Wednesday, December 28, 2011

La Quinta Inn - Tallahassee

I try to keep a record of our trip statistics, in case we pass this way again.  So, for our trip from Baton Rouge to Cape Coral:
We departed BR at 3:30 p.m., arrived at LaQuinta Tallahassee North (described below), (exit 199 off of I-10) at 11:45 BR time -- 8.25 hours on the road, 435 miles covered, averaging about 53 miles an hour.  We stopped about every 2 hours along the way to pottie Max and Willow, and ourselves, stretch our legs, buy coffee and food.  First stop was the Mississippi Welcome Center, forgot to record the other stops.  We'd have made better time except for taking Florida Blvd all the way to Walker then cutting over to the interstate, to avoid near stand-still traffic from O'Neal thru Denham Springs.  plus lots of 18 wheelers and aggressive drivers riding our rear bumpers, weaving in and out at 80+ mph, and several conjested areas, light rain and fog, where traffic moved at closer to 60 mph.  I kept a steady 75 mph as much as possible thanks to my trusty speed control.  By 10 p.m. we had I-10 mostly to ourselves.  Gas prices all along the route about 3.35/gallon for Regular.
John and the dogs rest in our spacious room, #163.
The end wing, on a forrested slope, where we stay.
Arriving at this LaQuinta Inn is like coming home (we stayed here last year, too).  Friendly welcome, speedy checkin, clean comfortable spacious room and bath, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast including grits and hard boiled eggs (not just the usual cereal, bagels, toast and jelly), large flat screen TV, pets welcome and stay free.   Great price at $54/night (with AARP discount), $60 with tax.  I like 3 p.m. checkin and NOON checkout.  We got to sleep in late and depart leisurely.  Also, up to 6 p.m. cancellation on day of arrival.

Motel style, one can park at your door in most rooms. Our favorite rooms, though, are from 167 - 159, all facing a downward sloping forrested hill (the dogs can pottie right out the door), dotted with camellia and azelea bushes, mounded with pine straw, very charming.  There's a grassy area to the far left, where they even provide a poopie bag dispenser. Parking is at the side and bottom of the hill.  A quiet, homey wing and still not far to lug your luggage. 

I experienced my first "Book On Tape" on this trip, Dean Koontz's Sole Survivor, which my son had given us months before but we never had time to listen to.  Driving, there was nothing else to do but drive, sip coffee, listen.  John operated his little Sony Megabase portable CD player (my antique car only has a cassette player), but he was able to route the sound thru the car speakers with some kind of cassette adapter, and it sounded GREAT!  Along with strong coffee, cigarettes and gum, it kept me wide awake and on the edge of my seat (I do most of the driving).  A very suspenseful, graphic book with amazing descriptions.  That we can pause and discuss interesting facets makes "reading" this way an interactive experience!  We like that.

Max and Willow are awesome travel dogs.  Maxie nestles by my side and never moves, Willow rides in the back window and rarely moves -- unless food comes out.  They are incredibly patient and calm.   Willow knows the difference between me leaving home for a few hours, which doesn't bother her, and us going on a road trip. She screeches horribly, as though seriously injured, if she thinks we will leave her behind.

A few days later I received a La Quinta survey asking them to evaluate my stay.  I got to complain about the lack of a bathtub stopper and no repair offered.  I used a wadded up wash cloth to hold the water in the tub.  I also mentioned about the dog area having too much poop on the ground. I recommended they tell everyone at check-in to pick up after their dogs. (Those who don't make a bad name for the rest of us, so I usually pick up mine and more every time we go outsideI)  got a personal email back from the hotel manager apologizing for the inconvenience, assuring us we'd have the same room on our return trip and there would be a stopper in the tub, and they would redouble their efforts to keep the pet area clean!

NOTICE TO DOG PEOPLE:  We should be keeping the area clean ourselves.  There aren't too many motels that will receive us to begin with, and fewer still that don't charge a pet fee!

We will stay here on our way back home after the New Year.  I highly recommend this place to anyone travelling in the area, especially with dogs.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Day at the Rehab

My mom, almost 91, with Maxie & Willow
Greetings from sunny Cape Coral, Florida.  Temp 80 degrees.  John, Maxie, Willow and I drove 900 miles to bring a little Christmas cheer to the rehab where my 96 year old Dad is recouperating from a broken hip, and in failing health, and to my Mom who is trying to figure out how to manage him when (if) he comes home.  We'll be here through New Years Eve, staying some with Mom at her condo, and some near the rehab at LaQuinta Inn Ft. Myers, where I have a wi-fi connection and can blog about this unusual experience.  We left Lucky and FoohFooh at home with our good friends, Laura and Portia, who are house-sitting.

