Friday, September 30, 2011

Jump Training with Lucky Lucy

Jump training with Lucky is easy because she loves to retrieve.  Throw the ball, she brings it back.  Throw it over the 2 foot high garden fence, she puts 2 jumps in for every throw (there and back), and she will keep this up until your arm is worn out.  We limit her to 20 jumps a day a few times per week, and figure we could keep her in shape for years even if we were crippled in a wheel chair!  I finally got a video of this activity, and using slow motion, you can really see her powerful physique in motion.  It's amazing how much effort goes into a dog jumping obstacles.

Now if only I can transfer her enthusiasm for this game onto the agility course!

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kiln Agility Trial - The "If Only" Trial

Lucky's AX title ribbons
Maxie: 6 runs, 1 Q, 1st place, 20 MACH Points
Lucky Lucy: 6 runs, 1 Q, 2nd place, NEW TITLE AX

"If Only" moments are those we all tend to review and review and kick ourselves for. My weekend was full of them.

To start with, 12 runs and only 2 Q's.  Have I ever done this bad?  And almost every NQ was only one tiny mistake, or in Lucky's case, no mistakes just exceeding course time.  If only I had made one small adjustment this way or that . . . . . on each run.

If only we had left home 45 minutes earlier or not taken the scenic route to Kiln, we wouldn't have had to pitch the camper in a downpour.

If only we hadn't pitched the camper towards one end of the mounded RV slot, we wouldn't have been in a ditch 3" deep in water.

If only the clip I was using to hold my hair back during Maxie's 2nd run on Friday hadn't started falling out at jump 14. In the split second it took me to decide whether to grab it or let it fall, I lost my concentration, handled jump 15 as if it were 16, and went to 17.  Maxie ran fast and perfectly, but we missed a QQ.  If only I had used a different barette. . . . If only I had worn my cap.. . .  If only I had tied all my hair back in a twist the clip would have held . . . . if only I had let the damn thing fall without wondering whether the judge would make me stop to pick it up.  I flubbed up.
If only I had the endless energy these other competitors seem to have, I could have joined the RV'ers for their Friday night communal meal, but I was too exhausted.  Saturday night I mustered enough energy, brought whatever I could scrape up (cantaloupe, herbal cheese), and enjoyed their terriki chicken on a stick, grilled shrimp, shishkabob, big salad and some champagne.  It was very relaxing.  Everyone was animated and friendly. The talk was all about lure coursing, hunting and herding dog training.  I got on the RV email list to help plan future meals.

If only I had taken the time to kill the wasp nest I suspected was in the eves of my camper before leaving home, But I was in a hurry, feeling lucky . . . . . being stupid.  I paid the price on Saturday afternoon while tying my tarp to a corner post.  I got stung, within 3 hours my hand swole up so you couldn't see my knuckles or wrist bone, and the Benedryl I took that night and the next morning gave heart palpitations all day Sunday.  Fortunately, my RV neighbor had some wasp spray and I used it to knock out the nest.  But  somehow 6 groggy wasps found their way inside, over the next few hours I found them crawling on the walls and sheets, had to squish each of them with a towel, inspect every inch of the camper carefully, and now I have to set it up when I get home and caulk those holes.

If only I had taken Maxie to do his business before his last run on Sunday instead of volunteering to work the novice class, he wouldn't have gone behind the tunnel and peed, and got us whistled off.  Not a great way to end the weekend.

The trial must have been advertised locally, because several observers showed up.  I met a very interesting elderly gentleman in a scooter, who trains search and rescue dogs in Slidell.  He was the first soldier in Vietnam with a rescue dog, and very active in changing the military policy of leaving war dogs behind.  It's a cause I believe in, and offered to help him spiff up his website.  We'll see where that takes us.

All weekend between runs one lady laid back in her recliner and played with her Apple iPad 3G.  She's got perfect internet connection, can surf the web all she wants, handle her emails, read books, compose, upload docs, take photos and videos, stream movies, etc.  Way out here in the boonies!  It's just a huge iPhone, except it can't make phone calls. I am pee green with envy.  If only I had $900 to burn!  Not having an internet connection for 4 days sucks!

