Monday, January 30, 2012

Trial Report + Videos!

Secret had another great weekend at our NADAC trial in La Crosse! She had eight runs over the two days and managed to Q in six! Unfortunately, her two NQ runs were both in Chances, so she is still sitting at 9 away from NATCH.

I'm quite happy with how she ran, especially considering that she has not seen the chiropractor since the beginning of December (I'm sure Dr. Engel is wondering where we are....). I really do think that the Back on Track coat must be helping her quite a lot!

Secret started out the weekend a bit leery of our judge, Chris Nelson, but seemed to get over it quickly. He was never in the ring with us, so she had no reason to worry. My friend, Rich, pointed out to me that not only is she going to have to deal with the judge being in the ring and moving around with us in USDAA, but also shouting out numbers and raising arms in Gamblers. Oh my. That should be fun.

I almost caused an off course in each round of Regular on Saturday, but thankfully we were able to catch & fix them before faulting. There was another near miss in Jumpers at the end of the day where I started to move laterally too soon for a front cross and Secret pulled off the jump. This happened to several other teams as well at that spot on course, so at least we were in good company. :o)

Neither day had a "gimme" course in Chances, unfortunately. Saturday was a course I'd seen posted from other trials and honestly when I'd seen them I'd thought, "Man, I'm not sad I didn't get to run that course." lol Secret actually came very close to getting it, but I was a hair late on calling her back to me and she went out and grabbed an extra off course hoop. The course on Sunday was a monster, just an absolute monster of a course. I knew it would be very difficult for Secret. The first challenge was to get them to the out tunnel under the a-frame when the curve of jumps lead them straight to the a-frame. Then you had to have a flip out of the weaves to a set of jumps AT LEAST 30' away. Yeah... We didn't get either of those challenges, although missing the out tunnel was completely my fault because I rotated too quickly and pulled her straight to the a-frame.

Other than that, though, she was great! My proudest moment for Secret on Sunday was in Regular Round 2 at the very end of the day. The weaves were the second obstacle on the course and I think we all know how "fast" she weaves in that situation. I was quite prepared for her to walk through them, so I tried to get her revved up and upbeat before leaving the start line. She actually weaved faster on that run than in the previous one where the weaves were second to last! That was great to see. Also great to see was her happy, wagging tail as we waited on the line for bars to be set before our Jumpers run!

Kaiser was a little rock star this weekend. The dog walk was causing us problems as expected, but he was running fast & happy. By the end of the day on Sunday I decided that if his Regular run was clean up to the dog walk, I was going to try to get ahead and ask him for a stop. I hate that I gave up on the running contact, but there is NO WAY to train right now and it seemed to be getting progressively worse through the weekend. I think until spring I'll stop him if I can get ahead and run him if I don't have a shot. If I'm ahead he seems to take it okay and not shut down, but I know he hates it if I'm behind and screaming at him to, "WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!"

Kaiser had absolutely gorgeous runs in Jumpers both days, which was fabulous to see. He didn't shut down or stress at all and those courses were jam packed with off course opportunities to freak him out. I hustled my ass and got in front crosses wherever possible, which seems to make him happy. The stutter-stepping was all but absent this weekend! Let's hope that continues when he has to jump 12" in USDAA again.

The little man did a super job with the Chances course on Saturday, but unfortunately got called on his dog walk contact. No surprise, I more or less expected it. I did a happy dance when I saw that there was no dog walk in the course on Sunday, until I saw how difficult it was. I had faith in him, though, because I figured Kaiser's space bubble would help push him out in both cases -- He had a lovely run, which leaves him just four Q's from his NATCH now! :o)

Poor Luke. The old man only got to do five runs this weekend. I kept him out of all but one round of Regular to try to cut back a bit -- and since he doesn't need the Q's, he was the obvious choice. I did put him in the first run of the day on Saturday because I knew he'd have a meltdown if I made him wait until halfway through the day before running. As it was, he was a bit of a wild child this weekend, but thankfully in a good and mostly manageable way. :o)

I thought he would have no problem with Chances on Saturday, but unfortunately he did the same thing as many other teams and turned left instead of right at the far hoop. Were I to do it again, I would have moved laterally more, as I did with the other two (who did manage to turn right). Live and learn -- sometimes I take the big guy for granted, thinking he can read my mind.

Luke blew me away in Jumpers on Saturday. It was one heck of a tricky course for a big dog with traps left and right, requiring them to NOT take the obvious "swoopy NADAC line" that Luke so loves. He had great turns and kept all the bars up; I'm so proud of him!

He had a good try with the bonus line on Sunday, but we got stuck at the part that worried me and he spun in front of the jump (no doubt he totally read my thoughts there!). Then I had a complete brain fart and went way too far to the right as he was coming out of the tunnel, so he did the correct thing and followed me -- right off course. We got back on track and finished well, though, so good boy!

And finally, he was a super good boy in Chances -- this type of course, hard as it was, is right up his alley. His a-frame was slightly naughty, but otherwise he made it look easy.

