Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Agility - The Mental Game

L to R:  Pepper, Lucky Lucy, Maxie
This is part of the quarterly Blog Action Day where agility bloggers all write on the same subject.  See what others have to say here.

The mental game has been at least 50% of the challenge for me in this sport, so much so that I can safely say if it wasn't A LOT OF FUN for me and my dogs to over ride the inertia of "comfort", I wouldn't do it at all.  Fortunately, I can afford the financial cost, so that's one problem I don't have.  But I've never been athletic, so making my body get out there and move, and in distinct ways, provides daily resistance.  EXERCISE (leg lifts, stretches, footwork, etc.) has never called my name, except for walking and swimming, both of which I love.  SPORTS have never interested me either -- I don't care to participate, and don't care which team wins!  I'm somewhat uncomfortable chatting with PEOPLE,  mostly because what interests me doesn't seem to interest them and vice versa.  Also, I find I never have enough time to learn enough, so I covet my private time.  So I'm not particularly suited for the bustling agility "scene"!

What does appeal to me is learning to communicate with my dogs and give them a wonderful life, and since they respond to body language that means I have to move my body.  I do agility for them.
For them, I've left the comfort of my home for classes and trials.  I've learned umpteen rules, which, by the way, I might direct you to my essay in the sidebar of this blog, Tips For The Novice Agility Competitor, to refresh you on how much you've had to learn and how far you've had to come to do this sport.  It's an eye-opener, especially for the seasoned agility instructor, reminding them how much their new students  have to learn in order to compete, and this doesn't even count training the dog!  It's intimidating!  One certainly needs a good mental game to endure it.

I've had injuries and illnesses - torn ligaments, twisted ankles, hip bersitis, pneumonia, cat and dog bites, vertigo, etc.  I've run my dogs with a TENS unit in my pocket and wires running under my pants leg to stimulate my sore calf muscle -- the only way I could endure the pain of the run. I've used and given away KT tape and ice packs to help others function at trials.  I see tons of knee braces, back braces, ankle wraps, etc., at trials, so I'm not alone in this.  Not to mention my eye problems -- my depth perception is way off since my cataract surgery 1.5 years ago.  This has been very depressing, like living with a continuous hangover.

Maxie, giving it his all.
Increasingly, I see people lining their dogs up for chiropractic and massage treatments.  It makes one wonder, why put our dogs through this sport if it's going to injure them?  Are we just doing it for ourselves?  One needs a good mental perspective to develop satisfying answers to these questions.  In my case, Maxie has needed some adjustments and isn't running as fast as before, and it turns out Lucky Lucy doesn't like being in arenas.  That is disquieting.  But . . . my dogs are bored to death if I don't do something active with them every single day.  They both enjoy movement, and I need movement.  They beg me to make them do tricks.  Agility seemed a good solution, so I've put 4 years into it, and loved it.   Truth be told, they'd be just as happy walking through the neighborhood, fetching balls, etc.  But that isn't sufficient for me, see.  I need more mental challenge than that.  I need to teach them stuff, and test their understanding, and occasionally it's nice to show them off.

Another significant part of my mental game has been learning how to tune out the critics and the ambilivants . . . . . just focus on my team.  When I'm at a trial, or even in class, I do my best to be friendly, attentive and supportive, but in the final analysis I'm there to be with my dogs and inch forward in our teamwork.  That's where the thrill is, for me.  I don't really enjoy being with people who aren't there for me.  Everyone is basically preoccupied, doing their own thing.  And then there are the rude people that nobody ever talks about.  The mental game helps provide the shield.

I enrolled in John Cullen's online courses via Cognitive Edge, learning a lot about setting up a Pre Competition Routine.  I've read books (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) about developing my mental game.  I've learned to love watching football games, (LSU and the New Orleans Saints in particular), because it amazes me what these "gladiators" go through to develop their physical skills as well as their mental game. What the human body can do, given proper and regular training and right mental attitude, is nothing short of miraculous.  I still don't know the rules of that game.  I just watch the players give their all -- pass and run and tackle and fly through the air, and arise unharmed after 20 guys have just piled up on them.  I want to be that way.  But I'm not.

I've done Susan Garrett's Puppy Peaks, but when I got my puppy (Pepper) 2 years ago, I didn't do many of the exercises.  Partly because I already train 2 dogs, partly because Pepper doesn't catch on as quickly as the other two and I'm not into the "thousands of repetitions" gig some dog trainers say is needed to train our dogs.  Maxie and Lucky Lucy spoiled me.  They learned quickly.  Not that it matters much.  I adore my beautiful Pepper-Tu, too. His manners are pretty good, and his antics are so funny!  He is very PRESENT and WITH ME in the most important ways.

Looking back, this whole blog has been mostly a chronicle about my involvement in this sport, but it also captures the enormous amount of work that goes into agility -- training, packing, travelling, filling out forms, learning the rules, solving training and other problems, building equipment and relationships, keeping up the training yards, setting goals, analyzing runs, developing a healthy mental game, streamlining processes, cutting losses, and carrying on despite the many disappointments and constant struggles.  Not that I'm trying to discourage anyone else, but lately I've been wondering why I continue when I could stay home where everything runs pretty much smoothly and I don't have to struggle so much.  There are a lot easier things to do.

I'm kinda in that mental space right now, wondering if just taking classes once a week and backyard training would satisfy me, without need to trial and compete for ribbons and titles.  Hopefully it's just a phase.  What did John Cullen's recent article call it  -- burn out.  I read the article -- all the ways to prevent burnout -- but I didn't even want to do those.

On top of that, there's my declining FoohFooh, my first dog for whom this FoohMax agility blog is named.  I never did agility with FoohFooh.    He was so smart, but I was not ready to handle his enthusiasm. I did the best I could. We did many tricks. He wowed our visitors with his roll-overs, hand shakes, fay-do-do's (i.e., bang, you're dead's), and such forth, but I had never heard of Agility in 1998. Nor even Obedience!  I was a highly skilled child trainer, but not a bit with dogs.  I made it up daily, but never caught up as he was so smart, I knew I was lagging right away.  But it wasn't until I acquired Maxie in 2008 that, never to make the same mistake, I began to search online for dog training tips.  Fooh is just as smart as Maxie, maybe smarter.  I failed him in so many ways.  He forgives me, and he's now so old, can barely stand.  We are waiting with baited breath for his last day.  Maybe 3 weeks, 3 months, not sure.  I don't want to leave him behind for a weekend of trialing and miss his passing.  That would scar my soul. So I tend to stay home.  His poor backbone sticks out, his paws curl under, he can barely make it down the steps to the yard, he barely responds to the call to go "outside", which used to excite him so.  We are all feeling kinda low around here, though he still loves his food.  Death sucks.  Is that bad?  Is it wrong to linger with a dying loved one and let them know how wonderful their blip of life was for you? Wrong to lose your mo-jo for awhile?  Wrong to feel depressed, sad, wound down?  Wrong to not respond to the enthusiastic urgings of the yet-healthy ones whose main focus is, without doubt, Me, Me, Me?  Gees, if fading away means nothing, why rise?

