Thursday, December 30, 2010

Square One

Last night we drove to Eau Claire, WI (about 90 minutes from home) for a lesson with Debbie Erb at Ann Braue's Canine Training Center. The reasons for this trip were multiple, but largely to get Secret out & about and learning to work in new places. In addition to this, my sorry self hasn't received any sort of instruction for over two years. Living in what more or less relates to an agility wasteland, once I got past the Novice level I've more or less been self-taught (yay for Clean Run magazine!). I feel I have done well considering this, at least when it comes to anything related to NADAC -- But I've always known that I can tend to be a sloppy handler and have many inconsistencies to my ways.

Bethany & Rascal joined us on this adventure and I'm happy to say we actually left on time! The first hitch in our trip was when the Garmin failed to recognize the address I plugged in for the training center. It assured me that it knew where 123rd Street was, though, so I went with that and figured we could find the center once we were on the correct street.


Ninety minutes later, my car was stuck in the snow.

The Garmin told us to turn into what appeared to be a snow-covered driveway, so we completely missed that first turn. When we cycled back, we took this obscure looking road and saw that there was, in fact, a road sign at the end of the drive -- Better yet, it was 123rd Street! It was getting dark by this time, but I could see that the road appeared to have not been plowed for a while. There were tire tracks in it, though, so I ventured forward because onward lay our destination! Bad idea. There was quite a large drift at the start of the road and my weenie Saturn Vue promptly got bogged down. Sigh.

Bethany proved that she had super-human (or at least super-womanly) strength and managed to push us out while my engine screamed and my tires spun. But whew, we got out! Not wanting to try that again, on top of seeing that 123rd St. was a dead end road, I called Debbie's cell phone to ask what we were to do. To make a long story short, apparently Chippewa Falls has TWO 123rd Streets separated by a major highway. Really? That's so stupid. She was able to direct us and we still got to the center twenty minutes prior to our scheduled lesson time (I purposefully wanted to get there quite early to get the dogs settled in and relaxed).

Secret was her usual, unconfident self when we arrived. A potty break was so not going to happen, so I gave up and took her inside. They have this awesome crate room available for anyone to use, so I stuck Secret & Kaiser in a big crate while I went out to the car to bring in the rest of my stuff.

Kaiser was up first, which I figure never hurts where Secret is concerned. I think she does better if given a chance to watch & settle for a bit. Kaiser was almost an embarrassment.... He was introduced as my "elite dog," and acted like he'd never seen equipment before. He went off sniffing here & there, ignored me, went around stuff.... Oh my. Yes, it was his first time on carpet in a new facility, but I surely didn't expect that behavior. The good news is that he snapped out of it and actually had some really, really good work the rest of the night.

Secret did well her first time up (we were working through the first 10 obstacles of the set course). It was VERY AKC in style, which I have admittedly not done much of with Secret -- BUT, it's so good for us. We made it through the exercise (including a slatted dog walk that made noise when she went on it), but in the slow fashion that is so common when she is experiencing something new. She happily tugged on her Ringzee at the end, which was good to see.

At this point we began to discuss handling systems. The trainers at ABCTC subscribe to the Linda Mecklenberg handling system. There are countless articles in Clean Run practically every month describing handling systems of trainers like Mecklenberg, Derrett & Damm. To be honest, I more or less glaze over when I see these, as I simply do not learn terribly well via diagrams and the written word. I also subscribed to the theory of, "I don't need no stinking handling system" because, more or less, they are not terribly in line with the style of handling that makes a person successful in NADAC.

The downside of this is that I know I have many inconsistencies as a handler. The nice thing about handling systems is that they are very clear on, "This is what we do in this situation." I can't tell you how many times I walk a course and honestly have no idea what I'm going to do in a given portion until I'm there & running it with my dog. I'm very much a "seat of my pants" handler. Luke is a forgiving dog and dealt with this quite well, but it's obvious that Secret & Kaiser have personalities that would be much happier with a more consistent handler.

For that reason, we shall give this a try. We spent a lot of time last night on foundation "come to heel" exercises that are the basis of the Mecklenberg handling system. We did the main foundation exercise of recalling a dog into position on the landing side of the jump (take off straight on, land parallel in a space equal to the height of the jump). We did serpentine position, we did "backy-upies" (threadle cues), sending and lateral sends. The really good news is that this is all work I can do in the basement this winter. The purpose is to teach collection & proper jump form -- Something that will hopefully really help Kaiser.