My air conditioner struggles to keep the camper cool past 85 degrees on these treeless, asphalt RV campgrounds.  By Saturday afternoon the roof fabric over the beds was hot to the touch. I had been planning a possible fix for this problem, so I rigged up a silver reflective tarp over the big bed roof to see if that would make a difference.  It really did.  Problem resolved.

I learned that Mississippi Mavericks, the host club, is down to 2 or 3 members.  Most everybody has quit!  Seems there are conflicts among the leadership that need working out.  Swamp Dog Agility, on the other hand, seems to be blossoming.  Apparently they enjoy teamwork, and do all sorts of stuff together besides dog agility, such as tubing and kayaking.
One lady brought her Lure Coursing machine out each evening for anybody to try.  I wrote all about the experience in my previous post, here.

Trial Site Summary  (see links):  The restrooms/shower area is complete, as is most of the construction we encountered last year, and I like that the sites are on grass, not limestone or asphalt. Made a huge difference in the heat factor.  What is with these RV park designers that they cut down every single tree???  Have they no appreciation for shade or grass?

Willow (left) and Maxie (right) ringside,
resting up for the next round.
  • Lucky's AX title
  • Maxie's 8th Q in XS towards the 10 needed for his MX title.
  • One more XJ Q for Lucky, and her AXJ title.
  • Two more XS Q's for Maxie, and his MX title.
  • One more QQ for Maxie by November to reach the 6 he needs to qualify for AKC Nationals next year.  Unfortunately, he won't have the 400 MACH points by then, with just 267 right now.  If only AKC hadn't changed the rules mid year that no longer double 1st place MACH points, and 1.5 2nd place MACH points, we might well have made it.  Still, I'll get as close to the goal as possible.
  • A few more QQ's for Maxie in 2011, leaving fewer QQ's to achieve in 2012 to reach MACH (CHampion status) next year.
Upwards and onward!

Motivation - Building Lucky's Drive

In my previous post I showed Lucky highly motivated by Lure Coursing -- giving chase to a white plastic bag!

Here I compare that video to this one of Lucky 1st agility run this past weekend in Kiln, typical of most of her runs where she exceeds course time but otherwise runs clean, it is becoming glaringly obvious to me that motivation is a major missing ingredient of her performance.

To watch video, click arrow:

Maxie is a whole different story.  He is usually very enthusiastic, most often exceeding course time by 5-20 seconds and often placing, unless I make a mistake.  Here's Maxie, running the same course as Lucky's video above, with a Q and 1st place, and 20 MACH points (meaning he ran the course 20 seconds faster than allowable course time).  His course time this run 54 seconds, compared to Lucky's 79 seconds. 
To watch video, click arrow:

With those long legs, Lucky could outrun Maxie any time.  It's all about M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N!  Building Drive has to become my most serious focus for her agility training.

No doubt in my mind, Lucky is a natural athelete.  She loves to run, fetch, tug, kill armadillos, chase goats, and now, run after lures. Whenever I have her tug toy in my hand in practice, she runs fast, weaves fast, races across the dogwalk, and stays focused. She's an enthusiastic jumper, too, when something she wants is on the other side.

So my challenge now is unlocking the secret to motivating her on the agility course like she's motivated at home. The scuttlebutt is that all this mental gymnastics is great for delaying the onset of alzheimers, which certainly motivates me to keep at it!

My writeup on the Kiln Trial will be my next post.  Some things worth mentioning happened there.  Then I'll post a video on Lucky's enthusuastic jumping exercises at home.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lure Coursing with Lucky

Each evening at the Kiln Agility Trial this past weekend in MS, Sharon McD of Swamp Dog Agility set up her Lure Coursing Machine in an adjacent field and invited any and all dogs to give it a go.  Lucky had tried Lure Coursing a few months back and shown little interest so I wasn't expecting much, but she tore out after the lure this time, twice, and was rarin' to go again!  Her second run, my friend Donna D. operated my camera and did a great job tracking the whole run, which is NOT easy. (Click arrow to play video.)