Christmas Day we came for lunch, decked out in our Santa hats and ready to put on a dog show.  We managed to lift a few spirits, if only for a few minutes.

Of course Max and Willow always attract attention when they prance side by side, fur afluttering, down the halls of any facility.  Everyone stops to look, some reach out and want us to stop and talk about "the twins".  And trust me, NOBODY showed a preference for Willow's gorgeous conformation quality straight coat and symmetrical blaze to Maxie's "disqualifying" curls and assymetrical blaze, nor noticed Maxie's "professional grooming" to Willow's lack thereof.  In fact, I'll go ahead and declare that eye contact, friendly personality and obedience will trump conformation and professional grooming any day of the week.

John took videos of our "dog show", which I've edited together below. It's very telling.  Even the lady who seemed comatose responded, but mostly my Mom, who went around chuckling, telling people they were her "grand-dogs", Dad requesting special tricks, and Mom going "I can't believe that!" when they did something especially obedient or cute. We got quite a few laughs out of Mom and a few out of Dad.

Here's the video:

Not pictured was the nursing station where numerous staff was looking on and being entertained as well.

Watching my doggies put smiles on a few faces made our Christmas merry in spite of being so far from home!  Laughter is good medicine. 

Dad, especially, wasn't in the Christmas spirit at all when we arrived, but by the time we left he was willing to pose with Mom in our santa hats.  Some photos included the dogs, but this one is the best of them.

Oh, I must report: On the way into the rehab we saw two men sitting on the patio with a male version of Lucky Lucy on leash.  The owner was in rehab, his friend brought his dog for a visit. When I said "I like your Blackmouth Cur", they were shocked! "You know what this is?" "Yes, I have one just like him at home". So we talked for 10 minutes, and their dog was just as gentle, friendly and schluppy as Lucky is. They reported this dog kills possums and raccoons -- the way Lucky dispatches armadillos. He snaps at flies, too. Dogs are great ice-breakers, aren't they? Without the dog there, I would have passed right by.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Maxie's 1st Visit To A Dog Groomer

For our upcoming Christmas visit to Mom and Dad's (in Florida), and anticipating frequent pet therapy visits to Dad's rehab, I decided after 4.5 years of "doing it myself" to take the plunge and have Maxie professionally groomed.  A papillon friend highly recommended her groomer in Watson. I made the appointment over the phone for 10 a.m. yesterday, and was looking forward to it. It was NOT a good experience!

First off, I think a groomer should put you at ease, and having run a day care for nearly 30 years with hundreds of parents leaving their babies and preschoolers off with me, I know what that takes. Groomers should also have some showmanship, some pinache! I was so ill at ease leaving Maxie off with these particular strangers for 3 hours, I nearly threw up.
I've never left Maxie in a strange place with anyone -- ever.  Second, it was way down at the end of a lonely road in Watson, in a ramshackle house with a front yard/porch that reminded me of Sanford & Son.  Inside was old but clean.  The owner wasn't mean but just busy thus perfunctory, her hair was died purple, her daughter's hair was red and fluorescent pink. Next, they never checked the shot records they had asked me to bring, until I offered them the paperwork.  Next, they made no suggestions, just asked me to explain what I wanted, and especially what I didn't want (no shaved anus, bobbed tail, or trimmed ear feathers).  I, being a novice who doesn't know how papillons are supposed to look, was hoping they would examine Maxie and offer suggestions. NOT.  At one point the electricity went out.  Not a good omen.  Then, they said "We'll call you when we're done, maybe around 3.  OH NO, I REPLIED.  YOU TOLD ME AROUND 3 HOURS, AND I'VE ALREADY MADE AN APPOINTMENT TO TAKE MY CAR IN WHEN  I'M DONE HERE.  So the owner offered to "push my dog ahead of 12 others" -- an almost sure way to get a rush job!  I didn't like that.  After I snapped a few "before" photos, they grabbed Maxie out of my arms and disappeared into a back room, and just like that he was gone.  And their last words to me were "the more often you call, the longer it will take us to finish."  In other words, go away and don't bother us.

I drove off heavyhearted and trepidacious, worried about the power, the back room, etc. I called within minutes to check on the power.  Yes, it was on.  I called 10 minutes later because I forgot to mention how I wanted his belly shaved.  Okay, will do.  I argued with myself that I should trust my friend who brought her Papillon there regularly and recommended these people as "excellent".  I decided to call her for assurances, saying to myself that if she answered that would be an omen to leave him there.  (In all the time I've known her she has never once answered her phone.)  She answered.  I tried to talk but words barely came out, then I began to cry.  She talked me through a bawling jag with just enough assurances that I went ahead and left him there.

