Sunday, July 31, 2011

More Papillon Paraphranalia

Fired clay head, with glass
I've accumulated a few more Papillion items and added them to my Papillon Paraphranalia page today -- a quilt and a license plate, and a photo of the aforementioned custom wind chime of Maxie acquired last year.  It took me awhile to scan in/scrape together the photos.  Hot, muggy, rainy days are good for doing this, and it sure beats pulling more weeds.

One treasured item is a quilt, given to me on Christmas 2010 by my neighbor, Judy Holley, a veteran quilter who does pet portrait quilts.  This one measures 3.5' x 4.5', based on this photo.  She can do one for you too. The background is a tie-die cloth that she made from scratch, using all natural plant dies.  This quilt resides on my guest room bed, but also has a pole slot on the back for hanging on the wall.  It's a signed piece I'm very proud of.

Maxie (L), Willow (R)
Christmas Portrait 2009

Last week, Kathy Roy (who bought one of my papillon puppies) and keeps in touch, surprised me with a gorgeous papillon license plate, which is now on the front of my Grand Marquis.

She got it off of E-bay, but then she located a source for all breeds of Dog License Plates.  I added a link to that page at Papillon Paraphranalia 

I'm always on the lookout for more items and will add my acquisitions to that page whenever I find something.  If anybody runs across a source for more items, please let me know.

Upwards and onwards!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Online Courses/Tutorials/Communities

In her recent post, Susan Garrett claimed to be the first dog trainer to present a dog training course via online tutorials (Improving Your Mental Game, Recallers, Puppy Peaks).  I don't know if that's true, but there is no doubt that online tutorials of any kind are a new phenomenon (last 10 years), great for distance learning, and can reach a world-wide audience. 

Thru the Cajun Clickers Computer Club, another club I belong to that's doing great work in our community, I now work with some very dedicated volunteers bringing computer literacy to hundreds of local folks. One of CCCC's recent projects is to encourage members to take advantage of the thousands of Online Tutorials available, mostly free, and to guide them through the process.  For it turns out, many people won't complete tutorials on their own -- they are more successful with shared experiences.  At home they get stuck on one point they don't understand, don't have anyone to ask questions to, and eventually give up.  I think that's why Susan Garrett sets up online "communities" for each course, so her students can talk about their problems, brag about their successes, express gratitude, and share what they know.  Online communities, videos, audio, and contests make the online learning process feel more "human".  Smart move, Susan!

GCFLearnFree.orgI recently completed my first free online tutorial, Powerpoint 2007, from, and after about 9 hours of watching videos and doing assignments within the program, I ended up with an ability to put together a pretty good Powerpoint presentation.  The course was interesting, well organized, graded by an instructor, plus I will receive a Certificate of Completion that counts for Continuing Education Credits.  I look forward to signing up for their Excel 2007, Word 2007, and Windows 7 classes.  I had the additional advantage that John is taking the Powerpoint course too, a few lessons behind me, and it is funner with us both working the program.  I will one day attempt to insert a Powerpoint presentation into this blog.

I also have the advantage that Phil C, the CCCC Education Director and a good friend, is setting up some Wiki pages, another relatively new internet phenomenon, also free, for his Online Tutorial students to enjoy their own online community around these courses.  I'm helping him fiddle with that, too.  Whew!  So much to learn.  So much to do.  So much new stuff coming at me, it's like standing in a peach orchard at harvest time.   So much fruit you don't know where to start picking. It boggles the mind.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5 Minute Formula To A Brilliant Recall - Online Course

In May, I enrolled in Susan Garett's 5 Minute Formula To A Brilliant Recall Online Course.  I watched all 3 2 hour webinars and took extensive notes, then read each day's material and watched all the videos, one recallers game a day for 31 days.  It's basically a one month regimen, 5 minutes a day per dog. It was a good intellectual exercise, much of it interesting.  But I didn't lift a finger to do the exercises.  By the end I was feeling I'd been jipped out of $300!  And there she was, shamelessly promoting her next e-course, Puppy Peaks, at $400.

Due to my built up angst, you might not understand how/why today I got suckered into buying the Puppy Peaks course, too. We all know "throwing good money after bad" is bad. Of course I want to know all about training puppies to be the most awesome agility dogs, and of course Susan Garett has the highest of training credentials and every day for this entire year she is videoing how she is training her new puppy -- a powerful draw.  But I enrolled mostly because, if you sign up by today the price is only $200, and because of the 30 Day No Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee.  I figured I could take a gander for a month and if it's as lipid as the Recallers course, I can get my money back and learn a little something to make up some of my previous losses.

While waiting all morning for the enrollment info on the Puppy Peaks course to come into my email, with little else to do this dismal rainy day, I took another look at the 5 Minute Forumla website, and saw that now there were 3 consolidated e-books to print out that weren't posted before.  So I spent this morning printing them out, again to recoup as much of my losses as possible. To my shame and surprise, something new jumped out at me that I hadn't grasped before -- I am supposed to actually DO THE EXERCISES, with my dogs, to get the benefit!

Dog training is NOT an intellectual exercise! But in my weak defense, Susan could possibly realize some of us can't endure her pace. I'm not yet that dediated. She could have doled out the exercises in every-other-day or twice-per-week increments.  I for one, watching her daily videos back in May, began to despise dog training like a treadmill I couldn't get off of.  I don't want to train my dogs every single day.  Sometimes we just like to cuddle, and besides, I have a life beyond my dogs.  Dogs.  Dogs.  Dogs.  They aren't everything!

I woke up this morning telling my husband I had nothing more to blog about, life over, end of story.  He suggested I blog about what it feels like to have nothing to blog about.  I'll have to put that one aside til later, because now I must mark how dumb I am sometimes, then get my arse in gear teaching my dogs some brilliant recalls, and taking a new course, too.

