Sunday, March 30, 2014

A sight for sore eyes!

Look what we did today! In between watching the various rounds of the AKC NAC online today, I pulled out all of the jumps & weaves and we played agility! Outside! For the first time this year!

After the awful, snowy, cold & miserable winter we had this year (officially the worst of my lifetime), I had started to feel like we'd never get to play outside ever again. I feel grateful to have our little basement play area so we don't go completely without all winter, but there is just nothing like being able to RUN outside and play on courses again.

I'm lucky to live on a giant sand pit. I know many people around here still have snow, or at the very least, a whole lot of mud. I have a few spongy areas -- mostly off to the right in the photo where there is still snow on the fence line -- but the majority of the yard was great and we didn't have any slipping!

I'd love to try my hand at all of the NAC courses from this year, but we'll have to settle for JWW since I still lack a functioning a-frame. Maybe I'll put that on my list of "next big purchases" (that will never happen). I'm not a fan of the format of AKC Nationals, where you pretty much just go and run one run per day, but even through video you can tell that there is so much energy in the air and it's just infectious. I really would like to experience it one day. Next year it's in Reno, though, and I just don't think I could commit to going that far. I have no idea where it is after that. Probably closer. We'll see.

At any rate, we had loads of fun and everyone did great. I ran Secret at 20" just because I wasn't 100% sure about the ground and figured we should keep it safe & happy. Her weaves got slower and slower as we went along, which makes me really wish I could get her in for a chiro appointment this week before the trial. Unfortunately I just don't see it happening with my schedule, as I already get to go spend one morning at the dentist this week.

Kaiser struggled with the weave entry at first, but then got it. He's such a good boy.

Kizzy surprised me heaps! I broke the course into three parts for her at first since it's been a while since I've asked this much of her. We did the part before the weaves, the weaves, and the part after the weaves. She seemed to get it, so we put it all together and she actually got it! The whole thing! I didn't want to push it, so I left it at that and we just worked on weaves after that. Kizzy has a history of running past the weave entries at trials, so I wanted to work on her hitting and holding them at speed. She did great!

Luke didn't make it on video because I didn't have enough faith in him. I figured we'd just play around a little, so I didn't bother turning on the camera for his turn. Of course he nailed the whole thing on the first go. Good job old man.  :o)

Not to much else to report here, other than that I've been on poop patrol since Thursday. Wednesday night I went into the bathroom before bed and noticed that someone had stolen the used dental floss out of the garbage. Crap. There are two dogs in this house that are known for raiding the bathroom garbage and they both happen to be Klee Kai.

Kizzy had been back in the bedroom most of the night, so I started by dosing her with peroxide since I figured she was my most likely culprit. I put about 2ccs down her at a time and it took 3 doses, but it didn't take her too long to empty the contents of her belly onto the deck. There was dinner, but no dental floss. Sorry Kizzy.

On to Kaiser. Oh my lord. I must have hit him up over 10 times and he would NOT throw up. He'd get all frantic and urpy, just to choke it back down and then settle down again. It took almost 45 minutes to get him to throw up and when he did it was almost all foam and hardly any food at all. Definitely no dental floss present. Argh. I don't know if you can kill a dog by giving them too much peroxide, but I figured it wasn't worth the risk and called it quits. I put a couple of pieces of bread into each Klee Kai and went to bed.

I've been feeding pumpkin since then to help push things through and so far I've seen nothing. Granted, at this point I'm starting to keep a close eye on Luke (and maybe Secret, who knows) because if it did come out of one of the little dogs before I found it then odds are high he would have just taken it himself....

Everyone seems normal, thankfully, but I'm keeping close tabs and monitoring everyone until some sort of "evidence" passes. It was probably over a foot of dental floss, so no small amount -- especially for a little dog. We so do not need a medical emergency in this house.

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Wheels!

It's official! Today I brought home a new dog-mobile! I have lusted after a mini-van for at least the last two years now -- probably more, because things started to really get cramped in the Vue when Secret arrived. Due to various (mostly economic) reasons, I just couldn't stomach a car payment. I'll still likely be looking to pick up something part time to help with the bills, but I feel fortunate to be at a place now where I don't feel like having a car payment will cripple me financially. Without an extra source of income I'll definitely have to be more selective about our trialing choices, though, so I am hoping to find something that will help keep the bank account a little more thriving.

