a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tika's Good Old Bad Old Heart

SUMMARY: Not the best news.

Tika had been coughing a bit more this last week. And then Friday night she coughed off and on all night. Seemed like an exact repeat of what happened before she had her near collapse back in November, but at least this time I was at home rather than at an agility trial, so I canceled my movie plans for the morning and called the vet's office (luckily my regular vet usually works saturday mornings).

Got a late-morning appointment. Gave Tika her usual sedative an hour before (because she stresses out SO much about being at the vet's office).

Tossed both dogs into MUTT MVR and drove the 20-30 minutes over there. I keep thinking that I should just find another vet who's closer--there are a ton of them w/in 5 minutes--but I've been going there since 1979 and they know my dogs' history and all. Anyway.

Took Tika into the lobby. Was told we'd have to wait because the doctor was dealing with an emergency. They have fairly comfortable vinyl-covered seats, perfect for pets whom you want to have on the seat with you. Tika, even with the sedative, wasn't wanting to hold still. Popped up on her hind legs to look over the counter to see what the receptionist was doing. Hopped onto and off of the bench a couple of times to look out the window. Hopped up again, gave me an odd blank look, and collapsed in my arms.

I yelled, "there's something wrong with my dog!" as she started to twitch and arch her neck, and then she went limp as the receptionist dashed into the back calling for assistance. I thought she was gone for a moment, but no, she was breathing fine, evenly and calmly, and her eyes were open.

Way too calmly. Even on sedatives, she's wired. But she just lay there and I held her. A vet tech came out and said that he could carry her into the examination room, and she just let him, so very much NOT like Tika. That's when I noticed that the seat and my jeans were completely soaked, and that's the moment when it sank in that she'd just had a seizure.

In the exam room, the vet rushed in while she lay quietly on the table, but upright now rather than on her side, as I held her and stroked her. He checked her eyes and her gums--a little pale, just like back in November, then checked her pulse and her heart rate. While I tried not to sob out loud.

At that point, Tika started panting more like Tika does most of her life, and wanted to stand up, which she did shakily while I held her up.

Another minute or two and she said she was fine, although now on the floor, she tried to shake herself off and just fell right over (because I let go of her when she shook, doh).

I mentioned to the vet that I'd heard that he was dealing with another emergency. Yes, he said, a dog had been having seizures. (Guess it was that kind of day.) Dog had been stabilized and he had just been giving instructions and info to the owner when they called him to check Tika. Anyway.

So, here's the deal.

Her heartrate is now about 220-240 a minute! But pulse 80-90ish. She has always had an athlete's slow heartbeat, and even back less than a month ago at our previous visit, it still sounded good except for the murmer that indicates ongoing degenerative heart disease.

The discrepancy meant that her heart had started fibrillation--rapid beating without having a chance for the blood to fill back in between beats, so blood was actually pumping (pulse) only once about every 2 or 3 beats.

This is SO no good. Means that her chances for a sudden fatal heart attack or stroke have skyrocketed.

They kept her for a couple of hours to do an EKG and a current x-ray to check for fluid in the lungs or the chest cavity (the question about the coughing). Also a blood test again to check for kidney function, etc. I took Boost over to the nearby part and actually into the dog park there while we waited. (Maybe a quick post about that later.)

EKG shows that only the upper half of her heart is actually working, lower half is struggling. That's bad.

X-ray showed no signs of fluid. That's good. Means her cough was probably just the bronchitis that she also suffers from. But x-ray did show narrowing of trachea in throat and near the heart, so it could just be harder for her to get enough air all the time. Interestingly, he suggested 1/2 tsp of Robitussin DM as needed for the cough. That seems to help, although she REALLY doesn't like the taste of it, so I have to be creative in getting it into her.

Added one more med to her regimen--digoxin. Vet tried to get in touch with the doggie cardiologist while I was there, but wasn't in on the weekend. He's going to call them on Monday to try to get a phone consult about medication and actions to take, and possibly I'll take her in there if it seems necessary to do so.

Then I practically had a heart attack when the receptionist told me, "That comes to $750." At least I didn't start having a seizure on the spot, but my brain wanted to.

I don't really want to get into heroic measures and extreme medical options. She's 12 and a half, which still doesn't feel that old to me at times, because she's still so fast and perky most of the time. But really that is an old dog, and I've been so lucky so far with her.

We'll see how things go and when and where. I'm back to playing a waiting game--is she going to go today? Tomorrow? Not for months? When she doesn't move when I come into the room, is she gone? Dang old dogs.

Dang, good old Tika. Didn't eat enthusistically this morning, which is unlike Tika historically. Spent a lot of the day up in the bedroom, which is her go-to place when she's not feeling well...or when she's feeling neglected.

My girl. My Merle Girl. So hard to think about not having her. Trying to think about *having* her and enjoying her. But she's definitely never going to do agility again. If she wants to do frisbee, fine. If htat's how she goes, that's fine. But I don't want it to be while doing that dog sport that she has done so very well in for so many years. It was a gift.

Dang Back

SUMMARY: Lower back is not a happy back.

As I mentioned in this previous post, my lower back has not been happy for a while.