And then two weeks ago I tripped on a root after a stimulating class, landed flat on my belly, knocked the breath out of me.  I spit the dirt out of my mouth, got up and drove home, but within 2 days I realized I had re-strained my old knee ligament injury (which had me in a walker for 3 months a few years back), and I think I fractured a rib.  I've been in pain ever since, with NO desire or ability to practice the past two weeks.  Feeding and petting the dogs and letting them out is about all I can muster.  So that's "where I'm at" at this writing.

Hopefully, reading the other agility bloggers' posts will help me get back my mo-jo!  Bring it on.  No doubt, this agility gig has been a life-shifting, motivating, memorable ride and I don't regret it one bit.  Would I love to go to my own grave saying I had a CHAMPION AGILITY DOG?  Of course, I would.  And Maxie's only 7 QQ's from getting there, and we'd have been there long ago if it wasn't for just, every single trial day, just ONE LITTLE MISTAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

Happy Holidays to you all.  Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Missed Runs, Missed Trials

Being a frequent gate keeper (my favorite job), I often wonder why so many people have ABSENT scrawled by their names.  Why would they pay for a run then not show up?  It's so . . . . . uneconomical!

Well now I know.  I was paid up, the RV was all packed to leave out late Wednesday for Kiln (only 2 hours away), giving me plenty of time to set up and enjoy a bit of camping before Thursday's runs. Tuesday night, throwing in my last load of clothes, I decided to wash the house dress I was wearing, peeled it off me right then and threw it in the washer.  An hour later my husband emptied the washer for me, and I heard a big "UH OH!"  My iPhone was in the bottom of the basket!  It had been in my dress pocket and went through both wash and rinse cycles.  I had killed my phone!  I was dumbstruck.

Wednesday morning I called AT&T first thing.  If our 2 year contract was up for renewal I could get an identical 4S phone for .99 cents!  Otherwise a new phone is $549!!!!!    But they wouldn't talk to me about our contract because John's the only contact listed.  I had to wait til he got off work at 4 and meet me over there.  How dumb! Oh well, I could still leave Thursday morning.  The first dog on the line wasn't til NOON Thursday.  Plenty of time to get there by 10 and set up. 

We met up at AT&T at 4 Wednesday afternoon, and found out our contract has a year to go, so no cheap phone. They suggested we take mine across the street to iRepair, who took it apart and confirmed that it was fried.  Showed us the corrosion on the mother board.  But, they had a used one identical to mine for $200, so I bought it.  Of course it wouldn't have any of my contacts, apps or settings until I could sync it to my iTunes via my laptop, so we rushed home to do that so I could leave in time, or maybe just miss the first 2 runs.  The damn thing would not sync, nor would it connect to my Bluetooth speaker, and my computer kept serving me popups asking me to update, upgrade, etc., then iTunes wanted me to upgrade, then my anti-virus program announced it was restarting my computer. One delay after another.  I was beginning to get upset.  What good is a smart phone without your list of contact phone numbers and if I can't stream audio books and podcasts for entertainment at night?  I don't know anybody's phone numbers any more, except John's (how dumb is that), and I wasn't about to get on the road without my phone (can you believe we all used to drive around all the time, even cross country, without phones?????).  I struggled for 3 hours trying to make it sync.  The more I tried, the more tense I became until finally I was sobbing. That's when my back started to hurt! 

We agreed to take the "stupid phone" back to iRepair Thursday morning.  They erased the whole phone and uploaded the Apple programs like a brand new phone (which they should have done in the first place).  This took a few hours, and my back began hurting so bad I couldn't get out of the car! Brought the "new" phone home, it synced perfectly and was set up just like my old phone.  But I was in such pain, I thought I had kidney stones or lung cancer or something.   No way could I drive, much less set up camp or run my dogs.  I was contemplating going straight to the hospital. This debilitating pain lasted through Sunday.

After my phone got back to normal and a few days passed, my pain miraculously disappeared.  It was simply tension!  But the trial was over.

And that's one way to get an ABS scrawled by your name at the gate. :-)

Upward and onward!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pepper's Second Birthday

Today is Pepper's 2nd birthday!  My how time flies.  I remember bringing him home from The Pines Papillons (my cousin's place in Florida) when he was 8 weeks old, fat, lazy, and very ungainly with oversized ears.  I intended to sell him but he fit in so well with us, I just couldn't do it.  I had to watch him grow into those enormous ears.  Here's his 2 year Birthday Portrait.

I extracted his image from the green screen photos taken at our agility trial a few weeks back (see below), water-colorized it slightly in Photoshop, and superimposed it over a watercolor painting we own by a friend and well known local artist - Joe Lackey.  It came out good, I think. The whole family will get a 5x7, I'm framing an 8x10 for our entry table, and it will surely become one of my favorite desktop images on my laptop.

Love you, little Winnie Pooch, Honey Bear, Pepperoni, Babutchka, Maniac, and even sometimes by his real name, Pepper-Tu.  Thanks for bringing us so much joy, little fella, and keep on tugging!

Upwards and onward!

Here's the green screen shot, in which only Pepper looks good.  It would have been a wasted photo if I couldn't extract him out.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Port Allen Agility Trial

Maxie, 6 runs,  3 Q's, 2 1st places, 1 2nd place, 54 MACH points, 6 videos
Lucky Lucy, 6 runs, 0 Q's, 6 videos

L to R:  Pepper, Lucky Lucy, Maxie
Well, I got what I asked for at this trial,  a few Q's.   And a surprise bonus -- some wonderful doggie portraits!

Maxie Q'd all 3 of his Standard runs and NQ'd all 3 of his Jumpers runs!  No QQ's for us this weekend. Oddly, all of his Jumpers runs were 1-3 seconds over course time - that's very odd, because on all of his Standard runs he made good time, 17, 16, and 21 MACH points with 2 1st places and 1 2nd place.  He mostly walked his weaves, though, and back-jumped 1 jump because I mis-cued him.  I held my own, not ever getting lost on course, but he's not yet back to his old self.  Will he ever be? After his last run we visited the on-site chiropractor who popped several vertebrae back into place and I heard a big crack which she said was popping his sternum back into place.  OUCH!  But she did NOT confirm the vet's assessment that he has any compressed disks!

