Sunday, August 28, 2011

Surprise Visit From Monique!

Madalyn and Monique
Today I got a surprise visit from Madalyn M. and Monique, aka Mikki, formerly Jitsu, the female Papillon puppy I sold back in March. I had urged Madalyn to take lots of puppy pictures (they're only puppies for a short while) so she bought a disposable camera, and brought me the disk of pictures today, 6 months later! She doesn't even have a computer! John had just gotten home from work, around 4:30 and we all visited 'til around 8. A nice long visit. Snapped lots of pictures.

L to R Willow, Maxie, Mikki

Mikki's coat is filling out nicely, soft straight snow white hair, culottes and tail feathers coming in, lively eyes, bouncy and friendly, fearless, curious, and definitely agile.  Not very obedient, though!  She rip snorted all over the place, but did fair recalls when she figured out my pocket was full of treats.  I can't actually remember if Maxie was obedient at 9 months of age. I wasn't keeping a blog or a journal back then.

I was outside working on the new LCCOC Publicity Booth I'm putting together for my dog club, so we hung out in the back yard mostly. We had some fun posing them for pictures.  Maxie and Willow seemed to remember Monique, they just fell in and played together the whole time.  I put Maxie thru the weaves and over a few jumps at one point, and Mikki made a few attempts too. I know she'd get the hang of it quickly with just a bit of training.

L to R Madalyn, Mikki, Willow, Michele, Maxie

All 3 dogs are so alike in color, build and markings one would swear they are related, but they aren't. I also brought her in to see the videos I took of her and her other papillon, Merlin, at the Obedience Match last year.  Despite all the obedience trials she goes to, she had never seen a video of her dog performing! She was amazed.

I weighed Mikki, who at 9.5 months is 5.5 lbs, a little smaller than Maxie at 7 lbs.  We both wonder if she'll grow much more, maybe a little bit.  Madalyn does conformation and obedience, not agility, and is adding something called Super Fuel  to Mikki's diet. I'll have to check that out as it is supposed to increase the dog's stamina, focus, etc.  Something for Lucky's speed, maybe?

Of all the photos she took with her disposable camera, she liked this one the best because it shows Mikki's "stack". I wonder if she is thinking of doing conformation with this dog?

Mikki, at about 5 months. She has a lot more hair now.
Monique (Mikki) apparently loves to tear up the camellias on Madalyn's bushes, hence the flower petals at her feet.  I can attest she also loves tearing up little branches with leaves on them, and digging up acorns in my yard.  I'm thinking I know now how a breeder feels when one of their pups comes back for a visit!  It is very satisfying, like when your nieces or nephews come to see you, hug your neck, catch you up on their news!  I feel like a proud auntie and thrilled that Madalyn is including me in Mikki's life.  I'd take her back in a heartbeat!

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hattiesburg MS Trial - Aug 2011

Maxie 6 runs, 4 Q's (3 XJ, 1 XS), 2 4th places, 1 QQ, 1 TITLE MXJ, 36 MACH points. Videos posted
Lucky 6 runs, 2 Q's (XJ-A, XS-A), 2 3rd places. Videos posted
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 4 runs per day.
Judges:  Jill Roberts, Alan Arthur

Hattiesburg Arena entrance
Having beaten down the bugs problem - (previous post); beaten down the calf problem (Monroe Trial) to where I think I can run again, arranging special permission to crate at ground level (see Trial Site Summary for Hattiesburg), and finding the missing house key so the neighbors can feed my pets, I felt confident heading off to Hattiesburg for a 4 day trial, despite the strange new rattle in my car.

Crating at ground level, in the hall. There
was space for dozens more people.  It was cool and
quiet, and the car was parked just outside.  Arena entrance
is in the distant background of this photo.
Left Baton Rouge Wednesday at 12:30 and arrived at Motel 6 on 49 at 3:15.  Interstate all the way, not much traffic.  Checked in, hung around til 4:30, then drove 8.5 miles back to the arena where I crated in the hall around the back (South) side on the ground floor.  Hung around and helped set up both rings, all of us sweating like pigs because the arena A/C was out of freon and they had to call in emergency maintenance. My eyes were stinging with the fumes of urine, which I was told would clear up when the A/C was fixed.  Mercifully by next morning, it did.

