Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Secret is now "official." We received her Performance Dog certificate in the mail along with her P1 Gamblers and P1 Standard titles. I think it's humorous that I get so excited over Starters titles on a dog that nearly has her NATCH, but it is what it is. I'm sure I'll be equally excited when Kaiser earns his first USDAA titles (which sadly has yet to happen....).
I've gone a week without updating my blog because there really isn't much to update. The poor dogs are settling in to their new boring lifestyle. I am so not digging the routine of leaving them for five days during the week only to leave them on the weekends, too. :o( I just feel terribly guilty about the whole thing and feel bad that I pretty much see my dogs four hours a day, seven days a week. It's making the decision to cut down to one job much easier, I'll put it that way..... I haven't made any official statement, but I do think I have to do it or I'll go crazy. The new job is a lot more mentally taxing than my position with the family business was, so I think I've reached the point where I *need* a weekend. And thankfully my new job puts me in a position where this is actually possible.
I figure I should commit to the published September schedule -- which hopefully won't be too bad since I'm off this weekend and then again on the 15th/16th for the NADAC trial in La Crosse. That two week stretch after that is going to blow, though, and I hardly feel like I can ask off the first weekend in October because I'm off the two weekends after that. So yes, the end of September does seem like the best timing. The shelter has put out word that they are hiring another part time weekend/evening caregiver, so hopefully that happens soon so that I don't have to feel too guilty. I'm going to feel bad enough leaving the great group of people that I've gotten to know over the last two years. I can't tell you, though, how awesome it will be to have weekends again.
Speaking of weekends, we are off to Minnesota this weekend! Yay!! Of course, though, wouldn't you know that the weather report kind of stinks. After being blessed with lovely, cooler weather the last couple of weeks, we are on our way back up. The forecast for this weekend is back in the 90's, currently with a chance of storms on Sunday. Figures. It's the only outdoor trial(s) I sign up for this entire year. Oh well, it is what it is. We'll just try to stay cool and have fun. :o) It's better than working, right?!
Crappy news of the day -- Someone broke into my car at work today. :o( The only thing of "value" in my car is a crappy super old Garmin that takes me 10 minutes to get plugged in because the connectors are worn out. So of course that's what they took, along with the super annoying electronics splicer that glows bright blue and gives me a headache when it's dark outside. They left the window hanger suction cup (which they had to physically remove, so I don't get it) and didn't take my phone car charger, my CDs or my nifty digital tire pressure gauge (yay, I love that thing). Losers. Guess that's what I get for leaving my windows cracked in a parking ramp. It could surely be worse, but it kind of blows to lose my Garmin right before a trip up to the Cities. Thank goodness my dad has several (for whatever reason) and I can borrow one of his. But seriously, people suck.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Looking at her ear set in this photo, maybe it's not so bad that Secret didn't end up with prick ears. lol
Tonight when I got home from work (!!) I set up the video camera to try to catch Secret's progress with her speed work through the weaves. As is customary when I set up the camera for this sort of thing, I inevitably ended up pushing her to go too long and this shows in her footwork. The first few repetitions were super awesome and after that she starts to do some funky things. I used the half-time feature to slow it down and study this. I'm not worried about it -- I think it's a combination of getting tired and still figuring out this footwork thing. Like I said before, she didn't used to really single step on closed poles AT ALL --- so the fact that she's offering it at all is a huge bonus. :o)
Five hours later, the video is finally done processing....
My first day of work went well! It will be interesting to see what happens when I actually get to start, you know, working. ;o)
Sunday, August 19, 2012
What else has happened? Well, Wes (and Lexie) came by for half the day on Friday while my parents made a trip down to Madison. Secret decided to claim him straight away that morning, which was to Wes' benefit as it kept Kaiser away from him. Secret had to go and get distracted by playing with Luke, though, which left poor Wes wide open to an "attack" from Kaiser. Kaiser then got to spend some time in a crate and in his harness with a leash on. Everyone does really well in the house, but Kaiser is just the play police outside and pounces on Wes when he starts getting playful. We went through the same thing with Lexie, so hopefully it will pass quickly. Secret thinks he's a pretty fun play thing, but Wes isn't so thrilled with the way Secret bats at her playmates. lol
What else. OH YES. ;o) I got a job! A real, honest-to-goodness professional-type job. The only downside is that it requires that I drive all the way to downtown La Crosse every day (about 45 minutes in decent traffic), but the upsides far outweigh that. One upside would be the offer they made me -- an offer that should allow me to eventually cut back to ONE JOB in the near future, should I choose to do so. Either way, I'm cutting back on hours at the Humane Society. I won't be able to do the weeknight shifts any longer and I hope to cut back to only about two weekends per month, max. I figure I should continue to work myself to the bone for a bit longer to try to get some bills paid off.
