a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Woman, A Plan, A Dog--god an alp an amowa!

SUMMARY: I'm not so good at clever palindromes; am I better with plans?
So here's what I started thinking about last week:

Tika has (to be exact) 402 Qs in USDAA Masters/Perf 3. She needs 500 for her Lifetime Platinum, the highest one can go. She's averaged just under 4 per day of competition this last year. So she needs 26 days of competition.

By this time next year, if I keep up at my same pace and Tika and I both stay healthy, we'll have done about 13 weekends of trials, 2 days each on average--so, voila, a year from now, dog willing, Tika will be at Platinum LAA.

Tika will also be 11 and a half.

If Boost can't get 2 snooker super-Qs and 2 jumpers Qs by then for her ADCH, really, there'd be no more point in competing with her in USDAA.

Here is the plan that's forming--a year from now, take a break from agility for a year, or two, or three. Spend all the money and weekends and vacation time that I'm now spending on agility doing some of the vacations and traveling that I used to do and that I want to do.

The plan is still forming. And, so far, it relies on an assumption of continued Tika health and enthusiasm. And on an assumption that I won't continue losing my head and doing stupid things like leaving her collar on.

More, as I mull it over.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

20 Years Already!

SUMMARY: Bay Team celebrates
I love my new Bay Team 20th anniversary mug! You, too, can own one of these three beautiful drinkware options--but, first, a little history.

The Bay Team's first-ever meeting (before it had decided on a name) was held on August 22, 1992, long before I had ever heard of agility. Fifteen people attended. They finally hosted their first fun match at the end of 1993 to become certified to hold real trials, and their first real trial came in January 1994 (NADAC).

We held our first USDAA that May--a one-ring trial with 20 dogs competing.

The club bought/built its first Aframe, out of wood, for $450.

When I joined The Bay Team in July of 1995, I did so only because I thought maybe I'd get some useful info from time to time and also sometimes a free practice along with the meetings. But then I studiously avoided going to meetings because, thank you very much, I had plenty of other things to occupy my time and I really didn't need to get involved in this, especially since I wasn't ever planning on actually competing with my dog Remington; we were just in it for something to do on Wednesday evenings and had been taking classes for only about 3 months.

The Bay Team and I were both still so new to agility. In September of 1995, I dropped by the club's 5th-ever trial for a couple of hours, a USDAA event in Daly City, to see what it looked like. It actually looked pretty cool. I recognized a few people from class, and was amazed at the feats they achieved in actual competition. Plus ribbons!

I also spent some time talking to a nice woman (Debby Stein) and her shepherd mix, who not only did very well in agility but wowed me with a bunch of tricks, which I rushed home and worked on teaching to Remington. I learned much later that she was one of the founding members of the Bay Team. (I followed them and their tricks and obedience career for a while and they were sort of my role model for Remington, maybe because of the tricks and maybe because he was also a shepherd mix, dang I can't remember his name.)

My first competition was a Bay Team NADAC trial in January 1996, the horrific mudfest, which that Saturday almost made me give up agility--except that we earned a Q in, of all thing, gamblers, and that's all it took to make me come back the next day, where the weather cleared up to a bright and sunny day and we earned another Q, in Jumpers, and then I was nearly hooked.

I attended 6 whole trials that first year, four of them Bay Team trials (2 NADAC, 2 USDAA).

Fast forward to 2012...well, we're anticipating a bit, but we're planning on celebrating our 20th anniversary all year.

As of our 20th anniversary, the Bay Team will have hosted (best guess) 100 trials (22 NADAC, 21 CPE, the rest USDAA); we have nearly 300 members; our annual Regional trials have 5 rings with nearly 500 dogs competing.

Our current Aframes are metal, rubber-coated, professionally built and costing around $1500 each.

As of last weekend, I've now run 4 dogs in agility at 245 trials--that's 3,898 runs. (That's 52 NADAC--some dual-sanctioned with ASCA, 46 CPE, a couple of ASCA, and the rest USDAA.)