It was such a foreign concept to my dogs. They are most definitely not used to jumping into me and were quite uncomfortable with this at first (Kaiser especially). But they caught on and Secret went into shaping mode and actually was quite happy to do the work. Still slow when we put everything together, but happy. She also totally nailed her contacts, even when the new a-frame came as a total surprise to her (steeper angle, slats, quite slippery!). She did get scared by their teeter, though, so we definitely have to work on that.....

My goal is to be a better and more versatile handler with dogs who can both extend & collect their stride. I feel that these are very good skills for us to work with and I look forward to meeting with Deb again. It is fairly cost prohibitive and we won't be able to do it as often as I would prefer -- Weekly lessons would be awesome, but I'm sure it will be more like once a month (twice if I stretch it).

I'm very glad I went. It was a great experience for all of the dogs. It was just a little depressing to find out just how much I don't know, though, and how poor the foundation agility classes are in this area. None of this is taught at the dog center in La Crosse. Not one bit. Oh well, the good news is that I can be fixed. :o)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Secret says, "Christmas Blows"

Yup, that's pretty much Secret's opinion of Christmas this year. Last year was pretty cool because she got to go places and meet people, but this year was pretty crappy.

The poor dogs were more or less bored out of their minds and cooped up at home from Thursday evening through Tuesday. I picked up holiday shifts at the shelter, so I worked half days on Christmas Eve & Christmas, followed by going to family events in the evening. Secret & the boys stayed home because my brother & his family were up from Chicago and brought their two dogs with them to stay at my parent's house. Joy. I didn't really feel like messing with that situation, so I figured my dogs were better off staying at home. Poor dogs. :o(

Due to the hectic holiday schedule, we have done diddly squat in the training department! No theraball work, no basement agility, no trick training, no nothing! Really, the only activity they got over the last few days was "dark frisbee" (which really, they are very good at!). Secret is not terribly good at playing dual frisbee while Luke is in the yard, though. She mostly just chews on her disc during that time, so eventually I have to put Luke in the house so that she can have her "me time" and be happy. She's such a diva.

The dogs didn't get totally scrooged out of Christmas. Inspired by a fellow blogger ( , I hit up Walmart and cleaned them out of Sock Monkeys last week. Now, when I say, "cleaned out," I mean three -- Because that's all they had. Thank goodness, one for everyone.

Of course, do you think everyone got one? Not so much. Luke ran laps around the couch for a while with one in his mouth. Kaiser took it and promptly dropped it. And Secret? Secret de-stuffed them all -- The first within five minutes. And that, my friends, is why I do not let my dogs have stuffies in the house.

"Grandma" (my mother) also got them all stuffing-free toys with squeakers. Guess how many squeakers are left? If you guessed zero, you are correct. Again, I'm pretty sure they were all missing in under 12 hours. I found three. I'm guessing the other three must have passed through Secret's digestive tract....

The dogs were fairly happy about getting Kongs five days in a row. There definitely weren't any complaints in that department!

We are leaving shortly for Eau Claire for our lesson with Deb Erb!! I am beyond excited. Secret was full of beans on our walk today, so I'm hoping she is the mood to play tonight (and doesn't suffer massive stage fright). Time will tell. She'll have Rascal & Kaiser there as a security blanket. It should be fun!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Well... Hmm...

So last night we went to open agility at Family Dog Center. It was, unfortunately, the free-for-all that I so did not wish it to be. There was no course set up, just a smattering of obstacles set in no real pattern. There were only NADAC obstacles set out, so no teeter, table, spread jumps, etc. The good news is that people were more or less respectful of each other and we only worked one dog at a time.

There were only two other dogs there when we first arrived. Secret was very unconfident and put off from the moment we came through the door. When I walked her into the arena she started up right away with her "I'm not so sure about this" whine. I had set all the jumps to 22" before bringing her in from the car and in hindsight, this was an error. I should have just kept things simple for her -- But then again, she was so great on Saturday that I really didn't expect there to be such an issue.

I started out with the Ringzee and she did play with it, but it was more or less a halfhearted effort compared to what I get from her at home. That's kind of how the whole evening was. She did everything I asked of her, but there wasn't a whole lot of enthusiasm and definitely not a whole lot of speed.