THURSDAY:  Thursday morning, up bright and early, well rested, no stress, made it to the arena way ahead of time, stepped out the car and realized -- I was still wearing my Tom's slip-on shoes (they are so comfortable I forget about my feet).  Tennis shoes were 8.5 miles back at the motel!  On the way back, a terrible car wreck stopped traffic a good long while, which got me back to the arena just in time to walk the Excellent Standard course a few times.  This didn't seem to unnerve me.  However . . . . .

Maxie: Maxie was the 6th dog to run XS.  The course flowed well in 2 beautiful loops with the Table at 11.  I could run the whole thing in my head. Maxie was alert. We were in sync. When I found myself putting him through the weaves a second time, though, it hit me that I was repeating the first loop.  CRAP, I went left instead of right after the table! The humiliation would have been terrible last year.  Now I just told the judge "I'm lost", waved goodbye, and took a few obstacles on the way out.  Maxie made no mistakes, but Mommy didn't Q.  My fault entirely. Later that day, in XJ, we Q'd . . . . . but almost missed the run.  Running 2 dogs now in Excellent, Lucky had just finished his XS run and I heard them calling Maxie for XJ.  I hadn't even walked the course.  The "walkthrough" apparently occurred while I was out pottying Lucky before her run.  Alan Arthur, the judge, invited me to walk the course with the 16" dogs, and offered to set the bars at 8" so Maxie could run first.  How sweet! That worked, Maxie Q'd and got his MXJ title!  This judge was awesome handling scheduling conflicts.

Maxie didn't run as fast as usual, though.  Came in 5th.  That was, I think, because my calf muscle starting aching about half-way through the run, I started limping again, and Maxie could tell.  Afterward I hobbled back to our crate space where I immediately hooked my calf up to my new TENS machine for 30 minutes of electric therapy.  I had to run Lucky on that same course in about an hour.  Would I make it?  A bit of tension building now.

Lucky: Long story short, Lucky Q'd XS-A in her first run, 3rd place.  She was 3 seconds over SCT, (-9 points), but in Excellent A you can score 85 and still Q as long as you have no other faults.  Only 3 out of 11 dogs Q'd.  1st and 2nd place dogs tied, both running a full 20 seconds faster than Lucky!  All the other dogs logged approximately the same time as Lucky, so she's not the only slow dog out there.  On her second run XJ-A, she ran without faults, but so slowly she NQ'd due to being 6 seconds over course time (-18 points).  What am I going to do with her?  She only races hard for tug toys.

Skipped dinner with the club folks.  Went home to ice and electrify my calf, prop up my leg, and watch TV.  Actually, I ended up downloading Thursday's videos, and working on this blog first.  Oddly, my computer won't play back the videos.  Now what's wrong?

FRIDAY: Slept okay, but had a weird dream about "a blog writing it's own blog about what it's like to be somebody's blog - disdain for all the stupid things they write, laughing at their jokes, etc". A blog from the blog's point of view.  HA! Blogs and dogs on the brain!  Got to arena in plenty of time, properly shod, and taking care not to walk around more than necessary, my leg held up.

Lucky: Lucky ran both Standard and Jumpers before Maxie ran at all.  She scratched in XS-A, by popping out of the weaves, and ran 11 seconds over course time. In XJ-A, she Q'd with a 3rd place, score of 91 because of running 3 seconds over SCT (again). 
Maxie: In XS, he scratched -  came off the A-frame fast, took the jump ahead and raced straight for the chute instead of following me left to the table.  It was an easy course and he made good time, but I couldn't call him off of that chute for anything. Bummer!  Usually "Here!"  or "This way!" works, but not this time.  Then he burned up several seconds sniffing the dirt until I hollered "Leave it!" and lunged toward him.  This got his attention and we completed the run without fault.

