a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Plus There Were Dogs

SUMMARY: There were dogs at the CPE trial last weekend, too.
At agility trials, I usually take photos of people, activities, and things, because there are usually plenty of other people taking photos of the dogs in the rings on the agility equipment.

But I got a few dog photos, too; how could I help it with these cuties?

MJ and her husband started their small dog collection with a Pomeranian rescue who came into the vet office where she works with massive injuries. Since then, they've taken in two more Pom rescues and a cute little whatever he is (not shown here).

This Bichon is one of the two Junior Handler dogs at our trial. She was very susceptible to my funny alien buzz-whistle noise and titled her head in several very cute ways.

This American Eskimo I believe came all the way down from Washington state for our trial.

Maddie is another rescue, a border-collie-probably with unusual eyes and coloring (and very beautiful, BTW). Tthis team Qs like crazy on a regular basis. They have a C-ATCH and higher levels of ADCH and just completed their lifetime silver (?) and Maddie is only 7.

This young minpin (Miniature Pinscher) isn't quite competing yet, but his older adopted sister Belle (also minpin) has at least her ADCH-Bronze in USDAA and C-ATCH in USDAA.

This was our other Junior Handler dog for the weekend, a Standard Poodle. She always looked so clean and prim in our really dusty arena.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Not Just About The Clothing--It's How You Wear It

SUMMARY: To tuck or not to tuck.
Except for some of the guys, please note: No tucked in shirts!

Not tucked in:

Not tucked in:

Not tucked in:

Not tucked in:

Not tucked in (except for one male-type person):
Not tucked in:

Not tucked in (again, the belt-shower is male):
Not tucked in (another guy shamelessly displaying a belt):
Not tucked in (not even the very young lady, so so much for everyone who says "it's to hide our middle-aged spread", I'm thinkin' she's got none of that):

Not tucked in, even the guys:

Not tucked in--hmm, except maybe the lady in the tie-dyed shirt. What's with that? What *is* she thinking? Or is she just a trail-blazer that we shall all soon follow?

Therefore, being the fashion maven that I am, I experimented with not tucking my shirt in last weekend. Three separate people commented on it. (Or maybe they were three together people--people who are In The Know about Taj MuttHall fashion!) See how influential a blog can be? This important issue wasn't even on anyone's agility fashion radar until I brought it up in Taj MuttHall! You read about it here first!

So, what do you think--tucked or not?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dog Ladies' Day Out

SUMMARY: Had a fun day off on Tuesday and took NO PHOTOS.
It was a day that was MADE for photos, and I even took my camera, but somehow didn't take a single shot of anything at all. Maybe having spent the morning sorting, labeling, and editing 300-ish photos from the weekend had something to do with it. Still, it was a trip that cried out for photos and, in retrospect, I regret not having taken any, but every time I thought about it, I just wasn't in the mood.

We had borrowed a teeter from club NAF out in Turlock for our trial this past weekend and it had to go back. KK had it in her van, and, as co-chair for the trial, I felt that it was my professional responsibility to make sure that it safely returned to its real home, no matter what hardship it entailed on my part.

Drove up to my seester's house with the Merle Girls, where they got to explore and get petted and although Boost went into the evil floor method of walking, her tail didn't stop wagging and she got some good exploring in anyway. I got a chance to chat with my sister a bit and check out the raised planters they're building in their back yard after having hauled a couple hundred concrete pavers from somewhere else.

KK met me there with her three dogs, and off we went, all crammed into the vehicle: Two Dog Ladies, four border collies, a dismantled teeter, and a nondismantled Tika.

We chatted all the way to French Camp, where we met up with with more Dog Ladies, DS and CC, at DS's beautiful house, all those lawns and that gorgeous agility field and the brand-new electricity-generating wind turbine that looks a bit like a propeller-driven rocket.

The four of us went off to a really delicious sushi lunch, leaving the dogs staring forlornly in through the sliding glass door from their cool, shaded, grassy yard. I said "no raw fish," and we ordered up a variety of rolls (lobster roll, "the volcano", I don't remember the others) that were SO GOOD (and not raw), and beautiful, too.

We sat at the restaurant and chatted long after the food was gone so that we could have room for dessert--we piled back into CC's dog-transport vehicle and ended up at the Ghirardelli chocolate factory, which is right down the street from DS's house--she said, you don't know how difficult it is to drive by there every day! I had my Ghirardelli standard, a hot fudge sundae with dark chocolate, and did not split it with anyone like CC & DS wisely did.

