Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Could have gone swimming....

After four days in a row hitting 70 degrees, today it was a whopping 82 degrees when I came home from work. I was very tempted to take the dogs to the river for their first swim of the year. Because none of us are remotely acclimated to the warm weather yet, 82 degrees felt pretty hot and I didn't know if I felt like actually DOING anything that would require effort.

That said, I sucked it up. I was a good agility trainer and I decided to work the dogs. Honestly, they probably would have rather gone swimming. lol Oh well, we all had fun doing this, too!

This is the Happy Hurdles course posted on Ann Croft's Agility Coach Facebook page last Wednesday. That was the other reason we had to do agility tonight, because a new course will be posted tomorrow!  :o)  I thought this one looked like lots of fun and was slightly more technical than the last one with the wraps and backsides. I haven't pulled the weaves out of the garage before tonight, either, so that was another bonus to this drill.

I'm very happy with how well Secret ran tonight! She was kind of lollygagging around the yard while I set the course and I didn't know if she was going to feel like doing much of anything in the heat. She came out ready to play, though! The first run in the video was actually our first try at the course and she nailed it. I opted to not push my luck and we actually quit right then and there. I played with her a bit longer and then put her back in the house without bothering to drill the course again at that point. I knew I'd bring her out again and I wanted her to know she did it right the first time!

We had a couple of flubs the next time out, but those were mostly due to me not following through with cues because I was ready to pass out. Goal of the summer -- get into shape. Especially with Champs coming up this fall...

I tried to push myself to use a few different handling options on this course. Kaiser was the only one who really handled an inside wrap at number three well. Secret and Luke were both better off going with the blended front cross to keep up the momentum, even though it was a longer path. The 4-5-6 sequence seemed to run equally well with a front or blind cross on all three dogs. I threw in rear, front and blind crosses at the weaves (yay dogs!) and did blinds and rears out of the last tunnel. Lots of fun!

Secret ran this drill with all bars set at 24" (except for my jump that only goes to 20"... and now has a busted jump cup at 8", 12" and 16" and is pretty useless....). I thought she did great with this height! One thing I really noted from this video is how efficient Secret is -- she really hugs those turns, doesn't she? Luke was knocking the 8" bars left and right. Remember what I said about him knowing the difference between practice and trials? I'm convinced of it!

Look how pretty the driveway is looking! This picture was from yesterday and today they actually finished the part at the bottom. The dogs have been good supervisors by the sound of it and have been watching from the window each day. Yesterday one of the guys apparently jumped the fence to get in to open my garage door (I missed the call at work). That kind of made my heart stop for a second when I heard about it, but I was told, "Oh don't worry; we rang the doorbell to get them all to come to the front while our guy went in the back." Ummm.... Well, I'm glad it worked out! But seriously, some people...

We had a good visit at the vet's office yesterday. Secret was a social butterfly and was saying hello to everyone. She was, however, an evil bitch to my vet's foster dog that we got to meet -- She's about 5 months old and a heeler mix of some sort. Super cute! But apparently her puppy license had expired because Secret wanted nothing to do with her. If anyone is looking for a nice little prospect, check her out!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring?! (and trial recap)

Today is the third day in a row that we have hit 70 degrees! Could it possibly mean that spring is making its entrance here in Wisconsin? One can only hope. Look, even the grass is starting to come in!

I hate to admit it, but parts of the yard are already looking like they would benefit greatly from some rain. Hard to believe with as wet as it's been of late, but I guess that's what happens over a few days of nice weather. Never fear, I believe we're in for rain and colder temperatures this week. That's why we spent a good portion of our day today enjoying the sunshine. The dogs have been outside more than me -- I can't even keep them in the house today! Granted I'm being a lazy sod after our long day yesterday...

We had a good day over at Think Pawsitive! Secret woke me up about a half hour before the alarm was supposed to go off (that would be 3 a.m.....) after she'd been restless much of the night. I'd had a heck of a time getting the dogs to go to bed on Friday at 8 p.m.; Secret and Kaiser were still running laps and playing outside. The neighbor kid was shooting hoops right outside the bedroom window and this noise prompted Kaiser & Secret to jump off the bed and run back outside to investigate. So yeah, I don't think any of us got the sleep we should have that night.

Since I was already awake I had no problem getting up and getting moving on time. We were out the door in time for me to hit up Kwik Trip for breakfast and were still on the road by 4 a.m. With one pit-stop we arrived in New Berlin at 6:45 a.m. For real. I don't even get to trials here in La Crosse that early. I was glad to be there at that time, though, because it was a very full trial and I was concerned about finding a crating spot that would be out of the way enough for Secret. We got a spot in the back room against the wall before it filled up. I was hoping for a corner, but it worked.

I had tons of time to waste and plenty of time to walk the dogs before our first run of the day. Jumpers was up first and Luke was the second dog to run (there were only two Veteran entries). I liked the looks of this course and didn't feel it was too ungodly technical for the old man. This was our first time giving Jumpers a shot and I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was super fun and Luke did awesome! I held my breath on every turn in hopes that the bars would stay up, as whenever we do more technical stuff at home they seem to go flying. I should give Luke more credit, though. I'm pretty sure he knows the difference between home and trials and thus puts in more effort to keep things up. lol I heard a "tick" or two going around the course, but they all stayed up, tight turns and all.

I even threw in a couple of blind crosses with the big guy and while they did result in him going a little wide in his path, he read them well and stuck with me. This course was a rush and when results were posted I found out why it felt that way -- Luke's time was in the range of some of the top Championship and Performance runs! He ran it in 27 and change. I think the fastest time was around 25 or slightly under, and the average looked to be around 28/29. Holy cow, he was moving!

