a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Respects to David

SUMMARY: He was an amazing man.
This afternoon I'll be attending A Celebration of David's Life. For the last several weeks, I've had a chance to celebrate it a little each day as I've collected information for, and created, a handout for today's event.

One can say only that David was a remarkable man. ...No, that's not quite right. As people have sent me their stories about David, I've seen the same words time and again: Joy, happy, intelligent, smart, funny, generous, enjoyed life, liked trying new things, sharing, positive attitude, never gave up, as well as remarkable. He had a successful technical and management career, a list of publications longer than your kitchen table, a book of poetry, and memberships (often in leadership positions) in dozens of organizations, many of them involved in community service.

They are expecting well over 200 people at the Celebration, from all over the country and from a variety of activities and social groups. I've often thought how nice it would be to be able to do something like this when someone was still alive, so that they could see how many lives they've touched, and how. Unfortunately, David can't be there, because brain cancer saw to that last year. Isn't it an interesting thing, in our culture? If I were to say, hey, let's all get together for this once-ever Celebration of Fred Smith, and Fred is looking forward to seeing all of you, I can guarantee that the turnout would be half of what one would get if Fred predeceased the celebration.

So I can only hope that somehow, some way, David's spirit can feel what we feel for him and rest in deeper peace for it.

David's wife, Sue, has been a friend for 20 years. The two of them are the only friends who've ever purchased season subscriptions to San Jose Repertory Theater with me. This was David's second marriage (first ended due to mental illness of the other party), and he brought his love and his two children into Sue's life barely more than 10 years ago.

Sue said, "David participated in an online game about caring called Ruby's Bequest, which was created by a friend of ours (Ken Eklund). The game took place in a fictional town called Deepwell. This is what David wrote to the other players at the end of the game:"

Being Meaningful

Reading the progress of Ruby's Bequest over the years has caused me to seriously reflect on what is missing from my life. (I have brain cancer, am immune impaired, and am totally disabled.) It wasn't losing my job and the reduction in standard of living. It wasn't being forced into retirement 10 years before I was ready. It isn't being stuck within these four walls most days, the reduced ability to think and speak, or the prospect of an eminent death. What drives me to the brink of depression some days is: I wasn't ready to stop being "meaningful". I don't mean being famous. I mean things like volunteer teaching in schools, helping kids with science projects, volunteering at food distribution sites, socializing shelter animals, giving blood, protesting in the streets -- nothing that you will ever get recognition for. In Deepwellian Speak, I suppose I should say: I was never ready to not be able to actively "care".

If you'd like to read a bit more about David's life and how he affected others, here's the front cover of the handout; you can download and read the whole PDF here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

No Snow; Demo

SUMMARY: The snow fantasy is a bust, but we had an interesting morning.
There is no news on the snow. Got cold (28 in my yard this morning) but no precipitation to go with it. A very few places apparently got a touch of snow that stuck for a few minutes early this morning, but otherwise--nada. Not even on the mountains.

We attended the Pet Expo at the fairgrounds. I took my new camera toy without adequate preparation and so got only a few rotten photos. Plus I had both dogs, it was very crowded and almost everyone in the building had their dogs, and I had nowhere to put them except with me (which I knew ahead of time but hadn't realized how heavy the crowds would be).

Here's the booth we operated out of. You can see that it's wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling crates with other people's dogs between demos. 
Both dogs behaved very well, especially considering the noise and the heat and the excitement and the fact that, by the time we left around noon, you couldn't move a step without another dog's body right in front of your dog.

The demos were fun on the artificial turf. Both dogs slid a little at first but got used to it pretty quickly.
It also became very hot with all those people, even on a day with record-low high temps outside this probably uninsulated building.

I stayed later than I had planned so that we could participate in the Weave Pole Competition: Just about 6 of us per team, doing weaves/tunnel/jump/jump and then back again, then handing off the baton to next in line.

When I picked up my big bag of stuff and headed out of the building with both dogs' leashes in one hand, shortened to about 12", I was very hot, thirsty, with cramping feet (seems to happen with dehydration), stressed from managing the dogs, hungry because didn't take lunch with me. I worked my way out of the building all herky jerky--wait for the person ahead of me to move, wait for the dog crossing my path to go, looking for a space between two moving people to squeeze through, dogs on leashes on all sides. Just before I got to the doors, I tried to weave one way, the dogs tried to weave another, and a person with a dog cut in front of us. Dogs were then pulling one way, I was pulling another, I was saying "whoa whoa whoa" to get them to ease up (one-handed, trying not to drop my bag). I must've looked pretty haggard, because a lady dashed my way suddenly from the dock-diving booth a few feet away, saying something like, "oh my, are you ok? are you all right? Do you need help? who's leading who here?" and actually starting to reach for my dogs, I think. I just said I'm hot and tired and it's been a long day, and she backed off. But I must've looked pretty desperate, although not in the way she was thinking.

I was glad to get out through the doors into space and fresh air.

Must say that, given the crowding and excitement, it was amazing that I didn't see or hear a single bad exchange between any of these hundreds and hundreds of dogs who were strangers to each other. Oh, and the lady walking around with a cat in her arms!

I looked at some of the booths and chatted with some vendors and quite a few people interested in agility, but trying to do all that with two active dogs on leash was too much. Next year I think I'll go with my camera and no dogs--such an amazing collection of different sizes and shapes and colors of dogs, even more than at conformation shows (because of all the cool mixes).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow or No?

SUMMARY: Probably no snow. And dogs are bored.
Dogs being bored has a large part to do with the weather. I've been overly busy, but also, not as many walkies because on days when it's a steady dreary rain, I haven't felt like walkies or parkie/frisbees; on days with that steady rain, the yard is a muddy mess and I don't want to go out there; and class has been canceled two weeks in a row due to inclement weather. Two weeks! We can only hope that next week will be OK.