No, my dogs aren't "everything".  But I do play with them every day, and I do want them to always come when I call.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, July 25, 2011

House Guests vs. My Dogs

House guests who don't like dogs pose a unique problem.  What is my responsibility?  Is it to the guest, or the dogs who live in the house?  I've been pondering this dilemma this week, as a house guest's visit has extended from "a few days" to "over a week", with no definite end in sight, and no thawing of the problem.

My routine when I have a party, or when guests first arrive, is I usually put my dogs outside, let the guests settle in so they won't be accosted at the door with 4 curious maniacs who want to sniff and greet, lick and paw.  Then, when we're more or less sitting and settled, I let the dogs in.  There are a few minutes of frenzy, which quickly winds down, especially if the guests go ahead and make eye contact and pet each dog for a minute or two.  If the visit extends a few days, I am willing to crate the dogs during meals and various other times if they become obnoxious.  Mostly, they just lay around and sleep.

BUT, if the visit lasts longer, if they distinctly don't like dogs, have never been around dogs, have no desire to befriend dogs, are as afraid of dogs as I would be of your pet snake on the loose, then no matter how much else we may have in common, this becomes a real problem.

In my case, our house is gated in the middle.  The dogs want to be with me on whichever side I'm on.  I'm either on the kitchen/den side, or the living room/bedroom wing side.  Anyone who wants access to the kitchen from the bedroom wing usually has 4 dogs greeting them at the gate.  This particular guest keeps calling me to get the dogs away so he can pass, get coffee, breakfast, etc.  He keeps telling them to lie down, lie down, lie down, lie down, which they don't do for him as he has no rapport with them, but he keeps repeating it.  The repetition annoys me. I wrestle with dicotomous feelings.  Do I run constant interference, or let him either learn to deal with my dogs, or starve?

We usually eat the evening meal in front of the TV, me in my rocker and John in his recliner.  Lucky voluntarily goes into her crate, Fooh Fooh lies at my feet, and the papillons hop up on the red couch and wait for plates to lick.  Alas, this is also the only place for guests to sit.  If the guest refuses to sit there unless the dogs get down, or constantly tells them "Shoo, shoo, get away, down, off, back", what do I do?  For a few days I left them on the back side of the gate, in the kitchen, where they whined to be with me.  Last night I declared that this is my dog's spot and the guest would simply have to get used to it, or push them off the couch himself.  He said, "but then I'll have to get up and wash my hands."

That did it for me.  My dogs aren't dirty.  Besides, nothing else in my house is immaculate and I have news for him.  I touch my dogs then touch my door knobs, keyboards, chairs, upholstery, drawers, and everything else he touches.  It's all in his head. Besides, a little dirt is good for us.  Keeps up our immunities.  I told the guest it was my dog's couch and if he didn't like them there maybe it was time for him to move on.  It came out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying.

I know I would be pretty darn offended if you chose to let me leave rather than put your pet boa constrictor away during my visit.  Is that an equivalent comparison?  But how many people have a lifetime to become used to dogs and cats compared to snakes and iguanas?

Maxie "averting his eyes", waiting for release.
Truth is, it does take some getting used to to be stared at while you eat.  I've trained all my dogs to avert their eyes and lie off at a distance when I say "no begging", but basically they still make their presence felt and will stare from a distance and creep in closer if they are allowed to.  Maxie does this best, and is the absolute cutest thing when he averts his eyes.

I would hate to turn my own flesh and blood away if they had to come live with me, but the criteria pretty much has to be "can you live with my dogs"?  People who aren't "dog people" are not used to bending and swaying to accommodate the needs of what they consider their "inferiors".  They are, I find, selfish and kind of "brittle".  Even many dog people are only accommodating to their own dogs. They don't necessarily like other people's dogs.  And old/crippled people would find it hazardous to walk thru my house with the big dogs brushing up against their knees, the little dogs underfoot.  I've learned to drag my feet, and brace myself.  Still, I couldn't possibly rehome my dogs, nor leave them outside or crated up all day, to accommodate even a dear relative.

Should I feel guilty for putting my dogs before people?  If I limit myself to only friends and family who love dogs, that's pretty limiting!  Cuts me off from at least half the population.  What is my responsibility?

If anyone cares to comment on this or give me some advice, I'd appreciate it.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Do I Blog?

Two days ago, on the day of my blog's 1st anniversary, it so happened that Google's Blogger Buzz forum leader asked the question: 

Why Do You Blog?

After reading the other bloggers' comments, I gave it some thought, then posted my own comments:

"I've been wondering why other people blog, and these responses are illuminating! It seems we all want a chance to sort thru and organize our thoughts, record our lives, examine our feelings, share our insights, express ourselves, and be heard! Many times my blog is the only sounding board I have, it lets me speak my truth whenever I'm ready, take as long as I want to develop and edit my points, it remembers everything I said, and reflects me back to myself! That is extremely satisfying. In fact, after I've blogged about something to my satisfaction then people ask me how some episode went, I frequently respond "I just blogged about that.  Go and read it."  I don't feel the need to talk about it anymore.  If I do end up talking about it, my descriptions are more concise because I've thought it through.

The publishing world and news editors have for too long had exclusive power to pick and choose what gets published and shape the culture with their selections and omissions, their rules, their preferences and prejudices. Blogging, YouTube, and social media are now leveling that playing field such that we might finally get a truer picture of what appeals to, concerns, and interests the human race. The silent majority has found it's venue, and the free flow of ideas, the desire for community, people wanting to share what they know, in their own voice, and make their mark, is very confirming to me of an intelligent, benevolent, generous, and diverse free society."