And I have served on the club board as member at large and President; acted as webmaster since 1998; I've chaired, secretaried, crew chiefed, and score tabled innumerable trials; attended many seminars and fun matches, chose my dogs, my car, and my house specifically with agility in mind--and here we are.

So, now, YOU, TOO, can own one or more of these etched glass items. Bay Team members get one FREE; they can also order more, as can nonmembers. However, you must order by October 15, because we're only ordering enough to fulfill people's requests. After that, allllll gonnnnnne. Just download the PDF order form from the Bay Team site (http://www.bayteam.org).

(Photo credits: Glassware--Mike Scannell; mudfest--Bill Newcomb)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Can I Just Go To Bed Now?

SUMMARY: A weekend of mixed successes.
This always has been, and always will be, the only thing I love about waking to the cursedly early alarm and leaving the house while it's still dark:

It can be pretty nice at the agility field, too:

Saturday was hot but not scorching, although it started the day with lightning flashing in the distance and little rain stormlets drifting across the valley, sprinkling us once or twice.
Sunday was perfect agility weather--mostly overcast, shirtsleeve weather but comfortable for the dogs.

Saturday was handler melt-down and Boost melt-down day

Boost started the day in Pairs Relay by bailing off the teeter just past the tipping point (a continued behavior from the last trial or two). We Qed anyway. Tika and her partner Qed also.

Boost's Standard was lovely through the first 12 obstacles, but the 13th was the teeter and she came off the middle again. I told her to "down" a couple of times, and although only her front end ever went down, I decided to continue. And then at the end--a lovely, perfectly aligned and flowing set of 3 jumps, and she approached the last one, then turned back towards me, and hence had to run past it because she was too close to jump it. Argh!

Tika's Standard was clean although not too fast in weaves or dogwalk; 2nd place and a Q, completing her Perf. Standard Silver (25 Qs) and her Perf. Silver ADCH! Yeah! As it turns out, this might have been the only highlight of the weekend.

In Gamblers, Boost had 2nd highest opening points of all dogs, was in perfect position for the closing, which was a send over a jump to the weaves, and she went into the weaves perfectly and then came back out toward me. Arghhhh!

Because I saw SO many very good dogs also pop out of the weaves, I changed my course for Tika to practice distance weaves in the opening, which she did perfectly, and did them again perfectly in the gamble, for a Q. The problem was that all of our dang high-quality 22" performance friends & competitors are so good that they got the high points in the opening AND got the gamble, so we were only 4th of 7 dogs. No top ten points or even glory points (the glory of having high a great score) there.

Snooker has become my nemesis this year with both dogs. Saturday's I thought was very doable, but, yes, it included a teeter in the sequence I wanted to do multiple times. The first time, Boost popped off before the bottom (although the judge gave us the points). The second time, she came right off the middle again, so I picked her up and carried her off, then put her into her crate without even putting her collar back on. ARRRRGHHHHH!!! Why after 6 years of lovely teeters are hers broken?!?

With Tika's run, I was at the score table trying to finish calculating the SuperQs for the previous height group and suddenly realized that we were up next. In Snooker, if you miss your turn, you're out. My normal routine with the dogs is this:
Open crate.
Release dog and put slip leash around her neck as she comes out.
Move hands from slip leash collar directly to regular collar and remove it.
Give dog toy, do a little jogging and tug of war.
With Tika, massage/rub/stretch legs, neck, shoulders, and back.

Because I was in a hurry and we were up next, here's what I did: Open crate, release dog, put slip leash around her neck, and I was doing so, notice that there's a collar on the ground in front of her crate, and my rushed mind said, "oh, I must not have put it back on her after her last run," run directly into the ring and start running.

Stupid. It was Boost's collar, of course. So we got whistled off almost immediately for having a collar on.

In Jumpers with Boost, first thing I did was put her over the wrong jump after the 3rd obstacle. After that, the runouts, refusals, and bars down didn't really matter.

Tika knocked the 2nd bar in her Jumpers run, so no Q, although ended up still in 2nd place for one tiny Top Ten point.

In Steeplechase, Boost popped out of her first set of weaves, I said "oops" or something, stopped her, and made her fix them. When she popped out of the 2nd set of weaves, I picked her up and carried her off. Tika Ran nicely and won the first round--although there were only 4 dogs in her group, and one of them scratched, and one of them E-ed, so only 2 of us went on to round 2.