Tomorrow we're going to spend a couple of hours over at the fairgrounds helping with a mini agility demo for a Pet Expo. It'll be indoors. Good thing, because it's supposed to be quite cold overnight and tomorrow morning.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that we're expected record lows for the date and maybe even sea-level snow. Because the Santa Clara Valley slopes gradually upward from the SF Bay, I'm at about 150 ft, so my odds are slightly better than for, say, downtown San Jose.

Now they've backed off a bit; more like maybe snow below 1000 feet, mayyyyybeeee down to 500, mayyyyyy.......beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..... snow flurries below that. So I'm thinkin' I'm not going to set the alarm periodically through the night to see whether there are snow flurries. Temperature has been freezing (with frost on the ground) every morning, but the predictions here don't look as cold as they've been saying, even though it is SO rare (as in I don't ever remember seeing it before) to have "snow" even mentioned in the weather predictions for San Jose!

Tonight--snow flurries in the 10:00 hour, but not getting that close to freezing (which is 32 F).

Tomorrow morning, snow flurries in the wee hours and cold but not super cold.

If there is actual snow when I do wake up, rest assured that there will be photos!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And Now--Record Colds

SUMMARY: Fun with weather in San Jose.
Not too long ago, we were having record high temps for the date, as much as 10 degrees higher than ever before in early february.

Tomorrow and Friday, they're predicting record low highs (40ish F high temp, 4.4 C) for the date.

It snowed quite a bit in the hills and mountains around us last weekend down below 1000 feet (I believe), although it didn't stay at the lower elevations. When the clouds cleared enough for me to see Mount Hamilton on Sunday, looked like this (snow gone at lower elevations):
 Usually, when the sun comes out, the snow vanishes quickly. But it has stayed cold enough that, even in the sun, the snow lingered as of yesterday afternoon:
Now they're saying--precipitation is coming along with the cold cold cold, so maybe, just maybe!, snow on the ground at sea level. First time in 35 years, if it happens.  Jan Null Weather Service says (and look for signs that the climate is warming) here's the history of snow on the ground in San Jose:
  • Feb 5, 1976, 1" (35 yrs ago)
  • Jan 15, 1952, .3" (24 before that)
  • Dec 11, 1932, .8" (20 before that)
  • Mar 3, 1896, 1" (36 before that)
  • Jan 16, 1888, .1" (8 before that)
  • Feb 5, 1887, 3.7" (wow!) (1 before)
  • Feb 7, 1884, 1.5" (3 before)
  • Dec 31, 1882, 3.5" (2 before)
  • Jan 12, 1868, 2" (14 before)
  • Dec 25, 1862, 2.5" (6 before)
Here are my scanned slides from before dawn that morning in 1976 at my parents' house in Cupertino--a loooonnnng time ago in camera years.

Now--I'm ready! Camera's ready! Bring it!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not Just Another Pretty Face

SUMMARY: Bay Teamer Best at Westminster
I'm not a big fan of conformation shows, although (a) I love going and looking at all the dogs, and (b) all the breeders I know personally are conscientious and responsible about how they're breeding their dogs. Still, even I know that winning Best In Breed at Westminster is a Really Big Thing.

So how fun is it when a fellow Bay Teamer, who also runs her dogs in agility, wins? It is complete fun! This just shows that performance dogs can also be pretty faces.

Here he is at Madison Square Garden, free stacking--Benny the Border Terrier--known in the royal social circles in which he hangs as BIS GCh Surefyre's Benny And The Jets, RN, JE, CGC, V.
And I loved Connie's comments about her experience and their future in agility, and she said I could share:
I was mesmerized at the celestial moment, when my boy Benny strutted into the loud huge crowd filled arena in New York, after winning Best of Breed at Westminster. Standing in the light of the Garden in front of millions on TV that night on the green carpet, he free stacked and posed...there he was...My Benny...my eyes filled. I am his breeder, his dog mom, and most times his handler. (This gig,it was Mr. Wornall who handled him. What a wonderful job he did,also!)

"It's a language our hearts speak when we see beauty and when we appreciate all the work, feeling, love and sincerity that is behind it". The one special moment etched in time and the world stood perfectly still as he stood proud in his free stack.

He is now going to start his agility career and we will no longer be standing still. HELP! (giggle)

So now we'll find out whether he lives up to the Jets part of his name! Go, Benny!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Get the Leo!

 SUMMARY: Useful tricks.
I'm liking this "get it" thing. The more things I think to teach my dog to get, the more their little furminds grok the concept of "woman want me bring sumthing. me find something bring."

This is not too hard for Boost, but challenging for Tika who really gets the concept of picking something up but tends to drop it immediately and come to me for a reward. Getting it to me might take several iterations of pick it up, drop it one foot closer, pick it up, drop it one foot closer, etc.

Boost does "get the newspaper" every morning and she hardly ever stops to tear the plastic bag apart in the driveway anymore, except saturday when there were free samples of Honey Fiber Oat Sugar Pretend Healthy Cereal and a granola bar entombed in the bag as well. I had to go out and stand two inches from the paper and say "get the newspaper!" which was a lot more work than just getting it myself, but it was an entertaining situation and not actually raining at that moment, so it was OK.

"Get the xxxx" comes in useful when a dog-related entertainment product ("toy") needs to be retrieved from wayyyy under a table so I can vacuum.

