flatfooted while dog was in tunnel trying to remember--fortunately did so in time to save an off-course, barely.
  • Weave entry fail: Boost. (Hmm--the only one she actually got to do all weekend!)

While waiting for my turn to run Boost's first run of the day,  I realized the following and commented  to a friend: I was really looking forward to my Sunday hike and not so much to the rest of the day of agility. I really need to decide what to do here. I enjoy being around my friends at agility. But my enthusiasm level has waned so much. But I've already committed to being pairs and/or DAM team partners and/or score table czar for the next 2 or 3 trials. Just have to fish or cut bait. Still thinking about it.

By the time we got whistled off in Standard, I felt pretty grumpy. Had to just shut my mouth and not talk at all because I knew I'd just whine. Luka's Human Dad helped perk me up a bit--with the trial being a one-ring trial--and everyone can't work at once--he was at loose ends and so watched several of my dogs' runs (fun having classmates, former classmates, and friends around to give feedback). He was in a good joking and jollying along sort of mood and pulled me with him. That, along with laughs and good random conversations with friends at the score table, helped me survive the day.

Masters Gamble:

Most people either did a loop with weaves and dogwalk, with teeter thrown in or not. Some got in 2 of those loops. Or they did an up and back through weaves with or without the teeter at the other end. Pretty much everyone tried to end up in the tunnel as a lead-in to the gamble, because it was a looooonnnng way from #1 to the #2 tunnel. Not a lot of dogs managed that part successfully (bigger, faster dogs got it more than smaller or slower dogs). The second hard part was turning the dog after #3 to the Aframe. Most dogs that made it that far either took the #1 again or, because they had come so far out towards the #1 when they finally turned towards the Aframe, were already too far along to make the turn and ran past it. And the heartbreaker, one do who did it all but missed the Aframe down contact.

Pleased with Tika and myself on that run; I SO ran out of obstacles before the first whistle, which means my planning wasn't perfect, but boy, was she wired for her first run in so very long and running fast! But I managed to find something to do that didn't go too far afield (the jump I labeled 10). When the whistle did blow, I kept my cool and am proud of that: I wanted to do the tunnel again to lead into the gamble, and even though the whistle had gone, I followed through on that and things worked great. Ended up even having plenty of time left over. I wish I could've run Boost--had a more aggressive course planned.

Masters Snooker:

The closing 2 through 5 was fairly straight-forward, but nothing else about this course was. Clever layout on the judge's part. Almost too clever; you'd like all the Super-Qs to be claimed, at least, and they weren't in two of the groups and barely claimed in a couple of others.

My numbers marked my plan. The fact that I did #6 backwards twice in the opening is what led me to do it backwards in the closing, too. Stupid, because I actually went back in at the end of the walkthrough to walk JUST 5-6-7 a couple more times to remember to do the #6 correctly. Dumb dumb dumb.

Most people tried some variation of my opening: 4, 5, 6, and either 6 or 7 after that. Some skipped the 5 and did 4, 6, 6, 7. Out of all the dogs competing, only 2 dogs got 53 total, which was probably 4, 5, 6, 7. Faster dogs had plenty of time, but I didn't like the entry to #2 if we finished with #7, so I went for the two 6s (would've been 52 pts if we'd finished).

Fortunately, my visit with my cousin and the next day's hike were WONderful. More on that in another post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mixed Weekend Ahead

SUMMARY: Agility and hiking.
Aaaaaannnnnd we're off again. Very very early rising to drive 2 hours for a one-day USDAA trial in Santa Rosa. I'm likin' this one-day thing; do it every january. Not so much the early rising or 2 hour drive, but that's pretty typical for trials.

I've continued to have no ambition at all to practice, so we're going with exactly two class sessions (about 5-6 runs each) since our last trial mid-November and other than that no practice on anything at all. Could be interesting.

Because some of our trials have been losing money (fewer people/dogs participating? Odd last couple of years), the club has been trying to find ways to trim costs. For this trial? No masters placement ribbons! I am not a happy ribbon camper. I like my placement ribbons. Yes, I take photos of them, I keep them, I take them home, I hang them on my wall for a year. Grumble. But maybe with no practice we won't place in anything, anyway.

Then we're spending the night with my cousin in Richmond (about halfway between there and here) and getting up in the morning Sunday to do some off-leash hiking in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, despite the threat of overwhelming quantities of ticks--they seem to be crazy bad in all the parks at the moment. I'm hoping we can do about 6 miles before packing up and heading home.

Where I've left my renter in charge of NOT eating all the birthday cake that my company had at today's meeting to celebrate January birthdays. (Mine among them; I took one large chunk home with me, after eating 2 very small chunks of this rich chocolate fudge cake with buttercream frosting at the meeting. Good thing I'm getting exercise this weekend!)

Temps are hitting record highs for this time of year (low 70s F, 20s C). Should be two beautiful sunny days after the early morning chill (low 40s F, 4.5ish C) and fog clear away.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


SUMMARY: A long, new walk with the dogs, plus a hill.
This Wednesday is not wordless.

Wednesday evenings are the Sierra Club Singles hikes. During winter months, that's a brisk 5-mile walk through the sidewalks and byways of residential Palo Alto. I find it hard to drag myself on a 30-40 minute drive (one way) to walk, on the flat, in the suburbs. I can do that here. Granted, I don't, usually, and there's something to be said for companionship.

