a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

Just Dropping In Before Heading Out

SUMMARY: Agility weekend plans, such as they are.

I'm starting to feel as if I'm just a visitor at my own blog. And not being enthusiastic about this weekend. And feeling kind of droopy. So, to cheer myself up, I'll include a few completely unrelated photos.

A good chunk of my family (February) [photo by waitress]

Doing USDAA agility this weekend. Can't say that I'm jumping with joy about going, silly me.

My sore foot (capsulitis) is still sore. I've cut out the daily walks and the hikes and doing stuff with the dogs in the yard--even more than I had before that (after starting to work in an office again). I'm feeling really out of condition and not sure whether I can or should be running--last 2 weeks in class I've left early when the metatarsal/phalangeal joint started to burn, and have not been able to move myself with any kind of speed. Boost and I have not looked good. Lots and lots of bars coming down, too.

Bald eagle flying out at the Baylands on Tuesday (if you look closely, you can see her radio antenna.)

So we're all out of condition, and what's more, to my horror, I discovered that it's not only me who's gone into the Overweight category by several measures, but Boost has gained over 10% of her body weight and is downright chunky! And Tika has put on about the same number of pounds, although the vet says that at her age that's not a bad idea. Still, not a good way to be doing agility for any of us.

Both of my knees have been bothering me--oddly, the sides of the knees and down towards the top of the shin rather than the kneecap area, don't know what that's about. And that muscle in my lower left back is aggravated again, not to mention the shoulders.

What have I been doing about all these things? Mostly NSAIDs and icing and whining.

Sunset Tuesday near Taj MuttHall

It's supposed to be hot, too. Of course the weather's been gorgeous for the last couple of weeks, and is supposed to be gorgeous again on Monday. But 87 (30.5C) for Saturday, 83 (28.3C) for Sunday predicted for Petaluma.

A friend, escalating. Do you see moiré patterns in the steps?

In summary, we're out of shape, overweight, out of condition, completely under trained for what we need. And I'm going to drive 2 hours to get there, and stay there all weekend, and OK I'm sure I'll like hanging with my friends and working the score table and seeing the usual array of amazing runs. But my hopes aren't high for bringing home anything other than a sunburn.

Murals, Balmy Alley, San Francisco

So.... will do my best to have fun with my dogs and any other dogs I may encounter on my journey.

[photo by friend LKM]

Friday, May 10, 2013

From Head to Foot

SUMMARY: Glasses and insoles. And hair, mustn't forget the hair.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, I've got this annoying pain in the metatarsal/phalangeal joint.  I hate shopping for shoes. But, in the interest of lessening the pain and helping the healing, I went shopping for stiff-soled shoes. Which of course required walking walking walking around a huge mall on my sore foot. And to no avail: found that pretty much everything that was really stiff and don't bend much came in one of two flavors: Army Boot or Nurse Ratched. I thought that my brown men's Merrell's, which I wear a lot because they're quite comfy, were pretty stiff--

--until the podiatrist showed (as I reenact here) that they were merely "OK" (his word) in the bendy department.

That's why I went shopping. BUT not only were the selections not pretty,  the prices were also downright ugly. So I returned home to check out what I already have. My black women's Merrell's--a different fit, slightly smaller and tighter--but cooler looking because they're, duh, black, which is inherently cool--turn out to have much stiffer soles. Interesting. They did not want to bend at all. Score one for cool black Merrell's. Boost likes them, too.

So, what else do I already have around? Ignoring hiking boots for now, how about my 3 pairs of New Balance "tennis shoes". Worn but not worn out; dirty from all the times I wore them for hiking and agility and yard work and EVERYTHING until about 3 years ago when I mostly started wearing Merrell-style shoes most of the time. Kept them for serious walking and athletic activities that didn't involve wet grass or mountains. So I still have them.

And, whoa, they also really do not want to bend! And a sudden brain flash--that's because, back in '97 when I had a stress fracture in one foot (same foot, turns out, different toe), the podiatrist (orthopedist?) told me to always buy stiff-soled shoes, so that's what I looked for when I shopped.
Meanwhile, my current podiatrist had suggested that I take my custom orthotics--again, dating from post-stress-fracture wayyy back then--and have them covered with a nice cross-training insole pad by an orthotics guy. So I took my familiar bluies and his prescription and dropped them off last week; have an appointment for a final fitting on Monday. Who knew it was so complicated?

So, so far, foot still hurts, trying not to do any walking or hiking, but still did agility class last night and it felt OK in my stiff-soled turf shoes, which also don't bend much at all.

MEANWHILE, nearly at the other end of my body, it came time for my biannual eye checkup and glasses replacement. So, a couple of weeks back, I went on in. Left eye, which has always been pretty good, remained pretty good. Right eye, which has been very gradually getting more nearsighted and would require a very thick lens if I were using normal plastic or glass, tricked me this time around and got slightly less nearsighted and slightly more farsighted. Which is apparently typical for, ugh, "older" people.