Lucky NQ'd all 6 runs, and never once made course time.  She ran clean twice, but made lots of errors between the other 4 runs.  There were pretty parts to each run, though, and she never once stopped on top of the A-frame to survey the arena and never missed a contact!  I have got to get her into some open-air trials and under-roof matches where she will run fast.  I'm convinced she just hates under-roof agility.  Where are the matches?

Pepper was a superb crate mate the whole weekend, walking on a loose leash, not barking or whining when Maxie left the crate, hardly ever bolting out of the crate, and not even trying to lift his leg on arena posts and other dog's crates as at previous trials.  He is maturing very nicely, encouraging me to begin training him more than casually.

The best thing that happened at this trial is some new photographers that were taking group shots in front of a green screen, then letting you select your background.  First time I've had any of my dogs sit for a professional photograph.  I bought the CD @ $50  (only because they took about 30 pics and gave permission for me to use them any way I want).  I will have lots of fun learning how to extract the photos from the green background and add in my own.  Above is one of many shots taken.  I will be mining this field for individual portraits, for of course trying to pose three dogs at once is difficult, and there are often shots with one dog that looks great while the other two are looking away, etc.  What fun!

Another good thing, my son and his wife Allison, stopped by Friday noon and got to see Maxie's first run, a fast and solid Q.  Here we are at my crate space, with Pepper probing Nathan's ear with his ant-eater tongue.

Another thing, we learned that the Port Allen arena has a wireless mike system, and Wi-Fi, and will make these available to us for future trials.  I don't have to bring our equipment anymore to call the FAST points.  I can stream Librivox files between runs and relax.  I also got tutored a bit by our Trial Secretary on how the runs are scored and score sheets printed out.

Maybe the best thing of all is that John, using up 3 days of his vacation, worked his tail off the whole 4 days, beginning by supervising the new professional movers in loading and offloading of the trailer on Thursday afternoon then helping Nedra and me set up tables and hang signage around the arena, then showing up at the arena by 6:30 every morning, being in the ring at every course change all three days, filling and tamping holes (which a dozen or more competitors thanked him for profusely, or came up to me and praised him to the skies) and being the last to leave every night helping the arena guy with the injured hand water down the dirt, and organizing the equipment for pickup Sunday after the trial was over.  It felt great for me and our dogs to have him near and feel so well supported.  He was my hero.

Unfortunately, our Ring Steward decided to "economize" on volunteer concessions tickets this year, consequently she gave John only 5 $1  tickets per day, not counting Thursday!  Just enough for one small hamburger and fries per day.  As a result, not for the lack of food (because we brought or bought our own) but for the principle demonstrated, we are both less inclined to bust our butts in future.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lolly-Gagging and Librivox

WOW!  Exactly 7 weeks since my last post.  I haven't exactly been lolly-gagging, just musing, coasting, groping my way, "seeing through a glass darkly".  After watching Maxie's agility performance deteriorate these past 8 months or so (poorer times, skipping the weaves), and observing his erratic behavior at home (skulking off into other rooms and hiding in corners to sleep), I have known something is wrong.  I took him to the doggie chiropractor who said several things were out of place but she said she put them back and gave me the green light to continue performing, with the admonition not to let him jump off the king-size bed any more!

But I lolly-gagged in getting him checked out further.  Plenty of other things intervened.  Finally I had to bring FoohFooh in with an infected toenail and bad limp, so Maxie came along, got some bloodwork done and a general checkup.  I found out he has inflamed gums and a few loose teeth, and perhaps a few compressed disks!  I scheduled a tooth cleaning for the next day. They ended up keeping him overnight because during the cleaning, 8 teeth fell out and they had to pull 8 more.  Little 7 lb. Maxie was on a morphine drip overnight, and lost 16 teeth!  I was absolutely sick.  Also, they put him on some liver meds to see if his numbers there might clear up in a month or so, otherwise they will have to do more!  And he's going back to the chiropractor this weekend, since one will be at our trial.

This has taken the wind out my sails.  I didn't realize how much I feed on Maxie's enthusiasm.  His comportment has always been "teach me something, Mommy, teach me something NOW!".  Most of the time nowadays,  he's just content to rest or look at me. He still runs, plays and eats well, but not with the same intensity.

Of course, there is still Lucky Lucy, always wanting to tug and retrieve, go for walks, etc.  Depending upon me so much for her entertainment.  I throw the ball for her and she stays in shape leaping over the 30" fence several times a day to retrieve her ball.  (Retrieving is great when the dog brings you back the ball -- all you have to do is stand there!)  But it's not enough.  She needs more.

And then there is Pepper.    What a sweetheart, but I'm not sure I can go the distance to train him as an agility dog.  He does all the full height equipment, and we play around, but he just doesn't get the sequencing.  He loves to tug, and to chase the ball, too, but doesn't bring it back.  And, he doesn't beg to be trained like the other two.  It is not imperative to me, I'm realizing, to have a third agility dog.

And then, my vegetable garden has kept me occupied, plus making jellies and pickles.  I'm working on a single post that will cover the entire season's harvest in pictures. Here's one day's worth.  Isn't it beautiful?

And then I've discovered how much I love to record audio books.  That sucks up a lot of my time, but it's so fascinating.  In honor of my deceased father, an avid sailor and seaman, who treasured Moby Dick, Treasure Island, and all the old sea adventure books, I'm solo recording Jules Verne's  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea for Librivox.  It is a HUGE project, a real challenge, and I'm only half-way through!  It will probably take me through December to complete it.  I also record short stories and segments for several of Librivox's collaborative projects.  What fun, to record, also to listen.  I stream free audio books on my iPhone (through iTunes) almost every night, while driving, in the dentist's chair, etc.  So does John.  I can listen while washing dishes, sweeping, weeding the garden, etc. FREE Librivox audio books have supplanted Netflix as our entertainment of choice!  We are having a blast catching up on all the classic literature we never found time to read in our long working careers. 

For my dog loving friends, here's a wonderful Librivox recording I listened to recently, Jack London's White Fang.  Man, what a dog story! You can download it to your computer, or to iTunes then stream or download to your iPhone, iPad, or mp3 player.  Best of all, it's free!

In any case, this weekend is our local dog club's agility trial and both Maxie and Lucky Lucy are entered.  With little practice under our belts due to heat and so many rainouts, we'll just go and see how we do.  I'm feeling very relaxed and comfortable about it, no matter what the outcome.  But I wouldn't mind a few Q's!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dog Club Aging, and Mentorship

This is Blog Event Number 7.  Read other agility bloggers' thoughts on Aging here.

Yes, I'm aging and slowing down. My dogs are aging, which at their young ages of 4 and 6 translates into "maturing", which is a good thing.  We hug more and train less and do about as well as before.  But what I want to talk about is dog club aging.

