Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cape Coral Trip

T to B: Mom, Dad, Maxie, Willow
John and I just returned from an 8 day, 1800 mile road trip to Cape Coral, FL to help celebrate my dad's 95th, and my mom's 90th birthdays.  4 days on the road (2 there, 2 back), with 2 dogs, covering about 450 miles a day, stopping every few hours at McDonalds or a gas station for coffee and to stretch, pottie ourselves and dogs.  At each stop, I kept with my commitment to sprint 100 yards. 

We found a great halfway point between Baton Rouge and Cape Coral in Tallahassee, where we stayed at a really nice LaQuinta Inn, exit 199, right off of I-10, which included roomy rooms, continental breakfast, WiFi, NOON checkout, and NO PET FEE for only $58.50/night, including tax. There was no microwave or fridge in the room, though.  $4 extra for that.  Rooms 161-167 (odd numbers only) faced on a charming wooded slope the dogs could run in, and there was a designated grassy pet area further down.

5 hours to Houston had been Maxie's longest road trip up til now, and both he and Willow travelled like champions. At the birthday party Maxie did all his parlor tricks, and Dad got the biggest kick out of his "I'm depressed" trick (where I say "When you knock a bar, are you depressed?", and he slumps over and hangs his head and won't straighten up until I say "That's OK". Nobody understood how I use food to train various behaviors, so I got to demo that as well.

Maxie got ill for a few days, throwing up and diahrreah, wouldn't eat.  First time ever for being sick, scared me. We think maybe he ate a berry off the ground around one of the many palm trees in the area.  That's what it looked like came out of him, anyway, or maybe he licked harsh chemicals off the tiles of the Paradise Cove hotel room.  So on the trip I blogged about putting together a Doggie First Aid Kit.  He recovered, but I should have been better prepared.

Willow and Maxie are none too happy about
potential rivals to their thrones (puppies in crate).
Maxie is positioned between me
and the pups, keeping up a low growl. 
Willow keeps licking an empty bowl.
On the way home we stopped in Myakka City, FL where my cousin, Lois, a Papillon breeder, surprised the heck out of us with 2 9 week old AKC Papillon puppies -- to keep, or to sell!  She doesn't have time to fool with this litter, she said.  Since I acquired Maxie when he was 6 months old, and Willow at age 6, I've never been around Papillon puppies.  Oh my, are they ever cute!!!!!  I will keep them another few weeks or so to socialize them before hopefully sending them off to a good home.  Please, God, don't let me get too attached.

Already I can see differences.  The female is slightly more dominant than the male, quicker to figure things out, faster, stronger, and has a more dense body.  When I got home I weighed her on my kitchen scale at 2.5 lbs.  Though they appear the same size, the male only weighs 1.75 lbs. 

Jitsu (sitting) and Roku (lying down).
Roku looks bigger because of his fluffier hair.
We temporarily named him "Racoo" because his face looks like a raccoon's, then we nicknamed her "Jitsu" after a sign we saw posted on a telephone pole for Ju Jitsu lessons.  Then Racoo devolved to Roku for some reason.  So it's Roku and Jitsu.  They eat every few hours, and pee and poo all over the place and often, and they and their shredded paper stunk by the time we got home.  I gave them a bath, blow dry and nail clip, and now they smell sweet and are little soft white fluff balls.  Jitsu loves water. 

We set them up in Lucky's big crate, lined thick with newspaper so I can remove the top layer a few times a day, a tub of kitty litter on one side (which they love to dig in, so that didn't work), a towel to snuggle on, some little tug toys, and a heavy bowl for water (which they scamper through).  Outside, I set up the x-pen in the grass and they tumble around in there several times a day.  They seemed to suffer no ill effects from the long trip home. 

I've got my work cut out for me for the next little while.  Yet another learning curve - crap!  Will I ever know everything about anything?  I'll take some pictures and videos over the next few days to try and capture their markings, expressions, and antics, which will help in advertising them for sale.  They are hearty little things, mighty cute, and such a blast they make John laugh great big belly laughs, which I've never actually heard coming out of my husband before.

Upwards and onward,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Doggie First Aid Kit

Over the years I've gathered information about meds and therapies for dogs from various vets, breeders, etc.  After Maxie got sick on a road trip (vomiting, diarreah, and wouldn't eat for 2 days) with me unprepared and unable to access my list, it was a Wake Up Call that I need to make up a First Aid Kit for home and on trips, and to post the list here on the web so I can access it from any computer. Maybe other people will find it useful (but please, use at your own risk -- I'm not a vet).

If anyone has corrections or more to add to this list, please let me know. Be sure and site your sources.

Human Medicines safe for dogs:
Robitussin - Cough, (1/4 tsp/10#) - Breeder
Pepto Bismol - Upset Stomach/vomiting (1/4 tsp/10#) - Breeder

Kaopectate - Diahrrea (+- 1 Tbsp/20#) - Breeder
Immodium - Constipation (1 mg per 15 lbs 1-2 times daily) - Breeder
Mineral Oil - Constipation (1/2 tsp/10#) - Vet
Neosporin - Cuts, Bites (topical antibiotic ointment) - Vet
Children's Liquid Benadryl - allergy, sneezing, wheezing, itching (1 tsp/10#), also works on some dogs as a tranquilizer. - Vet
Hydrogen Peroxide: to induce vomiting, about a teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight by mouth. If vomiting does not occur within 5 to 10 minutes, the dose may be repeated at least 2 more times. - Vet
Ice Water - Overheating. - Vet
Normal dog temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5. Overheated, the dog pants and the tongue turns purple. They may throw up. Remedy: drink ice water, dip rag in ice water and put on head, belly, underarms. Take temp rectally. If they can't hold down any water, bring to vet at once
Antibiotics - for infections, oral antibiotics such as chloromycetin or tetracycline are safe.

Rectal thermometer
Needleless syringe (to dispense liquids)
Cotton swabs and Q-tips

At home remedies for general health:

Apple Cider Vinegar: Try the health food variety over supermarket brands. Put in the dogs water bowl, 1/2 oz for large dogs and 1/4 oz for smaller dogs. Taken internally, helps get rid of fleas, improve tear stains and the condition of the dog's coat. Use in the rinse water after the shampoo for smooth, soft fur and also a flea detterant. - Breeder

IVERSIDE - Heartworm Medicine. Breeders can get a bottle from vet for $38 and give by dropperfuls (syringe) to all the dogs, mixed in their food once a month (1 drop per 2 lbs of dog.).  - Breeder

Can get flea/tick/mosquito control by bottle at PetSmart and treat all animals with that. Much cheaper than other treatments. - Breeder
Can get eye drops from PetSmart for weeping eyes. Vet doesn't have these. - Breeder

Advantage: Flea Treatment, now over the counter med, data supplied by Azelea Vet Svc.
Cats under 9 lbs, .4cc
Cats over 9 lbs, .8 cc
Dogs 1-10#, .4 cc
Dogs 11-20#, 1 cc
Dogs 21-55#, 2.5 cc
Dosages can vary without consequence. To save money, buy for a large dog and divide each monthly treatment using a needleless syringe among several smaller animals.