Aside from the agility part, this was a pretty interesting trial. There was much hubbub about the whole VT fiasco that was recently on the NADAC list. I find it incredibly interesting how many people read the Yahoo group but don't post, as numerous people I never thought followed the list came up to me and remarked at how they agreed wholeheartedly with everything I posted. That's great, but I really wish more of those folks would send in their own posts to share their thoughts!

Bottom line, not one single, solitary person could fathom how adding VT points to trial points could possibly be a good idea. Not one person was for it. Nobody cared about offering VT titles if people wanted to earn awards that way, but everyone agreed that the points should never, ever be combined. It is NOT THE SAME.

I struggled with whether or not to go to the judges dinner to bring up the topic with Chris (Nelson). Nobody else felt like stirring the pot with me, and what fun is it to do it alone? ;o) Ultimately it wasn't worth driving all the way back to La Crosse after delivering the dogs at home, so we stayed home and relaxed. It's probably for the best, as it wouldn't have gotten me anywhere.

That's not to say Chris probably didn't hear me bitching at the trial. I was fairly vocal while talking to others. lol

Friday, January 27, 2012

So exciting!

I just found out that one of my co-workers has agreed to switch shifts with me so that I can have off on Saturday, February 18. What does that mean? It means that tomorrow morning I am sticking entries in the mail for our first USDAA trial!

I decided to enter Secret in Jumpers, Gamblers & Performance Speed Jumping (Steeplechase). Kaiser will do the same, plus Standard. He'll probably miss his dog walk, but I don't have teeter worries with him. I'll have to decide if I think Secret will be ready to attempt a new teeter in Gamblers....

The trial is in Canon Falls on dirt. Secret likes dirt, so I figured it would be a great trial for her. After having almost a year of trial experience under her belt now, I'm hoping Secret doesn't have a cow about the judge being in the ring... I actually worry more about that then the teeter. Time to grow up and get over it, baby girl!

So that's my big news! We are on the eve of a NADAC trial weekend and I'm just giddy about doing USDAA. :o)

A post without a picture?! That's what happens when I post from my phone!

BTW, I never got Secret to the chiro before this trial. :o( Hoping it's not going to be a big deal with the help of her Back on Track blanket -- she's baking in it now and will wear it all weekend. She will absolutely have to go in before the USDAA trial.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hey blog world, any thoughts?

I did this video partially so that I could see what is going on with Kaiser and also to get pointers from anyone who has them.

Kaiser has a slight luxating patella on the right hind. It did not cause any problems until this past summer, when I began to notice him making odd jumps more frequently. He crashed several bars by landing directly on top of them -- generally following a "stutter/pop" jump style.

Out of concern for his safety, I lowered his jump height to 8" in NADAC -- Kaiser measures 14" and previously jumped 12". His has seemed happy and confident at 8" -- he will still occasionally stutter/pop, but he hasn't been crashing bars. In addition, he's been running faster.

I plan to start doing some USDAA, where he will be required to jump 12" in the Performance program (as low as he can go). Because of this, I wanted to again focus on improving his jump style and strength. We have been doing jump drills and peanut work to help with this. If anyone has any other exercises I'd love to hear some ideas.

There has been improvement already! Previously Kaiser wouldn't jump 16" from right to left, he would just keep going under the bar. The fact that he is trying and succeeding gives me hope! (My thinking here is that if he is comfortable and okay jumping 16" in drills, then 12" shouldn't be a problem at trials.)

Teeter Training (Part Duex?)

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, I've decided to tackle Secret's teeter training again. She is back to being confident and happy on our teeter, but she has continued to spook at the rebound stage. I know that if we don't conquer this, we'll go back to step one again when we see a competition teeter.

I did video of our training session last night -- this was the second session, as we did a bit of touch work the night before. I started with the teeter at the same low height but then did move it up halfway through our session when I saw her confidence growing.

Ultimately my goal is for her to reach up and slam the board down with two feet. At the moment she is bringing it down with one foot the majority of the time, but she's doing it happily so that's okay.

I ran her over the full teeter again at the end of the session and noticed that she is still doing a bit of a butt scoot as she comes off. She's getting better, though, so we will continue on this path because I do feel that it will help her confidence to know she can control the motion both on AND off the teeter.

If you are in a video watching mood, I also made one for Lexie! :o) She is learning to jump & weave this week!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Step One -- Done!

I figure the first step in committing to playing in a different organization is to actually get my dogs registered in said organization!

So.... This morning I signed up Kaiser & Secret for their very own USDAA numbers. Luke actually was registered back in 2009 when Family Dog Center was trying to get USDAA started in La Crosse. They were hosting a sanctioned match as part of the approval process and any dog participating in the match had to be registered with the organization. I was still pretty new to agility at the time (two years) but figured I'd give it a try. I think USDAA was a little beyond my skill set at the time and the jump heights concerned me with Luke, especially on the super craptastic mats that FDC had at the time. As a result, we never ventured out further than that fun match, so poor Luke has a record that has sat empty for all of these years!