Nowhere near home, my plan was to go to Wal-Mart in Denham and finish my Christmas shopping.  I walked the aisles for 2.5 hours, with puffy eyes, an upset stomach, and dazed.  When they called I checked out immediately and rushed back.  Maxie leaped into my arms and curled up so close under my chin, when they asked "Do you like it?", I couldn't see his cut at all.  Paid my $40 and left.  Didn't care if he was bald or butchered so long as he was alive and well and back in my possession.  He was still damp, and very nervous.  But he smelled good.  They hadn't pottied him so I took him outside where he peed on his freshly washed paw.  He wasn't himself.

Once home I dared take a look and took some After pictures.  He looked freshly washed.  Yes they trimmed his nails a bit, bathed, conditioned and blow dried him mostly dry.  They trimmed his feet, but not in the rabbit foot cut Papillons are supposed to have, just a round cut.  They shaved his belly but didn't taper the chest hair like I do, so he still can pee on it.  They bobbed his arm feathers in a "straight cut", didn't bother feathering the bob so it looks chopped off, unnatural, and it's still so long he can pee on the bottom hairs.  I have to reshape and feather these.  They did not trim his tail or culottes, which still needed shaping.  They did nothing to solve the whispy hair problem on his back and chest which makes him look frumpy these days.  The anus trim is fine.  The runny eye stain I sent him in with was still there, telling me they didn't bother to wash his face.  In short, he looks about the same as after I wash and fluff him.

Very disappointing, not what I'd call a professional job, not what I was looking for.  I do as good or a better job at home.  It's about the same way I feel when I get my own hair styled.  I ask for a shape and trim and get a whack job I hate.  I ask for a "body wave" and get a pile of frizz that has to grow out for a year.  That's why I just wear my hair straight and cut it myself.  I guess it will be the same for my dogs -- no more groomers for us. Certainly not these ones.  Dog groomers should consider the trauma parents feel leaving their dogs with strangers, and work harder to gain their confidence.

L to R: Laura, John, Nathan, Portia,
Allison, Alex, Audrey. I, of course,
am taking the picture.

5 hours later, my heart still palpitating, face still puffy, I had to prepare for our family Christmas Dinner at Red Lobster, (my treat in lieu of my usual Christmas and New Years parties as I'll be out of town).  I was dragging, feeling stressed.  Once there, we feasted, enjoyed ourselves, swapped gifts, etc.  My son gave John and me a Kindle, there were gift cards, LSU gear, and tasty treats.
Shark Pet Vac
I handed out books, outdoor thermometers, and Shark Pet Vacs (in preparation for the new baby coming to our family), which are awesome for cleaning pet hair off of upholstery (far superior to the Dirt Devil which in my opinion is worthless).  I told my dog groomer story, which got some laughs, and others shared similar experiences about the emotional trauma of boarding their pets.  It makes me ponder . . . . . if I could set so many children's parents at ease leaving them with me 5 days a week, surely I could do as well with dog owners.  What are the ramifications of running a boarding house/school for dogs? I haven't the slightest idea, though I have boarded a few friend's pets and I enjoy the spare cash plus giving them the royal treatment.  John enjoys it too. 

Humm . . . . . my latest fortune cookie says "a new business venture is coming your way" . . . . . and this is an intriguing idea.  We have the room.  Yet the very thought of going into a full scale business again, managing staff, licensing, zoning, inspections, filing quarterly taxes, etc., makes me tired.  I ain't as ambitious as I used to be, nor as young, nor as hungry.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dog Furniture - My New Armoire

On my birthday last month, touring an antique store, I saw a huge, deep but very expensive antique armoire which gave me the idea of how I might stow my dog gear out of sight, instead of offloading it onto my dining room table (where it's been all year)!  I began searching nearby antique and furniture stores, but found nothing I liked or could afford.  Then I tried Craigs List, typed in "armoire", and up popped this beautiful, almost new 7' high, 4' wide, 25" deep armoire (actually a bedroom entertainment center), that fits beautifully in my high ceilinged den and fits absolutely "everything dog" in it.  It was in a nearby subdivision, too.  Cost $400!  For a solid wood piece, modern, beautifully curved, in pristine condition, that's cheap.

John helped me move it last Friday.  Using his truck and my car, a dolly and lots of blankets, plus lots of patience, planning, and sweat, we did it in 2 trips, 3 hours.  It was a real struggle getting it around corners and up stairs.  Very heavy.  Thank goodness the top and bottom pieces are separate. 