Tranquilizer:  Children's Liquid Benedryl (makes some dogs hyper), safe for older dogs or those with heart conditions who should not be given tranquilizers.

Doggie CPR: 
If dog isn't breathing or there is no pulse.
Lay dog on their right side, kneel with your knees to their back.
Feel for a pulse under the dew claw area, or at the heart (where their elbow touches their chest).
Stretch their head forward in straight line with their body.
Stack your hands and lock fingers.  Lock elbows.  Do 15 chest compressions rapidly.
Cover their nose with your mouth, hold their jaws closed, and breathe into their nostrils 4 times on the first turn, then 1 time every turn thereafter.
Compress their abdomen to circulate the blood, one hand over, one hand under abdomen.
15 compressions to one breath, then an abdominal squeeze.
Repeat until you feel a pulse.
see video at CPR in Dogs  (if it is still there)

Poisonous Foods to Dogs:
  • Onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, cocoa, avocadoes and macadamia nuts can be fatal, too. As few as 7 raisins can kill your dog due to renal failure.
  • Dogs, cats and humans are highly allergic to chocolate and yellow jasmine. One square from a thin chocolate Hershey's bar can kill a dog, One yellow jasmine flower can kill a sensitive human, much less for a dog.
  • Dogs and cats have been known to suffer toxicity from large quantities of onions or garlic. (A bit of flavoring in meat or gravy won't hurt them).
  • Raisins and grapes in quantity are also toxic.
Care and Maintenance:

Expressing the Anal Glands: Anal glands on male dogs need to be expressed periodically. If the dog drags his butt across the floor or seems excessively interested in the anal area, this can indicate it is time to express: The anal glands are paired sacs located at about four and eight o'clock positions around the rectum. They are comprised of sebaceous oil glands that secrete a serous odoriferous brown discharge. The discharge is usually expressed as feces are eliminated. However, in smaller breed dogs this discharge seems to be saved until times of extreme fear, anger, or revenge! in these breeds the anal glands are usually expressed as the groomer lifts the tail and manually pushes up and out. Lift the tail. Press a warm damp washcloth over the area. Use the thumb on one gland and the forefinger on the other, and squeeze the fingers towards each other. Use a sprayer bottle of clear water and clean rag to clean the area after expressing.

I'll add to this list as I get more information.  Now, to make up my travelling First Aid Kit . . . . .

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beginners Agility Class - Handling Fundamentals

I taught my first LCCOC Agility Class beginning in January 2011, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights.  Due to many rain-outs, this class went on thru March 16.  I had 5 students, Jerri, Jen, Judy, Melanie and Cathie.  All but Cathie had been in beginners for at least 3 previous sessions, and were clearly ahead of Cathie, who just graduated from Intro.

Here's a summary of what I taught in 6 weeks, which I entitled.

Handling Fundamentals - Part 1

After D's are relatively comfortable on the equipment, handlers need some instruction in handling.  How can they guide D over sequences if D won't follow them, turn with them, value their hand motions and arm changes, etc.  So this class will include a good bit of flatwork, and homework that can be practiced between classes, and without equipment. I pointed out that nobody can learn agility in 1 hour a week. I invited students to arrive half an hour early and stay after class to run their dogs over the equipment they already know.
Session #1 - Objectives

3. Build value in D looking at your hand. Touch/Treat method.

4. Build value in the Clicker and learn to use it. Click=Treat. NOTE: This is essential for later distance work, in lieu of running back to treat D.

5. Learn to use the hand nearest D to guide him, and keep the other hand flat against your body, or unused elbow pressed against your body. Only one hand out at a time.

6. Learn to treat from the extended hand. Don't reach across your body to treat.

7. Stand up straight to guide D around. Don't lean down to D's level, except to treat a small D. Make D look up at you.

8. Flatwork/Homework: On the flat, teach the Post Turn, the Pull-Through, the Head Snap at the Rear Cross. Work both sides, identify D's non-dominant side, and practice on that side more.

9. Demonstrate/practice the use of these techniques over 1 jump, then 2 jumps, then combine them in a short sequence of jumps. Students should be able to identify these moves when they see them and know when to use them.

10. Move class along at a fast pace, reduce standing around, give the biggest bang for their buck. Where possible, set up enough stations for each student to work independantly, then gather everyone together to show off what they learned in rapid succession.

I set up this little course.

Session #2 - Objectives

Continuing their previous training from Kay:

Take them to the big dog walk and evaluate their performance doing run-bys, off leash, both sides, both directions.

Same as above with full height A-frame. Lower if need be.

Along with that, practice 2o/2o down contacts on both Aframe and Dog Walk, both sides/ both directions, with treat on target (which they are used to), fading to a touch target/click/treat at target.

Introduce Start Line Stays. Sit. Stay. H walks a few feet away, return, click, treat. Then 6 feet away, then 10 feet away. Then 20 feet away. Then walking side to side as walking away. ALWAYS AT FIRST, return and treat with “Good Stay”. PAY YOUR DOG for a good sit/stay.

Mix & Match H’s behavior, but of course, D always does the very same thing.

If they get that: Try a Sit/Stay/Walk far away/Release D with Come or Over (a jump)/Treat.

Review of last week’s lessons by running the 4 jump course I set up (all bars set a 16”). Then, big surprise, set up the mirror image course and make them do it on opposite side. Rear cross 1 to 2/pull through 2 to 3/post turn 3 to 4. At this point, they are running along with D.


Homework: Practice sit/stays (no distractions). Also, continue with last week’s flatwork. Continue building value in the clicker (Click/Treat), and value in your hand (Touch/Click).

Session #3
Review of front cross footwork.  Give touch target container.  Practice with sends to target.  Send over jump with rear cross.

NOTE: In session #3, I will build on the Sit/Stay practice, by introducing the Call/RunBy/Send principle of training every obstacle, beginning with Calls, (not yet called Lead Outs). Calls require a strong sit/stay (fading away the need for instructor to “hold D by the collar” until H calls him). May also introduce sit/stays with distractions.

Session #4 Directional Handling with one tunnel and 1 jump, Solid Sit/Stays, See-Saw training w 4 on contacts and nose touch treat, Out command with 4 jumps box.

Florida Trip - Packing & Road Travel

So now I'm on a week-long visit to Florida to celebrate my Mom's 90th and Dad's 95th birthdays.  I'm excited to be honoring them, yet leaving home is liken to having an arm ripped out of its socket.  Everything I need or want to do is at home.  And there are so many details to take care of to pack and to batten down the house before leaving, it makes me weary to the point of being immobile before I start the trip.