The Google Buzz Team and all the 100+ contributors gave me a unique 1st anniversary gift -- I felt they were raising their voices in toast and encouragement for my own straightforward, undiluted personal expression, and for me that could spell another, perhaps bolder year of Upward and Onward!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Maxie's 4th Birthday

Continuing from yesterday's post on the 1st Anniversary of this Blog and Maxie's 4th Birthday, I woke up yesterday eager to make a pile of heart healthy Oatmeal Cookies in papillon shapes!  After trying my hand at shaping and baking a whole dog, I realized the baking process spreads the cookies out considerably, so I settled for 1 cookie shaped somewhat like a papillon head, sitting atop a pile of regular cookies.

Willow (L), Maxie (R)
I dressed Max and Willow up for a little photo shoot.  They were not terribly thrilled and the smell of the cookies was driving them crazy, but they were patient with me and I got a couple of decent shots.  Then I stuck 4 candles in the cookie pile.

Maxie (L), Willow (R)
John, myself, our house guest Wy Ming, and all 4 dogs gathered around the kitchen table, we sang Happy Birthday, and of course I blew out the candles for Max, wishing for many, many more.

John and Maxie, Wy Ming and Willow

Lucky (left), Fooh Fooh (right)
Then commenced an eating frenzy with 4 dogs at my feet, waiting for their morsels.  I am SURE they knew it was a party the way they pranced around. 

Particularly adorable was when Max and Willow did the tango. 

The whole party took all of 15 minutes.
Maxie and Willow TANGO!
For everyone else the party was short and sweet, for me it lingered on as I reviewed and processed a lot of really cute photos which are now posted to my Family Web Albums, here.

It's been fun over the years fashioning Maxie's little cakes from whatever was around the house at the time. I've never done a birthday cake for any of my other dogs. Don't know why. Maybe it's because we designated Valentine's Day as Fooh's birthday and we are already including him in that celebration. Or maybe Maxie's cute little face just lends itself to being sculpted. How would I make a Lucky cake? A Willow cake?  They'd rather have a frozen chicken neck anyway!

Sorting birthday photos today, I took a little trip down memory lane regarding Maxie's earlier cakes.

His 1st was a store bought carrot cake in a little tin.  I think it cost $1.00  I decorated it with plastic balloons with a wallet photo of him on top.  John, Audrey and I went with Maxie, Willow and Fooh to Highland Road Observatory, the dogs ate the cake, then we all went hiking in the woods, then fig picking. 

Maxie's 2nd birthday -- no cake, no party.  My brother Fred had died and my niece got married at my house during that period, and I simply lost track of the date.  Shame on me!

Maxie's 3rd birthday cake I used an upside down shortcake, with torn ham for the ears, carrots sticks for the ear feathers, whipped cream for his blaze, and raisins for eyes and nose.  Just whatever I could find around the house.  Again, a little party at my house with John and Audrey, nothing much, some photos to mark the event and let Maxie gobble up the whole cake, carrots and all (excepting the raisins)!

I love it that Maxie and the blog have the same birthday. I don't remember planning it that way, but how fitting.  And you'd be surprised how often he sits at the keyboard with me as I write about our adventures.   As I mumble to myself, he probably thinks I'm talking to him.

Last night John also brought me a little bouquet of flowers and a FoohMax Agility Blog Happy 1st Birthday card.  That was sweet!  It has sat by my computer all day and helped make me feel very happy despite the week of rain we're having and my dental appointment tomorrow.

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

1st Anniversary of my Blog

Today is the 1st Anniversary of this blog.  WOW!  A whole year, 241 posts, 36 drafts not yet published, and all of them, one way or another, about my dogs and me. 

At first I was just talking to myself, recording thoughts and challenges, frustrations and fears about dog training, trialing, and my involvement with other dog people.  It was a place to store a few photos along with extended captions.  Truth is, I've always loved writing and have started two other blogs, (my dreams, my poetry) but never had a subject that held my interest until it was "My Dogs".  (Well, I did publish a serial website a few years back on wild food foraging that took a few years to write.  That one is still up, but after Hurricanes Katrina, then Rita, then Gustav hit us directly, I quit foraging for edible weeds.)

Eventually, I sent out a few blog links to "persons of interest" -- husband, sister-in-law, son, mom.  Then a few cousins or friends if I was writing about them in particular.  A few dog club mates. Then, this year, my small handful of agility students. My site meter began to report 30-45 visits a week.  That was pleasing.

Then several weeks ago, I added the web address to some comments I made on a few other agility blogs, because they provided a space to add it.  Readership increased, and this week I had 221 visitors. Besides the US, the map shows some readers in Alaska, Canada, Australia, Russia, UK, France, Sweden, and more. Who can they be? It would be incredibly rewarding to know.

So if you land on this page, whoever you are, please help me celebrate my blog's birthday by leaving me a short comment.  Consider it a candle on my "blog cake".  I'd like to know where you live, how you found me, what you think of my blog so far, etc.

Every morning this past year I've woken up pondering what I might write about today. This morning I woke up thinking maybe I've written about all there is to write.  I will soon have all the nearby Trial Site Summaries completed, my 2011 titling goals met for Maxie and Lucky Lucy, my basic handling maneuvers and exercises recorded. I've conveyed most of my struggles getting to the point of being comfortable in the ring, hopefully encouraging other shy, un-atheletic, uncertain competitors like myself to persevere. What else is there to say?  Am I about to lose my mojo?

"Adoring Eyes"
Maxie's 1st birthday cake with his wallet photo on top.
July 17, 2008
At least I can share how I am celebrating this day.  Turns out, today we celebrate Maxie's birthday, too, so this morning I baked him some heart healthy oatmeal cookies in Papillon shapes, and tonight when John gets home we will sing Happy Birthday to him, toast the blog, and take some pictures which I will post tomorrow.  That will be celebration enough.

See, what makes my world go around is looking into Maxie's adoring eyes several times each day. I melt into his eyes (plus 3 other pairs)!  I feel such love coming from him, he totally accepts our mutual co-dependancy!  We need, and want to need, and don't give a crap what others say about people not supposing to need, each other.  What fun we have!  And my only birthday wish is:

May all this fun continue!

Upwards and onward!

John also brought me a little bouquet of flowers and a FoohMax Agility Blog Happy 1st Birthday card.  That was sweet!  I placed it by my computer, where it will keep me company tomorrow as I process photos.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

High Cholesterol!

Undergoing a complete physical for the first time, trying to figure out all the little quirks in my body and whether they are cause for alarm, urging myself at last to "Do It, Do It, Do It" so I can keep playing agility with my dogs, I have learned the following about myself:

Liver is good
Blood pressure is good
Thyroid is good
Mammography clear, no lymph swelling
No diabetes
Strong heart
Good circulation in both upper and lower extremities
Nothing wrong with my female plumbing except a few small fibroids.

So far, so good!  BUT, why, then, do I tire so easily, feel cotton-headed at times, have muscle twitches and electric twinges, and why all these charlie horses of late?  Why do my knees go numb and my left heel feels like a wooden peg sometimes?  And my ovaries ache. What brought on the bursitis? 

Only thing they found wrong is my cholesterol is "through the roof", the highest my doctor has ever seen, she says.  And my triglicerides are way too high, both raising the alarm for heart disease and stroke.  Smoking doesn't help.  My maternal family's record of high cholesterol doesn't help, since it's hereditary.  And of course I need to lose 25 lbs.

So, she put me on Vitamin D 50,000 mg/week, and Lipitor, which one of the common side effects is muscle cramps!  Muscle cramps!   I sought out medical attention in the first place because of muscle cramps. I can't afford muscle cramps. Crap, crap, crap!

So, I'm cruising the internet again, looking for alternatives to lower my cholesterol without drugs: oatmeal for breakfast, Niacin, more fruit, more vegetables, less fat.  I made a big fruit coctail last night, including 3 bananas, 1 orange, 1 apple, 1 sm can chunk pineapple, 1 tbsp sugar, and fresh rasberries.  I am about to go eat a cup of that. I could probably eat the whole tub in one sitting it's so scrumptuous!

I still have more tests to undergo, including a colonoscopy.  I'm not allergic to anything, so that's good.  These tests are costing a fortune, so I hope they give me a clear picture of my health so I can enjoy another 25 years of active living.

After this regimen, then it's time to visit the dentist after 3 years away.  I've never had good teeth though I brush and water-pic religiously.  Sometimes my gums ache, sometimes I chew and hit a nerve (very painful) and I'm sure I need some work by now.  It's depressing.  I don't want to think about it except there should be some supplement pregnant women can take by now that ensures their babies will have good teeth and bones.

That would definitely take mankind another step upwards and onward!

Travel First Aid - Hot and Cold Packs

At home I keep a large reusable Bed Buddy Back Wrap I can microwave for 1 minute anytime I need dry or moist heat, large enough to velcro around any body part.  I also keep a reusable soft gel ice pack in the freezer (plus a 2 lb. bag of frozen rice that coutours around any body part and holds the cold pretty well).  On the road is a different matter.  Most motels don't have freezers worth a damn in the best of rooms, some don't even have refrigerators or microwaves. My pop-up camper has no refrigerator. So, while still taking it easy with my calf and hip, I've been cruising the internet reading up on Hot and Cold Packs for my Travel First Aid Kit.  

Cold Packs: The throw-away cold packs vary in size from 4" x 6" to 6" x 9", operate by squeezing a water pack into one or another chemical for instant cold, are relatively cheap at about $.75 apiece. There are so many brands out there, I can't begin to name them all.  I can probably pick up a few at Walgreens.

Hot Packs:  Throw aways also available, brands too numerous to mention.

On the other hand, unless I'm actually driving down the highway or in an area without facilities (hiking, camping, at our agility field), I am always at a destination -- a motel or trial site, or a McDonalds, where I can just about count on being able to access hot tap water and ice.  So, I finally remembered my Mammy's, GrandMammy's, and Great GrandMammy's old Hot Water Bottle, with the wide mouth you can also fill with ice cubes. 

Wondering if they sell those any more, I looked them up and found several brands ranging from $7-10.  Voila!  I found my solution, and I'll keep one in the side pocket of my dogs' travel bag from now on.  I also have one of those chemical disposable Cold Packs in the First Aid Kit in the trunk of my car, where it has resided, unused, for nearly 9 years.

Hopefully, I won't ever need any of these items ever again, but hanging around at agility trials, there's bound to be some sports injuries that need nursing, mine or other peoples'. it's always good to be prepared.

Upwards and onward to research my next health issue -- High Cholesterol!

Bursitis - OUCH!

On Tuesday, July 5th, I woke up with horrible pain in my left hip. Excruciating pain, out of the blue. I could not find a pain-free position to lie in Tuesday night, so got no sleep until I took a Lortab.  Fortunately, I had a doctor’s appt scheduled for Wednesday the 6th (at age 64, I'm in process of having my first complete physical). Fearing I couldn't drive or walk into the clinic without fainting, I had John take the day off work to drive me. After pointing to my outer hip, the doc diagnosed it immediately as hip bursitis, a condition where the bursa sac swells up and becomes inflamed.  This happened overnight, without any apparent cause.

Big relief, at least I don't have a hip fracture.  I couldn't teach my Wednesday night agility class, and over the next few days I followed the prescribed regimen: rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and as needed, pain killers. Within 2 days I felt almost normal, a bit of trouble lifting myself up stairs on that leg, and soreness when I first sit down, otherwise walking normally.

I kept thinking, what if I wake up tomorrow morning with bursitis in both hips?  Shit!  Then I won't be able to walk at all.  I better get acquainted with this condition FAST!  So, while sitting on my arse for 3 days, I surfed the web, read up on bursitis, and found I could have stressed the joint limping around with a pulled calf muscle at the Monroe Trial (though I tried so hard not to limp I was taking baby steps the whole weekend).

Here is an informative website describing Hip Bursitis, aka "trochanteric bursitis".  There are several, all saying pretty much the same thing. More interesting to me, I read several online testimonials that ultra sound works wonders on bursitis, injured tendons, ligaments, reduces inflammation, etc, and there are home kits one can buy, ranging in prices from $99 to $299. I've been wanting one of these for years, and a TENS unit, to treat our periodic lower back problems, John's tennis elbow and shoulder bursitis, etc., because I suspect that what heals you at the chiropractor's office is as much the 10 minute sessions lying on the table with the TENS machine and ice pack, plus the at-home exercises, as the adjustment itself. With a long history of back problems, I have logged in a lot of time at the chiropractors' office and long ago was taught how to pop my own vertebra back into place.

After doing my research, I decided to order the $98 MPO US 1000 3rd Edition Professional Ultrasound Unit and the $75 MPO-8000 - Combo Professional Digital TENS & Muscle Stimulator.  If they work, they will be in my First Aid kit when I go to trials, and anybody there that pulls a muscle can use them.  FYI, I tried buying these items from a local Medical Supply house and was told I needed a doctor's prescription, so I had no choice but to order online.  It really ticks me off when I'm told I'm not allowed to take care of my own self.

I also want to add instant ice packs and heat packs.  I'll look that up next.

Upwards and onward!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Varied Handling - Back Side Jumps

A really well-trained agility team can perform any sequence in a variety of ways.  While one technique might turn out to be optimal, advanced teams should have an arsenal of moves committed to reflex.  First, it keeps the dog guessing and focused on the handler. Secondly, you never know when you might need to do something different than planned, including having someone else run your dog like I did in Monroe last weekend.

To this end, after my students have more or less mastered Handling Fundamentals, I get them handling each sequence in 2 or 3 ways.  So far, so good.  But this video, by Steve Schwarz, Agility Nerd, tops all I've ever seen.  With only 2 jumps and a tunnel, he musters 11 different ways to send his border collie over the back side of both jumps. It also demonstrates clearly the PUSH and the PULL.  It's called Double Back Side Exercise and can be practiced in a tiny space. The tunnel can be replaced with a see-saw, the bar jumps by other jumps.

I hope others will set this up and let me know how it works. WARNING: Steve makes everything look effortless. When I get around to setting it up for myself, I plan to video myself, perhaps getting a laugh or two.  I do so wish to be funny. :-)

Upwards and onward!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Volunteering At Trials - Blog Action Day

Clean Run Magazine had an editorial by Monica Percival in their July 2011 issue called "Help Wanted", about volunteering at trials.  It seems it is getting harder and harder to get volunteers.  Yesterday I emailed Monica in response.  Today, I noticed on the Agility Nerd's blog that he initiated a Dog Agility Blog Action Day, inviting all agility bloggers to discuss volunteering on their blogs so other agility enthusiasts could hear their views.  It's a VERY HOT TOPIC, and bloggers first chance to group discuss! So I'm posting my views here, too, an expanded version of my letter to Monica:

I’ve only been competing for 14 months. I run one dog at 8”, another at 20”, 4 runs per day. One running Excellent B, the other brought up from Novice thru Excellent A this year. I'm not an experienced handler.  Every run is a personal challenge. My only options to volunteer this year have been the FAST classes I don't run, Novice after graduating from that one, Open when I no longer had a dog there. Short, easy stints, however, the entry level classes run at the end of the day, and now that I don’t have to run those, I only hang out to watch Novice and Open runs if one of my club mates/students is coming up through those ranks.  By then I'm exhausted!

Plus, I video the runs of most dogs in my club, plus some other notable teams I follow. Most high level trainers recommend videoing every run and studying them afterwards, which I do.  This is an invaluable training tool and I notice more and more people ring-side with video cameras.  I can't video and volunteer at the same time.

Also, trials are so loud and stressful by nature, so nerve-wracking, I find I need to conserve my energy. Without PA systems to announce what's going on, I have to concentrate hard on not missing my walk-throughs, memorizing my courses, preparing me and my dogs for our runs.  I now tend to avoid people because all it takes is one snide comment, one rude look, to mess with my concentration and set my whole day on edge.

Gate Keeping is my favorite activity but everyone has their own opinion how it should be done, thus volunteering for this job is always a gamble.  The problem, in my opinion, is that there is no standard. Gate-keeping, Timing and Scribing are skills which could be taught in a methodical manner, but everyone is making it up as they go. I don’t like feeling I’ve offended someone at the gate. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for messing up someone’s score.  But where do you learn how to scribe, read the judge’s hand signals, not watch the dog, what to do when in doubt about what you saw the judge do?   And Timing, while easy, requires some knowledge of electronic equipment and the responsibility of not transposing numbers.

Leash Running, Bar Setting, Scribe Sheet Running, and Chute Straightening are easy enough, they could/should be looked upon as opportunities to introduce non-competing volunteers to the sport. Girl Scouts, 4H’ers, volunteer firemen, computer clubs, etc., could set up their promotion tables for free and wear their T-shirts at our trials in exchange for working these easy positions.  Many community service organizations are looking for exposure, and need community service hours.  However, they all require some training. For instance, if you see a divit alongside the weaves, do you leap out between runs to go fill it in, or wait for a bar height change?  Or is course condition strictly the competitor’s responsibility?  Shouldn't every leash runner be taught not to pick up the leash while the dog is still on the start line?  I've filmed several dogs who become distracted watching a stranger make off with their leash.

Since every job is so important, why doesn't each organization put out an e-course on how they want everything done, standardize it, and make it available to their Ring Stewards. Clubs steeped in the old “learn as you go” system would balk at it, but more progressive clubs might gather their helpers for an orientation before the trial and show the video, explain how all the jobs fit together, how every piece matters, make “Bar Setting” seem important. Set a professional standard.  We're not an infant sport any more, operating in a "wild, wild west" manner.  We could even use such training sessions to popularize our sport.

My bottom line, I attend trials to run, hopefully to Q, and earn titles. I have to take care of my business first. Between check-ins, pick up armbands, listen for whistles and judges that don’t project their voices, walk throughs, potty the dogs, potty myself, run, cool down, eat, hydrate, cheer on my club-mates, check and record my scores, file my move-ups, help orient new competitors, take the videos, try to remember new friends names, stay positive, develop a tough hide, don’t take rude comments personally, and learn from others’ handling techniques, I’m mostly stretched all I can stretch.

Not to mention, I spend upwards of $3-500 for a 3-4 day trial, including motel, entry fees, gas, food, etc., and while I’m only attending about 10 trials in 2011, and only within a 4 hour radius of my house, that's still about $4,000. Some of my club mates are trialing every few weeks at much farther distances! Some hold jobs just to pay for their agility addiction. Then there are the classes I attend each week, and the seminars, another $500-1,000 a year. And countless hours of volunteer work for my club. I can’t even imagine the money or the nerves required to trial internationally! Are they expected to volunteer?

Agility is an adrenalin rush, truly addictive, rapidly growing, an explosion happening before our eyes . . . . quickly becoming a business. People are getting more and more serious about Q’ing, everyone I know seems to be adding new dogs to their families – border collies for a greater challenge, mixed breed rescues, etc. Some people run 3-6 dogs a day! And there is a lot of networking going on around the rings. Volunteering is eventually bound to take a back seat with participants who consider themselves "competitors" and "customers", not just folks out socializing and "having fun with their dogs".

For our own club's trials, we rarely lack for volunteers because of our "25 Volunteer Hours per year to qualify for reduced rates on our classes".  Club members who qualify get to take our club's Obedience classes for free all year, and Agility classes at half-price.  Non-qualifying members pay $75/class.  That's an enormous motivator for local people to join our club as well as volunteer at our trials, seminars, and other club activities.

With all that said, I do feel a twinge of guilt about not volunteering. The offer of lunch doesn't tempt me much because I eat light when competing and bring my own food -- V8, grape juice, fruit coctail, Powerade, crackers, chips.  I can sometimes persuade my grandson to set bars if there’s a free lunch ticket, or even a drink ticket, in it for him. I tell him he needs to earn his lunch. When my husband attends any trial with me he helps set courses, and appreciates a hearty lunch.  Other incentives -- run tokens, raffle tickets, reduced RV parking fee, a nearby restaurant or motel coupon -- are all nice!  Being able to choose between them would be nice. This year my husband got drafted as our club's chief course builder when ours had an emergency, and he worked his tail off all weekend from 6 a.m. to close (4 days), without even so much as an offer of a club T-shirt!  I bought him one myself @ $10.  Special incentives for those doing extraordinary things above and beyond the call of duty should be proffered, I think.  Who gives the volunteer Gate Steward or Trial Secretary a prize?  I hope they get to run for free!

But mostly, I thrive on feeling included.  Being invited to an organizational meeting, asked my opinions, assigned tasks or problems to resolve, being actively recruited, actively mentored by people eager to teach me, is what makes me feel good.  Being on the outside looking in, wondering who's calling the shots and why them, where nobody makes eye contact when I offer to help nor asks my name, and frowns when I ask a question, does NOT inspire me.  Every trial, I think, needs a "Happiness Coordinator", someone with exceptional people skills who does nothing but circulate, see if folks need anything, if they're being treated right, smooths out wrinkles, never gives out dirty looks or says ugly things like "Ugh, I don't like small dogs?" or barks orders like "Get this crate out of the walkway" instead of "This isn't a good place for your crate.  Let me help you find a better place."

Bottom line, I think everyone at trials is somewhat stressed.  I don't notice it so much while I'm there, but when I get home and review the videos, I can't believe how much noise there is -- dogs barking, barking, barking, air conditioners whirring, people laughing, clapping, shouting, things clanging around. All the milling too and fro. Elation at Q''s.  Disappointment at NQ's.  It's a nerve wracking environment that takes some getting used to.

If the sport can’t survive without a large team of volunteers, then something must be done to inspire more volunteerism. We certainly don’t want to drive up the costs!  Along those lines, I really do like the idea of breaking up the longer classes into 2 or more height divisions, so the ring workers could sign up to work only half a class, and run their dog in the other half.  It would also help if the Ring Steward wore a special hat, vest or arm band, so you could tell who to talk to about volunteering and scheduling conflicts.  I rarely know who the Ring Steward is.

Michele Fry

Since writing to Monica, fearing I'd be viewed as a negative nay-sayer, I was most gratified to read all the posts from other agility bloggers (see link above), who shared similar feelings and offered some great suggestions. I had no idea there are so many agility bloggers!

Upwards and onward!