For the day: Tika Qed 4 of 6, Boost 1 of 6. Tika Top Ten pts: 3 top for Standard, 1 for an n-Qing jumpers. Funny, that!

Good thing Boost is cute.

By the middle of the day Saturday, I realized that I felt way more tired than usual and couldn't face moving everything around in MUTTMVR to sleep there, let alone putting it all back the next day. So I splurged and got a room at the Travellodge up the street. I've stayed there before and liked it, although usually shared a room. Was delighted to pay only $50 including tax and everything.

Instead of all that hard work, I had a nice long shower and relaxed and played with the dogs.

After meeting friends for dinner--three of us had chamionship level titles to celebrate--I went back to the hotel, crawled into bed, and slept very well, a bit over 9 hours straight, until the alarm went off.

Sunday was more handling disasters, Tika melt-down, and Boost getting SO CLOSE--

Tika was the only dog in her group in Steeplechase--the other dog scratched. So we could've done anything on course except eliminate (go off course) and win and bring home the money. She knocked the 2nd jump, but it didn't matter, and the rest of it was nice, so we came home flush with a whole $9.

In Jumpers, Boost ran PERFECTLY dagnabbit because halfway through I had a moment where I couldn't remember the next jump and so she got a refusal while I thought about it. CRAP CRAP CRAP! Tika knocked the first bar [hmmm, lots of Tika bar-knocking this weekend, wonder what's up?], so no Q, but again placed 3rd for one tiny top ten point.

In Standard, in Boost's group, only 3 out of 20 dogs ran clean, and, wow, Boost was not only one of them, but the fastest of those three. Wow, a Q *and* a win!!! Tika also ran clean, but in an increasingly common occurrence, expressed her opinion that down on the table was stupid, and the big delay dropped us to 3rd instead of 1st (only a second separated the top 3 dogs), again for one top ten pt.

In Gamblers, Boost's opening was spectacular, sharing highest points in the whole trial with only one other dog, and we were in perfect position for the gamble and did the 1st three obstacles and all she had to do was... sigh... send slightly to the last jump. 3 times I tried, and 3 times she went toward it and then turned back to me. ARRRGHHHH!

Tika was a good girl but not quite fast enough to finish the obstacle in the opening that would've won it--she also got the gamble like a champ after I nearly bobbled it, so Q and 2nd place for 1 top ten pt.

Grand Prix: Boost missed her weave entry but otherwise had a gorgeous run on a course that ate up & spit out dogs every which way, and Tika slowed wayyyyyyyy down on the dogwalk and then popped the contact anyway, so no Q there, either. Although, funny, she won! (Shows how much the course was destroying dogs.)

And then, sighhhhhhh, Snooker. Boost was spot-on perfect and all she had to do was run down a beautiful straight line of 3 jumps at the end, and, yes, you guessed it, although while I ran I was praying silently to anyone who'd listen, I was too slow for her and she turned back before the last jump. One more chance at a super-Q lost, although she still ended up placing 5th of 21, SOOO close even with that error because dogs again were dropping like flies. And with Tika, I forgot to put in a front cross where I meant to put one, shoving her directly into an off-course obstacle. Sighhhhhhhhhh.

For the day, Tika Qed 2 out of 6, and Boost also 2 out of 6. Tika top ten points: one for a non-Qing Jumpers, one for standard, one for gamblers.

For the weekend, two beautiful dogs, one exhausted handler--I drooped all day today despite the nice weather, and now that I've dumped my successes and failures here, I'm going to bed EARLY.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hothothot And Down!

SUMMARY: Bleah on sleeping, plus some obedience training works.
My plan for today was to leave work early, get some bananas and ice at the grocery store (because I *always* take bananas with me to agility trials), pack the car, take a shower, have an early dinner, finish some work, and be in bed by 8:30 or maybe 9 at the latest.