At one point during our first session, Secret found a scrap of food on the floor. Oh yes, then she was done. Toys, what toys? I did manage to get her somewhat back to me by grabbing my bag of cheese, but again, she more or less just loped through the motions. The good news is that she nailed all of her contacts, got all of her weave entries and never popped out of the set of 12 poles. She just didn't do any of it fast.

I put her back in the car while I worked each of the boys in turn. When they were done, I brought Secret back inside and had her sit and watch for a bit. She alternated between acting like she wanted to attack certain dogs (like a young Boxer girl) and like she would die if she couldn't play with others (Ailie the Border Collie showed up near the end). She seemed interested in the young Border Collie, Zap, but didn't get a chance to meet him.

I ran her again (with the bumper) with the jumps set at 12". Perhaps the break helped her, or perhaps the lower jumps were just better for her, but she did seem to run with more enthusiasm that time. Still not as fast as we've seen at home, but it didn't feel so much like I was pulling teeth to get her to move.

Secret got to play with Micah the Visla for a bit before we left. Well, she thought she was playing. Micah just thought she was incredibly weird (which she was...). Eventually she annoyed him too much, so that was the end of that. But it was nice for Secret to meet a new dog that would put up with her oddities.

The evening ended in quite a traumatizing fashion for Secret. I decided I wanted to get an "official" measurement on her, so I went and got the measuring gadget out of the office -- Not a wicket, but a big metal contraption with a straight arm on it that slides up and down a stand with inches marked on it. Secret FREAKED OUT at the idea of getting near this thing. She was literally bucking at the end of the leash to try to get away from it. Now, Kaiser never much cared to be measured either, but he never put on that much of a show.

Using gobs of treats (some of which she spit out because she was so stressed), I more or less did finally get somewhat of a measurement out of her. It's pretty much what I had gotten from our "push against the wall" measuring method -- Right around 22 3/4".

I'm trying to reassure myself that her behavior last night was due to her being extremely tired. Why she was so tired is a mystery (still recovering from her shots, perhaps), but even when we went on our midday walk yesterday I noted that she didn't seem her usual lively self. She really crashed hard on the drive home and completely zonked out at home after dinner.

I am pondering my decision to drive down to Iowa for Secret's first trial in February. Our lessons up in Eau Claire will be very telling and I'm interested to see how things go. There are also two open agility dates at FDC in January that we will do our best to attend. Bottom line, if she can't work around distractions, she's not ready to trial. If I wait for the March trial at FDC, I can always just put her in fun classes like Jumpers & Tunnelers to ease her into trialing without making the investment of traveling out of state. We'll just see how things go the next couple of months... It's not like I have to send the entry tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How many 26" dogs in the family?

Just had to share... I took this screen shot off the photographer's web site (© Alan Pet Portrait Art) from this past weekend. I should come up with a t-shirt for it or something....

Apparently Kaiser thinks that Secret shouldn't be the only 26" dog in the family.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Like whoa, the vet is scary!

Secret had a minor freak-out at the vet yesterday. We were there for her rabies, distemper and bordatella boosters. Now, Secret has obviously been to the vet's office MANY times in her life and it's more or less always been a happy, positive experience. She's been much more friendly with the staff on recent visits and I was not expecting the reaction we had yesterday.

Frank, the office kitty, did try to wander into our room when we first arrived and it totally freaked Secret out. Normally she's afraid of Frank, but yesterday she acted like she wanted to slaughter him. Even after the door closed, she totally fixated on it for quite some time.

She did settle down while we waited for Dr. Randy, but she never did really relax. When he entered the room, it was back to square one. Secret's tail was tucked so tightly that the end actually curled up around her stifle. For real! What is up with that?

Now, she didn't act like she was going to strike out or go after Randy, but she most definitely had decided she didn't want him near her. I ended up having to hold her for the exam and while he gave her the three shots. She did eventually crumple down and he was able to flex her limbs and whatnot from a laying position.

I discussed Secret's weight with Dr. Randy and he thinks she looks fantastic. She was 44.8 lbs, so I was pretty on with my guess that she had gone up to 45 lbs since I started to feed her more. Randy was surprised to hear that I only feed her 2 cups per day, but I did say it's hard to really put a number to what I feed her when you throw in treats, Kongs, etc. He obviously doesn't feel she should lose any weight, but for her build, he doesn't think it would be good to carry an extra weight on her lanky frame. Yay, win for me! I sometimes get tired of people saying she's too skinny.