Doc had ordered x-rays of my lower back when he prescribed the prednisone 3 weeks ago. The physical therapy evaluator went over them with me two weeks ago: A touch of scoliosis (this is new), one vertebra out of alignment forward, one out of alignment towards the back. Recommended NO chiropractic work because of this. Also serious degenerative disk disease/arthritis in my L3/4/5 region. It wasn't pretty. She also strongly suggested that I get up an move around at least every 30 minutes whenever I'm sitting (which is a large part of my life, at the computer). I'm tryin'.

Then I went to a group Back Clinic (Kaiser offers for free because it's so helpful, they say) this past Monday. Interesting stuff, quite a bit of which I already knew, but some of which I didn't. After a week, my back actually might be feeling a bit better trying to use some of the techniques presented there--

However, on the down side, was referred to a sports/orthopedic spine specialist Friday because now it's not only some toes that are a bit numb, but my shins, also. She thinks nothing to be terribly concerned about (numbness) but did say that it's unusual to see so much arthritis in the lower back of someone my age. Great. By which I mean, not great. She prescribed a nonnarcotic pain med, which I've taken a couple of and that helps, too.

She also recommended an MRI to try to get a complete picture of where I am and also as a guide in case I decide that I want a cortisone (?) shot in my back. Trying to avoid that if I can. I got the MRI Friday evening. (Had an MRI back in 2000 during my last *very* bad back period, so I knew what to expect.) It's noisy but they gave me plenty of ear protection and a prewarmed blanket! Very nice! So I just closed my eyes and practiced clearing my mind and relaxing for 20 minutes while in the machine.

Too soon to know the results yet.

I didn't ask, "Will I ever be able to go backpacking again?", in part because I haven't done so in over 20 years, so somehow it seems unlikely that I would again, anyway. But I want to be *able* to, you know?

Back exercise classes start tomorrow.

And we go from there.

Plans and Portents

SUMMARY: Weekend and life don't go as expected, Tika's heart is hurtin' and so is my back.

What I had planned for this weekend after 3 weekends of dog agility: Macbeth Sunday night and the rest of the time catching up on things that I wanted to catch up on around the house and yard.

So of course, when someone suggests going to the movies, I figure that I can fit it in. Two different movies, different mornings. And then there's that planning dinner with friends for the Yosemite trip coming up next weekend.


Plan A as of a couple of weeks ago:
  • Friday night: At home catching up
  • Saturday all day: At home catching up
  • Sunday most of the day: At home catching up
  • Sunday evening: Macbeth

Plan B as of Thursday evening:
  • Friday night: At home catching up
  • Saturday morning: Movie
  • Saturday afternoon: at home catching up
  • Saturday evening: Planning dinner
  • Sunday morning: Movie
  • Sunday afternoon: at home catching up
  • Sunday evening: Macbeth
Actual weekend so far:
  • Friday night: Get MRI of my lower back. Then stay awake most of the night while Tika coughs.
  • Saturday morning: Wait for vet to call me back, then take Tika in to vet and take Boost to the park while waiting for some tests on Tika, home for a while and then grocery shopping. Bought some chocolate fudge cake for dessert for dinner--that was an excellent plan.
  • Saturday evening and onward... so far, so good per Plan B. Saw Wolverine. Decent but not great. Love Hugh Jackman.
And I think I'll split this into separate posts. So go check:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Musing on Boost's SuperQs and Other Qing Statistics

SUMMARY: Why we don't have SuperQs

It's because we can't get through a course without a fault. As I said the other day, it's not that I'm trying to do courses that I think are very hard for us--I always default to courses that I think we're capable of doing that are still in Super-Q range. I'm not trying to *win*, ever. But the bars and the (often inexplicable to me) refusals do us in.

Tika was 5 when she finally got her 3rd SQ, and it had seemed like *forever*. The difference between Tika and Boost is that Tika pretty regularly finished one or two spots out of the SQs, whereas Boost and I almost never completely get through the course at all. Seems to me that most dogs who regularly get through Snooker courses usually get their SuperQs eventually.

Of the 113 Masters Snookers that Boost and I have attempted, 25 have been Qs--which isn't great--22%--but given that judges seem to aim for 25% of dogs Qing on any given course, I guess that's not too bad.

But getting the SuperQ by being in the top 15% of of those competing...

Among our 25 Snooker Qs, we have only EVER gotten through a complete course four times. Ever. Two of those were our two SuperQs and the other two were enough points for a SQ but missed it based on time that we wasted on course (in other words, tied with a dog on points but they had a faster time so got the superQ).

Again, it's not like we can't get through them in time or can't logically get through them--there are another 10 where we've completed our entire chosen course and finished the closing, but knocked a bar somewhere in the opening.

So getting through the course error-free is our biggest challenge. I think that dogs who can get through their planned courses regularly are much likelier to get their SQs quicker, even if they're not aggressive on points.

OK, that's enough about Snooker for the moment.

Perhaps I should move on to pondering why we've only ever Qed in Jumpers six out of 127 times (under 5%), which ultimately is what keeps us from earning our lifetime bronze award (which requires 15).

Really, maybe she should've been a herding dog. Good thing she's cute and loves to be active and engaged.

(photo by Sarah H.)