The 3 upper shelves are adjustable and hold everything from satchels to coolers, dog grooming items to ribbons boxes, and my camper food box.  Even my Clean Run magazines, and a box of course maps from all the trials I've been to.
It looks lighter in the camera flash,
but this photo shows how
the wood grain was greatly
enhanced by the wax.
The 3 bottom drawers are huge and hold all my dog toys, collars, coats, sweaters, training aids, treats, meds, and crate blankets.  It's perfect. Now "everything dog" is in one place.

Only thing I didn't much like was the dull finish and dusty grayish overtones that didn't quite go with my other furniture. So last night I put a good coat of Pate Dugay French paste wax on it, Brun Rustique containing a dark stain, and today I buffed it out. My elbows and shoulders hurt but it now has a darker, richer color, more depth and a beautiful sheen. I can hardly take my eyes off of if. It's good to be in love with furniture again.

To fit the armoire in the den, I had to move my antique spinet piano out of the way (which I no longer play), and now I've refurbished that and listed it on Craigs List.

And my table is clear again (oops, now I see I'll have to refurbish the table as well). It's been a few years since I gave it the attention it deserves.

One more way dog training is changing my life, re-arranging my furniture, and dinging my pocketbook.  Merry Christmas, you Doggies!

Upwards and onward!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Studying My Trial Videos

THE "HOWARD COSELL" EFFECT: Now that I have decent video editing software, I can string together, study and comment on a whole trial weekend's performance "in a string", seeing what we're doing right, and note where our mistakes are so I can systematically work on correcting them.

Again, the football analogy comes to mind, with skilled sportscasters explaining the details of every play as it unfolds.  Peggy Flemming and Scott Cunningham do likewise for Ice Skating competitions, naming each element as it happens (tripple lutz, quad, etc.), and even the AKC Agility Nationals have commentators talking thru each run.  It blows my mind that they can be so detailed and fluid in their impromptu commentary.  It's hard to do.

Here's my first attempt, of Maxie's 6 runs in Lake Charles (minus 1 that didn't get videoed), using my new AVS Video Editing Software and Labtec microphone.

SUMMARY: Maxie ALWAYS ran considerably under course time, and his only fault in this trial (except one knocked bar at the start line), was incorrect weave performance.  Twice he popped out at the 10th weave, another time he entered from the wrong side.  Even when he Q'd, he sometimes walked the weaves.  On the up side, he didn't once get distracted by the neighing horses in the stalls or scents of horse poop, as he did last year in this same arena! He didn't once visit the bar setters! He rarely head checked me. We've made progress.

Even in areas where we didn't fault, improvements are desirable.  He should completely ignore the dog walk and A-frame unless I say UP, should accept re-positioning at the start line, and make tighter turns when asked.  I also want a solid DOWN on the table, and runs out to the tip end of the see-saw.

As to my own performance, I'm running a bit faster, my timing has improved, my handling more fluid, I'm getting comfortable with blind crosses, less afraid of front crosses, and I didn't get lost on course even once.  I still have trouble with alertness in the morning, am easily disoriented, and I easily lose focus at the slightest unexpected bobble.  My mental game definitely needs work, as well as my speed and nimblenes.
I plan to do these studies for all 10 2011 trials and will add links to them below as I complete them, identifying our most frequent faults and working on those the hardest.  Thus, I won't be training as haphazardly next year, and I suspect I can up my Q rate faster by working on the biggest problems first.  That's the current game plan anyway.
When I NQ on a run with 1 fault, I sometimes fail to consider we got about 19 out of 20 things right -- 6 mistakes vs. 114 correct moves in a 3 day weekend, or about a 96% accuracy rate.  That isn't bad for a fairly newbie trainer/handler with her first agility dog.
I'm encouraged that our progress is still upwards and onward!

MAXIE: (Going For Our Masters) 
6 runs, 2Q's, 2 1st places, MX TITLE, 38 MACH Points
6 runs, 1 Q, 1st place, 20 MACH Points
6 runs, 4 Q's, 5th QQ, MXJ Title, 2 4th Places, 36 MACH points
2011, June 23,24,25 Monroe, LA OVDTC Trial Video Composite
6 runs, 3 Q's XJ, XJ, XS, 2 3rd places XS and XJ, 4th QQ, 39 MACH Points
2011, April 23,24 Brandon, MS BARK Trial Video Composite
4 runs, 3 Q's (XJ 2nd place, XS 1st place, XJ 2nd place), 3rd QQ, 42 MACH Points
2011, April 8,9,10 Port Allen, LA LCCOC Trial Video Composite
6 XB runs, 3 Q's, 2nd QQ, 1 1st place, 1 2nd place, 1 3rd place, 38 MACH points

2011, April 1,2,3 Amite, LA Deep South Trial Video Composite
6 runs, 3 Q's (two XS and one XJ), 2 1st places, 1 2nd place, 1st QQ, 87 MACH points