On the long 2 day drive, I got to thinking how on earth I'm going to achieve my trialing objectives for 2011 with this antipathy to packing and leaving home.  I have to get a handle on this aspect of my "precompetition routine".

I've picked up various helpful packing hints from a few people willing to share:
  • keep a dog bag packed with all their paperwork, collars with tags and w/o tags, leashes, toys, poopie bags, treats, etc.
  • keep your bags packed.  When you get home wash, fold and repack all your "trialing outfits" and keep them by the door.  Have separate clothes and toiletries from the ones you use at home.
  • keep the car packed with crates and mats that are just for trialing.  Don't use the ones you have set up at home.This way, you mostly just have to charge batteries, fill the cooler, bring your trial reservations paperwork, cameras, and go.
  • Once at the trial, have separate coolers, crates, etc., for the arena and the hotel room.  Don't haul stuff back and forth.
  • Volunteer to work the trials so you qualify for the free food and drinks.  That way, you don't have to bring much food.
I figure, I will have to attend between 6-10 trials this year to achieve my goals (one a month):
Maxie needs 10 Q's in Standard, and 10 Q's in Jumpers to get Masters titles.Lucky needs 9 Q's in Standard, and 9 Q's in Jumpers to get Novice, Open and Excellent titles.
If each trial is, say 2 days, and I go to 10 trials, that's 20 runs in each class.  Are there 10 trials within 2-5 hours driving distance?  Let's see:  Baton Rouge, Kiln, Hattiesburg, New Iberia, Gulfport, Lake Charles, Monroe, Haughton, Brandon, Alexandria, Pensacola  Yes!

All I need is 50% accuracy.  Maxie and my accuracy for 2010 was 60% (30 runs in 6 trials, 18 Q's), and since some trials are 3 days, there's an extra cushion there too.  Plus, hopefully we-re getting better at this game.

All it seems I need to do, then, to reach my goals is:
  • practice and improve at agility
  • keep practicing how to run
  • keep building up my stamina, strengthening my ankles, etc.
  • keep the car in good shape
  • make enough money to support this activity
  • streamline my packing
I also need to remember to bring drinking water from home.  Our 2nd night on this road trip, Maxie threw up 4 times in the bed, had to go out and pee and poo at 4 a.m., and wouldn't eat all of his breakfast -- all firsts for him.  The next night he threw up again, several times, and would not touch food.  I have a touch of diarrhea myself, and John is very sleepy. It might have to do with a 2 day road trip, or maybe drinking different water.  Another thing I need to organize and pack - a Doggie First Aid Kit.

I also need to bring my own pillow.  Our first night at a Days Inn in Ocala, as soon as my head hit the pillow my sinuses started draining, nose and eyes watering.  Something in the fabric gave me an alergic reaction.  I had to put one of my T-shirts over the pillow to get to sleep.
Packing is really an important part of this game. Hopefully doing it right will reduce my stress considerably.

Upwards and onward,

P.S.  I am also doing a write-up of each trialing environment to help me remember the conditions at each location.  So far I have done Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg, Lake Charles, Monroe, Kiln, Gulfport, New Iberia, Mobile, Port Allen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Teaching First Agility Class

I taught my first Beginners Agility Class last night, taking a different approach to the way I was taught. My first assumption is that an Intro graduate dog can go over all the jumps without fear, go thru tunnels, get on and off the table, go over a low see-saw, baby dog walk, and low A-frame. They are trained to seek out a target at the bottom of the contacts.

In Beginners, they are to brought up to functionality on full-height equipment.  Besides that, the next logical step, IMHO, is that handlers need training in steering their dogs around the courses, and they must learn to do it correctly before much Sequencing of Obstacles is introduced. So I call my class:

Handling Fundamentals

This will include a lot of flatwork in preparation for some basic handling maneuvers (crosses and turns), good posture, etc. After the 6 weeks ends, I'll post a breakdown of what we covered, what I learned, and how I think things progressed.

Musing (new symbol I just added):
Our club is run entirely by volunteers, including our year-round, 3 nights a week agility classes -- a feat of dedication which constantly amazes me.  Instructors have to be club members who have "put a title on a dog" (which now that I've done that, I realize isnt enough of a criteria).  Even a poor performing team can earn a novice title.  If it were me, I would change the criteria to "put an Excellent title on a dog".  You have to get some real experience under your belt to get an Excellent title. Will that make teachers too scarce to come by?  Well, not if we get crackin and start producing more competition teams.  Excellent is only 9 Q's and only the last 3 of those need to be fault-free.

By my calculations, in the last 3 years (since I've been in the club), we've only generated 3 new competitors on the agility scene (me, Lisa, Sheryl Mc).  A dismal record.  We run quite a few students thru Intro, but few continue on.  Those few who continue stay stuck in Beginners and Advanced Beginners, don't seem to advance to competition.  (I'm saying this, guessing actually, because nobody I know of is keeping track.  One thing this club doesn't do is keep statistical records.  We have no real idea how we're doing.  I'm basing my claims on who I see advancing thru the classes and at trials, and it's mostly the same people year after year.)

I ask myself, WHY IS THIS?  What isn't happening?  What could we do differently, or better?  Is it the same in every club?  That's the business woman in me, always trying to improve the bottom line, offer a better product.  And the teacher in me, always trying to encourage people.  And the student in me, always trying to learn as I travel life's road. 

I have some ideas, and now I get to try a few of them out.  Time will tell.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brags Page, Website Management

As aforementioned, I am the webmaster for the LCCOC website.  In 2009 I installed a Guest Book set up as a Brags page, where club members could post their dog's achievements. I wanted visitors to see how active our club members are and how successful in putting titles on their dogs. Further, it would be a more permanent and visible record than merely reciting a brag at the monthly meeting, and then POOF, it's gone and forgotten.  Most club members have no idea what other members are achieving all year long.

I spent many hours setting up the page, then invited members to use it, for themselves AND to help promote our club.  A few did, entering summaries for each weekend trial they attended, but this quickly became cumbersome.  Too many entries to read, and too hard to follow any one dog.  No good.  So I asked members, a few weeks back, to post a one-brag-summary of each dog's achievement for 2010.  I posted my own Maxie Brag as an example.

Alas, I only got one response.  So much for team spirit.  The sentiment seems to be "who has the time".  True, many of our club members are at trials most weekends and working during the week, yet I fear the page's emptiness makes it look like our members don't have anything to brag about. That won't do.

I reviewed a bunch of other dog club websites, and in each case where they have a Brags feature, the page is nearly empty.  Apparently the "post it yourself" plan is not the way to go.  So I'm trying to figure out new ways to get the job done.
Each year our members are asked to turn in their dog's new titles for the year so the club can present them with an award, either a plaque or a crate tag, at the Winter Party.  I wrote elsewhere in this blog about receiving my first plaque and how proud I was.  I'm not sure all of our members respond to that program, either, but a considerable number do, so I'm investigating posting that list to the website.  I'll make a presentation to the Board of Directors and see if that flies.