Boost's USDAA Qing percentages:
  • Jumpers: 5%
  • Grand Prix: 10%
  • Gamblers: 12%
  • Standard: 14%
  • Steeplechase: 14%
  • Snooker: 22%
  • DAM Team Tournament: 38%
  • Pairs Relay: 47%

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back to Normal, Sadly

SUMMARY: A non-Qing day, in which I go into painful detail because it's my blog.

Day 2 of the 3-day USDAA trial.

Yesterday I didn't mean to give the impression that I'm always trying to do crazy things in Snooker trying to get a Super-Q. I try to make a guess at what would be needed for a Super-Q and decide whether I can come up with a course for that purpose that we can competently do. I often don't go for 3 (or 4) sevens in the opening, for example, unless they're the simplest thing to do on the course. The problem is not that we can't get to where we need to be, or have off-courses, or don't have the speed. The problem is in knocked bars and refusals. The difference yesterday is that I did not bother trying to figure out what I thought would be necessary for a Super-Q and picked the course based only on what I thought we could possibly get through with the least amount of work on either of our parts and in fact was very close to 100% certain that it would NOT be a Super-Q. And that time, it worked for us (although had that bar she ticked actually fallen, it would've been the same old story).

Today, Boost:
  • Snooker:
    Today, I also picked a reasonably easy and flowy course, got through that opening easily, and then running straight at #2 in the closing, she stopped and turned back to me and backed up past it for a refusal.  This is how it usually goes.
  • Gamblers: She couldn't have asked for a better sequence of momentum-building jumps before going out to an Aframe in the gamble, and she was headed straight for it and then pulled off and came back to me. At least our opening went according to plan.
  • Standard: First 13 obstacles beautiful. Then she came off the table early, darn it. Been a long time since she's done that. Then the last 4 obstacles I kinda messed up.
  • Jumpers: Running past jumps.
  • Pairs Relay: Refusal and a bar, both of which I can attribute to my handling, plus our partner went off-course.
  • Steeplechase: I ran my little heart out. I did everything I needed to do, she did too (other than CONSTANTLY checking in with me before EVERY obstacle). It felt pretty good even though she knocked a bar. But very sad to see that, even if she hadn't knocked the bar, we'd have been too slow to qualify, the top dogs were SO bloody fast. Makes me wonder even more whether she's not feeling her best. Watching videos of our runs from last couple of weekends, she is not opening up and running full out. Or it could just be that she has decided that her running style is to check in with me more and more and more. Sigh.
 Today, Tika:
  • Jumpers: Didn't want to lie down at the start, so I let her stay in a sit, which I was pretty sure was Trouble that starts with a T--and sure enough, I had barely gotten halfway to my starting lead-out position when she crashed through the first jump (I suspect she crept forward until she was too close to get over it) and raced by me to take an off-course jump. We did the rest reasonably well, a couple of wrong turns but decent, and she looked happy to be running.
  • Veterans pairs relay: Again, this was for fun, not a Qing event. Tika did OK, but the restrictions placed by the judge on who had to run in what order meant that our veteran partner who was entered only in this, and for fun, had to run the side of the course that had obstacles that she didn't want to even attempt to put her dog on, so she didn't. So, technically, our team Eed.  I have things to say about restrictions on who runs which side in Relay--the whole purpose of the relay is supposed to be working stategically as a member of a team, but that takes away any possible strategy that you could ever have. And this time, actually, Tika didn't look so thrilled about being there to run. Who knows what goes through her head.
No Qs, no placements, only one really decent run all day. Back to Normal Boost Agility World.

 One more day tomorrow. At least it is refreshingly cool, even chilly, at the trial site, while it's been up in the 90s here at home.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Thing That Made Me Cry In Agility

SUMMARY: Because there is crying in agility.

Boost got a Super-Q!

It's one of those things that I'd just about come to accept that would never happen, that we'll never get the 2 more Super-Qs that we need for her USDAA championship. That I might retire her (or anyway move her to performance) and never get that championship.

And today was particularly bad:
  • Gamblers, not taking obstacles, several, in fact, and in the opening. And no way, of course, that we'd get the actual gamble.
  • Standard, not taking obstacles, knocking bars, a complete melt-down.
  • Pairs--we were spot-on perfect. Why can we do 10 obstacles perfectly over and over? But not a complete course?
  • Jumpers, not taking obstacles, knocking bars, a complete melt-down.
Once again, Tika ran beautifully--very nicely in pairs for a Q and a 1st**, darn good in Jumpers for a Q and a 1st (some bobbles that were my fault, but she just recovers so nicely!). And it made me even more aware of how nice Tika is to run and what a challenge Boost is. I mean, Boost is happy going into the ring, always. It's just that... sometimes... 

So I wanted to pack it in and head home early, especially since my back is not doing really well.  And talked to Boost about how maybe she'd like to become a herding and nosework dog.

I mean, really, she's 8 and a half. Many, if not most, dogs, move down a height into the Performance group by that age, where the counting for a championship resets and starts all over.

Plus, 112 attempts at Masters Snooker, and out of all of these, we had earned one Super-Q. One. One of 112 attempts. And that one was 2 years ago. (oh, interesting--2 years ago exactly plus 2 days ago.) And she's getting older and it feels like we're getting worse, not better.