But now it's time to celebrate! And how do I celebrate? By spending copious amounts of money.... Aside from all the money I've been giving to Goodwill lately to build up a semi-professional wardrobe (shelter shirts won't cut it!), I've decided to splurge and add a day of fun to my Labor Day weekend trial trip to the Cities. It's too late to add Saturday to my USDAA entries that weekend, but it's not too late to enter a NADAC trial in Burnsville. Because I am not any definition of responsible, the entries are in an envelope next to me and the hotel room is booked!
This should be interesting, going from NADAC on Saturday to USDAA on Sunday. I don't think Secret will have a problem going from 16" to 22" one day to the next, but I do worry a bit about Kaiser going from 8" to 12" with his jumping issues. Both trials are outdoors on grass -- another negative, as I don't really want to set up my tent and take it down two days in a row. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to crate out of the car. Luke will enjoy getting to come along to play, and hopefully he'll be fine with sitting it out on Sunday since he gets four runs on Saturday.
Either way, I'm totally looking forward to a full weekend of agility playing in both organizations! :o)
A big life change for the dogs starts tomorrow. I've been home with them for two weeks now, but starting tomorrow morning they are on their own for full days seven days a week. Poor dogs. I see lots and lots of ball & frisbee play in their future.... And Kongs; they will be happy to see those return.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Yes, I have remained hardcore in my persistence to bring Secret's speed (which I *know* she has when chasing after frisbees and balls) into her agility life. In doing so, one thing has become abundantly clear. Secret doesn't know how to make her body do these things at speed. It's practically like starting at square one.
The other night the exercise was simple -- A lightly curved tunnel leading into a straight line of two jumps set at 22" and spaced roughly 15' or so. At extension, it was an easy bounce for Secret, if not slightly cramped. In addition, the first jump was located only about 15'-17' from the tunnel, so she had to be aware and on her toes when she came blasting out looking for her ball.
That second jump in the bounce required a fair bit of effort and oomph to snap up in time -- So much so that Secret quite frequently tried the option of running past it. We worked through this issue, but it reared its ugly head the next night when I decided to throw TURNS into the equation. I set up a jump on a ninety-degree turn into the set of two jumps and you would have thought keeping her line to the last jump was darn near impossible for as many tries as it took. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was to slow her down to get it, but after enough repetitions she began to throw in a short stride between the jumps anyhow. But still today, this whole turning and jumping while running fast is obviously pretty new stuff for her. Training Fail.
Today I also dragged all 12 weaves out into the yard to focus on good speed and footwork through the long set. We had a little less single stepping than we experienced with the six poles, but she was still driving nicely through (only leaving early once). I am trying very, very hard to keep play sessions short so that I don't have to resort to rewarding less than speedy performances. Today we went out twice -- Once for her (now broken) Jolly Ball and the second time for her frisbee. I imagine tomorrow will be more of the same, although I will alter the set-up some to focus on this turning issue.
She has knocked a few bars in her rush, but I believe this to be a GOOD THING. Historically, knocking a bar horrifies Secret and sets her back on her butt, slowing her down even more. At this stage of things, I wouldn't mind a few knocked bars here and there if it was for the greater good. I have no delusions of Secret turning into the next Zing (a *super* fast border collie that is pretty darn amazing), but I sure would be happy to see her run in true extension at a trial every now and then.