Now that I know he can do Jumpers I might have to think about trying Snooker and going for the Veteran Versatility title...

Secret had a nice run. She went a little "la la" on me between three and four as she looked at the bar setter sitting in that area, but then she picked it back up and came back to me. She went charging into the tunnel at 8 but came trotting out of it. It was a fairly tight u-shape, but it wasn't one of her dreaded long tunnels so I don't know what that was about.

It was either jump 14 or 15 where I swear she came to a dead stop right in front of the jump for whatever reason. I'm pretty sure I had not stopped my motion, so I'm not sure where the indecision came from. The hesitation felt like an eternity to me and I was positive that it would be called as a refusal. Surprisingly her run was scored as clear, though, and she earned a Q and 2nd place (three dogs in our class E'd out on this course). Secret's time was 33 seconds and change, so quite a bit slower than Luke's run.

That said, I'll mention now that I felt she did much better at this trial than she has at the last few. I felt that she was more engaged with me and surprisingly she did not seem to get worse as the day went on. She certainly still moves faster at home and has ran better at trials, but I feel as though the few opportunities we had to play at home prior to this weekend may have actually helped. Of course the chiropractor appointment probably didn't hurt, either.

This was Secret's Performance Jumper Master title! Her first title in P3!

Secret had a bit of a break while they ran Masters Challenge Jumpers, and then Snooker was up next for us. When are we going to see a Snookers course that doesn't have weave poles and/or a massively long combination for the 7?

I'm sure you can see where this is going. Yet again, no Super Q. In a set-up like this pretty much the only way we can hope for a SQ is if everyone crashes and burns. There actually were quite a few of those in the CH class, but the Performance dogs weren't having any problems.

The most "Secret-friendly" and points-accumulating course I could come up with was 1-7, 1-6, 1-6. We got a good running start to the center red and then wrapped the first 7 jump to the right. She had very slow weaves and I'm pretty sure she trotted up to the top red. She looked hard at 4 on the way to the last red, and looked at it again on the way back to the tunnel. When we started the close she finally realized she had gas in the tank (or maybe I stopped way overhandling at that point) and she picked up speed. I'm almost positive she entered the weaves wrong (we didn't get whistled), but it didn't matter because the buzzer sounded before she finished them. We got through 6 in the close for a total of 42 points and a third place Q in the 22" class. We shared 3 SQ with the 16" class -- the top dog had 50 points and the other two had 49.

Relay was up next. I was paired with a woman who I believe I heard traveled from New York and was running something like six or seven dogs. She was a very busy woman, I know that much! She was also very easy to work with and we had no problems. I met up with her at the gate before the run and she asked if I had a preference as to which side. I explained that Secret's weaves are slower than slow these days (I didn't mention that she hadn't done the teeter yet and I didn't know about that, either), so it would probably be to our benefit to have her run the first half. Wendy didn't care and it worked out that she was able to get all of her dogs to run the second half of the course.

Secret ran her half well. She didn't dive into the tunnel or come out super speedy, but it was decent enough. Burdock was a good boy on his half as well and we easily came out with a Q (12 seconds under SCT), but it wasn't fast enough for a placement.

It was nice to pair up with someone from out of town because I likely won't have to worry about pairing up with Burdock again (for the requirement of 5 Qs with 5 different partners).  :o)  First P3 Relay Q is in the bag! That wasn't so bad. I'm starting to get over my extreme fear of being the one to screw everything up.

Gamblers was up next. I picked different plans for the dogs because their strengths are so different.

Luke loves his weaves, so I went ahead and started with those for him since they were the 5-point obstacle. We did jump-jump-weave-weave-teeter-jump-a-frame-chute-a-frame-jump and then I think the buzzer went off right around then. I know we were nowhere in position to send to the gamble. I wanted to send him in off my left -- I was surprised at how many people approached it with dog on right (the jump was set a little more in front of the correct opening than shown on paper).

We dilly-dallied around a bit and I finally got Luke set up and sent to the correct tunnel entrance. My timing was off and he paused in front of the second tunnel entrance and may have barked at me, earning a refusal before he turned into the tunnel and finished just as the buzzer sounded. Ah well, my fault. When will I learn to stop treating the Gamblers line like lava as we do in Chances? Several people called their dog to them and sent them back out successfully. Gah, we totally could have done that.

Pretty much the same scenario with Secret, although her opening was jump-jump-teeter (although the stinker was heading towards the weaves!)-jump-a-frame-chute-jump-a-frame-then several more jumps to waste time until the buzzer sounded. We were actually set up perfectly when it blew, but Secret had the same exact pause/bark scenario as Luke (although hers was far longer and I did have to call her to me before sending her back), but we'd already earned the refusal. Secret earned 19 points in the opening; Luke earned 20 thanks to his two sets of weaves.

It was only three o'clock when we were walking Standard, which is really amazing considering how many runs there were in that ring. Luke was the only Veteran entered and thus ran first. They held the ring while they finished Steeplechase in ring two, so poor Luke ended up standing around for a very long time and then we were kind of thrown to the start line without much warning. I guess that's my excuse for being a cruddy partner to the big guy.

But hey, we did a ketschker at three! Yay for fun fancypants moves at trials! lol Everything was going great until I attempted to send him into the tunnel at 14 from the backside. While walking the course I thought, "we just did this exercise at home, we can do it at a trial!" Well, not quite. Luke started to go into the tunnel then stopped, backed out and looked at me to make sure I knew what I was doing. Refusal. And then for good measure he went into the wrong side of the next tunnel for an E. Oh well, only one Q for the old man, but he was running great!