Everyone crashes after a hard,
noisy day at the arena.
Top to bottom:  Lucky, Maxie, Willow
Later he Q'd in Jumpers, with 5 seconds to spare but 10 seconds slower than the 1st place dog, another Papillon named Lily, from Pensacola, a few years older and far more experienced.  Everybody fusses me for slowing Maxie down, saying I need to run faster, etc. Of course placement is sweet, but Q's are nice too.  Unfortunately, what Maxie really needs are 4 more Standard Q's, more QQ's, and lots more MACH points. Maybe we'll Q tomorrow.
The food served at the trial was so delicious (unlike some trials where hot dogs, mac-n'-cheese, and junk food are standard fare), I got introduced to "Texas Caviar", and brought home my portion of pulled chicken barbeque, put it on sourdough bread with some lettuce, and that along with fresh fruit, was supper.  While I watched videos, everyone else crashed.

Maxie QQ'd.  Two beautiful runs, no problems, good time, 2 4th places, missing 1st place in XJ by just 6 seconds, and missing 3rd place in XS by 6 100ths of a second.  I was making a point of running faster, even though my calf pulled on the second to last run, and I ran Maxie's last run with the TENS machine attached to my leg.

Lucky struck out both runs.  In XJ, she balked at a jump for no apparent reason, stopped then walked around it, which screwed with my concentration, I got lost and sent her over the wrong jump, after which we got straight but it was too late.  Also, she ran very slowly.  I was so miffed that I crated her, called her "Bad Girl" and didn't give her any treats for her run.  She understood I was upset, cowered down and didn't budge for a couple of hours, but I doubt she understood it meant "next time, RUN".

VOLUNTEERISM:  After my runs were over, I volunteered as TIMER for EXCELLENT FAST and EXCELLENT NOVICE, where I wouldn't have to walk, timing for the first time.  What a class to start on!  It was fast paced and hard to hear the judge's calls with all the barking dogs and chatty observers right behind us.  One lady stood behind us with her huge black deep-throated non-stop barking lab.  I yelled at her to move away but she didn't hear me.  Someone else heard me and asked her to leave.  After about 5 runs and asking somebody to bring me a course map, I learned the value of each obstacle and so long as the judge made a noise, I was able to tell the scribe what to mark.  It will take a few more times to learn to operate the Timer box.  The judge had to come set the times for each jump height.  A few times the timer started counting on its own (apparently the scribe's metal pen was glinting light across the eye, which the judge finally figured out and set the eye at a different angle).  I had to eyeball the start line between two poles and press the button when the dog's nose crossed the line.  I did the best I could, but the system isn't exactly accurate and nobody seemed real picky about it.  Now that FAST is a titling class, I bet that changes.

Maxie's Ribbons:
Green for Q, White for 4th place, Red and Black
for MXJ (Master Agility Jumpers) Title.
Big darn bummer, Dog Gone Fun doesn't give out rosette ribbons for titles.  Maxie's MXJ titling ribbon is a plain blah double red/black ribbon, no rosette, not much bigger than a Q ribbon.  I'm going to complain to Monica about all of us working so hard and spending so much money all year pursuing titles, then getting such a plain ribbon to show for it. Nedra agreed to let me have an AKC rosette from our club's ribbons, and I'll attach the Mississippi Mavericks ribbon to that for my display case.

I also forgot to pick up one of Maxie's Q ribbons and sticker.  I'll have to snag one next time I'm at a BARK trial.

The meatballs served for trial workers was again delicious.  Swedish meatballs and bread. Fresh veggie platter.  Fresh fruit platter.  Lots of desserts. Yum!

Met up with 6 of our Red Stick gang at Oscars on 98W for a margarita and Mexican dinner.  Everyone was chatty and cheerful.  I was too tired to eat and couldn't wait to get home and snuggle in with my doggies.  In bed by 9:30. We are all wiped out.

SUNDAY: Didn't run, just hung out, shopped at the vendors, took pictures for my Trial Site Summaries, photographed my score sheets, etc.  I awoke at 6:30 (without an alarm this time), packed leisurely, got to the arena around 8:30, and headed home around 11:30.  Stopped at Mandeville Seafood for a dozen crabs for me and a lb. of boiled shrimp for John, and still arrived home by 2:30, unpacked the car, did laundry.  All was done by 4 when John got home.  He had mowed the whole yard.  Looks like a park.  Sweet! Audrey came over for dinner.