Secret continued to relax as I chatted with Randy and she looked totally fine by the time we left. She was more than happy to stand up on the counter to beg for treats from the receptionist. She was just in a really, really odd mood yesterday. It could be because she was so tired from the trial all weekend and then spending the ENTIRE DAY chewing on the Himalayan Chews I got from Karen. BTW, $20 in chewies down the toilet in a day...

But if she was tired, you sure wouldn't have known it when we got home. We spent a good 10 minutes playing frisbee, followed by about 10 minutes of zoomies in the yard in the falling snow. Secret was wired! I've never seen a zoomy session go on that long for her, but she was nuts. There is no denying that she is a snow dog through and through. What an odd ball.

We did a Theraball session in the basement before dinner and then finally she crashed for the rest of the night. And boy did she crash hard!

Monday, December 20, 2010

She remembers how to run!

It was a trial weekend for the boys and that means a weekend "in jail" for Secret. Poor Secret, but she honestly handles it very well. She's better without Max there for some reason and was a lot quieter this weekend. She only barked a little when I took the boys outside without her. I do try to make sure she gets plenty of play time out of her kennel, but with 11 or 12 runs a day with the boys it's sometimes difficult.

The happy, happy news is that my fears of working in the tiny basement ruining Secret can be put to rest. She remembers how to run! Yay!

I was pretty much the last person to leave the dog center on Saturday. Our day had ended with Novice Jumpers set at 16". Usually they set up the Jumpers course for the next day before leaving for dinner, but they apparently had reservations and had to leave. Now, I would never run a course set for the next day, but the temptation was too great not to run Secret through the Novice Jumpers course that was set & done.

She was AWESOME. I wish I could have gotten video. It really has been bothering me, since we moved into the basement, that she would lose her speed this winter. We worked SO HARD to build it up, after all. Thankfully it looks like it might actually help us, by making Secret appreciate wide open spaces that much more.

There was a little slipping as she adjusted to running on the mats (I'm glad I did a quick shave of her feet when I did the boys the other day). She also cut in on a couple of jumps when she was a little too toy focused (brought out the Ringzee). But run three was PERFECT. Totally flawless and fast. Yay! It made me so happy. She ran with such joy & enthusiasm. She gave me great distance, rear crosses and everything.

We didn't get a chance to play on equipment after the trial on Sunday because they set up some special photo shoot deal, but that's okay. Family Dog Center is having open ring time this Wednesday and we are going to go play then! There was a poster on the wall advertising it and there is no way I'll miss that opportunity. Then next Wednesday is our lesson up in Eau Claire.

We've been having fun playing with our FitPAWS peanut that arrived last week! Kaiser turns out to be the fittest dog in the house, but Secret is doing well and has progressed to being comfortable enough to stand on it and do exercises from that position. Poor Luke is still laying down, but at least he made it onto the ball! :o)

It's amazing because they don't seem like they are doing all that much work, but a session on the peanut just wears them all out for the night! It's kind of nice. lol Secret does many things during her session -- Bouncing, weight shifts, push-ups, leg raises, waving and just a hint of sit pretty. She's doing great!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The basement is done!

I don't know if I misread the delivery date on the e-mail notification I received for the floor mats or if Fed Ex was ahead of schedule -- But the rest of my floor mats got delivered yesterday! Oh what a happy surprise! The timing was great, too, because I have to work at the Humane Society tonight and wouldn't have had a chance to put them down or play on them this evening.

The total footprint of the mats is 20' wide by 22' long. It isn't a massive amount of space, obviously, but it is better than nothing! I will need to be very creative this winter, but it is nice to have a nice warm space to play and work on some agility skills.

This pinwheel was the first exercise I set up for Secret. (Yes, of course I worked her right away!!) The spacing is obviously a bit shorter than I would tend to use outdoors, but still quite acceptable. I did keep the jump heights to 16" to keep things nice & simple for Secret. Working in such cramped quarters is a new experience for her, as is running on mats. She did well with this exercise, essentially just a bunch of wraps & front crosses.