Then I had to shop.

I hate shopping for glasses. Normally I just try to replace the lenses in my existing frames, but this time they no longer make the same frames, so I'd have to leave my old frames with them to have the lenses made. Fergit that. So had to pick out new frames for regular glasses AND for sunglasses (have been without separate sunglasses for 2 years. That's enough of *that*.)

And it's SO. HARD. Here is one of three walls of frames. They all look almost the same but they all look terrible on me.

Come on, which pair of thick black plastic frames do you want for your sunglasses?

It's hopeless. I'm probably not really crying, but I could have been.

Fortunately, the optician assisting me managed to convince me that she knew what she was talking about in terms of things that looked good on me. She did so by agreeing with me on several pairs that I tried and hated. Then she went looking for various frames and brought them to me. I'd look in the mirror, she'd look at me in person, and we'd negotiate whether they would be going home with me or not.

I finally decided on this for the sunglasses. Not black. From a distance, might look that way, but actually just dark purple. And on the inside, they're blue! If there's anything that convinces me that something is of high quality, it's that they're blue and purple. Don't look at the price sticker. I sure didn't. Gasp.

Then we agreed on these for my regular glasses. I said, "ugh, bling." And she said, oh, really, not very much bling at all, it's very subtle. And this is also an experiment; I've never before had glasses with no frame on the lower half. Yes, from the earpiece to the nosepiece, it's just naked lens.

And, two weeks later, here are my old glasses:

Here are my new sunglasses--whoa, don't I look cool or what?! Just the thing to wear with black Merrell's.

And these are my new spectacles.

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I finally got my hair fixed--something I do about every six months but it was way overdue this time. Because I hate having my hair permed. But I really like the results (as seen in the photos above) and I really like that it then becomes pretty much wash and wear. This is the really glamorous part of the process:

So now I'm all fixed up in all these various ways. Ready to face the world.


SUMMARY: Persistence and attitude.

Years ago, when setting up this version of the blog, I subtitled it:

Surviving and even thriving in dog agility. Ex Pertinacia Victoria.

Through persistence comes victory.

Thriving in dog agility.

Seems like in the last couple of years that has all been stripped away and I've merely been surviving in dog agility. Where did that enthusiasm and determination go? Where oh where has my little attitude gone, oh where, or where can it be?

Just trying to remember the feelings that inspired me way back then.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Temperatures and Emotions Going Every Which Way

SUMMARY: So, in other words, probably a typical agility weekend.
Saturday was hot--at least, in terms of weather. I never wore my fleece at all; short sleeves all the way even at 4:30 in the morning. Probably didn't reach 94F, but most likely 90F anyway. Fortunately, a sweet little breeze kept us all from boiling away. A shower in an air-conditioned hotel room felt SO GOOD that evening! Sunday was cool--at least, in terms of weather. Wore my thick fleece until after lunch, when it finally became warm enough to shed a layer. Cool, sweet, gentle breeze all day today, too, with a couple of sudden unexpected gusts that tore several canopies from their moorings.

Saturday didn't go all that well agility-wise-speaking for us.

Tika's one run, Jumpers, was perfect up to the end, when she ran past the last jump for an NQ. But again she seemed happy, grabbed my foot to demonstrate her enthusiasm.

Boost had 6 runs:
  • Gamblers: Opening was mostly nice except missed her weave entry; the gamble itself, I didn't get a front cross in that I meant to and she wouldn't take a jump right in front of her. No Q, not even very high opening points.
  • Standard: Just not taking obstacles, so we left the field. No Q.
  • Grand Prix: Nice parts except a bar down and ran past one jump. No Q.
  • Snooker: Dagnabbit, I forgot the course, whistled off quickly. No Q.
  • Jumpers: Beautiful except ran past one jump. No Q.
  • Steeplechase: Ran past the broad jump and something else. No Q.
Sunday didn't go all that well...until...
well... hang on to your hats...

Sunday was Team day. Three dogs to a team, all dogs do four individual events and then a relay at the end of the day. Qualification is based on cumulative scores from all those runs compared to the average of the top three teams. You have to be within 15% of that average to Q.

Our team, Dogs Gone Wild, had some nice fast dogs, but you also have to be accurate.

Jumpers: Boost and I E'ed on too many refusals (running past jumps). Another teammate Eed. Not good. But one other team also had two Es, and our 3rd dog was faster than their third dog, so, OK, so we could at least say "We're not in last place!" (By one whole point.) We assured each other that we can make it up easily later, although the top three teams were so far ahead of everyone else that they were the only ones in Qing range so far. Mood: Frustrated.