The way the plan turned out was: Leave work at 8, get ice and peanut butter at the store and no bananas because I walked across the whole store 3x and couldn't find the PB and had to ask, so then I forgot the bananas. Home about 9 and it was 85 degrees in the house and just under 80 outside. Opened all the windows, turned on a bunch of fans. Packed the car. Oh, forgot to print my data-collection sheet for the weekend, did that. Dogs being pestiferous because they'd been alone at home all day. Checked my email.

Now it's 10:30, no shower, no dinner yet, it's cooled down to maybe 75 in here which is still too danged hot for comfortable sleeping.

But here's something that cheered me up to remember.

We were out at the park a couple of days ago, and Boost suddenly stopped on her way to the frisbee, grabbed something large from under a wad of dry grass, and started, yes, scarfing it down, a la scarfing down the squirrel or gopher or whatever the other day.

I started with the "no!" and "come!" again, but based on that recent experience, I knew those didn't work, so I tried "Down!", which she has the most fabulous down of any dog I've ever had and we play it all the time, and jeez wowie, she Downed! And stayed there while I came over and wrestled [a large half of a bread roll?) out of her mouth. Hmm, what day was that? I wonder whether whatever else was with that was what caused her diarrhea?

Anyway, maybe now Down is my secret weapon with Boost?

How come it works there and not on the table in competition? Hmm.


SUMMARY: What could we come away from the weekend with?
What could happen this weekend? That's always the big question. It could be wonderful!

There are the ucky bits, too: After several weeks of better knees & hips than I've had since I can't even remember when, this week from the waist down everything is a mess, including fatigue and muscle soreness in the lower legs that I have no explanation for. Last night in class, I was hop-skipping the first run or two because my knee had reverted to oh-no-you-don't status. Rest of the evening I was fine, though.

This weekend, hopefully some good doses of agility adrenaline will fix that all right up.

Boost is on her second go-round of prednisone to ease the scratching. Hasn't worked as well as the first go-round. She's still drinking a lot more and peeing a lot more, but no more accidents in the house--probably because I'm thinking more about the prednisone and am willing to get up once or twice in the middle of every night to let her out.

She also had diarrhea yesterday for no obvious reason.

Poor girl, after class last night, she started to head for the potty yard but I thought she just wanted to check out the dogs, so loaded her into her MUTTMVR and took off for home. Shortly after I hit the long, narrow, winding road down the hill, she started whining whining whining, and I finally got the hint. Unfortunately, nowhere to stop until the bottom, so I kept making "hold on, pup" kinds of noises. Right at the bottom, there's a wide shoulder where sometimes trucks park, and I pulled over there, got her out, and she immediately peed a lake and then followed up with very loose stools. (And, yes, she did the same thing in the potty yard right before class started, too.)

Hope she's better today.

Tika is fine but looks bored a lot. Like, "why are you sitting typing on the computer AGAIN when you have such fine dogs who would like to go for a walk?"

Possible titles--

  • Now we have sunk into the "only 2 jumpers, only 2 super-Qs to the ADCH" abyss. Two chances at each this weekend. How long can this go on? Based on our history, a very long time indeed.
  • Also just needs one standard for her Bronze Standard (15 Qs) -- 2 chances.
  • Would be nice if she could get a Grand Prix Q. No title, but she's only ever earned 3--in --her--entire--life-- and she needs 2 more to be able to earn her Tournament Silver, which she's getting closer to with Team and Steeplechase Qs.
  • Needs one Standard for her Perf Standard Silver (25 Qs) --2 chances.
  • And, oh, yeah, if she gets that, that's her Performance championship silver, which is the same title level she reached in Championship before I moved her to Performance because of the recurring soreness thing. (In other words, combined, it's the equivalent of a Platinum championship, the highest you can get, but it's in 2 different programs. Sigh.)
  • Platinum Lifetime count: She's at 396. Needs 500.  Has the minimum required in each titling class, now it's just cranking out Qs. This year, she has averaged 4 Qs per trial day--so that's another 25 days of trialing. That's 13 weekends of USDAA. If her health holds up (and mine), maybe we could actually do this by this time next year (assuming I don't start adding back more weekends of agility).
  • Platinum Performance Tournament count: She's at 46, needs 50, including *two* DAM team Qs. She has Qed in every DAM since she moved to performance. There just aren't that many opportunities. Next ones not until next spring and summer that I know about. That's a long time for a 10-and-a-half-yr-old dog!
 Hope you all have a lovely weekend as today's autumnal equinox moves us officially into the next season.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Here It Comes Again, Lookin' Like a USDAA Trial

SUMMARY: Off to Turlock for the weekend.