People start dog clubs.  They get fired up, invest in it heavily, create their niches, love their jobs.  It becomes an integral part of their lives.  They open up and invite new members in, but the club always really belongs to them.  It was their dream.  They have history, loyalty, habits . . . . . and set views. And the same people with those same views do the same jobs year after year -- trial chairman, trial secretary, gate steward, chief course builder, instructors, decision makers about equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, equipment storage, where to spend the club's money, who teaches, and what methods are acceptable.  The other members are allowed to scurry around hauling equipment, setting bars, running errands, cutting grass, etc., but they never really get "in".  They are never actively trained to the more challenging positions.  They aren't privy to the decision making process, and especially aren't encouraged to introduce anything new. Those who want to, need to, be more involved, those who thrive on giving and being creative, don't get the chance, so they tend to drift off to more rewarding, fulfilling pursuits.  This goes on fine for quite awhile, but then, the older club members start aging, and the club starts aging.  Without transfusions of new blood, everything ages.

I join clubs to learn, and to share what I've got to offer.  It is as fulfilling to give as to receive. The motto of the computer club I belong to is "sharing the knowledge", and that motto, to me, can't be beat.  To me, clubs are all about sharing knowledge.  Most people, like me, join clubs to find like minded people, also to learn new skills, be useful, and to belong to something I see as culturally important.  I want to improve my community.  In the case of dog agility clubs putting on trials, this includes, well, putting on trials.  If the more experienced people don't take on eager, younger protégés and groom them to those important positions, aging clubs are courting the very real danger that they will eventually, imperceptibly, little bit by little bit, fizzle out and die.

Thus, I recommend dog training clubs turn serious focus towards the concept of "mentorship", not just teaching people how to train their dogs an hour a week, rallying them to wash and load equipment in the truck for trials, set bars, and otherwise just be pleasant and not complain.  Those in charge may not feel themselves to be responsible for passing on the important skills.  I've heard more than one of them say "Nobody taught me.  I just got in there and did it."  And that's true.  As pioneers, they had to build something from nothing, they got busy and did it, and loved it.  But most of us are NOT pioneers, and can't be.  The club already exists.  The positions are already filled.  AKC doesn't allow more than one AKC club within a certain geographical radius.  You can ask the trial secretary or other top brass to mentor you, but if they won't do it, you are stuck on the outside, looking in over the fence . . . . Kilroy style.

My advice to dog clugs. Grab ahold of your younger members, and actively teach them how to run your trials and your club.  Give them leaway to ask questions and challenge your methods.   Breathe vitality into your clubs.  Then maybe in a few years you can sit back and just show up for classes, sip your Poweraide, set a few bars, straighten a few chutes, and run your dogs around the courses trying to Q, in ignorant bliss of the heart of the sport like the rest of us.

Upwards and onward,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hattiesburg Agility Trial - STCA

Maxie 6 runs, 2 Q's, 1 3rd place, 39 MACH points, 6 videos.
Lucky Lucy:  6 runs, 0 Q's, 5 videos

Maxie and me at the start line,
on the red, red dirt of Hattiesburg.
This was a new trial on AKC's calendar, hosted by the AKC afilliated Staffordshire Terrier Club of America on the red red dirt of Hattiesburg.  Dog Gone Fun was hired to run the trial, and they took my BARK bucks in payment, but as no nearby STCA club members could be found to form a Trial Committee, 5 flew in from far parts.  2 from California, 1 from Missouri, and a few others I didn't meet.  They lent a very different flavor to the trial --  loud, friendly, competitive, opinionated, and quite bold handlers of their terriers and pit bulls, who all ran superbly!  They crated near me at ground level in the back hall, so I was privy to some of their almost continuous talk.  No shyness there, and they liked Lucky Lucy.  Their comments were that we southerners are way too uptight, our handling in most cases not very sophisticated.  Their motto:  Fun, Fast, and Fair.  In one kitchen conclave, they said their judges were lots more laid back and entertaining, they handled much more boldly, they focused more on speed and less on Q'ing, and they favored upping the difficulty of AKC courses to prepare competitors for national and international competition.

I objected to that last, explaining that only a handful aspire to compete at the higher levels, that most of us do agility for the health benefits, mental challenge, and structured activities with our dogs.  Several ladies agreed. I suggested the place to make things more complicated is once a dog MACH's, but don't take the recreational aspect of the sport away from the vast majority.  They listened and weren't the least huffy at hearing opinions contrary to their own.

They related that almost all trials out west are held outdoors, as the weather is not so humid and the summer heat much easier to tolerate, everyone brings canopies against heat and rain, and there are tons of matches and trials to attend almost every weekend.  They hinted that outdoors, dogs tend to be more excited about the sport.  Is that why Lucky does so well at our field, so poorly in the arenas?  I hadn't thought of it, but we NEVER practice indoors!


Maxie's 1st run was splendid, a solid Standard Q with 20 MACH points.  A few wide turns cost us placement. That felt great!   His second run was clean but he broke his start line stay (not a fault but very rare) and ran 2 seconds over course time.  Why so slow?  3 runs were very close to Q's, 1 run he veered right and did a tunnel suck while I was going left.  Another run he knocked a bar.  Then one run we did the "Walk Of Shame" off the course, where he smelled something mid-course and wouldn't stop circling and sniffing, and would not let me pick him up.  We got whistled off, of course.  I finally commanded a "Sit", and he sat.  Several other dogs sniffed and NQ'd in the same general area.  I marched straight to his crate and denied him a treat, and ignored him for awhile (a first for us), but I don't think he related this punishment to his behavior.  The best part of all this, for me, is I didn't feel the least bit embarrassed!  Last year I'd have been mortified.

Lucky had 3 clean runs, alas all over course time, and the other 3 she had one mistake each - one weave pop-out, another caused by my bout of vertigo at a planned front cross so I just stood there as the room spun around and she took the jump straight ahead, another a badly placed rear cross.  This last run was her only one with seconds to spare.  She mostly walked the courses.

"BEHIND" command.  One of the STCA gals, running a fast 20" terrier, did an amazing maneuver that caught everybody's attention on Saturday and some of the small dog handlers, walking the course afterwards, crowded around the jumps to discuss it and wonder if we would dare try it.  I was sorely tempted, but with a QQ on the line and no prior practice, I chickened out.  I include the map below. 

It's a "ketchker", some said, but one which I found easier to comprehend than most. More elegant than making a 260 turn, and much faster, the STCA lady showed me how she taught that maneuver at home as a "behind" command.  I'm setting it up in my yard this week, from both left and right directions.