This morning I ordered a cargo cover that will cover the entire back end with all of the Stow-n-Go seats down and I'm going to wait until that arrives before I start playing with crate placement. I'm curious to see what ends up working best. I should probably start shopping for a Luke-sized wire crate one of these days, although I'm sure one of the big soft crates would probably work well enough. We'll have to do some testing to see what everyone likes.

I'm super excited for our AKC trial over in Oshkosh April 4 & 5 now! It will be our maiden voyage and there is a good chance we may just crate out of the vehicle if the weather cooperates. Crating is so tight in that building anyhow, and what with Kizzy's screaming and all I think it might be easier on everyone. I'm thrilled that we even have the option!

I'm also looking forward to being able to relax and not worry that my car is falling apart on me. The Vue was a good ride for the seven years I had it, but things were starting to go on it and it got to the point where it was going to cost more to fix it (bearings & brakes) than it was worth.

The new ride is a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan with just 9,500 miles on it -- so in my world that's practically brand new! It's the SE model, so it doesn't have any of the "frilly" stuff like auto doors or power seats. I think the only feature I would have really liked in the better model was the power windows in the back. On this model the side door windows don't roll down at all, which would have certainly been a nice feature when crating out of the vehicle in slightly warmer weather. I figure, though, that everyone will be in crates and I can always open both side doors for ventilation if needed.

Now comes the most difficult part -- picking out decals for the new van.  :o)  After what I just went through in removing the magnets from the back of the Vue I know I won't be looking to replace those. We'll go with just the decals this time to make it our own, as I've been told those are actually really easy to remove when you apply heat. The hardest part will be color.... The color of the van is "cashmere," which I have labeled a "silvery-tan" color. Unfortunately I think pink would look horrible on it, so I'll have to do some thinking there. lol

Not too much else to report here. There has been melting occurring, but not at a super fast rate. This is actually probably for the best, as it means we aren't overwhelmed by mud every day and things are re-freezing each night. The ice is gone from about 30% of the yard, I'd say. We're getting there. In the meantime, though, we've been getting out and walking every day. I think we could probably start doing our morning walks again, too, which the dogs will love (I'll have a harder time getting back into that schedule, I'm sure).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Target called again!

Today I got to skip out of work to spend a fun day with the little dogs. We got a call from our "agent" on Sunday telling us that Target was interested in the Klee Kai for their yearly costume shoot again. Last week was their big week where they were shooting from Monday through Friday and this week was pretty much just getting the stuff they missed.

Last week I was just dreading a call from Barbara. Not because I didn't want to do it (duh), but because my work week was just horrendous and filling up with meetings day after day. I knew there was no way I'd be able to get out of work and the last thing I wanted to do was to have to tell Barbara/Target, "no." I was so glad when Barbara called on Sunday and said that she needed us for Wednesday. I did a quick mental check of my meetings for the coming week and I was pretty certain Wednesday was wide open. Hooray! We could go!

Then it proceeded to get very warm... It was 54 degrees on Monday! Everything was melting and muddy -- and here I was, needing to give two Klee Kai a bath -- AND keep them clean. Argh. Lucky for me, I guess, the temperature dropped last night and froze everything up again. The dogs all got locked out of the big yard last night to keep them from going through the 4" puddle at the gate, but this morning I was able to open it again for everyone. Thankfully everyone stayed clean for our big day!

I wasn't sure what we'd be modeling today. Remembering back to our experience last year, we went up during the main week and Kaiser wore five different costumes for them. Then we got called to come back the following Wednesday or Thursday, where he ended up wearing the winter jackets. Because of that, I was pretty much figuring they wanted the little Northern breed dogs to model the winter wear again, but nope, they were still wrapping up costumes.

Kaiser was batting clean-up and was the last dog to be shot. They were actually calling and canceling other dogs that were scheduled for the day because they ended up getting everything they needed ahead of schedule. That meant that Kizzy ended up not getting her chance to shine in the spotlight this time, but she did make a good impression by being a good girl the entire time we were there. I played tug with her while we waited our turn and she was a SUPER good girl sitting in the crate by the production crew while Kaiser got his photo taken. I made sure to step over and give her treats during breaks to reward her good behavior.

