Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Test - 2011

My idea of "abundance". The first year our
Ruby Red Grapefruit tree bears fruit.
9 a.m., Thanksgiving Day, and rather than the usual cooking of turkey, dressing, pies, etc., I'm packing for an agility trial, planning to leave early tomorrow morning for Lake Charles (2.5 hours away), pop-up camper in tow.  John is staying behind this year to work on a few projects around the house and get his new computer set up.  This is my second year breaking with our long tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with family on Friday so Jonathan (my grandson) can join us, and leaving everyone else free to have their big Thanksgiving Day dinner with other family on Thursday.  This has always been fine with me, but this year, like last year, competing has taken precedence.  I need my Q's to meet next year's goals. John and I will have turkey dinner tonight at Thom and Judy's, and I'll bring them a sack of grapefruit from our very own tree, in lieu of cooking.  Thom will save me his turkey carcass for my traditional turkey soup, which I'll share with everyone after the holidays.  So seeing Jonathan is about all I'll miss, and of course, all those delicious leftovers.

Trial Snafu
Me, in limbo, but relaxing and celebrating a beautiful
Thanksgiving Day. (L-R)
Lucky Lucy, Maxie, Michele, Willow, FoohFooh
Of course, there has to be a trial snafu, and I'm on tenderhooks because I haven't received my Trial Entry Confirmation.  A clubmate received hers and emailed me this morning to say I wasn't on the list (Calcisieu Kennel Club is one of the few clubs that sends out a Running Order in advance).  So this morning I'm calling and emailing the Trial Secretary wondering if I'm in.  Did my entry get lost in the mail? Did she receive it on time?  Got her out of bed and she has to get dressed and go to her office where her records are kept. I had called her weeks ago to say I was mailing in my entry on the closing date and she said that would be fine, and now she says if it's her mistake she will put me in.  So I'm in limbo for the next few hours.

"Me, in well-practiced limbo"

Meanwhile, John's taking pictures of me and the dogs, we're enjoying the beautiful weather, calling family and friends, and basking in the great practice I had at the field last night. Maxie and Lucky were charged up, enthusiastic, fast, and accurate.  My calf feels strong.  I feel mentally ready and focused.  No pressure.  No deadlines to reach a title.  So this snafu is just a test.  Yes, I'm staying calm.  My hunch is it will all work out.
12:10 p.m.  Okay, I'm in.  Sallie found my entry and check, can't figure out how she missed it.  Just received my Confirmation via email.  More snafus. Lucky's AKC number was wrong, and she was entered in Novice on 2 days when I entered her in Excellent B, and only 5 runs when I entered her in 6 runs.  Had to get all that fixed, plodded through it without getting upset, and now everything is OK.  So now, back to packing, and feeling grateful for all my many blessings.  All in all, my pre-competition routine is running very smoothly. The Cognitive Edge training is paying off.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Upwards and onward,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Does Winning Mean To Me?

John Cullen, an athletic trainer I follow, posed this question today on his The Winning Process program, and asked us to write down our responses.  He says the two basic types of winning attitudes are, in a nutshell:
  1. Comparing yourself to others, and feeling you've won only when you beat them.
  2. Comparing yourself to yourself, and feeling you've won with self-improvement.
The full list is on his video, which he asked us to share with everyone, so here's the link:

He also asked for comments, which I posted there, and am posting here as well:
I relate to both sets and find them compatible, as follows:

My self-esteem comes from Q's, Placement, & Titles. To achieve those, I have to be improving, and keeping my dogs engaged by having fun. Placement in dog agility doesn't have anything to do with "beating other people", but it serves as a good measuring rod for my own self-improvement. How can I know if I'm as good as I can be if I don't compare myself to what others are succeeding in doing? Maybe I can learn to go a little faster, get tighter turns, straighter lines, more focus, better acceleration, improved body language, etc. I am never jealous of others' achievement, just envigorated to try harder, practice more. I am only competing with myself.