In my next post you will see a video of Lucky's 1st agility run of the weekend in Kiln, typical of most of her runs where she barely runs and exceeds course time.  It is becoming glaringly obvious to me that motivation is a major missing ingredient of her agility performance.

I tried Maxie on the Lure Coursing track, and he wanted nothing to do with it.  Ran away from it as fast as he could and begged a complete stranger to pick him up!  All Maxie needs is a reasonable expectation of FOOD, though, to run like a maniac.

With those long legs, Lucky could outrun Maxie any time.  It's all about M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N!  Building Drive has to become my most serious focus for her agility training.
My writeup on the Kiln Trial will be my next post.  Some things worth mentioning happened there.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lucky's Herding Instinct Test

Lucky herding goats, off leash, with Roberta
Yesterday Lucky and I went out to Roberta McKowen's 1,000 acre ranch in Zachary, to test Lucky's herding instincts. Robbie, Judy and I were there from 9:30-2, and besides practice, we actually helped Roberta work the sheep a bit, moving them from pen to pen and getting the females heads painted with red dots.  I learned that Lucky is a "header", i.e., she goes for the head, and that while she nips at the face and throat, she doesn't actually bite.  She also shoulder butts, which she does with FoohFooh all the time.  All good, I'm told.  Roberta thinks she'd make a fine cattle dog.

Lucky on a long line herding sheep, with Robbie
Well, I have no cows and no intention to get any, but I guess in my spare time I could read up on AKC's requirements for a herding title.  It appears there are several different kinds of herding, each requiring  different training.  

Lucky runs agility because I ask her to. It's MY THING. She complies, and competes at Excellent level, albiet without great enthusiasm, and will get her Masters. But she comes alive, I mean totally focused, when fetching, tugging, or killing armadillos, and I saw that same level of excitement yesterday when she was chasing the goats and sheep around.  It kinda bothers me not to provide her with opportunities that trigger her highest innate abilities.  I feel I must trade her that for her doing agility with me.

Here's a video of Lucky in the pen with Roberta and the goats:

How she didn't get trampled to death, nor even suffer the slightest scratch, I have no idea.  And I'm not at all sure what her intentions were, running up in between all those legs.  Was that herding, or simply chasing???  So much to learn.

For the longest time Lucky was spooked by that stick Roberta carries.  We were walking in the field when I first turned Lucky, on leash, over to Roberta. Lucky went up ahead, and Roberta immediately whacked her on the chest. Lucky cowered and tried to slink away and behind, and became so leary of the stick I feared she would never participate.  It took her several tries to give chase because all she did at first was try to stay away from the stick, but she got somewhat over it as this final video shows.   Lucky has never been whacked and I don't like the idea of poking or prodding her, either.  It could make her mean, destroy her gentle trusting nature.  She backs away at home whenever I pick up a fly swat or yard stick.  Personally, I think I could train her to go behind, around, out and away, and "exert my authority", without the stick. But when the kill instinct takes over, it might take a whack or two with a stout stick to get her off of her "prey".  Now I know why the biblical shepherds carried their crooked staff!  It wasn't a walking cane as I always assumed!

Roberta's "balance the cookie on her nose without eating it" comment was referring to something she said earlier about well trained herding dogs' "wanting to kill the sheep, but not killing them", and that Lucky did well stopping the chase when told to. She said the most important thing a herding dog needs (besides herding instinct) is a rock solid drop or sit on command, and a 100% reliable recall.  We are already training those at home.

When I got home I watched some herding training videos on YouTube, very interesting, all informing me that while the dog needs a strong "desire to chase", herding isn't about chasing at all.  Roberta repeated several times that teaching a dog to herd is far more difficult than teaching agility.  I can't imagine that.

Spider Lillies, September 18, Old Hammond Hideaway
It was a very interesting day, and very generous of Roberta and Robbie to give so freely of their time. Roberta invited us to come back "anytime" and mentioned herding ducks, which I'd like to try Lucky on when the weather gets cooler, which it's about to do. 

