Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good Bye Lucky Lucy

lucky4x6webAfter 3 months of diligent searching for my “missing” dog beginning last February 1st, Lucky’s remains were found under our house by the Orkin inspector, cause of death unknown.  She was last seen by me, bounding around in the back yard, young, healthy, hearty, and in love with life.
I have not until today been able to blog any notice of this, or blog anything further about dog training, and can not at this time post more than a few of her photos in memoriam, to let people know that she was here. and now is gone.

Lucky Lucy Lu Lu von Fry, MX, AXJ, CGC
 “I love you, I miss you, I’ll never forget you, my beautiful girl.”
Love you forever, Mamma

Outside The Ring– #11 Blog Action Day

I’ve been out of the ring now for almost a year, as in, with no dog to run.  I think this topic was meant to be more like “how do I train between trials”, BUT . . .  maybe I have something useful to say, too. Here’s what the other dog agility bloggers have to say:
Starting with why are we out?  Several reasons combined to make 2014 a rough year. 
MaxieTireSquare120x1201. Maxie has slowed down so much that, from 1st places almost every Q, he barely makes course time. For some reason he won’t, or can’t, run fast any more.  After 2 chiropractic adjustments where the doctor said he was “badly out of alignment”, and I heard her pop his sternum back into place, I dare not push him.  Also, since he had 12 teeth removed late last year, his personality seems to have changed.  He’s not as confident, not as feisty, not as demanding of attention.  He actually chooses to sleep in another room, for example.
2. And then, I tripped on a tree root at the agility field last December and tore the meniscus in my left knee.  Painful, and after an MRI, 16 weeks of PT, and 8 months of sitting out, it still throbs and I can’t run at all.
LuckyTire 5x7 web3. Meanwhile, in late January my young, daring, robust, 50 lb. Lucky Lucy mysteriously disappeared, and after 3 months of desperate searching, the Orkin man found her remains under our house.  Due to very cold weather, we never smelled her decaying.  When my husband and son retrieved her from under the house, they put her in a box for me and I took her to the vet next day for cremation.  The box weighed 20 pounds.  Just skin, and bones.  30 pounds missing!  I’ve suffered continuous grief and no closure there, as I still have no idea why she died.  Time has done little to assuage my sadness.  I miss her so much at every turn!  At the mere mention of her name I still tear up.  Her ashes are still in John’s trunk.  I can’t bear to bring them inside.  Going from playing fetch every day, admiring her beauty and insatiable joyfulness every time I looked at her, training and strategizing how to make my girl love the ring (she loves agility, just hates the ring), to no partner, no nothing, has left a gigantic hole in my life. Everyone about me seems to think I should just “get over it”, “get another dog”, “get back in the ring”, after all she’s “just a dog”, etc. The doctor prescribed “anti-depressants”.  All such advice just makes me realize that grief is not well understood.
GRIEVING: I’ve learned that people are terrified of grief.  Nobody knows how to behave around someone crying, how to console the bereaved.  Where does one learn that, anyway? Who wants to be around a sad sack? That’s why it is easier, for all concerned, for the bereived to be alone. But I want to say, grieving is a very important process.  Loss has an intensity shared by no other life transition: except maybe birth, shame, pride, and falling in love. It isn’t bad.  It teaches you a lot about yourself - what is truly important to you. For me, it wasn’t agility, but affection, partnership, loyalty, devotion.  Grief can actually be a way to stay in touch with those qualities, re-living the joy of fondest memories, feeling deeply the bonds of intense love.   If loved ones were instantly replaceable, not long missed, (as in,, “life is too short to waste on being sad”), that would be horrible.  