Some of our members wonder why I knock myself out doing stuff like this: videoing our team members' performances at trials, matches, and events; maintaining web albums, etc., while they are discouraging me with comments like "you'll tire of it soon".  Likewise, they can't believe I "waste my time" trying to maintain a Brags page.  My take on it is that it beats doing cross-word puzzles, watching game or murder shows on TV, shopping for clothes, having my nails done, hanging out in bars or cafes, or chit-chatting.  I'm not a small-talker, but I like people.  I like being active.  I need projects.  I enjoy studying the learning process.  Plus, "supporting positive effort wherever I find it" is one of my life-long mantras, and beats sitting around noticing all the things-gone-wrong in this world. I'd be drowning myself in the bottle if I had nothing positive to focus on, no one besides myself to pay attention to.  I seek out positive achievers, then do what makes me happy, which is promoting those achievements, even if it makes me sad that few appreciate it. 

Why we lavish so much attention on our dogs, with most of the humans around us bravely enduring but slowly dying of emotional starvation for lack of personal attention and positive reinforcement, I have no idea. As for me, I love to spoil unspoiled people (especially now that I have the time), believing that I may still be assisting humanity in some small way to move

Upwards and onward, 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Practice with Cheryl W. & Joy

I picked up Joy and Puddin' and we headed out to the field for 1:30 to hook up with Cheryl W and Grace.  It was in the 50's, overcast and looking like rain, but the weather held until we left around 4.

I got Joy settled in a chair, then we let Puddin' & Lucky run around for awhile.  I tested whether Puddin' would fetch, but he doesn't.  He doesn't tug either.  I introduced him to a wingless jump, a winged jump, the tire, and the down contact of the low dog walk.  Man, I forgot how far my dogs have come in their training!  His head snaps at rear cross flatwork were slow, but he's beginning to understand the concept of keeping his eyes on me.
I ran Maxie and Lucky several times, and both did very well. 
  • Lucky's bounced thru the weaves if I had her toy, and walked thru if I didn't.  She walked over the dog walk, but ran if I had her toy.  Cheryl pointed out I was a lot more animated if I was brandishing her toy, which could partially account for her increased enthusiasm.  She almost lost her footing once when one rear foot didn't make full contact with the board as she was running, and I think that shook her up a wee bit. She doesn't usually make spacial mistakes.  Her 2on-2off down contacts were mostly reliable.  She needs to tighten her pulls around jump stantions, which is only a matter of expectation because the girl can turn on a dime at full speed when she plays. We practiced several rear crosses behind the A-frame, and she improved from last time when she stopped forward motion at the top whenever I reared. 
  • Maxie ran both courses flawlessly, even when I changed up the sequences.  His serpentines and threadles are strong but there were a few mistakes, his diagonal jumps with full extension are improving.  I want to avoid knocked bars this year, and am practicing lots of steep diagonal jumps at varying speeds, and earier queing of each jump,  to improve his performance.  We would have Q'd several more times last year but for one knocked bar, and they were all due to his uncertainty of which jump to take.
I passed out my new Finger Clickers and everyone seemed to like them. I had no trouble with mine and used it throughout the training period. Very convenient. Lucky and Puddin' both respond well to the clicker. Grace seemed to catch on to it within minutes, too.

Cheryl ran Grace a few times, whose weaves are still weak, so we tried playing the "weave relay" game.  I used Maxie to demo how it works.  Cheryl at one end with treats.  Me at the other end, intending to send him to Cheryl for a treat, then call him back to me for a treat.  He blew us both away, never waiting to be sent or called but just racing thru the weaves to grab a treat from her, then turn around and race to the other end for another treat from me, then back to her, then back to me, about 8 times without stopping.  He ran very fast, and never missed a weave.

Cheryl allowed me to practice hand touches with Grace, then weave entries, then some flat work to improve her awareness of hand signals.  She is very food motivated, which makes the training easier. It was interesting to work with a totally different breed and temperament from the few dogs I am familiar with.  I needed this experience.  It drove home the point that there will be all kinds of dogs in my classes, and none of them alike.  Grace, for example, snarled if I patted her, while I tend to be a dog patting fool.  I have to learn to keep my hands off of other people's dogs until I know what they like.

Yesterday I ordered a TUGSY toy from that you stuff with food and it squishes out between the mesh as D tugs, because Susan Garrett says all dogs can be trained to tug, and tugging is an invaluable teaching aide.  It builds a strong bond between dog and handler.  I got it for Maxie, who doesn't tug much (but probably doesn't need it), and will try it on Puddin as well.  Tugging is something Joy can do with Puddin' while sitting in her chair.

Back at Joy's, I discovered she has 3 jumps, a tire and 12 weave poles under her carport.  That's great.  When I visit her, I can work with Puddin on these.  We'll see how long it takes for him to catch on, and I'll keep track. 

Sheryl M, my training partner, just got back from the Kiln trial.  She 2Q'd with Charlie on Saturday, but nothing on Sunday.  She surmises she screwed up the standard run by forgetting to run past the last jump.  Charlie slowed down, failed to extend, and knocked the tripple. She figures she had played with Charlie too much before the Jumpers run because Charlie wouldn't budge and had to be removed from the ring. He was tuckered out!  But as she said, it's "live and learn", and

Onward and upwards, in baby steps!

Lessons Learned:
With Lucky, try to be as animated without a toy as with one.
Don't assume every dog responds well to the same things.
Lucky needs speed on the dogwalk.

Being A Good Student

I follow Susan Garrett's blog (reachable at the link in my sidebar). She has started an email newsletter series called "Being A Good Student", and has asked for comments on her blog entry What Holds You Back.

So I posted the following today:

I taught Montessori children for 27 years, and many adults in pottery, watercolor and computer classes. I've taught myself many difficult things, like how to build websites, knit, throw on a potters wheel, etc. The one thing I notice that makes a human or canine student easy to teach is if they are "biddable". Willing to trust. Willing to do what you say. Not afraid of "getting it wrong". Not even expecting to get it right at first.

I point out to all my students that "If you knew how to do this already, you wouldn't be here, so don't expect a flawless performance from yourself. I don't expect that of you." It takes lots and lots of practice to even begin to get a "feel" for things (My visualization is the ballet student "at the bar" for hours on end). Do we practice the footwork of our handling maneuvers for hours on end??????

I had a great philosophy teacher who told me "Go to class to ingest. Go home and digest what you ingested." In other words, don't expect every piece you hear in class to fit into your preconceived notions, or to fit all together into a comprehensive system the instant each idea is comunicated. It's like a jig saw puzzle. The pieces come together slowly. Give the teacher a chance to unfold their vision, connect the dots. Be confident that you can explore something new and different for a few hours or days, and still return to your solid base later.