Having now invested a grand total of $60 into USDAA for registration numbers, I hope that increases my motivation to actually enter a trial.

Although -- teeter or no teeter, I've been thinking about it and figure I could always plan to enter a trial and only enter Jumpers, Steeplechase, Gamblers & Snooker (of course, hoping that the latter two courses don't contain a teeter). I don't recall if I posted about this earlier, but I'm looking at a trial in Ham Lake, MN at the end of April or one over in New Berlin, WI at the end of May as my choices. The facility at New Berlin has turf, which would be a familiar surface for my dogs. On the Run in Ham Lake has the SUPER NICE Comfort King matting and I've heard wonderful things about it, but it would be new for my crew.

We'll see. I have time to decide, as the premiums aren't even published for these events yet.

Meanwhile, I'm crossing my fingers for lots of Q's this weekend at our NADAC trial. The sooner Secret & Kaiser can finish their NATCHes, the sooner that monkey is off my back and I can move on with a clear conscience. ;o) Everyone use your mental power to send, "Don't bring Chances courses with dog walks" vibes to our judge. lol

Lexie is staying with us this week while my parents are off cruising the Caribbean. How do I always pull the short straw in these situations? Ha! At any rate, my goal is to teach the little black terrier to weave while she's with us, but she arrived Friday evening and I have yet to actually bring my weave poles down into the basement. Hmm. Maybe I should get on that.

I'm not sure how Lexie would handle USDAA. The little cherub would have to jump a minimum of 8" and I have never actually gotten her to jump that high to date. lol Another thing to start working on, I suppose. No excuse anymore, considering she turned a year old back in September. She is a wee thing and only measures about 10" high, I think, with short stocky legs. I always figured I'd just let her run at 4" in NADAC and didn't worry much about jump skills, but that wouldn't be an option in USDAA. Honestly, I think a dog like her would be best suited to AKC (with which she is already registered, so no worries there) -- but it would be kind of hard to just run her in that organization if none of my dogs are playing... Eh, we'll see. Not worth worrying about it just yet!

Friday, January 20, 2012

When one blanket just isn't enough...

Yup. Secret is wearing her Back on Track blanket AND her superbly awesome pink plaid blanket from Schneiders Saddlery. It is THAT cold here right now.

When I posted this photo on Facebook there was some discussion about how, due to the heat reflecting properties of the BoT products, a second layer is simply unnecessary. That may be so, but with wind chills of -25, I don't think it will hurt, either. ;o)

The BoT blanket is relatively thin and lightweight. Secret's body has become accustomed to wearing it indoors, so I thought it might still be a bit of a shock to her system to go outside with no extra protection. If anything, I feel that throwing on a second layer over the top of the BoT simply helps to insulate the warmth being generated. Mind you, when I stick my hand under the double layer it is comfortably warm, even at the very end of our walk when you would expect the most heat to be present.

So yes, I feel perfectly justified in having her wear two layers. It might be overdone, but she is comfy! Too bad it's not flattering on the waistline. lol

We've been working with the teeter the last two nights and everything is going well. As stated, I went ahead and duct-taped the book back onto the teeter on Wednesday and worked the dogs again at the low height. Secret did not seem bothered by the rebound in the least and happily tugged and played as the teeter reset itself each time.

Last night I bumped it up a few inches. Secret started out oblivious to the rebound but then did start to react to it for whatever reason. Instead of releasing straight to the toy and tugging madly, she would hold her position until released, scoot her butt off the teeter and then watch it reset before tugging. A positive note is that she would continue tugging while I moved the teeter up and down with a free hand; for whatever reason she seemed to be okay with that. I finished her teeter work using food to build up some positive reinforcement for hitting and holding her end position, but she did keep doing the "scoot-n-stare" maneuver when released.

In addition to the teeter work, I also took a jump downstairs last night to give us something to do (much too cold to do anything outside, unfortunately). We did lots of one-jump work as well as including it in drills with the table and teeter. I had the jump set to 22" for everything and Secret did great!

At the end of the night I did some foundation jumping work with Secret where I knelt on the floor next to the jump and rewarded successful efforts -- She's always been a careful jumper, so pretty much everything is successful for Secret. I moved the bar around a lot and Secret really only disapproved when it was at 26". I'm going to guess she was tired by this time, as she was actually panting (fairly uncommon for her!). Jumping higher takes more core strength than she typically uses, though, so I have to keep that in mind and not push for too much. Her jump form over the higher jumps was quite lovely, I was happy to see.

I did the same work with Luke when it was his turn (only going up to 18" for the big old fart) and it is very interesting to compare the two. Secret is definitely more agile and light on her feet than the big guy, but he still put in a pretty respectable effort for having never done that drill in the past. I did have to chuckle, though, when he would just plow through or step on the bar instead of jumping... Oh, Luke. He says, "Just give me a course to run, darn it!"