I appreciated Luke telling me that this just wasn't going to work, so I changed my handling with Secret and escorted her to the tunnel entrance from the top instead of sending from the back. And no worries, Secret got the fancypants ketschker at the start, too!  :o)

Considering that this was Secret's fifth run of the day I was very pleased with her performance. She's not a huge fan of the chute and thus started a bit slow, but she picked it up after the dog walk. Her weaves were definitely faster than they had been in Snooker in the morning. We didn't have any problems with the teeter all day, so that's fantastic, too. We weren't blazing fast and were only a couple of seconds under SCT, but we made it for a Q.

Kaiser came along for the ride and was a good boy. He hung out in Luke's crate with him all day, which neither of them seem to mind too much. I took Kaiser out once to play with the measuring device and he was really good, not spooking at it at all. I will seriously be holding my breath when he gets measured at AKC in a few weeks, though. He is going to have to be perfectly relaxed to get that 14" measurement, and we're going to have to have a very friendly and forgiving judge. I really want for Kaiser to be able to play in another organization, so we'll cross our fingers.

Tomorrow Kaiser has his yearly wellness exam at the vet's office and I'm taking Secret along for (I believe...) her lyme and lepto boosters. I'm also getting a new driveway put in this week, so we'll be a bit disrupted for a while.

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's official! We're in!

And with that we fall back into the oh so fun and interesting world of Novice. We are officially in to the AKC trial here in La Crosse next month! Everything came together at the right time and AKC was incredibly helpful in overcoming my extreme procrastination. Granted, I paid for it ($50), but I e-mailed Secret's PAL registration on Monday and they sent me the number on Wednesday. She is officially recognized as a border collie through AKC. Yay....

I signed Kaiser up for his Canine Partners registration on Monday when I learned that I could e-mail the PAL for Secret. They give you the option of choosing two breeds/mixes to put on their certificates and I stubbornly put nothing. I certainly wasn't going to choose the generic "mixed breed," but I was tempted to choose "Siberian Husky" for giggles. Ah well. Whatever; I'll get over it.

I dropped everything off at Family Dog Center last night after work and tonight when I got home the registration was in my mailbox. Kaiser is entered in Standard and JWW on Saturday only, just in case we run into any problems with his measurement. Secret is entered in both classes both days -- They are offering T2B, but I figured we'd start off slow and just do the basics, especially since I did opt to go ahead and enter Secret at her regular height of 24". We'll see how she deals with it and if she thinks it's sucks we will drop down -- Although I'll probably make her suck it up to complete any open titles we may be working towards...

I've had the opportunity to play with Secret at home a few times this week and she's had no problem with 24". I even set up a double & triple spread by just lumping my jumps together and she didn't have any issues with those, either. We'll see how it goes!

Tomorrow we leave at buttcrack-o-thirty (4:00 a.m.) for our USDAA trial at Think Pawsitive. Secret is running all five core classes, which is a lot to ask... Thankfully our Pairs Relay is the third run, so hopefully she still has gas in the tank for that one. Unfortunately Gamblers is fourth, which is when I'm sure she'll be winding down. Standard is last. I think we are one dog short for keeping the SQ in the 22" class, so once again we'll be combined with the 16" group in Snooker. I think there are three SQ to split between us, so we'll just have to wait and see how that turns out. Jumpers will start our day and if Secret runs clean that will be her first Performance Champion title!

The reason I ended up entering this trial vs. the one up in Ham Lake this weekend is because I thought this one would go faster (this one is split into two rings with all of our Masters classes in one). Yeah.... We ended up with nearly 400 runs in the Masters ring alone, so it's going to be a long, long day.... At least Vet/Performance is running first so we can leave when we are done and won't be the last dogs of the day to run!

We went over 70 degrees today! We were only forecast to be in the low 60s and it would have been the first time we've hit 60 since December 3 (we tied with the latest date to reach 60, for the record). Instead we blew that away and apparently this is the first time we've seen 70 since the end of October. Seriously, longest winter ever...

This week we decided to go exploring a new section of the bike trail on which we walk. I'm not totally unfamiliar with it as it's out by where I used to board my horses, but I've never taken the dogs out there. It's a great section of trail in that it's far from any roads and it's not parallel to the train tracks like the other trails we walk. Originally I also thought it was a bonus that the trail was fenced on both sides, but that actually turned into a heart stopper on our first walk...

The dogs were having a grand time on Wednesday chasing the bazillion squirrels we encountered on the new trail (that was our first night exploring). Everything was going dandy and we were a good mile and a half in when Secret went FLYING off the trail to the left -- and right through a barbed wire fence. I'm pretty positive she hadn't seen the low wire and she caught her left hind leg on it and stopped dead in her tracks. One of my friends recently had her dog's leg get really ripped up in a similar situation and my gut immediately dropped when I saw what happened.

Secret still hadn't moved when she looked back over her shoulder at me. She was a fair distance off the trail where she was and there wasn't much I could do until she got back to me, so I told her she had to come back. She hopped on three legs to turn around and then didn't appear thrilled when she realized she had to come back through that fence to get back to me. She managed, and hopped back over on three legs, her hind leg hiked high in the air. Oh crap.

I immediately started looking her over from top to bottom. Nothing. Literally not even a scrape or patch of hair missing. Um, what? What's you're problem, dog? I stretched her this way and that with no reaction. In the end I have to believe she just scared the crap out of herself and got a bit of a zinger as her foot slid over the fence (likely not on barbed portion, blessedly!). She walked herself out of fairly quickly, but I still kept her on leash for a while to make sure she was okay as we walked back towards the car.

I eventually let her off leash again when it was obvious she was fine. She wasn't favoring the leg at all and was soon bounding off towards the squirrels again -- including going under a couple more fences, so obviously nothing was learned from that little experience.