This may sound strange, but my biggest life win, by far, has been figuring out how to let people off the hook, and let my dogs fulfill my great lifelong desire for loyal companionship, undivided attention, and someone to share life with, teach and caretake. All the people in my life are busy doing their own things, ambitious with their own achievements, they rarely look me in the eye and say "what do you want me to do now, let's go". They can't give me what my dogs give me, and that is finally OK. After years of disappointment that family and friends were so busy with themselves they didn't seem to notice what I achieved, didn't want to listen or learn from me, I have finally beat the system!

Which brings up this important point. I love it that AKC provides a framework for competing, and keeps a record of our Q's and Titles. It makes me feel that someone besides myself is watching me, caring how we do, providing benchmarks for measuring our progress, and thinks I'm achieving something "certificate worthy" when I do. My wins are their wins! Hooking into that venue has been very satisfying, and I am always walking around with gratitude in my heart for their significant efforts in organizing this sport. (I only compete in AKC but I presume other clubs provide similar support.)

Thinking this through has been helpful with my mental game, so that's another Upwards and onward for me!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My 65th Birthday

John, Michele, Nathan, Allison, Audrey
Taking a break from the doggies, I invited friends and family to join John and me in MidCity for "White Light Night", touring the shops and art galleries for their annual open house (which happened to fall on my birthday), culminating in cake and ice cream at Audrey's, who lives just 1/2 block off the art district.  Weather was cool, crisp and clear, and breezy. "Standing room only" trolleys were running every 15 minutes up and down the strip, crowds of people were strolling about and excitement was in the air.  Shops were serving wine, cheese, grapes, gumbo, dip & chips, and other assorted snacks.

Nathan, Allison, Audrey, John and I started out together and took the trolley down to Circa 1857, but we played phone tag with the others and never hooked up until we met up at Audrey's at 9 p.m.  She had cooked chili and salad, which turned out great because nobody got enough free food.  Turns out, most of the spread was at the other end of the line in Jefferson Plaza. Circa 1857 had a cash bar and restaurant open for business, but we weren't buying, and the music was so ear-splitting loud and the crowds so thick, we left there quickly.  My nightclubbing days are definitely over.

Nathan brought 2 fancy birthday cakes (one chocolate and one rasberry), and some adorable candles, there were gifts and lovely cards despite my saying "NO GIFTS", and everyone took photos with their iPhones, from every angle, including taking iphotos of people taking iphotos.  The only photos I took are these two, and they're the only ones I have at the moment.  If I can ever round up the others, I plan on creating a Windows Live Photo Slide Show and seeing if I can embed it here for Mom and Dad to see.  I'm always looking for material to experiment with.  Oh, and the cakes were from Fresh Market and especially the Rasberry one was "to die for".

Nathan and Allison gave me a gorgeous Miyabi 600D chef's knife to replace my broken MAC knife (which lasted 25 years), a knife sharpener, and a lovely pot of Paperwhites. Of course, John gave me my new Camera, and I gave myself this new laptop.  Audrey contributed cash towards my new video editing program. Alice sent a most delicious smelling candle. Laura promised Atlas Shrugged, the movie, when it comes out in Blueray, and I promised to give another party for viewing that so it looks like my birthday ain't over yet!  Mom and Dad, Sis and several others called or posted birthday wishes on my Facebook wall, wherever that is (I've never been there).  Lots of cards.  So it was a very pleasant event.

While none of my dog club friends showed up, several sent regrets and Birthday wishes. It's nice to know I have made some friends in the club, but nothing beats the neighbors upon whom I rely for support at any time of day or night, for any kind of problem whatsoever, and who never forget my birthday nor miss my parties. Audrey, Laura, and Schuyler, you're the best!
Some gifts come in strange ways.  In Circa 1875 I saw the perfect large cabinet for hiding away my doggie gear in the den -- unfortunately it was a Louis XIV era piece with a price tag of $4,800!  A gorgeous old cabinet with deep shelves and solid doors, which finally gave me a mental picture of what I want.
One kind man said he couldn't believe I was 65, said "you look 50ish", and that was a fine present, too!
Had to feed the dogs their dinner at 5:45 instead of our usual 8 p.m, so this morning they were up at 5:45 pestering me to roll out of bed.  I finally figured out they were starving.  12 hours is about their limit between meals.
65, still feeling girlish, and looking forward to at least 30 more years of fun and self-improvement no matter how old I look! 
Upwards and onward!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dog Walk and A-Frame Bite The Dust