Monroe Trial 2011

Maxie:  6 runs, 3 Q's XJ, XJ, XS, 2 3rd places XS and XJ, 1 QQ, 39 MACH Points Videos Posted
Lucky:  6 runs, 2 Q's, 1 1st place, 1 2nd place OJ, OPEN JUMPERS TITLE Videos Posted

Lucky, Maxie and Willow cozy in their crates,
bedecked with ribbons, and finally, me in a "crate space" picture.
The black X-pen propped up behind Lucky's crate, rugs
 draped down the back and sides, and the cooler,
gave them a "front view only and almost complete privacy.
This was my second visit to the Ike Exposition Center in West Monroe.  Last year it seemed huge, so this year I made sure I arrived early on Wednesday so I could position my crate space with some privacy.  To my surprise, the arena seemed smaller!  Still, it's a 4 day trial, away from home 5 days,  with 2 rings going at once -- very stressful.  We stayed at Motel 6, a roomy ground floor "handicap" unit with king bed, microwave, fridge and desk, very comfortable, and only 1/4 mile away from the arena.  It was $44.75/night, including tax, and no pet fee. My cooler was packed with 4 Ocean Spray bottle blocks of ice, which actually lasted thru all 5 days.  As it melted, we drank our own Baton Rouge water.

1-3 Q's XS, if 3, he earns his Masters Standard Title (3 chances).  DONE! Earned 2
1-3 Q's XJ.  DONE! Earned 1
1-3 2Q's.  DONE! Earned 1
A few Placement Ribbons  DONE! 2 3rd place ribbons, 1 QQ ribbon

1 Q OJ, earning her Open JumpersTitle OAJ (3 chances)  DONE!
2 Q's XS - A, earning her Excellent Standard Title AX (3 chances)
More Q's if possible, of course.   DONE! 1st Q in XJ
Improved time.
A few placement ribbons.  DONE! 1st place in XJ, 2nd place in OJ

However, I had another goal . . . . . . .  to run my dogs at all.
Nursing a 3 week old calf injury, I went to the doctor Tuesday Morning, who okayed me to run (nothing seems torn), but fixed me up with Naprelan 500 mg. anti-inflamatory and Metaxalone 800 mg muscle relaxer.  Supposedly, both are non-drowsy.  I took my first pills Tuesday around noon, and by 3 p.m. I was so loopy I tripped and fell once, and felt tongue tied all evening.  But by Wednesday my calf was only slightly tender.  Things were looking good. Left at 10 on Wednesday, and had the highway to myself the whole 200 mile, 4 hour drive.

My strategy for the weekend, therefore, was to take these pills after settling in for the evening, let them work their magic overnight and leave me pain free and alert the next day.  Secondly, recognizing myself as a complete wuss where pain is concerned, I primed myself to ignore any pain I might feel.

This didn't work at all!

THURSDAY: Maxie was the 9th dog to run.  The XS course was easy enough, I walked it several times with no discomfort, and felt confident.  But 3rd jump into the run, I felt my calf rip, pain jammed thru my leg, I winced, Maxie got confused and missed the next jump.  I managed to hobble thru the rest of the course without fault, but of course we NQ'd, and my weekend came to a screeching halt. 

Maxie was perfect, and there he was prancing around expecting a treat.  But the crate area now seemed blocks away. The arena seemed enormous again. My face felt like a water balloon, filled with tears, but none came out.  My heart was so heavy I could barely lug it around. Tracy, who was videoing us, came up and said the camera misfired, so more bad news.  I didn't catch any more videos this day.  That night I discovered the memory stick had become dislodged.  I pushed it back in, and we were good to go.

All of my aforementioned goals -- down the toilet.  All my entry fees lost.  My weekend ruined. Or so I thought, until Tracy offered to run Lucky in XS.  They have never run together but Lucky has played with her at the field.  So, after a bit of bonding and tugging, they headed onto the course, and miraculously Q'd!  It was a beautiful run.  MOST UNFORTUNATELY, I didn't have the good sense to hide, so when Lucky crossed the finish line I screamed for joy, she heard me and leaped over the ring gates to me . . . . . . . and was immediately disqualified.  SHIT! SHIT!  SHIT!   It seems I have to learn each and every single lesson in this sport personally, at cost.
I caught this run on my Sony Cybershot, and will certainly add this blooper to my ever-growing list of WHAT CAN GO WRONG IN THE RING.  Here it is:

On their second run of the day, Open Jumpers, Tracy took Lucky around the ring like the pro she is, Lucky Q'd and my first goal of the weekend was miraculously met -- Lucky's Open Jumpers Title.  Plus 2nd place!  Lucky walked thru the weaves and her time was a few seconds over SCT, but she Q'd.  I made sure I was hiding this time, and only screaming for joy on the inside.  My heart was pumping, though.  What an adrenalin rush!

Noel offered to run Maxie's second run of Thursday, and they did amazingly well, too, but not a Q.  Noel has never run Maxie, but she pretty much taught me how to handle so we handle similarly.  They warmed up awhile, Maxie pretty much paid attention to the hot dogs in Noel's mouth, but a few times during the run it seemed Maxie was looking for me and missed a few of Noel's cues. She did manage to catch him after the run.  I videod this with my little Sony Cybershot, but I can't find it now.  Bummer!  I'll keep looking.

Went to dinner with clubmates at El Sombrero Mexican restaurant, next door to Motel 6.  Wonderful enchiladas!

Tracy/Lucky with OJ TITLE ribbon,
1st and 2nd place ribbons
FRIDAY: Again, Maxie was 9th dog to run in XS, only this time Sandy R. ran him.  He ran wonderfully for her and Q'd . . . . . .  BUT, afterwards she couldn't get his leash on, he kept backing up and eventually ran out of the ring looking for me, and got eliminated.  Another perfect run gone awry.  Later, she ran him in XJ and they Q'd with time to spare.  She had practiced slipping the leash over his head beforehand this time, and he sat for her.  Another goal met.  It was a QQ day in my estimation.  AKC disagrees.

Lucky fared about as well, with Tracy running him, and me hiding up in the bleachers.  It was her first XJ - A run and a difficult course.  She ran 3 seconds over SCT, so 6 points were deducted from her 100 score, but she was the only dog to Q at 20", so she got 1st place.  What a frickin' shock!  Another goal met.

Went to dinner with club-mates at Outback Steakhouse.  It was Brittany's birthday (Noel's friend). The spinach/artichoke dip was a big hit.

SATURDAY:  With 4 runs to go and my leg no better, Tracy and Sandy agreed to run my dogs again on Saturday.  Both claimed they were enjoying it, though both were running multiple dogs of their own!

Noel and Sandy pose with Maxie,
wearing his QQ ribbon, 2
3rd place ribbons, and 3 Q's.
To my great joy, Maxie double Q'd with Sandy, and both were 3rd place runs.  So 2 more goals met.  Sandy said Maxie was "lots of fun to run", so now somebody besides me knows that!  I did hobble through the courses with her and gave a few handling tips, such as calling Maxie hard off the dog walk or he will take it every time, not front crossing after the A-frame because Maxie shoots down that sucker very fast, that he sends to the A-frame, dog walk and see-saw from a great distance, and that he has good "go outs". I learned later than one of Maxie's 3rd place wins was only by 1/100th of a second!  If the 4th place dog had exactly tied, there would have had to be a runoff!

Lucky didn't fare so well.  No Q's.  She just couldn't seem to focus, ran around jumps, and walked thru the weaves.  Her time was terrible.  Tracy chalked it up to "doing that hound dog thing".  Plus, by the 3rd day Lucky is always tired.  Tracy didn't seem quite herself either.  I myself was so tired from all the adrenalin pumping and stomach churning, not to mention trying with each step not to limp and make other body parts sore, I fell asleep by 4 p.m. watching TV and icing my leg, and didn't make it to dinner at Olive Garden with the gang on Saturday night.  I didn't even have the energy to download and watch the videos I took, and I always look forward to that!

All of these goings-on this weekend, with the Noel/Maxie, Sandy/Maxie, and Tracy/Lucky teams demonstrating that dogs can run for multiple handlers,  led to various comments among LCCOC clubmates about running each other's dogs once in awhile at practice, for insurance purposes. 
Reactions were mixed:
  • Some claimed their dogs would never run for anyone else.
  • Others opined that they didn't want to confuse their dogs with different handling techniques.  In my classes we practice each sequence several different ways. How can one know what what works best for you, until you try them all?
  • One person claimed she could never concentrate well enough to do the close handling my dogs take. 
  • Another said she would never let anyone else run her dog, because she didn't want to be shown up!   Oh, contrare!  I am so happy if someone can show me up, Q my dogs. I have no grand illusions about my skills, and what better way to learn how to improve myself.
  • Someone summed it up that dogs who enjoy agility will run for just about anybody, and dogs that don't enjoy agility just do it because they are velcroed to their handler. 
All I know is, Maxie will follow anyone who offers him food.  Lucky will chase after anyone carrying her toy. The hussies!  And having someone else willing to run my dogs this weekend really saved my ass!  All my goals were met!
Maxie, Willow, Lucky, Michele

  • Make sure to train my dogs so anyone can grab their collar, and put on their leash.
  • If someone else runs my dog, disappear.
  • Don't tug too long with Lucky before a run -- it tires her out.
  • Lucky does best with a long lead-out, where she can see H standing on the landing side of the jump.  If not, she tends to go around the first jump.
  • You never know where your help is going to come from.  Someone you might not have expected to be there for you, can suddenly save your day.
  • Travel with instant heating pads, and instant cold packs. 
  • I learned that for inflammation or swelling, use cold packs (makes sense to reduce the "flames"), for tight muscles or charlie horses use a hot pad (makes sense that a hot bath relaxes you).
Packed up to head home, I wheeled us thru the arena and heard lots of comments how cute Max and Willow look tucked in the caboose, how awesome my red wagon is.  I finally got someone to take a picture of me by my wagon.  On the way out, I discovered Lucky loves to pull the cart.  I had her leash attached to the upright pole (by my shoulder), and she just steadily walked by my side and pulled, pulled, pulled all the way out to the car!  Is she a cart-puller?

  • Maxie is 1 Q away from his MXJ title, and 4 Q's away from his MX title.
  • Lucky is 2 Q's away from her AXJ title, and 2 Q's away from her AX title.
  • Need to attend at least 2 more trials before November to reach these 2011 goals.
  • Not exactly a goal, just a fact, Maxie needs 2 more QQ's and 189 more MACH points by November 30, 2011, to qualify for AKC nationals next year (6 QQ's and 400 MACH points required). It would be sweet to qualify, whether we go or not, but I don't think I'm up to that level of stress yet.  
  • Heal my leg completely before any more running!  Give it 6 weeks, at least.
  • Learn to teach my Wednesday night class without running!  Nedra says I demo too much anyway, just let them run the sequences and figure it out for themselves.
  • Get signed up for the Hattiesburg trial on August 18-21, only 8 weeks away.
  • Get signed up for the 2 Kiln trials in September and October.
  • Find some first aid cold packs and hot packs.  Need a box of each. 
What a weekend!  I will never forget the friendly support extended to me by my clubmates, and their professionalism, which saved our weekend and made it possible to stay on track with my 2011 goals.  They told me to disappear, get lost, etc., and I never worried that they would forget to go get my dogs out of their crates, warm them up, treat them right, do their best.  Even with Sandy, who was running Tango in the same 8" XB class, I was totally confident she would do her best for Maxie, and she did.

Upwards and onward,