Kaiser ended up just wearing the one costume -- a dinosaur -- and then we were done. We thought they were going to do a second costume -- the hot dog -- but it turns out the other set had gotten a couple of dogs in the small costume already and they figured they had enough to choose from. Bummer. Oh well, we'll look for Kaiser on the dinosaur costume this fall! It will be much easier than digging through the five costumes he wore last year to see which one he was chosen for (reminder, he was a bee!).

They did things differently this year, which surprised me. They kept taking pictures of Kaiser just wearing the body of the costume (without the head piece). At first I was like, are they just doing this to test the lighting? Then I learned that they have decided it's "easier" to take the shots separately and then Photoshop them together. Seriously! So they took the body shots, took the costume off, put the head piece on and then shot that. They said they feel it's easier on the dog to do it this way, but I was like, don't you even want to try to do it all at once and save yourself all that post-production work? Oh well, that just makes me even more interested to see the final result. I'll be looking at all of the packages in a new light this year!

We made a special trip down to Northfield, MN on our way hope to stop at CakeWalk bakery. This is the favorite part of our photo shoot journeys.  :o)  Okay, probably mine more so than the dogs since they just sit in the car. Yesterday was my dad's 60th birthday and we didn't even so much as get him a cake, so this was my way to make up for that. I sent half of the cupcakes home with him tonight because lord knows I don't need six. Okay, I don't need three, either, but whatever. I always lament how La Crosse doesn't have a cupcake store, but it's probably a good thing that we don't.

Considering she didn't really do anything all day, Kizzy was amazingly well behaved. She did her usual little yodel in the crate at the start of each leg but then settled right in for the trip. I felt bad that she was stuck in a crate by herself, but I borrowed my parent's car and wasn't able to actually get the big crate into the back seat (well, maybe I could have if I assembled it in the car, but I didn't think it was worth the hassle). So Kizzy was stuck in the small crate while Kaiser got the spot next to her.

Pretty sure he thought this arrangement was just swell.  :o)

Our last stop on the way home was to hit the car wash. I recently got a handful of free car wash tokens when the car wash broke as I was waiting in line, so I figured I'd share the love with my dad for letting me take his car for the day. Kaiser acted surprised when the sprayer went by on the highest pressure setting, but they were both pretty unfazed by the whole thing.

We got home around 3:30, which left us plenty of time to squeeze in a nice walk before settling in for the night. I was back in a hat and gloves because it's still chilly, but the roads are clear and it's so nice to be back out again! Monday was our first time out walking again and everyone was a bit nuts from being so happy to get out of the house. Everyone was still very excited tonight (aren't they always), but it wasn't quite like trying to fly four kites at once this time.

It will warm up again over the next couple of days. There is still a lot of melting that needs to happen in my back yard, so I'm expecting that we won't get to do much back there for at least a couple of weeks. It will be so nice to have winter behind us and be able to start training again!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


It's another Dog Agility Blogger Event today, and while I'm a little late at getting this post written, I couldn't pass up a chance to talk about my favorite subject ever -- Puppies! I'll admit now that I haven't had a chance to give much thought to what I'll actually write about; nor have I had a chance to visit the other blogs yet, so I can't steal their ideas. Hence, I shall just ramble on and see what comes out. Please visit the blogs belonging to people who have no doubt put a little more thought into their posts than I have by clicking here.

I love puppies. Not everyone shares my feelings and that's cool -- The thousands of adult dogs in shelters and rescues across the nation REALLY appreciate that there are a lot of people out there that find puppies to be too much work. And truthfully, after bringing Kizzy into our house at about 20 months of age there are certainly advantages. She came potty trained -- sweet! She was able to "hold it" for 10 hours while I was at work. Bonus! And once I actually got around to training her we were able to get to the "fun stuff" right away without waiting for her body to finish growing (granted, I'm not sure if THAT is the best plan of action, but it is what it is).

That said, there is just something so rewarding about puppy raising. I am one of the weird people who likes taking them outside every 30-60 minutes to prevent accidents in the house (although somehow I always seem to end up with winter puppies...). I don't mind getting up twice per night and actually set an alarm when they are super small so that I'm not relying on them to wake me up (and risk an accident). I run a very consistent house here, so everyone that comes through here learns the drill pretty quickly and falls in line with the routine.