The A-frame side boards are what rotted, where the chain pulls
the most tension, and close to ground level.
This fall we discovered that my wooden home built A-Frame and Dog Walk are no longer safe to use.  From tiny cracks, they have finally rotted through in several places.  They only lasted 3 years outdoors despite caulking, several coats of paint, and no excessive use.  Oddly, one could not see the rot from a casual visual inspection.  I accidently pushed my thumb clean through a board trying to move it, then checked everyplace else.  Thank goodness the dogs didn't get hurt because they're on the equipment all the time.

I've been waiting for cooler weather to rebuild, but now that it's cooler weather I always seem too busy.  But I took the time today to assess what materials I need to repair them, and took a few i-photos to illustrate where they gave way on my push.  Seems it was always at the water collection points or where a few pernicious wood mushrooms grew and cracked the wood.

Anybody who doubts the wisdom of getting aluminum equipment for outdoor use if you can afford it, show them these pictures.

I thought I did a good job building my equipment --solid wood, clamped glue, caulk wherever water might gather, primer, several coats of paint, screwed not nailed, reinforced at all the stress points.  But I didn't use pressure treated wood, to save on weight.  On my rebuild, you can bet I'll use pressure treated wood.  My A-frame is on wheels anyway so weight doesn't matter.

Dog Walk rotted under the slats, almost clean across.
The dog walk rotted on the edges just below a feww slats, and was rotten almost clean through under the slats.

I feel naked without my dog walk and A-frame.  The see saw, by the way, is doing fine -- I think because it doesn't have slats holding moisture on the board.  I think I know what I'll be doing the whole month of December.  That will be my Merry Christmas to my dogs.

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canine Good Citizen Test thru AKC

Jo Beth Britt (Evaluator), Lucky and me.
She congratulates me for passing the test.
Lucky and I passed our Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test two Saturdays back, plus our TDI (Therapy Dog International), which adds another component to the test.  Several of our club members' dogs were being tested, I videoed them all with permission using my brand new HD camera, and used a trial version of AVS Video Editor to edit the best one below (of Blair and Torren) to illustrate the disciplines tested for:
  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting (including the paw touch)
  3. Appearance and grooming (including brushing)
    (These 1st 3 are combined in what looks like one exercise.)
  4. Out for a walk on a loose leash (left turn, right turn, about face)
  5. Walk thru a noisy crowd
  6. Sit and down on command/Stay in place
  7. Come when called
  8. Reaction to another dog test (should be no reaction)
  9. Reaction to distraction (loud noise and jogger going by)
  10. Leave it (TDI only)
  11. Supervised separation from handler (3 minutes)

It was nice weather, cool. windy and sometimes noisy at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield parking lot.  Not everyone passed.  It's a wee bit more difficult than it looks.  Lucky and I had a few bobbles, like her collar being too tight, her trying to visit with the other dog in "Reaction to another dog", and veering toward the food bowl on the first pass, but I got blamed for those, not her. I had over-tightened her collar for the test, I forgot to say "Sit" as we approached the other dog, and passed within 2' of the bowl instead of 3'. We nailed it the 2nd try. 

A few additional points:
  • Dogs need to be clean, nails clipped, well groomed.
  • Handler is also being evaluated. Should be neat and clean, calm and pleasant, attentive to and obey the judge immediately, no smart talk, harsh talk or goofy behavior.
  • No treats allowed during testing.
  • You can talk to your dog all you want.
  • You can touch/pet your dog.
  • No corrections such as snapping the leash, saying "NO" or AAAH, or anything like that. Certainly no whacking, bopping, or yelling.
  • Loose leash at all times.
  • Dog should be paying attention to you, following you.
  • No jumping up on people, even in greeting.
  • No visiting with other dogs.
  • Evaluator observes dog's behavior the entire time they are on premises, not just when they are being tested.  Lunging, growling, fighting, whining, jumping up on people, being highly distracted at any time can disqualify them.
  • Dog's collar should be loose enough for a collar grab (2 finger space at least).
  • The title covers both dog and handler, and if a different handler wants to take a CGC certified dog to pet therapy venues, a separate title must be earned.
CGC can be added to the dog's official AKC name along with their other AKC titles, so Lucky's official name now is:

Nothing is added to the handler's name.  I'm still just Michele T. Fry, NP

Our club provides 6 weeks of "training to the test" prior to the judge arriving, and while it isn't required, the class really helps.  One learns a bunch of tricks to help your dog pass.  Lucky, for example, often growls if you touch her paws.  But she will shake with anyone.  Tracey coached me to say "Shake" at the same moment the judge was about to take her paw.  It worked.  Forewarned, she didn't growl.

The class was open to the public, $25, all of which applies to the cost of the test if you take it, plus an $8 processing fee to AKC to be sent in with the paperwork.

THOUGHTS:  I may never do Pet Therapy with Lucky, but I want her to have the title and know the drill.  She and Maxie are both comfortable in crowds, and both have a very good "leave it" when I set food on the coffee table -- unlike my older dogs FoohFooh and Willow who rush at oncoming dogs on our walks, can't resist any available food, and make pests of themselves with begging.  A few sessions of early obedience training has made all the difference with my younger dogs.  They are beneficiaries of going to school and my improved dog training skills.
Upwards and onward!

P.S. Maxie earned his CGC/TDI back in 2009 and has made quite a few Pet Therapy visits. Willow, who could NEVER pass the test because she won't sit/stay or walk on a loose leash, accompanies us and is a wonderful Pet Therapy dog as well. Everyone loves her, she is soft, pettable, and friendly, and our club's Pet Therapy program allows non-certified dogs to participate.  So why did I bother getting Lucky certified?  Because it's good training, very cheap, so why not get a certificate along with it!

Acorns Galore

What the mower, with vacuum attachment, left behind.
My agility yard has developed a new problem -- ACORNS GALORE.  We've always had acorns, but this year it's like hail hitting the house day and night, for weeks on end.  I've been thunked on the head a few times, too, and that hurts.  Squirrels are scurrying too and fro in massive numbers. One can hardly walk under the oak trees without skidding. The crunching nose is wierd.  Afraid they were dying, I called Naylor's Hardware and Johnny said no, it's just a nationwide bumper crop like few he's ever remembered.  In my 38 years at Old Hammond Hideaway, I don't remember anything like it.  When I Googled "bumper crop of acorns" I ran across this Boston Globe article and discovered it's a nationwide phenomenon.

Yesterday we tried mowing/vacuuming them up, but the mower just picked up leaves and left the acorns behind.  This morning I took some pix and put together my first Windows Live slide show as a way to explore the built-in software on my new computer.  After some experimenting, I found I had to upload the video to YouTube rather than directly to the blog, then embed it here to get reasonable picture quality.  It's a huge HD file.  The "for the web" file that uploaded here was horribly grainy, and this one seems to be messing up the contrast.  The acorns seem sunken in instead of protruding --not like the original photos.

A Giant Problem - Acorns Galore

Now what?  I can't very well rake 'em up, as the small acorns go through the tines.  John voluneered to push broom the entire area under the trees, about 1/3 of my agility practice yard, and bag them.  But, they are still falling like hail when the wind blows, so there's no point in all that work right now.  I'll have to confine my training to the grassy parts.

Which is doable if I move the weaves and carpets over there.  I hate to kill my good grass with the carpet, but I need it to practice my Weave Relays before the Lake Charles trial.  Unless I can improve Lucky's speed, no way she will ever get qualifying scores in Excellent B.  I also improve my MACH points with Maxie, and chances of QQ's if he doesn't pop out of the weaves.

Always something else to resolve.  Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Now I Like Football. WHY???