Trial Site Summary:  See links.
The arena didn't seem quite so huge this visit.  Guess I'm getting used to big arenas. It makes a world of difference being able to crate on the ground floor, though, and having the car near by.

Every NQ was only one little mistake.  We are so close to getting it right.  Just need to analyze the mistakes.  Are they often the same?
  • LUCKY, exceeding course time, walking thru the weaves, stopping in front of a jump where I am attempting a rear cross.  Do box work. Figure out how to get her running faster like she does at home.
  • MAXIE, sucking into the tunnel, chute, A-frame or dog walk.  Have to block, pull harder, call "here" or "this way" instead of naming the next obstacle.
  • ME, getting lost on course, missing walk-throughs.  Need to learn to handle scheduling conflicts, anticipate how much time I have between runs, etc.  With 2 rings going simultaneously and 2 dogs running, this has become a must.
  • When timing or scribing FAST classes, make sure the Course Map is at your table and become familiar with it beforehand.
Used my new Igloo Ice Cube 60 qt. ice chest for the first time.  I got it by trading with Nathan for an older non-wheeled cooler he wanted of mine that allows you to sit on the lid.  He needs the seating for his new boat.

Assessment:  4 blocks of frozen ice (in Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice bottles) did not last 4 days, and lining the bottom of the cooler, did not keep the top tray cool enough.  Need to put ice cubes from the motel over the blocks each day, also put ice in the top tray and refill daily.  If ice is kept in ziplock bags, it shouldn't be messy.  Also learned, anything juicy needs to be in a water-tight container.  When wheeling the cooler around it tilts, and salad dressing got all over everything because the plastic lid I had my salad in wasn't tight-fitting enough.  But I love my cooler.  It has a smaller footprint, wheels easier with the weight right over the wheels, handles better, makes a great coffee table, foot stool or desk.  But you can't sit on the lid!

  • Get Lucky running faster like she does in practice.
  • Learn to run faster myself.
  • Heal my calf.
  • Work on Lucky's rear crosses.
  • Work on Maxie's "this way" and "here".
  • At the next trial:
    • 1 XJ-A and 1 XS-A to get Lucky's AX and AXJ titles
    • At least 1 more QQ for Maxie and 179 more MACH points by November.
    •  3 more XS Q's for Maxie's MX title.
  • Find out what's the rule at trials about dogs that won't stop barking?
Upwards and Onward!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Maxie staring at ?????
Maxie spent 5 hours last night lying on his belly staring at either one front paw or the other, or the space in between them.  He's been doing this for a few days -- on the floor, on the couch, on my pillow, and in our bed (both under the covers and on top), even after the lights are out.  What is he looking at?  Occasionally he will dart his tongue out like a frog catching a fly, and occasionally he will bob his head up and down and chew air like he's mauling a flea in his mouth.  But I don't find any fleas on him.  I'm wondering if his eyesight is going bad.  Or if his brain is sending him strange signals.

Watching his own movie?????
We've long called him "the abberant one" because of the way he stares down without moving, as if watching a movie.  But it's never lasted more than 15 minutes at a time. And it's so cute, I've taken lots of pictures.  But as of 3 days ago, on top of staring, he won't stay up in our bed for anything.  As soon as I put him up there, he is pressing against me to get off.  And instead of curling up with me on the red couch at night to watch TV, he runs off to a corner under the table and won't come out.  I sorely miss my snuggling.  Otherwise he acts normal.  Do I have bedbugs?  Chiggers? Our sheets are clean and the mattress is fairly new.  Willow, Lucky and Fooh don't seem bothered by anything.  We vacuum the upholstery and carpets once a month or so. What can be wrong?

Today I am fogging the whole back half of the house with Bengal.  I'm giving all the dogs their monthly drops of Advantage.  I bought a bag of Ortho Bug-B-Gone to spread on both dog yards just before the next rain, supposed to kill all sorts of bugs. The hardware store recommended this product and said this year with all the rain the fleas are horrible.  I notice the dogs tend to hop-skip across the yard on certain days, and I have felt something "pinging" my ankles as I walk through the grass, but I don't get bitten. It must be "invisible" fleas.