We went out again last night and walked in the other direction. We didn't encounter squirrels and we didn't have any more fence incidents.... I think we'll enjoy this section of the trail this summer!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Do you remember when we got to play agility outside? I remember it like it was yesterday. Oh! That's because it WAS yesterday. Seriously, Mother Nature is an evil bitch this year. Granted, I have to admit that I don't have it nearly as bad as my friends in MN (they got like a foot dumped on them this past week), but this is still some sort of cruel joke. It's like the winter that will never end.

There is a NADAC trial in Lindstrom, MN this weekend. Yesterday morning it was something like 14 degrees in the unheated horse barn where the trial is located. Not only that but there is a foot of snow to deal with outside. Yeah... Can't say I'm missing attending that trial this year!

There is a USDAA trial in Duluth, MN in two weeks. Do you seriously think this winter will let go in time for that? I have my doubts. Duluth is too far for me to consider going anyhow, but I'd be pretty hesitant to enter an outdoor trial before JUNE this year. lol

Yesterday (you know, before all that white crap hit us) I set Secret up to take the photos required to be submitted with the AKC PAL registration. This is something I've kind of been sitting on for the last two years but I never actually did anything with it. Now that Secret has her NATCH and is on her way to her PDCH, I've kind of been exploring our options with other organizations. Since CPE doesn't really appeal to me in the least, I figured AKC is probably the next most likely thing to try. I'd love to try ASCA eventually, but there just aren't a lot of opportunities and they always seem to conflict with something else I'm doing.

I've always been pretty ho-hum about AKC in general. Let's face it, when I first started agility it wasn't even an option for me because they didn't accept mixed breeds at the time. Then there was that whole fiasco of how they went about bringing in mixed breeds (thank god the whole business of "separate but equal" never panned out). Kaiser was just starting to compete around that time and he was an intact male of an unrecognized breed, so AKC still wasn't even on my radar because I wasn't going to show one dog and not the other.

Fast forward to today... Luke still won't show AKC because they don't have a Veteran height option and the lowest he could jump would be 20". Kaiser, however, technically COULD show in AKC now that he is altered... But standing at 14" tall he is *right* on the edge of being able to jump 8" Preferred and I don't know how badly I want to go through the stress of measuring again. I suppose we could try and I'd just run him FEO if he measured up. Ugh. I so hated going through that with him because it was stressful for both of us. Granted, he's come a long way in his sociability, so maybe he'd be more relaxed now and make it easier to get that 14" measurement. We've gotten it in two organizations so far; fingers crossed for a third?

As for Secret, I've always thought that AKC courses would appeal to her. I also think that having only two runs per day (or three if they are actually offering T2B -- nobody plays FAST around here anymore) would be just her thing.

I am undecided about running her at 24" in the standard division or having her jump 20" Preferred. When you think of it, it would just be 2" higher than her USDAA height... But there would be spreads to contend with, which we've never actually had before. I suppose since we take the height drop in NADAC and USDAA it would make sense to take it in AKC. If winter ever leaves us I'd like to play around with this at home some.

Of course, though, I've completely procrastinated and put this off for far too long -- seeing as there is an AKC trial here in La Crosse that closes on the 27th (and surprisingly, AKC trials here don't fill -- the trials in the Cities get like four times the number of entries they can accept and always have to do a draw!). The odds of me actually getting Secret's PAL registration through on time are pretty much slim to none at this point. I do have an e-mail into them to see if they have any options other than mailing. You can do the Canine Partners registration online which is handy, but the PAL registration is stuck in the 80s with the whole mailed in registration and pictures requirement... Sheesh, to do that I'd first have to get these photos printed at Walgreens or something and then send everything in! Yeah, get digital, AKC...

So that's where my thinking is at these days. Just a rambling post while the satellite was knocked out for the last hour thanks to the snow..

Saturday, April 20, 2013

First practice of 2013!

Hooray! I finally broke down and set the first agility course of 2013 today. The yard is probably a couple more dry days away from ideal, but the clock is ticking for our trial next weekend and I decided that the yard be damned, we were going to play today! It got a little ripped up in spots (mostly because I let Luke come out and play), but it held up okay. We might not end up with grass in a few spots, but it will just match all of the other areas that don't grow grass anymore...

I've been following Ann Croft's "Agility Coach" page on Facebook pretty much since its creation this winter, so I've been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to finally try one of her Happy Hurdle courses out for myself! I just picked the most recent course that was posted this last Wednesday. It was the "Americanized" version of an International-flavored drill she posted last week. Honestly, Secret probably doesn't need to be doing too much crazy stuff at the moment when the goal of the day is to increase speed & motivation. This course was just right.

I should backtrack slightly -- On Wednesday we had a little accident at home. It was raining (it rained/snowed/sleeted most days this past week) and we were stuck inside the house, so I was playing tug with Secret on the floor with her woolie ring. Luke was jealous and going nuts from inactivity and was laying nearby. I started tossing the tuggy in the air for Secret to catch between tugs and after a few of those Luke just couldn't take it any more. I again tossed the ring into the air for Secret and...


That's pretty much the sound of two skulls colliding. Or it could have been teeth, I'm still not entirely sure. Either way they hit each other HARD and Secret more or less thought she was going to die at that exact moment. I managed to confirm that everyone's teeth were still intact and that there didn't appear to be blood anywhere, but Secret spent the better part of the evening flicking her tongue out and licking her nose, so I know she was hurting somewhere.

She didn't trust me and she didn't trust Luke. Secret already has issues playing around Luke because he has the bad habit of barging into pretty much anyone in his way when toys are involved. I spent the rest of the week locking Luke in the house while I attempted to get Secret to play with me. Fun times, having a dog who doesn't really care about agility nor wants to play with toys. The good news is that it did start to get better and I happily sacrificed my yard so that she could chase after frisbees and other fun stuff.