What would that say about any one individual’s worth?  The whole concept of a “cherished loved one” would be moot.  This, my first experience of inconsolable loss, has made me better understand those who likewise grieve.  My mother, for example, widowed 2 years ago after 65 years of marriage, breaking down sobbing at odd moments,with that vacant look in her eye now and then, is more understandable now. I see why in the old days widows wore black for a year – to remind everybody to cut them some slack, give them some space, don’t try to “fix” them.  Let TIME heal the wound. One learns to live with loss – slowly!  I also understand why some people can’t bear to talk about the loss. Even after years, it’s too painful. Some things are irreplaceable!   
4. In April, amidst the bum knee, sick husband, and missing dog,  I moved my aforementioned 93 year old mother to Baton Rouge and we are both still adjusting to her constant presence in my life – in an Assisted Living situation down the road from me. Lots and lots to do to help her adjust and I’m happy to do it.  Doctor’s appointments.  Social outings. Shopping.  Repairs.  Being on call.  Trying to make her days enjoyable when she needs a walker to get about, can’t drive, is getting hard of hearing, is kind of stuck in the past, with lots of aches and pains, etc. Really makes me appreciate the 4 years I had of relative freedom from responsibility!   And the ability to drive.  Cherish your freedom.
5. Oh, and I must mention, my husband and I both quit smoking in January after his bout with a strange type of flu that kept him 15 days on oxygen in intensive care – another big adjustment. According to the doctors, I almost lost him.  As of this writing, he hasn’t yet regained all his strength.  He no longer sets courses for our dog club’s trials, and we’ve had to hire various handy men around the house, whom I get to manage.  What with my bum knee and both of us doing lots more sitting, we’ve each put on about 20 lbs. 
WHOA! Agility does keep the weight down – and that’s one more reason for none of you to ever, ever leave the ring!  I hope you never have to.
Actually, life outside the ring is a lot easier.  I don’t miss the tension of packing up the motor home, long checklists, getting dogs ready, hours on the road, living through storms in a little tin house, dealing with dirt, soreness and injuries, jostling among all the people, the tension of watching the time, memorizing courses, performing the run, processing videos, beefing up my mental game, etc. – all very tedious, requiring extreme focus and total dedication, not to mention gobbling up the time.   It’s a miracle anybody puts themselves through all that trouble.  That so many do is a testament to how our dogs inspire us.
Actually, I only did agility because  . . . . . how can one not . . . . . when our dogs beg every day to be trained and yearn for their turn, there’s a huge payoff in satisfying them.   But  I never acquired an “agility dog” for the sheer love of the sport.  With Lucky gone, Maxie lethargic, Pepper content to be my “buddy”, and Willow too old, I don’t currently have an agility partner.  Maybe when the dust settles around here, and perhaps if I experience another “fatal attraction’ with a motivated, athletic dog that wins my heart and demands my attention, I may well get back in the ring. Lots of my dog friends are getting new puppies, specifically to train in agility. It had it’s peak moments for me, and it would be a shame to waste all that I’ve learned. I wouldn’t trade my experience.  I cherish every ribbon.  Maxie is only 6 QQ’s away from championship, and I do hope we can accomplish that someday.  He’s only 6.  We have time.  When my husband retires in 2.5 years, maybe we’ll head out west in the Motor Home and go trial hopping!
2012-11-28 001 002Meanwhile, friends, I want you to know there is life beyond agility.  I frequently take my 3 papillons (Pepper, Willow, Maxie) to Mom’s nursing home for pet therapy visits.  They are much admired and very popular, and Maxie still loves to perform.  I’m beginning a blog on the “assisted living” experience – lots going on there. 