I have let some things go over the years. Back when I got Luke, for example, I had a "no dogs on the furniture rule." He was about three years old before I started to let him up on the bed with me. When Kaiser came along my rule was, "You spend the first year sleeping in a crate." Secret made it a few months. lol The fosters did all stay in crates at night, though, because I know that ending up on my bed is the kiss of death (hence why Kizzy is still here!).

I had all sorts of crazy expectations about my first border collie and as such, I think Secret had an unfair amount of pressure placed on her as a puppy. I had SUCH high hopes and pretty much set out to teach her every trick I'd ever seen on the internet. Like blowing bubbles:

Secret was an absolutely brilliant puppy, which only ended up making me push for more. Looking back, I would have done things differently with Secret. I would have put less pressure on her to learn so much so soon and instead just played more. We had a "working" relationship in those early days, but I was never the one she wanted to play with. She always valued one-on-one time with Luke & Kaiser more than she did with me. I'm quite certain this was due to all of the pressure I put on her in our training sessions. That video above is a fine example -- I went WAY too long in that session. Way too long. Lesson learned.

My goal for the next puppy, whenever that may be, is to lay off the pressure. Knowing my personality type I know this will be difficult, but it's my goal. My next puppy doesn't need to know a million and one tricks (Kizzy knows, ahem, zero tricks...). I don't want my next puppy to be so serious all of the time and will instead focusing on playing and just hanging out together more. Many of Secret's early struggles are likely genetic (especially considering that her brother is so very similar), but I still feel that I could have done things a lot differently to make life more FUN for her early on.

I'm so glad I started this blog when I adopted Secret. It's been a really great way to track everything that I've done with her over the years -- things I would do again, things I would change, things that worked, things that didn't. I would encourage everyone to track their puppy's first couple of years (at least) because it's a fantastic learning opportunity and provides wonderful memories. I had Secret's first two years printed into books and those will be treasured forever!

While I consider myself an excellent puppy raiser who is great at teaching things like nail clipping, grooming, sit, down, etc., I'll leave the tips of "how to raise the next agility superstar" to other bloggers. I see videos of dogs who are fast, confident and focused at their first trials and often wonder how they do it. Granted, most of them likely do not live in an agility wasteland and are able to train in many environments. Kaiser & Secret both struggled at the start of their trial careers and now Kizzy has her own set of challenges (granted, that is less of a surprise...). We keep plugging away, though, because the payoff is so very rewarding. When Secret was first starting out I never dreamed she'd get a NATCH, so anything is possible. That's the sort of thing I tell myself as Kizzy runs out of the ring. Ha!!

I miss being able to foster puppies. It was so convenient when I could take the dogs to work with me, but now it's just not fair to expect them to sit in a crate 10-11 hours a day while I'm gone. Maybe one day things will change, but until then I have to settle for stolen puppy kisses from puppies at trials.  :o)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 3 - Kizzy is fried, everyone else rocks!

Our NATCH bar wasn't ready for us yet yesterday, so Kaiser got to pose for his official NATCH 2 picture at the end of the trial today.  :o)  They eventually talked me into taking one with the judge, but that's not on my camera so we'll have to see if it surfaces eventually. Typically my rule of thumb is that I'll pose for the first one, but after that we can just have the dog. lol

Typically I don't really expect much from these end-of-winter trials after a miserably long winter of no training. Historically we start to crash and burn right about now, but we had a spectacularly good weekend! Maybe that handful of ring rentals that we've done this winter have helped, who knows.

Kaiser had a perfect day today! He put in a lovely jumpers run that was the fastest of my crew (but not by much, they were all 25.XX, so they were all close!). We had another nice Chances course today -- they were all pretty nice this weekend -- and Kaiser sailed through it (literally, he sailed over the a-frame with a LOT of air...) for a "bonus" Q on his NATCH weekend. Then he put in two really lovely Regular rounds to finish out his perfect day.