At the vendors, I finally fitted Pepper with a sturdy red harness, and a matching black leash.  Immediately upon attaching this leash to either his collar or harness, he began calmly walking by my side on a loose leash.  Not one bit of pulling, the whole rest of the weekend.  Go figure!  Is he growing up or is it that he finally feels properly pampered?

It was a pleasant RV vacation.  All went perfect.   Nothing forgotten.  No injuries.  No mishaps. Weather overcast and not too hot, nothing like last year's tornado/hail storm.  There was space between the isolated rain showers to pack without getting wet.  A few visitors - Ken, Karen and Christina.  Avoiding the 4th of July parties, I enjoyed my yard and listened to an audio book, The Promised Land, for hours with my new Bluetooth speaker -- my version of celebrating the 4th, because the book is about a Russian Jewish family who emigrated to America in the 1890's and compared their new-found freedoms with the oppressive social, political, poverty and religious conditions in their native village.  We do have it good! While listening hands free, I made a few more improvements in my packing.  cut down significantly on road rattles by placing damp sponges behind the dog crate doors and stove grate.  I learned that Maxie and Pepper love to lie in the red wagon on the porch and chew their twizzle sticks in isolation from Lucky.  We were all completely relaxed.  I worked on training them not to bark so much at passersby, popping a damp wash cloth against the fence and saying Aah, which startled them!  After a few times, they settled down very well.

Going to Hattiesburg and back, generator running, takes 3/4ths tank of gas, i.e., 45 gallons, i.e. $148.  Yikes!  Including running fees for 2 dogs (entered only in MS and MJ) and RV spot for 3 nights, this trial cost me +/- $450.  Sounds high, but imagine those who have several dogs entered, run them in 4 events daily, stay in hotels, eat out, come from much further away, and whose SUV's don't get much better mileage than my RV!


Maxie to surpass 750 MACH points, accomplished.
Maxie one QQ, not met.
Maxie, run his weaves.  Did this 3 out of 6 times.
None of my goals for Lucky were met.  No Q's.  No fast weaves.  Only 1 run under course time.  But I can say a few good things.  She didn't pause on top of the A-frame, didn't miss any of her contacts, and didn't seem overly stressed.

So my goals remain the same:  QQ's, running weaves, faster times, and better handling.  Do what I can to lengthen Maxie's stride, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  And now, getting to the bottom of this vertigo and having the courage to deal with my worsening vision.

I delayed this post a long time waiting to finish my video composites, but I still haven't done them.  Not much of a thrill watching a long string of NQ's!  Besides, doing Librivox recordings and my garden have kept me plenty busy, plus an upcoming post on the produce we've enjoyed.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Maxie's Birthday/Lauren's Visit/Vertigo

L to R: Michele, John, Lauran
June 17th was Maxie's 6th Birthday.  We postponed celebrating until John's daughter arrived from Colorado on the 19th, and headed for Avery Island on the 20th where I thought the photo ops would be especially good for a doggie birthday party.  I imagined situating Maxie, Pepper, Lucky and me on a majestic fallen oak tree trunk, Spanish moss in the background and maybe an egret in the distance, but by the time we got there it was raining torrentially and we were all stuck in the car. 

John and Lauren
The patio restaurant where I had sorta planned to purchase a burger and stick 6 candles in for Maxie, was closed!  We got one brief moment without rain to pose ourselves in front of the Tobasco bus, alas without the dogs, and I winsomely photographed the Country Store porch where the party was to have taken place. It was drenched.

It wasn't a wasted trip, though.  Lauren spotted several birds she's been looking for, and in the gift shop John bought me a replacement Tobasco golf umbrella to replace the one we had gotten there 10 years ago, which is now looking pretty shabby. Also a flat wooden spoon.  I scored a colorful Tobasco tray, Tobasco thermometer for the porch, and two more stoneware Tobasco mugs to add to our collection (oversize and great for eating soup)!

So poor Maxie didn't get his party after all, and since then I've been too busy entertaining, then dealing with a weird health problem -- suddenly I started having vertigo!  The room spins around when I stand, sit, or lie down quickly.  I'm on antibiotics for a tooth infection in preparation for a root canal in a few days, but nothing else out of the ordinary is happening. I checked out side effects of Amoxicillan on the internet and it doesn't list vertigo as one of them.  I checked out Vertigo and it states 4 causes, one of which is inner ear problems which I doubt I have.  Also visual problems, of which I still struggle with my cataract surgery from last year, which is getting noticeably worse.  Or low blood pressure (mine's high), or a brain tumor.  So here we go, another hurdle to climb, another mystery to resolve. More doctors to see.  More money to spend.

I am hoping I can get this vertigo under control before the Hattiesburg trial coming up in just 11 short days from now.  I have Maxie and Lucky entered for Thurs, Fri, and Saturday.  No way I can practice, nor run my dogs with the ground rising up and the room spinning around!

Upwards and onward with fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stinging Caterpillars Gone!

On April 8, I reported seeing my first stinging caterpillars of the season.  We have been hunting for and drowning them every day since then -- 25-50 per day in the trees, on the porches, in the grass, finally petering down to 10-15 per day lately.  It's depressing to observe one's life reduced down to hunting for caterpillars, but it's become sport to fill a daily quota!  Today, June 8, I am happy to report that we haven't seen any in the dog yards in the past few days.  So, it appears the season lasts just about 2 months . . . . . and I have my yard back!  Of course, spring is over and mid-day temperatures are already in the 80's and 90's.  If I'm going to get any back yard training in it will have to be before breakfast.

Upwards and onward!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Librivox Audio Books

by Kristen
I love audio books, which I get free from the library, and podcasts which I can stream on my iPhone.  I often do this laying in bed at night, or on the road in my RV when there is no TV reception, maybe even no electrical power.  It is a source of endless entertainment and education, for free, forever, without straining my eyes.  To help with my insomnia, my husband sometimes reads me to sleep, but when he's not around (like at most agility trials), these podcasts "read me to sleep", and when I wake up in the night, they can "read me to sleep" again.

Interesting factoids: 
- you can stream podcasts on your iPhone ALL NIGHT LONG and it hardly consumes any battery!
- If you have Wi-Fi, set your phone up for that and you won't use up your Cellular Data quota
- If you have the Unlimited Cellular Data plan, like I do, it doesn't cost any extra to go that route.

My good friend Phil has been after me to turn my attention to recording as well as listening to Public Domain books through an awesome volunteer organization called Librivox, an online community which in 7 short years has organized over 8000 volunteers to audio-record and help upload over 6759 books, short story collections, poems, and topical programs. Librivox organizes and stores them FREE to anyone through their website. It's an amazingly successful effort with fun at its core.