Friday, August 10, 2012
With the cooler weather that has blessed us with its presence (yesterday was a high of 69, today has been mid 70's), the dogs are definitely overflowing with energy. Kaiser and Secret spend a huge majority of their waking hours running around outside together -- more than I can ever recall in the past! Secret's rise in energy has also been increasing her naughty, naughty habit of digging....
So I figured we may as well put that energy to good use and train again today. I know, two days in a row, isn't it crazy!
I left the jumps up from yesterday in the event that we'd be able to continue on with the drill today. Instead of the tunnel, though (which always gets removed because Mr. Peabody can't help but relieve himself on them), I opted to go with the suggestion at the end of the Backyard Dogs (Clean Run, July 2012) drill that said to try replacing the tunnel with a set of weave poles to up the difficulty.
Since we did 1-3 yesterday, I opted to keep it simple and continue on with 4-6 today. They were fun yet challenging exercises that really worked our weave entries at times. I was very happy with how well Secret kept up her energy level with all that weaving -- although you can tell in the video that she starts to wane towards the end, which is likely more related to my own exhaustion levels than her own. Considering how much free time I have right now I should start running. Or something. Yeah, I've been home all week and my house isn't even clean. Ha!
I included some weaving clips at the end of the video to prove that --WOW -- Secret is actually capable of single-stepping her weave poles. Actually, I was surprised to see just how much she was single-stepping. She always weaves faster at home than at trials, but she's been pretty set in her hopping ways from day one. Not entirely sure where all the single-step action came from, but I'm happy to see it. Now if ONLY we could see this kind of drive at trials. Like, ever.
I return to the working world this weekend at the shelter. I imagine the dogs will be happy to be rid of me for a couple of days. :o)
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Happy, Happy Day to Secret! Today she turns three years old! (Based on the day I chose to celebrate her birthday, at least!)
Last night I whipped up a batch of pumpkin, yogurt, banana & peanut butter frozen treats -- Topped with leftover chicken from our trial. Mmmmm. The dogs were drooling all over the place when I popped these babies into the freezer. They got a pre-birthday treat when they got to lick the bowl.
By the way, I skipped the Dixie cups this time because they made for an awfully small treat and the dogs just ate the paper cup. I greased the muffin tins, but holy heck those things still don't come out all that easy... Just a word of warning in case you decide to do this yourself. Some pop right out, others make you curse and throw stuff at the wall.
Secret enjoyed her birthday, although the weather has not cooperated at all. I wanted to take the troupe out for a nice walk on the bike trail today but it has been raining ALL DAY. Don't get me wrong, we need the rain, but it has kept us stuck inside the majority of the day.
We did get to go play outside for a bit when my mom stopped by with Wes & Lexie to show off Wes' new Westie-do. He looks so much better now! No more bushy ears or horrendous bushy tail! Secret did better with him today; Kaiser was still a turd and was kept on leash.
The grass was still a little wet, which meant I was running conservatively -- which means, yup, so was Secret. Oh well. She was her usual steady self and only screwed up when I did. Enjoy the little birthday party at the end of her video. :o)
I have continued with the mission of combining play time with some aspect of training. Yesterday I brought out six weave poles and combined it with frisbee time. Great energy, great speed, great enthusiasm! It was nice to see. Even more awesome was that I could set her up between my legs and send her forward into the weaves by herself. Rock on, Secret! Let's continue to tap into that enthusiasm.
The boys played today, too, of course -- Here's their video:
Oh! I decided to enter one day of the USDAA trial in Lake Elmo over Labor Day weekend. It's outside..... I'd kind of sworn off outdoor trials because of the horrible weather this year, but I really want to do it as sort of a comparison. Secret has only done one trial outside -- it was right when she first started, it was three NADAC games classes and it was storming outside. I'd like to see where she's at now and if she runs any more like she does at home. I also decided to enter Kaiser for the same reason, to see if he jumps any better outside vs. inside. We are going on Sunday, when they will both run a full slate of baby classes (minus putting Kaiser in P1 Pairs because he doesn't need it). No Tournament classes this time -- we need to just work on the basic titles right now!