They both "get your dish!" at mealtime most meals these days. The usual routine is (and all of this takes about 20 seconds combined and is mostly going on simultaneously):
  1. Boost runs into the kitchen where the dishes [usually] are. 
  2. Tika runs into the kitchen. 
  3. Boost gets excited watching Tika grab a dish,  and runs out to the deck where I'm waiting, to be able to watch Tika come through the door.
  4. Tika brings her dish to the other side of the doggie door, drops it, and comes out without it. 
  5. Meanwhile I tell Boost "get your dish!" again, and she barks once, runs into the kitchen, gets her dish, and either (a) brings it to the doggie door, drops it, hops through, and sticks her head back through to get it, (b) brings it through the doggie door and drops it at a full run so it rolls or bounces off somewhere random, or (c) brings it right to me, drops it at my feet, and if I don't IMMEDIATELY THIS MINUTE pick it up and fill it with food, she immediately picks it up and throws it at my feet, loudly. 
  6. Meanwhile, I've been telling Tika again, "Get your dish!", and she whines and yelps and spins and goes through the dog door and back out and then when i tell her AGAIn, she goes in, runs into the kitchen (but the bowl isn't there because she dropped it by the dog door), she runs back out, where I tell her for the 12th time, "TEEEEEka, GET. YOUR. DISH!"
  7. Whereupon Boost thinks, "oh,  fer cryin'... gah..." leaps through the dog door, grabs Tika's dish,  brings it out, throws it at my feet, and Tika grabs it, drops it immediately back at my feet, and looks at the food bin expectantly, mission having been accomplished as requested.
Sometimes actually everyone does everything right the first time, with only a little bit of yapping and spinning and "GET YOUR DISH" repeatology.

Anyway, then  I often, using the food from the dishes, fill up their Buster Cubes or their Leos. (Turquoise and blue tubular things center bottom:)

Leos are quieter than Buster Cubes, so I mostly use them now.

There's a routine to this, too:
  1. I say to the dogs, "Oooh, a Leo!" and like that, several times while filling them. 
  2. Tika gets her Leo in the dining room where the floor heater vent is covered to prevent food from dropping into the ductwork and the dogs pawing at the heater vent for the next 2 months. I say, "Here's your Leo!"
  3. Boost gets hers in the office. I say, "Here's Boost's Leo!" All of this verbiage is to try to put a name to the object.
  4. When Tika's stops rapidly dispensing treats, she takes it out to the back lawn, finishes it, and leaves it there.
  5. Boost leaves hers wherever it was in the office when she got the last bits out.
Sometimes they vanish. I also bought a purple one later "as an emergency backup" (but really because it was purple).  So one day last week I couldn't find the blue one. This should not be so hard; the office is not  that big and it's downstairs from the rest of the house, so it's not likely to roll upstairs. Sure, there are a couple of boxes and furnitures, but I looked everywhere. The renter even came down and helped me look. Nowhere to be found.

So I used the purple emergency backup Leo. That worked for a couple of days, then the next time I went looking for it, there was the blue one in the middle of the floor but the purple one was nowhere to be found. (And believe me, I looked, as it was now obvious that it had to be here SOMEWHERE nearby.) Nothing.

The next day I came looking, and the blue AND purple ones were lying in the middle of the floor.

But that's not what I came here to tell you about.

This morning it was literally freezing outside at breakfast time. I was still in my bathrobe. Yard is still wet from last week's rain. Tika's turquoise Leo is sitting out in the middle of the back lawn. We have already achieved "Get your dish!" with a minimum of brouhaha. So, what the heck, I grab Tika's collar, point her at the deck stairs, and say "Get the Leo!" She runs down the stairs, looks around (there were no other dog-related entertainment products in sight, which helped),  spies the Leo in the lawn, run to it, grabs it, and brings it all the way back up to me without dropping it or being reminded even once!

That is SO COOL!

Now if only they were ready for the "get my AT&T Uverse network password which I put somewhere safe last month, but not sure where that might be! GET IT!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away, Unless You Make More Pretty Things

SUMMARY: Lots of rain all week. But I'll take double rainbows.

And later that same evening--

Plum and cherry trees are all blossoming.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fashion a la Agility

SUMMARY: Can't make it to this spring's New York Fashion shows? Visit an agility trial with Team Small Dog instead.
I laughed out loud at this short Team Small Dog agility post. Hope you will, too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Almost Wordless Thursday

SUMMARY: Not quite Wordless Wednesday.
Inspired by Johann the Dog's Valentines Day photo mosaic, I downloaded the app they recommended, AndreaMosaic (versions available for windows & mac. Can be very slow to run. Must have patience).

Fed it the 6000-+ photos in one of my photos folders, then gave it a photo of Tika (this one that I used recently) to reconstruct as a mosaic using my photos.


(I didn't attempt to weed out oddball ones, as you'll find when you notice that it used many copies of my photos of a curtain-rod bracket, a couple of cartoons, and a USDAA accumulator sheet to fill in the white and light gray areas. Someday I might build a different database of photos that are just dog-related and try building photos from that. I just suspect that the color scheme will be a bit limited--mostly gray, white, and green. :-) )

You can click it to see a larger version and some of the detailed photos within it, or download the full-sized version.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Related to the Same Subject

SUMMARY: Lifetime Gold and another blogger.
Also, on doing less USDAA: I was hoping to finish Tika's Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Gold this year. We need 32 Qs. Last year we earned 85. So (in theory) I could do half the USDAA trials and still make it. Although--ahem--of course it would be nice to see whether we could actually make it to Platinum. That's Gold plus another 150 Qs. Two more FULL years like last year and then some. And she'd be over 12 by then. So we'd have to keep on with a full slate of USDAA.

Nothing like pressure.

Meanwhile, another blogger (Cedarfield, back east) just posted about her new agility life sans actual trials. I can see my life, if I were to stop trialing, roughly parallel hers. So it's great food for thought.

Her blog post is private but she kindly gave me permission to repost. So here it is.