I was seriously concerned about him following that day of UKI that we did. I've just never seen him jump so horribly at 8" and lack such confidence. I was even more worried on Friday when I saw hints of that doubt and stuttering when we started our first runs, but the little man just got better and better as the weekend went on. I still don't know if the UKI disaster was due to any one thing, but cumulatively it really played a number on him and I'm so happy to have my happy little dude back. He was running so nice today. I'm not sure if we'll have made any 100+ DRI runs this weekend, but we'll have to see.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Secret on her third day of trialing in a row, but she was ready to play! I was so thrilled about this! There have not been many times I have even bothered to try running her so many days in a row, but the two-per-day format agrees with her. That, along with dropping her least favorite class (Chances), seems to have made her a very happy camper. In her last run, Regular 1, she came out of the tunnel after the weaves like a firecracker was up her butt.  :o)  I had to do a rear cross because of it and this only seemed to push her to go faster. We had a super fun ending to that run (she did miss the weave entry, but was otherwise clean for a Q). Even more awesome, though, was that while we were waiting for our turn she was grabbing the leash and trying to get me to play with her. On day three! She wanted to play! Jumpers in the morning was also a great run for a Q -- she was only like 0.2 seconds behind Kaiser's time if I recall correctly.

Luke's time in Jumpers was just slightly behind Secret's but unfortunately he dropped a bar when I did a short send to get into place for a blind cross. With his Q in Chances today he is now just one Chances Q away from NATCH 5 ---- and three Jumpers Q's.... I dare say he will finish on Jumpers, which will be a first for me. I'm so used to everyone finishing up on Chances! There are only two shots at Jumpers at the April FDC trial, so I guess we'll be waiting a while. Oh well. Luke's Chances Q today put us at 6/6 for the weekend, and I think we're at 10 in a row with the last trial! Guess we're just making up for that dry spell. I'm just glad to know that our Chances aren't broken, because I was really starting to wonder... Not that I'd have any reason to wonder why, considering we never practice these skills anymore...

As I'd feared, Kizzy's brain really did melt out of her ears today. She was high as a kite going into the Jumpers ring and I knew that course would cause us problems because there was a sequence that ran right past the exit. I actually lost her before then, but she came back -- then left the ring when we went past the exit. A few people told me they felt her problems today might be from a sheltie with a piercing bark that kept carrying on during her runs, but I can hear that dog barking in all of her runs on video from yesterday so I don't know if it's true -- or if she was just in a state of mind that any little thing was going to give her a reason to do her own thing.

There were good moments. Before I lost her in Jumpers she was running like a bat out of hell (pretty much a dead giveaway that she was going to leave me, though). In the second round of Regular she started out really well with the a-frame and doing her weaves at the back of the arena. I lost her on a front cross before a tunnel, but thanks to us having the arena gated shut she did come back and finish the course. Unfortunately she then played the most fun game of keep-away ever with about four different people being sucked into her game before she allowed herself to be caught (she was the last dog of the trial and believe me, everyone was doing their very best to make sure she had a good ending experience here).

After Friday & Saturday I was feeling pretty positive about her AKC runs coming up in April. After today I'm a bit more eh..... I think I'll keep her entries in, but go in with the mindset of scratching her Saturday runs if Friday is atrocious. We'll see. There's a whole month between now and then and hopefully we'll get to squeeze in a little training. It would be nice to find a new place to go do a ring rental if possible.

No video from today -- Only Kizzy's runs were taped and honestly I just don't think there is much to share. Instead I'd rather watch her video from the other two days and remember the good stuff.  :o)

We will be waiting to hear if Target wants either of the Klee Kai this week. I'm not really fond of how they're doing it, but apparently the producer is making her decisions based on her needs at the end of each day. So basically, we get no notice? I had to let Barbara know that Monday and Wednesday are completely out for me this week due to meetings at work that I can't miss/reschedule. Tuesday and Thursday are a little more flexible, but still booked. It's like the worst week ever for something like this to come up, especially with the last-minute scheduling. Every time a meeting notice came through my work e-mail last week I was like, "aww crap." Oh well. Maybe they won't even want the Klee Kai this time, we'll have to see. Meanwhile, Kaiser is losing all of his hair and will be even more naked after he gets a bath (although this is not a bad thing when wearing costumes). Kizzy, on the other hand, has yet to actually blow coat since she arrived in July. Odd.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

NATCH 2 Kaiser!