We went back to DS's house, played with the dogs a bunch in the yard, then crowded around my computer and they helped me to identify people in my photos from the weekend whom I didn't know.

Finished that just in time for the 45-minute drive the rest of the way to Turlock, where we dropped off the teeter and then stayed for a really helpful class with Rob Michalski. Got a couple of good suggestions for Boost and let Tika have one run, too. (DS & CC are regular students in that class--we crashed the party but everyone was really nice. Of course, we knew most of the people in the class anyway).

That's when, in the heat of the Central Valley, I was REALLY regretting not having split the sundae with KK (and she, too, likewise with her mint fudge sundae, which is my other regular favorite). Still, we survived.

Watched and cheered as one of the classmates was ordered to remove her shoes & socks and presented with a brand new pair of Aussie socks because she apparently was always complaining about not having any matching socks. Fun was had by all.

When that was done, KK checked out NAF's breakaway tire a bit, and we threw toys for the dogs--not too much, as it was still pretty warm, probably high 80s to low 90s even at 7:30-8:00ish. Boost got to do her favorite game, doing out-runs on a flock of border collies. Eventually we loaded up our bags of huge juicy peaches from CC's orchard and headed home.

Got back to my house around 10:30, realized I hadn't had dinner and wasn't even hungry (duh! no surprise there!), had a light snack and retired for the night, secure in the knowledge that my great sacrifice in taking the day off to make sure the teeter got home paid off in a safe delivery to its rightful owners.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thanks, Thanks, and More Thanks

SUMMARY: So many people who made this trial a success.
I posted this to my club, but want to spread the word a bit more.

And everyone else cooperated with each other. What a great group of people to work with and compete with!

Before I crawl off to sleep for a hundred years, I wanted to thank a whole lot of people who helped to make this weekend a success. I got lots of nice comments from people about how good the trial was, how nice we all are, and how bay team always does great trials.

I know this is long, but I wanted to say it all, so people can appreciate how much goes into making a trial work.
  • First and foremost, my co-chair, Mary Marquez, in only her second time co-chairing, who easily did more than half the chairing work before and during the trial AND took on responsibility for judges' travel, judges' hospitality, and vendor management. I'd be a whole lot more tired if it weren't for her and her can-do attitude. 
  • Also, Secretary Donna Sprouse who reminded us of many things that we'd have otherwise forgotten, did a lot of work that I had expected that we'd have to do without even being asked, AND took on the job of RV chief, and kept her sense of humor through the process of learning how bay team does things vs. NAF/VAST and the oddities of the site. And volunteered to arrange for us to borrow NAF's teeter for the weekend.
  • Karey Krauter, at always, was the endless font of knowledge, experience, and money (via the bay team checking & charge accounts) who was indispensable in helping us make sure the right things happened, worked full time at the trial, drove to turlock before the trial to pick up a teeter for us, drove to san jose during the trial to pick up two tunnels for us, and probably a whole lot more that I'm not thinking of.
  • Katrina Parkinson, as always, was a tireless worker, took on score table work as well as her usual half-equipment-manager, set-up and tear-down management, substitute course builder, Ubercart stocker beforehand, and I don't know what all, as well as volunteering her valuable skills as a Registered Vet Tech with no recompense.
  • Paulette Czech let me talk her into being Volunteer Coordinator when all she really wanted to do was crew chief, which we turned into a new job of not only scheduling workers in advance, but also serving as mentor, assistant, advice-giver, and errand runner for our actual crew chiefs and for me and Mary as well, and she worked her legs off, kept a great attitude, and was much appreciated by all of us.
  • Our crew chiefs Lloya French, Loni Cummings, Milli Conover, and Carol Bowers, our wonderful crew chiefs, who kept the rings staffed (a challenging job indeed with SO many groups to run and such small groups, too), filled in themselves where needed, offered advice when we needed to make scheduling decisions, and never said a cross word about anything. How about those white boards filling up so nicely on Sunday! (photos: Loni, Lloyda, Carol, and Milli--I wish I'd gotten better photos)