My New Life
Feb. 15th, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Even though I'm still adjusting to this new non-trialing lifestyle, I can say that I'm definitely liking the slower pace and lack of pressure I feel. I no longer spend my Friday evenings dreading the thought of getting up in the cold pre-dawn to schlepp myself and all my stuff and my dogs out to some cold, damp, windy or otherwise inhospitable locale to spend the day feeling out of place among all the people who were happy to be there. And I'm loving that I can sit around on a weekend morning and just enjoy the company of my husband and dogs rather than always rushing off to be somewhere else. Why, last Sunday I actually spent a couple of hours reading a book. I can't remember the last time I did that unless I was on vacation.

And I'm still doing agility. I take a class once a week that I thoroughly enjoy despite having to drive 90 minutes each way after working all day and knowing I'll have to get up early the next morning. I'm teaching a couple of times a week and training my dogs when I have time and I feel like it. I'm still just as interested in agility as I was before but I've added a couple of new training interests and signed up for a Nosework camp next Fall. I'm also still working on getting started in a new activity that I don't want to talk about until it actually happens. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time but never had the time or resources to do because--hello!--agility trials ate up everything I had. I'm even taking a basic drawing class one night a week just because I've always wanted to learn how to draw and now I have the itme.

I definitely do miss being part of the agility community and seeing people and dogs that I've known for years. And even though I'm still doing agility with my dogs and teaching agilty classes, I don't see most of the people I've spent so much of my life with over the past 15 years. I feel a little like I'm standing on the side of the road watching busloads of people going past. They're all going to the same party but I got off the bus and now I'm feeling a little lonely and forlorn standing there by myself. It's what I knew would happen if I stopped going to trials. I've spent so much time trialing that I neglected to become a part of other communities. But despite feeling lonely sometimes, I know I'll find new things to do and new friends. I'll develop new goals and new interests and probably by next year at this time, I will have forgotten how I feel now.

I have actually entered a couple of local AKC trials for one day only. I want to get Zodi out there just to see what happens. I wonder if it will be fun or if I'll regret entering. If I find I'm feeling those old (negative) feelings again, I can just stop entering. There are also a couple of CPE trials that allow day of trial entry so I might do those, too. The people who go to local CPE trials are not the same people who go to the local USDAA and AKC trials so I'm wondering how that will change the experience. I don't usually enjoy going places where I don't know anyone but I'll give it a try and see what happens.

And the weather for the last month has been dry and sunny which will soon give way to perfect camping weather. This will be the first Spring in quite awhile that I'll have the time to do more than one quick trip. Another big thing on the horizon is the yard sale I've been wanting to do for oh, about 120 years. I think I've finally convinced my husband that it's time we parted with some of the accumulation of almost 41 years together. Every time a relative died and left anything behind, we somehow ended up with it. Both of us are so sentimental that we find it hard to part with anything but I have a good--no, a GREAT goal of what to do with the money. It's been almost 14 years since we've been overseas and this is the year I want to go.

We have friends who own a little house in the Greek islands that we plan to sponge off of for at least a week and then take a drive down the length of the Peloponnesus to see the Mycenean ruins. And I really want to see Paris and visit the Louvre and maybe take a quick trip to Cornwall. So, I'm clearing out the barn and the closets and having a huge blowout yard sale. It might not be enough for the whole trip but it will sure go a long ways toward the plane tickets.

I actually already started cleaning out the garage this weekend when I threw away almost all of my agility ribbons and notebook upon notebook of seminar notes, class notes, camp notes and notebooks. I don't know why I saved it all, it just seemed like anything I put that much time and effort into, I should have something to show for it. Unfortunately, I don't. It almost seems as if I'm waking up after a long sleep. What was I doing all those years? Yes, I had fun and stayed busy but what was it all for? It's not like I became a champion or anything close to it. I never became famous and gave seminars all over the country (although I did make an appreciable contribution to other presenters annual income). It was a pretty sobering exercise but it felt good to clear out all those old boxes and see the clean space underneath.

More Trials? Or Different Ones? Or None?

SUMMARY: What to do for me and Boost? CPE? Nothing? More of everything?
I've been pondering what to do about Boost's performance at trials. Well--chyah--there's always, like, practicing the things we're weak on. But I mean other than that.

Bear with me while I think out loud.

I've been talking about whether doing more CPE would be beneficial for us as a team. I like CPE because it's a real trial but yet I'm more relaxed. And my dogs seem to do better there (in part because you can Q with faults). Which might build confidence for us as a team in a trial situation. I can tell you that fun matches don't help. Everyone involved knows it's not a real trial, no matter how much I try to emulate the real process (same warm-up routine, same collar off before running, try to convince myself this is the National Finals and it's do or die)--no, everyone's happy happy with perfect contacts and tables.

But CPE. I dunno, I don't know that many people in the CPE circuit any more. And they're farther away (no "local" ones any more; have to stay overnight). And they're more expensive because I'm not in the loop for the free-entry trial positions for most of them.

I'd hate to give up the USDAA trials and everyone I know. But if I added CPE, that would be more trials and I'm still trying to do less. (Plus there's always an off chance that Tika could make Top Ten again...)

(Oh--huh--out of 3 days of 2011 trialing, tika has placed 1st in 3 Gamblers, for 15 points, taking us halfway to Top Ten already--but no points in anything else at all! Well, OK, we could be top ten in gambling and nothing else. That's hardly worth getting my tights in a knot for.)

Because I've also been thinking: Tika earned her ADCH with her 3rd Super-Q the week before she turned 6, and it seemed like FOREVER between the 2nd and 3rd SQs. And yet-- Boost has now turned 6 and hasn't a single SQ to her name.