We have a trial next weekend at the Family Dog Center. I will have to talk to someone to see how we might go about getting in some practice time on the teeter this winter. I would very much like to make it a goal to attend a USDAA trial at the end of April or in May -- Considering that there aren't NADAC trials in La Crosse from the beginning of April through July, I figure that is as good a time as any to branch out and take the first step of playing in a different organization.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter found us

Well darn. There is no hiding anymore. It is the middle of January and I suppose winter had to find us hiding here in Wisconsin eventually. But it doesn't mean I have to like it!

We got about 6" of snow late last week, followed by another inch or two yesterday. Apparently we could get upwards of 8" on Friday! I suppose if one is going to be stuck with winter, you may as well make it worth your while. The dogs do love to play in the snow, after all!

Sub-freezing temperatures have come along with the snow, unfortunately. The dogs do NOT seem to enjoy snow when it is paired with temperatures below 15 degrees. They become weenie little wusses, actually. Yesterday they were pretty pathetic on our walk -- Secret and Luke were wearing blankets, but that was all. Poor Kaiser was naked only because he can't wear his blanket with his harness and I didn't figure he needed it yet.

Well, I was wrong. They were all just in such a sad state. Secret stopped multiple times on our walk to chew the ice balls out of her feet. Luke kept hitching a different leg, as he couldn't decide which foot was more frozen. And poor, poor naked Kaiser looked so sad and cold that I actually picked him up and carried him. Twice.

Enough of that! Today everyone wore blankets AND booties. It was probably close to 20 degrees on our walk, but the wind is pretty cold. While nobody seems overly thrilled about the act of getting dressed, there is no denying that once we get outside they are much, much happier to be dressed for the weather. Everyone was very bouncy and full of themselves on our walk today. I figure it's worth the added effort.

Really, though, when it comes down to it, can you really blame them? I've always found it remarkable that humans expect dogs to be fine in frigid temperatures with no protection. Dogs who live indoors and adapt to our lifestyles aren't any more hardy than we are. Their bodies regulate to the same temperatures as ours (that would be 67 in my house!) and going out into the sub-freezing temperatures (and sub-zero, as we saw this morning and will see tomorrow) is no doubt just as shocking to their system as it is to ours.

I can go outside in the winter wearing a sweater long enough to get something done (take the garbage out, get the mail, etc.). I can even manage in fewer layers of clothing when exerting myself in some fashion, so it is reasonable that a dog should be able to walk or play outside on an average winter day without too much fuss. But when I am dressed as the Michelin Man in order to be comfortable in the elements, I figure they deserve the same consideration -- and I believe they thank me for it. :o)

My little winter weenies were in a sad state last night. Before I even finished shoveling the snow off the rear deck, they were already hiking their feet up and asking to go inside (booties live at the office since I haven't ordered any more to replace the second set that got holes last year). I figured that meant we shouldn't have outdoor play time, so we went down to the basement when everyone started to get squirrely.

I had Secret keep her Back on Track blanket on during her peanut work and holy cow was it interesting to see how much heat her muscles pumped out in that time. The blanket was warm to the touch!

After everyone had their time on the peanut I drug the teeter out and adjusted it to a medium-low height. Remember, it's been darn near a year since Secret has even seen one of them, so I figured I'd better start off low.

Well now I feel bad for not dragging the stupid thing out of the basement and letting them play on it this summer. Kaiser was elated to see it and I couldn't keep him off it. Secret, too, kept charging for it and slamming into her bottom position. Luke could barely get a turn in because every time I sent him towards it one of the others would run onto it and nearly clock him in the chin. So yes.... We will be doing more teeter work in the coming months, but ONE AT A TIME. No better way to turn a dog off a teeter than by getting clocked in the head with one, I'm sure.

I also have to re-duct tape the book to the bottom of my plank, as that has always seemed to be Secret's biggest issue -- having a teeter reset behind her. I will be sure to do that before our next session, which I suppose will be tonight if it's too cold for frisbee.

I am very motivated to get Secret's happy teeter back, which will include getting out and finding other teeters on which to train (which is harder than it sounds around here, unfortunately). I am becoming less enchanted with NADAC each day and really need to buckle down and set a goal date for a USDAA trial -- or hell, even AKC. We just need to try something else.

Once Secret & Kaiser finish their NATCHes, that may be it. We'll see. I just feel I would enjoy one of the other venues more at this point, although I would feel bad if Luke couldn't participate. He qualifies for the Veteran program in USDAA now, but so far as I can tell there isn't an ADCH equivalent for Veterans so I don't know if there is much point. But he could still run, we'll see.

If anyone is curious, it is the recent announcement that the "Video Tape" runs being submitted are earning Q's towards the normal titling program instead of being separated into their own VT award categories. It was one thing when she said that 50% of your Champs Q's could come from VT runs, but I'm sorry, I think it completely degrades the entire organization to allow video tape runs to count towards regular titles. I can set up courses at home and have a 100% Q rate with all three of my dogs. Hello, NATCH 5,294 --- Sorry, but I don't think that is right.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Emotional Support

I have been very thankful for my three dogs over the past week. My grandmother passed away last Monday, with the visitation on Friday and the funeral on Saturday. With so much going on during the week (work, emptying out Grandma's apartment, etc.) it was pretty easy to just keep plowing forward and getting things done. I get this from my mother, I think. She's a very strong woman and has never been one to get overly emotional.