So, back to today. It's still hovering in the low 40's, but the sun is shining and it's not raining so I decided that today was the day! I started out by just doing a few short sequences with Secret and playing in between. She started out at what I'll call "trial speed" and it did take a bit for her to click on and start running with a bit more gusto.

I was completely dieing at the end of Secret's first session, but she was still running nicely for me. I ran the boys and then brought her out again to play. Nothing has changed with regard to her fussy rules regarding not using the same toy two sessions in a row... We'll deal with that issue later, but today I pandered to her because I needed happiness and motivation. We got in one nice run (on the video) and then she went kind of flat on me. When she came trotting out of the yellow tunnel I called it quits and put her back in the house so that she could watch me play with the boys and give them attention while she sat and did nothing. My hope is that we can build some sort of connection to, "You give me effort or you go back in the house and sit by yourself."

After a while I put the boys back in the house and brought Secret out for one more try. I grabbed her beloved Jolly Ball that time for the ultimate in motivation -- no excuse for her to be a bum this time. It worked. It wasn't the "prettiest" run (mostly because seriously, I am so out of shape and was dead on my feet by this time), but she was trying and she was moving. Good girl! We quit on that note.

I thought everyone did great! I'm super impressed that ALL dogs responded very well to the Ketschker turn up in the top half! It just worked better than a front cross, even with the boys. Everyone had nice wraps, too, and really surprised me with how well they all got the send to the backside entry of the tunnel. Sweet! I'm definitely feeling rusty after not being able to practice for nearly SIX MONTHS, but it will come back (hopefully quickly).

I'm hoping for at least a couple more opportunities to play with Secret before the trial next weekend, but we'll probably stick to smaller drills just to work on speed & motivation. I did call and make an appointment to take her in to see Dr. Marta for an adjustment, so we'll be doing that on Tuesday (which means no agility then or Wednesday, most likely).

Today I finally broke down and walked up to the vet clinic to buy some Frontline. I haven't been able to get it from the shelter since I'm not working there this month and I keep procrastinating on ordering it, so I just got it from the clinic. I'm so tired of pulling ticks off the dogs -- and we haven't even been walking the trails this week! Hopefully this helps with that little problem. Secret still gets all scabby where they bite her. Poor thing. We all hate ticks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kaiser's an old pro

Today Kaiser and I drove back up to Minneapolis for the second time in just over a week. Target specially requested that he return to fill a few more shots that they needed, so who was I to say no to that?

Apparently this was a continuation of the job from last week, but they were moving on to winter jackets. The shoot producer apparently had a couple of jackets specifically in mind for Kaiser -- Does that mean that he's for sure going to show up on the packaging? I guess we'll wait and see!

This week is a lot more low key than last week, I guess. They were down to only one set, but it was the same one we shot on last time so Kaiser was familiar with everything. And everyone, as the crew was the same, too.

Our time slot was at 11:00 a.m. today, which was nice because we got to sleep in and left home at 7:45 a.m. We arrived to the studio at 10:30 and Kaiser was the only dog in the waiting area this time. They were just wrapping up the dog before us and were actually ahead of schedule, so I had just enough time to fluff Kaiser up and wipe the goobers out of his eyes before we got called back.

Kaiser modeled the small jackets, but we didn't really have a lot of choice in the matter because he swam in the medium! I assured them that if I was the customer I'd buy the small because he needs his clothing to be short in the back because of his tail. It wasn't exactly the fit I would love on him, but it certainly worked. And of course it all looked completely darling on him.

They wanted Kaiser to model two blue jackets -- one with a solid stripe and one with a plaid stripe. He was, once again, amazing. They just kept getting perfect shot after perfect shot and it took no time at all. We took a brief break to wander outside and when we got back in they decided to throw him in a pink jacket as well (regardless of the fact that he is a boy, Kaiser looks fantastic in pink with his coloring!).

The surprise of the day was how well Kaiser worked with Barbara! She was the trainer on our set today and as we went on it became fairly obvious that Kaiser was responding better to Barbara than he was to me, so I just kind of stood behind her. He totally responded to her requests for repositioning and was very attentive to her! Who is this dog? It's like you put him on the table in front of the lights, camera and crew and he just turns it on.  :o)

Once again they were all in love with him. I was happy that Kaiser performed so well in front of Barbara, too, since she's more or less in charge of his future as "the talent" and she was also impressed with his wonderful performance. So much so that she mentioned possibly using him for another shoot she has this Friday for Christmas wear. I really don't know if I should push for another day off work (three in two weeks?), but I told her she can put him out there for the client to see and if they choose him I'll worry about it then. I probably *shouldn't* drive to the cities for a third time in two weeks, but it's hard to say no to seeing your dog on stuff...

Since we were "in the area" (okay, it's about a 20-minute side trip), I stopped at Cake Walk in Northfield, MN again on the way home. Nom, nom, nom. I only got two cupcakes this time and I'm keeping them all for myself! lol I bought the turtle cupcake because I didn't get to try that from my last box. The one on the left is their signature red velvet cupcake, which I don't believe was offered last week. I can't wait to try them!

Kaiser and I got home at 3:00, which is just late enough that there's no way it paid for me to go into work today. So instead I took advantage of the sunshine and temperatures in the upper 40's and took the dogs for a walk. I'm really tired of pulling ticks of them right now, though, so we just did an hour-long leashed walk around the neighborhood. I really need to order/buy Frontline (or whatever) so that we can go on fun walks.

The yard continues to improve. Fingers crossed that we can play there again soon!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fun times and cruddy weather (again!)