But at that point, Tika had competed in 89 trials: 49 USDAA (55%), 28 CPE (33%), and 12 (13%) NADAC/ASCA. Boost so far has competed in 68 trials: 56 USDAA (82%), 11 CPE (16%), and 1 ASCA (2%).

In the year leading up to her ADCH, Tika did 18 trials; Boost has done 13 in the last year.

The differences aren't huge, and yet I wonder whether it's enough to make a difference in experience and confidence? And since we're doing more USDAA and less CPE, the trials are harder on both of us? When Boost competes in CPE, she tends to come home with a lot of ribbons, including Qs and placements, which is more gratifying to me, which might make me generally a happier and less stress-inducing teammate for Boost. When we compete in USDAA--well--yeah, you know. Maybe a couple of Qs here and there.

Soooooooooooooo I'm just thinking maybe we need to do a bunch of CPEs instead of USDAA, just blow off any chance of Top Ten for Tika this year in the hopes of improving Boost's agility career. It's like hyped-up fun matches as part of our training regimen.

Or, yeah, give it up altogether.

I'm just sayin', it's an alternative.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary, VAST

SUMMARY: It's been 10 years already?!
VAST hosted this weekend's trial out in Turlock.

They provided REALLY GOOD cake for everyone to enjoy.

Three of the co-founders: Donna, Mary, and Carlene. John--who found, fixed up, and ran this field for most of the last 10 years--was there in spirit, as he was part of everything there, having built most of it himself.

It's Monday After A Trial Again

SUMMARY: Time for the usual wrap-up.
With agility, it always starts with the weather, neh?

The weather when I left the house at 4:45 was--uh--dark, with increasing light and color as I arrived in Turlock two hours later.

Both mornings started out below freezing. Yep, that's frost on the grass.

So cold that even the contact obstacles were shivering and so needed their own blankets.

People were bundled up pretty throughly while hanging around waiting for course maps.

VAST has this clever way of handing out course maps.

JD's jacket is just cool. Because, when agility isn't all about the weather, it's all about the clothing.

Here I am--surprise, at the score table--middle of the day when it's warm enough for a while to have stripped off the outer layers down to just my shirt. Gwen, sitting next to me, is in shorts. And is wearing her team shirt from when she and Tika were on the same DAM team. (Thanks, Barbara S.)

Someone always makes these available at VAST. I usually stock up; Tika seems to like these as much or more than anything for tug games at trials. (I call hers her "milker toy".)

Here I am at the end of the day when half the participants have left for dinner, at--surprise--the score table. (Thanks, Richard Deppe.)

We were so lucky with the weather. The sun showed up most of the weekend for all of our agility and the trip home, and then rain rolled in somewhere after midnight last night and is expected to stay for the next week or so.


Other than that--another weekend where I fantasized partway through the day Saturday about scratching the rest of my runs, going home, and giving up on agility forever.

It was better by Sunday evening.

In other words, ups and downs, and it's probably better that it ended with some UPs and perhaps an attitude readjustment.

  • Tika Qed only 4 out of 11, won both gamblers, 3rd in Jumpers, was "wild card" into Steeplechase round 2 without a Q and came home with a small check. Knocking more bars than usual lately and popping contacts left and right.
  • Boost Qed only 2 out of 11--yet another run-of-the-mill useless Snooker Q but also a really nice Gamble on Sunday.  Bars, runouts, refusals, weave pole issues, start line issues first runs on saturday again.

Boost's first four runs of Saturday really beat me down:
  • Pairs Relay. We had 9 obstacles. Within that, she: Didn't stay at the start line, turned the wrong way on a rear cross,  didn't stick her contact, knocked a bar, and missed the weave entry (so much for working on weaves this week).
  • Standard: Didn't stick the start line again and I took her off.
  • Gamblers: This is a very fast dog who should be able to do at least the courses that *I* design, right? And should be getting at least high opening points (which she's often very close to), whether or not she gets the gamble. In this opening, she didn't stick her DW contact and jumped in front of me so I had to down her to get into next position, ran past the tire on a slight curve, had to stop in her tracks and move to the side to avoid taking the aframe that was right in front of her, and knocked a bar, and in the gamble itself, didn't follow me around a circle (hark back to class last week).
  • Steeplechase: Ran past the weaves. Completely. Didn't even try. Brought her back, lined her up so that she could make the entry, and then she popped out after 6 poles.  I took her off the course again and went and sulked.

After a little chatting with a friend, I decided that my goal would be to just run her smoothly around the course and ignore any faults anywhere except hte most egregious ones (e.g., not staying at the start line). That meant that, if she missed obstacles or got stuck on obstacles, I wasn't going to do anything about it (which is contrary to what I am often instructed in) and I wasn't going to say anything, either.

This works for a while, but really if we're not Qing it's not going to be much fun for me.