2011, March 18,19,20 Mobile, AL MM Trial Video Composite
6 runs, 2 XJ Q's, one 4th place
2011, February 18,19,20 New Iberia, LA Trial Video Composite
6 runs, 1 Q, XJ (5th place)

LUCKY LUCY (Novice thru Excellent):
2011, October 21,22,23 Kiln MS SDAC Trial Video composite.
2011, September 23,24,25 Kiln MS MMAC Trail Video Composite
2011, August 18, 19, 20 Hattiesburg, MS BARK Trial Video Composite
2011, June 23,24,25 Monroe, LA OVDTC Trial Video Composite
2011, April 23,24 Brandon, MS BARK Trial Video Composite
2011, April 8,9,10 Port Allen, LA LCCOC Trial Video Composite
2011, April 1,2,3 Amite, LA Deep South Trial Video Composite
2011, March 18,19,20 Mobile, AL MM Trial Video Composite
2011, February 18,19,20 New Iberia, LA Trial Video Composite

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Goal Setting for 2012

TEAMWORK: I'm finally on a real team!  In a real sport!  And I'm the coach.  Here's my assessment of my team's strengths and weaknesses and goals I'm setting around them:

MAXIE:  Most of Maxies NQ's were only one error short of Q's on his part, or totally my error panicking at the slightest bobble, missing the walkthrough, or getting lost on course. That's not so much of a gap to close next year, so I think with consistent weekly practice and better focus on my part, I can reasonably expect to double the number of QQs next year. This year was 5, so 10 next year seems not too outlandish a goal. 10 trials, 1 QQ per trial. At that rate it will take us 18 months for MACH.

"THINK SNOW": In Lake Charles I was talking with Chip G., a competitor who put a MACH3 on his Papillon, Snow, before retiring her.  He said they did that by trialing every other weekend for a few years, which put them into "a rhythm with a very strong connection" and they hardly ever missed.  Chip noticed that by trialing fewer times a year, the perfect rhythm was lost and QQ'ing was much more difficult.  I seriously doubt I'll EVER go to more than one trial a month, but perhaps as long as we're out on the field practicing twice a week between trials, and short sequences in my yard, I don't see why the team bond won't grow.  But that's me.  I question everything.  Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not.

But this Christmas decoration I've put on my entry table for many years has taken on a whole new meaning this year.  I added 2 Papillon pins, and all next year I'm going to THINK SNOW.

LUCKY LUCY:  My agility goals for Lucky are the same as I had for Maxie last year, her MX and MXJ, and as many QQ's as we can rack up.  She's fairly accurate, but unless a miracle happens and I break the "go slow" code, she won't rack up many MACH points even when she Q's.  But I believe in miracles, especially considering her stride is 4 times longer than Maxie's, she runs like a maniac every day when she feels like it, it's just a question of motivation.  So my underlying goal is to learn how to "transfer value" to agility for her.  (I've never had to do that with Maxie--he's always anxious to take his turn).  Susan Garrett's Puppy Peaks and Recallers courses teach that as a fundamental, and I'm enrolled in both of those, so I should be able to do it.

My other goals for Lucky include finding ways to tap into and exercise her inate "cur" talents -- hunting, herding, chasing stuff, maybe tracking.  I don't want to spread myself too thin.

MICHELE: I'll be NUMBER 1 in my own estimation if I continue taking charge of my health and performance - keep building up my knowledge, skill, stamina, muscle strength, speed, and focus, not expecting it to be given to me effortlessly. A few days ago I took a backward fall and landed hard on my back on our asphalt driveway trying to help John install our new mailbox. 2 years ago I would have been bruised and sore for days, but this time I instinctively rolled like a ball, got up immediately and kept on going. I never got sore.  That's one way I know I'm making progress. I keep running the tape in my mind of the LSU football players whose bodies take such beatings over and over, and they just bounce back uninjured.  I now know this can be trained for.
I know now I can shift from a night owl to an early morning person.  I've made a lot of progress in the latter department over the past 2 years, so much so that I often awaken around 5:30 and am up by 6, and can actually think by around 6:30.  I still don't get dressed until 10:30 or 11.  I do so love paddling around in my PJ's.  But I've proved I CAN make it to the arena by 7:15.  In one case, I was the first competitor there, not counting the course builders who got there around 6 a.m.!