Once again, agility boys & girls, the Merle Girls and I will be a-packin' it up at 4:00 Saturday morning and heading 2 hours out to the central valley in the middle of a heat wave for two days of agility.

On the up side, (1) it was as hot in my part of san jose as it was out in that part of the central valley this week, so what does it matter whether we're here or there?, and (2) it's supposed to be cooling down over the weekend.

So I'm hoping it won't even get close to 100 out there, especially with Tika's lower tolerance (apparently) for heat these days.

It's a small trial. Only 4 to 7 dogs in Tika's height class.

Only about 8 dogs in Starters, only about 10 in Advanced.

Fewer than 70 in Masters/P3/Veterans combined. (Well--OK, small is relative, but ya know, there were 187 at the Labor Day trial. Granted, that was a regional, but still--it's all relative.)

Steeplechase, Grand Prix, two each of Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers, and one Pairs Relay.

I've gone back to not practicing anything.

Class tonight--we'll see how my Not Practicing Strategy is paying off.

(Photos courtesy of Matt Mizenko, from the Regional.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Along the Guadalupe River to Lake Almaden

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday.

(Dang, the Merle Girls were with me the whole time and I never took their photos. Silly Human Mom.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Taste Of Spring

SUMMARY: What Season Is It Really?
The first day of Autumn is just a couple of days away, and so apparently we've decided to have a heat wave, temps in the upper 90s to around 100 (up to around 38C).

Remember this (Sneaking Out Early to Santa Teresa on a Foggy Weekday Morning)? Of course you don't--I only knew to look because I had a note that I had uploaded a couple of photos.

I'm sure that this week's weather has nothing to do with why I finally gave up on planning to "someday" label all those wildflower photos from that very early morning sans-dog avec-tripod hike into Santa Teresa Park back in April.

That is, I did label them, but I opted to label a la "white flower" instead of, say, "Mariposa Lily", because I didn't know most of them and would've had to go look them up.

If you're also having the heat, or contrariwise having the cold and looking at a chilly winter ahead, well, then, this is your tiny nibble of spring. Just to remember what's behind and what's ahead. Because all 30 are now up on my photo site here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


SUMMARY: Musicals, yardwork, lyrics, bad dogs, dead animals.

If you've seen my posts on facebook, you know most of this already. But not all.


Started chatting about musicals with friends. My initial comment on Facebook: "Maybe I'm not the best person to be a critic of Tony award-winning musicals. Here's my synopsis of Cats, near as I can tell: "I'm a cat." "I'm another cat." "I'm another cat." "I'm another cat." (Repeat until they run out of cats.) And this was the longest-running Broadway and London musical in history? I obviously didn't take the right drugs."

I got to that observation because I just saw Spring Awakening at San Jose Repertory Theater, to which I say, "all the reviews seem to be raving about how great it. I actually enjoyed most of it--the actors were really good at singing & dancing & acting, clicked well together, the choreography I really liked, the staging was very clever. But. "Let's toss in a bunch of bits about gays, child abuse, tough schools, unfair teachers, unsympathetic parents, teen suicide, illegal abortions, teen sex obsession, and maybe prostitution although that's not entirely clear--most of which isn't tied together in any clear way at all, and end it with a cheery song about hope for the future." Whaaaaat?"

I tell you all that to tell you this:

The ensuing 51-comment discussion on facebook included my note that I liked Jesus Christ Superstar and even went up to SF to see the touring production.

Too much dog hair

And I tell you THAT to tell you THIS: As a result, I've had JC Superstar music turning into varied ear worms for several days now, which ends up coming out of my mouth while doing mindless chores, most notably "Try Not To Get Worried--" wherein Mary Magdalene sings,
"Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you and anoint you, fur for your hot forehead..."
And then I have to stop raking old rotting lemons and stop and think for a moment, because I know that's not right... oh, right, myrrh for your hot forehead...