Last two runs were bearable because of that decision, I guess:
  • Snooker: Picked a course that didn't even think about being in Super-Q range, just tried to be smooth.  The tricky thing is that, on this course, that made it in Super-Q range. She knocked the 3rd of 3 reds, taking us right back out of super-Q competition anyway, but got through the rest of the course without any great trauma, and earned another simple Q.
  • Jumpers: Knocked a bar, ran past a jump and while I tried on the spur of the moment to keep her running smoothly over any random obstacles, she knocked another bar, then ran past another jump later in the course, but I did succeed in keeping her moving fast and fairly smoothly all the way through, although it was an E. No refusals, just the runouts.
Tika's Saturday didn't go much better:
  • Pairs Relay: Knocked the first bar, and partner had a fault, although we were fast enough to still Q, barely (no placement).
  • Standard: I flubbed a front cross resulting in a refusal, and she knocked a bar.
  • Gamblers: I tried to run her past a chute in the opening that she'd have had to do a full-run u-turn to get into, and she tried to do it anyway. That delay cost us a 3-point Aframe (she was over the apex but not in the yellow yet). So--we still placed 1st in our class and Qed, and I'm happy about that, but of course the competitive me wanted to be in the top 3 scores of all 100 dogs rather than in the top 11 dogs. (In other words, yeah, my 10-yr-old dog is still doing very very well.)
  • Snooker: Embarrassing for a so-called top-ten handler and dog; looked more like one of Boost's runs! Knocked the 2nd red bar, managed to bobble our way to do the 3rd red, then knocked a bar on the obstacle after that, and then she dove in at my feet and started grabbing them as we approached the #2 closing obstacle and hence she crossed the plane for a runout and we were whistled off with a total of 6 points, out of 51 possible. With Tika, though, I can still laugh about this sort of nonsense while it's happening, because it's not normal for us.
  • Steeplechase: Flew off the Aframe big-time. We were less than 5 seconds slower than the 1st place dog, but with the 5 faults AND combining with the 16" dogs, we didn't even Q while placing 3rd. However--they take a minimum of 4 non-Eing dogs into round 2, and we were it (the others all Eed).
  • Jumpers: Tika needed just 1 jumpers and 1 standard for her Bronze Performance Championship. She ran very nicely on this, one tiny bobble that I'm sure cost us no more than a second, but we still placed only 3rd, with a Q. The run felt good, though.
Sunday Results 
  • Tika Steeplechase Round 2: 2nd fastest time, but again flew off the aframe bigtime, placing 3rd. Won us almost $7 whole $!
  • Tika Jumpers: Knocked the first bar then an offcourse that was my fault and another knocked bar.
  • Boost, same Jumpers: Didn't come in to me on a serpentine (another known long-term issue), then later ran past a jump. But I kept her moving through all of that, pretending that we were still doing fine, and it was a nice, fairly fast run if you ignore the double E. And I think she kept her bars up.
  • Tika Snooker: Gah! Two days in a row! Turned the wrong way on an attempted wrap and then backjumped. Exited with 1 point!
  • Boost same Snooker: Four reds were required. The 7-point combo was confusing enough that I just picked something that *I* could get through easily (although the four sevens opening was pretty smooth if you could remember it and had a fast, biddable dog). So we did 7-7-6-5, and it was lovely other than another running past the Aframe instead of taking it (and she had to adjust her stride to do it). Then she knocked the #3 bar in the closing, so no Q. Perhaps not too surprisingly, we still did better than half of the other dogs in this class.
  • Tika Standard: This is all we need for that bronze championship. And on a difficult course, she did it all perfectly and had to throw it away by not even trying to hit the end on the dogwalk.
  • Boost same Standard:  Came to a stop on 2 jumps (the old "this jump" thing); I just held my position and said nothing and waited, and she eventually hopped over both of them (knocking one), so two refusals and a knocked bar. Of course on this one she didn't run past anything, held her start line, held all her contacts, and had a beautiful table down (which is usually a problem).
  • Tika Grand Prix: A very fun, fast course, and I moved too soon on a tight front cross and pulled her off the jump for a runout. Of course this time she got all her contacts. Sigh.
  • Boost Grand Prix: Two knocked bars but everything else looked good. A fun run indeed.
  • Tika Gamblers: I thought I had a pretty good opening, and she executed it beautifully, but I still ran out of obstacles. Decided that I had to be close enough and sent her towards the gamble, keeping my fingers crossed, and sure enough, the buzzer went just before she hit the first obstacle, woohoo what timing! We won again and Qed, but obviously could've fit in a couple more points soemwhere to put us in the very highest point-earners among the 100 competitiors.
  • Boost same Gamble: I slightly modified Tika's course to add points, and wow, she ran it all beautifully, and got the gamble! *IF* we had gotten all our points, we'd have won our class and tied among the 3 or 4 2nd-highest points out of 100. IF she had knocked only ONE bar, we'd have been in 3rd place and been among a half dozen of the 3rd highest point earner. BUt, no, she knocked 2 in the opening, putting us into a crowd of maybe a dozen or so next-highest. Still--I'll take the Q and 7th place out of 32 dogs. It felt good,she was happy, I was happy.  I think she had almost the fastest time of all the dogs who Qed.

Other Stuff

Won another free entry in the raffle on Sunday. I sure worked to earn this one; busy weekend at the score table.

And won a small basket of dog treats and a toy on Saturday. Plus some Ghirardelli chocolate.  Hmm, better go check it now to be sure it's still OK. [salivates]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is Tika Getting Older

SUMMARY: I'm looking for signs in her face and her performance.
Tika turns 10 on Monday. Is she becoming an old dog yet? I dread the day, of course-- so I'm looking for signs.

Here's Tika's photo from Wednesday:

Here's the closest similar shot I could find, from seven years ago, March 2004:
Sooo is she getting whiter in the face? It's so hard to tell, with her already speckled and white-flecked coat. Is the front inside her ear more white than tan? Are her eyelashes white but weren't before? Her little eyebrows look white from the side in yesterday's photo, but in person, looking more straight on, they still look tannish.  Her teeth are definitely more worn down--but you can't see that. :-)

Next, I plotted her non-Eliminating Jumpers yards per second in Masters and P3.  I included runs with faults, which could be bars, refusals, or runouts (which could make the times slower). Debated leaving them out, but in fact even our nominally "clean" runs could have detours and major bobbles that didn't show up as faults, and knocked bars  are less likely than those unrecorded bobbles to affect our time.