I've been wondering if I could fit a box into the space, so I set one up. It gets a little close to the walls on two sides, but it's totally workable. Again, not something I would necessarily care to do at full height, but it was safe at 16".

Secret likes her Holee Roller ball that I picked up at Petco last week. I braided a handle into it using my old polo wraps from my horse days. :o) Sadly, I don't think it will be the longest lasting toy in our collection. It's already ripped apart in a couple of places!

Our Theraball from Clean Run is scheduled to be delivered today! I bet you can't guess what the next post will be about. We'll see if there is time to play before I go to the shelter tonight, otherwise it will have to wait.

It's a trial weekend for the boys here in La Crosse! I'm looking forward to it, even though they haven't done a lick of training for weeks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow & Cold = Blankies & Booties!

Man did we get dumped on this weekend! At least if we had to miss out on our agility play date it was for good reason. It would have stunk to be stranded at home for a paltry eight inches of snow or something. Mother Nature made me feel better about being stuck in Wisconsin by throwing a blizzard at us and dumping us with almost 17" of snow! As if that weren't enough, we then got hit with wind chill advisories and temperatures well below zero. Joy!

I really had my doubts about making it through our walk today. After all, during our morning potty break the dogs lasted about 90 seconds before they were moaning about their feet hurting from the cold. Secret never even actually achieved the goal of going potty because she farted around so long that she wasn't able to carry out the task before she froze up solid.

Thankfully I came prepared and packed booties & blankies for all! Even still, I thought we'd be lucky to stay outside 10 minutes with as cold as it is. I was wrong.

After two days of being stranded at home, the dogs thought this was AWESOME. Well protected from the snow & cold temperatures, I'm pretty certain they would have been happy to stay out all day. All three blew off some much needed steam in the 35 minutes we were outside. The boys mostly stayed on the packed snowmobile trail, but Secret kept plowing out into the deep drifts along the trail. She loves snow. She got stuck a couple of times...

Major kudos to Schneider's Saddlery and for providing superior winter attire! All blankies and booties stayed firmly affixed despite trudging through 2 1/2' snow to reach the trail! I did have to carry Kaiser over the first time, as I took pity on him for not being able to break through the deep snow. The bigger dogs thought it was SUPER FUN.

Seriously, that's how cold it is. I couldn't breath comfortably without a scarf over my mouth & nose. It hurt. But my three loony goons were romping & running around gleefully the entire time.

Secret loves snow because you can DIG! You can dig LOTS! I do try to keep it to a limit at home, though, because I figure she has to hit solid ground eventually. For some reason she & Luke are being obsessive about digging under the furnace exhaust hose in the back yard... Probably looking for ice chunks, no doubt.

Check out our snow mountain at work. I asked Luke to pose at the bottom and Secret took it upon herself to explore all the way to the top.

And there is what we are dealing with at home. Any more accumulating snow and I will lose my mail box!

Speaking of home, my dad came over on Saturday before the blizzard and did the majority of the work involved in removing the framing! I now have a big open space in the basement -- Yay! And a giant mess to clean up before the mats are delivered. Boo. Fed Ex says it will be here Thursday! Yay!! I also ordered a giant Theraball (peanut) from Clean Run last week and haven't yet received word that it has shipped. Hmm. But I'm looking forward to doing ball exercises with Secret this winter in our fun padded basement!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Training at Home - Phase 1!

I think I mentioned putting mats down in the basement for training, didn't I? Well, if not -- I decided to mat my basement!

The worst part about not teaching agility this winter is that I have also lost the ability to work my dogs each week at the dog center. :o( We also tend to get ice each winter that limits our ability to play outdoors (and I do mean just simply play, not even agility related!), so I figured it would be nice to have a safe area indoors to blow off some steam.

Well, the first shipment of mats arrived yesterday from! They are much lighter than I expected and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was very happy with them when I put them down. I'm kind of a moron when it comes to puzzles (sigh) and I did have some "issues" with figuring out the pattern at first, but once I got it worked out it went down very quickly. I never did figure out how to line one edge with the matching blue straight edge, though, so there is a line of red on one side. :o)

I am completely inept at math skills AND I ordered before I actually bothered to measure my basement. I am brainy, indeed. So.... This is the result. I actually still have over half the room to go -- And the framing still needs to get knocked out, obviously, but I wanted to lay down what I had to get an idea of if I really liked it or not before I ordered the rest. This is turning out to be a far more expensive endeavor than I originally anticipated. It turns out that the "expensive" rolled matting would have been quite a bit cheaper. Oh well, I must admit I think this stuff looks very nice. It's also almost a full inch thick, which will be far more kind on the dogs' joints than the standard 1/2" rolled mats.