As so many agility folks I know enjoy reading, I thought I would share how to check out the Librivox website.  You can listen via download or streaming through iTunes or other programs listed, on your computer, iPhone, iPad, mp3 player, etc.  There are whole books, poetry, short story collections, and last night in bed, lights out, dogs curled up all around me, I went to their Community Podcasts, randomly chose one, and was surprised with a charming 50 minute talk on The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, including some wonderful verse plus a discussion of the history of the poet, the plusses and minuses of the various translations.  Some Librivox volunteers specialize in recording one particular author or genre and bring you a whole lifetime of expertise on that one topic, and all as volunteers.  Fascinating!

I have only begun to search through all of Librivox's offerings. Here's a video Phil made on how to find material to listen to at

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Improving Agility Organizations - Suggestions not Criticisms

This is the quarterly Blog Action day, where agility bloggers across the globe share their ideas on a designated topic.  This list of links: Improving Agility Organizations, will no doubt be read by the various agility organizations and maybe they'll glean some new ideas.

First, for family and those unfamiliar, there are many dog agility organizations.  In America, there are 5 major organizations.  Outside the US, there are many others, whose activities include setting up rules for holding matches and trials, establishing titling criteria, training judges, helping local clubs get organized, etc.

Agility is rapidly growing in popularity, and rapidly evolving.  Rules and equipment are changing in response to safety concerns, keeping the game challenging, attracting new handlers, providing a stepped program of incentives and titles on the way to championship, considerations for uniformity of equipment across all platforms, etc.

Here's my Lucky Lucy, a 4 year old
Southern Black Mouth Curr, a breed
as yet unrecognized by AKC, but an amazing young
athelete working her way towards MACH.
That said, my only extensive experience is with AKC and I think they do an incredible job!  I train 2 purebred papillons, but am most grateful that AKC has begun to allow All American Dogs to register and compete for the same agility titles as AKC's recognized breeds.  I think it will shortly be proved that breed recognition, or pure breeding, has little to do with any atheletic dog's ability to participate in and excel in our great sport.

With that great big proletarian "thank you" on record, I have only a few more concerns or ideas to share in the spirit of evolving AKC agility, which may apply in some measure to other venues as well.

  1. Masters vs. MACH -
    I've never understood why dogs with 9 Q's under their belt and just admitted into the Master's Standard (or Masters Jumpers) category of competition, should compete for placement with MACH 1 dogs, who have earned 20 QQ's!  Or MACH 6 dogs with 120 QQ's.  It's obvious to me that there should be some additional layer of difficulty added once a dog becomes a champion, and they should be judged within their own group. This might not require any additional course setup, but maybe shave off the SCT by a few seconds, with book keeping no harder than how Preferred is handled vs Regular -- same course, different designation on paper.  Or to make it more interesting maybe yes, introduce more international handling, an extra trap, tweeking the angle of a jump or two to require tighter turns, a harder entry, a longer serpentine or threadle, an extra jump or two at the end requiring more stamina.  Nothing too hard on the ring crew nor taking much time to adjust.  No moving heavy equipment. Judges could design courses with just a little tweeking in mind.   I look forward to the day when Champions compete against each other, leaving the greener teams to compete amongst themselves!
  2. Matches -
    In my neck of the woods, matches are hard to find, maybe one every 2 years or so.  This is a new trend because when I got started in agility 4 years ago, many trials held a match, and we were all advised to enter as many matches as possible to get our green dogs used to being in the ring, yet able to motivate with toys and treats.   About 2 years ago it came to pass, no doubt because handlers would spill treats or intentionally throw them on the dirt and dogs competing the next day would be distracted by the smells, allowing treats in the ring fell out of favor.  Not so good for dogs with no tug/toy drive, but better than nothing.  And now that I can't find a match anywhere, I've been asking various Trial Chairmen about this and got these responses:

    "Matches are too much trouble" . . . . . .  Gracious sakes, I read the AKC Regs on holding matches, and they are way too much trouble!  If AKC's purpose is to teach new clubs how to hold trials with a few dry runs first before holding a real trial, the Regs make perfect sense.  But once that's done, fun matches are all we need and these rules should be relaxed.  Why, for instance, is there a rule that only club members can participate in a club's non-sanctioned "fun match"? People attending the trial from several states will happily come in a day early to practice their dogs in an arena situation.  Why can't they?  What's the point of this rule?  I do, maybe, see the point of limiting fun match participation to dogs that aren't champions. Champions with all their experience don't need so much proofing against distractions.  They don't have ring jitters. It could be argued that champions might gain an unfair advantage being prematurely exposed to a club's peculiar equipment before the trial begins.  Going in cold is an added level of difficulty that could be required of champions, but not so much with greener dogs.

    "The club looses money on matches" . . . . . I think the obvious answer is to charge more. Everyone knows arenas cost money and the cost has to be covered. The going rate around here used to be $5 for 2 minutes in the ring.  I'd gladly pay more to give my dogs ring experience.

    "It's too hard to find staff" . . . . . finding perks to draw 5 or 6 core staff shouldn't be too hard -- free match runs, ice water and a few cookies would do it for me, free trial entry fees would be even better. We have to quit expecting core volunteers to slave away for free.

    "Matches aren't necessary, just enter and run your dog at enough trials and they'll get used to it" . . . . .  the people saying this are experienced competitors who trial often and have little need for matches themselves.  They are also the ones staffing the trials and don't want the extra hassle.  But I feel they've lost sight of the needs of the newcomers, and the advantage of training green dogs in an arena situation.  I wrote AKC a few months back wondering what they might do to encourage clubs to add matches to their trials, at least once a year.  I haven't heard back yet.
  3. See Saw Flyoffs -
    We have all witnessed, time and time again, dogs not faulted for obviously leaving the board before it hits the ground, presumably because judging the see-saw accurately is so extremely difficult that the norm is to cut every team some slack.  BUT

    AKC judging rules are very clear: To properly perform the seesaw, the dog may not exit the plank until the elevated edge hits the ground for the first time  . . . . . . . . . Exiting the plank before its elevated edge hits the ground is faulted with an "F" for a flyoff . . . . . . . . the dog must still be in control and have touched the contact zone at the same time or after the plank touches the ground.