At any rate, I got through the week okay. I only cried a couple of times and on each occasion I immediately had a dog (or two) in my lap as they tried to figure out what was wrong. Secret will usually come over and give one of her worried wiggles when I am in such a state, but Kaiser comes and stands on my lap and gives me a look of sincere worry as he wonders what is making me act so out of character. Often times I just have to laugh at his serious expression, but it's good for lightening the mood. I usually give him a squeeze (which he SO loves...) and feel much better.

Saturday was very, very hard for me. The dogs all hung around me more than usual Saturday morning before I left for the funeral. Their ability to sense these things is amazing. I came home midday to let them outside before going to my aunt's house to take care of some things -- we threw frisbees for a bit and then they all obliged me with good long hugs. I felt much better after having that "dog break."

I was back at the shelter yesterday and found myself having a few emotional moments here and there throughout the day. Somehow I kept gravitating towards the wee itty bitty kittens residing in my intake room and found a great deal of comfort in clasping their little purring bodies to my chest.

As I age, I seem to be becoming a more emotional person -- Or rather, perhaps I am simply becoming more free about expressing my emotions. I feel that having animals in my life has assisted with that change. They are such good teachers, listeners and friends. Despite being surrounded by family & friends, I can't imagine how lonely it would have been without my crew the last week.

My grandma was not an animal person. She wasn't terribly fond of dogs, really didn't like cats at all and didn't see much purpose in having them. That said, she always asked about my dogs and the events we do together because she knew how important it was to me. I will miss her a great deal.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book! Training! Snow....

First things first -- Look what came already! Holy buckets, that seems really fast. I wonder how fast it would arrive if I didn't choose the cheapest shipping/production price? That's why I don't bother. I'm in no hurry to receive it, really, so I'm fine with the one that projects a delivery date almost a month out from purchase. Besides, I ordered this on the 6th and it's already here!

It is very, very pink! lol I know that's what I wanted, but it's an eye-catcher. Perhaps the only thing I would have changed is to go with a more muted shade of pink on the inner pages (don't worry, it's not the same bright pink as the cover -- that would give you a headache!). I did the same thing with the last book, which had a darker purple cover and lighter purple pages, but that turned out a bit lighter. Oh well, it's still plenty readable.

I'm currently reading a Patricia McConnell book, "Love Has No Age Limit" as a bit of homework for the shelter, but once I'm done with that I'll be cracking into Volume 2!

For a few days now they've been blabbering on about a snow storm we were supposed to get, starting last night. I was home for the evening, so I figured I'd better take advantage of it and be sure to get it what is sure to be the last outdoor training session until spring. How often do you get to say that on January 11?

I have seen this front cross drill posted numerous times in numerous places, but I don't believe I've ever actually set it for myself. Rose over at the "Going the Distance" blog posted a video on YouTube the other day of this drill so it was fresh in my mind. I thought it would give us lots of fun stuff to work on with a minimum of set-up time, so I went with that.

Because I am driven by my desire to play with Secret in organizations other than NADAC, I decided to bump her back up to 20" for these exercises to see how she does. I have kept her at 16" for some time, more or less because I felt she was not enjoying herself at the higher heights anymore. Perhaps it was due to her back issues, so I felt it would be good to see where she's at after using her Back on Track coat the last couple of weeks. Whatever the reason, I felt she did very well back at 20"! If we had more time outside I'd actually start to experiment with going a bit higher, but that will just have to wait until spring. I think she could likely handle the 22" Performance class in USDAA, though. We'll see.

Secret wasn't blazing fast through these exercises as she tried to figure out what I was asking -- and since I more or less went into this without a plan, I don't blame her because I, myself, was hesitant! Considering that, I think she did exceptionally well. She stayed happy & playful throughout everything, even when we had to restart exercises because of my mistakes. I rewarded her for EVERYTHING because I figured all errors were my fault. I kept all of our play time (in fast forward!) in the video to show our entire session from start to finish. There is a bit of a blip around the 2:50 mark, you may notice if you watch the video -- There was a five second clip that was corrupting my entire video, so I just pitched it. Don't worry, it wasn't much. :o)

Kaiser did surprisingly well with these exercises! As I've mentioned several times in the past, I managed to install a giant space bubble into Kaiser during his early agility training. Great for distance work, not so great for anything technical. I also rely far too much on vocal cues with him in particular, so after listing to a podcast by Daisy Peel yesterday, I made it my goal for all three dogs to keep my darn mouth shut. Kaiser started out by doing what he always does and totally ignored my body cues, but once he figured out I wasn't saying anything he started to really pay attention! By the end of his session he was doing multiple threadles in a row without popping a vein in his brain! I'm terribly pleased with him.