I have to admit, we're having a pretty good weekend here at our NADAC trial. Today Kaiser brought home NATCH #2!  :o)  He needed two Chances Q's coming in to this trial and we had three shots at it, but considering that his Q's at the trial last month were his first (in Chances) since June, I honestly wasn't holding my breath. Plus I always tend to screw things up for a while when there is a big title on the line, so I wasn't really thinking about it too much.

Maybe that's what helped -- or maybe it's just because most of my mental energy is being used up by Kizzy this weekend -- but we pulled it out on the first try! This is the first of any of my NATCH's that have been earned on the first attempt. Usually I draw them out a couple of trials at least... And go figure, this NATCH was also done on a course with a dog walk. Oh how that was the bane of my existence a couple of years ago. Thankfully we seem to have gotten over that little hump now at least!

I'm also very happy that Kaiser was running more confidently today. He was acting a bit hesitant yesterday, perhaps just coming off the bad experience he had at the last facility. Today he started to seem more like his old self. Tomorrow he'll be even better, I'm sure. Amazing what an effect one bad day can have...

Kaiser's other runs didn't make it on video, but he had a lovely run in Jumpers that I managed not to screw up (after messing up both Secret & Luke's runs). In Regular 1 he knocked the bar right before the a-frame and then took the tunnel under the a-frame. In the second round I guess he didn't finish his weave poles? I saw a 20 point fault on what I thought was a clean run and Travis told me it was the weaves and that he'd written it down because he knew I'd ask.  :o)  Hmm. I didn't see it (obviously), but it happens.

Kizzy's great night last night wasn't a fluke! She continued to play and stay with me today, too! The first round of Regular was an NQ. She kind of launched the dog walk and then didn't get the discrimination of "out tunnel." That didn't surprise me in the least. I was actually thrilled that she took the tunnel at all, as usually if there is one next to a contact it just won't get taken. She ended that run great, too, and I was able to scoop her up rather quickly.

I only got half of her second run on video, but she got another Q! In that run she actually even managed to go around the barrel by herself (correctly -- I had to "help" her around the first time). Dumb barrels. We didn't have them in Elite, no idea why they showed up for Open & Novice. AND she did her weaves at the end with the big open gate right in front of her! I was thrilled about that. We did have a little issue when the next dog came into the ring... It was a snorty pug that Kizzy was a little ooged by before we went in for our run. Thankfully the dog's owner and the judge were very cool about everything (we did have a discussion after the class and I said I'd gladly take E's the rest of the weekend as training if I had to, but it didn't seem to be an issue).

Jumpers was last up and Kizzy was a little spacey, but she always came back and finished the run for another Q! She had another good ending. This time we didn't really have to worry about the dog after us because the owner was running three dogs in the small class and was needing time anyhow. Hooray for a happy ending to our day!

Luke was his normal super-awesome self today. He also brought home another Chances Q (we're on a roll, I guess, no explanation for that awful 7-month dry spell!), which means he now just needs two more for NATCH 5! We'll have to see how tomorrow goes. Unfortunately his Jumpers Q count is still at three.... And that one is all on me. I took out a jump. Literally. I was moving through the serpentine and suddenly thought to myself, "gee, I bet there is a jump in here somewhere" and then I felt it. With my leg. Whoops. It's been a while since I've done that, so I guess I was due.

That move worked well for Secret, though, and produced one heck of a nice line through that serpentine. Unfortunately I royally sucked at the blind cross I did shortly after and she took an off course jump. Watching the video I can't blame her because honestly I pretty much cued it. Oh well. She got another Q in Regular this morning. I dropped my shoulder/arm a little early to pull her off the tunnel under the a-frame (many dogs were taking the tunnel, which may have caused my early body language). She pulled in and came past the jump before the a-frame but we were able to fix it. It was a fun, fast course that took a long flowing line around the back a couple of times and Secret had a lot of fun with it. I've lucked out that neither of her courses have had weaves at the start this weekend, too, which always helps with happy weaves.

We are back for one more day of fun tomorrow! The pressure is off Kaiser, which will be nice (although honestly, the pressure was never there today because my brain was in Kizzyland). It will be interesting to see what Kizzy does with her third day in a row... Her brain may just melt out of her ears, we'll see. She'll have Jumpers first thing in the morning and then will get to sit all day until her Regular runs.