Then Snooker. OK, we did not completely crash and burn: Two of us got all the way through a high-scoring opening and partway through the closing. But Boost was again whistled off because she was too busy looking at me to bother taking a jump, gah. And, oh yeah, that was after running past two obstacles in the opening, wasting time, so doubt we'd have gotten a lot more points anyway. Our third teammate had an excellent score, thank goodness. Still, a LOT of dogs got much farther through the closing than we two did, so we moved up... one position.   Still nowhere near Qing range. Mood: Very frustrated.

Then Gamblers, and what a disaster. Boost ran past two obstacles in the opening again, probably my fault but still wasted time, and that's probably why my carefully timed closing was over time, causing us to lose all our gamble points. One teammate also didn't get gamble points. So, even though our 3rd teammate had a very nice run, we could no longer say that we weren't in last place. 

Mood: Depressed.

Don't know how my teammates felt, but I knew at that point that we weren't going to Q and I wondered why on earth I even bothered to enter team when Boost and I do so consistently poorly. It was all over, nothing to do but try to relax and enjoy the remaining two classes, although it was tempting to pack up and go home.

Then Standard. Standard has the 2nd-highest weighting of the 5 classes. Much to our delight, all three of us got through the course without E-ing! And apparently enough other dogs E'ed that, slam-bang, all of a sudden we were not only not last any more, but at the very bottom of actual Qing range! Which mean that, if we could all three avoid Eing in the relay, we might actually Q!

Mood: Almost hopeful but very stressed.

The heaviest weighting, though, is on the 3-dog relay. And now the pressure was on--we were so close to NOT Qing that a couple of faults, even if we didn't E, could possibly knock us out. And the way we'd been running, someone was probably going to E. I tried not to get my hopes up. We were almost the last team to run, and we saw quite a few teams go off course as we waited. Not a good sign.

But then something very interesting happened: Not only did we all not E, but we all had no faults, AND we all ran fast with no bobbles, and WOW we won the RELAY!  I've never been on a team fast enough and accurate enough to win the relay portion of the Championship Team event.  It wasn't by much--just a second faster than the next team, but yes indeed in this one class we beat all those teams who'd been at the top of the rankings most of the way. Wow. Just wow.

And so-- not only did we Q, but we ended up 5th overall! It was a very good way to end the weekend. Mood: Happy.

Dogs Gone Wild: Drover, Boost, and Betty, and their Humans.

Friday, May 03, 2013

More Agility

SUMMARY: Because one weekend of USDAA in a row wasn't enough.
Aaaaaannnnnnd we're off to Turlock, where the weather is expected to be about 20 degrees (F) higher than normal for this time of year. This is why this trial was moved from mid-June to the beginning of May: To avoid the excessive Central Valley heat. Ha, how's THAT workin' for us?

Ah, well, it's supposed to be 10-15 degrees cooler on Sunday, thank goodness. Plus we're going to have a grand potluck ("Pre-Cinquo de Mayo") Saturday evening, and that's always fun.

Tika's signed up for only one run, on Saturday, and not sure whether I'll run her since it's going to be the middle of the day and she's not been doing as well in the heat in the last year or so. Never used to bother her, but, sigh, it sucks getting older.

Saturday is all the usual classes and tournaments, and then Sunday is all Team. Boost is teamed with two Kelpies, Drover and Betty, with the team name Dogs Gone Wild, which should be pretty apt for our group. All very fast dogs, some of whom have been known to be a little challenging to handle at times. But all good masters-level dogs (I'll include Boost in that, yes I will).

Boost and I did OK in class Thursday evening despite the warmth--only 2 other classmates showed up (others are either off at AKC World Team Tryouts or taking the night off) so we had a lot of chances to run. Boost's weave entries were SOOOOOOOO broken! Curse it all anyway!

And of course bars came down.

But she worked hard at all the drills even when I messed up and had to keep repeating and seemed to be enjoying herself. Tika got a couple of short runs and although she looked excited, wasn't all that fast--heat?

As usual I'm trying to get a steady reading on how I feel about the weekend, but the needle is hopping all over. Good friends will be there, the trial won't be too huge, I'm working score table again so will be able to do a lot of sitting in the shade. At some moments I'm excited about running Boost (when I think of our best portions of runs) alternating with really wishing I were spending the weekend going to movies (when I think of those single moments in each run when all the hope drains away...). Looking forward to team--I think--because in team knocked bars and refusals don't hurt you NEARLY as much as in regular classes.

Maybe I'm just overheated. Hope I can sleep easily tonight... it's later than I had planned, I'm not quite all packed; looks like I'm hoteling it again because I can't bear the thought of trying to set up MUTT MVR to sleep in, although I think it'll be a perfect weekend weatherwise for it.

Guess I ought to give the usual place a call and see whether they have a room. And throw some clothes into a bag and get to bed.

Keep cool, y'all!