I have a long ways to go, so I can look forward to another year of progress, addressing lots more challenges:
  • improve my physical game and handling skills
  • improve my mental game
  • avoid negatives
  • accentuate the positives
  • seek out more and wider learning opportunities
  • improve my teaching skills, helping other students "get there quicker" than I did
  • support the AKC
  • learn the ins and outs of running a trial
  • Rebuild my dog walk and A-frame
  • find a way to afford a motor home
  • master my video taking and editing skills
  • build an "agility armoire" to house all my dog training/trialing paraphranalia and still look good in the den
  • make some more agility friends, and be a better friend
  • I plan to be less involved with dog club politics in 2012, more focused on my own training/competing.  Still, I can't help but hope the Red Stick Agility arm of our dog club whips itself into some sort of team spirit.  I've heard we had that when we first pulled the field together. We each train/compete individually but still have a lot in common, sharing a jewel of a field, fully equipped, similar goals, and showing up at many of the same trials. It's another lesson I'm learning from LSU football -- the players do much better when they pull together, which I'm also learning depends on having a great leader (coach).
The ball is rolling. On top of all that, I have to be thinking of my Mom and Dad's health and living situations (he's recently diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and is in rehab with a broken hip).  Both in their 90's and living far away, we'll see where 2012 takes us on that.

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lake Charles Agility Trial - 2011 CKC

Maxie - 6 runs, 3 Q's (1 XJ, 2 XS), 2 1st places, 1 2nd place, 37 MACH points, 5 videos posted
Lucky Lucy - 6 runs, 1 Q (XJ),  6 videos posted
Well, no QQ's for Maxie this weekend (he Q'd once per day), though I have to say I was running faster and surer, and we were mostly just 1 mistake from Q'ing on each NQ run.  He ran fast and focused, always exceeded course time by 6-22 seconds) and I know for sure now there's a MACH dog in there.  We met our goal of adding at least 35 MACH points to our tally at this trial, but didn't get that 6th QQ we were hoping for. Mistakes were as follows:
  • XS Fri - no video, but he was under course time by 17 seconds, with only 1 fault, probably popped out of the weaves as I can't remember any other fault.
  • XJ Sat - knocked the first bar - he hasn't knocked a bar in over a year, but I positioned him, then repositioned him at the start.  I've never done that before, so I must have broken his concentration, or else the bar was barely on there (which happens).  Then he popped out of the 10th weave, still under course time by 7 seconds.
  • XS Sun - Skipped the 3rd weave. Otherwise a clean run with 10 seconds to spare, but the video shows his time could have been improved by at least 5 seconds with fewer wide turns.
SUMMARY: With Maxie's fast, reliable weaves at home, I can't figure out what to do about his less reliable weave performance at trials. Am I doing something different, like holding my breath, babysitting him, watching too hard?  As to the wide turns, we will practice more front crosses, which I tend not to do to spare my ankles, stronger pulls, and collection drills.
Lucky on the start line, intently watching a fly.
Lucky's runs went like this:  "Look a fly, try to catch it".  Flies in the stands, flies at the start line, flies in the ring.  OMG, flies everywhere, and Lucky the only dog I saw constantly lunging at them!  She must have captured and swallowed 3 dozen flies.  I couldn't always get her attention on the start line, nor in the que waving her tug toy in her face, or offering her peeled shrimp, and she HAS NEVER REFUSED THOSE before.  I once had to collar grab her at the start line and push her forward to the first jump, after which she proceeded along.  It must be programmed hard into her DNA to be a fly catcher!  Major distraction work is needed here.
  • XS Fri = clean run, but exceeded course time by 4.93 seconds.
  • XJ Fri - trotted around 3 jumps in a row, tracking flies, about the 15th obstacle decided to run and finished fast.
  • XJ Sat - Q, clean run, under course time by 1 second.
  • XS Sat - clean run, but exceeded course time by 9 seconds.
  • XS Sun - no faults until second to last obstacle, she leaped over the down contact on the A-frame.  Broke my heart because I failed to say "halt", tho I was pointing down.  Exceeded course time by .62 seconds anyway.
  • XJ Sun - clean run, but exceeded course time by 6 seconds.
SUMMARY: Lucky's problem continues to be lack of speed in the ring.  She is mostly accurate. Outside the ring, or in practice when I'm carrying her tug toy, she runs like the wind.  We'll be going to lots of matches next year.  We'll also practice on focus, learning to ignore flies and other distractions.  I also need to discover just how to "transfer value" (which Susan Garrett assures me can happen) from her favorite toys, tugging and fetching, and just plain running for joy, to agility.