The first batch of mats covers an area measuring 18' x 10'. I couldn't NOT play on the mats right away, so I brought one jump out to play with last night. It was a tight fit, even for wrap work, but we made it work.

Secret was not amused in the least when I simply asked her to go over the jump when all of the dogs were down there playing. I put the boys upstairs and grabbed a toy (her new Holee Roller with my old polo wraps braided through it for a handle!) and then it was much more fun for her! We made good use of a small space and it was a great way to break in our new training area.

I think it will also be an awesome area to work on trick training this winter. That's something we definitely need to get back into now that the cold weather has hit.

Speaking of weather, things are looking crummy for our play date on Saturday. :o( We are forecast to get 8" of snow between Friday night and Saturday (it's also snowing pretty good as I write this!). If the snow ends Saturday morning we are good to go, but if it drags out and the plows fall behind, there is no way we can make the 2 1/2 hour trek. Boo. Let's hope for a fast moving storm.

We still love our booties! Secret wore them for frisbee last night and on our walk today. They rock.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Secret has been getting HORRIBLE snow balls in her feet since we got snow. She had this problem last year, but it seems to be especially bad this year. I decided that it was time for her to get booties to wear for walks & playing. The boys got them as well, but Kaiser will only need his when it's cold and Luke will only need his when it's REALLY cold. Secret will wear hers the most, I'm sure, since she has the balling issue.

I ordered booties from on Monday and they arrived today! The timing was perfect, as Charlie the UPS man showed up about 15 minutes before our usual walk time. I was very excited to try the boots out right away!

Secret was a good girl and just sat and stared at me while I put them on her. I suppose this goes to show that I do enough weird stuff to her that's she's used to it now. :o) She had a brief booty dance (not as good as Kaiser's, but Luke had the best of all!), but got over it quickly -- Especially when I went to put my boots on. Then the booties were forgotten because it was time to walk!

Both Kaiser & Secret (Luke didn't wear his today) seemed to really love & appreciate their booties. Secret did stop twice to tug at the excess velcro flap on a front foot for some reason, but then she was quickly off & running again. And run she did! I think she might have ran faster than usual wearing her booties!

She was bounding through the snow, running through the tall weeds & going up and down banks. I thought for sure we would lose at least one booty (I bought eight for her since I figured she would go through the most) -- But nope! They never budged. Our walk was even extra long due to a train pulling up and parking over our usual crossing area, so we had to backtrack and go bushwhacking through the snow-covered weeds.

I'm almost excited for it to get cold enough where booties AND blankies will be necessary -- As everyone got booties to match their blanket. :o) You didn't forget about Secret's gorgeous pink plaid blanket, did you? Yay!! Who would have thought I'd find something to like about winter?

Good news -- I have a date set for our first lesson with Deb Erb at ABCTC! We are going to head up on Wednesday, December 29 at 5:30 p.m. Bethany has expressed that she would like to join us with Rascal, so we will make it a semi-private lesson. I am so excited, I can't wait!

Nor can I wait for our play date with Greg this weekend! It will be so fun! It will be a good experience for Secret to work in a new environment! We will pack our booties for playtime afterwords. :o)

Are they not super cute?

One other super fun note -- The first batch of floor mats arrived this morning! I only ordered enough to cover half the space in my basement (stupid me, perhaps I should measure before ordering???) -- But I am excited to lay them down and see how they will work. They are much lighter than I originally thought...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Gotcha Day, Secret!!

Today marks ONE YEAR from the day I picked Secret up and brought her home. Can you believe it? I had to do a split screen photo to show how much she's changed -- She was presumed to be around 12 weeks (turns out closer to 4 months) and was 16 lbs. Now she's 16 months old, almost 23" tall and probably around 44 lbs (my bad, I haven't weighed her since I upped her food intake).