Soooo is she slowing down? There might have been a very gradual trend downwards, until she moved to P3 in October 2009, which popped right back up there, and the numbers have held steady since then. (Except the last 3 on the chart, which were, respectively, 1st place of 10 dogs ("late calls but good for 1:30 on a very hot day"), massive time-wasting bobbles, and 2nd place of 10 dogs, only .1 off 1st. So I think they were slow courses rather than us slowing down.)

My conclusion: Happy Birthday, Tika! Looks like you've still got plenty in you!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another Agility Day. Or Two.

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves, class(es), not enough hours, sore.

Boost's weaves

I must be feeling slightly motivated this week, because once again we went out to the yard and practiced weaving poles. Boost's disaster from the previous day did not reappear [making me wonder whether it'll be like this in competition, too--weaves brilliant one day, disaster the next] but she did still miss a veer left into the weaves.

Whereupon I reverted to another old strategy of placing a small piece of green wire garden fence blocking the wrong entry. On her next approach, she stuttered when she saw it (in the old days, sometimes she'd hop over it), then >>whew!<< made the correct entry. We did it like that two more times, then I snuck the wire away, and she was fine the rest of practice. Gads.

The Night of Class

Last night was class night. This is different. We've been in Tuesday night class ever since we were bumped out of Thursday night class (because first it became World Team Night and then was abandoned altogether) which is where we'd been ever since we left Wednesday Night 8:15 Class (tearfully because I loved that group of people but had to switch nights for various reasons).

I've been wanting back into Thursday night because Tuesday nights are ALSO: My monthly Master Composter meetings, my neighborhood's monthly community meetings, and my every-6-weeks-or-so San Jose Repertory Theater season ticket nights.

Tuesday morning, Power Paws sent email asking whether anyone would be interested in a Thursday 8:00 class. Boom, a bunch of us swooped right in. (I think several of us who'd recently been in the Tuesday class for some period of time, after being in the previous thursday night class, who'd previous been in the Wednesday Night 8:15 Class, who... well, ok, sometimes we move around a lot, not always by our own choice.)

So I never even went to a Tuesday night class to say goodbye. Probably just as well. Always sad leaving a group that you've grown accustomed to.

Not Enough Hours

But another agility friend's post about another nosework class starting up on Sundays got me thinking: I've been very curious about the nosework stuff. Lots of people around here are involved in that, and it sounds like tons of fun. Plus something I can practice easily at home. Buuutttt... started thinking about my schedule and everything I'd LIKE to do:
  • Monday: Boot camp
  • Tuesday: See above
  • Wed: Hiking w/sierra club singles
  • Thurs: Agility class, boot camp (obviously not both)
  • Fri: I don't schedule anything recurring on friday night
  • Weekends: Agility about 1 out of 4 weekends currently. Boot camp Sunday mornings otherwise. Could be nosework on Sundays, instead.
I'm not thinkin' I'm ready for that additional commitment and conflict.

Class Revelations

So last night in class, the focus was on discrimination (we had no trouble doing the correct choice of tunnel or contact) and on getting to the back side of jumps. My dogs did OK on the latter if *I* was in the right place. Which was a problem--more in a moment.

But Boost: Knocks bars like crazy! Who'd have ever thought it! Sigh.

And can't follow me around a circle of four jumps! (Hate it when the instructor says in kind of a stunned voice, "Wow.")

And easily pushes off of jumps when I'm trying to rear cross!

And we're competing this weekend?! Why do I not work on these issues, whyyyyyyyyyy???

Did have a discussion with a friend there about how you can't really work on this stuff at home--the yard isn't big enough to get the kind of drive and obstacle distraction that you can get in a big field filled with agility equipment. And just finding the extra two hours here and there to go up to power paws to use their field...[see "Not Enough Hours"].

My back yard via Google Maps (weird--when did they take this, that there's no visible agility equipment?!):

Power Paws field, same zoom scale:

Sore Revelations

I have been using acetaminophen the last 10 days instead of my prescription indomethacin. Annnnnnd that is so not working for me. I could barely move around the course last night. Lower back sore. Hip sore. Knee sore. Legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds, with big vises screwed onto all the joints. I don't realize what a difference it makes. Doesn't affect me just walking, or even hiking, even briskly. But trying to sprint into position for a good serp or front cross--gah. Might have to slip in a trip to the pharmacy today. Either way, could be an interesting weekend of competition.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weaves and Weekend

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves are a disaster, and it's USDAA time again.
Yesterday's weaving practice fell apart. Boost couldn't make the slightly harder entries again.

I dropped the number of poles to 4 so she wouldn't have to be doing a lot of weaves just to practice the entries. I'd been throwing the toy as a reward, but not quickly enough, so she was essentially doing a u-turn at the end to come back towards me.  I worked on throwing the toy earlier to get her to go straight out of the weaves, and she started popping out.

Frustrating-- even if she made the entry, she was popping. Or she wasn't making the entry. I caught myself saying "No!" on more than one occasion on the pop-outs and finally stopped to do some very simple weaves (straight on entry with me running alongside) to have 3 successes in a row and stopped for the day.

I have to rethink this. Thought I was going back to basics but apparently I'm going back to screwing up the basics.

And it's agility this weekend, too, curses--feeling so unready.

However: It's USDAA out in Turlock, always a pleasant group of people, and the weather should be absolutely perfect. They're predicting rain for Monday, but until then, parrrrtay!

Only thing is, hmm, I was planning on sleeping overnight in MUTT MVR on site, but I'm reconsidering, looking at those overnight lows. Even with down and two dogs...brrrr...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Invisible Fence Saved Our Siberian Husky

SUMMARY: My experience with the so-called invisible fence.
An "invisible fence" isn't really a fence at all. It's a transmitter attached to a wire that you place around the area in which you want to keep your dog (or to keep your dog out of). The dog wears a collar receiver that's a shock collar; if the dog gets within range of the wire, she gets a shock.