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
For dogs who find agility itself highly motivating this is surely not an issue. I have not worried about a lack of agility training this summer because the dogs are more or less "trained" to the point where we don't need to drill, drill, drill. Where I have failed, however, is to continue finding ways to link Secret's ever growing crazy toy drive to the agility equipment.
While it has been a hot, hot summer, I guarantee you there has been plenty of ball and frisbee play going on in our backyard. It has more or less been out of sheer laziness that I have failed to connect this fun time to agility training.
If I wish for my dog to show more speed on the agility course, I need to continue to work on building that speed -- not just wish for it to magically show itself one day (although you have to admit, that sure would be nice).
So tonight I set up the dreaded S-shaped tunnel and Secret had to run through it (with speed) every time she wished to chase her ball. The S-shaped tunnel wasn't so bad when there was a tennis ball attached to its performance, imagine that.
Now if only I could get my hands on a 20' tunnel to work on that issue -- although today (again in one of my many moments of free time) I watched video from our last NADAC trial and Secret didn't trot through THOSE 20' tunnels...
Going forward I need to make the commitment to cut way back on the "free play time" every day and instead try to once again put forth the effort to connect play to agility with the goal of building more value into the equipment itself. We used to do this a lot, I simply got lazy. This goes double for the weave poles, which haven't come out of the garage in ages....
Monday, August 6, 2012
Can you even BELIEVE it?!?! Well okay, maybe some would say that it shouldn't come as that big of a surprise. After all, considering that one of the tires in this particular set already blew on me, it should be considered highly plausible that it could happen again. That would be why I *was* planning to replace the two remaining old tires eventually -- likely at my next oil change. I just had an oil change on Thursday before our trip and my tires checked out a-okay, so it's not like I thought I had anything worry about.
We left home at 6:00 a.m. We had just over three hours to travel on our trip to the Chicago Regionals in Crystal Lake, IL. There were a million team Jumpers runs in our ring to start the day, so I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of getting there between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m.
Very much unlike the last blown tire scenario where, looking back, I had a LOT of warning that there was something going wrong, this time it just was gone in an instant. ONCE AGAIN I was incredibly, incredibly lucky. I was traveling at just under 75 mph when I heard the loud roaring noise coming from my back end accompanied by some shaking (although not nearly as bad as last time when it was on the front). I was able to quickly and safely pull over to the side of the road. The time was nearly exactly the same as last time -- 6:48 a.m. -- although this time I wasn't nearly as far from home and was stuck along the freeway near New Lisbon.
Long story short, I called AAA, waited OVER AN HOUR for our tow truck driver to arrive (he was a nice guy, but not comparable to the last one we had), then found out that *nobody* nearby had our size tire in stock. I have to give the tow driver kudos here because he did call everyone he knew to check before settling on Walmart -- 30 miles down the road in Wisconsin Dells. Our AAA account only covers the first 5 miles of towing. The rest was on me at $3.50 per mile. Yay for a $70 tow bill.
Walmart was cool, though. They welcomed the dogs inside and even offered water if we needed it (I had my own in the car). I had them just put two tires on the back to get it over with. The last thing I needed was to worry that the final crappy tire would blow on our trip. Their prices weren't unreasonable, but unfortunately they were pretty backed up that day and we waited. And waited. And waited. When Kaiser assumes the position in the above picture, you know we were stuck there a while.... I was very proud when the manager complimented the behavior of my dogs when we checked out!!
All told, our little side adventure put us about FIVE HOURS behind schedule. I figured all hope was completely lost for us making it to the sports center in time for our runs. I finally was able to get hold of a friend at the event and he took care of moving us from group A to group B just in case a miracle occurred, but I still had two hours of driving ahead of me and wasn't going to hold my breath.
When I was about 40 minutes out my friend called me back and said he thought I'd probably make it in plenty of time to run in Group B. The Performance dogs were *just* starting to run in Group A at that time. No, I wouldn't get to walk the course, but we would be able to run in the other group if we got there in time.
Group A was finishing up as I walked through the door with my crates. I'd parked as near to the doors as I could and left the dogs in the car with the air running (it was mid-90's again, of course!). I was able to take the time while they reset bars and put spreads back in for Championship dogs to familiarize myself with the layout of the course one time. I'd had a chance to look at the course map that USDAA had posted online earlier in the day, so at least I had some idea of where I was going.