It's fun to reflect on the past year. I especially love going back to read all of the posts where I went on and on, moaning about her lack of toy drive and how I worried she would never care about anything. :o) Jump to today -- Where now she's literally SCREAMING for certain toys (like her new Jolly Ball with a rope through it that I picked up last week). She has awesomely mad tug drive and loves to play frisbee! But okay, we are still not 100% solid on actually bringing stuff all the way back when we play. Sometimes stopping to chew on our toys is more fun...

One thing I worried about a lot in the beginning, too, was the complete lack of a bond or relationship I felt with Secret. She was not affectionate in the least and was very independent from day one. Secret was both my first Border Collie AND my first girl dog, so I didn't know if either of those things played a part in our relationship and how it differed from my relationship with my boys. I often felt like I tried so hard to connect with her and got nothing in return. She just wasn't interested in anything. This brought about my decision to do "Ruff Love" with her, but that never actually panned out because I was too lazy to follow the program with her. :o) I did implement parts of it, though, and I do think it helped our relationship.

Fast forward to today -- She is the biggest love bug on the planet! Secret LOVES to cuddle and she is by far the most affectionate of my three. I love her hugs, when she comes up and presses her head under my chin and just stands there. She really has turned into such a sweetie and I'm just a huge puddle of mush around her.

And of course we can't forget about agility! Secret has come SO FAR in her agility training. I used to feel like I was dragging her around, forcing her to do something in which she found no joy. At times it felt like she would never be an agility dog, as she seemed so bored by the entire thing.

As our relationship grew, so did Secret's love for agility! It came on slowly, but seemed to improve with every session. Now she seems to have a real passion for playing the game and enjoys the time we spend drilling jumping exercises, contacts and handling drills. I never, ever thought the day would come when I would be able to use toys as a reward in her agility training, but now I can't remember the last time I brought out food! Secret will likely not be one of the blazing fast, crazy high drive Border Collies that are so popular in agility today, but she is quick, steady & a total blast to run.

I am so excited about our next year together! This weekend we get to play agility with our friend, Greg! (It finally snowed here, so all of our equipment is put away for the winter. Boo.) I contacted Debbie Erb from ABCTC in Eau Claire and we will be trying to get together with her for some lessons over the winter if we can coordinate our schedules! And we can't forget the biggest event on the horizon -- Secret's first trial in February!!!

Thanks to everyone who has followed our first year -- Stay tuned for the next! :o)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Max is gone, No more Max

Max left on Friday. Secret is sad.

Okay, I lie. She doesn't seem to give a rip or even notice that he's not around. She did investigate his kennel in the bedroom Friday night and seemed a little puzzled for a moment, but it was brief. Oddly, she is no longer completely fascinated by the kennel in the bedroom and doesn't race to beat anyone to it at bedtime. I think that's proof that she was just being a bitch to Max about the whole thing. Who wants to go sleep in a kennel when there is no competition for it? Not Secret!
We had a little incident with Max on Wednesday that was basically a flashing neon sign that said it was time for him to move on to another home. He was getting so worked up over walk time and was so unable to control his impulses at that time that he peed from one end of the office to the other. It was not cool. Things had just been continuing to get worse instead of better and he just didn't seem happy with us anymore. No doubt that Kaiser's daily attacks were the main cause, but ultimately the poor guy just never really fit in and was always on the outside of the group. His nervous energy turned everyone away from him. Even Secret was starting to play with Kaiser more and basically ignored Max unless I turned the two of them outside alone together.

I e-mailed the folks at "Little House Rescue" (who had been courtesy listing Max on PetFinder for me) and asked if they might have a foster home available for him. Thank heavens they were able to help me out. I also owe a HUGE thank you to a fine group of friends that worked together to transport Max to his new home. I had to work at the Humane Society Thursday through Sunday and wasn't able to take him, so Bethany, Denise, Greg & Cynthia all joined forces to make it happen on Friday. It sounds like Max is doing well in his new foster home. Hopefully he finds his forever home soon.

The change in the house when I got home on Friday was amazing. Just simply amazing. Everything was so CALM and RELAXED. Secret was still her crazy, goony self, but the general feeling and energy in the house was just completely zen. It was pretty obvious that I made the right choice. Things have been very happy & settled in the house since then, despite me being gone for four days. Poor dogs. They were real troopers about my hectic work schedule over the holiday!