I suspect poor students don't have a solid or wide enough base to venture forth from, so they are horribly afraid to leave it. Prejudice is born of fear. They are uncomfortable with being confused. They raise their hand all the time, interrupt a lot, chatter, pout, cause mayhem, become dissatisfied with the teaching, or quit, because during class they are trying to file each and every piece of new data they hear into their established filing system, and if it doesn't fit immediately, it starts cluttering up their desktop. While attempting to clear up this mess during class, they miss the next bit, and the next, and the next.

My advice to all students: be comfortable with being confused. Enjoy the clutter. Or, establish a mental "For Later Processing" file, and stuff every confusing thing into it. You will find when you go back later and review all the confusing items, half of them aren't confusing any more and can be filed into one of your existing mental files. Plus, you will be able to create new files with new labels, expanding your filing system and your knowledge in rapid fashion, and getting your money's worth out of each class.

I have had so much success with this method myself after so many years struggling to learn and teach difficult things, I have come to trust the process intuitively, and along with reciting my daily mantra: "Patience, Persistence, and Prayer" (the 3 P's), everyone and everything has become my teacher.

I would have liked to refine this hodge podge of thoughts and add more, but the comment was already too long and I was in a hurry. But I've been ruminating about it ever since, and so I add more here.

I wasn't always a good student.  In grade school, I was the one who got ignored when I raised my hand, and called on whenever I didn't know the answer.  I wilted and grew tongue-tied and afraid to participate.  I made decent grades by doing my homework, passing tests, and because my father would have been furious with D's.  I never made an F.  To my father, teachers were liken to Gods and I better not EVER complain about any of them.  Any problem, it was my fault for being a spoiled, ungrateful child.  But I grew to HATE some teachers, whom it seemed were always trying to demoralize their students.  All the way up thru college, I encountered several teachers who started class with "Most of you will not succeed in learning this".  With that approach, that threat, many students didn't even try.  I set out to prove them wrong.

I became a teacher to "protect" children from the demoralizing experiences I had endured.  I love to learn, love to participate, love to stretch myself, and I want that for my students.

As an adult, taking continuing education classes but still mistrustful of teachers, I was always the "clever" one in the back, pacing up and down, evaluating the teacher's every phrase, raising my hand for clarification, justification, or with "points of interest". I don't know exactly when I quit. I recognized that I had changed when, in some class or other, there was a very annoying man in the back of the room, pacing, interrupting the teacher every few sentences with questions. He was a mistrustful student. I saw myself in him, and sunk into shame.

Another instance, I signed up for a class with a renowned instructor.  In the class was another student who was also an instructor of a similar method.  This student spent the entire class trying to teach her own method with "You can also do it like this." or "I do it like this".  I finally told her if she wanted to teach her method, she should put up a flyer or take out an ad, and maybe I might sign up for her class, but at this time I was paying to learn the current instructor's method, so would she please shut up.  She was, of course, highly offended, saying she was "offering her gifts for free." She wasn't there to learn.

Trying to teach pottery and water colors to adults, I discovered many adults are horribly afraid to make mistakes, always apologizing for not doing it right.  With all their negative self-talk, they are harder to work with than most children.  They probably had some fatherly advice along the way, like I did, that "if you can't write like Shakespeare, don't write.  If you can't paint like Michaelangelo, don't waste the paint. The world isn't interested in your junk."  I never accepted that ridiculous limitation, and finally found words to justify my early attempts at art when a fellow Montessori teacher, an art major, told me that the value of doing art is for "personal relevance".

PERSONAL RELEVANCE.  That was the missing key I needed to blossom.  I didn't have to write or paint for others, or to sell product, or make a living at it.  I could do it for personal relevance -- for the pure joy of exploring my capabilities and new media.   Learning is about me BECOMING what I can be, not becoming a world champion, the President, the wife of the president, or any other famous person. I don't have to justify my existance.


And I've been enjoying every moment of that freedom from that day on, and yearning to help others throw off the yoke of the tyranny of "perfection as a goal" as well.

Lydia, by Mary Cassatt
(certainly not her first attempt to paint)
Does that mean that I approve of sloppy work, poor performances, ugly messes?  Not at all.  But I am reminded of Mary Cassatt (one of my favorite painters), who, sadly, never kept a single painting she did for the first 10 years she painted.  Compare this with parents nowadays who keep every single crayon stroke their preschoolers ever make, and every little phrase they utter as though it were a completed masterpiece.  There needs to be some balance in between.  Of course one should strive for excellence, but we should all understand that a thousand less-than-excellent executions must flow forth from the inexperienced hand to gain experience, and each execution probably holds some "personal relevance" to the student as they see themselves improve.

To see a progression of Mary Cassett's earlier paintings would be a valuable thing.  Does that mean mediocrity is a creditable art form?  Should it be in museums?  Well, to that I might say NO.  But should it be kept in a portfolio to demonstrate the learning process?  At least a representative sample?  ABSOLUTELY.  I would love to see some of Mary Cassatt's early attempts at painting.  I actually have a copy of the first LP the Beatles cut, and have used it to demonstrate the learning process.  They sounded HORRIBLE!  I mean, it's almost unbearably horrible.  They worked in low down skanky bars for several years, perfecting their craft, before ever even recording that one.

So, yes, I'll keep the videos of Maxie and my 1st year of trialing.  Lots of sketchy performances, barely Q's, and my body not knowing how to run, or move.  We were novices all along, scraping by.  Now working towards our Masters, we are still novices.  But we got out there and did it, didn't give up, and now I know better what to practice.  In my dreams I see myself fit, fleet, and graceful, and me and Maxie connected, focused, and confident.  I know now what it is supposed to look like.  I have a more practiced eye, appreciate more nuances, and that's quite new. I have something to shoot for and if it takes me years of practice to achieve it, what a great way to spend each day.

Now, on to pick up Joy and Puddin', and take Maxie and Lucky to the field for a practice session this overcast Sunday afternoon.  We're meeting Cheryl W. and her Grace there, too.

Upwards and onward!

Addendum:  on 2/5/11, I received another of Susan Garrett's "Being A Good Student" emails.

Good student concept #6;
Be open-minded and brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone.

It seconded some of my points, and ended with these wonderful quotes:

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.
~ Benjamin Franklin

One can choose to go back towards safety or forward towards growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.
~Abraham Maslow

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable while trying something new.
~Brian Tracy

If you always do what you've always done you will aways get what you always got.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finger Clicker

Not satisfied with the clicker hanging around my neck, getting tangled up in my clothes or in Lucky's toy, or as a wrist band, still always flailing around to get to it, I had John take one apart so I could see where to put the holes and insert an elastic band so I can wear it on my finger. The prototype looks like this, and it works great! I can still use my hand to do other things like reach in my pocket for treats, and still CLICK whenever you want to! Before I make up a bunch of them, though, or cut off the necklace loop, I'm going to use this one for awhile, make sure the elastic band doesn't cut off my circulation, etc.