LSU/Alabama Game
Everyone knows I have NEVER liked football. Mostly because my Dad made our whole family miserable as he simultaneously watched on TV and listened on the radio to EVERY football game he could get near.  Sometimes he had 2 TV's stacked on top of each other watching 2 different games, then listening to another one on the radio, while his guests went unnoticed.  When you picked him up at the airport for a rare family visit, or he met you at the airport, all he wanted was to get to a TV screen.  Couldn't even say Hello first.  And, he'd get irate and grumble if anyone talked or blocked the screen so he missed a play, or, if he appeared to be sleeping and Mom turned the volume down.  It never ended.  There was always another game.  If not football, then baseball, as though he were playing the games himself.  All of which scared me silly as a girl, and disgusted me as an adult. While his 3 boys were in college over a 10 year span, Dad had season tickets to all the home Tulane and LSU football games.  We would drive the 200 miles round trip from Slidell nearly every weekend to attend the games.  I sat with him and Mom in the stands, often surrounded by drunken, screaming louts, and Dad yelling at them to "si-down".  By the time I went to LSU, he and Mom had mercifully moved to Florida.

It was not a festive atmosphere, so as soon as I could get away from that oppression, I did.  My student ticket went un-used. I never tailgated, never married nor ever dated, nor ever even hung out with any friends or acquaintances who were football fanatics.  To this day, I steer clear of sports fanatics.

HOWEVER, now that I'm trying to develop a few piddlin' skills as a dog agility handler - like running for a minute without panting, executing front crosses without twisting an ankle, trying to commit handling moves to muscle memory, not lose my focus at every distraction, pick up my feet when I sprint, put a little speed on when I run, I've come to notice, to appreciate how the players can twist and turn and stay in an explosive game for 2 hours without collapsing, how they seem to know where the ball is and which direction to run in amidst the blur of human flesh, how they fling themselves through space with 100% resolve, arms and legs flailing, land with a horrific thud, and get right back up like an inflated punching doll.  How 6 giants can pile on top of a 7th one, and he doesn't come out flat as a pancake with 12 broken bones.

How do they do that?  It's begun to intrigue me.  Besides innate talent, testosterone, macho, and team pride, it's clear to me now that there's a whole, whole, whole bunch of training going on, as in this video of the daily training schedule posted in the LSU Atheletic Department's website.  Agility students will recognize the laddar.  Yes, our novice dogs do laddar training for "rear leg awareness", but our handlers don't!  We barely address the moves required of our "handling skills", certainly never by rote like football players do, much less "handler fitness".  We don't even warm up before our runs.

It's inspires me to contemplate that football players can't play at all, much less win, without constant training.  I have begun to marvel at their dedication. And then, there's the development of their mental game, learning to adjust instantaneously to constantly changing scenarios, rude jeers and taunting, without getting disoriented or shook up.  I take heart that these skills can all be learned.  It's marvelous, really.

LSU intersepts Alabama's
ball on the 1 yard line.
With my new-found perspective, I'm beginning to enjoy watching football, especially with friends, especially the "great plays" like this one at last weekend's LSU/Alabama game.  Whew, that was something!  I'm not to the point of insanity.  I don't stoop to rudeness (though I might choose not to attend a party at a home without a large HD TV).  I don't care that much who wins (except for LSU), so long as the uniforms are attractive, the cameras catch great video and show lots of instant replays.  I won't be bringing my wireless to an agility trial and listen to a game in between all my runs, nor cruize the arena looking for anybody who knows the current score, like some agility competitors do.  But I've begun to appreciate a good game once in awhile, and especially a spectacular play, even if the people around me are gasping and screeching, cussing the coaches, referree's or players, and in some cases, all blotch faced and crying.

I've also come to realize that football fanatacism is a prevelant disease -- so I've more or less forgiven my Dad for his addiction.  Why, Naylors Hardware practically threw me out last Saturday at 4 p.m. as I was choosing my lettuce plants.  They were closing 2 hours early for the game.

Yes, I've come a long way. And that's another Upwards and Onward for me.