In fact, when I was loading up the car to go a-herding, I saw these native spider lillies had popped up alongside my driveway. I quickly snapped this picture.  These intricate flowers, so beautiful, have been blooming in my yard every year for 38 years, and always let me know when fall is on the way.  They never fail to thrill me.
Upwards and onward!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Laminating Machine Finds Me

GBC Heat Seal H-4325 Laminator
Sometimes just when I feel beat down and underappreciated, in this case underfunded by those I'm trying to help the most and unnecessarily overworked by that woeful underfunding, the Goddess rewards me with a fabulous gift - in this case a brand new laminating machine!

Here's how it happened:
Doing my very best to weather'n'wear proof everything in the new Publicity Booth I'm building for my dog club, I found it essential to laminate every single piece of signage, protecting many color photos and newsletters that would otherwise be subject to staining and water damage and almost worthless within a use or two.
I started laminating everything at Kinkos, but even at just $2 a sheet for 8.5"x11", and $4 a sheet for 11"x17", and arranging everything as close together as possible for maximum value per sheet, I quickly ran up an $80 bill!  Almost half my allotted budget!  And I wasn't even finished.  An impossible situation!  Very discouraging!
Has put me way over budget, and out of pocket.

Mercifully, a clubmate came over to see the booth-in-progress and offered to laminate the last 15 pieces for free, using her employer's machine.  I hate mooching off of employers, but I need them QUICK, so last Tuesday I headed across town to her office to get this job finished.  Alas, the first sheet we fed into her barely used, still under warranty laminator got jammed in there and never came out.  Project aborted.

Next day she called the company, they said throw the unit away and they'd send her a new one.  Not worth fixing, they said!  So, she tossed it off to me.  John took it apart, removed the jammed paper, and now it works perfectly fine. So I have a $220 GBC Heat Seal H-4325 Laminator, practically brand new, for free!

Of course, I still don't have any laminating paper, so I shopped around this entire morning and discovered Office Depot prices are outrageous! has the best prices, so I spent $55 with them and now must wait 5 days for a lifetime supply to arrive (have to order in quantities of 100 sheets/box).  Meanwhile, I need about 15 sheets TODAY if I want to complete my project in time for the booth's debut on September 24th, but my friend is out of the office.  Waiting for mine to come in, I'll be cutting things mighty close.

All this running around, scrimping, saving, canniving, begging, repairing damaged discounted items, just to save my club a few bucks they can well afford to spend, takes much of the fun out of the project and makes me question why I put myself in this situation?

Which is why I think the divine hand graced me with my free laminator -- to lift my spirits and remind me to be ever-joyful. Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  And I just found out, my friend has mailed me the 15 sheets I need.  I should receive them tomorrow by Priority Mail . . . . . another unexpected gift, and I feel so much better!

. . . . . . . Now, dear Goddess, can you also please send me a servicable professional copy machine that enlarges, reduces, does legal size, and multiple pages?  Mine has been broken for months and is unfixable, I can't find another one I can afford that does all I want, and not having it handy really cramps my style. I've made so many free copies for all my friends and clubs for so many years, surely I deserve a free copy machine by now!

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Publicity Committee

After 3 years of coaxing, I've finally convinced my dog club we need to promote, i.e., create a public presence beyond our website (which I built 3 years ago).  What actually turned the tables, I think, is the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks Commission's (BREC) new Obedience classes, their plans to create an agility course at their Burbank dog park, and some new teachers in town who are advertising their classes.

So last April the club officially activated a Publicity Committee and named me Chairman.  But it took until August to announce it to the membership and approve $200 toward the creation of a Publicity Booth we can take to parades, dog park openings, and other public events.  I asked for $300 but got less, so the club is borrowing my canopy and many other items until I can submit a budget next year. The wheels of progress grind exceedingly slow, and apparently my enthusiasm isn't shared by all.

I've been working on the booth (pictured above in my back yard) for a month now, trying to make it attractive, informative, interesting, weather impervious, easy to set up and take down, comfortable, and fun.  The whole thing (canopy, 2 tables, 2 bins, ring gates,  display board, 2 posts) has to fit in one car (a large car).  With the weather turning cooler, I pretty much live in the booth these days, tweaking its features every day.