Clicker, taken apart, poked,
and elastic sewn into a point for threading.
These are the clickers you get at PetSmart for $1.50 at the check out counter, which make a loud, crisp click. At this price I can make up half a dozen and lend them to my students.  I poked the holes thru the plastic with an old ice pick heated up at the tip, and sewed the flat elastic into a round point at the end so I could thread it through the round holes.

Units don't have to be disassembled to poke the holes, I just took one apart to see how much clearance is needed not to interfere with the metal plate.  They are simple little gadgets, ingenious!  I always wonder who designs these things and gets them manufactured in the first place.  In my next life I want to learn all about the manufacturing process.  They don't teach this in school.

Of course, no sooner than I invent something, I find out it's already been invented.  My friend Cheryl W. sent me this link to a similar product, but the reviews indicate they aren't that good (muffled click, too bulky, etc), so I think I'll stick with my makeshift version.

Okay, enough playing around.  I've got to get ready for dinner at my son Nathan's house tonight.  He's making us a roast in his new pressure cooker.  John is already over there working on an electrical problem.  All my agility friends are in Kiln, MS at a trial this weekend, which I'm missing because next Thursday John and I are leaving for Florida for a week and I don't want to be too exhausted to pack for our trip.  After that trip, it's going to be agility, agility, agility all year. That's the plan anyway.

Upwards and onward!

Agility Committee

Being an instructor apparently puts you on the Agility Committee, which I didn't automatically know!  Being on the Agility Committee automatically makes me feel more responsible for our field and equipment, not to mention our students, which has got me to thinking about the safety of our fence, and the ease of care of our field.

Yesterday I brought my neighbor Thom, the Fences Built guy, out to see our fence, which was damaged in Hurricane Gustav and has yet to be repaired.  We checked every square inch along the bottom for possible holes, found a huge one where the ditch drains the field and the soil keeps eroding, a 50' length of fence that is only 3 feet high, and several places where the fence is not attached to the poles any more or being pushed over by new growth trees.  Thom will give us an estimate on fixing all that, including using used materials he may have salvaged from other jobs.

While Thom and I examined the fence, John was on a laddar loping off the bushes and small trees that grow along the back side of the fence, creating some openings so we could throw our twigs and branches over the fence without them getting all tangled up.  With all the trees on the property, there is always tidying up to do and since we have no "yard maintenance", we have to do it ourselves.  I am hoping everyone in the club helps with this, but you know, it usually falls to a few devoted souls.

It was 37 degrees at Noon, so I took the opportunity to test my 4 layered "freezing weather teaching outfit", and it kept me warm.  In fact, after running Maxie and Lucky a few times, I had to peel off the windbreaker.  Nice!  Maxie was spot on, fast and focused.  Lucky was energetic so long as I was carrying/throwing her toy, but just trying to run the course with her, she became lethargic after the first run.  She followed my signals well, though, including some sophisticated moves, rear steering, and I'm not discouraged despite instructors telling me "Lucky isn't Maxie".  I remember when Maxie used to run half a course, then just sit down and refuse to move.  He had had enough.  I would have to go pick him up.  He still does that occasionally.
Upwards and onward!

Afghan Lessons

Michele, Maxie, Willow on red couch
As aforementioned, I completed a 3 year project, my Bear Claw Afghan, a few days ago and have been curling up on the couch watching TV with it and my Papillons these last few evenings while the temperature is below freezing and everyone is staying indoors.  Monday and Wednesday night agility classes have been cancelled for 2 weeks due to the . . . . . . .

"40 degree rule" - if it hits 40 degrees by 6 p.m. (including wind chill factor), classes are cancelled for the evening.  I'm so bummed out!

Misplaced holes are the easiest
errors to find.

Having not much else to do last night, then, and still amazed with myself for completing such a difficult project (actually rated "intermediate" on the pattern, but very difficult for me), I decided to try and make peace with the mistakes I knew I had made in the knitting.  My afghan isn't perfect.  I almost started feeling bad about that, but then I remembered the rule we apply to our dogs in their agility training --

80% rule" - compare right performances to wrong ones and move on at 80% accuracy.  That's not really a good benchmark to set for knitting, typing, filling prescriptions, or any such skills that require endless repetition with small items, but what the hell, figuring percentages is good mental exercise. So I got out my calculator and the pattern and figured out how many stitches there were in the afghan.  Sounds anal but it was easy and more fun for me than the whole book of circle-a-word puzzles my husband was doing in the other chair.

Turns out, there are 68,064 stitches in my afghan!  Holding it up to the light, I counted no more than 18 errors, but I'm sure I missed a few, so let's make it a generous 50.  Divide 50/68,064 = .000735%.  I don't even know how to read that number.  John says it's about 7 thousandths of one percent.  Is that right? Is it thousandths, or hundredths?

68 thousand + opportunities to get it right!
 Whatever, I made up a new rule:

"7 hundredths of one percent rule" - when you get this degree of accuracy in your knitting, it's okay to feel good about your effort, and time to move on to a more advanced project.  And the truth is, I made a lot fewer mistakes toward the end.  Practice makes perfect.

Can I get better?  Oh, yes.  I held my errors down by tearing out my rows back to any error I found, unless I found it 6 rows down (3 hours work), in which case I left it.  BUT, BUT, BUT, there are knitters who can drill one stitch down for several rows, not undoing any rows, and reweave them all back up the line.  That's what I will learn to do before I commence another knitting project.  With all the YouTube videos out there, I'm sure I can find one that teaches how to do this, same as I learned on YouTube how to knit on flexibile needles in the first place.

Scallops on top, bear claws on underside.
In summary, nobody but the pickiest evaluators will ever notice these mistakes.  My afghan is custom made, soft, functional, warm, beautiful, long enough to cover me head to toe, matches my red couch, and no amount of money could buy it for me.  I had to make it to have it.  No matter which side is up, the pattern is pretty (on one side a bear claw, on the other side a scallop shape).  Both sides are UP, which can't be said of all knitting.
The whole time making it, I was also perfecting various skills -- patience, perseverance, focus, dexterity, pattern memorization, etc.  All of these help me build confidence in myself and apply to every other endeavor, including the goals I have set for me and my dogs in 2011 and beyond.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, January 10, 2011

LCCOC Holiday Gathering

Gifts for the Dirty Santa game piled up all over the place.
Yesterday, January 8, the first date our dog club could find without a trial, seminar, or other dog event scheduled.  Still, some are going to miss the annual gathering for a doggie event of some kind.