We actually had a couple of days of decent weather that would have been super for training, but alas, it was dark & gloomy when I arrived home each day. :o( I am crossing my fingers that we can fit in a training session after work tonight -- Because after that, I think the equipment has to come in this week. It looks like s*** in the forecast. Darn, I really thought that having a snow blower in my garage now meant that it wouldn't snow this year.

And just to prove that Secret actually can sleep somewhat lady-like with her legs crossed and all....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Box Drills

It was super crappy yesterday and it rained pretty much all day. (Hey, at least it wasn't snow, I guess!) It was almost dark out by the time I got home from work, but darn it, the rain had more or less stopped and I wanted to do something with Secret (plus she was just flipping nuts and annoying from not doing anything all weekend).

Because it was too dark to pick poo from the yard, I settled on something that would have a relatively small footprint in the yard that I could localize to the "safe" poo-free area. Box drills!

I don't believe this is something I've worked on with Secret in the past, mostly because my boys don't like them and thus, I don't tend to work on such skills. I've focused on creating a more versatile dog with Secret (ie: not just "NADAC-focused" like the boys) and boy did that show in our work last night. Secret totally nailed everything I threw at her in the box.

Box work involves wraps, threadles, 270's and other such wonky stuff that you will never, ever see in a NADAC course. It totally blows my boys' minds when I ask them to do this (which I did, after Secret was done). Secret stayed upbeat, fast and drivey the whole time, and I threw a LOT of exercises at her. She let me know when my timing sucked, but overall it went really well.

Because of the cruddy weather and the slick ground, I started Secret out with 20" jumps. She wasn't having any footing problems whatsoever, though, so I bumped them up and finished with 24" jumps. I have to say, although I have always loved distance work, it is awfully fun to have such a handy dog as Secret. She seems to enjoy the tight, twisty stuff and I know it's making me a better handler to work on all of these things.

But the boys still think it sucks. :o)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Training season coming to an end :o(

The short, dark days and the increasingly cold weather are making it very obvious that our home training days are very limited right now. As tends to be custom, this ends up being fairly motivating for me and results in a mad dash to fit in as much training as humanly possible before the snow flies and I have to move my equipment into the garage. I'm happy for each day that passes that my equipment gets to stay outside! I have a feeling that it won't last much longer.

The night before last, the motivation was there, but it was weak. As a result, all I did was set up a jump grid and a simple weave pole exercise with 6 poles. Simple it may have been, but simple flies out the window when someone forgets how to weave!

I was flabbergasted and can still not come up for an explanation as to why Secret suddenly INSISTED that weaves must be entered into from the left side. ??? What? My only real theory is that she hasn't seen the set of six poles for a while and was thrown off by the base that extends past the first pole. Who knows! Thankfully her memory came back and we continued on without a problem, but it was very odd. It was a good reminder of what a baby she still is.

The jump grid was set at 24" & 26" this time and she sailed right through it! I spread the distances out just a bit from last time to accommodate for the height. It still required a fair amount of collection from Secret, though, and she did well.

Last night Bethany & Rascal came over and we worked our way through a set of exercises in Clean Run.

This set was chosen mostly based on simplicity of setting up and being able to move through it quickly, as we didn't get started until 4:30 and it is now very, very dark by 5:00.

Secret did great! These exercises involved a lot of pull-throughs, 270's and other such things that I must admit we do not practice enough. The purpose of the exercises was to work on handler timing and I must say they were very good for that! Secret is very particular about timing, as I find it is very easy to pull her up short if I don't support her enough. She is very much a motion-based dog.

We ended up working well into the dark, taking turns between Secret & Rascal. This was a real test of Secret's toy drive, as I repeatedly hooked & unhooked her from the deck, but she was always ready to play again when it was her turn (we used the bumper last night). I was super happy about this, as I hope to be able to continue with the toys when we travel for training and keeping up her drive during breaks will be important.

We ended with a super fun exercise -- Just look at all of those squiggles! :o) Thank goodness we had a bright moon last night, as it was well past 5:00 by this time. We played with various front & rear cross options on this exercise and Secret did well with them all. If I have a goal for her, it is to be versatile!

If I were to discuss anything negative as of late, it would be that I wish Secret would stop all the darn digging in the yard. :o( Ugh, I'm getting so tired of filling in holes. It's a good thing I have a giant pile of dirt left from all the landscaping we did when I bought the house. The only good thing about the impending snow is that it will hopefully bring an end to this new hobby of Secret's.