Poor Luke. This is not his cup of tea, but he still tries hard! It helps that I keep the jumps at 8" for him so that he at least doesn't hurt himself, but he still barges ahead like a freight train and turns like a yacht. :o) Actually, his wraps are really coming along better than I figured they would at this stage in his training (or lack thereof). I tried for a threadle at the end and just laughed at the result and gave up. There is no point in pushing the old man so far out of his comfort zone, so I let him end with a bit of distance play.

I'm very glad we got this training in last night. We have something like 3"-4" of snow out there now, I believe. It's hard to tell because it's blowing around and still coming down lightly. Blah. I figured we probably wouldn't get through winter without any snow, but a girl can always dream, right?

So.... I suppose now it's time to start playing in the basement!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What we did on January 6

This is the BEST WINTER EVER. I don't care if people are screaming "global warming!" from their rooftops, I would be pleased as punch to never see snow again in my lifetime.

While I'm sure that won't happen, I can at least take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather we are currently experiencing in Wisconsin. It hit 50 degrees again this past Friday, so I skedaddled home from work a bit early so that I would have enough sunlight to set & run a course with the dogs.

My options are limited due to the contacts being packed away for the winter -- well, EVERYTHING is packed away right now, but everything else is "easier" to bring out. I was looking for something that wouldn't require too much set-up time but that would offer us some fun & unique challenges (ie: more challenging than a NADAC Jumpers course). I went to the agility course maps web site that afternoon and found a really fun UKI Jumpers course!

This is the "Champion" version of the course, which I believe is more or less the "open" division of UKI. The Novice or Starters course, whatever they call it in that organization, was exactly the same course but minus a few of the wraps in the middle. I decided to suck it up and go for the harder course. The level above Champion wasn't posted on the site -- I'd be scared to see it. :o)

The dogs did far better than I anticipated! There were all sorts of challenges that we don't see very often, starting with the threadle at the start of the course. By the way, does anyone else have problems noticing threadles on course maps? My brain just doesn't catch them right away and when I originally printed the course out I saw a wrap at jump three, not a push through/threadle. Thankfully I did finally realize it while building, so I did mange to run the course as printed. I used hoops at numbers one and five because I ran out of jumps, but otherwise I tried to set the course as true as I could, knowing that jumps add to the difficulty of many of the questions posed.

Secret rocked it out! She was just lit up from the get-go and really seemed to enjoy herself. Her first few weave poles were out of this world -- at least compared to what you see from her at trials. She stayed happy and enthusiastic through several repetitions of the course! So long as I supported her path and handled it halfway decently, she did impressively well. Of course I have to wonder if her Back on Track blanket is helping her back issues and she performed better as a result. I suppose the true test will be at her next trial -- I'm really waiting to see if I notice a difference in her weaves in that environment.

I didn't come out of Secret's session with a very long list of homework. It wouldn't hurt to revisit some call to heel exercises, as both of us had a bit of a brain fart about how threadles work. She only back-jumped on a wrap once or twice, so I wasn't too concerned about that. Otherwise the only problems we had were when I got a bit lazy or sloppy in my handling. I was thrilled with how she drove down the final line time and time again -- she was hauling!

I even managed to get it on video! Yeah, I had to set the camera on the fence post again and we are ants, but it didn't turn out too horribly.

The boys played as well, of course. Kaiser has gigantic space bubble issues thanks to me being entirely NADAC focused with him during his foundation training. Everything he was taught was centered on distance. As a result, he doesn't do "tight" work very well, or like me stepping into his space. Considering that, I thought he did quite well. Our biggest issue was the tunnel after the weave poles and then, of course, his classic back-jump-instead-of-wrap problem. He got it together by the end, though, and did quite well. One thing I love about Kaiser is his can-do attitude. Even when something goes wrong, he is very good about coming back and trying again. He didn't always used to be like that!

I am not about to worry about teaching new skills to Luke, who recently turned eight years old. Luke is a NADAC dog and will always be a NADAC dog. He is not built for tight courses, but this is what was set and he wanted to play, so I figured I'd at least give him a shot. I work Luke at 8" at home to try to save his body (he runs so hard that it is easy for him to hurt himself!!). The big guy surprised me and had some impressively tight wraps and even did well with the threadle! He's such a fun guy to run.

We have at least a few more days of warm temperatures ahead, so hopefully there will be more opportunities to continue to train outside. I'm not one to tempt fate, however, so I have been schlepping all of my equipment in and out of the garage as it is used. I figure the first time I try to leave anything outside we will get dumped with a freak blizzard out of nowhere or something. It's a pain and a hassle, but it's worth it!

Look at what Secret gave me this morning. It's even prettier now that it's becoming colorful. Oh yes, it is one heck of a shiner!

Secret can occasionally be a putz about jumping into the car when she's wearing her Back on Track blanket. I don't know why, because she's shown that she is perfectly capable of getting in there on her own. Last week she was being lazy, so I assisted her in the same way I do Luke (guide her front end up and then hoist the butt). This morning she was just standing there again like she expected some assistance, so I leaned over and put a hand under her chest for the first part -- and then out of the blue she sprung up and just walloped me right on the temple with the bony part of her head.