And the day had been SO bad, so really very bad, I mean, we did not even come close to completing all the obstacles--let alone successfully--on three of four courses.  But I paid for my entries, plus I'm on score table, so I talked myself into staying and not scratching Boost from Snooker.

But the snooker, yikes. Three or four reds, your choice. A very wide circle of obstacles with a three-part #7. And everything was jumps jumps jumps. Yeah, well, we knock bars and we do refusals at jumps, and I did not have the heart to try to design a course with 4 reds or with very many points, because it was pointless anyway (given all the jumps in the course and given how bad our day had been). I just picked nearly the simplest circle with only 3 reds, not much in the way of high points at all, because at that point in the day today, I needed to have a successful run far more than I needed a Super-Q.

I didn't even bother to watch anyone else's runs or look to see what kinds of scores people were getting, because I had given up on getting a Super-Q today.

So we did our simple run. She ticked the 2nd bar but it stayed up.  She ran past the 3rd red but I was able to get her back to it and over it without knocking it. On the closing, the distance from 2 to 3 to 4 was so wide and so not-obvious to the dog and I was so slow that I called her back to me after 3 and we kind of hobbled our way to #4 before continuing through the rest of the course. I figured that we were going to run out of time, but it didn't matter because I had picked a small, simple, wimpy course that wasn't going to be a Super-Q anyway, so I didn't push things. Took the time to tell her that she was a good girl for holding her A-frame contact near the end (the only thing that wasn't a jump on the whole course).

Got over the last jump and, wow, we had successfully completed an entire course today! It wasn't entirely pretty, but it was legal and it mostly worked, and the buzzer went off just after that, so we just made it in time.

Feeling  happy that we did it, but kinda sad, too, that I had to give up my hopes of a Super-Q just to be able to feel good about doing a very basic course.

But you know what happened. Everyone tried to get four reds and lots of points and crapped out.  So our little piddly simple run left us in 4th place, and there were 4 Super-Qs.  I could hardly believe it when I went to check our score. I thought that I had to be misreading it. But, no, there it was, in black and white!

And I cried. So happy.

But. There's this little thing about operant conditioning--the most successful way to get a creature to continue repeating behaviors to get a reward is with RANDOM rewards. So I've just been randomly rewarded for attemting Snookers by earning a Super-Q, which means now I'm back to thinking, oh, wow, it just *might* be possible for us to get that one last Super-Q and a championship.

Not sure whether to be happy or sad about that random reward. But, for tonight, I'll take it.

Everyone had cheesburgies for dinner.

Both dogs finished their kibble before they finished their cheesburgers. Very strange indeed.


Boost got a Super-Q.

** Technically Tika did not Q in pairs because we ran Veterans pairs, which is a just-for-fun competition, no qualifying scores. But our score was plenty good enough to have qualified in the regular divisions, both dogs ran well and clean. And technically we were the ONLY veterans pair, but we earned that first place anyway!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Agility Weekend--That's Three

SUMMARY: Three-day USDAA in Prunedale

I've been trying to avoid doing more than 2 weekends in a row of agility, because more than that deeply wears on me these days. But when there are three local trials in a row, I just gotta do it. This is the third of the three, and thank goodness I'll have next weekend free to catch up on life. And I've been trying to avoid doing all three days of 3-day trials, but, well, a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do.

Time for statistics about this weekend's entries! Because I love this stuff.
  • 89 Border Collies, 30 Australian Shepherds, 19 All Americans (mixed breeds), 11 Shetland Sheepdogs, and 50 other dogs covering 29  breeds.
  • 147 people, of whom 94 entered one dog, 46 entered two, and 7 who entered three! Crazy people!
  • 20 are men.  That's 13%, or about 1/8 of the competitors.
  • The most populous dog age group is the 4-year-olds, with 30 dogs, followed by the 8-year-olds (including Boost) with 25, then the 6-year-olds with 23. Odd distribution, if you ask me.
  • The oldest dog entered is 13, and there are two 12-year-olds (including Tika).
  • The top dog name is Quinn/Quin with 4. 
  • Dog names, 2 each: Bounce, Dash, Kyna, Lark, Lily, Maddie, Sydney, Toby, and Trick.
  • The top human name is Lisa with 6, closely followed by Kathy with 5. I guess all the Lauras must be doing something else this weekend.
  • There will be 1875 runs over the three days, distributed across three rings. My dogs account for 21 of them.
  • The farthest travelers are two folks from Oregon and one from Arizona. Next about 4 from southern California. The rest I think are from within 4 hours of here, and mostly within about 2 hours.
  • It takes me about 45 minutes to get there in the morning, 55-60 to get home in the evening.
See y'all there--figuratively, anyway, because as usual my head will be down at a score table. Yeah!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Boost the Raffle Dog

SUMMARY: Forgot to mention her special skill--
Once again, maybe she's not so hot on the agility field, but she did win two free video runs from the pro videographer in the worker raffle. Thanks, Boost!

Weekend Results - Sliding off into Obliioun

SUMMARY: Not our best CPE weekend ever.
In the past, CPE has been a pleasant and mostly relaxing way for me to bolster my feelings of inadequacy in the agility ring by bringing home a bunch of Qs and firsts, the benefits of having fast and fairly well-trained dogs.

Not so much this weekend, which makes me think that all of us are sinking ever deeper into agility decrepitude.