You don't just put the collar on the dog and wait for it to work. You train the dog by first putting up a visible indicator of the wire's range (kite string attached to stakes, for example). You walk with the dog on leash, and when you see the dog react to the shock, you immediately run with the dog into the yard where it's safe, and reward the dog for running back into the yard with you. You do this for a week or two, first with the visible indicator, then without it. It's time-consuming training; you never want the dog out in the yard without you there until they've learned the right reaction.

I refused to put something on my dog that I wouldn't try on myself. So I did: wrapped it around my bare arm and walked within range of the wire. Zap! Very startling, but didn't seem much more painful than when you get a really sharp static discharge on a dry day, walking across the carpet, and touching something metal.

The only reason I went for this option was because we tried for 6 years to keep our Siberian Husky in the yard (I won't bore you with the long list of all the things that we bought, installed, fixed, and/or methods we tried) and we finally put her up for adoption, only to realize on the night before handing her over that we couldn't do it. We needed another option, and I had recently heard about the Invisible Fence.

It succeeded much better than anything else. Her yard escapes reduces from nearly constant to almost never.  (We could also have built a kennel with a concrete pad and solid walls and a roof. I preferred the option of letting her roam the yard and house.)

Our yard was fenced but it was very large (half an acre). We attached the wire to the fence around most of the yard, and cut a groove through the driveway to install it under the pavement where it crossed the driveway.

Its major use is for yards that don't have fences--usually because the yard is huge and the cost of fencing is prohibitive, or the local CC&Rs don't allow fencing (we had a friend who lived in such an area back east).

In 1996, I sent a friend an email about some of the advantages to invisible fencing:
  • It can be used inside a yard as well as around a yard, for example to keep the dogs out of the vegetable garden.
  • It can be used around yards that are, for whatever reason, difficult to fence.
  • It requires much less maintenance and is easier to install than a regular fence.
  • It costs much less than a regular fence.
  • It can be used  around fenced yards for dogs who are escape artists (our situation).
  • Used with a regular fence, if your regular fence is damaged somehow (e.g., wind storm, rotting, whatever), it ensures that the dog won't get out before you notice the damage.
  •  It works almost all the time--compared to all of our other methods and fences, none of which could ever be relied on to work. But we did use it in conjunction with a real fence.

I also noted that, like most solutions to behavioral issues, it is not without its caveats:

  • You must train the dog to recognize that staying in the yard (or running *into* the yard when startled) is the safe and correct way to avoid the fence's correction. This is not a replacement for training, but a [very strong] supplement to it.
  • You must regularly test the collar to be sure that the battery is functioning or simply replace the battery on a strict schedule (the Invisible Fence company has a battery-subscription plan where they simply send you a battery at some fixed interval!).
  • You must monitor whether the wire that provides the "invisible" fence is intact and has power. Ours came with 2 lights that remain lit as long as these 2 things are ok.
  • Densely coated dogs (like a Siberian Husky) have to have a small patch on their necks trimmed or shaved on a regular basis for the collar correction to work.
  • Because she had to have it on 24 hrs a day "just in case", she occasionally developed small sores where the contacts rubbed on her neck and those needed care & prevention.
  • A dog working under a lot of adrenaline can power right thru the fence barrier. In theory, the more they're trained at the beginning, the less they're inclined to try it, although Sheba figured out pretty quickly that, if the gate was left ajar, she could make a break for it and be gone. (And the dog might hesitate to *return* to the yard. If I knew that somehow Sheba had gotten out with the collar on--e.g. during a power failure when I wasn't home--I'd turn off the fence til she came back.)
  • Intelligent dogs who like to escape will test the fence occasionally--we knew when we had neglected to shave the neck, replace the battery on a regular schedule, or check that the line was still working, because Sheba would vanish.
  • It will not keep other things *out* of your yard, such as other dogs, and your dogs are then more or less trapped in your yard.
  • If you forget to take the collar off when you put the dog into the car, and then drive the car over or near the fence, you are torturing your dog. I did this once. Gods, I felt awful!

For more on the down side, here's an interesting post, "The Illusions of Invisible Fencing," from someone who almost lost their dog who powered through an invisible fence (with no supplementary fencing) in front of a car.

The result, however, was that our dog was out roaming only on rare occasions; I spent so many sleepless nights before that, agonizing over whether she'd be hit by a car or we'd never see her again. It was amazing how often she left and yet we got her back again. We were very lucky. Our lives got so much better with her in the years after we installed the fence, and she lived to be 17.

Monday, February 07, 2011

My Tax Dollars At Work at the DMV

SUMMARY: I am flush with driver's licenses that expire last week.
If you read my January story about how I have already acquired three driver's licenses that expire at the end of last month (here: http://dogblog.finchester.org/2011/01/dmv-service-is-um-improving.html), you'll be delighted to know that, today, I received another envelope from the DMV.

With another license that expires at the end of January 2011. That's four.

To be continued.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ah, Yes, February in San Jose

SUMMARY: Already, spring flowers!
The temperatures this weekend are supposed to be near-record highs for these dates. Unbelievable, given the 2,000-mile-wide snowstorm moving across most of the rest of the country, including Arizona and some southeastern states:

(Photo from NASA on this page along with more info on the storm. Composite January 31 photo with helpful state borders added.)

And YET, it really is still winter, and the danger of overnight frost remains. It's not TOO surprising that, on Friday, I saw the first yellow buds on my daffodils, and those few finally popped open Saturday.

But I was blown away Friday when I noticed that one of my roses, still mostly bereft of leaves, has put out two bright pink buds. And on Saturday, they were also happily opening.

Yep ahhhh, there's a lot to like about living in San José.