The dogs had already had quite the day, so I didn't know what to expect. Secret was up first and she was ready to go! Lots of barking and she acted like she really wanted to play. I'm very happy with her run! Unfortunately only the last few obstacles made it on film... But oh well. It was a very good run!
They were having a technical issue with the computer that was delaying results. They started to write results out by hand and I was disappointed to see that Secret's clean run didn't make it into the Finals. I decided to stick around to wait for the full results to be posted so that I could see how close she was time-wise to making it. There was a huge storm going on outside by that point, so we were stuck there anyhow.
When the results were posted, there was just a blank space by Secret's name. Uhhhh... We were there! We ran it! We should have a time! I went to the score table and they started digging through piles to try to find her slip. Switching groups likely was a large part of the issue, but Kaiser's slip was in there.... FINALLY they found it. They input her information into the computer and did another printout. I held my breath, still not knowing if she'd been fast enough.
Tenth place! She squeaked in! She ended up two or three seconds faster than the qualifying cut-off, so YAY for Secret! She got her 2nd Tournament Q and got into the PSJ at a Regional event. I was very proud of her.
Kaiser, oh Kaiser. Kaiser was having a wonderful warm-up. I don't usually spend much time at the warm-up jump, but I decided to send him over it a few times to get him going after our long day and to remind him that the jumps were taller here. He was jumping just lovely and giving me really great lead-outs (which I wanted for this course!). Then all of the sudden he crashed the bar. :o( I knew that was the end of any good jumping performance for him for the weekend. He just completely shuts down after he crashes a bar.
He crashed the first bar on his PSJ run. There was a lot of stuttering and wonky jumping throughout the run. Then he skirted around the side of the first a-frame and came back to me through the tunnel, earning himself a whistle from the judge. As he came over the a-frame the judge made me laugh by saying, "But he sure is cute!" Yes, that he is.
That night the dogs totally crashed at the hotel. We stayed at a La Quinta a good half hour away from the trial site. It was a nice place, though, and worth the drive. No food anywhere nearby, unfortunately, so we waited almost an hour for a pizza to be delivered.... I didn't feel like going anywhere else after our very, very long day.
Sunday started with a P2 Gamblers run for Secret. She had a magnificent opening. We went for back-to-back a-frames in the opening (the 5 point obstacle) and even did TWO teeters before the whistle sounded. The joker was to send out to a tunnel under the a-frame and I set her up at a very bad angle. Secret stood there and barked at me while I tried to redirect her out to the tunnel. Just before the buzzer went off she offered me the chute instead. Oh well.
Because of how the judging assignments worked out, P2 Standard was up next (instead of running P1 Gamblers as you traditionally would). During the course walk I just could not come up with a solid plan for how I was going to handle the sequence from the table through the tire to the tunnel. This bit me in the butt during our run, as Secret read my hesitancy and refused the tire. This put me in a bad position and she ended up going in the wrong end of the tunnel. After that she got to the top of the dog walk ramp and then turned around and jumped off! What the heck?! The run was already a NQ and we weren't going to see any more dog walks that day, so I decided to just finish the run without fixing the dog walk. I have no idea what that was about and didn't want to stress her out before her PSJ Finals run. I think all of my shouting, "Out! Tunnel!" during Gamblers is part of what caused her stressing during Standard anyhow.
Kaiser's P1 Gamblers run was next. We had a judge in training for all of the P1 classes and I think Kaiser just ended up waiting way too long before his runs. He was the first or second dog on the line so we had to be there, but because of all of the training/mentoring stuff going on between the judges it just took forever. Kaiser doesn't wait well. I don't think the judge called our points correctly and I don't think she gave him credit for the a-frame, but by my count we still would have only had 14 of the 15 required points in the opening (we were credited with 6 points). We would have been better off without Kaiser's spectacular flyoff on the teeter, which I then took the time to correct so that he would stick it in Standard. The buzzer went off while he was on the teeter. He did the joker easily, finally managing to not knock a bar in the gamble. Figures.