    If it is impossible for a human to accurately judge this (as in recent discussion about Masher, the 8" papillon who won at Nationals, whom some witnesses claim dismounted the board a fraction of a second early), I hope some kind of electronic sensor can be developed.  This would encourage handlers to train a solid dismount more vigorously, since they could no longer hope to squeak by without it.  This is mostly for the safety of the dog, but also, of course, in the interests of fairness in who Q's and who doesn't.  Some kind of proximity sensor strip embedded in the contact zone?  A touch pad under the rubberized surface that sets off a red light on the side of the board if the dog looses contact before the board hits the ground?  I don't know, but surely someone out there is clever enough to design an economical solution.
  4. FAST classes -
    Few clubs and few judges have wireless mikes, so the scribe often can't hear the numbers 1-10 called out by the judges (each obstacle taken adds value to a cumulative score).  Sometimes judge's heads are turned away, other times the judge has a soft voice, or loud fans overhead, or a barking dog behind the scribe table makes it impossible for the scribe to hear.  I've timed enough FAST classes to witness scribes missing calls or guessing calls to know that FAST scores aren't all that accurate.  I think AKC should require judges to purchase wireless mikes and bring them to all the FAST classes they judge.  An adequate system costs around $200, and judges could bump up their compensation package by a few bucks a day to cover the cost.  I also think that judges should be required to provide the scribe table with a course map showing the value of each obstacle, so if the scribe can't hear a number, she can glance at the map and tell what it is. 
    Of lesser concern is the lack of electronic eyes measuring when to start the timer.  Depending on a person to press a button when they think the dog's nose crosses an invisible start line is inexact at best.  No human timer gets it exactly right every time, but it's probably not more than a second off . . . unless their finger slips or they aren't paying attention.  At novice levels it makes very little difference, but at championship levels, maybe it does.
  5. Agility Commentators -
    Sarah and Estaban, of Bad Dog Agility, working up and sharing their Power Score statistics in their AKC Nationals Preview article and publishing their podcast: Episode 33: 2013 AKC National Agility Championship Wrap-Up opened a Pandora's Box for me of what is possible.  Their sports analysis comparing various dogs'  and handlers' careers and runs was state of the art, in my opinion.  I believe it points to a more exciting future for our sport.  Like the way olympic figure skating has Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton in real time discussing and describing what we are watching --  the tripple lutz, the quad, etc., and every football game has a desk with commentators discussing the plays, the players, the coaches, bringing the viewers to a higher level of understanding of what they are watching, our sport needs that to gain in popularity.  For example, when I bring family members to an agility trial, they quickly lose interest after watching me and a few teams run, on the grounds that "they are all doing the same thing".  It takes a practiced eye to see the vast differences in handling, speed, extension, collection, tight turns, etc.  Which leads me to discussing the PA system at AKC Nationals.  I wasn't there in person, but why was the video commentary streamed by AgilityVision so garbled?  I could hardly understand a thing that was said.  Either the placement of the microphones, or the PA system itself . . . . something needs improvement.
  6. Scholarships to National and International competitions -
    I have suspicions and have expressed elsewhere my concerns that there are probably some top notch AKC competitors who can't afford to go to these expensive competitions.  So we never see them on the US team.  I was thus gratified to hear on the latest Bad Dog Agility Podcast: Episode 36: The 2013 EO and AWC USA Teams, that AKC does fund some teams to these events, and has a donation portal on their website for other donors to help finance certain teams.  I suppose some portion of our trial entry fees are earmarked for this fund.   I'm still not sure if the qualifications for funding have anything to do with financial need, but I hope that becomes the criteria in future. Not to sound too bourgeois, again, but money is no measure of atheletic excellence.
Okay, that's all I've got to add to this conversation.  I look forward to the rants, wise council and/or wild ideas of our other bloggers.

Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly
as when they discuss it freely.
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Number Cones

Bold blocky 3" numbers show up well!
A few years back I took it upon myself to keep our dog club's number cones in good repair (3 sets, as we have a large agility field with 2 full courses set up most times, plus a mini course).  For years we've made our own using upside down 8" flower pots and 3" stick-on mailbox numbers. These work okay, except that the pots become brittle and crack after about 6 months in UV light. The stick on numbers start to peel off after a few months, even if they are sealed over with clear package tape, which also starts looking ragged after awhile. (Even the number cones you purchase include decals, which don't last long outdoors despite their being expensive.)

So last winter I decided to try something different-- 3" numbers stencilled then hand painted on smaller, sturdier 5.5" pots, using an acrylic paint pen, then sprayed with 2 protective coats of Krylon Crystal Clear.  These take awhile to paint but they are proving to last a long time.

The first set I made was yellow pots with black italicized numbers, which took 2 coats to cover and still looks great on the field after several months of use.  It hasn't needed any touchup.

This red set, finished yesterday, is white paint on red pots, which took 4 coats to cover.  I won't use white paint again!

We prefer the block numbers to the italicized.

Project Tips:
  • Lay your stencil over the pot and draw the outlines with a pencil or colored pencil, not a pen which bleeds upward through the paint.
  • Remove the stencil, trace over these lines with your paint pen, then fill in. A steady hand is required!
  • Don't let the paint touch the cardboard stencils, which gets them wet and they lose their sharp edge.
  • Also, even if using vinyl stencils, the paint bleeds under the stencils making a huge mess.
  • Clean up mistakes quickly using mineral spirits!  Have it handy because these paint pens drip and you will inadvertently drag your finger through the paint at some point.
  • Doesn't hurt to have a paint pen the same color as the pots, for tidying up numbers that got too wide or tall and won't come clean.

The bottom cup makes
these pots extra sturdy.
These Misco pots are sturdier than most -- thicker plastic that doesn't seem to disintegrate, more flexible but stronger, and with a snap-on bottom cup that makes them double strong.  A case of 24 pots can be ordered year round from Misco Home and Garden for about $1 apiece. We got ours individually from Walmart at $.97 each but they are seasonal items and they rarely have enough of one color at one store, and since it's a good idea to have a few extra pots for when a few of them get kicked, squashed, chewed up, or disappear, a case of 24 is perfect.

I'll report back how these pots are holding up over time.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dog Club Annual Mother's Day Crawfish Boil

L to R:  Allison, Nathan, Me, John, the Boiling Pot
It's that time of year again, and for a 4th consecutive year I landed up being in charge of coordinating my dog club's annual picnic.  Despite the work, I love the picnic because it gives dog trainers a chance to include their spouses and kids in a club event, and I especially love to eat crawfish. For the 3rd year Nedra offered her lovely home and back yard with huge covered patio and shaded yard. I did the shopping and food prep, and John took a day of vacation and was in charge of boiling up the crawfish per my recipe (below).  Clubmate Ken smoked 2 pork butt roasts for the meat eaters, and everyone brought a side dish, so there was heaps of food and scrumptuous desserts. 38 people showed up, and the party lasted 4 hours.