The topping on the hard-to-digest cake was the final run of the weekend, the sort of jumpers run I've been dying for and missing so much, where the dogs just break loose and run full out in a double loop around the ring (more or less) and we all have a good sprint and a great time. And I failed dismally with both dogs. It does seem to prove two of my working theories:
  • What I really need to do with Boost is to go rent a field and run full speed in huge circles around the outside of the ring and stop working so much on handling. She spent, as usual, so much time looking at me that this course, which a couple or 3 years ago I'd swear we've done similar and aced, that she skipped obstacles left and right and I finally just had to sit her halfway through the course and get restarted, and then it fell apart immediately again.
  • Tika is having trouble going into tunnels. Still not sure whether that's a confidence in what I'm telling her, or a vision issue, or something else. She used to be your typical blasting tunnel-suckable dog, but she wouldn't go into the tunnels and also kept pulling off or going past jumps.
So sad all around. And watching myself run--I was pretty wiped by then--very pathetic and slow. So maybe it was all me and not the dogs, although I think not.

So, in more detail--

Boost Saturday:
  • Colors: Almost perfect, but turned back to me before the last jump, missing our bid to be the fastest of all heights/levels by .6 seconds. I just want to have a completely perfect run from time to time. Still, in CPE, no refusals, so Q and 1st.
  •  Wildcard: Odd way of taking an alternate obstacle instead of the one that I wanted. I recovered, but had to bring her around in a figure-8 to do it. We ended up with a Q and a 1st but not a very fast time compared to quite a few other dogs in other hts/levels.
  • Standard: Started out OK but I stopped in the middle when a whistle blew--turns out it was on the soccer field behind the ring. We were able to continue, but she ran past a jump that I had to go back for, and then she knocked the last two bars. No Q.
  • Snooker: Beautiful opening. Knocked the bar on #3. No Q.
  • Jumpers: Knocked a bar. Ran past a jump that I went back for. Refused a jump right in front of her. I have a video, it's just puzzling as always. Maybe will post tomorrow. No Q.
Tika Saturday:
  • Colors. Peed in the ring, didn't get to run. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Jumpers: Turned the wrong way once, but otherwise pretty good. 2nd and a Q but 3 full seconds slower than the winner.
Boost Sunday:
  • Snooker: Beautiful opening. Handling error going into the closing. No Q.
  • Gamblers (Jackpot) #1: Started out great, then started running past jumps and weave poles and I actually stopped at one point again to regroup. So instead of doing my beautiful plan with a zillion points (completely doable, a couple of other dogs did something similar), we ended up BARELY Qing.
  • Gamblers (Jackpot) #2: Exactly to plan! Wow! Had we been half a second faster, we'd have had one more point but one other dog (Chaps) did have that extra point, dang it, so a Q and 2nd place.
  • Full House: Should've been high score of all dogs at  the entire trial by a mile, but (a) a refusal at one jump cost us about 2 seconds and (b) I've been releasing quickly on the contacts so near the end she- self-released from the A-frame and jumped towards me at the exact moment that I needed to be pushing her away from me, so wasted about 2 more seconds, so we missed our last 5-point obstacle by one leap--leaving us with 39 points instead of 44, which put us behind two dogs with 42 and 41 points. But fortunately they weren't in our height/level, so we actually got a 1st and a Q.
  • Jumpers: Disaster.
Tika Sunday:
  • Full House: To show how much time I had to waste with Boost, I ran almost the same course with my older slower dog and got nearly as many points, 37. Q and a 3rd place (behind Boost and one other dog). Again, looked pretty good until I guess I was late on a deceleration for a turn and she slowed and went wandering off and I had to chase after her to get her running again in the correct direction.
  • Jumpers: Disaster.  We did get through it with no errors, but wayyyyyyy over time, which is almost inconceivable for Tika.
Feeling: Discouraged, maybe sad at the rising possibility that all 3 of us really might be done with agility, somewhat happy actually that my dogs have been willing to run with me and have enjoyed doing so all these years, and I rode that feeling to stopping at Taco Bell on the way home and getting tacos for all of us, an extremely rare treat for the Merle Girls.

They've hardly moved since we got home. Me, too, except for sorting through photos and catching up on email and such. Think it's time for bed.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


SUMMARY: It finally happened.

Over 17 years of agility competition. Four dogs. 280 trials. Or, as they say in industry, 4600 runs with no accidents.

Had one or two close calls. Like, just last weekend, for instance. I walked Tika into the ring for a run still on leash, but she had her nose to the ground instead of paying attention to getting to our stop-down-stay position. So I looped her around me to approach the start line again, which caused her to swing momentarily outside the ring rope--where she squatted and peed. Horrors! A dog who eliminates in the ring is--well--eliminated from that round, and there go the multiple dollars that you paid for the privilege of peeing in the ring. But-- I think because she was technically outside the ring rope--it wasn't called and we went ahead and ran.

It was a close call, and I have always prided myself on being aware of my dogs' needs and bodily schedules and making sure that they get plenty of potty time during the day. And Tika, really, has always had a bladder of iron. She virtually never needs to go out in the middle of the night unless something is wrong. She can go 12 hours easily from night until the next morning and then merely saunters out casually to take a leak. Even these days, nope, she doesn't want to go out before bedtime and doesn't bother going out again in the morning until after Boost has done her run and then fetched the newspaper. Even now, even at 12 and a half years old.