Apparently I wasn't the only one whose entry got screwed up (last post).  Various CKC members proclaimed the situation "intolerable", "unacceptable", etc.  On Sunday they couldn't provide Q'ing ribbons, either, because they were left out on the scoring table and had gotten wet in the driving rain.  They offered to mail them out to us, which got a few serious competitors PO'd.  The trial secretary is going to catch some flack.  But my question is . . . . . has the club bothered to train her to take over when their usual trial secretary became unavailable?????  Here's a perfect example of my oft repeated concern -- clubs ought to be mentoring members for every job.  Never know when some key person will leave in a huff, move, die, have an emergency, etc.  Part of belonging to any club is being in a sharing environment.  One gets to learn things free of charge, or far, far cheaper than taking private lessons or paying school tuition.  Clubs are a natural outgrowth of people wanting to share what they know, meet and do things with others who enjoy common interests.  Sailing clubs, sewing circles, reading and/or writing groups -- all great social inventions that only work well with enthusiastic sharing, teaching, mentoring.

Audrey drove over from Baton Rouge on Saturday, stayed from 10:30 to 3:30, and it was real nice having a family member/best friend around. She brought me some of her famous sweet potato casserole, helped me manage the dogs and gave encouragement, but unfortunately she only saw the last 2 runs, neither of them Q's.

Saturday's Horrific Storm:  The weather was typical Gulf Coast once again -- cold, wet, and windy.  On Saturday about 4 p.m., in blew a horrible storm. The sky turned black, with north winds whipping thru at hurricane force, with trees bent over and heavy rain going sideways.  The dogs and I were tucked into the camper, and within 30 minutes of Audrey leaving the awning envelope was flapping and banging hard and relentlessly against the roof, the canvas walls were bowing in about 15".  Afraid my camper was going to blow over or the telescoping uprights that hold up the roof would snap, I made a command decision that it was better to be wet than crushed or broken, so I cleared the middle area, unzipped the clear vinyl window coverings on either side, draped them down over the couch cushions, and let the wind and rain blow right thru the camper.  I also unzipped the side windows a crack to let some air thru. This relieved enough pressure on the canvas walls, and they held.  We all sat out of the way, dry, on one bed, with all our belongings stacked on the other bed, for about 40 minutes, watching the water pour off the vinyl onto the floor.  Afterwards, I dried everything off with a beach towel, then swept about an inch of water out the door.  I don't know if Fleetwood designed this intentionally, but it was neat that the side windows had a rain flap, and the main window vinyl unfurls down when unzipped so it covered the couch cushions, which stayed mostly dry.  No damage was done, and the floor needed a good mopping anyway!

RV'ers Social: By 5:30, still raining on and off, about 30 RV'ers filtered into the concessions area of the arena and outdid themselves with a huge spread of food.  Each brought a dish, from home-made boar sausage, to shrimp scampi, rasberry salad, merlerton pie, and lots of desserts.  Judge Gerald Marotta attended. The boudin balls I brought from the King's Truck Plaze in Iowa were appreciated.  Tall agility tales were flying around, laughter abounded, I got acquainted with a few more folks.  Very colorful folks. So much talk, I didn't get to tell my harrowing tale about surviving the storm.

My new video camera rocks.  I was able to get vivid pictures, clear videos, and I can't wait to post a composite of all the closeup videos I took of Time2Beat dogs going thru the weaves. I hope to do that later this week, but with our mailbox down, a friend's funeral, weeding and decorating for Christmas needing doing, and this new laptop I'm still getting used to, it may be awhile.

My new laptop ROCKS! I was able to watch HD quality DVD movies Friday and Saturday night while tucked in the camper. Saw the first 2 seasons of Dallas!  Picture quality was great!  The built in speakers are adequate. I can import videos from my camera using Windows Live Photo Gallery, bypassing Sony's Picture Motion Browser, which I despise. 

RAFFLE: I managed to win 2 raffle items again. Paid $10 for 12 tickets, same as usual, and I'm guessing I came home with over $100 worth of loot.  What fun!
    Huge basket was full of LSU paraphranalia,
    including a few more items not shown.
    First, a huge basket full of LSU paraphranalia. I only put 2 tickets in the LSU drawing bag, and only because I liked the blue basket (matches my kitchen decor) for picking garden vegetables, and because Audrey called my attention to the potential Christmas gifts I could give my LSU-loving friends. I find it odd that I start liking football only 2 weeks ago, and the Universe immediately presents me with a huge LSU Flag, mug, dog collar, bracelet, blanket, back scratcher, piggy bank, LSU dog sweater that fits Willow perfectly, and other assorted LSU paraphranalia. That's how it works when one opens doors, (according to various scriptures, as well as my own pagan experience).
  2. I also scored 4 christmas hot chocolate mugs we'll surely use, with a Christmas vinyl tablecloth and rawhide chew wreath.  