Secret is trying to garner sympathy for the boring weekend she just had to endure. Doesn't she look forlorn and pathetic? It's hard not being the center of attention all of the time.

Nope, no new titles earned this weekend for Secret. But we did finally get her very first NATCH bar! Family Dog Center was out at our March trial (and doesn't appear to be restocking, but that is another subject....) and I was pretty bummed that we wouldn't have a bar to commemorate Secret's very first NATCH.

Thankfully we have friends in high places -- in other words, we know the owner of Pebble Beach Designs who makes the most lovely Championship bars ever, complete with fun glittery ribbon stickers in practically any color you desire (PINK!). I talked to Kelly after the trial and asked her to make one for Secret.

Don't worry, Luke got one, too.  :o)

We (myself and our friend, Karen, who also did the same thing) put them out on the tables for everyone to sign and they turned out just beautiful. Hooray for having a bar to remember the occasion! I already talked to Kelly about having a bar ready for Kaiser's V-NATCH, which will hopefully happen at our next NADAC trial in June. Sheesh, June??

Secret actually handled the weekend very well, but then again I didn't really anticipate any problems. She doesn't seem to mind spending time in her crate and without having to come out to run the pressure was completely off her. I took her out a couple of times on Saturday to see if I could get her to play outside with me. The first time I used her Wubba. It was a slow start and she wasn't really into fetching it at first, but she did tug! And not for food, either -- real honest to goodness playing tug. We went out the second time to play with her frisbee and again were successful, but only if I kept the tosses short. My big takeaway is that I don't think Secret generalizes "playing" in new places well. Maybe if I worked on this it would help agility, too?

Sunday was just god-awful outside. It was raining when we left home in the morning and it soon turned into sleet and morphed into these weird balls of slush falling from the sky. We ended up with TWO INCHES of slush on the ground that day, which kind of canceled any plan of playing outside. I did take Secret out between classes once, though, and played with her on the mats behind our crates. I just grabbed an old rope toy out of my bag and hoped for the best, but she was really into it! She was pouncing and bouncing and tugging!

It wasn't quite as hard as I thought it would be to not run Secret, which is kind of sad to admit. There were several times when I wished she was entered (she totally would have gotten Chances on Saturday for sure, and I think she would have really enjoyed the Jumpers courses), but in the end I knew I made the right decision because I would have just been disappointed if she came out and was "blah" again. I'm getting so tired of waiting for the ground to firm up so that we can train again. Time is ticking down to our USDAA trial at the end of the month!

The boys were AWESOME this weekend! Maybe that's why it wasn't that hard to not have Secret running -- we didn't need her to pull up the Q rate like we sometimes do. lol

Kaiser had a perfect night on Wednesday running 3/3 with Qs in Weavers, Tunnelers and Touch-n-Go. His Tunnelers run was just shy of 6 yps, which may or may not be enough for another 100+ DRI. I'll be waiting eagerly for the results to be posted to check many of his runs from this weekend.

On Saturday Kaiser was da' man. Both of his Regular rounds were absolutely smoking! Not only that, they were incredibly consistent with only 0.05 seconds difference between rounds. Kaiser's second round was the fastest of the whole class -- in Regular! He was just spot on the whole day -- except of course for Touch-n-Go, which was the last Q he needed in that class for his V-NATCH. Oh well, we'll get that next time. I was hoping to come out of this trial just needing that last Tunnelers Q, but I guess Kaiser thought it would be more fitting to finish on Touch-n-Go. I can't really disagree!

Luke is still running as great as ever. We had a super nice first round of Regular on Saturday to win his class (and it's a surprisingly competitive group at 12" Veteran Skilled!). In round 2 he was kind of naughty and took the tunnel under the a-frame -- likely because he had too much speed coming around the back stretch and just didn't feel like collecting in time. It's probably a good thing that he didn't have a clean run, though, considering as soon as he crossed the finish line he squatted and started to poop in the arena. Ummm... No idea what that was about, but I'm thinking the pumpkin supplement I gave him that morning (more for Kaiser, but Luke got some, too) may have just run right through him. Everything was firm, so I was just baffled at why that would happen. Oh well, shit happens. Literally.

Chances was one of those courses that Luke can do in his sleep. He sailed through it easily for his first Q towards NATCH 5.  :o)  Jumpers was, well, not clean. In watching the video I think the blunder started with a slip on the turf, which caused him to cut in on the line. It was all downhill from there, but we had fun and the run ended well.

After Kaiser started Sunday 3/3 with Q's in Jumpers, Weavers & Chances, I thought just maybe we had a shot at a perfect day and a 12/13 weekend (holy crap, wouldn't that be awesome!). It wasn't meant to be, though, as in the first round of Regular he was a bit squirrely and took several extra obstacles. In the second round I was really pushing to get into place for a front cross using a lot of lateral distance. I'm not in frame on the video, but I'll just guess that I was doing something to cause him to keep running straight to take the off course jump.

But still, I'll take a 10/13 weekend for the little guy -- and both Chances Qs in one weekend, how awesome is that? Seven more until NATCH 2, but who's counting? I'm totally stoked to take the wee man to Champs this year. I tell you, if we can hold it together he has a really good shot. I'm getting excited already!

Luke was the main man yesterday with a perfect day! Not only were his runs clean, but they were FAST! Luke's Jumpers round was THREE SECONDS faster than Kaiser's, and Kaiser didn't exactly have a pokey run. I threw in a blind cross at the end (a tricky one) that Luke read perfectly and Kaiser didn't, which was the main difference -- but overall the run was just awesome. Chances wasn't a given for Luke yesterday, but he was a good boy and didn't fly over the a-frame at a distance, so he also picked up both Chances Qs for the weekend!