Today, luck or whatever ran out. Pottied the dogs before leaving home. Pottied them an hour later at the site after I'd set up our gear. Took Tika out an hour after that, and had no sooner stepped a foot inside the ring when she squatted and peed. And just like that, one of her only 2 runs all day was done. I had hoped that it was still close enough to the gate that it didn't count, but nope, judge shook her head and waved us off. Crap crap crap!

Well, OK, no actual crap, thank goodness. But it did piss me off a bit, so to speak. Not sure who to be mad at, though, really, except The Fates. I had done my due diligence in pottying her twice in the last 2 hours. Judge was just following the rules. Tika obviously couldn't help it.

It does make me wonder what's going on with Tika's internals.

But mostly, it makes me so very sad to break such a long-standing record.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Health Update and looking ahead to Tuolumne

SUMMARY: Dogs and humans.

Tika's eye: Three days of ointment and the redness had nearly vanished. After the full week's course of three-times-a-day ointment, not only did her eye look good in general, but that weird lump in the inner corner completely vanished. Interesting.

Boost's itching: Itching itching itching. Still using hydroxyzine after checking with the vet that it's OK to do so. If I stop it, she definitely itches more, but it's not so bad either way that I want to use prednisone to knock it out.

Human mom: What a mess! But in some ways, not so bad!
  • Left foot (diagnosed as capsulitis in 2nd metatarsal/phalangeal joint): Got a cortisone shot two weeks ago. Made it worse for a couple of days, seems to be typical. Seeing a massage person to work on that by recommendation from some agility folks. I think that's helping; following it up with homework that he gives me to work on it myself. Didn't bother me all weekend except for the rare turn in certain directions, can't quite pin it down. Whole foot, actually both feet, seem sore to pressure, once we went through and evaluated them more carefully. Interesting.
  • Lower back: Not good. Sciatic nerve pain comes and goes down right leg and some in left leg, tells me that the disk problems are definitely acting up. But the muscle pain all across the lower to middle back is what's really getting me. Still not sure about whether that's a side-effect of the disk issues or a separate issue. Had no problem running all weekend, but found myself walking carefully because, again, certain twists or movements really hurt. Didn't lift much of anything, ever, and crated out of the car so didn't have to set up or tear down. Monday and Tuesday were miserable indeed.  (As in 2000/2001, sitting is the most painful thing.) On tuesday, doc put me on a short course of prednisone to try to knock out the worst of the inflammation.  MUCH better on Wednesday, although clearly not fixed. Starting physical therapy next week.
  • Knees: Well, ha ha, funny knees have felt fine all through this (as long as I don't try something silly like kneeling). I felt good running all weekend, and in class last night I felt great all over, nothing made painful by running at all, even my cardiovascular endurance seemed good which makes no sense given how little exercise I've been getting. But I'm not complaining. Hope it keeps up through this weekend's CPE trial.
I really miss hiking and long walks, I'm realizing. Really really miss it. It's so tempting to just go do them and the foot pain be hanged. I think the foot is marginally better than when I first went in to see the doc, but not majorly.

And, way down deep, I think that a lot of the issues are aggravated by the fact that my weight is up to the highest it's been since 2001. Harder to tackle it if I'm supposed to be not using my foot.

Oh, and I'm going to Tuolumne** Meadows (Yosemite) in a mere 3 weeks, and had hoped to do some hiking! I'm going to be SO not ready for primetime. But at least it should be beautiful, and going with good friends, so that's all good. Haven't been up there in, wow, maybe 20 years, who ever thought it would be that long? There I am in 1970. Still have the hat, not the shirt, which was a huge favorite and perfect light-weight, quick-drying long-sleeved for backpacking or hiking.

I love this photo from wikipedia, maybe I can get some of my own like that! If my lungs can quickly acclimatize to 9000 feet (2743m) elevation:

Now you can keep images of the gorgeous high Sierras in your mind as you go about your weekend.

** Tuolumne, pronounced TWA-lum-ee, or too-Ah-lum-ee.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back Sides of Cars

SUMMARY: (Almost) wordless Wednesday-- A collection from driving and walking around the last couple of years.

Disneyland license frame and Mickey ears. Where's their next vacation?

Yes, I guess it was.

I would, too.


I often ask myself the same thing.

Because, well, you know what always wins--

The team mascot is the Sea Otters

Does it kill demons or is it a demon that kills...spooky.

Exclusively Volvo! What kind of car is it?

>>  Visit the Wordless Wednesday site; lots of blogs. <<

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Independence Weekend USDAA - Sunday

SUMMARY: Got some Qs.

  • Q and first place in Jumpers, no problem.
    She's so good to run, just figures out what she needs to do. She's supposed to lie down at the start line, but she just wouldn't do it this time so I let her sit. I thought that meant that she was tired, but she blasted out of there quickly enough that I was behind her all the way and she adjusted for my puny mortal failings.

  • Q and first place in Standard, no problem.
    Watch for the spin at the green tunnel entrance and where she's looking as she descends the Aframe (didn't catch that I rear crossed)--issues having to do with her hearing.