And, I’ve been recording audio books for Librivox. (type Michele Fry into the search box to see what I’ve recorded so far).  And I’m learning to create podcasts.  Challenging hobbies, all, keeping me motivated, in touch with creative processes and surrounded by human genius.
So, that’s where I’m at right now.  I just beg you all to realize that nothing we do or have is cast in stone. Pets.  Homes.  Friends. Family.  Activities.  Health.  Free time.  Count your blessings and cherish them all.
Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lucky Lucy is Missing

February 1st, about 1:45 P.M., Lucky Lucy jumped my fence, disappeared, and my life has been a nightmare ever since.  She frequently jumps the fence, but I am usually outside with her, begin calling her immediately, and she comes back within a few minutes.  But this time I put her out, went to the bathroom, and when I came back out she was gone.  I’m pretty sure she was nabbed in the park.

We’ve combed the neighborhoods, the woods, the highway calling her name.  I laminated and posted about 30 of these flyers around the immediate neighborhoods,  posted on Facebook, Craig’s List, Petfinders, brought copies to Animal Control, Companion Animal Alliance, police and sheriff sub-stations, and am still handing out door to door each day, visiting the pound each week,
All the stuff they say to do, I am doing as fast as I can.  Including offering a reward.  But it’s just a drop in the bucket. It’s a huge city. She could be anywhere.
I’m usually speechless, and when I talk can’t stop crying, and my family is advising me to “get over it” and “get on with my life”, which makes me crazier than ever. 
I don’t want to get over it.  I can’t believe she is gone.  I can’t believe there is such a thin veneer of “protection” surrounding our pets.  It’s ridiculous.  Microchips aren’t worth anything if nobody scans your dog. Collars and tags with phone numbers to call are meaningless if somebody wants to keep your pet for themselves.
I want to revamp the system, which is mostly ineffective, and so cumbersome hardly anyone can do it.  Not everyone has a computer, a camera, a color printer, and lots of time like I do, but even with all the tools available, it’s a drop in the bucket.

I’ve found out some shocking things during this nightmare venture.

DID YOU KNOW that if an animal is found dead on the road or in a ditch, Animal Control does NOT come pick them up.  Nobody scans them for a microchip, take their photo and place it online anywhere.  What happens is that Waste Management is called to come out and remove the carcass.   No attempt is made to ID the animal or contact the owners!

DID YOU KNOW that if someone nabs your dog and is caught, the legal punishment ranges from a $500 fine to a $1500 fine, and a bit of jail time, but it all depends upon "the strength of the bond" between owner and animal, which the OWNER HAS TO PROVE.  Upshot of it is, it's only a crime to steal someone's pet if the owner can prove they care a lot about the animal.

DID YOU KNOW that microchips can "slip" and become hard to detect.

DID YOU KNOW that fewer than 20% of lost pets are ever reunited with their owners.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Goodbye, FoohFooh

Fooh Fooh Fontenot von Fry,
American Dingo (aka  Carolina Dog)
FoohFooh left this world today at 3:45 p.m.  He could no longer walk nor hold his water, but he ate his last hamburger and fries with relish on the way to the vet, then went peacefully within a few seconds of getting his shot.  John and I were both with him and while sad, we are satisfied he left as he lived . . . with dignity.  We'll scatter his ashes in his woods behind the bonfire area in a few weeks. He was 15.

Living with, raising and training a dingo has been a rewarding but very challenging experience. I'll let the first post of this blog, which was named after him and Maxie (foohmax), serve as his memorial. I'd like to add that I asked him to do a last trick, a Fay-Do-Do, on the table while waiting for the vet, and he immediately laid down his head and held the pose, like a statue, probably waiting for a treat.

Here's a great quote from a dingo website that expresses our feelings for FoohFooh:
"Dogs give us their absolute all. We are the center of their Universe.  We are the focus of their love and faith and trust.  They serve us in return for scraps.  It is without doubt the best deal man has ever made."  Roger Caras

Here’s an article published in the Smithsonian Magazine about this semi-wild breed.

We didn't know FoohFooh was a dingo when we adopted him at 12 weeks of age, just a lively little puppy with floppy ears who needed a home.  We identifying him much later as a Carolina Dog (American Dingo).  Here are some website photos that leave no doubt about his breed. Check them out.

We’d like to thank all the wonderful friends/family members who have taken care of and shown such patience with Fooh Fooh over the years (Audrey, Laura, Schuyler, Nathan, Garret, Portia) when we've gone out of town to agility trials or on trips, coming at 8 a.m. and/or 8 p.m. to feed him, as well as mid-day to let him out and play with him awhile.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

L to R:  Pepper, Lucky Lucy, Maxie
Here's our very first doggie posed Christmas Card!  I sent it out to family in magnetic frames, and to the dog's teachers and friends in a big card.  Of course the question was "Where's Willow?"  All I can say is Willow doesn't do agility and didn't attend the trial where the photographer was.  I posed the dogs I had with me.