Thankfully the weather stopped and things warmed up a little before everyone had to head home from the trial (oh, by the way, I won the worker raffle again!!). The yard is, however, still a mess and several warm/dry days from being usable (and we really don't have any of those in the forecast). Gah, I am so tired of this. Secret and I seriously need to get some bonding time in here soon because we're driving each other nuts.

Kaiser continues to be the Golden Child and is getting all of the attention. As if his claim to fame from last week wasn't enough, the excitement continues -- I was contacted over the weekend and told that Target wants him back AGAIN to do another shoot. Jackets? So we are going back up to the Cities for another shoot tomorrow. I know very few details, so I guess I'll have to report back when I get home!

Poor Kaiser, though. He may be getting all of the attention, but he's also getting all of the baths! lol

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kaiser is a ROCK STAR!

If you ever wanted to know what a super awesome dog looks like after over an hour of modeling, here you go.  ;o)

Kaiser and I hit the road around 6:20 a.m. today for his gig with Target up in Minneapolis. Our time slot wasn't until 9:45, but I didn't know if there was any paperwork to fill out or if we'd run into any other things that would slow us down. As it turned out, we ran into a detour AGAIN that my trusty Garmin got us out of with only about a 10-minute delay.

The studio was in a large warehouse that really wasn't marked in the least. I wandered a bit and by sheer luck managed to find the right door. It was probably around 9:20 by this point and there was one other dog in the waiting area (a cute little Yorkie). Apparently they were getting started late, as that dog was supposed to have a 9:00 a.m. time slot.

Long story short, we waited. There were two sets going, but we were following the Yorkie on the side doing costumes -- Apparently the other side was doing side/silhouette shots that will be used to show breed recommendations and sizing on the packaging. Those shots were going fairly quickly, but the costume side not so much. They were having some sizing issues and they ended up using four costumes on the Yorkie.

It was probably close to 11:00 a.m. by the time they were ready for Kaiser. We experienced the same sizing issues as the Yorkie before us -- apparently the manufacturer was a little off or something. We used a mixture of sizes on Kaiser. He was supposed to be a "small" model, but we did end up using medium on him for a couple of things.

The first thing they put on Kaiser for a size reference was a T-Rex costume. It was too small and they moved on to something else without bothering with that one; not sure why we didn't try the next size up for that.

The first thing we shot him in was a hotdog costume. He ended up wearing the medium for that one because the bun didn't come far enough down on his back in the small. It was super cute. The hardest part was simply that Kaiser had to sit with his back to the camera and then I had to get him to turn his head and look back at me without moving his body. We worked just a little on this "skill," so considering how little practice he had he was pretty awesome. The only thing was that he would get up every time I'd reward him so he'd need to be repositioned. It didn't seem like a big deal, though, as it gave them more options to choose from.

The next costume was a skunk. This one was a little more complicated because it had to be positioned just so and it had a head piece. It was obvious that Kaiser would need the medium body for full coverage, but we shot it with both the small and medium head pieces. For this one we did body shots and head shots -- I believe the idea behind this is that they'd photoshop the better head shot onto the better body shot, as it was hard to get him to turn his head quite as much as he'd need to for them to be able to see the detail in the head. Who knows, we'll see what gets used.

His third costume was probably my favorite. It was a knight with a sword and shield riding atop Kaiser on his saddle. lol It was so super cute. We did squeeze Kaiser into the small for this one because the medium was too big. Kaiser preferred this pose because he got to stand in a more natural position without having to turn his head at odd angles. Once they got all of the costume shots they needed we set Kaiser up to get a few shots with his tail up. He never holds his tail up when he's standing still unless he's high as a kite or interested in something, but they wanted the option of having it up so the trainer on set held it up and then the photographer snapped several frames while it was still over his back. Seriously, the stuff they can do with editing is amazing...

Costume four was a bumblebee with light-up/flashing wings and yes, another headdress. The antenna didn't seem to bug Kaiser as much as the skunk head, though, so they probably got some cute shots where he didn't look too sullen. lol  He was a super good boy, but he definitely didn't look as "happy" in the shots where he had stuff on his head. But you have to give him this, he stayed put with every costume and didn't mess with anything. He was SO GOOD.

By this time we surely must have been going for about an hour or so. When we wrapped up the bumblebee costume they asked if I thought Kaiser had one more in him. We'd struggled a bit at the end of the bee shot with all of the head turning and I knew he needed a break, so we just took five and went outside for a few minutes. I couldn't get him to potty for the life of me, so I just let him run around and sniff stuff. He was much happier and more relaxed, so we went in for the last one.

Initially they wanted Kaiser to wear the hula/surfer girl costume (lol), but that ended up going on another dog model while we were outside. One of the assistants brought out a pink cowgirl instead. Ha! I just love these costumes where someone/something is "riding" the dog, I get such a hoot out of them. Again the small was actually the better fit and it looked super cute on Kaiser. This was one of the most "involved" shoots of the day as an assistant was holding/operating a fish line attached to the cowgirl's hat in order to maneuver it into the best position. Seriously, Kaiser stood like a rock through all of this, even when the photographer moved forward to reposition the cowgirl on top of him.

They were so impressed with him -- and so was I! Everyone kept commenting how "calm and docile" he was. hahahahahaha  I don't think I've ever heard those words used with Kaiser, but I can't deny that he was acting like he's done this a million times. He hung out on the floor off leash on breaks between costumes and even visited some of the crew. The whole time he was just like, "I've totally got this."

I'm glad he made such a good impression on the whole crew, as apparently Target is in the habit of requesting dogs they like. Who knows, maybe we can do more stuff in the future! I still have no idea what these things pay, but I don't really care -- I just want to see my dog on stuff! That said, apparently Kaiser is getting paid "extra" because they kept him so long. Sweet. Guess I'll find out what that means in the next 60 days or so. Unfortunately I have to wait a lot longer than that to find out what they end up using in their costume line this year! The wait will kill me!!