8/16/11 Followup:  None of the above seems to have made any difference.  I paid a visit to Pet Stop on O'Neal and purchased some Petcor which you spray on the dog's fur and work into their skin. Comes 16 oz in a pump spray bottle.   It can be used on newborn kittens, it says, as often as desired, and is supposed to kill larvae as well as fleas on contact.  I'm doing this treatment tonight and will bring it to the Hattiesburg trial this weekend.  I can't have Maxie and Lucky stopping to scratch during their runs!  Tom, the manager, also sold me some Flea Stoppers Carpet Powder (active ingredient Orthoboric Acid) which I am to spread on carpets, sweep around and vacuum up, and Precor 2000 Plus which I am to spray on upholstery, baseboards and bare floors, let dry, sweep, vacuum.  He says Frontline, Advantage and foggers are a joke.  They've been working for me all these years, but not now.

8/17/11 Update:  Yesterday I sprayed all my dogs with the Petcor, starting with the inner ear, then wetting my hands with it and working into the face and neck, then spraying the rest of the body and working the spray through the hair down to the skin.  Not soaking wet, just a mist spray.  They each went crazy trying to get it off, like they do with anything else, even after a bath, but I thought it smelled agreeable enough and didn't sting my hands.  Maxie hasn't stared since then!  So now my assessment of the staring thing is that he was looking at little larvae wiggling around.  That is so disgusting to think of larvae on my dogs, on my couch, in my bed, but the pest control guy affirmed that that's what happens.  Eggs, larvae, fleas, eggs, larvae, fleas.  Foggers kill the larvae and fleas on the surfaces they touch but don't get deep into the upholstery, under things, behind the baseboards.  Nothing kills the hard-shelled eggs.  They hatch and you're back where you started.  And I learned that for Advantage or Front Line to kill the flea, it has to bite the dog!  That is totally unacceptable.  I've been under the impression that these topical products put out a bubble of protection around the dog so fleas wouldn't jump on.  Not so.  The Petcor does that, and they say it survives one washing.

If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know.
Sometimes Upwards and Onward can be a bit of a struggle -- not really moving forward but trying not to fall back too far.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lori Drouin Obedience Seminar

I spent last weekend attending Lori Drouin's Obedience Seminar in Gonzales, hosted by our local dog club.  I brought my Sony Cybershot but alas, the supposedly freshly charged battery was dead.  I ended up taking lots of pix using Ganetta's camera, but she took those home.  I may never see them.  I hate that-- I so miss having and sharing my pictures.

Working on sit/stays; down/stays, come to heel.
Maxie is lying down in lower left corner, facing me.
Lori came in from California for the event, with her 3 shelties.  Cost:  $150/member, $200/non-member.  Another great benefit of club membership and such a good deal, turned out, all 20 participants were LCCOC members, as were the handful of auditing students.   There was no room for outsiders.  I brought Maxie and Lucky, who took turns in the training ring and they both did fairly well considering we are all untrained in Performance Obedience.

Maxie did OK, but I find I don't enjoy training a 7 lb 10" dog so close underfoot.  Lots of bending over to give treats, straighten his position, etc.  Lots of checking to make sure I'm not stepping on him.

Lucky at 45 lbs 21" is size-wise much easier to train, but she continues to find Obedience work boring.  She does some of it fairly well, but in the absence of physical stimulation (tugging, fetching, running, jumping) she finally just lies down, sighs, and won't budge.  Won't even go for a treat tossed at her.   I have to laugh when I hear people claim that Obedience work is "atheletic" because a jump and "go outs" are involved.  It is mostly about holding focus on the handler's face while waiting, sitting, staying, heeling, turning, finding a scent article, fetching the left, center, or right glove on command, or finding one article among many that has the handler's scent.  All that is fine, but just being honest, I can't bear to micro-manage my dogs' every body move all the way down to paw, nose and eye placement every single second.