The party was held at Mary Nell's house last Saturday, 7 p.m.  Over 30 people attended. The club parties are the only time some of the Agility people ever see some of the Obedience people, and we get to meet some of the spouses, who tend to hang out in the kitchen together. Most everyone brought a dish, the dining table and side boy were laden to overflowing with food and desserts, wine was flowing, and the whole crowd was in a great mood.  The Dirty Santa game was fun, as always. 

I drew #2, and immediately chose the little red doggie mat that wasn't wrapped, which fits perfectly in Maxie's crate.  Nobody tried to steal it from me, so it was clearly meant to be mine and of all the gifts, the only one I really wanted!  I found out later that Sheryl wanted it for Charlie's crate too but didn't want to deprive me of it.  Aw! Ain't friends great.

Some of the gifts, unfortunately, seemed like White Elephant items, (recycled toys from out of the agility trial toy bin, a couple of bags full of odds and ends).  A few people immediately began asking other people to take their gift so they could choose again, or ended up giving it to Kathy for the raffle.

Awards were presented, and Maxie and I got our first Plaque from the club showing his Agility Excellent, and Agility Excellent Jumpers titles earned in 2010, and his first crate tag.  I was so happy that his Excellent titles were included, as he earned these in November, while the cut-off date for ordering the awards was October 31st.  Fortunately, since the party was delayed, the ordering date was also delayed, so our plaque actually will display Maxie's current titles for the next full year while we work on getting or Masters titles.

I simply can't fathom why old timers at the club keep reminding me that plaques and ribbons don't mean much, they've earned so many they just toss them in a drawer, don't even bother picking them up, etc.  It's like telling a child that their elementary school A's are meaningless compared to college (but if you get a C or a D your parents are mighty disappointed).  Everybody has got to start somewhere, and should be proud of achievements all along the way.  I am very proud of mine.

John and I took a bunch of candid photos, so tomorrow I'm uploading those to the club's Picasa Web Albums, which I set up a few years back and still maintain.  A few other members (Calvin, Cheryl W.) also have the password, but so far nobody but me has used it.  Once uploaded, I'll post notice on the club forum so everyone can see the pictures.  FYI, Picasa is a Google product, and storage is free up to 20 Gigabytes of photos.  Another freebie!

It's overcast, about 46 degrees out, breezy, and is supposed to rain later today.  I should get out before it rains, work my dogs, work on my long "to do" list, but I just want to stay in my PJ's, cozy up with my poochies, watch TV, knit on my afghan, and NOT think about cleaning the kitchen or taking down what little Christmas decorations I put up.
Yep, it's raining now and the temperature is dropping.  Me and the dogs are staying put.  I trust this day will be productive one way or another, 'cause I start getting depressed when a day goes by without my achieving anything!  However small, however sluggishly attained, the only direction that makes me feel good is

Max on top, Willow below
 Upwards and onward!

P.S. I finished my bear claw afghan tonight! 3 years' work (winter evenings only). So I did accomplish something good today. And as soon as I put it on the couch, Max and Willow took possession.  They think every thing I do is for them.  Where did they get such a crazy idea?

Also, I have 30 days from date of purchase to evaluate if I want to keep our new 40" Panasonic HDTV, so I worked with it awhile and am still not thoroughly satisfied with the picture quality. No matter how I calibrate it, it's either just a wee tiny tad too harsh, too dark, too sharp, etc. Get one thing perfect and something else goes off.) We don't have that problem with the Panasonic 50" in the living room.  Since I'm going to have to live with this TV for several years, I want it to be as pleasing as possible.

Friday, January 7, 2011

One Jump Is All You Need

"One jump is all you need to learn every handling maneuver". 
So says Susan Garrett, and so says Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd.

So I figure, every new agility student, whether serious about agility or just looking to have some good exercise and fun with their dog, should buy or build 1 jump for their yard, den, or patio, or to carry in their trunk and assemble it at the park.  To facilitate that, I'm giving the directions for building your own jump.

Materials for a 4' wide jump:
2 10' PVC poles 1" gauge, cut as follows:
Pole #1, cut 2 4' lengths, and 2 1' lengths
Pole #2, cut 2 3' lengths, 2 1' lengths, and 2 2" lengths
Leftovers: 1.8'

4 PVC T's to match 1" gauge
6 end caps
PVC glue
(Optional) Colored masking tape to decorate the bars.

This gives you 1 jump with the bottom bar set at 4" off the ground.

You might also choose to make your jumps only 3.5' wide, in which case you can use 3/4" gauge PVC, but these jumps don't meet the regulation 4' and 5' wide jumps required in competition.  On the other hand, they are light weight, cheaper, a bit easier to fit in your trunk, and just as much fun for your dog. (I have these at home, as pictured above.)

NOTE:  You need either a skill saw, a hack saw, or a table saw to cut the PVC.  Beware, the plastic can shatter unless you cut slowly, and it helps to wrap the line to be cut with masking tape first. Protect your eyes with safety glasses.

Assembly: Glue the foot parts together. Glue the upright parts together. Glue the end caps on. Don't glue the feet to the uprights (for flat storage), and don't glue the crossbars to the uprights.

Jump Cups are used to hold the cross bars up.  They snap onto the uprights, and you vary their height along the uprights depending on the jump height of your dog (in 4 inch increments from 8", 12", 16", 20", 24").  Since I train 2 dogs and another comes to train at my house, and all are different heights, I have 6 jump cups on each of my jumps, two set at 8" for Maxie, 2 at 12" for Charlie, and 2 at 20" for Lucky.  We move the top bar up and down depending upon who is practicing.  If necessary, I could also slide the jump cups up and down, but that would be a pain in the butt.  When I get time I will make more jump cups for 16" and 22".

You need 2 jump cups to hold up each bar.

You can purchase 1" gauge jump cups (and other gauges) off of Ebay for a reasonable fee.  Go to   In their search bar, put dog agility jump cups.  You'll come up with a ton of choices - a much easier option than making your own!

Making your own Jump Cups:  Yes, it can be done if you have a table saw and know how to use it, and you get the right kind of T's that don't have deep inner casting marks.  1 T makes 2 jump cups. Cut the top of the T off a wee bit before the middle mark, leaving a C shape that can clamp on firmly to the upright poles.  Cut the decapitated T in half, perpendicular to the first cut, and voila, 2 jump cups.

What You Can Practice With One Jump:
  • Post Turns
  • Pull Throughs
  • Front Cross (take off and landing sides)
  • Rear Cross (take off and landing sides)
  • Blind Cross
  • Sends
  • Calls
  • Run Bys
  • Around The Clocks
  • Distances
  • Angles
  • Go Jumps, Out Jumps, Come Jumps
  • Send to Back Side
  • Lateral Lead Outs
These and other handling maneuvers are described on Steve Schwarz's blog. No excuse not to practice in limited space now, or when you can't go outside!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bad Weather, Tuna Putty, Tug Leash

Last night was rough.  Rumbling thunder, whole sky flickering with lightning, for hours, rain on the roof.  My dogs were extremely restless, FoohFooh pawing and pawing at me, Willow panting so heavily she finally threw up on my bed at 2 a.m. and we had to change the sheets and padding, Maxie hiding under the covers trembling.  Lucky alone was sleeping calmly in her crate.  All of this very untypical, except for Fooh Fooh who has always hated storms.  I didn't get to sleep until 4 a.m.  So today I woke up at 10:30 a.m. feeling tired and disoriented, dogs were starving.