Christmas was fun.  Jonathan came into town, we gathered at Audrey's house Christmas night with all the usual peeps.  I made a double batch of Seafood Gumbo, Audrey made her Oyster Dressing and Sweet Potatoes, other people brought salads and desserts.  Yum!   Then Nathan, Jonathan, John and I all went to see Hobbit II 3D the next night (John's treat).  The dragon was the most awesome ever, but my assessment of the movie was . . . . .  too loud, too long, with too much dragon, and too many orks . . . . . and 28 minutes of previews).  They overdid everything.  I had to make earplugs with my napkin to survive the high decibels.  Movie theatres seem hell-bent on making the populous deaf.
New Year's Eve . . . after 15 straight years of partying around a bonfire in our yard, writing our resolutions on a cabbage leaf, and all jumping the fireline and walking the labyrinth at midnight, we didn't do anything this year.  The energy just wasn't right.  The lawnmower broke so we couldn't vacuum the leaves nor even see the grass labyrinth, John pulled his back and was (still is) moaning with acute pain, my knee prevents me from walking much, Schuyler had the flu, the kids all had young people plans, and Laura's sister, Julie, came to her house to get some rest (she's going to have a baby in 25 days or so and is exhausted). Besides which, it drizzled all day and evening in 45 degree weather. Everyone hunkered down at home.  We all talked on the phone, though.  Audrey and I made sure to be talking together at midnight, and I went outside with towels and wiped the wet dust off my car, with fireworks exploding everywhere, so numerous it sounded like a 3 hour air-raid! And fireworks are illegal in Baton Rouge!!!!!!!!

John and I sat on the front porch sipping hot chocolate, discussed our resolutions and pretty much agreed on a direction for our new year, health being a top priority, financial stability,  family & friends, of course. Following our passions, enjoying each and every day.  And then, of course, being useful,  minimizing stress, etc.

His passion is astronomy, mine is my home, my dogs, and recording audio books for Librivox. 2014 will be interesting for both of us because there's not enough time in the day to learn or do all we want to learn or do, and that's a very good place to be.

Today was the LSU/IOWA game at noon (we won), and Laura made it over for cabbage and black eye peas!  I'll build a fire tonight in my newly repaired fireplace, and we'll look for a new series to watch on Netflix while we recover from our injuries.

My best wishes to everyone out there, and I'll now share my favorite recent fortune cookie wisdom with you: 

"Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out."

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Agility - The Mental Game

L to R:  Pepper, Lucky Lucy, Maxie
This is part of the quarterly Blog Action Day where agility bloggers all write on the same subject.  See what others have to say here.

The mental game has been at least 50% of the challenge for me in this sport, so much so that I can safely say if it wasn't A LOT OF FUN for me and my dogs to over ride the inertia of "comfort", I wouldn't do it at all.  Fortunately, I can afford the financial cost, so that's one problem I don't have.  But I've never been athletic, so making my body get out there and move, and in distinct ways, provides daily resistance.  EXERCISE (leg lifts, stretches, footwork, etc.) has never called my name, except for walking and swimming, both of which I love.  SPORTS have never interested me either -- I don't care to participate, and don't care which team wins!  I'm somewhat uncomfortable chatting with PEOPLE,  mostly because what interests me doesn't seem to interest them and vice versa.  Also, I find I never have enough time to learn enough, so I covet my private time.  So I'm not particularly suited for the bustling agility "scene"!

What does appeal to me is learning to communicate with my dogs and give them a wonderful life, and since they respond to body language that means I have to move my body.  I do agility for them.
For them, I've left the comfort of my home for classes and trials.  I've learned umpteen rules, which, by the way, I might direct you to my essay in the sidebar of this blog, Tips For The Novice Agility Competitor, to refresh you on how much you've had to learn and how far you've had to come to do this sport.  It's an eye-opener, especially for the seasoned agility instructor, reminding them how much their new students  have to learn in order to compete, and this doesn't even count training the dog!  It's intimidating!  One certainly needs a good mental game to endure it.

I've had injuries and illnesses - torn ligaments, twisted ankles, hip bersitis, pneumonia, cat and dog bites, vertigo, etc.  I've run my dogs with a TENS unit in my pocket and wires running under my pants leg to stimulate my sore calf muscle -- the only way I could endure the pain of the run. I've used and given away KT tape and ice packs to help others function at trials.  I see tons of knee braces, back braces, ankle wraps, etc., at trials, so I'm not alone in this.  Not to mention my eye problems -- my depth perception is way off since my cataract surgery 1.5 years ago.  This has been very depressing, like living with a continuous hangover.

Maxie, giving it his all.
Increasingly, I see people lining their dogs up for chiropractic and massage treatments.  It makes one wonder, why put our dogs through this sport if it's going to injure them?  Are we just doing it for ourselves?  One needs a good mental perspective to develop satisfying answers to these questions.  In my case, Maxie has needed some adjustments and isn't running as fast as before, and it turns out Lucky Lucy doesn't like being in arenas.  That is disquieting.  But . . . my dogs are bored to death if I don't do something active with them every single day.  They both enjoy movement, and I need movement.  They beg me to make them do tricks.  Agility seemed a good solution, so I've put 4 years into it, and loved it.   Truth be told, they'd be just as happy walking through the neighborhood, fetching balls, etc.  But that isn't sufficient for me, see.  I need more mental challenge than that.  I need to teach them stuff, and test their understanding, and occasionally it's nice to show them off.

Another significant part of my mental game has been learning how to tune out the critics and the ambilivants . . . . . just focus on my team.  When I'm at a trial, or even in class, I do my best to be friendly, attentive and supportive, but in the final analysis I'm there to be with my dogs and inch forward in our teamwork.  That's where the thrill is, for me.  I don't really enjoy being with people who aren't there for me.  Everyone is basically preoccupied, doing their own thing.  And then there are the rude people that nobody ever talks about.  The mental game helps provide the shield.

I enrolled in John Cullen's online courses via Cognitive Edge, learning a lot about setting up a Pre Competition Routine.  I've read books (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) about developing my mental game.  I've learned to love watching football games, (LSU and the New Orleans Saints in particular), because it amazes me what these "gladiators" go through to develop their physical skills as well as their mental game. What the human body can do, given proper and regular training and right mental attitude, is nothing short of miraculous.  I still don't know the rules of that game.  I just watch the players give their all -- pass and run and tackle and fly through the air, and arise unharmed after 20 guys have just piled up on them.  I want to be that way.  But I'm not.

I've done Susan Garrett's Puppy Peaks, but when I got my puppy (Pepper) 2 years ago, I didn't do many of the exercises.  Partly because I already train 2 dogs, partly because Pepper doesn't catch on as quickly as the other two and I'm not into the "thousands of repetitions" gig some dog trainers say is needed to train our dogs.  Maxie and Lucky Lucy spoiled me.  They learned quickly.  Not that it matters much.  I adore my beautiful Pepper-Tu, too. His manners are pretty good, and his antics are so funny!  He is very PRESENT and WITH ME in the most important ways.

Looking back, this whole blog has been mostly a chronicle about my involvement in this sport, but it also captures the enormous amount of work that goes into agility -- training, packing, travelling, filling out forms, learning the rules, solving training and other problems, building equipment and relationships, keeping up the training yards, setting goals, analyzing runs, developing a healthy mental game, streamlining processes, cutting losses, and carrying on despite the many disappointments and constant struggles.  Not that I'm trying to discourage anyone else, but lately I've been wondering why I continue when I could stay home where everything runs pretty much smoothly and I don't have to struggle so much.  There are a lot easier things to do.

I'm kinda in that mental space right now, wondering if just taking classes once a week and backyard training would satisfy me, without need to trial and compete for ribbons and titles.  Hopefully it's just a phase.  What did John Cullen's recent article call it  -- burn out.  I read the article -- all the ways to prevent burnout -- but I didn't even want to do those.

On top of that, there's my declining FoohFooh, my first dog for whom this FoohMax agility blog is named.  I never did agility with FoohFooh.    He was so smart, but I was not ready to handle his enthusiasm. I did the best I could. We did many tricks. He wowed our visitors with his roll-overs, hand shakes, fay-do-do's (i.e., bang, you're dead's), and such forth, but I had never heard of Agility in 1998. Nor even Obedience!  I was a highly skilled child trainer, but not a bit with dogs.  I made it up daily, but never caught up as he was so smart, I knew I was lagging right away.  But it wasn't until I acquired Maxie in 2008 that, never to make the same mistake, I began to search online for dog training tips.  Fooh is just as smart as Maxie, maybe smarter.  I failed him in so many ways.  He forgives me, and he's now so old, can barely stand.  We are waiting with baited breath for his last day.  Maybe 3 weeks, 3 months, not sure.  I don't want to leave him behind for a weekend of trialing and miss his passing.  That would scar my soul. So I tend to stay home.  His poor backbone sticks out, his paws curl under, he can barely make it down the steps to the yard, he barely responds to the call to go "outside", which used to excite him so.  We are all feeling kinda low around here, though he still loves his food.  Death sucks.  Is that bad?  Is it wrong to linger with a dying loved one and let them know how wonderful their blip of life was for you? Wrong to lose your mo-jo for awhile?  Wrong to feel depressed, sad, wound down?  Wrong to not respond to the enthusiastic urgings of the yet-healthy ones whose main focus is, without doubt, Me, Me, Me?  Gees, if fading away means nothing, why rise?

And then two weeks ago I tripped on a root after a stimulating class, landed flat on my belly, knocked the breath out of me.  I spit the dirt out of my mouth, got up and drove home, but within 2 days I realized I had re-strained my old knee ligament injury (which had me in a walker for 3 months a few years back), and I think I fractured a rib.  I've been in pain ever since, with NO desire or ability to practice the past two weeks.  Feeding and petting the dogs and letting them out is about all I can muster.  So that's "where I'm at" at this writing.

Hopefully, reading the other agility bloggers' posts will help me get back my mo-jo!  Bring it on.  No doubt, this agility gig has been a life-shifting, motivating, memorable ride and I don't regret it one bit.  Would I love to go to my own grave saying I had a CHAMPION AGILITY DOG?  Of course, I would.  And Maxie's only 7 QQ's from getting there, and we'd have been there long ago if it wasn't for just, every single trial day, just ONE LITTLE MISTAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

Happy Holidays to you all.  Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Missed Runs, Missed Trials

Being a frequent gate keeper (my favorite job), I often wonder why so many people have ABSENT scrawled by their names.  Why would they pay for a run then not show up?  It's so . . . . . uneconomical!

Well now I know.  I was paid up, the RV was all packed to leave out late Wednesday for Kiln (only 2 hours away), giving me plenty of time to set up and enjoy a bit of camping before Thursday's runs. Tuesday night, throwing in my last load of clothes, I decided to wash the house dress I was wearing, peeled it off me right then and threw it in the washer.  An hour later my husband emptied the washer for me, and I heard a big "UH OH!"  My iPhone was in the bottom of the basket!  It had been in my dress pocket and went through both wash and rinse cycles.  I had killed my phone!  I was dumbstruck.

Wednesday morning I called AT&T first thing.  If our 2 year contract was up for renewal I could get an identical 4S phone for .99 cents!  Otherwise a new phone is $549!!!!!    But they wouldn't talk to me about our contract because John's the only contact listed.  I had to wait til he got off work at 4 and meet me over there.  How dumb! Oh well, I could still leave Thursday morning.  The first dog on the line wasn't til NOON Thursday.  Plenty of time to get there by 10 and set up. 

We met up at AT&T at 4 Wednesday afternoon, and found out our contract has a year to go, so no cheap phone. They suggested we take mine across the street to iRepair, who took it apart and confirmed that it was fried.  Showed us the corrosion on the mother board.  But, they had a used one identical to mine for $200, so I bought it.  Of course it wouldn't have any of my contacts, apps or settings until I could sync it to my iTunes via my laptop, so we rushed home to do that so I could leave in time, or maybe just miss the first 2 runs.  The damn thing would not sync, nor would it connect to my Bluetooth speaker, and my computer kept serving me popups asking me to update, upgrade, etc., then iTunes wanted me to upgrade, then my anti-virus program announced it was restarting my computer. One delay after another.  I was beginning to get upset.  What good is a smart phone without your list of contact phone numbers and if I can't stream audio books and podcasts for entertainment at night?  I don't know anybody's phone numbers any more, except John's (how dumb is that), and I wasn't about to get on the road without my phone (can you believe we all used to drive around all the time, even cross country, without phones?????).  I struggled for 3 hours trying to make it sync.  The more I tried, the more tense I became until finally I was sobbing. That's when my back started to hurt! 

We agreed to take the "stupid phone" back to iRepair Thursday morning.  They erased the whole phone and uploaded the Apple programs like a brand new phone (which they should have done in the first place).  This took a few hours, and my back began hurting so bad I couldn't get out of the car! Brought the "new" phone home, it synced perfectly and was set up just like my old phone.  But I was in such pain, I thought I had kidney stones or lung cancer or something.   No way could I drive, much less set up camp or run my dogs.  I was contemplating going straight to the hospital. This debilitating pain lasted through Sunday.

After my phone got back to normal and a few days passed, my pain miraculously disappeared.  It was simply tension!  But the trial was over.

And that's one way to get an ABS scrawled by your name at the gate. :-)

Upward and onward!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pepper's Second Birthday

Today is Pepper's 2nd birthday!  My how time flies.  I remember bringing him home from The Pines Papillons (my cousin's place in Florida) when he was 8 weeks old, fat, lazy, and very ungainly with oversized ears.  I intended to sell him but he fit in so well with us, I just couldn't do it.  I had to watch him grow into those enormous ears.  Here's his 2 year Birthday Portrait.

I extracted his image from the green screen photos taken at our agility trial a few weeks back (see below), water-colorized it slightly in Photoshop, and superimposed it over a watercolor painting we own by a friend and well known local artist - Joe Lackey.  It came out good, I think. The whole family will get a 5x7, I'm framing an 8x10 for our entry table, and it will surely become one of my favorite desktop images on my laptop.

Love you, little Winnie Pooch, Honey Bear, Pepperoni, Babutchka, Maniac, and even sometimes by his real name, Pepper-Tu.  Thanks for bringing us so much joy, little fella, and keep on tugging!

Upwards and onward!

Here's the green screen shot, in which only Pepper looks good.  It would have been a wasted photo if I couldn't extract him out.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Port Allen Agility Trial

Maxie, 6 runs,  3 Q's, 2 1st places, 1 2nd place, 54 MACH points, 6 videos
Lucky Lucy, 6 runs, 0 Q's, 6 videos

L to R:  Pepper, Lucky Lucy, Maxie
Well, I got what I asked for at this trial,  a few Q's.   And a surprise bonus -- some wonderful doggie portraits!

Maxie Q'd all 3 of his Standard runs and NQ'd all 3 of his Jumpers runs!  No QQ's for us this weekend. Oddly, all of his Jumpers runs were 1-3 seconds over course time - that's very odd, because on all of his Standard runs he made good time, 17, 16, and 21 MACH points with 2 1st places and 1 2nd place.  He mostly walked his weaves, though, and back-jumped 1 jump because I mis-cued him.  I held my own, not ever getting lost on course, but he's not yet back to his old self.  Will he ever be? After his last run we visited the on-site chiropractor who popped several vertebrae back into place and I heard a big crack which she said was popping his sternum back into place.  OUCH!  But she did NOT confirm the vet's assessment that he has any compressed disks!

Lucky NQ'd all 6 runs, and never once made course time.  She ran clean twice, but made lots of errors between the other 4 runs.  There were pretty parts to each run, though, and she never once stopped on top of the A-frame to survey the arena and never missed a contact!  I have got to get her into some open-air trials and under-roof matches where she will run fast.  I'm convinced she just hates under-roof agility.  Where are the matches?

Pepper was a superb crate mate the whole weekend, walking on a loose leash, not barking or whining when Maxie left the crate, hardly ever bolting out of the crate, and not even trying to lift his leg on arena posts and other dog's crates as at previous trials.  He is maturing very nicely, encouraging me to begin training him more than casually.

The best thing that happened at this trial is some new photographers that were taking group shots in front of a green screen, then letting you select your background.  First time I've had any of my dogs sit for a professional photograph.  I bought the CD @ $50  (only because they took about 30 pics and gave permission for me to use them any way I want).  I will have lots of fun learning how to extract the photos from the green background and add in my own.  Above is one of many shots taken.  I will be mining this field for individual portraits, for of course trying to pose three dogs at once is difficult, and there are often shots with one dog that looks great while the other two are looking away, etc.  What fun!

Another good thing, my son and his wife Allison, stopped by Friday noon and got to see Maxie's first run, a fast and solid Q.  Here we are at my crate space, with Pepper probing Nathan's ear with his ant-eater tongue.

Another thing, we learned that the Port Allen arena has a wireless mike system, and Wi-Fi, and will make these available to us for future trials.  I don't have to bring our equipment anymore to call the FAST points.  I can stream Librivox files between runs and relax.  I also got tutored a bit by our Trial Secretary on how the runs are scored and score sheets printed out.

Maybe the best thing of all is that John, using up 3 days of his vacation, worked his tail off the whole 4 days, beginning by supervising the new professional movers in loading and offloading of the trailer on Thursday afternoon then helping Nedra and me set up tables and hang signage around the arena, then showing up at the arena by 6:30 every morning, being in the ring at every course change all three days, filling and tamping holes (which a dozen or more competitors thanked him for profusely, or came up to me and praised him to the skies) and being the last to leave every night helping the arena guy with the injured hand water down the dirt, and organizing the equipment for pickup Sunday after the trial was over.  It felt great for me and our dogs to have him near and feel so well supported.  He was my hero.

Unfortunately, our Ring Steward decided to "economize" on volunteer concessions tickets this year, consequently she gave John only 5 $1  tickets per day, not counting Thursday!  Just enough for one small hamburger and fries per day.  As a result, not for the lack of food (because we brought or bought our own) but for the principle demonstrated, we are both less inclined to bust our butts in future.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lolly-Gagging and Librivox

WOW!  Exactly 7 weeks since my last post.  I haven't exactly been lolly-gagging, just musing, coasting, groping my way, "seeing through a glass darkly".  After watching Maxie's agility performance deteriorate these past 8 months or so (poorer times, skipping the weaves), and observing his erratic behavior at home (skulking off into other rooms and hiding in corners to sleep), I have known something is wrong.  I took him to the doggie chiropractor who said several things were out of place but she said she put them back and gave me the green light to continue performing, with the admonition not to let him jump off the king-size bed any more!

But I lolly-gagged in getting him checked out further.  Plenty of other things intervened.  Finally I had to bring FoohFooh in with an infected toenail and bad limp, so Maxie came along, got some bloodwork done and a general checkup.  I found out he has inflamed gums and a few loose teeth, and perhaps a few compressed disks!  I scheduled a tooth cleaning for the next day. They ended up keeping him overnight because during the cleaning, 8 teeth fell out and they had to pull 8 more.  Little 7 lb. Maxie was on a morphine drip overnight, and lost 16 teeth!  I was absolutely sick.  Also, they put him on some liver meds to see if his numbers there might clear up in a month or so, otherwise they will have to do more!  And he's going back to the chiropractor this weekend, since one will be at our trial.

This has taken the wind out my sails.  I didn't realize how much I feed on Maxie's enthusiasm.  His comportment has always been "teach me something, Mommy, teach me something NOW!".  Most of the time nowadays,  he's just content to rest or look at me. He still runs, plays and eats well, but not with the same intensity.

Of course, there is still Lucky Lucy, always wanting to tug and retrieve, go for walks, etc.  Depending upon me so much for her entertainment.  I throw the ball for her and she stays in shape leaping over the 30" fence several times a day to retrieve her ball.  (Retrieving is great when the dog brings you back the ball -- all you have to do is stand there!)  But it's not enough.  She needs more.

And then there is Pepper.    What a sweetheart, but I'm not sure I can go the distance to train him as an agility dog.  He does all the full height equipment, and we play around, but he just doesn't get the sequencing.  He loves to tug, and to chase the ball, too, but doesn't bring it back.  And, he doesn't beg to be trained like the other two.  It is not imperative to me, I'm realizing, to have a third agility dog.

And then, my vegetable garden has kept me occupied, plus making jellies and pickles.  I'm working on a single post that will cover the entire season's harvest in pictures. Here's one day's worth.  Isn't it beautiful?

And then I've discovered how much I love to record audio books.  That sucks up a lot of my time, but it's so fascinating.  In honor of my deceased father, an avid sailor and seaman, who treasured Moby Dick, Treasure Island, and all the old sea adventure books, I'm solo recording Jules Verne's  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea for Librivox.  It is a HUGE project, a real challenge, and I'm only half-way through!  It will probably take me through December to complete it.  I also record short stories and segments for several of Librivox's collaborative projects.  What fun, to record, also to listen.  I stream free audio books on my iPhone (through iTunes) almost every night, while driving, in the dentist's chair, etc.  So does John.  I can listen while washing dishes, sweeping, weeding the garden, etc. FREE Librivox audio books have supplanted Netflix as our entertainment of choice!  We are having a blast catching up on all the classic literature we never found time to read in our long working careers. 

For my dog loving friends, here's a wonderful Librivox recording I listened to recently, Jack London's White Fang.  Man, what a dog story! You can download it to your computer, or to iTunes then stream or download to your iPhone, iPad, or mp3 player.  Best of all, it's free!

In any case, this weekend is our local dog club's agility trial and both Maxie and Lucky Lucy are entered.  With little practice under our belts due to heat and so many rainouts, we'll just go and see how we do.  I'm feeling very relaxed and comfortable about it, no matter what the outcome.  But I wouldn't mind a few Q's!

Upwards and onward!