The weekend ended with a Q and A.  A lady asked how to solve the problem of her dog breaking eye contact with her upon entering the ring.  Seems the little Papillon, when seeing the judge for the first time, breaks its gaze on the master's face for a moment to check out the new person.  Oops, points off for that.  They spent the next 10 minutes entering the ring, again and again, practicing total handler focus.  This turned me OFF.  I think it totally un-natural for anyone, dog or man, not to briefly glance around and survey any new environment they go into.
Lori Drouin, photo by Cheryl W.

That said, Lori is a good teacher.  Very organized.  Very knowledgeable.  A clear communicator.  Pleasant.  And chock full of information.  I did enjoy her tips on:
  • footwork,
  • figure 8's,
  • proofing points on heeling,
  • dumbell training,
  • the "easy" cue,
  • drop on recall,
  • backchaining the right and left turns,
  • early scent work training. 
 I took notes and will incorporate some of these as "structured play" activities at home, if only to stimulate my dog's intelligence and use for parlor tricks.

I especially appreciated her comments on how to curb "anticipation", which I can apply to agility training.  I don't want D to ever decide they already know what I'm going to ask for next, or when the exercise is finished.  In agility, for example, you always behave as if there is another jump after the last jump so both D and handler will run at full speed over the last jump.  You don't want D to slow down or quit before it's over. You don't want them to break their start line stay before they are released, so you frequently go back and treat for that in training, though never in a trial.  You want them to anticipate that a treat could always be forthcoming for staying put.

An 18 page handout was given, which I read through Monday morning.  It was all about CONTROL, using every conceivable means possible from food rewards to corrections to body posture to using dowels to get D doing exactly what you want, exactly when you want. So many, many control words throughout the document, it tired me to read it. 

Some think a dog heeling around a ring for 10 minutes in perfect sync with a handler, totally focused, is beautiful.  I think it's creepy.  If it takes that much work to "get it right, if only just this once", it is telling me it goes against the dog's grain.  We're supposed to be harnessing and accentuating their natural abilities, not seeing how much we can warp them into "perfect obedience". I'm not a "fit this square peg into that round hole" person.  If I want to fill a round hole, I'll get something round in the first place.

I'm perfectly satisfied with striving for Q's in agility, i.e., "perfect" scores, no deductions, which are possible even if the dogs take a few wide turns, forget to completely stop at the down contact, or glance to the side on their start line stay.  They can even earn championship status that way.

Today I came up with an analogy of what I consider "natural".  (It's not nearly as limiting as "If man were meant to fly, he'd have been given wings", but it does set some limits to what I'm willing to strive for):
  • Building and maintaining a bridge using proper engineering principles results in a bridge that stands for decades -- that's natural.  
  • Training perfect dog obedience behavior that falls apart the minute you quit training and you hold your breath every attempt to succeed --  that's un-natural.
  • Taking advantage of a dog's natural willingness to please to the point of controlling their every move in exchange for a pat, some praise, or little morsel of hot dog, chicken or cheese -- that's pitiful.
  • And saddling myself with the ball and chain of constantly finding fault with my canines, holds no appeal to me.  It would make me a slave to my own excessive expectations, never fully satisfied, and there is no way I am going down that agonizing road.
Maxie and Lucky, I'm delighted when you front and finish on que, but I don't care if your butt is 2 inches off to one side.  I won't be getting out the dowels and tapping you into perfect alignment because, for one thing, I don't want to carry those dowels around.

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jonathan's 14th Birthday inspires New Training Goals

Michele, Jonathan, John
Yesterday (Friday) afternoon/evening we set aside time to celebrate my grandson's 14th birthday.  Jonathan lives in Metairie (about 90 miles from me), and is so busy now with school and wrestling, even on weekends, I don't get to see him very often.  He's about the closest thing, next to my dogs, that makes me go mushy.  We always have a grand time together. He always inspires.

It was our customary foursome: John, Jonathan, Audrey and me. And as a family tradition, we always go see the latest Harry Potter movie together whenever it comes out - perfect timing for his birthday this year.

John, Jonathan, Aunt Audrey in front of the Prytania Theater

So I looked around New Orleans and found that only the Prytania Theatre off St. Charles and Jefferson was playing this movie in 3D, at 5 p.m.  Never heard of the place.  We arrived at a tiny, old red brick theater on a residential street, with no parking lot (every patron uses the parking meters right on the street!).  So I was fairly sure it would be a disappointment.