We were able to park close and crate out of MUTT MVR this weekend,
which was a dogsend, since my back was absolutely not up to lifting or moving ANYthing.
Mr. Alien hung out with us occasionally.

Mr. Alien ... hung... out with us...

  • Same Jumpers as Tika, problems.
  • Same Standard--whoa, really nice run with nothing to complain about! Q and 5th of 38 dogs.

  • Snooker, yeah, well, knocked one of the reds, which took us out of the running for a Super-Q right away, and then too much dinking around and miscommunication to even be able to finish #7. It's a Q, but your basic useless Q of which we now have 24. It was an entertaining Snooker course, though, with three tunnels in a circle forming the #7 obstacle. A real crowd-pleaser, lots of yelling and cheering and groaning for all the competitors.

  • Grand Prix, well, oh well. Who needs any stinkin' Grand Prix Qs anyway. They're probably sour.
 Boost flying down the dogwalk, and me... uh, not sure exactly WHAT I'm doing there--

Boost now has 141 lifetime Qs, just short of the 150 needed for the Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award. Except--it requires at least 15 Qs in each of the classes, and we have only 6 Jumpers, and the thought that we could ever earn another 9 Jumpers Qs is slowly fading away to nothing. I mean, she's 8 and a half. Sigh. Let alone getting those two elusive Super-Qs to complete her ADCH.

When I'm at a trial, like this last weekend, I feel actually motivated to go work on some of our issues and try to fix them. And then I get home and realize how much time it really takes, and I go back to just hoping the issues will just magically solve themselves. Huh.

That's about all I have to say about that.

Running our leg of the relay and doing really well.

Lookit that nice two-on, two off. She was good on her contacts all weekend.

Kelpie puppy Batman subdues my scary hat!

Long-time agility friend Debbie and her Porsche do a little warm-up massage. Debbie used to sometimes run Remington back when my foot was broken.

Embarrassing, Mr. Alien, to be abducted by giant inflatable aliens!
At least they're wearing  a seatbelt.
(Inflatable aliens appeared in random places all over the trial site on Sunday. No particular explanation from anyone, but it was entertaining and engendered lots of conversation.)

Awww, Millie practices her school visit skills among a flood of children.

If nothing else, at least Boost continues her awesome skill at winning things in the raffle. A certificate for a day's entry on Saturday, and a bag of Cod Skin Treats on Sunday.

Hmm, something fishy about these cod skin treats.

*Photos of us running by Laurie Cowhig and Lisa Pomerance, thanks, agility friends!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Independence Weekend USDAA - Saturday

SUMMARY: Thank goodness for Tika.

Pretty much a dull post today. No photos. No humor.  Not too much whining.  No juicy gossip.

Here's how the day went.

  • Jumpers: 2 bars, a runout, two or three turns the wrong way, spins before jumps--wow.
  • Snooker: She did her parts perfectly, but I incorrectly took my eyes off her to look ahead during a turn and she went off course.
  • Standard: I front crossed in the wrong place, NOT taking my eyes off her but eyes off the course and so, figures, put her onto the wrong obstacle for an off course. The opposite of Snooker. But obstacles 1-3 and 6-19 were beautiful.
  • Gamblers: Beautiful opening for 25 seconds, but the time was 30 seconds and the wheels started to come off as she ran past a tire and then ran under the tire and then we were out of position for the gamble and, bleah.
  • Pairs Relay: Just absolutely lovely. But no Q because our partner had issues. That's OK because I knew what I was possibly getting into when I signed up. 
  • Steeplechase: Missed her weave entry and I had to go back for it, and a bar down, combining to mean (along with the blazing speeds of the top dogs) no Q. But I felt pretty good about the run otherwise, really tried pushing her and me and releasing early from the Aframe and all that, and we both did well at it.

  • Jumpers. Lovely. Same course and (I think) handling as for Boost, and WHAT a pleasure it was to run her! She is so good, so forgiving, just GETS it. Q and 1st place (of 3 veteran dogs).
  • Snooker: I tried to work the tunnels hard, but she was having trouble getting into them anyway, 3 tunnels. Still, we got through #5 in the closing before I forgot to do a front cross for some stupid reason and she VERY EASILY went into the off-course tunnel (4th on the course). Doesn't that just figure? Still, nice to run her even if it wasn't a Q.
Today, legs are more tired but I still felt able to move comfortably around the courses. Jogging here and there between classes was fine. This is in *such* contrast to the last couple of trials where the knees hurt so much doing even that.  Foot feels mostly OK, just sometimes I step wrong and *ouch*.

Good friends, good times, good judges, interesting courses that flowed reasonably well from all the judges so far, nothing that I felt was too herky-jerky or overly technical. Challenging, yes, but fun to run. Love when that happens.

One more day, just 4 classes for us tomorrow but there are Masters Challenge classes between the 1st and last classes of the day in both Masters rings that we didn't enter, so might not be a super-early end to the weekend.

It's only 7:45--is it too early to go to bed?

Friday, July 05, 2013

Independence Weekend USDAA - Friday

SUMMARY: Team day, in which we don't completely suck.