  • Our score table czars Diane Blackman and Katrina Parkinson kept the scribe sheets filled out and flowing to the computer through 7 different classes, 5 different levels, 6 different heights, and 3 different programs, AND trained new people on how to do it at the same time, without their brains or tempers ever exploding. (Diane photo here; Katrina above)
  • Gwen Jones did a fabulous job as our grounds chief; I think she had a grin on her face every time I saw her. Before and during the trial, at every request from us, she went right to work to get it done, handled all the trash and restroom issues herself, and even made an extra trip midday to get more, er, restroom supplies when we ran low.
  • Her significant other, Dustin Kerwin, served as chief course builder in one ring and apprentice equipment chief before and during the trial--the two of them are made for each other, as he also looked like he was the happiest man on earth even when working his buns off to get our rings built, equipment moved, and all the rest of it.
  • Terri Prince, our other chief course builder, came in from New York at 2:30 in the morning Saturday morning and yet was still up and at 'em and working her own buns off to get course changes done quickly and cheerfully, and both she and Dustin helped in each other's rings to make things go even faster.
  • Joni Grace let us talk her into being the food and worker hospitality person for her first time ever (I believe); she plunged right in, enlisted her son's/grandson's boy scout Troop 41 to do breakfasts and lunches as a fundraiser and to earn merit badges, made sure there were treats at the score tables, answered our endless questions about what was happening and what we thought we should do, and always kept a cheery demeanor.
  • Mardee Jang ran an amazing raffle on a shoestring budget and, as always, made the raffle area look like a high-end tropical resort, a truly fun place to hang out, and she and husband Raymond set the whole thing up, managed it, made sure workers got their tickets in, AND also worked THEIR buns off doing other jobs all weekend, again without ever blinking an eyelid at the workload. Plus they let us borrow their tunnels at no charge.
  • Paulette Czech and Lisa Maynard also were talked into splitting the Awards job, one day each, and as first timers, they plunged into it all, made sure the awards were counted before and after, and seemed to enjoy the process. (Lisa in pink)
  • Nancy Ketrick decided she wanted to learn to do the CPE secretary computer software and spent most of the weekend at the computers helping Donna get things done.
  • Maggie Guthrie, as PASA's representative, came out on friday and made extra trips to give us access to the dogwalk and teeter that we rented, and also brought the good news that PASA had decided not to charge us rent after all--thanks to you and PASA, what great friends!

And almost all of these people were also running dogs! What I remember most all weekend is how many smiles and grins I saw from all these people, over and over.

We had a nice turnout on full-time workers, too; these people gave up entire days of their weekend to work without running a dog and helped us to make the trial run beautifully efficiently--I don't have the full list and I apologize for not knowing all the names--so I'll have to list them all tomorrow when I get the list of names. Linda Knowles came down for half a day and worked so she could schmooze with other agility people and declined to take even a small certificate for it.

And THANK YOU to All the other club members and competitors who filled in the white board with their names and so set poles, ran leashes, ran scribe sheets, helped build courses, ran errands for me when I looked around and grabbed someone passing by, and all the rest.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone--you were all superb this weekend!

Thank you all again for a great weekend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CPE Day 2 of 2

SUMMARY: Wrap-up, Qs, no Qs, the usual.
OK, what's wrong with this picture?

From a trail chair perspective, I think the day went very well. Other than that little thing that we discovered that we had sent one judge the wrong schedule for Sunday. We were able to accommodate it easily (just one level out of order in one class), but, really, Doh!

Weather cooperated brilliantly for us for July. Thank you, weather deities! Sorry, all you sweltering people in the wrong parts of the continent!

Tika had 8 Qs under her belt (er, well, you know what I mean) when, in the 9th run (Wildcard), she knocked a bar in an odd place--even the judge said that was a very odd place for a dog to knock a bar, and that put an end to our Perfect Weekend ribbon.

So, in the last class of the day, Snooker, instead of playing it safe, I decided to go for a really aggressive three-7 opening (the closing was really simple and fast, but the opening was a true challenge no matter what you did). I couldn't come up with something I liked originally, and when I asked Brenn's/Quik's Human Mom if I could steal her course plan, she let me do so. We tried it with a total of 3 dogs (Tika, Boost, and Quik), and all three blew it approaching the #2 in the closing, all for different reasons. Ha! It was glory or disaster, else why play Snooker?

Earlier, Gamblers was a nontraditional gamble. Tika was a very good girl and racked up 82 points, 3 more than any other dog who ran the course, and had almost 10 seconds left during which we could've done more obstacles if I hadn't been playing it safe trying to get that perfect weekend. So Tika still reigns in the point-accrual class (other than the snooker today).