I immediately grabbed my eye and started to let out a stream of cuss words, mostly aimed at Secret (although granted, it really wasn't her fault!). I got Kaiser in the car and then went into the house to check the damage. Considering how bad it hurt, I figured there must be something to look at.

And there was. It blew up INSTANTLY. I filled a ziplock bag with ice and held it to my eye the entire drive in to work -- that was fun. This photo was taken after a good thirty minutes of icing and I kept ice on it for about another hour. It didn't help! I finally took some ibuprofen around 10:00 to help with the throbbing and the headache improved at that point. Now the only annoyance is that I don't have any peripheral vision to the left due to a giant lump being in the way.

So thanks a bunch, Secret. Let's try to be a bit more careful in the future!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another year, another book!

Considering this is technically the first post of the year (the last one was about a trial that occurred in 2011, so I count that as last year!), I was loathe to make it about the darn book -- But alas, I don't really have anything else to talk about at the moment, so the first post in the next book will be -- about the book! lol

Volume Two of our "blog-to-book" series is currently in production! I spent all day working on it yesterday and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Since I went with purple for Volume 1, I felt it was almost required to go with PINK for Volume 2. :o) Oh my, where will I go for Volume 3??

Despite having six fewer posts in 2011 than I did in 2010, this book actually ended up being 12 pages longer than the last (164 pages to 152)! I believe that's due to me taking a bazillion more pictures in the last year, though. You know, those ribbon pictures really add up! My posts from Championships were also epically long, so that more than made up for it, I guess.

I am finally almost through with reading Volume 1 and have only a handful of pages to go. It has been so much fun to look back on that first year and I am equally as excited to be able to sit down and read through our adventures of the last year. Again, if anyone else is interested in doing the same thing, be sure to head on over to to make a book of your very own!

Being the first post of the new year, one is inclined to sit down and create some goals. If there is one thing I've ever really, truly sucked at it is having goals. I'm more inclined to just float all willy-nilly through life without a clearly defined path. While I am satisfied with where this has taken me (well, more or less), I do know that I'd probably be more successful if I sat down and actually came up with goals.

So here I sit, thinking.... I don't really HAVE any big goals for the year. Due to financial reasons, I can't really commit to or set a goal to attend any National events this year. NADAC Championships is going to be held in Utah this year, which is a 24 hour drive for us! I know I am not capable of that, so it is not even on my horizon for possible goals. And while we aren't competing in USDAA at this time, even their National event is out in Colorado, which isn't attainable, either.

That would bring us to local goals, then, I guess. Obviously a goal for Secret this year would be to get her first NATCH. She's really not all that far off from it at this point (the nine Chances Q's are going to be the hardest, obviously). Once we reach that goal I suppose I will have to reassess and see where we're at. I still would like to branch out and do other organizations with Secret, but I just don't see how feasible that is right now. It's hard to start from the beginning! And, well, Secret hasn't been on a teeter for a year now. Oh my.... How did I let that happen??

I would like to continue to increase Secret's speed at trials. The number I always have in my head is 6.0 yps. I would love for her to knock out Jumpers & Tunnelers courses at that speed, at the very least. We'll just keep plugging away at upping the speed & motivation factors. In a somewhat related vein, I would REALLY love for her to play at trials. We've come so far with regard to upping the value of toys at home, but Secret is still very much a foodie at trials. I would like to get her tugging more and not relying so much on treats in the trial environment. I feel this would be a large factor in getting more speed out of her as well.

On a personal level, I would really, really love to dig myself out of debt. Sadly, the only thing I can really cut out of my life is agility trials. :o( So.... I will probably end up doing fewer trials this year and traveling less. That is fairly depressing, considering how much I cut back last year. Oh well, you do what you have to do. I am still waiting for my sugar daddy to arrive -- if you find him, please send him my way! lol

Meanwhile, we are having record breaking temperatures here in Wisconsin -- and for once, it's to the GOOD side of the thermometer! Yesterday we actually hit 53 whopping degrees, but sadly I had to work at the shelter last night and couldn't set a course or otherwise take advantage of the nice weather. It looks pretty nice outside at the moment and we will be leaving shortly to go for a walk, so I look forward to soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the lovely winter we are having. It makes life so much less depressing to have sun & warmth this time of the year! I have hit the December entries of my first book and it was SO MISERABLE last year. I will take this weather any time, even if it does point to global warming. ;o)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Wrap-Up!

We finished up 2011 with a bang! My alarm went off at the dreadful time of 3:45 a.m. on Saturday, December 31 --- But it ended up to be worth it, as all three dogs put in a fantastic day at the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club's annual New Years Eve NADAC trial.

Unfortunately I didn't get much on video due to camera issues. Secret put in a really beautiful run in Regular 2 -- I didn't even enter anyone in Round 1 because I didn't want to be stressed out about getting there, setting up and walking the course. Secret was our only Q in that round thanks to Luke taking the tunnel under the dog walk right at the start (what is WITH him in that scenario???) and Kaiser missed his dog walk contact, but otherwise had a lovely run.

The entire time I was waiting to run the three dogs in Regular, the course walk and subsequent running of Elite Chances was going on in the other ring. Due to how my dogs were spaced out, there was just no way I could get over there for either of the split walk-throughs that they ended up having. They were going to have a third walk-through, but at that point there were only about five dogs left to run in the class -- three of which were mine. I opted to just grab Luke and run him without walking the course. It really wasn't a difficult Chances course and it played well to our strengths.

Luke did great! He earned his NATCH 3! Pretty much the entire reason for getting up at an ungodly hour to enter a single day at this trial.

They did do another walk-through following Luke's run, but I figured there wasn't much point in walking it by then. So instead I grabbed Kaiser and let him have his shot -- I was so happy to have a course without a dog walk! I picked the right day, too, because not only did the course on Sunday have a dog walk, but the course in general appeared far more difficult on the videos I was able to watch. So thanks to this nice course, Kaiser is only 5 Q's away from his first NATCH! And thanks to a kind judge, and perhaps because I happened to block the view or something, Kaiser even got another Q in Touch-n-Go!

Secret ended up with a perfect day with Q's in Jumpers & Touch-n-Go as well. Her run in TNG was pretty lack-luster at the end of a long day, but her jumpers run was quite nice. She actually managed to come in 0.39 seconds FASTER than Luke for a change! She came in 2nd of 8 in her class, so that's pretty good for her.

As I mentioned, I unfortunately didn't get much on tape due to some camera issues (it got knocked into Night Shot mode, so everything is blurry) and the crazy two-ring schedule -- But I did get everyone's Chances run on video:

Luke's Chances run is in that video, but I figured he also deserves a NATCH 3 video of his very own!

My friend, Karen, got a couple of runs on her camera. I hate trying to figure out how to download & format them properly off YouTube, so I'll just embed the links. She got Luke's Jumpers run and Secret's Touch-n-Go run.

So with that, we bring 2011 to a close. It has been a pretty spectacular year for Secret! She has come so far since her first trial in February. I looked back and added up that she had a total of 25 days of trialing under her belt for the year, plus her experience at NADAC Championships. She wracked up a total of 87 Qualifying runs and is at 865 Lifetime points in NADAC already. For her NATCH, she needs only one more Regular Q, five more Jumpers Q's and nine more Chances Q's -- And she hasn't even been doing this for a year yet. She's doing awesome.

I can't wait to see what 2012 brings for us!

Back on Track

Secret got a belated Christmas present at the trial this weekend (post to follow -- working on video!). Our favorite vendor, Best for Pets, always manages to get exactly the items I'm interested in exactly when I tend to need them. Darn them for making me spend money every time I see them....

I've been looking at the Back on Track coats for Secret for a while now. There has been discussion of them on various agility lists and the people who use these products tend to swear by them. I have been wondering if one of these jackets might help Secret with her multitude of back sensitivities. The main reason I have put off ordering one (aside from the expense...) is that they come in a bazillion different sizes and I had no idea which would be best for Secret.

When I saw that Jason & Natalie had them in stock at their booth this weekend, I could hardly pass up the opportunity to bring Secret over for a sizing. We started out with the 63cm and it was much too large. The 55 was a bit small, which brought us to the 59 -- and it was perfect! It looked so nice on Secret and the price was the same as online, so I decided that I may as well support Best for Pets and buy it from them.

I've been letting Secret get used to it the last couple of days. I've had her wear it out in the yard while I pick up poo and have been putting it on her following play sessions to keep her muscles warm. Today she will wear it while we go for a walk, as the published information says it actually has the most benefit while the animal is in motion because there is more heat to reflect back into the muscles. It doesn't hurt that it's our coldest day of the season today, so she probably won't mind the extra warmth. It will be interesting to see if we notice a difference after a few weeks.

So.... Joe is gone. :o( His new owner came to the agility trial Saturday morning to pick him up. She brought her dog along and she seemed okay with Joe right off the bat, so we don't expect there to be any problems. I got a report on Sunday and it sounds like he was being his usual perfect puppy self, so it looks like he's a keeper.

I knew it wasn't going to be easy to let him go, but it hit me harder than I expected. I said my goodbyes Friday night during our final cuddle on the couch. Figuring I got it out of my system, I actually did okay when it was time to say farewell on Saturday. What I didn't expect was to completely lose it when I got home and had to put away all of his things (dishes, crates, etc.).

I'm doing better now, but I do still miss the little guy. He was such a good puppy. I've already been asked if I would like to take in another one -- a 6 month old cattle dog cross who is pretty shy & reserved -- but I had to pass for now. My parents are going on vacation the last half of January and I'll have Lexie for that time, which includes a trial weekend in La Crosse. I'd be overtaxing myself to take on another one right away. I also feel that I'd like to stick to border collies and younger puppies. My dogs seem to accept them better if they are younger (okay, that only applies to Kaiser!) and if they are under 5 months I can technically avoid any legal hassles with the stupid limit laws in my area. Not that I care, but it's easier to explain to the shelter, were they to ask. :o)

So there you go -- I'm not a foster failure. This time.