Well, Boost actually had a decent day:
  • Clean and mostly really nice Standard run (one bobble my fault where I forgot a front cross, one dogwalk contact where she stopped halfway through the yellow and I had to keep prompting her to get her to the end, wasting time but no faults). Those time-wasters kept us from Qing, but still a decent score in DAM team terms.
  • Got most of the way through the snooker except the last obstacle, enough for a Q; we did four reds in the opening with an Aframe and three weaves, and she didn't get the entry on two of those weaves. In the closing, ran past the entry to the weaves at #7 on a U-turn, not sure what that was about. But I'll definitely take the Q!
  • Gamblers opening lovely but too much wasted time in closing to get points; turned wrong way out of tunnel as whistle blew, came too far out of a tunnel in the middle, and turned back to me as she approached the last jump, and that's when the whistle blew, darn.
  • Jumpers we didn't E (2 bars and a refusal on a rear X before the broad jump, which didn't surprise me).
  • Relay 2 bars--out of 11 obstacles! And her teammate had already knocked a bar that was two of those obstacles, so, wow. But she was already tired and a little sore, doesn't bode well for the rest of the weekend. I could tell by the way she stood up before the last two of our five runs for the day, not good, and this is new.
Teammates, if I remember correctly, one Eed in Jumpers, the other Eed in relay, two had not good snooker scores,  one like us had good gamble opening pts but didn't get the gamble points, so we were a longggggg way below the leading teams, who did *not* E in relay, so no team Q. Ah, well, but they were good people to run with.

Chris (Human Mom of the late great Kelpie Tika) and puppyyyyyyyy!

Gave Boost a piece of rimadyl and will give her a little massage to night and see how she is in the morning. She had no problem at all running after a frisbee at the end of the day, so even if she is stiff, it seems to evaporate quickly.  Will have to watch her carefully the next two days to decide whether to scratch some runs.

Uncle Agility Sam Wants YOU

Tika had no runs today. Got her out a few times to do some practice tricks and hang out with me. Two runs for her each of the next 2 days.

Another good old agility dog, Millie!

Oh, and what a pleasure for it to be chilly and me wanting to wear a fleece all day. The last week here has been miserably hot, over 100 F (37.8 C), and humid, not dry. After all that, actually today it felt weird not to be sweating constantly. That's the benefit of this agility site, Manzanita Park in Prunedale, out near the coast so it seldom gets all that warm.

From last Saturday--self-portrait with thermometer--

So, although things felt fairly good for today, some of it is because it's OK to have bars and refusals in team, probably won't disqualify you or hurt your team. The rest of the weekend, though, normal rules are in play. I at least felt good today--knees haven't bothered me, sore foot is still sore but I'm not noticing it much, back didn't even bother me much (except for when I first got up this morning and walked bent forward at the waist until it eased up a bit). Didn't feel like I was flying on course, but didn't feel draggy, either.

A typical agility judge (Eric Quirouet) and his fans.
Judge Carol Voelker makes a quick exit stage left but not quick enough, ha!
Note people wearing sweatshirts. Chilly!

Guess I should go have some dinner and get psyched up for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Vet Visit Eye Say

SUMMARY: Both dogs get a checkup and Tika's eye is red.

I took no photos at the vet's office at all. What was I thinking?

Both dogs' schedules have synched up for shots and annual checkups, so we all went in yesterday morning. Best part, both MUTT MVR and the vet's office are air conditioned, and with temps in my yard exceeding 100 F (37.8C) and in the house over 85 F (29.4C) for the last 4 days, the a/c made a welcome respite.

Gave Tika half a sedative tablet an hour before going in. She was still wired when we got there and while we waited a bit, and while the vet did Boost's entire checkup--pacing pacing pacing and rearing up against the door to get out-- and then--boom, just as we finished with Boost, she sank to the floor just lay there panting. Guess the sedative finally won out over 20 minutes of adrenaline. She was fine through the rest of the visit and not too dopey the rest of the day. Hard to figure out what dose exactly to give her. One pill makes her zombie-like for hours, which I don't like. Half a pill might not be enough if we don't have a whole Boost checkup beforehand during which Tika can expend all her angst.

Tika just lives life at a whole different speed. Here's an example: Peanut butter on the tips of my fingers. Tika gets in two licks for every one of Boost's, she's just that much more intense.

But, back to the vet visit.

Boost's heart is like a racehorse at a calm standstill, vet says, nice low even beat.

Tika's heart murmur still sounds minor and otherwise she looks and sounds good, except let's get to the eyes:
  • There's that lump in the inner corner of her right eye. Its appearance changed after it seemed to bleed for those couple of days last week, not quite so bloody looking, but still about the same size.
  • That same eye now has a red inner eyelid-- "red-eye" or "cherry eye" in color--possibly related to some irritation from the lump or who knows. Now starting an ointment 3x/day.
  •  Tika's *left* eye has a dark area on her iris. Something to watch, the vet said, in case it gets larger or looks like it's protruding into the pupil or anything else about it. Great.
  • Tika has cataracts in both eyes--I knew that--but vet says that at this stage they should hardly be affecting her vision at all. I still think that might be one of the reasons that we have some issues with tunnels nowadays.
Getting older sucks, eh, Teek?

Over all, dogs seem healthy and things seem to be going swimmingly with Tika. And ka-ching!, another vet bill on the books. Guess I'm grateful that good vet services are available!

See you all later.