Secret was up next in her PSJ run. I tried to get her as jazzed up as I could. Following that Standard run, I just didn't know what to expect. It was about as motivating as I could hope for -- The only tunnel on course was just a straight cannon shot. It was long (she has this thing against 20' tunnels...), but I hoped that since she could see the end it wouldn't shut her down. The weave entry was a little demotivating, requiring pretty strong management to avoid an off course. Secret ran the course clean and aside from weaving pretty slowly I was quite happy with her run!
And then the depression sunk in. When one runs a slow(er) dog, going to a Regional USDAA event is not the place to compare your dog to others. The dog that won the P22" class was a full ten seconds faster than Secret. Several dogs placed ahead of us with a fault or bobble. Secret ended up in 7th place of 10 dogs thanks to two E's and one dog who's bar put their total time past ours.
I admit, I was bummed. I was not going for a Regional Bye here -- Let's be serious. I have no plans to go to Cynosport. I thought it would be fun to take home a little bit of cash, though, and my hopes were high with a clean run that had decent speed -- for Secret. I believe she was like three or four seconds over the cut-off for payouts. It was just depressing. It didn't help when my friend kept telling me she has to run faster. Uhh.... Have I not spent HER ENTIRE LIFE attempting to achieve that goal? She has come SO FAR in the last year. Like I said, I was *very happy* with that run when we came off the course. It was just deflating to see her time so far out of the rest of the pack.
But whatever. It is what it is.
Kaiser's P1 Standard run was a disaster. He just needs one more Q to finish his title and my hopes were high on this pretty simple course. It was downhill from the start. The a-frame was the second obstacle on the course and he ran around it. I got him back and he did it, only to run around the next jump and take it from behind. He did do the teeter next, followed by a jump to a tunnel. I didn't support his weaves at all and he entered at the third pole, which I didn't bother to correct. I think he by-passed the next jump to the table, where I was hoping we could regroup. Then he ran past the tire to the tunnel and then ran right past the dog walk. I figured we'd had enough by that point and I picked him up and carried him out of the ring.
I was more or less planning to scratch him from his P1 Jumpers run at that point. He was miserable, I was miserable, why not just cut our losses and go home? I despise that attitude, though. It was a short, fairly simple course that I knew he should be able to do in his sleep, though, so I decided to push through. I spent the entire EXTRAORDINARILY LONG TIME waiting for our run playing with him, sitting on the floor asking him to do tricks. The goal was to stay connected with him, keep him relaxed and not stressing on everything around him. Well, apparently it worked. He went in and had a great run! There were still a few wonky jumps and stutter stepping, but he was playing with me and having a good time. I was glad that we stuck it out and were able to end on a good run. Of course, neither of the Jumpers runs made it on video...
Secret's P2 Jumpers was not super speedy, but she was her usual steady self and didn't put a foot wrong. She got her 2nd P2 Jumpers Q with a first place (thanks to the other dog getting 25 faults) and was something like 8 or 10 seconds under time. One more Q and we get to play in Masters/P3!
And that, in a nutshell, was our trip to USDAA Regionals. We made it home without mishap, although I am now paranoid about driving anywhere and believe that my car will fall apart at any given moment.
Today all of the dogs came with me to my parent's house where I ran the final payroll for Coulee Region Enterprises -- Our family business where I have been employed for over 14 years. It's all done now. The good news is that I heard from Kaplan today and there are still opportunities to consider there (although it sounds like they went with someone else for the position I interviewed for) and then this afternoon I got a call from Western Technical College regarding an application I put in for a position at their Sparta campus. That could be a great opportunity!
My dogs did better with Wes up at my parent's house. When they visited our yard last Friday it was a little more hairy -- because my dogs are jerks. Off their home turf today they were much better. Kaiser really didn't do anything to him at all. Secret started off all wiggly and whiny towards him, then decided it was her job to keep Wes away from me. Not cool, but she wasn't terrible about it and took correction well.
Luke is fine with Wes -- and was all weekend while my parents watched him. But Luke was very naughty today and ran the cows through the fence....