Boost knocked the bar in the bonus 20-point gamble and ended up with only 68, or she'd have been at 88! She is one fast girly, and that was a nice course to run her on. (And we still Qed because there were 2 gambles.) But she still took 1st of 7 in her height/level.

Remember yesterday how all I needed for Boost's Level 4 title was one dang Colors and I ran it perfectly with tika and then ran the wrong course with boost? You'll never guess what I did today--yep, amazingly dumb handler redux. How is it even possible to run a 9-obstacle course correctly and then, 4 dogs later, run it wrong? TWICE IN ONE WEEKEND? Sheesh.

Tika also Qed in Jumpers with a 2nd place (Archie again), and Q and 2nd in Colors (Brenn this time).

Boost also Qed in Wildcard (and won).

I am, as usual, exhausted. The arena is dusty--EVERYTHING is dust-infused. I took a lot of photos and my camera was always either being used or in its bag, and IT'S dusty. The bag is really really dusty. Maybe tomorrow everything comes out of the car and gets vacuumed or washed, or both.

Meanwhile--NO tucked-in shirts to be seen anywhere...no, wait! Is that tie-dyed one tucked in?!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

CPE Day 1 of 2

SUMMARY: Good and bad.
I think the trial went very well. I started the general briefing just 5 minutes late and had the first dog on the line also 5 minutes late, and I think there's probably a relationship. The crew chiefs timed 8-minute walkthroughs so we didn't spend our entire day doing walkthroughs (and in truth, for most classes, most people didn't even use all 8 minutes). People were on the line and ready to go. We were done and had the next day's courses built by 4 or 4:30. Yeah! What a great team.

The down side from my trial chairperson's view was this: In my general briefing, I noted that the arena has very limited space and tht it was everyone's responsibility to watch their dogs carefully at all times to monitor possible interactions with other dogs. I said explicitly that even if your dog is good with other dogs, the other dogs might not be, so watch your dogs. One of the judges concluded the general briefing with pointing out how one of her dogs had been attacked (in the ring) by another dog whose owner wasn't paying attention, and that *all* owners needed to watch their dogs.

You know where I'm going with this. Two people were not watching their dogs (on leash) simultaneously and a bad thing happened, leaving no one very happy.

I can't repeat too often that these incidents could be avoided if *everyone* took responsibility for the location of their own dog's face at all times.


Tika was a very good girl and Qed 5 out of 5. Dare I hope for a Perfect Weekend? Either she or I usually end up doing *just one little thing* that prevents us from coming home with that special award. She earned the highest points in the entire trial in both Gamblers and Full House. But came in 2nd in the other three classes (Wildcard, Colors, Jumpers, with between 4 and 9 dogs per class) to the same young, fast border collie who also had some excellent successes at last weekend's USDAA trial. Ah, well, we'll have to keep hoping for more point-accrual classes where strategy and experience can win out over speed.

Boost had her moments. She won her Standard round despite running past one jump and having to go back for it (no refusals or runouts in CPE). Kept all her bars up. Oddly, stopped on the dogwalk downramp at the top of the yellow and stood there. Have never seen THAT behavior before. I wonder whether that's related to coming off the side of the teeter last weekend? It's always something, dangit!

She was 2nd in Gamblers. In the opening, she ran past a jump, didn't do "left Through" from the aframe into a tunnel, which is something that she ALWAYS does perfectly, but maybe it was because it was tucked into a corner, and then, as she approached the weaves, she turned back to me. I lined her up at my side, waited till she was looking at the weaves, told her to weave, and she again approached and turned back to me. At this point, the buzzer to go do our gamble sounded, but I was determined that she would do the weaves that were RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER and finally she did, and then did a perfect gamble, and I thought, jeez, that's 2 weekends in a row I've given up a doable gamble to make my point on some issue. But, lo!, she was so fast that she was actually a fraction of a second under time and Qed. But not nearly the points we should've had.

Her Jumpers was very nice. Yeah, she had a bar down, but in CPE that's still a Q at level 5. Her speed was fabulous, 5.9 yps.

In wildcard, I obviously didn't signal a slight pull to a teeter enough and she took the wrong obstacle. In Colors, dagnabbit, the only class in which she's still at Level 4, I ran it perfectly with Tika and then, 6 dogs later, ran it wrong with Boost. And Boost did everything I asked perfectly--no bars, no runouts or refusals or anything. DagNABBIT dumb handler.

Still, what a great bunch of people to spend a weekend with! All those hard workers and cheery faces and i hardly heard a cross word at all from anyone. The way agility should be!