Concessions, Jonathan, John, Audrey
While the Prytania is a single screen theater with a small lobby and small concession stand, with not even one single video game, it has an interesting brick architecture, brilliant red wool carpets and a reasonably sized auditorium with reasonably comfortable seats.  The screen and sound were perfect, and a large wooden stage in front of the screen brought back nostalgic memories of my days working for Ogden-Perry Theatre chain (Gordon Theater, Broadmoor Theater) in my youth.

Beautiful chandeliers.  Very friendly staff.  I talked with a local patron who said it's the only theater she ever goes to, walks there from her house and catches every movie that comes in.  Neat.

Staircase to the balcony seats.
A staircase with hand painted posters on the walls leads up to an old-fashioned balcony, a step back into yesteryear for sure.

Harry Potter, The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Where It All Ends, in 3D was awesome.  It did not disappoint.  It was faithful to the book.  It ended on a high note.  We left feeling victorious.  Just the kind of movie I like.

A few more theater pix

Main Entrance to Prytania Theater
(L-R) John, Jonathan, Michele
"A Streetcar Named Desire" sidewalk art, in front of Prytania Theater, w. Jonathan

Michele and Jonathan
Afterwards, Jonathan chose sushi for his birthday dinner, and we found The Basil Leaf on S. Carrolton, with the trolley cars going by in the rain.  The food was not that special, but it gave us a cozy place to give him his birthday cards, chat and catch up on all the latest gossip and news before rushing him home to pack.

His Dad picks him up at 10:30 this morning for a 6 day cruize to Cozumel.  Lucky them! Then school starts, and he'll be too busy again to see much of me.  No more time to attend agility trials with me, either, which he says "isn't his thing anyway".  This makes my heart hurt, for I had so hoped to share my favorite passion with my favorite person.  At least he is very devoted to his wrestling (which isn't my thing either come to think of it, but I would go watch him), so he is in the gym almost every day and already 3rd in State in his weight category.  Hopefully, wrestling will teach him to strive for excellence and acquaint him with the thrill of analysis and going all out.  It pleases me to think so. His team got their asses stomped this weekend competing with other teams from all over the US.  It gave him and his coaches some new training goals.

It got me focused on my new training goals - I promised to "turn over a new leaf" beginning today.  I have 2 weeks 'til the Hattiesburg trial.  2 weeks to learn to run again (after 8 weeks of limping with a very sore calf and other people running my dogs at the last trial I attended in Monroe).  2 weeks to remind my dogs how to run a course and follow my guidance.  My first run this past Wednesday night teaching class, wasn't so good.  Neither of my dogs were focused, missed ques, knocked bars, ran off sniffing.  And I realized I've built up a heap of fear around re-injuring my leg.  I have to let go of that fear, build up my confidence.  So I picked up all the sticks in my agility yard this morning, committed to run my dogs every day for at least a few turns, and walk on my treadmill 30 minutes a day, if only in 10 minute increments.  The heat index of over 105 degrees daily and high humidity of 30-70%, makes going outside (even at 6:30 a.m.) an unpleasant task.  10 minutes out there and I'm feeling clammy and trickling sweat and my dogs are panting.  But we've got to work through this if we want those green and blue ribbons, and those titles by the end of the year.

Maxie, 2010, NA and NAJ Titles
I've got to think RIBBONS.  Boxes and boxes of RIBBONS. Some dogs like food.  Some like tugging and chasing toys.  Some trainers like Q's, improved time, or just "running with their dogs".  Me, I'm wild about RIBBONS, especially the blue ones (1st place) and the purple ones (2Q's in a day)!  That's my #10 reinforcements, and I never have this picture of Maxie's early successes (6 runs, 6 Q's, 6 1st places) and my elation over them very far out of my mind.  We're a much better team now, but the challenges have gotten harder, competition stiffer, the ribbons more elusive and with all this summer heat and rain plus my calf injury, the training sessions have been very infrequent. BAH!

Upwards and onward!