I'm not sure how Secret would have handled this shoot. I know without a doubt she could not have done as much as Kaiser; I have a feeling she'd have been done after about two costumes. The pop of the flash didn't seem as loud on this set, but there were a lot of people and hands involved and I think that would have wigged her out -- but then again, I thought the same of Kaiser and he had hands all over him the entire time and did fine. Who knows -- But I do think they would have appreciated Secret for her "head posing" that she's so good at. For example, they're big on the open mouth panting look which Kaiser will simply NOT do unless it's a million degrees outside. That's pretty easy to get out of Secret, although they would have probably all gone deaf from the barking. lol

On the way home I made a detour through Northfield, MN to stop at a cupcake shop I've seen a Facebook friend post about numerous times. Everything she's ever posted has looked amazing, so I knew I had to check it out for myself. Totally worth it. Totally.  :o)

In other news, the yard is getting there! I was home Sunday and decided to test it out with a little speed circle using hoops. The right side of the yard was still a little spongy, though, so I kept it to the left side and made it more angled than I would generally prefer in order to keep within the confines of the "dry" portion of the yard. It worked, as the only area that got ripped up was by the first hoop to the left and the spot where they had to turn the hardest on the arc.

I took Secret out first and had her beloved Jolly Ball. Her first time around was about what I expected after our winter of no agility practice -- blah. But then the light bulb went on and she went, "wheee!" She had some super excellent speed and was really hauling ass. All of the dogs thought it was great, so we'll be sure to spend plenty of time on the speed arc in the coming weeks.

I did entries yesterday for our NADAC trial this coming weekend. As I posted previously, Secret is sitting out. It was hard. Very hard. I almost waffled and put her in some runs. In the end, though, I know it's more beneficial to keep her out until we have some solid, fun training time under our belt. Plus there was no way I'd get her to the chiropractor this week with everything going on, so we'll shoot for getting that done before her USDAA trial at Think Pawsitive at the end of the month.

The trail we walk on is almost completely snow free now -- but unfortunately that means one thing -- ticks. I stopped counting after pulling the first 20 off the dogs tonight when we got back from our hike. Sadly, no more trail hikes until I get everyone back on Frontline. And since I'm pretty sure we don't have any sitting in the drawer, that means I'd better buy some!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kaiser got picked!!

Oh my goodness, how exciting is this?!?! I was sitting at home Monday night when my phone rang. Like usual (because I am completely antisocial and hate talking on the phone) I let it go to voicemail because I didn't recognize the number. A message popped in before I even finished Googling the number to see if anything came up. The number traced to Barbara O'Brien! (For those to whom this means nothing, Barbara is the animal actor photographer we auditioned for again a couple of weeks ago when we were in Minneapolis for the USDAA trial.)

In her message Barbara shared that Target had chosen Kaiser for their upcoming Halloween costume shoot! Um, what?! I called her back immediately and got the details. I was totally surprised because they've never shown interest in him before (not knowing what he was), but Barbara said they loved his size and look.

The shoot is this coming Monday up in Minneapolis, so I'm taking the day off work to drive up for it. I don't expect it takes that long. I'm pretty sure I'll take Kaiser by himself; he doesn't seem to have any problem traveling solo.

I'm so excited and looking forward to the experience. It will be awesome to have an Alaskan Klee Kai represented on products sold nationwide (worldwide?). I have no idea what the gig pays, but I've always said just the experience of seeing my dogs on "stuff" is more than enough for me! And who knows, perhaps this experience could lead to other jobs if everything goes well. Kaiser is a super-duper poser, after all, and I'm sure Barbara was impressed by the fact that he doesn't even blink at the flashbulbs and other stuff going on around him.

Barbara actually did put Secret in the gallery of dogs that she made available for Target to choose from for the shoot (she was in the "Large" dog gallery -- the pictures here today were downloaded from Barbara's client gallery). I was surprised (about both of them) because I didn't get any sort of feeling that she planned on possibly using either of them for the Halloween shoot since she didn't ask either of them to wear an outfit. Maybe she's seen enough of my Facebook pictures with the dogs wearing crap? lol

I thought Secret's photo was super duper cute! Barbara even got her with her mouth open, looking all smiley and happy. It looks like they chose a different Border Collie for the large size; one with a very classic and traditional look about him. Oh well, maybe Secret will get another opportunity in the future. I still think she needs to be a head model.  :o)  Because just look at how adorable her face shoots!

I've heard nothing but good things from my friends who have been lucky enough to participate in photo shoots, so I'm hoping for an equally good experience. I'll be sure to report back after it's all said and done!

In other news, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel of the winter that never ends. The temperatures have remained well below normal lately, but it has been warm enough to keep melting the ice out of the backyard. As of this morning about 80% of the yard is visible and it was cold enough that the patch furthest to the left was solid enough for us to play a quick game of fetch before I left for work (I had a dinner function and knew we wouldn't be able to play when I got home tonight).

I've been covering the muddy spots with hay and it's preventing the worst of the mess from being brought into the house. We've been hiking a lot out on the trail recently, but I'm really looking forward to being able to play in our own yard again! Hopefully very soon!

Entries went in the mail today for the USDAA trial at the end of the month. I'm confident that we'll have been able to get in some agility play by then, so hopefully Secret goes into that trial with a bit more oomph. She'll need it; she's signed up for all five core classes... Time to give P3 Pairs a try. It's the third run of the day, though, so she shouldn't be too run down by that point. Luke is entered in three runs that day! It will be his first time in Veterans Jumpers!