This took place last Saturday, Mother's Day weekend, so it was also perfect for me to combine a club event with visiting my son and his wife, and my sister-in-law, leaving them free on Sunday to party with the other halves of their families. We almost aborted the party due to 2 days of torrential rain on Thursday and Friday and a forecast for Saturday of 40% rain which made a few people cancel, but we took a chance and the weather turned out beautiful. We had no choice, really, as every other weekend is scheduled with trials our members are attending.  There is no perfect weekend, really, to accomodate everyone in our club.  Someone is always trialing in agility, obedience, tracking, or some such.

For anyone interested in putting together a cajun (highly seasoned) crawfish boil, here's my recipe (which some say is "the best crawfish they ever had"):

I figure 3 lbs of crawfish per person (some won't eat them, others will eat 6 lbs, so it works out so there are no leftovers and everyone gets their fill.)
So for every 10 people, a 30 lb sack of live crawfish.
Cut up all the ingredients in advance and portion them in zip lock bags to add to each sack you boil.
1st batch:
3/4 of a 73 oz jar of Zatarans Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil
4 yellow onions, cut in half
1 bunch garlic, cut off root end and separate into toes
4 lemons, cut in half and tossed into the water, squeezed.

6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and cut into thirds.
1.5 lbs of fresh mushrooms
1 lb. link sausage (any kind), cut into bite sizes
2 lbs. small red potatoes, skin on, cut larger potatoes into chunks the size of the small potatoes so they cook through.

Purging: Fill a large cooler with water and mix in a box of plain salt.  When dissolved, dump a sack of live crawfish in to purge them of their mud, for about 20 minutes.  Drain the muddy water, fill cooler again to rinse, shake to agitate, then drain again.

Meanwhile, fill an 80 quart crawfish pot 2/3 with water, add the Crab Boil, onions, garlic, and lemons, and heat to a rolling boil.

Add the purged crawfish and return to a rolling boil.  The water should just cover the ingredients.

Add the corn, mushrooms, sausage and potatoes.
Boil for 2 minutes, then cut off the flame.
Soak for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a big wooden paddle.
Drain and serve.

Nathan and John bring batch 2 to the table.
2nd batch:
Same as above, but add only 2/3rds Crab Boil, as the first batch leaves plenty of seasoning in the water.

3rd batch:
Same as above, but add only 1/2 jar of Crab Boil or it could be too spicy.

Try it!  It's great! But you will need at least 2 strong men to lift the straining basket and drain the crawfish.  I'm mighty glad to have my two fellas.

When I got home exhausted, to my great surprise, Nathan had sneaked in and left me a beautiful Mothers Day card, a gorgeous vase and 10 gladiola stems which opened in the next few days to look like this.   On Sunday I slept in til noon while poor John had to work, then we called my Mom when John got home and found out she had a nice day too, well remembered by all her grandkids.  John presented me with 2 lovely cards on Sunday, also displayed here. It was thus a most satisfying weekend.

Next week is my wedding anniversary, so there's going to be another party and more flowers right around the corner.  Pant!  Pant! Time is flying by and I still haven't signed up for my next agility trial.  I feel the need to practice and I have to get a better handle on training Pepper!   Yikes, he's 18 months old already and while he is lots of fun, behaves at home, and does all the full height equipment at speed, he still can't weave, is easily distracted, and is lousy at sequencing. I have a lot of work to do to get him in the game.

Upwards and onward!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Port Allen Agility Trial - April 2013

Maxie 6 runs, 2 Q's, 1 2nd place, 21 MACH points, 6 videos
Lucky Lucy 6 runs, 0 Q's, 6 videos

Port Allen is right across the river, 25 minutes from home, so we came home every evening.  It's my own dog club's trial, John participated as 1st assistant Chief Course Builder and was there at 6:30 every morning and among the last to leave.  He put in lots of volunteer hours for this family!  I did some, too, like cleaning equipment, help loading the truck, managing the signage, managing the wireless mike for the FAST classes, and some ring work, but mostly concentrated on running Maxie and Lucky. Pepper came along for the ride and enjoyed visiting friends and prancing about. We did lots of crate games, some leash training, and a bit of off leash training at the warm up jump, where he was easily distracted.

Was it our worst trial ever?  No, but it seemed like it at the time.  No Q's for Lucky.  Only 2 for Maxie.  But finally getting the heart to check Lucky's spreadsheet since then, it's not the first trial she came home with no Q's.  And actually, her first run was splendid, a solid MS Q with 18 seconds to spare, her highest speed points ever, and we both knew she had done GREAT!  Alas, exiting the ring I was informed we had been whistled off because she ran with tags on (can't do that in AKC)  I had put on her agility collar but failed to unclasp the everyday one. A first, and talk about kicking myself all the way to our crates!  How could I do that? Probably got distracted talking to someone.  I apologized to the judge later for not leaving the ring immediately, but I never heard the whistle. She said "no problem" and I will always be glad she let us finish that first wonderful run.  The rest of the weekend was just one thing after another, incomplete weaves, a backjump, missed contact, I missed queing one jump.  Sometimes she was looking for Daddy in the stands. On the other hand, her videos show some brilliant moments -- long stride, great form, spurts of real enthusiasm.

Veteranary therapy is growing in popularity at dog events.  Here's
Tracey's beagle getting an acupuncture treatment.
Maxie is a different story.  His first run he ran by the weaves without even attempting them (a first), Q'd twice his next 2 runs, then NQ'd the rest of the weekend, lots of missed weaves.  His times were a bit slower.  A chiropractor was on site so I set up an appointment for right after the trail.  She immediately noticed that he sits crooked, then diagnosed him as having "LOTS OF THINGS OUT OF PLACE",  and gave him an adjustment which she said "should hold 6 months"! She told me to never again let him jump off our high bed or high couch as it could be doing serious injury to his shoulders.

By coincidence, today I listened to a Bad Dog Agility podcast about Alternative Medicine For Agility Dogs, covering chiropractic, acupuncture, lazer and massage therapies.  It's quite interesting. I had no idea so many performance dogs have regular physical therapy treatments to keep them in shape for competition. 

So therapy is my plan for now.  We're in "take it easy" mode for now.  Maxie laid around the house for 3 days after the trial and looked pathetic.  Was he in pain?  How does one know?  After reviewing the videos carefully all I can see is maybe less push off in his rear legs, shorter strides, a bit less focus.  But it's very subtle.  I notice once in awhile Lucky clears a jump way too high (like 36" over a 24" bar) and comes down hard on her shoulders.  Will they wear out soon?

We've been to the Brandon trial two weekends after this one (previous post), where Maxie did Okay, not great.  He seems okay around the house, but maybe not so "puppy like" or playful. I have to become a better observer, and have begun to give him regular massages.

Oh, there was a videographer at the trial and for $18, I got a video composite of the whole weekend's runs, one for each dog, set to music.  They came in, and I found I much prefer fiddling with my own videos.

Upwards and onward,