Today is supposed to be my first teaching class.  One student emailed me and said she drives 2 hours to get to class and needs to know before 6 if class is cancelled! I wrote Nedra asking her if she could start letting us know by 4 p.m.  Now it's just piddle around and try to rest up while waiting for an answer. Bummer!  I was all psyched up for class tonight.  Like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, waiting is a skill that requires peace of mind.

Time to fiddle. Tracey sent me a recipe for a dog treat she calls Tuna Brownies so I made it.  I changed the name to Tuna Putty because it's the color of putty and feels like putty in my hands. You can roll it in a ball, tear off little pieces, it doesn't stick to your fingers and doesn't crumble either. Great for storing unwrapped in your pockets. My dogs all love it, and it's acceptable human food as well (especially if you add the cheese -- which I did not). It's such a pain to have to find the opening to a zip lock bag stuffed inside your pocket, or unzip a treat pouch, every time you need a treat.  Easier to reach for the ball.

I've added the recipe to my Dog Treats and Recipes page. Try it out.  It's easy to make, and inexpensive.

Yesterday on the field working with Max and Lucky, and afterwards at Joy's, working with Puddin' and Lucky indoors, I did some more practice with clicker training. Once you get your D conditioned to respond to the clicker as if it were a treat (salivating pleasure response), you can train on the run and from a distance, click good down contacts and great weave exits from 10 feet away, etc. Boy that sure comes in handy! My clicker is going to be a great training partner. I've started hanging mine around my neck with a long enough cord so the clicker fits in my scrubs pocket when not in use.  One more thing to remember to bring.

Sheryl and I think someone should invent a finger clicker that you wear like a ring on your thumb, or like castinettes on 2 fingers.

Lucky hands the end of her
new leash to Puddin'
 At Joys, my objective was to get Lucky, Puddin' and Maxie acquainted so I can start taking Puddin' with us out to the field now and then, see if he'll fetch, run him, train him a bit, and maybe bring him to my house sometimes.  I walked the 2 big dogs around the block so they would form a pack (Dog Whisperer style), then sat them both in the back seat of my car with me and Maxie in front, engine running.  So far, so good.  I've never handled a 75 lb dog, a huge vibrant hunk of Boxer puppy, and still don't know his behavior like I do my own dogs.  Very gentle, but strong as an ox and could knock me over in a second.

Joy gave Lucky a brand new tug leash (never had one of those before, a short felt braid intertwined with strong rope she had ordered from a vendor, and just Lucky's purple color). We put it on Lucky, and within seconds Lucky handed the other end to Puddin, and Puddin started tugging her all around the house. This went on for 20 minutes. It was so adorable. Such beautiful, intelligent, caring, loving animals. Yes, I think they've bonded!

Puddin leads Lucky around
the house.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

We kicked off 2011 with our 12th Annual New Year's Eve bonfire and labyrinth walk, with old neighborhood friends and family, only this year it was drizzling so we gathered inside for most of the evening and gourged ourselves on entrees and desserts.  Max and Lucky did their tricks. Everyone wrote down their resolutions on one sheet, their Throw Away's on another sheet, and their material requests on a cabbage leaf.  Miraculously, the drizzling rain abated just long enough for everyone to go outside at 11:30, burn their Throw Aways,  perform the Mayan Meditation Dance, jump the fire line and race into the center of the labyrinth to shoot off our roman candles.  It was great fun. Some folks left shortly after that, while Jonathan, age 13, took charge of the fireworks in the sprinkling rain and did a marvelously mature job of safely managing them til they were all gone. I jumped over the fireline with Maxie, John jumped over with Lucky, then I walked Lucky into the labyrinth "to bring her to the inner circle", then I walked Maxie out "to bring him to the outer limits", symbolically in keeping with my agility resolutions below.  Then the last 6 of us (Laura, Portia, Jonathan, Audrey, John and me) gathered on the front porch, put on Queen,  broke out the champagne and raised our glasses to the New Year and many other toasts. Portia, age 8, had us all laughing after her 1 sip of champagne, which brought out a hilarious side of her I had never seen.  We were rolling. Then out came the dancing ribbons and all us girls twirled around the yard in self-expressive dance for half an hour or so, until nearly 4 a.m. It was energetically liberating and so satisfying to be with good and trusted friends, infusing the air with confident positivity.  It was perfect!

My NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS that pertain to my dogs:
  1. Bring Lucky from Novice thru Excellent in one year, repeating what I did with Maxie last year in both Jumpers and Standard.
  2. Bring Maxie all the way up to Masters Title in both Jumpers and Standard, in as few trials as possible (6-10).
  3. Improve my stamina. Work up to sprinting 100 yards 4 times a day (to simulate doing 4 runs per day at trials).  Make that 6 if I decide to compete in FAST class.
  4. Be the BEST agility instructor I can be.
  5. Perfect my pre-competition routine.
  6. Perfect my course memorization/visualization skills.
  7. Perfect my handling skills.
  8. Manifest a diesel Coachman Concord motor home that's in great shape, for next to nothing, keep it packed and ready!
  9. Help our club move onward and upward, developing at least 3-5 new agility competitors in 2011 for 2012.
  10. Learn more about putting on trials.
  11. Strengthen my network of agility friends.
On New Year's Day, we slept in then friends came over and we watched our new AVATAR HDDVD, Extended Version, with friends, and ate all the left-overs from everybody's house! 

So now, our cabbage leaves are buried, Jonathan has gone home, parties are over, dishes are washed, most of the gifts given out, and it's time to get crackin'.  I just ran my 100 yards, twice actually, my calves ache and I'm winded.  When I can do that without the ache and panting, I'll know I'm making progress.  I'm giving myself 2 months (til March) to get in shape.

One of the things John and I are doing today is learn how to stream Maxie's YouTube videos on our HD TV.  I also want to see if I can stream videos straight from my Handycam, and how I might improve the quality of my 2011 videos.

Upwards and onward!
Mayan Meditation (repeated with hand and body motions in all 4 directions):

A way opens before me.
All obstacles and impediments are removed.
Only that which is worthy and desirable comes forward with me.

Let it Be!

After each chant, Portia started scooping up wet leaves and throwing them up in the air over our heads like confetti.  It was so festive, I followed suit and so did a few others.  Like Susan Garrett points out in her webinar, the most important quality for success to cultivate is "gratitude" for every blessing received.