The biggest task has been the tri-fold display board, with collages depicting our club's activities, a few of our best newsletters, signage, etc.  I've taken so many photos of our club's activities over the years, I had plenty to draw from - trials, matches, seminars, classes, demos, and of course, dogs.  The problem is, photo paper and color ink aren't cheap, and laminating adds up quickly and for now, all this is out of my own pocket!  I'm not real happy about that, but what else can I do?  The point of the booth is to show what our club does, attract new students to our classes and members to our club!  Can't do that without props.

In the past few days some club members have come by to see the booth (Polly, Nedra, Linda, Joy, Sheryl, Noel), and their reactions have been favorable.  Now I've got to call more members, one at a time, and invite them to see it.  John and I don't mind working the booth, we think it's fun, but we won't always be available.  For instance, the first event coming up is September 24th for AKC's Responsible Dog Ownership Day, but I'll be in Kiln at an agility trial, and so will many of my club mates.  A perfect time to tap into LCCOC's newer members, who are looking for volunteer hours.  They'll need training in booth setup, take down, how to run it, what to say, etc.

Burbank Dog Park Entrance - side view,
possible booth location
I met with BREC's events planner last week and mapped out a schedule of dog-related events we can participate in thru next March.  They are investing heavily in their dog parks and seeking ways to promote them.  Last Friday, John and I drove out to the Zachary Park, then  the Burbank Park.  Both have beautiful new dog parks with expansive lawns, wrought iron fencing all around, double gates, separate small and large dog yards, lots of green grass, water fountains, wading pools, poop bag dispensaries along expansive sidewalks, new shrubs planted here and there.  Unfortunately, neither one has a single tree . . . . . so there is no shade.  It's so hot, only a few dogs were out there and they didn't stay long.  We had to leave quickly not to faint!  Trees all around the perimeter, but none in the dog parks!  What were they thinking?????

Also unfortunate, no night lighting, and no electricity.  No place to take your dog at night, and no fan in our booth!  Bummer!

Willow and Lucky at Zachary Dog Park
One thing I discovered -- Willow loves water!  We don't have a pool at home so how could I know, but she jumped right in and started snapping at the bubbles she made when prancing around.  She got in over and over.  I coaxed Lucky in as well for a few minutes, but Maxie wanted nothing to do with the pool.

Also, my dogs went crazy barking at the other dog running loose in the big dog yard.  Lucky was growling and lunging at the fence, Max and Willow barking their heads off, while the Siberian Husky just stood around quietly.  Not sure I could let my dogs loose at a dog park.  I presume they would settle down after awhile.

Always more to learn!

Upwards and onward!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing with Photoshop Filters on Labor Day

I spent my Labor Day watching gusts of wind whipping the treetops and raindrops around, the dark dank sky eerily reminiscent of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustov, which made me feel jittery all day.  I had to coax the dogs outside to pee.  To take my mind off, I played with Photoshop, trying my hand using the "watercolor filter" on a photo of Mikki (recently taken, last post) that I think captures the "essense of Papillon" - alert, petite, cute, dainty, feisty, loyal, big ears, long tongue, eager to participate in "whatever" at all times.  All in all, I'm very satisfied with the results.  From the original photo on the right, I futzed around and got the simulated watercolor effect on the left.  I had to black out a bit of shirt bling, a bit of neck and a bit of fence, and smudge a few places for the 5" x 5" closeup on black background, which gives it that 3D effect.  It came out so good I plan to frame it and give to Madalyn for Mikki's 1st birthday, coming up in November.  It printed out beautifully on my HP DeskJet1220 printer.

Don't know why, sometimes a painting can convey more "essence" than a photo.  This one certainly does. Is there any doubt why we call these dogs "butterflies"?

Good lord, sitting around these past few weeks due to all this rain, smog, etc., I've put on 7 lbs!  My dogs have gained weight, too. We've got to get back to practicing.  Rain, rain go away.

Upwards and onward!
P.S.  Next day, I tried my hand watercolor filtering a photo of my friend Mike's dog, and sure enough, even without the black background, the 3D effect can be clearly seen.  Original is on the right, "watercolored" on the left, where it looks like Teds could walk out of the photo at any moment! Neat!  Sometimes a painted image has far more "presence" than a realistic photo!