Monday, November 7, 2011

New Camera Necessitates New Computer

For my 65th birthday (not for 2 more weeks, but it was on sale in October), my husband bought me a new Sony Handycam HDR-XR-160 Video Camera, with extra battery, charger, carrying case, protection program and all the trimmings.  SWEET!  I take so many videos and spend so much time transferring them from camera to computer, video cataloging, editing, the uploading to web albums, mostly waiting for the computer to complete an action, and all that for blurry quality and slow playback, he knew I've been jones-ing for better equipment.

Took some videos with the new unit the next weekend, tried uploading them to my old computer and it said I didn't have enough processing speed.  OOPS!  So, off I went to Best Buy the very next day, looking for a new laptop as well (mine is about 5 years old).  I've been looking around for 2 years or so and hadn't found anything I remotely liked.
I said a fervent prayer as I entered the building that I'd find the perfect laptop for me.  I waited til I felt the prayer "catch", held my breath as I ambled to the back  -- and there she was, first unit I laid my eyes on - a 17.3" TOSHIBA Satellite with Quad Core AMD processor, webcam, a decent graphics card, lots of RAM and a big hard drive, and a beautiful grey shell (most of them are shiny black these days and show every fingerprint, which is a deal-killer for me).  I swear, it was glowing.  It had a halo around it.  AND, it was on special.  I brought John back the next day to take a look, he loved every feature, and I took it home along with a nice carrying case and the 3 year protection plan (which includes a second battery).  All together it set me back $800, but that's not so bad considering how much time I spend on it. It was less than the total camera package!  I'm going back to get John an identical Satellite this week -- it will be his Christmas present from me.  We don't want anything else.
So, now I'm neck deep in setting up my new unit, transferring essential files from old computer to new, upgrading programs, etc.  And, testing its power.  Last night I streamed the first half of Dr Zhivago wirelessly off of Netflix, on battery power, in my bathroom while I soaked in a hot tub.  Picture quality was great, no pixellating whatsoever, no "loading" waits.  I carried the unit all around my yard and got perfect wireless reception clear out into the labyrinth, the shed, etc.  WHOA!  And after 2.5 hours, the battery is still more than half charged.

I've been dreading this upgrade for two years.  It was psychologically impossible for me until now, but suddenly I'm in the right frame of mind!  I've met my 2011 goals.  All else is lagniappe.  Processing/editing better videos next year, studying them in slo-mo, making composites, is paramount. I'm tunnel-visioned into the task, accepting confusion, frustration, surprise, expense and delay as part of the journey. Working my 3P's mantra:
Patience, Persistence, Prayer

So far it's working.  I've set no time limit.  However long it takes, it takes.  I'm making progress every day.  Every program I've used and loved (Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Course Designer, my scanner, my printer, etc), are old, all need new drivers or reactivation codes to function on the new computer, which I have to search for on the internet.  Today I may get my ,pst email addresses and folders transferred.  I've had to seek out tutorials on where to drill down to find them in hidden files on the old computer.  Still, I'm calm.
RANT: Still, I can't imagine how Microsoft has stayed in business and kept selling new product with such difficult procedures required to set up their equipment, email accounts, wading thru screen after screen of pop-ups offering you choice after choice on things you don't know what they are or whether to click yes, no, or "learn more", with a thousand side tracks luring you to follow until you forget where you originally intended to go, then end up with nothing for the day. Kind of like real life.  Talk about a labyrinthal experience!!!

Oh, I should mention, John also printed out the 128 page manual on how to operate the camera, which I'm also wading through a page here and a page there.  And, I discovered that the video editing software I was using can't read/handle the new AVCHD hi-def files my new camera takes. Sh-t! Now I have to purchase new video editing software. I'm online researching what programs might work, and there will be a whole new learning curve for that.
While this is taking up most of my focus, I'm not writing about other milestones, like the LSU/Alabama game where all my neighbors revealed their insanity as LSU scraped out another narrow victory in the last 2 seconds; like Lucky Lucy's CGC/TDI test, which she passed.  I'll do Lucky's writeup when I process the videos to go with it.  That will be -- whenever it is.  No need to discuss the ridiculous antics of LSU football fans, players or coaches -- the whole country is talking about little else, and I've got some new thoughts about football.

Upwards and onward!