But now I know (from boot camp the other day) that there are decent places to walk up and down Communication Hill. And it's only about a mile and a half from my house. So--walk there (on the flat), go up & down a bit, walk back--voila, should be 5 miles or so!

So that's what the Merle Girls and I did for exercise today.

I had looked up the moonrise time and hoped that I'd be able to see it with a sunsetty glow from on the hill, but nope, that didn't work out. Still, we got in a good walk (4.22 miles the route we took per http://mapmyrun.com), about 300 feet cumulative uphill, and a bit of a surprise, too.

Starting out, we caught the beautiful near-sunset golden glow on the trees lining the street. Boost didn't care: She kept trying to turn right, which is where the park is where we ALWAYS go to play frisbee when we come up here. Took several blocks for her to stop trying.
Another half a mile, and we had to wait 2 or 3 minutes at this huge and very busy intersection. Communication  Hill--our goal--is visible below the traffic lights.
Yet another half a mile, and we're getting really close now, and the sun's glow has just vanished from the hillside.  The road I have my eye is the one straight ahead, which wraps around to the right and then to the left behind the houses at the top. Between the upper and lower houses, you can just see the line of the walking path that goes gradually up acros the hillside. Also part of my plan.

Oooh, fancy fancy houses wot they've done bilt on this yere hill!

Getting darker every minute. I took only my cheap point and shoot, which is not happy in the dark. And Tika just wouldn't hold still. (And Boost thinks, not with the dang photos AGAIN--).

We started up the hill, and halfway I could see the Santa Cruz mountains making stunning layers of blue. Cheap camera makes it very grainy.

Looking back along the road we've walked up, the sunset starts coloring the sky.
I'm intending to follow the roads and walkways, but suddenly notice that the unbuilt part of the hill is grassy and not off limits. So we climb up the hill to the fence line and follow the ridge up to the top. This is such a pleasant surprise--we're far enough away from everyone and everything that I let the dogs off leash for a few minutes as we walk. This looks back down the fenceline. Off in the left distance, that huge green area? The future Martial Cottle Park, and Taj MuttHall  is on the right side of that somewhere.
Cheap camera, really grainy, but the sky is glowing over the city lights as the come on below us.
I *am* on communication hill--and there's the big communication tower.  We're at the top of the ridge, now, also a surprise to be able to get this high. The dogs are happily sniffing and the sky is lovely. In a couple of months, this will all start going to foxtails, but right now, what a glorious hidden retreat with tightly crowded buildings just below us.

We walk as close to the tower as we can before a deep ravine intervenes.
Still no moon visible, and it's getting dark, so we wind around the hill a bit, up and down 100 stairs, and head home. Partway there, the moon finally makes herself visible. Crappy camera.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Agility, Border Collies, Getting In Shape...the Usual

SUMMARY: Random stuff
An agility friend (Jersey and Sheila's human mom) referred me to the Pink Ladies boot camp. It's a casual, local affair, meets optionally three times a week at a local park, and costs only $5/session when you drop in. I liked the boot camp I attended a couple of years ago but it was a bit of a drive and more expensive, so I didn't keep up with it.

In heavy fog, I went to my first session Sunday morning. Good workout. We ran down and back up a flight of about 130 stairs. Fortunately there are landings every 20, and a level path between the two halves. (Here's the first 65.)
 Then we went down half of them again doing squats on each step facing left, ran up, went down doing squats on the right, ran up, went down doing a pushup on each step, and bunnyhopped up. Wait--there was one other set of down and up, too; don't recall what. We also did an assortment of stretches, pull-ups on the railings, and things like jumping jacks.

(For me, insert some quote marks: "ran up"--going up stairs is a known big weakness; my legs just give out. "bunnyhop up". I sort of lurched up; by that time, I couldn't bunnyhop even on the level. "pull-ups"--one leader came by to see my pathetic attempts and said, "C'mon, ALL the way up!" I said, "This *is* all the way up." As in, my arms barely even bent at the elbow. "Pushup", as in a slight dip from arms straight, or I'd never get back up again. Clearly I have work to do.)

I don't often sweat, but I sure did that morning.

The cool thing is that the hill is just an 8-minute drive from here. I had been over there before looking for exercise but found just closely packed houses lining narrow streets. I hadn't found the nice windy uphill road with grass on both sides and a view (well--if there was no fog--), or those amazing stairs in the park. I'll try to get over there more often on my own.

My parents gave me this very realistic Border Collie for an early birthday present. It's either getting some sheep moving or waiting for someone to throw the frisbee. Such a familiar expression. Tika, however, wasn't impressed.

With only one agility class in the last 6 weeks and no seminars, trials, or practice in 2 months, and me working overtime--dogs bored! Dogs barking annoyingly at anything or nothing. Getting into the trash. Tearing things up. Pestering me. You ever wonder why dogs with bad habits who get turned into the shelter get that way? People aren't giving them enough to do; got the wrong kind of dog for their lifestyle.

We have a one-day USDAA trial this weekend in the north bay. I'm pondering staying overnight halfway back and going for a long off-leash hike the next day in one of the east bay parks.

We all hope we'll have class tomorrow night.  Too bad the dogs can't do boot camp exercises. They'd be sore and tired like me today.

Meanwhile--back to work!