Dang Squirrels

So I'm sitting at the kitchen table, having a nice cold drink to cool off after raking old rotting lemons and tossing them into the compost bin, when I become aware that Boost is just sitting there looking at me, dangling one of those cute fake squirrel toys from her jaws. Except...I have to stop and think for a moment, because...oh, right, we don't have any fake squirrel toys.

I tell her calmly to take it back outside, which she does, and she sets it down. I tell her to come back in, but she picks it up again, so I tell her to leave it [and various other dog-human verbal and nonverbal communications] getting to where she decides that, if she can't bring it into the house, she might as well eat it right now, so starts scarfing down the whole thing. Human Mom then yells things including "No!" and "Drop it!" and "Come!" and "OH MY GOD DON"T EAT THAT!" and more "Come!"s getting louder and more urgent, but the border collie is scampering away, scarfing faster and faster until it's gone.

Human Mom thinks of all the reasons the squirrel could've been dead: Rabies. Rat poison. ... Well, OK, thinks of 2 reasons of why the squirrel could've been dead, but isn't thrilled to think about them. Plus a bunch of small sharp bones puncturing intestines and things. Ever have a friend's dog die from something like that? I have.

OK, my solution is to ignore it and assume everything will be OK unless I start seeing Symptoms.

To Shoot Or Not To Shoot

I almost went back into the house to grab the camera so I could show you all a photo of Boost with a cute fake squirrel that wasn't fake dangling from her jaws, but that's when she started consuming mass quantities, so you're out of luck. Or in luck, in which case you can thank Boost for that.

Instead, I'll show you the photo I took this morning while picking up trash at Almaden Reservoir, of a Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road, Stinking To High Heaven. And the Turkey Vulture scouting out the brunch opportunity.

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Last Wednesday Night Uphill Hike of the Season

SUMMARY: Rancho San Antonio with the Sierra Club
Almost all the parks around here close a half hour after sunset, which means that between late September and April, hikes starting at 6 in the evening have nowhere to go. Since the Sierra Club Wednesday night hike starts at 6, we instead will prowl suburban areas--typically 5 or 6 brisk miles, but no uphills.

Last night I believe was the group's last night in the hills for the year, at Rancho San Antonio. We hiked briskly the whole way with only a couple of brief stops. Hike was about 5 miles and 500 feet elevation gain, most of that in the .8 miles getting to the Vista Point. (From St Joseph School, along the Lower Meadow Trail, up the High Meadow Trail to the Vista Point, down the Wildcat Loop Trail to the Rogue Trail, and back out the Lower Meadow Trail to the school.)

I started out at the front and did a pretty good job of staying there on the less steep portions.

Along the lower path, we saw two lounging bucks on the hillside in the shade, making for a beautiful photo...
...that is, if you carried your 100-400mm on your Canon SLR, like Bob did (that's Bob's shot)--I didn't even bother trying with my little pocket camera.

We were moving too briskly for me to want to fall behind for photo ops, and most of it was too dark for decent photos with my little pocket camera. Up at the Vista Point, though, it came out of my pocket.

It was not a night for views, wayyy too hazy and with a layer of foggish material sitting on the bay.

The group admired what there was of the view, chitchatted, and discussed which route was the fastest to get back down and out of the park in legal time.

Then someone pointed out that there were two deer grazing not more than 15 feet from us. My camera wanted to do the flash thing, and it also shifted to a higher ISO for a pretty grainy and dark photo anyway.
This deer turned and looked straight at us for a moment. I fumbled just a bit too long and caught her turning away.

Here's Bob taking photos of the same deer.

This is what *his* photo turned out like. That's why he's got a lot of great wildlife shots and I don't. Willingness to haul 10 pounds of camera gear at all times.

Then we turned and raced for the exit, arriving under flashlight power well after dark.

(Thanks to David H (in the red jacket above) for the photos of me; he took more photos, mostly of the group, posted here.)