Friday, July 22, 2011

CPE Trial This Weekend

SUMMARY: And I'm co-chair.
We are ready to go! Site is prepped, courses are built, all the committee folks have done what they need to do, we've all touched base with each other, I have my list of things to cover in the general briefing...

And the weather should be very nice for July! Not too hot, and it's under cover, and there was a coolish breeze all day today. Hoping it will stay like that all weekend.

I'm so lucky to have an awesome cast--er, committee--everyone pitching in, being creative, remaining smiling and even tempered even when things get a little confusing and it's hard to make decisions or things don't work exactly right.

Have I forgotten anything?

Oh, yeah, paying any attention to my dogs this week at all! They should be good and primed for some fast, fun runs this weekend. Five classes each day, so that's 20 runs for me for the weekend.

IF we've done our jobs right, my co-chair and I should have nothing to do all weekend except maybe chip in doing pole setting and the like. Love it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Final Word on Tika's Eyes and Body

SUMMARY: She's getting older. Sigh.
My regular vet also found nothing out of the ordinary with Tika--for older dogs, that is. She has a slight heart murmur, typical of older dogs and probably wouldn't cause problems. (Another vet a couple of months ago mentioned the murmur but I forgot all about it until yesterday.) Her hips have some arthritis, which is completely normal but might not explain the things I noticed.

(Of course, arthritis/weakness/pain in her hips could cause some of the same issues--caution in curved tunnels, on dogwalk... but you'd think jumping would be equally affected. Dunno.)

He said he agrees that the nuclear sclerosis could very well get the results I'm seeing. Combining both vets' descriptions: Dogs tend to be far-sighted to begin with, so never see things up close as well as we do. This hardening of the lens makes them even more far-sighted. In other words, close-up things are probably a bit blurry to begin with, and get blurrier as the lenses harden. From the opth's generic text: "[In extreme age, it] can become so dense that it makes it difficult to judge distances, or the patient might want more light to navigate."

So a weave pole right in front of them or the inside of a dark tunnel or the narrow width of a dogwalk might be harder for them to comfortably view. But jumping, out in broad daylight--jumps are far enough away as they approach them rapidly that a dog who's already very familiar with jumping might have no problem at all. At the moment, she seems fine in everyday low-light situations, but I'm really wondering about those dark tunnels. She still blasts through my lighter-colored tunnels at home.

And, oh, BTW, it makes her eyes look someone blue and cloudy, similar to what one might see in glaucoma or cataracts, which is why (when I started thinking about it) Tika's eyes looked cloudy to me. But it's not nearly as bad as those other things.

This is all good news compared to what it might have been, but maybe bad news for agility. Certainly bad news for my silly human fantasies of blue ribbons or continued top ten work.

My comments about her being so much slower than normal last weekend? For example, her clean Grand Prix was the 6th slowest, at 4.05 yps, out of 65 for which I have data for her. Of the 14 slowest runs, the others either have runouts (ran past an obstacle and had to go back for it) or say "holding on contacts." From there on up, they range from 4.20 to 5.1 yps (with a sprinkling of recent ones in the upper ranges and a sprinkling of younger runs in the lower ranges). So, yeah, she has been slowing down gradually, but that was a big drop last weekend.

Tika also has a melanocytoma in her right iris. It's a benign pigmented growth--basically like a mole, the opth. said. It's not impinging on her vision at this time and doesn't pose a danger. Just something else to keep an eye on (so to speak) if it starts getting larger.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tika Eyes and Photos

SUMMARY: No major vision issues.
We visited a veterinary ophthalmologist today. No glaucoma, no cataracts (dogaracts?). She's got nuclear sclerosis (thickening of the lens), which affects middle-aged people as well as middle-aged dogs. Apparently it's worse in some dogs than in others. It makes people more farsighted (hence need for reading glasses) and in theory affects dogs the same way.

It could explain some of Tika's behavior in agility, said the doc, but it wasn't an obvious or definitive cause. He did note that agility people notice things like this much sooner than people with just pet dogs, because you'd never notice the subtleties in everyday life. Here's a decent article on the subject--this quote is telling: "Difficulty determining distances and range as the dog ages".

Still, we have an appointment tomorrow with our regular vet for a general checkup as well.

Meanwhile, here I am last weekend experimenting with, gasp, my shirt not tucked in--does it make me look like a champion handler?

And still more photos from Bamfoto: