Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hattiesburg Agility Trial

Legs Earned: Maxie NS2, NS3, NJ2, NJ3
Q 4 out of 4 runs, all 1st place.
Earned NA and NAJ Titles

I entered Max in our first out-of-town trial, in Hattiesburg, only 2.5 hours away from home, preparing to compete on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and complete the 2nd and 3rd legs for both our Novice Standard and Novice Jumpers titles. Since John's days off are Thursday and Friday, he followed me as I towed the camper behind my Grand Marquis on Thursday. I write about our disasterous 1st Excursion in our Pop-Up Camper in a separate post.  I do not recommend the uneven RV park in Hattiesburg.

Hattiesburg Arena
Trialing environment:

Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility:
The Hattiesburg arena is closed, vast, and the dirt is bright iron red. The bleachers are well built but you have to go up and down a lot of stairs all day. Crating is on concrete and there are nearby grassy areas to potty the dogs, but nothing much under cover in case of rain. Cars are parked far away. Quite a few vendors, no concessions. No refrigeration. Get there the day before to get the best crate spots (near the stairs and outside doors).  You are not allowed to crate at ring level without special permission (judge, crew, disabilities). The weather in July is HOT, WINDY and WET.  The RV park is a long walk away, almost driving distance, and all the slabs are uneven, some on a steep slant.  Cost is $25/night.

Max competed in Novice FAST, just for kicks and to get Max used to the arena. We scratched. Need more distance training. Everyone from BR went out to dinner but I was so darn exhausted, I stayed in my camper and downloaded to my computer the videos I had taken of all our club members' runs, and watched them. That was my evening's entertainment.

I slept well Friday night and we did very well on Saturday, 2 more Q's, 2 1st places with perfect scores. We were 1/2 way to our goal. Now we just needed one more Q in Jumpers, and one in Standard, to earn both our Novice Titles. Saturday night we all went out to dinner and had a good time. I refrained from alcohol, planned to get to bed early, and was confident all would be well on Sunday. It wasn't.  I hardly slept due to the Battle Of The Bands going on til 1 a.m. next to the RV Park.  I wrote about this in the above cited blogpost. 

Our first run, we Q'd with a score of 90, but barely, due to my exhaustion. My legs were like jello. Then, in heat and rain, Nedra and Cheryl H. helped me hitch up the camper, then I had to go back inside for our last run. We Q'd again, but barely. I was so sweaty, tired and disoriented, I just made stupid mistakes, such as releasing Max from the table BEFORE the judge said GO. Duh! I just could not concentrate.

Ace Maximillion von Fry, NA NAJ
We earned our AKC Novice titles and the right to list them after his name! Goal met. But it was sweating buckets the whole way. Here's a picture of Maxie posing with all his Novice ribbons. It shows 6 green "qualifying" ribbons, plus 6 blue "first place" ribbons, plus 2 red Titling ribbons. The best part is he earned 4 legs in 4 runs. It's a respectable beginning, but I'm told it won't last.

Now on to the next trial to work on our Open titles.

Upwards and onward!

Hattiesburg Agility Trial - 1st Pop-Up Excursion

John, Max and Willow pose just before we leave our house.
Legs Earned:  Maxie NS2, NS3, NJ2, NJ3
Q 4 out of 4 runs, all 1st place.
Earned NA and NAJ Titles

Our first excursion in the pop-up was a total disaster! I had entered Max in our first out-of-town trial, in Hattiesburg, and wrote about the trial here. Since John's days off are Thursday and Friday, he followed me as I towed the camper behind my Grand Marquis on Thursday.  We gave ourselves a whole afternoon to set it up.  It was my first time pulling it, and while it was jerky and bumpy in town, once I got going 75 miles per hour, at a steady pace, it towed fine.

Unfortunately, nobody told me I needed an extension mirror on the drivers side, so I couldn't see over or around the camper. Had no idea who was behind me. We had our walky talkies, though, and I was able to tell John to stay a good distance behind me, and watch my back. The traffic wasn't bad.

Arriving in Hattiesburg, at the RV area of the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center, we found all the desirable slabs (near the lake, close to the arena) were on a steep slant. What stupid engineering! Nobody prepared us for that. Nevertheless, I chose the best view, near a hiking trail. When lowered and fully extended, the two back feet of the camper were 3" off the ground, and we had no levelling boards! We scrounged around the park and found a discarded 2x4" piece and some pressboard we were able to tear up into little bits to wedge between the back feet and the slab.

Cracked slab under car.
Unhitching the camper from the car was a bitch because the slab surface wasn't flat, either. It had an enormous dip shaped like a V, which I had not noticed when choosing the site. No matter where we positioned the car, the camper was either pulling UP on the hitch, or pushing DOWN on the hitch. We had a devil of a time finding a spot where both were level, but this positioned the camper too far back from the patio slab extension, or too far forward of the electric and water hookups.

Feet finally stabilized, we unhitched the camper from the car it immediately began chattering off the boards and down the hill, and by the time we got it stopped, the back feet were no longer over the slab and there was a 6" dropoff to the soggy grass. Let me tell you, we were sweating buckets by this time. Of course, no one had told us we needed wheel chocks! We managed to push it back up the hill a foot or two, John held it while I backed the car up enough to chain it back to the hitch and pull it up about 5 feet, pulled the brake, then went searching for anything to chock the wheels before unhooking it from the car again. We finally found two old broken pieces of concrete block that were plugging up holes under the chain link fence around the lake, thank god, and used those.
At this distance, we discovered that our 15' hoses (one for water, one for drainage) were too short to reach the water spigot.  So we had to join them together to make one hose long enough so I could have running water. OOPS!  Need to buy longer hoses. I'm beginning to realize, this rig didn't come with ANYTHING EXTRA!  I didn't really need a sink drain hose anyway because I wasn't washing dishes, just brushing my teeth and rinsing out the coffee cups, etc.  What the hell, the sink could just drain on the slab, and excuse me for not knowing everything already.

All this in 90 degree weather, windy, and overcast.  It was muggy as hell!

?, with linked pens set up for all her boxers,
and a separate trailer to house her scooter
and other stuff.
We got the rest set up without a problem, went to the arena to set up our crates, then came back and fried up some thick pork chops on the built-in outdoor stove under out awning, somewhat what we had pictured our first campout to be, and visited a few other dog people in the park.  One of them was Susan Kelley, competing with her Champion boxers, and we were amazed at all the pens she set up to feed 6 or 8 of them, and how she walked them twice daily on her motor scooter, 1 or 2 at a time.  It was quite an operation! She warned us to take down our awning, as horrible storms have come thru that park suddenly and ripped them off of dozens of rigs.  So we took the awning down, then turned in.  For the rest of the weekend I smoked my cigarettes outdoors in the rain under an umbrella!

Next morning John and I were awoken by Nedra, who was walking her dogs and had come to find us.  That was real nice.  Then we went to the arena for awhile and watched the Excellent dogs compete before John had to leave for BR.  I was on my own.

Max competed in Novice FAST on Friday, just for kicks and to get Max used to the arena.  We scratched.  Need more distance training.  Everyone from BR went out to dinner but I was so darn exhausted, I stayed home and downloaded to my computer the videos I had taken of all our club members' runs, and watched them.  That was my evening's entertainment.

I slept well Friday night and we did very well on Saturday, 2 more Q's, 2 1st places with perfect scores.  We were 1/2 way to our goal.  Now we just needed one more Q in Jumpers, and one in Standard, to earn both our Novice Titles.  Saturday night we all went out to dinner and had a good time.  I refrained from alcohol, planned to get to bed early, and was confident all would be well on Sunday.

What I came home to, though, was a Battle Of The Bands going on in an open air arena right next to the RV Park.  The bands screeched horribly and the crowds were loud 'til 2 a.m.  I hardly slept.  Nedra had also told me to pack up as much as possible on Sat. night because as soon as our dogs ran on Sunday they were leaving.  I needed their help getting the camper hitched back up to my car!  So I packed everything I could on Saturday night, and between runs on Sunday I had to go pack some more, and lower the roof.  By this time it was raining and hot!  I left the dogs crated up inside the arena. I wore my thin waterproof jacket with hood, but while that kept the rain off, I was sweating buckets inside.  I felt almost feverish, weak and light-headed.

When Max and I had our first Sunday run, we Q'd with a score of 90, but barely, due to my exhaustion. My legs were like jello. Then Nedra and Cheryl H. and I went out to the camper and they helped me raise the feet, back the car up to the hitch, then unchock those wheels.  I drove the camper up to the arena and parked sideways along a curb, perpendicular to the painted lines of a long row of parking spots.  I took up about 5 slots.  Then I had to go back inside for our last run.  We Q'd again, but barely.  I was so sweaty, tired and disoriented, I just made stupid mistakes, such as releasing Max from the table BEFORE the judge said GO.  Duh!  I just could not concentrate.

My wee little pop-up amongst the big rigs.
Notice my neighbors' dogs behind their portable fences.
There were a husband, wife and 5 dogs in that family.
When I got back out to leave, someone had parked in the slot right in front of my car, and someone in the slot right behind the camper! Fortunately, one of the cars moved within about 5 minutes or I could have been hemmed in for hours.  So, I'm thinking, what the fuck else can go wrong?  I couldn't wait to get safely home.

I pulled out of there and vowed NEVER AGAIN to take my pop-up to a trial unless I have checked out the area beforehand, the weather is nice, go the day before to set up, and have some help.  Going solo almost cost us our title.

Yet hundreds of agility competitors travel to trials all over the country in their RV's.  They do this weekend after weekend, and many have real nice rigs, with fences to let their dogs out in, scooters to walk their dogs with, barbeque pits, etc.  It was so pathetic to see my wee little pop-up amidst all the big rigs.  But you know what?  Max, Willow and I were as snug as a bug in a rug.  Were it not for the, er, "learning curve", we would have been very, very content.

So, what else could go wrong?  When I got home, the next day I had to put the camper back up to dry the canvas out.  While raising the roof, a cable popped, one of the 4 telescoping pillars that raise the roof collapsed, and I could neither raise nor lower the roof any more.  It sat there totally lopsided. Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  What if this had happened in Hattiesburg?  We finally got our strong, tall neighbor, Thom, to come over and hold that corner up while I cranked the roof down, then towed it to a shop for repairs.  I explained about that repair in my Pop-Up Camper post yesterday.

Ace Maximillion von Fry, NA NAJ
Summary:  We earned our AKC Novice titles and the right to list them after his name!  Goal met. But it was sweating buckets the whole way. Here's a picture of Maxie posing with all his Novice ribbons. It shows 6 green "qualifying" ribbons, plus 6 blue "first place" ribbons, plus 2 red Titling ribbons. The best part is he earned 6 legs in 6 runs, and didn't NQ once.  It's a fantastic beginning, but I'm told it won't last.

Now on to the next trial to earn our Open titles.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pop-Up Camper

Set Up In My Yard
We bought a Pop-Up Camper off of E-bay in November 2009, and I have had it set up in my yard about half the time since, tinkering around with it, making it more comfortable and homey.  Truth is, I've always wanted a pop-up camper.

Your basic pop-up has a very small awning, no shelving whatsoever, and the beds are darned uncomfortable  So I set to work to make ours more livable. I should also mention, when you buy a 16 year old camper, no matter how well it has been taken care of (and it was in great shape for its age), there are problems.  I'll tell you about those and what to look out for.

First off, it's not easy to buy a camper off of E-bay because most of the sellers live far, far away -- Arizona, California, New Hampshire.  And you have to arrange to pick it up.  I lucked out and found one for sale in Greenwell Springs, LA, about 30 minutes away.  We went, the guy set it up for us, and even brought it to us because we didn't have a hitch yet and he wanted his $2,500.

Kitchen shelves over the sink and stove
We set it up immediately.  Then the real adventure began!  It was filthy inside, so I removed all fabrics, washed, dried, hemmed and patched them, vacuumed everything else, cleaned all drawers and cabinets, and washed the soot off of all the vinyl windows. Then, noticing the lack of shelf space, I commenced to design and build some removable kitchen shelves, all held together with removable nails.  It goes up in minutes and really makes the space more livable, not to mention more homey. On it I put my tea pot, coffee pot, salt & Pepper, condiments, cereal, flash lights, cookie and crackers tins, etc.  Hooks on the uprights are perfect for storing coffee cups, pot holders, keys, etc.  All the food would have to be stored in the car without these shelves, as there is no counter space. The shelf breaks down into individual boards that store under the mattress while travelling. It's neat!

Next, as to bedding, we spent the first night in it and discovered the mattress was too hard.  So I purchased a queen 2" memory foam mattress, cut it to size, and the master bed is now almost as comfortable as our big king size bed at home.  Trying to save money wherever possible, I went to Family Thrift and purchased some lovely matching sheets sets, and blankets for both beds for just a few bucks.  They look like new.

Armrest, Plastic Drawers that stack on
the floor while travelling, and plexiglass
screen cover that lets light in while keeping
in the A/C or heat.
Third, I built an armrest that attaches to the left side of the couch, doubles as a handy storage compartment, and is also removable during travel.  I also found some plastic stackable drawers that fit perfect, and store on the floor while travelling.  Drawer space is really important to avoid clutter, and while our camper has more drawers and cabinets than the new ones, no camper has many drawers.

Fourth, we found the 6x9 awning a joke!  The slightest breeze and the rain comes right under it, and the sun is rarely right overhead, and when it rains it fills up with water and sags.  I used PVC pipe to build a frame to keep it from sagging, and designed two awning extensions that tripple the awning size, look good, and fit in the camper when packing up.  That took a long time to design, but I persevered and finally made it work.

Lastly, I hated how, when it's hot or cold out and you run the A/C, you have to zip up all the canvas bedroom window covers and the screen door needs to be closed.  You can't see out anymore.  The tent caves in visually and becomes a very tiny space. It's claustrophobic.

"With the windows open to view, the whole great outdoors is your living room, and the scenery is your framed artwork."

So in addition to the awning extensions covering the side windows so you can leave them open during a rain, I designed a plexiglass plate for the door to replace the opaque panel, which keeps the cold or hot air in, but lets you see out.  Now I just love it.  I can feel "outdoors" in all weather.

There are a whole lot of steps to "popping up" your camper, so after I practiced putting it up and down a few times, I generated a detailed TO DO list, 3 typewritten pages long, of which steps to follow and when.  It's a lot easier to do if you sequence your steps properly.

I was warned that there are always hidden problems when buying an old house or old RV and the same is true of the camper.  First, within days the door lock broke and had to be replaced.  Then the sink pump broke and had to be replaced.  Then, when I brought it back from Hattiesburg and set it back up to dry, a cable broke that lifts the roof up and down.  That had to be professionally replaced.  I had to fix several other problems as well, like the A/C condensation dripping off the roof and wetting the side canvas by the bed.  So I cut a piece of tarp just the right size, clamp it on, and the water drains safely to the ground.  The LP gas tank was on the wrong side, so I moved it to the easier side to reach.  We had to replace the crank handle for the wheel.  I built 2 insulator boards so when it's really cold out or wet, your feet and head don't freeze when you're in bed.

Other purchases:  port-a-pottie, pedestal fan, 2 x 4 outdoor plastic table, 3 folding chairs, 2 folding wooden tables for inside, 2 25' hoses, pots, pans, flatware, electric cords and plugs, fuses, bulbs, trays, outdoor carpet, outdoor lamp, assorted rope, clamps, tools, all bedding, linens, a cooler that fits perfect in the door well.  Most of this from Wal-Mart at reasonable prices.  This puppy came stripped bare, as do all new campers!  If I ever sell it, I will save someone many, many hours of shopping and agony to resolve all the issues.  That will make me happy!

Also, we needed a hitch, and lighting harness for the car -- another $250.

Adding it all up, we now have about $4000 in our camper and are ready to ride in style.  A new pop-up runs around $16,000, and they are stripped bare too!  And I've heard they also have problems right out of the gate.  So all in all, we got a great deal.

Dog MaMa's Thoughts on Travel

John left for a 2 week trip to visit his girls in Tennessee and Virginia and for the Nagle Invasion (annual sibling get-together) in Maryland.  I couldn't go because ----- how can I leave my dogs behind for 2 weeks?  I'm beginning to see how that could become a problem.

My sister-in-law and neighbors are good for a long weekend of coming to feed the dogs twice a day.  But 2 weeks would be too much to ask.  I could board them for $100/day ($25x4), but that's $1400 for a 2 week vacation.  Yikes!  Besides which, I wouldn't want to be away from them that long.

I could arrange someone to live here, but who?  I have no idea.

So I'm stuck!  Not that I mind being stuck.  I'm a home body.  I love everything HOME!  Every spoon.  Every bowl.  Every stick of furniture.  Everything I want is here.  I've travelled enough of the world already, and find that living is so much easier at home. 

I'm all about stress reduction and contentment. When I travel to some glorious vista, or stay in some swanky hotel or charming B&B, all it does is make me sick that I can't OWN it, can't stay there and claim it as my own.  And the more charming it is, the more other people think so too so it's way too expensive to ever move there.  So I'm always a visitor, except in my own home.  Plus which, when travelling, I've noticed that 80% of the time is spent doing the same things one does at home -- eat, sleep, watch TV, surf the web, read emails, wash clothes, fold, pack, brush teeth, comb hair, bathe, drive, sit on the john, figure out what to wear.  The other 20%, we pay exhorbitant amounts of money to enjoy, at extreme inconvenience to ourselves.  So, I guess I'm not much of a supporter of the tourist industry.

I do intend to go to dog trials, but in those cases I get to take at least 2 of my dogs with me.  And trials only last a few days.  And John is generally home with the ones left behind. Maybe at work all day but home at night.  In some cases I'll stay in my pop-up camper, which is fun for me.  In other cases, there are pet friendly hotels popping up all over the country so it's easier to travel with dogs now.  When John retires and we begin road travelling to various national parks, they now allow pets there, too.  The culture is starting to understand that pets are family members.

I also like to hike, visit museums, visit friends.  But I don't miss that enough to leave my pets behind for long, nor ever get rid of them.  So I guess that's another reason my friends have started calling me by a new handle:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

7/28 Arm Change Practice w. 5 jumps

In Success With 1 Jump, Susan shows the exercise below to illustrate the power of the arm change in directing the dog.  I tried it with Max this morning, and he did it perfectly without any rehearsal.  I was so surprised.  What else does he know?????????  By the way, this is fun and easy to set up!!!!

Here's the drill:

Dog Treats and Recipes

In Max's first Intro to Agility class, I met Joy, who had pockets full of the most delicious treats and gave them out to whichever dog was around her.  She was very popular. Still is. She gives out her recipes, too. They are all cheap, delicious, good for the dogs, and if you like them, they aren't bad for you either.  I share her recipes below.

You always hear trainers talk about "cookies, bisquits, kibble, pay your dog, jackpots, etc." But they never tell you what treats to use. So here's a list of the things I've used and seen other handlers use.  I'll keep adding to the list as time goes on:
  1. String cheese is what you see trainers stuffing in their mouths for ready access.  (Handy because the wrapper can stay on in your pocket, but very expensive.  I tried this, but ended up eating it all.)
  2. Block cheese, cut into strips or squares (also expensive, and needs to be in a plastic bag)
  3. Hot Dogs - I suppose the most popular, handiest training treat there is.  You can stuff a piece in your mouth without gagging, and bite off bits at a time as needed.
  4. Purina Kitten Chow, very tiny treats, very high protein, dry so can be put loose in a pocket, good for very small dogs (I use this with Max and Willow, and they go crazy for them.)
  5. Honey Nut Cheerios, tiny, tasty, decent nutrition, dry.  Good for small dogs.  Good visibility for throwing onto floors or short-nap carpets.  Big dogs like them, too, but sometimes "inhale" them from your hand and choke on them.  They do okay licking them up off the ground.
  6. Log Dog Food - buy a roll, cut into disks about 1/2" thick, cut disks into strips.  Freeze.  Buy 2 or 3 flavors, and mix them up in a large Zip Lock bag to freeze.  Take out what you'll need and throw it in your pocket.  Each little piece will thaw out in your hand within several seconds.  You can pinch smaller bits off of a strip.  It's dry enough to go straight into a pocket, soft enough to break off, and if you need it to be sticky, you can moisten it with a bit of spit, roll it in a ball, and stick it on the down contact. (I use Natural Balance, but there are other brands.)
  7. Bil-Jak.  This comes in bite size bits and freezes indefinitely, is soft enough to stick onto a surface, hard enough to hold together.  It's a bit messy for individual treats when thawed, but if you microwave a plate of it for 1 minute then cool, it becomes dry enough to handle.  You find it in the freezer section at Albertsons.
  8. Oyster Crackers.  They are small, dry and dogs love em.  For tiny dogs I crack them open with my teeth and give half a cracker.  I usually eat the other half!
  9. Dry Dog Food - Some trainers just feed their dogs their meal during training, one kibble at a time.
  10. Left-overs - if someone doesn't eat their pizza crust or leaves part of a sandwich or steak or an apple, or even a baked potato skin, cut it up and use as treats.  DON'T WASTE FOOD.  Dogs will eat practically anything!
  11. Toast - take a slice of multi-grain bread, toast it, cut into 1/4" squares.  For about 10 cents, you get a pocket full of treats!
  12. Store Bought Treats - There are dozens of these to choose from in fancy little bags, but I find them outrageously expensive, and some of them smell like chemicals.  I steer clear of these.  I'm always looking for inexpensive, nutritious treats. If I can spend .25 cents a day treating each of my 4 dogs, I'm within my treat budget (that's $30/month). I'm here to tell you, IT CAN BE DONE!
  13. Sticky Treats - Various trainers recommend "sticky treats", but never mention what they are.  I've experimented with various things.  Peanut butter on the end of a long wooden spoon is a great lure.  American cheese slices are wrapped and can go in your pocket. The cheese wads up into sticky little balls that can go at the bottom of a contact, but leave some residue.  Log Dog Food (see above), works if you mash and moisten it.
  14. Frozen raw chicken necks (small dogs) and turkey necks (large dogs).  Cleans their teeth, provides collagen for joint health, and can be a meal.  Can be divided into seperate vertebrae for individual treats. Frozen they chew them.  Thawed, they tend to swallow them whole.
  15. Raw veggies:  Dogs love apple, pear, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, carrots, stems of mustard and other greens, broccoli stalks, hearts of cabbage and cauliflour, etc.  Cut into thin crunchy slices.  Stay away from grapes!
Michele and Jonathan making a 2 month supply
of Liver Brownies
Liver Brownies (so easy a child can do it):
this is a great recipe because it doesn't crumble.
1 lb liver (any kind), raw, pureed in a food processor.  Add
1 egg
Garlic powder (dogs love garlic)
1 packet Knorr Unflavored gelatin
1 cup liquid
Pinch of salt.
Puree, transfer to a bowl, then add
1.5 cups corn meal
1.5 cups flour
Mix into a soft paste. Let sit 10 minutes to soften gelatin and corn meal.
Pour/spread this mixture onto a greased baking pan (the kind with 1/2" sides, about 12" x 16"), and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Use a pizza cutter to slice it into squares.
Use a spatula to loosen the pieces from the pan.
Store in Zip Lock Bags in freezer. 

Chicken or turkey Gizzard Treats:
1 lb of gizzards
1-2 toes of finely chopped garlic, minced garlic or garlic powder
Pinch of salt

Simmer the gizzards in water (barely to cover) until they are tender (about 30-45 minutes).  Drain (save water to mix in dog's meals). Chop up into treat size bits with kitchen sheers.  Lay flat and freeze, then place in zip lock bags.  To thaw, put a handful on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds.  This thaws and also hardens them up a bit for dryer handling.  My dogs prefer them soft and juicy, though. 

Here's a recipe I found at

Liver Treats
The nice thing about these treats is the consistency. I experimented with the recipe until I got something that was soft but not crumbly or gooey. The secret, I think, is the gelatin.

•2 lb. chicken livers, drained; put through the food processor until soupy (yuck!)
•3 eggs
•~1/4 cup salmon oil or similar supplemental oil
•2 pkg. unflavored gelatin
•24 oz. (3 cups) brown rice flour
•Optional – ¼ c Parmesan cheese
•Optional – 1 Tbsp garlic powder
•Optional – ~3 Tbsp. liquid glucosamine (not necessary – just a nice added ingredient)

Beat the liver, eggs, oil, glucosamine, and gelatin until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the rice flour (and garlic or parmesan). The mixture should look kind of like thick cake batter. Pour into two well-greased (or parchment paper-lined) 9X11 pans. The mixture will be about 1/2” – 3/4“ thick. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. It should have a spongy texture and bounce back if you press on it. Let it cool for a few minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 1/4″ cubes with a pizza cutter. Let cool before packing into plastic bags.

Tuna Putty

1 12-oz can tuna (in water) do not drain
1 1/2 cups flour (any kind)
2 eggs
1 TBSP. garlic powder or minced garlic (optional)
1 TBSP. grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Process tuna, eggs and garlic in food processor or blender (or mix by hand in a bowl). Add flour and cheese and mix to a brownie-like consistency. Spread into an 8x8" or 9x9" greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. When the brownies are done, they will pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cut into squares, store in refrigerator in zip lock bag.  Can be frozen.

These treats have a putty-like texture, can be rolled into a ball, and can be pulled apart without crumbling.  They are dry enough to go in your pocket and don't leave residue on your fingers.


If you'd like to share your dog treat recipes, please send them to me at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Around The Clock Weave Entries" or "Nasty Weaves"

Today I changed my weave pole spacing from 21.5" to 24". This took drilling new holes in the wooden strips that guide me where to stick the weaves.  My strips are 2 10 feet long 1" x 2".   To fit 6 holes on each strip, I had to drill very close to both ends, and space the holes about 23.75" apart, and leave a gap between them.  It will work, but if I ever rebuild my strips, I'll use 12' pressure treated 2x4's, ripping 1" thick strips off the two edges, then sanding the square top edges down so they wouldn't hurt, maybe cut, the dogs paws.  These provide proper spacing, but also get the dogs used to something being there that they need to clear, simulating the metal strips they will encounter at trials.

I'm glad of this change, especially for the large dogs. I had read an editorial last year in Clean Run that the tight turns were injuring the larger dog's spines. The article must have taken effect, because both AKC and USDAA are moving to the longer spaces between the poles.

After fixing the spacing, I took Lucky out and she did the poles better than before.  Even hopped a few times. Max ran just as fast and with even more bounce, I do believe.  So I don't think it's going to be any big problem adjusting.

"Nasty Weaves" setup looks like the chart below.  The purpose is to get D entering the weaves correctly from any position on the clock, and exiting the weaves correctly before taking the next obstacle, whereever on the clock it may be.  It's easy to set up and fun to do.

NOTE:  For family and friends who don't know, D has to enter the weaves with the first pole to his left shoulder, then not miss any spaces while zig-zagging thru 12 poles to the end.  Many think it's the hardest agility obstacle to train and there are all kind of methods.  D has to really focus, have complete control of his fore and hind quarters, and drive thru as fast as possible no matter where H is off to.  D can't "pop out" until the end.

In this exercise, the weaves can be replaced with other obstacles, too.  For instance, D should be able to enter any contact obstacle (A-frame, dog walk, see-saw) from anywhere along a semi-circle around the entrance, and hit the yellow contact from the front (not the side) upon entering.  H should also be able to call D off a contact obstacle from a semi-circle and still  have D stick the contact, preferably in the middle, not off to the side.  The weaves can also be replaced by a tunnel.

Lots more training to do!  Educate, exercise, entertain, bond.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, July 26, 2010

7/26 Monday Night "Competitive Handling" Class

Nedra's class was called off tonight because so many of them had been at a trial in Hattiesburg the last 4 days. Loralie offered to set up a course and let the rest of us come practice.  Only she and I turned out, she with Jenny and I with Maxie.  The two courses set up were:

1.)  A 13 obstacle course full of traps, and
2.) Nasty Weave Entries: Practice from all angles entering the weave poles, set at 24" apart.

We ran the traps pretty well, and Max didn't get tired. 

Max did surprisingly well adjusting to the new weave pole distances (from 22" to 24"), but he walked rather than hopped through them.  He lost his bounce. I am sure he's confused.  Tomorrow I go out and adjust my weave pole spacer boards, and practice.

Agility Commands, i.e. The Dog's Vocabulary

Sheryl was saying there are so many agility commands to remember, and it seems a great hurdle to remember them when they come at you piecemeal, so I decided to make a list and see how many there actually are.  Turns out, only about 35 or 40, and some of these are regular household words.  No big deal.  Here they are:
Obstacle Names:
  1. Jump, Hup, or Over
  2. Tire, Ring or Hoop
  3. See Saw, or Teeter
  4. A-frame, Scramble, or Up
  5. Dog Walk, Walk It, or Up
  6. Table, Bench, or Pause
  7. Weave, or Go Weave
  8. Tunnel, or Tube
  9. Chute
Directional Commands:
  1. Out, or Go Out
  2. Here
  3. Come
  4. Left
  5. Right
  6. Up (as, get on the chair) 
Action Commands:
  1. Get It
  2. Touch, or Target
  3. Fetch
  4. Bring It To Me
  5. Off
  6. Free
  7. Attention, Pay Attention
Positional Commands:
  1. Line Up
  2. Sit
  3. Down
  4. Stand
  5. Stay
  6. Wait
  7. Halt, Spot, Stop
  1. Uh oh
  2. No
  3. Hush, or Shush
Household Commands used everywhere:
  1. Quit It
  2. Do Your Business
  3. Leave It
  4. Crate Up
  5. Outside

Where there are 2 or more choices, you pick the one you want to use and stick with it.  Some people say the fewer syllables the better, and the fewer words that start with the same sound the better.  So in naming your obstacles, if you pick Tire, you wouldn't also pick Tetter and Table.

Also, some don't care for Left and Right commands in Agility because if the dog is approaching you, their left is your right, etc.  It gets confusing in a fast paced competition.  Better to always use Out and Here if you want them to approach you or move away from you.  This is probably different in Obedience, where the dog is always in heel position to your left.  Not so many moving parts.

#1 Practice With Sheryl

Yeh!  Sheryl showed up with Charlie at 8:30 a.m. and didn't leave til 11:30.  3 hours of everything Agility.  I had already prepared a sequence from Jane Simmons-Moake's Obstacle Training book, like so:

We practiced this but the dogs did not seem interested.  We jazzed it up a bit by doing this in combination with a few other obstacles past jump 3 and they did better.  We practiced serpentines, the see saw, and discussed how all the commands we have to learn can be confusing.  I decided to make a list of commands in my next post.

Then we ate watermelon and watched the first part of Susan Garrett's Success With One Jump, which I had purchased last year and never finished watching, and assigned ourselves some homework (the dog has to have a good sit/stay, and a good retrieve before attempting this work):

#1 OBSTACLE FOCUS EXERCISES:  To get the dog to focus on the obstacle in front of them rather than on you.
1.  Sit the dog beside you.  Throw a toy out several feet in front of you.  When the dog looks down the line at the toy, release with a "Get It" command.  Work this from both sides.
2.  Same thing, only stand farther from the dog's side.
3.  Same thing, only stand farther in front of the dog as well as farther from dog's side.
4.  Introduce a jump between dog and toy.  Release when the dog looks at the jump.
5.  Same as 4, but don't throw the toy until the dog looks at the jump, and release both simultaneously.
If the dog isn't toy motivated, you can throw a treat or a treat container for them to touch then come back to you for a treat.

#2 Change of Arms means TURN.  Have 2 toys, one in each hand.  As in Step 3 above, throw out the toy (from the hand closest to the dog).  After releasing dog to "get it", call them off by swinging your shoulders and other arm around (when he is half way there) to face the dog, and hold out the other toy.  Say "here" or "come".  When they get the hang of watching your arm que, you won't have to say anything.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training/Trialing Strategy - An Uphill Climb

Maxie in Monroe, June 2010
My clubmates who compete in Agility have been at this a lot longer than I have, some for up to 12 years when Agility first came to the USA.  Many have brought multiple dogs to Master Championship status.  However, most of them are now working with younger, newer dogs who are competing anywhere from Novice thru Excellent.  Only a few of our current dogs hold MACH status (Master Agility Champion).

So who am I to argue with their training/trialing techniques.  I wouldn't dare, except I don't like the results I am seeing in their performances.  By the time you get to Excellent, you can't Q if you make a single mistake.  By the time you get to Masters, you have to double Q every day for it to count (once in Standard and once in Jumpers), that means no mistakes all day.  Our competitors are rarely achieving that.
SO HERE'S MY STRATEGY:  Don't run in a trial until me and my dog are BOTH running 80-90% accurate in practice.  Go to trials to attune the dog to the atmosphere, yes, and enter in matches as often as possible (much cheaper than trial entry fees), and do course and sequence training galore at home.  BUT DON'T GO TO TRIALS TO TRAIN.  When you go to a trial:

 go to Q,
       go to PLACE,
              go to WIN!
Of course, once you've flubbed up a run, it immediately becomes a training session.  An EXPENSIVE training session.  Of course, you finish the run.  If you've taken videos, you can analyze what went wrong, what you need to work on, learn what judges call a "wrong course", a "refusal", a "time fault", an "elimination".  All valuable information.  All I'm saying is, I won't go to trials until I feel I have a very decent chance of not flubbing up.  Sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of competitors eating up ring time with poorly trained dogs where it would take a long string of miracles for them to Q.  And you'll hear them say, "We are just here for the experience".  Earning titles is not their priority, they say . . . . .  but they are completely beside themselves if they earn one!!!!!

Reflections on Exercise

Salute To The Sun
Since Agility is a S P O R T, we are supposed to be athletes, right?  Swift of foot. Fleet of stature.  HA!  I wake up in the morning stiff and tired, and my arms are often numb.  The balls of my feet hurt and my back aches.  My neck is stiff.  It takes me awhile and 2 Aleves to get moving.  And this morning I have a hangover. This will no longer do if I'm planning to compete for another 20 years, although a lot of the handlers out there look as out of shape as I do.  What's with that?

In the 80's, working full time, I used to do fast-paced aerobics 3 mornings a week before work, to an early morning TV show called The 20 Minute Workout with Bess Motta.  In the 90's, (after I moved to OHH), I did a much easier but very effective 15 minute workout video called ABS OF STEEL, with Tamilee Web.  It was a great workout, not too strenuous.  I need to try and find those tapes.
When I studied macrobiotics in Boston the summer of '86, I learned the Salute To The Sun and did that every morning in the back yard, on a bamboo mat I kept rolled up beside the door.  Yes, I used to do that, and it's a nice workout.  Stretches everything. I even wrote an article on it for Iris Online Magazine in 2004, with this little animation.  Click on the link to read the article and print out a nice little diagram you can use to do the sequence.  I better do that myself, tape it to the wall again, and start a-stretchin'. 

Shortly after retiring, early 2000's, I used to walk on my treadmill for a whole hour 5 days a week as I watched reruns of Dallas and Dynasty (taking breaks during the commercials). Why did I ever quit these routines?  I can't remember.

I notice so many Agility competitors wearing knee or ankle braces. I have not encountered anyone teaching handlers to warm up before a practice session or a run.  We "warm up" our dogs before they run, but I think that is just to get them reved up and focused on the handler, familiar with the flooring surface, etc.  We don't warm ourselves up.  We probably should, even though it's only a 1 minute run.

NOTE TO MYSELF:  If I ever teach an agility class, I will ask my students to rotate their ankles and do a few stretches before they take off running with their dogs.  I must start doing this now myself.

Ureka! John just came home and found all my workout tapes and set up a video player in the den.  The Abs Of Steel tape is messed up, so I went online and bought the DVD version of that whole series for $20. 

I'm watching a tape I made of Bess Motta's aerobic TV show as I type, and it is way, way too fast-paced for me now.   But I used to do this all the time, and it is still fun to watch!  Jeeeez, I am so out of shape.   I went online and looked her up, and found out The 20 Minute Workout was the first aerobic workout ever televised, back in the '80's and only for 2 seasons. I also found out you can't buy them on video or DVD anywhere, so I'm glad I have my tape and it's still good.  I found a Youtube video of her 5 minute cool-down sequence, though, which alone would wear me out now, at

Also found a Youtube video of a short sequence of her fast paced workout, at

Oh lord, how will I ever get myself in shape?  30 minutes a day, eh?  Baby steps.  Chug.  Chug.  Watching videos is what one does when one is hung over.  The next day, one should DO THE EXERCISES.

Alcohol and Agility Don't Mix

While I'm trying to stay away from the hard stuff, last night I had to raise my glass (over and over) to the old folks's achievement (see my blog earlier today about my parents' 65th) and to my, Carole's and Lon's successful coordination of the event. So now, today, as my reward for good deeds done, I feel like crap! It was supposed to rain all day due to tropical storm Bonnie headed our way, but no, as if to rub my nose in it, it's sunny and beautiful out, and I should take the dogs out for practice. But I don't feel like it. Will I never learn?

Sheryl Mc, my (hopefully) new training partner, just called. The gang is in Hattiesburg at the USDAA trial and everyone seems to have done well, all except for Sheryl this morning, whose Boston Terrier, Charlie, decided to leave his stay at the Start Line and pee on the first jump! He was immediately disqualified. She said "it was about as much fun as a root canal."

Okay, so we're still on to practice tomorrow morning at 8:30. I should feel better by then. If it rains, we'll watch another training video and take notes. So now, something else to look forward to.

My Parent's 65th, and I'm Stuck Home With The Dogs

Kiwi Daisy Fruit Bouquet
Yesterday was my parents' 65th Wedding Anniversary!  No way I could make it to Cape Coral, Florida or leave my pack at home alone all day for a week.  The rest of the 28 kids, grandkids and great grandkids, who are scattered all over the place (see list below), couldn't go either except for my brother Londo who lives in Tampa, his son Mac and Mac's daughter, Angela (both in from Washington State), who all took them out to lunch.  Carole helped me contact everybody, and all pitched in together to send a huge floral centerpiece with 2 tapers, a Kiwi Daisy Fruit Bouquet, and a dozen chocolate covered strawberries made to look like long stem roses in a box, which Carole ordered online from Edible Arrangements. Various family members spent time on the phone with them and comparing notes with each other.  It was a festive and exciting day.  And appropriately expensive!

Floral Bouquet, which smelled good.

The strawberry roses, in a long stem roses box.

I also scribbled out a little essay , just thoughts that I unfortunately didn't have time to refine or turn into a poem by the due date, and printed it up on specialty paper, entitled

Marble Plaque
Madeleine et Lou! Les Chefs Francaise/Americanne!
Reflections on 65 Years of Marriage

I rolled it into a scroll and mailed it to them in a box with a card signed with the names of all 28 of us, a pearl bracelet for Mom, and a white marble plaque which reads: 

"Family, because two people fell in love."
Mom is wearing her pearl bracelet. The green bouquet of
Chocolate Covered Strawberries is what came in the long red box.
Eating FRENCH fries on their 65th!  How appropriate, for a FRENCH war bride!
Dad, Mom, Mac and Angela.  Londo is taking the picture.

Londo, Mom &; Dad
All this together was a feat of coordination over several days, all arrived on time, and it had the desired effect of overwhelming them. They have called several times already to say thank you and recite each and every gift.
Lon brought a cake.
Here are the 28 names that were signed on the cards:
Londo & Linda
Dave & Carole
Michele & John

Melynda, Jennifer, Heather
Scott, Mac
Anne, Margo, Ryan

Great Grandkids:
John, Marie, Jordon, Jimmy, Angela, Amanda, Blake, Laura, Kelsey, Caitlin, Kristin, Dylan, Jonathan

I was chastised for not including the names of the great great grandkids, but I simply don't know who they all are or how many.  If I have misspelled someone's name or you would like me to correct this list, write to me at

P.S.  8/1/2010 Yesterday, Londo's photos of the occasion arrived.  So today I was finally able to illustrate this little memoir and send it around to everyone.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Practice With Directional Handling/CR Course Designer

Today I rearranged my course's equipment so each obstacle is at least 15' apart, realizing since trialing, that the obstacles are really placed much farther apart than I sometimes practice at. We have to practice covering greater distances.  Using my Clean Run Course Designer program, I will try to illustrate some of the sequence training techniques Maxie and I are practicing. 

Last April I designed this little sequence, which is fast-paced and really gets the dog focused while getting the trainer focused on their body movements. Let's see if I can post it as a bitmap image:

Okay, so it's a bit fuzzy.  I'll have to try some other file types.

Here's another directional exercise I worked up in 2009:
It's fun to map out what you're doing.  Makes you think about it.  And like any ballet dancer needs to practice in front of a mirror and develop a muscular memory of how high to raise an arm or leg, how far to bend, we need to do that too.  Practice in front of a mirror, I mean.  And repeat each movement often.  In agility, we never actually see what we are doing.  And ones fellow agility pals are not usually going to critique your moves.  Perhaps they don't want to hurt your feelings, and perhaps they don't want to be criticized themselves.  One thing is for sure, it's easier to tell what other people are doing wrong than to recognize what you are doing wrong.  It's all part of what makes the game so intriguing.

Lessons Learned at Trials

They don't always tell you in advance how you are supposed to behave, and what you are supposed to do to compete at trials.  There is a lot to remember.  So, in case anyone might ever read this, I'll return to this post from time to time and record my lessons learned.  Maybe it will help other novice competitors get up to speed more quickly than I did.  I made so many mistakes.  But then, there was no place to go to learn it all at once.  I had to trip over many things and get slapped with a criticism for not knowing it in advance.  This is not my preferred way to learn, and since I'm a teacher, maybe I can help someone else do it an easier way.

When you get to a trial, pick a spot to crate your dog/s that is quiet.  Don't feel you have to pile up with all the other competitors.  Be on the floor, level with the ring if possible, against a wall if possible.  It is very tiring to have your crate/s in the stands and have to go up and down stairs all day.  Be near a bathroom, if possible, and near an exit if possible; so you don't have to travel long distances to pottie your dog/s several times a day.

Bring a comfortable chair for yourself, a jacket (sometimes it is freezing in those arenas), a blanket to cover your dog/s crates, a cooler full of water, drinks, snacks and sandwich fixins because you won't have time to go out for food.
Your cooler should be on wheels, as you may have to park a very long distance from your crate area.

As soon as you get there each day, get your dogs settled then go down to the secretary's area and get your armband.  There is a different armband for each day.  If you go in the ring without it, you will be disqualified, but nobody is going to hand it to you.
Check the Running Order book right away so you'll know approximately when you will be running, how many classes are ahead of you, how many dogs run ahead of you in your class.  Sometimes they run small-to-tall, sometimes tall-to-small.  You have to know.  Nobody is going to call out any of this information over the PA system.  There is no PA system at regional trials!

When your class list is posted at the gate (usually while they are setting up the ring), go to the Gate and check your name off, indicating that you are present.

Leave your dog in its crate, resting, until about 15 dogs (15 minutes) before your turn.  Put a few treats in your pocket, then take your dog out to pottie.  A dog who soils in the ring is automatically disqualified, and a dog that needs to go doesn't perform at its best.  Outside, let your dog know you have treats in your pocket.  About 5 dogs (5 minutes) before your run, go to the Exercise Jump and practice a few sit/stays and Over's, giving a treat for each good performance. This gets your dog revved up knowing you have treats, and familiar with the texture of the floor. 

When the dog before you enters the ring, you enter the gate.  When they begin their run, give your dog it's last treat from your pocket (you CAN NOT BRING TREATS INTO THE RING, or risk disqualification), and get ready to go in.  Usually, the gatekeeper will say something like "You go in when they (the running dog) clear the dog walk".  When there are lots of dogs competing and they have to process them fast, you will be entering the ring and positioning your dog while the other dog is still running.  Don't release your dog from its leash, though, until you hear the word "GO".  At that point, the previous dog should be back on leash and exiting the ring.

Do not exit the ring until your dog is back on its leash.  To do so can disqualify your run.

WALKING THE COURSE:  Backchaining:  Susan Garrett recommends backchaining as you walk thru the course.  Walk the whole course a few times.  Then walk the last 6 or 7 obstacles.  Then add the previous 6 or 7 obstacles to the end.  Then add the first 6 or 7 obstacles.  Then walk the entire course as many times as needed to memorize it and work out your strategy.  This way you don't get confused at the end, which people usually practice less often than the beginning.  I haven't tried this yet, but I will.

After your run, it will take 15 or 20 minutes for the Unofficial Scores to be posted in the binder.  The scores cannot be official until the judge gets a break to verify them, usually when another course is being set up.  Another 30 minutes to an hour after that, you can go to the Ribbons table, check the Scores book, and pick up your ribbons and toys.  It is a good idea to record all the info about your run in the Scores book, in your own Record Book.  You will never see this information again if you don't.

Never take flash photography.
Never call a dog's name while they are running.
Don't disturb competitors when they are lining up for a run.  They need to focus.
Never wear clothing with your dog's names on them.
Never have tags, names or advertising on a dog's collar.
Never bring food around the ring.  Drinks are okay.
Never keep your dog out, on leash, visiting with people or watching the runs when they are up for a run themselves.  This wears them out and makes them nervous.  They need a good half-hour or more of crate rest before they run.

Go to the bathroom before you run.
Tie your shoes before you run.
Empty your pockets of treats before you enter the ring.
Wear your armband.
Obey the judge.

Performance Video Considerations

The best agility competitors I've talked to tell me they video all their competition runs and study them relentlessly when they get home. Some even video their training sessions.  Most have spouses or partners who sit in the stands and operate the camera. At trials, you see bunches of people with hand held video cameras, and a few on tri-pods at strategic locations around the ring or in the stands.  Now mine is one of them.  I try to video other club members' runs, and ask them to video mine.

Since John bought me a Sony Handycam video camera last Christmas, I finally found the motivation to read the manual in time for Maxie and my first competition runs this past April.  So far, then, all of his runs have been videoed from Novice to today (except Friday's Monroe runs which all got lost in the download from camera to computer).  I clicked on "remove files from camera after download", it removed them, but then I couldn't find them on the computer.  Still don't know where they are.

Video files are huge. They will quickly consume your hard drive. So I purchased 20 gigs of Picasa Web Album space (for $5) where I post club members' videos, just for us to study. Also, I video well known competitors and people with handicaps who are doing amazing things with their dogs. They are all so informative and inspiring.

I also post my own videos in my own separate Picasa Web Album, a public album (linked to under LINKS in this blog). In that, I include videos of other Papillons and some small dogs Max is likely to compete with, too, for future reference.

The decision is whether to use the zoom so you can see the dog's run closeup, or stay zoomed out where you can see the whole course, and most especially the judge's hand signals!  You definitely want to know if the judge called a fault or whether the scribe got it wrong, because you can sometimes ask a judge to review your video if you dispute the scribe's records.  Loralie and I did this in Hattiesburg with one of her Novice runs with Jenny, and the judge acceded we were right and that scribes often make mistakes.  She didn't change the score, though, because Jenny Q'd either way.

If you intend to zoom, it's best to dry-run it 3 or 4 times, so you know exactly at which obstacle you will zoom in and where you will zoom back out again.  That takes some practice.  The pace of a run is so fast, you can zoom in and suddenly the dog goes sideways and you lose them.  Usually if you zoom, you lose the judge.  I do practice, but unfortunately the friends I get to video Maxie and me don't get the chance to practice, so our videos aren't the best.

So, that's another goal of mine.  To get a steady partner or two who will swap favors with me and take consistently good videos.

Another consideration is placement of the camera.  You need to see a run to know where the judge will be standing in the ring.  It's easy for your view of the judge, jumps or entrances to be blocked by the A-frame,  other jumps, tunnels, etc., sometimes even by the fencing or other obstructions placed around the ring.  If there are 2 rings going at once, you need a location where you can swing your lens toward either ring depending on who is running where.  Sometimes there are 2 club members running simultaneously, so you are going to miss one.

Hand-held videos are not generally as good as those taken using a tri-pod.  But the tri-pod poses its own issues.  No doubt you will have to swing left and right to have a picture large enough to get anything more than a speck of dog, but if you zoom you will need to use the up/down feature as well.  This join sometimes chatters on my tri-pod. It doesn't swing smoothly.  Left/right, up/down, zoom in/zoom out.  It's generally too much for an amateur.  Lately, I've locked out all features except swinging left/right.

When recording, I learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut!  It records everything you say while you are videoing, including everything about the dog and the handler!!!!!  I believe I was telling my grandson, who was standing beside me on one: "That dog never completes the weaves in class", just as the dog completed the weaves in the competition so beautifully that I couldn't throw the video away.  The only thing I say now is the following, at the beginning of each run: 

     This is Handler with Dog's Call Name, Class, Day, Month, Year, City. 

     This is Michele with Maxie, Excellent Standard, Sunday, June 21st, 2010, Monroe

I also like to start the camera rolling just as the dog is being put into position before the Start Gate, and continue running the video until the dog is put back on leash.  It is very interesting to watch the interaction of dog and handler after a run.

One of the things I don't like about the Handycam is you can't delete a video at the moment you take it. You hit the REC button prematurely, then stop it. No video you want to keep, but you have to cull thru all the files later to delete it. Big waste of time.

Second, the files are so large you can only fit about 22 1 minute Standard Quality videos on the drive.  I have to download them to my computer every evening, which can be inconvenient.  It takes me about 3 days after I get home to upload them from my computer to Picasa.  That process takes forever, it seems.  I want to be able to upload them straight from my camera.

Changing My Morning Routine is a Bitch

Consistent training at home during the hot summer months requires a very different morning routine from what I've gotten used to in retirement. I am trying to force myself out of bed by 7 a.m., immediately putting on my training clothes (shirts or shorts with pockets), running shoes, and loading the pockets with treats BEFORE I reach for my coffee and that first cigarette.  No more coctails the night before. No more lounging around until 10 or 11 a.m. in my pajamas, feeding the dogs, reading my emails to 2 cups of coffee, making breakfast, planning my day, etc. before setting a foot outside.  By 10 a.m. it's 90 degrees!  I'm only good up to about 85 degrees. And the dogs train better BEFORE they get their breakfast.

Even more importantly, Excellent level agility dogs compete first thing in the morning year round, and 8" dogs sometimes go first, so I have to somehow retrain my body to be alert and ready to run by 7:30 a.m.  It was easier in Novice and Open, because those dogs run around Noon, but those days are over for us. Alas, I've NEVER been a morning person.

Believe me, NOTHING has come along to make me change my indolent ways except the motivation of my little Maxie running his heart out for me, tail a-fluttering, stretching himself to his limit.  I can't fail him.  I must strive to be the best trainer I can be for him.  It's sad, but dogs get stuck with the people that buy them or rescue them.  The pairing isn't always so good. Dogs have so little choice in whether their potential is ever met.  Their saving grace is how they give their all for their owners and pretty much accept their fate, whatever it is, without complaint.

Our first experience at early morning competition was at Excellent level in Monroe last June, and it was a disaster.  It was a 4 day trial.  On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we earned our Open Standard title in 3 consecutive 1st place, clean runs.  So on Sunday, the 4th day, we moved up to Excellent.  I wasn't expecting that. OMG, I struggled so hard to wake up and get to the arena on time, so sleepy and disoriented, which made me very emotional. Max apparently felt my pain.  He took 2 wrong courses, did 2 spins, and knocked a bar, while I was zig-zagging all over the place, felt uncomfortable in my skin, and I was so horribly dressed.  Wrong shirt, wrong bra, bad hair.  The only good thing is Max ran fast and was enthusiastic, confirming that he does have a chance to place in future competitions against fast dogs. I posted a video of  our disaster here.

I would embed the video if only I could figure out how to do it.  (This Google Blogspot system is really hard to figure out.)

I only post this horrid video so that later on I can remind myself of where we came from.  I feel confident that we will improve--not only in my handling skills and our communications, but in my wardrobe and foundation garments!  Thank god there are no Agility Fashion Police.  A Consultant might be nice!