I was actually not the last person to leave the campgrounds this time. Having figured how to shave off about 45 minutes and several buckets of sweat to camper set-up and take-down. Mostly, I store the shelving boards out on the floor instead of tucking them under the mattresses, I store the awning poles outside under the tongue end rather than the back end of the trailer (saving many steps), and I don't put out any decorative items. Also, by parking the camper with the door facing north, the sun hits the south side of the camper and gives afternoon shade where the table is -- so I don't need to put up the awning for shade purposes (in winter) -- a huge time savings.

Interstate Nightmare: The drive home was strange and stressful!  I left Lake Charkes at 2:30 Sunday with half a tank of gas, expecting a 2.5 hour, 140 mile drive, and didn't get home til 5 hours later, 7:30, because traffic on the interstate came to an idling standstill for 2.5 hours.  There was no news on the radio, so I called John and he couldn't find anything either.  I was watching my gas needle go down and had no idea where I was or where the nearest gas station was, so I eventually called 911 with my mile marker, and she said the Tiger Truck Stop was 2 miles ahead.  I reached it about 20 minutes later with less than half-a-gallon left in my tank - 9 miles worth.  It took another 15 minutes to pull up to the pump because the place was jam packed with people pulling off for gas, bathroom, food, and nobody was directing traffic.  The clerk said they had to call in another gas truck.  Oh, did I mention it was cold, windy, and drizzling? We found out that a cucumber truck had overturned at the Gross Tete exit at 10 a.m. and they expected it to take until 8 p.m. to get the interstate cleared.  I managed to park us in a safe spot, pottie the dogs in a grassy area, and prepared to stay put several hours if necessary.  About 6, though, I could see traffic moving on the overpass, got going, and made it home slowly but without further incident.  We had gas, plus a dry spot, food, water, money, my cell phone, nearby bathrooms, and each other, so I was calm.  The dogs mostly slept thru it all.

I always have done pretty well in a crisis.  I get practical. It was real funny watching numerous men jump out of their idling cars on the interstate, run across 40 yards of ditch, in the dark, to the woods, to pee.  Don't know what I would have done if I had had to pee. Certainly not cross a dark ditch! Probably just maneuver to the left lane, open both car doors on the drivers side, hold up a towel or sweater between them, squat, and pee on the road.

Motor Home Fever:  Of course, all those hours on the interstate and I'm thinking how I have to set the camper up to dry out the next day and what a pain that will be.   And all that while, in the next lane over, I'm idling alongside this beautiful BTCruizer motor home.  It looked small, about 24', with only 1 slideout, and seemed to be saying "Check me out! I'm perfect for you."  I called John and had him Google it, he printed out several sheets, and I Googled it the next day but we couldn't find one smaller than 27' with less than 2 slideouts or under $40,000.  I'm sure this one was shorter.  I'm now following a few E-bay bids.  Yes, okay, hell yes, I still want a motor home.  I can't see me setting up this camper when I'm 70, but I intend to do agility til I'm at least 75.  I want to stay packed and ready.
"The right motor home, at the right price, is on its way to me."
This basket is 15" across,
these grapefruits are 4" across,
a lot bigger than they look in this photo.
Monday evening John heard it was supposed to freeze overnight, so we picked about half the grapefruits (40) off our tree.  My new blue basket came in real handy!  John will take some to work, I'll take some to class and some to neighbors, and we'll be eating a grapefruit a day all thru December.  Mostly, I peel them like an orange, divide into segments, then peel back the thin bitter membrane on either side of each segment to get to the juicy pulp. Monday night got out the electric juicer and tried guessing how much juice was in one of the large ones, John saying 6 oz and me saying 5 oz.  He won.  Mixed half-n-half with Sprite, it makes a sweet dinner drink. Yum, yum!

  • Always gas up on the way there AND on the way back to any trial.  You never know when you'll get stuck idling on the interstate for half-a-tank's worth of going nowhere.
  • Pee before you leave, and every time you stop.
  • Have your car stocked with food and drink.
  • Don't bring the camper to Lake Charles ever again!  As someone said last year, you can always count on it being "cold, wet and windy in Lake Charles" in November.
  • Camping experience matters.
  • Backup Accommodations: The LaQuinta Inn in Sulphur had my reservation, and allowed me to cancel by 6 p.m. on arrival day.  The cost was about $50/night. Red Roof Inn offered some kind of 24 hour special that was about the same price.
  • Practice positioning and re-positioning my dogs at the start line. 
Now, with the weather cold and me staying in, I'm on to fooling with the 1st trial videos taken with my new camera.  I'm thinking of putting all of Maxie's videos together into 1 video per trial, with my audio commentary.  Same with Lucky.  Maybe a slow motion evaluation of good and bad points. We'll see how long it takes me to learn how to do that.

Upwards and onward!